Sunday, December 04, 2016

WHEN IT COMES TO REPORTING ON NASTY DEMAGOGUES, WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WORKS ANYMORE

This piece by New York Times public editor Liz Spayd is not going over well:
IF you have not yet heard the term “alt-right,” you most likely are living in another orbit. It is the chosen name of an extremist fringe with white supremacy at its roots. It is also a label many consider dangerous because it sanitizes the movement’s racist core. And if the media uses the word, they think, then they’re part of the problem.

As the fire rages, The New York Times has become ground zero.

... so far, there is no move among top editors to ban it. Instead, their thinking is: You can use the phrase in a story, but make sure you include a blunt explanation of its meaning.
There's that, and there's Spayd's defense of some recent Times reporting on Steve Bannon:
Scott Shane, a veteran reporter, produced a significant investigative piece on Trump’s most controversial adviser, Stephen Bannon. Through rigorous reporting and revelatory details, a portrait of Bannon emerged that was fascinating, original, and yet not neatly characterized. The story didn’t call Bannon a racist, a demerit in the eyes of some readers. And the headline used the phrase “Combative Populist.” Another demerit.

... Readers ... complained to my office, some with passionate responses, like that of Paul Kingsley of Rochester. “Steve Bannon could accurately be referred to as a racist, a misogynist, or a xenophobe,” Kingsley wrote. “It is inaccurate to refer to him as a ‘populist.’ Inherent in the definition is to represent ‘ordinary people’; Bannon’s views are extreme and anything but ‘normal.’ The NYT referring to him thusly normalizes his views and does the majority of people, who would not claim his hateful rhetoric as their own, a disservice.”

Kingsley’s point is worthy of discussion, but I had a different reaction to the story. When I read it, I trusted my narrator more because he wrote without judgment or loaded terms. He let me judge. And he wasn’t afraid to use nuance when it was called for, which in this age is braver than flat-out proclaiming someone a racist.

Go here for some critical tweetstorms.





My complaint when the piece landed was that it gave too many column inches to Bannon's own myth of himself as a patriotic, tough-minded scourge of the establishment. But if you read the whole thing, you know that Bannon's racist views came through:
[Julia] Jones, [Bannon's] film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’"
I don't think it's a virtue to write about a purveyor of hate speech "without judgment or loaded terms," but if you're going to make that choice, you'd better be sure the facts speak for themselves -- and in Shane's piece, they do, at least some of the time. I can live with that.

Is it necessary to call Bannon a racist in a piece in which his racism is on display? After the events of the past year, I have no idea. What I mean is I have no idea anymore what works, what in a work of journalism gets across the nature of a bad person.

Do we remember the moment when there seemed to be a sincere effort in the media to refer to Donald Trump's lies as lies, to portray him as remarkably untruthful even by the usual standards of politics? We thought he'd made it through the primaries because coverage of him was too gentle; we believed his election would be thwarted by gloves-off treatment of his mendacity (and his bigotry, and his harsh treatment of women, and his corrupt business practices).

It didn't work. He still became our next president. The tougher coverage didn't disqualify him in the eyes of 62 million voters, and may have made some of them more determined to vote for him.

So I think it's necessary for the press to tell us about the profound character flaws of Bannon, Trump, and others in Trump's administration. But putting LIAR or RACIST in big screaming letters in a headline doesn't seem to make any positive difference. Too many Americans just don't have a problem with racism, or with lies or sexual thuggery or fraud if the perpetrator is an SOB they like.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

ENJOYING TRUMP'S FOREIGN POLICY SO FAR? WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR.

BooMan reminds us that it's not just Taiwan:
If Trump is being advised by lunatics now, that's a problem. And if he's just so ignorant and pig-headed that he doesn't know or care what he just did by having his staff arrange a call with Taiwan, that's not a bold way of violating pointless norms. It's extraordinarily dangerous and portends all kinds of problems for our country, the world, and the prospects for peace between nations.

I cannot understand how Trump was allowed to offer a state visit to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines. It's beyond belief. That absolutely cannot happen. Figuring out how to handle Duterte and our longstanding relationship with the Philippines is a real conundrum, and a ton of work would have to be done before we could even think of rewarding Duterte with a state visit. Honestly, I don't think it would ever be justifiable.

And Trump cannot go plodding into Pakistan-India relations without getting a briefing from the State Department. They are nuclear-armed powers on constant alert against sneak attacks from each other, and it's unimaginably irresponsible to speak with either government without carefully considering the implications of every word you're going to say.
If Trump is cozying up to vigilante murder advocate Duterte, that's frightening -- but it might just be a warmup for next year.

Consider the fact that the party of racist Geert Wilders is currently leading in the polls in the Netherlands. Far-rightist Norbert Hofer is neck-and-neck with his Greens Party opponent in the race for Austria's presidency. And white nationalist Marine Le Pen could conceivably win the French presidency.

I assume Trump's going to roll out the red carpet for all of these folks if they win. He's not just going to accept the results of these elections -- he's going to prioritize the normalization of these governments. He's going to lavish the winners with more praise and a warmer D.C. welcome than he's going to extend to, say, Angela Merkel.

Yeah, it's going to be a fun four years.

****

UPDATE: Election results are in, and Norbert Hofer lost.

MAYBE THIS IS MORE FRIGHTENING, BUT THAT TAIWAN CALL LOOKS LIKE A CALCULATED ACT

I'm sure you know about this:
President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.

The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.
We're assured that this was not an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment act:
A senior adviser to Trump suggested that he knew about the long-standing U.S. policy toward Taiwan when the call occurred.

“He’s well aware of what U.S. policy has been,” Kellyanne Conway said in an interview with CNN on Friday night.

Conway bristled when asked whether Trump was properly briefed before the call on the government’s long-standing policy...

“President-elect Trump is fully briefed and fully knowledgeable about these issues ... regardless of who’s on the other end of the phone,” she said....

Trump communications director Jason Miller told reporters Friday that the calls are not off the cuff.

Trump and Pence “are briefed in advance of their calls, obviously working with the teams that we have put together,” Miller said before news of the Duterte call had broken....
My first thought when I learned about this was that Trump was just going it alone, because there's money to be made for the Trump family:
The Taiwan News reported that Trump’s company was sniffing around Taiwan’s Taoyuan City in September, and according to Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan, were considering building luxury hotels and resorts there.

Per Taiwan News: “A woman working for the Trump Organization came to Taoyuan in September, declaring the company’s investment interest in Taiwan’s Taoyuan Aerotropolis, a large urban planning development project surrounding the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.“

The outlet also said that Eric Trump, Trump’s son, is considering visiting Taiwan to look business opportunities for the company.
More:



But as Josh Marshall notes, there are Trump advisers who are likely to see this as a good idea for reasons not related to the Trumps' bank accounts:
There's already been chatter about John Bolton, a hardcore China hawk, visiting with Trump today. Was that connected with this? Apparently Reince Priebus is also very close to Taipei, something the mainland press had already commented on with some consternation.
Here's Taiwan's China Post on Priebus:
Priebus, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), met with President Tsai Ing-wen prior to her election....

Foreign Minister David Lee told a legislative session Monday that Priebus' appointment was "good news for Taiwan" given his familiarity with Taiwan-U.S. affairs.

The future chief of staff had maintained good relations with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S., Lee said, adding that he was "happy to see Priebus receive such an important position because he has been a friend to Taiwan."

Lee mentioned Priebus' previous visits to Taiwan, including a trip for the R.O.C.'s centenary celebrations in 2011.

Priebus also met with a delegation of Taiwanese lawmakers visiting the U.S. in July....

In his new position, Priebus would serve as a "channel" for maintaining Taiwan-U.S. relations, according to an unnamed source close to the matter cited by the United Evening News.

"There will definitely be no problems for Taiwan-U.S. relations," the source was quoted as saying.

Priebus has been considered over recent years as one of Taiwan's strongest advocates in Washington.

During the Republican National Convention in July he led efforts to include the "Six Assurances" -- which were agreed by Ronald Reagan in 1982 and ensure the sale of defensive arms to Taiwan -- for the first time in the party's platform.
And John Bolton wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in January called "The U.S. Can Play a 'Taiwan Card'":
For a new U.S. president willing to act boldly, there are opportunities to halt and then reverse China’s seemingly inexorable march toward hegemony in East Asia....

An alternative now would be to play the “Taiwan card” against China. America should insist that China reverse its territorial acquisitiveness, including abandoning its South China Sea bases and undoing the ecological damage its construction has caused....

If Beijing isn’t willing to back down, America has a diplomatic ladder of escalation that would compel Beijing’s attention. The new U.S. administration could start with receiving Taiwanese diplomats officially at the State Department; upgrading the status of U.S. representation in Taipei from a private “institute” to an official diplomatic mission; inviting Taiwan’s president to travel officially to America; allowing the most senior U.S. officials to visit Taiwan to transact government business; and ultimately restoring full diplomatic recognition.
I think Trump's primary interest is his wallet. But I also think he's getting the okay from advisers, who have agendas of their own. So, um, I guess we'll be at war, or at least in a cold war of sorts, with China soon.

Friday, December 02, 2016

IN WHICH I AGREE WITH COREY LEWANDOWSKI

I am in no sense a Corey Lewandowski fan, but something he said at the Harvard campaign managers' gathering yesterday is on target:
“Embracing Mr. Trump’s wealth and not running from it,” Lewandowski said, “was a strategic decision that we made early on.”

He continued: “The reason we did that is because he looked at the Romney campaign from four years ago and loves to tell the story that Mitt would drive somewhere and get out of the car, get in a Chevy, take a truck and pull up in a Chevy and pretend he wasn’t as rich as he really is.

“And he [Trump] said, no, no. I’m gonna pull up in my 757 and I’m gonna make sure everybody sees the giant Trump plane. If I can’t get that one, I’ll pull up in a private plane somewhere and we’re gonna have the most expensive cars. And I’m gonna do it so everyone understands what this country’s all about.”
During the last presidential campaign, I said on several occasions that Mitt Romney would benefit from showing some swagger regarding his wealth. Here's what I wrote in August 2011, when we learned about Romney plan to do a massive enlargement of his California house:
Why is tripling the size of one of his houses a potentially brilliant move? Remember where we are in the election cycle. The general election is more than a year away -- we're entering the Republican primaries. Who's going to vote in those primaries? Ayn Rand junkies. How do they feel about rich people? They adore rich people.

... Start the work now! Show everyone the blueprints! Release an artist's rendering and make the thing look huge! Wait for us liberals to really pounce on you for flaunting your wealth -- then watch the wingnuts rally to your defense!
In February 2012, I wrote:
... I think if he can't talk about his wealth in a way that's big-pimpin', he could at least put it into a narrative with a hero and a villain. The hero would be himself and all the brave, beleaguered millionaires and billionaires. The villain would be all us evil commie liberals who don't want people like him to succeed, dammit!

You put your success in those terms and you can talk all day about Cadillacs and $10,000 bets and liking to fire people -- as long as the rubes also hear you say, or imply, "And I bet you'd like to be rich and fire people, too. And you know why you can't? Because the damn liberals tax you too much and are systematically destroying the free enterprise system! It's their fault you're not rich!"
And Doug J. reminded me a while back that I wrote this about Trump in 2011, when he seemed as if he might be on the verge of joining the 2012 race:
But can’t you see him magisterially propelling himself into an Iowa state fair, or down a main street in small-town New Hampshire, in a motorcade of Escalades? And are we really sure that couldn’t work ... ?

…. I’ve always heard that campaigning in the early states was an exercise in humility -- the pigshit on your Gucci loafers at the Iowa state fair and all that. But is it different now on the right? Does the base want to prostrate itself before a plutocrat overlord, and not hold him to the same standards as mere mortals?
I'm pretty sure that that's precisely what happened in the past year and a half.

As Mike Konczal writes in a Medium post today,
Trump never blames the rich for people’s problems. He doesn’t mention corporations, or anything relating to class struggle. His economic enemies are Washington elites, media, other countries, and immigrants. Even when financial elites and corporations do something, they are a combination of pawns and partners of DC elites.

It’s important to watch that trick, of who has agency under runaway inequality. From a June speech in western Pennsylvania: “Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization --  moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” The rich buy politicians (and Trump can’t be bought) but he doesn’t turn around and denigrate those rich people.

Trump was smart to do so. As Joan C. Williams noted in an important essay, “the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich.”
Heartland white voters don't resent the rich, except when they collude with the "elites," who are (paradoxically) not the rich but, rather, the evil cabal in Washington (and Hollywood and the news media and academia -- basically any demimonde in which some of the powerful are Democrats). Money in and of itself? Not a problem to those voters.

So Romney should have flashed the cash. He should have acted as if he enjoyed being rich, and as if he wanted to share prosperity with the proles. That's what Trump did, and he's the next president.

SETH MacFARLANE IS MAKING SENSE

There's a lot of truth in this:



I'd extend this to big-city dwellers and urbane Americans in general. Look, white working class, we get it: You know how to do a lot of things that many of us can't do very well. You know how to farm and hunt and fight wars and build buildings and assemble complex machinery. Many of you do physical labor. We don't. But even you generally acknowledge that our crowd produces the slickest fraudsters and thieves. Our bullshit artists are the absolute best at screwing people.

And that's the point: We know these frauds. We live among them. We work with them. They're our co-workers, our bosses, our landlords. We have to understand how they operate as a simple matter of self-preservation.

So when we told you that Trump is a dangerous, lying sociopath, you should have believed us. For us, recognizing slick predators is a necessary life skill. That's true in our world even if you're not near the top of the food chain like Seth MacFarlane.

I'm not saying this out of disrespect for the white working class. You folks have skills that we don't. But in this case, the skills we have would have benefited you, because you got fleeced.

ONE DOWN, 62 MILLION TRUMP VOTERS TO GO

I suppose there could be a fair amount of this over the next four years:
When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington, D.C. And she knew Trump's pick for Treasury -- Steven Mnuchin -- all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

"I just wish that I had not voted," said Colebrook, 59. "I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in."

... Over five years, she tried unsuccessfully to adjust her loan with OneWest through the Treasury Department's Home Affordable Modification Program. But she said that One West Bank lost paperwork, provided conflicting statements about ownership of the loan and fees and submitted charges that were unverified and caused her loan balance to balloon....

Colebrook said she is still challenging the foreclosure in court.
I'm sorry it took Colebrook until now to realize that Trump is a con artist. Other voters will eventually discover that.

But just as Trump can't really save or bring back all the manufacturing jobs with a Carrier deal here and a Carrier deal there, he can't personally betray all 62 million of his voters. You'll say, as Paul Krugman does today, that he's likely to betray millions of them all at once when he signs the repeal of Obamacare. But I think Republicans will find a way to replace Obamacare with something, and the inadequacy of the replacement will become obvious only gradually.

In the meantime, Trump will just keep rallying the base against the usual enemies, the way he did last night in Cincinnati. He'll have the occasional policy win, and he'll promise that wall construction is going to get under way in earnest any day now, and that ISIS is going to get hit so hard very, very soon.... Americans will eventually catch on to him, I guess, but it's going to take years.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

TRUMP ISN'T DRAINING THE SWAMP, AND HIS BASE DOESN'T CARE

McClatchy's Vera Bergengruen went to central Pennsylvania to ask Trump voters whether they're upset because the administration he's assembling is full of lobbyists. Nope:
“This is his thing. He is a successful businessman who hires people to get him ... what he wants,” said Fred Harris, 42, who works at a gas station near Philipsburg, Pa. “If he has to use swamp people to make America great again, why not?”

“I don’t think that should be the main thing on his mind right now,” [Holly Mann, 61, a retired teacher who lives outside State College,] said. “Everyone down there is involved in the lobbying. It’s going to take a long time.”

Denise Jones, 54, in Port Matilda, Pa., agreed.

“He would never get anything done, would he?” she said. “This is real life, you can’t just play with the good guys. The important thing is he doesn’t need their money.” ...

“Of course he’s going to take on smart people, doesn’t matter whether they’re lobbyists or not,” said John Walton, 29, a truck driver from Pittsburgh who was passing through Port Matilda, Pa. “They’re the ones who know how to run ----.” ...

“To be frank, it’s more important he gets things moving, like getting rid of Obamacare and fixing the schools, and jobs” said Anne Freeman, 34, a stay-at-home mother in State College, Pa. “I don’t much care how he does it. That’s up to him.”
They say this even though they delighted in the notion of swamp-draining.
[Fred] Harris went to one of Trump’s rallies a few weeks before the election while visiting his brother in Johnstown, Pa., and says he joined the “Drain the swamp!” chants.

“Oh yeah, people loved it. ‘Drain the swamp’ and ‘Build the wall,’” he said. “But I’d rather he focus on building the wall.”
By definition, even if he hires swamp dwellers, they're not like the really bad swamp dwellers, because Trump's not an evil Democrat.
“If Hillary had won -- and you know, she really is a swamp person -- she would have had to pay back with favors all these interests that sent her money,” said Mark Ross, 57, in Unionville, Pa., who said he wasn’t a fan of Trump but liked what he said about “flushing out the scum” in Washington.

“Do I think it’s really gonna happen? Nah,” he laughed. “But better Trump’s swamp than Obama’s swamp. At least he’s gonna get us something.”
They accept it because they think they're going to get something out of a Trump presidency. But when they don't -- when the manufacturing jobs don't come back, when the wall never progresses much beyond a ground-breaking photo op, when there turns out to be no secret plan that instantly wipes out ISIS -- they'll still love Trump, because he luxuriates in their adulation, and he scapegoats the people they despise.

Years from now, probably in the depths of the next recession or during another mismanaged war, they might realize they've been fleeced, the way they eventually did with George W. Bush. But I assume Trump will be in his second term by then.

RIGHT-WINGERS HATE BLAME-SHIFTING ON TERRORISM -- UNLESS THEY'RE THE ONES DOING IT

This ABC story has angered a number of conservative commentators:
Christmas Party May Have Triggered San Bernardino Terror Attack: Police

Authorities believe the terror attack on Dec. 2, 2015 in San Bernardino may have been triggered by a mandatory training session and lunch replete with holiday decorations including a Christmas tree which shooter Syed Farook was forced to attend.

Emails discovered by the FBI and police reveal Farook’s wife, Pakistani native Tashfeen Malik, objected to the Christmas setting and was upset her husband had to go....

“She had essentially made the statement in an online account that she didn’t think that a Muslim should have to participate in a non-Muslim holiday or event,” said San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan in an exclusive interview with ABC News, that aired on the ABC News program Nightline.
RedState's Mickey White is incensed:
This is fascinating to me. We know the murderous couple had been planning this attack in advance due to the number of weapons and homemade bombs they had accrued, yet ABC News seems content with suggesting this was all over an office Christmas party. This is your Main Stream Media at work....

They aren’t interested in telling the truth, that would upset their narrative. What they want is to push the idea that these two were happy, loving citizens until Farook had his picture taken in front of a Christmas tree. That’s crazy talk.
As is James Barrett of the Daily Wire:
ABC and political correctness-hamstrung officials could not be more transparent in what they are attempting to do here; it is the same thing that ABC's colleagues in the media continually do: attempt to blame the West, particularly America, for the evil actions of those who subscribe to anti-Western ideologies.
So we've established that when terrorist acts occur, conservatives want the blame to be placed where it belongs -- with the perpetrators. Right?

Well, maybe. There's another blame-shifting story about terrorism today, but it comes from Robby Soave, one of the libertarians at Hit & Run:
Ohio State Knife Attacker Abdul Artan Was Taking a Class About Microaggressions

Before he was shot dead while attempting to murder a bunch of people with a car and a butcher's knife, Ohio State University student Abdul Artan -- a Pakistani immigrant who reportedly became radicalized after learning about injustices committed against fellow Muslims -- was enrolled in a class called "Crossing Identity Boundaries."

In fact, he had a group project on "microaggressions" due later this week. The assignment, worth 15 percent of his grade, required students to find a dozen examples of microaggressions on social media and explain which identity groups were the victims, according to the syllabus.
Soave strongly implies that Artan (who was actually Somali, not Pakistani) was inspired to hurt people by a class (actually one assignment within a class) on microaggressions.
]
But Soave's fellow conservatives will surely chastise him for not blaming the attacker himself. Won't they?

Nahhh. Here's Paul Joseph Watson at Infowars:
The fact that Artan was undergoing politically correct indoctrination illustrates how PC culture is now not only a threat to free speech, but a tool for violent radicalization.
And Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller:
I can’t put it any better than Sean Haffner did:



... It’s bad enough to fill young people’s heads with nonsense like “microaggressions.” It already makes them prone to lashing out like great big babies when they don’t get their way. But when you inculcate such cult-like thinking into a member of an actual cult, you’d better hide the cutlery.
So: Blaming a Christmas-themed gathering for an act of Islamist violence is bad, according to conservatives. Blaming academic leftism? No problem!

I WONDER HOW LONG THOSE CARRIER JOBS WILL STAY IN AMERICA

We know that Donald Trump is claiming credit for persuading United Technologies (UTC), the parent company of Carrier, to keep jobs in Indiana that were scheduled to move to Mexico. Those jobs will stay, or at least some of them:
In the end, UTC agreed to retain approximately 800 manufacturing jobs at the Indiana plant that had been slated to move to Mexico, as well as another 300 engineering and headquarters jobs. In return, the company will get roughly $700,000 a year for a period of years in state tax incentives.

Some 1,300 jobs will still go to Mexico, which includes 600 Carrier employees, plus 700 workers from UTEC Controls in Huntington, Ind.
In a Washington Post story, a question I've been wondering about is raised:
John Mutz, a member of the corporation's board and a former lieutenant governor ... said he had not reviewed the final terms of the agreement and could not provide details about how much money the company would receive or over what period.

“One of the key questions is how long will they be here,” he said.
Yes, because some of the workers in question were going to stay on for a while, even before the current deal:
The Carrier plant became a campaign issue after a video surfaced showing an executive telling workers about the plans to close the facility and move production to Monterrey over the next three years....

The Hartford, Conn., based company has emphasized that it gave the 2,000 affected Indiana workers three years' notice before the facilities are to complete the move to Mexico.
So the process was going to take three years. And when deals similar to this one have been made, how long have they held?
But the practice has mixed results. For instance, Dell closed a North Carolina plant in 2009 just five years after receiving millions in state tax incentives to open it. Production then moved to Mexico.
So have the jobs really been saved? Or is this just a temporary reprieve? Will Carrier continue to employ these workers significantly longer than it would have otherwise? We'll see.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NEWT, C'EST UN HYPOCRITE

Mitt Romney had dinner with Donald Trump (and chief of staff-designate Reince Priebus) at a fancy French restaurant last night. Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo tells us that Newt Gingrich was not impressed:
“You have never, ever in your career seen a wealthy adult who is independent, has been a presidential candidate, suck up at the rate that Mitt Romney is sucking up,” Gingrich told conservative radio host Laura Ingra[ha]m on Wednesday.

“I am confident that he thinks now that he and Donald Trump are the best of friends, they have so many things in common. That they're both such wise, brilliant people,” Gingrich continued. “And I'm sure last night at an elegant three-star restaurant, he was happy to share his version of populism, which involve a little foi[e] gras, a certain amount of superb cooking, but put that in a populist happy manner.”
Shuham adds:
But a man of the people, Gingrich himself is not: A 2011 Washington Post report cited Gingrich’s longtime attorney Randy Evans, who said the former House speaker’s various private enterprises after leaving office had generated close to $100 million in the previous decade.
Gingrich also mocked Romney's fluency in a foreign language:
“Luckily for them, Mitt speaks French fluently. So he could help them with the menu. He could say: 'Ahh, Mr. President-elect. This would be the perfect meal for you,’” Gingrich said.
This isn't the first time Gingrich has attacked Romney for speaking French. He did so in an ad that ran during the 2012 Republican primaries:
Newt Gingrich this week released a web ad called "The French Connection" that features a narrator saying, "just like John Kerry, [Mitt Romney] speaks French too." It then shows Romney saying "bonjour, je m'appelle Mitt Romney."

The footage comes from a video of Romney, who lived in France for two years as a Mormon missionary, speaking French while promoting the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics....
Here's the ad. The mockery of Romney's French comes at the end.



So ... Gingrich is proudly monolingual, right? Um, no:
Yet as Foreign Policy noted today, Gingrich appears to also be proficient in the language of love. As a teenager, Gingrich lived in France while his father was posted there as a soldier, Agence France-Presse last month quoted the author of a book on the former Speaker saying that Gingrich at the time "had enough French to survive." And as Foreign Policy points out, Gingrich's doctoral thesis cites French language original sources, which he could only read if he knew the language.
In fact, as Evangeline Morphos wrote in a Politico piece in 2012:
Gingrich ... spent several years in New Orleans getting his Ph.D. in history (we are constantly reminded) from Tulane University in 1971. The university’s requirements for this include at least one, often two, foreign languages. So we know that Gingrich is at least “bi” -- if not trilingual.

My father was a French literature professor at Tulane and had been chairman of the Romance Languages Department. I can assure you this department would not have certified Gingrich unless he could actually speak French.

Gingrich’s dissertation surely demanded knowledge of French. His topic was “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945-1960.” Like any graduate student, he must have immersed himself in his subject -- a French-speaking country. He cites more than 100 French-language sources in footnotes.
It's no secret, Newwt. Fess up, you hypocrite.

THIS IS HOW DEMOCRATS WILL BE BLAMED FOR WHAT REPUBLICANS DO TO HEALTHCARE

I can't tell you precisely what's going to replace Obamacare after Republicans repeal it, but I know it's going to be cruel and inadequate. Millions of people are going to lose insurance, or find themselves with coverage that's far worse than what they have now.

But won't they be constrained by the likely political fallout? Aren't they sure to be punished at the ballot box if they make voters' lies significantly worse?

Not if they can share the blame. And to judge from this Wall Street Journal story, that's precisely what's going to happen:
Republicans on Capitol Hill are grappling with the likelihood that they will need Democratic support to pass parts of any plan replacing the Affordable Care Act....

With full control of Congress and the White House, Republicans have anticipated being able to repeal the law using a special budget maneuver that would allow them to get around a filibuster by Democrats in the Senate.

But to replace it, they likely would need the support from eight Democrats and all 52 Republicans in the Senate (if Republican John Kennedy wins a Dec. 10 runoff in Louisiana) to reach the 60 votes needed to clear the chamber’s procedural hurdles....

Lawmakers said they are likely to include a transition period phasing out the law when they repeal it. Republicans think that could help put pressure on Democrats to support a replacement.
So there you go: Republicans will repeal Obamacare on a party-line vote, using reconciliation -- and then Democrats will be compelled to take joint ownership of its replacement. If they refuse, the replacement will be nothing -- and the consequences of that can be blamed on the Democrats as well.

Remember, Republicans will have the same highly effective noise machine they have now. If the replacement is, by some bizarre fluke, well constructed and highly popular, they'll take all the credit. If it isn't, they'll just remind everyone that it was a bipartisan effort, and Democrats poisoned it with injections of big-government socialist politically correct yadda yadda yadda.

So, no, I don't think they'll ever be blamed for what they're about to do.

DON'T FALL FOR DOUTHAT'S CONCERN TROLLING OF DEMOCRATS

You will be astonished to learn that Ross Douthat thinks it might be a good idea for Democrats to become more conservative:
Since Election Day the great intra-Democratic debate over What Went Wrong has been dominated by two visions of how liberalism should be organized, identity politics versus economic solidarity....

This is an interesting and fruitful debate ... but it has been mostly about a debate about two different ways of being (sometimes very) left-wing. There has been much less conversation about the ways in which the Democratic Party might consider responding to its current straits by moving to the right.
Before I got to the end of Douthat's column, I was guessing that he meant Democrats should tack right on social issues. That was an easy prediction:
For instance: Democrats could attempt to declare a culture-war truce, consolidating the gains of the Obama era while disavowing attempts to regulate institutions and communities that don’t follow the current social-liberal line. That would mean no more fines for Catholic charities and hospitals, no more transgender-bathroom directives handed down from the White House to local schools, and restraint rather than ruthlessness in future debates over funding and accreditation for conservative religious schools.
That's classic Douthat. But he also thinks Democrats should move right -- not all the way, of course! -- on the social safety net, immigration, crime, and terrorism; "both identitarian and populist liberals" should "accept that open borders and desexed bathrooms and a guaranteed income and mass refugee resettlement will remain somewhat-radical causes rather than simply and naturally becoming the Democratic Party line."

I can understand why a conservative would want Democrats to reorient themselves in this way. But why would Democrats want to?

Because, Douthat writes, moving toward the center works:
It’s what Democrats did, slowly but surely, after the trauma of Ronald Reagan’s triumphs; it’s what Bill Clinton did after his 1994 drubbing; it’s what Rahm Emanuel and Howard Dean did, to a modest degree, on their way to building a congressional majority in 2006. And it’s also what Donald Trump did on his way to stealing the Midwest from the Democrats this year -- he was a hard-right candidate on certain issues but a radical sort of centrist on trade, infrastructure and entitlements, explicitly breaking with Republican orthodoxies that many voters considered out-of-date.
But it's not what Republicans usually do. After Richard Nixon resigned, Republicans started their comeback in the late 1970s with the hard line on taxes represented by California's Proposition 13 in 1978. Two years later, the far-right Ronald Reagan won the presidency for the GOP.

Republicans lost the White House in 1992 -- and came back with two years later with Newt Gingrich's ideologically pure agenda. After the George W. Bush presidency, Republicans came back again by letting their angry-right Tea Party flag fly.

And is Trump heading to the White House because he ran as a "sort of centrist"? Yes, the populist talk had some impact, but his base was really inspired by the wall and the Muslim ban and the endless denunciations of "political correctness." He attacked Black Lives Matter and the media and Obamacare and the Clintons. He promised to torture and to "bomb the shit out of" ISIS. That was centrism?

And even if his deviations from GOP orthodoxy were what put him over the top, what explains the success of other Republicans, both in 2016 and in the last few election cycles? Douthat is right about this:
The Democratic coalition is a losing coalition in most states, most House districts, most Senate races; the party’s national bench is thin, its statehouse power shattered, its congressional leadership aged and inert. It has less political power than it did after the Reagan revolution and the Gingrich sweep.
In terms of offices held at the federal, state, and local levels, the GOP is more powerful than it's been since the 1920s. Until Trump came along, the party got there with ideological purity, not with moves to the left.

It works for the GOP because incessant GOP brand-building, especially on Fox and talk radio, turns out voters in every election. Even the intraparty squabbling of the Tea Party era brought out the vote. Democrats claim to be the party of the have-nots, but their candidates tack to the center too much, in words and in deeds. So plenty of voters just don't believe they stand for what they say they stand for. By contrast, everyone knows that Republicans stand for God, guns, and political incorrectness.

Democrats don't need to moderate. Voters already believe that they water down their message. They need to persuade the electorate that they actually stand for something.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

YES, MANY TRUMP VOTERS ARE GOING TO LOSE THEIR HEALTHCARE. NO, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO BLAME HIM.

Here's the big headline at Vox right now:
By picking Tom Price to lead HHS, Trump shows he’s absolutely serious about dismantling Obamacare
Apparently, up until now the intelligentsia wasn't quite sure that Republicans meant it the eighty thousand times they told us that their most important domestic policy goal was the end of Obamacare. They were just joking! It was an elaborate, sustained bit of performance art!

No, really, guys, Republicans were serious. Trump knew they were serious, and Trump's going for it, just as every other Republican who had a chance to win the party's presidential nomination would have gone for it.

From the Vox story:
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for health and human services secretary, already has a plan for how to abolish Obamacare....

Price ... is the author of the Empowering Patients First Act, one of the most thorough and detailed proposals to repeal and replace Obamacare. He’s the HHS secretary you’d pick if you were dead serious about dismantling the law.

It would replace the law with a plan that does more to benefit the young, healthy, and rich -- and disadvantages the sick, old, and poor....

The biggest cut to the poor in Price’s plan is the full repeal of the Medicaid expansion, a program that currently covers millions of low-income Americans, which Price replaces with, well, nothing.
But even if Price's plan isn't enacted as he wrote it, whatever takes the place of Obamacare will cover fewer people, and will be especially hard on those who need healthcare most. That has Paul Krugman asking,
So here’s the question: how many people just shot themselves in the face?

My first pass answer is, between 3.5 and 4 million.
That's Krugman's back-of-the-envelope estimate of how many Trump voters will be thrown off the healthcare rolls.

Greg Sargent writes:
I have obtained new numbers from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that suggest that a lot of poor and working-class whites -- who voted for Trump in disproportionate numbers -- have benefited from Obamacare, meaning they likely stand to lose out from its repeal (and even its replacement with something that covers far fewer people). ...

Gallup-Healthways tells me that among whites without a college degree who have household incomes of under $36,000, the uninsured rate has dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to 15 percent now -- a drop of 10 percentage points.

... it now looks more likely that we’ll see a substantial rollback of the progress toward universal health coverage we’ve seen in the past few years. News organizations love to venture into Trump’s America to hear voters explain that Trump spoke far more directly to their economic struggles than Democrats did. Maybe now we’ll get more coverage of those inhabitants of Trump’s America who are set to lose their health care, too.
But if you're thinking that those voters will direct their anger at Trump and fellow Republicans when their healthcare is taken away, ask yourself: Were heartland whites angry at Ronald Reagan when he busted the air traffic controllers' union, a signal event in the decline of the American labor movement? No -- a few years later their votes contributed to a 49-state landslide for Reagan. Did heartland whites rail at big banks after the 2008 financial crisis? No -- Tea Party members denounced President Obama and his fellow Democrats for alleged spending excesses and for Obamacare.

The pattern always holds. In Strangers in Their Own Land, Arlie Russell Hochschild writes about Tea Party supporters who refuse to direct their angry at the very people who do harm to them. This is from Nathaniel Rich's review of the book in The New York Review of Books:
The paradox that most baffles Hochschild is the question of environmental pollution. Even the most ideologically driven zealots don’t want to drink poisoned water, inhale toxic gas, or become susceptible to record flooding. Yet southwestern Louisiana combines some of the nation’s most fervently antiregulatory voters with its most toxic environmental conditions....

Hochschild discovers a walking personification of these ironies in a Cajun oil rig engineer named Mike Schaff. In August 2012, Schaff was entering his home in Bayou Corne, about seventy miles west of New Orleans, when he was jolted by a tremor. His concrete living room floor cracked apart. The sound, said a neighbor, was like a “garbage truck had dropped a dumpster.”

More than a mile beneath the bayou, a Houston-based drilling company named Texas Brine had drilled into a vast salt dome, ignoring warnings from its own engineer.... Texas Brine drills for salt, which it sells to chlorine manufacturers, but other companies had used sections of the salt dome to store chemicals and oil. Texas Brine drilled too closely to an oil deposit and the structure ruptured, sucking down forest and causing seismic damage to the homes of 350 nearby residents. Officials began referring to Schaff’s neighborhood as the “sacrifice zone.”

Texas Brine refused to take responsibility for the accident.... Four years later the sinkhole is 750 feet deep at its center and has grown to thirty-five acres. Methane and other gases bubble up periodically. Residents who defied evacuation orders avoided lighting matches.

... [Schaff] marched on the statehouse, wrote fifty letters to state and federal officials, granted dozens of interviews to local, national, and foreign press. When state officials claimed they had detected no oil in the bayou, he demanded that the EPA check their work.

But Schaff continued to vote Tea Party down the line. He voted for the very politicians who had abetted Texas Brine at every turn, who opposed environmental regulation of any kind. He voted to “abolish” the EPA, believing that it “was grabbing authority and tax money to take on a fictive mission…lessening the impact of global warming.” The violent destruction of everything he held dear was not enough to change his mind.
(Emphasis added.)

And among Hochschild's subjects, Schaff isn't alone:
When asked about catastrophic oil spills that result from lax regulation, one woman says, “It’s not in the company’s own interest to have a spill or an accident…. So if there’s a spill, it’s probably the best the company could do.” Madonna Massey says: “Sure, I want clean air and water, but I trust our system to assure it.” Jackie Tabor, whom Hochschild describes as “an obedient Christian wife,” says: “You have to put up with things the way they are…. Pollution is the sacrifice we make for capitalism” ...
After repeal, the Trumpers will get inadequate insurance, or no insurance -- and they won't blame Trump, or the greedy insurance companies that won't cover them adequately. If they blame anyone, they'll blame the usual suspects: Democrats, liberals, "big government" (yes, even if the new system is far more privatized). It's what heartland whites always do. Don't expect it to change.

TRUMP: HE LIKES TO WATCH

How is Donald Trump baiting us this morning? He's doing it by tweeting about the flag:
Burning an American flag should be a crime, President-elect Donald Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning, punishable by a forfeiture of U.S. citizenship or a year in jail.
Here's the tweet:



What set this off? You'd imagine that it was the sequence of events that recently took place at Hampshire College in Massachusetts: students lowered an on-campus flag to half staff after Trump's election, then the flag was burned, then college officials decided to take the flag down temporarily.

But all that happened before Thanksgiving. Why the tweet now? Well, a group of veterans held a pro-flag protest at the college on Sunday.

But I'm not sure even that explains a tweet two days later. Here's another theory:



Yes, here's the man who could be the next secretary of veterans' affairs, former counterinsurgency instructor and former executive director of the rignht-wing group Vets for Freedom, Pete Hegseth, now a Fox commentator:



If a tree falls right next to Donald Trump's limo and Fox News doesn't do a story about it, does Trump hear it? I really don't think Trump knows anything unless it's been on Fox (which means he knows a lot of things that aren't true).

Look at the administration he's putting together. K.T. McFarland as deputy national security adviser: Fox commentator. Sheriff David Clarke, possible homeland security secretary: frequent Fox guest. Laura Ingraham, possible presidential spokesperson: regular guest and frequent substitute host on Bill O'Reilly's show. And on and on.

Trump really has an ability to distract the media and the political world with out-of-nowhere tweets about not-exactly-burning issues that nevertheless touch right-wing hot buttons. Fox is good at that, too -- the channel's ability to gin up fresh outrages for the core audience is what keeps that audience watching.

But here's what I can't figure out: Has Trump shrewdly learned the secret of Fox's success, which he's now replicating as a politician? Or has Trump merely absorbed the rhythms of Fox, which he's now reproducing simply because his brain has been rewired by Fox to expect a fresh outrage every day or so?

It could be the former, but I suspect the latter is true. To me, Trump seems like Chauncey Gardiner in Being There: He likes to watch television, except that Jerzy Kosinski's fictional simpleton probably watched more than one channel. Like Gardiner, Trump fools people into thinking he's clever because he's internalized television's tricks for engaging the mind. But in Trump's case, the tricks of those of Roger Ailes. They're more dangerous. But we clever people are smart enough to fall for them.

****

UPDATE: CNN's Tom Kludt tracks the timing of some of Trump's most notable tweets. The common thread: They were posted right after the subjects were discussed on Fox.

Monday, November 28, 2016

THE MAN CAN'T BUST STEVE BANNON!

The long profile of Steve Bannon that appeared in today's New York Times includes a lot of damning information -- this, for instance:
[Julia] Jones, [Bannon's] film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’..."
But there's a lot in the profile that portrays Bannon just the way he wants to be portrayed -- as a hard-charging, swashbuckling iconoclast who is the establishment's worst nightmare. Among other things, he wants us to believe that he's ordinary Americans' best friend, and the Times profile gives us that spin more or less undiluted:
At times, Mr. Bannon’s rants against the ruling class -- in which he is at least as unsparing of Republicans as of Democrats -- strikingly echo populists on the left. In a revealing 2014 talk via Skype to a Vatican conference, some of his words might have come from Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Mr. Sanders of Vermont.

“Not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with the 2008 crisis,” Mr. Bannon fumed. “And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken.”
Hmmm ... it seems to me that I recall a group of people who got together a few years ago to draw attention to precisely this problem. The group was furious at Wall Street's ability to walk away from the financial crisis unscathed, and was disgusted at the ever-widening gap between the rich and everyone else. What the heck were those folks called again? Oh, yeah, I remember -- Occupy Wall Street.

So what did Steve Bannon -- the working-class hero -- think of Occupy? Let's go to the Breitbart archives:
The Occupy Wall Street movement was not an innocent attempt by youth across America that broke out spontaneously. It was, instead, a movement that was insidiously plotted by forces that intended to eliminate the United States forever from the free, liberty-loving, last best hope on earth it has always been.

The late Andrew Breitbart, with his close friend Stephen K. Bannon, producer of the hit documentary “The Undefeated,” teamed up to make “Occupy Unmasked.” Breitbart’s last work rips away the façade from the Occupy movement and lays bare for all the world to see how nefarious the movement truly is....

No stone was left unturned in the making of the film; the duo pored over video evidence, documented proof, and exposed e-mail chains galore. Bannon was unflinching in his condemnation:
This is not a bunch of college kids and hippies putting this thing together. Below the surface is a very dark, very ugly and very dangerous group of people. They managed to change the narrative. Their goal is to create chaos, destroy the system. They want to create anarchy, put the system in crisis and from crisis gain power.
... The film starts to appear even more sinister when it reveals the organizers behind the protests. One organizer, Malcolm Harris, a self-described communist, lied to the Occupiers in order to get them to Zuccotti park by telling them the band Radiohead would be playing there. And just as you’d expect, a New York Times writer helped him get that message out.

Employee unions were instrumental in organizing the protests, of course, since their socialistic goals were absolutely in sync with the Occupy movement. “Occupy Unmasked” even shows how the unions are still organizing, protesting and occupying.
Omigod! Unions -- organizing! It's too horrible to contemplate!

And Bannon said Occupy's goal was "to create chaos" and "destroy the system" as if that was a bad thing? I thought he was the guy who said in 2014, “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” So what's his problem with Occupy? Is he afraid of the competition?

Steve Bannon may attack the conservative establishment when it's battling anti-establishment right-wing radicals, but if the battle is between establishmentarians and anyone on the left, then Bannon is going to side with the establishment every time. He is not the hero of the common people. Reporters, don't let him spin you that way.

THE TRUMP ERA REALLY BEGAN TODAY, IN OHIO

Disturbing news in Ohio today:
The suspect in [an] Ohio State University attack [today] ran into a group of pedestrians on a street corner with his vehicle before using a weapon to cut several people, OSU President Dr. Michael Drake said. The assailant used a butcher knife, OSU Police Chief Craig Stone said.

Ten people were hospitalized after [the] attack.... Nine are in stable condition, and one is in critical condition....

The university released a statement after the attack.

"A suspect has been shot and reported deceased," the university said. "Victim injuries include stab wounds, injury by motor vehicle and other injuries that are being evaluated."
Before the suspect was identified, Joe Walsh -- radio host, ex-congressman, and Islamophobe -- tweeted this:



And now we're learning this:
The suspect's name was not released, but law enforcement officials told NBC News he was an 18-year-old Ohio State student, a Somali refugee who was a legal permanent resident of the United States.

The motive was unknown, but officials said the attack was clearly deliberate and may have been planned in advance.

"This was done on purpose," [Ohio State police chief Craig] Stone said.
If Walsh is right -- and I fear he is -- then welcome to Day One of the Trump Era.

Donald Trump won the presidency three weeks ago. He was a dangerous demagogue as a candidate for a year and a half before that, and a divisive blowhard from the time he became a regular Fox commentator in 2011. But this is the first breaking news event since Trump became president-elect that offers him the clear choice of responsible leadership or racism directed at an entire group of people. He's not speaking as a celebrity turned amateur pundit anymore, nor is he a fluke presidential candidate running as a longshot -- now he's speaking for America, and his words will give us a sense of how the U.S. government will respond over the next four (or eight) years at moments like this.

I'm expecting the worst. I'm expecting group slander and calls for collective punishment. I'm expecting him to make no effort to warn off vigilantes or hatemongers. It's going to be ugly.

At least he has no government power -- yet. But this will be a taste of what's to come. Brace yourselves, because it's not going to be a pleasant ride.

TRUMP'S BASELESS VOTE FRAUD CLAIM, PARTLY SUBSIDIZED BY YOUR TAX DOLLARS

Donald Trump is claiming that Hillary Clinton's popular-vote lead in the presidential election is the result of 3 million ballots cast illegally by immigrants. The Washington Post has located the source of this conspiracy theory:
In fact, this claim that millions of illegal immigrants voted is itself the result of a random tweet.

On Nov. 13, Gregg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner, tweeted about there being 3 million votes that were cast by noncitizens.

Phillips operates under a bewildering number of organization names -- JumpVote, VoteFraud.org, Election Night Gatekeepers -- but he is regularly identified (for instance, in this story at Right Wing News) as "the founder of Votestand, a voter fraud reporting app." VoteStand was brought to you by a group called True the Vote, as Breitbart noted in October:
Texas-based election integrity organization True the Vote has released a smartphone app that allows users to report voter fraud and irregularities.

VoteStand, available for both iPhone and Android users, is advertised to be the “first online election fraud reporting app” available to voters across the country “to quickly report suspected election illegalities as they happen,” according to True the Vote....

“VoteStand can be used to capture your voting experience,” True the Vote Founder Catherine Engelbrecht said. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Go to the iTunes store and you'll see that the vendor for VoteStand is True the Vote, Inc. The Post notes that Gregg Phillips claims to be a True the Vote board member. And you can see in the tweet above that he says he'll be joining True the Vote "to initiate legal action."

Does the name True the Vote ring any bells for you?

Back in 2013, the group, headed by a woman named Catherine Engelbrecht, got a lot of publicity because the IRS under Lois Lerner wouldn't approve its tax-exempt status. Peggy Noonan wrote this sob story:
But the most important IRS story came not from the hearings but from Mike Huckabee’s program on Fox News Channel. He interviewed and told the story of Catherine Engelbrecht -- a nice woman, a citizen, an American. She and her husband live in Richmond, Texas. They have a small manufacturing business. In the past few years she became interested in public policy and founded two groups, King Street Patriots and True the Vote.

In July 2010 she sent applications to the IRS for tax-exempt status.... The U.S. government came down on her with full force....

All this because she requested tax-exempt status for a local conservative group and for one that registers voters and tries to get dead people off the rolls. Her attorney, Cleta Mitchell, who provided the timeline above, told me: “These people, they are just regular Americans. They try to get dead people off the voter rolls, you would think that they are serial killers.”

This week Ms. Engelbrecht, who still hasn’t received her exemptions, sued the IRS.
John Fund, a Noonan colleague on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, wrote this:
At least two donors told me they didn’t contribute to True the Vote, a group formed to combat voter fraud, because after three years of waiting the group still didn’t have its [tax-exempt] status granted at the time of the 2012 election.
True the Vote was seeking 501(c)(3) tax status, which required it not to support political candidates. But True the Vote's partisanship is obvious, as I noted in 2013. I quoted this, from Sourcewatch:
True the Vote's website portrays voter fraud as largely a Democractic party problem. It routinely runs stories on election fraud being perpetrated by "liberals," ... or "Democrats" ... but has, to date, never run a story on Republican or Conservative instances of voter fraud.

... in 2012, True the Vote contributed $5000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee.... This overtly political statement would legally, according to tax lawyers specializing in election law, disqualify a nonprofit from 501(c)3 tax-exempt status....
More:
True The Vote ... put together a video raising the threat of voter fraud which features soaring music. "Think it can't happen in your town? Think again!" reads one message. "Our elections are being manipulated. By the RADICAL LEFT," the video says.

The video originally featured a doctored photo of an African-American voter holding a poorly photoshopped sign -- featuring Comic Sans font -- that read "I only got to vote once." That part of the video has since been edited out.
And there was a story in The New York Times in 2012 about a suspicious RV:
Driving down the Interstate in Florida, you may see an R.V. wrapped with a picture of Abraham Lincoln.

These eye-catching vehicles are mobile command centers for registering and energizing voters. They are part of a citizen effort to "defeat Obama, hold the House and win the Senate in November," Fred Solomon, a retired Alabama businessman, said in an e-mail to fellow Tea Party supporters.

Mr. Solomon is a coordinator for Code Red USA, the plan to flood swing states with conservative volunteers. "Partnering with True the Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group, we will train and put election observers in polling places in the swing states to reduce voter fraud," Mr. Solomon said in his e-mail.

Code Red USA is financed by the Madison Project, a political action committee whose chairman is former Representative Jim Ryun, a Kansas Republican who was regarded as among the most conservative members of Congress. The provocative video promoting Code Red accuses Democrats of "a clear intent to commit massive voter fraud."

Despite Mr. Solomon's e-mail and the video, which identifies True the Vote as a participant, Ms. Engelbrecht said her group has no role in the effort.
Gosh, I can't imagine why the IRS had questions about True the Vote's non-political status.

True the Vote issued a statement today:
“True the Vote absolutely supports President-elect Trump’s recent comment about the impact of illegal voting, as reflected in the national popular vote. We are still collecting data and will be for several months, but our intent is to publish a comprehensive study on the significant impact of illegal voting in all of its many forms and begin a national discussion on how voters, states, and the Trump Administration can best address this growing problem.”
The statement adds:
True the Vote (TTV) is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) voters’ rights organization, founded to inspire and equip voters for involvement at every stage of our electoral process. TTV empowers organizations and individuals across the nation to actively protect the rights of legitimate voters, regardless of their political party affiliation.
Yes, those last six words are a joke -- on us, the taxpayers.