Saturday, October 15, 2016

What Makes "Going High" Credible

When Donald Trump was caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault, the game changed.  Not because of that alone (or the statements of an ever-increasing number of women that he had indeed acted on that bragging many times over a quarter century) but because of its place in a pattern of shameless deceit and xenophobic and authoritarian macho.

Certainly Trump merits rejection because he is completely unfit for the job of President in every way.  But to that is added a moral revulsion that requires a moral statement.

Hillary Clinton can make impressive arguments in her favor on fitness and qualification, and on public commitments and personal behavior.  She is compromised to some degree by how people view her past, how she handled putative ethical questions and especially on the weight of relentlessly repeated false charges that too much of the electorate believes, or half-believes.

But she has on her side two unassailable advocates: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.  As individuals and as a couple, they have for eight years been international models of behavior, deportment and attitude.  They have embodied the ethics and ideals they advocate.

There has been not a single scandal involving either of them, or even of anyone prominent in the Obama administration.  It took crazed distortions by political enemies to manufacture the most absurd and groundless charges, like Trump's birth certificate circus.

Instead, for eight years they have been a model couple--loving, humorous, real--and a model family, not only for how they raised two remarkable daughters, but for including and embracing a grandmother in the White House.

They are two of the most admired people in America, and the two most admired Americans in the world.

The contrast with Donald Trump could not be greater.  I defy anyone to watch President Obama participating in a panel discussing cutting edge science with implications for government policy, and credibly substitute Trump in his place. Yet he demonstrates better than even I have realized what the 21st century demands in a US President.

But when the game changed to include an obvious moral crisis, the Obamas had the ability--and the credibility--to address it directly.  When the discourse was going low, they could credibly go high.

Michelle Obama did so in her widely praised speech.  As Maria L La Ganga  reported in the Guardian: "Obama’s oratory was a Clinton campaign highlight Thursday, a much-shared, widely tweeted and overwhelmingly celebrated defense of girls’ and women’s rights not to be demeaned or assaulted by anyone, not a construction worker on the street or the man who would be president."

"Obama's speech will go down as one of the most important of this political cycle, a moment in which she crystallized the feelings of many women in the wake of the Trump tape," wrote Chris Cillizza in the WPost, and he was far from the only one making that evaluation. "She was... speaking to a shared humanity that we could all use more of no matter our political inclinations."

"Michelle Obama may have done the seemingly impossible. She may just have rescued the US elections from the grotesque and demeaning mire into which they have descended," wrote Anne Perkins in the UK Guardian. " With the touch of a poet,[she] held out the possibility of something better. She lent her extraordinary ability to say what people are feeling to every English-speaking woman in the world."

"When she speaks, Michelle Obama doesn’t stop being the wife of the president, but she transcends it. She becomes the personification of the best of her country."

Similarly, when President Obama spoke in Ohio Friday and moved from specific issues and Trump bluster of the day to the essentials that are at stake, his eloquence flew but his character and credibility made them weighty words:

"Donald Trump’s closing argument is 'What do you have to lose?' The answer is: Everything. All the progress we’ve made right now is on the ballot. Civility is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Courtesy is on the ballot. Honesty is on the ballot. Equality is on the ballot. Kindness is on the ballot. All the progress we made that last eight years is on the ballot. Democracy itself is on the ballot right now. 

So if you want to send a message, make it loud. Turn back the voices of cynicism. Turn back the voices of ignorance. Send a message of progress. Send a message of hope. Send a message by voting for Hillary Clinton, and show our kids and the rest of the world we remain the greatest country in the world."

The Donald Chronicles: Saying the L Word

As Trump spirals down into an angry puddle of ugly incoherence, the Clinton campaign seems very aware of the need to keep people from committing suicide before election day, or at least before voting.

But as Trump's hysterical assertions get more comprehensive and extreme--screeching that everything is fixed and therefore the election is a fraud--the necessity as well as the possibility of an overwhelming Clinton victory is entering discussion.  If it is a massive victory, people less crazy than Trump may conclude that it was fixed only in the Borowitz sense, by Hillary getting more votes.  Way more votes.

And so people are starting to say the L word.  There's a reason that "landslide" is kind of taboo--it sets expectations too high, and some would say that given today's nearly 50-50 split of the electorate ("polarization"), impossibly high.

Yet some are suggesting it is possible.  On the other hand, Clinton's poll advantages don't seem that massive, especially in state polls, so it seems dicey to be predicting it yet.  (Although of course, it takes only narrow victories but in a lot of states to produce an electoral vote landslide.)

But what about making it possible?  Maybe making a landslide is a realizable--and desirable--goal.

Not only because it would probably sweep Democrats into power in Congress and provide her a mandate.  But for its own sake, and our own national sanity.

I've seen only one media outlet--the Guardian--that characterized Clinton's call for "the victory we need" as a call for a landslide.  But maybe it's implied, as it was certainly suggested in Michelle Obama's much noted and praised speech that called for an overwhelming repudiation of Trump in a massive Clinton victory.

Some would consider it bad luck to bring up the L word, but it might just as well be the focus and motivation that the Clinton campaign can carry into November.  There's the bandwagon effect, an infectious sense of being on the winning team that can be powerful.  Even if it leads to election night pundit debates on whether or not it applies, the call for a landslide victory can become at least in part a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Sunny Sanity Break

No kidding, we could all use some cheering up.  So I'm starting a new miniseries here of various versions of "The Sunny Side of the Street" that I like.

Since its debut during the Depression, it's been recorded by many artists in many different styles.  I kept checking them out because frankly there isn't to my ear a definitive one.  But the search turned up some gems, and the song is always fun.

I'm not into cat videos, so from now until the election I'm going to post my favorite versions every once in awhile.   I'll start with what comes closest to the classic definitive version--by Louis Armstrong.  It swings, oh yeah.

What's for Brexit This Morning?

Meanwhile, the chickens are coming home to roost in the UK.

PM Theresa May's regime settled any doubts about its claimed non-ideological "technical" handling of Brexit by interpreting it as mainly a vote to limit immigration.  They did this by demanding that the UK's employers publish the proportion of their foreign workers, to aid in their goal of drastically reducing them.  It met with a storm of dismay.

This and other evidence that May would push a major separation (or "hard Brexit") from the European market, led to a "flash crash" of Brit currency, which hasn't yet recovered.  As feared, some US banks confirm they'll be moving out of the UK and into Europe once Brexit takes place.  London had been a capital of capital for the EU, but that's history.

The republic of Ireland maintains its membership in the EU, and not coincidentally, applications within the UK for Irish passports and citizenship have skyrocketed.

May's handling of Brexit was criticized by members of her own party, who called it "tyranny."  To gauge the seriousness of all this, here's the opening graph of a Guardian article:

Amid death threats and intensifying political disagreement, three of the most senior judges in England and Wales will hear claims that the government cannot trigger Brexit without parliamentary approval.

But the European Union is itself taking a hard line: "The only alternative to a hard Brexit is no Brexit."

Meanwhile, the process has officially begun that may lead to another referendum in Scotland to leave the UK.  Smart money would be on: as fast as possible.

On the bright side, observing all this UK chaos, remaining member states are feeling that the European Union is a pretty good deal after all.

The Donald Chronicles: From Here to Apocalypse

I'm struggling for a way to say this without minimizing all the revelations that have come before.  But this one has a personal resonance.

The Daily Beast quotes multiple sources from The Apprentice/Celebrity Apprentice set that Trump repeatedly mocked deaf actor Marlee Matlin and called her "retarded" during the weeks she was a guest on the show.  Some of his insulting behavior was while she was present.

Marlee Matlin won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the film Children of a Lesser God.  She is the only deaf performer to win a best acting Oscar.  She won an Emmy for best guest actress in a comedy, and another for best guest actress in a drama.  She had a recurring role as a crack political consultant in The West Wing.

Matlin was no stranger to abuse, including sexual abuse.  People magazine also published the charges by actor Richard Hatch, another Apprentice guest, that Trump made frequent sexual comments to her, among others.  Matlin herself has made no accusations, at least not yet.  But at the moment I'm writing this, only The Daily Beast and Taegan Goddard's Political Wire have posted anything on this.

There were three significant speeches on Thursday, if you count Trump's rant on the international conspiracy against, well, him.  The first was the Michelle Obama speech which I include and quote from in this post below.  The second was President Barack Obama in Ohio.  While the First Lady went directly after Trump for his vileness towards women, the President made a significant move: he went after Republicans, and had the Ohio Dem senatorial candidate Ted Strickland at his side.

It must have been a cathartic speech.  From the WPost account:

"But so the problem is not that all Republicans think the way this guy does. The problem is, is that they’ve been riding this tiger for a long time,” Obama said, referring to those who questioned whether he was born in the United States, those who called him “the antichrist” and subscribers to other conspiracy theories. “They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience.”

"Riding the tiger" refers to the folk saying that President Kennedy capsulized in his Inaugural: Those who try to ride the back of the tiger may wind up inside.  And in this case winding up inside means riding Trump to ruin:

“People like Ted’s opponent, they just stood by while this happened,” Obama said, referring to Portman. "And Donald Trump, as he’s prone to do, he didn’t build the building himself, but he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it."

“And if your only organizing principle has been to block progress and block what we've tried to do to help the American people every step of the way, so you're not even consistent anymore -- you claim the mantle of the party of family values, and this is the guy you nominate? “You're the party that is tough on foreign policy and opposes Russia--and then you nominate this guy, whose role model is Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB?"

Late Thursday a NYTimes story reports that some big GOP donors are calling on the RNC to cut ties with Trump. This follows an NBC report that some fairly major Trump bundlers and donors are asking for their money back.

And speaking of the Times, they've replied to Trump's lawyer threatening a suit for libel because of the Times report yesterday concerning two women who charged Trump with acts that qualify as sexual assault.  The first part of the letter was briskly legalistic, noting that Trump has no more reputation to impugn, due to a lot that's already out there.

But the letter ends by defending its right to publish the story.  "If Mr. Trump...believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight."

Finally for now--remember when Hillary Clinton jokingly asked an audience why she wasn't ahead by 50 points?  She may have been thinking about this poll, which I've just seen referenced (in a column that is otherwise a personal response to the Trump tape.)  It seems there was a national poll that showed 80% for Clinton and just 20% for Trump.  So that's actually 60 points.  The nation however was Canada.  Trump didn't carry a single province, and got 27% of the men's, 13% of the women's votes.

It seems the Canadians are more broadly aware of what Hillary Clinton told the writer of a very good profile in the NYTimes Magazine: "I'm the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse."

Thursday, October 13, 2016

One From the Heart

It is the speech of this insane moment.  It clarifies it all.

"This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn't matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.

And I know it's a campaign, but this isn't about politics. It's about basic human decency. It's about right and wrong. And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer — not for another minute, and let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. This has got to stop right now."

"In our hearts, we all know that if we let Hillary's opponent win this election, then we are sending a clear message to our kids that everything they're seeing and hearing is perfectly okay. We are validating it. We are endorsing it. We're telling our sons that it's okay to humiliate women. We're telling our daughters that this is how they deserve to be treated. We're telling all our kids that bigotry and bullying are perfectly acceptable in the leader of their country. Is that what we want for our children? And remember, we won't just be setting a bad example for our kids, but for our entire world." 

"So we cannot afford to be tired or turned off. And we cannot afford to stay home on Election Day. Because on November the 8th, we have the power to show our children that America's greatness comes from recognizing the innate dignity and worth of all our people."

NPR has the transcript.  Michelle Obama in New Hampshire earlier today--the speech that is already echoing across the Internet and the media.  When historians look at what happened to Trump, this will be a defining moment.  She spoke most directly about the effect of Trump's bragging and behavior on women and girls, but also on men and boys.  She called for a political repudiation that includes but goes beyond politics.

In this regard, an article on the revolt of Evangelical women against Trump and their own male leaders.

And in case you need a scorecard, NPR provides a list of accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior against Trump.

The Times They Are A Changin

Bob Dylan has won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature.

When I saw this I immediately recalled a moment in my senior year of college--1967/8--when I railed to a lit professor that the literature of our times was being written by Dylan, the Beatles etc. in the form of a few minutes of song.

It wasn't an original idea.  I recall reading an interview with Donovan who referred to "Eleanor Rigby" as a three minute novel.

But today's news didn't arrive as a vindication.  I'm actually disappointed.  Bob Dylan doesn't need any more awards.  He's a pop star, and has been recognized for his contribution to American culture many times, including at the White House.

But there are a lot of writers who aren't pop stars who have only a few shots at recognition.  Yes, they can get medals from their nation for cultural contributions.  But this is the big international prize.

I think of Ursula LeGuin who is 87.  She is only one of several I can think of who deserve this prize.

Giving Dylan this prize does nothing but muddy the waters.  Does this make Sting and Bruce Springsteen eligible?  I guess so.  But why?  They don't need it.

The world doesn't need it.  Giving this prize to, say, Kim Stanley Robinson on the other hand could actually change the world.  It would recognize a form of literature and give him a platform for expressing ideas and focusing a dialogue the world needs to survive.

Hey, even a National Book Award or a Pulitzer would go a long way.  But writers in the sci-fi ghetto don't get those awards.  They have a better shot at the Nobel.

So it's another occasion to celebrate Dylan's work (though I note that his borrowings remain controversial) and that's fine.  But we know about Dylan's work.  We've been swimming in it for more than fifty years.  This prize is for literature, and the work of literature gets no greater recognition.  Think of all that Margaret Atwood (for one) has written and done, and the example she sets for a literary culture.

Or is that over now?  That's not good.  It's possible to argue that songs of the kind that Dylan wrote aren't being written anymore because popular music has changed.  But that's a different argument.  The fact is that the popular music forms are not threatened.  They still bring in big bucks.  Literary culture around the world is endangered.  And this prize does nothing to support it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Donald Chronicles Extra: Fast and Furious

At this moment the news aggregators can't keep up.  It started out with the accounts of two women in the New York Times, then it became three, then four, and just now, five--today.

 Rather than dwell on the various stories, I want to highlight a particular fact: that they are not anecdotes but reported news stories by established print publications with paid journalists.  Namely the New York Times, The Palm Beach Post, Rolling Stone and People Magazine.  As the Washington Post notes, they didn't just print accusations--they did stories:

But in each of the first three instances, the newspapers spoke to people close to the women -- a universe that includes friends, family members, significant others and colleagues -- who verified that they told them their stories about what they say happened months or years ago. In the fourth, the reporter wrote a detailed first person account of what she says happened on People's website.

The now infamous video and the accompanying story came from the Washington Post.  This fact about the stories does not automatically make them true, but they have credibility and backup.

Several of these stories note that the behavior these women describe contradicts Trump's denials in the debate on Sunday.  So Politico frames it in their story about the stories: Donald Trump is facing a blizzard of fresh allegations of sexual impropriety, days after denying during Sunday's presidential debate that he had ever groped women.

There are undoubtedly going to be alt.right/Trump charges about all of them popping up on the same day but it appears they've all been in the works for several days.  As Politico says: The new accusations are striking in that they seem to have come expressly in reaction to Trump's denial during Sunday's debate.

Trump denies any of them happened, and has threatened to sue the NY Times for their story, both personally and through his lawyer.  Yet all the stories independently present a Trump modus operandi that is chillingly the same.

Most roundups don't include the Rolling Stone story of a specific instance but Josh Marshall does.

These are in addition to the CBS News clip of Trump making a weird comment about a young girl, and a story by a CBS affiliate in LA about Trump walking in on beauty contest contestants while they were naked and a similar story about a teen contest by Buzzfeed.  Newsweek and other outlets noted that Trump bragged about doing this on the Howard Stern radio show.  Rolling Stone details Trump's creepy abuses during his decades owning beauty pageants.

All of them Wednesday (at least on the West Coast.)

The Donald Chronicles: Moving into the House

Before today's scandals broke (this and these with the WPost providing some context in what may be an evolving story), the chatter was about whether and when each party--especially the Dems--turns its main attention to downballot races, and what will happen in the wake of Trump's defeat.

The political party question is raised as polls continue to show Clinton gaining, even in some unlikely places.  Today's polls of 9 states show Clinton ahead in all but one (Missouri.)  She is effectively tied in Utah (where a major newspaper endorsed her today), thanks in part to the unusual "fifth party" strength of what used to be called a favorite son candidate, McMullin, who presumably is soaking up votes of Mormon Republicans who were too scandalized by Trump's sexual predator bragging to vote for him.  Utah is probably lost to Trump.

In any case, Clinton is ahead in all the swing states, seems to be turning Arizona, and her campaign has its eye on Georgia as well as Arizona.  And even Mike Pence's state of Indiana is no longer safe for his boss, or him.  She has momentum in Ohio, which starts early voting today, and Florida, where the federal judge today extended voter registration by a week.

So, several pundits suggested today, why not go after the House?  There's at least one report than Dems are now confident of getting the Senate back, but the House is a much tougher proposition (though Nancy Pelosi said that if the election were today, the Dems would do it.)  So why not go after it?  It could make a great deal of difference for an effective couple of years at least.

Though this process has already begun in a small way, that decision to reallocate resources could come early next week, when the round of polls taken after Sunday's debate come in.  Early indications are that Trump rebounded somewhat, as Republicans returned to his fold.  However, a flood of new allegations of sexual impropriety has started--though so far not with a lot of video evidence.  And a post-debate poll in Michigan shows Clinton up 12 points, and generic Democratic downballot candidates up 7.

Then there's Trump.  Politico's latest interview with Trump biographers yields the quote that he's "a very dangerous man" for the rest of the campaign.

So far he seems dangerous mostly to himself. Trump's railing against Republican leadership may fire up his most fervent at the rallies but he's doing damage to his own chances as well as the party's.  Even mentioning by name his only meaningful party ally--the chair of the RNC-- as insufficiently supporting him, is self-destructive.  Trump is depending almost entirely on the RNC for his ground game, particularly the get out the vote effort.  He's not providing much motivation by antics like this, even if he meant it half in jest (Who knows? Probably not even him.)

But what has many people worried is his insistence on everything being "rigged" against him (a cabal of media and Clinton, the debate commission, his own party, etc.), especially the election itself.  That, coupled with the anger he engenders and the ugliness he releases in his supporters.

That ugliness has been mentioned before, and is being felt in many places apart from the campaign, leading (for instance) to therapists worried about the effects on mental health.  As Trump goes full bore vicious, the anger and violence among his followers seems also to have escalated.  When Josh Marshall warned that things could get dangerously ugly on November 9, he started hearing from readers with harrowing stories about how it's getting pretty ugly right now.

One of them (a 75 year old man harassed by a screaming Trumper in central CA) compared Trump to Mussolini, and that comparison came up in several other quotes today, two of them from unlikely Republicans: by John Yoo, Pentagon lawyer for Bush and author of the notorious torture is okay memo,  and Joe McCarthy clone Ted Cruz.

The other Trump news Wednesday was of GOPers getting back in line supporting him, including some who previously called for him to drop out.  It will be interesting to see how some of Trump's endorsers come out of this, like the weasel brigade of Ryan and McConnell, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and the RNC enabler Reince Priebus, who is currently getting disrespected by everybody. Meanwhile Trump on the stump is more unhinged than ever.  Election day can't come too soon, for anybody.

The Donald Chronicles Extra: Missing Links

I knew John Podesta when he was in college.  I knew Sidney Blumenthal when we were both freelance writers for Boston After Dark/The Boston Phoenix.  When I had dinner at John's house in early 2004 I remarked on this from my point of view: two people from parts of my life that did not otherwise overlap had been involved in the Clinton administration.  And I was an unlikely link between them.

Now the two names are being linked again, this time thanks to the Russian government.  (Good thing I didn't have an email address for John after he left the Center for American Progress, or I might be part of their stolen cache.  The letter I sent him late in his tenure at the Obama White House was returned to me, torn and clumsily opened and taped shut, with a terse message stamped on the envelope  indicating that he didn't work there anymore. Not real classy.)

This time another of the deceptively spun stories arising from the Russian dump quotes something Blumenthal (often referred to as a Hillary advisor or confidant) allegedly wrote in an email to Podesta that purports to show that Democrats really knew there was something to all the Republican hoo-haw about Benghazi. It was such dynamite that Donald Trump himself used it as campaign ammunition.

Only two immediate problems with it: 1. The quote lifted out words that distort the point--in other words, that's not what was being said, and 2. it wasn't written by Sidney Blumenthal.

It was lifted from a long piece in Newsweek by one of the magazine's writers, Kurt Eichenwald.  Blumenthal sent along the entire article as an attachment.  The point of the article was that congressional Republicans were engaged in a government-financed political operation, not a substantive investigation.

Eichenwald explains all this in a new article in Newsweek, but he explains quite a bit more.  He says the likely source of the story that this was an isolated quote by Blumenthal was a Russian publication known as part of the government's disinformation network.

As such it is further proof that the Russians are actively injecting themselves into the American election, trying to help Trump get elected.  Further the timing of it might suggest that the Trump campaign was fed the story before others got it.

But perhaps most importantly, it shows either active collusion between Trump and the Russians, or immense stupidity by Trump, or, of course, both.

Apparently as part of his security briefings, Trump has been told of the evidence that the Russians are behind these hacks, though he claims publicly that no one knows, and maybe they aren't hacks at all.

Trump has also been told (Eichenwald writes) of the Russian disinformation program and how it works.  Yet he presented lies created by the Russians as a truthful revelation.

So far none of the "scandals" supposedly revealed by these alleged emails has panned out.  The contact between Clinton's people and the Justice department turned out to be routine and unimportant, and the information was public.  Donna Brazille didn't give Clinton a debate question in advance, the email wasn't even about debate questions.

But this particular item is a bit more than a mischaracterization (sloppy or intentional)---it's a lie all the way through, and it forms a straight line (though perhaps with two-way traffic) between Russian disinformation and the Trump campaign, including Trump himself.

So now the smoking gun's on the other foot, so to speak.  And John and Sid have something else in common.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: It's Not All About Him

The Donald kept supplying headlines on Tuesday, dissing Paul Ryan via Twitter and an interview with Faux, "declaring war" on his own party, continuing to go off on various Clintons (although that this included funkster George Clinton is probably not literally true) with the idea (if there is one) according to the WSJournal, of motivating his voters while suppressing Hillary's.

The second part doesn't seem to be working, though.  And there is a sense that the campaign is turning from Total Trump to paying attention to the person most likely to be the next President of the United States.

Already on Monday Clinton was speaking to large enthusiastic crowds, including the largest of her campaign, in Ohio.

But as always her campaign is strategic.  On Tuesday she spoke in Florida, along with Al Gore, who has a lot of cred with Millennials on climate change.  He and Clinton both spoke on that issue--yes, an actual campaign event about the climate crisis!--but Gore also spoke authoritatively about how every vote counts, especially those votes for the person you really loathe by voting for third party candidates, especially in Florida.

Clinton also handled pro-Trump protesters effectively.  They shouted about Bill Clinton's alleged past, she reminded them of Florida's climate crisis future:
“Because this is what I want you to hear and understand,” she said. “At the rate we are going, one in eight homes in Florida could be under water by the end of the century.”

Somebody else with Millennial cred, the only person in political life more popular than Barack Obama at the moment, Michelle Obama, who took her swing state tour toNorth Carolina. Once again she gave a devastating critique of Trump's inadequacies for President without ever mentioning his name.

The second most popular, President Barack Obama, was also in North Carolina, and he expanded the argument beyond Clinton to defeating other Republicans, pointing out their venal hypocrisy: “You can’t have it both ways here,” he continued. “You can’t repeatedly denounce what is said by someone and then say, ‘But I’m still gonna endorse them to be the most powerful person on the planet and to put them in charge.’” NBC News suggested President Obama could be the key to a Clinton victory in NC.

All these appearances have as their prime strategy getting Dems to register (in Florida) and to vote (in NC, where early voting has started.)

Also in Florida, a federal judge has granted a one-day extension of voter registration due to hurricane Matthew, with the possibility of extending it longer.  He countered R gov Scott's objections as "poppycock."

Another national poll--NBC-- sees Clinton as up by 9 points in the four-race, by 10 v. Trump.  This one was taken entirely after the second debate.

Clinton's lead comes as early voting is underway, and her advantage in on the ground prep seems to be paying off.  According to the NYTimes: These results will have more effect than ever this year, as record numbers of people are expected to cast their votes early. So many Americans will have voted by Election Day — more than 40 percent in swing states, according to the Clinton campaign — that the winner could be all but settled before November."

But the Clinton campaign has expanded its reach with ads geared towards Independents and especially Republicans who've had enough of the Donald.
Another piece in the NYTimes begins:

Donald J. Trump's intensifying battle with his own party is tearing open the nation’s political map, pulling Republicans across the country into a self-destructive feud that could imperil dozens of lawmakers in Congress and potentially throw conservative-leaning states into Hillary Clinton’s column.

Democrats are moving swiftly to exploit Mr. Trump’s crumbling position in the presidential race, aiming to run up a big margin of victory for Mrs. Clinton and extend their political advantage into the congressional elections next month.

 Right now the Dems have the resources to look at multiple and simultaneous options.  The GOP has to look at how to use lesser resources.  But in the final weeks, it would not be surprising if both parties turn most of their attention to senatorial and congressional races.

On the sideshow that is likely to come center stage at some point, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta suggests that a Trump advisor had advance knowledge of his stolen emails, the theft of which is being investigated by the FBI.  As for what they purport to reveal, “If you are going to write about materials issued by @wikileaks, you should at least state they are product of illegal hack by a foreign govt,” Clinton’s press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted on Tuesday. “Media needs to stop treating Wikileaks like it is same as FOIA. Assange is colluding with Russian government to help Trump.”

In a later statement to reporters:“I’ve been involved in politics for nearly five decades,” Mr. Podesta told reporters aboard the Clinton campaign plane. “This definitely is the first campaign that I’ve been involved with in which I’ve had to tangle with Russian intelligence agencies,” he added, “who seem to be doing everything that they can on behalf of our opponent.”  He also suggested that Trump's foreign policy positions favored Putin.

The White House also affirmed that there will be further response to Russia's theft of emails in order to disrupt the American elections.  This is a serious threat to the integrity of the US process of government.  The NYTimes quotes White House press secretary Josh Earnest:

“There are a range of responses that are available to the president, and he will consider a response that is proportional,” Mr. Earnest said.  Whatever the president opts to do would probably not be announced in advance and may never be acknowledged or disclosed if it is carried out, Mr. Earnest said.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Ryan's Hopelessness

Then came Monday morning.  Paul Ryan issued a see no evil, hear no evil statement of inactive support, or maybe it's active non-support, anyway Trump didn't like it and vented, as usual.  Josh Marshall describes Ryan's statement as going "full weasel."

Saturday it looked as if the RNC conference call today would reallocate money away from Trump, then after last night it looked like they wouldn't, and they didn't, but still there was Ryan's hopelessness.  Politico:

That’s despite Trump’s aggressive debate performance Sunday, which initially seemed to salve some GOP fears. By Monday morning, it was clear that the feeling was only temporary. Now Trump is in a vise after days of directing unrestrained hostility toward Republicans who have abandoned him — including his own campaign manager’s suggestion that some high-profile detractors are sexual assailants. His weekend message became part of a threatening undercurrent and an implied warning that lingered Monday: Stick with us — or else."

But Ryan's hopelessness also made some GOPer civil war enacters mad.  According to the NYTimes:

Effectively conceding defeat for his party in the presidential race, Mr. Ryan said his most urgent task was ensuring that Hillary Clinton did not enter the White House with Democratic control of the House and Senate, two lawmakers said.

The reaction from hard-liners was swift and angry: Over the course of an hour, a stream of conservative lawmakers spoke up to urge their colleagues not to give up on Mr. Trump, and chided Mr. Ryan for surrendering prematurely in the presidential race."

Rucker and Costa at WPost:

The Republican Party tumbled toward anarchy Monday over its presidential nominee, as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) cut Donald Trump loose in an emergency maneuver to preserve the party’s endangered congressional majorities.

Ryan’s announcement that he would no longer defend or campaign with Trump prompted biting condemnations from within his caucus and from Trump himself, who publicly lashed out at the speaker.

Or as the Daily Beast put it:
On October 10, Donald Trump and the Republican Party were officially at war.

This crisis of their own making has no exit.  The new NBC poll taken after the tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault has Clinton up by 11 points in the four-candidate configuration. Yet it also finds that three-quarters of Republicans want their party to stick with Trump and only 9% want their pols to renounce him.

The NBC poll by the way also surveyed a two-way race, and Clinton wins that by 14 points.  Interesting to me is that Trump got 38%--exactly what I surmised would be his base support at this point.

Today's drama--including the RNC's apparent if halfhearted surrender to Trump--sets up precisely the double bind I suggested yesterday. GOPers who stick with Trump lose a crucial percentage of their voters (women especially), but those who remain craven may or may not get the Trump voters to pull the R lever for them, and anyhow they may not be enough.

 So in the opinion of several analysts, including Frank Rich who called it a worst-case scenario, that Trump survived the debate is more damaging to the GOP than if he hadn't.

Or as WPost's Daily 202 put it:

Blood is the metaphor of the morning. There is an incredible amount of talk about “bleeding” in the post-debate conversation. Literally dozens of news stories ponder whether The Donald slowed or stopped the bleeding. The emerging conventional wisdom seems to be that Trump did not cauterize the wound.

More debate stuff: ratings were down substantially from the first debate.  Headline of Greg Sargent's Plum Line:Trump’s real debate goal was to publicly humiliate Clinton. He failed miserably.  Instead she related everything he said about her to what he'd said to humiliate others, and his other offenses.

The WPost got two psychologists to analyze the body language.  Their analysis is so constricted and simplistic, and they couldn't even agree with each other.  These people are such a waste of space.

Finally, some viewers generated some humor from the debate on Twitter.  Trump demanding that Muslims report the terrorist preparations that he's sure they see prompted a hashtag #MuslimsReportStuff.  The most widely quoted was the first:

"I'm a Muslim, and I would like to report a crazy man threatening a woman on a stage in Missouri."

There were a number of other pointedly political ones, like: I saw armed jihadists curse the US gov & swear they'd fight to the death but turned out they were white supremacists.

Others made pointed fun of the whole idea: think my sister drank orange juice straight out of the carton, will continue to investigate

and my favorite:

I once suspected a teacher of using arabic numbers to teach us Algebra.

The Donald Chronicles: Lock Her Up

Once again I missed the debate live.  Ironically enough we had dinner with some theatre friends during what was probably the live theatre event of the year.  What I've read since has not inspired me to actually watch the debate--especially since it was often described as the ugliest in presidential debate history-- so I'm not sure I will.  But the various responses have been interesting.

The overall impression seems to be that Trump played to his base successfully, and that prevents a total free fall, but that Hillary comes out of it still way ahead.  Beyond that, there are various impressions, much more scattered than for the first debate.

The CNN poll showed that 57% thought Clinton won the debate.  That about the same percentage of viewers surveyed who said they supported Clinton.  But only 34% thought Trump won.

 I get the sense that in the end who "won" the debate will matter less than the impressions various categories of voters came away with (some will see Trump's body language as alpha male, others as bullying) and especially what comes next in the news cycle.  My guess is: nothing good for Trump, because there's still more video and audio out there.

If Trump firmed up what remained of his base, absent voters he lost with the tapes, we're talking about maybe 38%.  That may not even win him Texas.

Something else to look for on Monday: Although he congratulated Trump on his debate, Mike Pence has cancelled his appearance at a fundraiser.  During the debate Trump specifically took a different position from what Pence articulated at his debate.  Politico also reports that there are big meetings Monday, as the RNC decides what it will do, and Paul Ryan decides what if anything he will do.

Many of the headlines focused on Trump's extraordinary pledge to, if elected, jail his opponent.  It's hard to understand the spin that gives Trump such credit when he called his opponent the devil.  Sounds vicious and crazy and Hitlerish to me, but perhaps that says more about what he's done to political discourse, or maybe the vested interest the media has in keeping this interesting.

Chris Cillizza at the WPost did his winners and losers: winners were Clinton (if only by letting Trump self-destruct), moderator Martha Radditz (not a surprise to me, I know her as one of the more intelligent and knowledgeable mediaites) with Trump the loser, if only that he appealed only to his base, not large enough to win him the election.  (This was a common evaluation in the first half dozen responses I read.)

T. Goddard:
This debate should be seen as Trump’s official divorce from the Republican party... At this point, it’s hard to see the Republican party offer any help to his campaign. As for the debate, Trump was completely unprepared. His body language was terrible...Considering that backdrop, Clinton did a decent job. She was very smart to stick to audience questions and try to understand their concerns. Rather than needle Trump as she did in the first debate, she mostly tried to ignore him.

Clinton wasn’t perfect. Her answer on her emails was extremely weak. She left many of Trump’s attacks unanswered. But there’s only one candidate seriously running for president at this point. She won the debate hands down. It’s hard to imagine Trump won over even a single voter tonight.

Richard Wolffe at the Guardian:
 "That banging sound you heard were the last nails being hammered into the coffin of the Trump campaign... Wounded animals behave in strange ways, and Donald Trump was nothing if not strange at the second presidential debate...The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers. A Red Bull display of sheer madness all the way to the end..."

Roger Simon at Politico:
Before the second presidential debate began, Donald Trump let it be known that he was going to go “nuclear” on Hillary Clinton. I think he’s going to need bigger nukes next time.And shovels. A lot of shovels. To dig himself out of all the holes he dug himself into.

It’s not that the questions were bad or the issues unimportant. It’s just that Trump kept being Trump. Which is to say ill-informed, unprepared and often preposterous. And this was a very, very important debate to Trump. It’s always important when there is a videotape of a candidate acting like a serial sexual predator...

Jamelle Bouie at Slate:
The most important part of Sunday night’s presidential debate happened within the first 20 minutes. The rest wasn’t uninteresting—at one point, Donald Trump confessed to not paying income taxes, at another broke with his running mate on what to do in Syria—but it wasn’t vital. It wasn’t, and shouldn’t be, the chief takeaway.
The honor goes to the first major moment of the debate. That’s where, after a lengthy exchange, a menacing and almost unhinged Trump threatened to put Clinton in prison should he win the White House in November. Even in a campaign in which Republican crowds chant “lock her up” and Trump surrogates play-act anti-Clinton tribunals, it was extraordinary and disturbing. The behavior of a despot, not of a president...

In all of this, it’s worth noting the complicity of GOP leadership. An hour after Trump promised to jail his opponent if elected president, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus praised his nominee’s performance."

E.J. Dionne:
Friday’s video almost certainly ended any chance Trump has of becoming president. Clinton understood this and acted accordingly, believing that Trump would do her work for her. He largely did. Trump’s desire to fight back ferociously kept him in the race but left him badly wounded and made some of the wounds deeper. He was thus more dangerous to his party after the debate than he was before it began."

Jonathan Capehart:
From what I can see on the Twitters and from my GOP sources, Trump appears to have held off the revolt that seemed sure to come on Monday. But the damage is done. What Trump has done in the 13 days since the first debate, especially since the release of his lecherous and offensive “Tic Tac” banter from 2005 that suggested a penchant for sexual assault, should be all the proof anyone needs that he should not be president of the United States. He has destroyed the GOP. God forbid he be given the chance to destroy the USA."

But perhaps the most meaningful response in terms of outcome:

A New York Times piece deals with the response of women viewers: "In nearly two dozen interviews conducted in person and by telephone during the debate, women expressed deep reservations about Mr. Trump’s demeanor, interruptions and, above all, the dismissive manner with which he brushed aside the recording in which he casually bragged about assaulting women."

And guess what kids?  There' still one more debate!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Hypocrisy

It's an often quoted moment from the classic World War II film Casablanca, when Captain Renault closes Rick's nightclub because "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling is going on here," just before he pockets his roulette winnings.

It's quoted to quickly define a certain kind of hypocrisy that's apropos for certain Republicans at the moment.  Renault, a French official who cooperates with Nazi occupiers, excused gambling partly because he profited by it (they let him win) but now he needs an excuse to shut down the nightclub because a Nazi general demands it.

And after months of outrageous statements and behavior by Trump, Republicans are shocked, shocked by the crude admissions he made, caught on video and audio tape.

That's the tenor of this NYTimes piece, comments by Josh Marshall and other pieces appearing in reaction to the avalanche of responses especially from GOPers, that has headline writers competing for the most extreme descriptions of the R party's plight.  They were willing to look past the other outrages, when it seemed he could win.  But after some fairly tepid response, they felt the fatal outrage out there, and fell over one another to condemn this latest.

 So while the tape in question may be a bridge too far, the R response to it is also an extension of the opportunism that kept these folks on board with Trump for so long.  Which leads naturally to another cliche that seems to apply: rats fleeing a sinking ship.

At this moment, some 18.5 hours before Sunday's debate starts (I know that so precisely because Politico keeps a running countdown clock) nobody knows what's going to happen, what Hillary is going to say, what Trump is going to say, or even whether he's going to stay for the whole debate, or even show up.

But if Trump remains as combative as he was on Saturday--and with reports of his supporters booing Republicans at their events--that seems likely, it could be Trump himself who raises the question of hypocrisy.

About Clinton's first, of course; both Clintons. He already started that in his Friday apology video.  But if he's pressed to explain the fleeing rats, maybe even Republican hypocrisy.  There are some among his new GOP critics who may well have their own sordid history.

Certainly Trump's most devoted supporters must be seeing the response (Dem and especially Repub) as hypocrisy.  If Trump senses this and represents this feeling by calling out these Republican pols at the debate (and recall how often he said that he'd go it alone if necessary), it could motivate his supporters to vote for him, but not for other Republicans.  Update: Apparently he didn't even wait for the debate. The WPost quotes one of his pre-debate tweets on Sunday:So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers — and elections — go down!”

Meanwhile, there will be some Republicans who vote for down ballot GOPers but not for Trump.  But it's hard to believe there would be many.  It seems more likely that R voters who can't bring themselves to vote for Trump, just won't vote at all.

Trump doesn't have enough support to win, perhaps even to avoid a landslide against him.  But what he says Sunday may doom other Republicans.  Or, if you believe the headlines, further doom them.

But Trump's own hypocrisy is a prominent feature of the video that exposed him.  After hearing his bragging about sexual advances, including trying to seduce a married woman, we see him getting off the bus to be greeted by a young actress.  He gives her a (consensual) hug and says that his wife said it would be okay.

Trump's rise was fueled in part by the image of somebody who says in public what he thinks in private, without distinction.  The video undermines this.  It's the least of what it exposes about him, but the hypocrisy of a politician is not part of his winning image.

A withering article in the WPost by Philip Rucker nails in one quote the most important and least forgivable aspect of Republican hypocrisy as centered on Trump:

“There is nobody who holds any position of responsibility who in private conversations views Donald Trump as equipped mentally, morally and intellectually to be the president of the United States,” said Steve Schmidt, a veteran GOP strategist. “But scores of Republican leaders have failed a fundamental test of moral courage and political leadership in not speaking truth to the American people about what is so obvious.