Tuesday, September 27, 2016

THE NEW YORK POST'S "DEMOCRATIC" BAR IS IN A VERY PRO-REPUBLICAN COUNTY

The New York Post claims it has evidence of Donald Trump's deep appeal to Pennsylvania Democratic voters:
How Trump won over a bar full of undecideds and Democrats

YOUNGSTOWN, Pa. -- Ken Reed sat down at the main bar of the Tin Lizzy tavern with two things in mind: to dig into the tavern’s oversize cheese steak, and watch the presidential debate....

Kady Letoksy, a paralegal by day, a waitress and bartender at night at the Tin Lizzy, sat beside him. At 28, she has never voted before, and she is now thinking it might be a good idea to start.

Letosky entered the evening undecided in a town that is heavily Democratic in registration....
Reed, Letosky, and another bar patron, a Democrat, all have kind words for Trump. There are harsh words for Hillary Clinton. And this is really, really bad for Clinton, we're told:
Pennsylvania is a high-stakes state for both candidates, but particularly Clinton, and Westmoreland is a high-stakes county, particularly for Trump.

She needs to win this state, and he needs not just to win this county but to do so by 2,000 more votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
Oh -- so Youngtown is "heavily Democratic in registration," but Romney won the county? Well, yes, he did -- by a 61%-38% margin. Four years earlier, John McCain won it 58%-41%. And yet Barack Obama won the state twice, by 10 points in 2008 and 5 points in 2012.

If you make your way through the Post story, you get this, sort of:
Between 1960 and 2000, Westmoreland County Democrats handily won presidential races with one exception: Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory.

By 1984, voters here were back to their Democratic allegiances, giving their votes to Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton.

When Al Gore turned the party toward its progressive wing in 2000, however, he left behind Westmoreland County Democrats.
And yet Al Gore won Pennsylvania in 2000 and John Kerry won it again in 2004, after which came Obama's two victories.

So why are we reading about this county?
Westmoreland is one of about 10 formerly or traditionally Democrat-blue counties across the state where Trump must drive up a higher-than-normal turnout, or even flip them to Republican red, in order to offset an anticipated high turnout for Clinton in Philadelphia.

The other counties are Cambria, Greene, Fayette and Washington in the southwest corner of the state and Bucks, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne and York in the east.
That's a bit deceiving. All of the southwestern counties mentioned are already red, based on Romney-Obama results, as are two of the eastern counties.

Look, we can argue about whether the Democrats should have fought harder to hold on to these voters. But the fact is that these voters aren't going to be crucial in Pennsylvania unless there's a huge groundswell. And the fact that the folks in this article are still making up their minds suggests that that won't be the case.

TIMES REPORTER: HEY HILLARY, YOU FACT-CHECKED TRUMP, BUT YOU SHOULD'VE FACT-CHECKED HIM HARDER

Donald Trump uttered a lot of nonsense last night -- and according to Jeremy Peters of The New York Times, the person we should blame is Hillary Clinton:
Time after time, Mrs. Clinton passed up the opportunity to correct Mr. Trump on his misstatements and his frequent stretching of the truth.
An example?
In a typical exchange, Mrs. Clinton tried to refute Mr. Trump as he boasted of how he would have the greatest tax plan since Ronald Reagan. “That can’t be left to stand,” she said. “I kind of assumed there would be a lot of these charges and claims.”

But Mr. Trump quickly cut her off. “Facts,” he said. The conversation quickly moved on.
You'd never know from Peters's description that Clinton actually did refute Trump, or that any haste or lack of completeness in her refutation resulted not only from Trump's hectoring but from Lester Holt making one of his rare efforts to actually play moderator.

Trump evoked Reagan, said his plan would be full of tax cuts and deregulation, and asserted that Clinton's plan would raise taxes and increase regulations. Here's what happened after that:
HOLT: Let me get you to pause right there, because we're going to move into -- we're going to move into the next segment. We're going to talk taxes...

CLINTON: That can't -- that can't be left to stand.

HOLT: Please just take 30 seconds and then we're going to go on.

CLINTON: I kind of assumed that there would be a lot of these charges and claims, and so...

TRUMP: Facts.

CLINTON: So we have taken the home page of my website, HillaryClinton.com, and we've turned it into a fact-checker. So if you want to see in real-time what the facts are, please go and take a look. Because what I have proposed...

TRUMP: And take a look at mine, also, and you'll see.

CLINTON: ... would not add a penny to the debt, and your plans would add $5 trillion to the debt. What I have proposed would cut regulations and streamline them for small businesses. What I have proposed would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy, because they have made all the gains in the economy. And I think it's time that the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share to support this country.
(Emphasis added.)

So she did refute him -- just not hard enough to satisfy Peters.

Oh, but this is my favorite Peters assertion:
There were times he made up his own facts. And Mrs. Clinton did not take the opportunities she had to prove him wrong.

She could have corrected Mr. Trump after he interrupted her to falsely claim that she was inaccurate in saying that murders in New York City were down.
Did you follow that? Peters is chastising Clinton because she didn't rebut Trump's assertions about crime in New York City after she'd already rebutted them. In other words, as far as Peters was concerned, it wasn't enough that Clinton asserted that the murder rate in New York City is down -- it didn't count as a rebuttal because she didn't say it twice.

Here's the exchange:
TRUMP: ... in New York City, stop-and-frisk, we had 2,200 murders, and stop-and-frisk brought it down to 500 murders. Five hundred murders is a lot of murders. It's hard to believe, 500 is like supposed to be good?

But we went from 2,200 to 500. And it was continued on by Mayor Bloomberg. And it was terminated by current mayor. But stop-and- frisk had a tremendous impact on the safety of New York City. Tremendous beyond belief. So when you say it has no impact, it really did. It had a very, very big impact.

CLINTON: Well, it's also fair to say, if we're going to talk about mayors, that under the current mayor, crime has continued to drop, including murders. So there is...

TRUMP: No, you're wrong. You're wrong.

CLINTON: No, I'm not.

TRUMP: Murders are up. All right. You check it.
She said it. He said she was wrong. She said, "No, I'm not." What else was she supposed to do after that?Recite all the incident-level data from memory? I'm not clear on where she fell short.

Incidentally, this was fact-checked in real time by the NYPD:



But Clinton failed, as far as Peters is concerned, because she didn't hector Trump into a state of abject submission. Sorry, but that wasn't her job. She did more than enough last night.

FORTUNATELY, THE REAL TOXIC-MALE TRUMP SHOWED UP

I expected the worst last night -- a Donald Trump with just enough polish to be given credit for gravitas, up against a Hillary Clinton whose carefully crafted presentation would be described by pundits as inauthentic, all while she'd be called phony for smiling too much, or angry and humorless for not smiling enough.

Instead, Clinton, was relaxed and showed a decency of temperament, while nimbly getting in digs). And Donald Trump was really Donald Trump: no polish, no gloss, no best behavior. As Vox's Emily Crockett and Sarah Frostenson noted, "Trump interrupted Clinton 25 times in the first 26 minutes of the debate." He was seething, peevish, and self-pitying. He was awful. According to multiple polls and focus groups, Clinton won decisively.

What happened? I think what BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins wrote yesterday could be the key:
... as the race has narrowed, [Kellyanne] Conway has emerged in the popular imagination of politicos and pundits as the deft handler who’s finally succeeded in domesticating Trump.

... Interviews this week with more than half a dozen GOP sources close to the campaign suggest her “Trump-whisperer” status is more made-for-TV myth than reality.

“She’s there to go on MSNBC or Fox, or whatever. That’s sort of her job. They think she’s good on TV, and they like having her there as the face of the campaign,” said one source with knowledge of the strategy.

“The narrative that Kellyanne is a woman genius and saving Trump helps him as he runs against a woman ... [but] Kellyanne spends nearly 100% of her time on TV. That’s her role,” said another Republican who is close to Conway.
If that's true, then Trump's debate prep -- such as it was -- was a real sausagefest. Here was Trump's debate team, according to The New York Times:
Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign’s chief executive; Ms. Conway; former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; Stephen Miller, a policy adviser; Jason Miller, a communications adviser; Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army officer; and Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law.

The former Fox News executive Roger Ailes has not been at the last two debate sessions, but he sends memos and speaks to Mr. Trump.
Bannon and Giuliani and Christie and General Flynn (the guy who reportedly had to be told to be quiet after he repeatedly interrupted Trump's intelligence briefing)? With contributions from Ailes? If Conway was only as involved as the Coppins story suggests, then debate prep must have been like an ugly night at a Wall Street-area strip club. Even if she was significantly involved, she was greatly outnumbered by a lot of men who spend a disproportionate amount of their time calculating the precise angle of theit territory-marking urine streams.

Well, excellent job, gents.







Trump unleashed everything he's been restraining in recent weeks -- weeks in which he's been narrowing the poll gap. I don't know who talked him into that restraint -- maybe it was Conway, maybe it was Ivanka. Who knows? But the boys in debate camp reinforced his sense that he should be truly himself while debating. As a Democrat, I say: thank you, boys. I wish there could be a debate every week between now and November. And I hope you guys keep offering Trump your wise counsel.

Monday, September 26, 2016

MATH IS HARD AND TAX LAW IS HARDER, SO THE LATEST FOUNDATION SCANDAL WON'T HURT TRUMP

David Farenthold of The Washington Post has unearthed what appear to be more shady doings at the Trump Foundation.
Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has received approximately $2.3 million from companies that owed money to Trump or one of his businesses but were instructed to pay Trump’s tax-exempt foundation instead, according to people familiar with the transactions.
I applaud what Farenthold is doing -- but I don't agree with Josh Marshall, who titles his post about this story "This Looks Really Big." I think it should be big. But the public will shrug it off, because the relevant law is just ambiguous enough to allow people who aren't Trump haters to conclude that there's nothing significant here.

I'll quote Marshall's summary of the story:
Last week we noted that a Trump family aide defended the idea that Trump Foundation money is really Trump's money since often he takes money that's owed to him and directs it to the Foundation....

Now it turns out that a lot of the Foundation money does come in just this way. But here's the key. It sounds like Trump is not paying taxes on that income.

It works like this. Trump or one of his businesses is owed money by Company X or Person Y. Trump says 'Don't send the check to me. Just send it to my Foundation.' No problem with that.... But you have to pay taxes on that money because it's your income.

Here's where it gets weird. Fahrenthold got a series of false explanations from Trump representative Boris Epshteyn about how this money was handled. When Fahrenthold presented Epshteyn with proof of these diversions, Epshteyn shifted gears and said the diversions did happen but they were fine.

At this point, Epshteyn cited an 1942 tax case....
That's where America's eyes will start to glaze over. If there were an easy-to-grasp rule in this case -- divert money to a rich guy's charity and he has to pay taxes on it no matter what -- then a failure on Trump's part to pay taxes on the money cited in Farenthold's article would be seen as a scandal. But Epshteyn cites a High Court ruling saying you can divert money and not pay taxes on it, as long as you don't control what charity the money goes to -- if you just suggest that it goes to a certain charity without instructing that it goes there, apparently you're off the hook. At this point, all Trump and his team have to say is, that he never gave any specific instructions and he gets the benefit of the doubt.

And that's exactly what Epshteyn says:
“He’s never directed fees to the foundation,” said Boris Epshteyn, a senior adviser to Trump, who responded on the campaign’s behalf in a phone interview on Saturday. Epshteyn said that what Trump did was provide a service, renounce any fees, and then merely suggest that the other party make a donation to a charity of their choosing.

“He’s waived fees from time to time,” Epshteyn said. “He’s never directed it to a specific charity.”

... sometimes, Epshteyn said, a gift arrived at the Trump Foundation.

“He’s Donald J. Trump,” Epshteyn said, explaining why donors had chosen this particular charity.
Farenthold tried to press the case, citing, among other things, a fee for a Comedy Central roast in 2011, which was diverted to the charity:
The Post asked about the 2011 gift from Comedy Central. Back then, Trump had bragged on video that he was getting a big appearance fee. “They paid me a lot of money, and they were very generous. And all of that money goes to charity,” Trump said.

After The Post brought up the Comedy Central case during the Saturday interview, Epshteyn conceded that Trump had, indeed, controlled where this money went.

It was his income. And, Epshteyn said, he paid taxes on it.

Could he provide proof of that tax payment?

“Absolutely not,” Epshteyn said.
Farenthold brought another example:
The Post offered the donations recorded from [Richard] Ebers, who was the Trump Foundation’s biggest donor in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Together, his gifts totaled $1.887 million.

The two people familiar with that arrangement said Ebers bought tickets and other goods and services from Trump. They said it was unclear if Trump himself or one of his employees instructed Ebers to pay the foundation instead of Trump.

The Post asked Epshteyn and [canpaign spokeswoman Hope] Hicks if Trump had paid taxes on the money received from Ebers. They did not answer the question, beyond saying that Trump had followed “all applicable rules and regulations.”
Farenthold and other reporters can continue to look into this, but as long as there's ambiguity about the law and about suggesting versus directing, this won't be a scandal for Trump. It might become a legal issue for him down the road, but it's not sufficiently open-and-shut to become a political scandal between now and November.

I'd love to say that this will become a major issue, but I don't see it.

IS THERE ANY BAR FOR TRUMP AT ALL?

The widespread reaction to this on Twitter is that it's setting up a glaringly obvious double standard:


On Clinton's side, I think this could have been worse. The two slides are approximately equal in superficiality -- it's not as if Clinton's principal task is "Explain how to destroy ISIS and Al Qaeda while ending the war in Syria, elaborating on specific troop movements and fiscal-year expenditures in a series of detailed slides," while Trump's is "Don't talk about your penis." It's actually acknowledged here that Clinton has ideas for her presidency, which is something, even if the message is "C'mon, girl, give us a big smile and sell those ideas." And it's acknowledged that Clinton is, in fact, personable and appealing in small-group settings. (What, you mean she's not a humorless nut-crushing harridan all the time?) By the awful standards of most Clinton punditry, this is somewhat less than abysmal.

But Clinton will actually have to do all these things, and many more, for the pundits to credit her with a victory. She'll have to put the email question to rest. She'll have to put questions about the Clinton Foundation to rest. She'll have to do an effective job of defending her policy decisions on Libya, Syria, and Russia. She'll probably have to answer a question about why she's struggling in the polls, and the answer will have to seem neither self-pitying nor unrealistically optimistic (while Trump will get away with any chest-thumping boast he chooses to make, about the polls or anything else). Whatever pitch is thrown to her, she'll have to hit it out of the park; anything less will be held against her.

What's infuriating about the Trump slide is that he's highly unlikely to do any of the items on his list, yet he'll still probably be called the winner of the debate. He might not lie brazenly, but I'm sure he'll repeat his claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, daring Clinton and Lester Holt to fact-check him. I'm sure he'll say, if the subject comes up, that birtherism was cooked up by the Clinton campaign. I'm sure he'll say an audit prevents him from releasing his taxes.

But if these are just fleeting moments, they'll be shrugged off as Trump being Trump. If he's not "blood out of her wherever" nasty to Clinton, he'll get credit for vastly improved deportment (even though he'll make quite a few "I alone can fix it" statements and display no "humility" whatsoever). And if he can pile up enough platitudes and critiques of the Clinton and Obama administrations to use up his allotted time on every question without resorting to word salad, no one will care that he's failed to "fill in the gaps in his policy proposals."

Pundits, you can surprise me by not treating Trump this way, which is not so much "grading on a curve" as throwing out all criteria and pre-assigning the man a gentleman's A-minus even before he takes the final. You can surprise me, but you won't, will you?

****

UPDATE:



That's exactly what's going to happen.

IT'S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL THERE'S REPRESSION AND MOB VIOLENCE

The local NPR station interviewed some students at Hofstra University, where tonight's debate will take place. One, Garrett Shum, said this about the election:



Well, a lot of Trump's rhetoric is very much aimed at China especially. He always goes on about, like, "Oh, they're ruining us. They're giving us all these bad deals. We need to stop them. We need to beat them. We need to beat China." And because I myself am half Chinese, I do partially identify with them, and I know that if Trump does get elected that a lot of the people who feel racist toward China are going to feel very legitimized in their racism, and I'm going to have to deal with all that crap again.
Maybe that doesn't seem like the biggest worry in a possible Trump presidency, but don't discount it. I'm old enough to remember incidents like this:
ON June 23, 1982, in Detroit, a young man named Vincent Chin died. Four nights earlier, he had been enjoying his bachelor party with friends at a local bar when they were accosted by two white men, who blamed them for the success of Japan’s auto industry. “It’s because of you we’re out of work,” they were said to have shouted, adding a word that can’t be printed here. The men bludgeoned Mr. Chin, 27, with a baseball bat until his head cracked open.

The men -- a Chrysler plant supervisor named Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz -- never denied the acts, but they insisted that the matter was simply a bar brawl that had ended badly for one of the parties. In an agreement with prosecutors, they pleaded to manslaughter (down from second-degree murder) and were sentenced to three years of probation and fined $3,000.
Assuming President Trump can't instantly stop terrorism, get construction of a border wall under way, or generally Make America Great Again, he's going to have to up the scapegoating ante. Could we have another wave of serious Asia-bashing? Sure we could.

I'm also thinking about this tweet from last week:



Charlie Pierce thinks we really do have to worry about something like this. He specifically refers to refugees, but I don't see why this couldn't apply to people of non-European descent who are already here:
... the case of Korematsu v. United States ... , by a 6-3 vote, upheld the government's right to incarcerate citizens of Japanese origins in internment camps. And, while that decision is recognized now as one of the worst in history, and while reparations have been paid to thousands of Japanese-American families, Korematsu never has been overturned. It sits there, a land mine in the law, waiting, perhaps for a swaggering authoritarian know-nothing of a president....

You think a guy that inclined to un-American, totalitarian solutions won't find a way to use Korematsu to his own advantage? You think ... he wouldn't get the votes in Congress to do that, or that his Supreme Court appointees wouldn't uphold it?
White America doesn't care, as Bill Maher tells Vox:
The American people appear to be playing a game of chicken. They're fed up with the system. If you talk to Trump supporters, a lot of them have misgivings about things he says and does, but at the end of the day they say, "He's gonna shake things up." How serious are they? I have no idea, but we have to assume the worst.

Things are so bad that we have millions of people who simply want to flip the table over. Trump is like a Great Dane released at a toddler's birthday party: He's just gonna fuck things up, and they love it!
And people who aren't sure whether they want to cast a vote for the one person who can beat Trump are equally heedless of the damage that Great Dane might cause.

I think some of these people are reachable. I think some who might still be reachable are young third-party voters. I understand that hectoring from fellow white people has been utterly counterproductive (and I admit that I've done my share of it). But would these voters listen if the people who'd be the most obvious targets of Trumpism spoke directly about their fears in a series of Clinton campaign ads?

Team Clinton has done a good job of personalizing the effect of Trump's insults to women and the disabled. In Clinton ads, we see girls looking at themselves in the mirror while a soundtrack of sexist Trump insults plays, and we see the reactions of disabled individuals and their parents to Trump's attack on disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski.

But I haven't seen any ads in which others -- blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, Asians -- talk about their legitimate fears of government repression and legitimized racist violence in a Trump presidency. Maybe some of the Jewish writers who've been subjected to viciously anti-Semitic attacks for writing about Trump and his associates could also weigh in.

The problem with Trump isn't just that his behavior is unseemly. It's that it's dangerous. In a Trump presidency, real people could be seriously hurt. We need to hear more from some of those people. For voters who regard themselves as empathetic, especially across cultural lines, but don't understand what the big risk of a Trump win is, maybe it would be a wake-up call.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

BLATANT IGNORANCE WON'T SINK TRUMP TOMORROW

Josh Marshall predicts that Donald Trump won't be as nasty in tomorrow's debate as many people expect him to be:
... fairly few of the really damaging things he said in this campaign were in the debates. They tended to be at rallies or in interviews. Put simply, Trump wasn't as crazy or unhinged in debates as people seem to remember. So if we're expecting him to come in trash talking and angry I think we may be surprised, at least at first.
What Marshall thinks will really get Trump in trouble will be the need to talk about issues at length in what will be his first two-person debate. As Marshall sees it, we'll all know what a simpleton Trump is as soon as he starts having exchanges like this one from the September 7 national security forum:



Marshall thinks this is self-evidently awful.
As I said at the time: I think this exchange is 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 he has no dog. But he's not going to apologize or come clean. He's just going to keep talking.
But that's not what I take away from it. I'm imagining how this must have gone over with voters -- not just Trump supporters, but persuadable voters in the middle. Most Americans aren't politics junkies and aren't particularly sophisticated about foreign policy. And, maddeningly, far too many Americans think Trump is honest, which means they think he's arguing in good faith, rather than slinging bullshit.

So what did these voters see? They saw a guy saying he doesn't want to tip his hand on ISIS because he wants ISIS to find him "unpredictable." (Presidential!) They saw him saying he'd respectfully turn to generals for advice about ISIS. (Presidential!) They saw him say that, yes, he long ago devised his own plan for defeating ISIS. (Presidential!) But he wants to refine his plan by turning to those with military experience. (Presidential!)

That Trump is BS'ing us is obvious if you put all his statements together. But if you're a casual voter, every statement in isolation seems to pass the commander-in-chief test.

That's what I worry about: Trump finding enough platitudes, bumper-sticker slogans, and hollow boasts to fill up his half of a ninety-minute debate, and the press giving him a gentleman's C -- no, a gentleman's B-plus or A-minus -- because he was expected to do worse.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

DO THESE AUDIENCE PSYCH-OUT STUNTS EVER WORK? (updated)

Because he's completely overmatched in the areas of policy knowledge, experience, temperament, intelligence, and judgment, Donald Trump, naturally, is Going There:
Gennifer Flowers, who revealed a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton in the 1990s, will reportedly accept Donald Trump's invitation to attend the first presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton....
This is said to be all Hillary Clinton's fault:



The decision was the latest play in a bizarre bit of gamesmanship between the Clinton and Trump campaigns over the debate. Clinton's camp confirmed this week that they would invite billionaire mogul Mark Cuban, a Trump antagonist, to the debate.
Of course, Cubn and Flowers are not analogous -- Cuban did not have an affair with Trump's spouse. (As far as we know!)

I want to believe that the Clinton campaign knows that the Cuban invitation is just a little something extra -- it's not going to make a diffrence in how things turn out Monday night. On the other hand, I suspect the Trump campaign thinks this might be a brilliant, game-changing move.

In fact, these provocative invitations are pointless. Paula Jones, another of the women linked to Bill Clinton, was invited to the 1998 White House Correspondents' Dinner by the Moonie right-wing magazine Insight; she and the president sat at separate tables, sparks did not fly, and life went on.

In 2013, wingnut congressman Steve Stockman invited Ted Nugent to attend President Obama's State of the Union address; Obama was unfazed by the aging rocker, who sat there like a bored delinquent at detention.



As Politico's Zack Stanton has noted, there was an attempted debate psych-out of this kind in the 2004 debates:
In a famous incident on the floor of the U.S. Senate in June 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney told Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, “go f--k yourself,” after the senator had accused Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, of war profiteering.

So when it came time for the vice presidential debates that October, Senator John Edwards (D-NC) had a plan to get inside Cheney’s head during the debate: He reserved a seat for Leahy in the second row of the debate’s audience, where Cheney would almost certainly see him.
But Cheney debated effectively that night, and his ticket went on to win.

So this sort of thing is meaningless, except to journalists who'll make way too much of it ... unless, of course, it's seen as offensive by female voters:



Is Trump going to go further than this? Is he going to try to hijack discussions of actual issues in the debate by bringing up Bill's sex life and the Clintons' response to infidelity allegations? And does he seriously think that a woman who's spent nearly 35 questions dealing with this in public isn't going to be ready for that?

The only risk is that idiot journalists -- the Chuck Todds, the Mark Halperins -- will think it's a good move to go in this direction. But I don't think the public will respond well. And if it's just a matter of Flowers sitting mutely in the audience, and later giving an interview to Sean Hannity afterward that will be watched exclusively by people who are already certain to vote for Trump, it won't matter at all.

****

UPDATE:



****

UPDATE, SUNDAY. From CNN:
Donald Trump's campaign manager and running mate said Sunday the GOP candidate doesn't want Gennifer Flowers -- who had an affair with Bill Clinton in the 1970s -- at Monday night's presidential debate.

"We have not invited her formally, and we do not expect her to be there as a guest of the Trump campaign," Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's vice presidential nominee, told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace that Trump's suggestion he'd invite Flowers was just "mocking" Clinton's campaign for distracting from the real issues at stake on Monday night.
So now will the Trumpers get credit for, um, trumping the Clinton campaign's Cuban gambit and for high-mindedness because Flowers won't actually be there?

MAYBE TRUMP IS PREPARING TO DEBATE THE RIGHT-WING STEREOTYPE OF HILLARY INSTEAD OF THE REAL ONE

Is this Fox News story just trash talk, or does it really reveal something about the Trump team's debate plans?
Trump’s debate strategy: Let Clinton talk

... Fox News has learned that the view inside Trump Tower is that the real estate mogul stands to gain by standing back and letting Hillary Clinton talk. And talk.

... the GOP nominee is being advised to let Clinton speak as much as possible on the debate stage, with the thinking being that she could lose viewers the more she does.

“I think both candidates face huge challenges. Both of them are not well liked by the American people. She's an accomplished debater. But she has a style that is oftentimes grating on people,” said Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush.
Rove is quoted on this subject, but no Trump insider is, so I don't know how much to believe this. It might just be an effort on the part of the Trump team (or just Fox) to get out one more story saying Hillary Clinton is an annoying nag.

Or maybe the Trump people really believe this could work. If so, this might be a solution to a problem from Trump that's been pointed out by James Fallows, among others:
In a head-to-head debate, participants know they will get enough airtime. The question becomes how they use it. Example of the difference: In several of the GOP debates, Trump went into a kind of hibernation when the talk became too specific or policy-bound, letting John Kasich or Marco Rubio have the microphone. It didn’t matter, because he’d have a chance to come back with a one-liner -- “We’re gonna win so much.” In debates like the ones this fall, it will be harder to answer some questions and ignore others.
Trump could just disappear from sight for long stretches in the primary debates because there were many debaters -- and you can't blame him, because he knows how to insult people and he knows how to sloganeer, but he doesn't know jack about policy, except maybe when he has access to a Teleprompter. That's not a deficiency he's doing anything to correct, as The New York Times reported this week:
He has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials....

He believes debates are not won or lost on policy minutiae since most viewers will not remember them in an hour. His advisers see it as a waste of time to try to fill his head with facts and figures.
But according to the Times, Clinton is already planning not to talk too much:
Mrs. Clinton grasps that answers need to be trimmed down to two minutes (and rebuttals should be even tighter) and will keep working to tighten her answers in coming days. [She r]esponds well to timers and stopwatches but also has an instinctual sense of time running out.
I hope she sticks to that approach. As I've said before, the two people who've most effectively gotten up Trump's nose -- President Obama with the birth certificate release and jabs at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and David Letterman with his sneak attack on Trump as an outsourcer, threw Trump off stride without raising their voices or getting visibly angry. Let Trump be the one who seems to lose patience.

I hope all this means that the Trump people are letting the widespread right-wing contempt for Hillary Clinton influence their debate prep. I'm assuming that the opposite is true for Clinton: She may not like Trump, but I bet she respects his ability to win and hold an audience. I think she knows he has a creepy sort of charisma and an alley fighter's low cunning.

It wouldn't surprise me if Trump and most of his advisers can't even see Clinton's strengths, and can't imagine anyone ever responding well to her. They might be prepping for a debate against someone they assume alienates everyone all the time. In fact, the real Clinton is far more impressive than the press-mediated version of her. I hope the Trumpers aren't ready for that because they have no respect for her. And I hope she's ready to take him down precisely because she has respect for what he's pulled off in the past year.

Friday, September 23, 2016

CRUZ: NEVER MIND, I GUESS THERE IS NO BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF CONSERVATISM

Ted Cruz told us at the time of the Republican convention that there was some excrement he would not eat, not after the guy trying to feed it to him insulted his wife and accused his father of conspiracy to murder. Now, however, he's put all that behind him and endorsed Donald Trump. I think Ed Kilgore's analysis is basically correct:
It is the changing dynamics of the presidential general election ... that may well be pushing Cruz toward at least a pro forma gesture toward his party’s nominee. By that I do not mean that Cruz is gaming the possibility that Trump will win; no matter what he does now, the Texan will almost certainly be frozen out of any real influence in a Trump administration. It’s the significant likelihood of a narrow Trump loss that is probably bugging Cruz and his advisers. It was one thing to stay on the sidelines and watch sadly as Trump self-destructed and lost by a landslide, as appeared likely for a good part of the general-election campaign. In that scenario, Cruz was in a good position to help pick up the pieces afterward and become the chief advocate for a movement-conservative version of the GOP’s post-Trump future. But after an agonizingly close Trump defeat, Cruz would become a prime object of recriminations for having helped Hillary Clinton and her baby-killing, Christian-hating secular-socialist minions to seize power.
Also, please note that Cruz's favorable ratings among Republicans began plummeting as soon as he took on Trump in the later stages of primaries, and as a result of his opposition he's looking at the possibility of a well-financed primary challenger in 2018.

So does this mean that Trumpism is now the undisputed ideology of the Republican Party? Not really.

The Republican Party has the same ideology it's had for years, one that can be summed up in one sentence: Democrats are the Antichrist. Foolish pundits, and even politicians like Cruz, think there's more to Republicanism than that, but there isn't. Trumpism is dominant right now because Trump seems like the person who can most effectively cause pain to Democrats, and to the right's other enemies (non-whites, non-conservative women, gay people, climate scientists, etc.).

Cruz probably thought Trump would lose badly, after which Wingnuttia would conclude that the loss was because Trump was really a filthy liberal; at that point, Cruz could pose as the "true conservative" savior for 2020. But Trump, even if he doesn't win, is causing the right's enemies conniption fits, so he's the strong horse the right likes at this moment, and everyone on the right needs to get behind him. Right now it looks as if Trump will lose a close one -- I'm not sure Cruz endorsed early enough to completely avoid partial blame for that, but if he'd never endorsed, his share of the blame, according to the conservative base, would be right up there with ACORN's.

Trump will probably quit politics if he loses, so there'll be a new battle for who makes the right's enemies the most miserable. Cruz is going to have a hard time regaining the trust of the faithful, but he's going to try, and he wouldn't have had a chance otherwise.

I think he really thought there'd be a post-November ideological battle, when, really, all there'll be is a contest for who can be nastiest to Democrats. He might regain his mojo and have a shot at pulling that off. It's certainly in his nature.

CLINTON WANTS YOU TO THINK TRUMP'S PATHOLOGIES EXIST ON A CONTINUUM

This comes from a Republican group that doesn't like Donald Trump, so the results may be somewhat skewed, but it's from a respectable polling firm, so I think it's plausible:
A majority of voters say Donald Trump would allow the U.S. to default on its debt and that he would misuse the power of the presidency to punish his political opponents.

And nearly half of voters -- 46 percent -- say the GOP nominee would use a nuclear weapon to attack ISIS or another foreign enemy.

Those are the findings of a new poll conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of the Lincoln Leadership Initiative, a new group helmed by prominent Republican critics of the New York billionaire who are advocating for the Republican Party to dump Trump and return to its “foundational values.”

The poll also found that a majority of voters believe that as president, Trump would create a database to track Muslims and order military strikes against the families of terrorists.

Sixty-five percent said that there would be race riots in major cities during a Trump administration, and 44 percent believe Trump would authorize internment camps for illegal immigrants.
Many people who are actually going to vote for Trump believe all these things, and either approve or don't care:
... Among those who say they will vote for Trump, 48 percent say he’ll create a database to track Muslims; 36 percent say there will be race riots; 33 percent say the government would default on its debt; and 32 percent say Trump would punish his political opponents and authorize internment camps for illegal immigrants.

Only 22 percent of Trump supporters believe he will start a nuclear war.
On the other hand, if you look at the survey and crosstabs, far more Democrats and independents believe all these things about Trump.

I think there's a connection between all this and some of the "soft" negative ads the Clinton campaign and its allies have been running for months. The latest one is this:



The Clinton campaign will begin airing a new ad Friday that intercuts Trump insulting women with shots of young girls looking in the mirror.

"I'd look her right in that fat ugly face of hers," Trump says in the ad, a comment he made in 2006 about comedian Rosie O'Donnell. "She is a slob."

The ad, entitled "Mirrors," also features Trump saying "A person who is flat chested is very hard to be a 10" -- a comment he made about actress Nicollette Sheridan -- and "Does she have a good body, no? Does she have a fat (expletive)? Absolutely." -- a comment he made about Kim Kardashian in 2013.

While these comments are playing, the ad features a diverse group of young women looking in the mirror, appearing to evaluate themselves as Trump's voice makes demeaning comments.

The end of the ad features a black slate with this question: "Is this the president we want for our daughters?"
This ad is about sexism and body-shaming specifically, just as a Clinton ad released earlier this week is about disability specifically. But the larger point is that Trump goes through the world with no empathy and no worries about the damage he does to other people with his words and deeds. If you're dismayed by Trump, it's easy to make a leap from that to internment camps or going nuclear. But ads like this one keep that discussion in human terms, for voters who might not be politically engaged.

This could be a brilliant strategy. We'll find out in November.

CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN TACTICS JUST AREN'T AS EXCITINGLY DISRUPTIVE AS RACISM AND MAGICAL THINKING

David Brooks thinks Hillary Clinton's campaign is drab and old-fashioned:
Her donor base and fund-raising style is out of another era. Obama and Sanders tapped into the energized populist base, but Clinton has Barbra Streisand, Cher and a cast of Wall Street plutocrats. Her campaign proposals sidestep the cutting issues that have driven Trump, Sanders, Brexit and the other key movements of modern politics. Her ideas for reducing poverty are fine, but they are circa Ed Muskie: more public works jobs, housing tax credits, more money for Head Start.
Trump's ideas for reducing povery make no sense -- wave a magic wand and suddenly America will be great again, with millions more jobs and taxes slashed -- but never mind. We know the wall won't work; we know the trade war with China won't work. But Trump is nationalist at the top of his lungs, so it's exciting:
We have an emerging global system, with relatively open trade, immigration, multilateral institutions and ethnic diversity. The critics of that system are screaming at full roar. The champions of that system -- and Hillary Clinton is naturally one -- are off in another world.
"Screaming at full roar" is really the point here. Trump is keeping this close not just because a lot of white Americans are racist, but because a lot of other white Americans who aren't racist (or aren't very racist) find the "disruptive" nature of the Trump campaign bracing and sexy, and thus are willing to overlook what they find distasteful about Trump. They like the fact that Trump is competitive despite doing everything you're not supposed to do as a candidate. Older college-educated whites, as much as (or perhaps more than) millennials, think it might be cool to see everything blown up.

At BuzzFeed, Ruby Cramer notes that the Clinton campaign made a strategic decision in the spring to stop linking Trump to the GOP and portray him as a person who's beyond preexisting bipartisan political norms. I assume this was done after a lot of focus groups and a lot of poring over data: the members of Team Clinton who favored this approach must have concluded that there was a statistically significant likelihood of winning more votes this way, because one approach led to X response and the other approach led to Y response.

But this is Clinton being a careful nerd, and much of America will vote for a guy who just tosses all the paperwork in the air and decides to go with his gut, even if his gut is the gut of a bigoted simpleton with narcissistic personality disorder.

That's why Trump is likely to be declared the winner of next Monday's debate. Paul Krugman wants him to be called on his inevitable lies in the debates, in real time:
Will the moderators step in when Mr. Trump delivers one of his well-known, often reiterated falsehoods? If he claims, yet again, to have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning -- which he didn’t -- will he be called on it? If he claims to have renounced birtherism years ago, will the moderators note that he was still at it just a few months ago? (In fact, he already seems to be walking back his admission last week that President Obama was indeed born in America.) If he says one more time that America is the world’s most highly taxed country -- which it isn’t -- will anyone other than Mrs. Clinton say that it isn’t? And will media coverage after the debate convey the asymmetry of what went down?
But that's unlikely, and not just because, as Krugman says, pointing out the fact that Trump lies far more than Clinton would seem like an act of partisan bias, even if it's objectively true. Trump won't be called on his lies because there's quiet admiration in the media for his unmitigated gall, and for the fact that it works. We'll get this instead:
One all-too-common response to such attacks involves abdicating responsibility for fact-checking entirely, and replacing it with theater criticism: Never mind whether what the candidate said is true or false, how did it play? How did he or she “come across”? What were the “optics”?
To some extend, I understand why the Chuck Todd's of the press will respond this way -- much of the public just likes it when Trump gets away with stuff. But much of the media does, too, and Trump may be covered that way just because some in the media simply admire him for being such a clever rogue. I don't know how Clinton will beat that.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

MATT BAI: PATHETIC HILLARY CAN'T WIN UNLESS DONALD TRUMP LETS HER

Today's Yahoo hacking announcement inspired me to look in on Yahoo News, where Matt Bai still publishes regular columns. Today's is several different varieties of terrible.

The first thing Bai wants you to know is that Hillary Clinton is just an annoying shrew who can't possibly do a thing to help herself in the upcoming debates:
When Hillary Clinton takes to the debate stage next week, in the opener of a three-act tragedy that will rivet most of the nation, she should keep in mind that the campaign really isn’t about her.

I say this not because, when she talks to voters, Clinton too often has a tendency to frame her campaign as the necessary capstone of her long, lonely, twilight struggle of a career, rather than as a vehicle for reform -- although she does.

I say it not because Clinton can come across as aggrieved, a victim of venal Republicans and craven media who is biding her time until she can settle all the old scores, like Carrie at the prom.

No, I say it because at this point the campaign really isn’t hers to win or lose, and probably nothing she says will change its trajectory. It’s all about her opponent now.
What a pathetic loser! No wonder no one will sit with her in the cafeteria. And Donald Trump -- he's crazy, but wasn't it great how he threw the winning touchdown last weekend?

(Does Bai understand popular culture? He wants to portray Clinton as a grievance-nursing whiner, but then he compares her to Carrie. Does he even remember that was cruelly mistreated before she got her vengeance?)

Bai goes on to tell us that Clinton has no agency in the debates -- silly girl! -- because it's all about Trump:
Barring some cosmic meltdown from Clinton, these debates will unfold as a test for Donald Trump. We’re about to find out whether he can pass himself off as a credible entrant for the job and, perhaps more to the point, whether he actually wants it.
Hold that thought.
... Whether from incompetence or instability, Trump has managed to make himself not the default alternative to a candidate who is deeply distrusted by the electorate, but rather the dominant and more divisive figure of the two.
Trump is incompetent or unstable, according to Bai, yet Hillary Clinton is "deeply distrusted," while Trump is (pant, pant) dominant. So why is he dominant?
Rather than play along with Trump’s “Dancing With the Stars” kind of campaign, Clinton has largely receded to the shadows offstage, content to watch while Trump gyrates and boogies himself into all kind of grotesque poses, alternately amusing and reviling much of the viewing audience.
Or maybe she just can't get a word in edgewise as the media breathlessly clings to every last word or deed from Trump.
And so, improbably, the election is now a referendum on him. Clinton’s support is probably inelastic at this point; assuming she slogs cautiously through the debates in her admirable if uninspiring way, she can do little to change the minds of those who already know how they feel about her, which is pretty much everyone.
What a drab little bore she is! Uninspiring! Familiar as an old shoe!
Whether that’s enough to deliver her the White House is almost entirely a question of whether Trump can yet persuade some segment of disenchanted, moderate voters that he meets the very lowest threshold for a plausible president -- someone who won’t destroy the world, at a minimum, and who might not embarrass them every day of the week for the next four years if they get really lucky.
Shorter Bai: Low bar? Yes, I'm placing it as low as humanly possible.
... If ... Trump can appear more candid than crude, more disruptive than dangerous, he might yet vault himself over the absurdly low hurdle of acceptability -- especially if Clinton offers a contrasting study in insincerity.
She's so awful, isn't she?
If Clinton were to ask my advice (and believe me, the phone isn’t ringing), I’d tell her to do herself a favor and leave home without the canned zingers that some comedy writer is probably typing up for her right now, because that’s a thing candidates have felt the need to do ever since “Where’s the Beef?” and “You’re no Jack Kennedy” entered the political lexicon at the zenith of broadcast television’s cultural influence.
Right, because Trump won't show up having rehearsed any canned one-liners fed to him by, oh, say, Roger Ailes, because Trump is so darn authentic, even if he is crazy and boorish.
All that’s going to achieve is to make her seem more scripted and condescending next to a candidate whose core appeal for a lot of voters is grounded in shattering the tired artifice of modern politics. You don’t beat reality TV with a laugh track.
Right, because we know Donald Trump is never condescending.

Here's where the column takes a peculiar turn -- although maybe it's not so peculiar:
... Even now, were Trump to just lapse into a coma and stay submerged until three days before the election, he’d stand a reasonable chance of winning.

That a man as preternaturally stage-savvy as Trump hasn’t been able to meet this standard tells you something about his labyrinthine psyche. That Trump manages to melt down in spectacular fashion every time his poll numbers rise beyond respectability suggests that he is, at best, deeply conflicted about the prospect of actually being president.

Trump doesn’t want to be a Loser, of course, because that’s the worst thing he can ever imagine being. But I also seriously doubt he wants to wake up every day and govern.

My guess is that, in his dream scenario, Trump loses by a few points, succeeds in persuading his followers that the election was stolen by the party establishment or the media or Mexican criminals, and then repairs to the comfort of Trump Tower to consider how best to exploit the whole affair.

So this is the high drama of the debates. We get to watch a man wrestle with his own fears and insecurities, struggling for just a few crucial hours to behave like someone other than a guy whom no one in his right mind would describe as presidential.
On the one hand, I think it's nuts to imagine that this sociopathic narcissist has any insecurities whatsoever. I think it's crazy to imagine that he fears the burdens of governing -- remember, he's the guy who reportedly offered to put John Kasich in charge of domestic and foreign policy if he'd agree to be Trump's running mate, while Trump's job, according to son Donald Jr., would be "making America great again."

On the other hand, notice what Bai is saying here: Clinton can't win on her own -- she can only win if Trump consciously or subconsciously throws the election. Because she's pathetic and unlikable, and Trump, however crazy and awful he is, has all the power.

AND WHEN YOU'RE DONE WITH THIS, MAYBE YOU COULD TAKE ANOHER SHOT AT THAT TERRI SCHIAVO DIAGNOSIS

The Hill has decided that Hillary Clinton's health is so worrisome that it's time to publish a diagnosis of her by someone who's never examined her, a retired Texas surgeon and Republican activist named John R. Coppedge:
Hillary Clinton exhibited abnormal eye movements during her recent speech in Philadelphia and they were not photoshopped.

Her eyes did not always move in the same direction at the same time. It appears that she has a problem with her left sixth cranial nerve....

Like all things medical, there is a long list of potential causes but in my opinion the most likely one, based on Clinton's known medical history is an intermittent lateral rectus palsy caused by damage to or pressure on her sixth cranial nerve....

Critics will rightly point out that I have not examined Clinton. They will point out that I am not ophthalmologist or a neurologist. But I am a physician and the concepts discussed above are taught to every medical student early in their education.
Coppedge links to a video that starts with footage of a lizard, so you know it's serious stuff.



I see a modest discrepancy in the way the eyes move, but I don't know how unusual this is, because I'm not an ophthalmologist or neurologist. Oh, wait -- Dr. Coppedge isn't either!

He thinks she should have an independent neurological exam -- and what do you know, so does this reporter who just interviewed Clinton:
“Some doctors have said because of your age as well as your opponent’s age, that you could be at higher risk for dementia or even Alzheimer’s, and have suggested that you take some neurocognitive tests,” asked Tampa’s ABC Action News reporter Sarina Fazan.

Clinton laughed at that suggestion. “I am very sorry I got pneumonia. I am very glad that antibiotics took care of it and that’s behind us now. I have met the standard that everybody running for president has met in terms of releasing information about my health,” she said.

“Would you be willing to take those tests, though?” Fazan asked.

“There is no need for that,” Clinton responded. “The information is very clear and the information, as I said, meets the standards that every other person running for president has ever had to meet. I am happy that we have met and even exceeded them in certain ways.”
The line of questioning starts at about 3:00 in this clip -- in which, by the way, I'm following Dr. Coppedge's lead and watching Clinton's eyes, and not seeing anything to remark on:



Meanwhile, someone named Future Useless Eater, who apparently isn't a doctor, has decided to play one at Free Republic, using a GIF from the balloon drop at the end of this year's Democratic convention:
Does Hillary have Progressive Supranuclear Palsy?



Hillary demonstrates here that she can move her eyes quickly side-to-side, but she may have a GREAT DEAL OF TROUBLE rolling her EYES UP, (or down).

That could be why she had to arch her back, and tip her head side-to-side to watch the balloons falling.

... Her vertical eye movement disorder may be "Supranuclear Ophthalmoplegia", which is the cardinal manifestation of "Progressive Supranuclear Palsy" (PSP), which is a degenerative brain disorder.

Here is some text I lifted from Parkinsons.org...
Nobody cares what these idiot Freepers think -- but Clinton's opponents have puke-funneled this sort of speculation well up the media food chain. If Hillary Clinton goes to her retirement in January 2025, still vigorous and in full control of her mental faculties, these idiots will still be telling us that she was riddled with medical conditions that the LIE-beral media wouldn't tell us about. It's never going to end.

****

UPDATE: Whoops, almost forgot to mention this:



THE ELIMINATIONISM OF GLENN REYNOLDS WAS MUCH EASIER TO IGNORE WHEN IT WAS AIMED AT FOREIGNERS

Glenn Reynolds stepped over the line last night:
Conservative USA Today columnist and University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds caused an uproar on Twitter when he urged motorists to drive over protesters blocking a highway in North Carolina.

Run them down,” Reynolds, who also produces the Instapundit website, tweeted late Wednesday with an image of the protesters on I-277.

Twitter suspended the account....
Wow, nobody could have foreseen that Reynolds would tweet something like this, given his past writings:
On the other hand, it’s also true that if democracy can’t work in Iraq, then we should probably adopt a “more rubble, less trouble” approach to other countries in the region that threaten us.
Or this, which suggested that the U.S. might have to commit genocide in the Middle East because we'd simply have no choice:
Civilized societies have found it harder, though, to beat the barbarians without killing all, or nearly all, of them. Were it really to become all-out war of the sort that Osama and his ilk want, the likely result would be genocide -- unavoidable, and provoked, perhaps, but genocide nonetheless, akin to what Rome did to Carthage, or to what Americans did to American Indians. That’s what happens when two societies can’t live together, and the weaker one won’t stop fighting -- especially when the weaker one targets the civilians and children of the stronger. This is why I think it’s important to pursue a vigorous military strategy now. Because if we don’t, the military strategy we’ll have to follow in five or ten years will be light-years beyond “vigorous.”
And then there's this:
North Korea fires artillery barrage on South. If they start anything, I say nuke ’em. And not with just a few bombs. They’ve caused enough trouble -- and it would be a useful lesson for Iran, too.
And this, which Reynolds posted gleefully on 9/11, when the rest of us were in a state of shock:
GEORGE BUSH IS NOW THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD: People always say that about Presidents, of course, but usually it's only notionally true. Now, if he wants to nuke Baghdad, there is nobody to say him nay -- and damned few who would want to.
Reynolds has aways been bloodthirsty -- in his prime, mybe he was more eliminationist toward foreigners, but the tendency has always been there. The surprise now is that he faced even a mild consequence for his bloodlust.

(Links via Little Green Footballs, Orcinus, and Glenn Greenwald.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

CONFESSING MY UNPOPULAR OPINION: I PREFER EVAN McMULLIN'S NEW ANTI-TRUMP AD TO JOSS WHEDON'S

I'm not the target demographic, never having been a huge Buffy fan or a fan of Joss Whedon's movies, but I gather I'm supposed to be excited that Whedon is reaching out to The Kids with this ad:



Whedon has founded the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Save the Day and donated $1 million toward helping her beat Donald Trump in the presidential election. Instead of going on the defensive, Whedon is focusing on encouraging people to vote through a series of star-studded online videos....

The team is currently at work on more than 10 videos and plans to make between 15 and 25 before the election. It launches today with a spoof of a traditional campaign ad, called “Important,” that is jam-packed with A-listers, including Neil Patrick Harris and Avengers stars Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo.
Am I reading this ad wrong? To me it doesn't come off as a spoof of a traditional ad -- it comes off as a traditional ad. I see the nodding and winking, but it's 2016, folks, and there's nodding and winking in traditional ads, too. The winks and nods don't help -- the ad still reads like every other earnest, stutter-rhythmed, multiple-talking-head ad you've ever seen that features famous people urging the viewer to do the right thing. Even as it mocks the traditional format, it adheres so closely to it that it's indistinguishable from what it's allegedly spoofing, which is an ad style that I feel I've been seeing for about twenty years now, always presented as if it's still "cutting edge."

Will it work? I hope so. I hope people watch past the first minute, which is just the usual appeal to viewers to vote, darn it, because it's important. Only after minute number one is there any allusion to the horror of Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton is never mentioned at all. This ad might just inspire viewers to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or to write in Bernie Sanders.

Even though it's meant to be a send-up of multi-celebrity ads, a multi-celebrity ad is what it ultimately is. It's just an ad about celebrities being celebrities. It's jokey and clever and "ironic" and forgettable. Maybe that's what will get through to The Kids. But I have my doubts.

****

The new ad by third- (fifth?-)party presidential candidate Evan McMullin obviously isn't going to get anyone to vote for Clinton, but it's the kind of thing Clinton or a pro-Clinton super PAC should be doing. I think the Hillary Clinton "Role Models" ad is an effective spot ...



But it probably works better with parents than with younger voters, who might regard it as just a prissy critique of foul language. That's why I'd have liked to see an ad like this from Clinton or her allies:



Evan McMullin’s presidential campaign has taken a racist tirade recently left in a staffer’s voicemail inbox and turned it into a political ad highlighting the dangers of “Donald Trump’s America.”

The ad, which will air online in select markets, features a recording of a personal cell phone message campaign spokeswoman Rina Shah received after appearing on Fox News last Friday.

“You frothing, libtard piece of shit Islamic dog,” the caller, identified only as “Alan,” is heard saying in the ad, while a transcript of his rant runs along the bottom of the screen. “Vote for the pathological lying criminal you fucking piece of shit … and get out of our country … while you’re at it, got back and get fucked by your dirtbag Islamic terror scum friends. Slut.”
This ad is plain and unpolished. It's a punch in the gut. It reminds us that Trumpism isn't just about a buffoonish blowhard who may or may not be able to back up his belligerent words -- it's about millions of angry people who are being told it's okay for them to intimidate people who aren't white or Christian or male.

I think it's safe to assume that people in Clinton World have received messages like this. I say make them public. Maybe the raw abuse directed at Clinton and her allies would get through to voters who don't regard themselves as thugs but believe it's amusing to attack Clinton. If nothing else, it would remind the world of politics that all this isn't about "economic anxiety," or whatever the hell we're supposed to believe -- it's about rage.

ARE MILLENNIALS UNDERINFORMED ABOUT BUSH? OR DO THEY THINK CLINTON WOULD BE BUSH?

Brian Beutler thinks millennials aren't flocking to Hillary Clinton because we oldsters haven't reminded them frequently enough about the horrors of the Bush presidency:
If 18-to 29-year-olds vote for third-party candidates in sufficient numbers to tip the election to Trump, it will be the consequence of a liberal failure to build an oral tradition around the Bush administration, from Ralph Nader’s vote haul in Florida through the injustice of the recount and the ensuing plutocratic fiscal policy; the 9/11 intelligence failure; the war of choice in Iraq sold with false intelligence and launched without an occupation plan; the malpractice that killed hundreds in New Orleans; the scandalousness that makes the fainting couch routine over Clinton’s emails seem Oscar-worthy; and finally to the laissez-faire regulatory regime and ensuing financial crisis that continues to shape the economic lives of young voters to this day....

Here it’s useful to contrast the way Republicans scapegoated Jimmy Carter (who was not a great president, but more unlucky than genuinely incompetent or malevolent) to the way Democrats have treated Bush (among the worst presidents of all time)....

As Steve Kornacki wrote several years ago in Salon, the 1984 Republican convention “featured a parade of speakers attesting to the general awfulness of [Ronald] Reagan’s predecessor.” Democrats adopted a similar model for Obama’s reelection convention in 2012, but at least relative to the abject horror of the eight Bush years, they undersold it, and have continued to undersell it.
Maybe that's a significant part of the problem: Unlike Republicans, who've demonized Jimmy Carter relentlessly since his time in office, we don't have a well-oiled noise machine cranking out nonstop denunciations of Bush.

But would it matter to millennials? The Clinton years had financial deregulation, as well as welfare "reform" and talk about "superpredators." Later, as a senator, Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the Iraq War. As a private citizen, Clinton delivered speeches to big banks, and now she's doing campaign outreach to Republicans, while touting GOP endorsements. And she's associated with the Obama administration's continuance of Middle East wars and drone strikes.

None of this puts her in Bush's league -- and as awful as he was, Trump would be far worse, as would any of the Republicans who ran against him in the primaries, because the GOP has become more appalling in the post-Bush era (more pro-plutocrat, more anti-immigrant, more anti-Muslim). But I suspect that if you asked many millennials what they imagine a Clinton presidency would be like, they'd describe a clone of the Bush presidency -- just as militarist, just as racist, just as pro-fat-cat.

Maybe it's time to stop lecturing millennials on this subject and start listening to them. I'd like to see some focus groups conducted, with relatively open-ended lines of inquiry. Describe what you think Hillary Clinton would do in office. Describe a Trump presidency.

Clinton's policy positions are very progressive. However much she might compromise on them, she starts out very, very far from the Republican Party. She's not going to sign into law a Paul Ryan budget that gives 99% of its tax breaks to the 1%. She's not going to reinstate torture, as Donald Trump eagerly promises to do (and sorry, but I don't believe for a minute that either a GOP Congress or rank-and-file servicemembers will prevent him from doing that). She's not going to appoint Scalias to the Supreme Court. She's not going to slam the door on Muslims and Mexicans. She's not going to engage in an orgy of deregulation. She's not going to pursue an energy policy that pretends climate change doesn't exist.

Millennials may vaguely grasp this, but what do they think she will do? Cn we hear more from them? And shouldn't Clinton take what they say and address it directly?

THIS IS HOW WE DO CLASS WAR IN AMERICA

Chris Arnade, a photographer and writer, has a post up at Medium (which began as a tweetstorm) about Hillary Clinton's struggle to close the sale this year. He thinks she's in trouble, even though he supports her. His conclusion?



Arnade continues:
11. Bill Clinton was a back row kid at heart. That is what he came from. (Go visit his hometown. Really.)

12. Trump is what the back row (and middle rows) often love best. Someone from the front row who joins them.

13. Not only is Trump joining them, he is shooting spitballs at the kids in the front. Making them all mad!

14. And what does team Hillary do? Goes full front row on everyone, throwing scorn. “How dare you behave so awfully! Grow up! Bad kids!”

15. That is why “basket of deplorable” was so damaging. It is exactly how everyone who isn’t in the front row thinks the front row thinks about everyone else.
I grew up a brainy truck driver's son in a white ethnic neighborhood in Boston, and I made it to the Ivy League. So I'm one of the front row kids Arnade is talking about, right? Except that I never felt like an elitist. In my childhood, it was embarrassing to be a brainy kid. I don't think Hillary Clinton grew up quite that way, but even when magazines were writing about her Wellesley commencement speech, she wasn't some sort of charismatic flaming youth who appeared to be getting all the sex and drugs while the working class died in Vietnam. She was a grind. She still is a grind. The back row kids may be screwed by life eventually, but they often look down on the front row kids for their awkwardness as much as for their prospects.

Yes, Bill got along with the kids in the back row. After three straight presidential losses in the 1980s, I was glad the Democrats found somebody in '92 who had that rapport.

But here we see the inconsistency in what Arnade writes. First he tells us that "this election is about everyone else throwing [the front row kids] out," then he tells us that being a back row kid helped propel Bill Clinton to the presidency. So we're not talking just about the unique circumstances of this moment. It's how we always are. We always want someone who, as Molly Ivins said, has some Elvis.

We want that even when we're not in despair. In '92, when Bill Clinton won, there was an economic downturn, along with a crime wave -- but things were pretty good in 2000 when George W. Bush, who came off as a back row kid, got close enough in the vote to steal the election from Al Gore, a grind.

If Trump wins this year, then the last two "back row" Republicans to ascend to the presidency will have been rich sons of elitists. That's how we do class war in America -- we don't resent the Bushes and Trumps, or at least the ones who have self-important swagger. We hate Hillary Clinton for rising from the middle class through hard work, and who can't look cool while doing it.