Wednesday, July 27, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

(Poll link via Steve Benen.)

Monday, July 25, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Get ready for the Trump dynasty.

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

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

Some enthusiastic fans are urging him not to wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

This conventions got two messages across very, very effectively:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 24, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How significant is this?

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

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


If you won't listen to me, listen to the numbers guy. Okay?

Saturday, July 23, 2016


I'm not going to dance in the streets because Virginia senator Tim Kaine is Hillary Clinton's VP pick, but there's a lot to like about him -- his years as a civil rights lawyer fighting housing discrimination; his opposition to the NRA and seriousness about curbing gun violence; his support for the Iran deal and boycott of Benjamin Netanyahu's thoroughly political speech to Congress; his comfort with a diverse America (he attends a predominantly black church and he and his wife send their kids to predominantly black public schools, and he speaks fluent Spanish); and so on.

He's a Catholic and says he's personally opposed to abortion, but fellow Catholic Joe Biden has said the same thing, and that hasn't been a problem in the Obama years. I lived for years in a state governed by Mario Cuomo, yet another Catholic who proclaimed personal opposition to abortion, and his commitment to choice was rock solid. Kaine has 100% ratings from Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

On the other hand, I don't trust Kaine's equivocation on TPP:
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) reportedly told Hillary Clinton he would oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership before she selected him as her running mate -- but as recently as Thursday, the Virginia senator was praising the massive trade deal.

The Huffington Post reported Friday night that Kaine told Clinton he would oppose the trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. According to the report, Kaine said he agreed with Clinton ... that the TPP did not meet certain standards on wages and national security.

But one day prior, the pro-trade senator still had warm words for the Pacific trade pact.

"I am having discussions with a lot of groups around Virginia about the treaty itself. I see much in it to like,” Kaine said Thursday during a series of roundtable events in suburban northern Virginia. “I think it's an upgrade of labor standards, I think it's an upgrade of environmental standards. I think it's an upgrade of intellectual property protections."
And the pro-bank talk is not encouraging:
... a bipartisan letter that Kaine signed on Monday urg[ed] the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to “carefully tailor its rulemaking” regarding community banks and credit unions so as not to “unduly burden” these institutions with regulations aimed at commercial banks.
Politico notes that even Elizabeth Warren "has supported targeted regulatory changes that would benefit a narrower group of smaller lenders" -- though presumably not Capital One, the tenth-largest bank in America, which is based in Virginia and is, as Politico notes, clearly on the mind of Kaine (and his Virginia Senate colleague, Mark Warner, who also signed the letter).

But a deregulatory free-for-all is inevitable if Donald Trump becomes president and leaves all the boring stuff in the hands of Reaganite Koch puppet Mike Pence working hand in glove with the likes of Ayn Rand fanboy Paul Ryan. We can work to push Clinton-Kaine to the left on this issue, and they're already on the left on so many other issues. With the Republicans, there's no hope.

And yet Trump is faking populism on this issue:

This is a big reason why the conventional wisdom about Kaine is dead wrong:
As a staunch Catholic with blue-collar roots, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., he is likely to give Mrs. Clinton a needed boost among white men....
The Clintonites think demography is destiny. So does the mainstream media. They think she'll do better with Middle American white men because she's picked a Middle American white man.

That's not how it works. As the GOP and Fox News have proven, white male heartlanders respond to coastal elites, women, and sometimes non-whites if they say what the white male heartlanders want to hear. New York billionaire Donald Trump is the obvious example, but heartlanders respond well to Fox's East Coast-centric talent pool (Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro). They love Sheriff David Clarke, a black gun nut and Black Lives Matter foe, who spoke at Trump's convention and is a frequent Fox guest. They admire Clarence Thomas and (until recently) Ted Cruz. They love Sarah Palin and Joni Ernst.

And they responded to New York-born, Vermont-based, Jewish agnostic socialist Bernie Sanders this year. That's the problem: Working-class whites are in an anti-elite frame of mind right now, and Clinton just picked someone who's easy to dismiss as a friend of the elites.

And even before the year of Trump and Sanders, Kaine didn't have great appeal to white males. Here's the exit poll result on that from his 2012 Senate race against George "Macaca" Allen:

Allen is the son of a revered football coach, so he started with a reservoir of goodwill among men. Allen, like Trump, has a history of ethnically insensitive remarks. Yes, Kaine beat Allen, but Allen clobbered Kaine among white men, 63%-37%. (And Kaine didn't fare much better among white women.)

Kaine is, as The New York Times says, "a self-effacing senator in a sharp-elbows era." That's going to appeal to white men? This year?

Nope. Clinton can certainly win the election with Kaine, but he won't help her with that demographic.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Donald Trump made a long speech last night without getting into any petty beefs, and restraining himself must have been just killing him, because here's what he's up to this morning:
Donald Trump would not accept Ted Cruz's endorsement even if he offered it to him, the Republican nominee said Friday....

"He's fine. I don't want his endorsement. If he gives it, I will not accept it, just so you understand. I will not accept it," Trump said. "It won't matter. Honestly, he should have done it. Because nobody cares. And he would have been in better shape for four years from now. I don't see him winning anyway, frankly. But if he did, it's fine."

"Although maybe I'll set up a super PAC if he decides to run. Are you allowed to set up a super PAC, Mike, if you are the president to fight somebody?" Trump asked his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at a campaign event in Cleveland.
A day after accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president, Donald Trump rehashed a conspiracy theory that claims the man who killed President John F. Kennedy once cavorted with Ted Cruz’s father.

“I don't know his father. I met him once. I think he's a lovely guy,” Trump said at a morning-after rally in Cleveland. “All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.”
Still more:
"I didn't start anything with the wife," Trump said, referring to a pro-Cruz super PAC that in March circulated a photo ahead of the Utah caucuses of his wife Melania posing nude for GQ in 2000. "Really successful. She didn't need to marry me. She was making a lot of money, believe me. I had to work hard to get her to marry me. It wasn't that easy. It's true. You think I'm kidding. So they released this picture, which was, you know, to the people of the state of Utah. I love Utah. I love the people of Utah. But that's not where you want to necessarily send a risqué picture. Everybody in Utah got a picture. And I don't think they showed that it was GQ I don't even think they showed. They took the GQ off. They cut all the stuff off.

Trump continued, "And I'm saying it just to clear it up. I didn't do anything."
I think the Clinton campaign should run ads that are just clips like that last bit -- raw, unedited, unhinged Trump fixating on personal slights. The only commentary would be: "This man wants to be president of the United States." Really, Clintonites, just do it.


UPDATE: No, really:


I gave up on the Trump speech when it was well after eleven in the East and there still seemed to be ten or fifteen minutes to go, judging from the advance draft, which lacked the bloat added by all the ad-libbed "Believe me"s. The pounding, hectoring tone of a speech that was poorly delivered had worn me out. I took the risk that I wouldn't miss anything important, that he wouldn't wrap it up by deviating from the script and saying, "VOTE FOR ME OR YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" That was the message in any case.

And for much of America it was probably effective.

Am I saying it was a speech that made viewers forget what a terrible convention the GOP put on? No, because I don't think this was a terrible convention for the GOP. I understand the conventional wisdom about the first three days, and I'm not denying that Team Trump had a few faceplants. Not checking Melania's speech for plagiarism was a rookie error, compounded by the decision to keep the story in the headlines for days. The Ted Cruz speech was a humiliation, even if the Trumpites turned the humiliation right back on Cruz.

But these are things ordinary undecided Americans don't care about. They're about process. They matter to political insiders and politics mavens. They don't matter to Joe Sixpack in the heartland. So, no, I don't think this convention was a "dumpster fire," a phrase I'm as tired of now as I was of "clown car" during the Republican primaries. Maybe the GOP field was a clown car. But we got John Wayne Gacy as the nominee.

And just to finish what I started in that last paragraph: No, I don't think allowing Cruz to go on so he could be booed was an act of sinister brilliance on the Trumpites' part -- or maybe it was, but again, ordinary voters don't care.

Ordinary voters care about their own lives, and the lives of members of their tribes. They have anxieties, sometimes half formed, about the state of the country and the world.

It isn't just that Trump's speech successfully tapped into the anxieties of many Americans -- it's that the entire convention did, in between all the things that were so fascinating to political insiders. And while the four days of speeches, up to and including Trump's own, didn't provide solutions beyond "Donald Trump will magically fix everything because he's all-powerful," they did offer up a scapegoat for all the world's ills: Hillary Clinton, the worst person in the world.

I'm not supposed to worry about this because the presidential electoral is supposedly etched in stone: Yes, older whites always vote Republican, and whites are a majority, but they're a dwindling majority; Barack Obama built a coalition that can't lose a presidential election anymore. But Obama's coalition never stopped liking him; his approval/disapproval numbers always hovered within a few points of 50-50, and those who approved of him really admired him. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has a 40%/58% favorable/unfavorable rating right now, according to the average at Huffington Post's Pollster. To win in November, she needs the votes of a lot of people who simply don't like her and don't trust her. So why are we so certain the Obama coalition will turn out for her?

In the Obama years, we've seen dogma-driven Republicans expand their near-monopoly on white people's votes from the South to supposedly blue parts of the North -- see the governors' mansions in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. I know -- they won because the Democrats' presidential electorate doen't show up in off years. But which electorate will show up for Hillary Clinton if she doesn't get her disapproval ratings down?

If she wins, it will be because Trump isn't trying very hard to appeal to voters outside his base. He's gone out of his way to insult Hispanics and Muslims. Despite his painstaking enunciation of the acronym "LGBTQ" in last night's speech, he's unlikely to win over many voters from that community, for all his post-Orlando pandering -- not after he picked a running mate who signed a discriminatory "religious freedom" bill as governor. And he didn't even try to pander last night to African-American voters -- he doubled and tripled down on rhetoric that was unconditionally pro-police, on a day when we watched a cop shoot an unarmed black mental health worker lying on the pavement with his hands raised in the air in a gesture of surrender and self-abnegation.

Insiders think Trump's speech was a missed opportunity:
After reading the speech, Paul Begala, a longtime Democratic strategist and speechwriter, called the missing personal details “an enormous mistake.”

“The American people,” he said, “need to know their president’s mythic arc.”
But from his TV show and books and media gossip, Americans think they already know Trump's "mythic arc." He rode in from Queens and remade the Manhattan skyline! He can make deals better than anyone on earth! Everything he touches turns to gold! And he gets the most beautiful women!

This is why all the media talk about the convention's incompetence is irrelevant: If you plan to vote for Trump or even think you might, you probably believe he's extraordinarily capable by definition. You probably come from a community where there isn't a building nearly as tall as Trump Tower, and there's no one nearly as rich as Trump. You have no idea that there are many developers who are more successful than Trump in New York, many buildings much taller, many fat cats much richer. He's as good as it gets!

So is all this working? Up to a point, yes:
Donald Trump is enjoying a mid-convention bump in the polls, surging to within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in a national survey released Thursday.

The Reuters-Ipsos rolling national poll, which includes data collected from three of the four days of the Republican National Convention, shows Clinton leading Trump by 4 points, 40 percent to 36 percent.

That’s a far closer race than the same poll found only one week ago, when Clinton led by 15 points, 46.5 to 31.5.
Ruters-Ipsos was one of Clinton's best polls, and now Trump is within shouting distance in this poll. Other polls show an even tighter race.

I agree -- it probably won't be enough, given how many people Trump has offended. But I was hearing that this convention was so awful Clinton might get a bump from both conventions. That won't happen.

I agree with the poll prediction Chris Hayes made yesterday afternoon:

After that, I think Trump will probably fade -- but barely. He's what a lot of Americans want, and they vote.

Or Hillary Clinton could blow this. The polls could be underestimating Trump's popularity as they underestimated Brexit's popularity.

It's going to be scarily close. So please miss me with the phrase "dumpster fire."

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Roger Ailes is out:
21st Century Fox today announced that Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, and Chairman of Fox Television Stations, has resigned from his role effective immediately.
But he's not severing all ties to Fox:
Ailes will become an adviser to Murdoch, who at 85 becomes chairman and acting CEO for Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.
NPR's David Folkenflik adds:

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter a couple of days ago, Susan Estrich, Ailes's lawyer (who, by the way, has written publicly about being a rape survivor), suggested that negotiating for some sort of continuing role was important to Ailes:
... what does he want from an exit agreement?

Well, who knows? And as you know, exit agreements can take all kinds of different forms, including agreements that provide for continuing roles. So there’s a lot of negotiations going on.

Meaning he would stay on in some kind of consultancy?

Or something like that. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen here, but somebody was telling me that’s how things worked out in the London situation.

Are you referring to the hacking probe?

Yeah, yeah. A reporter told me that. I didn’t even know the way the Murdochs handled [that]. [Rebekah Brooks] couldn’t keep her position, but they kept her on as a consultant or whatever it is.
Brooks was the editor of Murdoch's News of the World when it was learned that reporters for the tabloid regularly engaged in phone hacking and other offenses. She was forced to step down, but then she was cleared of all charges in 2014 -- and Murdoch brought her back in 2015, appointing her CEO of News UK.

Ailes is in his seventies and in poor health. But this is his life's work. Do you think he seriously believes he might be able to get out from under the sexual harassment allegations in the not-too-distant future? If he somehow managed to do it, is it possible Murdoch (who seems determined to retain control of his empire for life) would bring him back?

The rehiring of Brooks "was described as 'unthinkable' and 'unfathomable' by company insiders," according to The Guardian, but it happened. Would Murdoch appall us again? Or is that impossible, but Ailes holds out hope nevertheless?

Let's root for Gretchen Carlson. I really want her case to stick.


Donald Trump couldn't stand the thought that Republicans other than himself have had three days in the spotlight without him, so he ran off to The New York Times and gave an interview in which he threatened to let the world blow up:
Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, explicitly raised new questions on Wednesday about his commitment to automatically defending NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance.

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”
As Jeffrey Goldberg wrote:
These sorts of equivocating, mercenary statements -- unprecedented in the history of Republican foreign policymaking -- represent an invitation to Putin to intervene more destructively in non-NATO countries such as Ukraine and Moldova, and also represent an invitation to intervene directly in NATO countries -- the Baltic states, first and foremost.
Kevin Drum put it more pithily: "Donald Trump Just Invited Russia to Attack Eastern Europe."

Trump wants to destabilize NATO and doesn't care if World War III starts. Hillary Clinton wants to appoint left-centrist judges to the Supreme Court. Verdict from the vast majority of Very Serious Republicans: "The choice is clear! Hillary's too dangerous!"

But my favorite hot take on this is from American Enterprise Institute "scholar" Danielle Pletka. She hears Trump's words and is angry at -- wait for it -- President Obama:
Four more years: Trump channels Obama

In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ended a staggering repudiation of 75 years of American foreign policy thusly, “We are going to take care of this country first,” he said, “before we worry about everyone else in the world.”

Sounds familiar, no? This is the logical extension of the Obama credo “nation building here at home”, a signature of his first presidential campaign. Indeed, the entire interview read like a replay of the last eight years. Putin and Erdogan are good fellows, and America, according to both Obama and Trump, are in no moral position to tell them what to do. Like Obama’s suggestion that our allies are “free riders” on American largesse, so too Donald Trump believes that NATO allies only merit fulfillment of crucial obligations if they’ve “fulfilled their obligations to us.”
Yes, you know how "the Obama credo 'nation building here at home'" has led to a complete rejection of engagement in the world on the part of the Obama administration ... if you don't count the bin Laden killing, or the drone wars, or the intervention in Libya, or the continuation of the war in Afghanistan past the end of his term, or ...

And Obama does want allies to play a greater role in their own defense -- but he's not threatening to reject treaty obligations as a result.

More from Pletka:
The reality is that increasingly, there are two parties in America, and they are not the Democratic and Republican parties. They are the isolationist party and the internationalist party; Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump are the party of retrenchment, aiming to build physical or figurative walls around the nation, grow the government, turn the economy inward, and disdain the complex and messy world outside.

It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton, in light of her party’s leftward lurch, will be the internationalist she has fashioned herself to be over recent years..
Obama is an "isolation," and Clinton might be. Someone please inform the Berners and Steiniacs.
Either way, those who believe in American leadership in the world face no easy choices in 2016.
Um, Danielle? Two people can win the presidency this year. One of them is Donald Trump. This is the easiest presidential choice of our lifetime.

This piece was brought to my attention on Twitter by AEI president Arthur Brooks, who oversees this toxic waste dump and then, in his spare time, gets The New York Times to publish piffle ("What Your Vacation Says About You"; "We Need Optimists"; "Looking for the Perfect Gift? Social Science Can Help") under his byline. Two takeaways: The Times has terrible taste in people named Brooks, and right-wingers will blame Democrats for anything.


Yes, it was fun to watch the drama last night. All evening, as commentators portentously declared that we'd have to wait and see whether Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump in his speech, I assumed that the fix was in, the endorsement was in place, and we were being fed a lot of phony suspense. And then:
Cruz told delegates and voters to "vote your conscience" in November and never specifically said that people should cast their ballots for the Republican nominee....

"To those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution," Cruz said.
Boos. Chaos. Heidi Cruz needing a security excort as she left the hall, to angry cries of "Goldman Sachs!" It was fun.

But will it matter? The overwhelming majority of Republicans already say they're going to vote Trump -- he and Hillary Clinton have consolidated their party bases to approximately the same extent. Yes, there are GOP holdouts -- but is there anyone who would have voted Trump and now plans not to, emboldened by the Cruz speech? Does anyone actually like Ted Cruz that much?

I know he won a lot of votes in the primaries -- but he doesn't command personal loyalty the way Trump does. He just embodies a set of ideas many Republicans hold dear, after hearing them articulated every day for years on Fox and talk radio and religious-right broadcasts. It's not about him. How many divisions does Ted Cruz have? Who sees him as a leader?

If anything, we're hearing that Hillary Clinton thinks she can peel off some moderate Republicans. How many right-centrist Republican women in the Philadelphia suburbs are going to rally to the words of culture warrior Ted Cruz?

Beyond that, last night was about party loyalty, or the lack thereof -- and the thing about most of the voters who haven't mind up their minds yet in this election is that they have no party loyalty, by definition. They're swing voters. They don't care about parties. They don't particularly like the parties. Last night's Great Betrayal is irrelevant to their concerns as voters.

So I think Cruzghazi will be completely irrelevant to the outcome in November. But it was a hoot, and it does give the press an opportunity to describe the Trump campaign as chaotic and disorganized. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to matter to undecided voters either. It's just inside baseball. It should matter, because it speaks to what Trump says would be his main strength as a president:

Not only did Trump allow this debacle to happen, he's so disorganized that he can't even manage the post-debacle spin. Josh Marshall is certain Trump was blindsided:
The first thing to say about this is that there is simply no way Trump's and Priebus's convention managers okayed that speech. No way. The fact that they allowed him on stage to give that speech will go down as one of the greatest organizational pratfalls in convention history. Whether Cruz got them to agree not to review the speech or whether he substituted another speech, I don't know. But something very wrong went down there.
But The Washington Post says Trump knew the endorsement wasn't coming, although the speech was a mystery:
Cruz had told Trump on Monday that he was not going to endorse him, chief Cruz strategist Jason Johnson said.

However, the senator from Texas did not share the text of his speech in advance of its delivery with the Trump campaign or Republican officials, according to a senior convention official familiar with the program. Text of the address was delivered to party officials shortly before its delivery.
However, The New York Times says the Trump team did read the speech and allowed Cruz to go on anyway, because Trump thought it might be changed at the eleventh hour:
Mr. Trump had invited Mr. Cruz to speak even though he had doubts that peace was possible after their brutal race....

Mr. Trump called Mr. Cruz on Monday and asked for his endorsement, according to a senior aide to Mr. Cruz who requested anonymity to relay private conversations. Mr. Cruz indicated to Mr. Trump that he would not offer an endorsement, the aide said.

Trump advisers said on Wednesday night that Mr. Trump had been unhappy with the text of Mr. Cruz’s speech but held out for the remote possibility that Mr. Cruz would make a last-minute endorsement.
Whereas Donald Trump Jr. says that the Trump team did get the speech in advance and knew an endorsement wasn't going to happen, even at the last minute, but Cruz was allowed to speak because Donald Sr. is such a swell guy:
The Manhattan billionaire’s son told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the Trump campaign saw Cruz’s speech ahead of time and knew what the Texas senator would say. The GOP nominee allowed Cruz to speak, Trump Jr. said, in the interest of party unity, even though he knew the remarks would be far from an endorsement.

“We knew [an endorsement] wasn't coming. My father wanted all the guys who wanted to be there, he wanted to give them a platform,” Trump Jr. said. “I think he wants to show that he’s about unity, so he knew that was happening and he was a better man about it.”
Get your story straight! Idiots.

Trump incompetence ought to be a bigger issue in this race, but at least 40% of voters are so dazzled by Trump's wealth and gilt and buildings and golf courses and wives that they just can't conceive of Trump as a bumbler. That's something the Clinton campaign has to work on. But it's an uphill fight.

Meanwhile, what does this do to Ted Cruz? It's obvious that he thinks Trump will lose this year. It's obvious that he's positioning himself for 2020. But does this really help him win the next nomination? In the following exchange, I think Josh Barro has a point:

And I think, after all this bumbling, Trump will lose by 2, because there's so much anti-Hillary animosity out there, and because the GOP has, if anything, strengthened its Team White People brand in the Obama years, winning lots of non-presidential victories in the Midwest the way it's won them in the South in recent decades. If it's a narrow loss for Trump, Republicans are going to look for scapegoats -- they'll blame the media and "voter fraud" and probably George Soros and Saul Alinsky -- but they'll also blame Cruz. So I don't see how this helps him. I think the next GOP nominee will be either Tom Cotton or Donald Trump Jr.