Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Unfit--and Unbalanced

This Trump mess is looking like something unprecedented in national politics at least in my lifetime, so I feel compelled to chronicle it as it happens.

The dominoes continue to fall.  Today President Obama made the strongest possible statement as a sitting President of the United States.  He said in a news conference that Trump is "unfit to serve as President" and "woefully unprepared." He suggested Republicans should withdraw their support.

Obama cited the Khan affair but also Trump's demonstrated ignorance of the world.  The NY Times: “This isn’t a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily,” Mr. Obama added. “There has to be a point at which you say, this is not somebody I can support for president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party. The fact that that has not yet happened makes some of these denunciations ring hollow.”

Also in the press conference, referring to Republican leaders,  President Obama asked:"What does this say about your party that this is your standard bearer?"  He noted this was not the ordinary policy or political difference but a question of basic fitness for the most powerful job in the world.  Alot of people depend on the White House, he noted, "to get stuff right."

This story is exploding across the media as I write this.  The C-Span clip above is of the relevant portion of the President's press conference.

And this domino: using almost identical language, US House Republican Richard Hanna of New York declared that Trump is unfit to serve as President, and will support Hillary Clinton.  Citing the Khan affair he said:“I was stunned by the callousness of his comments,” Mr. Hanna said. “I think Trump is a national embarrassment. Is he really the guy you want to have the nuclear codes?”

Hanna is the first  Republican member of Congress to withdraw support from Trump over the Khan affair.  He's been a maverick before, and is not running for reelection.

In campaign news, the NBC poll confirms Clinton's convention bump, after its poll found Trump got none. This includes gains in every region, including a flip from Trump to Clinton in the Midwest. The CNN poll showed voters preferred the DNC and that Dems are increasingly united, despite the Bernie or Bust folks.  More GOPers by far believe their party is not and will not be united by election time.

 NYTimes The Upshot summarizes:All seven national surveys conducted since the Democratic convention show her ahead, by an average of nearly seven percentage points. It’s a seven-point boost over where those same surveys showed the race after the Republican convention — enough to erase Donald Trump’s bounce and more. She is about three points ahead of where she was before the two conventions.  This piece gives various reasons for why this post-convention bump has a good chance of lasting.  If her lead does hold, it warns: No modern presidential candidate who trailed in the polls a few weeks after the conventions has gone on to win the popular vote.  (On the other hand I imagine that includes Al Gore.)

  Yesterday Trump was bragging that his campaign received $35 million in donations last month.  Today the Clinton campaign reported taking in $90 million.

And apropos of my Monday post, NBC has a story headlined: Trump's Mental State is Becoming a Campaign Talking Point with this quote:

On MSNBC Tuesday, Joe Scarborough said he's heard similar questions from party insiders. "I fielded calls all day yesterday, from conservatives, from Republicans, from officials, people that the media would call right-wing bloggers ... and everybody was asking about his mental health," the "Morning Joe" host said. "It was all everybody was talking about yesterday ... everybody was calling me saying, 'What's happening to him?', 'What is wrong with him?'"

Much of the rest of this piece is historical, showing that questioning a candidate's mental state has happened before, and suggesting that the psychiatric jury is still out on Trump.

But here's the thing: Presidential candidates have been called ignorant (though none as ignorant as Trump) and some have been called crazy.  But not in my recollection has anyone so widely and openly been called both.

afternoon update: Using Paul Ryan's language against him, Trump said he was "not there yet" on endorsing Ryan in his primary.  Trump also refused to endorse John McCain.  I'm not sure anybody's picked up on the irony of his words, which is what Ryan said before endorsing Trump.  But Trump couldn't help lying as well, saying Ryan had asked for his endorsement which Ryan's campaign denied.

Later: RNC Chairman 'apopleptic' over Trump's failure to endorse Ryan, sez NBC.

Chris Cillizza in the WPost confirms my earlier observation that President Obama's words about Trump at this morning's press conference were a big deal:

  This wasn't Obama speaking at the Democratic National Convention last week in Philadelphia or out on the campaign trail in support of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid. This was at the White House. And not just that. It was during a press event standing alongside a foreign leader. This was Obama as statesman and diplomat, the face of the United States to the world. That Obama would be willing to say what he said on such a stage is telling — and decidedly unusual."

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin also called for Republican leaders like Paul Ryan to repudiate Trump, especially in light of the Khan affair: But now that the public seems to grasp the depths of Trump’s depravity, Ryan and others can no longer treat his character as irrelevant. If they cannot lead the voters, perhaps they can at least follow them in pulling their support for Trump, citing his manifest cruelty and unfitness for office. That would not give House Republicans the moral high ground, but it would provide an escape hatch.

Another issue that is sticking to Trump is sexual harrassment, resulting from his defense of Rodger Ailes and suggestion that if his daughter Ivanka were harrassed, she should find another job.  Now his only real surrogates--his sons--have also failed to address the issue coherently. His most recent answer didn't do much to put the issue to rest.  USA Today reports that sexual harrassment claims have been a problem at Trump-owned businesses.

And to top off the evening, another Republican political professional--a top campaign aide to, of all people, Chris Christie-- has announced she will vote for Hillary.

 Politico: Maria Comella, who served as Christie's chief messaging officer, blasted the Republican presidential candidate as a "demagogue" who has been "preying on people's anxieties with loose information and salacious rhetoric, drumming up fear and hatred of the 'other.'""I'm voting for Hillary Clinton in November, and I'm voting for her because I don't believe it's enough to say you aren't for Donald Trump.

Behind all the politics is the national perceptual and experiential divide, nicely analyzed in US News.

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