Tag Archives: 2016 election

Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Back in 2012 I was asked to do a review of Max Holland’s book about Watergate Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat. It think that the book is very pertinent today and well worth the read for anyone immersed in the daily revelations of numerous members of the Trump campaign and administration. The sheer number of these allegations, not to mention the number of convictions and plea deals already racked up by the Muller investigation demonstrates the seriousness of the allegations while the web of connections to the fact of Russian meddling in the 2016 demands answers. That being said we need to look back at the history of the Nixon administration to help us understand what is going on today.

So I am posting my review that I published for TLC Book Reviews on June 12th 2012. The review is exactly how I wrote it with no editing for today. I recommend the book to my readers. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

Motives do matter and actions often have unintended consequences. That is the lesson of Max Holland’s book about Mark Felt. Felt was the man whose leaks helped end the Presidency of Richard Nixon and skyrocket the young and obscure Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to fame. For more than three decades Mark Felt’s identity remained hidden a mystery man to the public, a man popularized by the dark moniker “Deep Throat.” His role as the leaker was suspected by some, including President Nixon and some of his staff but known only for sure by Woodward, Bernstein and Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee.

In this truly scholarly book Max Holland pieces together the dark underside of the Watergate tapestry that Woodward and Bernstein helped to break in 1972 and would go on to write about in All the President’s Men and The Final Days. It is a book that is important because it is the first account to seriously explore the motivation of Mark Felt when he began to leak and the background story of the monumental post J. Edgar Hoover FBI power struggle.  That story which in normal times would have been a major story was missed in an era where the country was in turmoil and there were so many other “big” stories to cover.

Taking advantage of more recent revelations, disclosures and evidence Holland paints a picture that not only broadens one’s understanding of Watergate but helps the reader understand how important it is to understand the motivations of those that were involved, Nixon and his staff, Felt and other FBI officials and the media.

The picture painted by Holland of Felt makes his role in the story more understandable. Felt was not the altruistic leaker of myth who sought to destroy the Nixon Presidency, something that was the picture painted by Woodward and Bernstein. His motivations were much more down to earth. He wanted to use his knowledge to ensure that he became Hoover’s successor as the Director of the FBI. He used it to destroy L. Patrick Gray who served as the interim Director and his chief rival in the Bureau William C. “Bill” Sullivan in the eyes of the White House, Congress, the Bureau and the media. Felt’s leaks helped blow the lid off of the White House cover up of the Watergate break-in and which led to the resignation of President Nixon and the conviction of a number of his closest advisors. Felt’s duplicity which included deceiving the Administration, Congress, his superiors and the media with falsehoods even as he revealed key truths is amazing to behold.

The picture that Holland paints of the White House is not pretty. The moral depravity and ruthlessness of Nixon and his advisors is shown without dehumanizing them.  In fact they become more human in Holland’s account.  Likewise Holland’s portrayal of other key figures in Felt’s story at the FBI, L. Patrick Gray, William Ruckelshaus and William Sullivan is compelling. The naive and compliant Gray, Felt’s bitter rival Sullivan and the “sweeper” (to use the term given to Harvey Keitel’s character Winston “the Wolf” Wolfe in Pulp Fiction) Ruckelshaus who helps to “sweep” Felt out of the FBI.

But the most interesting part of the book for me is Holland’s portrayal of Woodward and Bernstein. They are young and idealistic and Woodward believes whatever Felt tells him, including deliberate misinformation. What jumped out at me was their willingness to take at face value what Felt told them and not to explore his motivations which could have led to even more revelations that could have shaken the FBI to its core.  Likewise was Woodward’s willingness to press the limits with information provided by Felt going beyond what Felt demanded for secrecy but which Felt, even though upset by the reporter continued to provide information cumulating in his long and rambling confession to Woodward following his retirement under pressure on May 16th 1973.

They, particularly Woodward did not ask themselves the three key questions that anyone should ask when someone comes to them with this kind of information: Why this? Why this information. Why Me?  Why am I being chosen to receive the information. Why Now? Why is the source telling me this information now. Those three questions could have blown the case open even more had they explored them. Of course they were caught up in the chase for “scoops” with rivals at the New York Times, The Washington Sun and Time Magazine and chose to believe what Felt told them, something that occasionally left them hanging when the information was wrong.

Conversely Felt’s distain and lack of respect for the media and the belief that he could use Woodward, Bernstein and others in the media to further his goals with impunity proved false. He became careless and caused the Nixon Administration to suspect him and work to force him out of the FBI without drawing more attention to themselves.

Holland also covers the “cover-up” of “Deep Throat’s identity which was maintained by Felt, Woodward and Bernstein until Felt was in the beginning stages of dementia and his family was ready to reveal his role.  The dual myths of Deep Throat’s motives and the role of the press as the “men in the  white hats” against the evil bad guys in the White House are exposed by Holland who points out how much of the investigation broken by Woodward and Bernstein was being accomplished by FBI agents and appointed to investigate the break-in and staff members at the Committee to Re-Elect the President who were appalled by the illegality of what they saw being done by their superiors.

The book is excellently sourced and researched. It is a compelling narrative that sheds light on a dark period of our nation’s history which also serves as a reminder to those who investigate “leaks” from well placed sources that there is always another layer of motivation and intent that cannot be discounted and must be factored into the investigation.

This is relevant today as the media, Congress and the the Justice Department investigate leaks from inside the Obama White House regarding national security information. Why This? Why Me? Why Now? Those are the questions. Thanks to Max Holland we now know much of what transpired behind the scenes as Woodward and Bernstein investigated and published their accounts of the Watergate break-in and cover up with the information provided by Mark Felt.

The book Leak: How Mark Felt Became Deep Throat is published by the University of Kansas Press and is available at http://www.amazon.com/Leak-Mark-Felt-Became-Throat/dp/0700618295/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339544616&sr=8-1&keywords=leak

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A Post Election Musing: What Now? 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight I am writing from the outskirts of Washington D.C. as we gather with a group of Papillon dog owners. Our two girls are being very good and once she got used to everyone, Izzy is now trying to get all the other dogs to play. It is nice, I have really enjoyed getting to know some of the people here, especially our hosts. I’m hoping that I get a chance to visit the Manassas Battlefield Park this weekend, it has always been one of those places that I have always driven by but never have had time to stop and see, but I digress…

I have been trying for the last few days to stay off of social media for the most part. Too much of what is out there is just too toxic for me to deal with. Instead I have been reading more reflective articles analyzing the election instead of anything partisan, especially the kind of pseudo news from highly biased people and groups that populates Facebook and some other social media sites. I haven’t turned on the television since the election, there isn’t any baseball on and frankly I have been too busy and tired this week to even want to turn it on, especially cable news. Likewise, I have done some reading and I have a number of books that I am sifting through right now. 

But for me I have spent time trying to sort out what has happened and think about historical context and not just the 24 hour news cycle. As I mentioned Wednesday, I am not going to do to President Elect Trump what so many conservatives did to President Obam. While I disagree with almost all what Trump said his policy would be during the campaign, and while I will not give him a pass on his own conduct during the campaign, I think that as President he does deserve a chance to succeed or fail on his own merits, and the fact is that while Trump frightens me, the thought of a President Pence absolutely terrifies me. Thus when I read people talking about the possibility of impeachment already, including Republicans, I am not about to climb aboard that boat anytime soon. 

So over the next few weeks I will do some articles about what might happen during the Trump Presidency regarding civil rights, the environment, economic policy, healthcare, and foreign policy. I will also write some articles about what I think Democrats need to do to regain the trust of the American people, and not just well off white progressives. I will also delve in to the morass of the Alt-Right and its resurgence, and the rise in political and racial violence that seems to be accompanying the Trump victory. 

Anyway. Have a great Saturday and do not despair; for sometimes the greatest changes that actually shape the future come in the wake of defeat. This is something that we as progressives need to remember and then take concrete actions to enunciate in ways that people can understand. We don’t do that well and it showed during this election. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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I’m Back: Realism and Responsibility after the Election of Donald Trump 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World, 

Winston Churchill wrote: “Courage is is what it is to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” 

Last night I was in a state of shock regarding the election of Donald Trump to the office of President. I was despairing and I said that I was going to immediately put in my retirement papers and move to Europe. I did really mean it, and that may yet happen. But my wife Judy helped put things in perspective this morning and told me not to make any hasty moves. That allowed me to take a deep breath. I spent this morning alone in my office with the door closed. I pretty much stayed off social media and apart from checking my work e-mail and reading the comics I just sat back reflecting on what happened before taking the afternoon off and going to lunch. I needed to sit down and listen, and one of my older bar buddies showed up and he too helped me put things in perspective. 

During that time I saw a good number of comments posted to the blog and my Facebook account encouraging me to stay engaged and not to give up. Those were also helpful and while I have not answered any of them yet but I appreciate all of the kind words and thoughts. 

Now I am not happy with the results of the election and I am frightened at what Trump and his congressional majorities have promised to do. That being said now that the election is over I am committed to doing what neither he or congressional Republicans did for President Obama, I will give him a chance and treat him with the respect his office is due. I remember how badly President Obama was treated by Mitch McConnell, and if I thought it was wrong for him to be treated in such a manner, how could I be a part in doing that to anyone? even Donald Trump. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and if you are a Democrat, being obstructionists will only worsen the party’s situation. We have to be mature and show that we can endure defeat with dignity and grace. 

The fact is, that whether or not progressives like me like it, he has been elected with majorities in both the House and Senate, and we cannot change that. That being said, if we want to be taken seriously we must work for the common good and then figure out what we really believe as progressives and how to win elections. It is not good enough to simply oppose Trump and the GOP; we have to enunciate a positive vision and then go back to basics and that includes being the party of decency and civility. 

As for now I will not be retiring or leaving the country, even though an old German friend is now begging me to move there and promising to help me. That still might happen, but not yet. 

So anyway, it’s time to take a deep breath and do the right thing for the country. We cannot afford for Trump to fail, if he fails it hurts all of us and we can’t afford for him to screw up. If he does, let it be his doing, not ours, and let his supporters take the blame for electing him. As Abraham Lincoln correctly observed: “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they chose to turn their backs on the fire and burn their behinds, then they’ll have to sit on the blisters.” That may seem unpalatable, but it is reality, and I am the ultimate realist. I guess that’s why I’m still here. 

Until tomorrow. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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Election 2016: In the End the Waiting is the Hardest Part

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It is Election Day and for me there is nothing left to do. I voted absentee a few weeks back and now as those who have not either voted early or absentee wait in lines at polling places around the country I work and wait. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had a line in the chorus of their song Waiting which said “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part.”

So until the polls close this evening and the votes are tallied all I can do is wait. I have a couple of errands I will need to run, and I will walk the dogs, and then go with Judy to have dinner and then taking the advice of former United States Senator and Delta House member Bluto Blutarsky who said “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily” I may have more than a few beers at Gordon Biersch before heading home to watch the results.

bloom victory

So until later tonight or tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Trip to Gettysburg at the End of a Polarizing Election

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am taking a group of my students to Gettysburg this weekend and the timing is good for me as it will take me to a place that helps me put things in perspective, especially as this election goes into its last few days.

Even so I have a sense, a sense of dread that our country is soon to head into an abyss of violence no-matter who wins the election. The solid and reasonable center seems to have disappeared, moderates of all types are derided. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly called the election rigged and say that they may not accept the results, unless they win. Throughout the campaign Trump and his surrogates have hinted at violence, they have whipped up their supporter’s emotions into a virtual tempest of rage that is threatening to explode into real violence. In 1860 it was the Southern political and religious leadership which said that they would not abide the results of the election of Abraham Lincoln, ignoring Democrat Stephen Douglas who said:

“It is apprehended that the policy of Mr. Lincoln and the principles of his party endanger the peace of the slaveholding states. Is that apprehension founded? No, it is not. Mr. Lincoln and his party lack the power, even if they had the disposition, to disturb or impair the rights and institutions of the South. They certainly cannot harm the South under existing laws. Will they have the power to repeal or change these laws, or to enact others? It is well known that they will be a minority in both houses of Congress, with the Supreme Court against them. Hence no bill can pass either house of Congress impairing or disturbing these rights or institutions of the southern people in any manner whatever, unless a portion of southern senators and representatives absent themselves so as to give an abolition majority in consequence of their actions.

In short, the President will be utterly powerless to do evil…. Four years shall soon pass, when the ballot box will furnish a peaceful, legal, and constitutional remedy for the evils and grievances with which the country might be afflicted.”

Georgia Senator and future Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens had the greatest faith in the checks and balances provided in the Constitution and he pleaded with his fellow Georgians at the state capital of Milledgeville noting that the checks and balances “would render Lincoln “powerless to do any great mischief,” and he warned that “the dissolution of the Union would endanger this “Eden of the world,” that “instead of becoming gods, we shall become demons, and no distant day commence cutting one another’s throats…”

Louisiana Senator and future Confederate Secretary of the Treasury Judah Benjamin noted: “The prudent and conservative men South… were not able to stem the wild torrent of passion which is carrying everything before it…. It is a revolution…of the most intense character…and it can no more be checked by human effort, for the time, than a prairie fire by a gardener’s watering pot.”

Today reasonable people, including many Conservatives and Republicans are making similar observations about the dangers of Trump and how little people have to fear a Clinton presidency. But it will be for naught if the new fire-breathers that Trump has awakened respond as Southern did in 1860, responding not through reason but through blind fear and ideological hatred. Sadly, that kind of visceral response has not changed since Alexander Stephens and Judah Benjamin caved into the demands of the fire-eaters for secession and war, despite knowing that it would be a disaster. This is exactly how most supposedly responsible and moderate conservative Republicans are acting today. They too will be held responsible by history for not having the moral courage of Stephen Douglas to put the country and the constitution ahead of sectional interests. 

Northern abolitionist newspaper editor William Lloyd Garrison correctly judged the mood of the South when he wrote:

“Never had the truth of the ancient proverb “Whom the gods intend to destroy, they first make mad” been more signally illustrated than in the condition of southern slaveholders following Lincoln’s election. They were insane from their fears, their guilty forebodings, their lust for power and rule, hatred of free institutions, their merited consciousness of merited judgments; so that they may be properly classed as the inmates of a lunatic asylum. Their dread of Mr. Lincoln, of his Administration, of the Republican Party, demonstrated their insanity. In vain did Mr. Lincoln tell them, “I do not stand pledged to the abolition of slavery where it already exists.” They raved just as fiercely as though he were another John Brown, armed for southern invasion and universal emancipation! In vain did the Republican party present one point of antagonism to slavery – to wit, no more territorial expansion. In vain did that party exhibit the utmost caution not to give offense to any other direction – and make itself hoarse in uttering professions of loyalty to the Constitution and the Union. The South protested that its designs were infernal, and for them was “sleep no more!” Were these not the signs of a demented people?”

I feel that madness is true today of many of Trump’s supporters, his enablers in the GOP and media, and maybe of the man himself.

God help us all,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Not My Faith

  
Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Today is yet another day of presidential primaries, and I will not talk about the races today. I may tomorrow or next week, but not today. Benito Mussolini proclaimed, “Let us have a dagger between our teeth, a bomb in our hand, and an infinite scorn in our hearts.” I have been looking at various polls, as well as comments on social media, including those made by friends, and others that I either know or that I have served alongside, who identify themselves as “conservative Christians”  that trouble me, for they seem to embody in word, and maybe at some point, in deed, the words of the Italian dictator. 

There are times that I hate being a very well read and knowledgable historian, not to mention a well read and theologically astute priest. Today is one of those days. In light of what I know, and what I read today; both the polls and what my friends write, I wish I was a some kind of imbecile who had no context to evaluate these things, and no capacity for self-reflection. Live would be easier, because I could just suck up the bullshit and not care. But I cannot do that, especially when the candidates that the men and women who I thought I knew, stands against everything that the non-political Christian Faith ever stood for; greed, averice, power, control, and even violence against anyone who stands in their candidate’s way. 

This my friends is not the way of Jesus, it is the way of anti-Christ. Not the Anti-Christ of the Apocalypse, but the anti-Christ spirit which even some of the writers of the New Testement refered to in their day, a spirit which made a mockery of faith and would even deceive the elect. Mussolini himself said this this quite well when he said that “every antichrist is a baffled dictator,” and that “Facism is a religion.” 

I am concerned because I understand history, and I understand what is feeding this beast, because at one time I fed at that trough of pseudo-Christian, pseudo-conservative ideology of hatred of the other at least “three hours a day every day,” for over a decade, from 1992 until I returned from Iraq in 2008 just like the conservative talk-radio hosts told me to do. So when I see others, people that I know and love doing the same I am terrified. I think with good reason. Self-reflection and the realization of the things that you once supported without question, even when you knew better, were evil, criminal, and made a mockery of the faith that you pledged your life to support and defend is not not something that is comfortable; it is not politic, nor is it something that many people are capable of doing. In fact when you look at history you will seldom find clergymen capable of realizing that the leaders that they supported were evil and recognize their own complicity in what happened, one of those men was Martin Niemoller, who wrote, “I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.” 

When I listen to the politicians, pundits, and preachers supporting proto-facists like Donald Trump do so in the name of their supposed Christian Faith, I am not surprised, but that is not my faith and my argument is more with them than it is Trump himself. Trump has no real ideology other than bullying people, he has done that his whole life. Having been bullied, and having fought back against bullies, even when I got my ass kicked, I know know how to fight back. But to see men and women who supposedly subscribe to the same Christian faith that even when I struggle, still attempt to follow;  back someone who despises that faith, and who like Mussolini has no problem making agreements to get the political support of churches and Christians while at the same time mocking them is beyond me, but it is happening before our very eyes. This cancer will continue to grow, and whether it metatastisizes through Donald Trump, or another strongman in a future election, I do not know; but we have not seen the end of it, in fact we are only at the beginning. Mussolini noted when he invaded Etheopia in 1936 that he wanted to make Italians less nice, more odious, tough and implacable. 

If that sounds familiar it should, it is an attitude little different that that Trump, and to a slightly lesser degree, Ted Cruz and their spokesmen and allies spout on the campaign trail day, after day, after day; and very few people who call themselves by the name of Christ dare to say a word in opposition, in a large part because they have ceased to love the people that Christ died for, and instead, see themselves and their political allies as the instruments of God to execute judgment on those that they believe to be the enemies of God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this “Satanic truth” Bonhoeffer wrote “It’s essence is that under the semblance of truth it denies everything that is real. It lives upon the hatred of the real and the world that which is created and loved by God. It pretends to be executing the judgment of God…” That my friends is why like Mussolini’s Fascist Blackshirts, and Hitler’s Brownshirts, they have no problem with the words of Trump, and the actions of his supporters to physically attack and harm anyone that stands in his way. This my friends is only the beginning. 

When I watched the movie Conspiracy, something that I wrote about yesterday, I wondered wondered how many of my past, and even some current ministerial colleagues would say no to the will of Hitler and Himmler, expressed through Heydrich, if they were called to in such a meeting. Sadly, based on what I am seeing and reading in this election season, I think that quite a few would have no problem. 

On that cheery note, have a nice day. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Kitchen Sink


Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Ted Cruz appears to have blunted, for the moment Donald Trump’s drive for the Republican presidential nomination. I don’t think it will be much in the long term, but it shows how desperate the GOP is to find a way to keep the real estate mogul from getting enough delegates from securing the nomination outright. we will see more of that play out tonight and a week from now in some very big, delegate rich states.

The GOP is cleaving itself into two parties. One is that of the leaders who for the last thirty plus years has promised stoked the anger of various parts of the party base but election after election done little than to humor the people that it relies upon to retain power. Large parts of the GOP base have been left out of the economic recovery, which has primarily benefits corporations, and feel like they have been abandoned by the party. The party has gone out of its way to channel this anger at minorities, immigrants, women, gays, and Muslims and away from themselves. For years the strategy worked, but like all strategies that simply deflect anger towards others rather than solve the underlying problems their followers have to deal with is collapsing on itself.

Trumps supporters are not a monolithic group, while the majority are white and at least nominally Christian there are others. While some blatantly White Supremacist leaders and groups are supporting Trump, there are many, people who are frustrated and angry about other issues. A lot are older people, retirees who feel that they have lost “their country” while others are people who lost businesses or high paying jobs in the last economic downturn, or have seen their jobs sent overseas. I know a number of former small business owners who had well established and profitable businesses lose them and see major corporations get tax breaks and government bailouts while they were left behind.

The GOP establishment assumed that 2016 would be more of the same. However, they did not could on Donald Trump and his ability to capitalize on the rage that they have stoked for decades. Some compare Trump to the GOP’s version of Frankenstein, and to some extent that is a good analogy. In some ways it is like how German conservatives in the 1920s paved the way to Hitler by demonizing their opponents and paralyzing the government. Like the current GOP power elites they fed the anger and frustration of people who finally rejected them and turned to an outsider. Like the GOP did Trump they thought that they could control Hitler. Mind you I am not comparing Trump to Hitler, despite the similarities in style, stated policy as well as the behavior of people toward non-Trump attendees at his rallies which a so similar to Hitler’s Brwonshirt things that it makes my head swim; but I am directly addressing the dynamics at play in the party.

From 1930 to January 1933 German conservative elites hoped to channel support away from Hitler by supporting the elderly conservative Field Marshal Paul Von Himdenberg for President against Hitler, and by having Hindenberg appoint a succession of “anyone but Hitler” as Chancellor. They failed and in a desperate attempt to control they appointed Hitler as Chancellor and once in power he used legal means to outmaneuver his opponents and within six months elimited all opposition political parties.

With Trump gaining more and more of the frustrated and angry vote the GOP establishment is attempting to find a way to stop Trump, even to the point of rallying around Ted Cruz, a man that they loath. But the Trump supporters are not going to tolerate it, and neither will Trump. In fact if you look at the comments of Trump supporters they despise the party establishment and the media, including some of Fox News who have come out against Trump. They feel that the attack on Trump are unfair and unwarranted, and the crocodile tears of the GOP leadership aside, Trump is only saying what many of them have railed about for years, just in much cruder terms.


In next few weeks the GOP establishment will do everything in their power to try to subvert, derail, and undermine the Trump campaign. Former GOP standard bearer Mitt Romney launched a furious assault on Trump only to be jumped on by Trump and his supporters. The more the GOP leadership does this, the more that Trump and his supporters will fight back. By some chance if they screed in keeping Trump from getting and outright majority of delegates at best it will be a Pyrrhic victory and only the charred remains of the Grand Old Party will remain.

We are watching a political party self-destruct and when it completes its self-immolation it will signal the end of an era. We are in an era of seismic political change, and what is happening to the Republicans cannot be dismissed as something that cannot happen to the Democrats as well.

None of us can know what will follow this and Democrats, especially the  Democratic Party leadership and elites should learn from what is happening to the Republicans. Right now there are many frustrated and angry Democrats and progressives who are as tired of their elites and power brokers as are angry Republicans and they are turning out in large numbers to support an outsider, Bernie Sanders. Democrats need to make sure that they do not dismiss his supporters and assume that they will voter for Hillary Clinton in November.

All that being said, the GOP fight is on and the opposing sides will throw in everything that they can to win, even the kitchen sink.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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