Monday, May 23, 2016


I knew that Newt Gingrich was lobbying to be Donald Trump's running mate, but I didn't realize that he'd become an extremely trusted Trump insider. National Review's Eliana Johnson reports:
Gingrich has a reputation for insinuating himself into campaigns by firing off dozens of e-mails brimming with ideas that range from brilliant to insane. While it’s a quality that has irritated previous presidential candidates such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, sources say that Trump has come to value the former speaker’s opinions.

“They talk every day,” says a source familiar with the relationship, who claims that Gingrich e-mails Trump, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “countless times a day.” On Friday, the source says Gingrich sent five messages after lunch, musing on everything from Fox host Megyn Kelly’s interview with Trump to Trump’s recently announced list of potential Supreme Court nominees to ideas for targeting Bernie Sanders’s voters.

“I think he’s viewed as a very valuable ally to have,” Rollins says.
Wow, it's like All About Eve, except with two doughy, egomaniacal old men.

Here's the creepy part:
Gingrich’s influence within Trump World is widespread. Inside Trump’s newly established campaign offices in Washington, D.C., his fingerprints are everywhere. “Right from the minute I joined we were told that Newt will have his hand in every major policy effort,” says one Trump aide. “So one of the things I do when I’m researching or writing anything, in addition to looking at what Trump has said about anything, I look at what Newt has said.”
Well, it's perfect: Trump realizes he knows nothing about politics or any of the issues presidents deal with. Gingrich has been waiting all his life for someone to treat him as the World's Foremost Authority (on politics and everything else). Trump takes Gingrich's ideas seriously and Gingrich's ego gets what it wants. Gingrich takes Trump seriously (very, very seriously) and Trump's ego gets what it wants. It's an ideal match.

If Gingrich does become Trump's running mate, it's going to be the first major-party ticket in history in which both halves oare loathed by the majority of Americans. You know about Trump's unfavorable ratings, but the last time the general public was polled about Gingrich, back in 2012, he had a 60% unfavorable rating in a CNN poll, a 56% unfavorable rating in an ABC/Washington Post poll, a 67% unfavorable rating in a Fox News poll, a 58% unfavorable rating in an AP-GfK poll, and a 61% unfavorable rating in a USA Today/Gallup poll. (A CBS/New York Times poll had his unfavorables at 49%, but his favorable rating was only 17%.)

It's no surprise. Basically, he comes off as the ur-Ted Cruz, a guy you assume was a socially awkward young nerd who retreated to his bedroom, where he read sci-fi novels and Ayn Rand and dreamed of being a global (or galactic) dictator. I'm the last person who should mock people with poor social skills, but it's just not a good foundation for a career at the upper echelons of politics, unless your name is Richard Nixon. As a Democrat, I hope Gingrich is the most visible running mate since Sarah Palin. His cocksure bombasticism is not going to wear well.


The Washington Post's James Hohmann tries to prove that failure to release tax returns is a huge unexploded bomb for Donald Trump. Hohmann's effort, alas, fails miserably:
Donald Trump bests Hillary Clinton by 2 points among registered voters in the new Washington Post/ABC poll. While within the margin of error, this represents an 11-point swing in his direction since March. The presumptive Republican nominee’s lead is driven by strength among independent voters, who favor him by 13 points.

But our national poll finds that these independent voters are profoundly troubled by Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, a sign of the issue’s potential potency.

Six in 10 independents believe Trump should release his taxes, and almost all of them say they feel strongly about it. Even 44 percent of Republicans want the billionaire businessman to release his returns before the November election, though they are less passionate.
So what Hohmann is saying is that independents are incredibly disturbed by Trump's tax non-disclosure ... except that they plan to vote for him in spite of it. And Republicans are moderately disturbed .... but the poll says they plan to vote for him in huge numbers.

Trump might have 99 problems, but it looks as if concealing his taxes ain't one.

Then there's this:
Interestingly, one of the few issues that works to Trump’s advantage right now is tax policy....

To me, that's not just "interesting" or ironic -- it's a sign that voters trust Trump on taxes, or at least hope that he's such a business miracle-worker that he'll find a way to give us more of what we want while taxing us less.

Part of the problem here is that there are two ways for Democrats to attack Trump on this -- and they cancel each other out. One is to say that Trump is concealing the fact that he's not as rich as he claims. The other is to say that he is rich and wants to cut taxes (and thus spending on needed programs) in order to help rich people like himself.

The former angle has the potential to be a lot more fun, as I'll explain below. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton went with the latter approach, and did it in a muddled way, as Hohmann notes:
“He goes around talking about make America great,” Clinton said on “Meet the Press.” “You know, that means paying for our military. That means paying for our roads. That means paying for the VA. If you've got someone running for president who is afraid to release his tax returns because it will expose the fact that he pays no federal income tax, that's a big problem.”
I think what she's trying to say is that Trump takes advantage of rich people's loopholes, and as president he'll create more loopholes for rich people like himself, and as a result the government will be starved for the funds we need to pay for the programs we want.

All that is true -- Trump is somewhat rich, and he takes advantage of loopholes for people in his tax bracket, and plans to create more. But if you're going to talk about Trump's taxes, it's better to hit him where he lives -- he's desperate to convey the notion that he's really, really rich, and he's afraid to reveal the fact that he isn't. So pour salt in that wound.

I keep waiting for Clinton or (more likely) a surrogate to say something like this:
"Donald Trump may be afraid to release his tax returns because he doesn't want us to know that his net worth is smaller than he's led us to believe. His empire could be smaller than we think. His annual income could be smaller. The size of his personal fortune really could be much, more smaller than we've been led to believe, and he may be afraid to let us know about its smaller size."
This would probably be inappropriate for Clinton herself, but I imagine a surrogate saying it with hands held up vertically, a few inches apart, in a gesture that looks like meaningless hand positioning but eventually reveals itself as the way you convey the length of something that isn't in front of you. In my imagination, every time the surrogate says the word small or smaller, the hands move closer together, as if the invisible thing being measured is shrinking.

Maybe that message from a Clinton surrogate would be a tad risqué for the constipated world of Sunday morning political talk. But I think it would really get under Trump's skin.

I know that the Clinton campaign thinks the successful anti-Trump message will be "Trump's a rich guy who doesn't care about people who aren't rich." But Trump's base voters (and increasing numbers of Trump-curious swing voters) think he's a guy who got rich hacking the system on his own behalf and now plans to hack the system on behalf of ordinary Americans. They think he can do it because he's become a billionaire, which proves he's very skilled and capable. He needs to be exposed as a humbug, the not-really-all-powerful Wizard of Oz. He needs to be deprived of the source of his power over voters.

Size is everything to Trump. So go there, Clinton campaign.


In The New York Times, political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels argue that voters rarely vote based on issues, and that this is true even for Bernie Sanders backers. Citing a survey released early this year, they say that Sanders supporters are actually less likely to back a number of his issue positions than supporters of Hillary Clinton are:
In a survey conducted for the American National Election Studies in late January, supporters of Mr. Sanders were ... less likely than Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to favor ... a higher minimum wage, increasing government spending on health care and an expansion of government services financed by higher taxes.
And young voters in general, while they claim to be more progressive than oldsters, may actually be less so:
While young Democrats in the January survey were more likely than those over age 35 to call themselves liberals, their ideological self-designations seem to have been much more lightly held, varying significantly when they were reinterviewed....

For example, young Democrats were less likely than older Democrats to support increased government funding of health care, substantially less likely to favor a higher minimum wage and less likely to support expanding government services. Their distinctive liberalism is mostly a matter of adopting campaign labels, not policy preferences.
I don't know how reliable the survey is. If it's accurate, then a lot of the Berners are cheering for their tribe, which is defined as not being the Hillary Clinton tribe, rather than for Sanders policies.

But I'm trying to figure out how you can cheer specific Sanders applause lines about, say, health care or education funding without supporting "an expansion of government services financed by higher taxes." Maybe you're an old-fashioned blue-collar white Democrat and you just like a candidate who seems to stick up for working people. But the Sanders base is young people. If young voters claim to be more liberal than their elders yet support less redistribution of wealth to finance social programs -- while cheering on Sanders when he talks about expanding social programs -- what's going on? Do they think Medicare for All isn't going to be a tax-funded government program? (Keep your government hands off my Medicare for All!) Do they think tax increases won't be necessary in order for students to attend college tuition-free? Or do they think all of this can be accomplished merely by taxing other people (the "millionaires and billionaires")?

Or is there some notion here that the system just has to be hacked somehow, by someone like the brainiac heroes of Silicon Valley legend, and then we'll get a lot more for a lot less money? That seems to be the idea behind Trumpism -- that Donald Trump's brain is so special that he'll figure out how to bring about utopia and tax cuts simultaneously. Is that the notion behind Bernieism?

I worry, because I'm old enough to remember a time when CEOs weren't treated as messiahs. That really started in the 1980s -- Trump was one of the early figures of worship -- and younger people can't remember a time when we weren't worshipping business potentates while complaining that government is incompetent and awful. Sure, the kids hate Goldman Sachs, and the business messiahs they look up to wear hoodies and running shoes, but it's a variation on a Reaganite theme. I wonder if they think the "millionaires and billionaires" are the bad manipulators of the system while people with billion-dollar start-ups are the beneficent system manipulators. And maybe, to them, Bernieism is like Uber, but for politics -- it's new, it undercuts something old and seemingly sclerotic, so it must be cool.

I respond to the Sanders message -- but I know that what he wants to do would require European levels of taxation. I can see that as a worthwhile trade-off, but I think think a GOP general election campaign against Sanders would point out the tax cost of what he wants to do, and a lot of people who like him now would recoil in horror. If this survey is right, they don't understand what he's proposing.

Or maybe that's not really what's going on. I just don't know.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


At Politico, David Cay Johnston tells us about Donald Trump's mob ties:
Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.
Johnston gives us stories like this:
In Atlantic City, Trump built on property where mobsters controlled parts of the adjoining land needed for parking. He paid $1.1 million for about a 5,000-square-foot lot that had been bought five years earlier for just $195,000. The sellers were Salvy Testa and Frank Narducci Jr., a pair of hitmen for Atlantic City mob boss Nicky Scarfo who were known as the Young Executioners.
There's a lot more where that came from, including a summary of the many shady aspects of Trump Tower's construction (concrete purchased from mob bosses, mobsters helping to conceal Trump's use of undocumented immigrant demolition workers, etc., etc.).

But stories about Trump and the mob never go viral. Major media organizations don't pick up on them. Michael Isikoff wrote a story about Trump and the mob back in March and that didn't break through, either.

I'm not sure why. Maybe it's regarded as old news -- the same way that Republicans shrug off all of Trump's old moderate-to-liberal positions, we all seem to be shrugging off the sleaze in Trump's past.

Or maybe it's believed that you can't make a fortune in East Coast real estate without some ties to the mob. We assume he just had no choice.

Or maybe we think it's sexy that Trump has mob ties. That's my theory. It gives him an air of danger. And, of course, mobsters have been heroes in popular culture for decades now: The Godfather and its sequels, the Scorsese canon, The Sopranos, Scarface, rap music (remember, the generation that grew up on gangsta rap, which includes a lot of white male fans, is just now entering middle age). We like organized crime. When we think "corruption," we think of government mismanagement, not organizing crime figures tossing people into the river in cement overshoes. That's not corrupt, that's exciting.

If I'm right about that, it's rather shocking: Trump has ties to mobsters and we don't care. But I think that's the case.


This is an argument that's been made by many observers, but I'll just quote Maureen Dowd's version:
Hillary says Sanders needs to “do his part” to unify the party, as she did in 2008. But even on the day of the last primaries in that race, when she was the one who was mathematically eliminated unless the superdelegates turned, she came onstage to Terry McAuliffe heralding her as “the next president of the United States.” She then touted having more votes than any primary candidate in history as her fans cheered “Yes, she will!” and “Denver!”
Yes, Hillary Clinton refused to drop out of the race until the very end and kept the party divided long after it was clear she couldn't win the nomination. (I hated her for it.) But everything worked out just fine in 2008, right? Why shouldn't we assume that history will repeat itself?

Because 2008 was a very different year. Democrats were trying to replace a Republican president who had job disapproval ratings in the mid-60s to low 70s throughout the summer and fall of 2008. Democrats -- both Obama and Clinton-- were pledging to change the direction of the country in a year when more than 80% of Americans consistently told pollsters the country was on the wrong track.

So Democrats could afford a little disunity. They had the wind at their backs.

They don't have the wind at their backs now. They're trying to win a third straight election, something that's been done only once by a party in the past 56 years (the GOP in 1980/1984/1988). President Obama's approval/disapproval numbers right now, according to Gallup, are 51%/45% -- but that's not overwhelmingly positive the way Bush's numbers in 2008 were overwhelmingly negative. And the "right direction/wrong track" numbers are still negative -- not as negative as they were in 2008, but they'd have to be as positive now as they were negative in 2008 for the two elections to be analogous for the Democrats. We'd need 80+% of the country to be happy with the way things are going; we have about 30%.

(And even in 2000, when the country was extremely happy with the status quo under a retiring Democratic president, the Democrat who wanted to be his successor couldn't put the election away.)

No, the Democrats can't afford the luxury of a sustained fight. Not this year.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Jacob Weisberg and Walter Shapiro have spotted a piece of bad journalism:

I'm not sure they've pinpointed the problem, but they're right to complain about the story, which is here:
What Are Donald Trump’s Views on Climate Change? Some Clues Emerge

So far, Donald J. Trump has said very little about climate change and energy policy beyond his Twitter posts on the issues.

He has called global warming a “hoax,” for example, and claimed that the Chinese fabricated climate change (just a joke, he later said). And in an interview this week with Reuters, he said that he was “not a big fan” of the Paris climate accord, and that “at a minimum I will be renegotiating those agreements.”
Yes, he does think climate change is a hoax:

Also "bullshit":

Also "mythical," a "canard," and "a total con job." But come on, Donald, tell us what you really think! We don't know!

He did say it was a Chinese plot:

But I suppose we're expected to believe that there's ambiguity here because, when he was attacked for saying this by Bernie Sanders in a January debate, his habit of denying his own words, or claiming that we're misquoting him if we take his words seriously, kicked in:
During the debate, Sanders said he couldn't imagine electing a president who believed that climate change is "a hoax invented by the Chinese." Sanders specifically cited Trump to make his point.

... Trump was asked about Sanders' attack the next day during a "Fox & Friends" interview. He said his accusation against the Chinese was an obvious joke.

"I think that climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change," Trump said. "I've received many environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China -- obviously I joke -- but this done for the benefit of China."
Pay no attention to everything else I've said about this issue!

The Times story trots out a congressman who's written a climate change briefing for Trump. He sounds very much in sync with Trump:
But more clues about Mr. Trump’s views on environmental issues emerged this week from a four-page briefing on energy policy prepared for the presumptive Republican nominee by Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota and an early supporter of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cramer, who defines himself as a climate change skeptic, discussed in his briefing paper a variety of government regulations that Mr. Trump might do away with if he were president.

They included the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, currently pending in the courts, as well as a federal rule intended to protect waterways and wetlands, and a regulation setting standards for methane emissions that the Environmental Protection Agency completed last week.
So Trump is a skeptic. His new top adviser on climate is a skeptic. Yet we don't know what Trump believes!

THe reason we're being told that we can't really know what Trump believes regarding climate change is that the mainstream media always needs to insist that Republicans aren't beyond the pale -- an article of faith that's seriously challenged by the GOP's "climate change is a fraud" claptrap.

Also, Trump's fellow Republicans are claiming that he might not really be a hard-liner:
Republican leaders worry that Mr. Trump’s views, his climate-denying Twitter messages notwithstanding, could end up somewhere left of the party’s mainstream.

“I think there is concern about where he stands because he hasn’t come out strongly one way or another,” said a Republican aide who insisted on anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
He hasn't? You could have fooled me.

Oh, wait, I see what the problem might be -- and I learn it not from the Times article, but from this Scientific American story about Trump's adviser. It turns out the adviser is a skeptic, but not a hardcore one:
Trump might find that Cramer occupies gray spaces on energy and climate policy. The former utility regulator acknowledges that the world is on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but he calls himself skeptical of the broadly held view by scientists and Democrats that warming could cause severe economic and physical damage.
So Cramer thinks climate change is real -- it's just harmless.

And maybe fellow Republicans are skeptical of Cramer because he thinks a small carbon tax might be appropriate (heresy!). However, he wants it used for research that will make fossil fuels seem more acceptable:
“My idea of a carbon tax would be to help fund clean fossil fuel research and development, not to fund the government, not to punish fossil fuel generation, not to manipulate fuel choice,” Cramer said. “Even a neutral, a revenue-neutral, carbon tax is inappropriate, in my view. But if we can have a very, very modest carbon tax to fund, again, the solution by utilizing fossil fuels like coal, I think even the industry would support that.”
In his party, that practically makes him a leftist. But that's still a very right-wing position, because he's adamantly against using the revenue from a carbon tax to help accelerate a shift away from fossil fuels.

Trump likes Cramer because he expressed support for deregulation and because he was an early backer -- Trump loves flattery:
Cramer was one of Trump’s earliest supporters in Congress. He and Trump appeared on a local radio program broadcast in North Dakota early last month in which Cramer suggested that Trump should roll back a number of energy-sector regulations during the first 100 days of his presidency.

“He liked that a lot,” Cramer said of Trump.
Cramer has been brought on because he can make Trump's all-soundbite agenda appear serious -- "presidentil," you might say.

That doesn't mean Trump will pay any attention to whatever nuance Cramer brings to the table. Recall that after Trump's initial tax plan was criticized, he brought in Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and Larry Kudlow of CNBC to modify it and give it a patina of respectability. They proposed changes -- and the campaign rejected them. So, no, there's no reason to believe that Trump will endorse what his adviser on climate change proposes.

The real worry ought to be that Trump would happily rubber-stamp whatever the Kochite Republicans in Congress cough up as an energy agenda. They know what they want: a radical rollback of efforts to limit the damage of climate change. Trump, who as a political figure is a pure product of the right-wing media, just wants to do whatever wants something that will stick it to the "hoaxsters" and the Chinese. It's not a detailed agenda, but it is a terrifying one. And I'd hate to see how congressional Republicans will flesh it out for him if he's elected.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Donald Trump phoned in to Morning Joe today and showed his usual regard for the truth:
Scarborough asked Trump if he would have stayed out of Libya. Trump answered, “I would have stayed out of Libya. I would have stayed out of Iraq too.”

At the time, Trump’s lie generated no pushback from Joe Scarborough.

The Clinton campaign contacted the show to challenge Trump's claim regarding Libya, and a correction was issued on air after the interview:

However, no correction was issued regarding Trump's claim that he "would have stayed out of Iraq," which is a lie:
... in a 2002 interview with Howard Stern, Donald Trump said he supported an Iraq invasion.

In the interview, which took place on Sept. 11, 2002, Stern asked Trump directly if he was for invading Iraq.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
Trump's earliest denunciation of the war came a year after it started. And Trump endorsed George W. Bush in 2004.


But that wasn't the only nonsense that went unchallenged in the interview. In this segment, Mika Brzezinski let Trump get away with pretending to be clear-eyed and knowledgeable about terrorism:
Donald Trump isn't waiting around for investigators to tell him who or what was responsible for the EgyptAir crash.

He said Friday morning that he could "practically guarantee" who "blew up" the plane....

"Another plane was blown up and I can practically guarantee who blew it up," the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." ...

"And another plane went down and let me tell you, the mindset of a weak Hillary Clinton, which is four more years of Obama, is not going to do it for our country," he added of his likely general-election opponent.

In the segment, as you can see in the clip above, Brzezinski again lets Trump get away with claiming to be a dove on Iraq ("I'm the one that didn't want to go into Iraq, Mika"). But beyond that, when he says of the EgyptAir plane that he can "practically guarantee who blew it up," Brzezinski passes up the opportunity to ask a simple one-word question:


What would Trump have replied? He just would have said, triumphantly, "Islamic extremists" -- as if he's the only guy with the guts to raise that possibility.

At which point a real journalist would have asked, "Yes, but who? The Islamic State? Al Qaeda? The Muslim Brotherhood? And based where? Egypt? France? Belgium?"

Your answer, wannabe Leader of the Free World?

Brzezinski also lets Trump get away with suggesting that Clinton won't even consider the possibility that this was a terrorist attack because, like all Muslim-coddling liberals, she's in denial about the nature of the threat. That's where Trump is going when he segues from "I can practically guarantee who blew it up" to "the mindset of a weak Hillary Clinton." That's where he was going with this statement, which he issued yesterday (emphasis mine):

In fact, Clinton speculated yesterday that the plane went down because of terrorism:
Democratic presidential front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared her thoughts on the crash of EgyptAir Flight MS804 over the Mediterranean Sea early Thursday.

“It does appear that it was an act of terrorism -- exactly how, of course, the investigation will have to determine,” Clinton told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in an interview Thursday afternoon.
But Trump's base "knows" that she and all other Democrats are in denial about the very existence of this kind of extremism. Trump is stroking the pleasure center in the wingnut brain that experiences orgasms of self-righteousness at the thought that liberals don't believe there are any Islamist terrorists. (A Free Republic commenter, in response to the Trump statement: "You cannot solve a problem by pretending it does not exist. Muslims are responsible for most acts of terrorism, probably over 80 or 90% of them.")

In the clip, Brzezinski is so obsessed with trying to accuse Trump of racism (on a rare occasion when he's not really guilty) that she misses what he's actually saying, and never calls him on it.

Daddy, what was journalism?

MAY 2016: CLINTON +6. MAY 2012: OBAMA -3.

This is being touted as a worrisome poll for Hillary Clinton, because the race is tightening:
CBS/NYT national poll: Hillary Clinton's lead over Donald Trump narrows

... Hillary Clinton now holds a six-point lead over Donald Trump, down from 10 points a month ago.
Clinton still leads Trump in the Times/CBS poll, 47%-41%. I'll just point out that in mid-May 2012, Barack Obama trailed Mitt Romney in the same poll, 46%-43%.

Individual polls don't mean much, but the 2012 race, if anything, looked tighter in May than this year's race does. Here are the polls, from Real Clear Politics:

Obama had a few big leads, so he was clearly ahead, but Romney led in seven of the fourteen polls. (Oddly, one of Obama's big leads in May 2012 was in a Fox News poll, which had him up by 7; this week, a Fox poll showing Trump up by 3 is setting off Democratic alarm bells.) This year, there have been six polls in May, including the Times/CBS poll, and Clinton has led in four.

I'm seeing at Politico that Democratic Party insiders are worried about party unity this year. I'm worried too, obviously -- but in the Times/CBS poll, 14% of Democratic primary voters say they won't vote for Clinton, while 12% of Republican primary voters say they won't vote for Trump. That strikes me as a wash.

Now, the Times/CBS poll does tell us that 28% of Sanders supporters say they won't vote for Clinton in November. But (and I'm not the first person to point this out), in a May 2008 Times/CBS poll, only 60% of Clinton supporters said they'd vote for Obama.

Overall, 13% of Democratic primary voters that year said they wouldn't vote for Obama. And, in fact, according to the exit polls in November, 16% of Clinton-backing Democrats actually did vote for McCain. And yet Obama won.

Make of all this what you will. I think I overreacted to polls this week showing Trump in the lead. Trump's best poll, from Rasmussen, is certainly hinky:

All this could get worse. But the averages are still in Clinton's favor.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Greg Sanders thinks Hillary Clinton is hinting at a resolution of her battle with Bernie Sanders in this statement from a CNN interview with Chris Cuomo:
Clinton dodged a question from Cuomo on whether she would choose Sanders as her running mate.

“What brings us together is Donald Trump. I think that’s what brings us together,” she said, after remarking that would be a discussion for later. Assessing her chances against Trump, Clinton said the party would unify.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t have some vigorous discussion and debate about issues, about the platform, about all of the process of a convention. I welcome that. I think that’s healthy. I think bringing people into the party giving them a voice at the end is going to help us in the fall. I think as I said I will certainly do my part and more to reach out and bring in Senator Sanders’ supporters and I have every reason to expect he’ll do the same,” she said.
(Emphasis Sargent's.)

Sargent writes:
It’s possible the Clinton camp might actually conclude it’s in her best interests to make some real concessions towards Sanders....
I think that's quite possible. My question is whether Sanders will accept concessions that add up to less than full acceptance of his agenda.

I'm not sure he can. He's gotten this far because he's perceived by his supporters as unbought, unbossed, and completely pure; if he accepts compromised versions of his key agenda items, won't his base conclude that he sold out? Could he campaign for Clinton in the fall without seeming to the loyalists like everything they hate? And doesn't he want to retain their loyalty?

Sure, a rejection of Clinton and the party will make life extremely awkward for him in the Senate -- but if he's willing to stay in the caucus, Democrats will let him stay, because they'll need every vote they can get, especially if the Senate remains in Republican hands. (Remember, they didn't cut Joe Lieberman loose even after he endorsed George W. Bush in 2004.) By contrast, if he does compromise, the Revolution might abandon him.

He's up for reelection in 2018, and if he blows off the party this year, you'd think the party might try to get back at him by running a candidate against him. But the party didn't do that to Lieberman -- Ned Lamont's campaign was not welcomed by the party -- and if Sanders does seem vulnerable to a challenge, he's old enough to retire and live out his days as a movement hero. He won't need the salary -- I'm predicting he'll get a very nice book deal when this campaign is over, and the book will sell, too, especially if he goes out seeming to have his purity intact.

Maybe Sanders will do the right thing, for the good of the country. But I think he's got little to gain personally and a lot to lose, so I have my doubts.


The right-wing site Clash Daily reports this, which I'm pretty sure isn't a joke:
Kathleen Willey, who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault [in the 1990s], is calling out Hillary and calling on Putin and her followers to help her....

Here is what she posted via Facebook:

If you would like to send a Tweet to Putin, you can do so here: @KremlinRussia_E
The post appears on Willey's personal Facebook page and also on the Facebook page for A Scandal a Day, a site Wiley started last July, a month after Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy:
One of Bill Clinton's accusers, Kathleen Willey, has launched an anti-Hillary website.

Willey has launched an anti-Hillary Clinton website titled "A Scandal A Day."
The site is partially aimed at recruiting other women who may have been assaulted by the former president.

Calling Hillary Clinton "without a doubt the most corrupt politician that this nation has ever seen," Willey announced the launch of her new website Sunday on "Aaron Klein Investigative Radio," broadcast on New York's AM 970 The Answer and Philadelphia's NewsTalk 990 AM and online.
Aaron Klein is still acting as a media conduit for Willey, according to Clash Daily. She told him she's a big Trump fan:
Speaking on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” the popular Sunday talk radio program, Willey demanded that Hillary Clinton submit to a lie detector test to answer questions about whether she engaged in campaigns to silence or intimidate her husband’s female accusers. Klein doubles as Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief.

Willey also telegraphed a message of encouragement for Donald Trump....

Willey chimed in: “Thank you very much, Mr. Trump, for asking the right question at the right time. And please keep asking more.”
In an October radio interview -- yes, again with Aaron Klein -- Willey made clear that she's also worked with Trump-allied dirty trickster Roger Stone:
Kathleen Willey ... took to Klein’s show last week to announce new plans to “haunt” Hillary Clinton throughout the 2016 presidential race and beyond.

The Clinton sex accuser used the interview to tease the Oct. 13 publication of a new book by bestselling author Roger Stone titled “The Clintons’ War on Women,” for which Willey wrote the forward.

And Willey said Stone just formed a new PAC called “Women Against Hillary,” with the author asking her to serve as the group’s national spokeswoman, a role Willey will accept, she revealed to Klein.
The Putin angle definitely seems like the sort of thing Roger Stone would have decided was "cheeky" after a few drinks and a three-way.

Hey, maybe they'll all get Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald involved. This year, I assume nothing is too bizarre to be beyond the realm of possibility.


Don't take this too seriously:
Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is likely to be elected president in November, but voters are yearning for another option ... according to the results of a Data Targeting poll released Wednesday.

... Fifty-five percent favor having an independent candidate challenge the Democratic front-runner and presumptive Republican nominee for president. An unprecedented 91 percent of voters 28 or younger favor having an independent on the ballot, and 65 percent of respondents are willing to support a candidate who isn’t Clinton or Trump.

According to Data Targeting’s ballot test, an independent candidate would start off with 21 percent of the vote.
Even as Mitt Romney is giving up on trying to find a viable third-party candidate, professional dead-horse beater Bill Kristol is citing this poll (which comes from a firm that, by its own admission, "has been involved in the research and conversations regarding the possibility of an independent candidacy for President of the United States"). Kristol is looking at the poll's results and proclaiming, "There is a viable path to victory for an independent candidate."

Um, no, there isn't.

In years with high levels of voter dissatisfaction with the candidates, third-party runs look good -- in the spring. Do you know what John Anderson's vote share was in April 1980, according to Gallup? 21 percent.

Anderson's peak number, according to Gallup, was 24 percent. His vote share in November? 6.6 percent.

Gallup had Ross Perot at 39 percent in June 1992. (He'd go on to get 18.9 percent of the vote.) Perot peaked at 19 percent in the Gallup poll in June 1996. (Actual vote: 8.4 percent.) Ralph Nader's top poll number in 2000? 6 percent in June. (He wound up at 2.74 percent.)

Yes, there's disgust out there. A third-party challenger could have an impact this year -- but probably an Anderson-level impact at best.

Forget it, Bill. It ain't gonna happen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Donald Trump has released a list of potential Supreme Court picks, and Bush administration torture enabler John Yoo has already announced at National Review that he's over the moon:
Everyone on the list is an outstanding legal conservative. All are young, smart, and committed. They would excel in any comparison with anyone whom Hillary Clinton would appoint to the Supreme Court.

... These names are a Federalist Society all-star list of conservative jurisprudence. In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that I count several of them as colleagues and friends. It is a good sign that, on one of a president’s most important decisions, Trump clearly turned to the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation for advice.

... Many have run for office and already know what it is like to be attacked by the Left. They may prove more immune to the pressure from the New York-Washington liberal media/academic elite that has managed to sway Justice Anthony Kennedy and other Republican appointees.

... I am thrilled by this list.
Have you decided that you're going to sit out a Trump-Clinton general election -- or maybe even vote for Trump in order to help "heighten the contradictions" -- because you think Clinton is so awful and hey, what's the worst that can happen in a Trump presidency? Well, what can happen is that Trump could seat two, three, or even four High Court justices from a list that has "thrilled" a man who said the president of the United States (back when the president was a Republican) has the legal right to order the testicles of a child crushed in order to persuade the child's terror-suspect father to talk.

Yoo has only one reservation:
But that being said, I cannot trust Trump to keep his word. He has already flip-flopped on so many issues, before, during, and after the primary campaign. How do we know he would not start wheeling and dealing on judicial appointments if he were to win the Oval Office?
RedState's Leon Wolf raises the same concern, a bit more pungently:
Look, if you’re an absolute sucker who’s decided to defenestrate your discernment in order to ease your conscience about pulling the lever for a mentally unstable person in November, you might believe this. If, however, you have a functioning long term memory, you will remember that Trump has lied or flip-flopped about literally everything during the course of this primary.

... Doing this stuff comes as easily as breathing to Donald Trump. His unrelenting dishonesty and malleability even puts Bill Clinton to shame. And we are supposed to believe that this list, which costs Donald Trump nothing at all, is an iron clad promise and we can totally believe that this list isn’t just a “suggestion” or an “opening bargaining position” with Democrats, and that he won’t end up nominating another Souter.

Sorry, pass. I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday.
Why would Trump flip-flop on this? He doesn't give a crap about the Supreme Court. Sure, he'll want justices who won't overturn his Muslim ban, or prevent him from building the wall, or declare that he's overstepped his bounds by ordering U.S. interrogators to torture. He'll want justices who'll decide cases in ways that won't hurt him financially. Beyond that, he doesn't care. These folks, I'm sure, will be extremely accommodating.

If Trump is elected president, that will mean that voters rejected the Democratic Party and kept the Senate in Republican hands. A GOP Senate will rubber-stamp any of these picks. The minority's right to filibuster Supreme Court justices might have to be abolished first, but that'll be a formality.

So relax, John and Leon. Trump will give you your dream Court. And anyone on the left who thinks that's a small price to pay in order to punish that evil neoliberal corporate shill Hillary, well, don't come crying to me about the godawful rulings that result.


Josh Marshall confirms what I've suspected for a while:
For months I'd thought and written that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver was the key driver of toxicity in the the Democratic primary race. Weaver has been highly visible on television, far more than campaign managers tend to be. He's also been the one constantly upping the tension, pressing the acrimony and unrealism of the campaign as Sanders actual chances of winning dwindled.

But now I realize I had that wrong.

Actually, I didn't realize it. People who know told me.

Over the last several weeks I've had a series of conversations with multiple highly knowledgable, highly placed people. Perhaps it's coming from Weaver too. The two guys have been together for decades. But the 'burn it down' attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in that statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.

... this is coming from Bernie Sanders. It's not Weaver. It's not driven by people around him. It's right from him. And what I understand from knowledgable sources is that in the last few weeks anyone who was trying to rein it in has basically stopped trying and just decided to let Bernie be Bernie.
When I watch Sanders now, I don't see a typical politician whose contempt for an opponent is a big act. The contempt Sanders feels for Clinton and the Democratic establishment is now bone-deep. It's classic male anger, rooted in outrage at being disrespected.

So I'm predicting that Bernie Sanders won't endorse Hillary Clinton. He's going to fight to the last primary, then he's going to try to twist superdelegates' arms, then he and his people are going to demand a platform that resolves every disagreement between himself and Clinton in his favor. And when the platform fails to repudiate the party's nominee on every point of disagreement, he's going to walk. At best, he'll offer a pro forma endorsement, maybe not until well after the convention is over, and then he'll sit out the general election campaign. Because this is personal for him. He believes the Democrats won't win if he's not the nominee, so he does no damage by withdrawing from the fray. It's all the fault of Clinton and the party establishment if she loses.

She is a weak candidate, and the party did try to grease the skids for her, but Barack Obama faced the same situation in 2008 and just put his head down and overcame the odds. And the ideas and voters Sanders represents should be in the tent -- but at this point I think giving vent to gut-level anger means more to Sanders than either a Democratic victory in November or a partial win for his movement, with the possibility of greater victories to follow. He thinks he's been screwed. And someone has to pay.


A Sanders supporter expresses skepticism about the Josh Marshall post:

Andrew Prokop at Vox says the same thing:
... if Sanders truly wanted to burn the Democratic Party to the ground, he'd be in the press attacking the likely Democratic nominee on her email scandal every day. But he's not.
But the email story doesn't touch on economic inequality or control of the political system by the wealthy or any of the issues Sanders considers his own. He's contemptuous of Clinton, but he's not Donald Trump -- he won't use just any available weapon against her, because he's trying to demonstrate the superiority of his belief system, not his own personal superiority. He certainly won't let the Goldman Sachs speeches go, will he?


I'm not in the habit of watching primary-night candidate speeches, but I was watching the Bernie Sanders speech last night and was struck by how long it took him to start talking about the issues that supposedly motivated the campaign.

After a round of thanks, Sanders spends several minutes talking about what a longshot his campaign was supposed to be and tells us, with great satisfaction, how much better he's doing than the "pundints" (why does everyone pronounce it that way?) expected him to do. He rails at those in the establishment of his party who don't like him and boasts of how he's succeeded despite their opposition. He recites poll numbers. He recites exit poll analyses.

He sounds very much like Donald Trump.

Well, that's American presidential politics, right? Our campaigns ought to be about issues, or about the prior achievements of the candidates, but the campaigns are so preposterously long and the media coverage is so focused on the horse race that eventually -- or maybe just this year -- they're about how well the candidates are campaigning. Trump has told us for months that Trump is great because his campaign is great. We know Trump will be a great president because he took on so many challengers and did it by campaigning in an unconventional way. The Sanders message for the first twelve or thirteen minutes of this speech is very similar.

I like what Sanders says when he stops talking about the glorious nature of his campaign. I understand that the "revolution" he talks about would not magically happen if he became president, but I know that Hillary Clinton will also be stymied if she's president, because we'll have the same Congress we have now, or a slightly more Democratic one. (Even a much more Democratic Congress bottled up much of the Obama agenda in 2009 and 2010 because of Republican sabotage.)

So, screw it, maybe Democrats are making a mistake by nominating the popular-vote and delegate leader. Maybe we should give the Sanders zealots what they're demanding, sometimes with threats and abuse directed at people who are perceived to be standing in their way. It seems obvious that the Trump campaign actually drew strength from reports that the candidate's supporters engaged in thuggish behavior; similar reports on the Sanders side don't seem to be hurting Sanders at the polls at all, even when Sanders refuses to distance himself from the worst of his supporters.

Or maybe it's because he refuses. Maybe, this year, that's what the American public regards as "presidential": you fire your voters up so much that some of them doxx their enemies and threaten them with physical violence. Nobody ever would have done that out of loyalty to Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. Nobody seem to want to do it on Hillary Clinton's behalf. That's a sign that they're weak. That's a sign that they're not presidential.

Is that where we are in America now? You're presidential only if some of your followers scare people?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


This story, from Ashley Parkler and Jonathan Martin at The New York Times, is the worst mainstream-media article you'll read today, the kind of journalism that's dangerous, not merely lazy:
... On a range of issues, [Donald] Trump seems to be taking a page from the Sanders playbook, expressing a willingness to increase the minimum wage, suggesting that the wealthy may pay higher taxes than under his original proposal, attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left on national security and Wall Street, and making clear that his opposition to free trade will be a centerpiece of his general election campaign.

As Mr. Trump lays the groundwork for his likely showdown with Mrs. Clinton, he is staking out a series of populist positions that could help him woo working-class Democrats in November....
On free trade and protectionism, yes, there's truth in this. On the minimum wage and taxes, the evidence is that a few offhand populist remarks Trump made at one time are seared into Parker's and Martin's consciousness, while assertions Trump has made that contradict the "billionaire populist" narrative -- such as those in his economic plan -- are simply ignored.

Bob Somerby used to say that mainstream journalists settle on "a story they like," a story they'll tell whether or not it's true, because they want it to be true. This year, that story is "Trump is a champion of ordinary Americans." It doesn't matter that Trump's actual tax plan is drastically skewed toward the rich, as the Tax Policy Center has noted.

(The Trump campaign recently said that this plan might be modified, then backtracked and said, no, it won't be changed.)

And it doesn't matter that Trump has said that "wages [are] too high" in America, or, just this past week, that states should set minimum wages, with no federal minimum (imagine that in the Deep South, or in Koch-controlled states like Kansas). The Trump campaign wants moderate and liberal (and Sanders-style progressive) voters to believe he's a populist; Parker and Martin are more than happy to take the campaign's dictation and type up Trump spin.

Deep in the story, Parker and Martin finally acknowledge that Trump isn't always Sanders-like -- but they portray this as "flexibility," not mendacity:
And even when he has hit Mrs. Clinton from the left, he has also shown a flexibility that has positioned him on both sides of some issues. He has called for a higher minimum wage, for instance, but has also said the issue should be left to the states rather than have a federal increase. On foreign policy, too, his cautious approach to nation-building and intervention has been juxtaposed by bellicose remarks and a promise to be tougher on Iran and the Islamic State.
This is said to be a problem only because Trump is alienating Republican insiders -- and it's awfully nice of Parker and Martin to say that, because "Trump is alienating Republican insiders" is precisely the message his campaign wants to send to Democrats and independents (and even some Republicans, who regularly tell pollsters that they're disgusted with their own party).
Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, said that questions about Mr. Trump’s core beliefs were ”a significant concern.”

“He needs to articulate deeper convictions on the issues that matter so much to conservatives,” said Mr. King, a hard-liner.
This is a recurring motif in the story:
... [Trump] is exacerbating the trepidation some Republicans already feel about his candidacy at a moment when the party typically rallies to its nominee.

Asked how Mr. Trump could reassure his own party, Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, suggested the party standard-bearer needed something close to a complete overhaul. “He could start by saying, ‘I was just kidding,’ ” Mr. Flake said, bemoaning what he called Mr. Trump’s “protectionist” approach.
The story also uncritically retransmits Trump spin about Electoral College strategy:
But Mr. Trump, who has also made attacks on illegal immigrants central to his campaign while vowing to protect Social Security and Medicare, is plainly going to run as more of a Sanders-style populist than as a conservative. And this approach suggests that the 2016 campaign will not be decided in the increasingly diverse states that represent the face of a changing nation -- Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia -- but in the more heavily white Rust Belt, where blaming trade deals for manufacturing job losses provided resonant themes for Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders during the primaries there.
How does that suggest that the race won't be decided in diverse states? Trump is still offending non-white voters, who remain among Hillary Clinton's most enthusiastic supporters. His racism combined with his alienation of moderate Republican women could put some previously red states in play. Or maybe both things are true.

But even math doesn't matter to Parker and Martin:
If by abandoning the traditional Republican playbook Mr. Trump were to put Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the Republican column, as some of his aides suggested, he would swing 46 electoral votes from states that have voted for Democratic presidential candidates since the 1980s.
Um, you guys know that if 46 electoral votes swung from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney in 2012 or John McCain in 2008, Obama still would have won -- right?

Donald Trump is not Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump is not a left-wing progressive. But if the press persuades moderate and liberal voters that he is, the race will be close and he might win. A dangerous demagogue is lying to us in order to get elected, and Parker and Martin are helping him do it.


The pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Priorities USA has just released two new ads aimed at Donald Trump. They were first shown on Rachel Maddow's show last night and they'll be on the air in key states later this week.

And they're ... meh.

Well, okay, this one is fine, even the ground it covers seems awfully familiar by now:

On Maddow's show, Guy Cecil of Priorities USA said it was a misconception that everyone knows Trump and knows all the terrible things politics junkies know about him. According to focus groups, he says, a lot of people who are familiar with Trump's name don't know a lot about him. I guess I can believe that. Many people tune out political news or just don't have time for it. So maybe this ad will be an introduction to Trump for these voters. If so, it's not bad.

But I'm not sure about this one:

It's jarring, as it's meant to be. But I find it creepy to watch these ordinary people (who are meant to be us) lip-syncing Trump's words as if they mean them. It's true that they don't seem to be luxuriating in contempt for women the way Trump does, but they don't seem repulsed by the words either. It's especially unsettling when the man with the young girl repeats Trump's leering words about his own daughter. I want him to squirm as he mouths those words, and he doesn't.

What I want is something like this ad, made a while back by a right-wing anti-Trump super PAC (it didn't work, obviously, but that's because it was aimed at Republican voters, who think sexism is beneficial because it's "politically incorrect"):

Also compare the lip-sync ad to this clip, in which men read harassing tweets sent to female sports reporters, and eventually recoil from what they're reading:

The Priorities USA lip-sync ad never gets to that point. So I just don't think it works. But maybe I'm wrong about it and it'll strike a nerve.

Here's an ad idea I'm throwing out for free: How about adult women (and men) watching as Trump's words are lip-synced by children watching them on TV, especially boys? Would that be unsettling? Would that scare people about the likely state of the country during a Trump presidency?