Pirating songs for political campaigns is nothing new. Trump used Neil Young's "Rockin' in a Free World" to launch his campaign earlier this summer, resulting in a similar angry retort from the Godfather of Grunge, who let everyone know he was supporting Bernie. In both cases, Trump's campaign manager claimed he had legally secured the rights to use the songs, but through what channels is anyone's guess.
Craig Rosen dug around to find other songs that have been co-opted by political campaigns over the years without the musicians' consent. It seems that these politicians regard these songs in the public domain given how freely they have exploited them. Michelle Bachman considered herself an "American Girl;" Newt Gingrich felt he had the "Eye of the Tiger;" and George Bush proudly trumpeted "I Won't Back Down" in 2000, from what I don't know.
Bruce Springsteen summed it up best by saying that the Republicans have "mastered the art of co-opting anything and everything that seemed fundamentally American," in regard to Reagan not only taking his song, "Born in the USA," but making it sound like the Boss supported him in 1984.
Typically, Republicans favor country music or 1950 rock icons, like Elvis, who did endorse Nixon. This is being made into a movie starring Kevin Spacey as Richard Milhous Nixon, which should be fun to watch. Elvis was a pretty cool guy to have on your side even if at that point in his career, he was so dosed up on narcotics he probably didn't know who he was endorsing. Compare this to Mitt Romney, who found himself in the company of Meatloaf on the 2012 campaign. This had to be one of the most ill-advised moves of his campaign.
Ron Paul managed to win over Joe Perry of Aerosmith, and a couple other guitar legends during the last campaign. Ted Nugent has been an active supporter of GOP candidates, as has Kid Rock. Both of whom eventually endorsed Romney. Rolling Stone put together this "pocket guide" to Republican Rockers, which is pretty thin. I imagine they could find a few more names if they dug around a bit, as Meatloaf wasn't included.
Sadly, if you are a Republican and want a catchy rock tune to highlight your campaign message, there is no other recourse but to pilfer the song. It surprised me that the Donald or Ted Cruz or Sarah Palin would have any interest in R.E.M. It was probably some staffer who suggested the song as it fit into the Doomsday scenario they tried to generate over the Iran Nuclear Deal, which has made Republicans so apoplectic.
No sane person wants to be sucked into the same orbit with these guys, so you can't blame Michael Stipe for unloading on Trump. However, he now makes himself subject to the wrath of the human hair piece, or dead squirrel as Bobby Jindal called it. Probably better just to write a cease and desist letter as Tom Petty did to Michelle Bachman. It's just a shame the Republican Party can't do the same with Donald Trump pretending to be a presidential candidate, otherwise it really might be the end of the world as we know it.