Monday, October 31, 2016


I've said a couple of times that Republicans -- and not just Donald Trump -- might challenge the election results if Hillary Clinton wins. They might allege that tight states were won by voter fraud, or argue that Electoral College electors simply shouldn't put a person under a cloud of suspicion in the White House.

But even if Republicans accept a Clinton victory, they'll work hard to tarnish it, in order to portray Hillary throughout her term as an illegitimate president.

I think one way they'll try to do this is by discrediting the early vote, which looks pretty good for Democrats so far:
Hillary Clinton has established a slim edge over Donald J. Trump in early-voter turnout in several vital swing states, pressing her longstanding advantages in state-level organization and potentially mitigating the fallout from her campaign’s latest scrap with the F.B.I.
Republicans are going to scour the country looking for ordinary voters who'll publicly say they voted for Clinton before the email story came out and now deeply regret their choice. Maybe they'll be suburban Republican moderate women. Maybe they'll be independents or Democrats. I won't be surprised if they start chauffeuring these voters to the Fox News building as early as this week. (Fox will put anyone on the air who says, "I'm a Democrat, but....")

We'll be told that the liberal media and Clinton supporters in law enforcement (Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabe) conspired to suppress the truth about Clintonian evil until well after early voting had started, and that if only innocent voters had known the truth, they'd never have been the unwitting dupes of this sinister election-rigging.

No, this won't get the election overturned. But it might inspire Republican efforts to curtail early voting in the future, and it will reinforce conservatives' sense that elections (or at least elections Republicans don't win) are conducted in a way designed to harm Real Americans.

So faith in democracy is further undermined. Who cares? Clinton will be harmed. That's what matters.


So it's all but certain that we'll be talking about nothing between now and Election Day except Hillary Clinton's emails -- no Donald Trump groping victim is going to penetrate our consciousness, no jaw-dropping Trump pronouncement or tweet or new feud is going to matter. We know this because, after a couple of days in which Clinton and her allies tried to make James Comey's conduct as FBI director into the real story, pro-Trumpers in the FBI have pushed back hard, the result being this Wall Street Journal story:
The surprise disclosure that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation are taking a new look at Hillary Clinton’s email use lays bare, just days before the election, tensions inside the bureau and the Justice Department over how to investigate the Democratic presidential nominee.

Investigators found 650,000 emails on a laptop that they believe was used by former Rep. Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Huma Abedin, a close Clinton aide, and underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.
Wow -- 650,000! That ought to shut us all up about "why can't we have more information before the election?" -- right? Take that, libtards! Even though only "thousands" seem relevant to this investigation, and ought to be somewhat sortable in a few days. "Thousands," by the way, seems to be a slight climbdown from this, which came from Fox News over the weekend:
On Saturday, a senior law enforcement official told Fox News that the laptop contained "five digits," or at least 10,000, emails of interest to investigators.
But here's the big news:
Fourteen paragraphs into a report on the internal feuding between the FBI and the Justice Department over the Clinton email probe, the Wall Street Journal mentions that the bureau has been investigating the Clinton Foundation.

It appears the probe was in its preliminary stages, and while some at the FBI wanted to launch a more robust investigation into allegations that the charity provided improper favors or political access to donors, the Justice Department’s public integrity unit said there was not enough evidence to move forward with the case.
So now, if you believe the gripes of the FBI agents who spoke to the Journal's Devlin Barrett, we're in Conspiracy So Vast territory -- the email-mismanagement scandal has morphed into a Clinton Foundation scandal, and folks at the top are engaging in a cover-up.

But here's my favorite detail, from The Washington Post:
It is unclear what, if any, evidence [agents] had to substantiate those [Clinton Foundation] allegations, particularly through subpoenas or search warrants. One person familiar with the matter said their presentation drew at least in part from media accounts over various foundation-related controversies.
So some or all of this is based on news stories? Not on anything these agents have actually found? And now we have to have a trial of Clinton in the media a week before the election based on that? The puke funnel's working better than ever.


I know all the smart folks -- the Sam Wangs, the Ed Kilgores -- are sanguine about the effect of all this on the outcome of the election. We're too polarized for this to change many votes, they tell us. Clinton has a big lead and a firewall of several states, and, unlike Trump, she has a get-out-the-vote effort.

Well, this is Trump's get-out-the-vote effort, however little his campaign may be involved in it. It's going to bring Republicans home to a nominee a lot of them have been reluctant to support, and even if it suppresses a tiny percentage of the Clinton vote, the loss of her least enthusiastic voters could tip the election.

Nate Silver is already pondering scenarios in which an election that seemed likely to be an Obama-sized victory for Clinton now comes down to one state, possibly Pennsylvania, assuming Trump takes a lot of the toss-up states. I think Clinton will win Pennsylvania -- she's up nearly 6 points there according to Real Clear Politics. She has a cushion.

But I think if Trump doesn't win, Republicans not named Trump are certain to try to litigate her victory. Oh, she won because of Pennsylvania? Lotta fishy stuff happens in Philadelphia at the polls, doesn't it, especially in certain neighborhoods?

It's been said that Vladimir Putin doesn't actually want Trump to win -- he assumes Clinton's victory is inevitable and just wants to weaken her as much as he can. I don't know if that's really what Putin is thinking, but it's more or less what the GOP is thinking. I seriously believe you'll see Mitch McConnell or Jason Chaffetz or, who knows, maybe even John McCain seriously suggesting that electors withhold their votes for Clinton because the race was close and because all those FBI investigations seriously call into question whether she should serve as president.

In other words: Either Trump's going to win or we really might have a ginned-up constitutional crisis. I'll be pleasantly surprised if we avoid both of these outcomes.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


As the James Comey story unfolds -- or fails to unfold --

I keep thinking about a series of tweets I read on Friday night from a passenger on a delayed flight out of Washington. I have no idea whether the tweets are accurate, and the tweeter is a Clinton supporter, but what's related here is intriguing:

The Garner story broke on Tuesday:
The Justice Department has replaced the New York team of agents and lawyers investigating the death of Eric Garner, officials said, a highly unusual shake-up that could jump-start the long-stalled case and put the government back on track to seek criminal charges.

Mr. Garner, 43, died in 2014 on a Staten Island street corner, where two police officers confronted him and accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes. One of the officers, Daniel Pantaleo, was seen on a video using a chokehold, prohibited by the New York Police Department, to subdue him. Mr. Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for protesters around the country.

Federal authorities have been investigating whether officers violated Mr. Garner’s civil rights in his fatal encounter with the police. But the case had been slowed by a dispute because federal prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials in New York opposed bringing charges, while prosecutors with the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in Washington argued there was clear evidence to do so.
So was this vengeance on the part of the New York FBI against the evil Democrats in D.C. who don't want law enforcement to close ranks behind the cop who killed Eric Garner? I can believe that. And I certainly believe that Comey had to make an announcement to head off a leak to either Jason Chaffetz or the New York Post. Maybe someday we'll know the whole story.


So I'm reading this in The Washington Post:
Top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin has told people she is unsure how her emails could have ended up on a device she viewed as her husband’s computer, the seizure of which has reignited the Clinton email investigation, according to a person familiar with the investigation and civil litigation over the matter.

The person, who would not discuss the case unless granted anonymity, said Abedin was not a regular user of the computer, and even when she agreed to turn over emails to the State Department for federal records purposes, her lawyers did not search it for materials, not believing any of her messages to be there.
And this at the Daily Beast:
... the new information that the FBI found State Department-related email on her home laptop also calls into question whether Abedin in fact turned over all of the devices she used to send and receive email while working at State.

On June 28, 2016, Abedin said under oath in a sworn deposition that she looked for all devices that she thought contained government work on them so the records could be given to the State Department. (These records were subsequently reviewed by the FBI.)

“How did you go about searching for what records you may have in your possession to be returned to the State Department?” Attorney Ramona Cotca for Judicial Watch asked her.

“I looked for all the devices that may have any of my State Department work on it and returned -- returned -- gave them to my attorneys for them to review for all relevant documents. And gave them devices and paper,” Abedin answered.

Cotca then asked Abedin specifically what devices she gave her attorneys.

“If memory serves me correctly, it was two laptops, a BlackBerry, and some files that I found in my apartment,” Abedin said, adding the BlackBerry was associated with her account.
So she willfully withheld any information about Anthony Weiner's laptop, right?

Not according to Michael Isikoff, writing for Yahoo News, who cites Abedin's interview with the FBI nearly three months earlier, in which, Isikoff says, the laptop was mentioned:
A Yahoo News review of Abedin’s interview with FBI agents last April -- when the Clinton email probe was in full swing -- shows that the longtime Clinton aide hinted that there might be relevant material on her husband’s personal devices. But agents do not appear to have followed up on the clues....

There is no indication from the eight-page FBI report on the interview, however, that the agents ever pressed her on what has now turned into an explosive issue in the final days of the 2016 campaign: Did Weiner have access to any classified government documents on his laptop and iPhone...?
More from Isikoff:
The fact that FBI agents failed to follow up on this shows that the original probe into the Clinton email server was “not thorough” and was “fatally flawed,” said Joseph DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney and independent counsel who has been a strong critic of Comey and the FBI probe. “The first thing they should have done was gotten a sworn affidavit about all her accounts and devices,” he said, adding that agents should have immediately attempted to obtain the devices, including Weiner’s.
(Joseph diGenova is not saying this in order to defend Clinton or Abedin. He's a veteran right-wing hack, and he predicted in January that Clinton would be indicted for "numerous federal crimes." By May he was predicting that Clinton wouldn't be indicted, but only because "the fix is in on any criminal case against Hillary and her aides." In September, when FBI director James Comey was regarded as a villain on the right, diGenova called on Comey to resign.)

If Isikoff is right, Abedin was as forthcoming as she should have been. The FBI dropped the ball -- and picked it up a week and a half before the election.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


In the long run, the new email story will probably be a big fat nothing for Hillary Clinton. as the L.A. Times reports,
The emails [found on a computer jointly used by Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin] were not to or from Clinton, and contained information that appeared to be more of what agents had already uncovered, the official said, but in an abundance of caution, they felt they needed to further scrutinize them.
But now there's a real possibility of a Donald Trump victory. I wish we could look at that just as a problem for the Republican Party -- I've argued for months that the GOP will easily survive Trump's candidacy (if Trump is defeated, the Beltway will welcome Paul Ryan et al. back with open arms, and the party itself will unite around the goal of destroying Hillary Clinton), but that's only true if Trump loses. If he wins, he's going to be the worst president in American history by a wide margin. He's going to be a national embarrassment. That's going to do tremendous damage to the party that enabled his rise to power.

But we can't just look at the situation that way because of the damage Trump is likely to do to the country. He's not just going to the baseline damage any Republican would do -- transferring vast amounts of money from the tax coffers into the pockets of the rich, gutting regulatory processes, taking a shredder to the social safety net, blocking efforts to deal with climate change, appointing reactionary federal judges, opposing reproductive rights and LGBT rights, expanding access to guns -- though he's going to do all those things, or, rather, he's going to let congressional Republicans and advisers do all those things and he's going to sign off on them without even reading summaries of what he's done. I've always said that if you like Sam Brownback's Kansas or Bobby Jindal's Louisiana, you'll love the next Republican presidency.

But beyond all that, we're facing years of pre-adolescent bullyboy pique backed up with the threat to use nuclear weapons. We're facing a resurgence of organized and unorganized racism on a scale that would have unimaginable even in the presidency of a typical dog-whistling Republican. We're looking at a return of torture as U.S. policy. We're looking at consequential decisions being handed off to Machiavelli wannabes such as Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, and General Michael Flynn. We're facing the likelihood that we'll have a president of the United States who defers to Vladimir Putin. We'll have trade wars that threaten the global economy. We might have a default, because Trump loves using and manipulating debt. We'll have religious tests for immigration. We'll have a merciless deportation force. And we'll at least have a groundbreaking for the wall, because when Trump can't instantly snap his fingers and make everything better, he'll need to have the promise of the wall to keep his base happy.

But all this is cool for establishment Republicans, right? All they care about are the tax and regulatory cuts the Koch brothers want.

If the damage from the email story is limited and Clinton manages to win, it's going to be a much closer election than we imagined even a couple of days ago. That might still be possible -- the email story might be background noise a week from now, the Clinton campaign is better at getting out the vote, and we can't rule out the possibility of another headline-grabbing self-inflicted wound by Trump. The betting markets still think Clinton's got it won. But a victory by two points in the popular vote and two or three states in the Electoral College will have even "responsible" Republicans using the word "rigged" -- and the email investigation could inspire what I've been fearing, a mainstream Republican campaign to nullify the popular vote by urging Electoral College electors not to vote for Clinton in states she won. And I'm not sure what happens if Congress decides not to certify a Clinton victory. I'm not sure that can't happen. Maybe it will lead to a Mike Pence presidency, but the damage to American democracy will be incalculable.

This is what you wanted, GOP. America will blame you for it in the long run -- or what's left of America.

Friday, October 28, 2016


The odd sound you just heard was the corpse of David Broder issuing a sepulchral groan of pleasure after reading this godawful opinion piece by Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post:
Democrats should stop dancing on the GOP’s grave

Stop celebrating, Democrats.

Yes, it looks likely that your party will soon have control of the White House and Senate and, at the very least, win the popular vote in House elections, if not actually a majority of House seats.

And, yes, it looks as if the Republican Party is paralyzed with dysfunction, trapped in a civil war about the fundamental mission, values and tone of the party. The GOP base is drifting further and further into crazyland, thanks to its many influential conspiracy theorists and witch-hunters wielding microphones and muskets.

Moreover, it looks like core pillars of the Republican platform -- such as commitments to free trade, civil liberties, deregulation, entitlement reform, family values -- have crumbled. And sure, it appears there are no longer any conservative principles uniting the party. And agreed, in the absence of any unifying principles or policies or general political philosophy, Republicans seem to have lost all interest in governing.

The schadenfreude must seem irresistible, Democrats. But resist you must.
I guess there are some Democrats who fit Rampell's stereotype -- who think the GOP is about to be crushed into dust, and who are thrilled at the prospect. I suppose I'd be delighted -- if I thought it was going to happen. But Republicans will almost certainly hold the House (and I'm more furious than happy when I learn that, once again, this might happen even if more voters overall choose Democratic House candidates). Republicans may also hold the Senate, and, of course, some polls show the presidential race tightening.

But even if Democrats score a big victory, who seriously believes Republicans are "paralyzed with dysfunction"? They're fighting one another now, but as soon as the election is over, they're going to go back to their usual scorched-earth campaign against Democratic governance. And we're supposed to be happy that "the GOP base is drifting further and further into crazyland"? Catherine, those people have guns.

And it's not true that there's an "absence of any unifying principles" in the GOP. The party's unifying principles are what they've been for most of my adult life: (1) deregulation and tax cuts for the rich cure all ills -- yes, Donald Trump believes this too -- and (2) Democrats are the Antichrist. Beyond that, their faith in some of the other values is unchanged: Yes, they believe in "family values," but for us, not for themselves. (No same-sex marriage or transgender bathroom rights for us, but they get to vote David Vitter and Mark Sanford back into office.)

And when did Republicans ever value civil liberties?

Rampell tells us this:
The end of a principled, intellectually coherent, organizationally robust center-right party is bad for democracy.
In isolation, that's not really objectionable. Reasonable people have said the same thing. (I don't know how the GOP had managed to gull so many people into parroting the talking point that it's a "center-right party." But that's a side issue.)

Rampell follows that with this:
It’s also bad for Democrats, given some of the dumb ideas flourishing on the left that desperately need a thoughtful counterweight....

Right now a number of bad ideas booming on the left need a credible, coherent, megaphoned rebuttal. These are ideas that may sound nice and perhaps appear helpful. But pursuing many of them would be, at best, irrelevant and ineffective, a waste of time and resources; at worst, they would be actively harmful to the marginalized groups that bleeding-heart liberals claim to champion.
The "sound nice" link goes to a column about closing the gender wage gap. Yeah, doing that would be terrible!

David Dayen runs through a few of Rampell's "harmful" Democratic policy proposals:

In that last tweet, Dayen is referring to this passage from Rampell's column:
Or arbitrary tax carve-outs for items such as tampons (which constitute a giveaway to rich people, too, and ultimately require raising tax rates on everything else, which can disproportionately hurt poor people).
Yes, the tampon tax is so massive that its elimination would drive a statistically significant percentage of America's struggling families into deep poverty and homelessness. (That was sarcasm.) By the way, this may be a liberal idea, but I challenge Rampell to run it by women anywhere in America -- even a Trump rally. I strongly suspect there'd be massive support for it.

Rampell laments the lack of a counterweight to a rampaging Democratic Party on fire with horrific liberal ideas -- even though she acknowledges that the GOP is well positioned to obstruct everything the Democrats propose:
Already, multiple Republican senators have expressed a willingness to leave a Supreme Court seat vacant indefinitely. And already, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who heads the House Oversight Committee, has declared his intention to spend “years” investigating a President Hillary Clinton (something the Republican-led Congress has expended plenty of time, and taxpayer money, on already).

As Yale University political scientist Jacob Hacker put it recently: With no coherent vision or values, the GOP could well turn into a “zombie party for the next few years,” united only by the mantra “eat brains, eat Hillary brains.”
So this horrific liberal agenda can't even be enacted, but Democrats are bad just for thinking about it. Just conceiving of a liberal agenda is as bad for Democrats as putting in place a genuinely terrible agenda was for Republicans:
Kansas has provided a useful illustration of what happens when (in this case, conservative) ideologues get their policy wish lists, because they’ve written off any objections from skeptics as unserious or motivated by ill intent. With the Republican Party’s wholesale intellectual implosion, we may see the same temptations take hold on the left.
No, we won't, for three reasons: Democrats are willing to compromise on most issues (even when no Republican will compromise back); Democratic ideas are not remotely as awful as Republican issues; and Republicans will block most of the Democratic agenda anyway, because their intransigence doesn't require intellectual underpinnings.

But hey, Catherine, good career move. In the political mainstream, it's never too early to call out the presumptuousness of incoming Democrats who have the gall to try to implement a Democratic agenda.


A Politico story notes the possibility that a Republican Senate might continue to maintain a Supreme Court blockade if Hillary Clinton is elected president -- with no registered objections so far from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
A spokesman for McConnell pointed to comments made a month ago, when the GOP leader declined to speculate on how a Supreme Court nomination might be handled if Clinton wins.
Greg Sargent makes the obvious point that McConnell has repeatedly said the next president should fill the seat:
Here’s McConnell saying this last March:
“I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican Conference in the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president.... The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be.”
Sargent provides another McConnell quote to the same effect, as well as a similar quote from a letter written by Republican members of the Judiciary Committee. There's no doubt about what these senators promised.

Yet I'm not so sure about this:
Putting aside the substance of this dispute, there’s no way around this basic fact: If Clinton is elected president, the American people will have weighed in on the direction of the Court and will have exercised their will on this question -- by the lights of these Republican Senators themselves.
Really? I don't know about that. I'm afraid McConnell and his colleagues might argue that Americans didn't decide they wanted Clinton to choose justices.

This denial of reality could take one of several forms: They might argue that there was widespread voter fraud. They might argue that the voters were voting against Donald Trump and not for Hillary Clinton, and therefore they weren't really voting to give Clinton the powers granted to her by the Constitution. They really might hit the latter argument hard if it was a close contest and enough votes were cast for minor-party candidates to deny Clinton a majority of the overall popular vote.

Or Republicans might not even bother to acknowledge or comment on their past promises. They'll hope that most Americans have forgotten what they said -- and they'll probably be right. But if they do feel compelled to comment, I expect them to argue, in one way or another, that Clinton is an illegitimate president. It's what Republicans always believe when a Democrat wins, so why not?

Thursday, October 27, 2016


I guess this story isn't going to die for a while:
Hillary Clinton headlined a major fundraiser for a political action committee shortly before the group steered nearly $500,000 to the wife of the FBI official who oversaw the Clinton email investigation, has learned.

Clinton's ties to the Common Good VA - a Virginia state PAC run by Clinton's long-time friend and advisor Terry McAuliffe, its governor - came under scrutiny this week after the Wall Street Journal reported that the group donated heavily to the state senate campaign of Jill McCabe.

Her husband Andrew McCabe led the FBI investigation into Clinton's emails.

... In June 2015, she headlined a key fundraiser for the group, which reportedly brought in over $1 million for the PAC and the Democratic Party of Virginia.
Here's a detail from this story this story that isn't getting enough attention:
[Jill McCabe] was the third-largest recipient of money from the group....
Right -- this was allegedly a big, fat bribe, and yet somehow the bribee got less money than people who aren't married to top officials at the FBI. Explain the logic of that to me.

As Gregory Schneider explained a couple of days ago in The Washington Post:
... McAuliffe’s support of Jill McCabe was part of a much broader effort at the time to try to win back a Democratic majority in the state Senate -- an effort that ultimately fell one seat short.
I'm not a Virginian, but if Republican legislators there are as intransigent and obstructionist as Republican members of the U.S. Congress, then of course McAuliffe would want to pull out all the stops in order to flip the state senate.
McAuliffe’s PAC, Common Good VA, was spreading money to many candidates, as was the state Democratic Party. McCabe was not the top beneficiary; Common Good VA gave $792,000 to state Senate candidate Jeremy McPike and $770,000 to Dan Gecker, as well as lesser amounts to a host of other office-seekers.
In fact, Schneider's numbers are a little low. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, McPike received $803,500 from Common Good VA and Gecker received $781,500. (McCabe received $467,500.)

(Oh, and as the Post's Norman Leahy notes, Gecker got all that money even though he was Kathleen Willey's attorney in the 1990s when Willey was accusing Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.)

More from the Daily Mail story:
[McCabe's] campaign also received an additional $207,788 from the Democratic Party of Virginia, a group over which McAuliffe exerts significant control.
Omigod! A Democratic candidate got money from her state's Democratic Party!

Again, McCabe was the not the senate candidate who received the most money from the state party. Jeremy McPike got $535,162 from the party and Dan Gecker got $214,456.

Some of you may know all this. But it's being whispered, and the CLINTON SCANDAL DEEPENS nonsense is being shouted. The Clintons and their circle have close ties to McAuliffe. McAuliffe wants Democrats to win, nationally and in his state. Elections cost money. End of story.


This New York Times story about Donald Trump voters is supposed to scare us:
... beneath the cheering, a new emotion is taking hold among some Trump supporters as they grapple with reports predicting that he will lose the election: a dark fear about what will happen if their candidate is denied the White House. Some ... believe the nation may be headed for violent conflict.
There's a lot of talk about violence, but everyone who raises the possibility seems to expect someone else to do the revolting:
Jared Halbrook, 25, of Green Bay, Wis., said that if Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton, which he worried would happen through a stolen election, it could lead to “another Revolutionary War.”

“People are going to march on the capitols,” said Mr. Halbrook, who works at a call center. “They’re going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there.”

“If push comes to shove,” he added, and Mrs. Clinton “has to go by any means necessary, it will be done.”
“It’s not what I’m going to do, but I’m scared that the country is going to go into a riot,” said Roger Pillath, 75, a retired teacher from Coleman, Wis.
“Unfortunately, I’m not a man of vigilante violence,” said Richard Sabonjohn, 48, of Naples, Fla. “I’m more of a peaceful person. But I do think there will be a large amount of people that are terribly upset and may take matters into their own hands.”
A couple of interviewees can imagine taking up arms eventually, sometime in the future:
Alan Weegens, 62, a retired truck driver in Colorado Springs, also wondered aloud how the country -- with so many citizens who own guns and, he said, “are willing to trample a grandma on Black Friday at midnight to save $5 on a toaster” -- would react if Mr. Trump lost.

“I am not going to take my weapon to go out into the streets to protest an election I did not win,” Mr. Weegens said, “but I think that if certain events came about, a person would need to protect themselves, depending on where they lived, when your neighborhood goes up in flames.”
Paul Swick, 42, who owns a moving business, ... considers himself a “Bible Christian” and “Thomas Jefferson liberal,” and said he hoped to beat Mrs. Clinton “at the ballot box.”

But Mr. Swick, by his own estimation, also owns “north of 30 guns,” and he said Mrs. Clinton would have trouble if she tried to confiscate the nation’s constitutionally protected weapons. (Mrs. Clinton has said she supports the Second Amendment, but she favors certain restrictions, like tighter background checks for gun buyers.)

“If she comes after the guns, it’s going to be a rough, bumpy road,” Mr. Swick said. “I hope to God I never have to fire a round, but I won’t hesitate to. As a Christian, I want reformation. But sometimes reformation comes through bloodshed.”
On some level, I wonder if Swick knows that gun confiscation is never really going to happen, and so he's never going to have to make good on this threat.

What I'm getting at is that maybe there won't be violence after a Trump loss, or at least there won't be more than a handful of minor incidents. If these interviewees are representative, it may be that they're just not the type to lead the revolution.

That might make sense: Remember, they threw in their lot with a candidate they regard as an ominipotent strongman, so, however much they may regard themselves as self-sufficient self-defenders, they may just be folks who want an alpha male to solve their problems. We'll see.


This long Bloomberg Businesweek story by Joshua Green argues that the Trump campaign is building a serious foundation for a possible enduring Trump presence in American politics -- but I see something much more mercenary:
... after Trump locked down the GOP nomination by winning Indiana’s primary, {Trump's son-in-law Jared] Kushner tapped [Brad] Parscale, a political novice who built web pages for the Trump family’s business and charities, to begin an ambitious digital operation fashioned around a database they named Project Alamo.

... Powered by Project Alamo and data supplied by the RNC and Cambridge Analytica, [Parscale's] team is spending $70 million a month, much of it to cultivate a universe of millions of fervent Trump supporters, many of them reached through Facebook. By Election Day, the campaign expects to have captured 12 million to 14 million e-mail addresses and contact information (including credit card numbers) for 2.5 million small-dollar donors, who together will have ponied up almost $275 million. “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine,” says Bannon. “Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”

Since Trump paid to build this audience with his own campaign funds, he alone will own it after Nov. 8 and can deploy it to whatever purpose he chooses. He can sell access to other campaigns or use it as the basis for a 2020 presidential run. It could become the audience for a Trump TV network. As Bannon puts it: “Trump is an entrepreneur.”
So Steve Bannon, who wants to expand the Breitbart media empire, and Jared Kushner, a real estate investor who also publishes The New York Observer and who's linked to Trump-branded businesses, have been amassing all this contact information about Trump zealots. The information that's collected, obviously, would be valuable for future Republican campaigns, Trump's or otherwise. Collecting this sort of data is a standard part of any major political campaign.

But here's what's not standard:
... neither Trump’s campaign nor the RNC has prioritized registering and mobilizing the 47 million eligible white voters without college degrees who are Trump’s most obvious source of new votes, as FiveThirtyEight analyst David Wasserman noted.
Right -- Team Trump isn't bothering to reach out to the unmotivated in the hope of persuading them to be Trump voters. That's what you do if you want to win an election. But maybe that's not what you do if you're really more interested in building a list of Trump hero-worshippers who might be the target market for future Trump-branded products. That may be what Kushner is thinking. Bannon may be thinking that he's interested only in those who are passionate believers in Trumpist politics.

I'm not saying that Trump doesn't really want to win the election. I think he desperately wants to win it. He's wanted to win it ever since it became clear that he could win it because winning the presidency would be the ultimate ego trip; now he wants to win just to save face.

But I'm not sure what his team really wants. And Trump's many detours from the campaign trail to promote Trump-branded properties, including the one this week at his D.C. hotel, suggest that Trump is quite ready to move on as well if he can't win the big prize.

The digital operation has made some effort to build up Trump's voter base:
Parscale was given a small budget to expand Trump’s base and decided to spend it all on Facebook. He developed rudimentary models, matching voters to their Facebook profiles and relying on that network’s “Lookalike Audiences” to expand his pool of targets. He ultimately placed $2 million in ads across several states, all from his laptop at home, then used the social network’s built-in “brand-lift” survey tool to gauge the effectiveness of his videos, which featured infographic-style explainers about his policy proposals or Trump speaking to the camera. “I always wonder why people in politics act like this stuff is so mystical,” Parscale says. “It’s the same shit we use in commercial, just has fancier names.”
But this isn't what you limit yourself to in a campaign. In campaign, you try to identify everybody who might vote for the candidate and work as hard as you can to get them all registered and drag them into the voting booth on the candidate's behalf. What the Trump team is doing is just an effort to find more enthusiastic Trumpers.

I don't think the long-term post-defeat plan is to build a political movement. I think Trump-branded products will increasingly be marketed to Trump admirers. And I think Steve Bannon has big Trumpist media dreams. But Trump as an ongoing political force? Not if he never reaches beyond his base.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


A lot of people are talking about this:
Joe Walsh, who was a United States congressman from 2011 until 2013, declared on Wednesday afternoon that he will take up arms if Donald Trump is not elected to the presidency.

... For the record, Walsh’s apparent plan to form a band of individuals to take up arms against the lawfully elected leader of the United States most likely meets the legal definition of treason. Under federal law, “whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason.”
I posted a screenshot of the tweet, but it's still up if you want to see the original. Walsh will probably never take down, and neither will Twitter.

On the other hand, it doesn't look as if Walsh really has the intestinal fortitude to go up against the government of the United States. Shortly after posting the tweet, Walsh was trolled brilliantly by ex-Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings:

To which Walsh responded:


I'll tell you what the point was: To convince listeners of the radio show he now hosts that Walsh is a big, tough patriot who's willing to kill or die for FREEDOM!!!!, defined as "government that doesn't have any Democrats in it, or any Republicans who've ever voted for a bill supported by a Democrat." But Walsh isn't tough enough. He just wants to sound tough when he says he'll grab a weapon he admits he wouldn't use. He's a pathetic phony.

The problem with this sort of cheap talk is that people who are less inhibited (and angrier, and crazier, and more hate-filled) are getting ideas from it. It's making some people feel they have license to do what Walsh pretends he'll do if Hillary Clinton wins. Walsh is too soft-bellied to actually engage in violence, so he's just goading others to do it instead. He's a reprehensible rabble-rouser and a coward.


There's a lot of talk right now about Paul Ryan's future in the wake of a likely Donald Trump defeat and loses for House and Senate Republicans. In The New York Times, Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman report:
Some in the deeply factionalized Republican Party, including Mr. Trump and some of his senior aides, are already fanning the flames for a revolt against the House speaker, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, once Congress reconvenes after the election....

Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, the provocative chairman of Breitbart News, made Mr. Ryan a frequent target of its coverage while he ran the website and is said to be particularly intent on forcing Mr. Ryan out....

“There’s a huge chunk of people who want to see a fight taken to D.C.,” said Representative Dave Brat, Republican of Virginia and a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which has pressed Mr. Ryan on several issues since he became speaker last year. Mr. Brat said many conservatives remained perplexed as to why Mr. Ryan and Republican leaders would choose to criticize Mr. Trump rather than focus their energy on Mrs. Clinton.

“Leadership comes and smacks our guy?” Mr. Brat said. “That’s where you’re going to put down a marker? Really? And the American people are just scratching their head saying, ‘Really? That’s rich.’”
This is part of a general sense among some observers that the GOP is going to be one big circular firing squad. Here's The Washington Post's Greg Sargent:
... the battle lines will roughly divide between GOP leaders, party strategists, and establishment figures who are urging one set of lessons to be drawn from the defeat (that the party needs to make peace with cultural and demographic change), and Trump supporters who are urging that a very different set of lessons be drawn (that the party must embrace Trump’s species of ethno-nationalism and xenophobic, America First populism). As one congressional expert puts it: “I expect civil war within the GOP after November 8th, as party elites inside and outside of Congress jockey to assign blame and claim the GOP mantle going forward.”
Will Republicans tear one another apart? Will Trumpites vow never to vote for members of the hated GOP establishment?

Oh, I wish -- but Dave Weigel's story today in the Post suggests to me that Trumpites and Trump skeptics will probably kiss and make up soon, united around their new shared goal: destroying Hillary Clinton by any means necessary.
Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

If Republicans retain control of the House, something that GOP-friendly maps make possible even in the event of a Trump loss, Clinton will become the first president since George H.W. Bush to immediately face a House Oversight Committee controlled by the opposition party....

And the Oversight Committee may not be the only House panel ready for partisan battle. While the Select Committee on Benghazi appears to have finished its work, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a committee member who says Clinton might have perjured herself on questions about her email, said recently that he wants the committee to continue.
And guess who's fully on board:
“The rigorous oversight conducted by House Republicans has already brought to light troubling developments in the [Hillary] Clinton email scandal,” the office of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The speaker supports [Oversight’s] investigative efforts following where the evidence leads, especially where it shows the need for changes in the law.”
(The "changes to the law" but is just Ryan's way of pretending to be high-minded about this. The rest is what he really meant.)

Assuming he isn't quickly defenestrated, Ryan and the rest of the GOP establishment are just going to go all in on a campaign of multiple Clinton investigations and relentless obstructionism. (I know, I know: And this is different from the current Congress how exactly?) The long-term danger for the establishment is that Trump voters might consider Ryan et al. to be failures if the new president isn't literally in prison by the time of the 2018 midterms. In the short term, however, he and the rest of the Republicans in the House will seem, to the Trumpers, to be the only force holding off the Apocalypse.

So expect the worst from congressional Republicans. They're going to go along with scorched earth during the early days of the Clinton presidency the same way they went along with endorsing the scorched-earth candidacy of Donald Trump after he won the nomination. Call their value system "personal survival over country."


A lot of people are snickering in response to this:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich lashed out at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly on Tuesday night for her coverage of the sexual assault allegations recently made against Donald Trump.

Gingrich, an open supporter of Trump's candidacy, blasted Kelly for focusing too much on Trump's sexual misconduct and not enough on issues like those raised by the speeches given by Hillary Clinton to bankers in 2013 where she discussed her views on immigration -- part of the trove of hacked emails recently released by WikiLeaks.

"You want to go back to the tapes of your show recently?" he said. "You are fascinated with sex and you don't care about public policy."
It's oviously unwise for a presidential candidate's male surrogate to accuse a female interviewer of being "fascinated by sex," especially when the candidate backed by the surrogate has attacked the same interviewer in an explicitly gendered way (and when the himself has a dubious sexual history of his own). It's equally obvious that you can't expect the media not to give extensive coverage to a breaking story about a presidential candidate's sexual behavior.

But I know why Gingrich is upset, though the campaign and party he represents have only themselves to blame.

Here's that "fascinated by sex" line in context:
GINGRICH: So it was 23 minutes of the three networks to cover that story, and Hillary Clinton had a secret speech in Brazil to a bank that pays her $225,000 saying her dream is an open border where 600 million people could come to America, that's not worth covering.

Do you want to go back through tapes of your show recently? You are fascinated with sex and you don't care about public policy.
Do you know why there wasn't saturation coverage of the WikiLeaks revelations? Because the press is used to being spoon-fed stories by party operatives, politicians, and campaigns. In a normal presidential election, when potentially embarrassing news breaks for one candidate, the opposing campaign will formulate a response, carefully craft some talking points, inject those talking points into speeches and ads ... and make sure that journalists know precisely how the campaign intends to frame the new revelation.

But the Trump campaign is reliant on Donald Trump, whose surrogates apparently can't craft an effective message and who can't be bothered to stick to a message, especially when he's distracted by, say, an insult from anyone on the planet. The GOP and other Republican officeholders and candidates don't work in sync with the Trump campaign, so there's no possibility of message discipline.

So there's no coordinated Republican response to anything WikiLeaks has put out. Because the media hasn't been handed a pre-framed story and doesn't see Republicans running around with their hair on fire about one specific detail or another, the coverage, though there's been quite a bit of it, has been relatively muted.

Yes, there was a lot of negative coverage of Clinton revelations up through the middle part of this year. But that coverage was driven in part by journalist-whisperers (and leakers) in the Republican congressional delegation and elsewhere in the GOP. Those folks aren't doing quite as much anti-Clinton whispering with regard to WikiLeaks. They're waiting for their presidential candidate to do it. He's not coming through.

Also, the press doesn't want to cooperate with Trump -- partly because it's dawned on journalists that he's a loathsome human being, partly because it's clear now that he really might blow up the world as president, but also because he seems serious about his anti-press attacks. A typical Republican will tell the rabble that the liberal media is evil while working closely with journalists behind the scenes. The press-bashing is all theater. Trump, however, is serious about it. He cuts off news organizations. He urges crowds at his rallies to turn their wrath on the press.

So that's why the WikiLeaks revelations are falling flat. Ordinarily, Republicans, working in sync with one another and with the press, can turn any nothingburger into a Clinton scandal. But Trump and the rest of the GOP aren't doing the dance.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Things look pretty bad for Donald Trump in Florida, according to Politico's Marc Caputo:
From polling to early voting trends to TV ad spending to ground game, Donald Trump’s Florida fortunes are beginning to look so bleak that some Republicans are steeling themselves for what could be the equivalent of a “landslide” loss in the nation’s biggest battleground state.

Trump has trailed Hillary Clinton in 10 of the 11 public polls conducted in October. According to POLITICO’s Battleground States polling average, Clinton has a 3.4-point lead. Even private surveys conducted by Republican-leaning groups show Trump’s in trouble in Florida, where a loss would end his White House hopes.

“On the presidential race we’ve found Clinton with a consistent 3% - 5% lead in surveys that attempt to reflect Florida’s actual electorate,” Ryan D. Tyson, vice president of political operations for the Associated Industries of Florida business group, wrote in a confidential memo emailed to his conservative-leaning members this weekend and obtained by POLITICO....

“This is in all reality a landslide in our great state,” Tyson wrote, echoing the concerns of numerous Florida Republican insiders and experts....
And early voting in Florida confirms that, Caputo writes in a separate story.
Fueled by a strong first day of in-person early voting, ... Democrats threaten to overtake Republicans in the number of votes banked before Nov. 8.

Of the 1.6 million votes recorded Tuesday morning, about 665,000 were made by Florida Republicans (almost 42 percent) and 658,000 by Democrats (almost 41 percent). That means Republicans are only holding on to a margin of 0.43 percentage points in pre-Election Day ballots cast over Democrats.

The GOP lead over Democrats was 1.7 points on Monday morning, before the first in-person early voting polls opened. And at that point, on Monday, Republicans were well behind the 5 point advantage they held in pre-Election Day ballots cast during the same period of the election in 2012.
(Emphasis added.)

That's right -- four years ago, just as in-person voting was starting, there were 5% more Republican votes than Democratic votes. This year, the parties are much closer to even. And remember, once all the votes had been counted, Obama beat Romney in Florida. So Clinton is ahead of Obama's winning pace.

But you'd never know all this from reading a Fox story titled "Early Voting Suggests Tight Race in Key States Despite Clinton Camp Boast":
... early data shows Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump with potential advantages of his own in battleground states Florida, Ohio and elsewhere.

... the Clinton campaign seemed bolstered in recent days by mail-in balloting in battleground Florida, where in-person voting started Monday in a majority of counties.

Early Florida numbers showed about an equal number of Democrats and Republicans had requested a record 3.1 million early ballots, compared with 2008 when Republicans led 49-to-32 percent and President Obama still won the state.

However, registered Republicans now have a slight lead -- 1.8 percentage points -- in the nearly 1 million ballots received by Friday.
There's no mention of the fact that this is a much smaller lead than the GOP had in 2012 at this time, prior to a Romney loss.

And if we go over to a post at Laura Ingraham's LifeZette titled "Early Voting Returns Point to GOP Enthusiasm Advantage," the spin is even more pronounced:
With almost 1 million votes already cast by mail in Florida by Friday morning, the Republicans are showing a 17,000-person advantage in returns.

That surprising revelation counters much of the negative talk regarding Republican chances this fall -- negativity Democrats and the predominantly liberal media are eager to spread....

It’s a surprising turn of fortune for Republicans in Florida, where Hillary Clinton has retaken a lead in polling over Donald Trump.

The early Florida returns could indicate potent enthusiasm for Trump among his base of supporters.
This is pure disinformation. The early-voting advantage Republicans had in 2012 has been greatly reduced this year. Steve Schale, a veteran Florida political observer, has some details on how well Democrats did on the first day of early voting:
Won Duval County by 1,700 votes. Duval hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since Carter, and is one of those places where Trump really needs to run up the score. Dems also won the day in Polk County, an I-4 county that also hasn't voted for a Democrat since Carter.

Won Volusia County by several hundred, again a place that Trump was hoping to build on the gains of Romney in 2012....

In fact, Democrats won every county along I-4, plus Pinellas -- including both Republican strongholds Polk and Seminole. The total I-4 vote was 48-33D. Seminole County hasn't voted Democrat in a Presidential election since Truman.
The right-wing media wants to spin these numbers positively in order to give GOP voters hope, and thus a reason to turn out. And there another likely reason for the spin: Anyone who gets news exclusively from right-wing sources will believe that Trump is ahead in Florida. If he goes on to lose the state (and the country), Fox and Ingraham fans are going to believe his loss was the result of voter fraud. How could he lose? He was winning!

And by the way, that Fox piece isn't billed as opinion. It's supposed to be a straight news story. I keep hearing that only the opinion side of Fox is a problem, but that's letting the rest of Fox off the hook.

The LifeZette post tells us that things don't look quite as good for Clinton in Ohio and Iowa. That appears to be correct -- here's an ABC story that says the same thing.

But ABC also reports the good news for Clinton in Florida. And that's the difference between what consumers of the "liberal media" and conservatives. Liberals will read that the good news for Clinton doesn't extend to those two white Midwestern states, and we can handle that. But right-wingers aren't getting the news from Florida that's bad for their side. Their media lies to them. Conservatives, I guess, want their own facts. The rest of us would rather have the truth.


Pundits aren't waiting for the results of the presidential election to do a post-mortem on the Republican Party. At Business Insider, Oliver Darcy and Pamela Engel argue that what's killing the GOP is its lying, conspiracy-mongering media:
Trump's rise was no accident; rather, it was a natural outgrowth of a growing and influential faction of conservative media that for years fed the Republican base a steady diet of fringe theories masqueraded as news....

Republicans ... allowed their base to be held captive by a conservative press that moved their base further right, pushed conspiracy theories about Obama, and set unrealistic exceptions for them while in office.

So it should not be surprising that when Trump came along in 2016 and aggressively echoed this rhetoric, a significant portion of the base accepted him.
Darcy and Engel's colleague Josh Barro responds that it would be futile for the GOP to try to take on the conservative media, in part because shunning the big media names on the right wouldn't reduce the flow of lies:
You can most easily tell you can't put the conservative media back in the box when you consider one of its most powerful elements -- email forwards and Facebook memes, which are controlled by no authority and make profits for nobody (except Facebook).

These media reflect the huge demand for Trump-style lies -- even if you shame Hannity out of the business, someone else will rise up to offer these lies. The donors cannot ever regain control over the machine.
Barro also argues that you can't wean the GOP off lies because lying -- about the broad-based benefits of tax cuts for the rich, for instance, or about the nonexistence of climate change -- has been central to the GOP for years, and comes from the top, spread by rich donors via the think tanks, periodicals, and outside groups those donors fund.

But why are we even having this discussion? The GOP will continue to be the party of lies because being the party of lies works -- for fat-cat donors, for the bottom lines of conservative media outlets, and, yes, for the party itself ... in most non-presidential elections.

This year we're talking about a Republican bloodbath, but let's put that in perspective by remembering where we're starting from. Recall the results of the 2014 midterms:
Republicans ... enjoy their largest majority in the House of Representatives since prior to the Great Depression and the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt with 247 members. The last time the GOP enjoyed that large of a majority was the 71st Congress in 1929 and 1930.
As Amy Walter notes for the Cook Political Report, Democrats lost big at all levels of government [in 2014], including the states. “Today,” she writes, “about 55 percent of all state legislative seats in the country are held by Republicans. That’s the largest share of GOP state legislators since the 1920s.” What’s more, “just 11 states have an all Democratic-controlled legislature,” and Democrats hold single-party control in just seven states. By contrast, “Republicans have a legislative majority in 30 states, including the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina,” and single-party control in most of the South.
This year, Democrats have a good chance of taking back the Senate -- but if they do, they're unlikely to have a large majority (and they may not have a majority at all -- they might win a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Tim Kaine as a tiebreaker). Democrats have an outside chance of winning back the House, but if they do, it will be by the slimmest of margins. And there's little to no evidence that a wave of Democrats will be elected to statehouses and state legislatures as a result of Hillary Clinton's likely victory.

So when the dust settles, Republicans will still dominate in the states, and they're likely to continue holding one house of Congress (and could even hold two). The Republican Party will still be in pretty good shape.

What's supposedly killing the GOP is killing the GOP only in presidential races, and in the occasional Senate or House race. The party gets in trouble only in races with seriously contested primaries. In such races, consumers of a lot of right-wing media propaganda seek a candidate who's mean, ornery, outraged, and uncompromising. In those races, either the crazy, extreme candidate wins or a not-so-crazy, not-so-extreme candidate has to tack to the crazy, extreme right in order to survive.

But in most races, that doesn't happen. Either there's no primary or the establishment choice survives the primary by being, at worst, acceptably extreme. That works just fine for general elections in red states (and many purple ones), and certainly works in carefully crafted red House districts.

It just doesn't work in presidential races. In part that's because they're so long, which means the primary process exposes us to more than a year of Republican crazy. In part it's because they're so public. And, beyond that, it's because Democratic voters actually show up for presidential elections. (They don't show up for other elections.)

So the right-wing propaganda machine will probably keep making the GOP nominate unelectable presidential candidates -- but it's not hurting the party very much in non-presidential races. Under those conditions, and given the lucrativeness of the right-wing media model and the craziness of GOP voters, why should we expect anything to change?

Monday, October 24, 2016


A fair amount of attention is being paid to a new scientific study that tries to explain how the brain gets used to dishonesty. Vox's Brian Resnick reports:
The authors of a paper published Monday in Nature Neuroscience call this “emotional adaptation.” It’s similar to what happens when you’re exposed to a strong smell. At first the smell is extremely noticeable, but eventually you stop noticing it as much....

In the study, the researchers had 80 participants play a simple game. The participants played the role of an adviser. They looked at 60 photos of glass jars with differing numbers of pennies, and were told to advise a partner (who was really a researcher in disguise) on how much money the jars contained. The participants were told they’d receive compensation based on the accuracy of their partner’s guesses.

In some of the trials, the participants were incentivized to be honest: If the partner guessed correctly, they’d both get the prize money. In other trials, the participants were incentivized to lie: If the partner overestimated, the participant would get more (the study gave the participant the impression the partner had no idea about this arrangement).

When the participants were incentivized to lie, they lied more as more trials were conducted.
More, from Angela Chen at the Verge:
As the participants played the game, the researchers did brain scans of some of them. These scans, called fMRIs, show which regions of the brain used more oxygen; this is an indicator of brain activity. The researchers saw that as the participants continued to lie, the amygdala reacted less.

Participants in the game also became more dishonest more quickly when it would benefit just them and not their partner. And the amygdala really did activate less as people lied to help themselves. The participants kept lying to help themselves even if lying didn’t lead to more money every single time. This means it’s likely that people keep lying not because of rational calculation, but because they become desensitized.
This might explain why folks like Donald Trump lie so relentlessly and shamelessly: They get used to it. They keep going when they receive benefits and don't suffer consequences.

But what I want to know is why people lie to themselves -- and do so even when there's nothing to be gained from it. For instance, I know that the NRA's Wayne LaPierre has an amygdala (or whatever) that's thoroughly desensitized to lies, which explains why he can talk to his membership base this way:
During a six-minute get out the vote video, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre described America after eight years of Obama as president in hellish terms unrecognizable to anyone who actually lives here, claiming that the president has “laid waste to the America we remember” causing the country to “completely unravel.” ...

LaPierre said his prediction that Obama “would come for our guns and do everything in his power to sabotage the Second Amendment” “came true” following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, when Obama “exploited a horrible tragedy to launch a blizzard of gun bans, magazine restrictions, and gun registration schemes against law abiding gun owners all across the country.” ...

LaPierre claimed [Hillary] Clinton “will come for your guns, she will attack your right to carry, she will attack your most basic right to defend your family with a firearm in your home.”
LaPierre also said that America is now "a sanctuary nation for felons, criminal gangbangers, drug dealers, repeat offenders, and illegal aliens” and that “our inner cities now rank among the most dangerous places in the world.” Also, " “Our economy is on life support. Health care is an utter failure. Our schools have never been worse."

For some in his audience, maybe life in America is pretty bad. But what about the guns? LaPierre and his allies have been saying for eight years that Obama would come for their guns. In the '90s, he spent eight years saying that Bill Clinton would come for their guns. Now he says Hillary Clinton will come for their guns.

But notice that after sixteen years of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, these people still have their guns. Nobody came for them. They were told it would happen, they believed it, it never happened -- and they still believe it's inevitable.

Some people get used to lying to others. Maybe they learn to calm their amygdalas in order to do that. But why do some people get used to being lied to? Why doesn't it ever occur to them that they keep believing the sky is falling, even though it never falls?

Does some part of the brain get used to being overstimulated? Are these people simply accustomed to fear? Do they enjoy it? Would they miss it if it went away?

Scientists, we await your analysis. Please let us know.


Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post and Frank Bruni of The New York Times have written strikingly similar columns urging the media to cut Donald Trump loose after the election. Here's Sullivan:
American news organizations may complain of Trump Fatigue.

But whether or not we’ll admit it, we have a far worse condition: Trump Addiction. Combined with the candidate’s own need for attention, and his skill at keeping all eyes riveted on him, it’s going to be a hard habit to break....

Trump coverage ... seems obsessive, and smacks of codependency.

So here’s a modest proposal. If Trump loses on Nov. 8, let’s avert our addicted gaze.
And Bruni:
He is bound to lose the election, and we in the media will lose the rationale that his every utterance warrants notice as a glimpse into the character of a person in contention for the most consequential job in the world.

But he will remain the same attention-whoring, head-turning carnival act that he is today. And we will face a moment of truth: Do we care chiefly about promoting constructive discussion and protecting this blessed, beleaguered democracy of ours? Or are we more interested in groveling for eyeballs and clicks?

... if he remains catnip to readers and viewers? We should show some courage and restraint.

... we ... can’t roll over for him, the way we’ve sometimes done over the last 16 months, chronicling even those speeches and rallies that amounted to sales pitches for his properties and products. His reckoning comes on Nov. 8. Ours comes shortly after that.
How tempted will the press be to cover Trump as obsessively after the election as he's been covered during his campaign? I think he's going to have a loser label attached to him. I remember the media's obsession with Ross Perot's presidential candidacy in 1992, but when he finished a distant third, he lost his cachet. Perot, of course, went away more or less quietly, returning only for a NAFTA debate with Vice President Al Gore for which Gore was well prepared and Perot wasn't. But he was seen as a loser and a crank by then, rather than as a fascinating outsider leading a significant movement. He'd done a lot to advance the cause of deficit hawkery, but he was no longer a media star, because everybody loves a winner.

On the other hand, Sarah Palin lost in 2008 and managed to stay in the limelight for a while. Was it bad for America that Palin continued to find her way into the news, or at least the gossip columns? I don't think so. For a time during the 2008 campaign, and later during the peak of the Tea Party's influence, there were those who said that Palin represented the Real America. They thought she might have a real political future.

But we got to watch her stumble as she tried, fitfully, to remain a political force without ever learning anything about politics and government that didn't come from dubious conservative media sources. It became clear that she was a grifter who was more interested in media stardom than government, and she and her family made a mockery of the traditional values she claimed to espouse.

Palin has no remaining political credibility because we saw all that.

We should all watch Donald Trump stumble around in the wilderness after the election. We should watch as he fails to sue all the people he's threatened with lawsuits during the campaign, as he deals with multiple legal entanglements (Trump University, a rape charge), as he tries to salvage his heavily damaged businesses, as he tries to cope emotionally with the loss of an election and (probably worse for him) the loss of the regular injections of ego gratifications he's received on the campaign trail from adoring mobs. We need to see all that. A lot of Americans have made Trump into a demigod, and they need a close-up look at his feet so they can see the clay.

If the press ignores Trump after November 8, it will be that much easier to pretend that the Republican Party was never Trump's party, that it was all a bad dream, so we should welcome Paul Ryan and John McCain and Kelly Ayotte and the rest back into the community of responsible citizens. I suspect we'll have a problem along those lines even if Trump stays in the news -- the media continues to talk about McCain as an admirable gray eminence, and has never blamed him as much as he deserves to be blamed for foisting Palin on America. Similarly, I think every Republican who endorsed Trump without embracing him will be forgiven. Ryan will continue to be the media's golden boy. Ex-senator Ayotte will be on Sunday talk shows every other week to criticize President Clinton's foreign policy. There'll be no stigma.

I even think Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich will be rehabilitated. In the Acela Corridor, they're seen as good television, and they'll be fierce critics of the new president. That'll be all that matters.

But we certainly won't have a Trump reckoning if he's allowed to slip off the media radar. Fortunately, he'll insist that we keep watching him -- he can't give us up either. No, the press shouldn't continue to track him as obsessively as he's been tracked. But we should watch him fall.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Writing for Foreign Policy, Julia Ioffe looks at the Trump campaign and tells us she sees a Russian influence:
When Trump and his acolytes accuse protestors of being well-organized, paid saboteurs, I hear echoes of Kremlin television accusing people who came out in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square to protest for democracy in 2011 of working for the U.S. State Department. When Trump lies and injects conspirological plots into the mainstream, when I hear his supporters echo them back to me as gospel because “it’s on the Internet,” I feel like I’m back in Russia, listening to people tell me about George Soros and his nefarious plots. And then I hear about George Soros from Trump supporters who tell me that he has both created the Black Lives Matter movement and hacked American voting machines.
American conservatives were accusing black civil rights protestors and white anti-war opponents of being paid agents of the commies back when I was a lad in the 1960s, so there's nothing particularly Russian about that. As for Soros, he may be a Putin bogeyman, but American right-wingers were portraying him as evil long before Putin wannabe Donald Trump became the GOP presidential nominee. Here's Lowell Ponte of FrontPage Magazine in 2003:
UNDER OUR CONSTITUTION HE CAN NEVER BE PRESIDENT, but if any Democrat gets elected President in 2004 it will be because this foreign-born billionaire kingmaker, George Soros, pledged to raise $75 million to defeat incumbent Republican President George W. Bush.

“George Soros has purchased the Democratic Party,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson.

Since he who pays the piper calls the tune, what tune will this international financier demand from the party and President his millions purchased? What hidden agendas and interests, domestic and foreign, might be served?

Can any American trust a Democratic Party whose strings are pulled by this controversial Radical Left-inclined puppet-master?
Here's Tony Blankley of The Washington Times describing Soros as "a robber baron" and "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust" on Sean Hannity's Fox show in 2004. Here's then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert in 2006 blaming Soros for the Mark Foley sex scandal.

Ioffe's larger point is that Trump is destroying what he can't control, a la Putin:
Now, with the repetition of a single word -- rigged, rigged, rigged -- and with the help of a few targeted Russian hacks of voter logs in Arizona and voting machines in Florida, Trump is trying his hand at another Putin trick: if you can’t inherit the land, sow it with salt.

We saw it in Ukraine and Georgia, who aspired to wrench themselves out of Russia’s orbit and become part of the West. Putin likely understands he’s lost these former vassals for a long time to come, but he invaded both and created territorial disputes on their land so that, even if they wanted to join an organization like NATO, they simply couldn’t because of NATO’s own rules.

Trump sees what we see no matter how many unscientific post-debate polls he tweets out: the chances of him winning this election and inheriting the land are dwindling by the day. And so he is trying to toss as many handfuls of salt onto it as he can, to ruin as much of it as he can, because if he can’t have it, no one can.
But Republicans were doing that long before Trump threw his hat into the ring. It's essentially what they've been doing for eight years in response to Barack Obama's election and reelection: If they can't control the federal government, they'll destroy its ability to legislate, or to function in any other way. We know they're going to try to continue doing this in Hillary Clinton's presidency. It's an approach they developed and refined long before Trump thought about a move into politics.

So either these ideas aren't uniquely Putinesque ... or the GOP has been modeling itself after Putin for a lot longer than Trump's been on the scene. My guess is the former.


Over at National Review, Daniel Payne thinks he's spotted something uniquely hypocritical about liberals:
Of all the great American political traditions, there is perhaps none more instructive than the progressive tendency to sentimentalize Republicans from years past. You can effectively set your watch by it: Whatever Republican ran for office four or eight or twelve years ago is bound to be looked upon far more favorably than whatever Republican is currently on the ticket.
For example?
... just four short years ago [Mitt Romney] was the Health-Care-Stealing Demon from Hell, a man who -- if you believed liberals -- may or may not have personally murdered several cancer-stricken Americans, a man who was a raging homophobe and a dog-killer, a guy who was so retrograde that he said things like “binders full of women.” He was the worst.

Well, this year he’s up for sainthood in the Church of Progressivism....

Over the summer, prominent Democratic politicians and operatives positively gushed about Romney’s sterling character. “He was in it for the right reasons,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager from 2012. Obama’s campaign secretary from the same year, Ben LaBolt, claimed that “I don’t think anybody would have truly expected the country to go to hell in a handbasket” if Romney won the election.

This is, of course, utterly laughable; liberals in 2012 claimed that Romney would be a “disaster” for women, that he and “capitalist extremists” wanted to “destroy America,” that, in the event of a Romney presidency, we’d “be at war and pretty soon there won’t be any more Medicare or Social Security plus the rich will keep getting richer and abortion will be illegal in most of the country.”
That last bit is from an article Alex Pareene wrote for Salon titled "The Romney Presidency: The Worst-Case Scenario," so, by definition, it's describing what Pareene thought might happen at worst in a Romney presidency, not what would be inevitable. But still: That's pretty extreme! And now liberals are saying some nice things about Romney! I bet the right is never hypocritical this way!

Well, let's go back to March 2008 and let Steve Kornacki tell us how Hillary Clinton was suddenly being transformed from an Antichrist into a really swell person -- surely a sincere change of heart on conservatives' part that had nothing whatsoever to do with the desire to create a rift between pro-Clinton Democrats and Democratic supporters of the then-insurgent Barack Obama:
On a hot August night in the Astrodome 16 years ago, Pat Buchanan ... singled out the “lawyer-spouse” of the Democratic presidential nominee....

“Friends,” Buchanan [said], “this is radical feminism. The agenda Clinton and Clinton would impose on America -- abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat -- is change ... but it’s not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God’s country.”

... [But now] Buchanan ... has taken to promoting [Clinton] on an almost nightly basis on MSNBC as the salvation for working class, culturally conservative “Reagan Democrats,” an electable antidote to Barack Obama, whom Buchanan now skewers as the same kind of nutty leftist he once branded Hillary....

Others on the right are making the same case.

A decade ago, The National Review’s Rich Lowry branded Hillary “a practitioner of the odious political style of the enlightened Baby Boomer.” But now, with Obama poised to win the Democratic nomination, Lowry is rushing to Clinton’s defense, praising her “a serious person, afflicted, as she put it once, with ‘a responsibility gene.’” ...

Or take Howie Carr, a vitriolic conservative radio host and Boston Herald columnist who spent much of the last 15 years portraying Hillary as the mortal enemy of Joe Six-Packs everywhere. “An ashtray-tossing shrew,” he dubbed her back when she was First Lady.

Now? In his most recent column, he portrayed her as something of a champion of the common-sense, law-abiding working man, arguing that her supporters are “those who work with their hands” while Obama’s are “those who don’t work, period.”

“Clinton voters,” he also wrote, “know who caused 9/11 -- Arab terrorists. Obama voters know who caused 9/11 -- Halliburton.”
So, shockingly, conservatives do this, too. And each of these right-wingers has done another 180 on Hillary Clinton this year.

Buchanan now writes about her "revealed bigotries" (against white working-class people, he says) and tells us she "will continue Obama’s campaign to deprive Christian institutions of the autonomy to resist the advance of the sexual revolution," among other sins.

Lowry now informs us that Clinton doesn't understand ISIS, that she is "boring, unlikable and untrustworthy," and that her "lies vindicate the Clinton haters."

Carr's hatred for Clinton is so toxic that he recently published, at Breitbart, a fake list of "25 More Things You Don't Know About Hillary Clinton," in her voice. The list included the following:
6. I haven’t seen my ankles in 30 years....

9. My daughter Chelsea has the cutest nickname for her father -- she calls him “Webb.”

14. I have a Muslim girlfriend.
Oh, and I skipped the one in which Carr implied that Clinton killed Vince Foster ("4. Believe it or not, I have never once visited Fort Marcy Park in McLean").

So no, liberals do not have a monopoly on this sort of thing.