Category: Election 2016

First Debate Thoughts

  • What did we do to deserve this?
  • Judged as as pure debate, Clinton “won” as far as that goes. You can tell because the conservative blogs are calling it a draw. She didn’t get rattled. She appeared almost human. Her answers were coherent if alarming. Trump held his own for thirty minutes. But, as I suspected, having a one-on-one debate meant his catch phrases began to wear thin after a while. His ignorance of policy and his tendency to shaft other people kept coming back up. Trump avoiding rising to Clinton’s bait a few times, but he did bite more than once and was on the defensive a lot. This is was clearly intentional from Clinton because the one thing we know about Trump is that he can. not. let. anything. go.
  • That said, I don’t know how much of a difference it will make. Trump has been exposed as a lair, a fraud and a policy ignoramus for months now. His core supporters simply do not care. They either despise Clinton more or cling to the strange belief that he will trash the system without also trashing the country. He could literally have spent the entire 90 minutes masturbating and they wouldn’t have cared.
  • I thought Holt did an OK job. He mainly let the candidates go at each other, which is a format I prefer. There’s been some criticism of him for not going after Clinton (bringing up Benghazi, etc.). There’s legitimacy in that. It seemed odd to press Trump on his support for the Iraq while ignoring the woman who voted for it. But … most of the things that put Trump on the defensive were brought up by Clinton. Trump punched back a few times, making Clinton talk about the e-mail scandal. But he spent so much time trying to weasel about his tax returns, his bankruptcies, his birtherism that he wasn’t able to push her on other issues.
  • I suspect Trump will do better in the next debate because Conway will make sure he stays on the offensive.
  • What was with the sniffing? Based on the internet speculation about Clinton, I’m going to assume that Trump has Ebola.
  • Trump has already surrendered much of the conservative agenda. Among other things, he called for massive investments in “infrastructure”, mandated paid parental leave, restricted trade and more gun control.
  • In fact, I challenge anyone to go through that debate transcript and find anything either candidate said about basic freedoms. The subjects of mass surveillance, the War on Drugs and mass incarceration weren’t touched on. Foreign wars were barely mentioned and the only in the past tense. Obamacare wasn’t really addressed. Regulation wasn’t really addressed. What this came down to was which candidate is most qualified to tighten the screws on our liberty.

Tight As A Drum

In 2016, Hillary Clinton has:

  • An arguable structural advantage in the electoral college.
  • An incumbent President with an approval rating in the high 50’s.
  • A media almost united behind her.
  • An historically awful Republican candidate: a deeply disliked two-bit conman who knows nothing about policy and has a poor ground game in battleground states.
  • A big funding advantage.

And, as of this morning, the campaign is basically a toss-up, according to 538’s analysis. There was a reason the Democrats rejected her in 2008 in favor of a freshman Senator. There was as reason the Democrats almost rejected her this year in favor of a 74-year-old crackpot Senator from Vermont. And that reason is not her extra X-chromosome. It’s because she’s a poor politician.

Cruz Gives In

I’ve been in proposal land all week, but I thought I’d put up a quick thought. Ted Cruz just endorsed Donald Trump. So … what was that convention imbroglio in aide of? What exactly did he accomplish with his “vote your conscience” speech?

Kasich at least didn’t go to the convention. Neither did the Bushes. While they oppose Trump, they at least realized that you don’t go to the convention to make it about you. If Cruz has stuck with his conscience and voted for Johnson or McMullin or something, I might see that. But by endorsing Trump at this stage he’s revealed his convention stunt as just that: a stunt, designed to make him look good at the expense of his party. And that was not the first time or the second or the tenth time he has tried to make himself look good at the expense of the party.

It make you realize why many in the GOP who didn’t want Trump as the nominee didn’t want Cruz either.

Election 2016: VI. Gary Johnson

This is the sixth part of a seven part series I will do this week making the case for and against each of the major candidates, with a wrap-up on the weekend. I did this in 2012 and I will observe the same ground rule I did then: making the case for a candidate means making the case for a candidate, not a case against the opponent. That’s the subject of later posts. So “he’s not Hillary” is not a reason I will list for voting for Trump and “she’s not Trump” is not a reason I will list for voting for Clinton. Each one of them will get their own special post all to themselves about they don’t deserve our votes.

Today, I’ll look at the case for and against the man I voted for in 2012 and will most likely vote for this year: Gary Johnson.

For the first time ever, the Libertarian Party has a chance to make some real noise. The extreme unpopularity of the two major candidates has Gary Johnson polling at about 10% and threatening to have a Perot-sized impact on the race. Young people, in particular, are taken with Johnson, who is currently outpolling Trump and could possibly overtake Clinton. Numerous analyses have indicated that this is the biggest reason for Clinton’s tumble at the polls: young voters moving to Johnson and Stein.

The reason to not for Gary Johnson is pretty straight forward.

A vote for Johnson may spill the election to Clinton or Trump (although it’s not clear which). This is the biggest reason I’ve heard for not voting for Johnson. I’ve heard it from the Right and from the Left (Krugman had a particularly silly column today on the subject). If you honestly think that one of these candidates is going to bring about the apocalypse and the other won’t, this is a big reason not to vote for Johnson.

Johnson is a small-government conservative who favors marijuana legalization and a United States that is less involved with foreign countries. I know it sounds weird, in this election, to make the case against a candidate based on, you know, issues but those are the biggest reasons one might vote against him: if you fear isolationism, support the War on Drugs and want a bigger government, Johnson is not your guy.

There are some other things you could say against him: he doesn’t have foreign policy experience; he’s an admitted marijuana user (who has given it up for the campaign); he has been out of government for more than a decade; he hasn’t got much of a personality (although I find that to be a blessed relief). But for me, the main reasons one might vote against him arex his potential as a spoiler and his stance on the issues.

The reasons to vote for him?

Johnson-Weld is easily the best of the four tickets. Donald Trump has no experience in government. His running mate is one-term governor who had a very good chance of being unelected this fall. Clinton’s experience, as I noted, is less impressive the more you look at it. Her running mate was a moderately successful governor of Virginia.

By contrast, Johnson and Weld were both twice-elected Republican governors of blue states with strong records of fiscal restraint. Johnson, in particular, vetoed the hell out of spending in New Mexico (although he was often overridden). Both are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Neither has been tainted by scandal. And they are running a clean issues-oriented campaign. They have now received more endorsements than Trump, including the New Hampshire Union Leader, which broke a century-long streak of endorsing Republicans. And every endorsement says what I said above: they are experienced governors who can get things done but have shown no compunction about facing down their legislatures when they think it’s important. They do have a few positions I don’t like, such as the Fair Tax. But overall, this is best ticket I’ve seen on a ballot since Reagan-Bush. No, that’s not a joke.

If they had a shot at winning, this would be no contest. But they are polling at around 10% and likely to perform a bit under that. They have not been invited to the debates (despite polling around where Perot was in 1992), which puts a crimp in any plan to upset the leaders. So it is very likely, barring a spectacular meltdown by one of the front-runners, that they will win. So, ultimately, this may end up a protest vote.

But in this case, a protest vote might be more important than ever because:

A strong libertarian vote would scare the parties. Ross Perot’s 1992 success was a big reason we had a balanced budget in the 1990’s. That was his signature issue and garnering 19% of the vote scared the crap out of both parties and let them know what the American people wanted.

Johnson doesn’t have as much of a signature issue, however, so it’s not clear what message would be sent other than, “We hate you both.” But a strong libertarian movement would, while not necessarily empowering the Libertarian Party itself, create a formidable voting block that has to be reckoned with.

The popularity of Johnson among young people is one of the most positive political trends in the last decade. I really hope he can sustain it because young liberty-oriented people would grow up to a motivated liberty-oriented voting block. And God knows we need that right now.

A strong libertarian showing would deny either candidate a mandate. If Gary Johnson polls well, the winner of this election will have less than half the vote. If he polls extremely well, they could even poll under 40. Such a low showing would deny either candidate a mandate for their agenda (although both would claim it anyway). They would find themselves in the same position Bill Clinton once did: weak, opposed and without a mandate. Bill was a slick enough politician to get what he wanted done anyway (while he still had Congress, at least). Neither Clinton nor Trump are the equal of Slick Willie. And they will face a determined Republican Congress.

This “lack of mandate” stuff is not just inside the beltway politician talk. It’s real. It’s the biggest reason why the parties agreed to lock third parties out of the debates after 1996. They realized that if Perot-scale showings became routine, we would have a series of weakened Presidents governing without a mandate, if you can imagine such a thing.

The reason to vote for Gary Johnson, oddly enough, is the same reason many people voted for Bernie Sanders. It has the potential to shake up the system. And this system badly needs shaking. Donald Trump isn’t the one to bring real change. He’s the vomitus of a sick system; a political insider pretending to be an outsider. Hillary Clinton isn’t the one to bring real change, either. As my friend Maggie McNeill said, Hillary couldn’t be more establishment if she had a concrete foundation and were wired for electricity. Johnson, on the other hand … could be.

Election 2016: V. The Case Against Hillary Clinton

This is the fourth part of a five (or maybe seven) part series I will do this week making the case for and against each of the major candidates, with a wrap-up on the weekend. I did this in 2012 and I will observe the same ground rule I did then: making the case for a candidate means making the case for a candidate, not a case against the opponent. That’s the subject of later posts. So “he’s not Hillary” is not a reason I will list for voting for Trump and “she’s not Trump” is not a reason I will list for voting for Clinton. Each one of them will get their own special post all to themselves about they don’t deserve our votes.

Today I write a post that summarizes a lot of what I’ve been saying for the last eight years: that Hillary Clinton is a poor choice for President.

Hillary Clinton is not like Bill; she has laid out a far left agenda. I’ve done this before, but here is a list of positions Clinton has put forward: “free” college, a $15 minimum wage, mandated paid maternity leave, expanded Obamacare, expanded Medicaid, subsidized daycare, cardcheck, massive “investment”, rejecting TPP, tax hikes, gun control, more education spending, expanded Social Security, $60 billion on alternative energy, more job training, more infrastructure spending. I mentioned earlier this week that Trump falsely claimed that Clinton was running a campaign without policy. That’s the opposite of the real problem — Clinton’s policies are listed on her website in the link above. She has tons of policies, most of them bad.

Keep in mind … we have problems paying for the stuff we’re already committed to. This year will see the deficit increase for the first time in six years. It is projected to increase dramatically over the next ten years, piling on another ten trillion in debt. We don’t have the money for this. Without spending cuts, we will have to max out this nation’s tax bill just to keep our heads above water. Where’s the money going to come from for this?

And jobs? Clinton says she’s going to bring jobs back to America by … killing free trade, enacting card check, “investing” in spending and paying out subsidies to favored business. This is on top of the slew of regulations she wants to pass and a near doubling of the minimum wage.

Now it is true that most of this wish list will never happen. But a significant amount could happen, especially if she has a Democratic Congress. And our economy and our budget are already straining under the weight.

Clinton’s “massive experience” isn’t all its cracked up to be. Let’s review the experience that Clinton brings to the table. As first lady, she authored a health care reform proposal that was byzantine, forged in secret and instantly unpopular. She jumped on the superpredator panic and wrote off all of her husband’s misdeeds as a vast right wing conspiracy. Yes, she organized some good things as First Lady. That’s not being President.

Handed a Senate seat on a golden platter, she went onto a fairly undistinguished career, supporting popular causes but never really taking a stand or crafting any major legislation. Even her own website sees her big accomplishment as getting funds to help first responders, which was important but not something she played the key role in.

As Secretary of State, Clinton tried to “reset” our relationship with Russia, which worked our poorly. She also was a huge proponent of our attack on Libya, which worked out poorly. She made no progress on Iran or Pakistan or Afghanistan or North Korea. And while Benghazi has been a bit overblown, there’s no question that, as Secretary of State, she bears responsibility for the poor state of defense of our assets in Libya.

Sorry, but her health is a concern. It always was. She’s turning 69 soon.

We can expect four more years of bullshit Let’s step back a bit. Suppose when the e-mail scandal had broken, Clinton had said something like this:

Look, I wanted to have easy access to e-mail and I wanted to have it outside the State Department. We made the decision to have our own server after many consultations. In retrospect, this was a poor decision. While we don’t think we were hacked, we left ourselves vulnerable. And while it wasn’t on purpose, we have mishandled some classified information. I take responsibility for this messup and, as President, I will take the initiative in tightening down our protocols on internet security.

That would not necessarily have been true, of course. But it would have defused the scandal instantly. The same is true of the Clinton Foundation. Or her health scare. Or any scandal involving the Clintons over the last 25 years.

The polls have tightened lately. The biggest shift has been among young people abandoning Clinton for Johnson and Stein. And the biggest reason for that is that they see Clinton as untrustworthy. The Clintons lie — frequently, flagrantly, fluently and reflexively. They lie when the truth would suit them way better. At least 70% of the scandals with which they have been “besieged” over the last 25 years could have been defused if they’d just answered a few questions honestly and forthrightly. You think that’s going to get better when she’s President?

Something else. Remember what she said in the first debate: that she was proud of having made so many enemies. Clinton has nursed grudges against Republicans for 25 years. Even if you posit that all of that was Republican evilness — and I don’t think it was — aren’t you a bit worried about Clinton wanting some payback? Aren’t you a bit worried about someone who boasts about the enemies she’s made having the power to attack them? A few weeks ago, Vox ran an alarmist article about how Trump could abuse the power of the Presidency against his enemies. But these methods will be available to Clinton too.

She has shown no ability to learn from her mistakes. As the War in Iraq has grown less popular, Clinton has admitted that voting for it was a mistake. As mass incarceration has grown less popular, Clinton has admitted that her role in the superpredator panic was a mistake. Normally, that would be a good thing in a politician.

But … Clinton has shown no ability to learn from her mistakes. Yeah, she’ll say that Iraq was a mistake. She still supported intervening in Libya and Syria, unleashing massive chaos. Yeah, she’ll say the superpredator panic was a mistake. She’s still jumping on the current moral panic of sex trafficking.

As with Trump, this post could be much longer. But notice, as with Trump, I haven’t commented (much) about her personality or manner or bearing. She can be as unlikable as she wants. What concerns me more is having a President with a long history of deception and evasion, armed with a big government agenda who has shown no ability to adapt in the light of new information.

Election 2016: IV. The Case for Hillary Clinton

This is the fourth part of a five (or maybe seven) part series I will do this week making the case for and against each of the major candidates, with a wrap-up on the weekend. I did this in 2012 and I will observe the same ground rule I did then: making the case for a candidate means making the case for a candidate, not a case against the opponent. That’s the subject of later posts. So “he’s not Hillary” is not a reason I will list for voting for Trump and “she’s not Trump” is not a reason I will list for voting for Clinton. Each one of them will get their own special post all to themselves about they don’t deserve our votes.

Today I write the post I’d hoped I’d never have to write: making the case for Hillary Clinton. Ugh.

Hillary Clinton has been part of our political landscape for 25 years. There are grandparents who can’t remember a time they didn’t know her name. Andrew Sullivan used to call her “Nixon in a pants suit” and that’s very appropriate. Like Nixon, she was denied the Presidency in a close race by a younger, more charismatic candidate. Like Nixon, she’s back for more. Like Nixon, her principle advantage in this election is having a terrible opponent.

So why should someone vote for Clinton? I mean, other than masochism?

She would be checked by a Republican Congress: I made this point four and eight years ago with Obama and it remains true. We have a system of checks and balances that puts much of the power — and almost all of the power to spend money — in the legislative branch. The Republicans are very likely to hold onto the House and might still keep the Senate. Paul Ryan would be a powerful balance against Clinton.

Now I can already hear the cries of “surrender caucus!” But let’s remind ourselves of what the Republican “surrender” looked like: Obamacare deprived of its “public option” and risk corridors; no card check; no cap-and-trade; flat spending; a deficit cut in half; spending $700 billion per year less than Obama was projecting back in 2010; the retention of most of Bush’t tax cuts; no gun control; no “free” college; no amnesty.

Remember that all that was in opposition to Barack Obama, a charismatic politician and good speaker who came into office with a nearly filibuster proof majority in the Senate, a big majority in the House, a 70% approval rating, a massive electoral win and a national economic crisis to capitalize on.

Hillary Clinton is no Barack Obama. Many people within her own party don’t like her. Thanks to Gary Johnson, she’s unlikely to win even 50% of the vote and, thanks to her recent collapse at the polls, she may only eek out a slim electoral margin (in fact, Nate Silver now estimates an 8% chance she wins the electoral college while losing the popular vote).

Obama had a mandate. Clinton won’t. If she’s going to get anything done, anything at all, she’s going to have to drive a bargain. And that bargain will be favorable to the GOP. She simply doesn’t have the political skill to hang shut-downs and confrontations on them.

A weak President means a strong Congress. And I like the idea of a strong Congress behind Paul Ryan. I like it a lot.

She might … might … govern like her husband. Bill Clinton’s presidency managed to be one of the better ones of modern times, certainly better than Bush 43 or Obama.* Granted, a lot of his achievements were due to a Republican Congress. But we avoided stupid wars, balanced the budget, controlled spending, had a booming economy and reformed welfare.

Will Clinton II be like that? I am very doubtful, as you’ll find out tomorrow. The party has veered sharply left since Bill left office and Clinton has veered with it. She was once a Goldwater Girl so she can’t be completely beyond redemption. But that was 50 years ago.

Still, one can hope. Hope is really all we have these days.

The Democrats should reap what they have sewn: One of the hallmarks of Obama’s legislation is time-delay. Obamacare was gradually rolled out, Dodd-Frank was gradually rolled out, most of his regulatory excesses have come recently. There is a price that is going to be paid for Obama’s policies. Obamacare is teetering on the brink of collapse, the economy remains sluggish and we are due for a setback. And a host of regulations and minimum wage hikes are soon to come crashing down on us.

Maybe we should let these happen when a Democrat is in office. If these happen under President Trump … give me a second to recover from those words … the Republicans will reap the blame from the disaster Obama has sewed. If it happens under President Clinton … give me a second to recover from those words … she will take the blame.

And that brings me to:

2020. In general, I don’t like playing the “let’s lose this election so we win the next one” game. I heard that in 1992 and the GOP didn’t take the White House back until 2000 and even then with a “compassionate conservative” in charge. In general, I believe you play for today’s election.

But if the GOP loses this year, they will have to purge the Trumpistas and rebuild toward a potential landslide in 2020. I have little doubt that Clinton will be vulnerable in 2020. Hell, she may not even be in office by then. Maybe we can gamble four years of Clinton against denying Trump and having a sensible candidate in 2020.

That’s it. You’ll notice that, like Trump, I’ve mainly focused on things outside of the candidate — the next election, Congress. You could argue there are some other positives about Clinton: her massive experience, her time in the State Department, her skill in organizing her campaign. But most of those, as I’ll explain tomorrow, I don’t see as a positive.

She’s semi-competent. And she’s sane. I doubt she’ll be as bad as my heart tells me. And if she turns out to be great, I’ll be happy to eat some delicious crow in four years. But I don’t see a huge amount of upside here. However, that’s the case for being Ready for Hillary.

(*For those of you interested, my ranking of the Presidents in my lifetime from best to worst: Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Carter, Ford, Obama, Nixon, Bush II. Ford is a bit difficult to rank and Carter I rank high only because he embraced deregulation and appointed Volcker to the Fed Board, both of which were of enormous benefit to the economy of the last 30 years.)

Election 2016: II. The Case Against Donald Trump

This is the second part of a five-part series I will do this week making the case for and against each of the major candidates, with a wrap-up on Friday. I did this in 2012 and I will observe the same ground rule I did then: making the case for a candidate means making the case for a candidate, not a case against the opponent. That’s the subject of later posts. So “he’s not Hillary” is not a reason I will list for voting for Trump and “she’s not Trump” is not a reason I will list for voting for Clinton. Each one of them will get their own special post all to themselves about they don’t deserve our votes.

Today I’ll make the case against voting for Donald Trump. A lot of this I’ve said before, but I’ll now put it all in one place. It’s going to be long and I expect any Trump supporters will be angry. Don’t worry: my anti-Clinton post will go up on Thursday.

There has never been a Presidential candidate as controversial as Donald Trump. Half the country is insisting that he’s the next Hitler while half the country is insisting he’s our only hope to prevent the collapse of our country. Trump himself has played to this dynamic, with numerous speeches depicting the country as a ruined wasteland and himself as the only salvation.

Needless to say, I think both view are overblown. Trump isn’t Hitler. But he’s also not the only thing standing between us and the abyss. So what is he?

I think he is a deeply deeply flawed candidate who has no business near the White House. Why?

Donald Trump is a big-government populist who would wreck what’s left of conservatism. As I said in the previous post, it is hard to pin down Donald Trump on a specific policy position. However, the overwhelming theme is one of greater government power: the creation of a massive deportation force, opening up libel laws so that it’s easier to shut up his critics with baseless lawsuits, opposing entitlement reform, supporting eminent domain (which Trump has used and described as a beautiful thing), the end of free trade, forcing companies to “bring jobs back” to the US, encouraging police to engage in more brutal policing methods, reinstating torture (a war crime), murdering families of suspected terrorists (also a war crime), seizing oil (also a war crime). The ACLU has put out a 27 page PDF file, detailing all the Trump positions that violate the Constitution. Some of those, I disagree with them on. But the list is overwhelming.

Over and over again, Trump advocates more government power, more Constitutional violations, less human freedom. Here’s a question for the Trump supporters: when has Donald Trump ever spoke movingly of freedom? When has he spoken of freedom at all? Has he ever said anything about civil liberties or property rights? He has ever once said that the government can’t or shouldn’t do something because of the Constitution? If so, has he said these things with a thousandth of the passion with which he advocate for more government power?

This is even worse if you look at Trump’s past positions: in favor of a massive wealth grab, in favor of gun control, in favor of high taxes, in favor of mandating paid family leave. How is this conservatism? How is this anything that we have been fighting for for the last four decades?

Yeah, he’ll have a Republican Congress to balance him. But that didn’t work so well with Bush, who at least had a modicum of respect for basic freedom and Constitutional process. And Donald Trump will not be powerless to do things on his own. He is surrounding himself with people who believe in hard executive power. He has advocated for more executive power.

And it’s even worse than just his big-government agenda. Trump has now elevated the so-called “alt right” to a position of respectability, retweeting alt-right dreck, filling his campaign staff with alt-right dreck and making naked appeals to alt-right dreck. Is this the GOP we want? Big government, populist and friendly to bigots? Anti-trade, anti-free-market, pro-torture?

He has alarming authoritarian tendencies. Trump is constantly beating drum of a Cult of Personality, portraying himself not as an executive to lead, but as some sort of savior. There have been numerous incidents of his supporters engaging in violence and Trump either doesn’t care or even encourages it. He is an enemy of transparency, refusing to release his tax returns under the flimsy excuse that he’s being audited. He kicks out media who have the temerity to question him. He has been known to carry out decades-long vendettas against journalists and has used ruinous garbage lawsuits to try to silence his critics.

For the last eight years, we’ve heard a non-stop shower of shit about how Obama is betraying our allies and coddling up to dictators. How is Trump any different? He’s dumped on our allies, threatened to abandon our alliances and praised Vladimir Putin as a strong leader.

(The latter comment is particularly revealing because Putin is not a good leader. Over the last few years, the Russian economy has collapsed. Putin has found himself diplomatically isolated and stuck in an insurgency in the Ukraine that he can’t really win. So by what standard is he a great leader? Because he blusters, because he murders the opposition and because he appears strong even when he’s weak? I’m sorry. A man standing boldly over the wreckage of his country is not my vision of a good leader.)

Can you imagine what we’d be saying if Hillary Clinton had endorsements from Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin, the KKK, Omar Mateen, Don Black and the Chinese Communist Party? Can you imagine what we’d be saying if Clinton repeatedly retweeted images from neo-Nazis and White supremacists? Can you imagine what we’d say if Hillary Clinton praised Saddam Hussein for “killing terrorists”? (Reality: Hussein funded terrorists, paying blood money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers). Can you imagine if she said the crackdown on Tiananmen Square “showed strength”?

These are not the words of a President who will exercise Constitutional restraint. These are the words of a srongman wannnabe. Maybe some people think we need a strongman. I don’t.

His diplomatic skill is non-existent. Foreign policy is the one domain where the President has the most authority to act. As I noted above, Trump has bashed our allies and questioned our alliances. He has praised dictators and called for nuclear proliferation. What are our allies going to think about this? Why should they strengthen our alliances when Trump has indicated he’ll abandon them? Why should they engage in free trade when Trump is spewing protectionism? When has he ever shown an ability to work with other countries?

Look at Trump’s recent visit to Mexico. People are calling it a triumph because Trump didn’t actually catch on fire. But he lied about what he talked to the Mexican President about. His claims were instantly contradicted. If this happened to Obama, the Right Wing would scream themselves blue about how the world didn’t respect us anymore.

He’s a fraud and a liar. There is way too much to go into here. But basically Trump’s history makes Hillary Clinton’s look honest by comparison.

Let’s just take one example: we’ve heard a lot about the Clinton Foundation (which has a top rating from major charity graders). But have you heard of the Trump Foundation? This is a charity that follows the Clinton model — raising money from groups and then giving it to deserving causes (Trump himself, for all his boasting, has not contributed to it in 8 years). But wrapped up in that are gifts Trump has given himself (including a $20,000 self-portrait). Wrapped up in that are illegal donations to politicians who, mysteriously, subsequently dropped investigations into Trump University. Wrapped up in that are numerous violations of tax law. Wrapped up in that are donations to charities that allowed them to … rent rooms in Trump properties. The Clinton Foundation may have been used to exchange access to Clinton for donations. The Trump Foundation has been used mostly for buttering Trump’s ego.

Trump University. Trump steaks. Trump water. Multiple bankruptcies. Vendors unpaid. Casinos run into bankruptcy while being used as cash machines. Over and over again, we see how this man is a blustering fool whose only real skill is self-promotion.

Is there any reason, any reason at all to expect this will change once he’s in the White House? Then you’re probably the kind of person who believes your drunken husband will sober up once the children are born. In the White House, Trump will have more power and influence than he’s ever had. This will be like taking a raging alcoholic and putting him in charge of a liquor factory.

He shows no understanding of even basic policy. Trump said that he would “renegotiate our debt” like a corporate bond. This would set off a world-wide financial panic. Trump has show that he doesn’t understand our nuclear policy, which makes nuclear war more likely. He’s promised to support parts of the Constitution that don’t exist and advocated policies that are flagrantly unConstitutional. More to the point, after being the Republican frontrunner for 15 months, he’s shown no interest in learning any better. I can understand someone outside of government not understanding the ins and out of the bond market. But it’s unforgivable in someone who is nine weeks away from the election.

I know that’s a lot. But this post could easily have been three times as long. You’ll notice I haven’t talked much about Trump’s personality. Instead, I’ve been talking about his positions (or lack thereof), his approach to issues, his past actions, his future promises. Trump defenders have frequently admitted he’s a jerk, but said he would still be better than Clinton. I’m not convinced. Trump is the most singularly unqualified person I have ever seen run for President. I have been against Trump all year. And I remain #NeverTrump. Not now, not ever.

I don’t care if he’s the only thing standing between us and President Hillary. As I’ll post on Thursday, Clinton is a terrible Presidential candidate whose ideas are pure left wing whackadoodle. But in every way that Clinton is bad candidate, Trump is worse. She’s dishonest; Trump is a flagrant lair. She’s vindictive; Trump has nursed decades-long vendettas. She’s for big government; he’s for bigger government. She is an enemy of civil liberties; he is a bigger one. She’s corrupt; Trump is even more corrupt.

As I said yesterday, the reasons to vote for Trump are the Supreme Court and the hope that he’ll just be a rubber stamp for a Republican Congress. This does not, in my opinion outweigh the massive negatives. Maybe he’ll do those things. But he could also wreck the economy, crush civil liberties and get us into a war. I don’t think it’s worth the risk. I think it’s way more likely that he’ll wreck things than lead us into a new American century. And as someone who, while libertarian, still has a conservative heart, I can not countenance that. I can not roll those dice.

Election 2016: I. The Case for Donald Trump

This is the first part of a five-part series I will do this week making the case for and against each of the major candidates, with a wrap-up on Friday. I did this in 2012 and I will observe the same ground rule I did then: making the case for a candidate means making the case for a candidate, not a case against the opponent. That’s the subject of later posts. So “he’s not Hillary” is not a reason I will list for voting for Trump and “she’s not Trump” is not a reason I will list for voting for Clinton. Each one of them will get their own special post all to themselves about they don’t deserve our votes.

I’ll swallow the bitterest pill first: making the case to vote for Donald Trump.

Making the case for Donald Trump is exceedingly difficult because it’s not really clear what Trump stands for. He was for a wall, but now it may be more a virtual wall. He was going to deport illegals, but now he’s not sure, but maybe he still will. He’s outlined policies on his website but most of them are GOP boilerplate and are often contradicted by things he says in speeches or debates. He says he wants a moratorium on new regulation, which sounds good. But I have no idea if he’ll actually do it.

So the absence of ironclad policy, we’re left with a few things:

Trump may, in the end, just be a rubber stamp for the GOP: There have been a lot rumblings that Trump is not terribly interested in governing. His son reportedly conveyed an offer to Kasich to let the latter become the most powerful Vice-President in American history. His positions and his list of Supreme Court nominees are mostly copied from the Republican mainstream. If that is so, then Trump’s talk about policy is kind of irrelevant. Trump would become mostly a figurehead with Congress having the real power which is a bit closer to what the founders intended. A vote for Trump would be a proxy for President Paul Ryan.

A Trump election might end parts of the Culture War: Trump has evinced little to no interest in the Culture War. He bungled the abortion question because he doesn’t care. He’s been fairly friendly to gays and his election would probably put the last nail in the coffin of the anti-gay conservative faction (a nail many Republicans would love to see driven). Trump is less moderate on issues of policing, immigration and race. But this would be progress. Of a sort.

The GOP may have earned a second chance to govern: I have been reluctant in the past to give the GOP full control of the government again. The last time, they blew spending out the window, wrecked the economy and bungled a war. As a general rule, I favor divided government and the divide I favor is the one where the GOP controls the purse strings.

But Ryan has laid out a conservative agenda and shown the ability to get it through Congress. It’s been ten years. Maybe they deserve another chance.

The Supreme Court: This, even to the biggest skeptics of Trump, is the main reason to support him. I do this every election, but here is the age of the Supreme Court justices:

Liberal: Ginsberg (83), Breyer (78), Sotomayor (62), Kagan (56)
Moderate: Kennedy (80)
Conservative: Thomas (68), Roberts (61), Alito (66)

With the passing of Scalia, the Court will shift Left if Clinton is elected. She could also replace Ginsberg, Breyer and Kennedy on the Court, cementing a liberal majority for the next twenty years. You can, if you want, find many gleeful articles on liberal websites about what they hope a liberal court could do — overturn Heller, stomp out Citizens United, dash what is left of federalism, produce an unfettered regulatory state.

Now this is a bit of wish-casting by the Left. The Court tends not to overturn precedent so lightly. But some of the most important SCOTUS decisions in recent years have been 5-4. If Clinton is elected, those decisions will not be resolved in our favor.

That’s pretty much it. There are a few other reasons people have touted but none of them cross me as likely or even desirable. For example, Trump isn’t going to “smash the establishment”; he is the establishment. Of the reasons given above, the one that really resonates is SCOTUS. Assuming that Trump goes with conservative justices, the fate of the Court hangs in the balance.

Is that reason enough to vote for him? Stay tuned.

Clinton Faints

So some excitement this weekend:

Hillary Clinton has pneumonia, her doctor said Sunday, hours after the Democratic nominee stumbled and exited a 9/11 commemoration ceremony early.

“Stumbled”. Fainted would be a more apt description.

The incident seems certain to prompt further scrutiny of Clinton’s health and her campaign’s transparency — though Republican rival Donald Trump was uncharacteristically silent throughout a solemn day marking the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

I can only assume this is because Kellyanne Conway seized his phone and locked herself in a vault.

Clinton, 68, was diagnosed on Friday with pneumonia, and “was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule,” Dr. Lisa Bardack said in a statement.

“While at this morning’s event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely,” said Bardack, chairman of internal medicine at the Mount Kisco Medical Group.

Pneumonia can vary from “walking pneumonia” to a deathly illness. This explanation from the Clinton camp comports with what we saw yesterday as well as her coughing fit from a week earlier. Despite my distaste for Clinton, I hope she recovers well. Pneumonia, even a “minor” case, is scary business

A few thoughts on the wider issue of candidates’ health:

First, the health of the candidates is a perfectly legitimate concern. Clinton is 68, soon to turn 69. Trump is 70. Either would be the oldest President in American history and both are at an age where health can decline very rapidly, especially under the massive pressure of the Presidency.

The conspiracy theories about Clinton have been silly, but the “how dare you!” response of the press to those questions has been even more ridiculous. And it blew up in the media’s face this weekend. There was a hilarious period of time where the Clinton supporters were insisting that the mild temperatures and low humidity in New York were inferno conditions that would make even the most rugged human pass out. This was before the pneumonia was revealed and they decided that Clinton continuing to campaign while sick showed superhuman strength and vigor.

The health of a Presidential candidate is always a legitimate issue. It was an issue when Tsongas was concealing lymphoma back in ’92. It was an issue with Dole. It was an issue with McCain, specially given his tin dingbat of a running mate. It’s an issue this year. Let’s not pretend it isn’t.

(There’s a part of me that thinks that, in both cases, poor health would almost be a reason to vote for them since Pence and Kaine would make much better Presidents than Clinton or Trump. But the larger concern is a President incapacitated or making poor decisions due to health.)

Second, the paranoia and secrecy of the Clinton camp came home to roost. The Clintons tend to be secretive and untruthful, even when honesty and openness would suit them better. Revealing Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis on Friday or Saturday would have made Trump’s followers crow, but it would have quickly abated as everyone else just wished her a full recovery. Having it crop up this way was the worst possible combination of circumstances.

Third, as much as the Trumpaloos are preening, they are in a glass house on this one. Trump has been completely opaque about his medical history, releasing a crazy note from a California quack and claiming to be in perfect health. Clinton, for all her concealment, release a more detailed note addressing the hematoma from her fall of a few years ago and revealing her hypothyroidism.

The gripping hand here is that it would be really hard for either of these candidates to conceal a major health issue. The schedule demanded of a Presidential candidate is absolutely brutal. During the campaign, they never get a day off and they meet with donors, media or voters all day long (and thus are constantly exposed to pathogens). The idea that Hillary Clinton is being carried to the finish line by the Secret Service or that Trump is concealing cancer is ridiculous.

However … I do think healthcare disclosure remains important. Both candidates should have their medical records reviewed by an independent physician (or three of them). But neither will do it of course since Clinton is paranoid and Trump is consumed with his own vanity and won’t reveal anything. So maybe this is something, like the release of tax returns, we’re going to have to mandate.