Saturday, August 6, 2016

Some advice for the Clinton campaign

The star of "Late Night with Seth Meyers" had some advice for the anti-Trump forcesTrump is digging his own grave, don’t grab the shovel, let him keep digging until the hole is too deep to climb out of.   Stay out of it.”

This reminds me of my favorite bit of political strategy. I first remember hearing it in the Bush v Gore presidential race.   "When your opponent is shooting himself in the foot, don't get in his way."


Clinton leads Trump . . . . in Georgia ! ? ! ?

In an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll of registered Georgia voters released on Friday, Hillary Clinton is leading Donald Trump in a 1 to 1 matchup by 44% to 41%.    In a four-way matchup, the result was:   Clinton 41%, Trump 38%, Johnson 11%, Stein 2%.

Georgia?     Red state Georgia, where every statewide elected official is Republican and both legislative bodies are controlled by Republicans.  Where two years ago Jason Carter (a popular state senator and grandson of Jimmy Carter) and Michelle Nunn (daughter of popular former U. S. Senator Sam Nunn), ran for governor and U. S. Senator.   If any Democrats could have won, they were them.   Both were defeated -- only two years ago. 

That's our state that Hillary Clinton is now leadingCautious optimism:   This is a relatively small sample (767) and it is one poll in a very volatile time.   But the optimism is warranted and suggests it's worth working to turn Georgia purple.   Actually, it's already purple.   Let's work to turn it blue.


Trump actually admits he was wrong

No, Donald Trump didn't admit he was wrong to attack the Khans.   But he did admit that what he had claimed to be a secret Iranian government video of $400 million cash being unloaded from a plane as ransom for American prisoners -- was not.  Instead, it was the news footage shown to the public back in January of the American hostages being released in Geneva by the Iranians.

This also comes a day after a Trump campaign ad was analyzed on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show Thursday night.   It has footage of Hillary Clinton saying "We are going to raise taxes on the middle class."   Or at least that is the wording of the text-over the ad-makers have added as she is speaking.   But actually MSNBC had slowed down the tape and proved that what HRC actually says is "We aren't going to raise taxes on the middle class."

This is significant, far beyond the gotcha moment of Trump finally having to admit his lies, because it's so clearly not just an exaggeration, or a momentary claim that's not true.   His claim about the Geneva plane video was an elaborate description, with great detail of why he knew it had to be a secret Iranian governmental video put out to embarrass Obama and Clinton.   He described seeing the "pallets of cash being taken off the plane, and people coming up and grabbing the money."  This, and the carefully constructed tv ad, both had to have been planned in advanceTrump's lying has crept into whatever strategy his campaign has;  it's more than just him saying whatever occurs to him in the moment.


PS:   In addition, Trump reversed himself late yesterday at a rally in Wisconsin and endorsed Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte.   He was not convincing.   Obviously, his advisers have temporarily reined him in.   But it won't last, because he so obviously hates to be constrained by caution and decorum.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Understanding how the Trump mind works

Josh Marshall of TPM wrote this weeks ago, before the conventions, before the VP picks, before things had heated up quite to this point.   Now that the conventions hoopla is over, I think it's worth looking at to try to understand this man the Republicans have chosen, i.e., how his mind works. 
"One of the most telling things Trump has said during this campaign is that he doesn’t go into rallies with any script or even terribly prepared sense of what he’s going to say. He starts talking and then waits to get a feel for what the audience responds to.  In other words, he homes in on affirmation.

"This is largely because Trump is a narcissist. But it’s also a trait of a salesperson. You intuit and understand what the client wants or needs . . . and then get about selling it to them. . . . 

"The other thing that’s very apparent about Trump is that he’s shockingly, almost totally ignorant of the details of almost every public policy issue . . . .  This makes him more porous to the views and desires of his supporters because he has little to no matrix of pre-existing knowledge or core beliefs to reference them against or challenge them with.

"Because of this -- intuiting his audience and almost total ignorance and indifference to policy questions — Trump's core racism and authoritarianism have been amplified and accentuated . . . by his interaction with his supporters.  This is not to exonerate Trump . . .. But it's important to see that 'beliefs' isn't really a metric that is very useful with Trump. . . 

If you see a chameleon who is orange, it doesn't tell you much about the chameleon.  It just means he's standing in front of an orange background. . ."
Wow !!   That is very confirming of how we see Trump operating.  That's why he seems so wooden when he's reading a script.   He doesn't care about some pre-written policy positions.   He feeds off the crowd and comes alive as he feels their affirmation, which he then feeds back into a loop -- he and his audience affirm -- and excite -- each other.  He can't do that when reading a script.   Unfortunately, the meme that seems to click with his audiences is one of fear and anger and denunciation of people not like them.

Just last weekend, journalist Fareed Zakaria of CNN, said this about Trump's way of operating with his audience:   "There's a term for this kind of thing.   This is the mode of a bullshit artist."

There's nothing inherently wrong with having mutual affirmation with your audience.  Clinton would be a more exciting speaker if she had some of that ability.   The difference is she is a policy wonk with the knowledge to back up anything she says, and she cares about what happens to the people as a result of her actions.   In playing to her audience, she would just be choosing among many possible things to talk about that turned on her crowd.  Bill Clinton had both -- the interplay with the crowd and the policy wonk.

Trump is different.   He doesn't know anything, and he doesn't care about anything but the transactional moment with his current target audience.   He's negotiating a sale -- nothing more -- and whatever he says, whatever emotion he stirs up, has no meaning beyond that.  He's just having a moment with his audience that has nothing to do, in his mind, with facts or truth.  Keep that in mind as we watch this campaign, as he lies repeatedly about insignificant things that can easily be checked -- and later denies he said it.

Trump probably doesn't even realize that he is lying, because he seems to have no concept of enduring truths.   It's all transactional in the moment.   Once he moves on, his concern is only for how well it played (notice how often he says "they loved it"), how big was the crowd, and how much media coverage he got.   Understanding this about him does not make it all right or any less a disaster in a president.  It does mean that hoping he will change is a foolish fantasy.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fox News poll shows Clinton leading by 10 points

The latest poll released last night by Fox News shows Hillary Clinton with a 10 point lead over Donald Trump.   With Libertarian Greg Johnson included, she still leads Trump by 9 points.

Clinton     49%          Trump     39%
Clinton     44%          Trump     35%          Johnson     12%

In the same poll, people were asked: Was Trump out of bounds in his criticism of the Kahn family?  The answer:  Yes   69%   No   19%

Also in the same poll, the question was asked:   Do you trust Clinton/Trump to make decisions about nuclear war?  The answer:  Clinton   56%   Trump   34%.

This is remarkable:   only 34% would trust Trump with the power to start a nuclear war;   yet 39% would still vote for him !!


Trump train off the rails and into the ditch. There's talk of an intervention.

It seems everyone connected with Trump's campaign is alarmed except Trump himself.   Rumors are flying of campaign disarray, of more prominent Republicans defecting, of an intervention involving Reince Priebus, Newt Gingrich, and the Trump kids.  People are even speculating what will happen if Trump quits.

Campaign chief Paul Manafort is not credible when he says that "everything is fine."   What is credible is between his lines when Manacort says"Well, first of all, the candidate is in control of his campaign.  That's No. 1.  And I'm in control of doing the things that he wants me to do in the campaign."

For those of us who try to read the deeper meaning in what people communicate, that answer speaks of deep frustration and resignation -- especially when you know how campaign strategists and managers usually run the show, telling the candidate what to do, even to the smallest details.   Because they are professionals and know how to run campaigns.   Manafort is saying:   I can't control him;   I've given up trying.

No insiders are on the record, so we depend on leaks, innuendos and meta-communications to piece together a picture.   A source for Politico says Priebus abandoned his softer stance with Trump in a phone call, the gist of which was:  'Do you realize how badly you're fucking this up?"    Chris Christie did say publicly that Trump's remarks about the Khan family were "inappropriate" and that the loss of their son on the battlefield “gives them the right to say whatever they want, whether they’re right or wrong.”

Gingrich said that "What Trump has done is very self-destructive.  I don't know if it's a fixable problem. . . . He's got to find a way to slow down, really learn some new lessons."   Gingrich also said that Trump is helping Clinton win by proving himself to be the more unacceptable candidate of the two of them.

Stay tuned for the denouement of this roller coaster ride.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Advice for the Trump campaign: Stop digging !!!

In an interview, Donald Trump's son, Eric, defended his father's position about the Khan family, trying to change the subject to "Islamic terrorism."  He also raised the question of why Pat Smith, the mother of a son who died in the Benghazi attack, who spoke at the GOP convention, had not received the same media coverage that the Khans, who spoke at the Democtratic convention, received about their son who died as a hero in Iraq.  Let me offer two simple explanations.

1.  Pat Smith gave an emotionally wrenching short speech about the loss of her son, and she charged Hillary Clinton with his murder.    It was emotionally wrenching, because her grief was so raw and her rage so palpable.   But her charges were false, and eight governmental investigations lasting years and costing millions of dollars have failed to find a shred of evidence that found Hillary Clinton culpable in those deaths.   Pat Smith was repeating false charges;  and she seemed to be teetering on the edge of instability herselfIn contrast, the Khans were the epitome of truth and moral rectitude.    Their indictment of Trump was based on documented things he has done or said and they were steady and stoic, in spite of their deeply felt grief.

2.  The second explanation is perhaps the more important one, tactically:   Hillary Clinton did not respond to the attack on her by defensively attacking Ms. Smith as Donald Trump did the Khans.  It was his continued attacks, getting more direct and brutal with each day, that kept the story going.  The Khans got more air time because Trump himself gave it to them.  When you're in a hole, stop digging.


Will Trump make it to the November 8th ballot?

From the Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne: 
"Every Republican politician and commentator who continues to say that Trump is a superior or even morally equivalent choice to Hillary Clinton will now own their temporary leader’s brutality for the rest of their political careers. . . .   

"This is a moment of truth for GOP leaders who passively accepted and sometimes encouraged an extremism that trafficked in religious and racial prejudice and painted President Obama as an illegitimate, power-hungry leader. . . .

"Clinton Republicans and ex-Republicans could thus be this generation’s Reagan Democrats. In repudiating Trump for Clinton, they will not be abandoning their ideology. They will be making a moral statement that their movement will not tolerate an opportunist so corrupt and so vile that when given a choice, he pandered to religious intolerance rather than honoring the sacrifice of a brave young American."
Folks, at this point, I think there's at least a 50/50 chance that Donald Trump will not still be the Republican candidate for president on the November ballot.   He's already making noise about the election being "rigged" against him, which he could use as his excuse for bailing out on a losing battle.  Just as he's making a big deal of the fact that two of the debates are scheduled opposite NFL games --suggesting that maybe he'll use that as an excuse to refuse to debate.   The debates were set almost a year ago, before the NFL schedule was available, long before Trump was the nominee;   so it's a little far-fetched to claim it's Clinton rigging the system against him.

Pultizer Prize winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote yesterday:  "I thought Donald Trump was crazy like a fox.   Now I am increasingly convinced that he's just plain crazy. . . .  At this point it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that his grasp on reality seems tenuous at best."

Meg Whitman, a prominent Republican fund raiser and candidate herself for the California Republican senate nomination in 2012, has endorsed Hillary Clinton and will be raising money for her.  She wrote on her Facebook page“To vote Republican out of party loyalty alone would be to endorse a candidacy that I believe has exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division. Donald Trump’s demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character."  A former aide to Chris Christie will vote for Clinton, and a political adviser to Jeb Bush has left the Republican party and will vote for Clinton.  Even Sarah Palin's son-in-law, Dakota Meyer, himself a Medal of Honor Iraq war hero, said that Trump cannot be commander-in-chief until he starts acting like one, beginning with an apology to the Khans.

It's still possible that the RNC and leaders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell might abandon him, as he continues to prove by his daily behavior that he is not fit to be president.   Which is exactly the question that President Obama posed today for the Republican leaders"If you are repeatedly having to say, in very strong terms, that what he said is unacceptable, then why are you still endorsing him?. . .  What does it say about your party that this is your standard bearer? . . . At some point you have to say 'Enough.'"   Calling Trump "woefully unprepared and unfit to serve as president," he emphasized that: "It's not just a matter of policy differences."

Trump responded with a tweet, saying that Obama is the one who is unfit for office and has made the world a more dangerous place.   And I say:  However this plays out, it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

VA governor restores voting rights, despite court

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia had issued an executive order that restored the voting rights to more than 200,000 felons who had served their sentence and returned to society.   Republicans sued to overturn his action, and last week the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that McAuliffe had exceeded his clemency powers in issuing a sweeping order that covered all ex-offenders.

McAuliffe's response:  He called it a disgrace that the Republican leadership of the state would want to disenfranchise voters.   Since the court's objection was not to restoring the vote per se, but only that he gave blanket approval, he said he will begin immediately signing individual orders for the 13,000 who had already registered to vote.  And then, as others apply to register, he will continue to sign individual orders.


NC voter ID law overturned by appeals court, which called it "deliberately discriminatory"

A three judge panel for the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals announced its decision on Friday to overturn North Carolina's photo ID law that it said "disproportionately affected African Americans" and targeted them "with almost surgical precision."   The law would also have eliminated early voting, same day registration, and other measures that disproportionately affect African-Americans.

The opinion further asserted that the state's "asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the state’s true motivation," which the unanimous opinion characterized as "intentional discrimination."  From the written opinion:
"The only clear factor linking the various "reforms" is their impact on African-American voters.  The record thus makes obvious that the "problem" the majority in the General Assembly sought to remedy was emerging support for the minority party."
This is the most important decision on a voting rights law in years.  A federal district court had previously upheld the law, and North Carolina could ask for another hearing before the full appelate court.  Depending on that, it could wind up before the Supreme Court.

Assuming that this 4th Circuit Court decision prevails, this is a big victory for democracy.   It is unlikely that a different decision by a larger court could be in place by the November election.


Later breaking story:   A federal judge has also struck down parts of a Wisconsin law requiring a photo ID and other provisions.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Just as he made fun of a journalist's disability, now Trump is going after the Gold Star mother of a Muslim-American war hero. -- Despicable.