Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lonely in Cleveland (with the Manchurian Candidate?) Updated

What if you gave a national party political convention, and nobody came?  We may find out Monday.

What this Republican convention will lack is...Republicans, apparently.  Other than delegates, a lot of GOP officeholders and political operatives are finding that they have to wash their hair that week.  Politico quotes one GOP politico: “I would rather attend the public hanging of a good friend.”

Corporations aren't giving as many open bar parties because, well, they aren't going either.  Neither are all the living GOP former Presidents (both Bushes) and GOP presidential nominees (except maybe Bob Dole?)  Nor the Republican governor of the state that is hosting the convention (awkward!) and that the nominee will need to win to win the election.

Among the missing will be so-called rising stars among the Republicans, including Senator Ben Sasse, who instead of speaking or even attending, will be "taking his kids to watch some dumpster fires," according to an aide.  For those who will speak, Republican strategist Wilson expects it will be like "a hostage video."“On Earth 2,” Wilson said, “you’d be showing the Republican Party isn’t this stupid white boys’ club. But Donald Trump has rejected everybody who’s not in the stupid white boys’ club. At this point, we might as well have a giant cross burning out front.”

This is Trump's triumph, his biggest reality show--and nobody has a clue as to what will actually happen there.  Although the potential for conflict outside the convention center--in an "open carry" state--has everybody worried.  Or as the AP advised: Demonstrators at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week can’t have lasers, squirt guns or sledgehammers. But because Ohio is an open-carry gun state, those who are legally allowed to carry firearms can do so without a permit.  My only question is, why doesn't the Second Amendment cover squirt guns?  They're guns, right?  Is it because you can't kill people with them?

Meanwhile, Trump is doing his Apprentice: Vice President Edition on the road this week, with the few willing candidates.  Until now, as Jonathan Chiat put it, "this is a version of the Trump show in which a series of guests appear across the table from Trump to tell him they quit."

So Trump's finalists aren't exactly A list. Washington Post editorial put it: The fact that Mr. Trump’s vice presidential shortlist contains two unpopular governors and a disgraced ex-speaker of the House shows that his judgment is as poor as it seems to be or, more likely, that only desperate, unprincipled panderers would consider joining his ticket."

Trump didn't profit in the polls from his tough terrorism talk after Orlando (poll respondents overwhelming favored Clinton's calm approach), and it appears he didn't profit from the FBI report on Hillary's damn e-mails.  Jennifer Rubin notes one poll on the issue of trust in which he's still trusted less, and the latest Reuters poll has Clinton increasing her lead to 13 points.

The June Pew poll, which successfully forecast the winner and pretty much the winning margin in 2008 and 2012, has Clinton winning by 9 points.  It also shows that overall people feel good about the economy.  Other surveys show the incumbent President is popular.  These are two traditional indicators that favor Hillary.  The Pew poll also suggests that voters take this election seriously, and that the Democrats have made huge inroads with more educated voters.  Put those two together and it looks like the spectre of Trump is scaring folks straight.

While the Trump campaign claimed a good money-raising month in June, Hillary had a better one.  And talk persists of lack of national organization, and ground game staff in battleground states.  So Jennifer Rubin--the Washington Post's designated conservative view--seems bullish on a delegate revolt in Cleveland, but she seems pretty much alone in that.

Trump's inability to demagogue recent events (including accusing Clinton of bribing the Attorney-General, and the AG of accepting a bribe) is one good sign of health in the process.  Another is that the media is refusing to take his bullshit.  Politfact examined 158 assertions by Trump and found that 78% were false or mostly false. Some 60% were judged totally false. The Guardian began what might be a regular feature: the lies that Trump told this week.

I don't think a fact-checker was needed for the audience in Monessen, PA (though they got one) when Trump blamed the decline of the steel industry on Bill Clinton. It's within local family memory in western PA that  big steel had collapsed by the early 80s, when Reagan was President (and contra the NPR summary, it really began to collapse in the late 70s.) I certainly remember it.

Stories that found that Trump overstated (at best) his charitable giving--and that he used money meant for such giving to buy a Tim Tebo helmet--just scratch the surface.  An investigative reporter details in Politico the evidence that Trump had ties to the Mob even from his early Trump Tower days, and his construction business attempts in Russia--as well as Russian investment in some of his U.S. projects-- may have something to do with his cozying up to Putin, which helps Putin's political agenda of weakening the West.  And once again a break-in--of Dem oppo research on Trump on their computers--may be involved.

 This last story (in Slate) needs some serious follow-up.  Are we seeing a reality show version of the Manchurian Candidate?

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