Tag: 2016 Presidential Election

Debate Three


The winner of this debate was clearly Chris Wallace who kept the candidates on task and pressed them on several key issues (most notably pressing Hillary on her proposed Syrian no-fly zone that could spark a war with Russia). Trump was OK at first but then got more incoherent as the night went on. Clinton was terrible at addressing questions about Wikileaks, had an awful answer on the Supreme Court and kept trying to awkwardly pivot to her talking points.

Trump probably edges this one out but I don’t think it will make a difference at this point. The good news is that this is the last debate of this endless election season. And so … maybe we’re the real winners.

How I’ll Vote

Reason has their annual who we’ll vote for article out in which their writers and associated libertarians reveal who they plan to vote for in this election. I’ve indicated my intension before, but I’ll put it down in one place, answering the same questions the Reason people did.

Who are you voting for? Gary Johnson. He is by far the best candidate on the issues, by far the most qualified and by far the most likable. I realize people think this is a wasted vote; I do not think so. And Pennsylvania is unlikely to be close, in any case. If some combination of Johnson, McMullin and Stein deny Crump a majority, we can deny them a mandate.

Down ballot, I will be voting for Pat Toomey for Senate and Glenn Thompson for the House. Because I think the most important part of this election is having Republicans retain control of Congress.

(I also think the Republican Party may schism after this into a conservative party and a populist one. But that’s a subject for another post.)

Which major-party candidate do you find most alarming? Trump. Clinton is an unprincipled, corrupt, amoral power-grubber whose policies, such as they are, are awful. She’s taking a provocative stance with Russia, has a long history of supporting idiotic foreign adventures, wants to raise taxes and spending out the wazoo and would appoint bad justices to the Court.

But as I said in last month’s posts, in every way that Clinton is bad, Trump is worse. He’s for bigger government, more spending, more debt. He has demonstrated a vindictiveness and a callous disregard for Constitutional restraint. And if I hadn’t been convinced of his mental unfitness, the complete meltdown of the last few weeks would have done it. The only reason to vote for him is SCOTUS justices but a) I don’t think that’s worth the risk; b) I don’t trust him to not appoint outright fascists to the Court who will rubber stamp what he wants to do.

The gripping hand is that there will (hopefully) be a Republican Congress to keep Clinton’s worst instincts in check. They have amply demonstrated that they will not keep Trump in check. They have demonstrated an ability to keep a Democrat in check, having killed efforts at card check, a public option, minimum wage hikes, cap and trade and gun control while cutting spending $700 billion below what Obama wanted.

Who did you vote for in 2012? Gary Johnson. Although in that case, it was because I saw little reason to be apocalyptically alarmed by either candidate. How bad is it that I long for the days of Romney v. Obama?

What will you miss most about the Obama years? Having a President I didn’t despise. I disagreed with Obama constantly, but I felt like he was honest about what he thought, could make his case eloquently and never lost his cool. I never bought into the whole “he hates America!” hysteria. His personal life is pretty much beyond reproach (which was something I liked about Bush as well). Think about listening to Obama speak for the last eight years, then imagine hearing Clinton or Trump speak for the next eight minutes and you’ll see what I mean. In five years, a lot of conservatives will be looking back wistfully on the Obama years, longing for the days when the President was just wrong about everything, rather than being wrong about everything and a piece of shit.

Debate Two

Good God, is this what our Republic has come to? Watching these two jackasses bray was an awful 90 minutes. The first 20 were especially awful as we got into Trump’s tape and Clinton’s past behavior. But it’s not like it got better past that as Trump gave off incoherent word salads and Clinton recited coached, coherent, focused answers that advocated terrible terrible policies. For me, it was alternating, “What the fuck did he just say?” and “OMG, she’s advocating to make things even worse!”

I would say that Trump probably won mostly on style. His actual answers were all over the place but he did hit Clinton on a few points and made one or two good points of his own. Clinton mostly held serve but her answers on her e-mail server and her leaked speeches were just awful (mainly because there is no non-awful answer).

The main impact this will have on the race? Trump stays in. The flood of GOP rats fleeing the ship will stop. He will probably stabilize in the polls. So, yeah, we’ve got another month of this crap.

Good God. I’ve said this before. And maybe it’s the Vodka talking. But this is another of those times I really really wish Lee were still with us. He could at least find the humor in this. Right now … I really can’t.

The Latest Clinton Leaks

I mentioned this in passing in the Trump post, but there have been more leaks of communications within the Clinton campaign and leaks of her Wall Street speeches. I haven’t had time to go through them yet, but here’s one of the rundowns. Long story short: she’s talking out of both sides of her mouth.

But we knew that already, didn’t we? I sometimes wonder if the purpose of the Trump campaign is to get Clinton elected. And his tape being released on the same day as these leaks doesn’t exactly make me wonder any less.

Trump Grabs the GOP By The …

Oh, good grief:

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

Late Friday night, following sharp criticism by Republican leaders, Trump issued a short video statement saying, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” But he also called the revelation “a distraction from the issues we are facing today.” He said that his “foolish” words are much different than the words and actions of Bill Clinton, whom he accused of abusing women, and Hillary Clinton, whom he accused of having “bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”

“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Trump said.

In an apparent response to Republican critics asking him to drop out of the race, he said: “We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”

You can click through for the video. It includes Trump bragging about trying to get together with a married woman (months after his third marriage), saying he can’t resist kissing hot woman and bragging that, as as celebrity, he can just “grab them by the pussy” and they don’t mind.

Now you could possible dismiss this as a dirty man talking shit with a younger man. His tone is certainly bantering in the audio. But, as Robby Soave points out, there’s a history here:

Some people might be tempted to write off Trump’s comments to Bush as empty boasts. They would be utter fools to do so. The New York Times, in fact, has just run an interview with a woman who says she was given the Trump treatment by the reality TV star. This is not an isolated incident: there is ample evidence that Trump has physically harmed women. And he has now admitted on tape that he feels license to mistreat them.

To be absolutely clear: there is nothing ambiguous about Trump’s stated (and demonstrated) approach to women: it’s battery, at a minimum.

Trump would be a dangerous enough human being if he were just a regular celebrity with a penchant for groping women. As it so happens, he might also become the next leader of the free world—a position he is manifestly unqualified to hold.

Soave is hardly a hysteric. He has done yeoman’s work deflating the campus rape hysteria and shining the light on injustice in campus kangaroo courts. He’s gotten it right again. The words might not hit you, but when you combine the words with Trump’s past behavior, they do not bode well for someone a few points away from being the most powerful person on Earth.

(Trump and his defenders are trying to deflect this onto Clinton, who has been accused of sexual assault and rape. But Clinton being a scumbag is not a defense of Trump being one too. I’ll agree that it’s hypocritical of people who overlooked Clinton’s misdeeds and Jack Kennedy’s misdeeds and Ted Kennedy’s homicide to suddenly clutch their pearls. But adding to that hypocrisy by defending Trump does not help.)

This is precisely what people like me have been warning about for the last 15 months. Every time Trump made a gaffe or said something idiotic, we complained. It wasn’t because of a devotion to political correctness. It was because these comments — on John McCain, on Clinton, on Mexicans, on the Khan family, on everything — betrayed a man who can’t control his mouth; who lacks basic decency and empathy. We knew it could get a lot worse.

And here’s the scary thing: it’s only October 7. We’re barely into the season for October surprises. So if this is what’s coming out now, imagine what we’re going to get later. It’s going to get even worse. It’s going to get a lot worse.

Several prominent Republicans, including the Governor of Utah, have withdrawn their support and asked Trump to step down. I am very dubious that this will happen. I also doubt that the GOP would stage a coup at the stage since it would split the party (and would be very hard to pull off. So while a last-minute Pence candidacy is tempting, I don’t think it’s going to happen. No, I think they’re stuck riding this train right off the cliff.

There’s always a possibility of more coming out with Clinton (there’s always more with the Clintons). This tape overshadowed the release of Clinton’s Wall Street speeches where she called for “open borders and open markets” as well as some more damaging information from her e-mails. In fact, the timing of the release is a bit too perfect. But right now, the GOP needs to abandon Trump and throw everything they have into saving the House and the Senate. Stop throwing good money after bad and focus on the fight you can win. Because as bad as a Clinton presidency may be, a Clinton presidency with a Democratic Congress would be worse.

The Clinton Tapes

Hot Air has a good roundup of the most interesting quotes from the Clinton campaign audio tape that was leaked last week.

There is a…a strain of, on the one hand, the kind of populist, nationalist, xenophobic, discriminatory kind of approach that we hear too much of from the Republican candidates. And on the other side, there’s a just a deep desire to believe that, you know, we can have free college, free healthcare, that what we’ve done hasn’t gone far enough and we just need to, you know, go as far as, you know, Scandinavia, whatever that means, and half the people don’t know what that means, but it’s something that they deeply feel.

So as a friend of mine said the other day, I am occupying from the center-left to the center-right and I don’t have much company there. Because it is difficult when you’re running to be president and you understand how hard the job is. I don’t want to over-promise. I don’t want to tell people things that I know we cannot do. I want to level with the American people…and be very clear about the progress I think we can make.

She also gets into how she thinks that Sanders was selling a false promise of political revolution but that she understands why it appeals to young people with poor job prospects.

I would find the tape … reassuring had it been leaked months ago. So much to the point where I’m actually wondering if the Clinton campaign itself leaked this to try to win over moderates. The biggest problem I, and many others, have with the Clinton campaign is its drift to the far Left. It wouldn’t erase the concerns about Clinton’s ethics, temperament, corruption and history of bad decisions. But … it would be better than all that combined with a Far Left agenda.

However … Clinton ultimately embraced Sanders’ agenda. She let him write the party platform and she’s running on the very promises she once said were impossible (mainly because they are). If she wins the election … give me a second to choke down my bile … she will be expected to deliver this. And if, God forbid, she had a Democratic Congress, she might be able to. So for all the “pragmatism” she might be expressing in this audio, it means very little as far as practical politics.

Ultimately, this reveals that while Clinton does show an understanding of the limits of politics, she is perfectly willing to sell any pragmatism down the river if it gets her closer to power. It shows someone who can not be trusted. Because the second she feels her power slipping, she’ll geek for whatever cause is in the air.

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.

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.