Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

DO YOU HAVE A MORTGAGE? OPINIONS DIFFER!

Today The New York Times ran a story about the Koch-funded movement to convene a "convention of states" in order to pass right-wing amendments to the Constitution. Primarily, the convention-of-states folks want to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The Times story weighs the pros and cons of requiring the federal budget to be balanced -- and I'm sure it won't be a surprise when I tell you that if you believe the story, it's impossible to tell who's right and who's wrong.

From that Times story (emphasis added):
Supporters say the philosophy that state governments and ordinary people usually adhere to -- that it is wrong and destructive to spend beyond one’s income -- should apply to the federal government as well. In that view, the $19.4 trillion national debt threatens to destroy Americans’ future prosperity.

“It’s immoral for one generation to borrow and spend beyond its means and leave the bill to the next generation,” said Scott Rogers, the director of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force.
Okay -- those are opinions. Now for the con side:
But opponents say an amendment, not the deficit, is the threat. A government that could not run deficits, they argue, would not be able to stimulate the economy during recessions, when job-creating spending is most needed. And it would not be able to elude budget ceilings for benefits like Social Security, or for job-creating projects like highways that are financed with debt.

In truth, they say, debt is a fact of life for both states and ordinary households -- in bond issues that finance revenue generators like convention centers and bridges, and for ordinary necessities like cars, kitchen remodelings and homes.
Here's the problem: These aren't opinions -- they're facts. It's a fact that, in a recession, a federal government constrained by a balanced budget amendment couldn't stimulate the economy with job-creating projects and couldn't bypass budget ceilings for programs such as Social Security. It's a fact that businesses and ordinary citizens regularly use debt.

But these facts are presented as one side's opinion.

Is this a variant on the old Paul Krugman theory of "objective" journalism?
I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth."
Opinions differ on whether debt is commonly used, for perfectly understandable reasons.

SCOTT BROWN: PERHAPS NOT REALLY A FEMINIST DREAMBOAT

I'm not surprised to learn that former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros has filed a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment by Bill O'Reilly as well as Roger Ailes. But they're not the only men Tantaros describes as harassers. There's also this guy:
One instance of particularly egregious alleged conduct involved former Massachusetts Senator, and current Fox News contributor, Scott Brown:
On or about August 18, 2015, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (“Brown”) appeared on Outnumbered. Brown made a number of sexually inappropriate comments to Tantaros on set, including, and in a suggestive manner, that Tantaros “would be fun to go to a nightclub with.” After the show was over, Brown snuck up behind Tantaros while she was purchasing lunch and put his hands on her lower waist. She immediately pulled back, telling Brown to “stop.” Tantaros then immediately met with Shine to complain, asking him to ensure that Brown would never be booked on the show again. Shine said that he would talk to Scott. Thereafter, Shine and Scott ignored Tantaros’s complaint, and continued to book Brown on Outnumbered.
Gosh, and I thought Scott Brown was the most sensitive straight guy in America -- the perfect husband and father. At least, that's the impression created by ads he ran in his 2012 Senate race against Elizabeth Warren, as described in this Newsweek article by Michelle Cottle:
In [one] spot ... —titled, simply, “Dad” -- Brown’s wife, Gail Huff, gushes about how, during her years as a Boston reporter, “Scott did all the morning routine. Get the girls up. Get them fed. Get them dressed. Get them off to school. He did everything with the kids.” (Talk about mommy porn!) Her pitch in the similarly gauzy “Husband” is even more blatant: “Scott’s always been the one that encouraged me professionally -- encouraged me to have my own life, to have my own identity ... He is by far the most understanding of women probably of any man I know.”





Some Democrats thought the ads were a bit much, at which point, as Cottle notes, Mr. Nice Guy turned rather nasty toward the woman he was running against:
At a breakfast gathering of Massachusetts Democrats at this month’s national convention, state party chairman John Walsh joked that Republican Sen. Scott Brown had “spent a couple million dollars folding towels on TV to prove he’s an honorary girl” in his race against Elizabeth Warren. The dig referred to a Brown campaign ad, targeting women voters, in which the senator is shown doing laundry.

Team Brown’s response was fast and furious. They blamed the Warren campaign for the “negative attacks” and tied Walsh’s remarks to Warren’s comment that same week that in her ads “you probably won’t see me folding laundry.”

Angela Davis, chairwoman of Women for Brown, fired off this zinger: “It seems Professor Warren and her spokesman can’t decide if they are just too good to fold laundry, or if household chores are suitable only for women.”

Within hours, Walsh apologized. But no way the senator’s people were letting go of this bone. Davis promptly sent both Warren and Walsh a gift basket of laundry supplies, along with a note (thoughtfully posted on Brown’s campaign site): “With all the mudslinging Elizabeth Warren and her allies have been doing, we thought these laundry supplies would be a useful gift. We might never see Professor Warren fold her own clothes, but she does need to clean up her act and stop with her dirty politics.”
What a sweetheart.

Did Brown do what Tantaros said he did? We can't be sure. I can tell you that this isn't the first time Brown has faced charges like this, although the last time it happened the accusation was dropped quickly:
Gawker has a scoop of sorts about Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and it wants to know why no one else got there first. On the face of it, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan, the reporter, has a case, since what he dug up was an old defamation suit against Brown that involves charges of sexual harassment.

In 2000, Brown was sued by Jennifer Firth, who was then serving on the Wrentham, Mass. Board of Selectmen, a position Brown had held earlier. In the suit, Firth said that she’d volunteered on Brown’s campaign for the state Senate, and that during her work for him, he’d harassed her. Afterwards, she said, he had defamed her, telling law enforcement and others that she’d sent him anonymous hate mail....

[But as] Nolan himself acknowledges, within days of her filing the suit, Firth moved to dismiss it. On top of that, her lawyer moved to withdraw his appearance on her behalf, saying he’d learned that the allegations in the suit weren’t supported.
It's hard to tell what really went on in that case. Brown accused Firth of harassing him, and Firth acknowledged that she'd sent Brown "provocative" emails:
She did say that during his campaign for state representative that she sent him notes she intended to be humorous.

“ My humor tends to be provocative, and I think Mr. Brown misinterpreted my humor,” she said in a telephone interview.

Later, she issued a formal statement saying she deeply regrets the misunderstanding.

Brown said today there is nothing funny about the harassment he and his family have been subjected to over a two-year period.

“ I had a feeling she would try to spin this somehow. I do not find her actions humorous at all. It was a calculated pattern of harassment and inappropriate correspondence, e-mails and letters to me,” he said.
We'll see what emerges in the current case. We know that Walker Brown is a nasty guy who looks like a nice guy. His campaign against Warren was ugly. Is he a sexual harasser? That remains to be determined.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN PEDDLES HEALTH CONSPIRACY THEORIES, NEW YORK TIMES RISES TO THE BAIT

For a while now, the Donald Trump campaign has been making sinister suggestions about Hillary Clinton's health. Does she have brain damage? Does she have epilepsy? What's she hiding? It all seems amateurish; it's easy to imagine Reince Priebus wincing every time a Trump surrogate brings this subject up.

However, it's starting to work.

If you go to The New York Times today, you'll see this exercise in both-sides-do-it-ism. In the print edition, it's on the front page above the fold, right next to the lead story.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Ages 68 and 70, Share Few Health Details

Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton have been more secretive and selective than many recent presidential nominees in providing up-to-date details about their personal health -- a particularly striking departure, experts say, given the candidates’ age.

No American election has ever featured two major-party nominees as old as Mr. Trump, 70, and Mrs. Clinton, 68, and they have kept a grueling pace for more than a year. Yet they have declined to share the latest information about their health or to make their doctors available for interviews. Each released a brief medical statement in 2015; neither has added to it since.
The story isn't singling out Clinton -- but it is saying Clinton's at fault. It says she's hiding something.

Once the premise that both sides are at fault has been established, we're told that, yes, Trump is worse:
Mr. Trump has been especially unforthcoming, even as he has sought to turn health into an issue in the presidential race, questioning Mrs. Clinton’s “physical and mental strength and stamina” as his allies push unfounded rumors that she is ill.
But:
Doctors and medical experts said they had rarely seen so few details or updated information about the health of presidential nominees.

“Voters deserve far more information from Clinton and Trump about their health than we have now,” said Dr. Burton Lee, who was the elder George Bush’s personal physician during his four years as president. “The public has a right to know, but you just don’t have transparency with these two candidates on much of anything. That’s a given.”
This is despite the fact that many recent nominees have, in fact, limited their release of medical information to pretty much what's been released this year, at least by Clinton:
Among Democratic nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry spoke openly about their health; Mr. Kerry had survived prostate cancer. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were more reticent: Their aides argued that the two were young men with no health problems, though Mr. Clinton granted an interview on his health in 1996 under pressure from his Republican opponent, Bob Dole.
And:
Republicans from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney have released details in the months before Election Day or directed their doctors to field questions.
But what did Romney release in 2012? A two-page physician's letter -- you can read it here. What has Hillary Clinton released in this campaign? A two-page physician's letter -- you can read it here.

They're equally frank and detailed, as is the physician's letter President Obama released in 2011, when the 2012 campaign was getting under way. The Obama letter? Two pages.

By contrast, you can read the ridiculous one-page Trump physician's letter here. Today's Times story acknowledges that there's a big difference between the Trump and Clinton letters:
Mr. Trump ... has provided only a four-paragraph statement from his gastroenterologist last December. It contained no details about his heart rate, respiratory rate, cholesterol level, past medications or family medical history. It did include several laudatory declarations, describing Mr. Trump’s blood pressure (110/65) and laboratory test results as “astonishingly excellent.”

The doctor, Harold N. Bornstein of Manhattan, concluded that Mr. Trump, if victorious, “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” -- a claim that was widely mocked as unprovable and unscientific.

Mrs. Clinton issued a significantly more detailed two-page letter from her physician in July 2015 that included information about a concussion Mrs. Clinton suffered in 2012, which left her with a blood clot in her head and double vision. Her doctor, Lisa Bardack of Mount Kisco, N.Y., said those symptoms were resolved within two months.

Mr. Clinton, however, has said that Mrs. Clinton “required six months of very serious work to get over” the concussion....
So Clinton's letter is detailed and frank, while Trump's isn't. Nevertheless: both sides!

And how ridiculous is Trump's letter? As Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald points out, it almost certainly wasn't written by a doctor:
... it says that his medical examination of Trump has “only positive results.” In medical terms, if the test is positive, it confirms the existence of disease. Is this doctor saying Trump has every medical ailment that could be found in examination? Does he not know the meaning of the word? Or, as I suspect, was the letter written by someone in the Trump campaign?

Anyone reading the letter can make a good guess about who that person might be. It says results were “extraordinarily excellent.” (Not a medical term.) It says, “His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” (Again, not a medical term.) Then, in the most hilarious, Trump-esque line of all, it says, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency.” In other words, this letter purports to show that a doctor has assessed the health of 43 people he has never examined, including the four who are still alive.
(One of those ex-presidents, Jimmy Carter, is in his nineties and recently survived brain cancer.)

Today's Times story claims that this year's candidate medical releases are unusually skimpy by recent standards. But the Times had the same complaint in 2008:
Many Holes in Disclosure of Nominees’ Health

Fifteen days before the election, serious gaps remain in the public’s knowledge about the health of the presidential and vice-presidential nominees. The limited information provided by the candidates is a striking departure from recent campaigns, in which many candidates and their doctors were more forthcoming....

Last May, [John McCain's] campaign and his doctors released nearly 1,200 pages of medical information, far more than the three other nominees. But the documents were released in a restricted way that leaves questions, even confusion, about his cancer....

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. ... had emergency surgery in 1988 for an aneurysm in an artery in his brain and elective surgery for a second one. His campaign released 49 pages of medical records to The New York Times late last week showing that he was healthy, but the documents did not indicate whether he had had a test in recent years to detect any new aneurysm....

Senator Barack Obama ... released a one-page, undated letter from his personal physician in May stating that he was in “excellent” health. Late last week, his campaign released the results of standard laboratory tests and electrocardiograms from his checkups in June 2001, November 2004 and January 2007. The findings were normal.

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, 44, Mr. McCain’s running mate, has released no medical information.
So I'd say Hillary Clinton has met or exceeded recent standards in this regard -- and Donald Trump hasn't. But, y'know, both sides.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A WHITE NATIONALIST MEDIA EMPIRE? THE PRESIDENCY? I DON'T THINK TRUMP BELIEVES HE HAS TO CHOOSE.

Has Donald Trump given up on trying to win the election in November because, as Greg Sargent speculates, he's more interested in constructing a post-election white nationalist media empire? I think there could be some truth to this, but I don't think Sargent has it quite right.

Sargent writes:
Has Donald Trump given up on winning the White House and “pivoted” (this might be his real pivot) to a full-blown effort to build a national following that will outlast the election, perhaps allowing him to establish a media empire with him at the helm -- one that caters, at least to some degree, to a white nationalist or “alt-right” audience? Was that his plan all along? ...

* Vanity Fair media writer Sarah Ellison reports in a radio interview that Trump has had private discussions with his inner circle about “how to monetize” the new audience he’s built up. As Ellison puts it, this potential goal should no longer be seen as “speculation.”

* The New York Times reports today that in July, Trump’s campaign “spent more on renting arenas for his speeches” than he did on setting up a national field operation, leaving him with no operation to speak of. That is consistent with the idea that Trump (as I’ve speculated) is very consciously sinking most of his resources into a format (rallies) that allows him to continue staging his unique form of raucous WWE-style political entertainment, and building an audience that thrills to it, rather than winning a general election.
My guess is that Trump doesn't believe he has to choose.

I know he's running a terrible campaign. I know he isn't building much-needed campaign infrastructure. That makes it look as if he's throwing the fight.

But he did all that in the primaries and got away with it. Trump's view of himself is that he's so popular and has devised such a brilliant hack of the electoral system that he doesn't need to do all the boring things mere mortals have to do to win political races. So I say he's still in it to win.

Further evidence of that is the brief flurry of semi-conciliatory gestures he's made in the past week or so -- the pseudo-apology for harsh language in the primaries, the faux-outreach to Hispanics over the weekend (and I'd throw in the failed outreach to blacks as well.) Why would he bother with any of this if he isn't trying to win the election? Why wouldn't he just keep tossing out red meat to the alt-rightists?

I'm thinking about something else Sarah Ellison has reported:
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reportedly discussed with an NBC executive continuing “The Apprentice” reality show from the White House if he were elected president, long before he launched his bid.

The anecdote was reported in June by Vanity Fair contributing editor Sarah Ellison but appeared to go largely unnoticed until she was interviewed on "The Takeaway" podcast over the weekend.
Trump has actually considered the possibility that he can host a reality series while serving as president. He thinks he's such a superior being that he could handle both jobs at once. So why wouldn't he think he can run an alt-right TV channel while serving as president?

Ellison's original Vanity Fair story said that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the owner of The New York Observer, would be very much involved in a new Trump media venture. I keep trying to figure out why Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, would want to work on a media start-up aimed at people who harass Jews on Twitter with Xyklon B jokes. But I don't think Donald Trump is smart enough to grasp that particular problem. He wants what he wants, and I still think what everything he seems to be pursuing, all at once.

ANTI-TRUMP RIGHT-WING TALKER: GOSH, YOU DON'T SUPPOSE SOME OF THIS TRUMP STUFF IS MY FAULT, DO YOU?

Charlie Sykes, a prominent conservative radio host in Wisconsin who's vehemently anti-Trump, is doing some soul-searching, according to Politico:
Charlie Sykes’ conscience is nagging him.

Since last year, the most influential political talk show host in Wisconsin has found out just how hard it is to be a #NeverTrump conservative on right-wing radio....

Sykes’ many arguments with listeners over Donald Trump’s serial outrages have exposed in much of his audience a vein of thinking -- racist, anti-constitutional, maybe even fascistic -- that has shaken Sykes. It has left him questioning whether he and his colleagues in the conservative media played a role in paving the way for Trump’s surprising and unprecedented rise....

“When I would deny that there was a significant racist component in some of the politics on our side, it was because the people I hung out with were certainly not,” Sykes says. “When suddenly, this rock is turned over, there is this -- ‘Oh shit, did I not see that?’..."
Yes -- did Sykes not see that? Did he somehow overlook that racist anger when he was airing the kind of material described in this 2014 New Republic story?
Sykes is credited with, among other accomplishments, having blocked public funding for needle-exchange programs and having helped drive into bankruptcy an urban mall after harping on security issues there. In April 2013, he played a clip of “It’s Free (Swipe Yo EBT),” a viral video produced by a right-wing activist in which an African American woman raps about liquor stores where one can allegedly use a food-stamp card. Returning to the same theme later in the year, Sykes declared, “The number of Americans who receive means-tested government benefits -- welfare -- now outnumbers those who are year-round full-time workers.”
Yeah, nobody could have foreseen that playing an excerpt from this video would stir up white racial anger:



And no one could have predicted that the author of this book would have stirred up Trumpite anger in the years before the rise of Trump:



On immigration, here are some pre-Trump tweets from Sykes:







And here's one referencing a murder victim frequently cited by Donald Trump on the campaign trail (an undocumented immigrant has been charged in the case):



On Islam and refugees:











Oh, and that angry mother of a Benghazi victim who spoke at the Republican convention on Trump's behalf? Sykes was an admirer three years ago:



(Go here for more on Benghazi from Sykes.)

And while Sykes may not endorse the nuttiest conspiracies, he traffics in the kind of right-wing conspiratorialism that's utterly mainstream. Hillary Clinton says she'd like to overturn Citizens United? Sykes responds by tweeting a link to an inflammatory Power Line post:



Are you a climate change denier with a book to hawk? You're welcome on Sykes's show.

Sykes is hardly the worst of the right-wing talkers. But did he do his part in preparing the ground for Trump. You bet.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

TRUMP IS GOING TO KEEP FAUX-PIVOTING UNTIL WE ALL FALL FOR IT

First we had a vague apology for intemperate language, and now we have this:
In Reversal, Trump Indicates To Hispanic Leaders Openness To Legalization For Immigrants

In a Saturday meeting with his newly announced Hispanic advisory council, Donald Trump suggested he is interested in figuring out a “humane and efficient” manner to deal with immigrants in the country illegally, according to three sources....

“He said people who are here is the toughest part of the immigration debate, that it must be something that respects border security but deals with this in a humane and efficient manner,” said Jacob Monty, a Houston-based immigration lawyer who sat in Trump Tower with other Latino supporters and Trump.

“The idea is we’re not getting someone in front of the line, we’re doing it in a legal way, but he wants to hear ideas of how we deal with 11 million people that are here with no documents,” said Jose Fuentes, who was chair of Mitt Romney’s Hispanic advisory committee in 2012, and attended the meeting.
The headline calls this a "reversal" even though it's not:
Trump, however, stressed that any new announcements will still be in line with the border security-focused approach that has invited intense opposition from Latinos and immigrants since he launched his campaign....

“Mr. Trump said nothing today that he hasn’t said many times before, including in his convention speech -- enforce the laws, uphold the Constitution, be fair and humane while putting American workers first,” [Steven] Cheung [of the Trump campaign] wrote.
As Marc Thiessen noted, something like this appeared to be Trump's policy (when he was in a conciliatory mood) last November:
On Fox News on November 12, Trump’s son Eric expressed frustration that the media overlooks this:
The point isn’t just deporting them, it’s deporting them and letting them back in legally. He’s been so clear about that and I know the liberal media wants to misconstrue it, but it’s deporting them and letting them back legally.
... Listen closely to what Trump is actually proposing. In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash earlier this year, Trump explained his plan this way:
I would get people out and then have an expedited way of getting them back into the country so they can be legal.... A lot of these people are helping us ... and sometimes it’s jobs a citizen of the United States doesn’t want to do. I want to move ’em out, and we’re going to move ’em back in and let them be legal.
And surely we recall this from a debate in October:
As far as the wall is concerned, we’re going to build a wall. We’re going to create a border. We’re going to let people in, but they’re going to come in legally. They’re going to come in legally....

We can do a wall. We’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door right in the middle of the wall. We’re going to have people come in, but they’re coming in legally.
So, when it's suited him, he's repeatedly said that that some immigrants who've come across the southern border should be allowed to stay, perhaps after leaving first.

But someone's persuaded him to go on a multi-day campaign of soft-spokenness and outreach to alienated voters. Some of it isn't going particularly well:
Speaking in Michigan, Trump offered a blunt appeal to African-American voters: “You’re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. 58% of your youth in unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”

His message was not well received. Of course, many blacks -- like many other Americans -- face challenges. But Trump lumped all blacks together into a single, monolithic, desperate group.
Nevertheless, he's doing his version of outreach. Why? I'm sticking with what I said a couple of days ago: he's been persuaded to "anchor left," after which he'll "pivot right." He's going to keep doing this until the mainstream press and the rest of the political world concede that, yes, Trump is becoming more mature and presidential. His new campaign crew has persuaded him that he'll get to be Trump again if he does this first. Trump doesn't seem like a guy who can delay gratification, but Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway apparently have him doing it.

It won't work unless journalists and pundits fall for it.

But you know they will.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A MASTER CLASS IN MISSING THE POINT

Thursday brought us one of the few delightful moments of the 2016 campaign: Comically grotesque statues of Donald Trump briefly went on display in five U.S. cities. The sculptures bore the title The Emperor Has No Balls.



The buzzkill came yesterday, when art critic Murray Whyte told us in The Guardian that laughing at the sculptures is morally incorrect:
Ageist and body-shaming Trump statue falls short as art and satire

... the stunted member of Trump’s anatomy to which the sculpture means to draw our attention is its undoing.

Emasculation, one can fairly say, is the least notable of Trump’s many shortcomings. No balls? For what presidential candidate in recent memory could that be further from the truth? This is the man who pondered openly how shooting someone on Fifth Avenue might help him poll better. Whatever Trump’s anatomical shortfalls, this is clearly not one of them, and the piece weakens itself with a contradiction to pitch a sophomoric joke.

... The piece, with its slumpy, distended belly, withered buttocks and sagging pectorals, crosses callously into generalized ageism and body-shaming; unlike the attempted caricaturization of Trump’s particular bits, this is no joke, but rather an expression of unmitigated contempt, and whatever else it does, it dissolves satirical intent in an instant.
Oh, please.

Here's why this is a crock: Trump is of the class of men -- rich businessmen -- who are presumed to be alpha males well into senescence. They flaunt their trophy wives and late-life offspring, they continue to issue dominance challenges to those they regard as lesser mortals, and the worst thing about it is that we accept their sense of their own male superiority at face value. Even Whyte, good progressive that he is, accepts it. ("No balls? For what presidential candidate in recent memory could that be further from the truth?")

The reality is that Trump, never a tough or courageous person even in his prime, is now a seventy-year-old man who sure looks as if he has a seventy-year-old's body.



There's no shame in that -- body changes come to us all if we live long enough. But Trump struts around denying the reality, and too many of us let him get away with it, just because he is (or seems to be) rich, and because he tells us he's a superior man.

And as Ruth Marcus notes, we let him get away with describing Hillary Clinton as a lesser being:
Donald Trump -- he who likes to fly home at night in the comfort of his own plane to sleep in the comfort of his own bed -- is at it again on the question of Hillary Clinton’s stamina, or alleged lack thereof.

“To defeat crime and radical Islamic terrorism in our country, to win trade in our country, you need tremendous physical and mental strength and stamina,” he said in Wisconsin. “Hillary Clinton doesn’t have that strength and stamina.”

And a day earlier, in case you missed it, “Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS, and all the many adversaries we face.”

It’s obvious what’s going on here. The strength-stamina combo is a gender-age twofer, a double whack at Clinton for the price of one. Strength, what men have and women lack; stamina, with its intimations of go-all-night virility. Clinton, in this depiction, is both a weak girl and a dried-up old crone.

No matter that Trump is a year and four months older -- and, for that matter, endures a far less rigorous schedule.
The Emperor Has No Balls is for everyone who knows that Trump's ubermensch posturing is a huge lie. If that doesn't include Murray Whyte, that's his loss.

(Photo of New York Trump sculpture via Gothamist.)

US V. THEM, OVER AND OVER AGAIN

You may have concluded from various news reports that Donald Trump did nothing in the Louisiana flood zone yesterday except hand out Play-Doh, but that's not accurate -- Matthew Teague of The Guardian notes that in St. Amant, Louisiana, Trump handed out diapers and water bottles. So Trump's Louisiana trip was a self-serving photo op, but not a completely ridiculous one.

However, if one of the locals quoted by Teague is any indication, you wonder why we're even talking about Trump, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton in connection to this disaster at all -- at least some of these people would have you believe that they don't need any damn handouts, from the government, an alleged billionaire, or anyone else:
“This is [Trump's] stomping grounds,” said Greg Patterson, who was cleaning muck from his store called the Pit Stop. The idea that a billionaire from Manhattan could describe the working-class corner of Louisiana as “his stomping grounds” did not strike Patterson as contradictory.

“We’ve got 2,000 houses damaged just in this area alone,” he said, stretching his arm out to the south. “These people are already back in their homes, working to repair them. It’s not like down in the Ninth Ward.”

That was a reference to one of the quarters of New Orleans that was worst hit by Katrina a decade ago. That neighborhood is mostly poor, and mostly black.

“I mean that’s a bunch of government-owned housing,” Patterson said. “Nobody here is looking for handouts or waiting on the government. These are Trump’s people.”

It was a bombastic statement, and maybe emotionally satisfying, but it was also untrue: more than 60,000 local people have applied for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).
Of course, people like Patterson might literally believe that they can accept aid from FEMA, or handouts from Trump, and still be "self-sufficient" -- unlike Those People in New Orleans -- because, well, y'know.

I'm reminded of the Craig T. Nelson interview immortalized by Jon Stewart:



"I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No!"

****

On the question of visit timing: Yes, President Obama waited until the end of his vacation to schedule a trip to the area. Yes, President Bush was criticized for vacationing during Katrina.

But the disasters are very different. In the current flooding, 13 people are dead and 40,000 homes have been damaged. In Katrina, at least 986 people died and 1 million homes were damaged. The current flooding is horrible, but Bush was faced with a much worse disaster, and dealt with it inadequately. In the current crisis, the heads of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security have been to flood zone, 20 parishes have already been declared federal disaster areas, and quite a bit of assistance is already being provided. If the federal response turns out to be insufficient, that's a reason to grumble about the president. But that's not what we're hearing. We're hearing payback for the criticism of Bush's apparent indifference to Katrina. But that was a much worse situation.

Friday, August 19, 2016

FIRST TRUMP GENERAL ELECTION AD: ECONOMIC ANXIETY? WHAT ECONOMIC ANXIETY?

We've been told that the surprising success of Donald Trump in this election can be attributed to white America's increasing sense of economic displacement, as manufacturing jobs continue to disappear and the well-to-do benefit disproportionately from the economic recovery. We've been told that Trump is appealing to the same sense of economic unfairness that drove the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

So here's Donald Trump's first TV ad of the general election campaign. Where's the economy?



Here's the ad's voiceover:
In Hillary Clinton’s America, the system stays rigged against Americans. Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay, collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line. Our border open. It’s more of the same, but worse.

Donald Trump’s America is secure, terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out. The border secure. Our families safe. Change that makes America safe again. Donald Trump for president.
Economic anger? Nope. The entire ad is about fear of the Other -- including, we can safely infer, that opening shot of a polling place entrance and the words "system rigged," which, to Trump's base, is a dog whistle meaning "Democratic machine bosses in big cities with large non-white populations are going to manipulate the vote in Clinton's favor."



The rest is about Muslims and Mexicans, then about manly symbols of American strength (helicopters, Border Patrol vehicles, an aircraft carrier) keeping citizens safe in Trump's America. There's a brief reference to Social Security, but it's about them damn furriners taking our benefits.

Somehow an ad that starts by telling us that the system is rigged doesn't see any rigging in the economic system. Sorry, Bernie!

You can keep telling yourself that the Trump phenomenon is all about jobs and declining incomes. It isn't.

TRUMP APOLOGY: "ANCHOR LEFT, PIVOT RIGHT"?

There is no way in hell that Donald Trump would have agreed to deliver this mea culpa if whoever talked him into it didn't also persuade him that the campaign will soon revert to soul-satisfying nastiness and vindictiveness:
... Donald Trump pivoted to contest the general election on Thursday night, expressing regret for his past failures to “choose the right words” and delivering one of the most comprehensive, on-message rationales for his candidacy to date.

... “Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that,” Trump said to laughter and cheers from his supporters.

“And believe it or not I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake is for us to be consumed by these issues, but one thing I can promise you is this. I will always tell you the truth,” said Trump, who did not specify which words he regrets saying.
And he even threw in a calculated bit of outreach to black voters:
... the businessman vowed as president to address the poverty and unemployment that has disproportionally affected African-American communities and urged black voters to "give Donald Trump a chance."

"The result for them will be amazing," he said. "What do you have to lose by trying something new?"
So hy is Trump doing this? Recently he's been complaining about demands for a pivot. He just sidelined the campaign head who was brought in to civilize him. So why did he agree to do this on the first night of the new regime, under the direction of Breitbart's Steve Bannon?

I go back to Joshua Green's 2015 profile of Bannon from Bloomberg Businessweek. It's well worth a read, despite (or perhaps because of) Green's willingness to retransmit Bannon's myth of himself in undiluted form.

We learn from Green's profile that Bannon sees himself as a guy who learned the secret to success as a right-wing media mogul: Get your product seen and validated by the mainstream. Bannon hasn't actually succeeded at this as head of Breitbart, but he thinks he hit a home run with his other project, the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), which was Peter Schweizer's base when he was writing the book Clinton Cash.

As you'll recall, Schweizer cut deals with The New York Times and other mainstream outlets to share his research for Clinton Cash and report on his conclusions. That's the Bannon model, according to Wynton Hall, who work at the GAI:
... it’s the secret to how conservatives can hack the mainstream media. Hall has distilled this ... into a slogan: “Anchor left, pivot right.” It means that “weaponizing” a story onto the front page of the New York Times (“the Left”) is infinitely more valuable than publishing it on Breitbart.com. “We don’t look at the mainstream media as enemies because we don’t want our work to be trapped in the conservative ecosystem,” says Hall. “We live and die by the media. Every time we’re launching a book, I’ll build a battle map that literally breaks down by category every headline we’re going to place, every op-ed Peter’s going to publish. Some of it is a wish list. But it usually gets done.”
And then what?
Once that work has permeated the mainstream ... then comes the “pivot.” Heroes and villains emerge and become grist for a juicy Breitbart News narrative. “With Clinton Cash, we never really broke a story,” says Bannon, “but you go [to Breitbart.com] and we’ve got 20 things, we’re linking to everybody else’s stuff, we’re aggregating, we’ll pull stuff from the Left. It’s a rolling phenomenon. Huge traffic. Everybody’s invested.”
It looks to me as if Trump is trying to "anchor left" by impressing the mainstream press with his phony contrition. And I suppose more seemingly substantive teleprompter speeches will follow, in order to gull the MSM rubes.

I'm sure Trump agreed to this only because Bannon told him it would better prepare the ground for vicious attacks on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So more of those attacks are coming. The point of this was to soften the MSM up.

Does this approach work? It might. Yesterday Breitbart quoted gushing praise of Clinton Cash by Mark Halperin and Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe:
[Halperin said,] “‘Clinton Cash’ is, if you did a case study of conservative efforts to get the so-called main stream media to cover the Clinton’s background -- ‘Clinton Cash,’ which Bannon masterminded, is their greatest success story.”

Co-host Joe Scarborough said, “Yeah. It really did change the discussion on the national level for months and, actually, eventually, led into the email discussion. And has made campaigning difficult for Hillary Clinton from day one.”
One one level, this is nonsense -- we were always talking about the damn emails because congressional Republicans and the press wouldn't drop the subject. Clinton was also being attacked as corrupt, but mostly for being too cozy with Wall Street firms that paid her for speeches. The actual revelations in Clinton Cash didn't actually become a big part of the conversation, as even Bannon admits ("we never really broke a story").

But Bannon sought and obtained the papal blessing of the Times for Clinton Cash, and that impressed media insiders like Halperin and Scarborough. And so the general subject of Clinton's integrity became what the MSM talked about when it talked about her. If you persuade mainstream media figures that you've got something significant, it will become significant, because they'll treat it as significant.

That, I think, is what Bannon is trying to do with the apology. The next step will be to pivot (back to the) right. By that time, if his plan works, he'll have the Timeses and Halperins and Scarboroughs hooked.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

ALLEGEDLY ANTI-SEMITIC TRUMP ADVISER HAD AN ANTI-SEMITIC BIRCHER DAD

I'm shocked, shocked, that one of Donald Trump's advisers may be an anti-Semite:
Allegations of anti-Semitism have surfaced against one of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisers....

Joseph Schmitz, named as one of five advisers by the Trump campaign in March, is accused of bragging when he was Defense Department inspector general a decade ago that he pushed out Jewish employees.

Daniel Meyer, a senior official within the intelligence community, described Schmitz’s remarks in his complaint file.

“His summary of his tenure’s achievement reported as ‘…I fired the Jews,’ ” wrote Meyer, a former official in the Pentagon inspector general’s office whose grievance was obtained by McClatchy.

... In his complaint, Meyer said [John] Crane [another former top Pentagon official] also said Schmitz played down the extent of the Holocaust.

“In his final days, he allegedly lectured Mr. Crane on the details of concentration camps and how the ovens were too small to kill 6 million Jews,” wrote Meyer.
Wow.

There's more at the Daily Wire:
Meanwhile, David Tenebaum, an Amy engineer at the Tank Automotive Command (TACOM) in Warren, Michigan, mentioned the accusations against Schmitz in a letter this week to Acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine. He asserted current and former Pentagon officials had perpetuated an anti-Semitic culture. His attorney’s letter read, “The anti-Semitic environment began under a prior Inspector General, Mr. Joseph Schmitz.” Tenenbaum was labeled an Israeli spy by the Army, which launched a criminal investigation; Bridget Serchak, a Pentagon inspector general’s office spokeswoman, concluded in 2008 that Tenenbaum had been singled out for “unusual and unwelcome scrutiny because of his faith” as an Orthodox Jew.
Some of you may know this about Schmitz:
Schmitz's sister is Mary Kay Letourneau, the Washington state teacher who served more than seven years in prison after a 1997 conviction for rape after having sex with a sixth-grade pupil with whom she had two children. After Letourneau's release from prison, she and the former pupil, now an adult, married each other.
But Dad was also a tad notorious:
His father was the ultraconservative Orange County congressman John G. Schmitz, who once ran for president but whose political career ended after he admitted having an affair with a German immigrant suspected of child abuse.
The elder Schmitz, who also served in the California state senate, was not a good person:
As a national director of the John Birch Society, Mr. Schmitz became well known for his slick tongue and conservative beliefs. He outraged many when he suggested that if President Richard Nixon wanted to go to communist China, he shouldn't come back.

Mr. Schmitz received 1.1 million votes when he ran for the presidency in 1972 representing the American Independent Party. He was the replacement candidate for Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who had been paralyzed after being shot by a would-be assassin....

In 1978, Mr. Schmitz returned to the California Senate representing Newport Beach and again made headlines for suggesting Martin Luther King was a "notorious liar." He also gained notoriety for calling feminist attorney Gloria Allred a "slick, butch lawyeress." A lawsuit she filed resulted in a $20,000 judgment against him and a public apology.
And, yes, he was an anti-Semite, as this story from 1982 makes clear:
The Rules Committee of the State Senate approved a resolution “deploring” the anti-Semitic remarks of Sen. John Schmitz, an ultra-conservative Republican, and “disassociating” the upper chamber from them.

... That action was taken after Schmitz, a former member of the John Birch Society, issued a press statement on the letterhead of the Amendments Committee in which he assailed supporters of abortion rights as “bulldykes,” “queers,” and “a sea of hard, Jewish and (arguably) female faces.”

Schmitz said that some of the women at the abortion hearing had identified themselves as Jewish. “They can come and identify themselves as Jewish women and when I do, suddenly that’s anti-Semitic,” he said. “Anti-Semitic is where they, the Anti-Defamation League (of B’nai B’rith) and those in league with them, what they define it as and they defined it as using the word Jewish in a non-adulatory manner.”

Schmitz added, “What you’ve got is political terrorism going on. You’ve got the Anti-Defamation League terrorizing the rest of the Jewish community and you’ve got the Jewish community terrorizing everybody else.”
Some apples fall far the tree. I suspect this one didn't.

KELLYANNE CONWAY'S PAC MADE THE WEAKEST AD ABOUT TRUMP'S BAD LANGUAGE EVER

Law Newz reminds us that before Kellyanne Conway became Donald Trump's campaign manager, she was a Trump-basher and Ted Cruz backer:
... it turns out Conway wasn’t exactly always the biggest Donald Trump supporter. According to Federal Election Commission filings examined by LawNewz.com, in September, Conway maxed out her donations to Ted Cruz, donating $5,400 to Cruz for President. Records indicate that Conway’s husband, George Conway, a lawyer, also maxed out his legally allowable donations to Cruz around the same period. According to filings to date, Conway has not donated any money to Donald Trump or his super PAC.

The news isn’t entirely surprising as Conway was hired as a consultant in July after serving as President for a super PAC, Keep The Promise I, that supported Sen. Cruz, and ran ads highly critical of Donald Trump.
Trump hired an old antagonist? Well, that's not really surprising -- as we learned from The New Yorker, Trump asked Tony Schwartz to collaborate on what would become The Art of The Deal after Schwartz wrote a rather unflattering article about Trump:
In 1985, he’d published a piece in New York called “A Different Kind of Donald Trump Story,” which portrayed him not as a brilliant mogul but as a ham-fisted thug who had unsuccessfully tried to evict rent-controlled and rent-stabilized tenants from a building that he had bought on Central Park South. Trump’s effortsn -- which included a plan to house homeless people in the building in order to harass the tenants -- became what Schwartz described as a “fugue of failure, a farce of fumbling and bumbling.” An accompanying cover portrait depicted Trump as unshaven, unpleasant-looking, and shiny with sweat. Yet, to Schwartz’s amazement, Trump loved the article. He hung the cover on a wall of his office, and sent a fan note to Schwartz, on his gold-embossed personal stationery. “Everybody seems to have read it,” Trump enthused in the note, which Schwartz has kept.
Trump seems to think that no publicity is bad publicity, and maybe he thinks the same goes for bashing by a super PAC.

However some of the bashing by Conway's PAC wasn't very effective. One ad the PAC ran attacked Trump on his bad language. Other Trump antagonists have done this also -- and they've done it effectively. You've probably seen this ad from Hillary Clinton's campaign:



Before that, there was this, from anti-Trump Republicans at the American Future Fund:



And there was this radio ad from Jeb Bush's campaign:



All very similar, but all very effective.

Now look at the ad Conway's PAC made:



It's terrible. It omits Trump's most profane moments. The only remotely bad words are "damn" and "hell." The mother's acting is awful. And I was confused when I first watched the ad: The child asks, "Mommy, why does Mr. Trump keep saying the 'h' word and the 's' words?," and I thought, "The 's' words? Trump doesn't say 'shit' in this ad." Then I realized that the kid is referring to "stupid." By why "words" instead of "word"?

Maybe Conway thought this ad couldn't include genuine curses, even bleeped, because it was meant to run in the Bible Belt. But Jeb ran his ad in South Carolina with all the (bleeped) words in there.

Kellyanne Conway is best known as a pollster. Maybe she's not very good at politics otherwise?

DEAR REPUBLICANS: THE CALL FROM THE CRAZIES IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE

A paragraph in this New York Times story about the Trump campaign shakeup jumped out at me:
[Stephen Bannon] was appointed [CEO of the Trump campaign] a day after the recently ousted Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, emerged in an advisory role with Mr. Trump. It was not lost on Republicans in Washington that two news executives whose outlets had fueled the anti-establishment rebellion that bedeviled congressional leaders and set the stage for Mr. Trump’s nomination were now directly guiding the party’s presidential message and strategy.
Wait -- what? Roger Ailes is now seen as having been an anti-establishment threat to the GOP mainstream? Didn't the GOP rely on Ailes to be its communications director for twenty years? Sure, that Tea Party thing got a wee bit out of control, but there was never the slightest indication that the Republican Party was upset at Fox News, or wanted to stop using Fox to disseminate its talking points. Why this revisionist thinking?

The truth is, Fox News has always made its audience angrier, more radical, and more conspiratorial than was good for the party in the long run. And, of course, Fox allowed Donald Trump to establish himself as a political pundit on its airwaves. But until 2016, the only negative consequence for the GOP was that its presidential nominees in 2008 and 2012 had to appease the Fox-maddened crazies, and thus ran campaigns that were too right-wing to succeed. In this cycle, though, it all came crashing down with Trump. Ailes, a guy who was extremely useful to the GOP, helped to turn it into what it is now.

But there hasn't been a clear line between establishment Republicanism and the fringe for years. Consider the rich donors who now have significantly increased influence in Trump World:
Donald Trump’s dramatic staff shake-up on Wednesday revealed the growing influence wielded on his campaign by a Republican mega-donor duo.

The fingerprints of Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund billionaire, and his middle daughter, Rebekah, can be seen all over the new Trump staffing appointments and other decisions being made by the GOP presidential nominee....
Robert Mercer has reportedly made a “substantial” additional investment of at least $1 million in the new [Defeat Crooked Hillary] super-PAC, which has already spent $500,000 on digital ads attacking Clinton in eight battleground states. Additionally, he and particularly Rebekah have become influential figures in Trump World in the past few months.
More:
Trump's new top operatives -- Stephen Bannon, the campaign's new chief executive, and Kellyanne Conway, the campaign manager -- are longtime advisers to the Long Island, New York-based investor and have aided his family on a web of interlocking projects....

Mercer's ties to Bannon date to at least to 2011, when Bannon's conservative Breitbart News network was struggling financially, and Mercer made a $10 million equity investment, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The next year, Bannon founded an organization called the Government Accountability Institute to research cronyism in Washington, and Mercer's family foundation became a major supporter.

The group produced a book, "Clinton Cash," last year highlighting conflicts of interest between the Clintons' government service and their family foundation's courting of foreign donors. This year, Bannon and Rebekah Mercer turned the book into an hour-long documentary. Robert Mercer sent his 203-foot yacht, Sea Owl, to the premier of the film at Cannes.
It's easy to portray the Mercers as fringe-y:
A surprising amount of Mercer’s attention and money finds its way to some of the most unusual fringes of the right wing. He’s attended and funded an annual conference organized by Jane Orient, an Arizona physician and activist who recently suggested in an opinion article that elements in the U.S. government might have taken part in the San Bernardino massacre. Mercer money also found its way to an Idaho activist named Fred Kelly Grant, who travels the country encouraging legal challenges to environmental laws, which he says are part of a sinister plot by the United Nations to depopulate rural America.
And then there's this:
One of [Robert Mercer's] most long-standing beneficiaries is a chemist and sometime Congressional candidate who is collecting thousands of vials of human urine in freezers in rural Oregon for medical research.
I've written about this candidate, Art Robinson, who has collected urine:
Robinson, co-founder of the nonprofit Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, said he is hoping to get 15,000 samples to help calibrate a machine that could use urine profiles to help predict if a person will develop degenerative diseases such as cancer.
But that seems less crazy than crackpot notions such as the belief that radiation is good for your health:
In a monthly newsletter called Access to Energy, Robinson has used his academic credentials to float theories on everything from AIDS to public schooling to climate change (which he believes is a myth). In perhaps his most famous missive, Robinson once proposed using airplanes to disperse radioactive waste on Oregon homes, in the hopes of building up resistance to degenerative illnesses.

"All we need do with nuclear waste is dilute it to a low radiation level and sprinkle it over the ocean -- or even over America after hormesis is better understood and verified with respect to more diseases," Robinson wrote in 1997. He added, "If we could use it to enhance our own drinking water here in Oregon, where background radiation is low, it would hormetically enhance our resistance to degenerative diseases. Alas, this would be against the law." ...

In another essay, he called public education "the most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism in the United States," leaving people "so mentally handicapped that they cannot be responsible custodians of the energy technology base or other advanced accomplishments of our civilization."

Robinson theorized that the government had overhyped the AIDS epidemic in order to force social engineering experiments on those aforementioned public school students....
But many Mercer donations have been very much in the GOP mainstream:
[Robert] Mercer [has] donated ... $668,000 directly to the Republican National Committee....

Mercer has given ... $2 million to American Crossroads ... and $2.5 million to Freedom Partners Action Fund.
American Crossroads is Karl Rove. Freedom Partners is the Koch brothers. These aren't donations to the fringe.

And what was Mercer's specific goal with that money to Freedom Partners?
Big donations included a $2.5 million check to Kochs' Freedom Partners Action Fund—more than what the Koch bothers themselves gave to it -- a "super" political action committee that spent $24 million to support Republicans including winners Joni Ernst in Iowa and Cory Gardner in Colorado....

Mercer also gave $1 million or more each to super PACs Club for Growth Action, which worked to limit the size of government by backing conservative candidates like Arkansas Senate winner Tom Cotton; Ending Spending Action Fund, which also focused on small government by attacking Georgia Senate loser Michelle Nunn, a Democrat; and John Bolton Super PAC, a group supporting the potential GOP presidential candidate and other politicians who are seen as strong on defense, such as North Carolina Senate winner Thom Tillis, a Republican.
So Mercer cash bankrolled the campaigns of some rising stars who are very much in the GOP mainstream (Cotton) or who've been welcomed into the mainstream despite fringe beliefs (Ernst, Gardner).

The Mercers aren't barbarians who stormed the GOP barricades -- they were invited guests. For that matter, so was Trump, who gave a lot of money to within-the-pale Republicans, and whose endorsement Mitt Romney actively sought even after Trump went birther. Republicans, nobody forced you to take money from wealthy enablers of crackpots and racists. This is a crisis of your own making.