The Protocols of Decency

It didn’t seem like much at the time, but last December there was this:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on Alex Jones’ program, where Trump praised Jones as having an “amazing” reputation and promised, “I will not let you down.” Jones is America’s leading conspiracy theorist – he believes the government was behind 9-11 and several other catastrophes.

Jones’ website has called him “one of the very first founding-fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement,” which believes the government was behind the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Jones has also pushed conspiracy theories about the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the Boston Marathon bombing, and several mass shootings.

Trump seemed comfortable with that:

Jones and Trump heavily praised each other during the December 2 interview. Jones claimed Trump has been “vindicated” about his false 9-11 U.S. Muslims celebration claim, said “90 percent” of his audience supports Trump, and told the candidate he’s “shown your knowledge of geopolitical systems.” Jones went on to say that Trump is “a true maverick,” and “what you’re doing is epic. It’s George Washington level.” Trump returned the favor, telling Jones: “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

Trump is a sucker for conspiracy theories. He loves them. Maybe he believes them. Or maybe he just finds them politically useful. Maybe it doesn’t matter. He does know how lazy people are. Secret conspiracies simplify things for many people. He can work with that. Still, Jones is pretty far out there:

Boston Marathon Bombing: Jones and his website have labeled the Boston Marathon bombing a “false flag cover-up” carried out by the government.

Aurora and Sandy Hook Shootings: In 2013, Jones said the two mass shootings were staged: “You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that’s why I’m so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody’s got to tell you the truth.”

The government did all that, to justify taking away everyone’s guns, so no one could fight back against the coming totalitarian tyranny or whatever. Trump hasn’t bought into all that, so far, probably because he hasn’t thought about such things much – but he does like Alex Jones – or he finds him useful.

But no one buys this crap anymore:

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an anti-Semitic fabricated text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. The forgery was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century. According to the claims made by some of its publishers, the Protocols are the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting where Jewish leaders discussed their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world’s economies.

Henry Ford funded printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the US in the 1920s. Adolf Hitler was a major proponent. It was studied, as if factual, in German classrooms after the Nazis came to power in 1933, despite having been exposed as fraudulent by The Times of London in 1921. It is still widely available today in numerous languages, in print and on the Internet, and continues to be presented by some proponents as a genuine document.

Maybe so, but in America, the Jews are our buddies now. For years, Republicans have been saying that Netanyahu is the real leader of the free world, not Obama, and that defending Israel is just as important as defending the United States, or more important. That’s Jesus Land after all, but at the core of Jones’ thinking there’s this:

As a conspiracy theory, the term New World Order or NWO refers to the emergence of a totalitarian world government.

The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a secretive power-elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government – which will replace sovereign nation-states – and an all-encompassing propaganda whose ideology hails the establishment of the New World Order as the culmination of history’s progress. Many influential historical and contemporary figures have therefore been purported to be part of a cabal that operates through many front organizations to orchestrate significant political and financial events, ranging from causing systemic crises to pushing through controversial policies, at both national and international levels, as steps in an ongoing plot to achieve world domination.

That idea has had its adherents:

Before the early 1990s, New World Order conspiracism was limited to two American countercultures, primarily the militantly anti-government right and secondarily that part of fundamentalist Christianity concerned with the end-time emergence of the Antichrist…

Right-wing populist advocacy groups with a paleoconservative world-view, such as the John Birch Society, disseminated a multitude of conspiracy theories in the 1960s claiming that the governments of both the United States and the Soviet Union were controlled by a cabal of corporate internationalists, greedy bankers and corrupt politicians who were intent on using the U.N. as the vehicle to create a “One World Government”. This right-wing anti-globalist conspiracism fueled the Bircher campaign for US withdrawal from the UN. American writer Mary M. Davison, in her 1966 booklet The Profound Revolution, traced the alleged New World Order conspiracy to the establishment of the US Federal Reserve in 1913 by international bankers, whom she claimed later formed the Council on Foreign Relations in 1921 as a shadow government. At the time the booklet was published, many readers would have interpreted “international bankers” as a reference to a postulated “international Jewish banking conspiracy” masterminded by the Rothschilds.

That idea then loops back to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – the Jews really are trying to take over the world – but surely Donald Trump wouldn’t go there.

Donald Trump didn’t go there, but Philip Rucker and Sean Sullivan report that he came close:

Donald Trump issued a breathtaking call to arms Thursday as he emphatically denied allegations that he groped and kissed multiple women without their consent, charging that his accusers were part of a global conspiracy to extinguish his outsider movement.

Scrambling to turn around his floundering campaign, Trump declared war on the news media and multinational corporations, alleging that they are colluding with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to orchestrate “the single greatest pile-on in history” and undermine his ­campaign, which he said was an “existential threat” to the global establishment.

“The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure,” the Republican nominee said at a rally in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Anyone who challenges their control is deemed a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe and morally deformed. They will attack you, they will slander you, they will seek to destroy your career and your family… They will lie, lie, lie.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah – but then it got interesting:

In his Florida speech, Trump framed his candidacy in epic, global terms. He said the Nov. 8 election represents “a crossroads in the history of our civilization,” with his populist movement fighting to upend “radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people.”

Trump’s remarks, which he read from a teleprompter, were laced with the kind of global conspiracies and invective common in the writings of the alternative-right, white-nationalist activists who see him as their champion. Some critics also heard echoes of historical anti-Semitic slurs in Trump’s allegations that Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” and that media and financial elites were part of a soulless cabal out to destroy “our great civilization.”

“It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities,” Trump said.

This sounded like a New World Order warning, which it was:

The speech bore the imprint of Stephen K. Bannon, the Trump campaign’s chief executive, who until recently was the executive chairman of Breitbart, a conservative website that serves as the virtual town square of the alt-right movement.

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted that Trump “should avoid rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews” and “keep hate out of campaign.”

Oops. As before, Trump doesn’t think about these things much, so he might not have realized what had been fed into his teleprompter, or maybe he didn’t care. He was angry:

Trump dismissed the claims of sexual harassment made by several women Wednesday as an “absolute horror show of lies” and labeled his accusers – as well as the journalists who reported their stories – “horrible, horrible liars.” He claimed he could prove that their accusations were false, but he declined to detail his evidence.

Trump also claimed that the women were “put forward” by “the Clinton machine,” although there is no evidence that the Clinton campaign was behind the women going public with their accusations. Two women who told the New York Times that Trump touched them inappropriately said they came forward after watching Trump, in Sunday night’s debate, deny ever taking such actions.

And there was this:

Trump lashed out at former People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who wrote in a first-person account published Wednesday that Trump kissed her without her consent at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in 2005 when they were alone before an interview with him and his then-pregnant wife, Melania.

“Take a look, you take a look,” Trump urged his supporters. “Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

Everyone knew what he was saying. Look at her. Why would he grope an ugly woman? And as for those two women who told the New York Times that Trump touched them inappropriately, there was this:

Early Thursday, Trump’s campaign released a letter from lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz demanding a retraction by the Times and threatening a lawsuit. In response, Times general counsel David E. McCraw sent Kasowitz a letter Thursday defending the newspaper’s reporting. If Trump disagrees with it, McCraw wrote, “We welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

The Times and David McCraw know bullshit-bluster when they see it. Bring it on. You’ll be sorry.

That was amusing, but overall, Josh Marshall was not amused:

Is it desperation? The themes and instincts of the anti-Semitic radicals and extremists his campaign stews in? A “global conspiracy” of the political elites, international finance and the media who have “robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put the money in the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities…”

Whatever Trump is thinking or means, the white nationalists and neo-Nazis he’s activated will hear his speech with glee because he’s channeling textbook anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, with all the code words and emotional tenor. I genuinely don’t know how much of this he even understands or cares about. But his rage and anger is in tune with these movements. And he’ll cast about for the most coherent and resonant storyline that captures it. It doesn’t matter what he thinks. It matters what he does.

This can lead to some dark places:

It is possible these are simply the tropes and storylines of international Jewish conspiracies repurposed with the Jews removed from the picture. But it hardly matters. The substrate of traditional anti-Semitism is just as toxic as what grows from it. These are the kinds of conspiratorial, revanchist fantasies that spur violence and attacks on the mundane ordinariness of democracy itself.

And Marshall also notes this:

I want to be very precise about what I say here. There’s a new conspiracy theory rapidly gaining traction among Trump supporters about the origin of the ‘Access Hollywood’ Trump tape which triggered days of new allegations about Donald Trump’s alleged history of sexual abuse. The conspiracy theory is rapidly taking on an explicitly anti-Semitic character. As far as I can see it has not been pushed by the Trump campaign itself, at least not publicly. But it’s catching fire with numerous supporters and surrogates – most notably Jerry Falwell Jr, a key Trump supporter among evangelicals and President of Liberty University, the school founded by his father.

The claim is also being pushed by Breitbart and David Duke in various neo-Nazi web forums. Notably, in recent months Breitbart, with which the Trump campaign has now effectively merged, has itself more openly embraced anti-Semitism.

That goes like this:

The claim is that Dan Senor, a prominent GOP political operative, who is Jewish and married to former television reporter Campbell Brown, is behind the tape disclosure and part of a plot of “GOP elites” to destroy Donald Trump. In other words, in this conspiracy theory, Senor is now cast as the Jewish “traitor” working for the conspiracy of political elites, international financiers and the media who Trumped railed against today in his speech.

That sours everything:

Avowed anti-Semitic supporters are brought into the mainstream. Trump bellows about conspiracies of traitorous elites and global financiers – charges which don’t mention Jews explicitly but which closely follow the themes, vocabulary and villains of traditional anti-Semitic agitation. Then rabid Trump supporters who may not previously have thought in anti-Semitic terms or may have held only latent hostility toward Jews get swept into embracing and propagating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and political agitation.

In other words, it’s not just that Trump and his campaign are bringing marginalized extremists into mainstream politics. He’s radicalizing new people. This is backed up by public opinion data on other issues tied to Vladimir Putin, trade policy, et al. But it seems to be happening with anti-Semitic beliefs too. The Senor-Access-Hollywood conspiracy theory seems to be rapidly morphing into a vehicle for these attitudes and beliefs. Trump’s animosity against ‘Republican elites’ and the new charges about global financiers are getting wrapped together with explicit anti-Semitism even if Trump hasn’t made the connections himself.

Trump probably hasn’t made those connections – he’s not exactly a thoughtful person – but Josh Marshall thinks that everything has turned sour:

It is difficult to keep track of, to comprehend the totality of what’s going on. And by that I mean not simply Trump’s being revealed as a serial predator on what’s looking like the scale, if not the MO, of a Bill Cosby. We know many such men exist. But it’s also the man who’s spent a year and a half demonizing and targeting various ethnic and racial groups, mainstreaming white supremacists and anti-Semitism. He’s also threatened to upend core geopolitical ties around the world, been revealed as a serial con artist, from high-flying cons involving hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars to the most penny-ante seminar schemes targeting the desperate and vulnerable.

All of it of course comes back to a simple reality. This is the consequence of a major political party tethering itself and its fate to a deeply damaged psyche. Not just the entire party but the entire country is forced into the chaos and drama that might only exist in such a person’s head and for his family members and work associates. People with severe personality disorders create drama and chaos around them. They create more when placed under stress. This is one of the most basic and enduring facts of human experience. We’ve seen it play out with Trump. As we’ve discussed in recent weeks, everyone who crosses into Trump’s orbit, into his gravitational pull, gets damaged. No one gets out unhurt…

Think of Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Reince Priebus, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Paul Manafort. I could list dozens of others. It is impossible to think of any of these men and not see their stature reduced, their dignity in tatters, and in some cases, quite possibly, their careers over. And these are the people who’ve tried to enlist with Trump or manage in his presence. It doesn’t get to the men and women he’s victimized. Of course, the ultimate victim is the Republican Party, and on a larger canvas, the country itself.

That may be the real problem here:

One of the greatest damages is that we’ve all come to see Trump’s chaotic emotions, violence and tirades as perhaps half normal. I had a hard time divining whether his angry bluster and transgressive antics in the debate would have any effect because we’ve all become so used to it. Like family members living in the home of an abuser, our sense of what is normal starts to get blunted and deformed under the weight of abuse. The whole country is damaged in a way that won’t soon lift under the best of circumstances.

Perhaps our sense of what is normal has been blunted and deformed by all this anger and lashing out, but there’s a remedy for that. Turn from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and turn to the Protocols of Decency. As Donald Trump was ranting about the vast international conspiracy of (Jewish) bankers out to take over the world, and steal the election from him, as Amy Davidson reports, Michelle Obama went the other way:

“I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics,” Michelle Obama said in a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday afternoon, as she responded to the latest news of Donald Trump’s treatment of women. “It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong.” She spoke with a passion that many feel, but few can deploy with such controlled, incisive force. And yet her speech was very much about politics – politics as the enterprise that the sordidness of this election may lead many to give up on, politics as a national inheritance, and politics as an ethical choice.

She actually laid out those Protocols of Decency:

Obama started with what she had wanted to spend the last few months of her tenure as First Lady talking about: Let Girls Learn, an initiative for girls’ education. She had been inspired by the girls she’d met a couple of days earlier at a White House event; she had been feeling pretty good. “That was Tuesday,” she said, and the audience knew what she meant: it was before reports came out in which women talked about what it was like to have Donald Trump kiss and grab them against their will. And the audience had heard Trump call the women and the media outlets that printed what they said liars. This was in addition to an “Access Hollywood” video that came out Friday. Obama described watching that, too. “I can’t believe that I’m saying that” – she stopped, her voice catching – “a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.” It was at this moment that her speech became something extraordinary.

“And I have to tell you that I can’t stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted,” the First Lady said. “So while I’d love nothing more than to pretend like this isn’t happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream.”

But this wasn’t a bad dream:

“This is not something that we can ignore. It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season,” she said. People were afraid to let their children watch a Presidential candidate on television – “a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior.” That is another way of saying that politics was being made into a center of pain. Recounting Trump’s words, she said, “It is cruel. It’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts.”

It reminded people of “stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers,” about how hard work was never enough to protect a woman or to allow her to advance. That, too, fed the impulse to run away from politics – to shut it out. “Maybe we’re afraid to be that vulnerable,” Obama said. “Maybe we don’t want to believe that there are still people out there who think so little of us as women.”

But, she said, believe it. “New Hampshire, be clear: 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 – Democratic, Republican, independent – no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.”

She added, “I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women like this. And I know that my family is not unusual.”

And that means there are some basic rules:

“Strong men – men who are truly role models – don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful,” she said. And then, setting up the transition to the person she had come to campaign for, she added, “People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together. And that is what we need in our next President. And let me tell you, I’m here today because I believe with all of my heart that Hillary Clinton will be that President.” Obama spoke not just of Clinton’s competence but of her character, in familial terms: “And, if any of us had raised a daughter like Hillary Clinton, we would be so proud. We would be proud.” In her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Obama had said that she trusted Clinton to protect her daughters; here, she went beyond that, saying, in effect, that she would be glad if Sasha and Malia were not only kept safe by Clinton but became someone like her.

A Trump victory, Obama said, would mean that “we’re telling all our kids that bigotry and bullying are perfectly acceptable in the leader of their country. How can we maintain our moral authority in the world? How can we continue to be a beacon of freedom and justice and human dignity?”

She had an answer. “We have everything we need to stop this madness. You see, while our mothers and grandmothers were often powerless to change their circumstances, today, we as women have all the power we need to determine the outcome of this election.” The audience, as it had at several points during the speech, applauded wildly. “We have knowledge. We have a voice. We have a vote.”

This was the answer to Trump – basic decency – and a few hours later her husband explained the alternative:

President Barack Obama on Thursday night tore into Republican leaders for “riding this tiger” of what he repeatedly called “crazy” hoaxes and conspiracies that created the conditions for Donald Trump to become their presidential nominee – and blasted anyone now trying to distance themselves out of what he derided as political expediency.

No one who stands by Trump this year, Obama said, can claim to be serious about family values or foreign policy. And nobody can claim higher ground than Trump if they spent the last eight years pursuing an agenda he said was pure opposition, embracing a right-wing media that regularly trafficked in conspiracy theories and accepting personal attacks on him from their base.

“They stood by while this happened, and Donald Trump as he’s prone to do – he didn’t build the building himself – he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it,” Obama said.

He wondered what the hell these people were thinking:

Clearly veering off-script, Obama turned to the example of proud Obama antagonist Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whom he didn’t name, but noted had ordered the state National Guard to observe the 2015 Operation Jade Helm military exercises after right-wing media exploded with conspiracy theories about how it was actually secret prep for an Obama-led junta. Abbott, Obama said, had said he didn’t know if the talk was true.

“What do you mean, you don’t know? What does that mean?” Obama said, leaning on the podium, his voice rising in anger. “They took it seriously. This is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again.”

Alex Jones has been feeding that swamp of crazy for years. Donald Trump has been mucking about in that same swamp, even if he probably doesn’t know what Jones is talking about most of the time. He only knows there are politically useful things down there in the slime, whatever they are. Republicans have been doing the same for years, for the same reason. Now they’re all covered with slime – but maybe that’s carrying the metaphor too far. There is such a thing as basic decency. There are protocols for that. Everyone knows them. That may decide this election.

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Groping at Victory

The damned news keeps breaking, not that the news media is broken. They’re doing just fine, and it was a quiet Wednesday evening here in Los Angeles. Things in the presidential race had seemed to settle where they were going to stay settled for a day or two. The second presidential debate was in the books. Trump said he won. No polling showed that but he is who he is – he says things like that – and now Trump is fighting on two fronts, against Clinton and against the core of the Republican Party, even if he is the party’s candidate. He’s feuding with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who never liked Trump much and now won’t defend him or campaign with him. Ryan wants to keep the Republican majority in the House, and in the Senate. He told Republican candidates to do what they must to win – denounce Trump or embrace him, depending on the district or state. It’s every man for himself, and thus for the party. Trump was outraged. He had been disrespected. His folks were outraged because he had been disrespected. This is tearing the party apart – there are a lot of those Trump folks – but that’s now an ongoing story. Stories like that have “developments” in an established narrative. Any breaking news breaks softly.

It’s the same with the polls. Clinton is surging. Trump is sinking. Red states are turning blue. Utah is now in play. Georgia may be next. Political observers watch the paint dry. Barring some earth-shattering event, this election is over. Political reporters now report variations on a theme. Political junkies follow such things. Everyone else can relax.

Everyone else can take the day off, except on this particular quiet Wednesday evening, the New York Times blew everything up:

Donald J. Trump was emphatic in the second presidential debate: Yes, he had boasted about kissing women without permission and grabbing their genitals. But he had never actually done those things, he said.

“No,” he declared under questioning on Sunday evening, “I have not.”

He really shouldn’t have said that:

At that moment, sitting at home in Manhattan, Jessica Leeds, 74, felt he was lying to her face. “I wanted to punch the screen,” she said in an interview in her apartment.

More than three decades ago, when she was a traveling businesswoman at a paper company, Ms. Leeds said, she sat beside Mr. Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight to New York. They had never met before.

About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her.

According to Ms. Leeds, Mr. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.

“He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere.”

She fled to the back of the plane. “It was an assault,” she said.

The New York Times confirmed the story:

Ms. Leeds has told the story to at least four people close to her, who also spoke with The New York Times.

There’s corroboration, and another story:

Mr. Trump’s claim that his crude words had never turned into actions was similarly infuriating to a woman watching on Sunday night in Ohio: Rachel Crooks.

Ms. Crooks was a 22-year-old receptionist at Bayrock Group, a real estate investment and development company in Trump Tower in Manhattan, when she encountered Mr. Trump outside an elevator in the building one morning in 2005.

Aware that her company did business with Mr. Trump, she turned and introduced herself. They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go, she said. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks. Then, she said, he “kissed me directly on the mouth.”

It didn’t feel like an accident, she said. It felt like a violation.

“It was so inappropriate,” Ms. Crooks recalled in an interview. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.”

And there was corroboration here too:

Shaken, Ms. Crooks returned to her desk and immediately called her sister, Brianne Webb, in the small town in Ohio where they grew up, and told her what had happened.

“She was very worked up about it,” said Ms. Webb, who recalled pressing her sister for details.

The Times is careful to check with those who, at the time, also knew about such events, but perhaps Donald Trump didn’t understand that:

In a phone interview on Tuesday night, a highly agitated Mr. Trump denied every one of the women’s claims.

“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.

“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.

He was lashing out, on the record, but name-calling is not effective argument, and he had more worries within the hour:

Four women accused Donald Trump of groping or kissing them without their consent in news reports published Wednesday, just days after the Republican presidential nominee insisted in a debate that he had never engaged in such behavior.

One of the women alleges that Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt during a flight more than three decades ago, the New York Times reported. Another says he kissed her on the mouth outside an elevator in 2005, according to the same report. A third woman says Trump groped her rear end at his Mar-a-Lago resort 13 years ago, the Palm Beach Post reported. The fourth, then a People magazine reporter, says Trump kissed her without her assent when the two were alone in 2005 right before an interview she was about to conduct with Trump and his wife.

The two suddenly became four, and more will no doubt come out to tell their tales, so something had to be done:

Trump denied the first two allegations in an interview with the Times. Trump, who was in Miami Wednesday, was considering filing a lawsuit against the Times and was consulting with advisers about his legal options, according to two people close to him. The two people, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations, said Trump is furious about the accusations made against him in the story and with the newspaper for publishing them.

In a statement issued by his campaign after the Times report was published, spokesman Jason Miller said, “This entire article is fiction.” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the Palm Beach Post “there is no truth” to the third allegation. His campaign denied the fourth allegation, People reported.

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.

That lawsuit should be interesting, and add this:

Also Wednesday, Rolling Stone published a story that included the allegations of Cassandra Searles, Miss Washington 2013. In a comment she appended to a post she had put on Facebook earlier this year suggesting that Trump treated pageant contestants “like cattle,” Searles wrote, “He probably doesn’t want me telling the story about that time he continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room.” Yahoo covered her post and comment in June.

These things mount up, and this was next:

Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, said the reports show Trump lied on the debate stage on Sunday.

“This disturbing story sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women. These reports suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behavior he bragged about in the tape is more than just words,” Palmieri said in a statement Wednesday night.

Oh yeah, there was also that ten-year-old little sexpot:

In the “Entertainment Tonight” footage reported by CBS News, Trump can be heard asking a young girl at Trump Tower, “You going up the escalator?”

“Yeah,” she responds.

“I’m going to be dating her in ten years, can you believe it?” Trump is heard saying.

And there were those contestants in the 1997 Miss Teen USA contest saying things like this:

“I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here,'” said Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA… Three other women, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of getting engulfed in a media firestorm, also remembered Trump entering the dressing room while girls were changing. Two of them said the girls rushed to cover their bodies, with one calling it “shocking” and “creepy.”

They were all about fifteen at the time, and as for older women, Cassandra Searles, Miss Washington 2013, says this:

In a Facebook post this year, Searles called Trump a “misogynist” who “treated us like cattle” and “lined up so he could get a closer look at his property.”

And meanwhile, in Florida, Mindy McGillivray remembers this:

McGillivray, 36, said she was groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago 13 years ago. She said she never reported it to authorities. But her companion that day, photographer Ken Davidoff, vividly remembers when McGillivray pulled him aside moments after the alleged incident and told him, “Donald just grabbed my ass!”

And from another teen beauty pageant:

He just came strolling right in. There was no second to put a robe on or any sort of clothing or anything. Some girls were topless. Others girls were naked… Who do you complain to? He owns the pageant. There’s no one to complain to. Everyone there works for him.

That’s one of the privileges of owning multiple beauty pageants:

On an appearance on The Howard Stern Show in 2005, published on Sunday by CNN, Trump described going backstage at the beauty pageants while the contestants were undressed. “Before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” he said. “You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good.”

“You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody okay?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that.”

Maybe that was no more than locker-room talk. Trump can claim that, like he did about that Access Hollywood tape. He was bragging that he could walk into a room of helpless naked fifteen-year-old girls, who knew they couldn’t cover up and had to let him stare, at everything, because he was the rich guy that owned the pageant. That would be a dominance-boast, a guy thing – just words, and thus excusable – no big deal. But then these girls, now women, now say yep, that happened. And there are the four or five other women. There’s a problem here. He’s a pig.

But for every problem there’s a solution. The Trump campaign now says is going to intensify its attacks on Bill Clinton’s past, using allegations against Bill Clinton against Hillary Clinton. Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart News guy who is now Trump campaign CEO – whatever that means – said “We’re going to turn him into Bill Cosby.”

Will this now be an election about Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby? How do you get people to stop laughing about how preposterous that is? What about Hillary? Oh right – she’s just a woman.

Maybe this was just a carefully coordinated and specifically timed political hit job, but Josh Marshall doesn’t think so:

Why are all these stories coming out tonight? We can’t know precisely. But Trump’s flat declaration that he has never sexually assaulted a woman was the sort of categorical statement that provides a clear hook for news organizations, a clear, categorical statement to examine, challenge and try to refute. It is also the kind of statement likely to bring forward victims, if there are any, who’ve remained silent. It seems like there are a lot of them.

That means that Trump was the one who triggered this, and there’s nothing suspicious about the timing:

Once that happens, a legitimate news organization cannot and will not just take accuser’s word for it and go ahead and print an allegation. There is seldom proof, per se. But there are standard methods of verification and due diligence a news organization will employ. The first is contemporaneous accounts. Did the victim have others she told at the time or near the time? Can those people verify they were told? Can the accuser verify they were where they claim? Was Trump there? Again, basic due diligence to make a decision about whether a claim is credible. You can’t do that in an hour or two. Many of these new accusers appear to have been prompted to come forward because of Trump’s declaration in Sunday night’s debate. If you figure they reached out to the news organizations on Monday, Wednesday evening is probably about as quickly as those stories could be turned around.

It seems highly likely that there are many more of these to come.

Well, Trump can sue, but as for his proposed suit against the New York Times, on Twitter there were things like this:

Can I be the first to predict that this never reaches the deposition stage?

Does he REALLY want to open himself up to legal discovery proceedings?

Trump would testify against himself thanks to Access Hollywood.

If Camp Trump sues every news org that reports these, they’re going to need WAY more lawyers.

Good. Then he will be forced to testify under oath.

As an attorney I feel sorry for his attorneys.

This is how you spend your resources when you have no campaign. This or a bike trip.

So they reported about the very thing he bragged about and women accused him of doing – and he sues them?

Kevin Drum adds this:

Can you imagine the discovery phase of this suit? Trump’s lawyers would lock him inside his own gold-plated bathroom to keep him from going through with it.

Trump needs some advice, and back in February, Marcus Brauchli explained how he handled Trump:

Donald Trump used to call me his psychologist.

The reason, he’d say, is that I sweet-talked him out of suing so often. I had to: I was a top editor at the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper he read fairly closely, and then executive editor of the Washington Post, a paper he took an interest in as he started making investments in Virginia and Washington and then got more active in politics.

There were certain topics that Trump wanted off-limits, and legal threats were how he tried to keep them that way.

His wealth, for example. Reporters who suggested that he wasn’t a billionaire risked getting a threatening call. Trump unsuccessfully sued journalist Timothy O’Brien, author of the book “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald,” for $5 billion after O’Brien reported estimates that Trump at the time was worth between $150 million and $250 million, not the $5 billion to $6 billion Trump liked to claim.

There were many other hot buttons, but one real problem:

The list of hot-button issues for Trump was long. The list of successful Trump lawsuits against journalists is short. (I can’t find a lasting legal victory in a case against a journalist but won’t swear there isn’t one.)

American libel law doesn’t favor those who willingly enter the arena. Unless a public figure – and Trump has been that for most of his life – can prove a journalist knowingly published something false, the courts generally toss the case out.

But that clearly wasn’t the point for Trump. For him, the threat of a defamation or libel lawsuit, let alone the cost to a defendant of a suit that was filed, could be an effective cudgel. Editors and their publishers know that the burden of defending against a lawsuit, even a frivolous one, is real.

But there was a way around that:

I far preferred talking Trump out of suing. It wasn’t difficult – I’d listen to his arguments, usually endure a barrage of profanity aimed at my hard-working colleagues, and then, on at least a couple of occasions, invite him to come to the office for lunch or a meeting with other editors to vent. We never gave in on a point of fact or surrendered our right or determination to publish what we deemed stories of interest or the truth about Trump or his businesses. (I think the record is clear that the Journal and Post newsrooms have covered him thoroughly and fairly, whatever he may think of editorials and occasional op-eds such as this one.)

But we had an advantage over others that he has sued or threatened to sue: We were big publishers, with libel insurance, stalwart lawyers and the experience to defend ourselves. For someone who uses the legal system not to resolve a dispute, but to be punitive or vindictive or as an expression of power, that could be frustrating.

The New York Times will be just fine of course, a big publisher with libel insurance, stalwart lawyers and the experience to defend itself – think of the Pentagon Papers – but that’s neither here nor there:

It is a bitter irony, but perhaps not surprising, that someone who is entirely a creature of his media-defined, social-media-amplified public image should be so fragile that he feels the need to try to curtail what people say about him.

The last thing we need in this society, or at this time, is a leader who thinks a free and open press is something to be curbed.

And we don’t need a sexist pig either, although Phillip Bump notes that Trump sees no problem here:

Appearing on Fox News’s “O’Reilly Factor” with Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday night, Donald Trump expressed skepticism toward the idea that he wasn’t doing very well with female voters.

“Women, women are the key with this,” O’Reilly told Trump. “You’re winning with men. All right? And I think you will continue to win with men. But women, you’re behind.”

Trump’s reply? “I’m not sure I believe it.”

O’Reilly pointed out that this is what the polling says, with which Trump agreed. Trump then insisted that his team would stay the course.

That may not work:

In the most recent Post-ABC poll, released at the end of last month, Hillary Clinton had a 2-point lead over Trump with likely voters. Among men, Trump led by 19. Among women, Clinton led by 20. There are some indications, though, that the 2005 audio recording of Trump on “Access Hollywood” may have made that gap worse. An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that women had moved away from Trump by 9 points in the wake of the tape’s release. A new poll in Wisconsin indicates that women in that state had shifted toward Clinton by 24 more points on Saturday and Sunday than on Thursday, the day before the tape came out.

And now there’s breaking news. This guy wasn’t just joking around to impress the other guys. This wasn’t dominance bullshitting – he actually did these things to women. They’re angry. They won’t let him lie about this.

But he might survive this:

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. vowed to vote for Donald Trump Wednesday night regardless of whether mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against the Republican nominee prove to be true.

Falwell, the head of the Christian non-profit university who has publicly endorsed Trump’s candidacy, said a report in The New York Times citing two women accusing Trump of inappropriately touching them was as “ridiculous” as a hypothetical murder charge.

“You’re saying if – if he murdered somebody, would I forgive him? That’s like asking something as ridiculous as that,” Falwell said on CNN Wednesday night.

Pressed by host Erin Burnett on whether he would continue to support Trump if the allegations turned out to be true, Falwell stood by the candidate.

“I’m going to vote for Donald Trump because I believe he’s the best qualified to be president of the United States,” he said.

Trump did say “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Ah, no – not this time. There’s no way to grope one’s way to victory. Maybe he should have shot someone.

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A Great Disturbance in the Force

Yoda felt a great disturbance in The Force. This was a bad thing. Alderaan had been destroyed by the Death Star – the whole planet, gone – but that was in 1977 – in a space-adventure movie. These days, on CNBC, America’s default business channel, they talk endlessly about how impressive “disrupters” are – Uber and Airbnb and whatnot – changing how the economy works and making billions of dollars doing what no one ever thought of before. This is “creative destruction” of course. That idea is quite popular among economists even if whole planets are destroyed – or at least whole industries – but the idea of “creative destruction” isn’t popular in the world of political science, if there is such a thing. Political systems, which provide stability in society, one way or another, depend on continuity and consistency, to stave off chaos. These systems have evolved over long stretches of time, by trial and error, to keep a lid on things. Daniel Defoe, a pen for hire for both Whigs and Tories, knew that – “All men would be tyrants if they could.” Then he wrote “Robinson Crusoe” – about a peaceful hermit on a desert island. He’d had enough of that.

That’s what Garrison Keillor notes about Defoe in a whimsical rambling column about Donald Trump. Keillor is not big on creative destruction. He is also not big on Donald Trump. Trump is now the great disturbance in The Force. He messes up everything, as Aaron Blake notes in this odd incident:

Republicans have been twisted in knots trying to respond to Donald Trump’s lewd and sexually aggressive comments about women on a recently unveiled 2005 video. Some are even suggesting the things he talked about doing – groping women and kissing them without their consent – might not constitute sexual assault.

Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold took it even further on Tuesday night. Asked on MSNBC whether he would still support Trump even if the Republican presidential nominee said he liked raping women, Farenthold suggested he might – eventually adding he’d “consider it.” Farenthold quickly apologized after the interview was over.

Oops. And his response was on Twitter, another disruptive innovation that has changed everything, but limits users to 140 characters, so Farenthold was forced to resort to three consecutive tweets:

I apologize for my failure to immediately condemn anyone who would say something as outrageous as they like raping women. (1/3)

During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question. (2/3)

I do not, and have not ever condoned rape or violence against women. That is not the kind of man I believe Donald Trump to be. (3/3)

That’s nice. He defends Trump, but why was he forced to do that? Trump said what he said, upending everything, forcing reactions like this:

As conservative religious voters grapple with how to respond to an audio recording of Donald Trump lewdly boasting about groping women, Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of American evangelicalism, released on Monday a blistering critique of the GOP presidential nominee.

The editorial, written by executive editor Andy Crouch, was accompanied by a subtitle that minced no words: “Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump’s blatant immorality.”

For the magazine founded more than 50 years ago by famed evangelist Billy Graham as an alternative to mainline Christian publications, the editorial amounts to a grenade tossed into the presidential campaign.

A grenade is also a disruption, and this was quite specific:

Noting that the magazine is a nonprofit organization and does not endorse candidates, Crouch nonetheless writes: “Just because we are neutral, however, does not mean we are indifferent. We are especially not indifferent when the Gospel is at stake. The Gospel is of infinitely greater importance than any campaign.”

As for Trump, Crouch says, “There is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the ‘earthly nature’ that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry’ (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date.”

“That Trump has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one,” he continues, “should have been clear to everyone.”

Now add this:

Crouch does not spare Trump’s evangelical supporters, who have proposed a variety of theological justifications for making him their candidate. He is particularly dismissive of the argument put forward by many high-profile conservatives, including Graham’s son, Franklin, that because the Bible includes examples of God using flawed men to accomplish His will, evangelicals shouldn’t be concerned about Trump’s personal morality.

Crouch has had enough of this nonsense:

Crouch’s indictment of Trump is not dissimilar from complaints lodged by Trump’s secular critics as well, but the language he uses may remind many of Christianity Today’s 130,000 subscribers of Old Testament prophets: “He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn.”

“He is,” Crouch concludes, “the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.”

Crouch ends with that word. Is Trump a fool? This was the day that some worried about that:

Donald Trump declared war on the Republican establishment Tuesday, lashing out at House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and other GOP elected officials as his supporters geared up to join the fight amid extraordinary turmoil within the party just four weeks before Election Day.

One day after Ryan announced he would no longer campaign on Trump’s behalf, the GOP nominee said as part of a barrage of tweets that the top-ranking Republican is “weak and ineffective” and is providing “zero support” for his candidacy. Trump also declared that “the shackles have been taken off” him, liberating him to “fight for America the way I want to.”

Trump called McCain “foul-mouthed” and accused him with no evidence of once begging for his support. McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, pulled his endorsement following a Friday Washington Post report about a 2005 video in which Trump is heard making vulgar comments about forcing himself on women sexually.

“I wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole with a lot of these people, that I can tell you… especially Ryan,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel. He said if he is elected president, Ryan might be “in a different position.”

Okay, now Trump is fighting on two fronts, against Clinton and against Republicans, even if he is their candidate. He doesn’t care:

In perhaps the most piercing insult, Trump said his party is harder to deal with than even Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, whom conservatives loathe. Yet he also released a new TV ad featuring footage of Clinton coughing and stumbling during a recent bout with pneumonia – signaling that few issues are out of bounds for his scorched-earth campaign.

“Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary,” he wrote for his more than 12 million followers on Twitter, his preferred platform for picking fights. “They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!”

That’s a threat. He’s smacking them hard, because he senses weakness:

By backing away from Trump, Ryan and his allies were hoping to insulate themselves and their majorities on Capitol Hill from the baggage weighing down the nominee’s flagging campaign. For many, the breaking point was the 2005 video.

But they are suddenly dealing with another problem – an impulsive and bellicose businessman with an army of loyal supporters willing to exact retribution against elected officials they feel have abandoned them. The rift could have profound ramifications for the Republican Party as a whole, shattering any sense of unity and jeopardizing its chances of holding onto the Senate and even, potentially, the House.

That’s not creative destruction. That’s just destruction, and even his friends know it:

Trump’s barbs left some backers unsettled, including Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has been a Trump booster for months and an informal adviser.

“Dr. Carson has been unwavering in his support but the last 24 hours have made that support very difficult to maintain,” Carson adviser Armstrong Williams said in a statement.

Carson said in a brief interview that Trump “would be wise to praise Ryan rather than be at war with him. I keep trying to emphasize to him that the issues are where you win.”

It may be too late for that:

Mica Mosbacher, a Trump fundraiser and surrogate, said she was invited to a fundraiser next week for Ryan’s joint fundraising committee but is not going to attend or contribute because of the way Ryan has treated Trump.

“I don’t feel that Ryan is supporting our nominee and being a team player,” said Mosbacher, who is vowing not to give financial backing to Republicans who have crossed Trump.

Diana Orrock, a Republican National Committeewoman from Nevada, said she will not vote for Republicans who have pulled their support for Trump – including Rep. Joe Heck (Nev.), who is running for a seat that is critical in the battle for the Senate majority.

“I think they have really irritated a lot of Trump supporters,” Orrock said of Heck and Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Nev.), who also rescinded his endorsement….

Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson tweeted Monday that she could not keep her mobile phone charged “due to the mass volume of texts from people” that plan to vote for Trump but not for other Republicans on the ballot.

No one was talking about issues. They were talking about retribution. Forget holding onto the House and Senate. That doesn’t matter anymore, except to Paul Ryan:

A Ryan confidant said the House speaker – the highest-ranking Republican in the country – is trying to strike a careful balance by turning away from Trump but not officially withdrawing his endorsement.

“He’s threading a lot of needles here,” said the confidant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly. “He wanted to make a clean break with Trump. So saying ‘I won’t defend him and won’t campaign with him’ was his way of making a break. He was so repulsed by the tape. But there are still a lot of members in the conference who don’t want to be at war with Trump’s voters in their district.”

The party is falling apart, and then President Obama twisted the knife:

Campaigning for Clinton in Greensboro, N.C., Obama called Republican officials out for the way they have dealt with Trump.

“They can’t bring themselves to say, ‘I can’t endorse this guy,'” Obama said. Of those who did pull their endorsements, the president added: “Why’d it take so long for some of them to finally walk away? We saw this coming.”

Yes, Barack Obama had felt a great disturbance in The Force too. Trump was the Death Star that blew up Alderaan, long ago. Jedi Knights know this. Republicans don’t.

Josh Marshall says everyone knew this:

It’s hard to know quite what to say because in some ways this is the most obvious thing in the world. We’ve known all along that something like this could happen – indeed that it was likely to happen. As long as Trump seemed likely to win or to have a plausible chance to win, most everyone in the GOP would be happy and go along. The fact that they were happy is profoundly troubling. But that’s another story. As long as Trump seemed likely to lose without making too much of a mess that was something the party machinery could tolerate. But when things started to go badly things were likely to go bad fast – even more if something extremely toxic was revealed about Trump.

And that’s what happened:

To say that Trump can’t lose gracefully or graciously is the grandest of understatements. He’s driven by a need to dominate – not to be the best but to be recognized as the best, the richest, the smartest, the strongest. This also means needing to win always. All of this means he gets angry quickly and lashes out in the face of sleights.

Being shamed by nearly every Republican in the country is a profound ego injury. Looking at the prospect of a shattering electoral defeat is another. That has to be channeled somewhere and it looks like it’s going to be channeled against the GOP. Trump needs someone to blame. He’s already blamed news networks, blacks, debate moderators, the Khans, Alicia Machado, Judge Curiel. But Paul Ryan and the GOP now seem like the target of his most intense rage.

Will that rage settle as the intensity of the final weeks builds and the prospect of defeat gets closer? I would think not.

This will only get worse:

Remember, Trump is a bully. Bullies seek out people they can hurt. Trump has done everything he possibly can to hurt Hillary Clinton. But he doesn’t seem to be able to do so. The chance to do the one thing that would truly hurt her – defeating her in the general election – looks to be slipping beyond his grasp. That is almost certainly the root of his increasingly open threats to jail and punish her. But there is someone else he can hurt profoundly, even as he falls behind in the general election: the Republican Party. This is all the better since they are his best argument to justify his defeat as a betrayal rather than a personal failure.

In fact, they are the natural target:

Think of your own experience. Bullies never pick out the strongest person to abuse. That defies the definition of a bully. Bullies seek out the weak. At the moment, the institutional GOP and its key leaders are exceptionally weak and vulnerable, even helpless. The best example: even as he continues to attack them, threaten a cataclysmic election outcome, they cannot even withdraw their endorsements. One senator who dropped him the day after the ‘grab’ tape leaked took him back today.

Like an abuser who takes out his personal failures and frustrations and rages on his wife and his children, Paul Ryan and the GOP are now alone in the house with Donald Trump. He is angry and the prospect of defeat will no doubt make him angrier. In Trump’s world of displacement, abuse and vengeance, turning against the GOP, is the most logical thing in the world.

J. Bradford DeLong, the economist up at Berkeley who worked in the previous Clinton administration, has a different idea:

Perhaps Trump is not sane.

Perhaps there is no method here at all. Perhaps Trump thinks that he is likely to win.

But perhaps there is a method here. And perhaps Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence and many others will rue their decision to come crawling back to Trump yesterday.

Perhaps Trump accepts that his chances of becoming president are now down to something between 2% (Sam Wang) and 20% (Nate Silver). And perhaps Trump is looking forward to what life is going to be like after November 8. What does he want to do? It looks like he wants to become boss of the Republican Party. That means that he has to remove from influence others who might challenge him for the role of boss of the Republican Party–who might be strong enough to lead an effort to marginalize him after November 8.

Who are those people who might do so? Not any of the 16 dwarfs–he beat them all, remember? The people who might be able to edge Trump out of the spotlight are three. They are Paul Ryan and Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell.

If there is method to this madness, look for Trump to spend the next month trying to destroy the reputations and influence of those three.

That’s an interesting theory, but why would Trump want to be the boss of the Republican Party? There no real prestige in that, and no big money, and the work is tedious – herding a motley crew of big egos to achieve specific public policy victories based on a firm ideology. That’s boring, and sexy babes don’t throw themselves at you. Ask Mitch McConnell. And if that now-famous “pussy” tape reveals anything it’s that this man is enamored with the “fact” that with sufficient fame and massive wealth women will gladly let you do anything you want with them – grab what you will – they’ll love it. Being the boss of the Republican Party doesn’t cut it. All you get is political power. That’s not pussy. Marshall is right – this is about being recognized as the best, the richest, the smartest, and certainly the strongest.

But that leads to some dark places:

It’s not just the Democrats who are frustrated by Donald Trump’s “rigged election” talk.

Republicans have started warning their increasingly ostracized nominee to stop stoking his supporters with claims that the 2016 election will be stolen, daring him to show proof or put a lid on it.

“Somebody claiming in the election, ‘I was defrauded,’ that isn’t going to cut it,” said former Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican who earlier in the campaign endorsed Jeb Bush and then Marco Rubio. “They’re going to have to say how, where, why, when.”

“I don’t think leading candidates for the presidency should undercut the process unless you have a really good reason,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who gained little support for his own 2016 White House run, told POLITICO.

Yeah, but winning is everything:

Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, have been flogging for months the notion that Hillary Clinton supporters could tamper with voting to the point that they win the White House. Their campaign website is recruiting poll watchers, and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has been raising unlimited funds from corporations and individuals, in a bid to “fight a rigged system” that purportedly benefits the Democrats.

And Monday, at a post-debate rally in crucial Pennsylvania, Trump kept the vote rigging argument alive: “Watch other communities because we don’t want this election stolen from us,” Trump said. “We do not want this election stolen from us.”

This is playing with fire:

Such sustained and supercharged rhetoric, coming on the heels of a heated debate over restrictive voter ID laws across the country and the U.S. government’s Friday announcement accusing Russian hackers, on orders from the Kremlin, of trying to meddle with the election, has raised alarm bells in election offices nationwide.

States already bracing for record turnout in the presidential race are also dealing simultaneously with an unprecedented series of cyberthreats, including what the Homeland Security Department has confirmed as attempted hacks on more than 20 voting registration systems across the country. While the balloting itself is largely seen as safe from cyber-sleuths because the bulk of the actual voting process takes place offline, the state officials doing the grunt work complain that charges of election rigging, on top of the complaints they hear about ballot security, make their jobs that much tougher.

And nonsense plays a part too:

Election officials note that widespread voting fraud has been repeatedly debunked, and they point to a series of media accounts and government watchdog reports saying so. Among the most notable: Student journalists at the Carnegie-Knight News 21 program found in a 2012 study just 10 cases of voter impersonation dating back to the 2000 election. That’s one example out of every 15 million possible voters. And again in August, the media group released new findings on voter fraud cases in five states – Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio and Texas – that examined hundreds of allegations and found few actual prosecutions.

None of that is news. This was never a problem, but now it’s a real problem:

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence chided a Trump supporter Tuesday who talked about there being a post-election revolution if Hillary Clinton wins the election.

During an event Tuesday, a woman rose to tell Pence that she was concerned about voter fraud handing the election to Clinton said that she would participate in a “revolution” if Clinton headed to the White House.

“I don’t want this to happen but I will tell you personally if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself, I’m ready for a revolution because we can’t have her in,” the woman said.

Pence shook his head and waved his hand as he told the woman “Yeah, don’t say that.”

“There’s a revolution coming on November the 8th, I promise you,” he added.

Mike Pence was clearly uncomfortable. He didn’t think he signed up to lead an armed insurrection against the newly elected government of the United States, to overthrow it – but he did. He thought he signed up for a bit of creative destruction – nothing too radical, but some real change. He actually signed up for total destruction. All men would be tyrants if they could. Trump is working on that.

Yoda felt a great disturbance in The Force. This was a bad thing.

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The Primal Scream Party

Everyone agrees that the second presidential debate in Saint Louis was a bit strange:

The presidential campaign took a dark turn here Sunday night as Donald Trump leveled a stream of harsh charges at Hillary Clinton during their second debate, claiming she attacked women who accused her husband of sexual abuse and promising to send the former secretary of state to jail if he is president.

He said that twice. If he becomes president, she goes to jail. Presidents can do that, you know – jail their opponents and throw away the key. They can’t. Perhaps he has some other country in mind. He does think Putin is an admirable strong leader. Such things happen there, but this Washington Post account had more:

Reeling from the release of a 2005 video showing him crudely bragging about using his fame to force himself on women, Trump sought to salvage his candidacy by going on the offensive against Clinton.

He repeatedly interrupted the Democratic nominee. He lashed out at her with a multitude of falsehoods over her foreign and domestic policies as well as her judgment and character. He called her “a liar” and “the Devil.” And as Clinton answered voters’ questions in the town-hall-style debate, Trump lurked just an arm’s length behind her with a grimace on his face.

Lurking? Did he say the devil? It was all that, and all the post-debate polling showed that Hillary had won this one too. She was calm and normal. She let Donald Trump rant on and on. Let him be theatrically angry, interrupting her with insults. She smiled. Let him be unhinged. She’d wait. Let him lapse into incoherency. She’d be normal. She’d win by default, and she did. There are those who seem to want an angry president, often unhinged by his outrage, who doesn’t really care if he doesn’t quite make sense. There are those who want “attitude” – no more than that – but their numbers are few – enough to win the Republican nomination but no more than that.

Of course those few thought Donald Trump won this debate, and that’s the secondary debate that Donald Trump actually won, as Josh Marshall explains here:

I think this was the debate the Breitbart crew – Bannon, Bossie and the rest – wanted from Trump. He hit Bill’s history; he was aggressive and slashing; he repeatedly called Hillary a liar; he managed to list off virtually the entire library of Clinton “scandals” and attack lines. It was all there. If you’re part of the Breitbart world, the Breitbart brain trust, this is the debate you wanted. These were the attacks you wanted to see someone stand on that stage and level against Hillary Clinton. It was a decent shot at the primal scream they’ve hungered for.

Trump won this “primal scream” debate, hands down, and that presented the Republicans with a bit of an existential problem. Democrats are who they are, from careful to progressive to a bit far out there on the left, but basically the same – we’re all in this together and government can be a useful tool for making things better for everyone. Republicans see things differently. There should be as little government as possible. People should take care of themselves. But there should be a government – a quite necessary evil. They’d just do things a bit differently.

The argument, each way, has played out forever, but now there’s something new. There are these “primal scream” folks, led by Donald Trump. They call themselves Republicans too. Are they? If they are, how can they be integrated into the party? Or are they the party now?

Donald Trump says they are. He won the primaries. He’s the nominee. There is thoughtful conservatism, those who cite Edmund Burke and whatnot, and policy wonks like Paul Ryan, and then there’s white-hot anger and outrage and incoherence, but with an attitude. That may be the new Republicanism.

Which will it be? Donald Trump did not lose that second debate – not at all. He fired up his “primal scream” base. They cannot be ignored now. Republicans who have denounced him now have nowhere to go. They may not have a party anymore, but they are fighting back. In fact, the day after the second debate the actual Republican civil war finally broke out, as Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin report here:

The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, dealt a hammer blow to Donald J. Trump’s presidential candidacy on Monday, dashing any remaining semblance of Republican unity and inviting fierce backlash from his own caucus by announcing that he would no longer defend Mr. Trump.

Mr. Ryan’s stance drew an immediate rebuke from Mr. Trump, who posted on Twitter that Mr. Ryan should focus on governing “and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.”

This was war:

Mr. Ryan informed Republican lawmakers on a morning conference call that he would never again campaign for Mr. Trump and would dedicate himself instead to defending the party’s majority in Congress, according to five lawmakers who participated in the call and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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

That sounds sensible, unless attitude matters more than sense:

The reaction from hard-liners was swift and angry. Over the course of an hour, a stream of conservative lawmakers urged their colleagues not to give up on Mr. Trump and chided Mr. Ryan for what they described as surrendering prematurely in the presidential race. Mr. Trump’s campaign is reeling after a disastrous two weeks that culminated in the release on Friday of a 2005 recording in which he bragged about sexual assault.

One of the conservatives, Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, attacked the Republicans stepping away from Mr. Trump as “cowards,” three lawmakers said. Another, Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, said, using graphic language to describe abortion, that allowing Mrs. Clinton into the White House would end with fetuses being destroyed “limb from limb.”

Trying to quiet the uproar, Mr. Ryan interjected after about 45 minutes to assure members that he was not withdrawing his endorsement of Mr. Trump, but rather doing what he felt was in the best interests of the House.

Okay, he’s endorsing Trump, but he’ll not defend him anymore. He’ll have nothing to do with him, and Trump doesn’t really care:

Mr. Trump did not repeat his Twitter jab at Mr. Ryan at a campaign event in Pennsylvania Monday afternoon, offering instead a red-meat diatribe unlikely to appeal beyond his dedicated base. He repeated his call from Sunday night’s debate for a special prosecutor to pursue Mrs. Clinton, called her “the devil” and warned that her election would lead to “the destruction of our country.”

Trump was on a roll, but so was Hillary Clinton:

While Mrs. Clinton made no direct reference to the fissures appearing among Republicans, her campaign tried to exploit the moment, releasing several television ads featuring voters who describe themselves as Republicans but plan to vote for Mrs. Clinton.

Jennifer Palmieri, Mrs. Clinton’s communications director, expressed little sympathy for Republicans now fleeing Mr. Trump.

“There was a time when they could have spoken out against him,” Ms. Palmieri said of party leaders like Mr. Ryan. “That time was this summer. Obviously, it is too late now.”

Ryan may know that now, as others do:

In a sign of how deep divisions now run among Republicans, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, held a conference call of his own after Mr. Ryan’s to emphasize his commitment to Mr. Trump. Mr. Priebus told members that the committee was working in “full coordination” with the Trump campaign and planned to direct “a lot” of money to the presidential race.

“Nothing has changed in our support for our nominee,” he said, vowing “an incredible four weeks” until the election.

Mr. Priebus, long a close political ally of Mr. Ryan, made no direct reference to the speaker’s announcement, or to the dozens of governors and members of Congress who have rescinded their support for Mr. Trump.

That’s one way to deal with a problem – announce that it doesn’t exist – but there is a problem:

Mr. Trump’s allies had hoped that the debate would halt the exodus of fellow Republicans from his candidacy, and they publicly implored members of the party on Monday to stick with him through Election Day. Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Mr. Trump’s running mate, punctured speculation that he might withdraw from the race by pronouncing himself “proud to stand with Donald Trump” in a visit to North Carolina.

Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, also offered an ominous warning for Republicans fleeing Mr. Trump. She noted on television that Mr. Ryan had been booed by Trump fans over the weekend in Wisconsin and said she knew of Republican lawmakers who had behaved inappropriately toward young women, and whose criticism of Mr. Trump was therefore hypocritical.

Just as telling as the frustration from outspoken conservatives in the House on Monday was the silence from so many mainstream Republicans in the chamber, who showed little appetite to argue for or with their embattled nominee.

The party is tearing itself apart, and Philip Rucker reports on the party tumbling toward anarchy:

New national and battleground-state polls showed Trump sliding since Friday’s publication of a 2005 video of him bragging about sexual assault, putting Clinton in position for a possible electoral landslide. Clinton surged to an 11 percentage point lead nationally in an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll conducted over the weekend.

“It’s every person for himself or herself right now,” former senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said. “The nominee for president is so destructive to everyday Republicans.”

Those everyday Republicans are in a tough spot:

Unlike Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was rendered mute on the subject Monday. He told a business group in Kentucky that if they wanted to hear his thoughts on Trump, they “might as well go ahead and leave,” according to the Associated Press.

Still, there was no wave of defections Monday from Trump, who in an aggressive performance in Sunday night’s debate reassured the conservative base that he would be a relentless aggressor against the party’s shared enemies: Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

A new wave of defections would have been useful to those everyday Republicans, but Trump took care of that, by firing up his base, consolidating what power he has:

Many Republican elected officials felt paralyzed Monday, disgusted with Trump’s candidacy but afraid to withdraw their endorsements and feel the wrath of his supporters. The situation was most precarious for politicians in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, who can save their seats only if they get votes from the most fervent Trump supporters as well as moderates uneasy about him.

Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told House members on the conference call with Ryan that navigating the election was now like “landing an airplane in a hurricane,” according to a lawmaker on the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly.

Trump is exacerbating the tensions by rebuking any Republican who betrays him and using the party leadership as a foil. Trump tweeted on Sunday: “So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers – and elections – go down!”

Trump’s high command is keeping track of Republicans who break from the nominee. As he climbed into a waiting SUV late Sunday in St. Louis with other Trump advisers, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani coolly said that Trump “will remember” who was with him and who was not – and vowed that the outsider candidate would win the White House irrespective of the party leaders’ wishes.

Now all they need to do is get votes from the most fervent Trump supporters as well as moderates uneasy about him and win their seats, even if that’s now impossible. They have to buy into Trump:

Trump has done little to put the fire out. He and his campaign have fully committed to a final month of harsh combat by airing allegations of sexual assault by Bill Clinton.

Following Sunday’s debate, Omarosa Manigault, Trump’s African American outreach director, brought up Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky to reporters and accused the 42nd president and his wife of having “preyed on this intern” and “destroyed her as a human being.”

“This is not a couple you want in the White House,” Manigault said. “People say, ‘Oh, Hillary’s separate from her husband.’ But if you get Hillary in the White House, you also get Bill, and Lord have mercy on us if we have to go through four more years of that.”

This approach is galvanizing Trump’s grass-roots supporters. Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chairman, said the campaign received “a big surge” of small-dollar donations and positive feedback from the debate.

That’s nice, but in the late nineties Clinton was impeached. Clinton’s favorable numbers soared. Hillary’s soared too – she stood by her husband and tried to make the best of things. The Democrats actually gained seats in the midterms that year. Newt Gingrich lost his job. Don’t go with Monica Lewinsky again. The party made that mistake once, and once is enough.

Well, screw the party:

Trump’s blistering method is being orchestrated by Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign’s chief executive and former head of the acerbic conservative website Breitbart, who has become a near-omnipresent counselor at Trump’s side. He has urged Trump not to worry about any cleavage in party ranks and instead to target Clinton.

This really is the end of the Republican Party that Americans knew, as Josh Marshall notes here:

It’s just like it was in the spring when the GOP party apparatus devised feverish plans to deny Donald Trump the nomination at the convention and then caved without a fight. The great GOP disengagement from Donald Trump – after the emergence of a video in which Trump bragged about assaulting a women – is over after little more than 48 hours…

As it has been for a year, the GOP has nominal power. But Donald Trump owns their voters. That’s the entirety of the story. Nothing has changed.

The surrender looks all but total. The handful of senators and members of congress who jumped ship on Friday and Saturday now appear to have jumped a bit too soon, now stranded in rapidly sinking lifeboats as the damaged main vessel slowly takes on water but yet drifts on to the waterfall.

And Marshall also notes that Ryan now wants credit for jettisoning Trump without actually doing it.

I would say that the real question of the final month of the 2016 campaign is no longer who will be president (yes, not over till it’s over, but…) but what toll Trump’s rhetorical violence and emotional breakdown will take on the GOP Congress. Mitch McConnell has been curiously silent through this drama. Paul Ryan is now trying, far too late in the game, to steer his ship into port. But the wind is churning, the waves are crashing and ship-ripping boulders are right under the water. He has to cross the boulders to find safety. Those boulders of course are Trump’s impassioned supporters, a minority of the electorate but a majority of Republican voters. The exact debate performance that turned off most swing voters was the fantasy debate for Trumpers… that’s the performance they’ve been waiting for: an angry and unapologetic series of verbal assaults on Hillary Clinton. It was the primal scream they’ve been waiting for, for months. Indeed that many from the Republican right have been waiting for, for 25 years. They are even more committed to Trump now than they were yesterday afternoon.

It’s over:

This morning, the Post’s Robert Costa – a great reporter and one of the best for access into the innards of the GOP – said this on Twitter: “In calls this morning, many Rs privately want to defect from Trump. But they say the debate gave them pause since he roused their base.”

This could be a summary of the entire 2016 campaign. It’s why the GOP establishment wasn’t able to ditch Trump in the primaries or outflank him at the convention or disentangle themselves from him now. It’s simple: they can’t drop him because he owns their voters. Every machination and strategy and clever trick comes to grief against that reality.

Democrats, of course, love this:

I believe we have arrived at the stage where Democrats, if they play their cards right and execute effectively, can break numerous Republican candidates over this basic division in the GOP: force candidates to choose where they stand on Trump. Sticking with him loses critical votes in the center, abandoning him triggers a rebellion on the right. It doesn’t take more than a handful of percentage points on either side to lose an election. Critically, pressing candidates day after day for a decision they simply cannot make will have the effect of making them seem hapless, helpless and ridiculous to many voters wherever they stand on the political spectrum. At deciding time, people want a straight answer. I don’t think voting but not endorsing, or endorsing but not defending, or any of the other GOP acrobatics will ward off this demand for an answer.

There is no answer:

The intensity is mounting. The momentum is quickening. The GOP is too big to break down. Its inertia is more than enough to bring it to Election Day. After that some sort of rebuilding may occur or again be delayed. But it’s in the Democrats’ power now to break Republican candidates one by one if they choose and act wisely.

There goes the House. There goes the Senate. They’ve already lost the White House. And it look like they were taken by surprise, but Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog says no one should be surprised:

What we saw from Trump yesterday is what we’ve seen on Fox News, talk radio, and conservative websites every single day for the past twenty years. We’re just not supposed to see it from the Republican presidential nominee, who’s supposed to go light on the demonization and degradation of Democrats that’s the common language of the right. Trump’s just not bothering to engage in the usual deception.

How can we be shocked that Trump said he’d put Hillary Clinton in jail? The mantra of his convention last summer was “Lock her up” – there are voter-created “Hillary for Prison” signs all over America. (And this isn’t even new. In the 2000 campaign, a guaranteed applause line in Pat Buchanan’s stock speech was his assertion that his first act as president would be to turn to the outgoing president, Bill Clinton, and say, “Sir, you have the right to remain silent.”)

And how can we be shocked that Trump believes Bill and Hillary Clinton regularly preyed on women? That’s been a staple of conservative discourse for a generation, and it would have been used by the conservative press against Hillary even if this year’s nominee chose not to raise it personally.

And nothing was hidden:

This stuff isn’t going out on the dark Web – it’s hiding in plain sight. If it shocks you coming from Trump, where were you when it was bubbling up from the fever swamps all these years?

Trump said last night that Hillary Clinton has “tremendous hate in her heart”; in the New York Times, Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin describe this as a “startling accusation.” But what’s “startling” about it? Conservatives have been describing Democrats and liberals as America’s real hatemongers for years now – if you call out racism, the right says that you’re the real racist. This happens all the time. There’s nothing new here.

Donald Trump is the real Republican Party stripped of phony civility and fake high-mindedness. He represents his party better than John McCain and Mitt Romney ever did. He’s the genuine article. If you’re shocked by his campaign, you’ve had your head in the sand for a long time.

So there was this real Republican Party all long. Ryan and the others didn’t see it. That’s their problem, and Charlie Pierce adds this:

The campaign of El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago always has been a ridiculous campaign run by a ridiculous man who hijacked a ridiculous political party and now has rendered the entire American political system as ridiculous as the ferret he wears on his head. The ridiculous campaign, the ridiculous man, and the ridiculous political party cannot be considered separately. The ridiculousness of the political party, energized for decades by hay-shakers, Bible-bangers, voodoo economists, jackleg preachers and the altogether crazy-assed elements of almost every political phylum, made it inevitable that a ridiculous man would run a ridiculous campaign one day. What very few people counted on was that the man and the campaign and the party would become so ridiculous that they would make everyone else ridiculous, too.

Some things are inevitable:

Do I mock? Of course, I do. The Republican Party has been edging toward this catastrophe for 40 years, ever since it let goons like the late Terry Dolan help run its senatorial campaigns in the late 1970s. Dolan led to Lee Atwater, who led to Karl Rove and, altogether, they made Donald Trump not an aberration, but a culmination. It took into itself the debris of American apartheid. It allied itself with radicalized American Protestantism. It adopted a basic political philosophy of vandalism and nihilism. When confronted with an opportunity for human decency, such as in the case of Terri Schiavo, the party opted for cruelty. When presented an opportunity for political unity, such as in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, the party opted for the despicable in domestic politics and for the barbaric overseas. When handed an opportunity to change course, such as when the deregulated casino economy nearly destroyed the world in 2008, it doubled down on the basic economic philosophy that caused the wreckage in the first place. And when it became plain that the party was on the wrong side of history, such as the movement for marriage equality, it chose to work in the states through pestiferous god-botherers like Mike Pence…

When it won, the party opted for triumphalism. When it lost, it opted for obstruction. It has blown through democratic norms in every branch of the government. In the executive, it lied and tortured and worked almost exclusively to shove as much of the country’s wealth upwards. As a legislative majority, it has consistently refused to do even the most fundamental tasks of governing the country. In the judiciary, the judges so carefully nurtured in the think-tank terrariums of the organized Right have let loose a flood of money into our politics and have worked assiduously to carve away the franchise from the people who might most inconvenience the party on Election Day. They have come dangerously close to completing the project of creating a new Jim Crow to ensure a new Gilded Age. And now, there are not sufficient roosts for all the chickens. If you have a party dedicated to vandalism and nihilism, how can you possibly be surprised when your presidential nomination is spirited away by a career vandal and a superior nihilist?

So we are where we are:

It doesn’t matter now if Trump drops out or not. He has shown the world what the black heart of modern Republicanism – and of the modern form of conservatism that drives it – really looks like. He has become its beau ideal. He will stand for it until the party commits itself to real change and genuine outreach to those people it now only employs as targets for its timorous angry base to aim at. Whether he stays or whether he goes – and, god, I hope he stays – Donald Trump has burned down all the camouflage. He is what they are.

They don’t want to believe that. They’ll fight civil war to prove that is isn’t so, but there, right in front of their eyes, is Donald Trump and the primal scream crowd, that’s been there all along, that’s now telling Paul Ryan and the others to start screaming too, or just go away. Perhaps they will. Their Republican Party is now Trump’s. Maybe it always was. They may have to start again.

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Two Down

Down the hill at Melrose and Gower, at Paramount Pictures, they make slasher movies now and then – another Star Trek movie isn’t going to keep that studio afloat. Quick cash is necessary, and those slasher movies practically write themselves, and they don’t require elaborate sets and all the CGI stuff. They’re quite simple. There’s always a stalker, a silent evil stalker – in a quite ordinary setting – a suburban neighborhood or the local high school. He lurks in the background. He looms menacingly in the shadows. The sweet young thing – there’s always a sweet young thing – tries to pretend he’s not there. But he is. And then bad things happen.

And then there was the second presidential debate. There was this large heavy-set old man in a very black suit, a bit too large for him, wearing a bright blood-red tie, obviously very angry, scowling bitterly, heavily pacing back and forth, silently, looming behind the smiling chipper woman trying to make some point to the audience. He would, now and them, stop right behind her and stare at her as she spoke, possibly thinking murderous thoughts. She ignored him. In the slasher movies she would soon die a horrible death. But this was just a political debate. No one is going to die.

L. V. Anderson puts that this way:

Donald Trump’s major task for the second presidential debate – likely an insurmountable one – was to reassure women that he’s not a sexual predator. When asked a question early on about the instantly infamous tape from 2005 in which he bragged about groping women, Trump replied, “This was locker-room talk. I am not proud of it. I apologized to my family and the American people. I am not proud of it.” When moderator Anderson Cooper pushed him – “For the record, are you saying that what you said on the bus 11 years ago, that you did not kiss women without consent or grope women, you said you never did that?” – Trump insisted, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”

That respect doesn’t extend to Hillary Clinton, whom Trump repeatedly photobombed during the debate. During Clinton’s time, Trump wandered around the stage like a bored child at a wedding. He paced back and forth like a patriarch impatiently allowing a woman to speak but thinking better of it. He hovered a few feet behind her like a psycho killer about to burst through a glass window in a horror movie.

The visuals were bad. Those of us who live here in Hollywood knew that immediately. Everyone knew that, and Anderson notes the tweets from various women:

Hilary’s composure an ability to speak coherently with a psychopath lurking behind her is demonstration of her ability to lead.

Scary Halloween costume idea: Dress up like Trump, go to a party, and stand 3-5 feet behind successful women.

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

Trump is literally just lurking behind a small woman counting the seconds while she speaks to then complain about how long she is speaking.

This is the face of a sexist getting his ass kicked in a debate by a woman.

And Anderson also notes this:

Eternally cheerful Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared on MSNBC after Sunday night’s presidential debate to spin the whole circus as a win for her boss and to remind viewers that the real enemy of women is Hillary Clinton. So far, so normal. But then Chris Matthews asked Conway if she had any plans to leave Trump’s campaign, and her answer was … not normal. “You’re with the campaign till the bitter end?” said Matthews.

“I’m with the campaign till the bitter end. Unless … ” There was a dramatic pause, as though Conway were contemplating where her life might be right now if she hadn’t decided to lead the campaign of a notorious misogynist. Then she whispered something that sounded a lot like, “Who knows?” and reminded herself where she was. “I’m sitting here as his campaign manager. I’m sitting here with you in the debate hall where he just performed beautifully.”

“So you’re worried about more shoes dropping?” Matthews asked.

“No, I didn’t say that,” she replied, flustered. “No, no, no. No. No. I’ve made a commitment. And I believe that he will be a much better president.” Conway stumbled through a confusing sentence about how everyone knows Trump won the debate but that everyone is talking about it how he stood menacingly behind Clinton, and then she found her way again. “The woman you saw out there tonight I think is unfit to be president,” she concluded with most of her usual swagger.

Everyone is allowed to have second thoughts, even if it’s best to keep them private. But this debate in Saint Louis was a strange debate:

The presidential campaign took a dark turn here Sunday night as Donald Trump leveled a stream of harsh charges at Hillary Clinton during their second debate, claiming she attacked women who accused her husband of sexual abuse and promising to send the former secretary of state to jail if he is president.

Yeah, he said that twice. If he becomes president, she goes to jail. Presidents can do that, you know – jail their opponents and throw away the key. They can’t. Perhaps he has some other country in mind. He does think Putin is an admirable strong leader. Such things happen there, but this Washington Post account has far more:

Reeling from the release of a 2005 video showing him crudely bragging about using his fame to force himself on women, Trump sought to salvage his candidacy by going on the offensive against Clinton.

He repeatedly interrupted the Democratic nominee. He lashed out at her with a multitude of falsehoods over her foreign and domestic policies as well as her judgment and character. He called her “a liar” and “the Devil.” And as Clinton answered voters’ questions in the town-hall-style debate, Trump lurked just an arm’s length behind her with a grimace on his face.

Lurking? The devil? This was one of those slasher movies, but this was the sweet (sort of) young thing who fought back:

Clinton, while mostly restrained, showed flashes of ire at her aggressor. “Okay, Donald, I know you’re into big diversion tonight,” she said. “Anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it is exploding and the way Republicans are leaving you.”

With the Republican Party in an unprecedented crisis and dozens of GOP officials calling on Trump to step aside since the video’s release on Friday, Trump’s isolation was laid bare on the stage here when he curtly broke with his vice-presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, on a central foreign policy issue.

While Pence has described Russia in hawkish terms as a menace in the Middle East, Trump said he disagreed and that they had not discussed Russia’s role in the Syrian civil war.

He proved her right. Those Republicans abandoning him are cowards and fools. So is his running mate. He doesn’t talk to him. He doesn’t listen to him, and this sums up the dynamic:

Trump was energetic but at times confusing, stitching together scattered talking points and often evading the questions, presenting a stark contrast to Clinton’s steady if also sometimes halting and lawyerly presentation.

But it went bad from the beginning:

The evening’s caustic tone was set when Trump and Clinton refused to shake hands when they met at center stage. Trump was asked at the start of the debate whether he understood that he was effectively describing sexual assault in the newly released video. His voice flat, Trump framed the matter as a distraction from the problems facing the world.

“I’m very embarrassed by it,” Trump said. “I hate it. But it’s locker-room talk. It’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS.”

Clinton responded: “What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women. And he has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is, but I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is.”

Trump dismissed Clinton’s comments and unfurled a searing attack on former president Bill Clinton, who watched stern-faced from the audience.

“If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse,” Trump said. “Mine were words and his was action. What he did to women, there’s never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation who’s been so abusive to women… Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously.”

Noting that some of Clinton’s accusers were seated in the audience as his guests, Trump continued: “What President Clinton did, he was impeached. He lost his license to practice law. He had to pay an $850,000 fine to one of the women, Paula Jones, who’s also here tonight. And I will tell you that when Hillary brings up a point like that, she talks about words that I said 11 years ago, I think it’s disgraceful.”

Clinton refused to litigate the women’s allegations raised by Trump, which the Clintons have long denied. “When I hear something like that I am reminded of what my friend Michelle Obama advised us all: ‘When they go low, you go high,'” Clinton said, referring to the first lady.

Still, Trump’s point was clear. Let’s not talk about me. Let’s talk about your husband, and Clinton had an answer to that:

Clinton pivoted to a critique of Trump’s fitness for office.

“It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” she said.

“Because you’d be in jail,” Trump interjected, referring to his earlier vow to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton’s private emails and handling of classified information.

That was his answer to everything. Lady, you’re going to jail. But context is everything:

Trump spent the weekend mostly hunkered down at Trump Tower in New York, stewing over mass defections from fellow Republicans and taking counsel from a shrinking circle of loyalists. His candidacy has plunged the GOP into civil war and elected officials fearing he could cost them their majorities in both chambers of Congress.

Trump’s candidacy was in a precarious state even before Friday’s release of the video showing his predatory remarks. After stumbling through the first debate and behaving erratically in the aftermath, Trump fell behind Clinton in most national and battleground state polls.

Trump was combative throughout the debate, accusing the moderators of bias and saying he felt like the debate was “one on three.” At one point, as the moderators tried to move the conversation along, Trump snapped and said, “Why don’t you interrupt her?”

He was angry and whining about how unfair it all was, again, and she didn’t let up:

Clinton also used Trump’s affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to cast the Republican nominee almost as a pawn for an adversarial foreign power. Clinton said Russia was “working so hard” to influence the U.S. election.

“Maybe because he has praised Putin,” she said, demanding that Trump release his tax returns that would show whether he has any conflicts of interest with Russia or other foreign entities.

“So ridiculous,” Trump said. “I don’t know Putin. I know nothing about Russia.”

That’s probably true. He shouldn’t have said that, or this:

Trump seemed to concede that he had avoided paying any federal income taxes for some recent years by taking advantage of tax loopholes and the massive $916 million loss he reported in 1995.

Or this:

As at the first debate two weeks ago, much of Sunday night’s event centered on Trump’s temperament. Cooper asked Trump about his penchant for sharing his unfiltered thoughts to millions of followers on Twitter, asking whether his tweets were reflective of a stable person.

Trump, who falsely denied pointing his Twitter followers to an alleged “sex tape” of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, called his tweeting a “modern form of communication” and “very effective.”

“I’m not unproud of it,” he said.

He stands alone there, and everyone in the party had told him not to do this:

In a stunt one hour before the event, Trump invited a small group of reporters to observe what was billed as his final debate preparations. When they arrived in Trump’s sixth-floor conference room at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis, they found the candidate in a highly unusual scene – glowering as he sat alongside four women who claimed they had been mistreated by the Clintons.

The quartet included Paula Jones, who accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment in the early 1990s, and Juanita Broaddrick, who accused him of raping her in 1978.

“Mr. Trump may have said some bad words,” Broaddrick told reporters. “But Bill Clinton raped me and Hillary Clinton threatened me. I don’t think there’s any comparison.”

The Clintons have denied the accusations, although Bill Clinton did pay Jones a settlement without admitting or denying her accusation.

Watching as the news conference unfolded was one of the men who orchestrated it, Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s campaign chief executive and the political provocateur who has long targeted the Clintons as well as the Republican establishment through his conservative website, Breitbart.

So this debate, and the rest of the campaign, is going to be about Bill Clinton. Republicans know how that turned out in the nineties. Trump doesn’t, or he doesn’t care. He’s angry. And he likes lurking in the shadows, an evil menace.

Josh Marshall suggests this:

I think this was the debate the Breitbart crew – Bannon, Bossie and the rest – wanted from Trump. He hit Bill’s history; he was aggressive and slashing; he repeatedly called Hillary a liar; he managed to list off virtually the entire library of Clinton ‘scandals’, attack lines. It was all there. If you’re part of the Breitbart world, the Breitbart brain trust, this is the debate you wanted. These were the attacks you wanted to see someone stand on that stage and level against Hillary Clinton. It was a decent shot at the primal scream they’ve hungered for.

But that may have not done much good:

One notable thing is that there was that moment we’ve all been waiting for when Trump finally unloaded the whole oppo file on Bill. Again, that’s part of the Breitbart/base GOP fantasy scenario. Indeed, in a very real sense this has been a dream moment for many on the American right for 25 years. And yet, my sense is that it basically fell flat and barely affected the rest of the debate – like a stone falling into a pond never to be heard from again. He trotted out what all of us have been hearing from Trump and Trump surrogates for months. Indeed, it was what we’ve been hearing anti-Clinton critiques hitting for two decades. Did it matter? I don’t think so. Saying on a stage and in front of Hillary didn’t make it any newer or more consequential. It just fell flat and I don’t think anyone cared.

No one cared in the late nineties when Clinton was impeached. Clinton’s favorable numbers soared. The Democrats actually gained seats in the midterms that year. Newt Gingrich lost his job. Why would it be any different now? But there’s more:

For those of us who’ve watched a number of these presidential townhall debates what’s striking is how different this one was from every previous one. The citizen audience members were barely part of it. I could recall the debate and basically forget they were even there. Townhall debates usually focus tightly on audience questions, with those questions, often focused on real world concerns more than campaign narratives, driving the debate forward. This was totally different. It was largely a contentious and bristling brawl in which the moderators maintained tight control over time but basically let the candidates have a knife fight.

The part of the debate that sort of eludes me is the effect of Trump’s manner. Trump did considerably better than he did in the first debate. But throughout he was blustering, visibly angry, frequently whining to and about the moderators. He was bellicose, harsh and taunting.

The whole debate, rancid and intense, felt like an ordeal to live through just watching it on television.

And there was that other thing:

I don’t think we can discuss this debate as citizens, or take stock of it as a country, without noting that this is certainly the first time one candidate has openly threatened to jail the other candidate. Trump said openly that he would instruct the Justice Department to open a new investigation of Clinton and that he’d make sure it ended with her imprisonment. That’s something we expect in a kleptocracy and thin democracies where electoral defeat can mean exile, imprisonment or death.

Such a ferocious claim, one that puts our whole constitutional order on its head, is not something that can be easily undone. That’s the ranting threat of a would-be strongman and dictator. The threat itself is like a bell that can’t be un-rung. Through the course of what was often an ugly debate, I was thinking a lot of the destructiveness of this entire campaign, virtually all of which stems from Trump’s transgressive, norm-demolishing behavior. It’s a topic the country is going to need to wrestle with. None of this is going to disappear after November 8th. These are slashing wounds to the country’s political fabric that will at best leave tremendous scar tissue we’ll still see for decades.

And then there’s Trump himself:

So did that caustic manner matter? It’s a little hard for me to figure that out simply because we know Trump is like this. It’s hard to see how anyone is going to be surprised. By any pre-2016 standard we know, the entirety of angry, blustering manner would be fatal for a presidential candidate. But we’ve been living with this guy for a year and a half. We all have a little bit of the trauma of living in the home of an abuser now. We’re accustomed to it. To a degree it starts to feel normal. My best guess is that through all the muck of this debate it will matter simply because it confirms what people already know.

The big issue for Trump, as we’ve discussed endlessly, is that most people think he’s not fit, temperamentally and emotionally, to be president. I suspect anyone who has questions on that front will find their skepticism about him confirmed.

There were also numerous times when Trump simply lied. I suspect that those lies, outside the kinetic intensity of this debate, will come back to bite him over the next week – just as they did in the first debate and similarly from the veep debate. Other points weren’t ‘lies’ per se but he doubled and tripled down on his taped comments just being locker room banter. All of this will haunt him over the next several days.

That means that Trump didn’t win:

To the extent that one can evaluate these things in win or lose terms, on points, I’d say it was maybe a draw. But the only real measure is what it means for the outcome of the race. By that measure, a draw is a Clinton win. Because Clinton is significantly ahead of Trump with 30 days to go and his party is in the midst of abandoning him. I suspect Trump probably at least partly arrested or at least slowed the run of denunciations within his own party. But Trump needs to shake up the race in a big way or he’s on the way to losing. He clearly did not do that. That’s the only measure that matters. By that measure, it was Clinton’s night.

Kevin Drum confirms that:

According to CNN, debate watchers thought Hillary Clinton won the debate, 57-34 percent. CNN’s focus group was something like 20-1 in favor of Clinton.

But! Trump did better than expected. He didn’t spontaneously combust on stage, so I suppose that’s a fair comment.

Elsewhere on CNN, the big topic is Trump’s declaration to Hillary Clinton that if he wins he’ll appoint a special prosecutor to “look into your situation.” Aside from the odious Scottie Nell Hughes, this was pretty unanimously panned as un-American and unprecedented. It’s banana republic stuff, not mature democracy stuff. Even Wolf Blitzer felt obliged to denounce it.

Trump has said this before, so it’s not actually news. But saying it on national TV in front of 80 million people? That’s different.

Drum also saw this:

Trump didn’t crash and burn like he did in the first debate, so I suppose that has to be counted as a victory of sorts. But on substance he almost literally said nothing. Every question was used as an opportunity to attack Hillary Clinton in one way or another. She’s a liar; she loves rich people; her husband is a sexual predator; she has “tremendous hate in her heart”; she wants to put coal miners out of business; she ought to be in jail; Michelle Obama hates her; and on and on. I think it’s safe to say that no one in presidential debate history has come anywhere close to being as derogatory as Trump was this evening…

I guess it was something of a Hail Mary. No ordinary debate performance was likely to help Trump at this point, so why not shoot the moon? But it didn’t work. He spit out an endless stream of lies, in the hopes that the audience would just be confused.

It seems they weren’t:

On policy, Clinton was her usual composed self and Trump was his usual hot mess. The Muslim ban “somehow” morphed into extreme vetting. He’ll replace Obamacare with something or other, and it will be fantastic. Saying “radical Islamic terrorism” over and over is the key to fighting ISIS. If he wins, he’s going to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton (!). On Syria, I literally couldn’t understand what he was trying to say.

Overall, this was not quite the shellacking that Trump took in the first debate, but it wasn’t a good look. Unfortunately, we’ll never really know how it affected him. There will be polls next week, but they’ll be responding to both the debate and Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” remarks. So there’s no telling what’s causing what.

That said, this was clearly another win for Clinton. She was calm and composed, and got in plenty of shots at Trump. Trump, by contrast, very definitely didn’t look like a guy you want in charge of the nuclear codes.

Is this over now? Can it be? We don’t need another slasher movie with a dark mysterious stalker, even if Trump’s chain saw is only metaphoric in this case – just words. But this is two down, one to go. There will be a third debate. Why?

Posted in Second Presidential Debate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Last Friday

The news on Thursday was that things were not going well for Donald Trump, as noted in this item from Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns:

Mr. Trump has already slipped perceptibly in public polls, trailing widely this week in Pennsylvania and by smaller margins in Florida and North Carolina – three states he cannot afford to lose. But private polling by both parties shows an even more precipitous drop, especially among independent voters, moderate Republicans and women, according to a dozen strategists from both parties who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the data was confidential.

Liesl Hickey, a Republican strategist involved in several House races in swing states, said she was dismayed by a sudden exodus of independent voters in more diverse parts of the country.

“They are really starting to pull away from Trump,” said Ms. Hickey, describing his soaring unpopularity with independents as entering “uncharted territory.”

No one could possibly recover from this – no one ever had before – and the real problem was those moderate Republicans and women. They wanted a reasonable Republican candidate, not a thin-skinned bully given to temper-tantrums over perceived personal insults that had nothing to do with anything at all. They got the thin-skinned bully. The first presidential debate confirmed that. Why was this man defending his anger that his 1996 Miss Universe got a bit hefty, and his crude insults that he tossed her at the time, insults that he was repeating and extending now? Who the hell cares?

Those moderate Republicans and women were not impressed – but his surrogates were out there, everywhere, saying that he would fix that in the next debate. Wait for Sunday night. They’d see a serious guy who could stay on topic – and they’d be serious topics – public policy and all that. Women would forget that he had fat-shamed and then slut-shamed a woman who had put on a few pounds and didn’t like him mocking her and humiliating her about that. Women might not ever forgive him for that, but they’d move beyond that, because in the second debate he’d be quietly and devastatingly presidential. Wait for Sunday night.

That was the plan, but between Thursday and Sunday night, there was Friday:

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

The video captures Trump talking with Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” on a bus with the show’s name written across the side. They were arriving on the set of “Days of Our Lives” to tape a segment about Trump’s cameo on the soap opera.

The tape includes audio of Bush and Trump talking inside the bus, as well as audio and video once they emerge from it to begin shooting the segment.

In that audio, Trump discusses a failed attempt to seduce a woman, whose full name is not given in the video.

“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. It was unclear when the events he was describing took place. The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.

“Whoa,” another voice said.

“I did try and fuck her. She was married,” Trump says.

Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.'”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.

“Your girl’s hot as shit, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

That’s how the Washington Post opened their scoop – just the facts which speak for themselves. What was there to say? Trump came up with this:

“This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close,” Trump said in a statement. “I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Okay – that was that. This was old news. Bill Clinton had said far worse in private conversation with him. You have to trust him on that. And if you were offended, he was sorry, but that’s your problem, not his.

No, this was his problem:

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has endorsed Clinton, issued a statement from Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens saying: “What Trump described in these tapes amounts to sexual assault.”

Trump was also criticized by members of his own party. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who said he is “sickened” by Trump’s comments, said the Republican presidential candidate will no longer appear with him at a campaign event in Wisconsin on Saturday.

“Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests,” Ryan said in a statement.

In a short statement issued moments after Ryan’s, Trump said his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, “will be representing me” at the Wisconsin event.

Ryan has not yet rescinded his endorsement of Trump – that’s possible, but not likely, because as House Speaker he has to work with the pro-Trump Tea Party folks if he wants to get anything done. He cannot anger them, but others don’t have his problem:

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Trump critic, said in a statement: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the comments are “repugnant and unacceptable in any circumstance” and made clear Trump’s brief statement would not suffice.

“As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape,” he said late Friday.

Politico covers the rest:

Within Trump’s own campaign, there was an overriding sense of doom. One aide expressed doubt that the GOP nominee, who has successfully weathered a number of scandals, would be able to ride the current firestorm.

There’s “absolutely no excuse to ever talk about women in such a crude and demeaning way,” Trump’s Texas chair, Dan Patrick, was quoted as saying.

Others simply didn’t want to talk about it, refusing to respond to emails, text messages, and phone calls.

While Rob Engstrom, the Chamber of Commerce’s national political director, said Trump should drop out of the race and allow his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, to assume the top of the ticket, few members of the Republican National Committee contacted by POLITICO said they had the appetite for that fight.

No one wants that fight. They’re stuck with him, but that has consequences:

Republican strategists, many of whom are convinced the GOP is confronting a long and painful post-election rebuilding process, expressed concern that their nominee could be a stain on the party. Particularly concerning, they say, is that Trump is deepening his already sizeable deficit with female voters – damage that may not be easily reversible…

While Trump has a mile-long list of controversial remarks, there was a sense that the newest headline had the potential to damage not only Trump in this final phase of the 2016 contest but down-ballot Republicans hoping to survive a tumultuous election year as well.

Trump could ruin everything for them:

Over the last two weeks, Trump has come under fire for attacking the weight of a former beauty pageant contestant and over revelations that he may have avoided paying taxes for nearly two decades. Those developments followed a lackluster performance in the first presidential debate.

“When it rains it pours,” said Robert Blizzard, a GOP pollster.

Republicans are growing increasingly concerned about what impact Trump will have on their congressional majorities. Pollsters, who have been checking for signs that the volatile GOP nominee will demolish their fragile hold on the Senate, say they’ve seen a precipitous decline in Trump’s numbers since the Sept. 26 debate. Asked about Trump’s comments, one top party strategist who is playing a key role in down-ballot races said, simply, “It sucks.”

It does, and then the “losers” piled on:

Trump’s ousted primary opponents – many of whom warned that he would spell disaster for the party in a general election – teed off on the nominee.

“As the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Make no mistake the comments were wrong and offensive,” said Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “They are indefensible.”

Told ya so, right? But then there were the perpetual defenders of Trump:

Not everyone was convinced the comments would be a deal-breaker, however. Some in the evangelical community, which has established a tenuous alliance with the brash New Yorker, rushed to his defense.

“I think it will have little or no impact. People of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, grow the economy, appoint conservative judges and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,” said Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump supporter. “In their hierarchy of concerns, an eleven-year-old tape of a private conversation with a talk show host on a tour bus ranks very low.”

And Trump’s main booster in the conservative media, Sean Hannity, said it’s time for Trump to go after Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelity.

What does going after Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelity have to do with any of this? No one knows, but Mark Joseph Stern knows this:

What Trump describes in the recording is, quite literally, criminal sexual assault.

Sexual assault statutes vary state by state, and we don’t know where the alleged conduct occurred. But consider the sexual battery statute in California, where the conversation in question took place. Under that law, any person “who touches an intimate part of another person” for his own sexual gratification and without the victim’s consent has committed sexual battery. That is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment. Or consider the law in New York, where Trump lives. There, an individual is guilty of a sex offense if he “forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire.” A person found guilty of this sex offense risks imprisonment of up to one year. In Connecticut, where Trump long maintained a vacation home, the law is similar: An individual is guilty of sexual assault when he “subjects another person to sexual contact without such other person’s consent.” (“Sexual contact” need not even involve the touching of “bare skin.”) Again, an individual convicted of this form of sexual assault faces up to a year’s imprisonment.

Trump boasted of kissing women and touching their genitals without their consent. In much of the country, including those states in which Trump lives and works, that is sexual assault. And if he was telling the truth on tape, he could have been prosecuted and imprisoned for a considerable amount of time.

Gentlemen, don’t grab pussy. You could go to jail. When you’re a star, they let you do it – you can do anything? That may not be true. Actually, that isn’t true.

Michelle Goldberg adds this:

In an election in which no individual outrage seems to matter, it’s possible that this one might. It’s not just that we have further evidence of what sort of person Trump is. Trump’s words sounded an awful lot like cavalier boasts about sexual assault. They’re particularly disturbing when you consider that Jill Harth, the makeup artist who accused Trump of attempted rape in a 1997 lawsuit, said that Trump grabbed her sexually. Ivanka Trump defended her father by insisting that the man she knows is “not a groper.” Now we know that Trump himself says otherwise. It is thus not just legitimate but imperative that journalists ask Trump what he meant by “Grab them by the pussy.” Luckily, there is a debate on Sunday.

Will they ask him that? The second debate is a town hall. Perhaps some civilian will ask him that, and Trump’s pivot to Hillary’s husband’s behavior in the nineties won’t help much:

Ever since his disgraceful performance in his last faceoff with Clinton, Trump and his surrogates have been threatening to bring up Bill Clinton’s affairs. If he does, Hillary Clinton has every reason to discuss Trump’s unapologetic talk about pursuing a married woman. “I did try and fuck her,” Trump said on the Bush tape.

Explain that, Donald. Hillary could ask the question, and a lame apology won’t do. Tara Golshan covers that:

For a man who rarely apologizes – let alone recognizes any personal wrongdoing – surprisingly Trump’s statement acknowledged not only what he said but also that people would be offended by it. And while, yes, Trump did use the phrase “I apologize,” to be clear, this was not an apology.

Rather, “Trump is offering a non-apology here,” according to Edwin Battistella, a linguist at Southern Oregon University and the author Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology – an apology expert.

In other words, Trump’s response to the video was the exact opposite of an apology: It normalized an extraordinarily degrading kind of banter, attempted to deflect the attention to a rival public figure in Bill Clinton, and used a conditional “if anyone was offended,” placing “the onus on others to react, to claim that they were offended or not,” Battistella points out. “A morally serious apology would respond to the content of what he said – demeaning women – and the effects of his comments.”

Trump’s statement is the kind of response typical for celebrities and politicians attempting to deflect the moral subjects of their wrongdoings, Battistella said… In this case, he was “reframing the comments as ‘private, as ‘banter,’ and as a past action to try to lessen the impact, and bringing Bill Clinton into the discussion as a type of distraction,” Battistella explained.

That’s a clever strategy, not an apology. Everyone knows this, so Trump tried again:

Donald Trump on Friday apologized for lewd comments that he made about women in 2005 but said that his “foolish” words are much different than the words and actions of Bill Clinton, whom he accused of abusing women, and Hillary Clinton, whom he accused of having “bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”

“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize,” Trump said in a brief video statement released late Friday night as a number of prominent Republicans distanced themselves yet again from their presidential nominee.

Trump said that the lewd comments – which were made public by The Washington Post on Friday afternoon – are “a distraction from the important issues we are facing today.” He then attacked his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

“I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims,” Trump said. “We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”

So he is going to make everything about Hillary’s husband’s behavior in the nineties and how she lashed out, at times, in defense of him, because that’s far worse than Trump groping married women and scaring the hell out of them back in 2005 or so. He will ask America to put all this in perspective.

That may not work. It seems people have already done that. Ezra Klein argues that a Donald Trump presidency would bring shame on this country:

This isn’t about fitness for the presidency. This is about basic human decency… Donald Trump’s leaked 2005 conversation with Access Hollywood’s Bill Bush isn’t merely lewd or colorful. It is an explicit description of sexual assault, and of Trump’s comfort with using his power to take what he wants, and to harm others.

This wasn’t “locker room banter” at all:

The [first] apology is perhaps the most telling part of all this. Trump doesn’t think what he said was so bad. He thinks it’s normal. He thinks it is how men talk in locker rooms. He is sorry if anyone was offended.

This is not normal. This is not how men speak in locker rooms. And the problem here is not that someone, somewhere, was offended.

The problem is if the rest of us are not offended.

That’s the big “if” here:

After the audio broke, I saw some on Twitter quoting Joseph Welch’s famous comment to Joseph McCarthy. “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

But the question isn’t whether Trump has any decency. We’ve known for some time that he doesn’t. The question is whether we have any decency – whether we will elect this man, or even come close to electing this man, knowing all we know about him.

And we do know lots:

Here is the compliment I can pay Donald Trump, and I pay it with real gratitude: He never hid who he was. Perhaps he lacked the self-control, or the self-awareness, but whatever the mechanism, he never obscured his cruelty, or his misogyny, or his greed, or his dishonesty.

He wasn’t hiding, he was just incompetent:

He is not a clever demagogue but a crude one.

He mocked a disabled reporter while the cameras were rolling. He accused his opponent’s father of conspiring to kill John F. Kennedy. He attacked the parents of a fallen war hero. He retweeted white supremacists. He accused a judge of bias because of his “Mexican heritage.” He directed the world to watch a nonexistent sex tape of a woman he body-shamed a decade ago. He lies, constantly, fluently, and shamelessly.

And add this:

Trump knows nothing about policy and has learned nothing about it. He has incited violence at his rallies, joked about the assassination of the Democratic nominee, and casually thrown the NATO alliance into doubt. He has proven himself a man of little discipline and less grace, incapable of either forgiving or forgetting, and completely unable to control his own reactions. He believes only what he wants to believe, trusts only the polls that show him ahead, listens only to the people who flatter his ego.

Everyone knows this, and might think of acting on that knowledge:

He has done all this in public, and he has done all of it repeatedly, almost gleefully. If we elect him, there will be no excusing our actions to future generations, no pleading ignorance in the face of threat. It was all here. It was all obvious. It will all be visible to our children, and to historians.

Trump told us who he was, showed us who he was, again and again. The test here is not of his decency, but of our own.

That may be why the Republican defections are beginning – the unimportant rescinding their endorsements. Others, key Republicans, may follow. There are those, now just a few, but more may follow, demanding that Trump withdraw, that he quit right now. Trump is defiant – this is really about Hillary defending Bill way back when – but, for Republicans, that defiance may be beginning to look like madness. If they’re going to lose this presidential election, it’s probably best not to lose it defending a mad man. People remember such things, and they have daughters.

It’s coming up on midnight here in Los Angeles. Saturday starts in a few minutes. The second debate is Sunday night. That should be surreal, if there is one.

Posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Daddy Issues

Early October, one month out from the election – and things were not going well for Donald Trump, given this item from Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns:

Mr. Trump has already slipped perceptibly in public polls, trailing widely this week in Pennsylvania and by smaller margins in Florida and North Carolina – three states he cannot afford to lose. But private polling by both parties shows an even more precipitous drop, especially among independent voters, moderate Republicans and women, according to a dozen strategists from both parties who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the data was confidential.

Liesl Hickey, a Republican strategist involved in several House races in swing states, said she was dismayed by a sudden exodus of independent voters in more diverse parts of the country.

“They are really starting to pull away from Trump,” said Ms. Hickey, describing his soaring unpopularity with independents as entering “uncharted territory.”

But he’ll always have his base, and Dan Zak suggests that may be a daddy thing:

Donald Trump is the “strict dad” that America needs, said a 56-year-old emergency-room nurse last week at a rally in Melbourne, Fla.

“He’s the kind of man you would want to be your dad,” a Los Angeles Trump supporter, whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant, said in July.

“He’s the father figure I always wanted,” a hairstylist told the Boston Globe in December. “I feel like he’s protecting me.”

“Trump reminds me so much of my father,” Jerry Falwell Jr. told Fox News.

Put aside the oedipal stuff, the queasy sexual undertones of “father complex” – our emotional hang-ups, the whiff of fetish. America’s daddy issues might stem from the fact that our first experience with governance is our family unit. A parent is in charge, and traditionally, it’s Dad. Our politicians worship the Founding Fathers, the ur-daddies, the bigwigs in wigs. We can’t make any decisions, as a nation, without asking ourselves, “What would our Founding Fathers think?”

They’ve been dead for 200 years. We’re still trying to please them.

In fact, we all may have “daddy issues” that Trump relies on:

The hyper-partisanship of today – and the campaign of Donald Trump – might be understood through two kinds of family forms: the “nurturant parent” family (liberal) and the “strict father” family (conservative), according to George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley.

In the strict-father worldview, Lakoff says, there is a moral hierarchy led by dominant forces: God above man, man above nature, rich above poor, adults above children, our country over other countries.

“Trump is the ultimate strict father,” Lakoff says. “It’s in everything he does. It’s in his body language. Conservatives tend to think in terms of direct causation: Build a wall, throw them out, use the bomb. Direct causation everywhere.”

Zak sees that:

Certainly some Trump supporters like him because they like his policy positions. But maybe some of Trump’s supporters secretly like him because he’s seven inches taller than Hillary Clinton and a man. On CNN in April, “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams, who has opined extensively about the Trump mystique this year, predicted the general election would be about Mom vs. Dad.

“The thing about Dad is that Dad is kind of an asshole, but if you need Dad to take care of some trouble, he’s going to be the one you call, you know,” Adams said. “If there’s a noise downstairs, you’re probably not going to call Mom, even if she’s awesome. You’re probably going to call the biggest person in the room.”

And that’s where Trump is unique:

Barack Obama didn’t really know his dad, so he wrote a whole book about him. George W. Bush’s dad was president first, which is a lot to live up to. Bill Clinton’s was married four times and died in a car wreck while the future president was in utero. (“I’m still waiting,” Clinton wrote in his memoir, “hoping there will be one more human connection to my father.”) Hillary Clinton’s dad was a tough guy who withheld praise and berated her mother. (Hillary was a “daddy’s girl,” brother Hugh once said.) Fred Trump’s “life was business,” says Donald, who turned out much the same.

He had a role model, but then everyone has:

Donald Trump’s employees view him as a “patriarch” more than a boss, Trump Organization Executive Vice President Michael Cohen told the Jewish Chronicle Online.

And yet the Trump children and Chelsea Clinton are routinely deployed to remind voters that their parents are, in fact, parents. “Yes, Donald Trump is my father,” the Trumplings imply as they praise him, “and he can be yours, too.”

Same goes with Chelsea.

“My earliest memory is my mom picking me up after I’d fallen down, giving me a big hug and reading me ‘Goodnight Moon,’ ” Chelsea said before introducing Hillary at the Democratic National Convention.

And Zak argues that this introduces an interesting dynamic:

Don’t worry. Mom and Dad are here. But you gotta pick one.

“#DaddyWillSaveUs” – That’s the name of a pro-Trump art show supposedly opening Saturday in New York, according to Breitbart.

And then there are the others:

Kaine is the Boy Scout troop leader asking whether you want cheese on your burger.

Pence is the youth minister who’s disappointed by your chalk drawings outside the entrance to church.

But Trump is the man:

Stern and resolute, Trump has promised to make everything better if elected. “The Apprentice” established his reputation as a hard-to-please disciplinarian, which he cemented on the campaign trail. His moral hierarchy is stone cold.

But what was the final sentence of his law-and-order acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention?

“I love you.”

Tough love. A strict father’s greatest gift.

But that’s not the gift Trump got from his own father. In Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald tells of how Trump’s father indulged him:

It wasn’t just 1995.

Five years of tax information from the 1970s that Donald Trump provided to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety show mismanagement and losses that could have pushed him into personal bankruptcy – but for the largesse of his Dad.

People have this all wrong:

The recent report in the New York Times, that a loss of almost $1 billion in 1995 may have allowed Donald Trump to avoid federal income taxes for almost 20 years, set off attacks by Democrats and pushbacks by Republicans over his business acumen and ability to identify with Americans who pony up cash to the government every April 15.

Given that deducting a loss against income in future tax years is both common and legal, Hillary Clinton and her allies have focused primarily on the almost incomprehensible financial thrashing Trump took in that year: The primary qualification offered by the Republican nominee for why he should be president is because of his success in business, and such a gargantuan flop showed he was a bumbler, not a successful entrepreneur.

But the real estate developer and his supporters have flipped the argument: Not only has Trump been open about the catastrophic consequences of his failed foray into the casino business that contributed mightily to the 1995 disaster, but he has written a book about it and even used it as a talking point in the opening scene of his reality television show, The Apprentice. “It wasn’t always so easy,” he said on the first episode of the show, broadcast in 2008. “About 13 years ago, I was seriously in trouble. I was billions of dollars in debt. But I fought back, and I won big league.” The point: Trump’s ability to recover from the 1995 financial wipeout showed he could accomplish anything in business, including recovering from a near-crippling setback, because of his skills.

That’s the argument that’s winning out, even if it’s bullshit:

That would be an inspirational and potentially effective comeback if not for one problem: Trump flopped long before his casino bankruptcies, causing huge losses that wiped out his tax obligations. And the primary way he avoided bankruptcy those times was not through any personal skill, but because of an accident of birth – his wealthy father, who set him up in business, bailed Trump out.

Eichenwald uses a report from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety that summarizes Trump’s federal tax returns from the late seventies, a report based on tax returns furnished to them when Trump first tried to break into the casino business in 1980. This was just after Trump had his first big success – the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan – a deal which relied entirely on loans personally guaranteed by Trump’s father. There, Fred Trump also arranged for Donald to obtain a personal line of credit of thirty-five million dollars at Chase Manhattan:

But Trump was unable to control his spending… In 1978, the same year that Fred Trump set up the credit line for his son at Chase Manhattan, Trump’s personal finances collapsed… Losses came across the board. A number of Trump’s New York rental properties – on Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue, East 56th Street, East 57th Street, East 61st Street and East 67th Street – all were financial flops… Partnership investments – Park Briar Associates, Regency Lexington Partners and 220 Prospect Street Company – contributed even more red ink. The interest owed to Chase Manhattan on Trump’s massive use of his credit line topped off the dismal financial performance…

No one could withstand these types of losses given the comparatively paltry amount of money available to offset them. So Trump took the same route he did for the rest of that decade and in decades to come: He borrowed more to keep himself afloat… On September 24, 1980, Fred Trump arranged for a series of loans totaling $7.5 million to his son… That same day, one of the Trump family’s companies, Trump Village Construction Corporation, lent Donald Trump an additional $976,238. All of the loans could be paid back at any time, and Donald Trump was not liable for any of the interest payments on them.

That’s a sweet deal – free handouts to a total failure – which led to what Kevin Drum calls the six eras of Trump:

1970s: The Era of Early Failures. See above. Trump breaks into the Manhattan real estate market but racks up loss after loss. He is bailed out by his father.

Early 1980s: The Era of Success. A chastened Trump apparently decides to buckle down and pay attention to work. It’s during this period that he puts together the parcels and financing for Trump Tower, one of his most successful projects. This is the briefest of the Trump eras.

Mid 80s/early 90s: The Era of Catastrophic Failure. Trump reverts to form. He negotiates terrible deals for a USFL team, the Plaza Hotel, the Eastern Shuttle, and a yacht he never uses. He obsesses over plans to develop a grandiose project he called Television City, located on 57 acres of land along the Hudson River. But he bungles the deal and loses control. He builds casinos in Atlantic City, but epically mismanages them and loses a huge sum. By 1991 he’s broke. He avoids personal bankruptcy partly by browbeating his bankers and partly by pleading for tens of millions of dollars in loans from his father and his siblings.

Mid/late 90s: The Era of Desolation. Trump finally emerges in 1995, no longer broke but no longer all that rich either. His marriage to Marla Maples is heading south, and ends in divorce in 1999. He keeps up a brave public face, but these are bleak years with nothing much to maintain his interest. Then, in 1999, Trump’s father dies, followed by his mother in 2000. Trump inherits roughly $70 million or so.

2000 and beyond: The Era of Golf and Licensing. Building skyscrapers is now out of reach, since no one will lend Trump the kind of scratch that takes. So he starts overpaying for golf courses instead. Beyond that, he finally finds something he’s good at: making money from his mouth. He licenses his name to naive developers from overseas who still think he’s the king of real estate. He lends his name to a seemingly endless string of penny ante businesses – Trump steaks, Trump vodka, Trump radio – as well as a dodgy assortment of penny-ante scams – Trump University, Trump diets, Trump mortgages. In 2004, he hits the jackpot of random luck when reality king Mark Burnett chooses him to host The Apprentice, a show perfectly suited to Trump’s talents for bullying and bombast.

2015-16: The Era of Making America Great Again. You all know this part of the story, right?

Drum sees the obvious Daddy Issues here:

It’s kind of sad, really: Donald Trump has lived his entire life in the shadow of his father’s success. Everything he’s done has been one long, desperate attempt to prove to himself and the world that he’s as successful as Fred Trump – who really was a self-made man. He never found that success, though, and running for president is his final, most audacious attempt to win his father’s respect. Unfortunately, like all the others, it’s doomed to failure – and not just because he’s likely to lose in November. His problem runs much deeper than that.

Perhaps it does. There are the anger issues, and the vindictiveness, and the lack of self-control, and the lack of any attention span at all, and the scorn of the idea of knowing anything about the issues, and all the rest, but the stern and demanding father thing is special. That seems a little odd, given the tale Max Rosenthal tells here:

It’s no surprise that Fred tried to bail his son out of trouble when Donald’s Trump Castle casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was about to miss an interest payment in December 1990.

By then, Trump had already defaulted on the debt from his Taj Mahal casino. If Fred simply wrote Donald a check, the money would be used to pay off that debt. So, as the Washington Post’s Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher describe in their new book, Trump Revealed, the elder Trump sent a lawyer to the Trump Castle to sneak money straight into the ailing casino’s coffers.

“The lawyer, Howard Snyder, approached the casino cage and handed over a certified check for $3.35 million, drawn on Fred’s account. Snyder then walked over to a blackjack table, where a dealer paid out the entire amount in 670 gray $5,000 chips. The next day, the bank wired another $150,000 into Fred’s account at the Castle. Once again, Snyder arrived at the casino and collected the full amount in 30 more chips.”

That let Trump use the de facto loan in whatever way he needed. “Sure enough, the Castle made its bond payment the day Fred’s lawyer bought the first batch of chips,” Kranish and Fisher wrote. The tactic also had a nice financial benefit. “Not only did he avoid default on the bonds – and the risk of losing control of Trump Castle as a result – but patrons who hold gaming chips normally are not paid interest,” wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time.

His father didn’t tell him to tough it out, but perhaps he should have:

New Jersey’s Casino Control Commission investigated the chip purchase the following year and said it was an illegal loan that broke the state’s rules about casinos receiving cash from approved financial sources. The Inquirer wrote that a casino lawyer told the paper that “Fred Trump is ineligible for licensing, and Trump Castle should be required to return the money, a move that would almost certainly force it into bankruptcy court.” In the end, the casino kept the money and the commission fined the casino the relatively small amount of $65,000. But it didn’t save Trump. A year later, the Trump Castle went into bankruptcy, and Donald gave up half the casino to his creditors.

Still, he is like his father:

More than a half-century ago, the folk singer Woody Guthrie signed a lease in an apartment complex in Brooklyn. He soon had bitter words for his landlord: Donald J. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump.

Mr. Guthrie, in writings uncovered by a scholar working on a book, invoked “Old Man Trump” while suggesting that blacks were unwelcome as tenants in the Trump apartment complex, near Coney Island.

“He thought that Fred Trump was one who stirs up racial hate, and implicitly profits from it,” the scholar, Will Kaufman, a professor of American literature and culture at the University of Central Lancashire in Britain, said in an interview.

Who stirs up racial hate, and profits from it? When the profits are votes that can win you the presidency, the answer is obvious, and it all fits together:

Mr. Guthrie died in 1967, and in the 1970s, the Justice Department sued the Trumps, accusing them of discriminating against blacks. (A settlement was eventually reached; at the time, Trump Management noted the agreement did not constitute an admission of guilt.)

A spokeswoman for Donald Trump declined to comment on Mr. Guthrie’s writings.

None of this will sink in. John Sides, an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, explains why:

What do Americans actually believe about the wealth of Fred Trump? In a recent poll, Maryland political scientist Liliana Mason asked respondents to describe Fred Trump’s social class at the time of his son’s birth in 1946.

By then, Fred Trump’s company was almost 20 years old and he had built and sold many homes and one of the first supermarkets. It seems quite likely that by the standards of the time, he was already a wealthy man.

But this is not a widely shared view among Americans in either party, according to poll results that Mason shared with me…

Only 53 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans described Fred Trump as “wealthy” at that point in time. Most of the rest were relatively evenly split between upper middle class, middle class and working class – suggesting that they believe that Fred Trump’s social class was essentially the same as the people in Queens who were buying his homes in the 1920s for about $4,000 (or roughly $56,000 in today’s dollars).

That means that folks think Trump is just like the rest of us:

One could chalk up the perception to several things. Of course, Americans often have better things to do than learn facts about a presidential candidate’s family history. Americans also tend to underestimate how much wealth wealthy people actually have.

And Americans prefer for themselves the label “middle class” – even when their incomes are well above the median – suggesting that they could also apply the label to others, such as Fred Trump, with large incomes.

Okay, fine – Donald Trump is the stern father who made himself a billionaire from nothing – and expects the same of you – but that can get a bit absurd:

For son Eric Trump, Donald Trump will ultimately win over millennials against Hillary Clinton because like Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, the Republican nominee “has been an entrepreneurial guy” who became “the epitome of the American dream.”

“He’s gone from nothing into a man who’s just –” Trump said Friday on Fox News’ “Outnumbered,” as Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky cut him off: “Nothing? He got a million bucks? Come on, Eric!”

Trump defended his statement, saying his father has “built an unbelievable empire” and has “epitomized what America’s all about: Opportunity and working hard and being able to achieve your dreams and what you want to succeed, right?”

Still, it does help if your father, a self-made millionaire, will spot you a few million here and a few million there, so you never have to face failure, and never have to learn from the experience. Fred Trump was actually the overindulgent nurturing mother here, protecting “her” son from the adult world the rest of us face every day. No wonder the son here acts like a sniggering eighth-grade bully. He was never allowed to grow up – but there’s another dynamic at play here. Kevin Drum hinted at it – Donald Trump wants to be an amazing self-made man like his father, and he must know he isn’t, and he feels guilty about that. Challenge him on that, as Hillary Clinton did in the first presidential debate, and he explodes. He has convinced himself he is that man. He convinced his sons that he is that man. He has pretty much convinced America that he is that man. If you need Dad to take care of some trouble, he’s going to be the one you call. That’s why he should be president.

That may work for him. Sure, he has daddy issues, but almost half of the nation has daddy issues. Daddy will save us. But a bit more than half the nation doesn’t seem to have those issues. They grew up. They see no need for a daddy. They’ll settle for a thoroughly competent somewhat flawed but stable president. It’s just a job.

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