Friday, May 06, 2016


I'm really not used to being less of an Eeyore about election results than other commentators, but I'm not worried about Hillary Clinton's anti-Trump messaging the way Gawker's Alex Pareene is:

“Dangerous Donald.” Democrats are going with “Dangerous Donald.” Did they try testing “Sexy Donald” first? “Leather Jacket Donald”?

... the first official Clinton campaign statement on Donald Trump the presumptive presidential nominee ... contains most of the hallmarks of Clinton messaging. See, for example, how the Bush-esque “keep our nation safe in a dangerous world” comes before the boilerplate “working families” language. Then comes the first iteration of their main anti-Trump line: “With so much at stake, Donald Trump is simply too big of a risk.”

The problem with that line of argument is that it’s Donald Trump’s argument for his candidacy: Conventional politicians and conventional politics haven’t worked -- so take a gamble on the ultimate outsider. “Donald Trump is simply too big of a risk” is practically daring people to give him a shot. He might pay off!

Since then, Clinton has repeatedly referred to Trump as a “loose cannon” ...

Trump is reckless, unstable, “dangerous.” Clinton is sober and responsible -- a steady hand on the tiller. The safe choice versus the unpredictable renegade who might say or do anything. It’s a good thing Americans aren’t traditionally drawn to unpredictable renegades!

... They’re going to build Trump up as a reckless and virile force of nature -- and a true outsider -- rather than expose him as a pitiful clown and an obvious fraud. This is completely backwards. As any writer who’s ever received an angry personal response from Trump can tell you, you get under his skin by mocking and emasculating him, not by feeding the myth of his power and strength, the precise qualities his authoritarian followers adore.
But maybe we're not on dick-swinging, dominance-challenge-issuing turf anymore. We're not in the world of the East Coast media/government/finance axis, where Pareene and Gawker reside, and we're not in the Republican primaries anymore. So maybe the rules are different.

Plenty of voters don't want danger and risk from their elected officials. I'm guessing that a significant percentage of these people are women -- including the ones who were called "security moms" back in 2004. That year, Democrats were having some difficulties with female voters, and this was regarded as a brilliant ad:

"He's the most powerful man in the world and all he wants to do is make sure I'm safe," says the daughter of a 9/11 victim -- who is seen a few seconds later being hugged by President Bush.

The voters who responded to that ad might be the ones Hillary Clinton is trying to reach. If so, I don't blame her.

I'm reminded of a polling result quoted a few days ago by Digby:
A survey by the Republican analytics firm Evolving Strategies found that anti-Trump messages were far more likely to hit the mark with women than with men. After women viewed one of three ads that questioned Trump’s character, their support for Trump dropped from 52 percent to 44 percent. But the needle didn’t move for men sampled.
If you think the general election is going to be fought on the emotional turf where Trump is most comfortable, then what Clinton is doing looks like a failure. But if you think there are voters who don't respond well to boorish machismo, then she might be on to something.


Donald Trump fans who've been bracing themselves for a stab in the back from the Republican Establishment are getting just what they expected:
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he's "just not ready" to support Trump, becoming the highest elected Republican official to raise concerns about Trump since he became the party's likely standard-bearer this week....

CNN reached out to 16 Republican elected officials, leaders and major fundraisers associated with former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Speaking on background, none of them said they were planning to go to this summer's Republican convention....

2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney declared he'd skip the convention, joining at least three prior Republican nominees -- John McCain and both Presidents Bush -- in declining to attend the event....

Looming over it all is the prospect of a third-party campaign by a conservative intent on hewing closer to traditional Republican principles than Trump.

[Erick] Erickson, the conservative blogger, told CNN -- without naming them -- that members of Congress have joined influential Republican members of the #NeverTrump movement in seeking out a candidate.

"Planning is continuing for a third party," he said.
Bill Kristol may still be hoping that Mitt Romney will run third-party, but the plans for that third-party campaign seem to be centering on Gary Johnson, the eccentric former New Mexico who's likely to be on the ballot already as the Libertarian Party candidate. Putting a little establishment GOP muscle behind Johnson isn't going to tip the race into the House -- it just might deplete Trump's vote total a bit more and give Hillary Clinton an even bigger victory. That seems to be the likely outcome of all this Republican refusenik activity.

Clinton's reaction? Well, it's disturbing -- and also naive:
Hillary Clinton’s supporters in recent days have been making a furious round of calls to top Bush family donors to try to convince them that she represents their values better than Donald Trump, multiple sources in both parties told POLITICO.

The moves come as Clinton and the Democratic Party try to take advantage of deep unease among establishment Republicans on Wall Street and elsewhere with Trump’s emergence as the presumptive Republican nominee....

Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin did not deny the calls were happening. “There's no official outreach from the campaign but I would not be at all surprised if our supporters are doing it on their own.”
Billmon thinks this is a slick sellout of Democratic voters:

Well, if that's the plan, I think the Clintonites are in for a surprise. Maybe some of the donors will give to the Clinton campaign. But ten minutes after Trump concedes, D.C. Republicans will turn on Clinton, exactly the way they turned on Obama just after he was elected. The GOP right won't be marginalized -- it's going to be all hands on deck as Republicans freeze Clinton out and work hard to make her a one-term president.

(And no, a Sanders victory would make no difference, because marginalization is exactly what his fate would have been.)

Ryan and the other refuseniks are writing off the top of the ticket for this year. For this year, they want to sell an Establishment message to persuadable voters who are turned off by Trump. The hope is that angry voters will vote GOP downballot in solidarity with Trump and non-crazy voters will vote GOP in solidarity with the Ryan refuseniks.

And then, soon enough, the party hopes that everyone will forget the whole Trump thing and remember that they all really, really hate Hillary Clinton. She's being teed up to be the embodiment of evil in a thousand attack ads in 2018 and 2020. To fight back, she's going to have to learn that there won't be any grand bargains, and she'll have to grind out any policy wins the hard way -- precisely what Barack Obama learned.

Or maybe we'll luck out and the Two Faces of Republicanism strategy won't prevent a congressional bloodbath. But in any case, Republicans won't play nice once this election is over. They never do.

Thursday, May 05, 2016


A lot of people who don't like Donald Trump generated a lot of snark, and some actual outrage, after Trump posted this on social media, and the pro-Trump crowd can't quite imagine what the fuss was about.

Let me see if I can explain it in a way that makes sense to conservatives.

Imagine it's 1984. The Washington Post has recently published an article in which Jesse Jackson refers to Jews as "Hymies" and New York City as "Hymietown." You remember that, don't you, conservatives? You hated Jackson for that. You're still angry about it. (The neo-Nazis excepted, I suppose.)

Now, imagine it's a couple of months after that interview appeared. It's 1984, so there's no Facebook or Twitter. Instead, Jackson gets photographed in the print press. What he's doing in the photo is popping a frozen bagel into a toaster -- no, worse, heating up a frozen bagel pizza -- over a caption that reads, "Jackson: 'I love Jews! Happy Passover!'"

Get it now, Trump fans?

Nahh. I'm sure Trump fans still don't get it.

If you're white, it's hard to understand why the tweet was an insult, unless you have the ability to put yourself in the shoes of people who aren't like you -- a skill that's in short supply on the right. I'm Italian. People eat dumbed-down Italian food all the time. But nobody would open a can of Chef Boyardee and say "Happy Columbus Day!" simply because (a) even conservatives know the difference between Chef Boyardee and real Italian food and (b) people don't feel the need to reassure Italians that they don't hate us. We're accepted as white. We joined the club decades ago. We're familiar. We're not exotic anymore.

If you trace your lineage to a European country, in all likelihood you can't even imagine why Trump's tweet was insulting, because it's probably been generations since your ethnic group has been treated with a high level of contempt in America. I think Trump was trolling his critics and winking at his followers when he posted this, knowing he'd generate a huge negative reaction from people who don't like him, but I'm not sure he actually understands why people would react badly to this. I think it's beyond his comprehension -- and beyond the comprehension of his fans. They just think it's some generalized, non-specific hypersensitivity that's not an actual response to anything. I guess they'd call it "political correctness."


Vox's David Roberts and Republican hack consultant Ed Rollins probably haven't agreed on many things over the years, but today they agree that the media will do everything in its power to ensure that a Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton race remains close.

... the selfish interest of the news media demands there be a close race. So for the next few months, the media will ensure the race stays competitive and will sustain wall-to-wall coverage of every insult and barb. Much of the media will do Trump’s work for him by simply repeating what he says. He knows how to effectively leverage the media.

... The media likes the bile and blood that spews from the Trump campaign, and they will help spread it around. The sooner the race becomes “Shouting Hillary” vs. “Insulting Trump,” the more the media will like it.
The campaign press requires, for its ongoing health and advertising revenue, a real race. It needs controversies. "Donald Trump is not fit to be president" may be the accurate answer to pretty much every relevant question about the race, but it's not an interesting answer. It's too final, too settled. No one wants to click on it.

What's more, the campaign media's self-image is built on not being partisan, which precludes adjudicating political disputes. How does that even work if one side is offering up a flawed centrist and the other is offering up a vulgar xenophobic demagogue?

... It's true that the media has been uncharacteristically blunt in its criticism of Trump during the primary, mainly because almost every source it considers legitimate hates Trump, including the Republican establishment. To date, the anti-Trump position has been safely inside the Washington consensus.

That will change once the GOP apparatus inevitably swings around behind Trump and begins accusing journalists who write critical stories of bias. If there's one thing the GOP apparatus knows how to do, it's ensure that there's always another side, that reporters get smacked every time they move past "one hand, other hand" coverage.

... Trump's obvious unfitness for office -- today widely acknowledged across both parties and in the mainstream media -- will become a partisan observation, something Democrats say.
But what if it doesn't work? Rollins thinks a barrage of Trump attacks might catch Clinton flat-footed:
We can only imagine the outrageous insults and taunts Trump will lob at Clinton, her surrogates, her staff, her contributors, her family and her sympathizers. Nothing and nobody is off-limits, and everybody will tune in to hear the latest. Will Clinton and crew respond in kind? Respond at all? Wait? Wait until when? Before the convention? After the convention? October?
Um, no, Clinton's not waiting -- she just released this:

Which is a follow-up to this:

So she's not complacent about Trump, and she's not waiting to be attacked, which distinguishes her from ... um, the entirety of Rollins's Republican Party from summer 2015 until maybe a month or two ago, when it was too late.

But if the Clinton campaign is successful in combating not only Trump but the media's bias in favor of a balanced, Both Sides Do It contest, maybe Trump really will fail as decisively as polls now predict he will. In which case, the media will work hand in glove with the Republican establishment to salvage the credibility of the GOP (and, in the bargain, its congressional majorities).

I've told you that much media attention will be focused on that nice Boy Scout Paul Ryan -- and, well, what do you know? Here's a Politico headline now:
Hill GOP braces for Trump

Republicans are reckoning with the top of their fall ticket -- but some would rather focus on Paul Ryan's agenda.
Ryan's agenda! His glorious agenda! That's some of what the press will try to distract us with if Trump can't get traction.

And if not Trump, then maybe Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, who's getting a lot of press for going all Third Way on us, in a transparently phony Frank Capra way:
The day after Donald Trump assumed the role of his party's presumptive presidential nominee, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse walked into a Wal-Mart in his hometown of Fremont, Nebraska, and got an earful from his constituents.

Long story short: They're angry.

In a nearly 1,500-word Facebook post published early Thursday morning, the freshman senator laid out his argument for a one-term, problem-solver candidate after a 10-part breakdown of how he thought the country had arrived at this moment, with a general election looming between Trump (whom he has opposed for months) and Hillary Clinton.

"Why shouldn’t America draft an honest leader who will focus on 70% solutions for the next four years? You adult?" Sasse wrote.
The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin is practically begging Sasse to run for president third-party, but through a spokesman he tells Rubin that he won't do it:
“Senator Sasse has been clear when asked before: he has three little kids and the only callings he wants -- raising them and serving Nebraskans.”
That's some serious smarm. This guy's got a bright future.

All of this coincides with a concerted effort on the part of right-wing donors to save Congress for the GOP, as noted by CNN:
A substantial number of big-money Republican donors have spent the last few months either actively spending against Donald Trump or sitting on the sidelines, frustrated with their options in the presidential race.

Now, facing the reality of a Trump victory, they may take their money down-ballot to help Republicans in House and Senate races.

Art Pope, a former Marco Rubio donor and ally of the heavy-spending Koch brothers, said he will not support Trump and would spend elsewhere.

"Because I think Donald Trump's policies will harm America, I think it's more important to support conservative Republican candidates running for Congress and positions across America," Pope said Wednesday in an interview with CNN. "I would encourage everyone, starting with the voters, to pay very close attention to the down-ticket ballots, I think that's absolutely crucial."
And, a couple of weeks ago, by Time:
... when you ask Republicans in Congress these days if they prefer Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, ... there is a good chance they will answer with a third name: Haley Barbour. What does the former Republican National Committee chairman and power lobbyist who took a turn as Mississippi Governor have to do with the 2016 presidential election? Embattled Senators and Congressmen are holding him up as Example A of how they’d like to see the 2016 election go.

As RNC chief in 1996, Barbour bucked Bob Dole -- ostensibly the head of the party as its White House nominee -- and pulled funding from the presidential contest to funnel it to down-ballot races. Dole lost to Bill Clinton, but Republicans ended up gaining two seats in the Senate and maintaining a majority in the House.
Trump will be compelling television, but his numbers may never be good enough for the media to preserve the appearance of a competitive election. So the press will tout Ryan and Sasse and the rest of the Republican congressional delegation -- and maybe try to make them into pseudo-opponents of Clinton. That will be "respectable" television focusing on "respectable" Republicans. And then the media will return us to our regularly scheduled mud-wrestling.


AND: Can the GOP's congressional majorities be saved? I went to this post at Right Wing News, which promised evidence of an anti-GOP backlash from conservative Trump-haters. Note the text in the tweet below from one of the disillusioned:

Yeah, the downballot GOP will probably be fine.


I hope you're sitting down, folks: We've just learned that Donald Trump isn't pure.
Facing a prospective tab of more than $1 billion to finance a general-election run for the White House, Donald Trump reversed course Wednesday and said he would actively raise money to ensure his campaign has the resources to compete with Hillary Clinton’s fundraising juggernaut.

His campaign also is beginning to work with the Republican National Committee to set up a joint fundraising committee ....
But surely this will be an army of Davids -- ordinary citizens making small contributions of their hard-earned pay. Right?
Mr. Trump, who had largely self-financed his successful primary run, added that he would create a “world-class finance organization.” The campaign will tap his expansive personal Rolodex and a new base of supporters who aren’t on party rolls, two Trump advisers said....

Several wealthy donors have already said they would back him if he became the nominee, and billionaire Home Depot Inc. co-founder Ken Langone said Wednesday he was “all in” for Mr. Trump. In addition, the candidate has said his wealthy friends are prepared to cut checks.

The super PAC backing Mr. Trump, meanwhile, is also seeking to ramp up its fundraising operation. Eric Beach, Great America PAC’s fundraiser, said super PAC officials have received about 75 calls, mostly from donors, since Mr. Cruz exited the race Tuesday evening. The group plans to add dozens of staffers and announce new members of its finance committee in the next weeks.
But ... but ... but just a week ago, in "A Liberal Case for Donald Trump," Salon #BernieOrBuster Walker Bragman assured us that Trump is the Republican Bernie Sanders, and that Trump's election will cause the plutocracy to tremble!
Like Sanders, Trump is neither beholden to special interests, nor coordinating with a Super PAC. This alone sets him apart from the other candidates in the race -- especially Hillary Clinton. If he wins the presidency, it will send shock waves through our political system, much like what would happen if Bernie were elected....

Trump’s candidacy is further served by the fact that we do not have publicly financed elections, and by our corporate, ratings-obsessed mainstream media. He has a personality for prime time, and enough money to run himself in spite of the powers lined up against him....

Excusing the fact that Trump, himself, is a corporate interest, he would shake the current system to its core -- which needs to happen.
And now, even if Trump wins, that won't happen! I'm crestfallen!

This really is the day America lost its innocence.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


I keep hearing that the Republican Party will never be the same after the rise of Donald Trump. I'm told that litmus-test conservatism is dead and that the party is in utter disarray.

I hear that, and then I read something like this:
Voters would get a say on whether fetuses should be given constitutional rights under a measure that won first-round approval in the Missouri House on Tuesday.

The House voted 112-36 to advance the legislation....

Opponents said the resolution was the most extreme abortion-related proposal the Legislature has taken up this year, potentially outlawing abortion in cases of rape or when the life of a mother is in jeopardy. They also said it could make contraception illegal in the state.

“This bill doesn’t just take the issue over the edge of the cliff,” said Rep. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City. “It rockets the issue into outer space.”
This is happening shortly after the Oklahoma House voted to effectively ban abortion:
Oklahoma is dangerously close to making abortion illegal. The state passed a bill in the State Senate this March and in the House of Representatives just last week that makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions, the only exception being if a woman’s life is in danger or she’s already had a miscarriage that they’re removing. The bill is an amendment to the state’s description of what’s considered “unprofessional conduct” by a physician. Now, “performance of abortion” is included in that description, unless it’s necessary to “preserve the life of the mother.” There’s no other exception -- not even rape.
Elsewhere, Republican-dominated states are enacting gun laws so extreme that even Southern police chiefs oppose them:
In more than a dozen states with traditions of robust support for gun ownership rights, and where legislatures have moved to relax gun laws during the past year, the local police have become increasingly vocal in denouncing the measures. They say the new laws expose officers to greater danger and prevent them from doing their jobs effectively.

“We are a gun society and we recognize that, but we should be writing gun laws that make us safer,” said Leonard Papania, the police chief in Gulfport, who opposes part of a new state law that creates exceptions to the rules for concealed-carry permits. “Do you want every incident on your street to escalate to acts of gun violence?”
And, of course, Republicans such as North Carolina governor Pat McCrory still defiantly defend transphobic laws regarding public bathrooms.

All this is striking for two reasons. First, we're being told that the Republican Party is falling apart, riven by internal conflict. We certainly see that in the presidential campaign -- but where's the evidence of it in the states?

Also, we're told that litmus-test conservatism is dead -- purists such as Ted Cruz tried and failed to win the Republican presidential nomination, but they all lost to a guy who frequently deviates from conservative orthodoxy. But apart from the occasional Republican governor who vetoes an extreme gun bill or bathroom bill because the business community objects to it, orthodoxy seems to be doing just fine in the states.

At the national level, Trump was able to rewrite the rules because, well, he's Donald Trump. As I said in the last post, he's promised to inflict much more pain on conservative voters' enemies than ordinary politicians have been able to do. Because he's rich and has a pre-established level of mainstream fame, he was able to get a hearing for this message, which would have limited him to the fringes, even on the right, if he'd been poor and unknown. And because he has an (undeserved) reputation for competence, he's taken seriously when he says he can do what he promises.

There just isn't anyone else like Trump. Pat Buchanan and Sarah Palin came close, because they'd established some mainstream cred, but not enough people thought trying to elect them was worth the risk. David Duke got as far as a previously little-known politician could get with a message as extreme as Trump's, and he didn't get all that far.

There just aren't any Trumps in the states -- people with the gall to bait their enemies in a bigoted and thuggish a fashion as Trump who actually have the juice to become plausible candidates. And when Trump leaves the scene, there won't be anyone like him to take his place at the national level.

In the absence of a Trump -- someone who tells GOP voters that he can terminate all their enemies with extreme prejudice (in all senses of the word) -- what motivates those voters to vote Republican? The same old thing: litmus-test legislation that makes liberals howl in outrage. So that's what Republicans at the state level are still using to get reelected.

It's worked for Republicans for years. In the state, it's still working. It's what will define the GOP in a post-Trump era, just the way it did before Trump's rise.

The party hasn't really changed, and it won't. Only the presidential nominee is different.


Ross Douthat writes that Ted Cruz was the candidate of "True Conservatism," which is marked by "Ayn Randian" hard-heartedness, an opposition to "free-spending" government, and a determination to "stand on principle, fight hard, and win." I agree that this was the point of the Cruz campaign:
Wherever the party’s most ideological voters were, there he would be. If Obama was for it, he would be against it. Where conservatives were angry, he would channel their anger. Where they wanted a fighter; he would be a fighter. Wherever the party’s activists were gathered, on whatever issue -- social or economic, immigration or the flat tax -- he would be standing by their side.
The Cruz campaign, Douthat says, was a test of the theory that Republicans win big when they advocate conservatism with absolutely no compromise. Cruz "ended up running with it further than most people thought possible," Douthat writes, but he ultimately fell short.

Douthat's conclusion is that True Conservatism wasn't what Republican voters were looking for after all:
But it turned out that Republican voters didn’t want True Conservatism... the entire Trump phenomenon suggests otherwise, and Trump as the presumptive nominee is basically a long proof against the True Conservative theory of the Republican Party....

Trump proved that many evangelical voters, supposedly the heart of a True Conservative coalition, are actually not really values voters or religious conservatives after all, and that the less frequently evangelicals go to church, the more likely they are to vote for a philandering sybarite instead of a pastor’s son....

Finally, Trump proved that many professional True Conservatives, many of the same people who flayed RINOs and demanded purity throughout the Obama era, were actually just playing a convenient part. From Fox News’ 10 p.m. hour to talk radio to the ranks of lesser pundits, a long list of people who should have been all-in for Cruz on ideological grounds either flirted with Trump, affected neutrality or threw down their cloaks for the Donald to stomp over to the nomination.
The problem for Cruz was that a lot of True Conservatives aren't in it for the conservatism. They're in it because they think the tougher and more aggressive a candidate is, the more likely it is that that candidate is going to kick the asses of conservatives' enemies -- liberals, Democrats, RINOs, non-whites, Muslims, poor people, women who have abortions, gun control supporters, and so on.

Cruz was undermined when Trump came along with a different form of aggression -- one that, to Republican voters, seemed more likely to result in ass-kickings for their enemies. Trump spoke, and liberals had conniption fits! Plus, he'd been such a successful businessman! So he must be able to carry out all the ass-kicking he promises, which is more ass-kickings than Ted Cruz seems able to dish out!

So that's why Cruz lost the nomination. Yes, quite a few people thought he was following the correct path -- they actually might have been in it for the ideology. But others just wanted to see maximum ass-kickage, by any means necessary. And so they abandoned ideology for Trump.


Donald Trump won Indiana yesterday, and with Ted Cruz dropping out of the race, Trump is really going to be the Republican nominee. The general election polls look awful for Trump -- but hot takers are gonna hot take, so Howard Fineman is up at the Huffington Post with "Here Are 7 Reasons Why Donald Trump Could Really Win In November."

Fineman's reasons are unconvincing -- no, Trump is not going to win Florida, given his off-the-charts unfavorability among Hispanics there, including Cuban-Americans -- but one of the reasons is worth pondering, whether or not it's going to be a game-changer:
Journalistic Weakness. It comes in two flavors. One is false equivalence. Reporters have yet to fully examine Trump’s record, especially the details of his business dealings and personal life, but soon enough his story will be yoked with and compared to Clinton’s, which will make it easier for Trump to slide by in the resulting din.

The second flavor is the media’s hunger for an audience. The closer Trump gets to the White House, the more frightening he becomes, the more desperate his enemies become -- the more eyeballs are focused on smartphones and TV sets.

That means more billions in “free” media for Trump.
"Reporters have yet to fully examine Trump’s record, especially the details of his business dealings and personal life, but soon enough his story will be yoked with and compared to Clinton’s" -- that's really going to happen, folks. Yes, the Clinton campaign and its surrogates will bring up Trump University and Trump's bankruptcies and Trump's mob ties and history of racial discrimination -- but these stories will reported with the asterisk "On the other hand, the Clinton Foundation blah blah blah blah blah," or "In the 1990s, Mrs. Clinton's cattle-future trading was investigated...." Both Sides Do It, so the press will feel the need to yoke every Trump scandal to a Clinton scandal. This tendency is likely to be extended even to such matters as Trump's racism: Yes, Trump calls Mexicans "rapists" and wants to ban Muslims, but Hillary Clinton said "off the reservation" that one time.

And on Fineman's second point, it's quite possible that we'll still get comment-free unedited coverage of Trump rallies -- more so than of Clinton's -- simply because he's better television. I'm not sure it will matter -- there'll be saturation coverage of both campaigns -- but I think, on balance, when the wonks run their analyses of the 2016 general election campaign, it'll be Clinton, not Trump, whose coverage is more negative, by a considerable degree, if only because so much coverage of Trump involves stepping back and just letting him hold forth. This, of course, would be a continuation of a pattern we've already seen in the primaries:

I still think Clinton will win -- but the press will keep the race close.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016


National Review's Jim Geraghty reads a Wall Street Journal editorial and expresses despair:
... the biggest howler in the Journal’s editorial is this:
If Mr. Trump does lose, his voters need to understand that he was the architect of his own demise. Republican voters also need to see that alienating non-whites, women and young people was a losing strategy.
Do you see any scenario where the majority of Trump voters “understand he was the architect of his own demise”? John Nolte is already blaming #NeverTrump Republicans. The vast majority of Trump supporters believe that the most unpopular presidential candidate since David Duke is going to beat Hillary, and most think he will beat her in a landslide. If and when Hillary wins, most of Trump’s supporters will insist the election was rigged and that massive numbers of illegal immigrants voted. Like the man they hail, their modus operandi is blaming everyone but themselves.
Yes, they'll blame skulduggery and Democratic deployment of sinister black and brown people -- but Republicans always do that, don't they? Here's a 2012 Townhall article called "Obama Likely Won Re-Election Through Election Fraud." Here's a Breitbart article from 2014 titled "Study: Non-Citizen Votes May Have Tipped 2008 Election for Obama." And for the "respectable" version of this, read "Romney Blames Loss on Obama’s ‘Gifts’ to Minorities and Young Voters."
n a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said....
However, with the passage of time, rank-and-file Republicans have decided that they loathe both Romney and McCain. If you ask them whether Obama won because of ACORN or "free stuff" or massive numbers of undocumented immigrants voting, sure, they'll say yes -- but they still blame the last two party nominees for being big losers. Why shouldn't the same thing happen to Trump?

But Trump is different, you say. All along, rank-and-file Republicans thought McCain and Romney were sellout Establishment milquetoasts, while Trump is a warrior for their cause. Yes, but once upon a time these same Republicans thought Sarah Palin was literally the modern equivalent of the fighting Esther of the Bible. Now, on the right, she's largely seen as a joke. Prior to that, George W. Bush was seen by conservatives as worthy of Mount Rushmore. Now the right's opinion of him is a mixture of admiration and embarrassment.

I could add lesser examples: Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Ben Carson. All were right-wing heroes -- but then they were brought low, and they no longer seemed to have any power over their political enemies, who just laughed at them. If that's Trump's fate in November -- which is certainly what the polls indicate -- then Trump's going to go the way of all the other enemy-smiters who surrender their hero status when they lose their ability to smite.

At Business Insider, Josh Barro writes:
Trump and his fans will say that the Republican establishment sabotaged Trump by withholding their support, hoping they could quash his insurgency by manufacturing a wide loss to Hillary Clinton. They will not go away quietly.
But they won't have Trump to rally around -- he's said, "I don't think I'm going to lose, but if I do, I don't think you're ever going to see me again, folks. I think I'll go to Turnberry and play golf or something." And no one else who might fill the void has Tump's media savvy, or his credibility with non-Trump broadcasters and reporters, or the aura of winning that's so thoroughly fooled his fans.

So I think all the energy will dissipate -- and eventually Trump himself will be seen as someone who took on all the evil people and just became a laughingstock. Eventually he'll be a punch line even on the right.

The next right-wing hero will be anyone who makes President Clinton's life miserable, or undermines some other high-profile group of Democrats and/or liberals. That's how the dream of totally annihilating their enemies will live on in rank-and-file conservatives' hearts.


Donald Trump broke bread yesterday with an old smear merchant acquaintance:
[Trump] and two aides sat down at a table for lunch with author Edward Klein, perhaps best known for his series of bombshell books spreading rumors and innuendo, much of it discredited, about the Clintons.

... Klein, who rode to and from the restaurant in the same vehicle as Trump in a Secret Service motorcade, said he is following Trump around for a couple of days to gather material for a new book. But the visit with Klein comes as Trump promises to debut new attacks on the stump about the Clintons.
You remember Klein, author of many Clinton-bashing books, including The Truth About Hillary. In his review of that one, conservative humorist Joe Queenan wrote the following:
... it sleazily intimates that Hillary Clinton is a lying, scheming, smelly, left-leaning lesbian and a non-maternal parent who consorts with lawyers who defend mobbed-up unions and bears a striking character resemblance to both Richard Nixon and Madonna, and who tacitly approved of her husband's rape of a young woman at a time when Mrs. Clinton may or may not have been bathing, washing her hair or shaving her underarms, while hanging out with short-haired women from the sapphic charnel house Wellesley College.
Klein claimed in that book that Chelsea Clinton was conceived as a result of marital rape, an assertion that was too much even for Sean Hannity, who questioned it in a 2005 interview with Klein.

As Oliver Willis notes, "Klein says he has known Trump for 35 years and has "met with him on numerous occasions, talked to him on the phone countless times, traveled with him, and written two lengthy magazine cover stories about him." He adds, 'I believe I understand him better than most people outside his immediate family.'" Trump provided a back-cover blurb for Klein's 2012 book The Amateur.

Klein is obsessed with Hillary Clinton's health -- he says he has "dizzy spells" and gets "blinding headaches," and may even have multiple sclerosis. This is odd because, according to Klein, she's also vigorous enough to knock all the items off the desk of anyone who angers her, something she apparently does on a regular basis:
Clinton has a habit of violently clearing off desks in fits of rage. An unnamed "Foreign Service Officer" tells Klein that "after a telephone argument with President Obama, she took her right arm and cleared off her small working desk, sending pictures, glasses, everything crashing to the floor."

A few chapters later, Clinton does the same thing to her husband's desk....
Trump will probably work a lot of this into his campaign rhetoric. And the alleged lesbianism. And maybe the alleged rape. And almost certainly Bill Clinton's relationship with wealthy convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a subject Klein writes about a lot.

Oh, and Benghazi, of course. A small problem here is that the initial focus on an anti-Muslim YouTube video -- which right-wingers consider the worst cover-up in American history -- was, according to Klein, President Obama's idea, not Hillary Clinton's. Klein, she bill Clinton wanted her to resign on principle, because the cover-up was so horrible. I'm not sure how Trump (and Klein) will square that with the "Crooked Hillary" meme, but maybe Klein will change his story once he realizes that the old story is no longer damaging enough. (It wouldn't be the first time.)

We know that Trump will spread the most absurd gossip on the campaign trail because he's spreading this story about Ted Cruz's father now:
Trump also began to say that the elder Cruz was with Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy, before he shot JFK. The National Enquirer alleged that Rafael Cruz is pictured with the assassin handing out pro-Fidel Castro pamphlets in New Orleans in 1963....

“What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death — before the shooting. It’s horrible,” Trump said.
As I explained last month, this story is nuts. But Trump is out there using it.

And when Trump does start quoting Klein, here's a top media figure who'll be right there backing him up:

I'm not looking forward to all this.

Monday, May 02, 2016


The New York Times has a story today about Texas's voter ID law and its effect on turnout in the state. The story begins this way:
In a state where everything is big, the 23rd Congressional District that hugs the border with Mexico is a monster: eight and a half hours by car across a stretch of land bigger than any state east of the Mississippi. In 2014, Representative Pete Gallego logged more than 70,000 miles there in his white Chevy Tahoe, campaigning for re-election to the House -- and lost by a bare 2,422 votes.

So in his bid this year to retake the seat, Mr. Gallego, a Democrat, has made a crucial adjustment to his strategy. “We’re asking people if they have a driver’s license,” he said. “We’re having those basic conversations about IDs at the front end, right at our first meeting with voters.”
Well, that's good, because, as it turns out, voters need to be reminded of what sorts of ID they need to vote -- ID they may not realize they actually have:
... a study of the Texas ID requirement by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy released in August found that many more qualified voters, confused or intimidated by the new rules, have not tried to vote at all.

“What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,” said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. “But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.”

... After Mr. Gallego’s narrow loss in 2014, researchers from the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy polled 400 registered voters in the district who sat out the election. All were asked why they did not vote, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 from a list of seven explanations -- being ill, having transportation problems, being too busy, being out of town, lacking interest, disliking the candidates and lacking a required photo identification.

Nearly 26 percent said the main reason was that they were too busy. At the other end, 5.8 percent said the main reason was lacking a proper photo ID, with another 7 percent citing it as one reason. Most surprising, however, was what researchers found when they double-checked that response: The vast majority of those who claimed not to have voted because they lacked a proper ID actually possessed one, but did not know it.

Moreover, Dr. Jones of the Baker Institute said, “The confused voters said they would have voted overwhelmingly for Gallego.”
So people who could have voted for Gallego didn't vote -- or, to put it another way, Gallego lost votes because people who would have voted for him didn't know they could vote, and the Gallego campaign didn't help voters figure that out.

The Republican backers of these laws know they're sowing confusion; as far as they're concerned, that's a feature, not a bug.

But what was wrong with the Gallego campaign that it didn't understand that this was a problem until after the 2014 loss? The Texas law, after all, went into effect in 2013. Its provisions were known to the campaign -- right?

I don't want to blame just the Gallego campaign. What was wrong with the Democratic Party? Why isn't word going out to every candidate in a voter ID state that it's important to educate voters about these laws? Why can't the party fight the laws and work hard to make sure voters aren't deterred from voting, especially if all that's preventing them from voting is a misunderstanding of the requirements?

It's political malpractice to lose seats because of these laws and then say, "Duh! We could have made an effort to educate voters!" Get it right the first time.


A Republican congressman from Florida says he's not sure whether he'll vote for his own party's presidential candidate in November:
Rep. David Jolly of Florida, a Republican running for Senate in the state, says he doesn’t know if he’s going to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in November.

“So, I’m gonna tell you something you rarely hear in elected official say, I don’t know,” Jolly told AM970 The Answer’s Effective Radio when asked what he’s going to do in the presidential election. “I truly don’t know.”
Hmmm ... what could be upsetting this Floridian who wants to run for a U.S. Senate seat on the GOP line? Could it be this?
Donald Trump is the catalyst who could force a decisive break between Miami-Dade County’s influential Cuban-American voters and the Republican Party, a new poll has found.

Local Cuban Americans dislike Trump so much -- and are increasingly so accepting of renewed U.S.-Cuba ties pushed by Democratic President Barack Obama -- that Trump’s likely presidential nomination might accentuate the voters’ political shift away from the GOP, according to the survey shared with the Miami Herald and conducted by Dario Moreno, a Coral Gables pollster and a Florida International University associate politics professor.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents supported Trump, a number that is still higher than the 31 percent who backed Clinton -- but also “the lowest in history that any potential Republican candidate polls among this traditionally loyal demographic,” according to Moreno. He added that the results put likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton within “striking distance” of winning over the influential voting demographic....

Moreno surveyed 400 likely Miami-Dade Cuban-American voters from April 21-23, conducting more than three-fourths of the interviews in Spanish. His results mirror those from a national poll conducted last month by Latino Decisions, a firm that has worked for Clinton, on behalf of the pro-immigrant America’s Voice organization. That poll found, among other things, that 73 percent of Florida Hispanic voters have a “very unfavorable” opinion of Trump.
Could it be that in combinaion with this?
Even though a whopping 42 percent of Florida voters have a "very unfavorable" view of Hillary Clinton and more see her image negatively than positively, the likely Democratic presidential nominee today easily beats either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in Florida, according to the latest tracking poll by the Republican-leaning Associated Industries of Florida. Get this: Among Hispanics (about 14 percent of the electorate and this polling sample), Trump is viewed negatively by 87!!!! percent.
A memo from Ryan Tyson of Associated Industries of Florida elaborates:
Amongst Hispanics, who will make up ~14% of the general electorate in Florida, Trump is -77 (10/87), and no, that is not a typo. Trump is also underwater with Cubans by 60% (17/77).
I was expecting Trump to alienate non-Cuban Hispanic voters, but I didn't realize that so many Cuban-Americans would be equally repulsed by him. Jolly is right to want to run as fast as he can away from Trump.


Andrew Sullivan has a big honking essay about Donald Trump in New York magazine right now. A lot of Sullivan haters are going to dismiss it as ridiculous without reading it. As for me, I don't think he's crazy to fret about the danger that Trump poses to America -- I think he'll lose in November, but I'm not certain of that, and I think the election will be 53%-47% at best. If Trump were to win, do I agree with Sullivan that, "In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event"? I think we'd survive. But it would be ugly.

A key argument Sullivan makes is that our Constitution wasn't designed to permit pure democracy, yet we're approaching pure democracy now, partly as a result of the failure of our elites:
An American elite that has presided over massive and increasing public debt, that failed to prevent 9/11, that chose a disastrous war in the Middle East, that allowed financial markets to nearly destroy the global economy, and that is now so bitterly divided the Congress is effectively moot in a constitutional democracy: “We Respectables” deserve a comeuppance. The vital and valid lesson of the Trump phenomenon is that if the elites cannot govern by compromise, someone outside will eventually try to govern by popular passion and brute force.
But I think Sullivan overestimates how much the elites are failing, at least by their own standards. They've been made whole since the start of the Great Recession. Their economy isn't in the doldrums. That's because they still get the government they want. They absolutely have control at the state and local level. And even in Congress, while they've failed to prevent gridlock, they've made it clear to even the increasingly insane GOP that the debt-ceiling crisis of 2011 is not to be repeated.

They don't love Trump, but I think they assume they can live with him, or get their way in a Trump presidency by taking advantage of his utter ignorance of federal law (a problem they, with their armies of lawyers and lobbyists, don't have). The horror of Trump won't be full-blown fascism -- it'll be unbridled Republicanism, what you see in Kansas and North Carolina and Michigan and Wisconsin, with a big dollop of Trump on top. It'll be awful for Mexicans and Muslims, for terror suspects we torture and for civilians we bomb the shit out of. But, beyond that, it'll just be Brownbackianism -- Trump won't know any better, so, as Scott Lemieux says, “he will sign pretty much every horrible piece of legislation that a Republican Congress puts on his desk,” as long as work starts on his glorious wall.

Sullivan, because he's a media guy, is certain the elites are in decline because he's seen the elite-run press give way to blogs, then social media. He believes America's historical expansion of the franchise and the rise of party primaries have taken power away from the elites. Fine so far -- but he falls for the myth that money doesn't matter anymore in politics:
Many contend, of course, that American democracy is actually in retreat, close to being destroyed by the vastly more unequal economy of the last quarter-century and the ability of the very rich to purchase political influence. This is Bernie Sanders’s core critique. But the past few presidential elections have demonstrated that, in fact, money from the ultrarich has been mostly a dud. Barack Obama, whose 2008 campaign was propelled by small donors and empowered by the internet, blazed the trail of the modern-day insurrectionist, defeating the prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary and later his Republican opponent (both pillars of their parties’ Establishments and backed by moneyed elites). In 2012, the fund-raising power behind Mitt Romney -- avatar of the one percent -- failed to dislodge Obama from office. And in this presidential cycle, the breakout candidates of both parties have soared without financial support from the elites.
First of all, it's a myth that Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton and then John McCain bankrolled exclusively by small donations, as The Washington Post's Dan Eggen noted in 2012:
Nearly half of the donors to Obama’s reelection campaign in 2011 gave $200 or less, more than double the proportion seen in 2007, according to the analysis from the Campaign Finance Institute, which tracks money in politics....

The 2011 data show that Obama has relied more on small donations this cycle than he did in 2007, when he raised a larger proportion of his money from wealthy donors before grass-roots supporters drove his fundraising.

Obama had raised only 22 percent of his $96.7 million in 2007 from donors whose contributions aggregated to $200 or less, the CFI study found....

It’s harder to accurately gauge Obama’s reliance on higher-end donors because this year he can raise money jointly with the Democratic National Committee, which can accept donations of up to $30,800 per donor.
(Emphasis added.)

This year, we can be impressed by the small-donation fundraising of Bernie Sanders, but, well, he's losing. And Trump is a special case, because he gets all the campaign advertising he needs from the networks and cable news, for free.

The elites have lost a fair amount of control over the process, but in part it's because pragmatic elitists, who prefer establishment Republicans and Democrats, have lost power to ideological-zealot elitists such as the Koch brothers. Into the breach walked Trump, a zealot whose ideology is himself. But I strongly suspect that the elites will help defeat him -- and if not, I assume elite-funded politicians will largely contain him if he's president. It may be a horrorshow for us, but they'll get what they want. They always do.

Sunday, May 01, 2016


Fox's Todd Starnes didn't like the conclusion of Larry Wilmore's monologue at last night's White House Correspondents Dinner:
Fox host Todd Starnes had a problem with comedian Larry Wilmore telling President Barack Obama, on his time as the nation’s first African-American president, “Yo Barry, you did it, my n***a.”

The president responded by smiling and embracing Wilmore. While the term is used as one of endearment among members of the black community, it didn’t stop Starnes, who is white, from posting wrathful tweets about it.

The use of the n-word came at the end of a heartfelt thank-you to the president:
“When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world. Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, if i’m going to keep it 100: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n---. You did it.”
Yet Starnes was still outraged.

Funny thing -- Starnes wasn't nearly as upset in August 2015 at a very deliberate use of multiple epithets intended as racial slurs. In fact, he was angry because others were upset:
All it took was 140 characters for Texas Christian University to suspend a conservative student who posted a series of social networking posts that insulted the Islamic State, the Baltimore rioters and Mexicans....

On April 29 TCU sent Harry [Vincent] a letter accusing him of violating the university’s code of student conduct....

The charges stemmed from a half dozen tweets he had posted online referencing radical Islam along with a Facebook message about the Baltimore riots.

“These hoodrat criminals in Baltimore need to be shipped off and exiled to the sahara desert,” he wrote. “Maybe then they’ll realize how much we provide for them (welfare, college tuition, Obama phone’s, medicare, etc.”

In regards to Islam he wrote, “This is clearly not a religion of peace.”
Vincent also wrote:
“#Baltimore in 4 words: poor uneducated druggy hoodrats”
Responding to someone who complained about his comments, he responded: “When I said you would be reincarnated as a beaner I was being generous”
Starnes called this use of "beaner" an "unintentional Mexican slur," apparently because Vincent, like so many racists after their words are brought to light, claimed he had no idea he was offending anyone.
“I did not know that word was such a hurtful word,” [Vincent] said. “I do regret that one because I do realize that could have caused harm to some people.”
Vincent also posted this, which he apparently didn't regret afterward:

You can question the disciplinary actions TCU took, but the school is a private institution that attempts to balance free speech and, in the words of its student handbook, "respect [for] the rights of all individuals." But Starnes not only expressed outrage at the discipline, he wouldn't acknowledge the racism at all:
It sounds to me like Harry Vincent is guilty of being a Christian Conservative white guy -- and on a university campus that’s a crime worthy of death penalty.
So, to Starnes, Larry Wilmore's language needed policing. Harry Vincent's didn't.

Ellen Brodsky of NewsHounds adds:
If you are suspicious about the nature of Starnes’ racial sensitivity, you should be. This is a guy who has made a Fox News career out of bigotry. He has accused the Obama administration of “orchestrating” civil unrest in Ferguson, called him the “Race-Baiter in Chief,” and complained that a woman of Indian descent was not American enough to be Miss America in 2013.

Oh, and here's a video of the remark that offended Starnes so much last night:


We all know the drill with Maureen Dowd -- all Democratic men are women and all Democratic women are men -- but Donald Trump is a Republican, so I was surprised to see her trying to fit him into this template:
Just as Barack Obama seemed the more feminized candidate in 2008 because of his talk-it-out management style, his antiwar platform and his delicate eating habits, always watching his figure, so now, in some ways, Trump seems less macho than Hillary.

He has a tender ego, pouty tweets, needy temperament and obsession with hand sanitizer, whereas she is so tough and combat-hardened, she’s known by her staff as “the Warrior.”
Scott Lemieux is right:
The idea that a “tender ego” and “needy temperament” (or, for that matter, “obsession with hand sanitizer”) are inconsistent with masculine bluster is hilarious.
But it would be naive to think Dowd understands that.

In any case, this characterization of Trump comes a few paragraphs after Dowd asserts that he and his advisers "seem like a latter-day Rat Pack, having a gas with tomatoes, twirls and ring-a-ding-ding." So Trump is a delicate woman and a boorish man?

Why, yes:
... Hillary never expected to meet this mix of dove, hawk and isolationist. She thought she would face Marco Rubio, a more traditional conservative who would out-hawk her. Instead, she’s meeting Trump, who is “a sheep in wolf’s clothing,” as Axelrod put it. Like a free-swinging asymmetric boxer, Trump can keep Hillary off balance by punching from both the left and the right.
I Googled "asymmetric boxer," wondering if it was a reference to a martial art I wasn't aware of. What I found instead was this:

I'm going to assume that's not what Dowd's referring to here.

What she means is this:
You can actually envision a foreign policy debate between Trump and Clinton that sounds oddly like the one Obama and Clinton had in 2008, with Trump playing Obama, preening about his good judgment on Iraq, wanting an end to nation-building and thinking he could have a reset with Russia.
Right -- the same guy whose Facebook page now prominently features Bobby Knight praising Trump for being willing to go nuclear:

The column ends in a mess of contradictions:
Despite gossip when [Clinton] was first lady that she did not like people in uniform, the truth is the reverse: She gravitates toward “nail-eaters” ... and loves the gruff, Irish, bearlike demeanor of Jack Keane, a retired four-star general and the resident hawk on Fox News who helped define her views on military issues and is still in touch.

As secretary of state, she hit it off with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus. And she loved to have a stiff drink with Bob Gates and John McCain.

She has a weakness for big, swaggering, rascally he-men.

Like Donald Trump.
So, relative to Clinton, Trump is a woman, and relative to Trump, Clinton is a man, which we can see from the fact that Clinton cozies up to real men like ... Trump, the woman?

I'm confused. Even Ann Althouse is confused. ("Loving he-men -- is that not feminine? There's quite a jam-up of gender stereotypes here.")

I think Dowd is the real asymmetric boxer, in both senses of the term: like the pugilist she's imagining, she flails at Clinton from every direction, and like the item of intimate wear pictured above, she's trying to be clever and sexy and is an embarrassing failure at both.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Mike Bloomberg thinks he performed a public service by denouncing demagoguery in his commencement address at the University of Michigan, but what he really did was enable the true demagogues by saying this:
Democracy and citizenship will always require constant vigilance against those who fan the flames of partisanship in ways that consume us and lead to, in Washington’s words, “the ruins of public liberty.”

We have certainly seen such figures before, in both parties. In the 1930s, there was the despotic Huey Long in Louisiana and Father Coughlin in Michigan, who blamed “Jewish conspirators” for America’s troubles. Then came Charles Lindbergh in the ’40s, Joe McCarthy in the ’50s, George Wallace in the ’60s and Pat Buchanan in the ’90s. Every generation has had to confront its own demagogues. And every generation has stood up and kept them away from the White House. At least so far.

In this year’s presidential election, we’ve seen more demagoguery from both parties than I can remember in my lifetime. Our country is facing serious and difficult challenges. But rather than offering realistic solutions, candidates in both parties are blaming our problems on easy targets who breed resentment. For Republicans, it’s Mexicans here illegally and Muslims. And for Democrats, it’s the wealthy and Wall Street. The truth is: We cannot solve the problems we face by blaming anyone.
Bloomberg has always harbored the dream of winning the presidency as an independent, and this fantasy has made him stupid. Long, Coughlin, and the rest of the people he names certainly were demagogues, but their problem wasn't partisanship, if you define that as excessive loyalty to a political party. Coughlin and Long were Democrats who opposed Roosevelt. Wallace also attacked fellow Democrats. The targets of McCarthy and Buchanan included fellow Republicans.

But Bloomberg has to put the problem of demagoguery in these terms, because he's determined to demonstrate that Both Sides Do It (but those in the "sensible center" don't). He tells us that "candidates in both parties are blaming our problems on easy targets who breed resentment. For Republicans, it’s Mexicans here illegally and Muslims. And for Democrats, it’s the wealthy and Wall Street." Yes, but Bernie Sanders doesn't want to shut down Wall Street or deport all rich people. He wants to turn America into Denmark, not Democratic Kampuchea. By contrast, it's not crazy to think that Donald Trump really does want to turn America into Putin's Russia.

Bloomberg says, "We cannot solve the problems we face by blaming anyone." But we also can't solve the problems we face by blaming everyone indiscriminately. Some people are more responsible than others. When we grade on a curve to ensure that we ascribe demagoguery equally to each party, we lose the ability to tell which are the politicians who are genuinely endangering democracy and which are just the passionate defenders of ideas that are a bit outside the bounds of "respectable" politics. Bernie Sanders is in the latter category. Donald Trump is in the former. And Bloomberg is trying to make us unable to see the difference.

Bloomberg passionately defends the superrich, but I know the other issues he cares about: climate change, gun violence, infrastructure spending. Why does Bloomberg think we can't act on these issues? Preposterously, he blames social media:
Today, elected officials who decide to support a controversial policy don’t just get angry letters, phone calls and faxes. They also get millions of angry tweets and Facebook posts denouncing them in the harshest possible terms. This is democracy in action. But this kind of instant condemnation also makes elected officials afraid to do things that, in their heart of hearts, they know are right.
I don't know of very many Democrats who are afraid to act on climate change or infrastructure. Many are emboldened to act on gun violence. And I keep hearing that there are Republicans who understand the seriousness of these problems.

Do those Republicans, assuming they exist, fear angry tweets? No -- they fear primary challenges from candidates further to their right. They fear the wrath of organizations funded by Republican billionaires. Remember how Barney Frank described the Republicans in Congress a few years back: "Half of them are Michele Bachmann. The other half are afraid of losing a primary to Michele Bachmann."

Donald Trump is a businessman who's picked up a lot of terrible ideas from the right-wing media. Mike Bloomberg is a businessman who's picked up a lot of terrible ideas from the centrist media. Trump is a lot more dangerous and a lot more ignorant. But Bloomberg is nearly as much of a know-nothing on this subject as Trump is on every subject.


Wall Street Journal headline:

New York Times headline:

Yup, same speech.

Here's the Journal version:
Republican front-runner Donald Trump, campaigning in California following fresh primary victories, called for party unity during an address at the state’s GOP convention....

“We have to get together as a party because it is a tougher road to the presidency for the Republicans,” Mr. Trump said. “And you really have to pick somebody that knows what is happening, that is really, really good. I accept the position.”
Here's the more believable Times version:
... Mr. Trump spoke little of California or its June 7 primary. Rather, he wrestled with whether he wanted to begin healing the fractured party he was seeking to lead. Mr. Trump, the Republican front-runner in the presidential race, mocked his conservative critics and his current and former rivals as dumb, “disgusting” and losers. He claimed at least twice that he could win even if the party did not come together. And with some conservatives still uneasy about his beliefs, he breezily dismissed questions about his principles.

“Folks, I’m a conservative, but at this point, who cares? We got to straighten out the country,” he said at a subdued luncheon of party activists who seemed more curious about seeing a celebrity than enthusiastic about their potential presidential nominee.

During the same speech, though, he called for party unity to defeat Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic standard-bearer.

Mr. Trump’s remarks offered a vivid illustration of the current state of his campaign: As he edges closer to the nomination, he is under pressure to curb his hard-edged language and exude a more statesmanlike demeanor. But the continuing attacks from other Republicans plainly rankle him, and he appears to have little appetite to make peace with his critics.

“Ideally we’re going to be together,” he said. But then he said: “I think we’re going to win even if we’re not together. There are some people I honestly don’t want their endorsement.”
The Journal story does tell us that Trump "derided attempts by some in the party to deny him the nomination" and "mocked attempts by rivals Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to form an alliance against him." But the conclusion is that he sincerely wants peace.

Well, I guess what they want to believe at the Journal -- cross your fingers and hope this isn't a debacle for our dear, dear Republican Party. Me, I'm sticking with the Times story.