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Notably Rare Exceptions

[ 92 ] August 15, 2016 |

Shorter verbatim Rudy Guiliani: ““Before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack inside the United States.”

The one, and only, useful thing Donald Trump has ever done for the republic is to break the piety about how George W. Bush KEPT US SAFE before Republican audiences. One advantage Trump had in the GOP primaries is that he didn’t even have to lie to go after the likes of Jeb!, although he always would if necessary.

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This Meme Is Over An I Can Declare the Winner

[ 49 ] August 15, 2016 |

What’s the Matter With Thomas Frank?

[ 483 ] August 15, 2016 |

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Thomas Frank has done good work in the past, and he might in the future. But something about Barack Obama seems to have completely broken him as an analyst. Barack Obama has compiled what is, at worst, the fourth most progressive set of legislative achievements of any president in American history — despite the party having effective control of Congress for less than a year — and overall the Democratic Party is moving to the left by any possible metric. This doesn’t, needless to say, make the Obama/Reid/Pelosi Democrats beyond criticism. But Frank has spent years arguing as if it was not only still 1996 but as if they were moving to the right. Nothing — not the fact that Obama has a far more progressive set of accomplishments than Clinton or Carter, not the surprising success of Bernie Sanders’s campaign, not Hillary Clinton running on arguably the most progressive platform the party ever has — can give him even the slightest pause. In Frankworld, the Democrats are following up two terms of the Lieberman administration with an Al From/Zell Miller ticket running on DLC position papers. The classic expression of this view was his Salon interview with Steiniac Cornel West, in which the two didn’t merely agree that Barack Obama had accomplished nothing and refused to fight the Republicans on any issue but preemptively asserted that everyone on the American left agreed with them. He’s got a narrative, and he’s deeply committed to it although it’s transparently wrong, and doesn’t even consider the possibility that anyone could disagree with him. It’s very strange.

He does see one party moving to the left, though — the Republican Party. Is this insane? Yes. But his reaction to the Republican convention was that Hillary Clinton was DOOMED because Trump was going to win the liberal votes Clinton was ignoring. No, really:

The Republicans were trying to win the support of people like me! Not tactfully or convincingly or successfully, of course: they don’t know the language of liberalism and wouldn’t speak it if they did; and most of the liberals I know will never be swayed anyway. But they were trying nevertheless.

Donald Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning. He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times), and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”

If you see 4 days of Trump’s Republican Party and its cynical, content-free, and oh white supremacist gestures to populism and think “George McGovern,” I really don’t know what to tell you. I mean, have you notice that the tea party has spent 8 years superficially denouncing “big business,” and the policy outgrowth of that is “cut capital gains taxes, repeal Dodd-Frank, try to nullify the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and eliminate the estate tax.” Frank has become the ultimate mark for the Republican scams he used to eviscerate so effectively. “Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care.” The candidate’s daughter seems to favor something that no Republican of any influence supports and appears nowhere in the party platform? Yeah, I’m sure Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will get right on that! The Republican Party’s calls to deregulate Wall Street come with some gestures to reinstating Glass-Steagall? They want to “break up Wall Street”! Can Frank really think this sale to Harriet and Blah Blah Nyborg is going to stick? Has he seem how they were living? How can he delude himself?

Two weeks after he saw a wave of liberal defections to Trump, he’s upset that it’s not happening:

And so ends the great populist uprising of our time

Wait, we’re talking about Donald Trump? Are you shitting me? Look, even on trade he’s just saying he’ll “renegotiate” agreements. He’s not going to be hiring Erik to do the negotiating. And other than trade there’s nothing remotely “populist” in any progressive sense about the Trump campaign.

Two weeks ago, I wrote in this space about how the Trump phenomenon had reconfigured the conventional geometry of the two-party system. Trump was riding high in the polls at that moment, and there was reason to believe that his criticism of trade deals – one of several Trumpian causes long associated with the populist left – might play havoc with the Democrats’ happy centrist plans.

1)There was not, in fact, any reason to think that was happening, and 2)the Democratic plans are not “centirst” unless you’re using a metric other than the American political spectrum. I will even grant that on trade, the elite Democrats haven’t moved much to the left. But, really, this isn’t the only issue in the world. Expanding the minimum wage, expanding Social Security, protecting the expansion of Medicaid — this stuff matters! Frank doesn’t cite any other Trumpian cause associated with the “populist left” because there isn’t one (unless he’s talking about the racism of many 19th century populists.)

Now let us ponder the opposite scenario. In the intervening two weeks, Trump has destroyed himself more efficiently than any opposition campaign could ever have done. First, he heaped mounds of insults on the family of a US soldier killed in Iraq, then prominent journalists raised doubts about his mental state, and then (as if to confirm his doubters) he dropped a strong hint that gun enthusiasts might take action against Hillary Clinton should she appoint supreme court justices not to his liking.

His chances, as measured in the polls, went almost overnight from fairly decent to utter crap.

Yes, nobody could possibly have anticipated that Donald Trump would be a terrible candidate and run a terrible campaign. Just comes completely out of nowhere. But what concerns me is the palpable disappointment Frank seems to feel about the collapse of Trump. What person on the left could possibly be rooting for him to do well? Does Frank go on to praise Brexit? I think you know the answer.

And just as he has invented a fictional left-wing Donald Trump, he’s invented a fictional Hillary Clinton who’s running on a right-wing platform. “Headlines show Clinton triangulating to the right.” (Which ones?) “In her big speech in Michigan on Thursday she cast herself as the candidate who could bring bickering groups together and win policy victories through really comprehensive convenings.” Well, yes, of course, all politicians stay stuff like this — so what? But using this speech as evidence for Clinton’s pivot to the right is, to be generous, tendentious. Inter alia, the speech called for:

  • Massive new infrastructure development
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage
  • Ppposition to the TPP
  • Expanding Social Security
  • Attacked Trump’s tax credit for child care as a giveaway to the affluent, drawing a contrast with her much more progressive program.
  • Attacked Trump’s tax cuts for the rich while advocating tax increases
  • Strengthening unions

You can argue about how strongly committed she is to these views, but if you can’t ignore them if you’re assessing the direction of her campaign. The claim that she’s moving to the right is simply false. And the double standards he uses to evaluate Republican and Democratic politicians is absolutely embarrassing. The Republican candidate’s daughter makes a stray, unrepresentative gesture to a policy proposal? A MAJOR SHIFT TO THE LEFT! The Democratic candidate actually advances a series of progressive proposals? WHY DOES SHE HATE THE LEFT?

Things will change between now and November, of course. But what seems most plausible from the current standpoint is a landslide for Clinton, and with it the triumph of complacent neoliberal orthodoxy. She will have won her great victory, not as a champion of working people’s concerns, but as the greatest moderate of them all, as the leader of a stately campaign of sanity and national unity. The populist challenge of the past eight years, whether led by Trump or by Sanders, will have been beaten back resoundingly. Centrism will reign triumphant over the Democratic party for years to come.

Leaving aside the fact that his characterization of the Clinton campaign as “neoliberal” is the latest example of the word becoming a slur devoid of any actual content, Frank’s argument that it would be good for reform politics for Clinton to win narrowly or lose is ridiculous. The rare periods of progressive change in the United States have always been followed by what were, in context, big wins. If you want Clinton to govern to the left, you want her to win big. This is obvious. The idea that Trump getting trounced is bad for the American left makes no sense. But it’s the logical culmination of Frank’s alternate political universe, one that has long since abandoned any connection with reality.

These Things Are True

[ 98 ] August 14, 2016 |

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Down to every detail:

Minor correction here.

Maureen Dowd Is A National Embarrassment

[ 306 ] August 14, 2016 |

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Maureen Dowd, as not enough people remember, spent the 2000 campaign 1)writing columns that were frequently dishonest and all so dumb they should have been published in the original crayon that 2)aggressively advanced the Gush-Bore narrative of the race. The idea that George W. Bush was a harmless moderate was…profoundly and obviously wrong and the results were awful. Admittedly, she wasn’t the only one on this point — her colleague Frank Rich was just as bad. But he learned. Maureen Dowd, as always, learns nothing. And hence her latest column:

The Republicans have their candidate: It’s Hillary.

Anybody who thinks Hillary Clinton is fundamentally a Republican has absolutely no business getting paid to write about politics by anybody, let alone the most prestigious op-ed page in the country.

They can’t go with Donald Trump. He’s too volatile and unhinged.

The obvious problem with this is that the vast majority of Republicans who matter are, in fact, going with Trump.

The erstwhile Goldwater Girl

Here we have an ironclad indication that a column is not worth reading. For the record, for most of the 1964 campaign Hillary Clinton was 16. Reagan voted for FDR multiple times as an adult, but suggesting that as a presidential candidate he was a standard-issue New Deal Democrat would have been a firable offense. This is even dumber.

Hillary will keep the establishment safe. Who is more of an establishment figure, after all? Her husband was president, and he repealed Glass-Steagall, signed the Defense of Marriage Act and got rid of those pesky welfare queens.

All of these things are certainly worthy of substantial criticism. But leaving aside the fact that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are, as best as this blog can determine, different people, there’s the much bigger problem that it ain’t 1996 anymore. The parties, entirely without Dowd noticing, have diverged massively. And norms that even in periods of divided government Congress and the president need to cut deals to get things done have been clubbed to death and thrown into the Potomac. The DOMA reference, in particular, gives away the show. What disabilities, precisely, can Clinton be expected to impose on LBGT people? Aren’t the facts that we have a national right to same-sex marriage because Democratic presidents nominated 4 Supreme Court justices and a Democratic Senate stopped a Republican president from getting his first choice, and Clinton’s justices will affirm this decision and Republican nominees in 2017 almost certainly would not, vastly more relevant than legislation that passed 20 years ago with massive bipartisan majorities?

Unlike Trump, she hasn’t been trashing leading Republicans. You know that her pals John McCain and Lindsey Graham are secretly rooting for her.

LOL at the idea that John McCain and especially Lindsey Graham are “leading Republicans” in 2016. And perhaps we should be asking why this rooting has to be secret. Trump is, in fact, the leading Republican.

The Democratic nominee put out an ad featuring Trump-bashing Michael Hayden, an N.S.A. and C.I.A. chief under W. who was deemed “incongruent” by the Senate when he testified about torture methods. And she earned an endorsement from John Negroponte, a Reagan hand linked to American-trained death squads in Latin America.

It is true that a bunch of neocons have endorsed Clinton. And the reasons for it is obvious: Clinton is not a nut, and people primarily concerned with foreign policy don’t necessarily have the strong commitment to upper-class tax cuts and forcing women to carry pregnancies to term that compels most Republicans to go along with Trump.

There are, of course, entirely legitimate reasons to be concerned about Clinton’s foreign policy, which will almost certainly be worse than Obama’s (although much better than Bush’s.) Politically, she should respond to the endorsement of people like Negroponte with “they endorse me; I don’t endorse them.” But the endorsements themselves don’t really tell you much of anything other than that Trump is unacceptable to many Republicans who don’t care about domestic policy.

Hillary is a safer bet in many ways for conservatives. Trump likes to say he is flexible. What if he returns to his liberal New York positions on gun control and abortion rights?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA oh my. Dowd is literally as clueless about how politics works as an otherwise unpublishable random Salon dudebro. Even assuming that Trump wanted to be liberal on these issues, how exactly would he do it? Sign the gun control legislation that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell wouldn’t pass? The Federalist Society hacks he nominates would vote to affirm Roe because he appointed them? Help me out here — I’m sure there’s an Aaron Sorkin script that explains how it all works.

Trump is far too incendiary in his manner of speaking, throwing around dangerous and self-destructive taunts about “Second Amendment people” taking out Hillary, or President Obama and Hillary being the founders of ISIS. And he still blindly follows his ego, failing to understand the fundamentals of a campaign. “I don’t know that we need to get out the vote,” he told Fox News Thursday. “I think people that really wanna vote are gonna get out and they’re gonna vote for Trump.”

Despite which, most Republican voters and most Republican politicians of actual influence support Trump. So how is this behavior un-Republican, exactly?

And now, the punchline:

And that’s how Republicans prefer their crazy — not like Trump, but like Cheney.

Clinton and Cheney — not a dime’s worth of difference!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — the fact that these witless and comprehensively ill-informed columns are not only published in the New York Times but used to be showered with awards is about as damning an indictment of America’s overpaid and underachieving elites as you could ask.

UPDATE: LOL:

Jon Papelbon 2016: A Richly Ironic Tale of When Bad Things Happen to Complete Assholes

[ 183 ] August 13, 2016 |

For reasons I cannot explain, the Washington Nationals elected not to release Jon Papelbon after he physically assaulted their best player over a trivial PLAYING THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY incident. He rewarded them by pitching himself out of the closer job and then demanding and receiving his release. Which led to this world-class Jon Papelbon anecdote:

Too bad the Nats didn’t cut him in a more timely manner so he could have appeared at the RNC!

There’s an obvious Doors joke here, but I will have to leave it to you because I remain firmly of the belief that evaluated properly as a pop singles band the Doors were perfectly fine.

Trump’s New York Strategy: An Update

[ 237 ] August 12, 2016 |

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Carl Paladino, the version of Donald Trump sold in Western New York’s shabbiest dollar stores, has some thoughts about Khizr Khan, and decided to express them in public:

“All right, I don’t care if he’s a Gold Star parent,” he continued. “He certainly doesn’t deserve that title, OK, if he’s as anti-American as he’s illustrated in his speeches and in his discussion. I mean, if he’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or supporting, you know, the ISIS-type of attitude against America, there’s no reason for Donald Trump to have to honor this man.”

Paladino, who made a failed bid for governor of New York in 2010, went on to say that he does not feel that Trump should change his rhetoric in any way and that no one can be sure that President Obama is not a Muslim.

And since the nation’s most prominent social scientican has already observed that Trump will win New York, you have to figure that this will increase the margins:

Don’t worry, I won’t offer him the keys to this blog as a bet. Even the .00000000001% chance that Trump could carry New York is too much.

Paul Ryan’s Principles

[ 106 ] August 12, 2016 |

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Krugman explains why Ryan, McConnell et. al have remained on board the train Trump is driving into the Grand Canyon:

But there’s a third answer, which can be summarized in one number: 34.

What’s that? It’s the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the average federal tax rate for the top 1 percent in 2013, the latest year available. And it’s up from just 28.2 in 2008, because President Obama allowed the high-end Bush tax cuts to expire and imposed new taxes to pay for a dramatic expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Taxes on the really, really rich have gone up even more.

If Hillary Clinton wins, taxes on the elite will at minimum stay at this level, and may even go up significantly if Democrats do well enough in congressional races to enable her to pass new legislation. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that her tax plan would raise the average tax rate for the top 1 percent by another 3.4 percentage points, and the rate for the top 0.1 percent by five points.

But if “populist” Donald Trump wins, taxes on the wealthy will go way down; in particular, Mr. Trump is calling for elimination of the inheritance tax, which these days hits only a tiny number of really yuuuge estates (a married couple doesn’t pay any tax unless its estate is worth more than $10.9 million).

So if you’re wealthy, or you’re someone who has built a career by reliably serving the interests of the wealthy, the choice is clear — as long as you don’t care too much about stuff like shunning racism, preserving democracy and freedom of religion, or for that matter avoiding nuclear war, Mr. Trump is your guy.

And that’s pretty much how the Republican establishment still sees it. Getting rid of the estate tax is “the linchpin of the conservative movement,” one major donor told Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur. Gotta get those priorities straight.

The issue isn’t that Ryan is “unprincipled.” To the extent that the label is meaningful when applied to a politician with national ambitions, he’s had a pretty consistent set of principles, i.e. upper-class tax cuts and increased military spending and war, financed by a combination of debt and slashing social services (especially those to the poor.) The issue is that these principles are bad. But there’s nothing irrational about Ryan supporting Trump — if he wins, he gets to pass the agenda he’s always been committed to, and if he loses he needs to minimize downballot losses. It’s not complicated, really.

On the other side of the coin, Ed Kilgore has an entertaining typology of the #NeverTrump minority within the GOP.

Donald Trump’s Plan of Committing Massive Blunders While Not Advertising Is Going Well

[ 259 ] August 12, 2016 |

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I’m so old I remember some liberals were panicking over Trump’s “convention bounce” like it was last month:

In Colorado, Clinton leads Trump by 12 points, 41 percent to 29 percent, with Johnson at 15 percent and Stein at 6 percent.

In Florida, the Democrat is ahead of her GOP opponent by five points, 41 percent to 36 percent, with Johnson at 9 percent and Stein at 4 percent.

In the four-way North Carolina contest, it’s Clinton at 45 percent, Trump at 36 percent, Johnson at 9 percent and Stein at 2 percent.

And in Virginia, Clinton gets 43 percent, Trump gets 31 percent, Johnson gets 12 percent and Stein gets 5 percent.

I didn’t think Trump had a viable path to the Electoral College before the campaign started. I…am not changing my mind.

Perhaps even more importantly, the anchor Trump is throwing to Senate candidates is beginning to show up — North Carolina looks like a toss-up and Bennett is well ahead in Colorado. Alas, the inability of Florida Dems to put up a halfway decent candidate will probably put it out of reach, but Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio all seem very doable and Feingold looks like a lock in Wisconsin.

But at least the underfunded, amateurish campaign with a world-historically bad candidate is maintaining its laser focus:

A tweep asked a question I don’t have a good answer to: when does Trump start to threaten the Republican House majority? As always, eternal thanks for the wisdom of the Republican primary electorate.

Trump Makes Play For Critical Andrew Sullivan Constituency

[ 51 ] August 12, 2016 |

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Serial fabricator Betsy McCaughey recently made arguably the most ridiculous argument she’s made in a pundit career consisting entirely of ridiculous arguments, describing Donald J. Trump as a serious policy wonk. You can probably see where this is going:

Betsy McCaughey’s addition to Donald Trump’s council of economic advisors seems fitting: Both are conspiracy theory-floating sensationalists who have what you might describe as a hostile relationship with the truth.

Trump announced that McCaughey, along with seven other women, was joining his economic team Thursday after critics noted the council was made up entirely of men, only one Ph.D.-holding economist and four Steves among them, upon its initial rollout.

The campaign’s biography of McCaughey describes her as “a public policy expert,” citing her Ph.D. from Columbia University, her time as the lieutenant governor of New York state, her two anti-Obamacare books and her “nationwide educational campaign to stop hospital-acquired infections.”

But it leaves out perhaps the greatest asset she brings to Team Trump: an ability to serve up distortions and flat-out falsehoods about Democratic legislation that mainstream Republicans and even credible media outlets devoured and regurgitated as conventional wisdom.

McCaughey’s biggest success was her role in the defeat of the health care reform initiative led by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, an achievement that makes her entry into this current electoral cycle all the more fitting. In what started as a Wall Street Journal op-ed, McCaughey pushed the inaccurate assertion that the Clinton legislation would ban health care consumers from paying doctors for services outside their government plans.

Her “no exit” claim landed her a cover story at The New Republic that won a National Magazine Award, even though the bill itself clearly stated that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the following: (1) An individual from purchasing any health care services” (an editor of the magazine would later recant that story). McCaughey’s allegation nonetheless provided Republicans an easy talking point as the legislation stalled in Congress, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called her writings the “the first decisive breakpoint.”

Unlike that 1990s crusade, McCaughey’s attacks on President Barack Obama’s health care initiative weren’t enough to block its passage. But she was still able to land some lasting, albeit deceptive, blows on the law. Most famously, she was a major propagator of the Obamacare “death panels” myth that held the law created a panel of bureaucrats who would deem which Americans were worthy of health care.

Yes, Trump is a clown, but the fact that the clowns he surrounds himself with are mostly mainstream, influential figures within the Republican Party really should tell you something.

Terrible Ideas In Pseudo-Journalism

[ 91 ] August 11, 2016 |

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Young people sometimes have sex. Sometimes these people have sex with people of the same gender. The Daily Beast is ON IT and surely any violation of privacy or people being put in danger was worth bringing this very exciting scoop to the attention of the public.

The Party of Lincoln Becoming the Party of Calhoun In One Chart

[ 56 ] August 11, 2016 |

Strangely, Donald Trump’s strategy of “Mitt Romney’s policies except sort of trade with a lot more explicit racism” has not arrested the cratering of African-American support for the Republican Party:

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The rest of Enten’s analysis is worth reading as well. Trump is currently in 4th place among African-American voters, which helps to explain why Republicans are so determined to keep African-Americans away from the polls.

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