Thursday, June 30, 2016


It looks as if the gods are smiling on the Democratic Party:
The Donald Trump campaign is vetting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) as a potential running mate for the presumptive presidential nominee, according to multiple reports.

Those with knowledge of the process told The New York Times on Thursday that Christie is among those being vetted as a possible vice presidential pick for Trump.

And an unnamed source told CNN the governor has received the official paperwork for the vetting process.
The New York Times reports this in a story titled "Chris Christie Becomes Powerful Figure in Donald Trump Campaign," which tells us that Christie
has quietly emerged as one of the most influential advisers to his party’s presumptive presidential nominee and one of the leading contenders to be his running mate....

Already, Mr. Christie has begun the task of designing a government on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Tapped to lead Mr. Trump’s transition efforts, Mr. Christie has taken a role that some of his allies liken to that of a White House chief of staff, soliciting views on what a potential Trump administration should look like.

Mr. Christie has taken the transition process firmly in hand, according to people familiar with his activities....
Well, it's good for Christie to have something to occupy his time now that he doesn't have a job anymore ... Wait, what? He still does? He's governor until January 2018? Sorry!

Christie, we're told, has many duties, among them this:
Behind the scenes, Mr. Christie has prodded his fellow governors and Republican political donors to line up behind a candidate many view with distaste. He has made only modest headway in the last few months: Mr. Trump has struggled badly with fund-raising and Mr. Christie has pleaded with donors, in personal phone calls and fund-raising events, to give him a second look.

At a breakfast fund-raiser in Manhattan last week, Mr. Christie cajoled reluctant donors to back Mr. Trump, arguing that giving anything less than enthusiastic support would be a de facto vote for Hillary Clinton.
So how's the persuading-donors-to-consider-Trump thing working out? Let's see: Hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer once thought so highly of Christie that in 2011 he urged Christie to run for president; last year, Singer held a fund-raiser for Christie, although he ultimately threw his support in the presidential race to Marco Rubio. Still, you'd think Christie would remain in Singer's good graces, right? You'd imagine that if Christie were touting Trump, Singer would take Christie's recommendation seriously. Right?

Well, here's what Singer thinks of Christie's man Trump:
A Wall Street billionaire thinks a Donald Trump presidency could spell doom for the global economy.

Paul Singer, who runs the hedge fund Elliott Management and has been a big GOP donor in the past, told a crowd at the Aspen Ideas Festival that he wasn’t very impressed with Trump’s economic policy positions, according to CNBC.

“The most impactful of the economic policies that I recall him coming out for are these anti-trade policies. And I think if he actually stuck to those policies and gets elected president, it’s close to a guarantee of a global depression, widespread global depression,” he said.
"Close to a guarantee of a global depression." Excellent powers of persuasion, Chris!

Trump once told an interviewer that he wanted a running mate who had Washington experience:
“I don’t want to name anybody -- what I would most likely be looking at, and I feel like I’d be going a little bit in reverse, in other words, I’d be going for a political person. Because I don’t need a business person, I need a political person. Somebody that can deal with the hill, that can deal with Congress and get things done, get things passed, et cetera, et cetera,” he said in an interview with Breitbart News.
But maybe he'll go with Christie instead, for any of several reasons:

* He likes Christie because Christie is his most shamelessly sycophantic backer.

* He actually believes he can win New Jersey in November. (If there's even a remote chance of that, picking Christie will almost certainly hurt him, not help -- the governor's approval rating in the state is 26%.)

* Or maybe he's just applying strategies he used on The Apprentice:
This morning, Slate published a series of recollections from crew members on Donald Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice ... There’s one passage that’s of particular interest ... it involves a former “midlevel producer” on the show recalling Cheeto Jesus‘s fondness for keeping a certain contestant on the show despite his demonstrable ineptitude.
“There was a fat contestant who was a buffoon and a fuckup. And he would fuck up week after week, and the producers would figure that he’d screwed up so badly that Trump would have to fire him. But Trump kept deciding to fire someone else. The producers had to scramble because of course Trump can never be seen to make a bad call on the show, so we had to re-engineer the footage to make a different contestant look bad. Later, I heard a producer talk to him, and Trump said, ‘Everybody loves a fat guy. People will watch if you have a funny fat guy around. Trust me, it’s good for ratings.’”
Yup, I think that's it.


I spotted this at the Daily Mail:

The news here -- and I use that word loosely -- is that, yes, Jerome Corsi is planning to grace yet another presidential election with a book trashing the Democratic nominee. This one will be called Partners in Crime: The Clintons' Scheme to Monetize the White House for Personal Profit. It'll be out on August 1, and it seems like a poor man's version of Peter Schweizer's higher-profile Clinton Cash, which netted the author exclusive deals with The New York Times and other news organizations, and was a principal source for a Donald Trump speech.

How are the mighty fallen. Twelve years ago, a book Corsi co-authored, Unfit For Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, was a key part of a massive, highly successful campaign to discredit a Democratic nominee. The book was also a #1 New York Times bestseller.

But Corsi couldn't repeat the magic with Barack Obama -- The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality had no impact in 2008, and Where's the Birth Certificate?: The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible to Be President, published a year before the 2012 election, failed to move the needle as well (possibly because the best-known birther, Donald Trump, chose not to launch a presidential bid in that election cycle).

Now, I suppose, Corsi does this strictly for the grift. He's not going to sway the election. This book will be a nice premium for subscribers to various wingnut sites and periodicals, however, so it's a living.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


By now I'm sure you know about the pro-Trump ad created by the NRA Political Victory Fund featuring a Benghazi survivor who denounces Hillary Clinton while walking through a graveyard:

Military contractor Mark "Oz" Geist says in the ad:
A lot of people say they’re not going to vote this November because their candidate didn’t win; well, I know some other people who won’t be voting this year either. Hillary as president? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.”
A lot has been said about this ad, which is the subject of a $2 million ad buy from the NRA PAC -- but let me just add this:

How many Americans died in Benghazi?


And how many tombstones do you see in this still from the ad?

Dozens, maybe more than a hundred. The ad is filled with tombstones. This shot, with rows on rows of tombstones, is what you see when Geist says, "I know some other people who won’t be voting this year either." You also see rows of tombstones when Geist says, "My friends didn't make it."

Everyone with a knowledge of recent history knows that Benghazi was far from the worst attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in recent decades. Most notably, each of the three attacks in Lebanon during Ronald Reagan's presidency killed more people. I'm not trying to downplay the loss of life in Benghazi, but it didn't result in this many U.S. graves -- but the makers of this ad want the viewer to believe, at least on a subconscious level, that it did. The ad can't just ascribe four deaths to her. It has to make her seem like a mass murderer on a grand scale.

There's a lot wrong with this ad beyond the obvious. You may know that the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens doesn't blame Clnton for his death -- but Media Matters points out that Geist, prior to appearing in the ad, also said he didn't blame her:
“Do I hold her accountable? No. You know who I hold accountable is al-Sharia,” he said. “That’s who attacked them. That’s who killed the ambassador.”
And it should be noted that the NRA says the ad was partly filmed in a national cemetery, apparently in violation of government regulations:
The Department of Veterans Affairs has seen the advertisement, issuing a statement to ABC News that reflects the agency’s strict prohibition of filming campaign ads on national cemetery property that contains the graves of military personnel, veterans and their spouses.

"To date, the National Cemetery Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs has not received or approved any filming requests of this nature," VA spokesman James Hutton told ABC News. “NCA did not receive a request from the NRA to film the subject advertisement. If we had received such a request, we would have denied it based on the partisan content.

"As always, our veterans, their families and survivors are our top priority. To maintain the sanctity and decorum of VA National Cemeteries as national shrines, our filming policy states that filming may not be used for the expression of partisan or political viewpoints, or for uses that are (or may be interpreted as) an endorsement of a commercial entity," Hutton said.
The ad dishonors dead U.S. troops and implies that Hillary Clinton's actions led to many more than four deaths. Appalling.


Jonathan Martin of The New York Times has a story today about yet another Donald Trump scam:
... Mr. Trump ... lent his name, and his credibility, to a seminar business he did not own, which was branded the Trump Institute. Its operators rented out hotel ballrooms across the country and invited people to pay up to $2,000 to come hear Mr. Trump’s “wealth-creating secrets and strategies.”

And its customers had ample reason to ask whether they, too, had been deceived.

As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial -- one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge....

In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.

Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after forking over their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump’s special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier.
Surely this will be another nail in his campaign's coffin -- right?

I'm not so sure. Yes, Hillary Clinton has led Trump in every poll for more than a month, frequently by landslide margins -- but some polls still say it's a close race, such as the new Quinnipiac poll, which has Clinton leading by only 2 points.

And while poll drops for Trump seem to be correlated with his personal excesses -- narcissistic tweets in response to the Orlando massacre, racist complaints against the judge assigned to the Trump University lawsuit -- there's still no evidence that the public questions the way he conducts business.

In fact, SurveyMonkey has data suggesting that the public still admires Trump as a businessman:
In the latest survey, a majority of registered voters nationwide (57%) give Trump an excellent or good rating as a businessman, while 41% rate him as only fair or poor in business.

Yes -- the majority of independents, and even a third of Democrats, think Trump does a fine job in business, as do the vast majority of Republicans.

The New Republic's Jeet Heer thinks susceptibility to con men is a particularly Republican phenomenon:
In a sense, conservative voters have been groomed for Trump since the 1960s. As the historian Rick Perlstein wrote in The Baffler and The Nation in 2012, the American conservative movement has become more and more amenable to get-rich-quick schemes, snake-oil salesmen, and confidence men. Direct-mail barons like Richard Viguerie began raking in the dough in the 1960s by stirring up ideological hysteria and convincing an audience of senior citizens that only their small-dollar donation could fend off union bosses, abortionists, and gays. Of course, most of the money ended up with the fundraisers.

From the direct-mail bunco artists, it was a natural progression to conservative media selling ads to the most outlandish dream peddlers and conspiracy-mongers. After Perlstein subscribed to email lists for publications like Townhall and Newsmax, he started getting some strange notices, including “the 123-Cent Heart Miracle,’ the one ‘Washington, the medical industry, and drug companies REFUSE to tell you about.’ (Why would they? They’d just be leaving money on the table: ‘I was scheduled for open heart surgery when I read about your product,’ read one of the testimonials. ‘I started taking it and now six months have passed and I haven’t had open-heart surgery.’).”

Conservative ideology, as Perlstein persuasively argues, is particularly vulnerable to grifters because of its faith in the goodness of business and its concomitant hostility toward regulation -- which makes it easy for true believers to buy into the notion that some modern Edison has a miraculous new invention that the Washington elite is conniving to suppress....

There’s another factor at work here: The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump.
But look at the spread in that SurveyMonkey poll: 57% of Americans overall approve of how Trump conducts business, while Trump gets only 41% of the vote (to Clinton's 49%) in SurveyMonkey's latest election poll. I interpret that to mean that many voters are rejecting Trump for other reasons -- they still think his business career is legit. (And that's a couple of weeks after Trump University became a major news story.)

We're regularly told in America that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. We're told that anyone can become a success, and even a very rich person, with enough discipline and determination and hard work. These aren't conservative ideas -- they're American ideas. I think Trump is going to lose, but his business reputation will remain intact. When frauds like Trump talk, too many Americans want to believe. America is a nation with a lot of easy marks.


Bernie Sanders has been telling us for some time that he recognizes how important it is to defeat Donald Trump in the fall. Most observers have taken that to mean that he'll endorse Hillary Clinton and be an enthusiastic Clinton backer once she's officially the nominee.

I've expressed my doubts about that, and now we have a New York Times op-ed from Sanders that reinforces my suspicions.

Is it an attack on Trump? Yes, in part -- but mostly it's a continuation of Sanders's attack on the Democratic establishment and, by implication, the Clinton campaign.

The title is "Democrats Need to Wake Up."
Surprise, surprise. Workers in Britain, many of whom have seen a decline in their standard of living while the very rich in their country have become much richer, have turned their backs on the European Union and a globalized economy that is failing them and their children.

And it’s not just the British who are suffering. That increasingly globalized economy, established and maintained by the world’s economic elite, is failing people everywhere. Incredibly, the wealthiest 62 people on this planet own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population -- around 3.6 billion people. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99 percent. The very, very rich enjoy unimaginable luxury while billions of people endure abject poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care, education, housing and drinking water.

Could this rejection of the current form of the global economy happen in the United States? You bet it could.

During my campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, I’ve visited 46 states. What I saw and heard on too many occasions were painful realities that the political and media establishment fail even to recognize.
This goes on for six more paragraphs. It's basically the Sanders stump speech from the primary campaign, retooled for the post-Brexit moment. It makes many excellent points.

However, we're not going to solve the problems Sanders cites in the next four months. Right now, we have an election to win.

But Sanders still thinks the top priority is advancing his agenda right now. He's won quite a few battles in the struggle over the Democratic platform, yet he's still fighting with Democrats -- oh, and, incidentally, with Trump as well:
Let’s be clear. The global economy is not working for the majority of people in our country and the world. This is an economic model developed by the economic elite to benefit the economic elite. We need real change.

But we do not need change based on the demagogy, bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiment that punctuated so much of the Leave campaign’s rhetoric -- and is central to Donald J. Trump’s message....

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, not just a handful of billionaires.
In this op-ed, Sanders never endorses Clinton. He never mentions her by name. He doesn't repeat his promise to vote for her (or to vote for her "in all likelihood") -- he just ungraciously tosses off a reference to "a new Democratic president" in the very last paragraph of an eighteen-paragraph op-ed. And his attack on Trump is subsumed in a finger-wagging warning to the Democrats.

This is still a campaign document -- and please note that the capsule bio that appears with the op-ed, which Sanders probably approved, reads as follows: "Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont, is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination." Yes, "is," not "was," or even "has been."

Sanders has said, "I’m going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump." His campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has said that Sanders "will work seven days a week, night and day, to make sure Donald Trump is not president."

But I suspect this is going to be his idea of working seven days a week to defeat Trump: He's going to fold his anti-Trump message into the same message he used to attack Clinton for a year in the primary campaign.

And that's not going to help elect her.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Richard Johnson, the New York Post's "Page Six" gossip columnist, published this item Sunday:
Disgraced ex-UN official’s death ‘conveniently timed’

The death by barbell of disgraced UN official John Ashe could become a bigger obsession for conspiracy theorists than Vince Foster’s 1993 suicide.

Ashe -- who was facing trial for tax fraud -- died Wednesday afternoon in his house in Westchester County. The UN said he’d had a heart attack. But the local Dobbs Ferry police said Thursday that his throat had been crushed, presumably by a barbell he dropped while pumping iron.

Ashe was due in court Monday with his Chinese businessman co-defendant Ng Lap Seng, who is charged with smuggling $4.5 million into the US since 2013 and lying that it was to buy art and casino chips.

Ng was identified in a 1998 Senate report as the source of hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally funneled through an Arkansas restaurant owner, Charlie Trie, to the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration. (Ng was not charged with any crime.)

Ng and Trie had visited the White House several times for Democratic fundraising events and were photographed with then-President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton.

One source told me, “During the trial, the prosecutors would have linked Ashe to the Clinton bagman Ng. It would have been very embarrassing. His death was conveniently timed.”
The tags for this article
Johnson is doing what his boss wants him to do: He's laundering an anti-Clinton rumor that's been creeping around the darker, dumber corners of the Internet. In those precincts, Ashe is said to have died under mysterious circumstances five days before he was set to testify against Hillary Clinton. (That's the headline at Conservative Tribune: "BREAKING: Official Set to Testify Against Hillary Found Dead." At Hidden Americans: "UN OFFICIAL FOUND DEAD WAS SET TO TESTIFY AGAINST HILLARY CLINTON SAME DAY. 'BARBELL FELL ON HIS NECK.'" At Red Flag News: "Top UN Official Set To Testify Against Hillary Found Dead.")

But Snopes explains that some of the misinformation comes from a known Net fabricator:
... a conspiracy site claimed that Ashe had been slated to testify against Hillary Clinton on the day he conveniently (that is to say, suspiciously) passed away:
In what a new Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) report circulating in the Kremlin today calls a “master incestuous maneuver”, the Bush Crime Family has rushed to the side of Hillary Clinton after a top United Nations official set to testify against her in a US District Court yesterday was found dead by FBI agents who were set to deliver him before a Grand Jury....

According to this report, former UN President John Ashe was scheduled to testify against Hillary Clinton yesterday in a New York City US District Court, but when FBI agents arrived at his Dobbs Ferry, New York, mansion he was found dead....
That claim stemmed from a single source: a blogger working under the nom de plume "Sorcha Faal" who publishes fabricated "news" accounts on the political conspiracy site

Prior fabrications from the same site and blogger held that President Obama ordered the military to nuke the city of Charleston, that Rear Admiral Rick Williams was fired because he revealed Obama's purchase of a mansion in Dubai (Williams was actually terminated for misconduct), and that Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama were locked in a potentially conflict-starting battle over the practices of the Monsanto agribusiness corporation.
Snopes tells us that Ashe wasn't scheduled to testify five days before his death and wasn't going to discuss the Clintons in his dealings with the court:
We contacted the U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York to verify the claims about Ashe and Clinton. According to the individual with whom we spoke, CNN's report that Ashe's corruption trial was set to begin just five days after his death was not accurate: Ashe was only scheduled to attend some standard pre-trial meetings in the following days.

Moreover, the U.S. District Attorney's spokesperson told us that no portion of Ashe's court case pertained to Hillary Clinton. Not only was he not set to testify against Clinton five days before he died, neither was he slated to do so at any point during the trial.
No matter -- Wingnuts have arleady added Ashe to the Clinton Body Count, which will endure as long as there's a Clinton alive.


The Republicans have won on Benghazi. To much America, the incident in which four people died was the worst foreign policy failure imaginable. The investigations may be over now that we have today's two Republican reports -- one report, ostensibly objective, that's offered as the voice of the committee as a whole, plus one extra-tendentious report from two hard-right committee members -- but the stench will linger.

The notion that the U.S. response to the Benghazi attacks pushed the limits of unspeakable evil and malignant neglect has been promoted so relentlessly that even if Americans are told that other administrations have suffered deaths of diplomatic personnel -- far more deaths, in many cases, I don't think the public can even process that notion. How could anything be worse than Benghazi? Look how much righteous outrage it's engendered!

And yet in May 2014, Congressman John Garamendi of California said this:
"During the George W. Bush period, there were 13 attacks on various embassies and consulates around the world. Sixty people died."
PolitiFact ruled that it was "mostly true" -- not completely true in part because Garamendi underestimated both the number of attacks and the number of deaths:
While Garamendi spoke of "embassies and consulates," we found several U.S. diplomatic targets killed in the line of duty outside official compounds -- such as in convoys or their homes -- and we included them in our count. Once we cross-referenced the attacks in the article and those in the database, we narrowed down the total to 39 attacks or attempted attacks on U.S. embassies and embassy personnel.

Of these 39 attacks, 20 resulted in at least one fatality. (Our complete list is here.) This is higher than Garamendi's claim, though if you only count attacks on embassy and consular property, there were 13.

Garamendi also understated the number of deaths. In the 20 incidents with at least one fatality, the total death toll was 87 -- quite a few more than the 60 Garamendi cited. If you only count those at embassies and consulates proper, the number of deaths drops to 66.

We should note that the vast majority of these deaths were not Americans. We counted 63 deaths that were either of non-Americans or of people whose nationality is unknown. Another three were U.S. civilians. Another 21 were workers at the U.S embassy or consulate, either of American or foreign nationality.

So, using what we think is the most reasonable definition, Garamendi's numbers are a bit low.
And before that, as Jane Mayer noted in 2014, there was Lebanon in the Reagan years:
Around dawn on October 23, 1983, I was in Beirut, Lebanon, when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with the equivalent of twenty-one thousand pounds of TNT into the heart of a U.S. Marine compound, killing two hundred and forty-one servicemen. The U.S. military command, which regarded the Marines’ presence as a non-combative, “peace-keeping mission,” had left a vehicle gate wide open, and ordered the sentries to keep their weapons unloaded. The only real resistance the suicide bomber had encountered was a scrim of concertina wire. When I arrived on the scene a short while later to report on it for the Wall Street Journal, the Marine barracks were flattened. From beneath the dusty, smoking slabs of collapsed concrete, piteous American voices could be heard, begging for help. Thirteen more American servicemen later died from injuries, making it the single deadliest attack on American Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Six months earlier, militants had bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, too, killing sixty-three more people, including seventeen Americans. Among the dead were seven C.I.A. officers, including the agency’s top analyst in the Middle East, an immensely valuable intelligence asset, and the Beirut station chief.

There were more than enough opportunities to lay blame for the horrific losses at high U.S. officials’ feet. But unlike today’s Congress, congressmen did not talk of impeaching Ronald Reagan, who was then President, nor were any subpoenas sent to cabinet members.
There was a genuinely bipartisan congressional investigation, which made serious recommendations.

And yet:
In March of 1984, three months after Congress issued its report, militants struck American officials in Beirut again, this time kidnapping the C.I.A.’s station chief, Bill Buckley. Buckley was tortured and, eventually, murdered.... Congress held no public hearings, and pointed fingers at the perpetrators, not at political rivals....

The story in Beirut wasn’t over. In September of 1984, for the third time in eighteen months, jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit. The problem, the President admitted, was that the repairs hadn’t quite been completed on time. As he put it, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.”
That last attack happened less than two months before a presidential election. Democrats didn't scour the record looking for evidence that the president took the incident lightly. In fact, as I noted in 2012, they didn't have to. Reagan blithely continued to campaign:
On September 20, 1984, there was a truck-bomb explosion at the U.S. embassy annex in Aukar, Lebanon, just outside Beirut. Twenty-four people were killed....

What did Ronald Reagan do on September 21, 1984? He made three campaign appearances in Iowa -- at an airport rally, a farm, and a church picnic -- despite the fact that a Des Moines Register poll showed him leading Walter Mondale in the state by 23 points. He then returned to Washington and made a well-publicized visit to the home of seven-year-old Rudolph Lee-Hines, who lived in the predominantly black Congress Heights section of Washington. Reagan had dinner at the home of Lee-Hines, who was described in news reports as Reagan's "pen pal"; they'd exchanged several letters after a Reagan visit to the boy's school the previous March.

As a housewarming gift, Reagan brought a jar of jelly beans.
Hillary Clinton has been demonized for Benghazi by a party that regards Ronald Reagan as a god among men. In both cases, history has been written by the propaganda victors.


Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report tweeted this yesterday:

It's true -- in poll after poll, when you ask voters which party they favor for their House seat, naming no candidate names, the parties are running even, or the Democrats are only slightly ahead, in poll after poll.

If you're assuming that distaste for Donald Trump will translate into distaste for the Republican Party in general, please remember that the news is full of stories about mainstream Republicans' squeamishness about Trump, and about Trump's contempt for the party establishment. The dominant narrative is that Trump isn't really representative of the party. A lot of people read this as a party in chaos, but I think Reince Priebus, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and other pary leaders are doing a pretty good of generating that Trump-vs.-GOP narrative. They're assuming that voters who like Trump will vote GOP downballot because he's at the top of the ticket, while many voters who don't like Trump will still vote GOP downballot because the pre-Trump party clearly still exists, and regularly expresses contempt for Trump. In 2008, when Democrats led the "generic ballot" question by 19 points in June, the GOP was the party of the despised George W. Bush -- there was no ambiguity about that. But this year it's not clear who really represents the GOP. Would-be Republican voters can believe it's Trump or believe it's the old guard -- whatever they choose.

I'm assuming you know why a 50-50 House vote wouldn't produce a 50-50 House: Redistricting and gerrymandering by Republican state governments means that Democrats have to win the overall vote in a near-landslide just to reach parity in the House. A Republican scheme called REDMAP, initiated in 2010, made sure of that, as David Daley explains in a new book titled Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy. In a New Yorker review of the book, Elizabeth Colbert explains how it works, using Pennsylvania as an example:
Two of the most common gerrymandering techniques are “packing” and “cracking.” In the first, the party in charge of redistricting tries to “pack” voters from the rival party into as few districts as possible, to minimize the number of seats the opposition is likely to win. In the second, blocs of opposition voters are parcelled out among several districts, to achieve the same goal.

Both techniques were brought to bear in Pennsylvania. The new Republican majority “packed” blue-leaning voters into a handful of districts around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Then it “cracked” the rest into districts that tilted red.

... So skillfully were the lines drawn that in 2012 -- when President Obama carried Pennsylvania by three hundred thousand votes and the state’s Democratic congressional candidates collectively outpolled their G.O.P. rivals by nearly a hundred thousand votes -- Republicans still won thirteen of Pennsylvania’s eighteen seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Kolbert adds:
In House races in 2012, 1.7 million more votes were cast for Democrats than for Republicans. And still, thanks to the way those votes were packed and cracked, Republicans came away with thirty-three more congressional seats.
So how big would the Democrats' overall lead in the House vote have to be if they want to win back the House? At Salon, Daley provides an estimate:
That ... edge in 2012 amounted to 50.4 percent of the two-party vote overall for the Democrats. You would need something upwards of 55 percent to get in the ballpark of the chambers switching, which would require many millions more votes.
In other words, a 10-point margin.

And we're nowhere near that, judging from the poll averages, because many people who loathe Trump still don't associate him with their nice GOP House member. And every time an outrageous Trump statement is denounced by an establishment Republican, the House majority gets safer -- and probably the Senate majority as well.

Monday, June 27, 2016


At National Review, polemicist and not-quite-presidential-candidate David French reacts to today's Supreme Court decision overturning an absurdly restrictive Texas abortion law:
On page 27 of one of today’s Supreme Court opinions is this ringing rejection of regulatory regimes. The majority opinion addressed the argument that new regulations would prevent misconduct:
But there is no reason to believe that an extra layer of regulation would have affected that behavior. Determined wrongdoers, already ignoring existing statutes and safety measures, are unlikely to be convinced to adopt safe practices by a new overlay of regulations.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The regulatory state should tremble in fear. There is now “no reason to believe” that additional regulations would affect wrongdoers. That means that regulations may not even be able to escape the lowest level of judicial scrutiny -- rational-basis review.

Environmentalists are quaking in their boots. Gun controllers are throwing their hands up in despair. Financial and business regulators may as well close up shop.
Of course, this passage isn't arguing that regulations are inevitably futile. It's arguing that some people -- in this case, a depraved abortion provider named Kermit Gosnell -- will inevitably ignore all rules and regulations for as long as they can get away with it. Here's a fuller version of this passage:
Gosnell’s behavior was terribly wrong. But there is no reason to believe that an extra layer of regulation would have affected that behavior. Determined wrongdoers, already ignoring existing statutes and safety measures, are unlikely to be convinced to adopt safe practices by a new overlay of regulations.
Which is immediately followed by this:
Regardless, Gosnell’s deplorable crimes could escape detection only because his facility went uninspected for more than 15 years.
In other words: Some people are so depraved that regulations don't deter them -- until they're caught. So -- obviously -- regulations have to be combined with effective enforcement.

French knows that that's what the passage means, but he assumes his readers don't know it, so he might as well try to score a few cheap, deceptive points.

French finishes the post this way:
Wait. What’s that you say? This is an abortion decision? The regulations in questions were deemed responsible for closing substandard abortion clinics?

Never mind. The regulatory state is safe. Everyone knows that the Supreme Court privileges the killing of children above all else. After all, as Justice Ginsburg has said, Roe v. Wade was motivated by “concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” The undesired have to die -- the reasoning matters not.
What Ginsburg actually said was that she once thought the Roe decision -- which came down a generation before she joined the Supreme Court -- was motivated in part by concern about "growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of." You can argue that she was including herself in that "we," but plenty of people, myself included, use the word "we" to refer to "a group I'm part of but whose chief representatives say and do things I don't approve of." Here's the quote in context, from a 2009 interview with Emily Bazelon. Bazelon asks Ginsburg about "the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women":
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae -- in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.
At the time of the interview, even Jonah Goldberg was smart enough not to assume that this was a reflection of Ginsburg's own belief:
Left unclear is whether Ginsburg endorses the eugenic motivation she ascribed to the passage of Roe v. Wade or whether she was merely objectively describing it.
He didn't quite grasp the fact that, as she said herself, she'd imagined that this was part of the Court's motivation, but she later concluded it wasn't. But at least he realized that this wasn't her view, as she told Bazelon in an interview three years later:
I asked if she was talking about general concern in the society, as opposed to her own concern or the concern of the feminist legal community. Ginsburg said yes....
French knows this history, or should know it. French, who can parse words when it suits him, should know that that "we" doesn't necessarily imply an endosement. And French should know that Ginsburg stopped believing in 1980 that Roe was motivated even in part by eugenic beliefs -- again, long before she joined the Court.

But why would he tell the truth, and pass up a couple of good zingers?


This Washington Times story popped up at Memeorandum this morning:
One of the heroic survivors of the 2012 Benghazi attack, who held off invading Islamists until rescuers reached the besieged CIA base, has begun a national campaign to counter President Obama’s narrative on the terrorist threat.

Former Army Ranger Kris “Tanto” Paronto has started a nonprofit called Leading From the Front, which he hopes will translate into a national movement to drive home the real threat Islamic extremists pose to America.

“Radical Islam is at war with America, and we are slowly losing,” Mr. Paronto said. “From Benghazi to Orlando, we are seeing the deadly consequences of President Obama and Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s ‘leading from behind’ and their willful blindness towards the threat of radical Islam.”...

Mr. Paronto has the celebrity status -- and the war record -- to make people listen.

He served nearly eight years as an Army Ranger before being honorably and medically discharged for Crohn’s disease in 2003. He launched a career as a private security officer stationed throughout the Middle East. He eventually landed a job as one of the CIA’s personal security officers. One assignment took him to Kandahar, Afghanistan....

The CIA shifted him to Benghazi, a hotbed of Islamic activism and gun-running in the post-Moammar Gadhafi era, weeks before the historical events of Sept. 11, 2012, at 9:42 p.m. That was the hour Islamists breached the gate and set fire to the U.S. mission, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and aide Sean Smith....

Mr. Paronto became a voice for those who survived, appearing on Fox News Channel and other outlets.
Yeah, he's become a voice -- and Benghazi appears to be his career now, judging from his slick website and other sources:

Paronto continued to be a private security officer until 2013, according to his bio at the site, but he's not doing that anymore. His LinkedIn page says his current job is KPI LLC, the company set up to promote him, as well as 13 Hours, which is the title of a book about Benghazi written by "Mitchell Zuckoff with the Annex Security Team." (Paronto was as a member of the team, so to gets to claim that he's an "author.") The book was made into a movie, which Paronto has promoted relentlessly, and continues to promote on his site -- go to the merchandise page and you can buy 13 Hours DVDs (regular and Blu-Ray), a 13 Hours autographed poster, and a #BENGHAZI MATTERS T-shirt ("Perfect T-Shirt To Wear To The MOVIE PREMIERE!"). You can also buy men's T-shirts, a "ladies boyfriend T-shirt," and a "ladies racerback tank" with Paronto's John 15:13 logo.

(John 15:13 is "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" -- something Paronto, of course, didn't do. If this is a reference to the Benghazi dead, Paronto has turned their deaths into his trademark)

You can book a Paronto speech through JL Wilkinson Consulting -- although Paronto has also worked with Premiere Speakers Bureau and Keppler Speakers. He gives speeches titled "13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi," "Bottom Up Leadership and How It Saved Lives in Benghazi" ("From combat to business, Kris shares techniques, stories, and lessons he learned from having a strong team under fire"), "God and Combat" ("This talk will equip you for your own battles as Kris walks through his faith journey, and shares how the power of God brought him through the toughest fight of his life"), and "Lessons for Leadership in a New World." So he's got a lot of markets covered.

He does get a fair number of gigs -- tomorrow he's speaking at the Texas Police Association Annual Training Conference; in mid-July he'll address a "Private Event in Las Vegas" (cough Adelson cough?) After that he's a keynote speaker at Republican events in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Volusia County, Florida, as well as at a gathering of the South Dakota Federation of Republican Women.

Does all this pay the bills? Paronto's LinkedIn page says that the only "opportunities Kris is looking for" are opportunities in "skills-based volunteering (pro bono consulting)."

Leading from the Front, The Washington Times tells us, is well connected, in a manner of speaking:
Mr. Paronto’s Leading From the Front is one of the first projects under the American Legacy Center. Executive Director Adam Waldeck said the center operates off of a small donor base and will tap former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Donald Trump supporter, for help on campaigns.
The American Legacy Center appears to have ties to Ben Carson, jusging from this Baltimore Sun story, which appeared as Carson was gearing up for his presidential run:
Carson is the chairman of Save Our Health Care, a group that supports Republican congressional candidates. The group is funded by the American Legacy PAC, which has raised $7.3 million since last year. The organizers of the group have also formed the American Legacy Center, a nonprofit that can accept unlimited donations and does not have to disclose its donors.
Adam Waldeck, according to his LinkedIn page, currently works for American Legacy PAC, and has previously worked for Newt 2012 and Gingrich's American Solutions. In 2013, David Corn and Adam Kroll of Mother Jones reported that American Legacy PAC seemed to be a scam:
This PAC, founded in 2010 and fronted by Gingrich, bags a lot of money from conservative donors, but little of this cash reaches candidates. During the 2012 election cycle, the group took in $515,321 -- most of it from donors contributing less than $200 -- and it doled out a measly $9,000 to seven Republican candidates, including Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel, Virginia Senate candidate George Allen, and Gingrich himself.
And regarding American Solutions, Open Secrets tells us:
The old American Solutions raised more than $50 million in four years, much of which went to pay Gingrich’s travel expenses and otherwise boost his political profile.
Do you understand why I'm posting all this? Conservatives speak of Benghazi as a great tragedy and an outrage. They say they grieve for the dead. They say they want a wrong righted.

But here's a guy for whom Benghazi is a revenue source. He's hooked up with grifters who've made a habit of stoking various fears in order to separate ordinary conservatives from their money.

Nothing surprising about this, if you know how Republicans mingle politics and money-churning. But your uncle who keeps sending you email forwards about Benghazi doesn't realize that Benghazi is a business opportunity for some people.


Sunday, June 26, 2016


Do the result of the Brexit referendum mean that Donald Trump is going to be our next president? I agree with Jamelle Bouie that differences in the two electorates mean that the outcomes probably won't be the same:
The chief reason is that, unlike the U.K., the U.S. has a large voting population of nonwhites: Latinos, black Americans, Asian Americans, etc. In Britain, “black and minority ethnic” people make up about 8 percent of the electorate. By contrast, people of color account for nearly 1 in 3 American voters. In practice, this means that in the past two national elections, there has been an electoral penalty for embracing the most reactionary elements of national life. And we see this in the polling between Trump and Clinton. If the United States were largely white -- if its electorate were as monochromatic as Britain’s -- then Trump might have the advantage.
"Might" is an understatemnt, as I'll explain below.

There's far less polling in the U.K. of the kind we're used to, but the Lord Ashcroft Poll tells us this about the ethnic breakdown of the Brexit vote:
White voters voted to leave the EU by 53% to 47%. Two thirds (67%) of those describing themselves as Asian voted to remain, as did three quarters (73%) of black voters.
"Leave" was the winner in the Brexit referendum by approximately 4 points; according to this poll, whites backed "Leave" by 6.

By contrast, a new Washington Post/ABC poll has Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 12 in a two-person race, and by 10 in a four-person race (with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein) -- but this massive Clinton lead comes despite the fact that Trump leads by 10 among white voters in a two-person race, and by 12 in a four-person race. So Trump is doing much better among whites than Brexit did -- yet he's getting clobbered in the overall race.

And Trump isn't even able to take full advantage of the fact that the Republican Party is the party of Team White People: Exit polls showed in 2012 that Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 20 points among whites, in an election he lost overall by 4 points. In 2008, John McCain beat Obama among whites by 12 points, in an election he lost overall by 7. So Trump is underperforming those guys among whites -- he's even underperforming McCain, who ran in a year when Obama had the second-best Democratic vote percentage in a presidential election since 1944.

Does this mean Trump can't win? No -- the Post/ABC poll is somewhat of an outlier; a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton up by only 5 in a two-person race, and up by 1 in a four-person race. It's a contest, according to this poll -- though he's still losing.

But what if the polls are underestimating support for Tump, as they did for Brexit? Note that the final Brexit poll average, according to Pollster, showed "Remain" leading by 0.5; "Leave" won by 3.8% But in the presidential race, poll averages suggest that Clinton's lead is solid -- Real Clear Politics says she's now up by an average of 6.7 in a two-person race and 5.6 in a four-person race. That means that even if Trump's support is being underestimated by 4.3 points, as Brexit's was, he'll still lose.

But in that case it'll be a tight race -- and yes, that will be thanks to "embattled whites," with non-whites saving us from ourselves once again.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Republican voters really will believe anything if it's uttered by or on behalf of someone they think has the ability to kick liberal/immigrant/Muslim ass:
Donald Trump: Born-again Christian?

The presumptive Republican nominee captured a significant number of evangelical voters during the Republican primary, and that may be due to recently accepting “a relationship with Christ,” according to evangelical leader James Dobson.

... Dobson, a Christian psychologist and founder of the Focus on the Family group, said he knows “the person who led [Trump] to Christ. And that’s fairly recent.”

“I don’t know when it was, but it has not been long,” Dobson said in an interview with Pennsylvania megachurch pastor Michael Anthony following that meeting in New York. ”I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian.”
Yeah, and I am Marie of Roumania.

I'm sure I've said this before, but the guy who really underestimated the ability of Republicans to accept a completely phony conversion to religious right values is Rudy Giuliani. I still think he would have been the Republican nominee in 2008 if he'd announced, some time in 2006 or 2007, that he'd suddenly seen the light on abortion and gay rights, and now unswervingly opposed both. Look what's happened in the last two election cycles: The Republicans have nominated Mitt Romney, a moderate on social issues when he was governor of Massachusetts, and Trump, a libertine who was also not an opponent of abortion or gay rights until it became politically expedient.

Why didn't Giuliani flip-flop on these issues in '08? Was it integrity on his part? I doubt it -- I assume he just thought he was such an American hero after 9/11 that he could defy party dogma.

Romney, at least, seemed to be reverting to the tenets of his faith. Trump is transparently phony -- but because religious rightists think he can smite liberals, most of them doesn't care. Giuliani probably didn't think he could get away with fraud that flagrant. Now he knows that gulling voters in his party is ridiculously easy.


There's near-universal agreement that Donald Trump made a fool of himself in Scotland yesterday:
TURNBERRY, Scotland -- Arriving here Friday for his first trip abroad as the likely Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump did not seem to understand the gravity of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.

As the value of the pound collapsed in the morning and stock markets around the globe plummeted, Trump attended a surreal ribbon-cutting at his luxury golf resort in this seacoast village and barely mentioned the global news until reporters pressed him to do so....

He landed by helicopter, sporting a white cap bearing his presidential campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The theme was tweaked on red caps worn by resort staffers: “Make Turnberry Great Again.” At a news conference later, Trump stood in front of a bagpiper and continued to speak after a prankster threw several dozen red golf balls bearing swastikas onto the grass.

As reporters pressed him on the referendum to leave the E.U. known as Brexit, Trump declared the vote “fantastic” and “great” because it reflected the anger of voters -- even though Scots voted overwhelmingly to remain....

“I think it’s a great thing that happened,” Trump told reporters shortly after his helicopter landed. “People are angry, all over the world. People, they’re angry.”
I don't think this will hurt him. Help him? No, it won't help him either -- but I think it's a wash. His poll numbers went down after he spent days attacking the judge in the Trump University case. I don't believe this will have a similar effect.

If you like Trump, or at least find him somewhat appealing, you probably liked this press conference. It was the distilled essence of his campaign message: I am a businessman who builds things. I think people are fed up with the status quo, which is about to change for the better.

I know, I know: The golf course he built is an abject failure:
Trump has ... reported to Scottish authorities that he lost millions of dollars on the project -- even as he claims on U.S. presidential disclosure forms that the course has been highly profitable.

Trump’s original plan: ... The project would pump millions of dollars into the local economy and create 6,000 jobs -- maybe even 7,000 jobs, Trump said at one news conference....

Today, the Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen employs 150 people.... Lonely and desolate, the resort has attracted no major tournaments, and neighbors say the parking lot is rarely, if ever, full.
But Americans, or approximately half of them, love this sort of rah-rah business boosterism. They really believe that Trump is the greatest businessman in the country. They really believe he's as rich as he says he is. And they've been told for decades, going back at least to the Reagan era, that the cure for all economic ills is guys in expensive suits creating jobs out of the goodness of their hearts, because that's what capitalism is.

So Trump embodied that yesterday even as he embodied the other widespread view of business in America, namely that fat cats -- other fat cats, not Trump -- have made a mess of America and the world, primarily through globalism and lack of respect for white people. Oddly, an American building a golf course in Scotland isn't regarded as globalism by Trumpites, or maybe they see it as globalism going in the right direction, i.e., us doing stuff to them. (Scots are white too, but they're foreign.)

Trump was criticized for not making a statement reflecting the seriousness of the situation in Britain. But what he did instead was really hammer away at phrases that strike a nerve with his base:
People want to take their country back. They want to have independence, in a sense, and you see it with Europe, all over Europe. You're going to have more than just -- in my opinion, more than what happened last night, you're going to have, I think many other cases where they want to take their borders back. They want to take their monetary back.

They want to take a lot of things back. They want to be able to have a country again. So, I think you're going have this happen more and more. I really believe that, and I think it's happening in the United States....

But I really do see a parallel between what's happening in the United States and what's happening here. People want to see borders. They don't necessarily want people pouring into their country that they don't know who they are and where they come from. They have no idea.

... again, I think that's what's happening in the United States.... It's a really positive force taking place. They want to take their country back. The people want their country back. We don't want to lose our jobs, we don't want to lose our borders.

... You're taking your country back, you're going to let people that you want into your country, and people that you don't want, or people that you don't think are going to be appropriate for your country, or good for your country, you're not going to have to take.
Over and over and over again. I'm sorry, but that's all some voters want to hear. They don't want to hear a well-informed candidate make an unemotional statement of concern combined with reassurance. They think people who make statments like that in situations like this are the people who've ruined everything in the world.

I'm not saying that the people who responded well to Trump are a majority of American voters. I'm just saying that if you like the sort of thing Trump regularly does, then you probably liked what he did yesterday. If not, not.

Bonus: He was accused of being a Nazi. The fact that he's hated in that way is a mark of virtue for his fans.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton this morning!
Asked on MSNBC's Morning Joe whether he will vote for Clinton in November, Sanders responded "Yes."

The Vermont senator, who has not yet formally ended his 2016 campaign, said that stopping Donald Trump from becoming president must be an overarching goal.

"I think the issue right here is I'm gonna do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump," he said.
Except he's not dropping out, even though he's promised to vote for his opponent:
But Sanders also dismissed the idea that he should withdraw from the Democratic race now that Clinton has secured the nomination.

"Why would I want to do that when I want to fight to make sure that we have the best platform that we possibly can, that we win the most delegates that we can?" he said.
And while he said definitively that he'd vote for Clinton, that's not an endorsement:
And in a later interview on CBS, Sanders declined to formally endorse Clinton, although he indicated that he "hopes" to before the convention.

"I haven't heard her say the things that need to be said," he said.
And on CNN, he said he isn't sure about his November vote after all:
Bernie Sanders said Friday he will likely vote for Hillary Clinton for president in November, the strongest expression of support yet from the Vermont senator, but he left the door open that he could change his mind.

"In all likelihood, it will be Hillary Clinton," Sanders told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day."
In the most definitive statement, on Morning Joe, what strikes me is the limited list of issues on which Sanders seems to think Clinton is a clear choice over Trump:

We do not need a president whose cornerstone of his campaign is bigotry, is insulting Mexicans and Latinos and Muslims and women, who does not believe in the reality of climate change, when virtually every scientist who has studied this issue understands we have a global crisis. This is not somebody who should become president.
That's it? Nothing else immediately comes to Sanders's mind that's objectionable about Trump? The ignorance? The recklessness? The flirtation with white nationalism? The support for torture and other war crimes? The very Republican budget with massive tax breaks for the rich? And Trump isn't just insulting various groups, he's actively planning draconian measures to repress them. Everything Sanders says is worth saying, but he could say a hell of a lot more.

Throughout the morning, Trump Sanders emphasized key issues he wants to get into the Democratic platform:
Pressed by [CBS] anchor Charlie Rose on what he needs to hear [from Clinton], Sanders said he wants Clinton to call for public universities and colleges to be tuition-free and to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. These are two areas where Sanders and Clinton disagree, but only by degree.

Clinton is advocating "debt-free" public college, and she says she thinks the federal minimum-wage should be raised to $12 an hour while states and cities could raise it to $15 on their own, as some are already doing.
I think Sanders really believes that Trump is not that far from Clinton on these issues, or at least where Clinton would be if Sanders hadn't run. But:
Compare that to Trump, who believes the Department of Education, which gives federal aid, should be "largely eliminated"; privatizing student loans; incentivizing the kinds of college majors that are proven to make more money; and he has waffled on the minimum wage.

He had said in a November debate of the current $7.25 federal wage, "I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is." Yet, last month, he said he was open to doing something about the wage because he's "very different from most Republicans." But it's unclear what Trump would do exactly. There is no policy position on his web site relating to education or the minimum wage in any way.
Trust me: A President Trump would sign whatever bill the Ryan/McConnell Congress places on his desk with regard to the federal minimum wage, even one that eliminates it altogether. I wish Sanders understood that. And if he does understand it, I wish he'd talk about it.


Britain has voted to leave the European Union, and American right-wing populists and Trumpites are acting as if they won:

The Trump tweet is particularly idiotic:

And Scotland wants the referendum in part because it wants to stay in the EU:
Scotland's government began moves Friday to hold a new referendum on independence from the U.K. after the "Brexit" vote, saying it faced being taken out of the European Union against its will.

First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon said officials would plan for a "highly likely" vote on separation from the rest of the U.K....

"We've got a united country in Scotland which wants to be part of Europe, and in the manifesto it said if Scotland was dragged out of Europe against the will of the Scottish people, then the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another independence referendum," said Sturgeon's predecessor, Alex Salmond.
I don't know how all this will affect the U.S. election. The average American is barely aware of what goes on overseas, unless there's a terrorist attack in a majority-white country, so this isn't visceral for most Americans. It's possible that whatever chaos ensues in the next few months is going to make more temperate American voters fearful of voting for a candidate who courts chaos here. But we'll see.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Donald Trump's speech yesterday got some good reviews. Slate's Michelle Goldberg wrote,
Donald Trump’s Wednesday morning speech about Hillary Clinton’s record is probably the most unnervingly effective one he has ever given. In a momentary display of discipline, he read from a teleprompter with virtually no ad-libbing, avoiding digs at Bill Clinton’s infidelity or conspiracy theories about Vince Foster’s suicide.... Trump spoke for 40 minutes without saying anything overtly sexist. Instead, he aimed straight at Clinton’s most-serious weaknesses, describing her as a venal tool of the establishment. “Hillary Clinton gave China millions of our best jobs and effectively let China completely rebuild itself,” he said. “In return, Hillary Clinton got rich!” He added, “She gets rich making you poor,” and called her possibly “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.”

The point is not that this is true; as political analyst David Gergen said on CNN, the speech was slanderous. But the lies in the speech ... were not obviously self-refuting.
NPr's Mara Liasson had this to say:
Donald Trump did what Republicans have begged their presidential candidate to do for months -- lay out the case, from A to Z, against Hillary Clinton.

... the political significance of the speech is undeniable. After wasting the first six weeks of his time as the presumptive nominee of the GOP -- getting sidetracked almost daily by petty personal feuds and provocative statements -- Trump finally laid out a case against Clinton on foreign and domestic policy.

This speech should quiet some of the angst inside Republican circles about the quality of the campaign Trump is running (or not running). Opposition to the Clintons is one of the strongest strands in the GOP's DNA -- and now that decades-long animus seems to have found a focused champion in Donald Trump.
Josh Marshall's gloss on the speech was titled "For Trump, Almost Normal." Marshall thinks the prompter reined Trump in -- at least temporarily:
So what is it about this speech? The answer is pretty obvious: Trump was using a TelePrompTer, which is to say it wasn't him talking. In fact, pretty much all of Trumps TelePrompTer speeches have been this way. They're kind of plodding. They're clearly not him. But they're also not crazy, which given who we're talking about is not nothing. As I've argued, this is Trump's singular liability in this campaign. People think he's too erratic, crazy, belligerent, unhinged - pick your adjective - to be president. Relatedly, there are whole classes of citizens who think they're at best second class citizens in his eyes - women, Hispanics, blacks, basically anybody who's not a white man.
What has me mildly worried is the fact that the speech had zingers in it that were within the pale. The speech, although it had its share of slanderous lies, wasn't profoundly offensive -- yet it must have been a satisfying attack for Trump. If Trump can continue to find this sort of campaigning satisfying -- doling out scripted zingers that don't shock people but still sting -- he might abandon the all-id-all-the-time approach that put him on course to be the most hated presidential nominee ever.

Marshall has his doubts:
Personally, I think Trump has likely done himself too much damage to be able to overcome these [negative] impressions, which lets be clear, are entirely accurate impressions. Trump is a mercurial and emotional unstable racist and misogynist who is also a pathological liar.

... you have to wait 24 hours to have any idea how a Trump speech went. Why? Because once Trump is cut loose from the TelePrompTer ball and chain, he'll inevitably go on Hannity or O'Reilly and say something totally insane.

... Trump will always be Trump. I have no doubt he'll be back to being Trump very soon.
But maybe, if there's just enough invective in the prepared speeches, he'll abandon his free-form rants at rallies. Maybe his Lewandowski-less team will keep him off Twitter and limit his cable news phone-ins. He'll still be a racist know-nothing. But he'll be somewhat more dangerous as a candidate because he'll seem somewhat less dangerous as a potential president.

Meanwhile, Brian Beutler of The New Republic writes this about Hillary Clinton:
Clinton world is worried about Republicans dumping Donald Trump. Or perhaps that Trump will exit the race voluntarily before the GOP convention. In an otherwise straightforward article about Hillary Clinton’s running-mate selection process, Politico buries this fascinating lede.
The selection process, however, is colored by new uncertainty among Democratic donors and Clinton allies who are no longer convinced that Donald Trump is sure to be the GOP nominee. A big advantage of holding their convention second, Democrats said, was being able to make a final pick with full knowledge of the GOP ticket.
I read this to imply a couple things. First, Clinton will have an heir and a spare in mind: Her ideal running mate to announce should Trump officially secure the GOP nomination, and a more defensive pick should Republicans somehow deny it to him. Second, and relatedly, we’re unlikely to know who her running mate will be until late July.
A somewhat tamed, prompter-reading Trump probably won't have to worry about a challenge at the convention. So Trump may have found the formula that secures the nomination for him. Or maybe he'll cut loose again and the nomination will be at risk again.

The Politico story says that Virginia senator Tim Kaine is Clinton's top VP pick. Kaine boring and temperate and not a passionate progressive. Maybe that's what Clinton wants in a running mate most of all. Or maybe it's what she thinks matches up best against a ticket headed by Donald Trump. Against Trump, boring is good. If you're boring, maybe you look like the adult in the room when Trump is going off half-cocked. Maybe you look sane in a debate with a crazy Trump running mate -- Newt Gingrich, for instance.

So perhaps, as Beutler argues, Clinton would pick someone else if faced with a different opponent. But what if the ticket is a slightly tamed Trump plus a not-crazy-seeming running mate? (Though I don't know who fits that description -- Jeff Sessions?) Is Kaine the person Clinton would want? I don't know. But we'll see how this plays out.


I'm pleased to see Democrats going on offense on the subject of guns. Yes, I'm weighing the argument that the no-fly list is an error-ridden violation of civil liberties, and therefore it shouldn't be used as the basis for restrictions on gun ownership. In the Bush years, I wrote many posts about people (including Senator Ted Kennedy) who were erroneously placed on one list or another, though I saw the problem at the time as Bush administration incompetence. In fact, the incompetence seems to have decreased in the Obama years:
In one of the most recent internal reviews of the watch list system, the Justice Department inspector general found in a 2014 report that improvements in the F.B.I.’s watch list system had made it “more complete, accurate and current” after problems in getting people on and off the list.

Earlier reviews found that as many as 15 percent of suspects in active terrorism investigations were not on the F.B.I. watch list, and that other people were improperly kept on it even after investigations into their suspected terrorism ties were closed. Both these problems appeared to have been significantly reduced or eliminated by the time of the 2014 review.
But I get the due process argument. And yet it's good to see Democrats fighting back against the gun lobby and a gun culture that believes gun proliferation always make America better.

But it's sad that the principal demand of this sit-in is a vote on a bill linking gun violence to terrorism screening. A vote on a universal background check bill is a secondary consideration. A ban on assault weapons isn't being discussed.

The sit-in came the same day that Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, announced that he was endorsing Hillary Clinton. This endorsement was rolled out to coincide with a Donld Trump speech that harshly criticized Clinton's record on foreign policy.

Clinton wants swing voters to think, Oh, she must be a good choice -- Republican foreign policy gray eminences like her. Democrats in Congress want swing voters to think, Oh, the Democrats are right on guns -- they take terrorism seriously.

For Democrats, it's still 2002, the year of the Iraq War vote, or maybe 1980, the year Reagan was elected, or 1972, the year McGovern lost: The way you're supposed to show you can be trusted with political power, if you're a Democrat, is still by demonstrating that you think like a Republican, or at least that you think about issues traditionally linked to Republicans.

I know that Donald Trump has attacked Clinton from the left on a couple of foreign policy issues, particularly by dishonestly arguing that he was against the Iraq War from the beginning. But he gets away with that because hhe's said he wants to "bomb the shit out of" ISIS and because he wants to re-legalize torture.

And I know that Brent Scowcroft really did oppose the Iraq War before it started. But, still -- he's a Republican. That's why Clinton wanted his endorsement.

Democrats have been on defense on foreign policy for nearly 45 years. I don't think I'll live long enough to see that change.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Five New York Times reporters collaborated on a summary and fact-check of the speech Donald Trump delivered today, which was a lengthy attack on Hillary Clinton. The fact-check included this bullet point:
• Peter Schweizer, the author of “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” which Mr. Trump repeatedly referred to, is a well-known conservative author who is a senior editor-at-large at Breitbart News and is affiliated with the conservative Hoover Institution.

Sorry, that's all we get regarding Schweizer and his book. There's no mention of the Times's deal to gain early access to material in the book, which the paper's Amy Chozick announced with great fanfare more than a year ago:
But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.
I guess the Times is embarrassed to acknowledge that it aligned itself with an author whose work is now fodder for the campaign attacks of a bunco artist and conspiracy-monger. Maybe there'll be a tiny correction in the paper a few days from now.