Tag: Donald Trump

In The News

A few stories I’m following right now:

  • I’ve been critical of some of Trump’s cabinet choices. But my first impression of Mattis, the proposed Secretary of Defense, is positive. He opposes torture, supports a two-state solution for Israel, recognizes that the Iran deal is flawed but that tearing it up would be a mistake. His approach to Iraq was a big reason the surge worked and his musings show an active and sharp mind. He has been willing to praise or criticize politicians from both sides. Moreover, Trump said that one thing that impressed him was that Mattis opposes torture, which Trump ostensibly favors, and made a good argument against it. One of the big concerns with a President is that he will surround himself with Yes Men. Mattis is definitely not a Yes Man. He’s a good choice. But the thought process behind the pick is also encouraging.
  • Of course, he’s still thinking about Bolton for State, so it’s not all roses.
  • Trump sent out a tweet the other day saying that flag burning should be banned and come with a loss of citizenship. You can pretty much guess my response to this: I’m with Scalia.
  • Of course, Hillary Clinton her own damned self once co-sponsored an anti-flag burning bill. No matter what Trump does, let’s not lose sight of what the alternative was like.
  • Neither Obama nor Biden will attend Castro’s funeral. Good.
  • Trump’s deal to keep Carrier from shipping jobs to Mexico (actually, Pence’s deal) does not impress me. It’s a $7 million tax break specifically for Carrier to keep 1000 jobs in Indiana. It’s crony capitalism and an example of what we shouldn’t be doing. We have an entire economy run on backdoor tax breaks, regulatory holidays, subsidies and special dispensations. What we need to do is make America a better place for all businesses through comprehensive and universal regulatory and tax reform.
  • However, I suspect the Carrier deal is a preview of Trump’s Presidency. He’ll make a huge fuss about little things he does like saving a thousand jobs, to give the impression that he’s doing good (which, to be fair, all Presidents do). The real good will have to come from Congress, who have the power to unshackle our economy.

As Jane’s Law Turns

For the last eight years, you may have heard, the Right Wing has been crazy. At least, that’s what the media assured us. And to be fair, there was some craziness out there: conspiracy theories about Obama, the tendency to infer nefarious motives to Democrats, etc. But I saw this less as a manifestation of Right Wing insanity and more of a manifestation of Jane’s Law:

The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.

You see, I’ve been blogging a long time, since Bush’s first term. And I remember how crazy the Left was when Bush was in power. I remember a plurality of Democrats thinking Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11. I remember them saying we invaded Iraq to enrich Hailburton. I remember the Bushitler signs. I remember the claims that Bush was “gutting” spending he was massively increasing. And I especially remember that the only e-mail threat I’ve ever gotten was from a liberal angry at something I’d written on Moorewatch.

Right now, the media is all up in arms about “fake news”, the supposed apotheosis of Right Wing insanity. I find this concern utterly hilarious from a movement that made fakes news shows like The Daily Show their standard bearers. I find it hypocritical from the people who made serial confabulator Michael Moore the most successful documentary filmmaker in history. I find it bizarre coming from the likes of Vox, which frequently writes factually challenged articles that play to their liberal biases. There was an NPR article that said that fake news sites don’t do as well with liberals (hello? The Onion?). But even if that’s true, it’s mainly because liberals have been in power for eight years, at least at the Presidential level.

So I’ve been wondering since the election: how long would it take for the Left to go nuts, now that they’re out of power? How long before Jane’s Law is applied in the other direction? The answer is: not long.

My canary in the coal mine is Snopes, whose debunkings have slowly been shifting toward debunking nonsense and fake news about Donald Trump (e.g., Ivanka said she’d mace him if he wasn’t her father). But the real manifestation is in the current push for electoral recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. We’ve gone through several stages here of increasing insanity and hypocrisy:

  • Before the election, Trump complained that the system was rigged. Many left-wing sites did sterling work debunking this. They also mocked Trump as a sore loser and castigating him for questioning the integrity of the election and endangering democracy.
  • Then, last weak, based on poor analysis of election returns, a computer scientist started claiming that the election may have been hacked by Russia. He’s since backed off a bit since people who actually know stuff about elections pointed out that the “discrepancies” in the election returns were actually differences in demographics.
  • At first, this was ignored. Clinton didn’t touch it. Some said it probably wasn’t hacked but maybe we should recount just to be sure. But over the Thanksgiving break, the roof caved in. Jill Stein called for a recount in Wisconsin and raised $7 million from Democrats to … well, it’s not really clear what that charlatan is using the money for. But Democrats sure gave her a hell of a lot of it. Now the Clinton camp is joining in, kinda, and many Democrats are openly saying the election might have been hacked.
  • Of course, this is not portrayed in the same way Trump’s ramblings were. Suddenly, calling an election rigged isn’t threatening our democracy; it’s strengthening it! Calling for a recount in a state decided by 60,000 votes or more isn’t being a sore loser; it’s testing the system!
  • The hypocrisy reached full circle today. Trump responded to the recount requests by tweeting out quotes from Clinton criticizing his complaints about a rigged election. He then tweeted that he would have won the popular vote had not three million illegal aliens voted for Clinton. There is zero evidence to supports his allegation. It appears to have originated in a few random tweets. But suddenly, the same commentators who were solemnly calling for a recount started blasting Trump for having the temerity to question the election. How dare he!

Here’s but one example of the response picked almost at random:

Krugman, BTW, went on a multi-tweet rant the other night about how important it was that we do a recount to insure the integrity of the election.

The lack of self-awareness here is simply stunning.

Look, I don’t like Trump either. And I’ll admit that, on election night, I entertained the idea that a Russian hack was responsible for the surprising result. But by the next morning, I realized that I’d spent the last few weeks reading up on just how hard it would be to do that. Not impossible, but very hard. But even if you think a Russian hack were possible, how you can you go, in the span of a couple of days, from promulgating conspiracy theories to denouncing them? It’s madness.

Look, maybe the Russians did hack the election. And maybe millions of illegal aliens voted. But without evidence — not speculation, not random blips on maps, not random tweets — real, solid evidence, I’m not going to proclaim the election results to be a fraud. Prove either assertion beyond a reasonable doubt and I’ll happily eat some crow and then join the pitchfork parade.

But please don’t sit there and tell me how reasonable and rational you are when you embrace one conspiracy theory while swatting down another. And please don’t tell me how reasonable and rational you are when you give $7 million to a grifter like Jill Stein on the desperate hope that your conspiracy theory is real. Maybe there’s something to it. But you’re not carefully and calmly considering the evidence. You’re going down a rabbit hole into madness.

Turkey And Drumsticks 2016

For nine years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.

This may be the last of these. We’ll see. But this is the post I most look forward to every year.

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Don’t Get Distracted

The current spat over Pence’s attendance to Hamilton is a perfect Trump distraction. In the last few days, two stories have broken that are more important.

First, Trump settled the Trump University lawsuits for $25 million. There’s no admission of guilt, which is standard for settlements.

Second, there are indications that Trump will not, in fact, put his assets in a blind trust but will enrich himself as much as possible from his presidency. Trump has said he will forgo a salary. But diplomats are lining up to get rooms at the Trump hotel. When foreigners donated money to Clinton’s Foundation to get an audience with her, we called it corruption. What do you call this?

(This is aside from some of his appointments, which have included some troubling names, to say the least.)

Let’s not get distracted by Trump’s twitter tantrums. There’s already a lot going on here. Some of it matters; some of it doesn’t. Let’s stay focused.

The Trump Follies

I don’t know if you heard about this. But our nation is in horrifying crisis right now. Earlier this week, Donald Trump … and I can hardly believe I’m writing these words about a President-elect … last night, Trump ditched the media pool so he could enjoy a steak dinner.

Wait, what?! Seriously?

Look, I’m a big believer in transparency and they way Trump attacks the media makes me nervous. But .. this is really a non-story. Maybe if the press spent more time checking politicians’ claims and investigating their corruption and less time finding out how they wanted their steak cooked (Trump apparently likes his well-done. You know who else liked his steaks well done?), we’d have more trust of the media and a better government.

Ben Shapiro, who was driven out of Breitbart and been the target of vicious anti-semitism, has a great piece up deflating a bit of the hysteria currently surrounding the Trump campaign.

This week, the media have gone nuts over the appointment of Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon for White House Chief Strategist. I share their disapproval, but the allegations they’ve made about Bannon are unsupported by evidence. It’s not enough to say that Steve is a nasty human being (he is), that he’s interested in burning down Republican leadership for his own political gain (he is), that he wants to hollow out the traditional constitutional conservative movement in favor of a European-style far-right nationalist populism (he does), or that he pandered to the despicable alt-right at Breitbart News and mainstreamed them by doing so (he did). No, they have to claim that he’s Goebbels. They claim that he’s personally anti-Semitic and racist and a white nationalist and anti-Israel, without evidence.

This is ridiculous. And all it does is provoke defense from the right. For God’s sake, I’m now defending Steve Bannon! The media can’t stop their overreach, because everybody on the right is Hitler to the media, which means that Bannon must be Super-Duper-Hitler.

Considering the history here, this is admirable intellectual honesty from Shapiro. I share his dislike of Bannon and his having any role in a Presidential Administration. But do we need to pretend that the promotion of an Alt-Right asshole heralds a Fourth Reich? Is Bannon not bad enough just being what he is?

Even as a NeverTrumper, this all seems to be a bit hysterical. I made this comment yesterday on OTB:

I do think there is a problem with distinguishing between the very real dangers of a Trump Administration and the not-so-real dangers. Right now, we are being fed a broth of random floating fears (many of which could be applied to any Republican) rather than focusing on what specifically is dangerous about Trump.

Example: One of the things I’ve been hearing a lot over the last week is that marriage equality might be in danger. I understand the fear (to the extent that I can, being straight). But there are many things that have to happen in order for that to be in danger. The Courts are not going to want to revisit it any time soon (they revisit abortion, a much more contentious issue, maybe once a decade). The GOP has little interest in it anymore. So, yeah, I get it that people are nervous. But it’s really low on the list of things we should be worrying about right now. We need to focus on things like civil liberties, the budget deficit and the dangers to illegal immigrants, things that could become critical issues immediately.

This week, there have been numerous anti-Trump demonstrations on my campus. But they often seem to be protesting generic Republican stuff (abortion, immigration, spending cuts) rather than stuff that is specifically alarming about Trump (temperament, disregard for the Constitutional process, the Alt-Right).

Look, everyone needs to take a deep breath here. Donald Trump is going to be President for four years. Let’s not exhaust ourselves by obsessing over random names floated as potential cabinet members, steak dinners and hypothetical policies. If Trump does bad things — and I’ve never seen a President who didn’t — we need to fight him then, not burn up our energy now. Any fight for freedom — whether it’s lower government spending or civil liberties or marriage equality or whatever — is a marathon not a sprint.

Being worried is good. But being prepared is better. Look at what the ACLU is doing right now. They’re not suing Trump over vague rumors of policy. They’re husbanding their resources, raising funds, marshalling lawyers. That way, if Trump does something to violate civil liberties, they’ll be able to unleash a full arsenal of legal and political challenges. Look at Rand Paul. He’s open to working with Trump but has also made it clear that he will filibuster cabinet appointees he considers dangerous to liberty.

Look at the Tea Party. For all the criticism lobbed at them, they understood that opposing a President (and a Congress) is a long slog. They didn’t really get organized until specific policies like Obamacare came out. And, ultimately, this was why they were a powerful political force. They saved their energy for when it mattered. And while they didn’t stop Obamacare, they did help keep a public option out and did get the GOP to hold Obama in check.

Donald Trump has been President-elect for a grand total of eight days. Now is not the time to panic. There will be plenty of time for that later.

Look, I welcome anyone who is willing to oppose government power, no matter who is wielding it. I am willing to join hands with anyone of any political stripe who will support freedom. If there is a silver lining to this awful election, it’s that maybe our nation will become more vigilant, more aware of what’s going on, more supportive of checks and balances, more willing to descend on Washington when our government does something inimical to freedom. But mindless blasts of post-election panic are not the way to do that. Ken White, wrote this must-read the day after the election:

Donald Trump will be the President of the United States in January. I support and defend the United States of America. That means that, though I do not support Trump personally or based on policy, he is my President. He is the President delivered by the Constitution I love and want to defend. I wish him well — meaning that I wish for him the health and strength and resolve to meet the challenges he’ll face. I do not wish him success on many of his stated projects, but I hope that he will perform his Constitutional obligations effectively and to the benefit of the country. I will not be saying “not my President” but “for better or worse, my President.” Though I hope he will not succeed in many parts of his stated agenda, I do not wish failure on his Presidency, and I do not think that defeating him in the next election should be his opposition’s top priority. Our top priority should be opposing bad programs and policies he proposes, making the case for the rightness of our positions, and trying to use what consensus we can find to better govern America.

It’s a big, complex country. There are a lot of issues. You won’t be able to stand up for them all, nor should you try. I submit that every American appalled or outraged by President Trump’s election should pick an issue that is important to them, educate themselves thoroughly about it, and come together with fellow Americans to fight for that issue — to defend people in various circumstances who cannot defend themselves. The First Amendment remains my issue, and I will continue to ask for help defending it. More on that to come.

Look, I understand that a lot of people are nervous right now. A lot of Latinos wonder what’s going to happen with immigration policies. A lot of LGBT folk are worried about attacks on their freedom. Trump’s stances on law enforcement issues make a lot of black people nervous (and really should make everyone nervous).

But at some point, nervousness and hysteria have to give way to resolve. At some point, you have to focus your concern on specific issues and at specific times. I opposed Trump. And while I am willing to give him a chance, I suspect that he will propose policies I oppose vigorously. When he does, I will oppose them. Until then, it’s time to watch, wait and prepare.

Update: (More on the Trump hysteria from Slate Star Codex.)

President Trump

I’ll have more thoughts later in the day, including some thoughts on the future of the blog. Right now, the popular vote is tied but Clinton could still win it slightly. So as far as the polling goes, it wasn’t entirely wrong. The result was off by 3 or 4 points, which is a big error, but not historic. The people who projected a 99% chance of a Clinton win, as I said, were too drunk on state polling.

Right now, the Left is melting down, proclaiming that this proves America is a racist misogynistic country. Maybe. But the fact is that only real victories the Democrats have had in the last 22 years — 2006 and 2008) were the result of the disastrous Bush presidency. The Republicans have piled up win after win in Congress and the State Houses. This year, they nominated a woman had trouble winning the NY senate seat in 2000, lost a gift-wrapped nomination in 2008 and was just humiliated by a semi-coherent hamster.

Maybe they need to rethink their approach to this whole politics thing.

Some Thoughts on The Polls

There’s a nerd fight going on between Nate Silver and several other analysts about how to interpret the Presidential election polls. Silver is projecting Clinton as having about a 65% chance of winning. HuffPo and Princeton are projecting her at 98%. I have some thoughts over at my personal blog:

Put aside everything you know about the candidates, the election and the polls. If someone offered you a 50-to-1 or a 100-to-1 bet on any major party candidate winning the election, would you take it? I certainly would. I would have bet $10 on Mondale in 1984 if it was a potential $1000 payoff. And he lost by 20 points.

It seems a huge stretch to give 98 or 99% odds to Clinton, considering:

  • Clinton has never touched 50% in the poll aggregates.
  • There are still large numbers of undecideds and third party supporters who will doubtless vote for one of the two candidates (and Trump’s recent surge has come from fleeing Johnson voters).
  • We have fewer live interview polls now than we did in 2012.
  • As Nate Silver noted, the average difference between final polls and the election has been about two points.

Basically, I think Wang and HuffPo are not accounting enough for the possibility that the polls are significantly off. In the last 40 years, we’ve had one Presidential election (1980) where the polls were off by a whopping seven points. That’s enough for Trump to win easily (or for Clinton to win in a landslide).

HuffPo’s analysis seems kind of bizarre to me, actually. They currently have Clinton up 5 points in the polls. There is not a single national poll that as Clinton up by that much right now. The average polls advantage for Clinton is two points. Silver estimates that corresponds to a real advantage of three. If he’s right, Clinton has an advantage but any outcome is possible.

Why You Don’t Vote for the Worst

You may remember, back in 2008, there were a lot of Republicans who said that they should cross over into the Democratic primaries and vote for Clinton. The reason, they said, was because Clinton was a worse general election candidate than Obama and that it made it more likely that the Republicans would win. Lee had some colorful comments on the subject that proved perspicacious.

To all those Limbaugh/Hewitt drones who voted for Hillary in the open primaries, the idea being that McCain could beat Hillary but not Obama. I ask, are you out of your fucking minds? Have the last 16 years not taught you anything? When you have a chance to kill a beast you take it, lest the beast rise up and slash out your throat.

You cannot count on the Clintons losing anything, ever. They are the sleaziest, most disgusting family in the history of American politics. We had a chance to be rid of Hillary once and for all, and when she is elected president, you fucking right-wing talk show morons will have nobody to blame but yourselves.

Clinton eventually lost, but the primary was very close. Had Clinton not come so close, the DNC would not have spent the last eight years making absolutely sure she was the nominee in 2016.

Moreover, supporting Clinton in 2008 ran the very real risk of electing Clinton in 2008. As it turned out, there was no way McCain was going to win with a depression hitting. And for all of Obama’s failures and flaws, I’m convinced that the last eight years would have been worse under Clinton.

This is something I’ve said many times: we should always push for each party to nominate its best candidate (or their least bad one). Elections are hard to predict. In 1991, Bush 41 looked invincible, so much so that SNL did a skit where Democrats debated to not be the nominee. In 1992, he was smoked by a philandering hillbilly and the Mayor of Munchkintown.

As early as last year, according to the Podesta emails, the Clinton campaign was hoping that Trump would be their opponent. The Federalist has a brutal takedown of how many liberals openly pined for Trump to be the nominee. Conservative journalists, who had stories of Trump’s corruption and scandals, looked in vain for the media to carry the torch. The entire Liberal Echosphere was invested in making sure Trump was the nominee so that Clinton would win.

And so here we are, a week out from election day, with Clinton clinging to a 2-point lead in the polls and Trump surging. The Democrats are panicking and not without reason. But this is at least partially a dish of crow. You wanted this guy. You dumped on reasonable conservatives like Jeb Bush. You openly prayed that a bridge-builder like Rubio wouldn’t get the nod. You slammed Kasich as being somehow worse. Enjoy what you have helped create.

Yes, the Republicans own this shit show. But the Democrats and their media allies have a least a partial stake. And let this burn in the lesson: never ever support the worst candidate on either side. Always hope that each side nominates their best. Because elections can turn on a dime. And the next thing you know, that horror show — whether that horror show is Clinton or Trump — is the most powerful person on Earth.

Is the System Rigged? Define Rigged

Over the last few weeks, Donald Trump has been saying that the election is being “rigged” against him and is about to be stolen by the Democrats. He was asked about this during the last debate and indicated that he might not accept the election results. This had lead to two things: 1) the Democrats claiming his potential refusal to accept the result and claims of a rigged system are horrifying and dangerous; 2) Republicans citing examples of Democrats (notably Sanders and Warren) also claiming the system is rigged.

I wanted to unspool this a bit. Because a lot of words are being tossed around lightly that reference several inter-related issues that all fall the description of a “rigged” system.

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Breaking Down the SCOTUS Debate

One of the worst exchanges in last night’s debate was about the Supreme Court. I was literally yelling at my television. I was going to break it down but Ann Althouse does it way more thoroughly than I ever could. You should read the whole thing but here’s one quote, when Clinton said her justices would be “on the side” of the American people.

I was already loudly arguing with her. The side? The Supreme Court isn’t supposed to take sides. She’s blatantly saying she wants a Court that doesn’t act like a court but gets on one side. Her Court is a Court that ought to have to recuse itself constantly.

This is absolutely right. John Roberts famously said that his job was to call balls and strikes, not favor either team. Clinton said the Court should “stand up” to the wealthy. But that’s wrong too. It should stand up to the wealthy if they’re violating the Constitution. Standing up to the wealthy or the powerful or the corrupt or whatever is what we have legislatures and executives for. All the Court is supposed to do is decide if their method of “standing up” to whomever is Constitutional or not. As the Bible says, judges should favor neither the wealthy nor the poor, but enforce the law.

Later she got into the Heller decision. She acknowledge that the Second Amendment protects an individual right but said that Heller was decided wrongly because it protects toddlers from being accidentally shot. That is, to put it mildly, total and complete bullshit. Cooke:

This is flatly incorrect. Heller, as anyone who has read it knows, revolved around the question of whether the government in Washington, D.C., could legally ban handguns entirely. It had nothing to do with “toddlers.” “Toddlers,” as Sean Davis correctly points out, are not mentioned in the majority opinion, and they are not mentioned in the dissent. Other than in an extremely indirect sense, “toddlers” had nothing to do with the legal question being considered.

Heller involved the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, which forbade handguns and other arms. There were multiple plaintiffs but the namesake was a 66-year-old cop who wanted to keep a gun at home for self defense but was not allowed to. This, once again, exposes Clinton’s “I support the Second Amendment” claim as bullshit. If she is against Heller, she is in favor of gun bans Period.

Trump’s performance wasn’t quite as bad but wasn’t good either. He touted his list of 20 potential SCOTUS nominees (although I doubt he could name a single one of the cuff). He defended the Second Amendment in vague terms. But … and this is where his suckitude as candidate comes forth … he utterly failed to call Clinton out on her crap. He didn’t know Heller well enough to point out that she was lying. He didn’t know Citizens United well enough to point out that she wanted the Court to ban a film that was critical of her. They later tangled on abortion. I’m not pro-Life but, frankly, neither is Trump. And it showed as he was all over the place, failing to point out, for example, that Roe v. Wade allows abortion to be outlawed in the third trimester.

I highlight the exchange on SCOTUS because it is a perfect distillation of the debate and really, the entire campaign. Clinton is vulnerable everywhere. She’s a poor candidate, she often says things that are wrong, contradicts herself and leaves openings a mile wide for her opponent. This is why a junior Senator from Illinois was able to beat her. This is why a crackpot Senator from Vermont almost beat her. But … this is key … you have to actually know stuff to go after her. She sounds authoritative and knowledgeable. Exposing her as neither means getting the weeds a bit.

But Trump can’t be bothered to do his homework. He just wings it. And so on a subject that Clinton should know well but where she spewed a bunch of garbage and lied her ass off, he fought her to a draw at best.

I will continue to say this: just about any normal Republican would have crushed her in all three debates and would be crushing her now in the polls.