The Desperate Days

Perhaps the last two weeks of all presidential campaigns get a bit strange, but this year, with one of the candidates being a complete novice – he’s never run for office before and doesn’t seem much interested in public policy, or in the tedious stuff of organizing a campaign, or in the party that nominated him – even stranger things are bound to happen. Matt Fuller reports on one of those:

Some Republicans are running so far away from their party’s nominee that they are threatening to sue TV stations for running ads that suggest they support Donald Trump.

Just two weeks before Election Day, five Republicans – Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Jolly (R-Fla.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican running for an open seat that’s currently occupied by his brother – contend that certain commercials paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee provide false or misleading information by connecting them to the GOP nominee.

Trump is so terrible, these Republicans are essentially arguing, that tying them to him amounts to defamation.

All five Republicans have, at some point, said they don’t support Trump. And all five have a bit of a case…

Yes, they’re claiming defamation, by those nasty Democrats linking them to their own party’s nominee when they’ve publicly said they hate the guy:

Fitzpatrick has had his lawyer draft a cease-and-desist letter, taking issue with an ad that says the candidate “supports Donald Trump and his dangerous agenda for women.” While Fitzpatrick doesn’t refute claims that he wants to defund Planned Parenthood, his lawyer said that branding him as a Trump supporter threatens “substantial and immediate harm to the campaign and Mr. Fitzpatrick’s personal reputation.”

Fitzpatrick has a case. He was wronged, but if he wins, the Republicans have a problem – a court ruling that Donald Trump can easily ruin any Republican’s reputation. If the others win, that would be five court rulings on the substantial and immediate harm Trump causes their party. The Republican National Committee needs to talk to these people, unless they agree with these five and encouraged these defamation suits. This could be a bit of preemptive positioning for what happens when Trump loses the election badly. The RNC can point to these rulings to prove that the party should never nominate another Trump. The courts will have ruled that Trump is toxic.

Things are getting strange out there, but these are the desperate days. The Wall Street Journal broke a blockbuster story of bribery and corruption in the latest WikiLeaks dump of internal Clinton emails which Kevin Drum summarizes this way:

In early 2015, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recruited Dr. Jill McCabe to run for a state Senate seat.

Various organizations under McAuliffe’s control donated lots of money to her campaign.

She lost.

Several months later, McCabe’s husband was promoted to deputy director of the FBI. Because of that promotion, he “helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use.” This was presumably in addition to the hundreds of other things that a deputy director has oversight responsibility for.

Donald Trump was all over this. Clinton had bribed the FBI to let her off on the emails scandal!

Kevin Drum doesn’t think so:

There’s literally nothing here. Not “nothing substantial.” Not “nothing that other politicians don’t do.” Literally nothing. There’s not a single bit of this that’s illegal, unethical, or even the tiniest bit wrong. It’s totally above board and perfectly kosher. And even if there were anything wrong, McAuliffe would have needed a time machine to know it.

The story died. Too many people started asking snarky questions. When did the Clinton team build a time machine and when did they use it? Is this the same time machine they used to go back in time and create Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate and all those birth announcements, to cover up the fact that he was really born in Kenya? McAuliffe, once he realized Clinton was in deep trouble over those emails, and McCabe’s husband was on the case, probably didn’t go back in time and bribe this couple, retroactively.

The Wall Street Journal let the story die. Trump was probably told to talk about other things, so he did:

Donald Trump claimed at a rally in Florida on Monday that when the polls are done “properly,” he’s actually in the lead. The problem, Trump explained, is that many polls are “rigged” because of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, who Trump says pushes for “oversampling Democrats.”

“It’s called voter suppression,” Trump said, “because people will say, ‘Oh, gee, Trump’s down.’ Well, folks, we’re winning.”

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump looked into this:

Earlier Monday morning, Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report (which has become a centralized resource of Donald Trump-friendly stories) highlighted a story at the blog ZeroHedge. A new email released by WikiLeaks, it seems, shows the “playbook” for “rigging” polls.

ZeroHedge is normally an economics-focused blog, but in recent months it has joined the sprawling galaxy of Trump-friendly outlets. In this particular article, the site’s anonymous author, Tyler Durden (a pen name used by several writers), dips into an email sent by Democratic activist Tom Matzzie in 2008.

The email reads:

“I also want to get your Atlas folks to recommend oversamples for our polling before we start in February. By market, regions, etc. I want to get this all compiled into one set of recommendations so we can maximize what we get out of our media polling.”

“Durden” declares that this is “how you manufacture a 12-point lead for your chosen candidate and effectively chill the vote of your opposition.” After all, many polls include more Democrats than Republicans in their samples, which, naturally, give Clinton an advantage.

Bump sees nonsense here:

Matzzie doesn’t appear to be talking about public polling – nor does it make sense that he would be, since public polls from media outlets are developed by pollsters who work for or with those outlets. Matzzie’s talking about polling that’s done by campaigns and political action committees to inform media buys. In other words, before campaigns spend $200,000 on a flight of TV spots, they’ll poll on the messages in those ads and figure out what to say to whom and then target that ad to those people as best they can.

The problem is that it can be hard to find enough people to get robust enough sample sizes to offer the necessary information. Normal polling in a state will usually have no problem getting enough white people in the mix to evaluate where they stand, but you may need to specifically target more black or Hispanic voters to get a statistically relevant sample size.

A dull discussion of statistical methodology follows. This is ordinary internal, not external, stuff, and then there’s the larger point about external polls:

So why do pollsters include more Democrats in their samples than Republicans? Well, because there is a secret national conspiracy in which there actually are more Democrats than Republicans. Gallup tracks party identification over time; in its most recent summary, 32 percent of Americans identify as Democrats to 27 percent who identify as Republicans. (Analysis from Pew Research has it at 30 percent to 24 percent.) The vagaries of polling and identifying poll respondents mean that there can be some fluctuations in the gap between the parties, but overall a national poll would be expected to include more Democrats than Republicans. And note that this is party identity, not party registration.

In short, then: This is an eight-year-old email talking about a common polling technique for ensuring accuracy among demographic subgroups from a guy who was not working for or representative of a media outlet.

It is not, in other words, an explanation of why Trump is losing.

That’s not what Donald Trump says. He may know better. He may not. But such things are useful in the final desperate days, so it doesn’t matter much.

That’s how the day went, with Elisabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and Donald Trump in Florida, as the Washington Post reports here:

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump each launched fresh attacks against the other on Monday, signaling that harshly negative closing arguments may dominate the final two weeks of the campaign.

Clinton’s campaign tried to build on its case that Trump doesn’t respect women, while Trump again questioned the integrity of the election process – this time asserting that polls showing Clinton ahead across the country are “phony” and “rigged.”

This is getting tiresome, except for the details:

Perhaps the most intense rhetoric of the day came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of Clinton’s top allies, who said Trump’s disregard for women would be his undoing in the election. As Trump continued to suggest that he might not accept a Clinton victory on Nov. 8, Warren seemed to revel in the role that women may play not only in defeating him but also in electing the first female president in the nation’s history.

“I’ve got news for you, Donald Trump,” Warren said, standing on a windswept stage in this college town alongside Clinton and U.S. Senate candidate Maggie Hassan – and riffing on Trump’s reference to Clinton as a “nasty woman” during their third presidential debate. “Women have had it with guys like you. And nasty women have really had it with guys like you. Yeah, get this, Donald: Nasty women are tough, nasty women are smart, and nasty women vote.”

Although the Clinton campaign has been working for weeks to portray Trump as a misogynist, allies and surrogates jumped on his latest utterance to continue the effort. Pop star Miley Cyrus wore a t-shirt emblazoned with “Nasty Woman” while knocking on dormitory doors at George Mason University in the Washington suburbs of Northern Virginia. Other merchandise, including cross-stitch pillows and coffee mugs, popped up for sale on the Internet.

“He thinks because he has a mouth full of Tic-Tacs that he can force himself on any woman within groping distance,” Warren said Monday, referring to a 2005 video in which Trump lewdly described forcing himself on women and then took the breath mints as he explained he liked to kiss women without asking permission.

Note that Warren’s attack was based on actual stuff Trump had said, while Trump was in his own world:

With just 15 days left until Election Day, Trump spent Monday in Florida, telling supporters that the national media has deliberately skewed polls to undermine his candidacy and that he is actually winning.

During a discussion with farmers at Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market in Boynton Beach, Fla., Trump devoted nearly half of his seven-minute public remarks to criticizing the news media.

“I believe we’re actually winning,” he said, speaking in a thatched-roof structure adorned with decorative gourds. He asserted that the majority of public opinion polls, which show Clinton leading nationally and in most battleground states, reflect the “crooked system, the rigged system I’ve been talking about since I entered the race.”

Yeah, yeah – but he threw his own folks under the bus:

His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, acknowledged Sunday that her candidate trails Clinton, saying, “We are behind.” But Trump said Monday that he trusts the two polls that have shown him leading – Investor’s Business Daily and Rasmussen – as more reliable.

Kellyanne Conway has a tough job. She spends Sunday setting the record straight. He spends Monday making her look like a fool. She smiles bravely. But maybe it doesn’t matter:

Later Monday, as Trump campaigned in St. Augustine, Fla., his supporters said they were unfazed by Trump’s “nasty woman” comment or Warren’s attempts to raise it.

“Pocahontas has lied before,” said Cleta Van Horn, 78, of St. Augustine…

Van Horn was seated at the rally next to her daughter, Laura Nelson, 47, also of St. Augustine. Nelson said she also was not bothered by Trump’s remark and Democratic attempts to use it against him.

“I think they are overblowing everything,” said Nelson, who passionately waved a Trump-Pence sign over her head when the GOP nominee took the stage.

His folks never waver, but there’s a new momentum on the other side too:

Diana Hess, a Clinton supporter who is now an advocate for people with disabilities, said that the phrase has ricocheted across her social circle on social media and elsewhere.

“My friends have been saying to me: ‘We’re nasty women who vote,'” said Hess, 58. “We took it as a call to action. Women don’t deserve to be treated the way they’ve been treated by Donald Trump.”

And this reinforced that:

Trump on Monday also addressed the latest accusations of inappropriate sexual contact made against him, saying of the accuser, an adult film performer, “Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before.”

Calling into WGIR radio’s “New Hampshire Today,” Trump characterized the allegations against him as “total fiction,” including the behavior alleged by Jessica Drake. On Saturday, she accused Trump of grabbing her and kissing her without permission and offering her money to go up to his hotel room about a decade ago.

“She’s a porn star,” Trump said. “You know this one that came out recently, ‘he grabbed me and he grabbed me on the arm.’ Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before.”

She’s scum? That was unwise, as was the whining:

Before leaving Miami, Trump did a radio interview with WBT Radio host Bo Thompson, making his case to listeners in Charlotte.

He accused the media of engaging in “a pile-on, the likes of which nobody’s ever seen.”

But it’s all good:

Trump also announced Monday that his Facebook page would start hosting “nightly campaign coverage from Trump Tower.”

He did something similar before the final debate, promoting a webcast featuring surrogates and a video message from his daughter Ivanka. The announcement comes as some observers have speculated that Trump might start a media venture if he is not elected president.

His news channel is actually up and running. He has a contingency career plan, but that kind of leaves the Republican Party high and dry. He loses. What are they to do now? Catherine Rampell suggests this:

As in the last “autopsy,” the GOP establishment will probably conclude that it needs to broaden its appeal to demographics beyond older white men; that what prevented this more widespread appeal in 2016 was having a boorish, sexist, race-baiting, egomaniacal, undisciplined nominee; that if only it fielded a more genteel version of Trump, someone who espoused essentially the same fiscal and social policies but with more empathy, they’d have won the White House, and will win it once again.

This conclusion would be wrong.

The sickness in today’s Republican Party is not confined to its current standard-bearer. It is therefore not curable by merely disavowing, however belatedly, the soon-to-be-defeated nominee. The sickness has taken over the Republican base, and there’s only one antidote.

That would be this:

If Republicans truly want to save the Republican Party, they need to go to war with right-wing media. That is, they need to dismantle the media machine persuading their base to believe completely bonkers, bigoted garbage.

It is, after all, the right-wing radio, TV and Internet fever swamps that have gotten them into this mess, that have led to massive misinformation, disinformation and cynicism among Republican voters. And draining those fever-swamps is the only way to get them out of it.

They do have a problem:

For a sense of just how misinformed Republican voters have become, consider a few of the provably wrong things many believe.

Seven in 10 Republicans either doubt or completely disbelieve that President Obama was born in the United States. Six in 10 think he’s a secret Muslim. Half believe global warming is possibly or definitely a myth concocted by scientists.

Among just Trump voters, 7 in 10 believe government economic data are fabricated. Half don’t trust that votes will be counted accurately in the November election…

Republicans and Trump backers didn’t come to these conclusions independently. They learned them from the influential TV, radio and Web outfits whose imprimaturs Republican politicians desperately seek, and whose more troubling content these politicians have been reluctant to criticize.

They may have been frightened by their base, or they were just short-sighted, but Rampell thinks this has to stop:

Birtherism, which Republican leaders were painfully slow to renounce, helped delegitimize the popular mandate of our first black president, even as it legitimized widespread racial resentment.

Claims of voter fraud justified measures that made it more difficult for Democratic-leaning groups to vote, even as they paved the way for a sore-loser candidate to claim he’s about to be robbed of his victory.

Data trutherism – claims that the economy is worse than the official numbers indicate, that polls are “skewed” to favor Democrats, that hurricane forecasts are exaggerated to scare the public into fearing climate change – riled the base, even as it sowed a deadly distrust in any impartial metric of the nation’s economic, political, social or climatological health.

Never-ending witch hunts – against Planned Parenthood, climate scientists, Hillary Clinton – similarly galvanized supporters in the near term but increased bloodlust for punishment of political enemies in the long run.

In other words, Trump is not some black swan, whose unique cocktail of charisma, telegenicism and political fluidity landed him the nomination. His nomination is the product of years of race-baiting, conspiracy-theorizing, expert-delegitimizing right-wing media nonsense, which Republican politicians aided and abetted because it seemed politically expedient at the time. They helped the alt-right create the alternate reality that made a Trump nomination inevitable.

And that means more Donald Trumps in the future, and endless desperate days filled with nonsense that has to be abandoned for more nonsense, that will be abandoned too. Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but desperate measures lead to disaster.

On the other hand, Eugene Robinson argues that everyone is ignoring the obvious:

Not enough has been made of two obvious facts: Hillary Clinton, if she wins, will be the first woman elected to the White House. And it will have been the votes of women who put her there.

Think, for a moment, about what a remarkable milestone that would be. Consider what it would say about the long and difficult struggle to make the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom and equality encompass all Americans. The first 43 presidents were all members of a privileged minority group – white males. The 44th is a black man, and the 45th may well be a white woman. That is a very big deal.

And Trump helped make that possible:

The historic nature of Clinton’s candidacy has been all but lost amid the clamorous sound and fury of the Donald Trump eruption. The campaign has seen many unforgettable moments, but one that I believe will prove truly indelible came during the third and final debate, when Clinton was speaking and Trump interrupted her by snarling, “Such a nasty woman.”

Within minutes, “nasty woman” became an Internet meme – not so much because of what it said about Trump, since we already knew of his sexism and misogyny, but because of what it said about the moment. A “nasty woman” was on the verge of shattering the highest and most shatterproof glass ceiling of them all. That this accomplishment would come at Trump’s expense just made it a bit sweeter.

Actually, all three debates made some things quite obvious:

To succeed, a woman can’t just be as good as her male counterparts. She has to be better. She has to know more, she has to work harder, she has to sweat the details while maintaining the illusion that she never perspires at all.

Like any woman who runs for office – or, for that matter, seeks a corner office in the business world – Clinton faces scrutiny in ways men never do. What was she wearing? Did she sound “shrill” – as opposed to “bold” or “dynamic” – when she raised her voice? Did she smile enough? Did she smile too much?

Male candidates simply are not critiqued in this manner, unless there is something bizarre about them that cannot be ignored (such as Trump’s hairstyle). The next woman nominated for president by one of our major parties will have a lighter burden because of the poise with which Clinton conducted herself and her campaign.

President Obama’s election meant that African American parents were no longer lying when they told their children they could grow up to be president. Likewise, if Clinton wins on Nov. 8, all parents will be truthful when they tell their daughters that there is nothing they cannot achieve.

This is a big deal:

It is ironic that when Bill and Hillary Clinton met, she was the rising academic and political star, largely on the basis of a 1969 Wellesley College graduation speech that received national attention. But she put her own ambitions on hold in favor of her husband’s. It was, at the time, a rational choice; he was likely to go further, and be able to achieve more, than any woman. Only decades later could she step out on her own.

That’s a familiar story to millions of women. Now they look ready to change the script.

And what is Donald Trump doing? No one quite knows, but he’s desperate. He says stupid stuff. Some men are like that. But these are desperate days for him.

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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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