Friday, September 30, 2016


At the Federalist, Mollie Hemingway decries the media coverage of Sandra Fluke and Alicia Machado -- which, she says, is totally the fault of evil Democrats conniving with the LIE-beral media, because there'd be no possible reason to cover the two women otherwise:
Alicia Machado Is 2016’s Sandra Fluke, A Democratic Public Relations Scam

Democrats and the media work together seamlessly to push the idea that innocent, random young women are victimized by mean old Republican men.

In February 2012, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing about how an Obamacare mandate would harm religious liberty....

Democrats on the committee wanted to have a Georgetown Law student testify in favor of forcing religious groups that provide student health plans to violate their consciences if they don’t sponsor abortifacients and birth control. She wasn’t seated, and Democrats walked out in dramatic protest, later holding an event to hear her speak about how evil her Catholic university was for not violating Catholic teaching.

Sandra Fluke became the centerpiece of the Democrats’ “War on Women” messaging that they pounded throughout the year. The media completely ate it up, hook, line, and sinker....

A Lexis-Nexis search shows that the media ran too many stories in 2012 for the search to filter (more than 3,000) but a cursory search shows the Washington Post ran a whopping 139 stories on Sandra Fluke that year and CNN had 146 pieces dealing with Fluke. MSNBC (94), New York Times (63), Associated Press (49), NBC (23), Los Angeles Times (13), ABC (13), and CBS (11) also played their role in advancing this story.

The Fluke media blitz was managed by powerhouse public relations firm SKDKnickerbocker, and it continued throughout the year....
Yes, and why did the "Fluke media blitz" continue throughout the year? Hemingway would have you believe that its because Democrats are evil, sinister, baby-killing manipulators of the media, and journalists are all too willing to be manipulated.

But two words are missing from her piece, which runs more than 1700 words: "Rush" and "Limbaugh."

If you'd spent 2012 on a desert island and all you knew about the Sandra Fluke story was what Hemingway tells you in this article, you'd have absolutely no idea that the most popular voice in right-wing talk radio went on a three-day, all-out attack on Fluke, smearing her 53 times, most notoriously calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute." Let me repeat myself: Hemingway decries the large amount of media coverage Fluke received without ever mentioning this.

And so she moves on to Alicia Machado:
We’re in the middle of the exact same phenomenon with Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe Donald Trump allegedly called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” ...

Hillary Clinton made Machado the centerpiece of a line of attack against Donald Trump during Monday night’s debate....

A check of Lexis-Nexis on Thursday morning, less than 72 hours after Clinton unveiled her campaign message, showed that CNN transcripts had 46 mentions of Machado, another 27, and CNN Wire with another 23. The New York Times has already run 11 stories around Machado, the Associated Press as many as 17, the Los Angeles Times with five, the Washington Post with five, and more in the Chicago Tribune, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” the San Francisco Chronicle, the Arizona Republic, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Boston Globe, CBS News, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and even smaller papers such as the Tulare Advance-Register.

It was immediate and it was everywhere. That’s not a coincidence. That’s coordination.
If you're guessing that something happened in those first 72 post-debate hours that somehow didn't make it into Hemingway's piece, congratulations, you're right: Trump woke up the morning after the debate, called in to Fox and Friends, and immediately returned to the subject of Machado:
"I know that person. That person was a Miss Universe person," Trump told the Fox News morning show. "And she was the worst we ever had, the worst, the absolute worst, she was impossible," he said. "She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem. Not only that, her attitude."
I'm sure Hemingway will be back later in the year with an updated count of Machado media stories -- and I'm sure she'll never mention Trump's decision to continue attacking Machado on Tuesday, or his decision to send surrogates out all week with anti-Machado talking points, or to launch a pre-dawn Twitter attack on Machado today. (Nor will she mention that Limbaugh attacked Machado too.)

To Hemingway, there can only be a sinister explanation for the fact that stories appear in the media alleging that "women are victimized by mean old Republican men." The actual "mean old Republican men" are utterly invisible to her.


Donald Trump went after a former Miss Universe in a string of early-morning tweets Friday, encouraging voters to “check out” an alleged “sex tape” of Alicia Machado, who has been on the offensive against the GOP presidential nominee all week.
And "early morning" doesn't mean six o'clock:


Followed by:

I have to agree with this:

Get on it, Robbie Mook! Also, maybe this tweet from Monday night wasn't so crazy:

Donald Trump is a distractible guy -- every report on his debate prep said he had trouble concentrating on the process -- but this he's concentrating on. Remember, the debate was Monday. It's Friday. He's still fuming about Machado.

On the other hand, he came out of the debate with a plan to attack Hillary Clinton over her husband's sex life and her own responses to Bill's infidelities. I predicted that Trump and the rest of the right would have trouble focusing on the more disturbing allegations, because they couldn't restrain themselves from talking about Bill's fully consensual affairs, which most of America shrugs off. As it turns out, Trump can't focus on the more disturbing Clinton allegations because he can't focus on the Clintons at all -- he set out to smear them with talk of Bill's alleged sexual assaults and Hillary's alleged acts of intimidation and got distracted by a completely different line of attack that wasn't directly focused on the Clintons at all.

There have been allegations of criminal conduct in Machado's past -- but the one specific item Trump mentions isn't criminal at all. It's an alleged "sex tape." But, as Snopes notes, he may be talking about a fake:
In 2009, a video clip purportedly showing the former Miss Universe winner engaging in anal sex was circulated online, and that is the clip that now most frequently shows up in response to web searches on the phrase "Alicia Machado porn." However, the woman seen in that video is not Alicia Machado -- the clip was taken from the 2004 DVD Apprentass 4, which features porn actress Angel Dark, and was later retitled to suggest it showed Alicia Machado....

Machado is also often described as having been in a "sex tape," a claim that stems from her 2005 appearance on the Spanish reality show La Granja (similar to the United States' The Real World), which she was reportedly kicked off of after being filmed having sex with another cast member....

However, the so-called "sex tape" stemming from that incident, which is nothing more than some grainy, night-vision footage of a couple of covered figures writhing in a bed, hardly qualifies as explicit. And reality television being what it is, the scene the tape depicts was quite possibly staged or fabricated.
And if that's what Trump is referring to, it's hypocritical of him to bring it up, given the nature of the contestant contracts used on The Apprentice:
Appearing on The Apprentice with Donald Trump required agreeing to a series of odd and invasive demands regarding sex [and] nudity.... According to a copy of an NBC contract reviewed by The Daily Beast, contestants had to agree to be filmed, “whether I am clothed, partially clothed or naked, whether I am aware or unaware of such videotaping, filming or recording.”

... [Contestants] were made to undergo sexually transmitted disease screenings, which tested for “HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HPV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes,” according to the contract.

Along with such testing, contestants had to accept “that Producer may impose one or more Series Rules regarding the type of sexual activity, if any, that participants will be permitted to engage in.”

And, the contract states, “I further acknowledge and understand that the film, tape, audio and other recordings that will be made of me in connection with the Series might in other circumstances be considered a serious invasion of my privacy.”
So Donald? Please proceed.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


You may have seen this news yesterday:
Trayvon Martin's Parents Sign Book Deal

... Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, the parents of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager whose killing sparked a national firestorm about white violence against African-Americans, are writing a book titled Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin. The book will be published by Random House’s One World....

The book will hit shelves on Jan. 31, 2017, just ahead of what would have been Trayvon’s 22nd birthday on Feb. 5. The fifth anniversary of Martin’s killing will occur three weeks later, on Feb. 26.
The folks at Free Republican responded to the story in their useful tasteful fashion:
Is it going to be in cursive?


“The LIFE and Death of a Thug”. Won’t read.


Allow me to summarize the entire book:

We done raise him to be good

he wuz planning to enroll in community college, and was turning his life around

white people are rayciss.

The end.


Is he going to do signings. Just kidding, he probably couldn’t spell his name.


Obviously it will be ghost written by someone in the “Black Lives Matter” group. The narrative will probably be good for an additional riot or two.


Book? What, a cookbook for improvised narcotics? Are there really enough recipes for “Purple Drank” to fill a book?


Well, the audiobook might sell a few copies, but the book, not so much. The intended audience won’t be able to read it.


Is it going to be in comic book format with lots of pictures?


Parasitic thug breeders


Loweezy, we be gettin our Escalade.


We dun wonned da lottery!


The book section, along with Fathers’ Day cards (and work boots) remained untouched after the riots.


I thought the title would be How to Produce Worthless Trash At Home.


I have written proposals. There needs to be an audience. Eve n liberals will not buy propaganda and the BLM crowd probably haven’t bought two book total. The publisher is simply giving them money. This makes no business sense.


The publisher will be compensated by Soros for services rendered.

The parents were instrumental in providing the needed meme for Obama to create BLM.

Everyone's compensated.


So, the absentee parents of TM are now trying to cash in from the minority segment of the population?

I would suspect that only minorities will buy the book.

If that is true then the taxpayers will be buying the book for the minorities who are already on welfare, but, at least, the parents will not be on welfare anymore.


A coloring book?
Wow, there sure is a lot of anger on the right. Must be a reaction to economic displacement caused by globalization, right?


Give Gary Johnson credit: unlike his brother in ignorance Donald Trump, he seems really upset that he doesn't have the minimal knowledge base he needs to do the job he seeks.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson on Wednesday had another "Aleppo moment" as he struggled to name a single living foreign president that he admires.

MSNBC's host Chris Matthews pressed Johnson to name any foreign leader "of any country in any continent" that he respects or looks up to at a town hall event.

Johnson loudly exhaled as he struggled to think of a name.

"I guess I am having an Aleppo moment," he said before offering "the former president of Mexico."

But when Matthews asked "which one," Johnson said he couldn't remember the name.

"I am having a brain freeze," Johnson answered as his running mate, Bill Weld, came to his rescue by mentioning Vicente Fox.
Tom Hilton has defended Johnson, arguing that Johnson wasn't drawing a blank, but was thinking of Fox and couldn't come up with his name. Well, maybe -- but in that case, he could have named another leader somewhere on earth, given that he's, y'know, hoping to be president of a country that has to engage with the entire world. Knowing about other world leaders and forming opinions about them is kind of a requirement for the job.

Or it used to be. Republicans have called that standard into question over the past 36 years. Ronald Reagan was the first modern Republican presidential nominee -- a guy unashamed of his own ignorance and proud of his reliance on simplified versions of complex ideas. Twenty years later, the Republicans gave us George W. Bush. Those two, at least, believed in hiring cabinet members and aides who knew their stuff, however deficient the aides might have been in other ways. But the GOP holy fools of recent years seem as if they wouldn't even work with well-informed people, and certainly don't know much of anything themselves: Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Ben Carson, and now, obviously, Donald Trump.

We're supposed to think that all these people were "presidential" because, while they might not have known who headed the government in Lebanon, or been able to find the country on a map, they believed fervently in some Great Idea or other -- freedom, the glory of God, Making America Great Again.

Johnson -- a former Republican governor -- is in that category. (His big idea, I guess, is "freedom.")

Let's not forget this moment from the summer of 2000, when George W. Bush was running for president and Johnson was a fellow governor and surrogate:
June 6 -- Boosting his friend George W. Bush to reporters, Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico recalls a conversation they had at a conference on state government. ''George turns to me and says, 'What are they talking about?' I said, 'I don't know.' He said, 'You don't know a thing, do you?' And I said, 'Not one thing.' He said, 'Neither do I.' And we kind of high-fived.''
It's still true.


The Donald Trump campaign is really, really going there now:
Donald Trump's campaign is instructing its supporters to use figures like Monica Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers to beat back concerns about how Trump described a former winner of "Miss Universe," according to a copy of Wednesday campaign talking points obtained by CNN....

"Mr. Trump has never treated women the way Hillary Clinton and her husband did when they actively worked to destroy Bill Clinton's accusers," one talking point reads.

"Hillary Clinton bullied and smeared women like Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky," reads another.

"Are you blaming Hillary for Bill's infidelities? No, however, she's been an active participant in trying to destroy the women who has come forward with a claim," reads a third.
Surrogates are already reading from the script:
"I find it so interesting that there continues to be this conversation about what he has said when you look at what she has done: Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky. My goodness," Congressman Marsha Blackburn told MSNBC.

The story's relevance to Hillary Clinton, Blackburn said, was that the former secretary of state and first lady had been "vindictive" to women who had claimed a sexual relationship with the former president.

Trump's deputy campaign manager David Bossie took a similar tack, telling Fox News on Wednesday that Clinton was an "enabler" of her husband's behavior. Rep. Chris Collins, another Trump surrogate, told MSNBC that "the women that Bill Clinton was involved with saw the wrath of Hillary Clinton."
In this campaign, Trump has been successful while doing a lot of things that should have been recipes for failure, so I don't want to be overconfident about the likelihood that this gambit will fail.

But I think it will -- and not just because, as New York's Margaret Hartmann notes, it's never worked before:
Republican strategist Tim Miller and Katie Packer, who do not support Trump, told NBC News that in focus groups conducted before the primaries they found the attack was ineffective with female swing voters.

“These voters were completely turned off and disgusted by it,” Miller said. “We found time and again these attacks turned Hillary into a victim and that it engendered sympathy for her.”

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers agreed that the strategy is likely to backfire. Hillary’s popularity rose to 67 percent at the height of the Lewinsky scandal...
Here's a further problem: As Hartmann notes, "There isn’t much public evidence to prove that Hillary was 'vindictive' toward Bill’s accusers." Hillary's alleged vindictiveness toward Bill's women hasn't been a big part of the horndog-Bill story -- except for conservatives, who've turned multiple books about the Clintons' evil into bestsellers, and who collect evil-Hillary anecdotes like hoarders.

Trump and most of the members of his inner circle are consumers and/or producers of this sort of material, so they're steeped in the lore. They're likely to think that all they have to do is allude to these anecdotes and the public will nod knowingly and say, "Yeah, and remember what that witch did to Dolly Kyle Browning?" That's a mistake Trump made in the debate on Monday: alluding to stories that are widely known in the right-wing fever swamps without explaining them to people who do other things in their spare time besides watch Fox.

And there's the further possibility that some of the stories Trump and his surrogates will cite are just plain nuts. Oliver Willis of Media Matters says that Trump's breiefing book on this subject is The Clintons' War on Wonen, a book coauthored by Trump's sociopath buddy Roger Stone.
Former Trump adviser Michael Caputo, guest hosting on the September 25 edition of WBEN’s Hardline, said he “heard more than one time Donald Trump say” that Stone’s book The Clintons’ War on Women “is his opposition research on the Clintons.” He added that Trump “has it on his desk.”

... Trump has promoted Morrow and Stone’s book on his Twitter account. In January, after claiming that Bill Clinton was “one of the great woman abusers of all time," Trump cited Stone’s book for his claim that Hillary Clinton "went after the women very, very strongly and very viciously, according to the women and according to other sources."
How out there is the book? Here's a gushing write-up from Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller:
The book recounts the stories of about two dozen women ... who have stepped forward to claim that President Clinton sexually assaulted them. Some of the women received settlements of hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of them claim to have had their pets killed, their jobs terminated, their businesses audited by the IRS, their tires slashed, or to have received odd phone calls or queries from strange bypassing joggers about the health of their children.

That’s just the first 100 pages of the book.... That only brings us up through Bill Clinton being elected president, and doesn’t even get us to Monica Lewinsky.... Nor to tales of drug sales, money laundering, and other chicanery.

But it does raise a question: what kind of sociopath would actually have a child by a serial rapist? Or even by someone who seems to be routinely accused of sexual assaults?

According to Stone, not Hillary Clinton. Chelsea Clinton is not Bill Clinton’s child, and has had extensive plastic surgery, both to make herself more attractive ... and to make herself less the spitting image of her real dad, Web Hubbell.
Oh, Donald, go there. Please go there. I can really imagine a debate moment in which Hillary Clinton makes a reference to Chelsea as "my daughter" and Trump interrupts with "If she is your daughter."

Maybe all this will work for Trump. This year, who knows? As I say, I don't want to become overconfident. But fortunately, there are so many pitfalls for him.


BUT I MEANT TO ADD: I don't agree with the conventional wisdom that this is a bad idea for Trump because it brings up his infidelities. I think the public is going to continue to be non-judgmental about Trump's sex life, as long as we're talking just about multiple marriages and relationships. If any of the rape allegations out there begin to be taken seriously, that's a different story. But that doesn't seem to be happening, so I don't think Trump's sex life is going to be alienating voters.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Newt Gingrich went on Sean Hannity's radio show today and said this:
And there are rumors that Hillary was actually given the questions in advance. I don't know if it's true but it would not shock me because they all operate in the same circle. They go to the same cocktail parties, they all know each other, her operatives and the news media producers on the left are all close friends, and this whole thing is a setup.
Gingrich probably got this from the Baltimore Gazette:

From the story:
Earlier last week an NBC intern was seen hand delivering a package to Clinton’s campaign headquarters, according to sources. The package was not given to secretarial staff, as would normally happen, but the intern was instead ushered into the personal office of Clinton campaign manager Robert Mook. Members of the Clinton press corps from several media organizations were in attendance at the time, and a reporter from Fox News recognized the intern, but said he was initially confused because the NBC intern was dressed like a Fed Ex employee....

Clinton seemed to have scripted responses ready for every question she was asked at the first debate. She had facts and numbers memorized for specific questions that it is very doubtful she would have had without being furnished the questions beforehand.
But, as Baltimore's City Paper reported last week, the Gazette is fake:
The Baltimore Gazette, a newspaper that existed very briefly just after the Civil War, has returned online as a site to spread fake news stories and other nonsense.

One article in particular, "ATLANTA OFFICER KILLS BLACK WOMAN, INJURES CHILD, FOLLOWING BREASTFEEDING ARGUMENT," caught the attention of the online sleuths at after it apparently went viral....

The Gazette's "article" is a rehash of a bogus story that ran in a bogus source, the National Report, in 2014, Snopes reported yesterday in a post that has been shared more than 20,000 times.

Other stories on the site appear to be similarly fake....

... the Baltimore Gazette lists its offices at 612 E. Pratt St. There is no such address....

In sum, the Baltimore Gazette is basically your conservative wingnut uncle's email chain trying to masquerade as a credible news source. Don't buy into it.
Whether he's citing it because he's an idiot or because he's a deeply cynical man who no longer gives a flying toss how badly he poisons America with disinformation, that's Newt Gingrich's source.

Is there any non-conspiratorialist conservatism anymore? Is there any conservatism left that even tries to act in good faith? If so, I'm unaware of it.


In a radio interview yesterday, Eric Trump praised his father for not bringing up Bill Clinton's infidelities in Monday night's debate. This comes after Dad praised himself for not raising the subject in the debate. On Fox and Friends this morning, veteran right-wing hit man and current Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie elaborated:
... Bossie said “clearly Mr. Trump held his tongue” at Monday night’s presidential debate when Hillary Clinton raised the Manhattan billionaire’s history of derogatory remarks about women....

“I think that if you look at Hillary Clinton's background and if you look at her being an enabler, really, in the '90s and really attacking these women, it goes against everything that she now tries to spout as a candidate for president,” Bossie said on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning. “She'll say and do anything. Those are Barack Obama's words, not mine. She'll say and do anything to become president of the United States. And I think we're seeing that now.”
Politico says that the Clinton campaign is expecting this subject to reemerge -- and the Clintonites hope it does, because attacks of this kind have historically resulted in improved poll numbers for Hillary Clinton.

But is it possible that things would be different now? Recently, allegations about the sexual behavior of Bill Cosby and Woody Allen have significantly damaged the reputations of those men. The worst stories about Bill Clinton are decades old, but so are the Allen allegations and most of the ones involving Cosby. Why couldn't a changing national mood turn the public against Bill Clinton?

The main reason, I think, is the way the Clinton accusers have operated. Some women have charged Bill Clinton with sexual assault, not merely infidelity, but in the 1990s his antagonists spent more than a year trying to destroy his political career by focusing on a relationship that was undeniably consensual. Yes, there was a vast power inequity between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, but it was clear that she wanted to have a relationship with Clinton, and there are no allegations of violence by Clinton against her. The conservatives who fixated on this case now try to talk about Clinton as a sexually violent man (and Hillary Clinton as an intimidating enabler), but they keep getting it wrong -- over the weekend, the Trump campaign teased the possibility of extending a debate invitation to Gennifer Flowers, another woman with whom Clinton had a consensual affair.

Here's a tip, conservatives. Say absolutely nothing about any aspect of this story that's merely illicit and not allegedly criminal. The public thinks cheating is a matter best dealt with by the parties involved, with divorce court as a backstop. Nobody cares whether Bill Cosby had consensual extramarital affairs, or whether Woody Allen cheated on Mia Farrow with any consenting adults -- it's allegations of drugged date rape and pedophilia we care about in these cases. But conservatives lose focus when talking about this subject, going for pure titillation rather than outrage. The problem for them is that we stopped feeling titillated by Bill Clinton sex stories twenty years ago.

The right is having the same problem with Alicia Machado, the former beauty queen who was insulted and humiliated by Donald Trump for gaining weight. Unsavory stories about her past have surfaced -- as New York magazine notes, she was once charged with driving a getaway car after her then-boyfriend shot a man, and was said to have threatened the judge overseeing the boyfriend's case. You'd think that right-wingers who want to besmirch the reputation of Machado, who's now a Clinton surrogate, would stop there. But no -- the Daily Caller has to slut-shame:
Porn Star Campaigns For Hillary Clinton

Former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, who has been campaigning against Republican nominee Donald Trump for the Hillary Clinton campaign, has appeared in pornographic videos.

Snippets of an adult film starring Machado are available on multiple free porn websites. Machado also appeared topless in Mexican Playboy in 2006 and 2012.
Donald Trump's wife has also posed nude, but never mind.

Oh, and while the Federalist cites the shooting and the alleged threat to the judge, and also cites reports that Machado had a child with a drug lord, it also lists this as one of "4 Things the Media Won’t Tell You About Hillary’s Beauty Queen BFF":
3. She’s Really Bad at Geography

In 2010, Machado de-activated her Twitter account after she called North and South Korea “the Chinas.”

“Tonight I want to ask you to join me in a prayer for peace, that these attacks between the Chinas do not make our situation worse,” she tweeted.

The tweet spurred a lot of backlash, prompting her to delete her account.
Yes, that's terrible, because we certainly know that there couldn't possibly be a Donald Trump supporter who has a faulty knowledge base.

You don't know to do this, right-wingers. You humiliated Monica Lewinsky twenty years ago and you're humiliating Alicia Machado now. So just cut your losses and quit now.


The Hill reports that Democrats are targeting Gary Johnson:
Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump.

Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents.
One example?
NextGen Climate, the group run by liberal billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, is on the ground in eight battleground states with a message that is almost exclusively aimed at reaching the millennial voters who are energized by the issue of climate change.

Last week, the group threw six figures behind digital ads mocking Johnson as a climate change denier and warning millennials that climate change will cost them trillions of dollars.
The digital ad is not bad, though I don't understand why it leads off with the economic cost of climate change, which isn't intuitively obvious and, if you're trying to be virtuous, would seem to be a secondary consideration:

But it doesn't matter, and it doesn't matter that Paul Krugman and others have tried to remind voters about the Randian harshness of the Libertarian platform. Just as young skeptics refuse to believe Hillary Clinton every time she says something they agree with, they refuse to believe Libertarians every time they say something they disagree with. (The latter also seems true to a large extent for Trump.)

Months ago, it might have seemed as if the young would be alarmed about the possibility of a Trump victory. But people have a herd instinct that leads them to agree on narratives, and the message young skeptics have agreed on en masse is that Trump's a fascist but Clinton's a liar, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ -- what difference does it make if you don't vote for the one person who can beat Trump? Also, there's the insane belief that Congress will restrain Trump's worst impulses, so it's no big deal if he wins. See, for instance, these tweets from a local public radio reporter who watched the debate with a pro-Sanders millennial who's undecided for November:

(I can only guess that this belief comes from the millennials' experience of the GOP's eight-year effort to shut down the Obama presidency, an effort that's been successful in many ways. I assume they see it through the filter of mainstream media reporting that blames it on "gridlock" or "Washington" rather than Republicans and so, I guess, they assume that all Congresses shut down all presidents.)

The Clinton camp can try to tarnish Johnson, but a lot of the young are just lost this year -- if some are dissuaded from voting third party, I'm betting they just won't vote. Gallup says the interest of the young in voting this year is down significantly:
... the 65% of Democrats saying they will definitely vote is well below their average for the prior four presidential elections (77%), whereas the 76% of Republicans saying they will definitely vote is only a bit lower than their prior average (81%).

... One reason for the decline in Democrats' intent to vote could be the depressed percentage of young voters this year saying they will definitely vote -- now at 47%, down from 58% in 2012 and from a peak of 74% in 2008.

In contrast to the 11-point drop since 2012 in young adults' voting intention, there has been a seven-point decline among 35- to 54-year-olds and virtually no decline among those aged 55 and older.
The Clinton campaign can be criticized for its youth-outreach efforts, but really, the young people who've been holding out all this time are, I assume, lost to Clinton -- they're not coming around. We can complain about all the GOP endorsements Clinton is touting (today it's former Virginia senator John Warner), but moderate Republican women, at least, seem to be persuadable (and Clinton's message about Trump's awfulness does seem to be reaching them somewhat, especially when Trump's behavior confirms it, as it did in Monday's debate.) This is disheartening (even a new pro-Hillary ad starring Michelle Obama seems aimed at moms, not young Obama fans), but it's understandable. The skeptic kids are stubborn. They're dug in. They won't be budged.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


The New York Post claims it has evidence of Donald Trump's deep appeal to Pennsylvania Democratic voters:
How Trump won over a bar full of undecideds and Democrats

YOUNGSTOWN, Pa. -- Ken Reed sat down at the main bar of the Tin Lizzy tavern with two things in mind: to dig into the tavern’s oversize cheese steak, and watch the presidential debate....

Kady Letoksy, a paralegal by day, a waitress and bartender at night at the Tin Lizzy, sat beside him. At 28, she has never voted before, and she is now thinking it might be a good idea to start.

Letosky entered the evening undecided in a town that is heavily Democratic in registration....
Reed, Letosky, and another bar patron, a Democrat, all have kind words for Trump. There are harsh words for Hillary Clinton. And this is really, really bad for Clinton, we're told:
Pennsylvania is a high-stakes state for both candidates, but particularly Clinton, and Westmoreland is a high-stakes county, particularly for Trump.

She needs to win this state, and he needs not just to win this county but to do so by 2,000 more votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
Oh -- so Youngtown is "heavily Democratic in registration," but Romney won the county? Well, yes, he did -- by a 61%-38% margin. Four years earlier, John McCain won it 58%-41%. And yet Barack Obama won the state twice, by 10 points in 2008 and 5 points in 2012.

If you make your way through the Post story, you get this, sort of:
Between 1960 and 2000, Westmoreland County Democrats handily won presidential races with one exception: Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory.

By 1984, voters here were back to their Democratic allegiances, giving their votes to Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton.

When Al Gore turned the party toward its progressive wing in 2000, however, he left behind Westmoreland County Democrats.
And yet Al Gore won Pennsylvania in 2000 and John Kerry won it again in 2004, after which came Obama's two victories.

So why are we reading about this county?
Westmoreland is one of about 10 formerly or traditionally Democrat-blue counties across the state where Trump must drive up a higher-than-normal turnout, or even flip them to Republican red, in order to offset an anticipated high turnout for Clinton in Philadelphia.

The other counties are Cambria, Greene, Fayette and Washington in the southwest corner of the state and Bucks, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne and York in the east.
That's a bit deceiving. All of the southwestern counties mentioned are already red, based on Romney-Obama results, as are two of the eastern counties.

Look, we can argue about whether the Democrats should have fought harder to hold on to these voters. But the fact is that these voters aren't going to be crucial in Pennsylvania unless there's a huge groundswell. And the fact that the folks in this article are still making up their minds suggests that that won't be the case.


Donald Trump uttered a lot of nonsense last night -- and according to Jeremy Peters of The New York Times, the person we should blame is Hillary Clinton:
Time after time, Mrs. Clinton passed up the opportunity to correct Mr. Trump on his misstatements and his frequent stretching of the truth.
An example?
In a typical exchange, Mrs. Clinton tried to refute Mr. Trump as he boasted of how he would have the greatest tax plan since Ronald Reagan. “That can’t be left to stand,” she said. “I kind of assumed there would be a lot of these charges and claims.”

But Mr. Trump quickly cut her off. “Facts,” he said. The conversation quickly moved on.
You'd never know from Peters's description that Clinton actually did refute Trump, or that any haste or lack of completeness in her refutation resulted not only from Trump's hectoring but from Lester Holt making one of his rare efforts to actually play moderator.

Trump evoked Reagan, said his plan would be full of tax cuts and deregulation, and asserted that Clinton's plan would raise taxes and increase regulations. Here's what happened after that:
HOLT: Let me get you to pause right there, because we're going to move into -- we're going to move into the next segment. We're going to talk taxes...

CLINTON: That can't -- that can't be left to stand.

HOLT: Please just take 30 seconds and then we're going to go on.

CLINTON: I kind of assumed that there would be a lot of these charges and claims, and so...

TRUMP: Facts.

CLINTON: So we have taken the home page of my website,, and we've turned it into a fact-checker. So if you want to see in real-time what the facts are, please go and take a look. Because what I have proposed...

TRUMP: And take a look at mine, also, and you'll see.

CLINTON: ... would not add a penny to the debt, and your plans would add $5 trillion to the debt. What I have proposed would cut regulations and streamline them for small businesses. What I have proposed would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy, because they have made all the gains in the economy. And I think it's time that the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share to support this country.
(Emphasis added.)

So she did refute him -- just not hard enough to satisfy Peters.

Oh, but this is my favorite Peters assertion:
There were times he made up his own facts. And Mrs. Clinton did not take the opportunities she had to prove him wrong.

She could have corrected Mr. Trump after he interrupted her to falsely claim that she was inaccurate in saying that murders in New York City were down.
Did you follow that? Peters is chastising Clinton because she didn't rebut Trump's assertions about crime in New York City after she'd already rebutted them. In other words, as far as Peters was concerned, it wasn't enough that Clinton asserted that the murder rate in New York City is down -- it didn't count as a rebuttal because she didn't say it twice.

Here's the exchange:
TRUMP: ... in New York City, stop-and-frisk, we had 2,200 murders, and stop-and-frisk brought it down to 500 murders. Five hundred murders is a lot of murders. It's hard to believe, 500 is like supposed to be good?

But we went from 2,200 to 500. And it was continued on by Mayor Bloomberg. And it was terminated by current mayor. But stop-and- frisk had a tremendous impact on the safety of New York City. Tremendous beyond belief. So when you say it has no impact, it really did. It had a very, very big impact.

CLINTON: Well, it's also fair to say, if we're going to talk about mayors, that under the current mayor, crime has continued to drop, including murders. So there is...

TRUMP: No, you're wrong. You're wrong.

CLINTON: No, I'm not.

TRUMP: Murders are up. All right. You check it.
She said it. He said she was wrong. She said, "No, I'm not." What else was she supposed to do after that?Recite all the incident-level data from memory? I'm not clear on where she fell short.

Incidentally, this was fact-checked in real time by the NYPD:

But Clinton failed, as far as Peters is concerned, because she didn't hector Trump into a state of abject submission. Sorry, but that wasn't her job. She did more than enough last night.


I expected the worst last night -- a Donald Trump with just enough polish to be given credit for gravitas, up against a Hillary Clinton whose carefully crafted presentation would be described by pundits as inauthentic, all while she'd be called phony for smiling too much, or angry and humorless for not smiling enough.

Instead, Clinton, was relaxed and showed a decency of temperament, while nimbly getting in digs). And Donald Trump was really Donald Trump: no polish, no gloss, no best behavior. As Vox's Emily Crockett and Sarah Frostenson noted, "Trump interrupted Clinton 25 times in the first 26 minutes of the debate." He was seething, peevish, and self-pitying. He was awful. According to multiple polls and focus groups, Clinton won decisively.

What happened? I think what BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins wrote yesterday could be the key:
... as the race has narrowed, [Kellyanne] Conway has emerged in the popular imagination of politicos and pundits as the deft handler who’s finally succeeded in domesticating Trump.

... Interviews this week with more than half a dozen GOP sources close to the campaign suggest her “Trump-whisperer” status is more made-for-TV myth than reality.

“She’s there to go on MSNBC or Fox, or whatever. That’s sort of her job. They think she’s good on TV, and they like having her there as the face of the campaign,” said one source with knowledge of the strategy.

“The narrative that Kellyanne is a woman genius and saving Trump helps him as he runs against a woman ... [but] Kellyanne spends nearly 100% of her time on TV. That’s her role,” said another Republican who is close to Conway.
If that's true, then Trump's debate prep -- such as it was -- was a real sausagefest. Here was Trump's debate team, according to The New York Times:
Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign’s chief executive; Ms. Conway; former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; Stephen Miller, a policy adviser; Jason Miller, a communications adviser; Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army officer; and Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law.

The former Fox News executive Roger Ailes has not been at the last two debate sessions, but he sends memos and speaks to Mr. Trump.
Bannon and Giuliani and Christie and General Flynn (the guy who reportedly had to be told to be quiet after he repeatedly interrupted Trump's intelligence briefing)? With contributions from Ailes? If Conway was only as involved as the Coppins story suggests, then debate prep must have been like an ugly night at a Wall Street-area strip club. Even if she was significantly involved, she was greatly outnumbered by a lot of men who spend a disproportionate amount of their time calculating the precise angle of theit territory-marking urine streams.

Well, excellent job, gents.

Trump unleashed everything he's been restraining in recent weeks -- weeks in which he's been narrowing the poll gap. I don't know who talked him into that restraint -- maybe it was Conway, maybe it was Ivanka. Who knows? But the boys in debate camp reinforced his sense that he should be truly himself while debating. As a Democrat, I say: thank you, boys. I wish there could be a debate every week between now and November. And I hope you guys keep offering Trump your wise counsel.

Monday, September 26, 2016


David Farenthold of The Washington Post has unearthed what appear to be more shady doings at the Trump Foundation.
Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has received approximately $2.3 million from companies that owed money to Trump or one of his businesses but were instructed to pay Trump’s tax-exempt foundation instead, according to people familiar with the transactions.
I applaud what Farenthold is doing -- but I don't agree with Josh Marshall, who titles his post about this story "This Looks Really Big." I think it should be big. But the public will shrug it off, because the relevant law is just ambiguous enough to allow people who aren't Trump haters to conclude that there's nothing significant here.

I'll quote Marshall's summary of the story:
Last week we noted that a Trump family aide defended the idea that Trump Foundation money is really Trump's money since often he takes money that's owed to him and directs it to the Foundation....

Now it turns out that a lot of the Foundation money does come in just this way. But here's the key. It sounds like Trump is not paying taxes on that income.

It works like this. Trump or one of his businesses is owed money by Company X or Person Y. Trump says 'Don't send the check to me. Just send it to my Foundation.' No problem with that.... But you have to pay taxes on that money because it's your income.

Here's where it gets weird. Fahrenthold got a series of false explanations from Trump representative Boris Epshteyn about how this money was handled. When Fahrenthold presented Epshteyn with proof of these diversions, Epshteyn shifted gears and said the diversions did happen but they were fine.

At this point, Epshteyn cited an 1942 tax case....
That's where America's eyes will start to glaze over. If there were an easy-to-grasp rule in this case -- divert money to a rich guy's charity and he has to pay taxes on it no matter what -- then a failure on Trump's part to pay taxes on the money cited in Farenthold's article would be seen as a scandal. But Epshteyn cites a High Court ruling saying you can divert money and not pay taxes on it, as long as you don't control what charity the money goes to -- if you just suggest that it goes to a certain charity without instructing that it goes there, apparently you're off the hook. At this point, all Trump and his team have to say is, that he never gave any specific instructions and he gets the benefit of the doubt.

And that's exactly what Epshteyn says:
“He’s never directed fees to the foundation,” said Boris Epshteyn, a senior adviser to Trump, who responded on the campaign’s behalf in a phone interview on Saturday. Epshteyn said that what Trump did was provide a service, renounce any fees, and then merely suggest that the other party make a donation to a charity of their choosing.

“He’s waived fees from time to time,” Epshteyn said. “He’s never directed it to a specific charity.”

... sometimes, Epshteyn said, a gift arrived at the Trump Foundation.

“He’s Donald J. Trump,” Epshteyn said, explaining why donors had chosen this particular charity.
Farenthold tried to press the case, citing, among other things, a fee for a Comedy Central roast in 2011, which was diverted to the charity:
The Post asked about the 2011 gift from Comedy Central. Back then, Trump had bragged on video that he was getting a big appearance fee. “They paid me a lot of money, and they were very generous. And all of that money goes to charity,” Trump said.

After The Post brought up the Comedy Central case during the Saturday interview, Epshteyn conceded that Trump had, indeed, controlled where this money went.

It was his income. And, Epshteyn said, he paid taxes on it.

Could he provide proof of that tax payment?

“Absolutely not,” Epshteyn said.
Farenthold brought another example:
The Post offered the donations recorded from [Richard] Ebers, who was the Trump Foundation’s biggest donor in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Together, his gifts totaled $1.887 million.

The two people familiar with that arrangement said Ebers bought tickets and other goods and services from Trump. They said it was unclear if Trump himself or one of his employees instructed Ebers to pay the foundation instead of Trump.

The Post asked Epshteyn and [canpaign spokeswoman Hope] Hicks if Trump had paid taxes on the money received from Ebers. They did not answer the question, beyond saying that Trump had followed “all applicable rules and regulations.”
Farenthold and other reporters can continue to look into this, but as long as there's ambiguity about the law and about suggesting versus directing, this won't be a scandal for Trump. It might become a legal issue for him down the road, but it's not sufficiently open-and-shut to become a political scandal between now and November.

I'd love to say that this will become a major issue, but I don't see it.


The widespread reaction to this on Twitter is that it's setting up a glaringly obvious double standard:

On Clinton's side, I think this could have been worse. The two slides are approximately equal in superficiality -- it's not as if Clinton's principal task is "Explain how to destroy ISIS and Al Qaeda while ending the war in Syria, elaborating on specific troop movements and fiscal-year expenditures in a series of detailed slides," while Trump's is "Don't talk about your penis." It's actually acknowledged here that Clinton has ideas for her presidency, which is something, even if the message is "C'mon, girl, give us a big smile and sell those ideas." And it's acknowledged that Clinton is, in fact, personable and appealing in small-group settings. (What, you mean she's not a humorless nut-crushing harridan all the time?) By the awful standards of most Clinton punditry, this is somewhat less than abysmal.

But Clinton will actually have to do all these things, and many more, for the pundits to credit her with a victory. She'll have to put the email question to rest. She'll have to put questions about the Clinton Foundation to rest. She'll have to do an effective job of defending her policy decisions on Libya, Syria, and Russia. She'll probably have to answer a question about why she's struggling in the polls, and the answer will have to seem neither self-pitying nor unrealistically optimistic (while Trump will get away with any chest-thumping boast he chooses to make, about the polls or anything else). Whatever pitch is thrown to her, she'll have to hit it out of the park; anything less will be held against her.

What's infuriating about the Trump slide is that he's highly unlikely to do any of the items on his list, yet he'll still probably be called the winner of the debate. He might not lie brazenly, but I'm sure he'll repeat his claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, daring Clinton and Lester Holt to fact-check him. I'm sure he'll say, if the subject comes up, that birtherism was cooked up by the Clinton campaign. I'm sure he'll say an audit prevents him from releasing his taxes.

But if these are just fleeting moments, they'll be shrugged off as Trump being Trump. If he's not "blood out of her wherever" nasty to Clinton, he'll get credit for vastly improved deportment (even though he'll make quite a few "I alone can fix it" statements and display no "humility" whatsoever). And if he can pile up enough platitudes and critiques of the Clinton and Obama administrations to use up his allotted time on every question without resorting to word salad, no one will care that he's failed to "fill in the gaps in his policy proposals."

Pundits, you can surprise me by not treating Trump this way, which is not so much "grading on a curve" as throwing out all criteria and pre-assigning the man a gentleman's A-minus even before he takes the final. You can surprise me, but you won't, will you?



That's exactly what's going to happen.


The local NPR station interviewed some students at Hofstra University, where tonight's debate will take place. One, Garrett Shum, said this about the election:

Well, a lot of Trump's rhetoric is very much aimed at China especially. He always goes on about, like, "Oh, they're ruining us. They're giving us all these bad deals. We need to stop them. We need to beat them. We need to beat China." And because I myself am half Chinese, I do partially identify with them, and I know that if Trump does get elected that a lot of the people who feel racist toward China are going to feel very legitimized in their racism, and I'm going to have to deal with all that crap again.
Maybe that doesn't seem like the biggest worry in a possible Trump presidency, but don't discount it. I'm old enough to remember incidents like this:
ON June 23, 1982, in Detroit, a young man named Vincent Chin died. Four nights earlier, he had been enjoying his bachelor party with friends at a local bar when they were accosted by two white men, who blamed them for the success of Japan’s auto industry. “It’s because of you we’re out of work,” they were said to have shouted, adding a word that can’t be printed here. The men bludgeoned Mr. Chin, 27, with a baseball bat until his head cracked open.

The men -- a Chrysler plant supervisor named Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz -- never denied the acts, but they insisted that the matter was simply a bar brawl that had ended badly for one of the parties. In an agreement with prosecutors, they pleaded to manslaughter (down from second-degree murder) and were sentenced to three years of probation and fined $3,000.
Assuming President Trump can't instantly stop terrorism, get construction of a border wall under way, or generally Make America Great Again, he's going to have to up the scapegoating ante. Could we have another wave of serious Asia-bashing? Sure we could.

I'm also thinking about this tweet from last week:

Charlie Pierce thinks we really do have to worry about something like this. He specifically refers to refugees, but I don't see why this couldn't apply to people of non-European descent who are already here:
... the case of Korematsu v. United States ... , by a 6-3 vote, upheld the government's right to incarcerate citizens of Japanese origins in internment camps. And, while that decision is recognized now as one of the worst in history, and while reparations have been paid to thousands of Japanese-American families, Korematsu never has been overturned. It sits there, a land mine in the law, waiting, perhaps for a swaggering authoritarian know-nothing of a president....

You think a guy that inclined to un-American, totalitarian solutions won't find a way to use Korematsu to his own advantage? You think ... he wouldn't get the votes in Congress to do that, or that his Supreme Court appointees wouldn't uphold it?
White America doesn't care, as Bill Maher tells Vox:
The American people appear to be playing a game of chicken. They're fed up with the system. If you talk to Trump supporters, a lot of them have misgivings about things he says and does, but at the end of the day they say, "He's gonna shake things up." How serious are they? I have no idea, but we have to assume the worst.

Things are so bad that we have millions of people who simply want to flip the table over. Trump is like a Great Dane released at a toddler's birthday party: He's just gonna fuck things up, and they love it!
And people who aren't sure whether they want to cast a vote for the one person who can beat Trump are equally heedless of the damage that Great Dane might cause.

I think some of these people are reachable. I think some who might still be reachable are young third-party voters. I understand that hectoring from fellow white people has been utterly counterproductive (and I admit that I've done my share of it). But would these voters listen if the people who'd be the most obvious targets of Trumpism spoke directly about their fears in a series of Clinton campaign ads?

Team Clinton has done a good job of personalizing the effect of Trump's insults to women and the disabled. In Clinton ads, we see girls looking at themselves in the mirror while a soundtrack of sexist Trump insults plays, and we see the reactions of disabled individuals and their parents to Trump's attack on disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski.

But I haven't seen any ads in which others -- blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, Asians -- talk about their legitimate fears of government repression and legitimized racist violence in a Trump presidency. Maybe some of the Jewish writers who've been subjected to viciously anti-Semitic attacks for writing about Trump and his associates could also weigh in.

The problem with Trump isn't just that his behavior is unseemly. It's that it's dangerous. In a Trump presidency, real people could be seriously hurt. We need to hear more from some of those people. For voters who regard themselves as empathetic, especially across cultural lines, but don't understand what the big risk of a Trump win is, maybe it would be a wake-up call.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Josh Marshall predicts that Donald Trump won't be as nasty in tomorrow's debate as many people expect him to be:
... fairly few of the really damaging things he said in this campaign were in the debates. They tended to be at rallies or in interviews. Put simply, Trump wasn't as crazy or unhinged in debates as people seem to remember. So if we're expecting him to come in trash talking and angry I think we may be surprised, at least at first.
What Marshall thinks will really get Trump in trouble will be the need to talk about issues at length in what will be his first two-person debate. As Marshall sees it, we'll all know what a simpleton Trump is as soon as he starts having exchanges like this one from the September 7 national security forum:

Marshall thinks this is self-evidently awful.
As I said at the time: I think this exchange is pretty obvious for people in a way that transcends politics and ideology. Trump is the kid telling the teacher the dog ate his homework. Then the teacher points out he has no dog. But he's not going to apologize or come clean. He's just going to keep talking.
But that's not what I take away from it. I'm imagining how this must have gone over with voters -- not just Trump supporters, but persuadable voters in the middle. Most Americans aren't politics junkies and aren't particularly sophisticated about foreign policy. And, maddeningly, far too many Americans think Trump is honest, which means they think he's arguing in good faith, rather than slinging bullshit.

So what did these voters see? They saw a guy saying he doesn't want to tip his hand on ISIS because he wants ISIS to find him "unpredictable." (Presidential!) They saw him saying he'd respectfully turn to generals for advice about ISIS. (Presidential!) They saw him say that, yes, he long ago devised his own plan for defeating ISIS. (Presidential!) But he wants to refine his plan by turning to those with military experience. (Presidential!)

That Trump is BS'ing us is obvious if you put all his statements together. But if you're a casual voter, every statement in isolation seems to pass the commander-in-chief test.

That's what I worry about: Trump finding enough platitudes, bumper-sticker slogans, and hollow boasts to fill up his half of a ninety-minute debate, and the press giving him a gentleman's C -- no, a gentleman's B-plus or A-minus -- because he was expected to do worse.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Because he's completely overmatched in the areas of policy knowledge, experience, temperament, intelligence, and judgment, Donald Trump, naturally, is Going There:
Gennifer Flowers, who revealed a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton in the 1990s, will reportedly accept Donald Trump's invitation to attend the first presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton....
This is said to be all Hillary Clinton's fault:

The decision was the latest play in a bizarre bit of gamesmanship between the Clinton and Trump campaigns over the debate. Clinton's camp confirmed this week that they would invite billionaire mogul Mark Cuban, a Trump antagonist, to the debate.
Of course, Cuban and Flowers are not analogous -- Cuban did not have an affair with Trump's spouse. (As far as we know!)

I want to believe that the Clinton campaign knows that the Cuban invitation is just a little something extra -- it's not going to make a diffrence in how things turn out Monday night. On the other hand, I suspect the Trump campaign thinks this might be a brilliant, game-changing move.

In fact, these provocative invitations are pointless. Paula Jones, another of the women linked to Bill Clinton, was invited to the 1998 White House Correspondents' Dinner by the Moonie right-wing magazine Insight; she and the president sat at separate tables, sparks did not fly, and life went on.

In 2013, wingnut congressman Steve Stockman invited Ted Nugent to attend President Obama's State of the Union address; Obama was unfazed by the aging rocker, who sat there like a bored delinquent at detention.

As Politico's Zack Stanton has noted, there was an attempted debate psych-out of this kind in the 2004 debates:
In a famous incident on the floor of the U.S. Senate in June 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney told Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, “go f--k yourself,” after the senator had accused Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, of war profiteering.

So when it came time for the vice presidential debates that October, Senator John Edwards (D-NC) had a plan to get inside Cheney’s head during the debate: He reserved a seat for Leahy in the second row of the debate’s audience, where Cheney would almost certainly see him.
But Cheney debated effectively that night, and his ticket went on to win.

So this sort of thing is meaningless, except to journalists who'll make way too much of it ... unless, of course, it's seen as offensive by female voters:

Is Trump going to go further than this? Is he going to try to hijack discussions of actual issues in the debate by bringing up Bill's sex life and the Clintons' response to infidelity allegations? And does he seriously think that a woman who's spent nearly 35 questions dealing with this in public isn't going to be ready for that?

The only risk is that idiot journalists -- the Chuck Todds, the Mark Halperins -- will think it's a good move to go in this direction. But I don't think the public will respond well. And if it's just a matter of Flowers sitting mutely in the audience, and later giving an interview to Sean Hannity afterward that will be watched exclusively by people who are already certain to vote for Trump, it won't matter at all.




Donald Trump's campaign manager and running mate said Sunday the GOP candidate doesn't want Gennifer Flowers -- who had an affair with Bill Clinton in the 1970s -- at Monday night's presidential debate.

"We have not invited her formally, and we do not expect her to be there as a guest of the Trump campaign," Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's vice presidential nominee, told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace that Trump's suggestion he'd invite Flowers was just "mocking" Clinton's campaign for distracting from the real issues at stake on Monday night.
So now will the Trumpers get credit for, um, trumping the Clinton campaign's Cuban gambit and for high-mindedness because Flowers won't actually be there?


Is this Fox News story just trash talk, or does it really reveal something about the Trump team's debate plans?
Trump’s debate strategy: Let Clinton talk

... Fox News has learned that the view inside Trump Tower is that the real estate mogul stands to gain by standing back and letting Hillary Clinton talk. And talk.

... the GOP nominee is being advised to let Clinton speak as much as possible on the debate stage, with the thinking being that she could lose viewers the more she does.

“I think both candidates face huge challenges. Both of them are not well liked by the American people. She's an accomplished debater. But she has a style that is oftentimes grating on people,” said Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush.
Rove is quoted on this subject, but no Trump insider is, so I don't know how much to believe this. It might just be an effort on the part of the Trump team (or just Fox) to get out one more story saying Hillary Clinton is an annoying nag.

Or maybe the Trump people really believe this could work. If so, this might be a solution to a problem from Trump that's been pointed out by James Fallows, among others:
In a head-to-head debate, participants know they will get enough airtime. The question becomes how they use it. Example of the difference: In several of the GOP debates, Trump went into a kind of hibernation when the talk became too specific or policy-bound, letting John Kasich or Marco Rubio have the microphone. It didn’t matter, because he’d have a chance to come back with a one-liner -- “We’re gonna win so much.” In debates like the ones this fall, it will be harder to answer some questions and ignore others.
Trump could just disappear from sight for long stretches in the primary debates because there were many debaters -- and you can't blame him, because he knows how to insult people and he knows how to sloganeer, but he doesn't know jack about policy, except maybe when he has access to a Teleprompter. That's not a deficiency he's doing anything to correct, as The New York Times reported this week:
He has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials....

He believes debates are not won or lost on policy minutiae since most viewers will not remember them in an hour. His advisers see it as a waste of time to try to fill his head with facts and figures.
But according to the Times, Clinton is already planning not to talk too much:
Mrs. Clinton grasps that answers need to be trimmed down to two minutes (and rebuttals should be even tighter) and will keep working to tighten her answers in coming days. [She r]esponds well to timers and stopwatches but also has an instinctual sense of time running out.
I hope she sticks to that approach. As I've said before, the two people who've most effectively gotten up Trump's nose -- President Obama with the birth certificate release and jabs at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and David Letterman with his sneak attack on Trump as an outsourcer, threw Trump off stride without raising their voices or getting visibly angry. Let Trump be the one who seems to lose patience.

I hope all this means that the Trump people are letting the widespread right-wing contempt for Hillary Clinton influence their debate prep. I'm assuming that the opposite is true for Clinton: She may not like Trump, but I bet she respects his ability to win and hold an audience. I think she knows he has a creepy sort of charisma and an alley fighter's low cunning.

It wouldn't surprise me if Trump and most of his advisers can't even see Clinton's strengths, and can't imagine anyone ever responding well to her. They might be prepping for a debate against someone they assume alienates everyone all the time. In fact, the real Clinton is far more impressive than the press-mediated version of her. I hope the Trumpers aren't ready for that because they have no respect for her. And I hope she's ready to take him down precisely because she has respect for what he's pulled off in the past year.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Ted Cruz told us at the time of the Republican convention that there was some excrement he would not eat, not after the guy trying to feed it to him insulted his wife and accused his father of conspiracy to murder. Now, however, he's put all that behind him and endorsed Donald Trump. I think Ed Kilgore's analysis is basically correct:
It is the changing dynamics of the presidential general election ... that may well be pushing Cruz toward at least a pro forma gesture toward his party’s nominee. By that I do not mean that Cruz is gaming the possibility that Trump will win; no matter what he does now, the Texan will almost certainly be frozen out of any real influence in a Trump administration. It’s the significant likelihood of a narrow Trump loss that is probably bugging Cruz and his advisers. It was one thing to stay on the sidelines and watch sadly as Trump self-destructed and lost by a landslide, as appeared likely for a good part of the general-election campaign. In that scenario, Cruz was in a good position to help pick up the pieces afterward and become the chief advocate for a movement-conservative version of the GOP’s post-Trump future. But after an agonizingly close Trump defeat, Cruz would become a prime object of recriminations for having helped Hillary Clinton and her baby-killing, Christian-hating secular-socialist minions to seize power.
Also, please note that Cruz's favorable ratings among Republicans began plummeting as soon as he took on Trump in the later stages of primaries, and as a result of his opposition he's looking at the possibility of a well-financed primary challenger in 2018.

So does this mean that Trumpism is now the undisputed ideology of the Republican Party? Not really.

The Republican Party has the same ideology it's had for years, one that can be summed up in one sentence: Democrats are the Antichrist. Foolish pundits, and even politicians like Cruz, think there's more to Republicanism than that, but there isn't. Trumpism is dominant right now because Trump seems like the person who can most effectively cause pain to Democrats, and to the right's other enemies (non-whites, non-conservative women, gay people, climate scientists, etc.).

Cruz probably thought Trump would lose badly, after which Wingnuttia would conclude that the loss was because Trump was really a filthy liberal; at that point, Cruz could pose as the "true conservative" savior for 2020. But Trump, even if he doesn't win, is causing the right's enemies conniption fits, so he's the strong horse the right likes at this moment, and everyone on the right needs to get behind him. Right now it looks as if Trump will lose a close one -- I'm not sure Cruz endorsed early enough to completely avoid partial blame for that, but if he'd never endorsed, his share of the blame, according to the conservative base, would be right up there with ACORN's.

Trump will probably quit politics if he loses, so there'll be a new battle for who makes the right's enemies the most miserable. Cruz is going to have a hard time regaining the trust of the faithful, but he's going to try, and he wouldn't have had a chance otherwise.

I think he really thought there'd be a post-November ideological battle, when, really, all there'll be is a contest for who can be nastiest to Democrats. He might regain his mojo and have a shot at pulling that off. It's certainly in his nature.


This comes from a Republican group that doesn't like Donald Trump, so the results may be somewhat skewed, but it's from a respectable polling firm, so I think it's plausible:
A majority of voters say Donald Trump would allow the U.S. to default on its debt and that he would misuse the power of the presidency to punish his political opponents.

And nearly half of voters -- 46 percent -- say the GOP nominee would use a nuclear weapon to attack ISIS or another foreign enemy.

Those are the findings of a new poll conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of the Lincoln Leadership Initiative, a new group helmed by prominent Republican critics of the New York billionaire who are advocating for the Republican Party to dump Trump and return to its “foundational values.”

The poll also found that a majority of voters believe that as president, Trump would create a database to track Muslims and order military strikes against the families of terrorists.

Sixty-five percent said that there would be race riots in major cities during a Trump administration, and 44 percent believe Trump would authorize internment camps for illegal immigrants.
Many people who are actually going to vote for Trump believe all these things, and either approve or don't care:
... Among those who say they will vote for Trump, 48 percent say he’ll create a database to track Muslims; 36 percent say there will be race riots; 33 percent say the government would default on its debt; and 32 percent say Trump would punish his political opponents and authorize internment camps for illegal immigrants.

Only 22 percent of Trump supporters believe he will start a nuclear war.
On the other hand, if you look at the survey and crosstabs, far more Democrats and independents believe all these things about Trump.

I think there's a connection between all this and some of the "soft" negative ads the Clinton campaign and its allies have been running for months. The latest one is this:

The Clinton campaign will begin airing a new ad Friday that intercuts Trump insulting women with shots of young girls looking in the mirror.

"I'd look her right in that fat ugly face of hers," Trump says in the ad, a comment he made in 2006 about comedian Rosie O'Donnell. "She is a slob."

The ad, entitled "Mirrors," also features Trump saying "A person who is flat chested is very hard to be a 10" -- a comment he made about actress Nicollette Sheridan -- and "Does she have a good body, no? Does she have a fat (expletive)? Absolutely." -- a comment he made about Kim Kardashian in 2013.

While these comments are playing, the ad features a diverse group of young women looking in the mirror, appearing to evaluate themselves as Trump's voice makes demeaning comments.

The end of the ad features a black slate with this question: "Is this the president we want for our daughters?"
This ad is about sexism and body-shaming specifically, just as a Clinton ad released earlier this week is about disability specifically. But the larger point is that Trump goes through the world with no empathy and no worries about the damage he does to other people with his words and deeds. If you're dismayed by Trump, it's easy to make a leap from that to internment camps or going nuclear. But ads like this one keep that discussion in human terms, for voters who might not be politically engaged.

This could be a brilliant strategy. We'll find out in November.