Monday, May 30, 2016

With "Progressives" Like These...

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is incompetent at running the DNC. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is in the pocket of payday lenders. In short, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is the fucking worst.

Except for maybe her primary opponent:
Much of Canova’s campaign literature emphasizes his opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran, a position shared by many in the district’s large and active Jewish population. Wasserman Schultz backed the deal.

“She’s Jewish; I’m not. But I’ve had a Jewish stepdad for 40 years, and I was a volunteer on a kibbutz. . . . And she voted for the Iran agreement,” he said. “Either she got duped by [Obama deputy national security adviser] Ben Rhodes or she was in on it.”
In other words, against Wasserman-Schultz Bernie Sanders is backing a guy who attacks her from the right on one of the most consequential foreign policy issues of the day. I have no love whatsoever for Wasserman-Schultz but this almost makes me want to donate to her campaign. Fucking brilliant.

Of course this isn't really about Canova; it's about Sanders' grudge against Wasserman-Schultz. It isn't about 'principle' any more than his jihad against Barney Frank is; it's about payback. But what's also at work here is his lack of interest in foreign policy--something he might want to get over if he's going to keep endorsing people for Federal office.

The stupid! It scathes!

Happy Memorial Day! This is another long one (mainly because of quotes)—would have made it shorter but I didn't want to take the extra time—

I vote for Gene too. Mara's honest-and-trustworthy numbers are going through the floor. Image tweeted sometime in late March by Stacy Smallwood.

Mara Liasson on NPR yesterday morning:

This was a bad week for Hillary Clinton. The State Department inspector general released a report that was very scathing. And it contradicted a couple of assertions she's made in the past about her using a private server for her emails. She'd said in the past that the arrangement was allowed. Now, she never said she asked for permission and got it. But she did say it was allowed. And the inspector general said no, it wasn't allowed. And if she had asked us, we wouldn't have let her do it, or we would've told her not to do it.

The report was "very scathing"? What was the thing about it that "scathed", "scorched", "seared", or "assailed with withering denunciation"? The next sentence begins with "And", indicating that it's about something in addition to the scathe factor, which remains unexplained. The report's conclusion, in full, states:
Longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State. OIG recognizes that technology and Department policy have evolved considerably since Secretary Albright’s tenure began in 1997. Nevertheless, the Department generally and the Office of the Secretary in particular have been slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership. OIG expects that its recommendations will move the Department steps closer to meaningfully addressing these risks.
They certainly did criticize her, particularly for taking a rather long time to turn all the emails over:
At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act...
But they also noted repeatedly that this issue had been "mitigated" by her cooperation since then, and the department has no outstanding problems. I really don't see the scathe here.

The something in addition hardly scathes either. Liasson alleges that Clinton contradicted herself on "a couple of" claims she's made, which generally means about two, but only mentions one: that she said having a private email server was allowed when it wasn't allowed. Which leaves out an important half of the story, which is that it wasn't disallowed either. Had Clinton asked the appropriate parties it apparently would have been disallowed, but she didn't. As the anonymous State Department officials explained at their press briefing on the release of the Inspector General's report,
To your two questions about why Secretary Clinton didn’t use state.gov email and why she didn’t seek approval for her personal system, unfortunately I don’t think we can speak to that and we’d have to refer you to Secretary Clinton and her team. The OIG report does not get into that and doesn’t make findings with respect to that.
You did ask about or recite several of the (inaudible) provisions that were in place during Secretary Clinton’s tenure. And one thing that is clear is that the policies on email evolves over time and our guidance to officials on how to comply with them evolved and improved over time. Some of the most relevant NARA guidelines on the use of personal email were not issued until 2013. And to this day, the Federal Records Act still permits the use of personal email to some extent provided that you follow the key principle, which is to capture them.
So while we would never – while we wouldn’t encourage the use of a personal email, there was no absolute prohibition on it during this or any other tenure, administration. And while it may have been difficult to approve such a system in light of the policies, we think it’s very important to note that both the OIG and NARA have said by going out and getting records back from Secretary Clinton that we have mitigated the past problems associated with this use.
There's more of a case that the IG "contradicted several of Clinton's long-standing points" in an analysis at FactCheck.org, which notes that she "had an obligation" to discuss the email system with cybersecurity administrators (even though her private server was more secure than the State Department's!), but offers no evidence that she or her staff knew about the obligation; that she wasn't in compliance with department policy in taking 21 months to turn over all the emails, as mentioned above; and that although all her official emails were preserved in the government servers on the accounts of the officials she corresponded with, that was not "an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a Federal record", contrary to her beliefs.

That last bit is an important detail. She is not accused at any point of lying about the policy, only of not knowing clearly what the policy was, which is at least partly the Department's fault—

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Annals of Derp: Douthat Gets a Head Start

Via.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, has stopped calling the Trump a would-be "caudillo"—I guess his confessor must have gotten to him and explained carefully that to a properly conservative Catholic, caudillo means the "Caudillo by the Grace of God" Generalísimo Franco and not a bad guy, just because he didn't care for elections or trade unions or people speaking languages other than Castellano. (He's been proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory XVII of the Palmarian Catholic Church, whatever that is). Unless you're one of those Vatican II modernists and heretics, in which case you probably think saints shouldn't be sponsoring torture and rape, death squad killings, concentration camps and political penal colonies, stealing children from their parents, and medical experiments meant to "establish the bio-psych roots of Marxism".

Now he's calling Trump something new—
Donald Trump is many things — man’s man, ladies’ man, strength-worshiping Poujadist.
The link there doesn't work (the fact that it hasn't been repaired suggests that nobody ever checks out Ross's links, which doesn't surprise me); it's meant to go to the Wikipedia biography of the mid–20th-century "populist" politician Pierre Poujade, who was the scourge of the Fourth French Republic, with his Union de Défense des Commerçants et Artisans (Union for the Defense of Shopkeepers and Artisans), a forerunner of today's Front National (the youngest member of parliament after the 1956 elections was none other than a 28-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen, head of the Poujadiste youth wing).

Poujade's UDCA was meant to represent the French petite bourgeoisie against the elites of the Parisian Grandes Écoles and especially against the contribuable or social security tax that funds the French welfare state. It was anti-intellectual (Poujade boasted about his lack of formal education), pro-colonial (angry at France's ongoing loss of Indochina and Algeria), and xenophobe. In short very much a typical American Republican, with the obvious differences of time and place (Poujade was especially exercised by a Jewish prime minister, Pierre Mendès-France, US Republicans are driven mad by an African-American president).

Yes, Trump's a kind of Poujadiste, but he's not alone.

Today's device for endorsing Trump while continuing to pretend he's not endorsing Trump is in the Safirian form of offering himself up as a Trump speechwriter, or in this case debate coach, suggesting lines Trump could use in debates this fall, on the example of how he might attack Clinton's plans to approach or achieve universal pre-K:

Clinton: “… been fighting for working families for my entire career. That’s why I have a detailed plan to offer tax credits that make day care affordable. I’ll double funding for Head Start. I’ll partner with states to expand universal pre-K. And I’ll guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave.”
Moderator: “Mr. Trump?”
Trump: “We are not winning. America is not winning. And here comes — this is typical, folks — here comes Crooked Hillary, and of course she wants America to become more like France....”
One of the things Trump needs to do, naturally, is reference Monsignor Douthat:

Slobodan Trump

People keep trying to pin down the right historical parallel for Trump. We know he's not Hitler, of course. He might be Mussolini. But to one refugee from the Balkan wars, the obvious model is Slobodan Milosevic:
Slobodan Milosevic hated Muslims. Slobodan Milosevic hated Bosnians. Slobodan Milosevic hated anyone who wasn't a "pure" Christian Serb. He used his power as the leader of Yugoslavia to get on TV, radio, in the papers, anywhere you could think of and talk about the horrible effects these people were having on our beloved Yugoslavia. The Bosnians? They're a threat to everything we stand for! The Muslims? They'll ruin us! We must band together against these people before they destroy us - and they will destroy us. We have to strike first! Slobodan Milosevic brought people together against one common enemy. He made them feel like they were part of something. He made them believe that if they followed him and everything he stood for, they would be on their way to a better Yugoslavia. Make Yugoslavia great again.

I remember hearing my first bomb when I was three years old. I was sitting in the kitchen with my mom in our high rise apartment eating crepes when it happened. She immediately scooped me into her arms and ran into the hallway, covering my head with her hands, kissing me repeatedly.

"What was that noise?" I asked.

"Oh, they're just testing some stuff," she responded, cradling me back and forth, still kissing me....

I remember piling into a car with all my cousins trying to escape the attacks, only to be stopped by Serbian soldiers and forced at gunpoint to spend the night on a gym floor with hundreds of other Bosnian refugees. We were piled in like cattle.

How cool! I thought, as I ran around the gym with my brother. It was like a fun sleepover with my cousins and him. When I was much older I found out that every single one of us in that gym was supposed to be sent to a concentration camp or killed. No one knows why they let us go. Does it even matter?

It took us over two years to finally get to the U.S. You read that right. It took my refugee family and I over two years to finally be admitted into the United States of America....

I don't know much about Donald Trump's policies or political agenda and I'm not even going to pretend to know. But I do know enough abut Donald Trump. Donald Trump is Slobodan Milosevic. He is a rich, old, white man in power who uses his money and absurdly large media platform to instill fear, hate, and separation with the promise to fix it. Make America great again.

People think things like war and genocide and concentration camps can't happen in the U.S. We're too evolved. We're too rich. We're too powerful. We're too something. We're too everything. Look around. Look at the wedge this man, this election, has created between people. Look at the things he spews from his mouth, the fear he has instilled....

Thoughts turn into words turn into actions turn into how did we get here?
I'm not inclined to alarmism, and I don't think a Trump presidency would mean civil war. But I do think it would be ugly beyond what we can imagine today, and I do think we should listen carefully to those who have experienced his kind before.

(Hat tip: James Fallows)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Those chads didn't hang themSELVES, you know!

Hi, Campers!

Steve is being a worrywort again, this time on the possibility that Dr. Stein, the Green candidate, could do to Secretary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic candidate, what Nader did to Gore 16 years ago, in the election that Changed Everything (including giving birth to the anguished political blog: Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo made its first appearance a week after the ballot, specifically to track developments in the elections theft, on November 12 2000, though the earliest post I can find is from November 13).

Because if the cool-kid Sanders supporters can't vote for Sanders in the general election they will be voting for Stein rather than voting for Clinton, judging from the popular press (BuzzFeed and The Atlantic), and this could take the election away from Clinton the way the Nader vote took the election away from Gore in 2000. Really?

I'd like to make at least one objection, namely that you can't really bring up the 2000 election without noting that it was an extremely peculiar case, in the first place because the Nader effect occurred in only one state, but it two states, Florida and New Hampshire [Thanks for the correction, Tom] of which one just happened to be the crucial state where the election would be decided, and there were a large number of different factors involved, including the terrible Palm Beach ballot design which led a large number of voters to cast votes for the vile Patrick Buchanan, the improper exclusion of whole classes of voters, the famous chad situation, and the control of the local government by the presidential candidate's brother, in such a way that it's hard to see how it could ever be replicated.

The Stein vote could only make a decisive difference in states where there's a tight contest between Clinton and Trump to begin with, the way there was a tight contest between Bush and Gore in Florida, and those states are not likely to be big Stein territory. Stein will likely do relatively well in some (not all) states that are overwhelmingly Democratic, like the three Pacific Coast states, New York, and Vermont; and in some states where the Democratic nominee is more or less certain to lose, like West Virginia and Idaho and Kentucky.

But she's not going to do at all well in any of the swing states where it could make a real difference the way it did in Florida in 2000—Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, unless it's Florida again, and I'm sure it won't be in Florida either, where everything is conspiring to make the Republican situation really bleak, from the Hispanic dislike for Trump to the destruction of the old Republican machine by the mutual hatred of the Bush and Rubio contingents.

Not that there's nothing to worry about in November from the disaffected Berners, but I think the danger is more in the likelihood that they might not vote at all—a vote for Dr. Stein is really just a fancy method of not voting. And how dangerous it is depends on how many of them there are.

I tend to think of Sanders's support overall as relatively less than the way his results make it look (based on the way Sanders tends to win in caucuses rather than primaries—anybody notice that Clinton won two primaries in the last three weeks without getting any delegates, in Nebraska and Washington, because Sanders had won the states' caucuses in March?—and rural rather than urban districts), and I tend to think that a lot of his support comes from people who don't actually vote very often (like all the bros in the New York primary who had no idea they had to be registered Democrats and thought the system, which has existed for many decades, had been rigged just to frustrate them). I hope they prove me wrong!

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Friday, May 27, 2016

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s bum rap. And also some not-so-bum raps.

The phoniest plumber since John McCain's "Joe The Plumber"is
part of a fictional team of "victims" attacking Mayor Bill DeBlasio

In a way, I feel kind of sorry for Bill DeBlasio, the current mayor of New York.

Not that I’ve ever been a huge fan of his. He has all the personal magnetism of a third-ranked accounting professor at a second-rate cow college. I agree with a good many of his political positions, but if he offered to have a beer with me, an image of library paste would flash in my head, and I’d suddenly remember a prior engagement.

On top of the pasty je ne sais quoi of his personality, DeBlasio has made some political appointments that make you wonder what the hell the man is thinking. One such is his transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg. 

Commissioner Trottenberg  brings to mind, in her physical froideur and distinct lack of empathy for afflicted New Yorkers,the meanest teacher you ever had in elementary school. If you had a Roman Catholic education during certain decades of the 20th Century, I suppose that, based on what some of my Catholic friends tell me, you could make that the second-meanest nun.

Her primary interest seems to be in pleasing and absolving motorists of any chaos and tragedy they cause in New York. She also appears to be unraveling the progress New York had made in helping to make the city more habitable for pedestrians, cyclists, and even those apartment-dwellers who are subject to incessant honking during midnight traffic jams. She seems almost equally interested in punishing those who complain.

Last November, for example, after eight people were hit, broken, crushed, and killed in a single week by various motor vehicles, (two city busses were among those vehicles), Trottenberg announced that pedestrians ought to watch where they’re going. 

What next? A statement complaining it’s a shame the busses got dented?

All this while bike routes deteriorate, some bike paths become rutted, pitted, potholed, tire-trapping death traps, and the traffic Trottenberg works so hard to encourage grows more constipated than ever. 

For example, there’s  another currently-brewing controversy involving Trottenberg. Residents of a beleagured building in Midtown have been tortured for months by a loud cacaphony of blaring automobile horns, sounded  by frustrated motorists in the middle of the night on Trottenberg’s jammed streets.  The residents have pleaded that Trottenberg’s department place signs on their block asking the gridlocked and furious drivers not to honk. 

Trottenberg’s kiss-off reply, completely ignoring the specific requests, was in a letter to a City Council member. She said that somebody else’s agency had put up some signs somewhere else, and besides, there were cops directing traffic. In other words, she didn’t give a flying flamingo. Or perhaps she was flipping the residents some other kind of bird. I suppose she thinks that if residents don’t like it, they can just go move to the suburbs.

However, I give less than full enthusaism to the current investigation into possibly shady dealings (or possibly not) involving Mayor DeBlasio’s fund raising efforts.

Seems to me that at best, DeBlasio is small potatoes. The bigger and likelier rotten spud is New York State’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who literally shut down a statewide corruption investigation when it got a little too close to home.

And yet I still feel badly for DeBlasio, whose numbers lately have been sinking like the Titanic. At least part of his loss of popularity is due not to his charmless personality, or to the corruption investigation centered around his campaign, or even to Commissioner Trottenberg’s“Screw You” style of administration.

The cause is more insidious than that. You see, one of the good things DeBlasio has done has been to try keeping rents affordable for New York’s middle class and working poor. The alternative would be even more of the homelessness  that is now evident in many parts of the city.

Of course, the landlord hate this. It means they can’t gouge their tenants. This has left them feeling terribly sorry for themselves. But advertising, “Boo hoo, we can’t get filthy rich by raising your rent” is such a self-evidently losing proposition that they’ve come up with something far more insidious.

They’re running, at considerable media weight, a television campaign in New York in which various actors posing as Hispanic small businessmen — a guy who seems to own a plumbing store and a guy who seems to be a painter, for example — complain that deBlasio is starving them out of their jobs.

How? By viciously strangling greedy landlords’ excess profits, thereby making it "impossible" for the landlords to keep up their buildings, thereby killing the incomes of small tradesmen who service the buildings, thereby hurting "everyone." The ads are paid for by something called the "Rent Stabilization Association," which is actually a bunch of landlords who want to de-stabilize rents. 

The implications of the ads: If you favor rent control, you favor throwing Hispanic small business owners out of work, loading up the unemployment roles with ruined plumbers and painters, and wrecking the city’s economy. 

The logic  of this argument, if you can follow it, leads straight to the garbage pit.  Moreover, casting Hispanic types as the victims, when in fact a significant number of the city’s newly arrived Hispanics are really landlords’ victims, is the height of hypocrisy.  And nowhere do the commercials say that what the "rent stabilizers" really want is for  the rent  to be raised. That's for DeBlasio himself to read between the lines, while it passes right through the uncomprehending heads of dullards like ourselves. What we're expected to remember is, DeBlasio is a no good bum who's killing poor Hispanics plumbers.

So the landlords are spreading their venom. The corruption investigators are sniffing around in all the wrong places, perhaps to avoid Governor Cuomo’s displeasure. (DeBlasio and Cuomo are anything but close buddies.)

Meanwhile, well-intentioned poor schnook DeBlasio keeps taking it on the chin, while his traffic commissioner must fall asleep every night cheerfully dreaming of occupied baby carriages getting squashed by eighteen-wheelers.

Hey, fella, welcome to Noo Yawk. We got the best of everything heah, including a multiplicity of political operatives with shivs up their sleeves.

Cross-posted at The New York Crank

Thursday, May 26, 2016

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND

I'm taking the weekend off. Members of the relief crew are likely to be here this weekend, however, so in between barbecues, or however you entertain yourselves, drop by for some pent-up rage that isn't coming from me. I'll see you on Tuesday.

THE HARDCORE BERNERS WON'T COME BACK TO THE DEMOCRATS UNTIL YEARS INTO THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

There's a recurring motif in every story about hardcore Bernie Sanders supporters. Here's Molly Ball at The Atlantic:
A 25-year-old art model named Vanna Mae Caldwell told me, “Here is what they don’t tell you: None of the superdelegates have actually voted yet!” ... If Sanders does not get the nomination, Caldwell will not be able to bring herself to vote for either Clinton or Donald Trump, whom she sees as two sides of the same corporate coin; she’ll vote instead for the Green Party’s candidate, Jill Stein. “I’m Bernie or Bust,” she said proudly.
Here's Ruby Cramer at BuzzFeed:
But for more than 30 minutes, Bill Clinton stayed to argue every point, turning a routine retail stop at Tia Sophia’s, a Mexican restaurant here in Santa Fe, into a one-on-one debate with [Josh] Brody, a recent graduate of New York’s New School, who said he supported Hillary Clinton’s Democratic challenger. “For the next few weeks -- then I’ll be a Stein supporter,” he added of Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
In just about every story I read about Clinton-hating Sanders supporters, the typical plan for the fall is a vote for Jill Stein.

I've been told that Stein can't possibly do what Ralph Nader did in 2000:

But look at the very next paragraph in that Molly Ball story:
Caldwell discovered Sanders last year through Tumblr and YouTube videos. She is an active member of three different Sanders-boosting Facebook groups and livestreams once a week “to motivate people to vote for Bernie.” It has changed their lives, being a part of this movement. Something like that doesn’t just end. Does it?
Yes, Nader benefited from a level of name recognition Stein doesn't have, but that 2000 election took place in a world with no Facebook, no Twitter, no Tunblr, no Reddit. If Berners can discover Bernie online, they can discover Stein there, too. Electoral politics in 2000 was still like shopping for CDs -- you had to go out of your way to find out about something obscure. Politics is a lot more like Spotify now -- everyone has access to every choice.

Also, 2000 was a year of apparent peace and prosperity, when the public didn't seem to be thoroughly fed up with the system; Nader won nearly 3% of the vote in spite of that. 2016 is a year when disgust with the existing order is widespread,. Voter disgust is also part of every reporter's narrative; as a result, the press is primed to give Stein a lot of coverage, especially if it seems that the Democratic nominee doesn't embody voter dissatisfaction the way the Republican nominee does.

Data journalists think the Berners will come home to the Democratic Party because that's how it usually works -- supporters of failed Democratic primary candidates generally don't stray in November, even if they're not registered Democrats. Here's FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten:
Most voters who identify as independent consistently vote for one party or the other in presidential elections. In a Gallup poll taken in early April, for instance, 41 percent of independents (who made up 44 percent of all respondents) leaned Democratic, and 36 percent leaned Republican. Just 23 percent of independents had no partisan preference. In the last three presidential elections, the Democratic candidate received the support of no less than 88 percent of self-identified independents who leaned Democratic, according to the American National Elections Studies survey. These are, in effect, Democratic voters with a different name.

... that we’re talking about Clinton’s need to win over Democratic-leaning independents rather than true independents is a hopeful sign for her campaign -- these voters have tended to stick with the Democratic Party.
New York magazine's Ed Kilgore adds:
Yes, Clinton may need to work on this category of voters, but the idea that they are unreachable or likely to defect to Trump doesn't make a whole lot of sense. These aren't left-bent voters who have lurked in hiding for years, waiting for a Democrat free of Wall Street ties or militaristic tendencies, and they're not truly unaffiliated voters who will enter the general election as likely to vote for a Republican as a Democrat. They've been around for a while, and in fact they are being affected by partisan polarization more than the self-identified partisans who have almost always put on the party yoke. So while a majority of these Democratic-leaning independents clearly prefer Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee, they represent a reservoir of votes that are ultimately Hillary Clinton's to lose.
But these voters aren't Democrats-in-everything-but-name; they hate the Democratic Party, which they think is antithetical to their progressivism. As Ball notes, they don't think Hillary is left-leaning at all:
Many Sanders supporters told me they had once liked Clinton, but over the course of the primary they have come to dislike and distrust her. “I didn’t originally have a very strong opinion about her, but now I don’t like her very much,” Brett Miller, a 33-year-old waiter in Anaheim, told me at Sanders’s rally there. He’d come to see her as a bought-and-paid-for pol with no firm principles. A Sanders supporter wearing a “Hillary for Prison 2016” T-shirt got approving whistles thumbs-ups as he strode through the crowd. A video-game developer named Adam Riggs said he wouldn’t vote for Clinton even if Sanders asked him to.
Do I think they'll come around to the Democratic Party, as either registered members or unaffiliated voters who regularly vote Democratic?

Yup -- if Trump wins. It was a hell of a lot harder to argue that the two parties are interchangeable once we had the experience of the Bush presidency. But voters in their mid-twenties were in grade school for most of that. They have to learn the lesson from scratch.

A TRUMP-SANDERS DEBATE WOULD NOT BE A DEBATE (updated)

So first we had this, in the wake of Hillary Clinton's rejection of a Fox News debate with Bernie Sanders:

And now the craziness might actually happen:
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have seemingly agreed in principle to give the world the debate it's been waiting for.

Appearing on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in a show that aired Wednesday night, Trump said he would be willing to debate Sanders if proceeds from such an event went to charity.

Within minutes of the statement airing, Sanders had agreed to the idea.


#BernieTrumpDebate is trending on Twitter, driven (as far as I can tell) exclusively by Sanders fans.

In a bizarre year like this, of course a Sanders-Trump debate could happen. But if it does happen, it won't be a debate.

Donald Trump has no reason to attack Bernie Sanders or seriously challenge him on the issues. Trump knows his general election opponent will be Clinton, even if Sanders and his fans don't. Trump is vicious toward "Crooked Hillary," but he pokes gentle fun at Sanders:
'I just want to run against her. Look, I don't know if you're going to be able to. It could be we run against Crazy Bernie. That could be.'

'He's a crazy man, but that's okay. We like crazy people,' Trump said of Sanders.
Trump will spend most of the "debate" either agreeing with Sanders (on trade deals, on the need for more jobs) or chiding him gently. Trump will have no motivation to bang heads with Sanders -- remember, in the primaries he attacked opponents only when they seemed to be gaining on him in polls of upcoming contests. Trump's goal will be to use the words of Sanders as a club to beat Clinton with. Sanders won't see that coming, though he certainly won't object when it happens. He'll pile on.

It's not going to be a great moment in the history of Western democracy. Sorry, kids.

Clinton's rejection of a final Fox debate with Sanders is the kind of thing that happens in a lot of elections. Candidates with a lead often choose not to debate because they're protecting a lead. As a rule, the voters don't care. Maybe Clinton reneged on a promise to debate (but she'd be crazy to debate on Fox, where the pro-GOP bosses want Sanders to humiliate her) -- but Sanders's insistence on a final debate is also cynicism masquerading as idealism. Yes, there were too few debates scheduled at first, but by now the public has watched nine Democratic debates and twelve candidate forums in which Sanders and Clinton have appeared. None of these have taken place in California, but I'm pretty sure they have TV in California. And the campaign has gone on for more than a year. Have we not had the opportunity to find out what these candidates stand for?

Sanders fans think a Trump-Sanders debate would be the ideal punishment for Clinton because she turned down the Fox debate. The irony here is that Trump, a while back, refused to participate in a Fox debate, held what he described as a fund-raising event for veterans instead, claimed to raised more money for veteran than was actually delivered, claimed a personal donation to veteran that he never actually made until he was pressured to donate by media scrutiny -- and he's gaining in the polls. IOKIYDT.

****

AND: I didn't mention the most obvious reason Trump will try to be Mr. Nice Guy in an appearance with Sanders: because he thinks he can win Sanders voters. Can he? It's hard to say, but much of the political world thinks he can. So he'll take great pains not to alienate Berners.

****

UPDATE:

(Via Jonathan Chait, who agrees with me that the losers of such a debate would have been Clinton and the Democrats.)

And:

Sanders can't pressure Trump. What does Trump have to lose if he blows this off? But apparently he thinks he can't be sure it would be a 2-on-1 attack on Clinton, so he's backing down. That'll be the end of it.

Or maybe he thinks he derives the maximum benefit in this situation from giving Sanders the line "Donald Trump is afraid to debate me!" That will help him in the Democratic homestretch, which is ratfuck enough for Trump.

****

WAIT:

So we'll see.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

IF RIOTS ARE ELECTORALLY BENEFICIAL TO THEIR TARGETS, WHY DIDN'T HUMPHREY WIN?

It's a rare day when Charlie Pierce and Power Line's John Hinderaker agree on something, but they agree that continued violent protest against Donald Trump will probably put him in the White House. Here's Hinderaker, from a post titled "Electing Trump, One Riot at a Time":
Last night in Albuquerque, rioters attacked a Donald Trump rally. Several tried to disrupt the event and had to be removed from the crowd. Most remained outside, throwing rocks at the hall and burning objects at policemen....

Liberals will try to imply that violence by anti-Trump rioters is somehow Trump’s fault, but they can’t sell that theory. Most people dislike riots and rioters just as much today as they did in 1968. Trump has risen to the top of the political heap in large part because of the enemies he has made. During the primaries, the more he was denounced by liberal reporters, the more votes he got. The same will happen in the general election if voters see that he is besieged by left-wing rioters.
Hinderaker, of coursed, would be pleased at that outcome. Pierce, not so much:
What happened in Albuquerque Tuesday night not only was pointless, it was utterly stupid. It gave the campaign of He, Trump enough footage to create campaign ads all the way through his re-election campaign in 2020. It gave cable news a chance to monger some fear; by midnight, the CNN reporter on the scene was practically begging the cops to unleash hell on the people "who won't go home." It turned He, Trump into a victim....

One of the most important ways to defeat He, Trump is to be smarter than he is. That shouldn't be difficult but, so far, it's eluded the other Republican contenders, and the Clinton campaign, and the people who show up at his rallies who can't seem to understand that, by doing so, they become part of the show.

Stay across the street. Protest silently and, in the name of god, don't be such easy marks.
But I'm sticking with what I said in the last post: Violent protest makes Trump seem like the candidate who's courting chaos. If we're all going to look back on 1968, let's recall that the winner of that year's election was the candidate whose campaign wasn't associated with violent protest in the public mind. The Republican convention that year wasn't comparable to Chicago, which became a millstone around Hubert Humphrey's neck. And the candidate who finished third had a Trump-like habit of courting violence at his rallies:
“The confrontation with the hecklers became a highly stylized feature of every Wallace rally,” writes Lloyd Rohler in his book George Wallace: Conservative Populist. “Violence seemed always to be lurking in the background and it frequently burst forth.” At a Wallace rally on October 29 in Detroit, reported the Chicago Tribune, “wild, chair-swinging violence erupted” as “Wallace supporters and some of several thousand hecklers clashed, first with fists and then with folding chairs … Wallace supporters struck handcuffed hecklers as they were being led away by police, who did not interfere.”
The winner of that year's election was the guy fraudulently claiming that he'd govern as a healer, the one who said he had a secret plan to end a divisive war, the one whose campaign cynically took its slogan from a sign held up at a rally: "Bring Us Together."

Voters wanted to believe that Richard Nixon would calm troubled waters. Donald Trump doesn't even want voters to believe he'll bring calm -- he clearly wants to butt heads with everyone who looks at him crosswise. Some percentage of the country wants that, but I don't think it will be a majority.

I could be wrong and Charlie Pierce could be right -- he usually is. But in a country where even partisans say they hate partisanship and want compromise, I'm not sure being the candidate associated with violent unrest is a successful strategy.

The wild card here is whether Hillary Clinton gets yoked to violence by the planned Sanderspalooza outside the Democratic convention. Organizers of the planned pro-Bernie protests say they'll be peaceful. We'll have to wait and see how that works out.

HERE ARE SOME FOLKS WHO DON'T SEE A TRUMP VOTE AS PART OF THE "REVOLUTION"

I've been thinking that disruptive protests at Donald Trump rallies are counterproductive, but I wonder if they're sending a message to a certain other group of angry voters.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- In one of the presidential campaign year's more grisly spectacles, protesters in New Mexico opposing Donald Trump's candidacy threw burning T-shirts, plastic bottles and other items at police officers, injuring several, and toppled trash cans and barricades.

Police responded by firing pepper spray and smoke grenades into the crowd outside the Albuquerque Convention Center.

During the rally, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was interrupted repeatedly by protesters, who shouted, held up banners and resisted removal by security officers.

The banners included the messages "Trump is Fascist" and "We've heard enough."
We keep being told that Clinton-hating Bernie Sanders supporters might pull the level for Trump this year. But maybe unrest at Trump rallies -- led by the usual Guy Fawkes mask-wearing agitators -- will convey the sense that no self-respecting "revolutionary" would back Trump.



I'm sure some Sanders supporters will vote for Trump. At Politico, Josh Zeitz reminds us that some supporters of Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and Ted Kennedy in 1980 actually weren't left-leaning, and ultimately voted, respectively, for George Wallace and Ronald Reagan.
While many of McCarthy’s supporters were genuinely opposed to the war in Vietnam, exit polls showed that a majority thought of themselves as hawks and voted against LBJ to register dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the war effort. Others were unhappy about skyrocketing inflation and urban unrest and simply wanted to register their discontent with the status quo. Lyndon Johnson’s private pollster found that 55 percent of McCarthy voters supported the conventional bombing campaign against North Vietnam, while only 29 percent opposed it....

Exit polls showed that roughly 18 percent of McCarthy’s primary voters ended up supporting Wallace.

... On election day [1980], some 27 percent of Edward Kennedy’s primary supporters cast their votes for Reagan.
But if there are Democratic primary voters like this in 2016, they'll be the more right-leaning voters, people who probably would have voted Republican in the general election in any case. (There were more of these voters in the Democratic Party in 1968 and even 1980 than there are today.)

I've been worried about self-defined progressives deciding that a Trump vote is a thumb in the eye to the hated Clinton. Unrest at Trump rallies might remind these folks who the real enemy is.

And if we're talking about 1968, let's remember that, after the Chicago convention, the Democrats seemed like the party that presided over chaos. If unrest continues to follow Trump, he'll be associated with chaos in the minds of a lot of moderate voters. That's not going to help him with those voters.

I'm not rooting for violence at Trump rallies. But if it continues to happen, it might be much more of a burden for Trump than it was in the primaries.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

THE BROOKS THEORY OF POLITICAL POPULARITY IS RIDICULOUS

David Brooks has been boring me lately -- these days I can't even be bothered to hate-read him most of the time -- so I wasn't going to address today's column about Hillary Clinton, titled "Why Is Clinton Disliked?" But it's inspired a lot of responses, so I'll tell you why his theory makes no sense.

Brooks writes:
But what exactly do so many have against her?

I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun?

... when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms. For example, on Nov. 16, 2015, Peter D. Hart conducted a focus group on Clinton. Nearly every assessment had to do with on-the-job performance. She was “multitask-oriented” or “organized” or “deceptive.” ...

Clinton’s unpopularity is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic....

At least in her public persona, Clinton gives off an exclusively professional vibe: industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful. It’s hard from the outside to have a sense of her as a person; she is a role.

This formal, career-oriented persona puts her in direct contrast with the mores of the social media age, which is intimate, personalist, revealing, trusting and vulnerable. It puts her in conflict with most people’s lived experience. Most Americans feel more vivid and alive outside the work experience than within. So of course to many she seems Machiavellian, crafty, power-oriented, untrustworthy.
There are three people left in the presidential race, and only one has a positive favorable rating in public opinion polls. Quick: What does Bernie Sanders do for fun? Do you know? Do the people who like him know? Does Brooks know?

Donald Trump is viewed negatively by most Americans, but a lot of people really, really like him. Elsewhere in the column, Brooks says, "We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun." And what is that exactly? He has a reputation as a womanizer, but that seems to be mostly in his past. Yes, he plays golf -- but other than that, he conveys the impression that his idea of fun is doing deals and making money. So the people who like Trump like him because they think he works hard.

Bernie's fans think he's extremely focused on his political crusade, and they like him for it; they don't like him because they think he has a well-rounded life with lots of hobbies.

The difference is that Sanders, even though he may not exactly be a happy warrior, seems to draw energy from campaigning. Trump does too. They seem to be enjoying themselves.

Clinton doesn't. She seemed to have grace and panache when she was secretary of state (as Paul Glastris notes, at that time she was well liked and seen as a workaholic). Now she seems awkward. Politics doesn't come naturally to her. Public speaking seems painful for her.

I've cued up a clip of Clinton from last night's Rachel Maddow Show, and I'd like you to watch a minute of it. Watch Clinton as she gives a speech: Her face is stern and scowling and her gestures are stiff, even when she gets to an applause line about beating Trump.

And then we cut to another moment on the same podium: Clinton greets a political ally and there's sheer joy on her face. You can see the two of them are friends, and so you see Hillary as a human being. I'm assuming that second part actually came first, before Clinton gave the speech; Clinton was happy -- and then she had to do the part of her work she struggles with. But that real person is in there. In that happy moment, she seems likable. But it's clearly difficult for her to summon that person up when she's doing most of the work a candidate does.



If she has a problem, I think that's it -- and if you're inclined to distrust her, you can read what you want into that stern countenance. We're all told, in childhood stories and a great deal of popular culture, that evil people are transparently unpleasant. They scowl as they plot to do dastardly things. That's what Hillary-haters think she's doing. That's why they think she's scowling: because fairytale villains and villainesses scowl. Scowling goes together with deviousness and malign intent.

In real life, villains often have a great time. Trump is a terrible person, but some people think he isn't because he's enjoying himself. If you're conditioned to equate joy with beneficence, Hillary looks like a bad person. And, alas, that may help decide the election.

DONALD TRUMP MIGHT BE THE NEW PUKE FUNNEL

The D.C. Establishment doesn't love the Clintons, but everyone apart from wingnuts and fringe-dwellers has for years accepted the conclusion that Vince Foster killed himself. The story was laid to rest -- at least until Donald Trump revived it:
One issue on Trump’s radar is the 1993 death of Foster, which has been ruled a suicide by law enforcement officials and a subsequent federal investigation....

When asked in an interview last week about the Foster case, Trump dealt with it as he has with many edgy topics -- raising doubts about the official version of events even as he says he does not plan to talk about it on the campaign trail.

He called theories of possible foul play “very serious” and the circumstances of Foster’s death “very fishy.”

“He had intimate knowledge of what was going on,” Trump said, speaking of Foster’s relationship with the Clintons at the time. “He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.”

He added, “I don’t bring [Foster’s death] up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it. I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.”
Trump could have said that he believes what investigators have concluded, but of course he didn't. And now Foster conspiracy theories are a legitimate topic of conversation again:
Haley Barbour Indulges Vince Foster Conspiracy Theory: ‘I Have No Idea’

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) said Tuesday that he has “no idea” whether the Clintons were behind the death of White House staffer Vince Foster, leaving the door open to a decades-old conspiracy theory.

Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" about presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump raising the theory that Foster's 1993 death was the result of foul play, Barbour first tried to blame The Washington Post for asking Trump about the issue.

“You know what question is coming next,” MSNBC's Joe Scarborough responded. “Do you think Vince Foster was murdered by the Clintons?”

“I have no idea and have no suspicion that's the case. But I don't know,” Barbour responded.

“That, sir, is the correct answer!” Scarborough interrupted. “You don’t even have to say you don’t know!”

“But I don’t know,” the former Republican National Committee chairman continued. “Because it’s obvious I don’t know.”
Martin Longman (BooMan) can tell you in detail why the revival of this conspiracy theory is outrageous.

And I've told you on a number of occasions why indulging the fantasies of Ed Klein is outrageous, but Trump told us on Twitter today that he wants us to wallow in the sewer with Klein, too:



So when Trump starts peddling stories cooked up by the guy who tells us that Hillary Clinton is an angry radical lesbian whose only child was conceived via marital rape, I suppose everyone in the media will take the allegations seriously and spread them around by asking other Republicans what they think about them, even though Klein's work has been justifiably dismissed as garbage by the media in recent years.

So isDonald Trump is becoming the new "puke funnel" -- a one-man conduit directing (or redirecting) sleazy stories from the fringe to the legitimate press? "Puke funnel" was James Carville's term for a process that was described this way in a memo from Clinton World in the days of Bill's administration:
The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce refers to the mode of communication employed by the right wing to convey their fringe stories into legitimate subjects of coverage by the mainstream media. This is how the stream works. First, well funded right wing think tanks and individuals underwrite conservative newsletters and newspapers such as the Western Journalism Center, the American Spectator and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Next, the stories are reprinted on the internet where they are bounced all over the world. From the internet, the stories are bounced into the mainstream media through one of two ways: 1) The story will be picked up by the British tabloids and covered as a major story, from which the American right-of-center mainstream media, (i.e. the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and New York Post) will then pick the story up; or 2) The story will be bounced directly from the internet to the right-of-center mainstream American media. After the mainstream right-of-center media covers the story, Congressional committees will look into the story. After Congress looks into the story, the story now has the legitimacy to be covered by the remainder of the American mainstream press as a "real" story.
Trump might now be in the process of replacing several of those steps with, well, himself.

But he can do that only if the press allows him to. Are journalists going to let Trump funnel puke into their stories? Are they going to treat any swill he stirs up as legitimate news? It's their choice.

IN AUSTRIA, THE VOTE DEMOGRAPHICS LOOK AWFULLY FAMILIAR

You probably know that a bullet was just dodged in Austria:
Right-wing Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer has lost a runoff election against liberal opponent Alexander Van der Bellen 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent, the country's interior minister announced. Hofer is a member of the Freedom Party, a group founded in the 1950s by former Nazis and led for many years by the nationalist politician Jörg Haider, who died in 2008. Hofer carried a handgun while campaigning and advocates strict limits on immigration and the admittance of refugees.
What you may not know is that the demographics of this election look very similar to polls of the U.S. presidential election -- not just in terms of social class or place of residence, but in terms of gender:
In nine out of Austria's 10 main cities Mr Van der Bellen came top, whereas Mr Hofer dominated the rural areas, the Austrian broadcaster ORF reported (in German).

Support for Mr Hofer was exceptionally strong among manual workers - nearly 90%. The vote for Mr Van der Bellen was much stronger among people with a university degree or other higher education qualifications.

Support for Mr Hofer among men was 60%, while among women it was 60% for Mr Van der Bellen.
In an election focused on the immigration debate, the far-rightist was backed by rural voters, blue collar workers -- and men in general.

But these things become gendered, don't they? There are far-rightists (and immigrant-bashers) in both genders, but a lot of men seem to take the presence in their country of people they don't like as a personal affront to their manhood. And men generally seem to appreciate politicians who offer them a license to hate.

It wasn't quite enough for a victory in Austria; let's hope we dodge the same bullet.

(Via Billmon.)