The Counterattack

This Trump thing has gone on long enough. He was a joke. He was supposed to implode. Okay, he didn’t. Thirty percent of Republican primary voters, more or less, given the day, want him to be the Republican nominee, and then our next president, and with ten or so other candidates in the race, that thirty percent might be enough to get him the nomination. That leaves seventy percent of the party that thinks he’s a dangerous jerk who will ruin the party forever, but who do they have, the third Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz? On a good day one of them might top out at ten percent, and they don’t have good days.

Trump could win this – the Republican nomination that is. The presidency is another matter, but in the meantime, he’s out there offending everyone in sight – Hispanics, blacks, women, Asians, the Chamber of Commerce and Club for Growth business crowd, and the press. It’s as if he doesn’t want any votes other than those of that exquisitely angry thirty or so percent of the Republican base. That’s a subset of a subset, but still, the supersets – Republicans in general and then the general public – sense that it might be time do something about this blowhard. It’s time for a counterattack.

One of those counterattacks just came from the press:

Network TV news representatives will confer Monday to hash out demands about access to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign after Trump officials last week threatened to “blacklist” reporters who left a designated media “pen” during rallies for the presidential front-runner.

According to people at multiple networks, senior managers from the five leading TV news networks – ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox and NBC News – will discuss their response in an effort to push back against what they deem harsh and restrictive behavior by Trump’s managers, including his top aide, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Lewandowski has been a problem:

Lewandowski threatened to pull the press credentials of a CNN reporter, Noah Gray, last week after Gray sought to leave the press pen during a Trump campaign appearance in Worcester, Mass. Gray, an “embed” for the network who has covered Trump for months, recorded Lewandowski’s threat to “blacklist” him and posted it online.

Reporters clashed again with Lewandowski and Trump press secretary Hope Hicks on Friday at an event in Spartanburg, S.C. When the journalists tried to interview voters before Trump’s speech, they were ordered to return to the press pen, under threat of losing their credentials. They later defied an order by Hicks to remain in the press area, a small area bordered by bicycle rack-like barriers, while Trump greeted supporters on a rope line afterward.

This is a freedom-of-the-press thing, in this context:

For many years, candidates and elected officials have restricted reporters to a press zone during public events. The nominal reasons are safety and security, and to avoid disruptions that may occur during a speech if a camera crew were to jostle its way through a crowd.

But Trump’s campaign has enforced even tighter restrictions than is typical, such as ordering media people to stay in the pen before events. Some reporters covering Trump suspect the campaign is clamping down on their movements to block them from recording protests by activists and others during his appearances.

This comes close to press censorship, and one wonders what a Trump presidency would look like, given this:

Campaign reporters who have crossed Lewandowski say he has retaliated by temporarily blacklisting them, assigning them to what he has termed “the doghouse.”

The campaign has also declined to give credentials to reporters from news organizations it has deemed unfriendly. The list includes BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Fusion, Univision and the Des Moines Register, the largest paper in the state holding the nation’s first caucus. The latter says it has been kept out of Trump’s events as a result of an editorial the paper published in July urging Trump to withdraw from the race.

That’s a bit Soviet, but these guys have a plan:

By presenting a unified front, the five networks involved in Monday’s discussion will have greater leverage with the campaign than any individual organization… The group wants to seek an agreement with the campaign about how the press pen will be managed, instead of the campaign dictating its terms, according to people knowledgeable about the discussion. They also want campaign officials to stop issuing threats to pull credentials or bar network journalists.

This is not the Soviet Union in 1953 after all. The public figure in question doesn’t get to choose which reporters are allowed to cover him and who they are allowed to talk to – at least that’s how we’ve come to understand how a free press works. The politburo doesn’t get to write the news, not here, not now, and certainly not yet.

Real news is better for the nation. It’s good to know what’s actually going on. One should respect the press, at least a little, but that’s not Donald Trump. Colin Campbell notes what Trump said about the press at his most recent campaign event on Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama. It was all sneers:

On columnist George Will: “George Will, I swear he looks smart because he has those little glasses. If you take the glasses away from him, he’s a dummy. He needs those glasses, those little spectacles.”

On the reporters in the room: “Look at all those guys. Highly paid – highly paid! – guys, of which I think 25% of them are good people, okay? No, it’s true. Look at them.”

On veteran journalist Cokie Roberts: “I saw the other day – I think her name is Cokie Roberts. What a lightweight. She was on ‘Morning Joe.’ ‘Morning Joe’ was saying how well Trump is doing in the polls, the polls. Roberts said, ‘Well, I don’t know.’ Then I was saying to myself, ‘You know, they talk about these people as intellectuals. I’m much more of an intellectual. I’m much smarter than them.'”

On wire-service news outlets: “They usually write bad stuff about me. They don’t even like me, right? Reuters… they all write bad about me. They love to write bad. The good stuff, they don’t want to write. I say, ‘What about that story?’ They say, ‘No, no, we don’t want to write that.'”

On a New York Times report covering Trump’s Muslim-database controversy: “Today, in The New York Times, they had a report on the front page that was false – really false. … I love being on the front page, I’m from New York. New York Times front page! But it’s a false story.”

On the cameramen following a protester being ejected: “You want to see something funny. Look at those cameras. They’re turned around. They’re following the few people that are being thrown out. … Look at those bloodsuckers back there. … They don’t want to show the crowd because they’re dishonest people, I’m telling you. They’re dishonest people. The media is so dishonest.”

More on the cameramen: “These are just lying-people. They’re bad people. The press is really bad. Fan the cameras over here, fellows! Fan the cameras. Show them. Look, they don’t do it. They don’t do it. They don’t do it! They’re very dishonest people.”

On an NBC News reporter who asked him about a Muslim database: “Some little wise guy, he looked like he was 12 years old.”

He can’t control the press, thus they’re dishonest, so of course his people will shut them down – but that night he did say Barbara Walters and Rush Limbaugh were just fine. They show him the proper respect, or something. He really was doing his best Mussolini that night. He has that look too.

But it wasn’t just the press that counterattacked, as there was this:

Nearly a dozen big Republican donors backing different presidential candidates are coming together to help fund an advertising campaign attacking front-runner Donald Trump…

Matt David, spokesman for the group planning the attack, a Super PAC called New Day for America, which is supporting Ohio Governor John Kasich’s presidential bid, said 10 new donors had pledged money in the two days since Politico reported Thursday evening the group’s plans to attack Trump in New Hampshire…

David said New Day for America’s plans to spend $2.5 million on anti-Trump ads in New Hampshire meant the group’s message would achieve something near “saturation” in the state.

It has already received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from the new donors, and pledges over the past two days add up to more than $1 million, according to David.

Even the big-money supporters of Kasich’s rivals were glad to jump in:

David said his group plans to use ads on TV and radio as well as direct mailings to New Hampshire voters to show them what a Trump presidency would look like, depicting details like the complicated, expensive bureaucratic operations behind efforts to deport millions of illegal immigrants and get all Muslims in the United States to register in a database.

Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog is not impressed:

Oh, brilliant: You’re going to tell angry Republican voters that Trump really can’t deport all the undocumented immigrants and register all the Muslims, policies those angry voters desperately crave? While you’re at it, why not tell some preschoolers that there’s no Santa Claus? That’ll go over equally well.

This is one more reason we ought to raise taxes on the rich: because when it comes to spending money on politics, the rich have no damn sense. We need to save them from themselves.

Perhaps so, but there was a second counterattack being planned:

A well-connected GOP operative is planning a “guerrilla campaign” backed by secret donors to “defeat and destroy” the celebrity businessman’s candidacy, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. …

The most concerted effort is Trump Card LLC, the self-styled guerrilla campaign being launched by Liz Mair, the former online communications director of the Republican National Committee. “In the absence of our efforts, Trump is exceedingly unlikely to implode or be forced out of the race,” according to the Trump Card memo. “The stark reality is that unless something dramatic and unconventional is done, Trump will be the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton will become president.” …

Ms. Mair, who has ties to the libertarian movement and the GOP establishment, said that donors backing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Mr. Kasich and Mr. Bush are interested and that some worry that going public could hurt their candidate.

Rick Wilson, a Republican media consultant, said in an interview that he is prepared to make ads for the new group. Mr. Wilson isn’t involved in fundraising but predicted that a number of Republican donors will start bankrolling an anti-Trump effort.

Fine, but this time Kevin Drum is not impressed:

Look, folks: the first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club. What’s the point of publicly announcing about this strategy? It’s good for the ego, I suppose, but all it does is alert Trump and ruin any jolt of surprise you might get from your campaign. Now reporters are all ready for it, and when it happens they’ll just dissect it dispassionately instead of (hopefully) being dazzled. It’s like the idiots in the Hillary Clinton campaign who decided to alert the world that they planned a campaign to make Hillary look more human. Nice going!

Maybe it’s good to do this anyway, or maybe not:

On the one hand, Republicans deserve every bit of what they’re getting. For years they’ve been actively encouraging the enraged, racially-charged grievance culture that Trump represents, and it’s hard to feel sorry for them now that it’s biting them in the ass. Besides, if Trump does win the nomination, he’s almost certain to lose, and that’s fine with me. Republicans deserve another few years out in the cold.

On the other hand, life is strange, and “almost certain” is not “certain.” What’s more, we’re now at the point where Trump is no longer a joke. Another year of his unapologetic racism and xenophobia could do serious damage to the country – and especially to the targets of his malignant rants. It’s long past time to dump him on the nearest ash heap of history.

As for what’s biting Republicans in the ass here, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie notes what made Trump possible:

In conservative entertainment, race panic sells. And if you’ve watched Fox News at all in the past seven years, followed websites like Breitbart, or listened to conservative talk radio, you’ve experienced it.

During his heyday in 2009, Glenn Beck warned that President Obama had a “deep-seated hatred for white people” and that the Affordable Care Act was a stealth vehicle for reparations. “This is what he said on the campaign trail – he’s not for reparations because they don’t go far enough,” explained Beck to his audience. “We need health care.” Echoing him, Rush Limbaugh urged his listeners to stay alert, since – in the age of Obama – “The days of minorities not having any power are over, and they are angry … And they want to use their power as a means of retribution. That’s what Obama’s about, gang.”

The next year, Fox ran hyped coverage of the “New Black Panther Party,” a small extremist group accused of election intimidation. The actual incident was minor – two men brandishing a nightstick at a heavily Democratic polling place in Philadelphia in 2008 – but Fox’s Megyn Kelly, who hyped the story that year, made it a harbinger of anti-white terror. As David Weigel wrote at the time for Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, “Watch her broadcasts and you become convinced that the New Black Panthers are a powerful group that hate white people and operate under the protection of Eric Holder’s DOJ.”

During George Zimmerman’s 2013 trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the network moved to constant coverage of “black-on-black” and, especially, “black-on-white” crime. One story – the murder of Christopher Lane, an Australian exchange student in Oklahoma, by a group of black and white teens – received special attention, including segments on an alleged epidemic of black crime against whites. “Look, the most common form of interracial hate crime is black on white,” said Pat Buchanan during a segment with Greta van Susteren. “The idea of racial hate crimes is 40 times more prevalent in the black community than the white community. And nobody talks about it.”

Likewise, at popular right-wing websites like Breitbart and Human Events, writers warned their readers of the “knockout game,” where black teens would attack unsuspecting whites with a knockout punch to the head. “Coming soon to a city near you: The knockout game,” reads one headline among many. On any given day, conservative personalities like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are denouncing “thugs” and “thug culture,” while mainstream conservative writers are warning of crime waves sparked by black political activism.

That all happened. Bouie has the links, and then there was the immigration coverage:

Fox personalities, in particular, routinely disparage Latin American and Hispanic immigrants as vectors for crime and disease. “Sadly, people are murdered all the time by illegals,” declared Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy in one segment. And on his radio show, defending Trump, Sean Hannity has denounced immigrants in similar terms as the presidential candidate. “You want to talk about crime? Well what do you think – who’s coming from Latin America and Mexico? Are they rich, successful Mexicans, Nicaraguans, El Salvador residents? No! Why would they leave if they’re so successful?”

And most recently, Fox News hosted a forum on Islam in public schools, where host Keith Ablow demanded that schools teach students that Muslims are “on the march where they’d like to destroy the United States.”

It hasn’t been pretty, and Trump used it all, because he’s been a reality star:

This material just scratches the surface of the race panic that’s ubiquitous throughout conservative media, from breathless coverage of Black Lives Matter on Fox News (a “hate group” that’s “like the Ku Klux Klan”) and fearmongering on immigrant crime from conservative radio hosts, to race-baiting on conservative websites. And it reaches millions of Americans, many of them Republicans, who listen and watch it as part of their daily lives.

Of course Trump would sound off on immigrant crime and disloyal Muslims and criminal blacks. He is fundamentally an entertainer, and in conservative entertainment, those are the money shots: The stories that capture attention and drive ratings. And on the same score, his supporters – the tens of thousands of people who show up for his rallies – are thrilled to hear them.

No one is going to bring him down, and Trump has an ace up his sleeve anyway:

Property magnate Donald Trump fired a warning shot at the national Republican Party on Monday. The GOP presidential front-runner tweeted that the Republican National Committee was reportedly “getting ready to treat me unfairly – big spending planned against me.”

“That wasn’t the deal!” Trump exclaimed.

The “deal” was an apparent reference to the pledge Trump signed in September to not launch an independent presidential campaign should he lose the nomination. At the time, Trump said that he was happy to sign the nonbinding pledge because the RNC assured him that it would treat him “fairly.” But Trump’s tweet on Monday suggested that he could be trying to use a third-party run as leverage against the RNC again.

And Trump had already moved to conventional media:

He also hinted at the possibility the day before during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” Host George Stephanopoulos asked Trump about a recent Wall Street Journal report on a supposed “guerrilla campaign” being planned against him.

He asked if that could lead to Trump rethinking his third-party pledge.

“Well, we’ll see what happens,” Trump replied, according to ABC’s transcript. “It will be very interesting. But I’m leading every poll by a lot. It’s not even a little bit anymore, it’s a lot.”

Stephanopoulos pressed Trump again.

“Well, I’m going to have to see what happens,” the candidate repeated. “I will see what happens. I have to be treated fairly. You know, when I did this, I said I have to be treated fairly. If I’m treated fairly, I’m fine.”

That was a threat, a counter-counterattack. If the Republican establishment pulls him down, he’ll pull them down with him. The conservative vote will be split. Hillary Clinton will waltz into the White House. Then they’ll be sorry they ever messed with him.

He’s got them trapped. He’s their man, like it or not, except that the statistician Nate Silver, who’s never wrong about such things, tells us that Trump just isn’t going to be our president:

Right now, he has 25 to 30 percent of the vote in polls among the roughly 25 percent of Americans who identify as Republican. (That’s something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.) As the rest of the field consolidates around him, Trump will need to gain additional support to win the nomination. That might not be easy, since some Trump actions that appeal to a faction of the Republican electorate may alienate the rest of it. Trump’s favorability ratings are middling among Republicans (and awful among the broader electorate).

Trump will also have to get that 25 or 30 percent to go to the polls. For now, most surveys cover Republican-leaning adults or registered voters, rather than likely voters. Combine that with the poor response rates to polls and the fact that an increasing number of polls use nontraditional sampling methods, and it’s not clear how much overlap there is between the people included in these surveys and the relatively small share of Republicans who will turn up to vote in primaries and caucuses.

He’s got the vote of the people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked, or at least the same number of people – mighty few – so there’s no need to worry, at least not very much:

If past nomination races are any guide, the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet. It can be easy to forget it if you cover politics for a living, but most people aren’t paying all that much attention to the campaign right now. …

So, could Trump win? We confront two stubborn facts: first, that nobody remotely like Trump has won a major-party nomination in the modern era, and second, as is always a problem in analysis of presidential campaigns, we don’t have all that many data points, so unprecedented events can occur with some regularity.

So here are the odds:

For my money, that adds up to Trump’s chances being higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent. Your mileage may vary. But you probably shouldn’t rely solely on the polls to make your case; it’s still too soon for that.

Ah, so this guy isn’t going to be our next president – no way – he’s just going to ruin the Republican Party and cause irreparable damage to the nation, as we tear each other apart over the outrageous things he says, which are believed by enough angry people who are sure to make trouble in the nastiest way. He doesn’t need to be stopped, and he does. That work has finally begun.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to The Counterattack

  1. Rick says:

    I have been wondering lately what odds-maker Nate Silver has to say these days, and here he is, in his latest, which he titled “Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls”:

    Lately, pundits and punters seem bullish on Donald Trump, whose chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination recently inched above 20 percent for the first time at the betting market Betfair. Perhaps the conventional wisdom assumes that the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris will play into Trump’s hands, or that Republicans really might be in disarray. If so, I can see where the case for Trump is coming from, although I’d still say a 20 percent chance is substantially too high.

    Quite often, however, the Trump’s-really-got-a-chance! case is rooted almost entirely in polls. If nothing Trump has said so far has harmed his standing with Republicans, the argument goes, why should we expect him to fade later on?

    One problem with this is that it’s not enough for Trump to merely avoid fading.

    Based on his assumption that too many of us are basing our excitement with Trump on the so-far meaningless polls for Iowa and New Hampshire, he’s sticking by his earlier reckoning, that Donald Trump will not become our president.

    So why does he insist those caucus and primary polls are essentially meaningless at this point? Because despite how much election stuff we see on TV right now, most voters in those two states aren’t paying attention yet, with large percentages not deciding until the final week — roughly 39% in Iowa, 50% in New Hampshire. In fact, calculating from past elections the percentage of voters in Iowa who have probably decided by now, Silver figures only about 20% have so far, so the real polls right now should look like this:

    Undecided — 80% (leading in the polls)
    Trump — 5%
    Carson — 4%
    Cruz — 3%
    Rubio — 2%
    Bush — 1%
    Fiorina — 1%
    Huckabee — 1%
    Christie — 1%

    Silver’s like the mommy at the slumber party, where all the girls are screaming-scared as they watch the horror flick, and Mommy has to come in the room and remind them that, calm down, kids, Freddy Krueger doesn’t really exist! So, yeah, Nate, like a typical mom, really knows how to take the fun out of something.

    But if we’re really lucky, the Republicans will go ahead and “treat” Donald “unfairly”, even knowing that this “breaks the deal” — which would just be like them to, once again, do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and it would also be just like Trump to then ponder running as an independent, just to get even with them. Although if that happens, I’m betting it would be to just toy with them for awhile, just long enough to put the real scare into them that he thinks they deserve, and after what seems like an eternity, he’ll announce that he’s decided not to run.

    Let’s face it, he knows he wouldn’t win as an independent anyway, so why waste all that time and money, especially if the end result would only be his forever being remembered as that egotistical schmuck who unilaterally put Hillary Clinton in the White House?


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