Sunday, July 31, 2016

No comment

Photo by Dorian Santiago via NBC News.
Tomorrow's the 50th anniversary of the day Charles Whitman of Austin, Texas, 25-year-old white man, Eagle Scout and Marine, son of a violent authoritarian father, speed freak and college student, killed his wife and his mother in their homes and then went to the University of Texas campus where he gunned down 49 people, killing 16 of them, mostly from the observation deck of the Main Building Tower.

It is also, apparently by coincidence, the day the new Texas "campus-carry" law goes into effect, as I learned from NPR, allowing anybody with a Texas handgun license to carry a concealed handgun on any Texas college campus including, obviously, UT Austin.

The NPR story went to bed too early to incorporate another Austin story, where the 6th Street nightlife district was terrorized early this morning after the bars closed by reports of an "active shooter situation" in the neighborhood. But not to worry, that was just a rumor! The fact was that there were two shooters in completely unrelated incidents, and they were just working out their own private relationship issues, I guess, and only one woman got killed and four seriously injured, so it's just Texas. The one shooter who succeeded in murdering somebody is still at large, but he isn't "active". The Second Amendment escaped unharmed.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Convention bounce

Misty Copeland, via Shape.
John Cole puts it very nicely:
We Democrats get ALL THE GOOD SHIT NOW. We get the most progressive platform and agenda in my lifetime, we get to cheer for our troops and say NO MORE STUPID WARS. We get to stand up and say Black Lives Matter and thank the cops who risk their lives because we’re fucking smart enough to hold two god damned ideas in our heads. We get to stand up for a woman’s right to choose and gay people to marry and still get to rock the house as Rev. Barber brings down the fucking roof in the name of the almighty.
Our heroic frontline troops have rushed Patriotism Hill while the enemy was sleeping off their mean-drunk hangover, and they've seized it, and from that high ground they can control more or less everybody's movements.

Oh, and you know how they keep telling us Hillary's not a great orator like Bill and Barack? Well, she probably doesn't dance like Misty Copeland either, and I bet she can't work up a salmon filet with beurre rouge like I can, but there are a number of people around in comparison to whom she is a terrific speaker, and some of their names are Willard Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush. Newt Gingrich? Senator Tom Cotton? Mike Fucking Pence? How come nobody ever compares her to those guys?

And don't even talk about the Trump, who's an adequate trash talker by WWE standards but not even close to old Mick Foley.  Or Jennifer Granholm either, speaking of first-class trash talk. Also he's severely mentally ill, and decompensating, and lurching into a pronounced turn for the worse. Meanwhile I'm crying from looking at pictures of Bill Clinton playing with balloons.

I'm having my own personal convention bounce, is what it is. That was such a splendid convention, from start to finish, from the unspeakable nobility of Mr. Khizr Khan (which Fox News apparently felt it had to censor) to the silly dad tricks of Senator Kaine. If you were watching with a little ideological checklist, you probably noticed a bunch of boxes that didn't get checked, but if you let yourself enjoy the big picture, you saw that this really is the "most progressive platform the Democratic party has ever run on" and everybody from Warren to Bloomberg ready to work within it.

No doubt reality will be kicking in shortly, but I feel pumped.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trump Does Not Have Magic Powers

So apparently Trump's press conference meltdown yesterday was excellent news for John McCain:
During about an hour-long news conference earlier Wednesday, Trump was asked repeatedly about allegations that the Russian government is behind the hacked and leaked Democratic National Committee's emails that embarrassed the party on the eve of their national convention in Philadelphia. Trump quickly pivoted to also discussing Clinton's private email-server controversy and the 30,000-plus emails the former Secretary of State had deleted from her private server under questionable explanations and circumstances.

Advantage Trump.

Then came the money quote, or the bait, when he said: "Russia, if you're listening,I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing; I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

That comment was sure to grab headlines all on its own, but then the Clinton campaign incredibly took the bait and had a top policy advisor respond with this statement: "This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent."

Advantage Trump....

Sure, they meant to make Trump out to be some kind of dangerous traitor....But the real result is that the words "Hillary Clinton," "emails," "hacking," "espionage," and "national security" are back in the headlines again....
Novak is so obviously pleased with himself for coming up with this that I almost feel bad about pointing out the obvious: wouldn't it have been smarter to get Clinton's emails back in the headlines in a way that didn't reinforce the Clinton campaign narrative that Trump is unstable and dangerous?

The other reason this is genius, according to Novak, is that it takes attention away from the Democratic Convention.
And in the emotions game, you can't win without getting our attention first. Is Hillary Clinton or her campaign capable or even willing to do the things that could garner a similar amount of attention? So far, all we know is her team is capable of helping Trump shine more of a light on himself....

So again, what we're witnessing here is a presidential candidate stealing the other party's thunder just when it needs your attention the most.
So is Novak right? Well, looking at Memeorandum yesterday morning I see a lot of stories about Trump being nutty, and only a few headlines specifically mentioning Clinton's emails. Did it drown out DNC news? Judging from Memeorandum this morning, not so much; the Convention doesn't monopolize the news, but it's certainly well represented. There are a couple of Trump stories, one of which is Trump's reaction to the Convention speakers (and yes, since you asked, it does feature Trump's thin-skinned poutrage). If you scroll way down the page, though, you'll find...Jake Novak!

Within hours, of course, Evil Genius Trump was walking back the Evil Genius Trap he lured Clinton into. I'll let Greg Sargent comment on that:
Lots of people right now are losing their shit because they're convinced Trump is going to win. And part of that conviction is the belief that Trump has some preternatural ability to completely scrambe the election in ways that are incomprehensible to mere mortal politicians. So you get idiocy like this Jake Novak piece. But the real trump is a guy who, after Clinton describes him as "A man you can bait with a tweet", goes on Twitter to counter-attack
Now, the reality is that Trump might win--it's unlikely, but it's definitely not impossible--but not because he's an Evil Genius. Trump might win because 40% or more of the country will vote for any candidate with a R in front of his name. We're a closely-divided, polarized nation, and that means Trump's support has a floor that puts him dangerously close to a possible plurality. But this is despite, not because of Trump. Can we please stop pretending that he has any method at all?

Will there be any Clinton vs. Trump TV debates? (A bit of idle speculation.)

We know Melania Trump swiped part of her speech from Michelle Obama. Now
 there’s prima facie evidence that Donald Trump got his political philosophy 
from Tony the Tiger. But that’s not what this post is about.

Somebody in the Trump camp must be sweating bullets.

It's  quite nearly a given that opposing Presidential nominees are expected  to debate each other on television. Which leads me to wonder what’s going through the minds of people at Trump headquarters.

No, I’m not talking about the mind of Donald Trump himself. I’m sure he thinks he can walk in front of the cameras, call his opponent “crooked Hillary” a few hundred times, and promise he’ll be like Tony the Tiger of Sugar Frosted Flakes fame, and make America grrrrreat! again. And that will be that.

But less bloated heads in Trumpland must assuredly know better. As we saw during her speech on Thursday night, Hillary is calm, confident, knows her stuff in depth, is not likely to be rattled easily, and has a fat dossier on Trump.  

So for openers, if Hillary, or questioners from the press ask Trump a single “how” question, his goose is is deep fried in oil sludge.

“How will you pay for that when you also promise to cut taxes, Donald? What government waste are you specifically talking about? How much will this program cost and how did you calculate that, Donald? Will you really give nukes to Saudi Arabia and risk the resultant mid-Est holocaust? Will you actually permit your pal Putin to march in and take Poland and Hungary? Nice tie you’re wearing Donald...why did you have it made in China?”

And so on. Not to mention all the tangible horrors waiting for Hillary to pull out of Trump’s past and demand that he answer to, from the Trump University Follies to stiffed carpenters and plumbers, to bankrupt casinos. And what’s Trump specifically going to counter-punch with other than “she got $600,000 for a speech,” and “Don’t believe her, she’s crooked, folks.” 

The one danger is that Trump will try to shout down anything Hillary says. But that can be, and should be addressed in advanced of the debate. It ought to be stipulated that during each candidate’s turn to talk, the other candidate’s microphone shall be turned off by a neutral time keeper. In fact, I like that idea too much, that in the name of civil discourse I think this rule should be extended to all political debates, not to mention all those migraine-inducing Shouting Head Festivals on CNN.

But back to the Clinton-Trump debate:

I can’t imagine anyone in the Trump camp who wants the disagreeable duty, after the first debate if there is one, of handing The Donald a bloody plastic bag with something horrifying in it and saying, “Mr. Trump, Hillary said I should give this to you for a souvenir.” 

The Donald will of course make a face and ask, “What is that?” And the Trump staffer will have to say, “Those are your testicles, sir.” Whereupon The Donald will discover for the first time that during the debate he lost something without even realizing it.

So I’m saying there’s a better than fair chance that Trump’s handlers will find an excuse not to let him debate. Any excuse. It might be a flareup of the old “foot thing” (whichever foot he decides to remember it was) that kept him out of the military. Or it might be the petulant announcement that “I refuse to even be in the same room with Crooked Hillary.” It might  even be, “the press is so biased against me that I can’t debate her.” 

Nobody will be fooled, but I’m guessing that Trump will use any escape hatch he can find to  run like a scared rabbit. And if he doesn’t run from the first debate, he even more likely will before the second. 

You say his ego is far too inflated to miss a an opportunity to appear on national TV and demonstrate that, no matter what anybody says, vulgarity is not dead? Just remember that what’s really inflated is just another gas bag. And the more inflated they are, the more easily and louder they pop.

My advice to Hillary: declare some debate dates, get the network time reserved, and if Trump doesn’t show up, debate from your side and let the camera point to an empty chair when it’s Trump’s turn. 

As for me, if there ever actually is a Clinton-Trump debate, or two, or more, I intend to sit in front of the television set with two bowls. One will contain a heaping serving of popcorn. The other will be filled to the brim with schadenfreude.

Open Terrain

Bye, Steve—hurry back!

Otto von Bismarck escorting the arrested Emperor Napoléon III after the Battle of Sedan, French corpses littering the side of the road. Painting by Wilhelm Camphausen, 1877, via Wikimedia Commons.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Democrats Win the Summer", July 28 2016:
Now the Democrats looks like nice middle-class folks who care about their families and their country and feel empathy for others. Thanks a lot, Donald!
Naive people like me commonly think of politics as if it ought to be a confrontation of ideas on what the polity needs to do, but of course it's really a confrontation of people, organized into teams, a kind of war or a game of field control, and ideas are the field, the territory the teams contest, the largely static semiotic map across which we crawl out of our ideological trenches, trying to plant our flags in enemy ground.

Which means that what the fight is mainly over is the territory of ideas on which we all basically agree, the motherhood and apple pie; our job is to own those ideas, and deny them to the enemy. If I can convince the voter that I'm really strong on motherhood, with an unquestionable commitment, that will suggest that the other guy really isn't—that he's suspect, unreliable on motherhood, dangerous and dishonest.

It's always been a conservative game, ever since democracy began invading French and English life in the 1790s and Burke and Maistre developed their theories on how the ruling class should cope with it, with a system of fear: "These revolutionaries, these radicals, will destroy your traditional way of life! A vote for the kindly, churchy gentry is a vote for everything you love!" Whereas on the progressive side, committed to pluralism and the basic goodness of everybody, it's hard to fight that way, because we can't bring ourselves to say that conservatives don't really give a fuck about motherhood, even if there's some truth to it. That wouldn't be decent.

But over the years, in the US, as the conservative-progressive split has become more and more like an ethnic boundary, conservatives have come more and more to believe that the motherhood territory literally belongs to them, that their opponents actually hate apple pie with a murderous hatred and will destroy it root and branch if heedless voters give them the chance.

Such is the tenor of today's Brooks, a long complaint from this essentially military standpoint, of the summer skirmishing and how Donald Trump has "left the ground open" for Democrats to capture in the fall campaign:
He left the ground open for Joe Biden to remind us that decent people don’t enjoy firing other human beings... 
He left the ground open for the Democrats to seize middle-class values with one quick passage in a Tim Kaine video — about a guy who goes to the same church where he was married, who taught carpentry as a Christian missionary in Honduras, who has lived in the same house for the last 24 years...
He left the ground open for Barack Obama to remind us that our founders wanted active engaged citizens, not a government run by a solipsistic and self-appointed savior who wants everything his way...
He left the ground open for Michelle Obama to embrace the underlying chorus of hope that runs through the American story...
He's like a French monarchist in 1871 blaming the fake conservatism of Napoléon III for losing the Rhineland. Decency, staying married, being active and engaged, feeling hope, these things are the conservative birthright, right? Why is Trump allowing those beastly, rabble-inciting Democrats to seize them?

Then again here, for the fun of it, is David Brooks in August 2012, reacting to the convention that nominated decent and hopeful, übermarried ex-missionary Willard Mitt Romney:
... there is a flaw in the vision the Republicans offered in Tampa. It is contained in its rampant hyperindividualism. Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual. There was almost no talk of community and compassionate conservatism. There was certainly no conservatism as Edmund Burke understood it, in which individuals are embedded in webs of customs, traditions, habits and governing institutions.
Donald Trump didn't build that. He just makes it harder to hide.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


I have more family matters to deal with this weekend, so I'm gone until Monday. Members of the relief crew will be here, of course, so stop by.


After first-day jitters, I thought Democrats had a very good convention. Hillary Clinton's speech may not have been one for the ages, and may have seemed laundry-listy at the end, in the manner of State of the Union addresses by both her husband and Barack Obama, but it was a solid, often inspiring speech.

I was working late and missed most of the rest of the night, but I just caught up with Khizr Khan's speech and I understand why everyone's talking about it. The Muslim father of a dead Iraq veteran asked whether Trump has even read the Constitution (I'm sure he'd say he has, and I'm sure he'd be lying) and whether he's ever visited Arlington National Cemetery (it's with dread that I envision a Trump visit to Arlington -- he'd make it all about himself, in that tacky way of his).

But with regard to Hillary's speech, I had two thoughts. First, I've worried that she's never directly taken on the question of why so many voters don't trust her. That wasn't addressed in the speech or the rest of the convention. I haven't been thinking that she should apologize or beat herself up rhetorically -- I've just been thinking that a good speechwriter (and the Democrats seem to have some very good ones) ought to be able to put that subject front and center and construct a response that addresses voters' doubts while helping her transcend the question by putting in a larger context. Think of something like Barack Obama's 2008 race speech.

But there was nothing like that in this speech -- and maybe that's fair. She tried to transcend the question not by addressing it but by mounting a convention in which four days were spent just telling us that she'd be a terrific president. And that's exactly what Donald Trump did. People don't trust him, yet he never explains, never apologizes, never even acknowledges his divisiveness. If never apologizing is a strength for him, why can't it be a strength for Hillary Clinton?

My second thought was that the convention, and the speech, tried to present Clinton as a lot of things to a lot of people -- a conventional Obama-style Democrat, a candidate who's taken on the platform positions of the Sanders movement, a Democrat who wants the votes of Republicans and will lavish praise on cops as well as Black Lives Matter. Is it calculated? Of course -- but it's also what every centrist pundit has sought for years, a new politics that rejects polarization. It's what voters regularly tell pollsters they're hoping for -- politicians who want to end gridlock. Will members of the press acknowledge that Clinton is trying to be the candidate they say they want?

Obama made this sort of appeal, too, but as a candidate he invoked unity in poetry, whereas Clinton's speech did it by laying out policy positions that are, in some cases, associated with the poles, while targeting a range of voters from Sandersites on the left to suburban GOP voters on the right.

Does it make any sense? I don't know. Is it what a lot of people in the middle say they want? Absolutely. So pundits, if you criticize this aspect of her candidacy, remember: You built it.

As for me, I hope it works in November -- and then I hope progressives fight for what she's promising to the left. That's how it has to work -- vote for her now, because the alternative is unthinkable, and hold her feet to the fire once she's in office. Because you absolutely won't be able to do that ith the unholy coalition of Trump, Ryan, and McConnell.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Hey, Donald, do you want some cheese with this whine?
Trump on Dem attacks: 'I take it a little bit personally'

While trying to take the barrage of Democratic National Convention attacks against him in stride, Donald Trump admitted in an interview with Fox News aired Thursday that he cannot help but "take it a little bit personally."

"Well, they don't all hit me, but some of them do. And they try to hit you as hard as possible. And it's mostly false stuff," Trump said in an interview with Brian Kilmeade on "Fox & Friends" that was taped Wednesday....

Shrugging off criticism, Trump remarked, "I get it. It's the way it goes. It's called politics." ...

"You're not taking it personally?" Kilmeade asked.

"I guess I take it a little bit personally," Trump responded. "You can't let it get you down. You have to go out."
I know that Trump has lifted talking points from Richard Nixon:
Branding himself as “the law-and-order candidate,” Mr. Trump in recent weeks has exhorted voters to stand with the police, much as Nixon encouraged “the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators” to stand with him.

What started, a year ago, as an occasional borrowing of Nixonian phrases -- like describing Trump voters as a “silent majority” -- has turned into a homage. “It’s literally plagiarism,” said Kevin Mattson, a professor of history at Ohio University who has written a book about Nixon. “I was taken aback by that.”
And I know that Trump's convention speech was consciously modeled on the one Nixon gave in 1968:
... Donald Trump's campaign chairman said Monday the presumptive GOP nominee will model his convention speech after that of Richard Nixon's in 1968.

Paul Manafort, Trump's top aide, said the real estate mogul will embody the spirit of the nearly 50-year-old speech....

"The Nixon 1968 speech -- if you go back and read that speech -- is pretty much on line with a lot of the issues that are going on today. And it was an instructive speech," Manafort said at a breakfast hosted by Bloomberg.
But here's Trump picking up on another Nixon trait: self-pity. From the Checkers speech to the 1962 gubernatorial concession speech to his presidency and post-presidency, Nixon wallowed in self-pity, while pretending he was too tough to succumb to it. Bafflingly, it helped him appeal to voters who wanted a tough guy as a leader.

The voters in Nixon's base felt sorry for themselves as the world changed around them in ways they didn't like. That's happening again with the Trump base. You'd think not being a complainer would be something these silent majorities would value -- y'know, traditional virtues and all -- but I've watched Barack Obama keep his cool for years in the face of abuse and Trump fans aren't impressed. I guess they prefer a whiner because a whiner mirrors their own self-pity. Trump is giving them what they want.


Here are Jonathan Martin and Patrick Healy writing about the Democratic convention for The New York Times:
Wednesday signaled a transition for the party. Emotion suffused the convention hall: Some delegates, in tears, were not ready to say goodbye to Mr. Obama yet, and others -- particularly some liberals and young Democrats -- were not ready to accept Mrs. Clinton as their new leader. As she prepares to give her nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night, the left wing of the party still remains divided, while many Republicans appear ready to fall in line behind Mr. Trump.
Just like that, all the tension in the Republican Party since Donald Trump took the lead in the primaries vanishes in a puff of smoke. Every prominent Democrat is on board with Hillary Clinton, while the GOP's two living ex-presidents and last two presidential nominees all skipped Trump's convention, and he's openly opposed by senators, House members, party officials, and prominent pundits. None of that exists anymore because a few Sanders end-timers who are barely Democrats continue to act out.

(They were recently seen at the convention putting duct tape on their mouths and marched into the press room, claiming to have been "silenced." If you know anything about genuine political repression, you know that if there aren't any jackbooted thugs preventing you from being in a place where journalists can talk to you any photograph you, you're not being silenced.)

I thought last night was a great night at the convention -- it was inspiring and (except for the dead-enders) unifying. But even before last night, the Democratic rank-and-file were on board. According to the latest CNN poll -- the one showing Trump with a 3-point lead after a convention bump -- only 7% of Democrats plan to vote Trump. And that's before the Democratic convention started. It was after the Republican convention, which supposedly got every Republican on board, but Republicans had exactly the same percentage of defectors -- 7% -- as Martin and Healy's Democrats-in-disarray.

And the poll was taken before Donald Trump erased all doubt that he's a useful idiot for Vladimir Putin. It was taken before this Democratic convention hit its stride with a message that might just peel off some disaffected Republicans.

The Bernie-or-Busters get a lot of attention because they're the kinds of people elite reporters went to college with, and maybe were themselves. But they're a tiny sliver of the party. Right now, it looks to me as if the party is unified, even if the Democrats-of-convenience aren't on board. We'll see what happens to the Republicans as Trump becomes more and more unhinged.


UPDATE: Well, to give the Times its due, Adam Nagourney, in a sidebar piece, directly contradicts Martin and Healy:
For all the noise, demonstrations, walkouts and silent protests, the divisions on display here as Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton for president do not appear to present a major threat to her candidacy, paling in contrast to intramural battles that have doomed nominees in the past and that threaten Donald J. Trump today.
So I guess the Paper of Record is on record as being on both sides of this question.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


In The New York Review of Books, Masha Gessen considers the possible consequences of a Trump victory:
Let us try to imagine Donald Trump being elected president of the United States.

The day after the election, the stock market will crash. Then, there will be a lull. For one thing, Trump will not have taken office yet. But life will seem conspicuously unchanged. The stock market will recover some. On inauguration day, there will be large anti-Trump protests in some American cities. But in some others, including Washington, there will be large celebrations that will make your skin crawl. On the other hand, they will not be wearing black shirts, and that will make what has happened seem a little less real. In some cities, there will be clashes. The police will do their jobs, and this will be reassuring.
I agree that, in the event of a Trump victory, things wouldn't completely go to hell in a handbasket before the inaugural. The prediction of a stock market crash followed by a bounceback is plausible.

On the other hand, I don't think "large celebrations that will make your skin crawl" would be postponed until Inauguration Day. I think there'd be a lot of white male violence on Election Night. That would be followed by a noticeable uptick in hate crimes against blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims. In fact, the nastiness might start before Election Day -- the thugs would begin feeling thuggish as soon as opinion polls and media reports started to point definitively to a Trump victory.
After all, you will think, the American presidency is a strangely limited institution. It doesn’t give Trump that many ways to radically alter the everyday lives of Americans. But that is exactly the problem. President Trump will have to begin destroying the institutions of American democracy -- not because they get in the way of anything specific he wants to do, like build the wall (though he will probably have moved on to something else by that point), but because they are an obstacle to the way he wants to do them.
Let me interrupt here: Why do so many otherwise intelligent people think Trump is going to get bored with the idea of the wall? Apart from Trump's surname, the wall is now the single most important symbol of his brand. It's who he is now. It's what got him this far. If Trump becomes president, he's never going to abandon the idea of the wall -- he may not actually do the nuts-and-bolts work necessary to build it, but he'll never stop talking about it, and he'll never stop making grand gestures reaffirming his commitment to it. Soon after the inaugural, you'll see him in the Map Room poring over what we'll be told are wall blueprints. He'll prioritize wall funding. He'll do a photo op at the border in a suit and hard hat, breaking ground with a shovel, probably accompanied by the likes of Steve King, Jeff Sessions, Joe Arpaio, and Rudy Giuliani. And if it's never built, he'll never stop telling us that it will be built.

But Gessen is right about Trump's need "to begin destroying the institutions of American democracy." And she's right about this:
A fascist leader needs mobilization. The slow and deliberative passage of even the most heinous legislation is unlikely to supply that. Wars do, and there will be wars. These wars will occur both abroad and at home....
But I don't agree with this:
There is no way to tell who will be targeted by the wars at home. Muslims and immigrants are, of course, prime candidates, but any group of people will do -- including a group that is not currently constituted as a group. Notwithstanding the awkward outreach in Trump’s convention speech last week, my money is actually on the LGBT community because its acceptance is the most clear and drastic social change in America of the last decade, so an antigay campaign would capture the desire to return to a time in which Trump’s constituency felt comfortable. But there are also Jews, bicyclists, people who studied a foreign language in college -- the possibilities are limitless.
Trump is a New York libertine. Roy Cohn was one of his mentors. I don't believe he's sincerely homophobic. Also, gay people fight back. Trump as president would want to prey on the supine, the powerless, and those who are easy targets for ridicule.

Want a list of his likely targets? This is a good start:

He'd attack immigrants, obviously. He'd attack liberals and leftists who tried to protest what he's doing. He'd keep attacking mockable celebrities, because that's fun for his base of support. And he'd attack the media, which would try to appease him while doing an inadequate job of pointing out the awful nature of his presidency.

And when I say "attack," I don't mean just in words -- I mean in deeds that exceed what even the worst presidents of our lifetime have done.

Gessen seems to grasp this only partially. She writes:
Trump will pose an impossible dilemma for the institutions of democracy: because they are too slow and complicated for him, he will seek to bypass them. Still, there are many limits the American system imposes on executive power: Congress, regulatory agencies, the Supreme Court. And don’t forget the national news media.
Her imagination seems limited:
... imagine what will happen to it. First, Trump will ban The Washington Post from the White House pool. That will be ridiculous and even invigorating at first, but in a little while, once he has kicked out every media outlet that he perceives as critical, we will learn that there is no good way to cover a presidency that is a black box.
That's it? You think he'd limit himself to a few bans? I expect not only audits and spying and legal harassment but mysterious unsolved physical attacks on journalists. It won't be pretty.
Still, it is unlikely (or I simply cannot imagine) that Trump will do enough damage to democracy in the course of four years to secure a second term. After he is defeated, institutions will begin to recover.
Look, all of this assumes that Trump (a) wins and (b) doesn't up and quit during one of his attacks of adult ADHD. But if he does win, if he develops a taste for the job, and if he learns how state power can be abused to keep a leader in office -- I'm sure he has no idea of the specifics now -- then he's going to do iron-fisted things to remain in power that will make the Russian DNC hack seem laughably tame. You know how, every four years, paranoid opponents of the sitting president predict that he won't even allow an election to be held? With Trump, I don't think predicting that would be a sign of paranoia. As president, he'd probably cite some violence at home or abroad as a reason that elections simply can't happen.

Am I going overboard here? Sorry, but I don't put anything self-serving past this guy.


In The New York Times, Ashley Parker is trying to be straightforward about the mind-boggling actions of the Republican presidential nominee:
Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, essentially encouraging an adversarial foreign power’s cyberspying on a secretary of state’s correspondence.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” ...
But old "objectivity" habits die hard:
The Clinton campaign immediately accused Mr. Trump of both encouraging Russian espionage against the United States and meddling in domestic politics.

Try it this way:
The Clinton campaign immediately denounced Mr. Trump for encouraging Russian espionage against the United States and meddling in domestic politics.
Much better.

Donald Trump is a traitor. Any Republican who has endorsed Trump and doesn't withdraw that endorsement now is complicit in Trump's traitorous behavior.

I'm pledging a significant donation to the bail fund of anyone who climbs up Trump Tower and replaces the UMP with AITOR.

And if I were a Hillary Clinton surrogate, I'd stop using Trump's surname altogether. Donald Trump? No -- Donald Traitor. Just call him Donald Traitor, over and over again. That should be the Democratic message.


Rachel Maddow wasn't impressed with the opening of Bill Clinton's speech last night:
"A+ for the end of the speech," she said. "But I think the beginning of the speech was a controversial way to start, honestly. Talking about 'the girl,' 'a girl.' Leading with this long story about him being attracted to an unnamed girl."

"Building her whole political story for the whole first half of the speech around her marriage to him. Unless there were worries that this was going to be too feminist a convention, that was not a feminist way to start. But the end of the speech was really good," she said.

"The top of the speech I found shocking and weird."

But I like Rebecca Traister's take on what Bill was doing:
It was a risk -- a big risk -- for an epically unfaithful man ... to begin his speech with the sentence, “In the spring of 1971, I met a girl.” But he went for it, with a self-aware grin that suggested he knew what he was doing: challenging the perception of his wife as sexless and his marriage as an empty sham based only on a shared will to power, by laying out a picture of a flesh and blood woman for whom he fell hard, more than forty years ago. He was doing it, in part, by making the joke about his horn-dog impulses, and reminding people that he had once trained them on Hillary.

It’s ironic that, in politics and other male-dominated public spheres, one of the roadblocks for women is objectification and sexualization, but when it comes to Hillary Clinton, whose ambition and brains have long rendered her bloodless in the American imagination, hearing her described as an object of desire could feel corrective and bizarrely just.
And even for those who haven't been thinking of Hillary as "bloodless," she's simply older, with all that means in a culture in which actresses are deemed too old for female-lead roles at 25. (The response to Clinton this year sometimes makes me think of Amy Schumer's "Last Fuckable Day" sketch.) And Hillary is running against a man who's notorious for dumping wives as they age -- not merely cheating on them, as Bill has done to Hillary, but kicking them to the curb, which Bill hasn't done and clearly doesn't want to.

Bill was talking about this spark of desire at just about the time the convention stopped being primarily about the Bernie Sanders youthquakers. I'm going to take a leap here and say that there's something sexual about the excesses of passion in the Bernie-or-Bust movement. I say this not because I agree with what Gloria Steinem said about the motives of young female Sanders supporters a few month ago:
And, when you’re young, you’re thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie...
Steinem saw a sexual component in Sanders support on the part of young women only, but on Monday night at the convention, tears were being shed by Berners of both genders. They weren't crying over romances made at campaign headquarters -- they were crying for Bernie. It reminded me of Beatlemania, the crowd shots at The Ed Sullivan Show. It wasn't just sex, but there was definitely sex.

There's a sexual element to Trump's campaign -- the aging playboy starts talking and middle-aged white men (and some women) start feeling their oats, in a menacing way. And recall what Mark Cuban has said about Trump on a number of occasions:
He’s like that guy who walks into the bar, and will say whatever it’ll take to get laid. Only in this case he’s not trying to fuck some girl. He’s trying to fuck the country.
Hillary Clinton, this year, hasn't seemed capable of inspiring anything like this; the female solidarity in the 2008 campaign had more of a charge. So there was Bill last night, talking about young love -- and trying to build a bridge from that to Hillary's policy wonkery, which I think tickles him to this day.

Maybe it'll be a counter to the flaming youth of the Sanders movement, or the menacing middle-aged crazy in Trump Land. If so, it was a worthwhile effort.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Paul Waldman writes:
The (alleged) Russian hack of the DNC should be one of the biggest stories of the year. Why isn’t it?
In his view, one reason is that we're distracted by the content of the emails. And then there's this:
The next reason why it isn’t a bigger deal is that the aggrieved party, the Democrats, aren’t pushing the story forward as much as they might, first because they don’t want to attract more attention to the content of the emails, and second because they aren’t making the kind of vicious accusations Republicans would if the tables were turned -- the kind of accusations we in the media eat up. Instead, they’re saying milquetoasty things like this from Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook: “When you put all this together, it’s a disturbing picture. I think voters need to reflect on that.”
I think it's also because, over the years, liberals and conservatives have developed conditioned responses to foreign threats that are mirror images. For nearly 70 years, conservatives have overemphasized the danger posed by foreign foes. In the past few decades, we've seen them treat as existential threats to America not only ISIS and Al Qaeda but Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, the Sandinistas in Nicragua, and even a left-leaning government in tiny Grenada.

Liberals, understandably, have developed a habit of questioning conservatives' insistence that the Apocalypse is nigh because a foreign enemy is rattling sabers. And yes, this extends even to Democrats who are derided by the left as warmongers and neocons -- they may go to war, but they don't wallow in it in a "Mission Accomplished" way. Barack Obama hasn't. Bill Clinton didn't. Hillary Clinton won't.

This means that the party harmed by the leak of these emails is the party made up of voters who don't delight in war and don't respond to alarmism about foreign threats -- so it's hard to get us roused in this instance. Meanwhile, the party that does respond to foreign policy alarmism is in the tank for Donald Trump, and thus doesn't want to hear a discouraging word about him. Even the Never Trumpers don't want to aid and abet Hillary Clinton.

So the people who respond every time we're told that there's a new Hitler overseas are categorically uninterested in seeing Putin as a threat in this case, while those of us who have resisted many recent assertions that we're at one minute to midnight aren't conditioned to respond to a message like that now. I don't know what might reverse this, but let's hope it happens.


Jeff Stein at Vox:
Many at the Bernie or Bust rally [in Philadelphia yesterday] argued that one failed Trump administration would be better than giving Clinton the chance to control the Democratic Party for two terms. "Bernie is willing to fall on a grenade to stop Trump," Sparks said. "But I'd rather have four years of tyranny than eight."
Dave Weigel in The Washington Post:
“I fear Hillary more than I fear Trump,” said John Deebus, 66, who attended one of the many alternative events for democratic socialists and left-out activists in Philadelphia. “If Trump wins, he’s in for four years. If Hillary wins, she’s in there for eight. That’s not how we stop the corporate parties.”
Where did this idea come from? Why do some Bernie Sanders diehards thinks Donald Trump would inevitably be a one-term president, but Hillary Clinton would be rubber-stamped for a second term?

I haven't traced this meme back to its origin, though I found it five months ago in (of course!) a Sanders-oriented Reddit thread:
I think that four years of Trump being obstructed and leading to a Warren presidency in 2020 might very well be better than eight years of Hillary and a validation of Third Way Democrats strategy. Hell, Trump might even advance single payer healthcare.
In the wilds of Reddit, I find a lot of confidence that Trump can be limited to one term:
There's only so much harm that Trump could even do, especially if we all vote down ticket dems. He's not king, and Russians/Putin love him. If he is truly horrible, we impeach or make him a 1 term president.
The power of the American president has been limited because of the partisanship of the Congress and the Senate. Due to this there is a limit to how badly an American president particularly in one term can damage the country. I believe sincerely, and this is why I will support him over Hillary, that the country will be more fucked under the leadership of Hillary Clinton than it would be under the leadership of Donald Trump, regardless of the fact that her platform is more in line with mine as a liberal.
In fact, Clinton is likely to have a hard time winning reelection. American voters chose a president of the same party three times in a row as recently as the 1980s (Reagan, Reagan, and Bush the Elder in '80, '84, and '88), but no party has won four elections in a row since the '30s and '40s, when FDR and Harry Truman won five straight. And remember that when Poppy Bush won the GOP's third straight victory in '88, he, like Hillary Clinton, was an older political veteran who was mistrusted by some in his party -- and then he lost reelection. If Clinton wins this year, she'll have to work hard to avoid Bush's fate in 1992.

Trump, on the other hand, reminds me of the Tea Party governors elected in Barack Obama's first term -- angry, polarizing, filled with self-importance and revolutionary fervor. A lot of those governors did a terrible job, but most, including some of the worst, got reelected -- Sam Brownback in Kansas, Rick Scott in Florida, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and the one who most resembles Trump, the knuckledragging Paul LePage in Maine. Republicans can always win reelection on the constant wave of anti-Democratic hate generated by the right-wing media. (When there was no Democratic president in the Bush years, the conservative press warned the heartland of the clear and present danger posed by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, not to mention Dan Rather and the Dixie Chicks. Update as necessary for the Trump years.) And this assumes that we'll have normal politics under a President Trump, and not genuine repression.

(And I know that Trump has hinted he might not even serve as president if elected, but I think he said that just to throw us off stride.)

So why do Berners think Trump would be out after a term and Clinton wouldn't? I suspect it's because, when they're not getting their news from Sandersite sources, they're picking up what they know about the government from the mainstream media. The mainstream press regularly tells us that the problems in Washington are the fault of two parties that are equally polarized and corrupt in exactly the same way. The Berners buy the notion that Trump is an outsider who'd incur the wrath of "the two-party duopoly." On the other hand, they seem to believe the political establishment, across the spectrum, would welcome Clinton with open arms and make life easy for her, because she's one of them.

It would be funny if it weren't so naive.


Matt Yglesias thinks he knows why Bernie Sanders delegates are angry, rude, and recalcitrant, even though polls show that 90% of consistent Sanders supporters in the electorate now back Hillary Clinton:
Sanders had little control over his delegates, who seemed unwilling to get behind his endorsement of Clinton. This was in part a matter of sloppiness on the part of Sanders’s team in selecting delegates. But as one operative told me, there was another reason Sanders’s delegation was so unruly: Everyone was so afraid to cross Clinton by serving as a Sanders delegate that he couldn't convince the kind of party loyalists who normally take the job to do it.

Instead, many Sanders delegates come from the world of left-wing protest culture rather than party politics. And on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center, they acted like it.
Is it true that party regulars wouldn't become Sanders delegates because they feared the wrath of the Clintons? I have no idea. But if it's true, then Team Clinton is made up of thugs who are really, really bad at thuggery.

If Yglesias's operative is correct, the Clinton campaign scared off ordinary political activists who would have caused few problems for the candidate at the convention -- and saw those operatives replaced by furious activists who are causing a lot of problems for the candidate at the convention. If you're going to use strong-arm tactics, I think you need to be a tad more results-oriented about it.

I suppose the same thing could said about the efforts by Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other pro-Clinton party insiders to structure the primary season in ways that favored Clinton -- yes, Clinton won, but it was a pretty incompetent job of "rigging" the vote, given how many contests Sanders won and how much opportunity he had to stir up his base by castigating Clinton.

A real thug would act more like Donald Trump. When Ted Cruz stood in Trump's way, Trump insulted Cruz's wife's looks on Twitter and threatened to "spill the beans" about unnamed aspects of Mrs. Cruz's life (probably her battle with depression), even as he alleged that Cruz's father was involved in John F. Kennedy's assassination and as his pals at the National Enquirer concocted a Cruz adultery scandal. Cruz kept coming back, but he was effectively neutered. That's thuggery.

I laugh when people talk about "the Clinton crime family," and I used to laugh when they called Bill Clinton "Slick Willie." Slick? He and his wife always get caught. They get caught when they haven't actually done anything wrong. They're among the least slick people in politics.

(Poll link via Steve Benen.)

Monday, July 25, 2016


We're this close to electing as president an ill-informed narcissist/misogynist/racist with a fondness for torture and ties to Vladimir Putin, backed by a party that's essentially a wing of the Koch brothers network and that's preparing to hand him a series of bills dismantling voting rights, the social safety net, and the regulatory apparatus, which he'll rubber-stamp without reading, even as multiple Scalia clones ascend to the Supreme Court, where they'll remain for decades. For a while now I've been reporting on signs that may or not point to this outcome -- and a number of you have complained because Hey, it's categorically impossible for Trump to win! Democrats have a lock on the Electoral College! The GOP is a clown car! The Repubican convention was a dumpster fire! Jon Stewart says Trump's real name is Fuckface von Clownstick! And the fingers -- look at those tiny fingers! HA HA HA HA HA!

Well, the convention meant to shore up wobbly support for the one person standing in Trump's way has, on its first day, degenerated into this:
When Rev. Cynthia Hale mentioned Hillary Clinton for the first time during the invocation, the floor erupted into boos....

Every time Clinton's name was mentioned thereafter, the crowd erupted into chaos: Sanders supporters shouting against Clinton supporters....

NPR's Tamara Keith reports that Sanders' delegates received a plea from the candidate to keep protests off the floor.

"It's of utmost importance you explain this to your delegations," the text read.

... Early into the convention, it was clear ... the message from Sanders had not swayed the delegations.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, from Ohio, was shouted down many times as she tried to get through some procedural motions.

"I intend to be fair," she said as the crowd booed. "I am going to be respectful of you and I want you to be respectful of me. We are all Democrats and we need to act like it."

The same thing happened as Rep. Elijah Cummings delivered a speech centering on social justice.

As Cummings talked about how proud his late father would be of the people in the room, Sanders' supporters shouted, "No TPP, No TPP," in reference to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
When a truck with the message “Hillary for Prison” cruised by City Hall, where hundreds of Sanders supporters were gathered, several cheered and rushed to pose for pictures. The truck, like an airplane banner with the same message that flew over Cleveland where Republicans met, was sponsored by the pro-Trump website Infowars, which traffics in conspiracy theories.

“She’s crooked as all get out,” said Brianne Colling, of Canton, Mich., who asked friends to take her picture in front of the sign. “All the proof that’s coming out is that she’s stolen this election from Bernie.”

Ilene Cook, an emergency room nurse from Petosky, Mich., said of Mrs. Clinton, “For the first time in my life I will vote Republican to keep her out of office.” She used a vulgarity to refer to the presumptive Democratic nominee that was common among Republican delegates in Cleveland.
Months ago, when Sanders was continuing to issue harsh denunciations of Clinton long after he had a chance to win the nomination, and I worried that this was going to have an impact long past the moment, many of you told me to stop being such a gloomy Gus -- hey, Bernie will endorse and everything will be sweetness and light after that. I didn't think he'd endorse, and I was wrong about that, but I was right about what's happening now.

If this happens for four nights in prime time, then Trump becomes the favorite to win in November. It's that simple. Reckless man-babies (and the women and elders who emulate them) will be well on their way to electing the most reckless man-baby of all. And I don't want to hear another word from anyone about how this can't happen. It can happen here. It's happening right now, unless something changes.


The pro-Trump press is trying to sell the notion of Donald Trump Jr. as mayor of New York City. This just went up at Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner's New York Observer:
Mayor Bill de Blasio said today he would welcome a challenge from Donald Trump Jr. in 2017 -- after, he said, Hillary Clinton wallops his dad within the five boroughs in this November’s presidential contest.

The mayor, a fervent Donald Trump Sr. critic and lukewarm Hillary Clinton supporter, made the comment after an unrelated event in Brooklyn today....

“In terms of Donald Trump Jr. -- I will predict something right here and now: that his father, and his values, will be rejected by the people of New York City in November,” the mayor told reporters. “If after that, he thinks it’s a great idea to run against me, be my guest.”

Trump Jr. told the New York Post he would “love to” take over de Blasio’s job someday, but was vague about when.
That's an evenhanded article, but Rupert Murdoch's Post is actively cheering on the notion. The Post reporter who asked Junior about this for a story published yesterday was following up on a previous Post story, which had floated the idea on the morning after Jr.'s convention speech:
Donald Trump Jr. could be NYC’s next mayor

Get ready for the Trump dynasty.

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of Donald Trump and a top campaign surrogate, is focusing on his career now — but he may run for elected office in the future.

“Maybe when the kids get out of school, I would consider it,” Trump Jr. said at a breakfast on Wednesday sponsored by the Wall Street Journal.

Some enthusiastic fans are urging him not to wait.

“How about Donald Trump, Jr. running for Mayor of New York City? I believe he can coalesce support & get De Blasio out of there,” tweeted Gene White, managing partner at Dewey Stone Group LLC.

Focus group guru Frank Luntz polled 18 participants during Junior’s convention speech last night and 15 wanted him in political office.

“He was so good, they felt his father should take lessons from him. They felt he humanized his father,” Luntz told The Post.

“I’ve been doing this since 1992, I’ve never seen a kid do so well. Reagan’s kids were not nearly as good.”

“A star is born,” said former GOP Sen. Alfonse D’Amato. “He rocked the house!”
Murdoch's Wall Street Journal was also in the mix, of course.

Yesterday's Post story tried to portray Junior as warming to the idea, and having a clear path if he decides to do it:
Trump Jr., 38, also didn’t rule out challenging embattled Mayor de Blasio next year, but said “right now I’m more concerned about getting my father in [the Oval Office] because I know that he will do a wonderful job with that.”

His remarks revealed considerably more interest in a political career than he expressed on Wednesday, when the father of five told a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Wall Street Journal:

“Maybe when the kids get out of school, I would consider it.”

...Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) on Sunday told The Post that Trump Jr. “would instantly be the leading Republican candidate” for mayor if he chose to run.

Manhattan GOP Chairwoman Adele Malpass also said that after his speech, “We were on the convention floor and people looked at each other and said, “mayor or governor?’”
De Blasio's poll numbers aren't great, but it's hard to believe he could lose to a Trump. Donald Sr. trails Hillary Clinton by 17 points statewide, according to Pollster. The tightest poll of the state is Quinnipiac's (Clinton +12), but even Quinnipiac has Trump losing to Clinton in the city by a 63%-20% margin. All you need to know? New York City is only 45% white.

I do think Junior could win easily if he ran for office in a red state. He has the Trump name combined with a pol's slickness, and last week mainstream right-wingers were praising his convention speech for hitting traditional conservative notes more effectively than his father's speeches do. I won't be surprised if Junior goes venue-shopping in the next year or two and we're stuck with him in public office. But he should really lose the hair gel.


The Republican convention was a dumpster fire, right? Wrong:
Donald Trump comes out of his convention ahead of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, topping her 44% to 39% in a four-way matchup including Gary Johnson (9%) and Jill Stein (3%) and by three points in a two-way head-to-head, 48% to 45%. That latter finding represents a 6-point convention bounce for Trump, which are traditionally measured in two-way matchups.

There hasn't been a significant post-convention bounce in CNN's polling since 2000. That year Al Gore and George W. Bush both boosted their numbers by an identical 8 points post-convention before ultimately battling all the way to the Supreme Court.

The new findings mark Trump's best showing in a CNN/ORC Poll against Clinton since September 2015.
If Democrats have a competent convention, this bounce shouldn't last -- they'll get one of their own. But, of course, the standard pundit line on the Republican convention was that it was an incompetent convention. The no-shows! The plagiarism scandal! The Cruz non-endorsement! The gloom and doom! The sinister calls for the imprisonment of the opponent!

Well, at least for now, that all worked in the eyes of key voter groups:
Trump's new edge rests largely on increased support among independents, 43% of whom said that Trump's convention in Cleveland left them more likely to back him, while 41% were dissuaded. Pre-convention, independents split 34% Clinton to 31%.

... Trump expanded his lead with white voters who do not hold a college degree from a 51% to 31% lead before the convention to a 62% to 23% lead now.
Ordinary Americans don't care about process. They don't care that Melania's speech wasn't properly vetted or that Cruz and Trump renewed their beef. And a culture that considers the Games of Thrones Red Wedding to be the height of quality entertainment isn't going to be shocked by repeated calls to lock Hillary Clinton up, especially when the convention and its surroundings were essentially violence-free, contrary to some expectations.

This conventions got two messages across very, very effectively:

(1) Donald Trump is a wonderful family man and a brilliant, can-do businessman; and
(2) Hillary Clinton is skeezy and untrustworthy and incompetent and evil.

And so, on point (1):
Beyond boosting his overall support, Trump's favorability rating is also on the rise (46% of registered voters say they have a positive view, up from 39% pre-convention)....

The convention also helped Trump make strides in his personal image. A majority (52%) now say Trump is running for president for the good of the country rather than personal gain, just 44% say the same about Clinton. He's increased the share who call him honest and trustworthy (from 38% to 43%), and who would be proud to have him as president (from 32% to 39%). And nearly half now say he's in touch with the problems ordinary Americans face in their daily lives (46% say so, 37% did before the convention).
And on point (2):
Perhaps most troubling for the Clinton supporters gathering in Philadelphia this week: 68% now say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, her worst rating on that measure in CNN/ORC polling.
So is Trump going to win? I still think he'll lose, though it'll be a close election. But did he get as much out of the convention as he possibly could? Yes, he did. The Republican convention worked.

Now, it's up to the Democrats to have a similarly successful convention. Will they? Political insiders will say they're starting off on the wrong foot, with leaked email revelations about pro-Hillary favoritism at the Democratic National Committee and the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Regarding all that, I'm going to say the same thing I said about the GOP's process woes: Ordinary voters don't care. They don't care about the inner workings. They don't know who Debbie Wasserman Schultz is.

Politically engaged voters care, but conventions are a way to reach the less engaged. I do think Democrats have really lost a fair number of Sanders supporters who might have drifted back, but I don't know how many such voters there are -- Bernie-or-Busters get disproportionate attention because they're overwhelmingly white and well educated, but there may not be a lot of them.

I'm more worried about a Democratic Party that's doesn't seem clear on which voters it's targeting or what messages will reach them. All year, the Clinton campaign seems to have been trying to rerun the Obama campaigns -- same outreach to women, LGBT voters, non-whites, and young voters ... and then a white man whose leanings are frequently corporatist gets the running-mate nod ... and then he speaks a lot of Spanish in his first speech after being chosen. Outreach to Obama coalition? Outreach to business-friendly, socially liberal GOP moderates? What's the plan?

I hope the message comes together. I hope Clinton and her surrogates find a way to counter the increasingly universal belief that she's dishonest -- their failure to take this head on reminds me of John Kerry's failure to deal with the Swift Boat liars, or Mike Dukakis's deer-in-the-headlights response to the Willie Horton ads.

On the other hand, some serious talent will be speaking at the convention: both Obamas, Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. That ought to help.

Please note a fact quoted above:
There hasn't been a significant post-convention bounce in CNN's polling since 2000. That year Al Gore and George W. Bush both boosted their numbers by an identical 8 points post-convention....
That year, we had two nominees who were widely disliked. This year, same thing. So there could be another big bounce next week -- and we could be headed for another 50-50 election.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


So there'll be a prime-time speech at the Democratic convention from Mike Bloomberg:
Michael R. Bloomberg, who bypassed his own run for the presidency this election cycle, will endorse Hillary Clinton in a prime-time address at the Democratic National Convention and make the case for Mrs. Clinton as the best choice for moderate voters in 2016, an adviser to Mr. Bloomberg said.

The news is an unexpected move from Mr. Bloomberg, who has not been a member of the Democratic Party since 2000; was elected the mayor of New York City as a Republican; and later became an independent.

But it reflects Mr. Bloomberg’s increasing dismay about the rise of Donald J. Trump and a determination to see that the Republican nominee is defeated.
I don't know why this is "an unexpected move" from Bloomberg, who endorsed President Obama in 2012 (though he did so late in the race and didn't speak at the convention). It's been obvious for months that he's comfortable with a Clinton presidency, but not with Trump or Bernie Sanders. As The New York Times noted in March, when Bloomberg announced that he wouldn't be running for president,
Had both Mr. Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont appeared headed toward victory in the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, Mr. Bloomberg was determined to run, according to his advisers, several of whom insisted on anonymity to speak candidly about confidential discussions.

But Mr. Bloomberg balked at the prospect of a race against Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton, who has established a dominant lead over Mr. Sanders on the Democratic side.... Mr. Bloomberg said he could not in good conscience enter a race that could lead to a deadlock in the Electoral College -- and to the election of Mr. Trump...
Does it make sense for Bloomberg to speak at the convention? Most people would say yes -- but I don't see the point.

Bloomberg isn't a popular figure -- in a February CNN poll, 28% of respondents had a favorable opinion of him and 34% didn't. He's more disliked than liked by men, whites, Republicans, and older people, and if you think he might appeal to suburban women, note that is numbers are 29%/27% with women and 30%/31% with suburbanites. He's liked in the Northeast, but Clinton already has an excellent chance of sweeping all the states there, and he's disliked in other regions of the country. Moderates like him, but only by a 34%/26% margin.

So what's the point of having him speak? This, obviously:
... with the Republican nominee basing his campaign on his background as a businessman, Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire media executive and philanthropist, may help counter the Trump sales pitch.
But in 2016, Trump isn't running as just a businessman -- he's (dishonestly) running as a businessman who's also a class traitor. He's pretending to be a champion of the common people, and nearly half of America believes that's precisely what he is. If you want to counter Trump, you don't counter him with a businessman who's uncritical of the rich. Not this year.

Bernie Sanders will be a good foil for Trump -- a real economic populist vs. a fake. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, too -- like Trump, they have healthy egos and star power, and they can speak as long as Trump does, but they really do know what they're talking about when they talk policy.

Bloomberg? Unless he tells some tales out of school about Trump's business failings, I don't see what he brings to the convention. He'll probably also speak in favor of immigration, and I'm certain he'll talk about the need to reform our gun laws, but there'll be plently of speakers to do that. (Bloomberg's support for gun control groups is almost certainly the reason his numbers are so low among Republicans and men.)

Warren Buffett might have been effective in this slot -- deserved or not, he has a reputation as a
billionaire with the common touch. As for Bloomberg, while I don't really think he'll send all that many voters permanently into the Jill Stein camp, I don't think he'll win many over, either.


The New York Post reports that Donald Trump has won the support of Malik Obama, the president's half-brother. Malik is a registered Democrat in Maryland, even though he lives in Kenya:
President Obama’s Kenyan half-brother wants to make America great again -- so he’s voting for Donald Trump....

The last straw, he said, came earlier this month when FBI Director James Comey recommended not prosecuting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her use of a private e-mail servers while secretary of state.

“She should have known better as the custodian of classified information,” said Obama.

He’s also annoyed that Clinton and President Obama killed Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy, whom he called one of his best friends.

Malik Obama dedicated his 2012 biography of his late father to Khadafy and others who were “making this world a better place.”

... But what bothers him even more is the Democratic Party’s support of same-sex marriage.

“I feel like a Republican now because they don’t stand for same-sex marriage, and that appeals to me,” he said.
This story is being touted all over the right -- by Trump himself on Twitter (naturally), by the Daily Caller, by Twitchy, by Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit. Malik Obama is the right's new hero!

Unmentioned in all his media coverage is the fact right-wingers have for years accused Malik Obama of tax fraud and terrorist sympathies.

The Daily Mail's David Martosko, a former Daily Caller editor, reported this in 2014:
Malik Obama, the president's Kenyan half brother, was photographed in 2010 at a public event in Yemen wearing a 'keffiyeh' -- a special scarf -- bearing two anti-Israel slogans of the terror group Hamas, it emerged today.

'Jerusalem is ours -- WE ARE COMING,' reads one saying. 'From the river to the sea,' says the other statement.

That rallying cry refers to Palestinian militants' belief that the territory representing Israel, with the Jordan River to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, rightfully belongs to them – and Israel should not exist.
And here's Jerome Corsi at World Net Daily in 2013:
Malik Obama’s oversight of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international investments is one reason for the Obama administration’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to an Egyptian report citing the vice president of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt, Tehani al-Gebali

In a news report on Egyptian television of a Gebali speech, translated by researcher Walid Shoebat, a former Palestinian Liberation Organization operative, Gebali said she would like “to inform the American people that their president’s brother Obama is one of the architects of the major investments of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
(Walid Shoebat is a bunko artist who rakes in big bucks offering anti-terrorism training, citing as his principal credential the fact that worked for the PLO until he was jailed, after which he renounced terrorism and Islam; in fact, members of his own family say he never had PLO involvement, and there's no record of his incarceration.)

Jim Hoft posted this at Gateway Pundit in 2013:
President Obama’s half-brother “got a sweetheart deal” from the IRS. According to the Daily Caller, Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official at the center of the decision to target tea party groups for burdensome tax scrutiny, signed paperwork granting tax-exempt status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a shady charity headed by the president’s half-brother that operated illegally for years. Lerner approved the foundation’s tax status within a month of filing.
Hoft went on to quote another Walid Shoebat story:
It has been learned that the relationship between President Barack Obama’s half-brother Malik Obama and Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir is much closer than previously thought. Malik is the Executive Secretary of the Islamic Da’wa Organization (IDO)....

How significant is this?

Very significant. The IDO has been created by the Sudanese Government, which is considered by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist state. This places Malik Obama in bed with terrorists and working as an official with a terrorist state.
So the wingnuts thought Malik Obama was an evil man in bed with international terrorists and a government agency they consider a nest of criminals.

But he's for Trump now. Whoopsie! All is forgiven!