Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Things look pretty bad for Donald Trump in Florida, according to Politico's Marc Caputo:
From polling to early voting trends to TV ad spending to ground game, Donald Trump’s Florida fortunes are beginning to look so bleak that some Republicans are steeling themselves for what could be the equivalent of a “landslide” loss in the nation’s biggest battleground state.

Trump has trailed Hillary Clinton in 10 of the 11 public polls conducted in October. According to POLITICO’s Battleground States polling average, Clinton has a 3.4-point lead. Even private surveys conducted by Republican-leaning groups show Trump’s in trouble in Florida, where a loss would end his White House hopes.

“On the presidential race we’ve found Clinton with a consistent 3% - 5% lead in surveys that attempt to reflect Florida’s actual electorate,” Ryan D. Tyson, vice president of political operations for the Associated Industries of Florida business group, wrote in a confidential memo emailed to his conservative-leaning members this weekend and obtained by POLITICO....

“This is in all reality a landslide in our great state,” Tyson wrote, echoing the concerns of numerous Florida Republican insiders and experts....
And early voting in Florida confirms that, Caputo writes in a separate story.
Fueled by a strong first day of in-person early voting, ... Democrats threaten to overtake Republicans in the number of votes banked before Nov. 8.

Of the 1.6 million votes recorded Tuesday morning, about 665,000 were made by Florida Republicans (almost 42 percent) and 658,000 by Democrats (almost 41 percent). That means Republicans are only holding on to a margin of 0.43 percentage points in pre-Election Day ballots cast over Democrats.

The GOP lead over Democrats was 1.7 points on Monday morning, before the first in-person early voting polls opened. And at that point, on Monday, Republicans were well behind the 5 point advantage they held in pre-Election Day ballots cast during the same period of the election in 2012.
(Emphasis added.)

That's right -- four years ago, just as in-person voting was starting, there were 5% more Republican votes than Democratic votes. This year, the parties are much closer to even. And remember, once all the votes had been counted, Obama beat Romney in Florida. So Clinton is ahead of Obama's winning pace.

But you'd never know all this from reading a Fox story titled "Early Voting Suggests Tight Race in Key States Despite Clinton Camp Boast":
... early data shows Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump with potential advantages of his own in battleground states Florida, Ohio and elsewhere.

... the Clinton campaign seemed bolstered in recent days by mail-in balloting in battleground Florida, where in-person voting started Monday in a majority of counties.

Early Florida numbers showed about an equal number of Democrats and Republicans had requested a record 3.1 million early ballots, compared with 2008 when Republicans led 49-to-32 percent and President Obama still won the state.

However, registered Republicans now have a slight lead -- 1.8 percentage points -- in the nearly 1 million ballots received by Friday.
There's no mention of the fact that this is a much smaller lead than the GOP had in 2012 at this time, prior to a Romney loss.

And if we go over to a post at Laura Ingraham's LifeZette titled "Early Voting Returns Point to GOP Enthusiasm Advantage," the spin is even more pronounced:
With almost 1 million votes already cast by mail in Florida by Friday morning, the Republicans are showing a 17,000-person advantage in returns.

That surprising revelation counters much of the negative talk regarding Republican chances this fall -- negativity Democrats and the predominantly liberal media are eager to spread....

It’s a surprising turn of fortune for Republicans in Florida, where Hillary Clinton has retaken a lead in polling over Donald Trump.

The early Florida returns could indicate potent enthusiasm for Trump among his base of supporters.
This is pure disinformation. The early-voting advantage Republicans had in 2012 has been greatly reduced this year. Steve Schale, a veteran Florida political observer, has some details on how well Democrats did on the first day of early voting:
Won Duval County by 1,700 votes. Duval hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since Carter, and is one of those places where Trump really needs to run up the score. Dems also won the day in Polk County, an I-4 county that also hasn't voted for a Democrat since Carter.

Won Volusia County by several hundred, again a place that Trump was hoping to build on the gains of Romney in 2012....

In fact, Democrats won every county along I-4, plus Pinellas -- including both Republican strongholds Polk and Seminole. The total I-4 vote was 48-33D. Seminole County hasn't voted Democrat in a Presidential election since Truman.
The right-wing media wants to spin these numbers positively in order to give GOP voters hope, and thus a reason to turn out. And there another likely reason for the spin: Anyone who gets news exclusively from right-wing sources will believe that Trump is ahead in Florida. If he goes on to lose the state (and the country), Fox and Ingraham fans are going to believe his loss was the result of voter fraud. How could he lose? He was winning!

And by the way, that Fox piece isn't billed as opinion. It's supposed to be a straight news story. I keep hearing that only the opinion side of Fox is a problem, but that's letting the rest of Fox off the hook.

The LifeZette post tells us that things don't look quite as good for Clinton in Ohio and Iowa. That appears to be correct -- here's an ABC story that says the same thing.

But ABC also reports the good news for Clinton in Florida. And that's the difference between what consumers of the "liberal media" and conservatives. Liberals will read that the good news for Clinton doesn't extend to those two white Midwestern states, and we can handle that. But right-wingers aren't getting the news from Florida that's bad for their side. Their media lies to them. Conservatives, I guess, want their own facts. The rest of us would rather have the truth.


Pundits aren't waiting for the results of the presidential election to do a post-mortem on the Republican Party. At Business Insider, Oliver Darcy and Pamela Engel argue that what's killing the GOP is its lying, conspiracy-mongering media:
Trump's rise was no accident; rather, it was a natural outgrowth of a growing and influential faction of conservative media that for years fed the Republican base a steady diet of fringe theories masqueraded as news....

Republicans ... allowed their base to be held captive by a conservative press that moved their base further right, pushed conspiracy theories about Obama, and set unrealistic exceptions for them while in office.

So it should not be surprising that when Trump came along in 2016 and aggressively echoed this rhetoric, a significant portion of the base accepted him.
Darcy and Engel's colleague Josh Barro responds that it would be futile for the GOP to try to take on the conservative media, in part because shunning the big media names on the right wouldn't reduce the flow of lies:
You can most easily tell you can't put the conservative media back in the box when you consider one of its most powerful elements -- email forwards and Facebook memes, which are controlled by no authority and make profits for nobody (except Facebook).

These media reflect the huge demand for Trump-style lies -- even if you shame Hannity out of the business, someone else will rise up to offer these lies. The donors cannot ever regain control over the machine.
Barro also argues that you can't wean the GOP off lies because lying -- about the broad-based benefits of tax cuts for the rich, for instance, or about the nonexistence of climate change -- has been central to the GOP for years, and comes from the top, spread by rich donors via the think tanks, periodicals, and outside groups those donors fund.

But why are we even having this discussion? The GOP will continue to be the party of lies because being the party of lies works -- for fat-cat donors, for the bottom lines of conservative media outlets, and, yes, for the party itself ... in most non-presidential elections.

This year we're talking about a Republican bloodbath, but let's put that in perspective by remembering where we're starting from. Recall the results of the 2014 midterms:
Republicans ... enjoy their largest majority in the House of Representatives since prior to the Great Depression and the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt with 247 members. The last time the GOP enjoyed that large of a majority was the 71st Congress in 1929 and 1930.
As Amy Walter notes for the Cook Political Report, Democrats lost big at all levels of government [in 2014], including the states. “Today,” she writes, “about 55 percent of all state legislative seats in the country are held by Republicans. That’s the largest share of GOP state legislators since the 1920s.” What’s more, “just 11 states have an all Democratic-controlled legislature,” and Democrats hold single-party control in just seven states. By contrast, “Republicans have a legislative majority in 30 states, including the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina,” and single-party control in most of the South.
This year, Democrats have a good chance of taking back the Senate -- but if they do, they're unlikely to have a large majority (and they may not have a majority at all -- they might win a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Tim Kaine as a tiebreaker). Democrats have an outside chance of winning back the House, but if they do, it will be by the slimmest of margins. And there's little to no evidence that a wave of Democrats will be elected to statehouses and state legislatures as a result of Hillary Clinton's likely victory.

So when the dust settles, Republicans will still dominate in the states, and they're likely to continue holding one house of Congress (and could even hold two). The Republican Party will still be in pretty good shape.

What's supposedly killing the GOP is killing the GOP only in presidential races, and in the occasional Senate or House race. The party gets in trouble only in races with seriously contested primaries. In such races, consumers of a lot of right-wing media propaganda seek a candidate who's mean, ornery, outraged, and uncompromising. In those races, either the crazy, extreme candidate wins or a not-so-crazy, not-so-extreme candidate has to tack to the crazy, extreme right in order to survive.

But in most races, that doesn't happen. Either there's no primary or the establishment choice survives the primary by being, at worst, acceptably extreme. That works just fine for general elections in red states (and many purple ones), and certainly works in carefully crafted red House districts.

It just doesn't work in presidential races. In part that's because they're so long, which means the primary process exposes us to more than a year of Republican crazy. In part it's because they're so public. And, beyond that, it's because Democratic voters actually show up for presidential elections. (They don't show up for other elections.)

So the right-wing propaganda machine will probably keep making the GOP nominate unelectable presidential candidates -- but it's not hurting the party very much in non-presidential races. Under those conditions, and given the lucrativeness of the right-wing media model and the craziness of GOP voters, why should we expect anything to change?

Monday, October 24, 2016


A fair amount of attention is being paid to a new scientific study that tries to explain how the brain gets used to dishonesty. Vox's Brian Resnick reports:
The authors of a paper published Monday in Nature Neuroscience call this “emotional adaptation.” It’s similar to what happens when you’re exposed to a strong smell. At first the smell is extremely noticeable, but eventually you stop noticing it as much....

In the study, the researchers had 80 participants play a simple game. The participants played the role of an adviser. They looked at 60 photos of glass jars with differing numbers of pennies, and were told to advise a partner (who was really a researcher in disguise) on how much money the jars contained. The participants were told they’d receive compensation based on the accuracy of their partner’s guesses.

In some of the trials, the participants were incentivized to be honest: If the partner guessed correctly, they’d both get the prize money. In other trials, the participants were incentivized to lie: If the partner overestimated, the participant would get more (the study gave the participant the impression the partner had no idea about this arrangement).

When the participants were incentivized to lie, they lied more as more trials were conducted.
More, from Angela Chen at the Verge:
As the participants played the game, the researchers did brain scans of some of them. These scans, called fMRIs, show which regions of the brain used more oxygen; this is an indicator of brain activity. The researchers saw that as the participants continued to lie, the amygdala reacted less.

Participants in the game also became more dishonest more quickly when it would benefit just them and not their partner. And the amygdala really did activate less as people lied to help themselves. The participants kept lying to help themselves even if lying didn’t lead to more money every single time. This means it’s likely that people keep lying not because of rational calculation, but because they become desensitized.
This might explain why folks like Donald Trump lie so relentlessly and shamelessly: They get used to it. They keep going when they receive benefits and don't suffer consequences.

But what I want to know is why people lie to themselves -- and do so even when there's nothing to be gained from it. For instance, I know that the NRA's Wayne LaPierre has an amygdala (or whatever) that's thoroughly desensitized to lies, which explains why he can talk to his membership base this way:
During a six-minute get out the vote video, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre described America after eight years of Obama as president in hellish terms unrecognizable to anyone who actually lives here, claiming that the president has “laid waste to the America we remember” causing the country to “completely unravel.” ...

LaPierre said his prediction that Obama “would come for our guns and do everything in his power to sabotage the Second Amendment” “came true” following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, when Obama “exploited a horrible tragedy to launch a blizzard of gun bans, magazine restrictions, and gun registration schemes against law abiding gun owners all across the country.” ...

LaPierre claimed [Hillary] Clinton “will come for your guns, she will attack your right to carry, she will attack your most basic right to defend your family with a firearm in your home.”
LaPierre also said that America is now "a sanctuary nation for felons, criminal gangbangers, drug dealers, repeat offenders, and illegal aliens” and that “our inner cities now rank among the most dangerous places in the world.” Also, " “Our economy is on life support. Health care is an utter failure. Our schools have never been worse."

For some in his audience, maybe life in America is pretty bad. But what about the guns? LaPierre and his allies have been saying for eight years that Obama would come for their guns. In the '90s, he spent eight years saying that Bill Clinton would come for their guns. Now he says Hillary Clinton will come for their guns.

But notice that after sixteen years of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, these people still have their guns. Nobody came for them. They were told it would happen, they believed it, it never happened -- and they still believe it's inevitable.

Some people get used to lying to others. Maybe they learn to calm their amygdalas in order to do that. But why do some people get used to being lied to? Why doesn't it ever occur to them that they keep believing the sky is falling, even though it never falls?

Does some part of the brain get used to being overstimulated? Are these people simply accustomed to fear? Do they enjoy it? Would they miss it if it went away?

Scientists, we await your analysis. Please let us know.


Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post and Frank Bruni of The New York Times have written strikingly similar columns urging the media to cut Donald Trump loose after the election. Here's Sullivan:
American news organizations may complain of Trump Fatigue.

But whether or not we’ll admit it, we have a far worse condition: Trump Addiction. Combined with the candidate’s own need for attention, and his skill at keeping all eyes riveted on him, it’s going to be a hard habit to break....

Trump coverage ... seems obsessive, and smacks of codependency.

So here’s a modest proposal. If Trump loses on Nov. 8, let’s avert our addicted gaze.
And Bruni:
He is bound to lose the election, and we in the media will lose the rationale that his every utterance warrants notice as a glimpse into the character of a person in contention for the most consequential job in the world.

But he will remain the same attention-whoring, head-turning carnival act that he is today. And we will face a moment of truth: Do we care chiefly about promoting constructive discussion and protecting this blessed, beleaguered democracy of ours? Or are we more interested in groveling for eyeballs and clicks?

... if he remains catnip to readers and viewers? We should show some courage and restraint.

... we ... can’t roll over for him, the way we’ve sometimes done over the last 16 months, chronicling even those speeches and rallies that amounted to sales pitches for his properties and products. His reckoning comes on Nov. 8. Ours comes shortly after that.
How tempted will the press be to cover Trump as obsessively after the election as he's been covered during his campaign? I think he's going to have a loser label attached to him. I remember the media's obsession with Ross Perot's presidential candidacy in 1992, but when he finished a distant third, he lost his cachet. Perot, of course, went away more or less quietly, returning only for a NAFTA debate with Vice President Al Gore for which Gore was well prepared and Perot wasn't. But he was seen as a loser and a crank by then, rather than as a fascinating outsider leading a significant movement. He'd done a lot to advance the cause of deficit hawkery, but he was no longer a media star, because everybody loves a winner.

On the other hand, Sarah Palin lost in 2008 and managed to stay in the limelight for a while. Was it bad for America that Palin continued to find her way into the news, or at least the gossip columns? I don't think so. For a time during the 2008 campaign, and later during the peak of the Tea Party's influence, there were those who said that Palin represented the Real America. They thought she might have a real political future.

But we got to watch her stumble as she tried, fitfully, to remain a political force without ever learning anything about politics and government that didn't come from dubious conservative media sources. It became clear that she was a grifter who was more interested in media stardom than government, and she and her family made a mockery of the traditional values she claimed to espouse.

Palin has no remaining political credibility because we saw all that.

We should all watch Donald Trump stumble around in the wilderness after the election. We should watch as he fails to sue all the people he's threatened with lawsuits during the campaign, as he deals with multiple legal entanglements (Trump University, a rape charge), as he tries to salvage his heavily damaged businesses, as he tries to cope emotionally with the loss of an election and (probably worse for him) the loss of the regular injections of ego gratifications he's received on the campaign trail from adoring mobs. We need to see all that. A lot of Americans have made Trump into a demigod, and they need a close-up look at his feet so they can see the clay.

If the press ignores Trump after November 8, it will be that much easier to pretend that the Republican Party was never Trump's party, that it was all a bad dream, so we should welcome Paul Ryan and John McCain and Kelly Ayotte and the rest back into the community of responsible citizens. I suspect we'll have a problem along those lines even if Trump stays in the news -- the media continues to talk about McCain as an admirable gray eminence, and has never blamed him as much as he deserves to be blamed for foisting Palin on America. Similarly, I think every Republican who endorsed Trump without embracing him will be forgiven. Ryan will continue to be the media's golden boy. Ex-senator Ayotte will be on Sunday talk shows every other week to criticize President Clinton's foreign policy. There'll be no stigma.

I even think Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich will be rehabilitated. In the Acela Corridor, they're seen as good television, and they'll be fierce critics of the new president. That'll be all that matters.

But we certainly won't have a Trump reckoning if he's allowed to slip off the media radar. Fortunately, he'll insist that we keep watching him -- he can't give us up either. No, the press shouldn't continue to track him as obsessively as he's been tracked. But we should watch him fall.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Writing for Foreign Policy, Julia Ioffe looks at the Trump campaign and tells us she sees a Russian influence:
When Trump and his acolytes accuse protestors of being well-organized, paid saboteurs, I hear echoes of Kremlin television accusing people who came out in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square to protest for democracy in 2011 of working for the U.S. State Department. When Trump lies and injects conspirological plots into the mainstream, when I hear his supporters echo them back to me as gospel because “it’s on the Internet,” I feel like I’m back in Russia, listening to people tell me about George Soros and his nefarious plots. And then I hear about George Soros from Trump supporters who tell me that he has both created the Black Lives Matter movement and hacked American voting machines.
American conservatives were accusing black civil rights protestors and white anti-war opponents of being paid agents of the commies back when I was a lad in the 1960s, so there's nothing particularly Russian about that. As for Soros, he may be a Putin bogeyman, but American right-wingers were portraying him as evil long before Putin wannabe Donald Trump became the GOP presidential nominee. Here's Lowell Ponte of FrontPage Magazine in 2003:
UNDER OUR CONSTITUTION HE CAN NEVER BE PRESIDENT, but if any Democrat gets elected President in 2004 it will be because this foreign-born billionaire kingmaker, George Soros, pledged to raise $75 million to defeat incumbent Republican President George W. Bush.

“George Soros has purchased the Democratic Party,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson.

Since he who pays the piper calls the tune, what tune will this international financier demand from the party and President his millions purchased? What hidden agendas and interests, domestic and foreign, might be served?

Can any American trust a Democratic Party whose strings are pulled by this controversial Radical Left-inclined puppet-master?
Here's Tony Blankley of The Washington Times describing Soros as "a robber baron" and "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust" on Sean Hannity's Fox show in 2004. Here's then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert in 2006 blaming Soros for the Mark Foley sex scandal.

Ioffe's larger point is that Trump is destroying what he can't control, a la Putin:
Now, with the repetition of a single word -- rigged, rigged, rigged -- and with the help of a few targeted Russian hacks of voter logs in Arizona and voting machines in Florida, Trump is trying his hand at another Putin trick: if you can’t inherit the land, sow it with salt.

We saw it in Ukraine and Georgia, who aspired to wrench themselves out of Russia’s orbit and become part of the West. Putin likely understands he’s lost these former vassals for a long time to come, but he invaded both and created territorial disputes on their land so that, even if they wanted to join an organization like NATO, they simply couldn’t because of NATO’s own rules.

Trump sees what we see no matter how many unscientific post-debate polls he tweets out: the chances of him winning this election and inheriting the land are dwindling by the day. And so he is trying to toss as many handfuls of salt onto it as he can, to ruin as much of it as he can, because if he can’t have it, no one can.
But Republicans were doing that long before Trump threw his hat into the ring. It's essentially what they've been doing for eight years in response to Barack Obama's election and reelection: If they can't control the federal government, they'll destroy its ability to legislate, or to function in any other way. We know they're going to try to continue doing this in Hillary Clinton's presidency. It's an approach they developed and refined long before Trump thought about a move into politics.

So either these ideas aren't uniquely Putinesque ... or the GOP has been modeling itself after Putin for a lot longer than Trump's been on the scene. My guess is the former.


Over at National Review, Daniel Payne thinks he's spotted something uniquely hypocritical about liberals:
Of all the great American political traditions, there is perhaps none more instructive than the progressive tendency to sentimentalize Republicans from years past. You can effectively set your watch by it: Whatever Republican ran for office four or eight or twelve years ago is bound to be looked upon far more favorably than whatever Republican is currently on the ticket.
For example?
... just four short years ago [Mitt Romney] was the Health-Care-Stealing Demon from Hell, a man who -- if you believed liberals -- may or may not have personally murdered several cancer-stricken Americans, a man who was a raging homophobe and a dog-killer, a guy who was so retrograde that he said things like “binders full of women.” He was the worst.

Well, this year he’s up for sainthood in the Church of Progressivism....

Over the summer, prominent Democratic politicians and operatives positively gushed about Romney’s sterling character. “He was in it for the right reasons,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager from 2012. Obama’s campaign secretary from the same year, Ben LaBolt, claimed that “I don’t think anybody would have truly expected the country to go to hell in a handbasket” if Romney won the election.

This is, of course, utterly laughable; liberals in 2012 claimed that Romney would be a “disaster” for women, that he and “capitalist extremists” wanted to “destroy America,” that, in the event of a Romney presidency, we’d “be at war and pretty soon there won’t be any more Medicare or Social Security plus the rich will keep getting richer and abortion will be illegal in most of the country.”
That last bit is from an article Alex Pareene wrote for Salon titled "The Romney Presidency: The Worst-Case Scenario," so, by definition, it's describing what Pareene thought might happen at worst in a Romney presidency, not what would be inevitable. But still: That's pretty extreme! And now liberals are saying some nice things about Romney! I bet the right is never hypocritical this way!

Well, let's go back to March 2008 and let Steve Kornacki tell us how Hillary Clinton was suddenly being transformed from an Antichrist into a really swell person -- surely a sincere change of heart on conservatives' part that had nothing whatsoever to do with the desire to create a rift between pro-Clinton Democrats and Democratic supporters of the then-insurgent Barack Obama:
On a hot August night in the Astrodome 16 years ago, Pat Buchanan ... singled out the “lawyer-spouse” of the Democratic presidential nominee....

“Friends,” Buchanan [said], “this is radical feminism. The agenda Clinton and Clinton would impose on America -- abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat -- is change ... but it’s not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God’s country.”

... [But now] Buchanan ... has taken to promoting [Clinton] on an almost nightly basis on MSNBC as the salvation for working class, culturally conservative “Reagan Democrats,” an electable antidote to Barack Obama, whom Buchanan now skewers as the same kind of nutty leftist he once branded Hillary....

Others on the right are making the same case.

A decade ago, The National Review’s Rich Lowry branded Hillary “a practitioner of the odious political style of the enlightened Baby Boomer.” But now, with Obama poised to win the Democratic nomination, Lowry is rushing to Clinton’s defense, praising her “a serious person, afflicted, as she put it once, with ‘a responsibility gene.’” ...

Or take Howie Carr, a vitriolic conservative radio host and Boston Herald columnist who spent much of the last 15 years portraying Hillary as the mortal enemy of Joe Six-Packs everywhere. “An ashtray-tossing shrew,” he dubbed her back when she was First Lady.

Now? In his most recent column, he portrayed her as something of a champion of the common-sense, law-abiding working man, arguing that her supporters are “those who work with their hands” while Obama’s are “those who don’t work, period.”

“Clinton voters,” he also wrote, “know who caused 9/11 -- Arab terrorists. Obama voters know who caused 9/11 -- Halliburton.”
So, shockingly, conservatives do this, too. And each of these right-wingers has done another 180 on Hillary Clinton this year.

Buchanan now writes about her "revealed bigotries" (against white working-class people, he says) and tells us she "will continue Obama’s campaign to deprive Christian institutions of the autonomy to resist the advance of the sexual revolution," among other sins.

Lowry now informs us that Clinton doesn't understand ISIS, that she is "boring, unlikable and untrustworthy," and that her "lies vindicate the Clinton haters."

Carr's hatred for Clinton is so toxic that he recently published, at Breitbart, a fake list of "25 More Things You Don't Know About Hillary Clinton," in her voice. The list included the following:
6. I haven’t seen my ankles in 30 years....

9. My daughter Chelsea has the cutest nickname for her father -- she calls him “Webb.”

14. I have a Muslim girlfriend.
Oh, and I skipped the one in which Carr implied that Clinton killed Vince Foster ("4. Believe it or not, I have never once visited Fort Marcy Park in McLean").

So no, liberals do not have a monopoly on this sort of thing.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


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

I suspect Richard Branson would know better.

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 21, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Wallace: But, but --

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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