Saturday, October 22, 2016


David Atkins of The Washington Monthly has just published a piece titled "How Trump Could Still Mount a Comeback." Atkins realizes that such a comeback is extremely unlikely, but he does think there are elements of Trumpism that could, in theory, be the basis of a come-from-behind victory -- or of electoral success by a Trumpite candidate of the future.
This formula is still Donald Trump’s best bet to win now. There has always been some question just how committed Trump is to orthodox Republican policies. He has already quite successfully broken with the GOP on trade policy, promising to renegotiate free trade deals that harm American workers and bring jobs back to the United States. He could break with the GOP on tax policy as well, and commit to reducing inequality and reinvesting in American jobs and infrastructure. He could promise to upend the tuition infrastructure and make college affordable, and he could claim the mantle of his knowledge of real estate to promise to address the housing affordability crisis. He could promise to decriminalize marijuana and put an end to overseas interventions.
Atkins can't imagine Trump actually doing all this:
... for all his faux populism, Trump is still a plutocrat who is unlikely to back any tax policies that don’t enrich him, nor is he empathetic enough to understand what he would need to do to have a prayer of winning over anyone not already in his alt-right camp.
But I can imagine a lot of mainstream pundits nodding in agreement, because they think Trump really is a different kind of Republican whose populism is genuine and whose differences with the GOP establishment are profound.

I suspect Richard Branson would know better.

Branson, the founder of the Virgin corporate empire, tells us that he got the measure of Trump when he first met him:
Some years ago, Mr Trump invited me to lunch for a one-to-one meeting at his apartment in Manhattan. We had not met before and I accepted. Even before the starters arrived he began telling me about how he had asked a number of people for help after his latest bankruptcy and how five of them were unwilling to help. He told me he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying these five people.

He didn’t speak about anything else and I found it very bizarre. I told him I didn’t think it was the best way of spending his life. I said it was going to eat him up, and do more damage to him than them. There must be more constructive ways to spend the rest of your life.
For Trump, of course, everything is about vengeance.

But what does that have to do with the hypothetical populist message laid out by David Atkins? Well, here's the reason it's unimaginable that Trump would ever deliver that message. It's true that Trump has broken with the GOP on trade policy -- but that's because he wants to get back at foreigners with whom his business dealings haven't always gone well. As for the rest?
He could break with the GOP on tax policy as well, and commit to reducing inequality and reinvesting in American jobs and infrastructure. He could promise to upend the tuition infrastructure and make college affordable, and he could claim the mantle of his knowledge of real estate to promise to address the housing affordability crisis. He could promise to decriminalize marijuana and put an end to overseas interventions.
He was never going to do any of that because he's not angry at anyone about America's many generous tax loopholes, he's not angry about inequality, he's not angry about the cost of tuition, he's not angry about housing affordability, and he's not angry about the war on drugs. He's only an angry (pseudo-)populist about the things that affect him personally -- dealings with the Chinese and other foreigners, and perhaps infrastructure (because he thinks New York's airports are shabby).

For more than a year, pundits have treated Trump's occasional populist talk as sincere. It never was. It was about getting back at people. That's Trump's prime motivation in life.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Will Donald Trump concede if he's the clear loser on November 8? Judging from this article in The New York Times and a statement made yesterday by Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, we could be waiting a long time for a concession. The Times tells us:
As a practical matter, conceding removes the initial pressure for a speedy official count of the vote to be conducted, said Richard L. Hasen, a professor and election law expert at the University of California. Legally, the results tabulated and reported on election night are considered “preliminary” in most states; it can take states a few days or sometimes weeks to determine the official count of polling-place and absentee ballots.
Now please note Conway's statement, as reported by Politico:
Donald Trump won’t concede to Hillary Clinton unless the “results are actually known, certified and verified,” his campaign manager said Thursday....

“He’s saying that until the results are actually known, certified and verified, he’s not going to concede an election. He just doesn’t know what will happen,” Conway said Thursday during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
If that's literally the case, that would seem to mean that he's going to wait until 270 electoral votes' worth of states have officially certified their results. If so, we may not get a concession until after Thanksgiving.

If Trump really wants to blow everything up, that would give him plenty of time to cry fraud, cite Roger Stone's phony exit polls, and demand recounts, an option the Times reminds us he'll have:
The laws regarding recounts vary state by state. In some, when a vote falls within a certain margin, an automatic recount is set off. In Florida and Pennsylvania, that threshold is one-half of 1 percent; in Ohio, it is one-fourth of 1 percent for a statewide election. A candidate may also request a recount when the margin is larger, but in most states, the campaign requesting it must shoulder the cost of the recount.
The saving grace is that Trump will probably be too cheap to actually pay for recounts. I can easily imagine him demanding recounts in several states, grandly proclaiming that he'll foot the bill for them -- and then never ponying up.

Can he cry fraud to get the states to stop vote certification? Not without evidence:
If the losing campaign believes that the vote in one or more states was inaccurately counted, or that voter fraud may have occurred, with ineligible votes being cast or eligible votes being rejected -- and in large enough numbers to swing the outcome -- then it could move for a special judicial proceeding under state law, known as an election contest.

But it would need to muster persuasive evidence to halt any vote-certification process, and quickly, according to Benjamin L. Ginsberg, an election lawyer who represented George W. Bush against Al Gore in their 2000 standoff.
If Trump never concedes, he'll probably just fuss and fume. What his voters will do is an open (and scary) question. I don't think he'll succeed at gumming up the works. But I worry about what the cultists will do.

The Times article hints at something else that might happen, though it probably won't involve Trump:
Mr. Trump’s best chance ... could be to try to convince Democratic electors that they should vote for a third candidate, like Senator Bernie Sanders, preventing Mrs. Clinton from getting to 270 electoral votes and throwing the election to the House of Representatives.
I don't see Truymp doing that -- but I'll bet your Facebook feed is going to be filled with Bernie-or-Busters arguing that all of Clinton's electors should just vote for Sanders instead. I don't expect more from an effort than a lot of online posts and a hashtag or two, but there'll be something along these lines, I guarantee it.


You want another story about the thuggishness of Donald Trump's alt-right base? Here's one you probably wouldn't find on your own if you're a typical reader of this blog -- it's from David French, who writes for National Review and was briefly mentioned as a possible independent presidential candidate:
I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber. It was the evening of September 17, 2015. I had just posted a short item to the Corner calling out notorious Trump ally Ann Coulter for aping the white-nationalist language and rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. Within minutes, the tweets came flooding in. My youngest daughter is African American, adopted from Ethiopia, and in alt-right circles that’s an unforgivable sin. It’s called “race-cucking” or “raising the enemy.”

I saw images of my daughter’s face in gas chambers, with a smiling Trump in a Nazi uniform preparing to press a button and kill her. I saw her face photo-shopped into images of slaves. She was called a “niglet” and a “dindu.” The alt-right unleashed on my wife, Nancy, claiming that she had slept with black men while I was deployed to Iraq, and that I loved to watch while she had sex with “black bucks.” People sent her pornographic images of black men having sex with white women, with someone photoshopped to look like me, watching.
French's wife publishes a blog at Patheos, and it was attacked as well:
Several different accounts began posting images and GIFs of extreme violence in her comments section. Click on a post and scroll down and you’ll see pictures of black men shooting other black men, close-up images of suicides, GIFs of grisly executions -- the kinds of psyche-scarring things that one can’t “unsee.”
And the threats became even more ominous:
The moment we landed back at home after I declined to run for president, [my wife] turned on her phone to see an e-mail from a Trump fan, a veteran who informed her that he knew the business end of a gun and told her directly that she should shut her mouth or he’d take action.

We contacted law enforcement, she got her handgun-carry permit, and life returned to the new normal of daily Twitter harassment, until the day this month when an angry voice actually broke into a phone conversation between my wife and her elderly father, screaming about Trump and spewing profanities. My wife was on her iPhone. Her father was on a landline.
When French was being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, I mocked the Frenches' Santorumesque cultural values. The Frenches are cultural warriors. They're on one side and I'm on the other. But they don't deserve this.

I know the counterargument: Republicans have spent years getting their base angry, and now they're reaping the whirlwind. In general, I do think conservatism brought this on itself. But that doesn't absolve individuals of responsibility for terroristic threats. Trump has hit this fire with gasoline and accelerants and then whipped out a flamethrower and juiced it some more. Some of the worst people in America are responding. I blame Trump. But I also blame Trumpers who terrorize.

When I read about Team Trump's plans to cast doubt on the election results -- the endless denunciations of the media and pollsters, the cries of "Voter fraud!," the plan by Roger Stone to conduct what will obviously be phony, Drudge-worthy exit polls -- I have to assume that election officials in every swing state that Hillary Clinton wins, as well as election officials in Illinois (because it includes the city the right sees as hell on earth, Chicago), are at risk of being subject to the same things David French and other Trump opponents have endured. After that, as I've said before, it's going to happen to Clinton electors around the time of the Electoral College vote.

As a society, we're not even half-trying to get a handle on this sort of abuse. Women who are highly visible online have known all about it for years. Now journalists who've written less-than-flattering Trump stories know. And add conservative Trump critics to the list. The list will get longer next month, and maybe beyond.


The New York Post expects this story to fill its readers with glee:
Hillary Clinton’s security detail laughed when she broke her elbow

Hillary Clinton’s security detail hated her so much that they privately snickered after she accidentally fell and broke her arm when she was secretary of state in 2009, one of her former guards told the Post.

Clinton, then 61, was in the State Department basement on her way to meet President Obama when she took a spill -- and ended up in the hospital for an operation to repair her shattered right elbow.

“We sort of got the last laugh. It was kind of like payback: You’re treating us like s--t. Hey karma is a bitch! We were smiling to ourselves,” the agent told The Post on Wednesday.
The Post assumes that you're happy to relive her injury and that you share the security detail's contempt, because you've read the many previous stories peddled in conservative media about Hillary's unpleasantness to those who protect her. Are these stories true? Do the tale-tellers have an ax to grind? We don't know. Do we want people protecting our top government officials who are going to laugh when something bad happens to protectees they don't like, and then tattle to the press? I don't think so, but maybe that's just me.

Clinton's reputation for this sort of thing is based in part on anecdotes, many of them hard to believe, collected in First Family Detail, a book by Ronald Kessler, a reporter who's maintained a respectable reputation despite his many years working for the less-than-reputable Newsmax. A 2015 story in (again) the New York Post gives us a taste of Kessler's work on Clinton in that book:
“Good morning, ma’am,” a member of the uniformed Secret Service once greeted Hillary Clinton.

“F-- off,” she replied.
Sorry -- right there you've lost me, Ron. I don't believe that.
“Hillary didn’t like the military aides wearing their uniforms around the White House,” one former agent remembers. “She asked if they would wear business suits instead. The uniform’s a sign of pride, and they’re proud to wear their uniform. I know that the military was actually really offended by it.”
Too perfect.

In a Washington Post review of an earlier Kessler book about the Secret Service, James Banford wrote:
Trashing their motto, these agents seem to relish throwing dirt on their former protectees, especially Democrats....

The busy, self-important agents also disliked tardiness, which is one reason they couldn't stand Bill Clinton or Al Gore. Former agent Dave Saleeba waited impatiently for Vice President Gore one day, only to discover him "eating a muffin at the pool." The book's inane and endless anecdotes never rise much higher.

A conservative lot, the agents found President Ronald Reagan "a down-to-earth individual;" his successor, George H.W. Bush, "a great man, just an all around nice person"; and George W. Bush "down to earth, caring." Agents, Kessler says, loved to "chop wood" with the younger Bush and appreciated "the fact that Bush is punctual." Otherwise, apparently, they might have been forced to fire him.
Maybe I shouldn't blame Kessler or the New York Post -- maybe these protectors really are "a conservative lot" and will just say anything to trash a Clinton, especially one running for president. We did get this story at the beginning of the week:
State Department security personnel so disliked Hillary Clinton that many left the agency or asked to be reassigned, according to FBI documents released Monday.
So the FBI confirms this? Well, no, not exactly: One disgruntled agent says it's true.
“[Redacted] explained that CLINTON’s treatment of DS agents on her protective detail was so contemptuous that many of them sought reassignment or employment elsewhere,” the FBI documents state.

“Prior to CLINTON’s tenure, being an agent on the Secretary of State’s protective detail was seen as an honor and privilege reserved for senior agents. However, by the end of CLINTON’s tenure, it was staffed largely with new agents because it was difficult to find senior agents willing to work for her,” the interview summary states.
So based on all this backstairs whispering, the idea of Hillary Clinton breaking her elbow is supposed to bring a smile to our faces.

And that's the mindset that led to Donald Trump's caustic performance last night at the Al Smith dinner. Presidential candidates, even those who've expressed contempt for each other, are supposed to show up at the dinner and engage in good-natured ribbing, mixed with a bit of self-deprecation. Trump refused to do that and paid a price:
Donald Trump was booed Thursday night at the annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner after delivering a series of jabs at his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, including trying to riff on a controversial remark he made at the latest presidential debate about her being a "nasty woman." ...

Trump, who spoke first, tried at first to keep things light-hearted, but quickly turned to harsh criticism about Clinton, who he described as “corrupt.” His remarks drew boos from the crowd, unprecedented for the event in the memories of observers.

“Hillary believes it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy. And a totally different policy in private. That's okay,” he said, to boos from the crowd. “I don't know who they're angry at, Hillary, you or I? For example, here she is tonight in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.”
Many of the jokes weren't even jokes:
He wondered aloud how someone like Mrs. Clinton ... could sell herself to the American people. “What’s her pitch?” he asked. “The economy is busted, the government’s corrupt, Washington is failing. Vote for me.”
But if, like Donald Trump, you live in the right-wing media bubble where anecdotes about Clinton's personal and professional awfulness are lovingly collected and traded like rare baseball cards, you begin to assume that everyone despises her and just wants something awful to happen to her, whether it's a barrage of insults untouched by humor or, perhaps, a physical injury.

Outside the bubble of conservative anger, that's in bad taste. Inside it, there'd be cheers if she suffered more.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


This doesn't surprise me:
Republican primary voters strongly backed Donald Trump for the presidential nomination, but the party is far less sure if it wants him to lead the GOP if he loses in November.

When asked in the latest Bloomberg Politics poll who should be the face of the party nationally in the event of a Hillary Clinton victory, likely voters who are or lean Republican splintered down a list of five options.

A plurality, 27 percent, picked vice presidential nominee Mike Pence. Trump got 24 percent, ahead of Texas Senator Ted Cruz at 19 percent, House Speaker Paul Ryan at 15 percent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich at 10 percent.

So I guess Trumpism is only a cult religion for about a quarter of the GOP. The rest of the Republican base likes Trump only as long as he's winning -- if he lose, 86 him and find somebody else -- maybe Pence, the only Republican in recent months who's been credited in some quarters with getting the better of a Democrat.

Kos looks at these numbers and overthinks them:
I’ve long tracked the split of the GOP into its three warring factions -- establishment, religious right, and Tea Party.

... Mike Pence (a quarter) represents the religious right, Donald Trump represents the Tea Party deplorables (a quarter), and Paul Ryan-John Kasich represents the establishment (a quarter). Ted Cruz is an odd duck, ingratiating himself with both the Tea Party and theocratic wings of his party....

Based on these numbers and those of the primary, the numbers shake out to about 40 percent Tea Party, 30 percent religious right, and 25 percent establishment. (The last 5 percent are inconsequential libertarian types, think Ron Paul.) ...

But even that doesn’t fully explain the balance of power....
Okay, enough. This all seems carefully thought out, and it probably does describe the divisions that will manifest themselves in the 2020 Republican primaries.

But until then, Republicans, for the most part, aren't going to be fighting with one another. Republicans are going to be fighting with Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the mainstream media, pro-choice women, gay people, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, low-wage workers who want a minimum-wage increase ... you know, the usual Antichrists. They're not going to fuss over ideology. They'll just want to rally around whoever appears capable of kicking their enemies' asses.

That could even be Paul Ryan, if he survives as Speaker and is willing to be maximally intransigent, as (possibly) the head of the only part of the federal government Republicans still control. GOP voters are wary of him now, but they'll love him if he's blocking every Clinton initiative and giving his blessing to every imaginable investigation of the new president's alleged wrongdoings, past and present.

Do GOP voters care which wing of the party their new standard-bearer comes from? No. We've been hearing since the Tea Party days that the angry Republican base doesn't care about the religious right's issues anymore -- but start talking about wedding cakes for gay couples or transgender bathroom rights and all of a sudden the folks who were supposedly post-Christian conservative were rallying around the likes of Kim Davis, just because she was infuriating liberals.

Don't they hate the billionaire class now? Well, besides the fact that they nominated a billionaire for president, there hasn't been a word of protest in response to the Trump tax plan, which is extraordinarily billionaire-friendly.

Don't they hate foreign entanglements? You tell me. Do Republican voters cheer Trump because he (eventually) opposed the Iraq War, or do they cheer him because he wants to destroy jihadist movements via torture, plunder, and other war crimes? The answer: both of these things are true. They cheer whoever infuriates their enemies (Trump's anti-war talk infuriates the Republican establishment, which the base hates now because it hasn't overturned Obamacare, repealed gay marriage, jailed Hillary Clinton, and exiled Barack Obama to Kenya). Remember, they also lustily cheered Jeb Bush -- probably for the only time in his campaign -- when he defended his warmonger brother at a debate last fall.

There's no ideological logic to any of this. GOP base voters just want a winner -- and a conqueror. They want to see us crushed underfoot. They don't care who does it, or how. Donald Trump? Julian Assange? Vladimir Putin? It doesn't matter. Ideology doesn't matter -- just the promise of victory.


Most of us recognize that at last night's debate Donald Trump dug the hole he's in a little deeper, but there seems to be a disagreement as to what hurt Trump most. Journalists and political insiders think it was this:
A defiant Donald Trump used the high-profile setting of the final presidential debate here Wednesday night to amplify one of the most explosive charges of his candidacy: that if he loses the election, he might consider the results illegitimate because the process is rigged.

Questioned directly as to whether he would accept the outcome should Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton prevail on Nov. 8, Trump demurred. “I will keep you in suspense,” the Republican nominee said.
Trump did hurt himself with that, but I think he would have alienated much of the debate audience -- especially women -- even if that question had never come up. Near the end of the debate, I spotted this on Twitter from a female journalist:

That struck a nerve for me because for much of last night I was one of the men who thought Trump was, alas, doing reasonably well. I never said that on Twitter, but near the end of the second debate I tweeted that the consensus would be that it was a draw. Probably because I'm not a woman, I completely missed the fact that so many women had a visceral reaction to the way Trump loomed over Clinton in that debate. In this one, he wasn't able to walk around, but he still tried to instill fear in Clinton. It doesn't matter that he had little success -- just the attempt to do that was off-putting.

I'm not saying that all men missed the point and all women got it. Here's a man (a New York Times colleague of Roller's) who got it:

On the other hand, there was Amy Chozick of the Times, who wrote this (with Michael Barbaro), seemingly as an application for Maureen Dowd's job whenever Dowd decides her column-writing days are over:
She mansplained him. “Let me translate that if I can,” Hillary Clinton said dryly after Donald J. Trump talked up his tax plan.

She interrupted him. When Mr. Trump boasted of the gilded Las Vegas hotel that bears his name, Mrs. Clinton leaned into her microphone. “Made with Chinese steel,” she quipped with a smile.

She mocked him. After Mr. Trump said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had “no respect” for her, Mrs. Clinton slyly posited why Mr. Putin seemingly preferred Mr. Trump: “He’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States,” she said.

In the third and final presidential debate, Mrs. Clinton outmaneuvered Mr. Trump with a surprising new approach: his.

Flipping the script, she turned herself into his relentless tormentor, condescending to him repeatedly and deploying some of his own trademark tactics against him.

The relatively subdued and largely defanged Republican nominee who showed up onstage at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was a different figure from the candidate America has watched for the past 16 months.

Mr. Trump was, for much of the night, oddly calm and composed. He minimized his name-calling. His interruptions were relatively rare for him.
No, that's not what happened. Trump was more subdued than expected, especially in the first twenty minutes or so of the debate, but then the tranquilizers wore off his temper resurfaced and he was his old self again.

And Clinton is not like Trump. Clinton doesn't menace. Clinton doesn't try to intimidate. An opponent who was minimally socialized could have had an exchange with her that would have been called "sharp" or "heated" or "barbed," but wouldn't have descended into a pre-adolescent battle for dominance. Trump, however, always keeps it at the grade-school level.

And I haven't even gotten to this:
... Clinton's dig at [Trump] while talking about the Social Security payroll tax apparently pushed him over the edge.

Clinton said her payroll taxes would go up, and so would Trump's, unless he found a way to avoid it....

The GOP nominee then leaned into his microphone and interrupted, "such a nasty woman."

It was a moment that stunned even observers inured to Trump's often brutal rhetoric.
For viewers who aren't political insiders, especially women, I think that had more impact than the talk about a rigged election. It's the Q.E.D. for everything Trump critics have said about his temperament, especially the deep, deep misiogyny.


On the subject of Trump's threat not to accept the election results, we have to remember that he's not just talking about vote fraud. If he sincerely believes that the voting is manipulated in such a way as to deny him a victory that's rightfully his, that's a case he has the right to make, and he's entitled to try to prove it (even though there's no reason to believe he can). However, Trump's notion of a rigged election goes way beyond voter fraud:
Wallace: ... I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you'll absolutely accept the result of the election.

Trump: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I'll look at it at the time. What I've seen, what I’ve seen, is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt and the pile on is so amazing. "The New York Times" actually wrote an article about it, but they don't even care. It is so dishonest, and they have poisoned the minds of the voters.
He seems to be saying that the election is rigged because the press publishes stories he doesn't like.

And then:
Trump: Excuse me, Chris. If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote. Millions. This isn't coming from me. This is coming from Pew report and other places. Millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote. So let me just give you one other thing. I talk about the corrupt media. I talk about the millions of people. I'll tell you one other thing. She shouldn't be allowed to run. It’s -- She's guilty of a very, very serious crime. She should not be allowed to run, and just in that respect I say it's rigged because she should never --

Wallace: But, but --

Trump: Chris. She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with e-mails and so many other things.
So it's a rigged election because people who have died or moved are still on the voter rolls where they used to vote -- never mind the fact that there's no evidence that "millions" of people try to take advantage of this. And it's a rigged election because Hillary Clinton was allowed to run for president.

So there is no outcome -- not even a fifty-state, 61%-39% Clinton landslide -- that could meet all of Trump's criteria for a fair election. No election that includes Clinton could be fair. No election in which the press criticizes Trump could be fair.

That will be frightening if the election is anything less than a blowout. But it looks as if it's going to be a blowout, so Trump will strain credulity if he declares the results fraudulent on the night of November 8. And he absolutely will. We know from three debates that he has no idea how he comes off to non-admirers. As long as he believes he's scaring people, he assumes he's doing the right thing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Donald Trump's presidential campaign is a mess, his stunts and rhetoric are severely damaging his standing in the polls, and most of America wouldn't be surprised if he spat on Hillary Clinton tonight or tried to punch her in the mouth.

And yet the media has decided that it's Clinton who needs to be concerned about her performance tonight. Here's Rick Klein of ABC News:
Could it be that there’s actually more pressure on Hillary Clinton at the final debate than on Donald Trump? ... Clinton is now less than three weeks away from being elected president, barring a stunning collapse. Acting like that means not just rebutting and attacking Trump but going broad, reminding voters of her promise, not just her opponent’s weaknesses. There’s an opportunity if not an urgency for her to use the final presidential debate to appear downright presidential.
An urgency? Because if she doesn't ... what? She'll beat Trump by 7 rather than by double digits? She'll win just under 350 electoral votes rather than 350-plus?

Oh, sorry -- this is about the country. Howard Fineman explains that America is going to hell in a handbasket, and if that doesn't change, it's all Hillary's fault:
Unlike the first two presidential debates, the third one, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is all about Hillary Clinton. And she has more than the usual simple burden of trying to win an election.

Perhaps it’s unfair -- politics is unfair -- but the state of the country and its tattered politics requires that the Democratic nominee do more than just eke out a victory.

Clinton has to win BIG, so she can at least have the chance to protect public trust in the machinery of elections, in the ability of the federal government to function, and in the credibility of American democracy.

She has to close the sale, on her own terms and on her own behalf.

If she doesn’t -- if she performs poorly in Wednesday’s debate and in the last three weeks of the campaign -- she risks a close result that could leave GOP nominee Donald Trump wounded but unbowed, and unwilling to accept the results of the Election Day count.

If she doesn’t, as president she will face a once-again divided government in Washington with no mandate and no power to deal.
Oh, please. Even if Clinton could wins all 50 states and every electoral vote, Trump would still insist that the election was rigged, and millions of his cultists would agree with him. In fact, I predict he's going to say the size of her victory is precisely why we should think the election was rigged. (Crooked Hillary got 57% of the vote? Big deal -- in North Korea, Kim Jong-un gets 99% of the vote!)

And let's not put all the blame on Trump -- even if Democrats manage to win back the House as well as the Senate, Republicans are going to hunker down for yet another round of obstruction-by-any-means-necessary, just the way they did after Barack Obama's big victory in 2008. Hillary Clinton can't do anything about that. That's the GOP's nature. That's who Republicans are. That's what Republican voters demand.

But beyond having to clean up all the damage done to America (and about to be done) by Trump, the GOP, and Republican voters, Clinton, we're told, must prepare for the possible appearance tonight of a person who doesn't exist: Nice Donald Trump. That's according to Aaron Kall of USA Today:
Clinton must also be on guard for a Hail Mary of a completely different variety. Trump could announce he will serve as president for only a term, paving a quicker path for Mike Pence. He could pledge a multimillion-dollar donation to Planned Parenthood or another women’s group. Anything is possible and tens of millions of Americans will be watching to see how Clinton handles this final faceoff with a nominee like no other.
Why is every political journalist in America besotted with the idea of a presidential candidate announcing plans to serve only one term? It never happens, and yet there's always speculation about it, even though there's absolutely no evidence that voters would care.

And in the case of Trump, why would it matter? If you think Trump is an impulsive man-baby with a hair-trigger temper, do you seriously believe the damage he could do to the country would be slow in developing? Do you think he's going to set schemes in motion that will take more than four years to do harm? He's going to be a national and global menace fast. And the worst bills he'll sign from the GOP Congress will come in the first year.

But I really love the notion that he's going to have a sudden attack of thoughtfulness: Here's an idea: Even though I've been power-mad all my life, why don't I undergo a complete personality transplant and agree to give up the presidency after one term? And never mind the fact that I have idiot right-wing evangelicals wrapped around my finger with this "pro-life justices" talk -- why don't I do a complete 180 on reproductive rights and lose half my fan base? Yeah, that's plausible.

But hey, Hillary, I suppose all of this could happen, so, while you're singlehandedly saving America from messes other people created, be prepared for this 0.000001% possibility.


I know I shouldn't be an arrogant East Coast elitist whose image of Deep Red America is based on clichés -- but some news stories, like this one from northwest Florida (you know, the part that's due south of Alabama and Georgia), make those clichés seem awfully close to the truth:
Gun disappears after being used as wedding prop

An AR-15 that was used as a photo prop for a Saturday wedding in Laurel Hill was taken from the owner's vehicle over the weekend.

The Crestview man told Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office deputies that he left his car unlocked for a period of time during the event....
To be fair, the wedding photographer says it's the first time he's ever seen a firearm used as a wedding-photo prop. But where I come from, there'd never be a first time -- the use of an assault weapon in wedding photos just wouldn't happen. I guess that means these northwest Floridians are Real Americans and we're not.

This story was found at Free Republic, where you regularly see this graphic:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Even if you accept Donald Trump's own notions about what constitutes an excellent campaign move, this makes no sense:
President Obama’s Kenyan-born, half-brother Malik will be in the audience in Las Vegas Wednesday night when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton square off in their third and final debate.

Malik -- an American citizen who lives in Washington, DC, when he’s not in Kenya -- says he will be a guest of Trump....

Malik agrees with Trump that the mainstream media is biased, and he dismisses the women who claim Trump kissed or groped them without their permission....

Malik also blasted Clinton’s performance as secretary of the State Department for exacerbating the chaos and violence in the Mideast. Malik said ousted Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy had been a good friend. “Check out the situation in Libya now,” he said.
Trump, obviously, has done a godawful job of running a general election campaign. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that there's some value in continually motivating the base with nasty insults and conspiracy theories. Let's accept his logic when he concluded that inviting women who've accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault to Debate #2 would rattle Hillary, or that he'd get under her skin by describing her as frail and sickly. Obviously, none of this has actually worked for him, but it's kept some voters loyal to him at least, and the debate stunt and some of the insults must have been somewhat unsettling to Clinton (although she's managed the chaos like a Zen master).

But what the hell is the point of this? Malik is the brother of the current president, not (let's just say it) the next one. I didn't know until I read the link that he'd criticized Clinton at all. It's infantile to keep looking for psych-outs, but this won't even work as a psych-out. It's just a nod to the Breitbart base -- the only people who probably have any idea who Malik is -- and it works for them only because all of their hatreds are eternally present, so seeing an Obama (even an Obama who's critical of the better-known one) hits a hate pleasure center as surely as yelling "Bill Clinton's a rapist!" at a Democratic rally does.

At this point, Trump, presumably under Steve Bannon's influence, is just rummaging through the wingnut anger archives and pulling out random bits and pieces. Maybe at the debate he'll forget who his opponent is and start ranting about golf and returned Winston Churchill busts -- or reach back in time and attack Jimmy Carter or Ted Kennedy or Sean Penn or the Dixie Chicks. It's all one big Antichrist, after all, isn't it?


UPDATE: I forgot I wrote a post about Malik Obama a few months ago, when he made the front page of the New York Post after endorsing Trump (and criticizing Hillary). He was being praised by the right then even though, as I noted, conservatives had previously described him as pro-terrorism. (Jerome Corsi at World Net Daily: "Malik Obama’s oversight of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international investments is one reason for the Obama administration’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to an Egyptian report...") That's Trump's guest.


I keep thinking about Melania Trump's much-maligned defense of her husband, in her interview yesterday with CNN's Anderson Cooper:
Melania Trump defended Donald Trump in her first interview since the Republican nominee faced allegations of sexual misconduct, calling those accusations "lies" and saying Trump was "egged on" into "boy talk" during a 2005 tape in which he made lewd comments about women....

"I heard many different stuff -- boys talk," she said. "The boys, the way they talk when they grow up and they want to sometimes show each other, 'Oh, this and that' and talking about the girls. But yes, I was surprised, of course."
"It's kind of two teenage boys -- actually they should behave better, right?" she said to Anderson Cooper on CNN as he interrupted her to say the real-estate mogul was 59 at the time of the 2005 tape. "Correct. I sometimes have said I have two boys at home: I have my young son, and I have my husband."
I like Amanda Marcotte's take:

But I wonder whether this is a major point for Trump supporters. When we talk about the Trump phenomenon, sometimes we talk about racism and the desire to turn the clock back to a time when white control was largely unchallenged; at other times, we talk about the Trumpers' fear of globalism and economic dislocation.

But I wonder if Trumpism is just about wanting the right to act out like a self-absorbed little boy.

I think hate is key to Trumpism, but I wonder whether any similar movement has ever been as much of a big party as Trumpism is. Let's wear tasteless shirts that call Hillary Clinton a c**t! Let's make a cartoon frog our avatar of racial purity! Let's scare people online with tasteless gas-chamber jokes!

I'm not sure these people want to be thugs so much as brattish pre-adolescent males -- they want to have fun saying shocking things to offend people and they resent being told that they ought to have consideration for other people's feelings when they speak. They want to annoy and harass females, and have no interest in actually making connections with them, just like fifth-grade boys. They want to play with guns, the ultimate adult toys.

The like the fact that Trump is a big child. That may be one of the things they like about him most of all.

That's just the men, of course. But female Trump supporters seem mostly to be women who like their men rambunctious and unsocialized and fond of big trucks, like boys.

The Trumpers talk about not being "politically correct," but maybe this is all it is: They don't want to grow up.


Another day, another round of "poor, poor Paul Ryan" stories:

Would it be hyperbolic to say that parts of the political press are more upset about Donald Trump's attacks on Paul Ryan than they ever were about his attacks on Mexicans and Muslims?

That's all. I just wanted to put that out there.

Monday, October 17, 2016


John McCain might have spoken without thinking, but I believe what he said:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) suggested Monday that the Republican party’s months-long refusal to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court could extend into the next administration if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

"I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," McCain said on WPHT Philadelphia radio in an interview first flagged by CNN. "I promise you. This is where we need the majority.”
McCain subsequently revised his remarks. However, it wasn't much of a revision:
McCain's office walked his remarks back hours later, saying he would vote for individual nominees based on their record and experience.

"Senator McCain believes you can only judge people by their record and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees," communications director Rachael Dean told TPM in a statement. "That being said, Senator McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career."
Translation: Sure, Republicans will consider Hillary's nominees, but they're certain to be so left-wing and radical that our only choice will be to reject them.

Even before this year, I never thought a Republican Senate would approve a Supreme Court pick from President Obama -- I'm certain he'd have been stonewalled in 2015 the way he was this year, with a different excuse substituting for "It's an election year" -- and I don't expect things will be any better for Hillary Clinton if the GOP holds the Senate, because Republican will assume she's coming into office unliked and with no mandate. I don't any Republicans to vote for any Clinton Supreme Court pick, ever.

I just hope a Democratic Senate majority will be enough to get her picks approved. I'm sure Democrats will need to abolish the filibuster for the High Court in order to get any pick past the Republicans -- but even then I assume the Republicans will try to humiliate Clinton with a defeat. Remember, a lot of red-state Democratic senators will be up for reelection in 2018, including the two most conservative, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. I assume the Republicans will run a ton of "call your senator" ads in the home states of Manchin and Heitkamp, pointing out that Clinton's appointee -- whoever it is, and whatever that person's record might be -- is shockingly "extreme" on guns or LGBT right or acknowledging that climate change exists (war on fossil fuels!).

It might not work, but the GOP will do it anyway. Obstructionism thrills the Republican base almost as much as a Trump speech, and it makes moderate voters just give up on politics altogether. It's an excellent way for the GOP to get ready for the midterms.

And remember, the Republican base literally believes that the next Democratic Supreme Court justice will abolish Christianity in America and mandate total gun confiscation. If a justice is approved, every incumbent Republican senator is at risk of a primary challenge. So they're not going to go down without a vicious fight.


We were told last summer that this could happen, and now it really might:
Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has reportedly contacted a top dealmaker in the media industry within the past couple of months about creating a Trump television network, the Financial Times reported.

Kushner and Aryeh Bourkoff, the founder and chief executive of LionTree, a boutique investment ban[k], reportedly had a short conversation regarding the possibility of setting up a Trump television network following the presidential election.
I guess I'm supposed to be amused by this. Raw Story's response is a piece titled "How Excruciatingly Bad Will Trump TV Be? Here’s the Deplorable Cable News Channel’s Likely Lineup." (Sample: "Rudy Awakening: Disgraced former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani darkens up your morning by screaming into a camera for a straight hour about the Muslims who are about to slaughter you and take your children as sex slaves at any minute.")

Meanwhile, a gray eminence of journalism tweets this:

Yeah, maybe Democrats will win a few more elections if Trump TV is keeping Republican voters crazy. And maybe the programming will seem ridiculous to any rational viewer (though it's a lot easier to laugh at that imagined Giuliani program if you're not Muslim).

I'm dreading Trump TV because I see what the hate speech and conspiracy-mongering of the Trump campaign are doing to America. We've been thinking that perhaps fewer Hispanic kids will be mocked with chants of "Build that wall!" after November 8. We've been hoping that Election Day is the last time we hear the chant "Lock her up!" We see polls telling us that 41% of Americans think the election could be "stolen" from Trump.

And we'd prefer being bombarded with the Trump campaign's message indefinitely?

It's bad enough that Fox News and talk radio have for years provided heartland whites with a 24/7 self-pity party, as they rail about how evil cultural elitists are spitting on them at every opportunity (while mostly ignoring the economic elitists, some of them born-again Christian Texans in string ties, whose lobbying and business practices are really what's screwing them). It's bad enough that Alex Jones makes his audience insane and stupid day and night.

We need more of that? We need Fox on steroids, on cable TV day and night? With an extra helping of alt-right racism, Trumpian sexual brutality, and Jonesian conspiracy-slinging, all of it looking legit because it's on slick, high-production-value TV?

We need well-funded encouragement for this sort of thinking after November 8?

No, thanks. I don't care if Trump TV loses the next presidential election for the GOP. It would be extremely bad for America -- the Trump campaign in your face, forever. I want it never to get off the ground, and if it does launch, I want it to fail spectacularly -- and quickly.


Yesterday on television, Rudy Giuliani was rabble-rousing:
"I'm sorry, dead people generally vote for Democrats rather than Republicans," the former New York City mayor told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." "You want me to (say) that I think the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair? I would have to be a moron to say that."

But he did say the amount of cheating would only impact extremely close races -- noting, for example, if either Trump or Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania by "5 points," the cheating he alleges would occur would be negligible and not change the outcome....

He said elections fraud would only make a difference in a 1 to 2 percentage point races.

He also said that only Democrats do it, because it happens in inner cities.
Here's what Giuliani said specifically, according to the transcript:
GIULIANI: Look, if she wins Illinois by 8 percent or he wins Illinois by 8 percent, then that cheating is going to make any difference.

If he wins Pennsylvania by 5, or she wins by 5, it will make no difference. If it's a one- or two-point race, it could make a difference in a few places.
So, according to Giuliani, a statewide election in Illinois or Pennsylvania that's within 1 or 2 points can be stolen through Democratic electoral fraud.

In that case, why is Mark Kirk a U.S. senator from Illinois? In 2010, he beat Democrat Alexi Giannoulias 48.0%-46.4% -- a 1.6-point margin. Why didn't the evil Democrat machine in Chicago go to the graveyard and find the extra votes to put Giannoulias over the top?

And why is Pat Toomey a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania? In 2010, he beat Democrat Joe Sestak 51%-49% -- a 2-point margin. Why didn't cheating in Philadelphia give Sestak the win?

Here's what Giuliani said about his own experiences:'
GIULIANI: ... I know that from my own knowledge of bussing people in from Camden. When I ran for mayor of New York City the first time, some people voted eight and 10 times. And the second time, I had -- I had firefighters and police officers outside checking on the buses, so we take down the number of the bus. The bus had voted 10 times. And then we wouldn't let the bus vote again.
Is he saying that voters were bused into New York City from Camden, New Jersey? Much of New Jersey is within commuting distance from New York, but Camden isn't -- it's in the southwestern part of the state, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Why the hell would Giuliani's alleged New York City cheaters bus in illegal voters from Camden?

And is he saying that his campaign deployed firefighters and cops to, in effect, stop and frisk these buses? Rudy Giuliani lost his first race for mayor, in 1989. He was a private citizen the second time he ran, in 1993, when he won. Is he saying that even before he was mayor he had a private vigilante squad of cops and firefighters to prevent vote fraud? Is anyone else disturbed by that idea?

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Stephen Hiltner of The New York Times took a motorcycle trip through rural white GOP America ... and was shocked to discover that most of the presidential road signs he saw were for Donald Trump:
I idly recorded those in support of Donald J. Trump until, after the first few days, the number approached 100. I eventually lost count.

Those in support of Hillary Clinton were comparatively easy to keep track of: I traveled nearly 2,500 miles before I saw a single one.

By the end of my trip, I’d spotted a whopping five.
Yes, it does occur to him that he might not be conducting a particularly scientific survey of voter opinion in America:
The lopsided tally is at least partly a consequence of my route. Draw a sagging, squiggly line from Portland, Ore., to Cleveland, and that’s roughly the path I took, riding my 1973 BMW R75/5 mainly on back roads and quiet highways: State Route 14 and U.S. Route 12 in Washington and Idaho, State Route 43 in Montana, U.S.-36 through Kansas and Missouri....

Most of the states I visited -- Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri -- lean Republican, no doubt skewing the yard-sign count in Mr. Trump’s favor. I also spent much of the trip in rural areas, where Mr. Trump has found more support than Mrs. Clinton.
Yet the concept of a representative sample isn't particularly important to him:
Still, the route alone would not fully explain his utter dominance of the pastures, lawns and embankments that formed the margins of my field of vision.
No, you dolt -- the route alone explains it precisely. You were in Trump Country. Before it was Trump Country, it was Romney Country, and McCain Country, and Bush Country.

Here's a county-by-county map of 2012 electoral results. Remember, the red stands for Romney, the guy who lost:

Hiltner's route passes through a lot of red land -- it just doesn't pass though a lot of votes. Hiltner may be unaware of this, but not a lot of people live in rural America. Tiny, blue Massachusetts has eleven times as many people as massive, red Wyoming. (Do we want to break it to Hiltner that blue states such as New York, California, Illinois, and Michigan are even more full of voters than Massachusetts?)

There's one other reason Hiltner might not have seen a lot of Clinton signs on his rural bike trip: fear. I live in a big city, but if I were a rural Democrat, I'm not sure I'd want to put up a Clinton sign. Take another look at that Boston Globe article with the Trump fans threatening intimidation of minority voters at the polls, and talking of a possible violent uprising if their guy doesn't win. Would you want to risk riling these people up if you lived in an area where they're the majority?


Remember the ridiculous election prediction I made on October 8, the day after the Access Hollywood tape was released, when women were just beginning to go public with their tales of being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump? I wrote:
I've been saying for weeks that it'll probably be a 2-point Clinton victory. Now maybe it'll be a 4-point Clinton victory.
Since then, more women have come forth with tales of sexual assault by Trump. His response has been to denounce his accusers as ugly liars before crowds who want the women locked up -- that is, when he's not making dark predictions of a rigged election.

So after all this, how big a blowout is he llkely to face in November, according to a new ABC/Washington Post poll?
... the race ... remains close, a testament to the strong pull of partisan preferences.

The contest stands at 47-43 percent, Clinton-Trump, among likely voters, with 5 percent support for Gary Johnson and 2 percent for the Green Party’s Jill Stein if the election were today.
Yup -- according to this poll, if the election were to be held today, it would be a 4-point Clinton victory.

Many Trump voters are backing him even though they think he did the things he's being accused of, and even though they think he's a bad person in general:
Trump issued a series of statements apologizing for what he said on the video, but nearly 6 in 10 likely voters say they do not think the apology was sincere, including more than one-fifth of Republicans....

... 30 percent of likely voters who support Trump say he doesn’t have a strong moral character.
Trump is a sexual assailant, and his voters don't care:
Two-thirds of registered voters say their preference is not affected by the release of an 11-year-old videotape in which Trump crudely described his sexual advances toward women. The one-third who say it makes them less apt to support him fit the profile of those who were unlikely to do so in the first place.
There will be more accusers, but it won't matter -- Trump voters are dug in. They hate Hillary Clinton and they'll tolerate anything from their candidate if they think he's the only one standing in the way of a Clinton presidency.

I know -- it's just one poll. In most other recent polls, Clinton has a much bigger lead. (A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton with an 11-point lead.) But I think the impact of the sexual allegations crested a couple of days ago. It clearly left a mark, and it's certain to be affecting early voting. But by Election Day it could be background noise.


This poll doesn't ask about Trump's election-fraud conspiracy theories, but we know from a September ABC/Post poll that Trump voters think voter fraud is widespread:
Nearly half of Americans say that voter fraud occurs at least somewhat often according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a viewpoint at odds with studies showing it rarely occurs in U.S. elections....

Over two-thirds of Trump voters say voter fraud occurs often, compared with less than one-third of Clinton supporters.
We've seen polling numbers like this:
In August, Public Policy Polling found 69 percent of Trump voters in North Carolina think Clinton would only win if the election was rigged: 40 percent actually blamed ACORN, which officially disbanded in 2010, as the reason they expected mischief.
There's a lot of concern about a Boston Globe article published yesterday in which Trump followers warn that they're not going to take it lightly if the voting doesn't go their way:
“If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take.... I would do whatever I can for my country.”

... “Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for ... well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”
I think there's going to some intimidation on Election Day, and some violence after the polls close. That's bad enough. But I continue to suspect that Trump won't actually plot a coup intended to overturn the election. Doing that would be very different from running for president -- when you're running for president, there's an obvious series of steps you need to take (win these primaries, win these caucuses). In his shambolic, disorganized way, Trump was able to get through the primaries and run a general election campaign of sorts. If he wants to overturn the election results, I don't think he'll know what steps to take. I worry that Roger Stone and Steve Bannon, who just want to watch the world burn, might be able to lay out an agenda for him. But I don't know if he could manage the follow-through.

But the polls and reports like the Globe story suggest that Trump's voters will be ready if he does make the effort. They're angry. They think the vote is rigged. And they may be keeping the race closer than we thought (though I don't think they'll be any less skeptical about a landslide than about a closer Clinton win).

Other Republicans are going to be the key to all this. When outraged Trumpers start talking about fraud, what will they say? We're supposed to be heartened by Paul Ryan's words on this subject, but I have my doubts:
“Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” Ryan’s press secretary AshLee Strong said in an email to BuzzFeed News when asked about Trump’s claims.
Is he giving himself an out with that talk about "the states"? ("I hoped the states would conduct the election fairly, but Pennsylvania and Colorado look a little hinky...")

Are Ryan and McConnell going to back up Trump and his crazies if they cry fraud? I think they'll feel constrained if Clinton wins in a blowout (so get out and vote for Clinton, dammit). But it's a 4-point race now, and we're one Clinton coughing fit away from a 2-point race. If Clinton's Electoral College margin of victory is based on one or two close states, I don't trust the rest of the GOP not to endorse a coup.