On Parties

Parties exist to mobilize voters in order to win elections. In pursuit of that goal, they are supposed to identify and advance the candidates that they believe are most likely to win election and advance the party’s policy goals, and they are supposed to identify and undermine the candidates they believe won’t. In pursuit of those objectives, they are supposed to attempt to shape coverage of those candidates and those goals in the media. They wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t do these things, and in a nation of 315+ million, it’s not likely that democracy would work if they didn’t. That’s part of what you see in the leaked DNC emails.
Unfortunately for all of us, what you also see in those emails – and what you would see in similar ones from the RNC if those were ever leaked – is that most (but not all!) of the people who choose to become party professionals haven’t gotten over the fact that they didn’t get to sit with the cool kids in the High School cafeteria. And because of that, they spend much of their time creating cliques and settling scores and righting imagined wrongs. But on both sides of the aisle it’s almost always a sign of immaturity, not malfeasance. That doesn’t make what they do right or good, but if you think on it a bit an pay close attention, it might make a lot of it make more sense.

Not A President But A King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this real life?

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

RNC Convention – Day Two Live Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RNC Convention – Day One Addendum

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

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

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

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

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

RNC Convention – Day One Live Blog

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

All for tonight….more tomorrow! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8:00p OK let’s get at this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting Things I Read in the Last Few Days

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

Trump Campaign News

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

Clinton Campaign News

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

Email and Drones in the News for $1000 Alex

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

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

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

Random Thoughts on American Politics

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

BREXIT News

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

Random Bits and Bobs

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

There. Now you’re caught up!