The Word of the Day

On the last Friday in August in this election year the word was that Donald Trump was going to lose in November. At Nate Silver’s utterly thorough FiveThirtyEight, Hillary Clinton’s chance of winning was calculated at 81.1% and Trump’s at 18.9% – a jump of four points in four days but probably as good as it gets for him. The math just doesn’t work for him. His base loves him but no one else does. There’s almost no one he hasn’t offended and every day there’s another Republican defection or two. One can check Silver’s site every day from now to November. Nothing much will change.

This is bad news for everyone, because a Clinton presidency will mean the government will grind to a halt – nothing passed and shutdowns and all the rest. Annie Karni at Politico reports that this is now the Republican plan:

Hillary Clinton has managed to win support from Republicans without conceding any part of the progressive economic agenda she outlined during the Democratic primary. But with fall approaching and momentum on Clinton’s side, Democrats and Republicans alike are looking over the horizon to a thornier reality: if elected, Clinton would likely become the first Democrat since Grover Cleveland to enter office without control of both houses of Congress.

That means the bipartisan show of support she has now – thanks to Donald Trump and the “alt-right” conspiracy-driven campaign Clinton attacked Thursday in Reno – is likely to evaporate as soon as the race is called. If she wins the presidency, Clinton would likely enjoy the shortest honeymoon period of any incoming commander-in-chief in recent history, according to Washington strategists, confronting major roadblocks to enacting her ambitious agenda, as well as Republican attacks that have been muted courtesy of the GOP nominee.

“It will be the defining fact of her presidency,” Jonathan Cowan, president of the moderate think tank Third Way, said of Clinton’s problem of entering office with a divided Congress. “It’s unprecedented.”

Barack Obama and Bill Clinton each got two years of a Democratic majority in Congress when they first entered the White House, and they got things done. That’s how we got Obamacare and a stimulus package and whatnot. Democrats are confident about taking back the Senate if Clinton wins, but not certain, and it’s unlikely if not impossible to win back the House. That means she can do little, but this was inevitable: 

Many Republicans who have aligned themselves with Clinton say they feel like they have been “holding their fire” – and that ends Nov. 9.

“In any other election, the majority of national security Republicans would be going after her, and I would be enthusiastically doing so,” said Kori Schake, a veteran of George W. Bush’s National Security Council and State Department, and an adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “She wasn’t a particularly good secretary of state; the lack of judgement on emails was a shock to a lot of us. She rightly criticized the Bush administration for its failures creating stability in Iraq – and made the exact same mistake herself on Libya.”

Schake is on the long and growing list of Republicans who have said they plan to support Clinton this fall. But many of those Republicans for Hillary don’t want a vote against Trump to be confused with any newfound love for Clinton.

In short, they’ll vote for her, and help get her elected, and then do to her what they did to Obama – create paralysis, and blame her for nothing getting done, and hope the American people side with them, even if a majority of the American people like her policies, which would be why they elected her in the first place. The American people cannot have what they want, because… something. Republicans will have a lot of explaining to do, but they will have had eight years of practice at that so they’ll be fine. At least they won’t be called racist. She’s white. They’ll be called misogynist – but they can handle that too. Many spoke about their War on Women. They’ve lost the women’s vote for a generation, but they’re still here, aren’t they?

They can do this:

Republican strategist Tim Miller, Jeb Bush’s former communications director turned anti-Trump activist, has found himself in an odd position this cycle: the unlikely darling of Democrats gleeful at his taunting of Trump. He finds that perplexing.

“I would love to be working against Hillary Clinton right now, but it’s a strange year,” said Miller. “The cannons have been lowered against her because of our candidate. Hillary Clinton, being a multi-decade partisan who fought tooth and nail with Republicans and called them her enemy, is uniquely ill-suited to having a honeymoon period if she wins.”

There’ll be no honeymoon for her, although she plans to fight for one:

Clinton and her campaign have been trying to make a bipartisan-sounding pitch. “I will be president for Democrats, Republicans and independents,” Clinton said in a speech the night she clinched her party’s nomination on June 7. Her running mate Tim Kaine addressed disaffected Republicans from the DNC stage last month: “we have a home for you here in the Democratic party.”

The campaign hopes that inclusive tone can stretch into next year. “Our sole concern right now is in continuing to build a coalition of support to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president,” said campaign spokesman Brian Fallon. “We are keenly aware that how you approach the campaign influences the situation you inherit when it comes to governing. Republicans and Democrats alike believe in increased investment in infrastructure. Republicans and Democrats alike believe we need to act to reform our immigration system.”

There will be none of that, because it’s already too late for that:

Republicans operatives on the Hill, for instance, are already planning to block Clinton’s agenda by strategically targeting individual Democratic senators who will be up for reelection in 2018. “Take Joe Manchin in West Virginia,” explained one GOP operative of the strategy. “If Hillary puts up an anti-coal pro-EPA judge for the Supreme Court, the smart play is to start pressuring him with an advocacy campaign to vote no.” Voting with Clinton would jeopardize his reelection chances, and voting against her would rob her of a Democratic Senate vote she couldn’t afford to lose without the 60 votes needed to filibuster.

Meanwhile, Clinton is facing similar pressure from the left when it comes to sticking to her campaign promises. “Appointments will be the first taste that people get, as to whether she is going to think big and be willing to dare Republicans to oppose populist positions and appointees,” said Adam Green, whose group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, will be one of a host of progressive organizations advocating to appoint anti-Wall Street crusaders to posts like Treasury Secretary and Chief of Staff. Green added that the left will be pushing Clinton to begin her administration by “daring Republicans to oppose her” on big ticket items like expanding Social Security and instituting debt-free college.

With pressure from both sides, “it is inconceivable she would have a mandate to govern coming in,” said Dan Holler, communications director at the conservative Heritage Action for America.

She will have won, but the word will be that she has no right to govern. She only won because of Trump. She’s not really our president. We’ll have another four to eight years of that, and the Republicans will again say that they’re the patriotic Americans here. It will be just as tiresome as the last time.

It shouldn’t have been this way, but Donald Trump keeps getting goaded into pointless arguments:

A series of racially charged accusations dominated the presidential campaign Thursday, with Democrat Hillary Clinton accusing Donald Trump of “taking hate groups mainstream,” while the Republican nominee repeatedly claimed that Clinton is a “bigot” toward African Americans.

Yes, the actual word of the day was “bigot” – oddly applied by a man who couldn’t stop himself:

Clinton started the day by releasing a video that featured Ku Klux Klan members and white supremacists touting Trump’s candidacy – then gave an afternoon speech condemning Trump’s racially inflammatory remarks and support within the “alt-right,” which she described as an “emerging racist ideology.”

“Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters,” she said in the speech in Reno. “It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of president he’d be.”

Trump, meanwhile, declared in an interview on CNN that Clinton is a bigot – an accusation that he first made at a rally in Mississippi Wednesday night, but that he repeated several times under questioning from CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

She knew she could get him to do something stupid:

Clinton’s aim is to diminish Trump in the eyes of Americans uncomfortable voting for someone who appeals to racists, perhaps even winning over some moderate Republicans. Trump is fighting that image by appealing to minority voters while questioning Clinton’s record on race issues, noting that Democrats have long controlled cities where many African Americans continue to live in poverty.

While Clinton stopped short of accusing Trump directly of being a racist, Trump offered no such restraint with his remarks.

That proved her point and Philip Bump takes it from there:

There are two prongs to Donald Trump’s attempt to embrace African-American voters. The first is to argue that he’ll be a better advocate on their behalf (or, at least, that they have “nothing to lose” by supporting him). The second is to argue that Hillary Clinton doesn’t really care about their interests.

He put that latter point rather bluntly in a speech on Wednesday night in Jackson, Miss.

“Hillary Clinton is a bigot,” he said, punching the pejorative hard, “who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future.”

That’s where this started, but not the whole story:

Trump’s actually been making this argument for about a week now, though not in those terms. You can see how it evolved to this point pretty easily.

During his speech in Charlotte last week, the speech in which he said that he “regretted” some unspecified past comments, he was supposed to say, “We are going to reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton, which sees communities of color only as votes and not as human beings worthy of a better future.” The key word there is “which” – disparaging the bigotry, not Clinton.

But that’s not what Trump actually said. What he said was this – “We’re going to reject bigotry and, I will tell you, the bigotry of Hillary Clinton is amazing. She sees communities of color only as votes and not as human beings worthy of a better future. It is only votes. It’s only votes that she sees and she does nothing about it. She’s been there forever, and look at where you are.”

That’s a subtle distinction, but it was a noticeable switch even then. Trump wasn’t condemning Clinton’s alleged bigotry – he was condemning Clinton.

In his speeches in Dimondale, Mich. and Fredericksburg, Va., Trump stuck to the prepared text, though it had been tweaked a bit. In the latter, it was, “We reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future.”

And then, in Jackson, Trump said exactly what was in his prepared remarks: “Hillary Clinton is a bigot.”

That’s an explanation only an English teacher would love, but there’s a larger point:

Part of that shift no doubt reflects the way in which Trump would prefer to deliver an attack: Directly and ferociously. Part of it, too, is probably an effort to get the attack itself more media attention, which has been successful. The media picked up the “Clinton is a bigot” line quickly, though the rationale behind it understandably didn’t get much attention.

But it is an odd claim, and Bump has a few theories about why he used the word:

The first is that Trump regularly tries to flip criticism he has received back at his opponents. As Aaron Blake documented earlier this month, he’s done this with the labels “unstable,” “bad temperament,” and “bad judgment.”

Trump clearly has a problem with being perceived as a bigot himself. In the most recent Post/ABC News poll, a fifth of Republican men and a quarter of Republican women said they saw Trump as biased against women and/or minorities – and that’s just within his own party. Overall, more than half of registered voters saw him that way, including a plurality of whites and nearly three-quarters of nonwhites.

The second is that, again, this isn’t an actual attempt by Trump to rally support from black voters, it’s an attempt to rally white voters, particularly the white Republican women who look skeptically at his candidacy. By pushing a not uncommon argument on the right – Democrats take advantage of overwhelming support the party gets from black voters – Trump is hoping to position himself as the real champion of black voters, the guy who will, at last, deliver.

Who the hell is going to buy that? Of course Republicans see him as hopeless, because this is the wrong word:

There’s an aspect of Trump’s attack that uses “bigot” as a generalized substitution of “bad person who is bad for nonwhite people.” It’s probably not going to be an effective fit for Clinton specifically, sort of as though you were to call Trump “low-energy.” Whatever point you’re trying to make, most people aren’t going to nod and agree.

It will be interesting to see if the “bigot” line sticks around. Trump appears to be making a commitment to his black-voter-outreach effort over the medium term, including a planned visit to Detroit alongside Ben Carson next month. Perhaps “Bigot Hillary” will become the new “Crooked Hillary” in his vernacular.

But that comparison, standing alone, reveals why the former doesn’t really work. Crooked Hillary, people get. Bigot Hillary? Eh?

But that was the word of the day, and Nick Gass at Politico reports on the day:

The heavy charges of bigotry that have flown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spilled into Friday, with Trump releasing new videos accusing Clinton of a long history of veiled racism and Clinton re-upping her claims that a “radical fringe” is carrying his candidacy.

The slicing accusations have taken the brutal general election battle between the two candidates to a new level. Both already suffer from dismal favorability ratings, and they are showing a fierce desire to convince independent voters that the other candidate couldn’t possibly be fit to serve in the White House.

First up was Trump:

On Friday, the Trump campaign sought to rekindle the smoldering fights of Clinton’s primary with Bernie Sanders while digging back even deeper into the archives to her past comments about Barack Obama and her infamous 1996 declaration that certain kids who are “super-predators” must be “brought to heel.”

In a speech preceding Clinton’s own fiery condemnation of him Thursday, Trump hinted at the attacks to come against the former secretary of state and first lady. Trump, speaking at a rally in New Hampshire, dropped in a mention of an anecdote from “Game Change,” the behind-the-scenes exposé on the 2008 election in which Bill Clinton offended liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy by remarking that Obama “a few years ago would have been getting us coffee.”

But in the early morning hours of Friday, the Trump campaign was more explicit. They posted a video to their Instagram feed reviving the Clintons’ racially charged remarks about then-Sen. Obama during the 2008 primary. The offhand remark by Bill Clinton was there, but the video itself led with a snippet of Clinton answering to Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” in January 2008 after declaring that “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act.”

“It’s as if you are minimizing ‘I Have A Dream,'” Russert tells Clinton, quoting The Washington Post, remarking that it appears as though she was calling it a “a nice sentiment, but it took a white president to get blacks to the mountaintop.”

Trump’s campaign didn’t stop there.

Hours later, the candidate tweeted, “The Clinton’s are the real predators…” linking to another fresh Instagram video digging up the former first lady’s “super-predators” remark and its echoes in her primary against Bernie Sanders.

A clip of Sanders criticizing Clinton’s “super-predator” defense at the final Democratic debate as “a racist term and everybody knew it was a racist term” is shown twice, including at the end of the video, ostensibly to maximize the impact of the senator’s words. Trump has long said he would use Sanders’ attacks on Clinton against her in the general election.

Trump did not spend the day talking about her emails and the Clinton Foundation, which must have driven the Republicans crazy, and of course she fired back:

The Clinton campaign, for its part, pushed back at Trump’s repeated entreaty to African-American communities in which he asks, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

The answer from a 30-second Clinton ad released Friday: “Everything.” The spot features Trump’s comment at a campaign event in which he referred to “my African-American” before noting charges against Trump for housing discrimination against African-Americans.

“I have a great relationship with the blacks,” Trump is heard saying, in a clip from a 2011 radio interview. “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”

She kept him off-message:

Clinton, who did not directly address the videos in a telephone interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” would also not say whether she would personally call Trump a “bigot,” as he has called her on multiple recent occasions, including during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper aired Thursday night.

“All I can do is point to the evidence of what he has said and what he has done. And from the start, he has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,” she said. “And it’s deeply disturbing that he is taking hate groups that lived in the dark regions of the Internet, making them mainstream, helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.”

Pushing through the talking points she hammered in her Nevada speech, Clinton sought to further disqualify Trump for the presidency.

“And what I want to make clear is this: A man with a long history of racial discrimination drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and these kind of white supremacist, white nationalist, anti-Semitic groups should never command our military,” she said. “If he doesn’t respect all Americans how can he serve all Americans?”

That was a diversion, but no one wanted to talk about her, as she must have planned, and then there was this:

As the campaigns continued to tear into each other, at least one of Trump’s surrogates declined to line up behind his strong language. Trump adviser Ben Carson told The Daily Beast that he would prefer that his candidate not call Clinton a “bigot” – or any names.

“That’s what people do who don’t have anything to talk about,” Carson said.

Ouch! But he was not alone:

Donald Trump’s latest line of attack against Hillary Clinton is putting Republicans in an awkward position, with even the GOPers out stumping for his campaign squirming when pressed whether they agree with his claim that Clinton is a “bigot.”

The other officials in his party and even in his own campaign, so far, are a little less eager to use the term.

Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer, when asked Friday if he agreed, demurred that he stayed away from such language.

“No, I think some of the policies that she’s supported have not helped African-Americans, but I think anybody who knows me, I just don’t tend to use certain words,” he told MSNBC. He argued, however, that Clinton’s policies “have kept people trapped in poverty” and “let education standards fall by the wayside.”

That was awkward, as was this:

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), no stranger to controversy over racially charged remarks, refused to engage in the attack.

“I don’t use names like that and I wish we didn’t use those names in politics. But it simply cheapens it all whenever it comes out, whatever side it’s on,” King said on MSNBC. He went to blame Democrats for using “dog whistle language” while defending Trump of any accusations that he is a racist.

“I don’t know real racists in this world and I don’t know real bigots in this world. But I sure know a lot of people that have had that label attached to them without justification,” King said.

That was bad enough, and then there was this:

Sean Jackson, the chairman of Florida’s Black Republican Caucus, said that he wouldn’t “use the precise word ‘bigotry.'”

Asked why Trump would use the term, he said on MSNBC, “The fact of the matter is I can’t speak for as to why Mr. Trump would use specific words and terms.”

And this:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a Trump advisor, simply ignored the question.

“Next question,” Christie says after a reporter asks whether he thinks Clinton is a bigot.

This was not going well, and Aaron Blake points out the obvious:

Trump’s case for Clinton’s alleged bigotry is even weaker when he cites the current condition of black and Hispanics in the United States. Clinton hasn’t had control over domestic policy in the United States since … well, ever. She was first lady in the 1990s, when she was involved in some of her husband’s policy initiatives, but wasn’t generally in charge of them. She was a senator from New York, where she had a vote on such issues, but was one vote out of 100. And she was secretary of state for four of the last eight years, where her duties were foreign, not domestic. So if things are bad today, it’s kind of hard to pin it on Clinton and any alleged hatred.

This never made sense, and there’s a reason that the Republicans are finalizing their plans for this second Clinton presidency – paralyze the government so nothing gets done for four or eight years and blame it on Hillary. Trump made them do it. He was the one who made “bigot” the word of the day, for three damned days, three more lost days. And they lost eight years. They’re back to where they were when Obama took office, trying to make sure the government doesn’t work and telling America that’s a good thing. Now it doesn’t even matter what Trump chooses as the next word of the day. Everyone has moved on, or moved back.

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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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