I've reserved comment so far on Donald Trump. He's not very interesting; but this story on how Trump would force Mexico to pay for his wall kind of set me off.
His idea, as he'd hinted earlier, is threaten to confiscate money individual Mexicans try to wire home. Collectively, that's a lot of money; but this elaboration of his proposal is dumber than the proposal was by itself.
First of all, it's almost certain a president wouldn't have the legal authority to do that. The sketchy argument (used in House of Cards, which may say something right there) is that since immigration is a grave and immediate danger to us, his action would be necessary as an emergency measure to preserve our safety. Of course that's bullshit; and litigation would quickly expose it as such.
More importantly, the principle that we can autocratically interfere with the rights of individual foreign nationals is not one we really want to stand for, when zillions of U.S. citizens travel abroad each year. It's the kind of principle Iran, North Korea, and occasionally China like to assert. It's how ISIS operates. And it invites other countries upset by the trade balance or a U.S. military presence or just our general bad manners to confiscate tourists' money or hold them hostage to influence U.S. policy.
Sure, Trump fans can argue that some of the people who's money we'd confiscate are here illegally, and have no rights; but they do. Under our system, the proper procedure if we wish to charge them with a crime -- such as illegal immigration -- is to do so, and then, after conviction, impose the appropriate penalty, such as deportation. It is not an executive order to rob them.
Sure, Trump fans could disagree with me that we'd endanger U.S. citizens traveling elsewhere. The argument presumably would be that we can do what we want, because we're the most powerful single nation in the world at the moment, but we could crush a smaller nation that ripped off our citizens or put them in jails.
But that's the essence of what's wrong with Trump's world-view; and it's not the wisest (let alone most ethical) stance to take toward the rest of the world, for more reasons than I could count. Among those are that we might not always be the most powerful nation on earth; that even if we ultimately punished, say, Columbia for ripping off our citizens or jailing them or whatever, it would still make for a pretty unpleasant and perhaps fatal experience for the citizens involved; and we all recognize, I think, that spending great amounts of money putting out more fires around the world isn't what our economy needs right now.
It's pretty obvious we do not need a president who shoots off his mouth unwisely and then, having said something, feels compelled to take a really stupid action to try to make his words sound less idiotic. (That's so even if, as I suspect, Trump would hire some grown-ups to advise him and they'd talk him out of something as dumb as this latest threat.)
What I fear may be less obvious to many is that if the Republicans succeed in averting the disaster Trump would likely be for them in November, and the Koch Brothers succeed in getting Paul Ryan nominated as a compromise between Cruz and Trump, we could be even worse off. A Ryan candidacy would likely be less galling to Cruz and Trump supporters than the nomination of someone who's been insulting their candidate's wife for months. Fewer Republicans would stay home or vote for the Democratic candidate. Further, to independents who didn't look very closely, Ryan would be applauded for averting the specter of a Trump presidency. As Speaker of the House, he's a plausible guy who's serious about politics.
But he'd be the ideal candidate of the Koch Brothers and others like them. (He's been playing on their team for years.) His economic policies are not the loose threats of a Donald Trump but detailed proposals to destroy our democracy and shift even more power to the very wealthy. And if he were elected, he'd likely carry other Republicans to victory with him, making it conceivable that his dangerous ideas -- a Koch Brothers wish list -- could become law.
He'd be a far tougher candidate than Trump or Cruz. And if he got power he would, unfortunately, know exactly what he wanted to do with it -- and have some pretty good ideas on how to do it.