Interesting Things I Read Today

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

Now, on to those bullets…

On Brexit

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

On the US Election

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

On other randomness

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

Leaving Brexit for someone else to cover…

  • “at its core, it’s the last stand of old people who have been frightened to death by cynical right-wing media empires and the demagogues who enable them—all of whom have based their appeals on racism as overt as anything we’ve seen in decades.” [Kevin Drum]
  • “The NYPD’s Office of the Inspector General has just released a statistical analysis of “broken windows” policing and concluded that there’s no evidence to support the idea — meaning that around 100,000-500,000 New Yorkers (overwhelmingly brown people) were stopped and frisked by cops every year, for more than a decade, for no evidence-based reason. “
  • Mark Cuban has made it pretty clear that he thinks Donald Trump is quite what he claims. TPM’s Josh Marshall sat down for an email interview with Cuban to discuss Trump, and the results are interesting. This was good: “I wouldn’t say broke. I would say he is afraid of spending his remaining cash.”
  • “a note from a young veteran about why serious attention to the realities of the military matters — and despite all the “Salute to the Heroes!” halftime observances, is still not taking place.” [James Fallows]
  • Robert Kagan, a high profile supporter of Presdient Bush and the war in Iraq, has apparently decided to back Hillary Clinton. As have a whole bunch of very high profile business leaders. How long until we get the “confessions of a Republican” stage of the campaign a la LBJ in 1964?
  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) is using his opposition to his party’s nominee as a central point in his campaign for reelection. And that’s likely cost less for Kirk, since Trump as yet has shown no interest in campaigning in swing states. What a bizarre election. 
  • Donald Trump has apparently decided to start raising money. His campaign is claiming $11 million, but something about the way that number is being reported seems off. His son is claiming that $6 million was raised in response to Trump’s promise to match $2 million dollar for dollar, but also that this promised sum isn’t in the total. But the rest…well…it’s really hard to say!  I guess we’ll have to wait a few weeks for next month’s filings release.
  • He’s also announced that he’s not seeking repayment for the $50 million he loaned his campaign, but has yet to file the paperwork making that promise legally binding. Maybe the campaign is just slow? That would be in keeping with most of the rest of its actions I suppose…
  • Trump is running his campaign like a real estate deal, and waht that says about the state of his campaign isn’t great.
  • “As delivered, Trump’s remarks call into question whether he has the capacity to sustain a thematic line of criticism against Clinton beyond the “Crooked Hillary” sobriquet he perfected on Twitter. Though scripted, Trump’s remarks were scattershot and defensive.” [Brian Beutler]
  • The DCCC is targeting 30 districts as part of a concerted campaign to retake the House this cycle. That….that’s an amazing sentence. 
  • “His strategy is based entirely on getting free media, but, with only one opponent, this strategy has a fatal flaw.” [Alex Shephard]
  • I for one welcome our future robot overlords! And when they come, they will be covered in hair-thin solar cells.
  • “As he looks toward the end of his term, Barack Obama is rolling out a series of initiatives to relax licensing rules. He knows he’s not going to pass transformative liberal ideas like comprehensive immigration reform or a carbon tax. So instead, he’s focusing on common sense, incremental reforms that make peoples’ lives better without raising any ideological red flags.” [Matt Yglesias]
  • “Pundits who stick to their priors even when the data tells them to abandon ship are not faring well this year.” [Ezra Klein]

Interesting Things I Read Today

The first of what I hope will become a regular thing. Bullets and short commentary, nothing more. This one is two weeks in the making so it will be quite long. Future updates shouldn’t see more than a half dozen bullets, I would image. Let’s do this…..

Does Trump Understand How Campaigns Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End of the Primaries

So the last time I put together an update I lamented how boring this race has become. Now the race is over, and thanks to the ridiculous human being that the Republican Party has apparently (but not yet!) decided to nominate for president, things have gotten interesting all over again. He is who he thought he is. How to do this….

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Trump once put his name on something that was billed as “a university,” a real estate “school” where you could learn the secrets to success in his industry. The school, it turns out, was a giant scam run solely for the purpose of extracting money from desperate people — no really, it was, and almost all of those positive reviews were as fake as his weave — and there are a number of different lawsuits working their way through the courts seeking restitution. Seriosuly, take some time to read the background on this enterprise; no amount of snark will do justice to how disgustingly awful it actually was. Pay attention to the way officials in some states asked for and received political donations from Trump just before quashing Trump Uniersity lawsuits in their state. Texas appears to be the worst, but it’s by no means the only one.

Trump, of course, thinks these lawsuits are so obviously illegitimate that they should be dismissed, and their continued existence necessarily means for him that someone somewhere is biased against him. Given that, he of course decided to lash out at the very distinguished judge, and given the campaign he is running, of course he decided to claim that the judge is biased because he is ‘Spanish’ and ‘a Mexican’ and ‘a hater.’ He didn’t bother to follow the very clearly established and widely understood rules for filing a disqualification motion before the court, which is of course what you do if and when you have actual evidence of an actual conflict of interest. Because of course he didn’t, because of course he doesn’t have actual evidence. No really – he has no actual evidence! You know the score – everything is a public negotiation, and he means nothing he says, right? Power and dominance and winning, or not. Depending.

Now I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t see coming what happened next. I expected Trump’s opponents to hammer him for saying that a man’s heritage necessarily means that man cannot be a fair minded judge. And I expected those opponents to declare that sentiment to be what it so obviously is: dangerously unAmerican and deeply illogical. And I even expected his supporters in the political establishment to run like cockroaches in a kitchen where the lights just got turned on. But I didn’t expect, and I never would’ve predicted….in no particular order…all of this:

Do you detect a trend? I suspect you do. Add to this the fact that this is all happening the week after Clinton gave a speech (video here) in which she hammered Trump and after which not a single prominent Republican came to Trump’s defenses, and you’ve got a very serious problem for the Republican nominee. 

So how did Trump handle this crisis? Well, his first step was to double down on the rhetoric, doing a number or pretty high profile interviews in which he continued this line of attack. Most of those were over the past weekend, and it was in reaction to those interview that this tidal wave of condemnation began to build. But Trump being Trump, he wasn’t content to let it alone. Annoyed that people were not rushing to his defense, he personally held a conference call with his top surrogates to lambast them for not pressing the line of attack more vigorously. When they informed him that his own top staffers had told them to make the issue go away, he reportedly said the following:

“Take that order and throw it the hell out.” Told the memo was sent by Erica Freeman, a staffer who circulates information to surrogates, Trump said he didn’t know her. “Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks. That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart….The people asking the questions—those are the racists.”

And that was clearly the straw that broke the camel’s back. First news leaked from multiple sources on the call about how Trump had behaved, and next you get that bullet pointed list above. That led Trump to issue an odd, passive voice statement in which he promised to never talk about the issue again, after which he of course went immediately to Sean Hannity and demanded that his fellow Republicans just ‘get over it’ and get on board. OK!

All that is on its own quite bad, but there’s more. It turns out Trump hasn’t yet bothered to begin building a national campaign. Two big reports filled with all kinds of interesting quotes, one from MSNBC and another from NYT. He has no communications staff. He has a minuscule team vetting VP candidates. He has almost no field staff. His fundraising is anemic. And since he started up all this nonsense with Judge Curiel last week, it seems nearly everyone in the world of professional Republican politics has decided that they don’t want to be involved in any way with his campaign. Mock this idea if you will, but I promise you this – in nation of 315+ million people spread out across a continent, it takes a not-so-small army to win a national campaign. And at least at this moment, Trump can’t find anyone experienced who wants to join. Tons of top positions remain open, but they simply cannot find anyone who wants to fill them. The word “unprecedented” has been thrown around a lot in this election, but that truly is unprecedented. One of the two campaigns for president in the United States of America can’t find people willing to jobs that people usually are willing to fight to the death over.

And it’s not just the Trump campaign; it’s the party too. Over at the RNC, there has been a rash of resignations by the party’s top Hispanic and African American staffers. Which, no, is not what you expect to happen in the weeks after one candidate clinches the nomination. It’s really not how this usually works. 

And one last thing…the media, it appears, has finally figured out how to handle Trump’s lying. This is how you use the Chyron kids! And well done Jake Tapper! Y’all might finally be figuring out how to deal with liars!

Oh, and apologies for the typos, but it’s late and I’m exhausted. Until next time…