Not A President But A King

He doesn’t want to run the Executive Branch. He doesn’t want to have to deal with either domestic or foreign policy. All he wants to do is focus on “making America great again.” 

Policy? Well…that’s for the Vice President, which means that it’s actually Pence-Trump and not Trump-Pence. And even by contemporary standards, Pence is a hard-core right-wing ideologue. So all of the “Trump will shake things up and shatter the establishment” isn’t even true. Even that is a ridiculous lie.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Or maybe both?

But seriously: get to know Mike Pence. He’s among the most hard-core of the hard-core drug warriors. He’s among the most hard-core of the hard-core “the culture of life begins at conception and ends at birth” activists. He’s among the most hard-core of the hard-core anti-LGBT theocrats. And he’s dumb as a box of rocks to boot.

It Wasn’t Plagarism…Oh Well, Never Mind, It Was. And While We’re At It….It Was an Illeagal In-Kind Donation Too!

This is the most incompetent campaign in the history of campaigns.

So first Melania’s speech plagarised multiple sentences from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. 

Then the campaign denied it was plagiarism and spent 36 hours arguing the definition of plagiarism with journalists, citing among other things: My Little Pony, Akon, John Legend, and Kid Rock.

Then the speechwriters leaked the final draft of their version of the speech to clear their names, something every speechwriter in America will tell you violates the norms ofs their profession.

Then the Trump organization released a letter from the staff writer responsible for the whole mess. In it, she tells a story that involves Melania reading Michelle’s speech to her over the phone BECAUSE SHE ADMIRED MICHELLE, and this staffer then somehow transcribing the parts of the speech Melania liked into the text of the speech. But let me repeat that: she liked Michelle Obama, the woman the right loves to despise, that she wanted to use her words about honesty and integrity and hard work in her speech!

While that was happening, the Chief Strategist for the Republican Party was on CNN arguing the old party line that it wasn’t plagiarism.

And if that wasn’t all enough – her letter was released on Trump Orgnaiztion letterhead, which means that she was doing this while working for his firm. Under federal election law, that’s an illegal in-kind donation! And not in a way that’s in the usual gray zone of campaign finance law. This is as black and white as you can possibly get.

Is this real life?

So we’ve gone from “Trump hires only the best of the best, and those who disappoint him will be fired” to “Trump is so loyal to his employees that he won’t even fire them when they humiliate his wife” in under 48 hours.

RNC Convention – Day Two Live Blog

I’m late to this, as I actually had to do some work today, but better late than never?

11:17p No wait…the highlight of the night had to be Ben Carson going off script to discuss Hillary’s connection to Lucifer.

11:10p Chris Matthews is right: the people who hate Hillary are already Republican voters, and this entire convention is devoted to hating Hillary. But Ron Fournier is totally wrong: this approach has nothing to do with scaring undecideds, because there aren’t any of those. There are unaffiliated voters, but that isn’t the same thing as undecided. Fournier must long for the days of the Cold War, when bipartisanship was achieved through the exclusion of huge numbers of Americans and as a result of the threat of nuclear annihilation. Oh god do I hate Fournier….

11:00p The highlight of the night for me has to be Donald Trump, Jr., a man so thoroughly born to entitlement that he doesn’t even have his own name, ranting against “self-satisfied people at the top, our new aristocrats.” That’s fantastic.

10:54p The self-proclaimed avocado enthusiast is closing the night. Why do they keep doing this, having speakers speak after the big names? It makes no sense.

10:47p This night isn’t nearly as fun as last night. I’m bored. Oh and for the record? Read Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals, both because it’s brilliant, and because it’s hilarious how closely the conservative movement has adhered to its principles for the past half century. They might not know it, but they’ve much more closely followed his blueprint than have Democrats.

10:41p “The prepared remarks did not include references to Lucifer.” Up next: an actor and avocado grower!

10:37p Beware of Hillary! She will cultivate the children for their votes!

10:34p And now Dr. Ben Crason and his brains. The media has an agenda! And they don’t know what they are talking about! And be “weary” of Republican elites! Use your brain people!

10:28p Judging from the reactions on MSNBC and CNN, the Trump Jr. speech must’ve played very differently in that room than it did in this one.

10:23p Wow did Tiffany Trump make a horrible awful synth-pop record. Wow. You’ve got to check this out.

10:16p The son of a billionaire continues ranting against the wealthy….do they have any idea how absurd that sounds? 

10:14p Another Benghazi rant. These people are insane. This is like a series of disconnected rants from Rush and Hannity combined comments from a 4Chan thread. And wow is the dude a capital-D Douchebag.

10:12p A rant against lawyers and accountants and the people at the top from a Trump. Are you kidding me? And wait…now a rant against risk? This makes no sense whatsoever.

10:07p This speech from Jr. Seems to be premised on the idea that people don’t already know who Donald Trump is. Also, did he just take a shot at guys from Wharton? He did, but that makes no sense. Or rather, it makes as much sense as Donald Trump and his sons being men of the people.
10:00p The party that is the party of the constitution and of respect for the rule of law is demanding that their political opponent be locked up despite the fact that all of the investigations conducted under the constitution and the rule of law found that no charges could be brought. But please proceed with the screaming and the ranting. Please proceed, governor.

9:51p OK this isn’t nice, but wow….Tiffany Trump is very strange looking. Oh wait, this party is opposed to political correctness, so I’m encouraged to say this yes? Also what the hell is the point of this speech? She loves dad, which is nice, but what about this has anything to do with an election?

9:49p It’s just endlessly over the top nonsense from Christie, interspersed with unhinged anger from the floor. Oh, and for the record: Christie deleted Bridgegate texts from his phone, sent emails from private accounts and private servers, and ultimately “lost” one of the phones he used to do it all. But yeah, right, Hillary is uniquely evil.

9:44p More angry white people waving their arms around and screaming “lock her up.” I get it. If you’re a member of the base you love this, but do they have any idea how this actually looks to the rest of us? There’s a really solid case to be made against her, but this is most definitely NOT how you do it. This is so over the top, so blood thirsty, so obviously unhinged that it’s hard to watch…As a partisan I’m thrilled, but as an American I long for a day when we have reasonable and responsible Republican Party.

9:42p The incoherence of this foreign policy critique is amazing. It essentially comes down to the idea that whatever happened, it was Hillary’s fault. Does it matter that some of these policies were continuations of Bush Administration policies? Of course not. Does it matter that many of these issues were and are entirely outside of the control of the President of the United States? No. Clinton is personally to blame for Assad and Boko Haram? Just stop, you are embarrassing yourselves.

9:40p Libya’s economy is in ruins? THAT is Hillary’s fault? Are you kidding? Abductions in Nigeria are Hillary’s fault? Is Trump running for President or Emperor?

9:38p “Lock her up,” screams the crowd. Can you imagine the reaction if Democrats had chanted that about Colin Powell or Condi Rice? Do these people understand how dangerous it is to criminalize the opposition in this manner? 

9:35p Oh dear….here comes Chris Christie. He’s Donald Trump’s friend! And Trump is strong and genuine and decent….but let’s not talk about him, let’s talk about Hillary! Do these people realize how silly they sound? 

9:31p It’s worth noting that Drudge appears to be so obsessed with the implosion of Fox News that he’s paying almost no attention to the conventions tonight.

9:21p Good god Paul Ryan is boring. He’s overly earnest in an Opie-esque way, but maybe that appeals to Boomers? And geez…does he realize that the President’s approval rating has been over 50% for more than 6 months now? Does anyone at this convention recognize the problem that presents for their campaign?

9:18p This from one of the premiere Hillary-haters in the land, Andrew Sullivan, is priceless: “And, yes, he’s right about her lies. She cannot help herself. But her lies are trivial and pathetic, rather than massive, shameless and endless. She is a mediocre politician in our liberal democratic system. Trump is a direct, grave and imminent threat to the very system itself.”

9:15p Wait…does Mitch McConnell realize that the issues people care about in 2016 aren’t the ones that people cared about in 2012? Also, did anyone else notice that he only barely mentioned this party’s nominee? 

9:08p The man-turtle hybrid speaks! Boy is he a stereotypical establishment politician. And boy has the establishment become indistinguishable from Fox News. But look….this whole idea that Hillary is a flip-flopping liar might’ve made for a good line of attack but for the fact that they’ve nominated someone who is even worse. And while I’m ranting, can I note for the record that we’re now half way through the second night of the convention and they’ve still not addressed the fact that Bush’s time in office led to several historic disasters? It’s like they think if they don’t mention him we’ll forget that he existed. 

RNC Convention – Day One Addendum

Good lord….Melania Trump and/or her speechwriters plagiarized a major chunk of her speech tonight from Micehlle Obama’s convention speech in 2008. 

The story apparently broke immediately on Twitter as Melania was giving the speech, and it’s all over everywhere now. Here’s a quick summary, but you really need to see it for yourself to get just how awful it is. You do this in my college class and you are failing the semester. I mean it’s not even close.

Now earlier in the night, Melania claimed to have written the speech almost entirely on her own, but that’s probably not true. And early word from the campaign is that they are going to circle the wagons and blame the media. That’s Trump’s style, but good lord is that insane. He claims to be a genius leader who only produces great things, and THIS is what he gives us? 

Is this real life? Are you kidding me? It’s not just plagiarized. It’s plagiarized from MICHELLE FREAKING OBAMA?!?! And ask yourself: if Michelle Obama had been found to have plagiarized this much of Laura Bush’s speech, and if the part she plagiarized was all about honesty and hard work, would anyone have given her or the Obama campaign a pass? OF COURSE NOT.

UPDATE: And the speech included a Rick Roll too? I jokingly noticed this earlier, but…I now ask this in all seriousness: was this sabotage? What else are we going to find was in there?

RNC Convention – Day One Live Blog

Ok final thought…As bizarre as that entire first night was, I still think that what happened before the prime time speeches was actualyl more important. First, Manafort picked a fight with the Republican Governor of Ohio. Then, the Chairman of the convention shut down a movement led by conservatives in Colorado, Utah, and Virginia to open a debate on the rules of the convention. Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Utah – three of those are swing states that could determine the outcome of the election, and the fourth is one of the most die-hard Republican states in the union. If Trump is to have a shot at winning the general, he’ll need the grassroots activists in each of these states serving as foot soldiers in this campaign. Voter enthusiasm is a wildly overrated concept, but the importance of grassroots activist enthusiasm can’t be overstated. Picking a fight with the grassroots activists in four crucial states seems…well…not terribly helpful?

All for tonight….more tomorrow! 

11:23p OK so I was sitting here wondering why this speech from Ernst was scheduled for so late in the evening given that it’s filled with all of the best lines of attack on Hillary, and then it hit me: if Trump can’t stand Hillary’s yelling, then there’s no way Ernst  was going on while Trump was in the building. I don’t think that was an accident at all, no matter how much it will be portrayed that way.

11:17p I’m sorry but Sen. Ernst is so boring I couldn’t think of what to write. But then she said the three magic words about terrorism and I woke up! “Yes…boo!” Also….if you don’t like the way Hillary delivers speeches, how can you possibly like her?

11:00p “That’s right! Lock her up! Use hashtag #NeverHillary.”

10:59p Flynn is now blaming Obama for hiding the truth about bin Laden. Well, I suppose it is true that Obama hid bin Laden at the bottom of the ocean.

10:54p Gen Flynn says “War is about winning” and that we need to call failed tyrants by their names. He’s claiming a complete lack military preparedness, and yet he spent his whole life as an officer responsible for preparing the military to do battle. Uh…. Oh now we get to “Obama is to blame for ISISf” without any reference to Bush or the Iraq war. And the silence in the room is deafening.

10:50p Josh Marsahll on Rudy: “”It’s like Giuliani has spent the last fifteen years living together with 9/11 in a two bedroom apartment of his mind. It’s a dark picture.”

10:48p Wait no….the headliner wasn’t last! Hog castratin’ Sen Earnst yet to come.

10:42p And thus ends day one, I think. Huh. That was….weird? Careening from one out of context to the next, from happy to sad to scared to…good god that was strange. As one of my good friends said early on, “These are not my people.” That’s never been more clear to me than tonight.         

10:36p “You judge a society by how it treats its citizens.” Well, I mean yes, but…this is supposed to be a deep thought? Also, this speech is much funnier when you replace “this nation” and “this great nation” with “my boobies.” Yes, it’s childish, but try it. You won’t be able to stop laughing once you do.

10:32p Have you noticed that Melania does Blue Steel each time she pauses? Also, come to think of it, so does Trump!

10:29p She’s now assuring us that Trump loves his country and will never give us up or let us down. Sing it with me!

10:24p Well…here’s comes Melania. She’s going to squint at us now I’m sure. 

10:17p Trump will lead by leading! They’re coming to kill us!!! BE AFRAID!!!  There’s no more elections!!!! THIS IS IT!!!! DONALD TRUMP. IS THE AGENT OF CHANGE!!! IM WAVING MY ARMS WILDLY AND YELLInG AT YOU!!!! ALSO REAAAAAAGAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!! GREATNESSSSSSSSSSSS USAAAAAAAAAAAAA YEAAARGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

10:14p Wait…so Hillary is responsible for the chaos in Libya because we deposed that tyrant, but Republicans aren’t responsible for the chaos in Iraq because…what…because Obama? Do these people even think through what they are saying?

10:11p Rudy has said the margic words! Our enemies see us as weak because we won’t sue the right words? On a night of unhinged rants, this is something special.

10:03p Oh god…here comes Rudy. Be afraid! Which I swear I wrote before he started ranting about people being afraid. The endless desire of these people to live in glorious time amidst a glorious fight really never ceases to amaze me. And wow….I forgot how weird Rudy is. “One America! AMERICA!!! WHERE DID IT GO?!?! HOW DID IT FLOAT AWAY?!!?”

9:59p As bad as Tom Cotton is as a speaker, Jeff Sessons is worse. “These are extreme numbers.” Down with extreme numbers! And down with things that Obama and Clinton have never actualyl opposed!

9:53p Our enemies define the world in which we live? Our rules of engagement are ludicrous? Do these people realize we have no idea what they are talking about? Yes, unshackle our soldiers, unbind  them from the rule of law! Huh…apparently Trump isn’t opposed to fighting more and better wars?

9:48p It’s amazing that we’re nearly two hours in and the former Republican President Bush has not been mentioned once. VP Cheney just got his first shout out, but not Bush. These people act like the times before Obama were fantastic, but the times before Obama were the times of Bush. We all remember this, don’t we?

9:28p Republicans now cheering the idea of respecting and deferring to authority. What happened to the bloody tree of Liberty? Peaceful protest leads to anarchy? What happened to the love of the Bill of Rights? What happened to the love for the actual Tea Party?

9:24p “Blue Lives Matter in America.” Well yes, of course they do. No one denies this. In fact, as we all know, we value their lives so much that we make it almost impossible to prosecute them when they break the law. But good god, no…I don’t want to get into this fight, because this fight hurts my head. We can value both the lives of cops and of average citizens. All reasonable people know this, no matter their political party. So please just stop pretending like this is an either/or proposition. At the very least, please go back to All Lives Matter, k?

9:20p “Am I safer than I was 8 years ago,” they ask. Well…I don’t feel more unsafe than I did for years ago, but if I did, would I want Trump to be president? No. I suppose I’m not the audience for this question, but… Also, whomever this McCaul dude is, he’s an awful speaker.          

9:18p Hillary Clinton is +62 among Hispanics, but Trump is planning an outreach tour, so….no, that won’t change.

9:13p “Trump is sent from God.” Is the point of tonight to show people whose children were tragically killed? The theme of the night death?

9:09p Talking heads pointlessly blatering….here’s some video of the chaos that broke out over the rules fight earlier today. And here’s video of a former US Senator calling this fascism and complaining about brown shirts.

9:00p Thinking more….I think it was just stupidity. Why would he bigfoot this on Fox and not on CNN? That speech was perfectly designed to motivate the Fox audience and he bumped it from the air. I can’t even…

8:56p OK so…apparently Trump preempted not just the Benghazi film but also the super-emotional and storage speech by the grieving mother. This was either an admission that the speech was backfiring and thus a deliberate attempt to get it off the air, or it was even more clueless than I had thought. I’m guessing the former, but I wouldn’t bet against the later.

8:50p Props to Andrea Mitchell for pointing out that most of the controversy around Benghazi comes from the fact that it was a CIA Annex, and that the administration went out of its way at the request of the CIA to hide that fact. AS THEY SHOULD HAVE, BECAUSE IT WAS A SECRET CIA ANNEX IN THE MIDDLE OF A WAR ZONE. Everything that happened during the attack and since flows directly from that fact. Oh, and for the record, the Republican Committee investigating Benghazi found no evidence for any of these theories of stand-down orders. The committee tried for YEARS to connect Hillary to the events that night and they could not do it. Does anyone honestly believe that conservative Republicans in congress are hiding this evidence?

8:49p Don’t forget that Andrew Sullivan is back for the week and live blogging. That was always when he was at his best. Weirdly, I remembered that just after unknowingly making an identical point as him.

8:33p OK I’m not going to comment on the presentation of the grieving mother, other than to say that my best guess is that most people have no idea what she’s talking about, and that the claim that Hillary is personally responsible for the death will seem utterly bizarre to most. But leaving that aside…the RNC is currently showing its film on Benghazi, and not only is it not being covered on CNN or MSNBC, but Trump just preempted it’s airing on Fox by calling in to Bill O’Reilly’s and doing a phone interview. The presumptive nominee is preempting his own convention!

And finally, for the record: can you imagine what would’ve happened had a speaker at the Democratic convention said they hold Geroge Bush or Condi Rice personally responsible for the death of their son in Iraq? If a speaker had said that Condi should be in prison because of that death? Republicans would’ve rightly lost their minds.

8:27p I’m sure this Navy SEAL did something epic, but he’s coming across as somewhat unhinged.

8:00p OK let’s get at this

6:33p Some Politico headlines right now: Cuccinelli on rules rebuff: ‘This is disgusting’; Chaos erupts on GOP convention floor after voice vote shuts down Never Trump forces; Trump, Ohio GOP at war as Cleveland convention begins; Sen. Mike Lee: ‘We are now in uncharted territory‘; Anti-Trump delegate promises ‘more insurgency

6:05p The Colorado delegation is PISSED at what the RNC has done. Colorado is a very key state in the upcoming election, and the coverage of this within that state is going to be really interesting to watch. And good luck getting the party die-hards in the state to work for the campaign. Some of the North Dakota delegates who were previously all-in on Trump are now out. One of the members of his finance committee in ND has just resigned his position. “If they were going to lose, just let them lose and let off steam…these are volunteers, and they’ve been crushed.” Yikes!

The difficulty for the party here is that this movement isn’t really about Trump. The people that appear to be most angered here are some really die-hard, grassroots conservatives, the people the state parties rely on to raise money, knock on doors, make phone calls, hold rallies, and whatnot. They are the heart and soul of the party, and at least at this moment, even many of the ones who supported Trump are furious at the campaign’s attempts to centralize power. And they would be, right? The genuine conservatives in the party really do truly hate the consolidation of power, and they’ve been working for years, in some cases decades, to decentralize power inside their party. Many of them had hoped Trump would be a vehicle for that decentralization, but over the last few weeks they’ve begun to catch on to the fact that Trump has no interest in pushing their agenda. They had hoped to use convention rules to push forward their reform agenda today, but the RNC and the Trump campaign worked together to essentially ignore the rules and shut them down. If I had to guess, I’d say this has few serious short-term consequences at the convention but lots of serious long-term ones for the party. But we’ll see…

5:55p “It is a weird way to start the day, but it is very Trump-like.” Well, yes. People continue to be amazed by the fact that this election is close, but it’s not hard to understand once you accept the power of partisanship in American elections. People don’t change their minds. They never have. Elections have never been about persuasion. They’ve always and only been about turnout. I realize that this doesn’t fit with most of the narratives that you’ve been sold over the course of your lives, but I promise you, there’s a mountain of research that backs up my claims. Politics is based on tribes, not issues, so no, Trump’s craziness isn’t altering things much because there’s almost nothing that would alter things much. All that really matters is who turns out in November, and who turns out is driven by a combination of internal factors like GOTV campaigns and external factors like extreme economic shocks.

5:45p Here’s Bloomberg’s take on the floor fight: http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-07-18/republican-rules-panel-said-to-quash-anti-trump-effort. Again, not saying this will alter the outcome of either the convention or the election, rather recording what’s happening as it happens for those who care. This very rarely happens at conventions, so whether there are short-term, long-term, or non-term consequences for this, it’s worth noting in and of itself.

5:40p Kaisich is laughing off Manafort’s comments from this AM calling him an “embarrassment.” Manafort is obviously “moving forward,” since he like Trump never apologizes and never back peddles. Some say this makes them both “master persuaders,” but those are people who confuse bullshitters for persuaders.

5:26p The RNC has said it will NOT be releasing the names of the people who withdrew. Given that we already know the states that withdrew their support for the petition — Iowa, Minnesota, Maine, and DC — it won’t be long until we find out in each delegation handled this. And as you’d expect, so far this is the only thing anyone on either CNN or MSNBC is talking about. I don’t need to turn on Fox to know they aren’t talking about it.

5:08p Some details – the petitions from several states were withdrawn under the theory that some of the people who signed them didn’t understand what they were signing. Given that the petitions called for nothing more than an on-the-record vote, this seems….unlikely.

5:00p “This is not a sanctioned protest” are not words that should ever be uttered in America.

4:55 Trump’s surrogates just said this will all be good for ratings, and that its all just “disgruntled Romney-ites”. That’s…an odd defense…

4:45p Getting to this a bit late, but here we go…

The day started with a huge fight between the Trump campaign and the Governor of Ohio, John Kaisich. Manafort called him “an embarrassment” to the party, which is an odd thing to do given that he’s very popular in Ohio and that Republicans can’t win the White House without winning Ohio.

Then, a pretty big fight broke out over the convention rules. Two different movements had come together in advance of the convention – the Stop Trump people, led by US Senator Mike Lee of Utah, and the grassroots reform people, led by Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli. I’ll post a review of the later when I have time to find one, but in the short-term let’s stick to the convention itself. Over the past few days this group had been gathering signatures to force a roll call vote on the convention rules, but after submitting the necessary signatures to the Chair, the Chair used some back-channel maneuvering to throw out some of the signatures and deny the vote. In reaction to this move: the floor erupted into a chaos of boos; the Colorado delegation walked out of the convention; a delegate from NH who once was a US Senator calls the move by the convention chair “fascism”; Ken Cuccinelli declared himself to be “furious,” said it was “cheating,” and compared it to not following the constitution.

Senator Mike Lee of Utah is now meeting with leaders of both movements to strategize their next move.  Honestly, I’ve no idea why they decided to take this hard line approach to dissent. Right now, there are very few people watching this convention, and if they’d gotten all of this relatively meaningless dissent out of the way today, it would never have been a story. And yes, it absolutely might yet still all go away. But it also might not, so stay tuned….

And FWIW: No, I don’t think this will lead to Trump not getting the nomination. But yes, this will be one of many things that shapes the narrative that comes out of the week. Because no, these people aren’t going away.

Interesting Things I Read in the Last Few Days

The Trump meltdown (a.k.a. Pivot to center) continues apace. So many stories means so many bullets. Let’s do this!

Trump Campaign News

  • This might be the most Donald Trump story of all time. Remember when The Donald promised to save Ed McMahon’s House? “Like some of Trump’s other charitable pledges, this one generated an avalanche of publicity, only to mire in confusion and delay once the TV cameras moved on. Trump negotiated for months over the property without striking a deal, with McMahon and his family in limbo. Then another deep-pocketed investor stepped in and resolved McMahon’s predicament with no fanfare.” [Bloomberg]
  • I’m sure you’ve read about Stargate by now, but if not, here you go: First the Trump campaign tweeted an image of Hillary surrounded by money and a Star of David. Then they deleted it. Then they retweeted it with a circle instead of a star. Then they claimed the star was a sheriff’s star. Then they blamed Microsoft shapes. Then Trump went on the attack. Then David “KKK Grand Wizard” Duke announced that the original meaning of the image was unambiguous. And tonight? Tonight he claimed to be the victim of “racial profiling.” And all of it took place on the day that he could’ve and should’ve been attacking Hillary Clinton over the FBI’s findings about her email. Well done, Republicans! Well done.
  • And for the record, yes, Donald Trump has a long history tweeting things that come from the white supremacist subculture. And no, it doesn’t matter in the slightest if he is “a racist.” All that matters is that he is trafficking in language and images are racist. What’s in his heart is unknowable and irrelevant. [Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall]
  • But this is Trump, so that’s not the only insane thing he’s done in the last 48 hours. He’s also spent the last two days complementing Saddam Hussein, and then by extension, defending his defense of Hussein. “‘Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. Right? He was a bad guy, really bad guy,’ Trump offered as a disclaimer. ‘But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights—they didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over.'” Ah yes…wasn’t it wonderful how Saddam gassed the people he declared ‘terrorists’ for their opposition to his regime? And wasn’t it just fantastic how he did that without resorting to niceties like the rule of law or due process? If only America could do away with those ridiculous aspects of our constitution that are designed to protect our natural rights…if only we could be more like Saddam’s Iraq! You know, the one we invaded so that we could put an end to his rape rooms and execution chambers? Well done, Republicans. Well done!
  • “Trump wants to torture people. He wants to kill the relatives of terrorists. He doesn’t want to read people their rights before summarily executing them. These are the things he’s promising that he can do for us. There was a time not too long ago that these kinds of actions were considered so loathsome and beyond the pale that they were used as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling the Baath regime there, but now one of our major party presidential candidates is offering to behave the same way.” [Martin Longman, with all the hyperlinks necessary to justify each of those claims]
  • “Eric Trump reportedly called up The Washington Post on Wednesday to profanely rant at the reporter spearheading coverage of the charitable contributions made (or not made) by his father, Donald Trump. But the younger Trump didn’t offer any evidence of those donations. ‘I’m just saying, Jesus Christ, why is this guy trying to f—ing kill us?’ Trump allegedly told the Post’s David A. Fahrenthold.” [TPM]
  • But wait….there’s more! Trump also accused Clinton of bribing the Attorney General of the United States. “That’s bribery folks. Bribery!
  • Almost but not quite finally… Trump released his fundraising numbers for June. Well, sort of.. Not only were they significantly smaller than Clinton’s numbers, but… “”The way the release is written makes it difficult to determine precisely how much Trump raised and for which committees and during which time period,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor at the University of California at Irvine School of Law, told TPM. “So, we’ll have to wait for the official FEC report before we know for sure what the money figures actually look like.” Remember, the FEC report with the actual numbers will drop right smack in the middle of Trump’s convention. That should be fun!
  • We have the list of the state’s Trump plans to target this fall: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. The fact that they are publicly announcing the need to defend Arizona and Georgia while ignoring the parts of the Rust Belt that The Donald had promised to flip tells you everything you need to know about the.coming campaign. [Wall Street Journal]
  • And last but certainly not least…oes this sound familiar? “Anti-Donald Trump Forces See Convention Coup as Within Reach

Clinton Campaign News

  • This may be the best single-paragraph description I’ve ever read of the Clintons: “One way to read this is that Obama is unusually clean and the Clintons usually sketchy in their dealings. Another is that the Clintons were targets of an unusually intense smear campaign. The reality is a mix: The Clintons really were unfairly targeted in the early 1990s, but the experience has left them sufficiently jaded and paranoid that they think their own conduct is irrelevant to whether they’ll be targeted. That leads to carelessness, which in turn leads to more scandals, and on and on the cycle goes.” [Vox.com]
  • And this may be the best answer yet that the Clinton Campaign has had to Trump’s faux-populism: “He intentionally ran up huge amounts of debt on his companies — hundreds of millions of dollars — he borrowed at high interest rates, he defaulted on those loans, didn’t pay them back, and in the end he declared bankruptcy four times.” And remember, he has bragged about how he will do for us what he has done for himself! [Matt Yglesias – much more from the speech here via TPM]
  • As you read this article on Republican plans to spin up yet more investigations of the Clintons, remember: their attack on Bill in the 1990s made him more popular, not less, eventually leading to a historic victory in the midterms of his second administration. I know they think they just haven’t been able to present their case appropriately, but c’mon guys…you’ve been at this for A QUARTER CENTURY now. The problem isn’t that you haven’t presented your case; it’s that you have and it’s incredibly lame. We hear you. We see you. We didn’t like what you were doing then, and we don’t like it now! The problem isn’t us; it’s you! [TPM]
  • “Hillary Clinton just made her college affordability plan a whole lot bolder. She announced Wednesday that she will call for college tuition at public universities to be free for families making less than $125,000 per year — a dramatic departure from President Obama’s higher education policy that shows the impact Bernie Sanders’s candidacy has already had on the Democratic Party.” [Vox.com]
  • Paul Ryan wants to deny classified briefings to Clinton during the campaign, but he’s apparently fine with Trump getting them. Uh…good luck with that argument guys?
  • Bernie Sanders plans to endorse Hillary Clinton before the convention. Because of course he will. This was always obviously going to happen, and you should henceforth take with a grain of salt anything said by anyone who ever claimed otherwise.

Email and Drones in the News for $1000 Alex

  • The FBI Director announced what everyone who understood the facts of the case already knew: Although Clinton had done something painfully stupid, what she did was so obviously not illegal that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring an indictment against her. I’m honestly so sick of this story that I don’t have the patience to write at length about it. But in a nutshell: under the current classification system, it is a violation of security protocols for people inside the government to discuss the nation’s drone program even when that discussion is directly connected to news accounts of the program. So, for example, if the NYT publishes a story about it and the Secretary of State send a link to it in an email, THAT is a violation of the rules. This is so self-evidently stupid that I’e been opposed to it since I first learned of it when Bush was in office, and I said then what I say now – violating this rule says nothing about the person violating it and everything about the growth of the national security state, and I don’t care one whit that Condi Rice or Hillar Clinton violated it. But because no one actually cares about the actual issues involved here, and because everyone already thinks they know the facts of the case, no one seems to pay any attention to this. But since you are reading this, you likely are not one of those people, and in that case: here are the facts of the case, and I promise you, they are not what you think they are.
  • Here, for the record, is the key segment from Director Comey’s press conference: “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case…In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.” [FBI.gov]
  • My man Josh Marshall gets it: “The nonsense about this being an epic crime has mainly overwhelmed the simple facts of what happened which show Clinton in a very poor light. Not a disqualifying light. But just really bad judgment on a few fronts. All this said, this was 99.9% predictable and 100% obvious. It’s a mammoth press failure that for various reasons this reality was concealed from the public.” [TPM]
  • No, what General Petraeus did was not similar to what Hillary Clinton did. He knowingly and willfully provided classified documents to his mistress, and then tried to cover up his actions by lying to the FBI. So please just stop. [Bloomberg]
  • From one of the only political scientists I still regularly read: “we found little evidence that United States attorneys or the career prosecutors whom they supervise target opposition party defendants with weaker cases — no measurable difference was observed in conviction rates between parties. In fact, prosecutors seem to treat members of the president’s party more harshly in resolving cases, perhaps to avoid the appearance of favoritism in plea deals that typically involve recommendations for sentence reductions.” [Brendan Nyhan]
  • “Consider two “scandals.” The first is Benghazi. Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong. It was, essentially, a complete nothingburger. The second was Emailgate. In that one, Hillary unquestionably did things that were foolish at best and possibly criminal at worst. It was a genuine story. But Republicans treated them both exactly the same. It didn’t matter whether Hillary actually did something wrong or not. They went after her with their usual Whitewater/Travelgate/Vince Foster level of fury, convinced that if only they yelled loudly enough the country would finally see her unmasked as the villain she really is. And they’re still doing it…After eight years of Bill Clinton’s presidency and now four years of Hillary Clinton’s post-cabinet career, Republicans have been crying wolf about Hillary for more than a decade. It’s pretty obvious that they’re going to continue, and that they really don’t care whether she’s actually done anything wrong. I have a feeling the public may finally be getting tired of their games.” That, in a nutshell, is how well more than 1/3 of your friends and neighbors see the “scandals” surrounding the Clintons. Even if some of them have merit, the manner in which Republicans pursue them is to us worse than the “Scandals” themselves. You don’t need to agree with us, but if you want to understand us, you really do need to understand this. [Kevin Drum]

Fox News’ Roger Ailes Sued For Sexual Harrassment By Gretchen Carlson

  • Not that long ago she was one of the top anchors on the network. Now she’s suing Ailes for sexual harrassment, and boy does she have some disgusting and quite specific allegations to make. Read them in full if you like.
  • “In the hours since the lawsuit was announced, “at least ten” other women have contacted the law firm, wanting to speak about Ailes’ treatment, according to a spokesman for the firm.” [CNN]
  • Dear old white dudes: the world has changed, and you need to just stop. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the way things are now: reality is what it is and it ain’t going back. That is all.

Random Thoughts on American Politics

  • “Trump supporters were more likely to describe blacks negatively, relative to whites, when compared with people who backed fellow Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.” Sanders supporters, meanwhile, are the least likely to express racist views among all of the groups of supporters this election. [Reuters]
  • “we’re seeing white flight from the Republican Party. Of course, I should probably add that ANY flight from the GOP would be white, because that’s the demographic they have appealed to since the 1960’s. The folks at Bloomberg credit this flight of white college-educated voters to the candidacy of Donald Trump. But as a lot of us have been pointing out, his rise can only be understood by examining what Republicans have been up to since the Bush/Cheney era (or perhaps before that). So it might be helpful to take a more historical look at what brought us to this place.” [Political Animal]
  • “One could make the case that Clinton compromised more than necessary, or that he accomplished too little (those accomplishments include the Family and Medical Leave Act, a more generous Earned-Income Tax Credit and a higher top tax rate, and an economic boom that yielded across-the-board wage gains). The point is that Clinton made those compromises in the face of real pressure. That African-Americans remained his most loyal constituency throughout his presidency attests to Clinton’s success in maintaining his party’s trans-racial appeal even as he reassured dubious whites.” [New Republic]
  • “But politics in a democracy is inherently a team sport, and parties are the most important of the teams in the game. Team sports never offer the option of playing alongside only people you like. To effect sustained political change, you have to build broad coalitions. Broadening the coalition does not imply unwavering loyalism to every bad party decision…a party is more than its presidential nominee, more even than its organization and its organizational leadership. It’s a vast national network of men and women inspired by a shared ideal and impelled by common interests. Those networks are not easily built, and they are even less easily replaced. And if they are replaced, any new network would soon become as messy and inconsistent as the previous, because that’s the nature of political networks in a vast, complex, continent-spanning society.” Good god I find myself agreeing with David ‘Axis of Evil’ Frum. Then again, one of the reasons he was such an effective political operative is because he understood on a deep level just how and why American politics works as it does.
  • “Guess what? The Pentagon is still lying about how effective our anti-missile defenses are.” [Kevin Drum]

BREXIT News

  • “The answer to the disruptions of globalization is a strengthening of the social welfare state and a return to classic Keynesian principles, which the president evoked by quoting the Canadian-American liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith: So we need growth that is broad and that lifts everybody up, including tax policies that do right by working families, and robust safety nets for those who fall on hard times. As John Kenneth Galbraith once said: The “common denominator of progress” is our people. It’s not numbers. It’s not abstractions. It’s how are our people doing.” [New Republic]
  • Nigel Farage, Key Architect Of Brexit, Steps Down As Head Of Far-Right UKIP. When all of the supposed winners in a conflict are running from the field, you have to ask yourself…did they really win? Oh, and Farage, for his part, is apparently outraged that foreign nationals might not get to stay in the UK if BREXIT happens. Because of course he didn’t think it would apply to people like him, right? Only those “other people” would be asked to leave, yeah?
  • In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, the Tories have announced that they will move to slash corporate taxes to the lowest of any major economy as a response to the crisis that the BREXIT vote has caused. [Financial Times]
  • “there is no possible resolution to the Article 50 negotiations that pleases British voters and the other 27 European countries — without tanking the UK economy.” [Vox.com]
  • “This current divide must be especially sad for the Tories. The idea that Europe, the place where they buy their cheese, the place where they took their first five mistresses on minibreaks, the place where they cried at Hitler’s bunker, this collection of potential second homes, this was the place that tore them apart. And so we have a Conservative leadership election, a sort of X Factor for choosing the antichrist. Already, the cast looks like the episode of Come Dine With Me they show in hell before Top Gear comes on.” [The Guardian]

Random Bits and Bobs

  • “It was my first time in Scotland. Insurance people completely forbid drinking on set, but try that up there and you’ll get shot. I’m not saying Scottish people drink all the time, but if they drink, they drink. It’s not a sip of wine, it’s a quarter of a bottle of scotch. There were 1,000 extras for the battle scenes and they went at it for real. After each shot, the cries went up: “Doctor!” “Nurse!”” [How We Made Highlander – The Guardian]
  • Why is ISIS turning to global terrorism? Because it’s losing: “The key takeaway here, then, should not be that these attacks show ISIS is a growing threat. Selling the past week of attacks as a sign of reach and strength, rather than weakness and decline, is handing ISIS the narrative it wants. This perspective doesn’t make last week’s attacks any less of a tragedy. But being clear about the sources of ISIS’s turn to terrorism helps us limit its ability to profit from the murder of innocents.” [Vox.com]
  • “Built by Christians who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, a 510-foot-long, $100 million “replica” of Noah’s Ark is set to open in a new Kentucky theme park later this week. “I believe this is going to be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era in history,” said Ham during the ceremony. “People are going to come from all over the world.” [io9.com]
  • “A woman accused of taking part in a 14-hour group beating that killed one of her half brothers and injured another during a church counseling session was convicted on Tuesday of manslaughter and assault but was acquitted of murder.” [AP]

There. Now you’re caught up!

Interesting Things I Read Today

Before I get to today’s bullets, a serious long-form recommendation from my favorite political scientist, Matt Kerbel. It’s called Five Excrutaitg Steps to Republican Renewal, and here’s how he ledes it off: “My proposal cuts against the short-term thinking that drives the political process. It involves making five excruciatingly difficult choices that run counter to how parties are built to act, which is why I don’t think anything like it will be considered by the political class. Still, I offer it as a serious and good faith recommendation to enable Republicans to reverse the significant damage they have done to their ability to function as a national party over the past seven-plus years.” Our shared national community is stronger when it has two parties dedicated to constructive governance, so I honestly do hope that one day soon they do some of the things he suggests. 

Now, on to those bullets…

On Brexit

  • “Mr. Johnson offered no details about when or how Britain should invoke Article 50 — the formal process for leaving the European Union — nor did he lay out a plan for how Britain could maintain free trade with the European Union, the world’s largest common market, without accepting the bloc’s demand for the unrestricted movement of workers.” [NY Times]
  • “If it wants access to the bloc’s single market, post-Brexit Britain must accept EU freedom of movement rules and the supremacy of the European Court of Justice, EU diplomats have warned ahead of a vital summit. The idea that Britain could have access under a European Economic Area style deal and impose border controls was a non-starter, diplomats said. [euractiv.com]
  • “The EU is an even more ambitious outgrowth of those same liberal ideals. Not a new nation, but a political entity that transcends nation and insists that Poles and Brits and Spaniards and Swedes are all created equal and should all have the right to live and work and trade peacefully amongst themselves. This is a very big idea, and when you take its magnitude seriously you can see that it’s not particularly surprising that it’s run into a few problems along the way.” [Matt Yglesias]
  • “If Britain wants to have a similar status to Switzerland and Norway, then it will also have to pay into EU structural funds like those countries do. The British public will find out what that means.” [The Guardian]
  • “European leaders may also be hoping that forcing Britain to make a stark choice between staying in the EU or leaving under possibly chaotic circumstances will cause them to think twice about leaving at all. Defying the will of the voters would be politically costly, of course, but so too would be presiding over a chaotic exit from the EU that damages the British economy.” [Timothy B. Lee]
  • “The structure of the EU–a common market with free flow of people and goods–has a great deal to recommend it, especially given Europe’s bellicose history. But the incomplete architecture–the absence of a fiscal and banking union–along with gross mismanagement–fiscal austerity, punitive actions by Brussels and Germany, non-management of immigrant flows–surely led “Leave” voters to discount the benefits of EU membership.” [Jared Bernstein]
  • “The entire EU project was fundamentally flawed from the start in as much as it created monetary union without political union – a workable enough scheme until you hit any crisis worth its name and the whole edifice starts hemorrhaging on every front. That crisis came in 2008 and the EU has limped from crisis to crisis ever since. It’s a side point but this is an example of just how amazing an edifice the framers of the US constitution created when they set in place what amounted to a massive and expanding free trade and unified legal/regulatory zone that became the United States.” [Josh Marshall]

On the US Election

  • Hardly Anybody Wants To Speak At Trump’s Convention: “POLITICO reached out to more than 50 prominent Republicans. Few said they plan to attend the convention in Cleveland, let alone speak.” Some of the on-the-record quotes are truly hilarious if you know how to read between the political lines.
  • “This also sound shady! But no. It turns out that on Hillary Clinton’s official State Department schedule, she sometimes had private meetings and didn’t list the participants. “No known federal laws were violated,” the article says.” [Kevin Drum]
  • “you shouldn’t protest vote if you’re not willing to live with the implications of your protest, the implications, having been outlined to you by, you know, experts.” [John Scalzi]
  • Mitch McConnell on Donald Trump: “I think just kind of going from rally to rally and winging it may have worked in the primary but it’s not going work in the general.” [TPM]
  • Former Bush Administration Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has announced he will vote for Clinton instead of Trump. I post this not because I like Paulson, but because he’s yet more evidence that establishment Republicans are continuing their movement towards Clinton. And yes, I would post stories of important people moving the opposite direction if there were any, but there aren’t. 
  • “People are people. To some extent, we’re all prisoners of the environments we were raised in and the trials we’ve been through over the course of our lives. That might call for empathy and understanding as much as it calls for censure. But one thing it doesn’t excuse is politicians and media personalities who very much know better but cynically appeal to racial sentiment anyway, either for ratings or for votes. Calling out these folks for appealing to racism—or even just tolerating it—is almost certainly useful.” [Kevin Drum]
  • “The current trends give Hillary Clinton a 7.3-point lead over the tiny fingered, cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibboon (thanks Scotland, for that one!)” [Kos]
  • This is one of the reasons that Trump is having such difficulty in the general election: “Almost eight years after electing a black president, vast majorities of blacks and Hispanics think President Barack Obama at least tried to make race relations in the United States better, according to a poll released Monday. But only about half of whites think Obama made race relations better or at least tried to make race relations better but failed. Almost a third of whites said the president “made race relations worse.” [TPM]
  • Newt Gingrich on Donald Trump: “”I think he stands for an evolving process of trying to come to grips with really big problems.”
  • “Most of the Trump Baja condo buyers accused Trump and two of his adult children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., of duping them into believing that Trump was one of the developers, giving them confidence that it was safe to buy unbuilt property in Mexico.” [LA Times]

On other randomness

  • As we near the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park system, a reminder: “every dollar invested in the National Parks generates $10 for local economies.” And yet… “There’s a record $12 billion in deferred maintenance across the parks system, leaving leaky toilets, crumbling roads and unsafe bridges at various sites, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters on a June 16 conference call.” [Bloomberg]
  • Six Million years of human history in Ten Minutes. [Kottke]

Does Trump Understand How Campaigns Work?

Take it as snark if you want to, but I mean it to be a serious question. Does he understand what game he’s playing? I’m going to start with an excerpt from Josh Marshall to set this up:

On both sides of the aisle, virtually every other campaign in the country gets swept along in the tide of spending coordinated between the presidential campaign and the candidate’s party: voter registration, mobilization, election day turnout, TV ad saturation. Most campaigns which aren’t in very safe districts or uncontested races rely heavily on that spending as a supplement to their own. If it’s not there, or there in a dramatically reduced amount, that could have a big impact on congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative elections. 

Trump has shown that you can win a primary in an incredibly crowded field without spending big bucks, and I’ll admit to being a bit surprised by that. I don’t want to over-interpret a single election – nothing good comes from drawing conclusions when you’ve got n=1 – so we’ll have to wait another few cycles before we can figure out what that means. But I’m with Josh here….let’s give Trump the benefit of the doubt and say it’s true. Does that mean the Trump campaign wont need to raise mountains of cash for the general election? No, it does not, and for precisely the reasons Josh gives above.

Trump’s premise seems to be that the party exists to serve the candidate, and therefore to serve him, but that’s just not how this game works. And it doesn’t matter if you think it should be or could be different, because right now it isn’t. Literally no one – and I do mean no one – within the Republican Party was planning for the model that Trump is insisting he will pursue. The national and state parties, as well as candidates up and down the line, have all assumed that there would be a tidal wave of cash for them to ride that would be raised by the presidential candidate and his campaign. And even if Trump someho changed his mind and decided to start raising money, it’s way WAY too late to raise anything close to what Romney needed to stay competitive. Because he’s starting so late, he’d have to raise money at an impossible rate. Because the donors hate him – they don’t want their names on FEC reports that would associate them with him! – they aren’t willing to give. Because Trump isn’t nearly as wealthy as he claims, he can’t kickstart the fundraising with his own cash. And because he seems to loathe the idea of asking anyone for anything, it’s hard to image he’d do it well even if he deemed it necessary. Here’s a small part of the NYT’s take, but these details has been confirmed by numerous other organizations:

And on Friday evening, Mr. Trump is to attend a fund-raiser in Richmond, Va., though the invitation that went out just over a week before the event did not specify where it would be held. It also did not have host names, tiers of donors or even a request for a specific dollar amount — all basics of most political fund-raisers.

Mr. Trump has complicated matters by resisting efforts to engage in routine telephone calls to donors and to make gentle requests of people to write checks. Some donors who have been approached have given tepid responses, worried about their names showing up in a public campaign-finance filing.
Some aides have also grumbled privately about a trip Mr. Trump has planned for the end of the month to Scotland and Ireland, to tour his golf courses. Three aides, speaking anonymously to discuss internal frustrations, said they worried that the trip would distract him from his campaign.

Things are so bad that party regulars are now warning that he might raise less than 1/3 of the expected amount, just $300 million of the expected $1 billion, a number Clinton and her campaign will have no problem hitting. And let’s put this in perceptive: imagine that a business was planning on having $1 billion to spend over the next six months, only to suddenly be told by its CFO that they have to cut spending back to $300 million. Literally dno one would think this was a positive development, that this would be easy for the organization to accommodate. But that’s precisely what Trump is going here!

On top of all that, Trump hasn’t started building a proper campaign staff. He’s got one communications person and two pollsters, one of whom was explicitly hired to poll the state of New York, a state Trump won’t win even if the zombie apocalypse comes in early November. 

And so I have to ask: does he even understand the game he is playing? Does he even understand how party politics works?

Election Updates

Well…it looks like my decision last week to transition from the primaries to the general election was the right move. Sticking with the three categories for bullets, if for no other reason than that it helps illustrate the enormous difference between the periods before and after the convention. So here we go…

Republican

A number of events this week have begun to confirm this hypothesis from Lee Drutman at Vox: “This election will reveal which Republicans have policy principles and which Republicans are primarily partisans.” And I’m filing this here, rather than under the General Election category, because if anything is likely to lead to problems at the convention, it is this divide. On one side you’ve got what I’ll call the principled policy people – conservatives like Paul Ryan who genuinely believe in the rightness of a certain approach to government and who want to use power to align policy with their principles. On the other side you’ve got the pure partisans, people for whom politics is essentially a tribal conflict and who want nothing more than to punch their opponents in the face. For more than two decades, these two factions have existed in the Republican coalition side by side without much tension, and particularly so over the last seven years. The first group has been opposed to Democratic policy proposals, while the second has seen blocking the advance of those policies as a fantastic way of “winning the day.” 

But now that we’re entering an incumbent-free election, and now that Republicans have settled on the candidate with the least clear record of support for conservative policy positions, everything is different. Walk with me through some of this week’s biggest stories:

  • The biggest is obviously Paul Ryan’s very public refusal to endorse Trump. Lots of people seem to think that this is just his attempt to gain some leverage over Trump, but I don’t think that’s all that is going on here. Check out this line from Ryan’s anti-endorsement speech on Thursday: “This is the party of Lincoln, of Reagan, of Jack Kemp.” Unless you paid particularly close attention to Republican politics in the 1990s, you’re probably wondering about one of those name. Lincoln and Reagan are obvious, but Jack Kemp? I happen to have been a Republican back in the 1990s, and from the perspective of my youth Kemp was one of the main reasons why, so this reference jumped out to me right away. Kemp was Ryan’s mentor as Ryan was working his way up through the Republican power structure in DC. He was a true believer in the power of conservative policy to uplift the poor, and it is thanks to Kemp’s mentorship that Ryan is often seen as a policy wonk. Point is, Ryan really does believe in this stuff. He’s not just in the arena to punch Democrats in the face. He wants to affect real change irrespective of what it means for the party that opposes him. And Trump? Trump is his mirror image. For Trump, tribal warfare is everything and policy is nothing. Everything is negotiable but for the warfare. As you will see as we move through these bullets and through the election season.
  • But not far behind should be the Southern Baptists. Reagan’s ability to bring evangelical Baptists into the Republican coalition was one of his greatest political triumphs, and if Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is to be believed, Trump has them on their way out the door. As you read the op-ed from which the following quote is taken, remember that the Southern Baptists are the single largest Protestant denomination in the US, and for the last forty years they have been extraordinarily reliable Republican voters. I’m not remotely naive enough to think this will sway large numbers of voters in the short-term, nor am I unclear on the fact that many of the members of this church are Christians in word but not deed, but even so, the long-term implications of this shouldn’t be underestimated. It was the denomination’s leaders that brought their flock into the Republican fold, and there’s no reason that over the long run they couldn’t lead them right back out. Just listen to this: “The Bible calls on Christians to bear one another’s burdens. White American Christians who respond to cultural tumult with nostalgia fail to do this. They are blinding themselves to the injustices faced by their black and brown brothers and sisters in the supposedly idyllic Mayberry of white Christian America. That world was murder, sometimes literally, for minority evangelicals. This has gospel implications not only for minorities and immigrants but for the so-called silent majority. A vast majority of Christians, on earth and in heaven, are not white and have never spoken English. A white American Christian who disregards nativist language is in for a shock. The man on the throne in heaven is a dark-skinned, Aramaic-speaking “foreigner” who is probably not all that impressed by chants of “Make America great again.”
  • In reaction to this, Trump of course started throwing punches, because on his side of the divide that’s the entire point of politics. First he suggested that he was blindsided by all this, going so far as make up a series of phone calls and meeting that Paul Ryan’s people say never happened [Wait…you support Trump? Fine, prompting Paul Ryan and his people to deny that a series of phone calls ever took place. Choose your poison, doesn’t matter a whit to the point I’m making]. Then, because that was insufficiently aggressive, Trump then suggested he might move to remove Paul Ryan, former VP candidate and current Speaker of the Hosue of Representatives and leader of his party in congress, as chair of the party’s nomination convention in July. This then led Sarah Palin, another member of the politics-as-tribal-warfare camp who was the party’s nominee for Vice President prior to Ryan, to publicly back the man challenging him in an upcoming primary election, declaring that Ryan’s political career is “over” for his refusal to support Trump. Even if neither happens we’re already well into unprecedented territory just by virtue of the threats themselves.
  • Returning to the other side of the fence for a moment, more traditional movement conservatives are continuing to threat all manner of things, the least of which is the promised refusal to vote for Trump in the Fall. I’m seeing lots of people argue that they will all come around in the fall, and no doubt many of them will. But some wont, and I think it’s safe to say that the more ones financial future rides on their being a principled conservative movement, the more likely one is to make good on that threat. And here it’s important to keep in mind that the two camps I’m positing aren’t either/or. When policy and partisanship align, it’s possible to be in both camps. Erick Erickson illustrates this nicely: dude has no problem, for example, referring to a sitting member of the Supreme Court as a “goat fucking child molestor,” so even though he describes himself as a Christian he clearly enjoys punching his opponents in the face. But he’s also deeply committed to his particularly warped version of Christianity, quite possibly even more committed to that than to the punching. and it’s that story, right there, that I expect to see playing out in a variety of ways over the coming months as Republicans grapple with the things Trump says and does, including…
  • Did you know Trump no longer supports his own tax plan? That he’s open to raising taxes on the wealthy? That he wants to raise the minimum wage? That he’s hired a long-time Democratic fundraiser from Wall Street to run his fundraising operations? That he’s no longer self-funding his campaign, whatever hat might have originally meant? If you’re on team “Donald Trump will punch that bitch in the face,” this is meaningless to you. In fact, because it annoys liberals like me you might actually laugh and cheer it. If you’re on team “conservative principles and policies matter,” this is heresy. Hence the Ryan vs. Trump vs. Palin pile-up. And sure thing, maybe all these people can all figure out some way to put aside their differences long enough to run an election, but there’s just no way all of them will. Will it be enough to matter in the end? Depends how it all plays out and how Trump responds as it does, yeah?
  • But here’s an interesting tidbit, this from the man himself: “”Does it have to be unified? I’m very different than everybody else, perhaps, that’s ever run for office. I actually don’t think so. I think it would be better if it were unified, I think it would be — there would be something good about it. But I don’t think it actually has to be unified in the traditional sense.” And look, from the perspective of Team Punching People, it doesn’t! Why make nice with people who refuse to submit to your will when there’s quite literally nothing that says you don’t have to? Nothing, that is, except election returns, only those provide their information to late to alter behavior.
  • At a much higher level, I think this distinction helps explain why Trump’s support, contrary to what most people thinks, is coming from voters with incomes above their state’s median. These aren’t working class people, they are upper-middle class. They may well be angry, and they may well feel left behind, but it’s not their personal economic situation that’s driving their rage. What they want is to “make America great again” by “returning” it to a social and political order more like the one they remember from the past, and there’s no amount of conservative policy papers that can help them get there. In fact, the policy papers that men like Paul Ryan might offer up very well might lead in the opposite direction! And thus, the version of conservative identity politics championed by Trump that leads to…well…see above!
  • But let’s say you’ve made it this far and still aren’t convinced. How about this: The Bushes have publicly refused to support Trump, while Dick Cheney just endorsed him. J That’s the divide, right there, separating the previous Republican President from his Vice Presdient. Go ahead and explain that another way. I’ll wait.

Democratic

  • On this side of the divide, the primaries and caucuses continue along. Bernie picked up a bunch more delegates from Wasington, while Hillary won the island of Guam. At this point, the only thing that can stop Clinton is the Super Delegates, and everyone except the most die-hard Bernie fan knows that’s not going to happen. So as I pointed out last week, the only question is how this whole thing wraps up, and what role Bernie gets to play at the convention and as a Clinton surrogate in the Fall. I’m so unconcerned about this transition that I actually have nothing to say here. Bernie knows what’s at stake, and he will do what’s needed to bring his supporters home, at least in the short term. Longer term is a much more interesting question, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog.
  • Clinton is already working the back channels to unify the party, and although Drudge readers will no doubt cry foul, I promise you, Trump’s ascendency to the “presumptive nominee” status brought the entire party together in one fell swoop. Feel free to dream about “Democrats in disarray” if it makes you feel better, but nope, not this time. 

General Election

  • The Cook Political Report is the gold standard of non-partisan electoral analysis, and they’re out with their first update since Trump essentially locked things up. The short version: things look very, very good for Team Blue. Cook moved 11 states in Dems’ direction and  redefined Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin from being toss-up to lean Democratic. In the House, the Report now places 23 races into their “toss-up” category, of which a full 19 are currently held by Republicans, and another 35 as likely or lean, of which 26 are currently Republican. For now, that’s Team Blue on offense, Team Red on defense, and oh boy does it get worse for them in the Senate. Because in the Senate, there are 34 seats in play, 24 of which currently held by Republicans and six of which have become toss-ups. I’ll be all over those races once we get post-convention, but for now it’s enough to say that this is NOT where the Republicans were hoping to be at this point in the process. No doubt – everything might change! – but even if it does, it wont change the fact that at this moment they aren’t anywhere near where they want to be.
  • People always say, “no one could’ve seen this coming.” That’s just flat wrong. Norm Ornstein, the dean of non-partisan congressional analysts, saw this coming from years away. He’s been screaming about it to anyone who would listen, so it’s worth spending a moment checking in with him to get his take on where things stand. His long-view take is both interesting and concise. For example, speaking on the influence of Newt Gingrich: “He tribalized the political process. He went out and recruited the candidates, and gave them the language to use about how disgusting and despicable and horrible and immoral and unpatriotic the Democrats were. That swept in the Republican majority in 1994. The problem is that all the people he recruited to come in really believed that shit. They all came in believing that Washington was a cesspool. So what followed has been a very deliberate attempt to blow up and delegitimize government, not just the president but the actions of government itself in Washington.”
  • I don’t know if Matt Kerbel saw this all coming, but I do know that he sees quite clearly what is happening now. And this comparison to some of the nuttier races of 2010 and 2012 is I think spot on: “The upcoming presidential contest promises to be unlike any other, but if there is a roadmap for what to expect it is probably contests like these where the preferences of primary voters differed greatly from the preferences of everyone else.” Given that I used some of Matt’s research in my dissertation it isn’t surprising that I would agree with him, but still…
  • Matt’s analysis feeds quite nicely into this from David Atkins: “Trump Can’t Win. But Clinton Could Lose By Ignoring America’s Desire for Change.” Which isn’t all that different from this other piece by Matt: “Clinton Is a Poor Fit to the Election Cycle. Trump Is a Poor Fit to the Electorate.”
  • Did you know that nearly half of all working-class voters aren’t white? 
  • Did you know that Trump thinks it’s a winning political strategy to blame a wife for her husband’s infidelity? As I said on Facebook, men’s rights activists will love this, and Republican partisans will find it funny, but the other 65% of us will be horrified by this line of attack. I don’t have the energy to fully explain why right now, and anyways, we’ll see that I’m right soon enough. Maybe that would’ve worked in the days when “America was great,” but in the world we actually live in today it will be an unmitigated disaster. Remember how Bill Clinton’s popularity ROSE during his impeachment proceedings? That was a helluva trick to pull, but they clearly didn’t learn much from the experience.
  • But Benghazi and emails and infidelities, they’ll sink her! No. Here’s how this will work. Just as these “scandals” will be all over Drudge and Breitbart, so too will  there be an endless stream of reports about Trump University and other Trump catastrophes on DailyKos and other lefty sites, each with breathless reporting describing the “panic” that is setting in among opponents. Both sets of reports will be ridiculous, as both will reflect the prejudices and interests of people who already oppose the other candidate, with each group of supporters operating inside their own information bubble. If it isn’t in the mass media, it isn’t having an effect on anyone other than committed partisans, and in that phrase the word committed is absolutely key.j

Last but not least, a parting thought: “It’s a lot more impolite to go blow up a bunch of people for no good reason than it is to say “fuck” every now and then.”

Indiana Incoming!

So it’s looking more and more likely that Indiana will make the end of both races. Cruz has done a piss-poor job of managing his own narrative as the race predictably headed into Trump territory in the North East, and his naming Carly Fiorinia as his running mate was so self-evidently stupid that I suspect it cratered his campaign in Indiana. So if Trump ends up taking the state tomorrow, that’ll be the beginning of the end for Cruz. Assuming, of course, that he decides to stand down at the convention. I’m not even remotely convinced that he’s going to do that, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made that point enough by now that there’s really no point repeating myself. So instead, let’s get to the bullets.

Starting this week, I’m going with three categories: Republican, Democratic, and General Election. In the first category I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing – rounding up stories about the fight for delegates and over the rules of the convention. In the second, I’m going to mostly focus on stories that examine how Bernie is managing the end of his campaign. And in the third, well…If people want to see a Clinton-Trump race, I’ve no problem with that. We’ve got all kinds of polling on that race, and political science tells us pretty definitively that we’ve entered the period in which the polls do a pretty good job of predicting the eventual outcome. So…three categories!

But first….before you do anything else, stop and read this post by Josh Marshall. It’s called “Political Bilingualism Takes the Stage,” and it lays out quite clearly what is likely to be the single-most important fault line of the coming campaign. I’m going to quote just enough of it to give you an idea of what it’s about, but not enough to keep you from going to TPM to read it. Here it is:

These two candidates aren’t just appealing to different demographics or voting coalitions. They’re operating in what almost amounts to two different political universes. In linguistic terms it is almost like two mutually unintelligible languages. I guarantee you that everyone who has voted for Trump in any primary so far loved those remarks. They hate Hillary. They hate ‘political correctness’. More than anything else they love provocation itself. But this kind of talk, while a single instance itself, reminds us that Trump has already all but disqualified himself with huge swaths of the electorate.

The things that make Trump popular with a certain part of the Republican base are precisely the same things that are driving his unpopularity with pretty much everyone else. The initial plan was for Trump to run hard right and then pivot center, but given who Trump is that’s always been a silly notion. Trump will stay Trump, and as he said today, he’s his own strategist, a great strategies, and he likes the campaign he is running. More importantly his supporters love it, and they are convinced – utterly convinced – that the rest of the country either hates Hillary as much as they do, or will come to hate her that much once Trump gets finished with her. I’m honestly not terribly interested in engaging that argument – history suggests that Hillary has stayed popular enough with a majority of the public over the last 25 years, and either way time will quickly tell the truth of it one way or another – but the point here is that the two parties are operating in largely parallel universes. And as Josh points out, that means the race this fall is going to be driven by demographics in ways unlike anything this country has seen in a long, long time. Trump will no doubt win white men and married white women by huge numbers, but the things that attract those people to him will drive hordes of others away. And given the way the Electoral College works, white men and married white women aren’t even nearly enough to win an election. But now I’m getting ahead of myself and way ahead of Josh, so let’s leave well enough alone and say…go read that article! 

Republican 

  • If Trump wins big in Indiana – and recent polling suggests he will –  all eyes turn towards California. And I think people are vastly underestimating the likelihood of California turning nasty, chaotic, brutish, and short. Those of you  younger than me might find this hard to believe, but California used to be a swing state, and the state’s Republican Party was once one of the best in the nation – remember Nixon and Reagan? But then Pete Wilson decided he wanted to be Presdient right about the time that party’s base went all-in on immigrant-panic, and it’s been in a long, not-so-slow decline ever since (and no, electing Arnold in a 100+ person race as a Republican isn’t an effective counter to my claim). As the party there has wandered it’s way towards oblivion, the rifts between its various factions have grown deeper, and those rifts almost perfectly match the one playing out in the national party during these primaries this year. Given that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if things within the state degenerate rapidly over the next few weeks. In fact, they already are. And yes, Republicans, my Trump is Pete Wilson analogy should scare the shit out of you, not that you are at all likely to listen to me.

    Democratic

    • While Benie has been laying off – excuse me, “right-sizing” – staff across the country, Hillary is expanding her organization in the states most likely to be battlegrounds this Fall. He’s also building a very strange case that Super Delegates are going to break for him as we head into the convention. This is why people who aren’t members of a party shouldn’t run for that party’s nomination – they end up saying things that are so totally cluelessj that they embarrass themselves without having the knowledge necessary to even realize they’ve done so. Dude, I love so many of your ideas. Please, just stop. You’ll thank yourself later, I promise.
    • Let’s grant Bernie the fact that he’s built a movement. For the record, I’m not sure the evidence fully supports that, but let’s leave that aside and assume that there’s something crucial voting and polling data is missing and that it is actually happening. Given that he is not going to be the Democratic nominee, the question is: where does that movement go from here? Late last week, Bernie seemed to indicate that he would use his influence to push for three specific things: automatic voter registration; same-day registration and open primaries; a return to a Howard Dean-like 50-state strategy. These are all really interesting ideas, but as Political Animal points out, the first two are controlled entirely by state legislatures and state parties, so unless his people are willing to become seriously engaged members of the Democratic Party at the state level, there’s no way this is going to happen. And the 50-state strategy sounds like a great idea – I used to be all-in on it! – until you look at what it actually produces. Do Bernie and his people really want to see a Democratic Party populated by more Southern, conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats? Because it’s the South and the rural West where Dems tend not to run candidates, and if the party were to push hard into those places, you’d get exactly what you got in 2006 and 2008 – Democrats that behave like Republcans. Believe me, I get the impulse, I really do. But in our current political culture and with our current set of political institutions, I don’t think a true 50-state strategy does anything other than make the Democratic Party more like the Republican Party. I’m open to arguments as to why 2016 might be different than 2008, but I’ve yet to hear any good ones.
    • And can we get real for a minute about all this? If Bernie really wants to make things more small- democratic, can he please come out against caucuses? Because caucuses are just voter ID laws on steroids.j And sure, doing so would mean repudiating most of his wins, but so what? He’s a principled revolutionary seeking long-term positive social change, yeah?

    General Election

    • Donald Trump says women don’t like Hillary. He’s right, particularly so with married women. The problem? No matter what Druge’s random headlines might scream, Women dislike Trump even more, and not just by a little bit. If you’re an older white dude I’m sure Trump’s whole “Hillary is an incompetent woman” line of attack sounds like a winner to you. It sure does to Trump! Me? I’m not gonna say nothing. Wouldn’t want to get in the way of what comes next. 
    • The last time Republicans were this unpopular a dude named Clinton became President. 
    • So far, Republicans in competitive races seem to want to have nothing to do with Trump. According to the widely regarded Cook Report, there are 11 Republican Senators and 34 Republican  members of the House facing competitive races this year (Let me put down a marker here: that House number will expand by at least 10 between now and September 15). So far, only one has endorsed Trump, and most have either stayed on the sidelines or announced that they wont be attending their party’s convention this summer. Obviously it’s still early, and plenty of them could either change their minds or come around. But as the summer turns into the fall, keep that list from Cook Report in mind: if the people on that list break for Trump, it is because they believe it will help them in their own races to do so, and if they stay away it is because they believe  associating themselves with him will hurt their changes. No need for punditry or back and forth on this – their own self-interested actions will quite clearly explain themselves.
    • So far, Trump appears to have neither a plan for party fundraising in the general election nor a process for vetting and selecting a Vice Presidential candidate. And as Matt Kerbel points out, it is extraordinarily unlikely that anyone even remotely associated with the Republican establishment will want to serve if asked (he calls it the Sargent Shriver problem, another comparison that should terrify my Republican readers. But won’t, because reasons!) But I think he’s underselling the problem, because I think Trump is going to go WAAAY off the reservation with his pick. Mark my words: the VP selection will be one of three truly horrific mistakes that Trump makes between now and November. It will be like Palin but then worse- 72 hours of good press followed by two months of embarrassment, including one that drowns out everything else for a good 48 hours. Not sure yet what the other two will be, but as you can see, I’ve no problem making specific predictions, so I’ll be back with them once I figure them out! 
    • In the same ways that fears of an Obama presidency led people to stock up on guns and ammo, fears of a Trump presidency are leading to a surge in naturalization and new voter registrations. Hooray for new American citizens! Hooray for integration into the Ameican community! C’mon, Republicans, that’s what you’ve always said you wanted, right? 
    • Republican votes are angry. Some of Bernie’s Bros are angry too. But average Americans? Nope. The President’s approval rating has been above 50% for months, and consumer confidence is at the level that leads to the election of the incumbent party. And before you start screaming about how the polls are wrong, I’ll remind you Democrats of 2004 and you Republicans of both 2008 and 2012. The polls might be wrong from moment to moment, but the averages over time are solid. Which brings us back to where we started – Josh is right, two political universes, and for now at least there’s no bridging the gap between them.