Switching streams, midhorse

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A BFD (big freaking deal) has been made of the recent Sam Clovis jump from Rick Perry's campaign to become national co-chair of Donald Trump's run for the White House.

In fact, former longtime AP statehouse reporter Mike Glover, writing for the Iowa Daily Democrat, said the episode "could be used by critics to launch a new assault on Iowa's treasured leadoff status in the presidential primary season."

Jumping campaigns isn't anything new, nor is it scandalous.

Sam Clovis is no dummy. You don't achieve what he has in a series of careers - Air Force, aerospace command, corporate private sector, broadcasting, college teaching, and now politics, without learning to read the handwriting on the wall. Though unsuccessful in bids to run for the Senate and state treasurer, the Sioux City conservative has shown he's a player in this game.

He's invested in Trump enough to take an unpaid leave from a nice, safe paying gig as a full professor of economics at Morningside to serve as blocking back for The Donald's bashing downfield run.

It shouldn't bother us a bit that he jumped ship.

What would you do if your employer stopped paying the workers? Right, you'd be looking for a another job in a hurry. While Perry might have been Clovis' favored candidate, there's little sense in sticking around to go down with the ship.

Perry's running around 1 percent in the recent polls, out of a field of 17 Republicans. Trump's leading the field by a fair margin. It's not a tough choice. If you want to be a jockey, you can't ride a dead horse. And if you want to be a political activist with some clout, it doesn't do you much good to head a campaign that isn't going to be there.

It certainly isn't the kind of thing that's going to kill Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus status. It would be hard to imagine that other states haven't had campaign staffers switch horses midstream, or streams midcourse.

If you are looking for loyalty, politics might not be the first place to start looking. It's a cutthroat business. Candidates who have been friends or closely aligned turn on each other when primary races heat up, and it's no prettier backstage, where key staff members try to get themselves into position for a ripe future job in an administration.

We shouldn't even be that concerned that Clovis didn't show up for the immigration forum discussion in Storm Lake, where he was to serve on a panel, after signing on with Trump. Perhaps he feels his personal comments would not have aligned with those of his new boss, or that it was best not to risk being quoted on a divisive issue while settling into a new job. Maybe he was just plain busy.

It's a free country, and a person doesn't have to speak if they don't want to. We get that.

Taking a new job, or dropping out of an appearance, isn't all that shocking, or damaging.

If there's anything that should be bothersome, it's the ideology of the thing.

Clovis has ripped Trump pretty hard in the past, including saying at one point that the candidate "lacks a moral center." Does that sound like the guy you want to be your new boss?

It's only been a matter of weeks since Clovis was speaking about how offended he was as a veteran about Trump comments, such as Trump saying that Vietnam prison of war John McCain isn't a war hero.

"I was offended by a man who sought and gained four student deferments to avoid the draft and who has never served this nation a day - not a day - in any fashion or way."

Clovis has said that he is suspicious of Trump for changing his stance on issues when he decided to run for president - saying that he formerly was pro-choice and supported universal healthcare two key no-nos for conservative voters

Clovis has said that Trump claims to hate lobbyists, but has spread millions of dollars around to both parties in order to enrich himself. Now, Clovis says, "I trust him to do what he says he's going to do."

Clovis, according to the website Newsmax, just last July described a Trump speech as "a barking carnival act... a toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued."

And now, apparently, he has chosen to pursue the same act.

How do you get from Clovis describing Trump as "a cancer on conservatism," to saying "I wouldn't be on his team if I didn't believe he was the right guy."

We know, in politics yoy say what you have to say to swing votes. What you say about a candidate while working for another candidate may be all about professional manipulation. It's the job.

This should be more bothersome than the act of changing campaigns. Has Trump suddenly become a different person? Has Clovis suddenly decided his impressions were all wrong? Has he decided that the shortcomings of Trump that he has spoken out on are outweighed by his positives?

Or is it just a chance for a better job, a bigger paycheck and more power? A lot of people have taken positions for those reasons, and there is not necessarily anything wrong with it.

But call us crazy idealists - we would still like to think that people in politics are capable of standing for what they believe in, and holding to it.

Sometimes, too, one has to take care which cart they tie their horse to. It's easy to step in a steaming pile of your candidate's smelly baggage, and have it stick on you.

Just ask me - the guy who once supported Gary Hart, then John Edwards, and wrote in this space about not believing the early stories of the Bill Clinton scandal.

With this in mind, you might well ask why I even try to write about politics. And you would have a point.