Friday, August 26, 2016

NO, "ALT-RIGHT" IS NOT A TRUTH-CONCEALING EUPHEMISM

I keep running into arguments like this:
Stop Using the Term “Alt-Right’!

... The term itself ... was allegedly coined by Richard B. Spencer, who founded the website Alternative Right in 2010.

... The term “alt-right” is nothing more than a clever marketing tool by a white supremacist activist, who knows that his ideology is considered unacceptable in today’s society. Hence, he came up with a term that sounds acceptable to the conservative mainstream. For years it had little to no effect until uncritical and uninformed journalists did what he never could: mainstream his term.

And this:



But we don't need to worry, especially after yesterday. A large percentage of Americans just learned about the alt-right this week -- and what they learned, from Hillary Clinton's speech and from the many media attempts to explain the term, was that alt-rightists are hate-spewing racist scum. And alt-rightists themselves aren't even trying to pretend otherwise, because they're under the impression that if they proclaim to the world that they believe whites are superior to non-whites and all good things on earth flow from ethnic Europeans, while festooning their online communications with allusions to gas chambers and attacks on non-whites as subhumans, the world, or at least the white world, will beat a path to their door.

No one is using the term "alt-right" and saying, "No, these people are just conventional conservatives who believe in small government and constitutionalism." The link between racism and the alt-right is made every time the term is used. So that's how it's imprinting itself on our brains.

I'm reminded of the Fox News campaign to replace the term "suicide bomber" with "homicide bomber." What was the point? Stories about suicide bombers tell us what suicide bombers do, and it's horrifying. We don't need a stronger term. If you're exposed to such stories\, in your mind the term "suicide bomber" will always stand for something appalling.

The same thing is happening with "alt-right." It's not a benign term -- not given what we know about alt-rightists, and what they proudly tell us about themselves.

ONCE AGAIN, PEGGY, THE PROBLEM IS YOU

Peggy Noonan looks at images of that bloodied, stunned five-year-old boy in Aleppo and wonders why politicians won't denounce war:
War is terrible. It abuses the innocent and takes their lives, it wastes all kinds of treasure, it kills generations and whole cultures. It strikes me as rather mad that our candidates for commander in chief of the most powerful armed forces in the world don’t ever simply think aloud about this.

About 18 months ago I asked a potential Republican presidential candidate, in conversation, if he hated war. He got the dart-eyed look politicians get when they sense a trick question. This startled me. How do you not know the answer? After a few seconds I said, “This is not a trick question.” I explained I was thinking of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, “I hate war” ...

The potential candidate then stuttered that of course he doesn’t like war, but sometimes it’s necessary. Well, yes, sometimes it is. But why would you fear stating that war is hell, and hell ain’t where we want to be?
A noble sentiment -- but the answer is obvious.

In the last half-century, there's been a lot of skepticism about war on the left, while on the right there's mostly been bellicosity wrapped in the mantle of patriotism and triumph. Peggy Noonan is a woman of the right, and she's eagerly waved flags and rattled sabers along with her compatriots. If you don't support our wars, or at least our Republican wars, Noonan and the rest of the right will denounce you as a traitor, a wimp, and a civilization-destoying monster. A public that has internalized pro-war right-wing propaganda for decades will agree.

So on March 24, 2003, just after the Iraq War began, here was Peggy Noonan showing us how much she hates war:
So far so good. The war has begun, and the world hasn’t ended (alarmists, pessimists and prophets on left and right please note)....

We are about to startle and reorder the world. We are going to win this thing, and in the winning of it we are going to reinspire civilized people across the globe. We’re going to give the world a lift.

This is what the American victory in Iraq is going to mean:

It is going to mean, first, that something good happened. This sounds small but is huge.... The coming victory is going to be the biggest good thing that has happened in the world, the West and the United States since the twin towers fell.
Here's Noonan a few weeks later, when it became obvious that the war would not be a cakewalk:
The second Gulf War will not be quick. And one senses no one will doubt, when it was over, that every medal was earned.

But the long haul is going to mean and demonstrate more than that. A resentful world is about to see that America had to fight for it. They are about to see America could fight for it -- that we had and have the stomach for a struggle. Our implacable foes and sometimes doubting friends will see that America’s armed forces don’t just shock and awe, we stay and fight.

The world will be reminded that America still knows how to suffer. In a county as in an individual, the ability to withstand pain -- the ability to suffer -- says a great deal about character. It speaks of maturity and courage, among other things. The world knew half a century ago that America will absorb pain to reach progress. It is not all bad that they are seeing it again.
And those who didn't think that justified an invasion? Well, they were the enemy:
The biggest threat to America now, apart from Iraqi regulars and irregulars, is not a person but a phenomenon. It is the twisting or abusing of facts to underscore a point of view one wishes to see disseminated. I mean propaganda. The antiwar left did not pick up its marbles and go home when the war began. They just went home and waited for something bad to happen that they could exploit. They have it now: a war that is taking time and producing deaths on the field.

The antiwar left has shown precious little interest in or compassion for members of the U.S. armed services. And yet you can bet the farm that they are about to discover a great warm hearted concern as the bodies of American fighters come home. The left is going to use those deaths as propaganda in their attempts to stop the war.
So people suffer greatly in war, but you're a lily-livered quisling and hater of your country if you respond to that suffering with revulsion, Noonan said in 2003. Thirteen years later, she wonders why American politicians won't weep at a bloodied war casualty.

And on the subject of Peggy Noonan and war, one must always remember this chestnut, written after George W. Bush won the 2004 election as a war president:
About a year ago I was visiting West Point, and I was talking to a big officer, a general or colonel. But he had the medals and ribbons and the stature, and he asked me what I thought of President Bush. I tried to explain what most impressed me about Mr. Bush, and I kept falling back on words like “courage” and “guts.” I wasn’t capturing the special quality Mr. Bush has of making a tough decision and then staying with it if he thinks it’s right and paying the price even when the price is high and --

I stopped speaking for a moment. There was silence. And then the general said, “You mean he’s got two of ’em.” And I laughed and said yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
Does Peggy Noonan hate war? Only when it suits her.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

HOW THE CLINTON "ALT-RIGHT" SPEECH WILL LAND

Hillary Clinton gave a terrific speech in Reno today:
Hillary Clinton on Thursday delivered a blistering denunciation of Donald J. Trump, saying he had embraced the “alt-right” political philosophy and presenting his choice as an especially ominous turn in a presidential election full of them.

In her most direct critique yet connecting the Trump campaign to white nationalists and the conservative fringe, Mrs. Clinton is framing Mr. Trump’s run as unprecedented in modern politics.

“He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party,” she said.

Asserting that a racially charged and “paranoid fringe” had always existed in politics, she said, “It’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.”
For decades, beyond-the-pale hatemongering has been an undercurrent in conservative politics, though the political mainstream has pretended that the hatemongering either wasn't taking place or was utterly insignificant. The mainstream media ignored talk radio, including overt racists such as Michael Savage and Bob Grant, and pretended that right-wing conspiratorialism (Clinton Body Counts and so on) were too lowbrow to take seriously. This has continued to the present day, as hate has migrated largely to the Internet.

Hillary Clinton's speech demands that attention be paid.

That's a good thing, although I fear that some in the political establishment don't want to hear it because, well, accusing one party of stepping across a line the other party hasn't crossed just isn't done! Here's a Time reporter's response to the speech:



Um, really? So Trump himself didn't call Mexican immigrants rapists? That was somebody else? And it was somebody else who attacked Judge Curiel?

There may be a number of journalists who say the speech was just too much. I hope not. I hope even our media can understand that the alt-right-ization of conservatism is a serious matter.

On the other hand, the right has been trending this way for years. Matt Drudge retransmits every crime story out of inner-city Chicago. The GOP works to deprive non-whites of voting rights. Republicans run against the "Ground Zero mosque." And on and on.

One downside of the Clinton speech is that it suggests that the GOP was fine until Trump came along. He's made the party worse, but it wasn't fine.

On the other hand, Clinton has diagnosed the disease. Maybe the political establishment will be forced to acknowledge symptoms of the disease when they manifest themselves in the future -- even after Trump leaves the scene.

ANN COULTER: SCREW MY RACIST PRINCIPLES, I'VE GOT A BOOK TO SELL!

A lot of people are talking about Ann Coulter's criticism of Donald Trump after he made major changes to his stance on immigration:
Donald Trump "panicked" when he said he was open to softening his immigration policies, according to conservative pundit and Trump ally Ann Coulter....

Coulter, a hardline opponent of illegal immigration and one of Trump's most prominent media backers, was speaking to The Hill at a party to launch her new book, "In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!"

In the book, Coulter writes that "there's nothing Trump can do that won't be forgiven. Except change his immigration policies."

But now that Trump is toying with doing just that, Coulter is placed in the awkward position of having to defend a man who is no longer drawing such a hard line on immigration as he once did.
You might think she wouldn't defend him after this betrayal. But you'd be wrong:
Conservative author and Donald Trump supporter Ann Coulter isn't giving up on her candidate yet, even as he appears to be shifting on an issue most dear to her....

In an interview [Wednesday] with the Washington Examiner, Coulter, whose own stance on immigration inspired Trump's controversial views on it, said it's not worrying her.

"It mostly worries me rhetorically ... I mean, what to do with the illegals already here was never really a big part of it," she said. "We're getting a wall. We're definitely getting a wall. That's the one thing we know about a Trump presidency."
Excuse me, Ann? "What to do with the illegals already here was never really a big part of it" for you? What about this interview you gave in November when Trump was explicitly promising to deport every undocumented person in America?
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter told a local Phoenix news station Thursday she would use a “deportation force” to remove the estimated 11 million individuals inside the U.S. illegally....

“How would you deport all these people?” [KSAZ-TV anchor Troy Hayden] asked.

“God bless Donald Trump. He mentioned it. Dwight Eisenhower did it using 1950's technology. I mean everyone acts like there’s a time limit. Well, no. You start your deportation force, you start deporting them,” Coulter replied. “And they get the message.”

“Well, you knock on the door? How do you find them?” Hayden asked.

“Look up Dwight Eisenhower’s. It was called ‘Operation Wetback.’ He started at the border, the troops moved north, they knew the businesses and they knew the homes. They went in and deported them,” said Coulter....

“And by the way, Donald Trump, yeah he’s right, you should go after the criminals. I’d go after the law abiding ones to send the message. Law abiding! They are not law abiding if they are illegal immigrants,” she added. “They get the message and then you do what Mitt Romney was saying: enforce e-verify. Make sure only Americans can get jobs. They get the message. They leave on their own.”
But now she's all in, even though Trump has backed away from deportations without mercy. And when I say "all in," I mean it:



And of course she is. Her book came out on Tuesday. She can't sell a book she's effectively disavowed. She let off some steam, but she wants the money. So Trump is still her man -- at least until her book falls off the bestseller list.

FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BETTER

CBS News, September 11, 2015:
Donald Trump says that if he's elected, it would only take his administration up to two years to deport all the undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States.

"I think it's a process that can take 18 months to two years if properly handled," Trump said in a conference call with members of the Alabama Republican Party late Thursday night.
Washington Post last night:
... judging from many rally-goers here in Tampa on Wednesday and at an event Tuesday in Austin, many rank-and-file voters will give Trump relatively broad latitude to alter the parameters of his immigration policies.

... Tom Van Camp mentioned the candidate’s appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News Channel program Monday night, when Trump said that he would do “the same thing” that President Obama has done when it comes to illegal immigrants who have not committed crimes.

“These existing laws -- which can be enforced -- will do the same thing” as Trump has been calling for, Tom Van Camp said. “It’ll still kick people out.”

“Starting with the dangerous folks is smart,” he added. “It’s not going to be easy. In fact, I predict it’ll take the full length of his first term to get it done.”
So, last September, Trump said he could kick every undocumented immigrant out in a year and a half to two years. Now at least one of his supporters thinks it will take him four years just to deport the criminals among the undocumented -- and the supporter is fine with that.

The Trumpers are never going to be disilluioned as long as he keeps promising to build the wall:
Donald Trump may have hinted recently that he intends to soften his tough immigration stances, but he sure didn’t sound that way speaking to several thousand supporters in Tampa on Wednesday.

... The speech prepared Wednesday included no mention of Mexico or building a wall, but it didn’t take much encouragement from the crowd for Trump to go there.

“Oh, we’re going to build a wall, don’t you worry about it!” he said to cheers. “We’re going to build a wall, and Mexico is going to pay for the wall 100 percent. And it’s going to be a big wall, it’s going to be a real wall. It’s going to be as beautiful as a wall can be, but it’s going to be a wall. And we’re going to have protection for tunnels.”
Because, in the fans' view, that alone will solve so many problems that it won't be necessary to deport all of the undocumented:
Emilio Beru, 38, of Carrollwood, emigrated to Florida from Peru in 1998, and said he thinks Trump toning down his rhetoric makes sense. Not all immigrants are criminals, he said, many are hardworking, tax-paying citizens.

“That’s why Trump is making that distinction, he’s starting to see more and more that it’s not just Hispanics causing problems, it’s Europeans and ISIS crossing into our borders,” he said. “We need to build a wall, to protect the American citizens who came from all over the world.”
Yes, ISIS terrorists won't come in from Europe and the Middle East if we build a wall on the Mexican border. Or something like that.

Trump's flip-flopping may have upset Ann Coulter, but rank-and-file Trumpers don't care, as long as Trump's rhetoric is still angry and punitive at least some of the time -- and as long as he doesn't flip-flop on the wall. If the wall goes, that'll be the end of the line for Trump.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

TRUMP HAS A MASSIVE ACHILLES' HEEL, AND EVAN McMULLIN MAY HAVE LOCATED IT

No one's paying much attention to Evan McMullin, the conservative who entered the presidential race a couple of weeks ago, but he's making a concerted effort to raise his profile with this interview:
Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin told Business Insider in a Wednesday interview that members of Republican nominee Donald Trump's campaign have told him that the Manhattan billionaire has times where he "hides in his apartment" and they're growing "frustrated."

... McMullin said that it's "unclear" whether Trump "will make it through this campaign."

... "I'm hearing from people inside his campaign that there are times now when he hides in his apartment and doesn't meet with any people," he continued. "When he campaigns he goes out to a place he has to fly back home to New York. This is a fragile man and a fragile campaign and I'm not quite sure what's going to happen in the days and weeks ahead of him. I'm not sure the [Republican National Committee] can continue to support him given his weakness as a man and as a politician and as a candidate for the presidency."
"His weakness as a man"! "This is a fragile man"! It's calculated, but I love it. I don't agree with McMullin on many issues, but this interview was clearly an effort to get Trump to drop whatever he's doing and spend three days attacking McMullin. Unfortunately, the interview was at Business Insider, and I'm not sure Trump even knows that Business Insider exists.

Chris? Rachel? Lawrence? I don't think Trump watches much MSNBC (even though his campaign manger was on the Maddow show tonight), but MSNBC is television, so Trump can easily absorb it. One of you, plase, book an interview with McMullin. Let him talk -- but steer him to this subject. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to repeat what he told Business Insider on national TV. Then we can all pop some popcorn and watch Trump's reaction.

MEET THE NEW FOX, SAME AS THE OLD FOX -- OR MAYBE WORSE

The programming on Fox will be so much better now that that awful Roger Ailes is gone -- won't it?
Fox Business anchor Cheryl Casone cited a report from a fringe conspiracy theory website, InfoWars, to complain that Google was "changing its algorithm to bury stories like the 'Clinton body count' story," which is “a story that talks about a list of people tied to the Clintons who have died under mysterious circumstances.”...
CHERYL CASONE: ... Well Google is being accused of hiding negative stories about Hillary [Clinton] and her campaign by changing its algorithm to bury stories like the "Clinton body count" story. That's according to website InfoWars. If a Google user types in "Clinton body," they get car repair shop results instead of a story that talks about a list of people tied to the Clintons who have died under mysterious circumstances over the last three decades. Now, the latest story was the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered last month in an apparent robbery....



Fox is being tugged in many different directions now. As Michael Wolff has noted, Papa Rupert Murdoch doesn't want to fix what he thinks isn't broken, while his sons James and Lachlan, who were given nominal control of Fox a while back, want Fox to moderate and modernize (James wants Fox to be more like CNN, while Lachlan wants it to remain conservative, though less rabid). The sons think Fox would make more money, especially interntionally, if it were more digitally sophisticated and actually broke some news once in a while. But Fox as it exists now earns profits of more than $1 billion a year. So should it continue to serve its core audience the way it always has? Now, in the Trump era, that audience is gravitating toward full-on InfoWars conspiratorialism and Breitbart alt-right racism -- a combination of which might be the tone of a possible rival to Fox started by Trump and Breitbart's Steve Bannon after the election.

What to do, what to do? Well, Rupert made himself "acting CEO" of Fox after Ailes's departure, as Wolff reminds us, and gave an Ailes loyalist, Bill Shine, the job of running Fox day to day. The content is as bad as ever -- or worse. And I suspect that will be true until Rupert is no longer among us.

DONALD TRUMP, SELF-STYLED ANTI-RACIST AND REPUBLICAN PARTY LOYALIST

Donald Trump is now making a concerted effort to persuade us that he's totally non-racist:
Guided by his new campaign leadership, the Republican nominee has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate publicly for his candidacy.

Trump is planning trips to urban areas -- with stops at churches, charter schools and small businesses in black and Latino communities -- and is developing an empowerment agenda based on the economy and education, aides said. Under consideration is an early September visit to Detroit, where retired neurosurgeon and former Republican primary rival Ben Carson would guide him on a tour of the impoverished neighborhoods where he grew up.
No intelligent person thinks this is really aimed at non-whites:
[Trump] knows that his tense relationships with non-white sectors of the electorate are costing him support among one group that reliably votes for Republicans: suburban white women.

... In an attempt to lure right-leaning white female voters back into the fold, Trump launched a jaw-dropping, multi-city pander-fest designed to make himself more palatable.
But doesn't Trump risk alienating the angry white men who are his core supporters? Yes and no. I think any moderation of his immigration stance makes some of those guys less likely to turn out for him -- they're obviously not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, and they're unlikely to vote third party, but they might not show up at the polls at all if he stops feeding them red meat on immigration.

However, the general outreach to non-whites -- especially to African-Americans -- might be surprisingly appealing to some of these guys. That's because they've carefully nursed a grievance for years about racism and the two major parties.

See, for instance, the graphic below, which showed up in my Twitter feed this morning:



If you watch Fox (or even watch occasional Fox clips online), or if you lurk in the conservative precincts of the Internet, you see this sort of thing all the time.





Angry white guys love these graphics. Your Fox-watching uncle has probably posted all of these and more on Facebook. He doesn't know or care that they're full of fake facts and half-truths -- and he doesn't want to hear it when you point out that opponents of racial equality have gravitated en masse to the GOP in the past fifty years.

For the polite version of this, here's S.E. Cupp -- a conservative who's not a Trump fan -- writing yesterday about Trump's outreach campaign and past outreach gestures by Republican politicians:
Democrats are existentially threatened by a Republican’s attempt, botched or not, to creep into their territory. Any outreach is maligned. Republicans, forever accused of not caring about minorities, are scolded when they attempt to show they care about minorities.

... a Republican campaigning for President goes into a black community to talk about an important issue to many black families, and for this he is protested. Trump, for avoiding black communities and refusing an invitation to speak with the NAACP, is attacked.

If Democrats and black voters have issues with Republican policies, that’s totally fair. But squeezing Republicans into no-win scenarios, just to keep black voters from hearing what conservatives might have to say, and punishing them for trying, is just self-interested political chicanery.
This is the white anger Trump can tap into with this campaign. This actually helps keep the base angry.

A curious thing about this anger is that it's specifically party based. We're hearing a lot this year about conservative voters' distrust of the GOP -- they chose a presidential nominee who's switched parties repeatedly over the years and who doesn't always toe the party line, and they rail against the party establishment.

But this is strictly Republican vs. Democrat. On this subject, conservative base voters very much identify with the GOP.

So Trump, oddly enough, is building a little party loyalty. Who'd have thought?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

DO YOU HAVE A MORTGAGE? OPINIONS DIFFER!

Today The New York Times ran a story about the Koch-funded movement to convene a "convention of states" in order to pass right-wing amendments to the Constitution. Primarily, the convention-of-states folks want to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The Times story weighs the pros and cons of requiring the federal budget to be balanced -- and I'm sure it won't be a surprise when I tell you that if you believe the story, it's impossible to tell who's right and who's wrong.

From that Times story (emphasis added):
Supporters say the philosophy that state governments and ordinary people usually adhere to -- that it is wrong and destructive to spend beyond one’s income -- should apply to the federal government as well. In that view, the $19.4 trillion national debt threatens to destroy Americans’ future prosperity.

“It’s immoral for one generation to borrow and spend beyond its means and leave the bill to the next generation,” said Scott Rogers, the director of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force.
Okay -- those are opinions. Now for the con side:
But opponents say an amendment, not the deficit, is the threat. A government that could not run deficits, they argue, would not be able to stimulate the economy during recessions, when job-creating spending is most needed. And it would not be able to elude budget ceilings for benefits like Social Security, or for job-creating projects like highways that are financed with debt.

In truth, they say, debt is a fact of life for both states and ordinary households -- in bond issues that finance revenue generators like convention centers and bridges, and for ordinary necessities like cars, kitchen remodelings and homes.
Here's the problem: These aren't opinions -- they're facts. It's a fact that, in a recession, a federal government constrained by a balanced budget amendment couldn't stimulate the economy with job-creating projects and couldn't bypass budget ceilings for programs such as Social Security. It's a fact that businesses and ordinary citizens regularly use debt.

But these facts are presented as one side's opinion.

Is this a variant on the old Paul Krugman theory of "objective" journalism?
I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth."
Opinions differ on whether debt is commonly used, for perfectly understandable reasons.

SCOTT BROWN: PERHAPS NOT REALLY A FEMINIST DREAMBOAT

I'm not surprised to learn that former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros has filed a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment by Bill O'Reilly as well as Roger Ailes. But they're not the only men Tantaros describes as harassers. There's also this guy:
One instance of particularly egregious alleged conduct involved former Massachusetts Senator, and current Fox News contributor, Scott Brown:
On or about August 18, 2015, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (“Brown”) appeared on Outnumbered. Brown made a number of sexually inappropriate comments to Tantaros on set, including, and in a suggestive manner, that Tantaros “would be fun to go to a nightclub with.” After the show was over, Brown snuck up behind Tantaros while she was purchasing lunch and put his hands on her lower waist. She immediately pulled back, telling Brown to “stop.” Tantaros then immediately met with Shine to complain, asking him to ensure that Brown would never be booked on the show again. Shine said that he would talk to Scott. Thereafter, Shine and Scott ignored Tantaros’s complaint, and continued to book Brown on Outnumbered.
Gosh, and I thought Scott Brown was the most sensitive straight guy in America -- the perfect husband and father. At least, that's the impression created by ads he ran in his 2012 Senate race against Elizabeth Warren, as described in this Newsweek article by Michelle Cottle:
In [one] spot ... —titled, simply, “Dad” -- Brown’s wife, Gail Huff, gushes about how, during her years as a Boston reporter, “Scott did all the morning routine. Get the girls up. Get them fed. Get them dressed. Get them off to school. He did everything with the kids.” (Talk about mommy porn!) Her pitch in the similarly gauzy “Husband” is even more blatant: “Scott’s always been the one that encouraged me professionally -- encouraged me to have my own life, to have my own identity ... He is by far the most understanding of women probably of any man I know.”





Some Democrats thought the ads were a bit much, at which point, as Cottle notes, Mr. Nice Guy turned rather nasty toward the woman he was running against:
At a breakfast gathering of Massachusetts Democrats at this month’s national convention, state party chairman John Walsh joked that Republican Sen. Scott Brown had “spent a couple million dollars folding towels on TV to prove he’s an honorary girl” in his race against Elizabeth Warren. The dig referred to a Brown campaign ad, targeting women voters, in which the senator is shown doing laundry.

Team Brown’s response was fast and furious. They blamed the Warren campaign for the “negative attacks” and tied Walsh’s remarks to Warren’s comment that same week that in her ads “you probably won’t see me folding laundry.”

Angela Davis, chairwoman of Women for Brown, fired off this zinger: “It seems Professor Warren and her spokesman can’t decide if they are just too good to fold laundry, or if household chores are suitable only for women.”

Within hours, Walsh apologized. But no way the senator’s people were letting go of this bone. Davis promptly sent both Warren and Walsh a gift basket of laundry supplies, along with a note (thoughtfully posted on Brown’s campaign site): “With all the mudslinging Elizabeth Warren and her allies have been doing, we thought these laundry supplies would be a useful gift. We might never see Professor Warren fold her own clothes, but she does need to clean up her act and stop with her dirty politics.”
What a sweetheart.

Did Brown do what Tantaros said he did? We can't be sure. I can tell you that this isn't the first time Brown has faced charges like this, although the last time it happened the accusation was dropped quickly:
Gawker has a scoop of sorts about Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and it wants to know why no one else got there first. On the face of it, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan, the reporter, has a case, since what he dug up was an old defamation suit against Brown that involves charges of sexual harassment.

In 2000, Brown was sued by Jennifer Firth, who was then serving on the Wrentham, Mass. Board of Selectmen, a position Brown had held earlier. In the suit, Firth said that she’d volunteered on Brown’s campaign for the state Senate, and that during her work for him, he’d harassed her. Afterwards, she said, he had defamed her, telling law enforcement and others that she’d sent him anonymous hate mail....

[But as] Nolan himself acknowledges, within days of her filing the suit, Firth moved to dismiss it. On top of that, her lawyer moved to withdraw his appearance on her behalf, saying he’d learned that the allegations in the suit weren’t supported.
It's hard to tell what really went on in that case. Brown accused Firth of harassing him, and Firth acknowledged that she'd sent Brown "provocative" emails:
She did say that during his campaign for state representative that she sent him notes she intended to be humorous.

“ My humor tends to be provocative, and I think Mr. Brown misinterpreted my humor,” she said in a telephone interview.

Later, she issued a formal statement saying she deeply regrets the misunderstanding.

Brown said today there is nothing funny about the harassment he and his family have been subjected to over a two-year period.

“ I had a feeling she would try to spin this somehow. I do not find her actions humorous at all. It was a calculated pattern of harassment and inappropriate correspondence, e-mails and letters to me,” he said.
We'll see what emerges in the current case. We know that Walker Brown is a nasty guy who looks like a nice guy. His campaign against Warren was ugly. Is he a sexual harasser? That remains to be determined.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN PEDDLES HEALTH CONSPIRACY THEORIES, NEW YORK TIMES RISES TO THE BAIT

For a while now, the Donald Trump campaign has been making sinister suggestions about Hillary Clinton's health. Does she have brain damage? Does she have epilepsy? What's she hiding? It all seems amateurish; it's easy to imagine Reince Priebus wincing every time a Trump surrogate brings this subject up.

However, it's starting to work.

If you go to The New York Times today, you'll see this exercise in both-sides-do-it-ism. In the print edition, it's on the front page above the fold, right next to the lead story.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Ages 68 and 70, Share Few Health Details

Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton have been more secretive and selective than many recent presidential nominees in providing up-to-date details about their personal health -- a particularly striking departure, experts say, given the candidates’ age.

No American election has ever featured two major-party nominees as old as Mr. Trump, 70, and Mrs. Clinton, 68, and they have kept a grueling pace for more than a year. Yet they have declined to share the latest information about their health or to make their doctors available for interviews. Each released a brief medical statement in 2015; neither has added to it since.
The story isn't singling out Clinton -- but it is saying Clinton's at fault. It says she's hiding something.

Once the premise that both sides are at fault has been established, we're told that, yes, Trump is worse:
Mr. Trump has been especially unforthcoming, even as he has sought to turn health into an issue in the presidential race, questioning Mrs. Clinton’s “physical and mental strength and stamina” as his allies push unfounded rumors that she is ill.
But:
Doctors and medical experts said they had rarely seen so few details or updated information about the health of presidential nominees.

“Voters deserve far more information from Clinton and Trump about their health than we have now,” said Dr. Burton Lee, who was the elder George Bush’s personal physician during his four years as president. “The public has a right to know, but you just don’t have transparency with these two candidates on much of anything. That’s a given.”
This is despite the fact that many recent nominees have, in fact, limited their release of medical information to pretty much what's been released this year, at least by Clinton:
Among Democratic nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry spoke openly about their health; Mr. Kerry had survived prostate cancer. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were more reticent: Their aides argued that the two were young men with no health problems, though Mr. Clinton granted an interview on his health in 1996 under pressure from his Republican opponent, Bob Dole.
And:
Republicans from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney have released details in the months before Election Day or directed their doctors to field questions.
But what did Romney release in 2012? A two-page physician's letter -- you can read it here. What has Hillary Clinton released in this campaign? A two-page physician's letter -- you can read it here.

They're equally frank and detailed, as is the physician's letter President Obama released in 2011, when the 2012 campaign was getting under way. The Obama letter? Two pages.

By contrast, you can read the ridiculous one-page Trump physician's letter here. Today's Times story acknowledges that there's a big difference between the Trump and Clinton letters:
Mr. Trump ... has provided only a four-paragraph statement from his gastroenterologist last December. It contained no details about his heart rate, respiratory rate, cholesterol level, past medications or family medical history. It did include several laudatory declarations, describing Mr. Trump’s blood pressure (110/65) and laboratory test results as “astonishingly excellent.”

The doctor, Harold N. Bornstein of Manhattan, concluded that Mr. Trump, if victorious, “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” -- a claim that was widely mocked as unprovable and unscientific.

Mrs. Clinton issued a significantly more detailed two-page letter from her physician in July 2015 that included information about a concussion Mrs. Clinton suffered in 2012, which left her with a blood clot in her head and double vision. Her doctor, Lisa Bardack of Mount Kisco, N.Y., said those symptoms were resolved within two months.

Mr. Clinton, however, has said that Mrs. Clinton “required six months of very serious work to get over” the concussion....
So Clinton's letter is detailed and frank, while Trump's isn't. Nevertheless: both sides!

And how ridiculous is Trump's letter? As Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald points out, it almost certainly wasn't written by a doctor:
... it says that his medical examination of Trump has “only positive results.” In medical terms, if the test is positive, it confirms the existence of disease. Is this doctor saying Trump has every medical ailment that could be found in examination? Does he not know the meaning of the word? Or, as I suspect, was the letter written by someone in the Trump campaign?

Anyone reading the letter can make a good guess about who that person might be. It says results were “extraordinarily excellent.” (Not a medical term.) It says, “His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” (Again, not a medical term.) Then, in the most hilarious, Trump-esque line of all, it says, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency.” In other words, this letter purports to show that a doctor has assessed the health of 43 people he has never examined, including the four who are still alive.
(One of those ex-presidents, Jimmy Carter, is in his nineties and recently survived brain cancer.)

Today's Times story claims that this year's candidate medical releases are unusually skimpy by recent standards. But the Times had the same complaint in 2008:
Many Holes in Disclosure of Nominees’ Health

Fifteen days before the election, serious gaps remain in the public’s knowledge about the health of the presidential and vice-presidential nominees. The limited information provided by the candidates is a striking departure from recent campaigns, in which many candidates and their doctors were more forthcoming....

Last May, [John McCain's] campaign and his doctors released nearly 1,200 pages of medical information, far more than the three other nominees. But the documents were released in a restricted way that leaves questions, even confusion, about his cancer....

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. ... had emergency surgery in 1988 for an aneurysm in an artery in his brain and elective surgery for a second one. His campaign released 49 pages of medical records to The New York Times late last week showing that he was healthy, but the documents did not indicate whether he had had a test in recent years to detect any new aneurysm....

Senator Barack Obama ... released a one-page, undated letter from his personal physician in May stating that he was in “excellent” health. Late last week, his campaign released the results of standard laboratory tests and electrocardiograms from his checkups in June 2001, November 2004 and January 2007. The findings were normal.

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, 44, Mr. McCain’s running mate, has released no medical information.
So I'd say Hillary Clinton has met or exceeded recent standards in this regard -- and Donald Trump hasn't. But, y'know, both sides.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A WHITE NATIONALIST MEDIA EMPIRE? THE PRESIDENCY? I DON'T THINK TRUMP BELIEVES HE HAS TO CHOOSE.

Has Donald Trump given up on trying to win the election in November because, as Greg Sargent speculates, he's more interested in constructing a post-election white nationalist media empire? I think there could be some truth to this, but I don't think Sargent has it quite right.

Sargent writes:
Has Donald Trump given up on winning the White House and “pivoted” (this might be his real pivot) to a full-blown effort to build a national following that will outlast the election, perhaps allowing him to establish a media empire with him at the helm -- one that caters, at least to some degree, to a white nationalist or “alt-right” audience? Was that his plan all along? ...

* Vanity Fair media writer Sarah Ellison reports in a radio interview that Trump has had private discussions with his inner circle about “how to monetize” the new audience he’s built up. As Ellison puts it, this potential goal should no longer be seen as “speculation.”

* The New York Times reports today that in July, Trump’s campaign “spent more on renting arenas for his speeches” than he did on setting up a national field operation, leaving him with no operation to speak of. That is consistent with the idea that Trump (as I’ve speculated) is very consciously sinking most of his resources into a format (rallies) that allows him to continue staging his unique form of raucous WWE-style political entertainment, and building an audience that thrills to it, rather than winning a general election.
My guess is that Trump doesn't believe he has to choose.

I know he's running a terrible campaign. I know he isn't building much-needed campaign infrastructure. That makes it look as if he's throwing the fight.

But he did all that in the primaries and got away with it. Trump's view of himself is that he's so popular and has devised such a brilliant hack of the electoral system that he doesn't need to do all the boring things mere mortals have to do to win political races. So I say he's still in it to win.

Further evidence of that is the brief flurry of semi-conciliatory gestures he's made in the past week or so -- the pseudo-apology for harsh language in the primaries, the faux-outreach to Hispanics over the weekend (and I'd throw in the failed outreach to blacks as well.) Why would he bother with any of this if he isn't trying to win the election? Why wouldn't he just keep tossing out red meat to the alt-rightists?

I'm thinking about something else Sarah Ellison has reported:
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reportedly discussed with an NBC executive continuing “The Apprentice” reality show from the White House if he were elected president, long before he launched his bid.

The anecdote was reported in June by Vanity Fair contributing editor Sarah Ellison but appeared to go largely unnoticed until she was interviewed on "The Takeaway" podcast over the weekend.
Trump has actually considered the possibility that he can host a reality series while serving as president. He thinks he's such a superior being that he could handle both jobs at once. So why wouldn't he think he can run an alt-right TV channel while serving as president?

Ellison's original Vanity Fair story said that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the owner of The New York Observer, would be very much involved in a new Trump media venture. I keep trying to figure out why Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, would want to work on a media start-up aimed at people who harass Jews on Twitter with Xyklon B jokes. But I don't think Donald Trump is smart enough to grasp that particular problem. He wants what he wants, and I still think what everything he seems to be pursuing, all at once.

ANTI-TRUMP RIGHT-WING TALKER: GOSH, YOU DON'T SUPPOSE SOME OF THIS TRUMP STUFF IS MY FAULT, DO YOU?

Charlie Sykes, a prominent conservative radio host in Wisconsin who's vehemently anti-Trump, is doing some soul-searching, according to Politico:
Charlie Sykes’ conscience is nagging him.

Since last year, the most influential political talk show host in Wisconsin has found out just how hard it is to be a #NeverTrump conservative on right-wing radio....

Sykes’ many arguments with listeners over Donald Trump’s serial outrages have exposed in much of his audience a vein of thinking -- racist, anti-constitutional, maybe even fascistic -- that has shaken Sykes. It has left him questioning whether he and his colleagues in the conservative media played a role in paving the way for Trump’s surprising and unprecedented rise....

“When I would deny that there was a significant racist component in some of the politics on our side, it was because the people I hung out with were certainly not,” Sykes says. “When suddenly, this rock is turned over, there is this -- ‘Oh shit, did I not see that?’..."
Yes -- did Sykes not see that? Did he somehow overlook that racist anger when he was airing the kind of material described in this 2014 New Republic story?
Sykes is credited with, among other accomplishments, having blocked public funding for needle-exchange programs and having helped drive into bankruptcy an urban mall after harping on security issues there. In April 2013, he played a clip of “It’s Free (Swipe Yo EBT),” a viral video produced by a right-wing activist in which an African American woman raps about liquor stores where one can allegedly use a food-stamp card. Returning to the same theme later in the year, Sykes declared, “The number of Americans who receive means-tested government benefits -- welfare -- now outnumbers those who are year-round full-time workers.”
Yeah, nobody could have foreseen that playing an excerpt from this video would stir up white racial anger:



And no one could have predicted that the author of this book would have stirred up Trumpite anger in the years before the rise of Trump:



On immigration, here are some pre-Trump tweets from Sykes:







And here's one referencing a murder victim frequently cited by Donald Trump on the campaign trail (an undocumented immigrant has been charged in the case):



On Islam and refugees:











Oh, and that angry mother of a Benghazi victim who spoke at the Republican convention on Trump's behalf? Sykes was an admirer three years ago:



(Go here for more on Benghazi from Sykes.)

And while Sykes may not endorse the nuttiest conspiracies, he traffics in the kind of right-wing conspiratorialism that's utterly mainstream. Hillary Clinton says she'd like to overturn Citizens United? Sykes responds by tweeting a link to an inflammatory Power Line post:



Are you a climate change denier with a book to hawk? You're welcome on Sykes's show.

Sykes is hardly the worst of the right-wing talkers. But did he do his part in preparing the ground for Trump. You bet.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

TRUMP IS GOING TO KEEP FAUX-PIVOTING UNTIL WE ALL FALL FOR IT

First we had a vague apology for intemperate language, and now we have this:
In Reversal, Trump Indicates To Hispanic Leaders Openness To Legalization For Immigrants

In a Saturday meeting with his newly announced Hispanic advisory council, Donald Trump suggested he is interested in figuring out a “humane and efficient” manner to deal with immigrants in the country illegally, according to three sources....

“He said people who are here is the toughest part of the immigration debate, that it must be something that respects border security but deals with this in a humane and efficient manner,” said Jacob Monty, a Houston-based immigration lawyer who sat in Trump Tower with other Latino supporters and Trump.

“The idea is we’re not getting someone in front of the line, we’re doing it in a legal way, but he wants to hear ideas of how we deal with 11 million people that are here with no documents,” said Jose Fuentes, who was chair of Mitt Romney’s Hispanic advisory committee in 2012, and attended the meeting.
The headline calls this a "reversal" even though it's not:
Trump, however, stressed that any new announcements will still be in line with the border security-focused approach that has invited intense opposition from Latinos and immigrants since he launched his campaign....

“Mr. Trump said nothing today that he hasn’t said many times before, including in his convention speech -- enforce the laws, uphold the Constitution, be fair and humane while putting American workers first,” [Steven] Cheung [of the Trump campaign] wrote.
As Marc Thiessen noted, something like this appeared to be Trump's policy (when he was in a conciliatory mood) last November:
On Fox News on November 12, Trump’s son Eric expressed frustration that the media overlooks this:
The point isn’t just deporting them, it’s deporting them and letting them back in legally. He’s been so clear about that and I know the liberal media wants to misconstrue it, but it’s deporting them and letting them back legally.
... Listen closely to what Trump is actually proposing. In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash earlier this year, Trump explained his plan this way:
I would get people out and then have an expedited way of getting them back into the country so they can be legal.... A lot of these people are helping us ... and sometimes it’s jobs a citizen of the United States doesn’t want to do. I want to move ’em out, and we’re going to move ’em back in and let them be legal.
And surely we recall this from a debate in October:
As far as the wall is concerned, we’re going to build a wall. We’re going to create a border. We’re going to let people in, but they’re going to come in legally. They’re going to come in legally....

We can do a wall. We’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door right in the middle of the wall. We’re going to have people come in, but they’re coming in legally.
So, when it's suited him, he's repeatedly said that that some immigrants who've come across the southern border should be allowed to stay, perhaps after leaving first.

But someone's persuaded him to go on a multi-day campaign of soft-spokenness and outreach to alienated voters. Some of it isn't going particularly well:
Speaking in Michigan, Trump offered a blunt appeal to African-American voters: “You’re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. 58% of your youth in unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”

His message was not well received. Of course, many blacks -- like many other Americans -- face challenges. But Trump lumped all blacks together into a single, monolithic, desperate group.
Nevertheless, he's doing his version of outreach. Why? I'm sticking with what I said a couple of days ago: he's been persuaded to "anchor left," after which he'll "pivot right." He's going to keep doing this until the mainstream press and the rest of the political world concede that, yes, Trump is becoming more mature and presidential. His new campaign crew has persuaded him that he'll get to be Trump again if he does this first. Trump doesn't seem like a guy who can delay gratification, but Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway apparently have him doing it.

It won't work unless journalists and pundits fall for it.

But you know they will.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A MASTER CLASS IN MISSING THE POINT

Thursday brought us one of the few delightful moments of the 2016 campaign: Comically grotesque statues of Donald Trump briefly went on display in five U.S. cities. The sculptures bore the title The Emperor Has No Balls.



The buzzkill came yesterday, when art critic Murray Whyte told us in The Guardian that laughing at the sculptures is morally incorrect:
Ageist and body-shaming Trump statue falls short as art and satire

... the stunted member of Trump’s anatomy to which the sculpture means to draw our attention is its undoing.

Emasculation, one can fairly say, is the least notable of Trump’s many shortcomings. No balls? For what presidential candidate in recent memory could that be further from the truth? This is the man who pondered openly how shooting someone on Fifth Avenue might help him poll better. Whatever Trump’s anatomical shortfalls, this is clearly not one of them, and the piece weakens itself with a contradiction to pitch a sophomoric joke.

... The piece, with its slumpy, distended belly, withered buttocks and sagging pectorals, crosses callously into generalized ageism and body-shaming; unlike the attempted caricaturization of Trump’s particular bits, this is no joke, but rather an expression of unmitigated contempt, and whatever else it does, it dissolves satirical intent in an instant.
Oh, please.

Here's why this is a crock: Trump is of the class of men -- rich businessmen -- who are presumed to be alpha males well into senescence. They flaunt their trophy wives and late-life offspring, they continue to issue dominance challenges to those they regard as lesser mortals, and the worst thing about it is that we accept their sense of their own male superiority at face value. Even Whyte, good progressive that he is, accepts it. ("No balls? For what presidential candidate in recent memory could that be further from the truth?")

The reality is that Trump, never a tough or courageous person even in his prime, is now a seventy-year-old man who sure looks as if he has a seventy-year-old's body.



There's no shame in that -- body changes come to us all if we live long enough. But Trump struts around denying the reality, and too many of us let him get away with it, just because he is (or seems to be) rich, and because he tells us he's a superior man.

And as Ruth Marcus notes, we let him get away with describing Hillary Clinton as a lesser being:
Donald Trump -- he who likes to fly home at night in the comfort of his own plane to sleep in the comfort of his own bed -- is at it again on the question of Hillary Clinton’s stamina, or alleged lack thereof.

“To defeat crime and radical Islamic terrorism in our country, to win trade in our country, you need tremendous physical and mental strength and stamina,” he said in Wisconsin. “Hillary Clinton doesn’t have that strength and stamina.”

And a day earlier, in case you missed it, “Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS, and all the many adversaries we face.”

It’s obvious what’s going on here. The strength-stamina combo is a gender-age twofer, a double whack at Clinton for the price of one. Strength, what men have and women lack; stamina, with its intimations of go-all-night virility. Clinton, in this depiction, is both a weak girl and a dried-up old crone.

No matter that Trump is a year and four months older -- and, for that matter, endures a far less rigorous schedule.
The Emperor Has No Balls is for everyone who knows that Trump's ubermensch posturing is a huge lie. If that doesn't include Murray Whyte, that's his loss.

(Photo of New York Trump sculpture via Gothamist.)

US V. THEM, OVER AND OVER AGAIN

You may have concluded from various news reports that Donald Trump did nothing in the Louisiana flood zone yesterday except hand out Play-Doh, but that's not accurate -- Matthew Teague of The Guardian notes that in St. Amant, Louisiana, Trump handed out diapers and water bottles. So Trump's Louisiana trip was a self-serving photo op, but not a completely ridiculous one.

However, if one of the locals quoted by Teague is any indication, you wonder why we're even talking about Trump, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton in connection to this disaster at all -- at least some of these people would have you believe that they don't need any damn handouts, from the government, an alleged billionaire, or anyone else:
“This is [Trump's] stomping grounds,” said Greg Patterson, who was cleaning muck from his store called the Pit Stop. The idea that a billionaire from Manhattan could describe the working-class corner of Louisiana as “his stomping grounds” did not strike Patterson as contradictory.

“We’ve got 2,000 houses damaged just in this area alone,” he said, stretching his arm out to the south. “These people are already back in their homes, working to repair them. It’s not like down in the Ninth Ward.”

That was a reference to one of the quarters of New Orleans that was worst hit by Katrina a decade ago. That neighborhood is mostly poor, and mostly black.

“I mean that’s a bunch of government-owned housing,” Patterson said. “Nobody here is looking for handouts or waiting on the government. These are Trump’s people.”

It was a bombastic statement, and maybe emotionally satisfying, but it was also untrue: more than 60,000 local people have applied for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).
Of course, people like Patterson might literally believe that they can accept aid from FEMA, or handouts from Trump, and still be "self-sufficient" -- unlike Those People in New Orleans -- because, well, y'know.

I'm reminded of the Craig T. Nelson interview immortalized by Jon Stewart:



"I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No!"

****

On the question of visit timing: Yes, President Obama waited until the end of his vacation to schedule a trip to the area. Yes, President Bush was criticized for vacationing during Katrina.

But the disasters are very different. In the current flooding, 13 people are dead and 40,000 homes have been damaged. In Katrina, at least 986 people died and 1 million homes were damaged. The current flooding is horrible, but Bush was faced with a much worse disaster, and dealt with it inadequately. In the current crisis, the heads of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security have been to flood zone, 20 parishes have already been declared federal disaster areas, and quite a bit of assistance is already being provided. If the federal response turns out to be insufficient, that's a reason to grumble about the president. But that's not what we're hearing. We're hearing payback for the criticism of Bush's apparent indifference to Katrina. But that was a much worse situation.