The Ambiguous versus the Unlikable

America needed to be confused again. Just when Donald Trump was pulling even with Hillary Clinton in all the polls, because he was staying on-message for a change – or for the first time since he announced his candidacy more than a year ago – he suddenly went back to his old ways:

Donald Trump refused to say whether he believes President Obama was born in the United States in an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday.

But in a statement hours later from the GOP nominee’s spokesman, the campaign claimed Trump does indeed believe the president was born in Hawaii.

What? Which is it? That was hard to say:

When asked point-blank by The Post’s Robert Costa during an interview in Ohio, Trump again dodged the question of whether he accepts that the president is indeed a natural-born US citizen.

“I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

“I don’t talk about it anymore,” he tried to explain. “The reason I don’t is because then everyone is going to be talking about it – as opposed to jobs, the military, the vets, security.”

Trump campaign then released a statement – not from Trump himself, but from senior communications adviser Jason Miller – claiming victory for Trump forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate, and saying that, because of that evidence, Trump now “believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”

That’s one way to spin this, given the history of all this:

The White House eventually released President Obama’s long-form birth certificate in 2011 – showing that he was, indeed, born in Honolulu in 1961.

Just as that was happening, Trump landed in New Hampshire while flirting with a presidential bid, and claimed victory.

“I’m very proud of myself,” Trump said. “I’ve accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish.”

Cool. He was satisfied then, except he wasn’t. He continued to raise doubts about that birth certificate’s authenticity, and he wanted to see Obama’s college transcripts, which he was certain would show that Obama was a lousy student and only got into Harvard Law School because he was black – denying some worthy white kid a slot there.

In July this year, the New York Times reviewed what he seemed to be up to:

In the birther movement, Mr. Trump recognized an opportunity to connect with the electorate over an issue many considered taboo: the discomfort, in some quarters of American society, with the election of the nation’s first black president. He harnessed it for political gain, beginning his connection with the largely white Republican base that, in his 2016 campaign, helped clinch his party’s nomination.

He doesn’t want to lose those folks now – those “deplorables” who don’t think any nigger should be president (although they might not put it exactly that way) – so now he’s pretty much said he still believes that, more or less. But he wants it both ways and that’s what his staff and surrogates are for:

The statement coming from Miller – and not from Trump himself – is roughly the same as what other top Trump aides have been saying for the past week.

“He believes President Obama was born here,” campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on CNN last week. “I was born in Camden, by the way, New Jersey. He was born in Hawaii.”

But he shot that down:

Trump’s response to his campaign manager’s comments in the Post interview: “It’s okay – she’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”

Keep ’em guessing:

His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said earlier this month that he accepts the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also claimed just last week that the GOP nominee now accepts the president’s legal birthplace.

“Donald Trump believes now that [Obama] was born in the United States,” Giuliani said on CNN. “I believe it. He believes it. We all believe it. It took a long time to get out.”

But while his top surrogates are circulating assertions that Trump has dropped any birther beliefs, the Republican nominee still refuses to say the words, and is keeping the issue alive.

That’s because he sends out tweets like this – “Don’t believe the biased and phony media quoting people who work for my campaign. The only quote that matters is a quote from me!”

He seems to be saying this: Those are direct quotes, but don’t believe the biased and phony media that quotes my people directly and accurately. It’s a trick to make people think that I now think that Obama was and is a legitimate president, not one who is in office illegally and whose every action should be declared null and void and erased from the history books. I may still think that. But I’m not saying – yet.

So, to review, his people can say he’s not a racist asshole with a whacky conspiracy theory, at least not anymore. He will win some of the African-American vote now, and a bit more of the vote of other minority groups, who were just as offended by that birther stuff, because he’s changed. But he himself can say that he might just be that racist asshole that his “deplorables” love so much. Has he changed? He’s not saying, either way. People can guess, either way – and everyone is happy.

But others won’t cut him any slack:

Hillary Clinton didn’t waste any time Thursday night responding to Trump’s initial comments. Less than two hours after The Post published its interview with Trump, Clinton spoke at an event hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute: “He still wouldn’t say ‘Hawaii.’ He still wouldn’t say ‘America.’ This man wants to be our next president? When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry?”

She also referred to how Trump has tried to refocus his campaign on an affirmative message and avoid more controversial statements.

“This is the best he can do. This is who he is,” Clinton said.

In short, he doesn’t get to play it both ways. He blew it, but Politico reports that he hasn’t blown it:

Just six weeks ago, Hillary Clinton’s advantage in the Electoral College looked insurmountable. Now, based on the latest round of public polls, it’s a different story.

If the election were held today, Donald Trump would apparently win roughly as many electoral votes as Hillary Clinton – who held a commanding lead in early August and seemed to be closing off all possible Trump routes to 270 electoral votes.

But state polling averages, which can be lagging indicators, are beginning to show Trump in the lead. Trump is now ahead in Iowa and Ohio – and he’s tied with Clinton in vote-rich Florida.

A slightly more aggressive estimate could add Nevada, North Carolina and one electoral vote in Maine to Trump’s tally: The New York real-estate magnate is ahead in the most recent polls in Nevada and North Carolina, and in Maine’s Second Congressional District.

That, plus all the other states Mitt Romney won four years ago, would get Trump to 266 electoral votes – just four shy of the 270 needed to win. Clinton’s once-comfortable cushion has been deflated to such an extent that if Trump wins those states and the electoral vote in Maine, he only needs one more state to win – with Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia the most likely targets. And there’s recent polling evidence suggesting he is in striking distance in some of those states.

Trump can win this thing, except for a few factors:

Trump isn’t gaining ground with the voting blocs among whom he has always been weakest: women, more educated voters and racial and ethnic minorities.

In the ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump earns only 13 percent of the nonwhite vote, showing he isn’t making headway with a growing, traditionally Democratic constituency. But Trump is also lagging among more friendly GOP leaning groups: He wins just 46 percent of white women, including just 40 percent of white women with a college degree. (Mitt Romney won about 56 percent of white female voters in 2012, according to exit polls.)

The Quinnipiac poll was similar: Trump wins just 19 percent of the nonwhite vote, 46 percent of white women and 44 percent of white voters who graduated from college.

These white folks with a bit of education, these women, these minorities, need to listen to Donald Trump’s campaign staff, not to him. Everyone else has to listen to him, not to his campaign staff. That’s a tricky business. They might listen to the wrong party.

That means things could change, and probably will, and the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson sees this:

In a sane and just world, this presidential race would be a walkover. Commentators would already be sketching out their postmortem analyses of an all-but-certain Hillary Clinton victory. Pare the contest down to its essentials: A former senator and secretary of state, eminently qualified to be president, is running against a dangerous demagogue who has never held public office and should not be allowed anywhere near the White House. Ought to be case closed.

But it’s not.

He sees the polls, and he sees what’s happening:

Trump’s current set of handlers – campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and chief executive Steve Bannon – have done a better job than their predecessors of keeping their candidate from committing acts of self-destruction. They have gotten him to use a teleprompter more, rant and rave less, and sometimes go as long as 48 hours without spewing idiotic vitriol on Twitter. These are no small accomplishments.

Conway bravely goes on the cable shows every day and tries to explain the unexplainable. Sometimes she is made into a liar by her own candidate, as happened Wednesday when she denied that Trump would release any medical records on “The Dr. Oz Show,” only to see him do just that a few hours later. Pretty much every time she appears, she has to pretend that one or another of Trump’s nonsensical issue positions makes sense – or, on many issues, that he even has a settled position. But she is unfailingly patient, polite and nonthreatening.

And yes, that just happened again with this birther stuff, but Trump is now dead even with Clinton, which amazes Robinson:

In a larger sense there is no real comparison between Clinton’s serious, inclusive, fact-based campaign and Trump’s noxious stew of bigotry, resentment and juvenile fantasy.

Voters have been informed of Trump’s ignorant and outrageous statements, his real and potential conflicts of interest, his bankruptcies, his hucksterism, his untempered temperament and all the other factors that make him unthinkable as a president. Coverage by the news media brought all this information to light. Don’t blame the media for the fact that many people say they plan to vote for him anyway.

Instead, if you want to stop Trump, focus on the fundamentals – and get busy.

That’s the message for Democrats:

Ordinarily, this would be a tough election for any Democratic candidate to win. That is because, historically, a party that controls the White House for two terms in a row has difficulty winning a third. In addition to that headwind, nearly 70 percent of Americans say they believe the country is on the wrong track – an ominous sign for the incumbent party.

Trump, with his soaring unpopularity and general flakiness, is no normal candidate. Many voters – including many Republicans – obviously believe that while it may be the GOP’s turn to take the helm, it will never be Trump’s turn. Still, there are those who have real doubts about Trump but may still vote for him because they want change.

But the Democratic Party has structural advantages in a presidential year, as Barack Obama so vividly demonstrated. The party’s coalition of women, young people, African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics has growing weight in the electorate. Trump’s base – older, whiter, more male – is a shrinking portion of the overall vote.

And the electoral map favors Democrats, giving Clinton more paths to victory than Trump. If she wins Florida, it’s over. Same if she wins Ohio. And she could even lose both and still get to 270.

It’s time to turn out the base:

Angst doesn’t help. Energizing the Democratic Party’s reliable voters, especially in crucial states, can make all the difference.

She’s working on that, but Matthew Yglesias argues that the race is tightening for a painfully simple reason:

The truth is that Trump is not doing well. Even Trump’s very best recent polls (which, by definition, are outliers that likely overstate his true level of support) show him receiving fewer votes than Republican candidates usually get. A recent CNN poll of Ohio, for example, that gave him a 5-point lead in the crucial swing state also shows him only getting 46 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney and John McCain both did better than that. Clinton’s attacks and Trump’s well-known weaknesses seem to have him losing the support of some GOP loyalists, even in his best polls.

The problem is that Clinton herself is doing worse – because despite her campaign’s emphasis on Trump’s weirdness and unpopularity, that isn’t the only force shaping this race. It’s profoundly unusual across two other dimensions – the strength of third party candidates and the weakness of the frontrunner – that will probably prevent Clinton from ever opening up a sustained comfortable lead unless she can do something to make herself better-liked.

That is the problem here:

Clinton is a freakishly unpopular frontrunner.

Despite a couple of days’ worth of bad polls, Clinton still leads in national polling averages. It remains the case that if the election were held tomorrow, she would win.

In that context, her 42-56 favorable/unfavorable split in national polling is truly, freakishly bad. Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time – except for Donald Trump. But conventional dialogue still underrates exactly how weird this situation is. John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bob Dole were all viewed favorably by a majority of Americans on the eve of presidential elections that they lost, and Mitt Romney was extremely close.

It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

Since there are only two major party nominees in the race and they are both far underwater right now, it’s pretty likely that precedent will be shattered. But we are in a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of the underlying opinion dynamics.

And add to that the complication that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are doing remarkably well:

RealClearPolitics’ four-way polling average shows Gary Johnson at 9.2 percent and Jill Stein at 2.7 percent.

If those numbers hold up (which of course they might not), they would make Johnson the strongest third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. That’s a big deal. Stein’s strength is, however, even more unusual. She is polling ahead of where Ralph Nader did in 2000 and is the strongest fourth-party candidate we’ve seen in a 100 years, besting both the Thurmond and Wallace tickets from the infamously four-sided election of 1948.

To find a fourth-place candidate polling higher than Stein’s current results, you need to dial all the way back to the 6 percent of the vote Eugene Debs earned in the bizarre 1912 election that saw the GOP nominee (the incumbent, no less!) finish in third place behind a third-party bid spearheaded by ex-president Teddy Roosevelt.

Given all that, Clinton really, really needs to be liked:

Lambasting Trump, while being unpopular herself, would be a clear winning strategy in a zero-sum head-to-head race. But in a four-sided race, where the two lesser candidates aren’t receiving much scrutiny from the press or the campaigns, it tends to have the side consequence of pressing a lot of people to Johnson or Stein. The fact that there are two different third-party candidates in the race – one for people who think Clinton’s too left and one for people who think she’s not left enough – makes it really difficult to avoid bleeding voters.

If polls stay very tight or Trump pulls into a lead, then anti-Trump messaging to Johnson and Stein voters could take the form of classic warnings about spoilers and wasted votes.

But the fact that Clinton has been consistently leading in the polls – and in August was doing so by a large margin – has itself undercut purely tactical arguments for voting Clinton. If she is overwhelmingly likely to win, which is what people have been hearing, then you may as well not vote for her if you don’t like her.

She needs to crank it up:

It’s simply going to be very hard for Clinton to open up the kind of stable lead that her supporters think Trump’s awfulness deserves while she herself is so little-liked. September of a general election year is probably not a great time to turn that around.

But the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard – indeed, unprecedented – for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

That means that this election is the nasty ambiguous versus the totally unlikable – not much of a choice – and Mister Ambiguous is about to pull ahead.

Maybe so, but Glenn Thrush points out this:

Everything has gone Trump’s way – and he’s still not ahead. If 2012 was all about the 47 percent, this year – at least for Trump – is defined by the 44 percent. In poll after poll after poll – during the good times and bad, the most disliked politician in the country can never rise (with a few outliers) beyond the 38 to 44 percent range among likely voters (he typically tops out at 42 among registered voters). In a normal year, numbers such as these are in a statistical range that political consultants like to call “the Killing Field.”

He should be doing better:

Clinton’s decision to lie low in August (a time when Trump dumped his Man from Ukraine Paul Manafort and hired the competent professional Kellyanne Conway) will be debated for years. If she wins, her summertime fundraising blitz, meant to unleash a torrent of anti-Trump advertising at campaign’s end, will be regarded as strategic genius; lose and her decision is up there with Michael Dukakis in the tank. But the bigger point: Even with Trump’s nifty new telepromptered campaign, even with Clinton’s paranoia-will-destroy-her decision-making (i.e. covering up her own pneumonia) Trump isn’t doing particularly well. “True to form, he’s underperforming any other Republican candidate in his position,” said a GOP operative who is publicly backing the reality-star-turned-politician. “He’s just now starting to crack Mitt Romney levels, and everything has gone right for him, including an on-camera face-plant by his opponent.”

But that may not matter:

I posited that Clinton’s September stumble was a result of her decision to hammer at Trump’s weaknesses at the expense of defining her own strengths and likability. The same holds true for him – but much, much more so; his improvement has come as a result of her degradation – her own missteps and his “Crooked Hillary” branding has helped drive her negatives from the low 50s to the mid-high 50s, Trump territory.

But unlike Trump, Clinton has edged above the magic 50 percent level in national and state polls. And until he can come close to that level – when there’s a succession of credible national polling showing him hitting 46, 47 or 48 percent – then the fundamental dynamic of the race hasn’t really shifted. Until then, it’s all churn, clamor and horse race.

And then there’s this:

Terrified Democrats are Clinton’s secret weapon. This is the big one, the factor upon which the election truly hinges. Raw, small-mammal fear. Trump’s success might be the only thing that gets many Democrats (or anti-Trump moderates outside the party) to hold their noses and vote Hillary.

The wow in recent national polls is not Trump’s rise, but the fact that more Trump voters are psyched about their candidate than Democrats are jazzed about their less-than-exciting nominee. In the Times survey, 51 percent of Trump supporters were enthusiastic about him vs. 43 percent of Clinton supporters who were thrilled about her. But fear is as powerful an emotion as love in politics (it’s why negative ads work and the decision by Jeb Bush’s super PAC to dump tens of millions into positive ads was so bad) – and Democrats are panicking, in a way that could be good news for their underperforming nominee.

Ultimately, Trump Terror has been at the core of Clinton’s strategy since the end of the primary, and it’s why her comment about half of Trump supporters being in a “basket of deplorables” probably won’t do any long-term damage: It’s basically still a base election, and she needs to get them out to win.

That might work:

The endgame strategy, here, in a quote: I ran into a top adviser to Clinton at a social event earlier this week, and asked him how things were going. “How the hell do you think it’s going? We’re probably going to win, but there’s a 30 to 40 percent chance we are going to elect a fucking madman for the White House.” Then the guy headed for the bar.

Who wouldn’t? But consider the voters. Trump is doing the birther thing again, or maybe he isn’t – he won’t say. What are voters to make of that? And no one really likes Hillary Clinton. She might do. She might have to do – but that’s a dismal prospect. Of course, those who just cannot vote for her, and stay home, get Trump elected, which is even more dismal. Those who sit this one out because they cannot vote for Trump get stuck with her – so it’s probably best to vote, maybe.

Oh, what the hell. Go for the freakishly unpopular competent one, not for the nastily ambiguous incompetent one. Who says our president has to be likable? Ambiguity could get us all killed.

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

The Scary Boring Stuff

It’s only the middle of September but Democrats are suddenly worried. Perhaps they should be worried. Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment about half of Donald Trump’s supporters being rather awful people really didn’t do much damage. The press keeps asking Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, if David Duke, the Klan guy who loves Trump, isn’t actually deplorable, and Mike Pence keeps saying that David Duke is a bad man, and they don’t want his support at all, but he won’t call him deplorable. He doesn’t call people names. The press keeps asking what the difference is between bad and deplorable. Why won’t he use the word? This happens two or three times a day, and there’s this:

Gov. Mike Pence came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday on a mission to promote Republican unity, attacking Hillary Clinton for describing many supporters of the GOP ticket as bigoted “deplorables” and urging Republicans to rally behind their nominee, Donald J. Trump.

But Mr. Pence struggled to press the attack: In separate news conferences, House and Senate Republican leaders declined to join Mr. Pence, the Indiana governor and vice-presidential nominee, in rebuking Mrs. Clinton over her remark.

They know better. Defending a few or far too many embarrassingly angry bigots among them, as bad but not deplorable, is a losing proposition. It’s too easy to prove that Clinton was right about a significant subset of the Republican base. Many have, because it’s kind of obvious. Clinton trapped them on this. Go there and you end up defending the indefensible. It’s best not to talk about such things. Now Mike Pence has to do that. He can hang alone. They’re not going there.

Clinton won that one, but that’s not the problem. The problem is the mild case of pneumonia that kept her from campaigning for a few days. This wasn’t much – these things happen and she’ll be just fine – but now her “fitness for office” is now a nagging issue – that, and all the polls tightening. Trump still doesn’t have much of a chance to win in November, but he’s surging. He’s been out there. She hasn’t. That hurt her, but it may be more than that. He’s been “surging” for a few weeks.

Maybe it is time to worry, and Josh Marshall addresses that:

The polls have been slowly trending in Trump’s direction for a few weeks. That is happening. There are various sources of noisiness in the data. But when you step way back the trend in Trump’s direction is real and indisputable.

It’s particularly disquieting from a Democratic perspective to see Trump now holding apparent leads, albeit small ones, in Florida and Ohio. As we know, from sad history, winning Florida and Ohio (by whatever means) made George W. Bush president twice.

But there are some significant differences between then and now. In the intervening years, there have been significant changes in the electoral map which gave Democrats very plausible paths to victory even if they did lose both Florida and Ohio. The key is their upper south beachhead in Virginia and North Carolina as well as a strong hold on Colorado. There are other states that are in the mix too. But those are the big three. The upshot is that Democrats can very plausibly lose those two states and still win the election. That said, it would create a dramatically closer race. And it’s a very big deal if Trump opens up real leads there.

Scared yet?

It’s the boring stuff, the situation in specific swing states, that’s scary, but Marshall offers this:

Another national poll, from another premium pollster (Quinnipiac) came out today showing Clinton up 5 points nationwide. And Quinnipiac has tended to have a moderate GOP ‘house effect’, which means their results have been friendlier to Republicans. (Quinnipiac’s previous poll from the third week of August had Clinton +10 in a two person race. That’s a substantial move in Trump’s direction but still a significant Clinton lead.) That comes a few days after the WaPo/ABC poll – another premium phone poll – showing Clinton +5 in a four way race and Clinton +8 in a two way race.

That’s good, in spite of individual swing states:

It’s possible that those polls of Ohio and Florida, also by premium phone pollsters, are going to show up in tighter national numbers. It’s also possible that Clinton had a really bad weekend which either temporarily depressed her numbers or shifted something substantial in the race. There’s another possibility. To date we’ve seen lots of oscillations in the polls over months. In the national horse race numbers Clinton has had as much as a 10 point lead and as little as a 1 point or sub-1 point lead. But Trump has never moved even into a tie, let alone an actual lead… going by the absolute numbers, we’re not even that close. Clinton’s margin is currently 3.4 points.

That’s good, maybe:

It is possible but not at all likely that the results of the national popular vote and the Electoral College vote will diverge. It’s obviously possible. It happened 16 years ago. But it is not at all likely. So if you’re thinking the electoral vote will hold out against the popular vote or vice versa, you’re fooling yourself. If you think the Dems have an “electoral lock” that will defy the popular vote, you’re fooling yourself.

The truth is I don’t think we have enough data to know whether this is another pro-Trump oscillation or the beginning of a real shift that makes a Trump victory substantially more likely. The polls tell us clearly that Trump has closed a substantial part of the gap that opened up in August. It’s not clear he’s made headway on breaking through the wall he’s been locked under all year. It is also important to note that as of now, even with the states he’s doing well in, he still has to essentially run the electoral board to win the presidency. I continue to believe that there are structural factors with voting blocs that makes a Trump victory unlikely. But theories always need to give way to data.

Data is boring but scary, and Donald Trump suddenly being boring is scary too. Ever since he hired Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to run his campaign he really has calmed down quite a bit. He hasn’t gone off-script for days and days. These two have “tamed” him, as Monica Langley of the Wall Street Journal explains:

The new team, said supporters, has fostered a more disciplined candidacy. “Actually I’m freer now, relying on my instincts and working with a team I trust,” Mr. Trump said in an interview…

After Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announced late Sunday that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia, many expected Mr. Trump to pounce on the news, arguing that it proved his claim she lacks the stamina to be president. Instead, Mr. Trump told campaign advisers deluged with media calls to stand down. The response struck opponents as uncharacteristic, and some supporters attributed Mr. Trump’s restraint to his new campaign organization.

Mr. Trump said efforts by previous campaign leaders to remake him into a politician were “dishonest.” And, Mr. Trump said, he resisted at times by going off script.

The Republican nominee said he was more comfortable with his new team, which, ironically, has succeeded in some of the same changes sought by former campaign chairman Paul Manafort: Mr. Trump is sticking closer to a teleprompter, giving more policy details in speeches – and making fewer off-the-cuff remarks, which hurt his campaign after the GOP convention this summer.

They finally made him boring, and he is actually fine with that now, and Kevin Drum argues that now Democrats should really worry:

This is actually kind of scary. I still doubt that Trump can keep this up, but if he does, he could be dangerous. I’ve always figured that if Trump really did manage to calm down a bit, it wouldn’t take more than a few weeks for him to put his old reputation to rest. Pundits would start saying the campaign had “matured” him. Skeptical voters would move in his direction. Republicans would breathe a sigh of relief and embrace him.

Can he keep it up? No telling. But if he does, it will be the greatest con job ever from a man whose entire career has been built on conning the public. He’d probably enjoy that.

Trump is probably giggling about that right now, but if he does win the presidency, it’s the boring stuff that few are paying attention to at the moment that may be really scary.

Jeremy Diamond and David Wright explain that:

The author of a new report that alleges Donald Trump’s businesses overseas have conflicts with America’s interests said Wednesday that the Republican presidential nominee “makes money by aiding the people whose interests don’t coincide with America’s.”

“The interests of these businesses, the interests of these politicians, often go directly against the interests of American national security. So right now you have Donald Trump in a situation where he makes money by aiding the people whose interests don’t coincide with America’s,” Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald told CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota on “New Day,” adding later, “The important thing here is this is an entanglement that can’t be unwound.”

This cannot be fixed:

Trump has said he plans to entrust his business to his children if he is elected president, a move that would only partially distance Trump from his massive corporation and do little to quell questions about influence-peddling and conflicts of interest.

The Newsweek report itself makes that clear: 

The Trump family rakes in untold millions of dollars from the Trump Organization every year. Much of that comes from deals with international financiers and developers, many of whom have been tied to controversial and even illegal activities. None of Trump’s overseas contractual business relationships examined by Newsweek were revealed in his campaign’s financial filings with the Federal Election Commission, nor was the amount paid to him by his foreign partners.

It would also be impossible for Trump to untangle these conflicts of interest:

Trump’s business conflicts with America’s national security interests cannot be resolved so long as he or any member of his family maintains a financial interest in the Trump Organization during a Trump administration, or even if they leave open the possibility of returning to the company later. The Trump Organization cannot be placed into a blind trust, an arrangement used by many politicians to prevent them from knowing their financial interests; the Trump family is already aware of who their overseas partners are and could easily learn about any new ones.

In fact, Diamond and Wright report this:

“From what I’m hearing, Trump is planning to say that he will put the company in a blind trust – which is sort of like saying ‘I have 100 million shares of Apple stock and I’m going to put it in a blind trust,'” Eichenwald said. “He would know what’s there, he knows who his partners are and he knows, you know, he will know going forward.”

“Now, in the future, you’re talking about giving money to either the family of the President of the United States or money that will go to the President of the United States if his company is in this, you know, blind trust.”

CNN has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment on the report and has not yet received a response.

Oh, not to worry:

Ivanka Trump also discussed the future of the Trump business empire if her father wins the presidency during an interview on “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday. Asked what the family would do to prevent potential conflicts of interest, she said that “as a private business, we can make decisions that are not in our best interest.”

“There’s something so much bigger than our business at stake, and that’s the future of this country,” she said. “We can say, you know what, we’ll do less deals, and not going to do that deal even though it’s a fine deal and economically reasonable because it could create a conflict of interest. And we’ll act incredibly responsibly, and my father already said he would put it into a blind trust and it would be run by us.”

In short, trust the children just like you trust the father. That’s asking a lot:

The report outlines a series of potential conflicts of interests, from Trump’s dealings with businessmen who have been the subject of government investigations in India and Turkey to his ties to powerful Russian oligarchs.

On “New Day,” Eichenwald explained why Turkey would be problematic for the Republican nominee. He said that a failed business deal between Trump and a politically-connected organization in the country had created potential tension between Trump and the President Recep Erdogan, who had called the deal a “mistake.”

“What I am being told is that Turkey’s cooperation with the United States, in terms of providing an air base where we are able to launch bombers against ISIS would be at risk if Donald Trump was president,” he said.

And where Trump has suggested significant changes to US foreign policy, the Newsweek report magnified some of Trump’s business dealings.

Trump, who has floated the idea of Japan and South Korea obtaining nuclear weapons, maintains an ongoing business relationship with Daewoo Engineering and Construction, according to Newsweek. Daewoo is one of the top South Korean companies involved in nuclear energy projects.

In India, Newsweek raised questions about Trump’s ties to powerful businessmen and political parties in the country, particularly in light of promises from Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., to build “a very aggressive pipeline” there with “exciting new projects” to come.

“If he plays tough with India, will the government assume it has to clear the way for projects in that ‘aggressive pipeline’ and kill the investigations involving Trump’s (Indian business) partners? And if Trump takes a hard line with Pakistan, will it be for America’s strategic interests or to appease Indian government officials who might jeopardize his profits from Trump Towers Pune?” Eichenwald wrote.

And then there are “problematic connections” between Trump and Russian oligarchs, Vladimir Putin’s guys: 

One such connection comes from a deal in which the GOP nominee attempted to license the Trump name to an organization in Russia. Eichenwald said that “the head of that organization, who, again, is very politically connected – very tied-in to the Putin government – backed away from the deal because Trump wanted too much money.”

And the man who wanted too much money may be our next president. With Hilary Clinton at death’s door, and Republicans continually being forced to say that obvious bigots are bad people but not really deplorable, this may seem like fine-detailed hypothetical boring stuff, but it’s the boring stuff that’s scary:

Trump would undoubtedly have the most expansive and complex international business portfolio of any president in US history, which would bring an added layer of scrutiny to nearly every foreign policy decision Trump would make as president.

And from her death bed Clinton pounced:

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign sought to jump on the story Wednesday by tweeting 20 questions that they would like Trump to answer about Eichenwald’s report.

“Will you sever ties with your company linked to foreign leaders, questionable organizations, and criminals if you become president,” read the first.

The questions also hit Trump for not releasing his tax returns, his business connections and his ability to separate his responsibilities as president with his businesses ventures.

“How can we be sure you’d be willing to be tough on any nation if necessary, if it would put your interests and profits at risk?” asked another question.

The question about the tax returns is the one that matters. Those would show specific sources of income and specific write-offs for losses, and Trump has said he will not release them. It’s easy enough to see why, and Paul Waldman has had just about enough of this:

Think about his tax returns. At first Trump promised he would release his returns. “I have everything all approved, and very beautiful, and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” he said in January. Pressed on exactly when that might be, he said, “At the appropriate time, you’ll be very satisfied.” Then he said he’d release them if Hillary Clinton released her personal emails. But “the appropriate time” turned out to be never, making Trump the first nominee since the 1970s not to release his returns. This isn’t something trivial – in fact, there has never been a nominee whose tax returns we needed to see more than we do Donald Trump’s. He has a large business with hundreds of partnerships and entanglements throughout the world, which raise the potential for all kinds of conflicts of interest…

Trump and his family have a direct financial interest in many places where his decisions as president could shape events. He has said he’ll just step away from his company and let his kids run it while he’s president, which doesn’t even begin to address the conflicts of interest at work.

The fact that Trump thinks he can get away with this lack of disclosure, and we’ll just take his word for it that everything’s cool and there’s nothing to worry about, is absolutely astonishing. What’s worse is that that’s exactly what has happened up until now.

Yes, there’s a pattern here, and a solution to the problem:

We in the media should treat these stories about Trump the way we treated the story of Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia. When she got light-headed and stumbled three days ago at that 9/11 commemoration every major news organization swung into action. They assigned multiple reporters to the story, had them out investigating every aspect of it they could think of, published story after story and filled hour after hour of cable discussions about it, all of which created enormous pressure on Clinton to be as forthcoming as possible. The Clinton campaign has promised that they’re going to release more detailed records about her health, and they’re going to follow through, because they know that if they didn’t there would be a storm of criticism from the media about how secretive she’s being.

The Trump campaign, on the other hand, probably thinks they can just wait it out, when it comes to his medical records or foreign business deals or anything else, because they’ve seen it before. They’ve watched as we devoted enormous amounts of critical attention to the Clinton Foundation, which actually does a tremendous amount of good in the world, while we all but ignored the Trump Foundation, which appears to be little more than an outright scam set up for the purpose of getting other people to pay for giant paintings of Donald Trump and allowing Trump to charge genuine charities to use Mar-a-Lago for events at which they honor him for donations he didn’t actually give them.

They get away with that by waiting things out until everyone is bored with the whole thing and just forgets about it, which infuriates Waldman:

It’s unbelievable that it’s the middle of September and just now people are finally wondering whether Trump’s intricate web of foreign enterprises might be problematic if he were to become president. So that needs to be investigated too, down to the last detail, so we know exactly what all his interests are and how they might affect American foreign policy and national security.

There are a hundred reporters who have spent the last three days trying to determine if Hillary Clinton ever had a hangnail – at least that much energy should be put into finding out what we need to know about Donald Trump.

But that’s boring!

Say that and he will be the next president. Boring really is scary. It’s deplorable too.

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Approaching Reality

Some things are misnamed. Reality television shows have little to do with reality. They place carefully chosen participants in a contrived situation, carefully planned for a limited range of specific outcomes. Yes, these are not actors, so that may make things “real” in some way, and these shows are unscripted – maybe – but they are edited in postproduction to fit the available broadcast time and to provide narrative flow. Random people, idly arguing about this and that – if they can even stay on topic – isn’t very interesting. There’s a set-up. There’s a pay-off. Someone is voted off the island. Someone is fired. Tune in next week.

This is an odd sort of entertainment, but incredibly cheap to produce. The networks make out like bandits – but this isn’t reality. Reality is messier, and harder, as Donald Trump has discovered. This is the first time one of our two major political parties has nominated a reality television star for president – a man with no political experience, having never held any public office, and with no knowledge of public policy or international relations or national security – and he may need an actual script. Reality television is amateurs faking it in tightly controlled situations. This is the real thing.

This has stumped the press. Do they cover Donald Trump as the usual candidate, discussing his policy ideas, developed over all the years – even if there’s nothing much there – or as an amusing amateur faking it? Do that and they’ll offend a lot of Republicans, the rabid base that loves this random disrupter, and the establishment Republicans who have resigned themselves to this scattered and unscripted guy, likely to say anything, because he did win their party’s nomination fair and square. To be fair, and safe, they’ve opted to pretend he’s just another candidate.

That may be a mistake, and Andrew Prokop note that they’ve just been called out on that:

During a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on Tuesday, President Obama sharply criticized the media’s recent coverage of Donald Trump, saying journalists were creating false equivalence between Trump and Clinton while failing to hold Trump to task for various “disqualifying” statements he has made.

“Do you mind if I just vent for a second?” Obama asked. “I sure do get frustrated with the way this campaign is covered.”

The president argued that there are “serious issues at stake in this election, behind all the frivolous stuff that gets covered every day,” and that the media was creating false “equivalence” between Clinton and Trump.

He went on to argue that Clinton’s record on transparency and her conduct with her family foundation were far superior to Trump’s. “You wanna debate transparency? You’ve got one candidate in this race who’s released decades’ worth of her tax returns. The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all,” Obama said.

And there’s more:

“You wanna debate foundations and charities? One candidate’s family foundation has saved countless lives around the world. The other candidate’s foundation took money other people gave to his charity and then bought a 6-foot-tall painting of himself. I mean, he had the taste not to go for the 10-foot version!”

Prokop:

The Trump Foundation did indeed spend $20,000 at a charity auction to purchase a painting of Trump, as the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported, but that’s really the tip of the iceberg here.

Prokop recommends Matt Yglesias on that and adds this:

Obama argued that Trump has said so many outrageous and untrue things for so long that the press has effectively given up on challenging him. He specifically cited Trump’s false claim that he opposed going to war in Iraq…

“Donald Trump says stuff every day that used to be considered as disqualifying for being president. And yet because he says it over and over again, the press just gives up and then you say, well, yeah, you know, okay. They did stuff – I was opposed to the war in Iraq. Well, actually, he wasn’t, but they just accept it.”

“The bottom line,” Obama said at the conclusion of this riff, “is that we cannot afford to suddenly treat this like a reality show. We can’t afford to act as if there’s some equivalence here.”

This is the real thing, and Politico adds this detail:

Speaking in the shadow of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps made famous by the movie “Rocky,” President Barack Obama scoffed at the notion of Donald Trump as the champion of the common man.

“Look, I keep on reading this analysis that, well, you know, Trump’s got support from, like, working folks. Really? Like, this is the guy you want to be championing working people?” the president said at a rally for Hillary Clinton. “This guy who spent 70 years on this Earth showing no concern for working people – this guy is suddenly going to be your champion? I mean he’s spent most of his life trying to stay as far away from working people as he could. And now this guy’s going to be the champion of working people? Huh?”

Again, this isn’t a (fake) reality show:

“What we’ve seen from the other side in this election, this isn’t Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party. This isn’t even the vision of freedom that Ronald Reagan talked about,” he said. “This is a dark, pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other; we turn away from the rest of the world. They’re not offering serious solutions. They’re just fanning resentment and blame and anger and hate. And that is not the America we know. That’s not the America I know.”

Also unrecognizable to Republican leaders of the past, Obama said, would be Trump’s friendly tone towards Russia and specifically its president, Vladimir Putin. Of the Manhattan billionaire’s relationship with Putin, Obama said “he loves this guy,” and said the Russian president was “Donald Trump’s role model.”

“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan idolizing somebody like that?” Obama asked the crowd. “He saw America as a shining city on the hill. Donald Trump calls it a divided crime scene.”

Maybe it is time to get real:

The president also pilloried Trump’s recent interview with Larry King that aired on the Russian government-owned TV network RT America, where Obama said the GOP nominee sought to “talk down our military and to curry favor with Vladimir Putin.” Obama derided the praise Trump has lavished on Putin as “a strong leader” who has more adeptly led his own country than Obama has the U.S.

“The interviewer asks him well why do you support this guy? ‘He’s a strong guy. Look, he’s gotten an 82 percent poll rating.’ Well, yes, Saddam Hussein had a 90 percent poll rating,” Obama said, recalling in general terms praise that Trump has offered Putin in the past. “I mean, if you control the media and you’ve taken away everybody’s civil liberties and you jail dissidents, that’s what happens. The pollster calls you up and says ‘do you support the guy who if you don’t support him he might throw you in jail?’ You say ‘yes, I love that guy.'”

Forget that and try some reality:

Obama acknowledged that Clinton’s decades in the public eye have left her exposed to “what I believe is more unfair criticism than anybody out here,” but cautioned Americans, and especially young Americans, not to dismiss her as a relic of the past. He praised her for continuing to seek public office “even if we haven’t always appreciated her.”

“We are a young country, we are a restless country. We always like the new, shiny thing. I benefited from that when I was a candidate. And we take for granted sometimes what is steady and true. And Hillary Clinton’s steady and she is true,” the president said before urging voters to support Clinton by echoing a famous Teddy Roosevelt speech. “If you’re serious about our democracy then you’ve got to be with her. She’s in the arena and you can’t leave her in there by herself. You have to get in there with her.”

After all, this is serious stuff:

The hacker or hackers who claim to have broken into Democratic Party systems released more documents Tuesday, including what appeared to be the personal cell phone of vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine.

“Guccifer 2.0” released over 670 megabytes of documents at a cybersecurity conference in London Tuesday.

The work cell phone numbers, personal email addresses and personal cell phone numbers of top Obama White House officials were also included in the cache.

Kaine’s title on the spreadsheet of contacts is “Chairman’s Office” – which might mean that the document was created from 2009 to 2011, when Kaine was with the Democratic National Committee. The metadata shows that it was last modified on April 4, 2010.

It doesn’t appear any emails were included in the documents released.

But the DNC’s holiday card list for 2010, Federal Election Commission filings, early voter lists and a plan for redistricting were all in the dump.

Other files have to do with donor lists and technology updates for DNC-related apps.

Our intelligence officials and most cybersecurity experts suspect Russian involvement, and that leads back to Donald Trump:

The Democratic National Committee released a statement Tuesday condemning a new leak of its hacked documents and tying that hack to both Russia and Donald Trump.

Interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile charged in the statement that the only person to gain anything from these hacks would be Trump and his campaign. She also blasted his statements about cybercrime as “dangerous.”

“The DNC is the victim of a crime – an illegal cyberattack by Russian state-sponsored agents who seek to harm the Democratic Party and progressive groups in an effort to influence the presidential election,” the statement reads.

“There’s one person who stands to benefit from these criminal acts, and that’s Donald Trump. Not only has Trump embraced Putin, he publicly encouraged further Russian espionage to help his campaign. Like so many of the words Trump has uttered this election season, his statements encouraging cybercrime are dangerous, divisive, and unprecedented.”

But they do make great reality television, even if the press has decided they’re covering the usual president race with two roughly equivalent candidates, not a reality show on one side.

Brian Beutler addresses this problem:

Over the past three weeks, influential liberals have placed the issue of proportionality in political journalism at the center of a national debate. Joined by many conservatives, these liberals note that Donald Trump lies brazenly; lacks any identifiable grasp on the public policies he’ll be tasked with executing; and has been admonished by the Republican House speaker, among others, for racism. So why, they ask, aren’t these facts persistently dominating news coverage of this election? How can such dangerous matters be bumped beneath the fold of the front page, or to b- and c-block discussions on TV, by comparably minor developments like Hillary Clinton’s factually accurate observation that many Trump supporters are deplorable?

Journalists who are the targets of this criticism have responded with reflexive defensiveness of the work they’ve done, citing their real and solemn duty to scrutinize all major party presidential candidates, without fear or favor, but have largely ignored the central critique: Is it possible that political journalists will pave the way to a Trump presidency by underplaying the risks he poses to American democracy?

Do they point out the danger of this reality show star that could get us all killed? Should they? Beutler says things don’t work that way:

The press is not a pro-democracy trade, it is a pro-media trade. By and large, it doesn’t act as a guardian of civic norms and liberal institutions – except when press freedoms and access are at stake. Much like an advocacy group or lobbying firm will reserve value judgments for issues that directly touch upon the things they’re invested in, reporters and media organizations are far more concerned with things like transparency, the treatment of reporters, and first-in-line access to information of public interest, than they are with other forms of democratic accountability.

That’s not a value-set that’s well calibrated to gauging Trump’s unmatched, omnidirectional assault on our civil life. Trump can do and say outrageous things all the time, and those things get covered in a familiar “did he really say that?” fashion, but his individual controversies don’t usually get sustained negative coverage unless he is specifically undermining press freedom in some clear and simple way.

Even then, though, the press has no language for explicating which affronts to press freedom are more urgent and dangerous than others. All such affronts are generally lumped together in a way that makes it unclear whether the media thinks it is worse that Trump blacklists outlets and wants to sue journalists into penury or that Clinton doesn’t like holding press conferences.

In short, their interest isn’t the public interest:

The result is the evident skewing of editorial judgment we see in favor of stories where media interests are most at stake: where Clinton gets ceaseless scrutiny for conducting public business on a private email server; Trump gets sustained negative coverage for several weeks when his campaign manager allegedly batters a reporter; where Clinton appears to faint, but the story becomes about when it was appropriate for her to disclose her pneumonia diagnosis; where because of her illness, she and Trump will both be hounded about their medical records, and Trump will be further hounded for his tax returns – but where bombshell stories about the ways Trump used other people’s charity dollars for personal enrichment have a hard time breaking through.

They look out for themselves:

News outlets are less alarmed by the idea that Trump might run the government to boost his company’s bottom line, or that he might shred other constitutional rights, because those concerns don’t place press freedoms squarely in crosshairs. Controversies like his proposal to ban Muslim travel into the U.S. create a deportation force to expel millions of immigrants, and build a wall along the southern border are covered less as affronts to American values than as gauche ideas that might harm his poll numbers with minorities. Trump’s most damaging scandal may have been his two-week political fight with the Khan family, but even there, the fact that Trump attacked the Khans’ religious faith was of secondary interest to questions like whether attacking a Gold Star family of immigrants would offend veterans and non-whites who might otherwise have voted for him.

Against that backdrop, it’s no surprise that when liberal intellectuals argue the press’ coverage of Trump and Clinton is out of whack, in ways that imperil the democracy itself, that members of the media don’t see a world-historical blind spot that must be urgently corrected. They see an attack on the trade itself – and reflexively rush to protect it.

That may explain a lot, but Paul Krugman is having none of it:

Brian Beutler argues that it’s about protecting the media’s own concerns, namely access. But I don’t think that works. It doesn’t explain why the Clinton emails were a never-ending story but the disappearance of millions of George W. Bush emails wasn’t, or for that matter Jeb Bush’s deletion of records; the revelation that Colin Powell did, indeed, offer HRC advice on how to have private email the way he did hasn’t even been reported by some major news organizations.

And I don’t see how the huffing and puffing about the Clinton Foundation – which “raised questions” but where the media were completely unwilling to accept the answers they found – fits into this at all.

No, it’s something special about Clinton Rules. I don’t really understand it. But it has the feeling of a high school clique bullying a nerdy classmate because it’s the cool thing to do.

It does feel like that – or Clinton will be booted off the island – but Jack Shafer defends the press:

The idea that reporters should aspire to a Zen-like equilibrium that gives all “stakeholders” a say in its shaping has become a tenet of the profession’s religion. The concept has become so engrained in our culture that those scamps at Fox News Channel have co-opted it with their ridiculous “fair and balanced” motto. Fox is many things, but fair and balanced is not one of them. But the sheer power of the words seems to paralyze people from laughing out loud when they hear it intoned on Fox.

But things don’t work that way:

A little bit of going-through-the-motions balance can be a harmless thing – you recognize it when you see it, the obligatory quote from the sure-to-be offended party that readers can easily ignore as they absorb the real thrust and import of what the reporter has uncovered. Some editors with a strong ethical commitment to balance have even told me there was no absolute need to publish the “other side’s” comments at all – sometimes, they explain, just making the call and listening to the news source is evidence enough that the reporting was balanced. Their point is that a news story is not a town hall in which every citizen gets to express his view. Rather, it is a distillation of what the reporter and editor decide is true.

But the reporting practice of collecting a pro forma denial or explanation isn’t what the current balance debate is about. The balance brigade phalanxed in front of Clinton wants to use its influence to deter stories about her emails and the Clinton Foundation, two subjects they accuse the press of having over-covered. They want to discourage any direct comparisons between her ethical conduct, her efforts at transparency, and the depth of her policy prescriptions with Trump’s. They would litigate every aspect of news story – length and placement of the story, adjectives used, frequency with which the news outlet reports on the topic, and more – with the goal (to paraphrase Boss Tweed) of “Stopping them damn stories!”

And on the other side there’s this:

Trump clearly believes anything negative or disapproving written about him is by definition unfair, an expression of reportorial bias. Unless the media flatters him – as Sean Hannity routinely does – he insists he’s being treated unjustly. Trump isn’t just “playing the ref,” attempting to influence a future call by making a contrived stink about the current one. By protesting almost everything written about him, Trump hopes to discredit anybody – press or political foe – who defies him.

What this comes down to is that no story about Trump’s unethical business practices, his lies about giving to charities, or his bizarre expressions of admiration for Vladimir Putin – all legitimate news targets – can be, in his view, fair. Should such a story offer countervailing evidence that he loves his children or once paid a bill on time? Should it give equal time to Clinton’s offenses? That’s not how journalism works. Trump has proven himself to be a grifter, a liar, and Russian strongman’s sycophant, and there’s no way for a reporter delving into it to “balance” that equation.

Well, screw them both:

If you omit important facts that get in the way of your argument, readers will find you out and discount what you write and what your news outlet publishes. But a slavish devotion to balance – making sure every alpha who expresses an opinion in a piece is paired with a corresponding omega, or shrinking into a defensive ball every time a critic accuses you of over-covering a topic – is injurious to good journalism.

Reporters who are being hassled by Clintonoids for digging too deeply into Madame Secretary’s past, or Trump reporters who are feeling his wrath, should slough off the criticism and keep on doing what they’re doing. Creating a perfectly balanced story isn’t the same as creating a good story, an observation that should be pinned up in every newsroom. If you’re a reader and you’re worried about balance, your best resort is not making lame complaints but to expand your news diet. Balance may be necessary to the practice of journalism, but it will never be sufficient.

Digby (Heather Parton) isn’t so sure about that:

I know that covering Trump is extremely difficult for a straight reporter. He is unique in politics and flouts any rules that might apply. But their reaction to that is to turn their frustration away from him, since it’s confusing and difficult to understand, and demand satisfaction from his more traditional rival, who also happens to be the target of right-wing character assassins handing them an easy story line. They are doing a bad job at the wrong time.

It may be time for a reassessment:

Trump is not a politician. He’s something else. And the media needs to stop navel-gazing and recognize this. We’re seeing some of that from editorial boards and pundits who are usually pretty invested in the “both sides do it” narratives. But straight reporters (and I assume their editors) are letting the country down right now. This isn’t an ordinary election.

Everyone knows that. Callum Borchers certainly knows that:

As you probably know by now, Donald Trump plans to reveal the results of a recent medical exam Thursday on the “Dr. Oz Show,” which is a rather unorthodox way for a presidential candidate to make records public. But, hey, Trump is a former reality TV star. As long as all relevant health information comes out, who cares if it is presented in showbiz style?

The problem is that all relevant information might not come out. Based on the way Mehmet Oz is talking about his upcoming interview with the Republican presidential candidate, it sure sounds like we’re about to get an incomplete picture of Trump’s physical condition.

Borchers refers to this exchange between Oz and Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade:

KILMEADE: What if there are some embarrassing things on there?

OZ: Well, I bet you he won’t release them.

KILMEADE: Oh, it’s still going to be his decision?

OZ: It’s his decision. You know, I – the metaphor for me is it’s the doctor’s office, the studio. So I’m not going to ask him questions he doesn’t want to have answered.

Borchers:

So, to review, Oz says Trump will publicize only the good parts of his medical report and that the interview will not include any questions Trump would not want to answer.

There was always a public relations component to Trump’s pledge to release more medical information this week. He is obviously trying to appear more forthcoming – and healthier – than Hillary Clinton, who is taking a break from campaigning to recover from pneumonia, an illness she kept hidden for two days and disclosed only after it forced her to leave a 9/11 memorial service early.

But Trump’s appearance on Oz’s TV show now sounds like a pure PR stunt designed to hype the candidate’s fitness, regardless of what his physician might have found.

Borchers says this sounds like a total joke, but it’s just a carefully planned reality show with an entirely predictable outcome. Trump always fires someone. This time he’s declared healthy as a horse.

Of course there another element, which Hank Campbell at the American Council on Science and Health covers here:

This is a huge coup for Dr. Oz, whose ratings have plummeted since he got nationwide condemnation after four members of the American Council on Science and Health spearheaded last year’s campaign to get the doctor removed from the faculty of Columbia – due to his persistent promotion of miracle vegetables, his scaremongering, and his promotion of alternatives to legitimate science and health practices.

He was forced to hire a fact-checker (sort of, he snagged an anti-GMO zealot from Consumer’s Union, the parent of Consumer Reports), he put Dr. in small letters in the logo of his, to symbolically minimize the medical content of his show, and he has been scrambling to get back the 50 percent of the audience he lost due to the controversy.

And there’s the other side of the equation:

For Mr. Trump, it’s a no-lose proposition. It’s not like Dr. Oz can ask Mr. Trump any awkward questions about his statements on vaccines, since Oz has extolled both Joe Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on his show, and both of them are anti-vaccination zealots. In return for not looking hypocritical, Oz has said he will stick to softball issues. So we won’t see him scold Mr. Trump for having a diet plan that contains wisdom like eat in a “fantastic setting” when Dr. Oz has recommendations just as lacking in evidence.

Basically, Mr. Trump has found a way to turn the most mundane event in every previous election – medical records – into a media event. He has nothing to lose and a lot to gain, especially when his opposing candidate is being cloistered and trying to figure out which medical records to reveal. He hasn’t done anything original, it’s just medical records, but he is spinning it to seem like he is the one being transparent.

And Dr. Oz is playing along, hoping that he can rescue his floundering show from the brink of cancellation.

It’s a win-win situation, another contrived outcome like on any reality show, and thus has little to do with reality. So, how does the press cover this? They will take this very seriously of course.

That’s what Obama was mocking in Philadelphia, for all the good it will do. Those reality television shows have fooled everyone.

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That Basket Thing

Forget Hillary Clinton’s health problems, even if the man who discovered CTE thinks Hillary Clinton may have been poisoned  – even if chronic traumatic encephalopathy, that eventually renders former professional football players nearly brain dead, has nothing to do with poison. There is also the argument that Hillary Clinton use a body double after falling ill at 9/11 memorial appearance – that wasn’t really her looking chipper and happy a few hours later. And then there’s one of Donald Trump’s state chairmen:

Daniel Tamburello, who is also a Republican New Hampshire state representative, said on Facebook that based on his father’s Parkinson’s diagnosis, he believes that Clinton’s pneumonia is evidence she has the disease too.

“Hillary has been rumored to have Parkinson’s for some time, as one of the theories to what ails her. (Personally I would surmise it is more than one illness),” he wrote on Facebook, as first flagged by BuzzFeed.

Tamburello wrote pneumonia is “one of the most common secondary conditions” that occurs with Parkinson’s, noting that it’s “very common” for Parkinson’s patients to die of pneumonia.

“This in a combination with the recent fondness of mumus, makes me think she is concealing a deep brain stem battery pack that counters her tremors from Parkinson’s (my dad has this battery pack too),” he wrote. “They may have admitted HRC has pneumonia, but that’s not WHY she has pneumonia. I believe she has pneumonia caused by Parkinson’s disease.”

There’s a lot of this going around. Everyone has a theory that shows, at best, that Hillary Clinton is unfit for office, or at worst has her at death’s door, unless that is a best-case scenario – but Donald Trump isn’t going there. He has wished her well. He has said that he hopes she feels better. That’s decent of him, or a political calculation made by his team, to tone it down and for him to stop being loony, one that this time they actually convinced him to try out. They may have told him not to go there, but go here instead:

Donald Trump pounced Monday on Hillary Clinton for calling half of his supporters a “basket of deplorables” late last week, launching a new attack ad and arguing on the stump that the remark disqualifies Clinton from the presidency.

The Republican nominee, speaking Monday at the National Guard Association’s annual conference, called on Clinton to apologize for and retract her remarks, arguing that she had “slandered” millions of Americans. Trump’s outrage Monday was a significant political statement for a candidate who has repeatedly offended millions of Americans throughout his controversial campaign.

That’s a coordinated effort, his speech and a matching attack ad – something new for his campaign, something actually focused:

“The disdain that Hillary Clinton expressed toward millions of Americans disqualifies her from public service. You cannot run for president if you have such contempt in your heart for the American voter,” Trump said. “You can’t lead this nation if you have such a low opinion of its citizens.”

Trump, who has not apologized for any of his political attacks or offensive statements throughout his presidential campaign, appeared shocked that Clinton had not yet apologized for her comments and called on her to do so.

“Hillary Clinton has not apologized to those she slandered. In fact, she hasn’t backed down at all,” Trump said. “If Hillary Clinton will not retract her comments in full, I don’t see how she can credibly campaign any further.”

This is good. She’s still unfit for office, but he doesn’t come off as a creep for harping on her age and failing health. He is one year older that she is, after all. There’s no need to let people put two and two together, so this will work. She’s insulted good Americans.

Unless she hasn’t:

Clinton’s national press secretary Brian Fallon responded to Trump’s statement Monday, saying “the larger point of what she said on Friday remains true and it’s something we’re not going to apologize for.”

“That Donald Trump continues to not just condone but welcome, promote and lift up, divisive, hate-filled elements in this country that he’s giving a platform with his campaign,” Fallon told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “The idea that somebody is running a campaign that is engaging in this kind of hate-filled demagoguery in 2016 is deplorable.”

Vice President Joe Biden defended Clinton on the campaign trail in North Carolina, saying she gets a bum rap and that if Trump were held to her standard, then “He’d be in trouble.”

Trump’s condemnation of Clinton’s comments come less than a month after he expressed regret for sometimes saying “the wrong thing” over the course of his campaign, during which he has offended Hispanics, Muslims, disabled Americans and veterans.

This is complicated so his running mate tried to clear things up, and that didn’t go well:

Louisiana Senate candidate and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke says he’s pleased that vice presidential nominee Mike Pence declined to call him “deplorable” in an interview on Monday.

“It’s good to see an individual like Pence and others start to reject this absolute controlled media,” Duke told BuzzFeed News. “The truth is that the Republican Party in Louisiana – I received the vast majority of Republican votes for United States senator before and for governor before that in my state. The truth is the Republican Party is big tent. I served in the Republican caucus. I was in the Republican caucus in the legislature. I had a perfect Republican voting record. It’s ridiculous that they attack me because of my involvement in that nonviolent Klan four decades ago.”

In an appearance on CNN on Monday, Pence was asked about Duke’s support of his running mate Donald Trump. Pence replied, “We don’t want his support and we don’t want the support of the people who think like him.”

Asked if Duke is “deplorable,” Pence said “I’m not in the name-calling business.”

Perhaps he should be, as Josh Marshall offers this:

Mike Pence refusing to label David Duke as “deplorable” is a good example of why “Deplorable” was always far more of a double-edged sword than the Trump crew seemed to realize.

That’s because it was only the “half” part of Clinton’s remarks that got her in trouble:

Some argue that you should never attack a candidate’s supporters. That’s probably true if you place the percentage so high. But Trump’s white nationalism and embrace of dominance politics is both what gives his campaign fuel and keeps it locked at about 40% support nationwide. The racist demons Trump has brought openly into the public square are a major liability for him.

Just today Trump’s campaign started running ads in a series of swing states basically repeating Clinton’s quote and casting them in the light of contempt for ordinary Americans. That’s probably effective in stirring up Trump’s base. But that’s not where he has problems. They are 110% committed. The tipping point voters in this election have been college educated whites, especially college educated white women who don’t really like Clinton but are repelled by Trump’s racism and sexism. They are the ones most in play. White men without college degrees aren’t moving; non-whites aren’t moving.

Those are the folks he needs. And I’m sure the “contempt for hard working Americans” gloss will have some traction with these voters. But far more than that it shifts attention back to Trump’s big liability: his open cultivation of white supremacists, racists and haters of all stripes. That’s more likely to hurt Trump than help him, because that’s what’s alienated most of these voters in the first place.

Those nasty folks should remain hidden, not defended:

The Trump campaign wants to keep the conversation to a broad mass of supporters. They don’t want to get into litigating who’s deplorable and who’s not. After all, even if they’re way fewer than half, Trump has a huge following of noxious “deplorable” followers… This whole part of the campaign debate is now in a chaotic flux, made more so by Clinton’s illness. But this could easily turn against Trump. And I suspect it will.

Jonathan Chait is a bit more specific about that:

Following the classic definition of a gaffe as a politician telling the truth, Hillary Clinton’s comment about Donald Trump’s supporters (“just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it”) was the purest and most classic example. The national media has spent a year and a quarter documenting in exquisite, redundant detail the rabid, anti-intellectual nationalistic bigotry of Trump’s hard-core fan-base. But it has taken Hillary Clinton’s affirmation to transform this by-now-banal observation into a scandal.

She actually may have said that “basket” thing on purpose, to stir things up:

Back in February, Wall Street Journal editorial columnist Bret Stephens mourned that it had once been a slander that “Republicans were all closet bigots,” but “Not anymore. The candidacy of Donald Trump is the open sewer of American conservatism.” Stephens proceeded to argue that Trump’s carefully hedged disavowal of David Duke failed to dent his support – “If anything it has enhanced it.” Now that Clinton has made the similar point in milder terms, absolving a larger proportion of Trump’s supporters than Stephens did, and choosing the gentler metaphor of a basket rather than a sewer. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is scandalized that Clinton was caught “attributing hateful motives to tens of millions of Americans.” Americans! Hateful! In large numbers! How dare she!

Yeah, sure, but there’s no reason they should have been surprised:

To the extent that Clinton’s comment had any novel quality, it was her loose calculation that the bigoted make up half of Trump’s support. Clinton has dutifully apologized (“I regret saying half”). And, depending on how one calculates it, this could be high. Committed white nationalists comprise a small minority of the Trump vote. On the other hand, it could also be low.

The facts argue for that latter:

The overwhelming majority of Trump aficionados support his proposed ban on Muslim immigrants – a policy many Republican elected officials opposed as an unconstitutional religious test – while two-thirds of them register unfavorable views of American Muslims. A plurality of Republicans supported Trump’s claim that a Mexican-American judge was inherently biased and therefore unfit to preside over his fraud trial. (In the same poll, a huge majority of Republicans deemed Trump’s comments not racist, despite Paul Ryan’s admission that it constituted a textbook example of racism.) Two-thirds of voters who like Trump consider President Obama a Muslim, and three-fifths of them believe he was not born in the United States.

This raises some questions:

Do Trump’s supporters legitimately share all of his deranged beliefs, or are they merely signaling some kind of tribal affinity? It is a bit of a distinction without a difference. Trump’s supporters are first and foremost authoritarians. They are authoritarians in the sense, identified by Stephens and many others, in that they yearn for a strongman who can override the systemic constraints on presidential power. They are also authoritarians in the sense of having authoritarian personalities. Political scientists have found that Trump has capitalized on the trend toward authoritarianism in the Republican electorate, which works in concert with the growing levels of white racial resentment in the Republican electorate.

And that leads to an odd place:

The combination of these sociological trends has placed Trump in his current role as tribal leader of Red America. In this role, Trump is free of any intellectual accountability so long as he stays loyal to the elemental identity markers of his tribe. He can lie blatantly, reverse himself back and forth repeatedly, or stammer incoherently without consequence, because his supporters have placed complete faith in him as an authentic representative of the volk.

He is the tribal leader of Red America:

Clinton controversially described half of Trump’s supporters as “irredeemable.” Trump earlier this year framed the same idea in a more colorful and perhaps more damning way: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Both statements reflect the same underlying truth: Trump enjoys a hard-core support that lies beyond persuasion, utterly immune to even the starkest factual evidence. Clinton committed a gaffe because she acknowledged a reality that literally every other person in America, including Donald Trump himself, is permitted to speak aloud.

Why not talk about it? Slate’s Jamelle Bouie offers this:

Some members of the political press were swift with their judgment. “No. 1 rule of presidential politics. Okay to mock your opponent. Never a good idea to mock the electorate,” said Michael Barbaro of the New York Times on Twitter. “Any more appropriate place for Clinton to make her ‘basket of deplorables’ comment than at a fundraiser with Barbra Streisand?” asked Aaron Blake of the Washington Post. “Memo to candidates: Stop generalizing and psychoanalyzing your opponents’ supporters. It never works out well for you,” wrote Domenico Montanaro of NPR.

But “half” wasn’t wrong. “Half” wasn’t a gross generalization at all. “Half” was by all indications close to the truth.

He cites the same data as Chait, and adds that Trump cannot hide from that:

We can debate whether this is blindness or denial, but the data is clear: Large numbers of white Americans hold anti-black or racially resentful views, and for a substantial portion, those views are politically salient. They drive decisions about voting and party identification. Donald Trump did not win the Republican presidential primary because he out-organized or out-campaigned his competitors; he won because he played directly to those views, and Republican elites refused to challenge him.

Which gets to a larger truth: The Republican Party of the Obama years is an ethno-nationalist formation of white Americans. The ideological conservatism of its elites is less important than the raw resentment of its base. Trump has harnessed that and given voice to more virulent forms, to the point where key members of his campaign share neo-Nazi memes on social media.

They do – Bouie has the links – so Clinton was just doing what she should do:

The dismay over Clinton’s comments – the insistence that it represents some kind of insult and not a statement of truth – reflects the degree to which many of our reporters and observers still shy away from these facts. But this moment demands clarity. Readers don’t need to know whether Clinton made a “gaffe.” They need to know whether she was right. Do millions of Americans hold explicitly racist views? Yes. Do roughly half of Donald Trump’s supporters fall into a so-called “basket of deplorables?” Yes.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent sees the same problem:

The American people know what Trump is doing. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that American voters say by 59-36 that “the way Trump talks appeals to bigotry.”

In the end, this flap inevitably leads us back into the endlessly debated question at the heart of Trumpism. Are Trump’s appeals resonating because of many voters’ own raw bigotry? Or is their susceptibility to bigoted appeals rooted in legitimate economic and cultural grievances? No question, many Trump supporters may be motivated by nothing more than dissatisfaction with our trade and economic policies, or anger at Washington’s dysfunction, or reasonable objections to current terrorism or immigration policies. In this context, people are missing the importance of the Clinton remarks that came after the incendiary ones.

That’s because Clinton also said this:

That other basket of people are people who feel that government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures. They are just desperate for change. Doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

Sargent:

In other words, Clinton is also saying that many Trump supporters are not motivated by bigotry, i.e., that many people supporting Trump have legitimate anxieties. Trump is trying to prey on those anxieties by scapegoating Muslims and undocumented immigrants, but this might not be why many support him…

The underlying argument here – that Trump is running a bigoted campaign that tries to prey on legitimate grievances and bigotry alike by scapegoating minority groups – is inarguable, and the reality it identifies is far worse than Clinton’s broad-brush overreach was. If anything, “deplorable” is too mild a word for it.

That was the shown in North Carolina, in Asheville, in this:

Just as Donald Trump on Monday was decrying Hillary Clinton for having called “half” of his supporters “a basket of deplorables,” an altercation broke out in the stands above him.

Protesters are nothing new at Trump rallies, but before a group could be escorted out of U.S. Cellular Center here Monday evening, a man from the crowd went over to violently confront them.

NBC News video of the incident shows the man with his hands on a protester’s neck. Moments later, his hands furled into fists, the man lobbed a blow at the protester.

After the one protester was escorted out, the man pulled another toward him and shouted back and forth with a third, female protester while a member of Trump’s advance team held him back.

He also screamed at a female protester wearing a hijab who was not with the group but was also escorted out.

The unidentified man was allowed to remain for the rest of the rally, and Asheville police did not immediately return NBC News’ request for comment on why the aggressive man was allowed to remain inside after his actions.

Yes, the Asheville police let that ride, but it should be remembered that Asheville is where they locked up F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, after she went quite mad. The old asylum burned down decades ago, but Asheville is still where crazy people end up – unless that angry guy was a Clinton plant, sent there to prove her point.

That’s unlikely. The tribe was being attacked, and John Cassidy points out that this works for Clinton:

Instead of seeking to shift attention to other subjects, like Clinton’s policy initiatives, her campaign appears keen to keep the focus on Trump’s links to extremist and conspiratorial groups, even if that also helps keep the “basket of deplorables” story in the news. “This is what his campaign has always been about,” John Podesta, the chairman of the campaign, said in a statement on Saturday evening. “And this is a fight we’re eager to have. As Hillary said today, we won’t back down.”

In a data-driven campaign, the hope seems to be that emphasizing Trump’s ties to Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and other figures who used to be confined to the right-wing fringe will scare off some moderate Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are thinking of voting for Trump. And that hammering at Trump’s “bigotry and racist rhetoric” – a phrase that appeared in both the Clinton and Podesta statements – will help raise Democratic turnout, especially in urban and minority districts.

She meant to say just what she said, and Charles Blow distills her message:

Donald Trump is a deplorable candidate – to put it charitably – and anyone who helps him advance his racial, religious and ethnic bigotry is part of that bigotry. Period. Anyone who elevates a sexist is part of that sexism. The same goes for xenophobia. You can’t conveniently separate yourself from the detestable part of him because you sense in him the promise of cultural or economic advantage. That hair cannot be split.

Furthermore, one doesn’t have to actively hate to contribute to a culture that allows hate to flourish.

It doesn’t matter how lovely your family, how honorable your work or service, how devout your faith – if you place ideological adherence or economic self-interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.

And there is some evidence that Trump’s supporters don’t simply have a passive, tacit acceptance of an undesirable platform, but instead have an active set of beliefs that support what is deplorable in Trump.

Clinton couldn’t say that, not that directly, but perhaps she should have:

I understand that people recoil at the notion that they are part of a pejorative basket. I understand the reflexive resistance to having your negative beliefs disrobed and your sense of self dressed down.

I understand your outrage, but I’m unmoved by it, but if the basket fits…

And now it does:

Roger Stone, a Donald Trump ally, and Donald Trump Jr., have shared a White Nationalist symbol on Twitter.

The two were responding to Hillary Clinton’s recent controversial comment about half of Trump’s supporters falling into a “basket of deplorables.”

“I am so proud to be one of the Deplorables,” Stone tweeted, along with a Photoshopped image swapping out characters from the 2010 movie “The Expendables” poster with the heads of Trump and nine of his family members and allies.

The image includes photos of Stone, Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Eric Trump, vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), Donald Trump Jr., Infowar’s Alex Jones, conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos and a frog meme associated with the alt-right movement – all under a large heading that reads “The Deplorables.”

And the frog is cute:

The frog, called Pepe, is a white supremacist meme, the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News.

“It’s constantly used in those circles,” said SPLC’s Heidi Beirich.

“The white nationalists are gonna love this because they’re gonna feel like, ‘Yeah we’re in there with Trump, there’s Pepe the Frog.'”

Pepe the Frog is often shown feeding Jews to the ovens, smiling:

Donald Trump Jr. shared the same image on his Instagram account.

It seems that Hillary Clinton has goaded these guys, and that guy in Asheville, into proving her point – not bad for a decrepit old woman with walking pneumonia, or Parkinson’s – but they’re easily goaded. She also goaded Trump into making this “basket” thing an issue. He should have looked in the basket. But he’s easily goaded too. Perhaps he should go back to talking about that wall or something.

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The Weekend She Lost the Election

On the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 – this time on a Sunday – Americans were supposed to feel sad and resolute and determined, and united. But that gets harder each year. The Iraq war didn’t fix anything. The war we neglected as not as important as dealing with Saddam Hussein – the war we had already started in Afghanistan – also didn’t fix anything. And that’s still going on. Bush said we’d get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, but he punted on that. Obama sent in the Seal Team that finally took care of that fellow, but that too didn’t do any good. Al Qaeda didn’t matter anymore – ISIS did. Osama was old news. Nothing did any good. It’s hard to feel resolute and determined and united when nothing we try works very well. That leaves only sadness, and anger at anyone who says we now have to do this or that or some other thing. What do THEY know? What does anyone know?

Determination and unity are long gone. Americans have gone back to tearing each other apart, now over other things:

High school football players across the US followed San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s lead and declined to stand for the national anthem Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

It appears that Kaepernick has started a movement with his silent protest during the national anthem during a pre-season game on August 26. Kaepernick said his “taking a knee” was to protest racial oppression and police brutality in the United States.

That’s followed by photograph after photograph confirming that happened and by this from Alabama’s Birmingham News:

The announcer of the Friday night football game at McKenzie High School in Alabama’s Butler County had something to say to those who may choose not to stand for the national anthem.

“If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you,” the announcer said at the game versus Houston County High School, according to Facebook poster Denise Crowley-Whitfield.

Crowley-Whitfield said the crowd went “crazy cheering” following the speech.

The announcer was identified as Pastor Allen Joyner, of Sweet Home Baptist Church in McKenzie, according to Joyner’s relatives and friends, who also posted to Facebook and praised the statement.

Crowley-Whitfield’s post was shared more than 4,700 times and received more than 50 comments, all positive, before she deleted her Facebook account on Saturday afternoon.

America could argue about that on 9/11 Sunday, and did – at least there was something that could be done, shoot the kids or not – but this is an election year and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had to say something about what happened in New York fifteen years ago. They have to prove they “get it” – whatever that may mean – and Philip Bump noted that Donald Trump started early, with this in April:

Donald Trump has gotten a lot of attention over the past 12 hours for referring to the Sept. 11 terror attacks as “7/11” during a speech in Buffalo. It’s an awkward, amusing slip-up – but it’s just a slip-up.

More interesting, perhaps, is something he said shortly afterward.

Trump was talking about “New York values” – a means of dismissing Ted Cruz in Trump’s home state. As he did during the debate where Cruz first made the point, Trump was using the attacks as a way of espousing what it is that New Yorkers stand for. Unusually for him, he was reading from a sheet of paper.

Then he offered this aside.

“Everyone who helped clear the rubble – and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit – but I want to tell you: Those people were amazing,” Trump said. “Clearing the rubble. Trying to find additional lives. You didn’t know what was going to come down on all of us – and they handled it.”

That modifier “a little bit” does a lot of work…

Bump goes on to show that Trump did not clear any rubble – he showed up in a suit and tie from time to time and gave interviews to news organizations. Bump asked the Trump campaign to clarify his aside. They had no comment. Why mess up a good story? Keep that image out there.

At Politico, however, Michael Kruse dives deep and explains what really happened that day:

Hours after terrorists piloted hijacked jets into the World Trade Center’s twin towers, Donald Trump agreed to do a live phone interview on local television in New York. Alan Marcus, who was working that day for WWOR as an on-air analyst, asked the real estate mogul to step into a role that seemed fanciful at the time.

“In the year 2000, Donald,” said Marcus, a former Trump publicist, consultant and friend, “you considered running for president. If you had done that, and if you had been successful, what do you think you’d be doing right now?”

“Well,” Trump answered, “I’d be taking a very, very tough line. I mean, you know, most people feel they know at least approximately the group of people that did this and where they are. But boy would you have to take a hard line on this. This just can’t be tolerated.”

That sounds presidential, in a George Bush kind of way, but then there was this:

Only parenthetically in the middle of the ten-minute conversation did Trump turn to a favorite topic – size. “40 Wall Street,” he said, referring to his 71-story building blocks away from the now-collapsed twin towers, “actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest – and then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second-tallest. And now it’s the tallest.”

Marcus chalked up the remark to “Donald being Donald. … He is the brand manager of Trump, and he is going to tout that brand, and he does it reflexively,” he said. “Even on that day.”

And as for that day, which Kruse covers in detail, there was this about Trump, and Hillary Clinton, then the newly-elected senator from New York:

Trump was in New York, on Fifth Avenue in Trump Tower, where he works and lives, and he watched first on TV and then out his windows, staring four miles south at the black smoke in the blue sky.

“We saw it,” said George Ross, a longtime attorney for Trump and an executive vice president of the Trump Organization. “We saw it out the window. I was sitting in his office.” Ross described the mood in the office as “unbelief.”

“We were listening to the news, like everybody else,” he said.

Clinton, meanwhile, was down in Washington, at her home on Whitehaven. She had CNN on as she talked on the phone with her legislative director when the first plane hit. Then the second. By the time she got to the Capitol, the Pentagon had been hit by a third plane. Capitol police were evacuating Senate office buildings. She dialed her daughter, who was in New York. She dialed her husband, who was in Australia. She and other senators received a briefing at the Capitol police station early in the evening. And after “a day indelibly etched in my mind,” and as nightfall approached, Clinton joined congressional colleagues on the steps of the Capitol, standing next to some of her fiercest political opponents, singing “God Bless America” with tears in her eyes.

That a bit of a contrast, as is this nugget:

The night of September 10, 2001, Trump was at a Marc Jacobs fashion show in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, cheering from the front row he shared with Hilary Swank, Sarah Jessica Parker and Monica Lewinsky.

Former New Yorker editor Tina Brown was there, too, and spotted his “bobbing-custard comb-over,” she would write later in the Washington Post.

“How are you?” she asked.

“Bigger than ever,” he said.

The next morning, Trump stayed in his apartment in Trump Tower longer than normal, he would tell shock jock Howard Stern, because he wanted to watch a TV interview with Jack Welch, who had retired as the CEO of General Electric and had a new business book he was publicizing called Straight from the Gut. News programming broke in after the first plane hit.

But Clinton showed up on-site as soon as she could:

On the ground, wearing a surgical mask, the caustic air burned her lungs and eyes as she toured the disaster site with New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Governor George Pataki. She caught the last train out of Penn Station before it closed for the night.

Two days after the attacks, in a private meeting with Republican and Democratic colleagues at the Capitol, she described what she had seen, according to the New York Daily News, choking back tears. Later, she met with the president in the Oval Office, her first visit there since she was First Lady, along with Schumer wrangling from Bush a commitment for $20 billion of federal aid for New York alone – $11 billion of which was ultimately provided. Clinton told Bush, Frank Bruni would write, “that few people could understand the loneliness of the White House, but that she did, and she wanted him to know that.”

As that was happening in Washington, Trump was in New York, spotted walking near Ground Zero, according to Newsday, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie and talking into his cell phone. “No, no,” he was overheard saying. “The building’s gone.”

She was a public official, trying to get federal aid for her state right away. He was private citizen, looking befuddled, and add this:

On Monday of the following week, she traveled to New York, where she was on hand to re-open the New York Stock Exchange.

Trump that day talked on the phone to a reporter from the New York Post about what should happen at Ground Zero.

“Once they get it cleared – and that is going to be a very long process – we will all have a better idea of what can be done on the site,” he said. “The current mindset is to put up new towers, and I agree with that.”

But they shouldn’t be exact replicas, he added.

“To be blunt, they were not great buildings,” Trump said. “They only became great upon their demise last Tuesday.”

Well, he knows a great building when sees one, one that he’s built, but the contrasts with Clinton continue:

In an interview on NPR, she said, “I hope that we would use our strength and our success to build a more peaceful world where we have more partners instead of terrorists, where we recognize that with great power does come great responsibility, and that we would pass on to our children an appreciation for the extraordinary blessings that we enjoy and sometimes take for granted here in our country…”

Trump that day was not on NPR. He was on Howard Stern’s show. It’s an interview that’s gotten a lot of attention of late because Stern asked Trump if he was in favor of invading Iraq, and Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so.” Throughout this campaign Trump has insisted – contrary to that statement – that he always opposed the invasion. But before Stern asked him that, the provocative host asked him something else.

“Probably the most important question I can ask you on a day like today is: Where is Melania, and is she naked?” Stern said.

“Well,” Trump responded, as the names of the dead were being read at Ground Zero, “Melania is now in bed – I’m in my office – and as to whether or not she’s naked, I’m not 100 percent sure.”

He is a crass man. All of this should have buried him, but then 9/11 fell apart for Hillary Clinton this year:

Hillary Clinton’s abrupt departure from a Sept. 11 ceremony in New York after falling ill Sunday and the subsequent disclosure that she is suffering from pneumonia are likely to intensify scrutiny on the Democratic nominee’s health and potentially inject a new campaign issue into a race between two of the oldest candidates ever to seek the White House.

Clinton supporters had long dismissed concerns about her health as baseless, insisting that she only suffered from allergies. But Sunday’s incident – along with a video appearing to show Clinton having difficulty standing on her own – will only amplify such questions just as the race enters its final weeks.

The incident also could increase pressure on Clinton, 68, and Republican nominee Donald Trump, 70, to release more information about their health. Clinton has disclosed less than some previous candidates. Donald Trump has released almost nothing.

“This is the kind of thing that voters have a right to understand before they cast a vote,” said Katie Packer, a GOP strategist who says she does not support either Trump or Clinton.

“Both Trump and Hillary are elderly. They are obligated to release full medical records and full tax returns to the American people. And the media, party leaders and American people should settle for nothing less.”

But he’s fine and she isn’t, and at least the traffic out here in Los Angeles won’t take a hit:

After the incident, Clinton’s campaign said late Sunday it was canceling a planned trip to California on Monday and Tuesday for fundraisers and a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Ellen DeGeneres’ show is taped over the hill out back in Burbank. Traffic will be fine, but this health stuff won’t be:

“Forty-eight hours ago, this was something for the Flat Earth Society and the birth certificate deniers,” Dan Schnur, director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, said of the speculation about Clinton’s health. “Now it’s a topic of legitimate, mainstream political discussion.”

And, as they say, it’s trending:

For Clinton, perhaps the most damaging part of the day was the 19-second video of her struggling to leave the event in New York City. The video, quickly circulated online and replayed on cable news channels, shows her standing uneasily, her knees appearing to buckle and needing help to get into her van.

That fits the narrative:

Clinton’s health has long been the speculation of conspiracy theorists. In 2014, a People magazine cover of Clinton in her backyard leaning on a chair prompted speculation that she was leaning on a walker.

But innuendo about her health grew markedly during the presidential campaign as Trump and his surrogates, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, routinely questioned her strength and stamina on the campaign trail…

Republicans have also pointed to coughing fits that Clinton has suffered while campaigning, and which she attributes to seasonal allergies. Her opponents have also raised questions about the effect of a concussion she sustained in 2012.

The drumbeat got to the point that Clinton poked fun at it on late-night television. During an August appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” she pretended to exert great effort as she opened a jar of pickles and asked the host to check her pulse.

Clinton dismissed the attacks as “wacky” and noted that critics have claimed “I would be dead in six months,” she said. “So with every breath I take I feel like I have a new lease on life.”

Sure, but fifteen years ago, Donald Trump was clearing rubble at Ground Zero, lifting steel beams off gravely injured persons with his bare hands, saving their lives, even if he wasn’t. Hillary Clinton stumbled and nearly passed out at Ground Zeno fifteen years later. Case closed. She just lost this election, except there was this:

Clinton spent about two hours at Chelsea Clinton’s apartment and emerged shortly before noon wearing sunglasses, greeting a young girl and waved at diners at a nearby restaurant.

“I’m feeling great. It’s a beautiful day in New York,” Clinton said before heading to her home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

Her personal physician examined her at her house Sunday afternoon and said Clinton was recovering.

“While at this morning’s event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely,” said Dr. Lisa R. Bardack in a statement. Bardack said Clinton was put on antibiotics Friday.

That should fix the problem, unless that woman in sunglasses was a body-double. Expect to hear that, or expect what Kevin Drum expects:

Washington Post: This makes Clinton’s health a genuine issue.

Charles Krauthammer: She should have told us hours earlier than she did. Is there nothing the Clintons won’t lie about?

Vox: Here’s a pneumonia explainer.

Wall Street Journal: Can Hillary keep up the pace on campaign trail?

Fox News All-Stars: William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia after 32 days in office.

Don Lemon: Is it possible Clinton actually has Ebola?

Time: New focus on Kaine as Clinton struggles with health.

@realDonaldTrump: Hillary tried to hide sickness. But I’ve been warning about her health for months. Need more transparency!

@KatrinaPierson: Doctors say it might actually be cystic fibrosis or lung cancer. Public deserves full medical workup.

@RogerJStoneJr: Hillary has Legionnaires’ disease.

National Enquirer: Hillary Clinton given months to live by docs.

New York Times: Questions raised about Clinton diagnosis.

Facebook News: Trending topics: How long does Hillary have to live?

Politico: Will Clinton recover in time for debate?

That sounds about right, although Drum adds this:

The real story, of course, is that she caught pneumonia. It’s a common illness, and antibiotics should get rid of it pretty quickly. Even during a presidential campaign it’s a fairly ordinary kind of story. But the talking heads need more than that to talk about. We need some kind of morality play. We need the “real questions this raises.” We need analysis. We need daily updates, accompanied by slo-mo analysis of Clinton’s latest walk to her car. So we’ll get them. Sigh.

And if that doesn’t end her chance to win in November then this will:

Hillary Clinton on Saturday issued a statement saying that she regrets saying that half of Donald Trump’s supporters are in what she called a “basket of deplorables.”

“Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ – that was wrong,” Clinton said in a Saturday afternoon statement.

Still, she won’t back down:

“But let’s be clear, what’s really ‘deplorable’ is that Donald Trump hired a major advocate for the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement to run his campaign and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values. It’s deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people,” she said. “It’s deplorable that he’s attacked a federal judge for his ‘Mexican heritage,’ bullied a Gold Star family because of their Muslim faith, and promoted the lie that our first black president is not a true American.”

“So I won’t stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign,” she continued in the statement. “I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out and left behind. As I said, many of Trump’s supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel like the economy or our political system are working for them.”

That clarified things, but Trump had already tweeted this – “Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard-working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!”

The Trump campaign then amplified that:

“Just when Hillary Clinton said she was going to start running a positive campaign, she ripped off her mask and revealed her true contempt for everyday Americans. Tonight’s comments were more than another example of Clinton lying to the country about her emails, jeopardizing our national security, or even calling citizens ‘super-predators’ – this was Clinton, as a defender of Washington’s rigged system – telling the American public that she could [not] care less about them,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement.

“And what’s truly deplorable isn’t just that Hillary Clinton made an inexcusable mistake in front of wealthy donors and reporters happened to be around to catch it, it’s that Clinton revealed just how little she thinks of the hard-working men and women of America,” he added.

And so on and so forth. Of course they’d say such things. This too could lose her the election – except that all those hard-working Americans who were so insulted have been told to blame everything on Muslims and “Mexicans” and those Black Lives Matter thugs who want to kill policemen, and Colin Kaepernick and gays too – and they do. They were never going to vote for Hillary anyway. Those who feel sympathy for those not exactly like them were never going to vote for Trump. This may change nothing, and as for her health, a few antibiotics should take care of the current problem and she’ll be fine. How long does she have to live? Too long for the Trump folks – but she’s not going anywhere.

Maybe this wasn’t the weekend she lost the election.

Posted in Hillary Clinton, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mutual Damage Control

Somehow, the best people don’t run for president. Perhaps the best people know better – it will be a year or more of nasty personal attacks, followed by four or eight year of a thankless absurdly difficult job that no one can do well, if you win. If you lose, you’re now worse than nobody – ask Michael Dukakis or Al Gore for that matter, or Mitt Romney. Only Nixon returned from the dead, eight years after he lost to Jack Kennedy, and look what happened to Nixon. Only those with enormous unshakable egos and in denial of the reality of their obvious flaws run for president – with Dwight Eisenhower and Barack Obama being possible exceptions. Both of them knew their limits and did the best they could with what they had. Both of them were able to say “I could be wrong” now and then.

That’s rare. Our two parties nominate, now, generally, deeply flawed candidates that will admit no flaws, or cannot admit any flaws given our media that thinks it exists to find those flaws, and given their rabid base, that doesn’t want to hear about any flaws – and the parties then have to clean up after them as they campaign. Hillary’s emails showed next to nothing – the Washington Post just gave up on that fruitless effort and others may follow, not that the Republicans will agree. The clean-up will have to continue. That will keep the Democrats busy, and Chuck Todd’s First Read notes that this will keep the Republicans busy:

A day after Donald Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin at the NBC/MSNBC Commander-in-Chief Forum, the Trump campaign doubled down on Putin. “I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” running mate Mike Pence told CNN on Thursday. But compare that with what House Speaker Paul Ryan said when asked about Trump’s comments on Putin from Wednesday night. “Vladimir Putin is an aggressor that does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin is violating the sovereignty of neighboring countries. It’s certainly appears he is conducting in-state sponsored attacks on what appears to be our political system,” Ryan said. “That is not acting in our interests and that is an adversarial stance and he is acting like an adversary.”

So maybe more than any issue right now, Putin has become the ultimate test of GOP loyalty to Trump. Do you agree or disagree with Trump on Putin? That question will separate the ardent Trump supporters from the Republicans who aren’t.

Trump made a mess, so now it’s time to cut and run if you can, and save your own House or Senate seat, or not. David Weigel reports that few Republicans see a mess:

After Donald Trump proclaimed this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “stronger leader” than President Obama, many Republicans quickly condemned or distanced themselves from the remarks.

But by Friday it became clear that a significant number of Republicans agreed with him. Not for the first time, Trump has pulled an idea from the political fringes into the mainstream.

His praise of Putin in particular – and a “strongman” style in general – has alienated some of the party’s most experienced foreign-policy hands while stoking no visible backlash from its voters.

But the party’s most experienced foreign-policy hands may not matter:

Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host who helped moderate several primary debates, went on MSNBC and Twitter on Friday to label Putin an “evil man” who had nonetheless “served his country’s national interest better” than the sitting U.S. president had served his.

The atmosphere is a far cry from four years ago, when Republicans rallied around GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney after he declared Russia to be the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe” and called Putin a thug.

“I am actually very grateful to him for formulating his position in a straightforward manner,” Putin responded then from Moscow.

Those days are gone, but some still see a mess:

Max Boot, a conservative policy analyst, former Romney national security adviser and author who plans to vote for Hillary Clinton, said that “there’s no precedent for what Trump is saying.”

“George McGovern was not running around saying, ‘What a wonderful guy Ho Chi Minh is!'” Boot said. “It’s never been the view of one of the leaders of our two dominant parties that an anti-American foreign leader was preferable to our president.”

He may stand alone:

“The reason Putin went into Crimea and eastern Ukraine is that he saw President Obama wouldn’t take action,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a recent interview with pro-Trump radio host Laura Ingraham. “What Trump is saying is that we need to negotiate with him from a position of strength, is absolutely true.”

Yet Trump goes further than many Republicans. In his telling, Putin – a “strong leader” – epitomizes how any serious president should position his country in the world. Knowingly or not, Trump builds on years of wistful, sometimes ironic praise of Putin as a swaggering, bare-chested autocrat.

“Bare-chested Putin gallops his horses, poses with his tigers, and shoots his guns,” wrote National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson in a 2014 column. “Barack Obama, in his increasingly metrosexual golf get-ups and his prissy poses on the nation’s tony golf courses, wants to stay cool while playing a leisure sport.”

Since then, Putin has become a more active adversary – and more popular among Republican voters. In a 2014 Quinnipiac survey, when asked whether each president had “strong leadership qualities,” more Republicans applied that sentiment to Putin (57 percent) than Obama (49 percent). At the time, an Economist-YouGov poll found Republicans viewing Putin more negatively than positively by a 66-point margin. This year, when YouGov posed the question again, the negative margin had dwindled to 27 points.

The party seems to have decided Putin is a fine fellow, but others disagree:

“Of all the damage Trump can do to the American conservative movement, making it pro-Putin rather than pro-freedom could be the most serious,” Weekly Standard editor and avowed Trump foe Bill Kristol tweeted Friday morning.

An example of what Kristol fears came later Friday at a Washington news conference meant to introduce reporters to leaders of the “alt right,” the white nationalist movement that has rallied around Trump’s candidacy. National Policy Institute head Richard Spencer said that Russia is “the sole white power in the world” and that Putin defends its interests in a way Americans should be ready to understand.

It seems that Trump’s white nationalist flaw became the party’s flaw, although cause and effect are hard to determine. Future political historians can work that out. As for now, there are calls for damage control:

Many establishment-aligned Republicans are baffled by what has happened.

“I don’t get all the Putin love here,” former Florida governor Jeb Bush told reporters this week in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he was giving a speech about leadership. “He’s a dictator. He’s a forceful leader because he can do whatever he wants. That doesn’t make him an effective leader or someone to praise.”

Gene Healy, the vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute and the author of “The Cult of the Presidency,” was hopeful that Republican affinity for strongmen would subside after the election.

“It’s not just the Putin crush: There’s something warped about a guy who gets giddy about how efficiently Kim Jong Un knocked off his rivals, like he’s admiring a scene from ‘Scarface,’ ” Healy said, referring to earlier remarks by Trump. “But I can’t say that I’ve noticed renewed longing for strong leaders from the right. Just the opposite: Mainstream conservatives are hoping the Trump candidacy is the ‘rock bottom’ Americans need to hit before we can finally admit we have a problem, like the junkie who has a grim epiphany after raiding his mother’s purse.”

This seems to be tearing the party apart, and Chris Cillizza offers this:

The calculation among the bulk of GOP elected officials seems to be that the political hazards of renouncing Trump are greater than simply holding their nose and supporting him. After all, Trump is the party’s nominee. And he is, ostensibly, more conservative than Clinton on key issues for the Republican base like the future of the Supreme Court.

True enough. (The smartest thing Trump has done in months is when he released the names of 11 conservatives he would consider nominating for the Supreme Court.)

But that may not cut it:

The problem that Trump’s effusive praise of Putin poses for Republicans is that it’s not really a partisan stance. Most people in the country – Republican, Democrat and other – don’t view Putin (and Russia more broadly) as someone worthy of being lauded.

This is not an issue in which Republicans can retreat behind the old Trump’s-the-nominee argument. Trump isn’t speaking for the vast majority – or even a healthy minority – of voters within the Republican Party. Backing a candidate who repeatedly flirts with Russia and its leader is not the sort of thing that you can just write off to being a good soldier for the party in the postelection analysis.

Cillizza says it’s time to face the facts about this candidate’s flaws:

If you are a Republican elected official considering whether to jump off the Trump train, it’s now-or-never time. You go along with Trump’s views on Putin’s Russia and you don’t get to run away from him if he goes down in flames over the next 60 days.

Slate’s Jamelle Bouie broadens the problem:

Even as he runs for president of the United States – a liberal democracy of individual rights and constitutional government – Trump can’t hide how impressed he is with dictators. “He was a bad guy, really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” said Trump of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during a July campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina. “They didn’t read them the rights,” he continued. “They didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over.”

Likewise, in January, Trump expressed respect for North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. “You have to give him credit,” he said, while granting that the dictator was a “maniac.” “How many young guys – he was like 26 or 25 when his father died – take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden – you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games.”

Bouie sees something terribly wrong here:

You don’t need to spin a web of connections between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin to get why Trump sees some advantage in praising the latter. To start, there’s already a language of Putin admiration on the mainstream right, where the Russian president is contrasted as a supposedly masculine alternative to the presumably effete Barack Obama. Take Sarah Palin’s slam from a few years ago. “Look, people are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”

From there, it is just a short step to the more aggressive Trump campaign admiration of Putin, especially with Trump’s relationship to white nationalism. Trump and his team swim in the fever swamps of the racist right. Trump’s “campaign CEO,” Stephen Bannon, ran a website that acts as a haven for the youngest generation of white supremacists. Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., often tweets and retweets voices from the conspiratorial and white nationalist right, voicing a hard line on undocumented immigrants and the Muslim ban.

Within those fever swamps, there is real admiration for Putin as a “defender” of “Western civilization” against Muslims and multiculturalism.

This is a major flaw:

When you place Trump and his long admiration for authoritarian leaders into the current of modern-day white nationalism and far-right thinking, you end up with what we’ve seen from his campaign – outright praise for a figure who siphons national resources for personal gain, jails dissidents, and is linked to the murder of journalists.

It may be time to rethink this:

Trump’s praise for Putin raises important questions about what, exactly, the Republican presidential nominee means when he says “Make America Great Again.” Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has slid toward right-wing autocracy, with crackdowns on key political liberties. In recent years, Putin’s eye has turned toward ethnic and religious minorities – as well as the Russian LGBTQ community – as a scapegoat for declining economic fortunes and unsuccessful wars.

With Trump’s attacks on immigrants and Muslims, his belligerence, and his long history of poor management and aggressive scapegoating, it seems that this is what we can look forward to under a Trump administration…

Republicans may not want to go there, but Martin Pengelly reports on Trump’s response, that he’s their only hope:

Donald Trump has said the 2016 presidential election is “going to be the last election that the Republicans can win”, because if he is not victorious undocumented migrants “legalized” under a Hillary Clinton presidency will “be able to vote and once that happens you can forget it”.

“I think it’s going to be the last election that the Republicans can win,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday. “If we don’t win this election, you’ll never see another Republican and you’ll have a whole different church structure. You’ll have a whole different Supreme Court structure.”

He’s serious:

CBN host David Brody asked Trump whether he was referring to “what Michele Bachmann was talking about”, which was Clinton providing potential citizenship for “many of these illegals”, because “that means Texas and Florida could be gone”.

Bachmann, a former congresswoman from Minnesota who made a brief run for the White House in 2012 and is an adviser to the Trump campaign, last week told CBN: “If you look at the numbers of people who vote and who live in the country and who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to bring in to the country, this is the last election when we even have a chance to vote for somebody who will stand up for godly moral principles. This is it.”

Both Texas and Florida have large populations of undocumented people, relative to other states, and the latter has been tightly contested in recent elections.

Trump repeated: “I think this will be the last election if I don’t win.”

Perhaps that excuses all flaws. If he doesn’t win, all godly moral principles are gone forever.

That may get him off the hook for loving Putin, but David Drucker reports this:

Republican insiders opposed to Donald Trump have begun discussions to prepare a party overhaul whether its candidate wins the presidency or not.

They regard Trump as the symptom of a disease that afflicts the GOP and fear that emergency restructuring is needed to prevent massive losses among racial minorities that are a growing share of the electorate and have generally accelerated every presidential election cycle since 1992.

Those involved in the plotting sessions say the GOP leadership have lost or ceded control of the Republican brand to outsiders who don’t understand or care about the principles for which it stands. Republicans’ top priority, these insiders explain, should be to reclaim authority over their party.

These guys have their own damage-control team:

In interviews with several Republican strategists, some who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly, many concerns about the future of the GOP were aired, as were suggestions for what it would take to right the ship. But one consensus concern was the damage they believe conservative advocacy organizations and influential conservative media personalities have inflicted on the Republican Party.

Republican insiders explain that these two communities, whether motivated by profit or good intentions, have poisoned the party’s image with the base by setting expectation too high to reach in an era of Democratic control of the White House, and until last year, the Senate.

Fine, but those two communities will be hard to rein in, so they can only hope for this:

Some hope that a third consecutive presidential loss, which many predict is coming, will motivate the GOP to stop doing the bidding of critics on the far right and develop the change in culture they believe is necessary for success in the 21st Century.

And, if Trump is elected?

“The party is still in a lot of trouble,” said another GOP strategist who requested anonymity because he did not want to criticize the RNC or the nominee on the record. “He would be toxic even after a win. And the problem with that is that he will control [the RNC] and I don’t think any clear-thinking Republican believes that would be a good thing.”

So there may be no hope, but the Washington Post reports that the Democrats are in damage-control too:

With Election Day less than two months away, Democrats are increasingly worried that Hillary Clinton has not built a formidable lead against Donald Trump despite his historic weaknesses as a national party candidate.

Even the Democratic nominee’s advisers acknowledge that she must make changes, and quickly. Clinton leads Trump by three percentage points, having fallen from her high of nine points in August, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average. That tightening has frustrated many Clinton allies and operatives, who are astonished that she isn’t running away with this race, given Trump’s deep unpopularity and his continuing stream of controversial comments.

“Generally, I’m concerned, frankly,” said former Democratic Senate leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). “It still looks positive, and I think if you look at the swing states and where she is right now, she’s got a lead. But it’s certainly not in the bag. We have two months to go, and I think it’s going to be a competitive race all the way through. I would say she’s got at least a 60 percent chance of winning.”

At the same time, Daschle said, “all the things that Trump has done, the numbers should be far more explicitly in her favor, but they’re not.”

It’s puzzling, but they see the flaw:

Among Democrats’ concerns is the fact that Clinton spent a great deal of time over the summer raising millions of dollars in private fundraisers while Trump was devoting much of his schedule to rallies, speeches and TV appearances – although many of those didn’t go as well as his campaign may have hoped.

Still, he was out there and she wasn’t, so here’s how to contain the damage at this point:

One new goal for Clinton now, aides said, is to spend more time trying to connect directly with voters by sharing a more personal side of herself – and by telling them where she wants to take the country.

She needs to loosen up, and she is working on that:

By the end of this week, the first in which she has traveled on the same plane as her press corps, Clinton had appeared four times before their cameras to answer questions.

Clinton also played to the cameras and showed a flash of irreverent humor Friday when, after she had left the podium following a short press conference on national security issues, she paused and then returned to answer a shouted question about Trump. With dramatic timing and a sardonic smile, Clinton slowly shook her head and took a breath before addressing Trump’s perhaps ill-advised appearance on a television network backed by the Kremlin.

“Every day that goes by, this just becomes more of a reality-television show,” she said. “It’s not a serious presidential campaign. And it is beyond one’s imagination to have a candidate for president praising a Russian autocrat like Vladimir Putin and throwing his lot in with him,” Clinton said.

That may help, and there’s this:

Clinton also addressed head-on the perception that she is chilly or aloof, telling the online interview site Humans of New York on Thursday that her natural reserve is born of the “hard path” she walked as a professional woman.

“I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions,” she wrote. “And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena.”

She continued: “And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.”

She did just admit she could be wrong, so she’s not a coldly-calculating ego-driven maniac after all, or she’s less of one than anyone imagined.

That’s good, but she’s still in trouble:

Just as Trump was repeatedly underestimated during the Republican primaries, his aides say he is again being underestimated heading into the general election. There’s a sense in the campaign that things are finally coming together and that Trump can propel himself ahead of Clinton over the next two months.

No, wait:

That optimism is less prevalent outside the campaign, though many operatives are loath to predict an outcome in such a volatile election.

“It’s really quite amazing that after the Trump adventure this is still a competitive race,” said Scott Reed, chief strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a longtime Republican operative who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.

Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s former chief strategist, threw cold water on Trump’s enthusiasm in an interview Friday, saying he has yet to see Trump outperform Romney in any state or with any demographic in a way that would signal that he has a chance to win. Stevens said that any talk of Trump having a ground game is “fantasy” because Trump has yet to build a campaign structure anything like Clinton’s. Stevens called Trump’s optimism “childish.”

“I don’t see the path. I just don’t see the path,” Stevens said. “I’ve been in these races where you’re nine points down, then you’re five down – you’re still losing.”

No one is sure of anything. Our two parties have nominated two deeply flawed candidates this time, and do have to clean up after them as they campaign, this year more than any year before. Everyone is in damage-control mode, day after day, which does not impress voters of any kind at all. But then who wants this thankless absurdly difficult job anyway? With few exceptions, only the flawed apply.

Posted in Republican Damage Control, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Backing Down Ever

Political campaigning is a bit like gambling. As the song goes, you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run. Donald Trump’s advisors probably told him that he really shouldn’t bring up Vladimir Putin at that Commander-in-Chief Forum on NBC. Insisting that Putin is a great leader and Obama is not, because Obama isn’t as “strong” as Putin, and imply that he, unlike Obama, would be just like Putin, is playing a losing hand.

Putin is the bad guy. Don’t go there, but this was a half-hour with no notes and no Teleprompters – no prepared text that everyone on the team had hashed out – and Trump decided to play that losing hand. There was no way to stop him. He’s an impulsive guy, and a gambler. This was a pair of deuces, but perhaps he could bluff that into winning the pot. It’s easy enough to imagine his advisors cringing as he went on and on about what a great leader Putin is, and it’s not that the moderator, Matt Lauer, baited him. Trump seemed to want to see if he could pull this off, to win it all with those two deuces.

That didn’t work out, but the next morning he still wouldn’t fold that hand:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told a Russia-funded television network Thursday that “it’s probably unlikely” that Russia is trying to influence the U.S. election.

Trump, who has faced backlash from both parties in recent days for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, was interviewed by Larry King, a veteran American journalist whose show airs Thursday evenings on RT America, the U.S. partner of a network originally called “Russia Today.”

Yes, he spoke on state-sponsored Russian television, saying once again Putin wasn’t a bad guy:

When King asked about reports that U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Russia is trying to disrupt the election, Trump said that he’s skeptical.

“I think it’s probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out,” Trump said. He added, “I hope that if they are doing something, I hope that somebody’s going to be able to find out, so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate at all.”

Sure, but the general idea was that this was probably some sort of misunderstanding hyped up by the Democrats, and then the clean-up began:

A Trump spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, suggested that Trump was not aware that King’s program was linked to the Russian-backed network.

“Mr. Trump recorded a short interview with Larry King for his podcast as a favor to Mr. King,” Hicks said. “What Larry King does with the interview content is up to him. We have nothing to do with it.”

Hope Hicks has a hopeless task. Trump didn’t seem to care, and may have seen this as a poke in the eye of those who foolishly doubt his gambling skills, but Republicans were doubting those skills:

During a televised forum Wednesday on national security, Trump complimented Putin for having “great control over his country.” Putin has offered kind words for Trump in the past as well.

“He’s been a leader far more that our president has been a leader,” Trump said of the Russian president.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, offered Trump a warning when asked about the relationship on Thursday.

“One has to be a little careful to let flattery affect one’s judgment,” Corker told CNN.

“Let’s face it, over the last several years, President Putin has operated in ways that very much have been against our interests,” Corker said. He said Putin “has done so in many ways, in a very ruthless manner.”

He doesn’t want to be forced by the new leader of his party to say he loves Putin, but this interview might have been expected:

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn – one of Trump’s closest advisors – received payment to deliver a speech at an RT party last year, where he sat next to Putin. In an interview with The Washington Post last month, he said that he saw no distinction between RT and news outlets like CNN or MSNBC.

Bob Corker hasn’t been paying attention and may be left behind:

Donald J. Trump’s campaign on Thursday reaffirmed its extraordinary embrace of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, signaling a preference for the leadership of an authoritarian adversary over that of America’s own president, despite a cascade of criticism from Democrats and expressions of discomfort among Republicans.

“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Mr. Trump’s running mate, said on CNN, defending Mr. Trump by echoing his latest praise for the Russian leader, offered Wednesday night in a televised candidate forum.

Get on board or get run over, in spite of the scorn:

Hillary Clinton excoriated Mr. Trump for asserting that Mr. Putin is a better leader than President Obama, saying it was “not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief – it is scary.”

She seized on Mr. Trump’s assertion in the televised forum that Mr. Putin’s incursions into neighboring countries, crackdown on Russia’s independent news media and support for America’s enemies were no more troublesome than Mr. Obama’s transgressions. She said it showed that, if elected, Mr. Trump would be little more than a tool of Mr. Putin.

“It suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do and then make excuses for him,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters Thursday morning at the White Plains airport, stepping up her criticism as polls indicate the race has tightened, and as Mr. Trump continues to say things rarely heard before from a major party’s presidential nominee.

That is a problem:

While railing against Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries, Mr. Trump has continually praised Mr. Putin’s government: He has hailed Mr. Putin’s tight control over Russian society, hinted that he may not defend the NATO-aligned Baltic nations formerly in Moscow’s sphere of influence, and for a time employed a campaign chief with close ties to Ukraine’s pro-Russian forces.

Most extraordinarily, he used a news conference over the summer to urge the Russians to hack into Mrs. Clinton’s emails to find messages the FBI might have missed.

It is all rather confounding – unless Mr. Trump is simply eyeing postelection business interests – for congressional Republicans, who evince little doubt that Moscow was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee. On Thursday, they volunteered the sort of hard-edged criticism of Mr. Putin more typical of conservatives discussing an adversary of the United States.

They did their best with a guy they have to support:

“He’s a thug,” said Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “He’s a dangerous and bad guy.”

But Mr. Rubio, who is running for re-election, has gotten behind Mr. Trump since withdrawing from the presidential primary, and he declined to say whether Mr. Trump’s comments were out of bounds because, he said, he did not want to “be a commentator.”

Even Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, perhaps Mr. Trump’s closest ally on Capitol Hill, appeared ill at ease when pressed about Mr. Trump’s statements.

Asked whether political combat should stop at the water’s edge, Mr. Sessions paused for nearly 10 seconds before saying, “I’ve tried to adhere to that line pretty assiduously, but less and less does that get adhered to in the modern world.”

This was just too new for them:

Scholars could recall few parallels in modern American history. Only the campaign of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party nominee in 1948, was so willing to align itself with Russia, the historian Richard Norton Smith said. “We’ve become to some degree numbed to this, saying, ‘That’s just Trump,'” he said. “And that’s dangerous.”

In her news conference Thursday, Mrs. Clinton invoked the right’s most venerated president, from whose library Mr. Pence appeared on CNN. “What would Ronald Reagan say about a Republican nominee who attacks American generals and heaps praise on Russia’s president?” she asked.

That hurts, and some won’t make the necessary adjustments:

“Other than destroying every instrument of democracy in his own country, having opposition people killed, dismembering neighbors through military force and being the benefactor of the butcher of Damascus, he’s a good guy,” quipped Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) of Putin.

Graham, a former presidential candidate, has often sparred with Trump and is one of his most vocal critics. “This calculation by Trump unnerves me to my core.”

That’s nice to know, but in the primaries Graham lost badly to Trump, early, so this isn’t his party anymore. Who the hell cares what he thinks? Trump would probably say that, if this were worth a comment at all, which it isn’t.

Trump will continue to play what others see as a losing hand:

Donald Trump’s decision to offer up a politicized readout of his confidential national security briefings has set off alarm bells in the intelligence community, with some high-profile former officials warning the Republican nominee crossed a “red line.”

During the NBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum on Wednesday night, Trump said “there was one thing that shocked me” from the briefings he received, going on to say that he could tell that government officials were unhappy with President Barack Obama for not following expert advice.

 “I was pretty good with the body language,” Trump said.

But former officials with decades of experience in the intelligence community say Trump is bluffing – that trained government officers wouldn’t have betrayed such opinions.

Yeah, but bluffing with a bad hand is what he does, because it befuddles the other players, who simply sputter:

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who has over four decades in the intelligence business and led the agency under George W. Bush, adding, “That’s just awful.”

“I mean a candidate used the intelligence professionals who were briefing him in an absolutely nonpolitical setting, he imputed to them views that were politically useful to him in the moment,” he said.

Hayden, who is not endorsing either candidate but has previously warned that Trump could create a “crisis” in the military, said telegraphing such dissatisfaction “just would not have happened.” He added that the briefing would have been conducted by “very senior folks, very sober.”

Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, a Hillary Clinton supporter, also forcefully hit back at the notion that intelligence officials would have suggested any displeasure with White House decisions on national security matters.

“Intelligence officers provide objective views of what’s going on in a situation and how that situation might change given the policy options on the table,” said Morell, who will attend a bipartisan meeting of former national security officials that Clinton will convene on Friday.

Recommending policies, added Morell, “is not their job and anyone running for president should know that.”

Says who? Trump does the unexpected:

Morell added in an interview, “It’s the first time a candidate for president has ever, ever given any sort of readout from a national intelligence briefing. And the first time a presidential candidate has ever politicized a national intelligence briefing. Both of those things are highly inappropriate. Both of those things cross a long-standing red line, respected by Democrats and Republicans.”

Yeah, but they’re all fools:

Trump did have a staunch defender in retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has joined Trump during intelligence briefings.

Flynn, who has often appeared on television as a Trump surrogate and was a contender to be his running mate, told NBC’s Today Show on Thursday that he agreed with the GOP candidate’s suggestion that the intelligence community is unhappy with Obama.

“The intelligence we’ve received in the last two briefings was in stark contrast to the policy decisions being made,” Flynn said.

Flynn doesn’t back down either:

As U.S. officials cast doubt on Donald Trump’s claim he read the “body language” of intelligence officials at a recent briefing, NBC News has learned exclusive details of what unfolded in the room – and of reported tension between one of Trump’s advisers and the briefers.

Six current and former senior officials said they were aware of friction between retired Gen. Michael Flynn, one of the advisers Trump brought to the briefing, and the officials who conducted the briefing. Four sources with knowledge of the briefing – including two intelligence officials who spoke to people in the room – said Flynn repeatedly interrupted the briefers until New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie intervened.

Both Christie and Flynn denied the officials’ version of events, with Flynn calling the report “total bullshit” and Christie calling it “a complete work of fiction.”

Flynn seems to think that the CIA and NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency, with their operatives and agents and Keyhole-15 satellites listening to everything around the world, know nothing. He has none of those assets and he knows what’s really going on, and it got hot:

Two sources said Christie, the New Jersey governor and Trump adviser, verbally restrained Flynn – one saying Christie told Flynn to shut up, the other reporting he said, “Calm down.” Two other sources said Christie touched Flynn’s arm in an effort get him to calm down and let the officials continue.

Christie denied that he had silenced or restrained Flynn.

None of these guys ever backs down, even with bad cards in their hands, and they’ll play those losing cards:

On Thursday morning, Donald Trump Jr., the son and adviser of the Republican presidential nominee, shared the latest Clinton conspiracy theory with his 637,000 Twitter followers: Hillary Clinton may have been wearing an earpiece during the candidates’ forum held the previous night. Just as surprising was Trump’s source for this latest news flash: the website of Alex Jones, the nation’s top conspiracy theorist. Jones is a 9/11 truther who has suggested that the Sandy Hook massacre never happened and that the government is deliberately turning kids gay by sneaking estrogen into juice boxes.

This sort of thing drives some to distraction, like Matt Yglesias:

What Donald Trump said at Wednesday night’s Commander-in-Chief Forum on the aircraft carrier was shocking. He specifically defended Vladimir Putin as superior to Barack Obama, suggested women serving in the military should expect to be raped, hinted at a political purge of the officer corps, he blatantly lied about his own past statements on Iraq and Libya, and called on the American military to commit war crimes…

But this isn’t a media story. It’s a Trump story. And it’s about whether we, and the American public, are willing to stay shocked. We’re used to Trump’s lying and his nonsense because we’ve been hearing it for a long time. But it’s not normal.

And then there’s Nancy LeTourneau:

Every now and then I have a “moment.” It tends to come when I realize that the Republican Party of the United States of American has nominated a guy to lead the most powerful nation on the planet who talks like this.

When those moments hit, I literally get speechless. I subsequently see headlines that talk about how the polls are narrowing or about pundits trying to suss out what a President Trump would REALLY do on immigration and imagine that I must have fallen into some wormhole in which an alternate reality exists simply to mock us.

This can’t really be happening, can it?

Kevin Drum feels the same way:

Letourneau’s reaction is precisely mine. Sure, I can churn out blog posts about Trump that are alternatively snarky, shocked, analytical, etc. And God knows, millions of words have been spilled trying to explain the guy. But on the occasions when I stop to really think about this election, my mind goes sort of fugue-like. My mental state is something like this:

“What the fuck is going on? Donald Trump! Donald fucking Trump! He’s a jackass reality TV star. He’s goddamn clueless. For fuck’s sake, this can’t be happening. Can it? Fucking fuck. Why isn’t anyone calling it out? It’s like Alice in fucking Wonderland. How can we be doing this? Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…”

I guess you can see why I don’t generally share these moments with you – though I shouldn’t really call them moments. This internal narrative is pretty much in my head every time I write a post about Trump. I just suppress it in order to get some G-rated words onto the blog.

This is all new:

I have a feeling Nancy and I are far from alone in feeling this way. And it’s a first. I obviously haven’t been a fan of any of the GOP’s recent presidential candidates, but I’ve never felt this way before. We are well and truly down the rabbit hole.

And Drum is not hopeful:

Trump’s biggest liability is that he goes on TV constantly and acts like a crazy man. That appeals to some people, but it turns off a lot more. As long as he keeps doing this, the folks who don’t want a crazy man in the White House will vote for someone else.

But a lot of voters have very short memories. It’s always been true that if Trump can manage to act relatively sane for a mere few weeks, that would be plenty of time for a chunk of credulous voters, pundits, and hacks to decide that he’s turned over a new leaf and wouldn’t be a crazy man after all. So far – knock on wood – the remarkable thing is that Trump hasn’t been able to do this for even a few days, let alone a few weeks. And yet, he still could.

Now add this:

Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit movement in the UK and formerly head of the far-right UK Independence Party (he retired after the Brexit win), is in talks with the Russian government-owned RT news network to be their roving reporter covering Donald Trump’s presidential campaign this fall.

Of course he is, and the Washington Post’s David Ignatius adds this:

The Trump-Putin bromance is becoming genuinely frightening. Putin has invaded Crimea. He is fighting a proxy war in Ukraine. He has intervened in Syria, tipping the military balance in the Middle East. His thugs are assaulting U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers overseas. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns that Putin’s Russia poses an existential threat to the United States.

And Trump’s response is “I think that I’ll be able to get along with him.”

Trump’s vision of foreign policy seems to be a kind of authoritarian “big guys” club – stealing other countries’ oil, sacking generals, politicizing intelligence and buddying up to a Russian leader who may be running a covert action against the U.S. political system.

Really, was this the presentation of a man who would be commander in chief?

No, it was the presentation of a compulsive gambler who never folds ’em. You cannot win that way. Trump never backs down, and Josh Marshall, looking at that Commander-in-Chief Forum, explains that this way:

Trump has spent weeks saying he has a secret plan to destroy ISIS and now he says his plan is to get his generals to take thirty days to come up with a plan. So clearly he never had a secret plan. That’s obvious. Matt Lauer makes it obvious. But Trump doesn’t want to or is probably characterologically incapable of admitting the obvious. So he spends the whole exchange going on about tactical surprise, his secret plan, the generals’ plan, a possible combo plan. It’s like all the words are noise and Trump is saying to Lauer again and again: I’m not going to give in.

I think that was pretty obvious for people in a way that transcends politics and ideology. Trump is the kid telling the teacher the dog ate his homework. Then the teacher points out that he has no dog. But he’s not going to apologize or come clean. He’s just going to keep talking.

This really is new:

People always come back to me and say some version of “What about Bush? He was a moron and people ate it up because people went easy on him.”

Well, that’s sort of true. But it’s not the whole story.

Bush had low expectations, certainly. And his ignorance and incuriosity turned out to have very damaging effects on the country over eight years. But this is a mistaken or at least incomplete read about who Bush was and how he succeeded. And we shouldn’t mislead ourselves. Bush wasn’t stupid. And how he succeeded in debates was very specific. He went into debates with four or five pat overview answers and hammered them in response to almost any questions. It was clear that Bush wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the world abroad or much of any policy question. But he also never pretended to be. His conceit was that he had good instincts and good motives and would surround himself with the best people.

That’s not the case here:

What Trump did was very different. He riffed and made a lot of nonsensical points. He said a bunch of things which for better or worse will offend a lot of Americans across the political spectrum. And in a way that I think was obvious to people across a broad swathe of the political spectrum, he was obviously making stuff up as he went along, not only showing his ignorance but also his arrogance.

Remember, one of the things that charmed people about Bush was that he didn’t claim to be an expert. Trump is definitely an expert, according to Trump. On everything. He’s smarter than the generals. He’s smarter than everyone at the VA. He’s never wrong. About anything.

Well, neither is Putin, according to Putin, and Trump. Putin has been destroying every instrument of democracy in his own country and having opposition people killed, but he’s strong – he’s a winner. Expect the same from Trump. He too never backs down. That’s why people love him. That’s why we’re in trouble. You do have to know when to fold ’em.

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