Tuesday, August 30, 2016

GOAL OF TRUMP'S MEXICAN TRIP: INSTANT GRAVITAS? OR WHAT?

This scoop, from Robert Costa and Karen De Young at The Washington Post, is just bizarre:
Donald Trump is considering jetting to Mexico City on Wednesday for a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, just hours before he delivers a high-stakes speech in Arizona to clarify his views on immigration policy, according to people in the United States and Mexico familiar with the discussions.
I heard about this on Rachel Maddow's show before I read the Post story, and I tried to figure out what the hell the Trump people are thinking. Do they want there to be threatening demonstrations in Mexico, so Trump can cancel his trip and say he told us the place is full of thugs who hate us? Does he want to go there and be confronted by angry mobs, just to show how brave he is? (No way. He's not brave.) What's the plan?

Well, according to Costa and De Young, the plan -- which they say came from the rabble-rousing Steve Bannon, not from one of the supposed voices of reason in the Trump inner circle -- is for Trump to look statesmanlike:
Bannon ... made the case ... that Trump must underscore his populist immigration views in the final weeks of the general-election campaign, perhaps with an audacious gesture.

Peña Nieto’s invitation was brought up, and Bannon said it offered Trump an opening to make headlines and showcase himself as a statesman who could deal directly with Mexico.

Trump was intrigued by Bannon’s proposal and agreed....
And I think that really is it. At LifeZette -- the online journal of Trump insider and immigration hardliner Laura Ingraham -- we read this:
For Trump ... it would reaffirm his willingness to sit down at the table with everyone -- even those who have spoken ill of him or America. A sit down with the Mexican president would highlight his calling card as a dealmaker and a serious negotiator genuinely interested in building a strong, yet equitable, relationship with America’s neighbor to the south.
But Trump obviously isn't going to come away with an agreement that Mexico will pay for the wall. The meeting might be civil, but, as Univision's Jorge Ramos notes, Peña Nieto has to show some backbone, for domestic political reasons:



What's the thinking here? That Trump's hardline voter base will stick with him even as he appears to be "softening" again, while suburban GOP moderates will just swoon and return to the fold based on a brief moment of insta-diplomacy? (Costa and De Young say that Trump plans to squeeze this meeting in between some California fundraisers in the morning and an Arizona speech on immigration in the evening, so there's not going to be time for a hell of a lot of substance.)

Or does Trump want Peña Nieto to be rude to him? Yes, Peña Nieto extended an invitation to Trump a couple of weeks ago, but he compared Trump to Hitler and Mussolini back in March. Is that the plan?

I don't think so. I think there's a bizarre belief in Trump World that he can be sold as a statesman. That LifeZette story goes on to say:
Trump’s outreach to African-American voters in the nation’s crumbling inner cities is an already powerful testament to the candidate’s willingness to try to change minds against steep odds. A Peña Nieto summit would further cast Trump as a leader willing to face headwinds to bring about greater unity.
They really think we're going to buy this. They think we'll believe that Trump the trash talker is now a mature, thoughtful man we'd be proud to have as president.

Then again, the mainstream media -- the Chuck Todds and Chris Cillizzas -- will probably swallow this BS. So maybe it's not so crazy.

REPUBLICANS LOSE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS BECAUSE THEY RUN THE WINNERS OF REPUBLICAN PRIMARIES

In The New York Times, Lynn Vavreck argues that Republicans would be winning this presidential election easily if their candidate wasn't Donald Trump:
[One] way to see what is being called the Trump Tax is to look at polling’s generic ballot question: It asks people whether they would vote for the Democrat or the Republican, with no declaration of the identity of those people....

From autumn 2015 to spring 2016, the Republican was beating the Democrat in the generic ballot question. In January 2016, for example, the spread was seven points -- 39 percent for the Democrat and 46 percent for the Republican. As it became clear that Mr. Trump would be the nominee, the pattern changed and the Democratic candidate went ahead. By the end of July, the Democrat had 44 percent and the Republican 36 percent.

One way to view this reversal is as the price for nominating Mr. Trump.

Vavreck thinks that the GOP did better on this question when voters could imagine a candidate other than Trump being the Republican nominee. That's probably true.

But that doesn't mean that this is specifically a Trump problem. For most of 2011, a generic Republican was doing very well against Barack Obama, according to Gallup:



But then an actual Republican won the nomination -- Mitt Romney -- and Barack Obama won rather easily.

Here's the problem with the generic ballot question: Based on GOP propaganda eagerly retransmitted by the mainstream media, voters are led to believe that a generic Republican is a nice, responsible, reasonable-seeming right-centrist. What actually happens in Republican presidential primaries is that a nominee is chosen who's not nice or reasonable, or at least is doing a convincing job of persuading Republican voters that he's not nice or reasonable.

Republican voters despise niceness or reasonableness. They want someone who'll wrest America back from the usurpers who they believe have stolen it. They want someone who opposes abortion, despises non-white users of public assistance, rails against undocumented immigrants, rattles sabers, sneers at climate change, and promises to lavish tax cuts on the rich while suspending regulations on business. That's what Mitt Romney was as a presidential candidate in 2012, even though he actually was a right-centrist for a while when he was governor of Massachusetts. That's what Donald Trump is now.

I believe that John Kasich or Marco Rubio could have been really tough for Hillary Clinton to beat this year. But notice that neither one of them came close to winning the Republican primaries. The reason is simple: Neither one seemed nasty enough. If Donald Trump hadn't run, his runner-up, Ted Cruz, probably would have won the nomination, because he was the biggest hard-ass. Four years ago, Mitt Romney's runners-up were Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

These are the kinds of people who win Republican presidential nominations. They bear no resemblance to the mythic version of Republicanism we're sold in the media. So of course actual GOP nominees underperform their generic counterparts.

TRUMP IS UNPREDICTABLE? SERIOUSLY?

The New York Times has a pretty good story about Hillary Clinton's debate prep (and Donald Trump's lack of it). I think it's good that Clinton's preparation has been thorough -- she knows how to master issues and debate them with fellow policy wonks, but a lot of Americans (including many A-list journalists) dislike her and don't want a woman, much less a wonky woman, to outdebate the high school football hero. Tony Schwartz, who wrote The Art of the Deal for Trump and has now turned against him, is helping Clinton prepare; he says,
“Clinton has to be careful -- she could get everything right and still potentially lose the debates if she comes off as too condescending, too much of a know-it-all.”
I don't think he's being sexist -- I thik he's acknowledging the reality of sexism (and American anti-elitism). This is a challenge for Clinton.

I have one quibble I have with the Times story -- I don't agree with this:
Mr. Trump said in the interview that he would “rather not” attack Mrs. Clinton on personal grounds, including Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs.

“If she hits me, though -- you have to see what happens,” Mr. Trump said.

It was this unpredictability that often made Mr. Trump an elusive target for fellow Republicans in the primary debates....
Trump's fellow Republicans didn't struggle in debates with him because he was unpredictable. They struggled because they couldn't attack him on issues or style, for the obvious reason that his approach to issues (simple-minded, alternately punitive and grandiose) and style (bullying, vindictive) were precisely what Republican primary voters craved. Voters in the GOP primaries wanted to believe that all of America's problems could be solved by a hostile guy at the end of the bar just making stuff up, and intimidating anyone who challenged him. They wanted to believe that everything in America will be fine if evil, mostly darker-skinned people are just ground into the dust under a strongman's boot -- and they enjoyed watching Trump play the role of that strongman, imagining that every time he was cruel to a fellow candidate he was modeling how pitilessly he'd treat terrorists or Mexicans. Trump's opponents couldn't beat him because he was precisely what their party wanted.

Trump isn't what America as a whole wants -- maybe 45% of America (if we're lucky), but not a majority -- so that's an advantage Clinton will have. But she knows he'll be a bully in the debates. Everyone knows that. It's just not clear precisely how, or what her best response will be.

Monday, August 29, 2016

PASTOR BURNS'S FAVORITE CARTOONIST IS CONSISTENTLY TERRIBLE

I imagine you already know about this:
Pastor Mark Burns, an African-American supporter of Donald Trump who has been defending the candidate's recent outreach to minority voters in the media, tweeted a cartoon Monday of Hillary Clinton in blackface, mocking her outreach to black voters.



Burns has now deleted the tweet and apologized for it. But who would draw such an awful cartoon?

The catoonist is A.F. Branco, whose website is -- I'm sure this name will shock you with its originality and wit -- ComicallyIncorrect.com. Branco's work appears at the blog Legal Insurrection (you know, the place where a few years ago there was a to-do about Barack Obama's fondness for eliist dijon mustard), as well as at Ammoland. You can get a book of Branco cartoons. You can buy Branco birthday cards. Branco is cited by Fox News on a regular basis.

And he's terrible. How terrible? This terrible:



This terrible:



And here is even more terribleness:







And then there's this "serious" work:



This print of conservative artist A.F. Branco's painting Freedom's Battle visualizes the very real battle between freedom and tyranny. Communism, as depicted by hands holding the Communist hammer and sickle, is pulling at the very fabric of America, while freedom, symbolized by the American Eagle, grasps the flag in an attempt to keep it from the holds of communism.
Whoa, deep!

This is what folks on the other end of the political spectrum think is brilliant political commentary. I throw up my hands.

(Deleted tweet via Raw Story.)

WEINERGATE REDUX IS NOT NECESSARILY A WIN FOR THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

So now we know that last year Anthony Weiner tweeted a crotch shot to a woman who's an NRA-supporting Donald Trump fan while his toddler son was next to him. The New York Post broke the story. Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, has had enough and has announced that the couple is separating.

Bad news for the campaign of the woman Abedin advises, Hillary Clinton? Sure, I suppose -- at least for the moment.

Excellent news for Donald Trump? I don't think so.

Consider this tweet from an accounting parodying the Associated Press:



Trump has yet to tweet about this. Trump is probably under strict orders not to tweet about this. But I don't think the campaign can keep him quiet on this subject forever, either on Twitter or in his speech ad libs. We're eventually going to get more from him than this, a written statement that probably originated with the candidate but clearly went out only after the roughest edges had been beveled off:
“Huma is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.

“I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information,” he continued. “Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.”
(Yeah, Donald, he might have passed missile secrets on to this Trump supporter he was sexting with, who might have passed them on to your Putin-friendly campaign.)

That national-security angle probably works with Trump's base. It don't think it will work with the voters Clinton is targeting -- her base voters and moderate suburban Republican women. To a lot of people outside the Trump base, this will be a human story. Abedin is a repeatedly wronged wife who made a heroic effort to keep her marriage together and just now reached her breaking point. That makes her a sympathetic figure. That makes her similar to Hillary Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.

Can Trump restrain himself from kicking Abedin when she's down? Can he resist the temptation to go down this road?



Maybe heartland white men won't feel this way, but much of the rest of America is going to want Huma Abedin to bounce back from this without jeers and catcalls from the GOP presidential candidate and the right-wing media. I suspect Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump get this. I suspect their candidate doesn't. We'll see who ultimately controls the message from Trump World. And we'll see whether the conservative press can avoiding making Abedin even more sympathetic.

POLITICO ACCUSES DONALD TRUMP OF FORETHOUGHT

I find the headline of this Politico story unconvincing:
Trump’s new aim: Poison a Clinton presidency
It suggests that, politically, Trump is playing a long game. Do you believe that? Do you believe Donald Trump is capable of playing a long game?

From the story:
The trick out of Brooklyn isn't just to make Hillary Clinton win but to make her win as something other than a brain-damaged crook who stole the election and will spend the next four years selling out the government from her deathbed.

The Clinton de-legitimization project is now central to Donald Trump’s campaign and such a prime component of right-wing media that it’s already seeped beyond extremist chatrooms into “lock her up” chants on the convention floor, national news stories debating whether polls actually can be rigged, and voters puzzling over that photo they think they saw of her needing to be carried up the stairs....

“We are already seeing an effort by the Trumpsters to undermine Hillary's presidency before it has even begun,” said longtime Clinton confidant Paul Begala.
I don't buy the notion that Trump has given up on winning the race and is now concentrating on destroying Clinton's presidency before it starts. I may be alone in this, but I think he still believes he has a good shot at victory. I believe he's grasped the possibility that he might lose, but he's talking about rigged elections not as a post-November power play, but in order to maintain the illusion that he never really loses. The rest of the "de-legitimization" talk? I think Trump believes it will win him the general election, the way similar trash talk seemed to win him the primaries.

I don't think Trump is playing the long game the way the Republican Party plays it, or the way Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media play it. I think if he loses he'll have gotten electoral politics out of his system -- he's done.

Allies such as Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and Roger Ailes might be playing a long game -- character assassination is what they do for a living, and they'll certainly use these memes over the next four years. Trump? I doubt it. Even if he's thinking ahead to the development of Trump TV, I don't believe he's carefully plotting future story lines. Carefully plotting for the future is not his style.

If the rest of the GOP has picked up on these memes, well, that's just the way it always works. Think back to the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama -- the "respectable" right has always puke-funneled fringe ideas and retransmitted them to the mainstream. The only difference now is that the puke is coming from the Republican presidential nominee.

The Clinton campaign thinks it's done an effective job of pouncing on these ideas early and tying them to Trump:
The Clinton campaign has deliberately positioned its response as an offensive boomerang rather than a rebuttal: don’t defend against the attacks, just redirect fire at the messenger. “It holds up a mirror to Donald Trump and what his campaign is about, and says everything you need to know about Donald Trump and where these kinds of crazy conspiracy theories are coming from,” as one campaign aide put it....

Unlike birtherism or even switftboating in 2004, the Clinton campaign anticipated much earlier that right-wing chatter would eventually break through into the mainstream, and they could more easily attack it because they were taking on her opponent himself, rather than fake-name trolls.
But this won't help Clinton after the election -- Trump will go away, or maybe do a weekly segment on Fox & Friends again, or have a flare-up of his usual ADHD while Bannon and Jared Kushner fight over the direction of Trump TV, but the rest of the right will just advance these memes the way birtherism was advanced. Trump will fade into irrelevance, yet Fox will keep running alerts about Clinton's health and financial dealings. So, yes, there's a long game being played, but it's by the usual suspects, not Trump.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

HEY MAUREEN, AT WHAT POINT IS A 70-YEAR-OLD MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OWN ACTIONS?

This week, Hillary Clinton delivered a strong speech about Donald Trump's bigotry and his relationship to the alt-right. Even Maureen Dowd can't deny the speech's impact -- so she acknowledges the effectiveness of the speech while finding multiple ways to temper her praise:
HILLARY didn’t hang her head and cry, after she shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
I know that dated pop-culture references are a Dowd tic, but Clinton is trying to win an election by making a serious point about the character and dangerous ideas of her opponent. She wasn't trying to kill for thrills.
... After getting steadily bolder at rallies about puncturing her former friend Donald Trump, Clinton channeled Johnny Cash’s song and delivered a coup de grâce so devastating that commentators predicted it will be known simply as the Reno speech.
Yes, Maureen, make sure to get that "former friend" bit in there, so we'll suspect that Clinton is a hypocrite for criticizing Trump.
... In this insane campaign year, Hillary doesn’t even need an oppo-research team digging up nasty stuff about her opponent’s record. She just has to stand there and wait for Trump to open his mouth. Or to wait for his wacky entourage to weigh in....
Yeah, Dowd tells us, it was a great speech, but it didn't require any actual effort.
In Reno, Hillary simply pointed out the obvious: Trump, who has no fixed ideology of his own except winning, has let himself become a host body for an ugly mélange of people and groups that spew poison, from Breitbart News -- its chief, Stephen Bannon, is now helping run Trump’s campaign -- to white supremacist David Duke to radio host Alex Jones.

When Anderson Cooper asked Trump on Thursday if he was embracing the alt-right movement, Trump replied like a perfectly oblivious vessel: “I don’t even know -- nobody even knows what it is.”
This is where the column shifts from catty to immoral. Trump is a grown man, 70 years old, and he's running for president as the nominee of a major party, but somehow he's not responsible for his own words and deeds. He has no idea what he's saying and doing! He's possessed! It's all the fault of other people who've brainwashed him!

Dowd writes this even though she acknowledges Trump's long history of bigotry, or at least a small part of it. Naturally, she makes this part of a bigger indictment of Hillary:
If Hillary had a normal opponent, her vulnerabilities would be more glaring. She would have spent the last week getting peppered with questions about how the F.B.I. discovered 14,900 more emails from her private server, which are going to drip out through the fall.

But Hillary does not have a normal opponent. She has one who manages to self-destruct in every news cycle. So instead she was soaring above her own paranoia and mocking Trump’s paranoia, soaring above her egregious messes and gamboling through Trump’s egregious messes.

In Reno, instead of having to talk about the email marked “C,” the ones classified as confidential, she talked about a very different “C”: She recalled the Justice Department’s housing discrimination suit against the real estate developer and his father in the ’70s, charging that the applications of black and Latino residents were “marked with ‘C’ -- ‘C’ for colored.”
Yes, that's all we get about Trump's decades of racism. Trump's history of housing discrimination is outlined in great detail in a front-page story today in Dowd's paper, but to Dowd it's useful only as wordplay. There's nothing in this column about Trump's birtherism, his call for the death penalty for the wrongly convicted Central Park Five, or the fact that black workers were removed from the floor in Trump casinos on a number of occasions, such as when he walked in, or when a mobbed-up high roller complained.

All of that preceded Trump's encounters with Steve Bannon and Alex Jones. All of it was Trump being Trump, not Trump being a "perfectly oblivious vessel" for the racism of others.

But to Dowd, the real tragedy of the Trump campaign's racism is that it obscures the horror of Clintonism:
Extremists always ride to Hillary’s rescue. Just as Ken Starr and impeachment-crazed conservatives in the House pushed it way too far and made laughingstocks of themselves, succumbing to Clinton Derangement Syndrome, so the alt-right allows Hillary to have an easy target that occludes the Clintons’ own transgressions.
She clearly feels sorry for Trump, who, in her view, doesn't know what he's doing:
... Trump ... has been seduced by the roar of the crowd and hijacked by a dark force he doesn’t seem to fathom. Ultimately, the stain will extend beyond a campaign loss to damage his business brand.
Black people? Who cares! WHAT ABOUT TRUMP'S BRAND????

What upsets Dowd more than Trump's racism -- which isn't really his, after all! -- is the sin so great that no political journalist in America can forgive it: Clinton's choice not to hold press conferences:
When reporters approached Clinton after her Reno speech, she ignored the questions being served up and told the press to have some of the chocolate being served up. “Love the truffles,” she said in a condescending let-them-eat-chocolate moment.
This, unlike Trump's racism, genuinely infuriates Dowd, so much so that only a straw man is sufficient to convey how great a danger is posed by Clinton and her allies:
Many people believe that Trump is so demented and dangerous that any criticism of Hillary should be tabled or suppressed, that her malfeasance is so small compared to his that it is not worth mentioning. But that’s not good for her or us to leave so many things hanging out there, without her ever having to explain herself.

Letting her rise above everything for the good of the country is not good for the country.
Who is saying that "any criticism of Hillary should be tabled or suppressed"? Yes, Clinton isn't holding press conferences, but she's not threatening to put critical reporters in jail, or, like Trump, arguing that they should be sued into silence. She's given 350 interviews this year, even if they're not all with mainstream journalists. You can cover politics without attending press conferences, as I.F. Stone did. Just do some damn journalism.

But, no, the press conference drought is horrible. Why?
Hillary is more easily able to continue to cold-shoulder the press on serious issues, which really is an outrage and will hurt her in the end, because she’s building up a giant bubble of hostility that will follow her into the White House.
Oh -- it's not because the public is less informed, it's because reporters have no choice but to be hostile to her. Well, reporters do have a choice. Everything isn't about you, folks.

And what's this about "cold-shoulder[ing] the press on serious issues"? Everyone knows that if Clinton did hold a press conference, there wouldn't be any questions about the economy or race relaitons or Syria or gun violence or climate change or health care or student debt -- every question would be a gotcha, and the vast majority would be about the Clinton Foundation or the damn emails. Those aren't "serious issues."

This may be one of Dowd's worst column ever. And that's saying a lot.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

JUST AS WITH TRUMP, "POLITE" REPUBLICANS CLOSED RANKS BEHIND PAUL LEPAGE

Maine Democrats are fed up with Govrnor Paul LePage:
Friday, leading state Democrats called on the governor to resign or seek professional help....
For obvious reasons:
Gov. Paul LePage left a state lawmaker from Westbrook an expletive-laden phone message Thursday in which he accused the legislator of calling him a racist, encouraged him to make the message public and said, “I’m after you.”

LePage sent the message Thursday morning after a television reporter appeared to suggest that Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine was among several people who had called the governor a racist, which Gattine later denied.
The message?
“Mr. Gattine, this is Governor Paul Richard LePage. I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you cocksucker,” LePage said. “I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker. You, I need you to, just freakin’, I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”
You may know that LePage, then the mayor of Waterville, Maine, won a very close three-way gubernatorial race in 2010, defeating his nearest rival by only 1.7% of the vote -- he received only 37.6% of the vote in total.

But in another three-way race in 2014 -- after lePage's character was clear to everyone in the state -- he won reelection much more convincingly. His margin of victory was nearly 5 points and he received 48.18% of the vote.

How did that happen? It happened, in part, because Republicans closed ranks behind him -- including "nice" Republicans, up to and including a grandfatherly former president of the United States.

By the time of the 2014 election, no one in Maine could have any illusions about LePage. This is from a January 2014 Politico story:
What better way to start a governorship than to refuse to attend a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day breakfast and, when the NAACP complains, tell them, on camera, to “kiss my butt”?

LePage’s first major initiatives as governor [were to] to roll back all state environmental laws to weaker federal standards and stop a ban on bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor, in baby bottles.... LePage defended the restoration of BPA in bottles by saying, with a smirk, that the worst that could happen was that “some women may have little beards.”

... As for President Barack Obama, LePage said on the campaign trail that the president could “ go to hell” and reportedly told supporters at a private fundraiser that Obama “hates white people,” a remark LePage later apologized for, even as -- in a feat of gymnastic oratory -- he declined to confirm or deny having said it.

In June, LePage denounced a Democratic state senator for always wanting to “give it to the people without Vaseline.” He has likened the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo and, when criticized for the remark, claimed the agency’s enforcement of Obamacare would cause a slaughter comparable to the Holocaust. He told schoolchildren that Maine’s newspapers are full of lies and joked about bombing the largest of them, the Portland Press Herald....
So how did prominent members of the state's famously moderate Republican Party respond as Election Day 2014 approached? Like this:
While at the Blaine House food drive United States Senator Susan Collins donated food and lent her full support to Governor LePage’s re-election.

Senator Collins said this about Governor LePage:

“I like his emphasis on jobs and the economy, That’s clearly the number one issue in the state, and I am very impressed with his leadership on domestic violence. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for speaking out and establishing a no tolerance rule for domestic violence in our state.” ...

On Wednesday Former United State Senator Olympia Snowe Formally Endorsed Governor LePage:

Senator Snowe’s endorsement highlighted Governor LePage’s many accomplishments in office and was delivered to thousands of Mainers in a call on Wednesday....

“This is Olympia Snowe. To continue economic growth in Maine, I am supporting Paul LePage. Under Paul LePage the economy is turning around. Over 22,000 new private sector jobs have been created and wages are up since Governor LePage took office. The unemployment level is the lowest it has been since 2008. Governor LePage is working to end domestic violence, and is supporting our veterans. This is Olympia Snowe, please join me in supporting Governor Paul LePage on Tuesday.” ...

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT AND MRS. GEORGE H. W. BUSH ENDORSING MAINE GOVERNOR PAUL LEPAGE FOR RE-ELECTION

We love Maine, and care deeply about our family and friends and the hard-working people who live there. We are writing you today because Governor Paul LePage is our kind of get-it-done leader, who we firmly believe is committed to solving the toughest problems facing Mainers.

As we have seen with our own eyes, Paul has a big heart. We especially admire the tenacity with which Paul implemented his plan to pay off the state’s debt to its hospitals, which included both the Dorothy Walker Bush Pavilion at Southern Maine Medical Center as well as the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center.

Paul LePage has done so much for Maine in just four short years, but he’s not finished. That is why we strongly support his bid for four more well-deserved years, and we ask you to join us in supporting “our” governor, Paul LePage, for re-election as well.
And lovable Barbara Bush did a TV ad for LePage, in which she said, “Paul is blunt, direct, like me”:



By 2014, the Republican Party had had four years of watching Paul LePage. The leaders of the GOP establishment could have distanced themselves from him. They chose not to.

LePage has only gotten worse in his second term. In January of this year, an impeachment resolution was brought up in the Maine House of Representatives. LePage was accused, among other things of threatening a charity with the loss of state funds if it hired one of his political enemies.

The impeachment resolution came up shortly after LePage said this about drug dealing in Maine:
“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty – these types of guys – they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home,” LePage told a large crowd. “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”
But LePage's malfeasance and bigotry weren't enough to motivate Maine House Republicans. Not one of them voted to proceed with impeachment -- and a majority wouldn't even vote for a toothless resolution calling for more civility and bipartisan cooperaton in state government.

LePage isn't backing down from his racist comments about Maine's drug dealers. This just happened yesterday:
In a State House press conference, the governor restated previous comments about the numbers of black and Hispanic drug dealers who are bringing heroin into Maine and likened them to the enemy in a war....

LePage ... turned to House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, an officer who serves as a military lawyer in the Maine Air National Guard and sat in on the press conference. “Don’t you -- Ken (Fredette) you’ve been in uniform? You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”

... The ACLU of Maine said this week that statistics show white people are more likely to sell drugs than black people.
It might be a good time to bring back that impeachment resolution. Maybe a few Republicans could try supporting it this time? Maybe Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and the Bushes could speak out against LePage?

Nahhh. It'll never happen. Enablers gotta enable, for the good of the party.

Friday, August 26, 2016

NO, "ALT-RIGHT" IS NOT A TRUTH-CONCEALING EUPHEMISM

I keep running into arguments like this:
Stop Using the Term “Alt-Right’!

... The term itself ... was allegedly coined by Richard B. Spencer, who founded the website Alternative Right in 2010.

... The term “alt-right” is nothing more than a clever marketing tool by a white supremacist activist, who knows that his ideology is considered unacceptable in today’s society. Hence, he came up with a term that sounds acceptable to the conservative mainstream. For years it had little to no effect until uncritical and uninformed journalists did what he never could: mainstream his term.

And this:



But we don't need to worry, especially after yesterday. A large percentage of Americans just learned about the alt-right this week -- and what they learned, from Hillary Clinton's speech and from the many media attempts to explain the term, was that alt-rightists are hate-spewing racist scum. And alt-rightists themselves aren't even trying to pretend otherwise, because they're under the impression that if they proclaim to the world that they believe whites are superior to non-whites and all good things on earth flow from ethnic Europeans, while festooning their online communications with allusions to gas chambers and attacks on non-whites as subhumans, the world, or at least the white world, will beat a path to their door.

No one is using the term "alt-right" and saying, "No, these people are just conventional conservatives who believe in small government and constitutionalism." The link between racism and the alt-right is made every time the term is used. So that's how it's imprinting itself on our brains.

I'm reminded of the Fox News campaign to replace the term "suicide bomber" with "homicide bomber." What was the point? Stories about suicide bombers tell us what suicide bombers do, and it's horrifying. We don't need a stronger term. If you're exposed to such stories\, in your mind the term "suicide bomber" will always stand for something appalling.

The same thing is happening with "alt-right." It's not a benign term -- not given what we know about alt-rightists, and what they proudly tell us about themselves.

ONCE AGAIN, PEGGY, THE PROBLEM IS YOU

Peggy Noonan looks at images of that bloodied, stunned five-year-old boy in Aleppo and wonders why politicians won't denounce war:
War is terrible. It abuses the innocent and takes their lives, it wastes all kinds of treasure, it kills generations and whole cultures. It strikes me as rather mad that our candidates for commander in chief of the most powerful armed forces in the world don’t ever simply think aloud about this.

About 18 months ago I asked a potential Republican presidential candidate, in conversation, if he hated war. He got the dart-eyed look politicians get when they sense a trick question. This startled me. How do you not know the answer? After a few seconds I said, “This is not a trick question.” I explained I was thinking of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, “I hate war” ...

The potential candidate then stuttered that of course he doesn’t like war, but sometimes it’s necessary. Well, yes, sometimes it is. But why would you fear stating that war is hell, and hell ain’t where we want to be?
A noble sentiment -- but the answer is obvious.

In the last half-century, there's been a lot of skepticism about war on the left, while on the right there's mostly been bellicosity wrapped in the mantle of patriotism and triumph. Peggy Noonan is a woman of the right, and she's eagerly waved flags and rattled sabers along with her compatriots. If you don't support our wars, or at least our Republican wars, Noonan and the rest of the right will denounce you as a traitor, a wimp, and a civilization-destoying monster. A public that has internalized pro-war right-wing propaganda for decades will agree.

So on March 24, 2003, just after the Iraq War began, here was Peggy Noonan showing us how much she hates war:
So far so good. The war has begun, and the world hasn’t ended (alarmists, pessimists and prophets on left and right please note)....

We are about to startle and reorder the world. We are going to win this thing, and in the winning of it we are going to reinspire civilized people across the globe. We’re going to give the world a lift.

This is what the American victory in Iraq is going to mean:

It is going to mean, first, that something good happened. This sounds small but is huge.... The coming victory is going to be the biggest good thing that has happened in the world, the West and the United States since the twin towers fell.
Here's Noonan a few weeks later, when it became obvious that the war would not be a cakewalk:
The second Gulf War will not be quick. And one senses no one will doubt, when it was over, that every medal was earned.

But the long haul is going to mean and demonstrate more than that. A resentful world is about to see that America had to fight for it. They are about to see America could fight for it -- that we had and have the stomach for a struggle. Our implacable foes and sometimes doubting friends will see that America’s armed forces don’t just shock and awe, we stay and fight.

The world will be reminded that America still knows how to suffer. In a county as in an individual, the ability to withstand pain -- the ability to suffer -- says a great deal about character. It speaks of maturity and courage, among other things. The world knew half a century ago that America will absorb pain to reach progress. It is not all bad that they are seeing it again.
And those who didn't think that justified an invasion? Well, they were the enemy:
The biggest threat to America now, apart from Iraqi regulars and irregulars, is not a person but a phenomenon. It is the twisting or abusing of facts to underscore a point of view one wishes to see disseminated. I mean propaganda. The antiwar left did not pick up its marbles and go home when the war began. They just went home and waited for something bad to happen that they could exploit. They have it now: a war that is taking time and producing deaths on the field.

The antiwar left has shown precious little interest in or compassion for members of the U.S. armed services. And yet you can bet the farm that they are about to discover a great warm hearted concern as the bodies of American fighters come home. The left is going to use those deaths as propaganda in their attempts to stop the war.
So people suffer greatly in war, but you're a lily-livered quisling and hater of your country if you respond to that suffering with revulsion, Noonan said in 2003. Thirteen years later, she wonders why American politicians won't weep at a bloodied war casualty.

And on the subject of Peggy Noonan and war, one must always remember this chestnut, written after George W. Bush won the 2004 election as a war president:
About a year ago I was visiting West Point, and I was talking to a big officer, a general or colonel. But he had the medals and ribbons and the stature, and he asked me what I thought of President Bush. I tried to explain what most impressed me about Mr. Bush, and I kept falling back on words like “courage” and “guts.” I wasn’t capturing the special quality Mr. Bush has of making a tough decision and then staying with it if he thinks it’s right and paying the price even when the price is high and --

I stopped speaking for a moment. There was silence. And then the general said, “You mean he’s got two of ’em.” And I laughed and said yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
Does Peggy Noonan hate war? Only when it suits her.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

HOW THE CLINTON "ALT-RIGHT" SPEECH WILL LAND

Hillary Clinton gave a terrific speech in Reno today:
Hillary Clinton on Thursday delivered a blistering denunciation of Donald J. Trump, saying he had embraced the “alt-right” political philosophy and presenting his choice as an especially ominous turn in a presidential election full of them.

In her most direct critique yet connecting the Trump campaign to white nationalists and the conservative fringe, Mrs. Clinton is framing Mr. Trump’s run as unprecedented in modern politics.

“He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party,” she said.

Asserting that a racially charged and “paranoid fringe” had always existed in politics, she said, “It’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.”
For decades, beyond-the-pale hatemongering has been an undercurrent in conservative politics, though the political mainstream has pretended that the hatemongering either wasn't taking place or was utterly insignificant. The mainstream media ignored talk radio, including overt racists such as Michael Savage and Bob Grant, and pretended that right-wing conspiratorialism (Clinton Body Counts and so on) were too lowbrow to take seriously. This has continued to the present day, as hate has migrated largely to the Internet.

Hillary Clinton's speech demands that attention be paid.

That's a good thing, although I fear that some in the political establishment don't want to hear it because, well, accusing one party of stepping across a line the other party hasn't crossed just isn't done! Here's a Time reporter's response to the speech:



Um, really? So Trump himself didn't call Mexican immigrants rapists? That was somebody else? And it was somebody else who attacked Judge Curiel?

There may be a number of journalists who say the speech was just too much. I hope not. I hope even our media can understand that the alt-right-ization of conservatism is a serious matter.

On the other hand, the right has been trending this way for years. Matt Drudge retransmits every crime story out of inner-city Chicago. The GOP works to deprive non-whites of voting rights. Republicans run against the "Ground Zero mosque." And on and on.

One downside of the Clinton speech is that it suggests that the GOP was fine until Trump came along. He's made the party worse, but it wasn't fine.

On the other hand, Clinton has diagnosed the disease. Maybe the political establishment will be forced to acknowledge symptoms of the disease when they manifest themselves in the future -- even after Trump leaves the scene.

ANN COULTER: SCREW MY RACIST PRINCIPLES, I'VE GOT A BOOK TO SELL!

A lot of people are talking about Ann Coulter's criticism of Donald Trump after he made major changes to his stance on immigration:
Donald Trump "panicked" when he said he was open to softening his immigration policies, according to conservative pundit and Trump ally Ann Coulter....

Coulter, a hardline opponent of illegal immigration and one of Trump's most prominent media backers, was speaking to The Hill at a party to launch her new book, "In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!"

In the book, Coulter writes that "there's nothing Trump can do that won't be forgiven. Except change his immigration policies."

But now that Trump is toying with doing just that, Coulter is placed in the awkward position of having to defend a man who is no longer drawing such a hard line on immigration as he once did.
You might think she wouldn't defend him after this betrayal. But you'd be wrong:
Conservative author and Donald Trump supporter Ann Coulter isn't giving up on her candidate yet, even as he appears to be shifting on an issue most dear to her....

In an interview [Wednesday] with the Washington Examiner, Coulter, whose own stance on immigration inspired Trump's controversial views on it, said it's not worrying her.

"It mostly worries me rhetorically ... I mean, what to do with the illegals already here was never really a big part of it," she said. "We're getting a wall. We're definitely getting a wall. That's the one thing we know about a Trump presidency."
Excuse me, Ann? "What to do with the illegals already here was never really a big part of it" for you? What about this interview you gave in November when Trump was explicitly promising to deport every undocumented person in America?
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter told a local Phoenix news station Thursday she would use a “deportation force” to remove the estimated 11 million individuals inside the U.S. illegally....

“How would you deport all these people?” [KSAZ-TV anchor Troy Hayden] asked.

“God bless Donald Trump. He mentioned it. Dwight Eisenhower did it using 1950's technology. I mean everyone acts like there’s a time limit. Well, no. You start your deportation force, you start deporting them,” Coulter replied. “And they get the message.”

“Well, you knock on the door? How do you find them?” Hayden asked.

“Look up Dwight Eisenhower’s. It was called ‘Operation Wetback.’ He started at the border, the troops moved north, they knew the businesses and they knew the homes. They went in and deported them,” said Coulter....

“And by the way, Donald Trump, yeah he’s right, you should go after the criminals. I’d go after the law abiding ones to send the message. Law abiding! They are not law abiding if they are illegal immigrants,” she added. “They get the message and then you do what Mitt Romney was saying: enforce e-verify. Make sure only Americans can get jobs. They get the message. They leave on their own.”
But now she's all in, even though Trump has backed away from deportations without mercy. And when I say "all in," I mean it:



And of course she is. Her book came out on Tuesday. She can't sell a book she's effectively disavowed. She let off some steam, but she wants the money. So Trump is still her man -- at least until her book falls off the bestseller list.

FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BETTER

CBS News, September 11, 2015:
Donald Trump says that if he's elected, it would only take his administration up to two years to deport all the undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States.

"I think it's a process that can take 18 months to two years if properly handled," Trump said in a conference call with members of the Alabama Republican Party late Thursday night.
Washington Post last night:
... judging from many rally-goers here in Tampa on Wednesday and at an event Tuesday in Austin, many rank-and-file voters will give Trump relatively broad latitude to alter the parameters of his immigration policies.

... Tom Van Camp mentioned the candidate’s appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News Channel program Monday night, when Trump said that he would do “the same thing” that President Obama has done when it comes to illegal immigrants who have not committed crimes.

“These existing laws -- which can be enforced -- will do the same thing” as Trump has been calling for, Tom Van Camp said. “It’ll still kick people out.”

“Starting with the dangerous folks is smart,” he added. “It’s not going to be easy. In fact, I predict it’ll take the full length of his first term to get it done.”
So, last September, Trump said he could kick every undocumented immigrant out in a year and a half to two years. Now at least one of his supporters thinks it will take him four years just to deport the criminals among the undocumented -- and the supporter is fine with that.

The Trumpers are never going to be disilluioned as long as he keeps promising to build the wall:
Donald Trump may have hinted recently that he intends to soften his tough immigration stances, but he sure didn’t sound that way speaking to several thousand supporters in Tampa on Wednesday.

... The speech prepared Wednesday included no mention of Mexico or building a wall, but it didn’t take much encouragement from the crowd for Trump to go there.

“Oh, we’re going to build a wall, don’t you worry about it!” he said to cheers. “We’re going to build a wall, and Mexico is going to pay for the wall 100 percent. And it’s going to be a big wall, it’s going to be a real wall. It’s going to be as beautiful as a wall can be, but it’s going to be a wall. And we’re going to have protection for tunnels.”
Because, in the fans' view, that alone will solve so many problems that it won't be necessary to deport all of the undocumented:
Emilio Beru, 38, of Carrollwood, emigrated to Florida from Peru in 1998, and said he thinks Trump toning down his rhetoric makes sense. Not all immigrants are criminals, he said, many are hardworking, tax-paying citizens.

“That’s why Trump is making that distinction, he’s starting to see more and more that it’s not just Hispanics causing problems, it’s Europeans and ISIS crossing into our borders,” he said. “We need to build a wall, to protect the American citizens who came from all over the world.”
Yes, ISIS terrorists won't come in from Europe and the Middle East if we build a wall on the Mexican border. Or something like that.

Trump's flip-flopping may have upset Ann Coulter, but rank-and-file Trumpers don't care, as long as Trump's rhetoric is still angry and punitive at least some of the time -- and as long as he doesn't flip-flop on the wall. If the wall goes, that'll be the end of the line for Trump.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

TRUMP HAS A MASSIVE ACHILLES' HEEL, AND EVAN McMULLIN MAY HAVE LOCATED IT

No one's paying much attention to Evan McMullin, the conservative who entered the presidential race a couple of weeks ago, but he's making a concerted effort to raise his profile with this interview:
Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin told Business Insider in a Wednesday interview that members of Republican nominee Donald Trump's campaign have told him that the Manhattan billionaire has times where he "hides in his apartment" and they're growing "frustrated."

... McMullin said that it's "unclear" whether Trump "will make it through this campaign."

... "I'm hearing from people inside his campaign that there are times now when he hides in his apartment and doesn't meet with any people," he continued. "When he campaigns he goes out to a place he has to fly back home to New York. This is a fragile man and a fragile campaign and I'm not quite sure what's going to happen in the days and weeks ahead of him. I'm not sure the [Republican National Committee] can continue to support him given his weakness as a man and as a politician and as a candidate for the presidency."
"His weakness as a man"! "This is a fragile man"! It's calculated, but I love it. I don't agree with McMullin on many issues, but this interview was clearly an effort to get Trump to drop whatever he's doing and spend three days attacking McMullin. Unfortunately, the interview was at Business Insider, and I'm not sure Trump even knows that Business Insider exists.

Chris? Rachel? Lawrence? I don't think Trump watches much MSNBC (even though his campaign manger was on the Maddow show tonight), but MSNBC is television, so Trump can easily absorb it. One of you, plase, book an interview with McMullin. Let him talk -- but steer him to this subject. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to repeat what he told Business Insider on national TV. Then we can all pop some popcorn and watch Trump's reaction.

MEET THE NEW FOX, SAME AS THE OLD FOX -- OR MAYBE WORSE

The programming on Fox will be so much better now that that awful Roger Ailes is gone -- won't it?
Fox Business anchor Cheryl Casone cited a report from a fringe conspiracy theory website, InfoWars, to complain that Google was "changing its algorithm to bury stories like the 'Clinton body count' story," which is “a story that talks about a list of people tied to the Clintons who have died under mysterious circumstances.”...
CHERYL CASONE: ... Well Google is being accused of hiding negative stories about Hillary [Clinton] and her campaign by changing its algorithm to bury stories like the "Clinton body count" story. That's according to website InfoWars. If a Google user types in "Clinton body," they get car repair shop results instead of a story that talks about a list of people tied to the Clintons who have died under mysterious circumstances over the last three decades. Now, the latest story was the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered last month in an apparent robbery....



Fox is being tugged in many different directions now. As Michael Wolff has noted, Papa Rupert Murdoch doesn't want to fix what he thinks isn't broken, while his sons James and Lachlan, who were given nominal control of Fox a while back, want Fox to moderate and modernize (James wants Fox to be more like CNN, while Lachlan wants it to remain conservative, though less rabid). The sons think Fox would make more money, especially interntionally, if it were more digitally sophisticated and actually broke some news once in a while. But Fox as it exists now earns profits of more than $1 billion a year. So should it continue to serve its core audience the way it always has? Now, in the Trump era, that audience is gravitating toward full-on InfoWars conspiratorialism and Breitbart alt-right racism -- a combination of which might be the tone of a possible rival to Fox started by Trump and Breitbart's Steve Bannon after the election.

What to do, what to do? Well, Rupert made himself "acting CEO" of Fox after Ailes's departure, as Wolff reminds us, and gave an Ailes loyalist, Bill Shine, the job of running Fox day to day. The content is as bad as ever -- or worse. And I suspect that will be true until Rupert is no longer among us.

DONALD TRUMP, SELF-STYLED ANTI-RACIST AND REPUBLICAN PARTY LOYALIST

Donald Trump is now making a concerted effort to persuade us that he's totally non-racist:
Guided by his new campaign leadership, the Republican nominee has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate publicly for his candidacy.

Trump is planning trips to urban areas -- with stops at churches, charter schools and small businesses in black and Latino communities -- and is developing an empowerment agenda based on the economy and education, aides said. Under consideration is an early September visit to Detroit, where retired neurosurgeon and former Republican primary rival Ben Carson would guide him on a tour of the impoverished neighborhoods where he grew up.
No intelligent person thinks this is really aimed at non-whites:
[Trump] knows that his tense relationships with non-white sectors of the electorate are costing him support among one group that reliably votes for Republicans: suburban white women.

... In an attempt to lure right-leaning white female voters back into the fold, Trump launched a jaw-dropping, multi-city pander-fest designed to make himself more palatable.
But doesn't Trump risk alienating the angry white men who are his core supporters? Yes and no. I think any moderation of his immigration stance makes some of those guys less likely to turn out for him -- they're obviously not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, and they're unlikely to vote third party, but they might not show up at the polls at all if he stops feeding them red meat on immigration.

However, the general outreach to non-whites -- especially to African-Americans -- might be surprisingly appealing to some of these guys. That's because they've carefully nursed a grievance for years about racism and the two major parties.

See, for instance, the graphic below, which showed up in my Twitter feed this morning:



If you watch Fox (or even watch occasional Fox clips online), or if you lurk in the conservative precincts of the Internet, you see this sort of thing all the time.





Angry white guys love these graphics. Your Fox-watching uncle has probably posted all of these and more on Facebook. He doesn't know or care that they're full of fake facts and half-truths -- and he doesn't want to hear it when you point out that opponents of racial equality have gravitated en masse to the GOP in the past fifty years.

For the polite version of this, here's S.E. Cupp -- a conservative who's not a Trump fan -- writing yesterday about Trump's outreach campaign and past outreach gestures by Republican politicians:
Democrats are existentially threatened by a Republican’s attempt, botched or not, to creep into their territory. Any outreach is maligned. Republicans, forever accused of not caring about minorities, are scolded when they attempt to show they care about minorities.

... a Republican campaigning for President goes into a black community to talk about an important issue to many black families, and for this he is protested. Trump, for avoiding black communities and refusing an invitation to speak with the NAACP, is attacked.

If Democrats and black voters have issues with Republican policies, that’s totally fair. But squeezing Republicans into no-win scenarios, just to keep black voters from hearing what conservatives might have to say, and punishing them for trying, is just self-interested political chicanery.
This is the white anger Trump can tap into with this campaign. This actually helps keep the base angry.

A curious thing about this anger is that it's specifically party based. We're hearing a lot this year about conservative voters' distrust of the GOP -- they chose a presidential nominee who's switched parties repeatedly over the years and who doesn't always toe the party line, and they rail against the party establishment.

But this is strictly Republican vs. Democrat. On this subject, conservative base voters very much identify with the GOP.

So Trump, oddly enough, is building a little party loyalty. Who'd have thought?