Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Confederacy of Dunces (Updated)

Candidates Clinton and Trump appeared separately on what was billed as a foreign policy forum by NBC News on Wednesday evening.  According to most reviews, neither did all that well, but the most vilified participant was the questioner Matt Lauer.

Matt Lauer’s Pathetic Interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Is the Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in This Campaign was just the headline to Jonathan Chiat's takedown.  Lauer spent inordinate proportion of the allotted time questioning the emails, and tried to rush Clinton through answers to complex foreign policy questions.  He let Trump get away with lying and spouting nonsense.  And wearily I say as usual, global heating didn't even come up.

To this Frank Rich (in Matt Lauer’s Gift to Donald Trump) adds that NBC's optics favored Trump over Clinton.  He also said it was a disaster with political implications.

In the New York Times James Poniewozik wrote that Lauer was "lost at sea."  Another Times piece summarizes the immediate, nearly universal deploring of Lauer's performance.  The WPost's Daily 202 does also.

The NBC event fits into the ongoing narrative of the double standard.  Charles M. Blow in the NYTimes: "This [Trump] is not an honest man. This is not a trustworthy man. The fact that people believe he’s honest is a result of a failed media that aims its sincerest critique at Clinton’s deficiencies with the truth, but applies an entertainment standard to Trump that corrects falsehoods but doesn’t castigate him for them."

As usual the followup stories can't keep up with all the outrageous, stupid and lying assertions that Trump made in his segment.  But they say, he looked good doing it.

In 2012 President Obama was ambushed in the first presidential debate by a Mitt Romney who confidently brandished brand new positions as if he'd always held them, and rattled a succession of assertions and attacks too fast and too many to keep up with.  Media scorekeepers gave him the debate.  Now knowing what to expect, President Obama came back strong and won the second and third debates.

Now Hillary Clinton knows what to expect even before the first debate, which may well be the only debate that many people watch.  There's always a risk in giving Trump equivalence by being on the same stage with him.  And his TV smarts and the confidence of the psychotic salesman are factors she has to deal with.  If the Clinton campaign is smart enough to win this election, they'll have to show it by learning from this dry run.

Otherwise it's all ammunition for the despair that is never far off.  Trump is the Homegrown Hitler, the Siberian Candidate (which he demonstrated again at the forum) and psychologically unfit for any high office, without the attention span to administer a city let alone this always imperiled nation. And in so many ways he is more dangerous than any terrorist. But there he is--the Republican nominee.

Trump is a moron, as is Matt Lauer, as is Gary Johnson --just look at their faces, just look into their eyes. Those are G.W. Bush eyes, and in comparison to them Bush is practically Einstein.  Meanwhile President Obama is dealing with intractable problems I can't even keep up with, and he talks about the trends in the climate crisis as "terrifying." 

This campaign is therefore terrifying, but that's been the case for every campaign I can recall since 1980.  Jonathan Chiat in a later post provides a long analysis of why Hillary Clinton is so easily vilified.  (And sexism is part of it.)  But as he writes, the mechanics of campaign coverage is part of the madness.  So it's not just the Clinton campaign that has to do better---it's certainly the media, especially the debate masters.

In other Homemade Hitler news, GOP vp candidate Pence joins Trump in calling Putin a stronger leader than Obama--which is simply to say that a de facto dictator is "stronger" and therefore better than an American President.  This as well as Trump's blustering foolishness about changing things (like military leadership) a constitutional President can't, is pretty explicit in asserting that he wants to be elected dictator.

In addition to dissing his own President in favor of the Russian dictator, Trump took an unprecedented step farther into the abyss by criticizing American foreign policy and other aspects of the American system on a Russian state-owned tv network controlled by Putin.

Eugene Robinson adds:

"Trump repeated his complaint that the United States should have “taken the oil” in Iraq, noting that “it used to be, to the victor belong the spoils.” Yes, that was true in the time of Genghis Khan. Today, under international law, plunder is a war crime — and not the only one Trump wants our military to commit. He has said in the past that our forces also should practice torture “worse than waterboarding” against suspected terrorists. He would ask our service members to dishonor the uniform and all it represents."

"Face the truth: Trump has to be the most dangerously ignorant major-party presidential candidate in history."

The Trump Corruption in Florida case continues to heat.  The Washington Post editorial board: IF DONALD TRUMP were treated like an ordinary presidential candidate, the speculations swirling around an illegal donation his charitable foundation gave to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) might dog his campaign from now until Election Day. The situation smells of influence-buying. Even if one takes Ms. Bondi’s explanations seriously, the facts already on the record are damning."

In Florida, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board has called for a federal investigation.

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