Wednesday, September 02, 2015

THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT BACKED THE WRONG ENTITLED SCION

New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports on a new flare-up of Romneymania:
As Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican presidential race, frustration and panic have become high enough to make some inside the party Establishment pine for a candidate they roundly rejected as recently as January: Mitt Romney.
National Review's Eliana Johnson quotes some of the well-heeled piners:
Dr. Greggory DeVore, who in 2012 raised more than $1 million for Romney, is one of these men. He’s even printed up Romney 2016 bumper stickers, and his black Audi S8 has two pasted on the back. “Romney 2016,” they say. “I told you so -- now let’s fix it.”

“The guy was prophetic in what he saw,” DeVore says of Romney.... According to DeVore, several top Romney donors are keeping their powder dry because they “recognize that the people we’ve put out are not the same caliber as a Mitt Romney.”

... Dave Van Slooten, a former Wall Street investor who donated more than $50,000 to Romney, says he’s similarly underwhelmed by the current GOP field. “We got exposure to all the candidates in the last debate, and I personally don’t think any of them measure up to Mitt,” Van Slooten says.
The problem, as Slate's Jamelle Bouie writes, is that the GOP needs someone this year who's like Romney, someone who could run in the primaries the way Romney did in 2012 -- a candidate who might not excite a fervent cult but is broadly acceptable:
Romney wasn’t the first choice for the majority of Republican primary voters, but he was the first alternate for when everyone’s various infatuations died down. “Romney was viewed positively by likely Republican primary voters regardless of whether they were conservatives or moderates, pro-life or pro-choice, relatively wealthy or not, Tea Party members or not,” write political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck in The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election. What’s more, Romney had high ratings among voters who backed candidates like Cain and Gingrich: “About 74 percent of conservative Republican primary voters had a favorable view of him,” they write. When it was time to choose, Romney was the strongest contender, and Republicans were ready to pick him.
No Establishment-friendly figure has poll numbers and approval ratings like that this year -- Jeb's favorability is in the tank, while Rubio gets high favorable ratings but is very few voters' first or second choice.

However, some Romneyites say he has numbers like that now. Sherman writes:
Romney's rehabilitation campaign began with his starring role in last year’s documentary Mitt and continued with his charity boxing match against Evander Holyfield this spring. It turns out that Romney the noncandidate connects with the public in a way Romney the gaffe-prone plutocrat candidate never did. So much so that Romney openly flirted with a third White House run this winter. “When people were polling this stuff back in January, what was striking was not his popularity but the breadth of it,” says Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief 2012 strategist. “Unlike a lot of candidates, his support wasn’t siloed. The non-tea-party folks liked him, and the tea-party folks liked him. It’s unique.”
I haven't seen Stevens's numbers -- but before you say he's delusional, remember how much better Romney was at saying what the crazy base wanted to hear in 2012. (Obamacare is evil! Benghazi was evil! Undocumented immigrants should self-deport!). Also, remember how nasty and snarly Romney was -- a huge contrast with Jeb Bush. I'm not saying that Romney could have won an extended match of the White Man's Dozens with Donald Trump, but he might have been vitriolic enough to hold his own against Trump.

I'm not joking about this. I think back to that CNN poll from early 2014 in which Romney beat Obama 53%-44% in a hypothetical matchup and I'm happy the GOP Establishment chose Jeb in the battle of the entitled scions. Yes, Romney lost to Hillary 55%-42% in that same poll, but Hillary was a hell of a lot more popular back then. Am I seriously arguing that Romney could have been competitive not only in the 2016 Republican primaries but in the general election? I am, and I don't care if you think I'm crazy. I imagine someone will poll both these questions eventually. I think the numbers will vindicate me.

THE DADDY PARTY IS FRESH OUT OF DADDIES

I understand the conventional explanations for why CNN amended its rules to allow Carly Fiorina into the main Republican presidential debate later this month. Fiorina's gaining in the polls, and CNN's formula for inclusion in the main debate didn't take that into account. The GOP wants her there as a show of gender diversity. The GOP also wants her there because she attacks Hillary Clinton relentlessly.

I'm sure CNN and the GOP are thinking all that. But I also think The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty has a point:
In the enormous Republican field, she is the only one who has demonstrated anything that rivals the thrust-and-parry skills of front-runner Donald Trump -- another political outsider who comes from the business world. Trump dominated the main stage in Cleveland, in part because none of his rivals had any idea how to take him on....

In [the "undercard" debate in] Cleveland, she may have gotten off the best jab at Trump, even though she wasn't on the stage with him. Referring to a Washington Post report that former president Bill Clinton had called Trump while the New York real estate mogul was considering whether to run, Fiorina said: "I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn't. Maybe it's because I hadn't given money to the foundation or donated to his wife's Senate campaign."

The other candidates seem to recognize that someone has to take on Trump.
If the GOP pressured CNN to change the rules in part so that Fiorina can take on Trump, I think that's hilarious.

After all, we've been told for years that the Democratic Party is the soft, nurturing, liberal party of femininity and the GOP is the conservative, traditionalist party of manly men. We've been told that the Democratic Party is the Mommy Party and the GOP is the Daddy Party. And we've heard conservatives endlessly extol the virtues of masculinity, which they claim is under constant assault from liberals and Democrats, whose worldview is creating a race of mutant, unmanly men.

Thus we have Mona Charen at National Review writing about the passengers who recently prevented a terrorist attack on a European train:
There’s one more thing to be said of the heroes on the train. They were men. So-called “traditional masculinity” is a major target of feminists on college campuses and elsewhere. That, they teach, is what creates the “rape culture.” The Obama administration has joined in (naturally). A government website urges that colleges “Promote an understanding of the ways in which traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault and other forms of men’s violence against women.”

Men have been defamed and devalued in our society for decades. Their high spirits are punished in schools. Their natural protectiveness has been scorned as sexism.

The passengers on that French train are surely grateful that some manliness remains indominatable.
We have Fox's Brit Hume on Chris Christie, not long after the Bridgegate scandal broke:
When the Chris Christie bridge scandal erupted, Brit Hume, the Fox senior political analyst, said in Christie’s defense: “I would have to say that in this sort of feminized atmosphere in which we exist today, guys who are masculine and muscular like that in their private conduct, kind of old-fashioned tough guys, run some risks.”

He sought to clarify this way:

“By which I mean that men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like a kind of an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever. That’s the atmosphere in which he operates. This guy is very much an old-fashioned masculine, muscular guy, and there are political risks associated with that. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but that’s how it is.”
We have Peggy Noonan shortly after 9/11:
... men are back. A certain style of manliness is once again being honored and celebrated in our country since Sept. 11. You might say it suddenly emerged from the rubble of the past quarter century, and emerged when a certain kind of man came forth to get our great country out of the fix it was in.

I am speaking of masculine men, men who push things and pull things and haul things and build things, men who charge up the stairs in a hundred pounds of gear and tell everyone else where to go to be safe. Men who are welders, who do construction, men who are cops and firemen. They are all of them, one way or another, the men who put the fire out, the men who are digging the rubble out, and the men who will build whatever takes its place.

... when we killed John Wayne, you know who we were left with. We were left with John Wayne's friendly-antagonist sidekick in the old John Ford movies, Barry Fitzgerald. The small, nervous, gossiping neighborhood commentator Barry Fitzgerald, who wanted to talk about everything and do nothing.

This was not progress. It was not improvement.

I missed John Wayne.

But now I think ... he's back.
Conservatives love manly men. Conservative candidates have traditionally promised to be the manly men who will keep us safe from everything bad.

And now we have fifteen conservative men running against a bully named Donald Trump -- including Christie, a guy we were old for years was tough as nails. And yet the Daddy Party may believe a woman is the only person who might be able to back the bully down.

Hilarious, I tell you.

****

UPDATE: Peggy Noonan's shaky grasp of history is fact-checked in the comments. See comment #2, from Impolitics.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

DON'T GIVE DONALD TRUMP TOO MUCH CREDIT FOR ORIGINALITY

In a post titled "The Immigrant/Crime Nexus," Ed Kilgore suggests that Donald Trump introduced something new (and toxic) to our discussion of immigration:
As we should know by now, the immigration issues is not a discrete policy area isolated from others. For many years, opponents of increased immigration on both ends of the political and ideological spectrum have tied it to concerns about unemployment and wage stagnation. In 2014, we saw Republican candidates tie it to national security, with lurid images of ISIS terrorists crossing the Mexican border.

It should also be clear by now that Donald Trump’s big innovation is tying the immigration issue to a growing backlash against supposed tolerance for crime. His original attention grabbing explosion was about Mexico exporting its criminal element to the U.S. He jumped on the Kate Steinle case in San Francisco (the woman killed in an apparent crossfire shooting by a man previously deported five times) instantly and brought it up constantly. His comments suggesting that gangs of “illegals” were behind street protests against police around the country made the ride-the-backlash motive unmistakably clear.

Now Trump is really going medieval on the immigration-crime nexus (h/t MoJo’s Miles Johnson) with an Instagram video wherein Jeb Bush’s famous comment about some people breaking immigration laws to be with their families being an “act of love” voiced over images of three “illegals” charged with murder, and the tag line: “Forget love! It’s time to get tough!”
I take issue with the reference to "Donald Trump's big innovation" -- Trump isn't that clever or original. If there was an innovation here, it was his decision to link immigration to crime openly and unabashedly in a presidential campaign -- but apart from that, all he's done is talk about undocumented immigrants the way right-wingers have been talking about them for years.

Remember, the first crime attributed to an undocumented immigrant that was singled out by Trump wasn't the shooting of Kate Steinle -- it was the murder of Jamiel Shaw in 2008, for which an undocumented immigrant named Pedro Espinoza was convicted in 2012. Trump met with Shaw's father in July, after the elder Shaw praised Trump. But Trump didn't just intuitively grasp the potency of this issue on the right -- conservatives have been all over the Shaw story since the immediate aftermath of the murder, and Trump just talked about the issue the way they've always about it. (Scroll down here to see the number of Jamiel Shaw threads there were at Free Republic in '08; also see Michelle Malkin's site.)

And Trump wasn't the only Republican to see this as a vote-getting issue: In February of this years, not long after President Obama announced his executive action on immigration, House Republicans held an oversight hearing at which Shaw's father testified:
“My son, Jamiel Andre Shaw II, was murdered by a DREAMer, a DACA recipient, a child brought to this country by no fault of his own,” Mr. Shaw told Representative Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) while testifying before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee panel.
Of course, the murder took place during the last year of the Bush presidency, so Espinoza wasn't a DREAMer or a DACA recipient -- but this was a politically potent soundbite nonetheless, as House Republicans clearly understood.

Conservatives have been describing undocumented immigrants as criminals for years, and were ratcheting up this rhetoric just as Trump was making plans to enter the race. Here's just a sample of Breitbart headlines from the first half of this year:

* January 28, 2015: SHERIFF JOE: MEDIA IGNORING RETURN RATES ON CRIMINAL ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
* January 30, 2015: 1,000 CRIMINAL IMMIGRANTS RELEASED IN 2013 COMMITTED NEW CRIMES
* February 25, 2015: REP. JIM JORDAN SLAMS DHS SEC. FOR DECLINING TO TESTIFY WITH VICTIMS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT CRIME
* March 1, 2015: LEAKED REPORT: DEPORTED ILLEGAL ALIENS FREELY JUMP BORDER TO COMMIT CRIMES
* March 9, 2015: OVER 2,000 CRIMINAL ILLEGAL ALIENS ARRESTED IN NATIONWIDE BUST
* March 24, 2015: JUDICIAL WATCH: 165,900 CRIMINAL ALIENS INTO US POPULATION THROUGH APRIL 2014
* April 14, 2015: ICE DIRECTOR STRUGGLES TO EXPLAIN RELEASE OF THOUSANDS OF CRIMINAL IMMIGRANTS
* April 14, 2015: GOODLATTE: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION RESPONSIBLE FOR RELEASE OF THOUSANDS OF CRIMINAL IMMIGRANTS

Trump's not being original. It's just new that he's talking this way in a presidential race, where you're supposed to be on your best behavior.


IF HILLARY CLINTON WERE JUST ONE OF THE GUYS

In his latest column, David Brooks tries to explain why Hillary Clinton is having some trouble in the polls. One reason, he informs us, is that she has "an embattled combative posture, and sometimes an air of reactiveness."
In her campaign speeches she describes a political, economic and global world that is red in tooth and claw. The main traits required to survive in this struggle against the contemptible foes are tenacity, toughness and calculation. There is a pervasive us/them assumption in her speeches, and the need for armoring up. The defining verb in her political campaign is “fight.”

In speeches she is at her best when describing people who have been pushed to the wall by circumstances -- the single mom who is trying to find a way to pay for day care, the college student deluged with rising tuition costs. She can be quite funny in her speeches, but her humor is the humor of the counterattack -- mostly sarcastic humor aimed at Republicans, the press and her critics.
So that's why she's struggling?

Okay, read that passage again, but imagine that Brooks is describing Donald Trump rather than Hillary Clinton. Is there anything Brooks says about Clinton in what I've quoted that isn't more or less true of Trump? Doesn't he portray "a political, economic and global world that is red in tooth and claw" in which the requisite survival skills are "tenacity, toughness and calculation"? Isn't his humor "the humor of the counterattack -- mostly sarcastic humor aimed at Republicans, the press and ... critics"? Doesn't he champion "people who have been pushed to the wall by circumstances," or at least people whose family members have been the victims of crimes attributed to undocumented immigrants?

Look, there's obviously a big difference between the campaign styles of Trump and Clinton. Trump is a happy warrior; Clinton, this year, seems rather miserable on the trail. Trump has found his party's pleasure centers, whereas Clinton is still searching for what thrills her party. But Brooks says that an angry message and a dark view of the world are harmful to a campaign. And for Trump that's not true at all.

****

See also Rebecca Traister at New York magazine, on the subject of whether there's a double standard in the coverage of Clinton and Joe Biden:
Consider for a moment everything that we know to be problematic with Hillary Clinton’s candidacy:

She is regarded as a centrist Democrat. She is old. She is compromised on the right by her attachment to the Obama administration, compromised on the left by her relentless 2008 campaign against Obama, in which she deployed egregious rhetoric about “hardworking white people.” Clinton has been way too cozy with the financial industry, both in the Senate, wherein 2001 she voted for a bill that made it harder for consumers to declare bankruptcy (similar to one she’d urged her husband to veto back when she was First Lady) and more recently, when she, Bill, and Chelsea have accepted ginormous speaking fees from institutions to which no lawmaker -- let alone president -- should be beholden....

Just compare her to Joe Biden. Who is a centrist Democrat, older than Hillary by five years, and wholly enmeshed in the Obama administration. Biden also made appalling remarks during the 2008 race, calling Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.” As a senator from Delaware, home of the credit-card industry, he voted for several versions of the bankruptcy bill, in a period that overlapped with the years that his son Hunter was drawing a hefty consulting fee from financial-services behemoth MBNA, a company that was regularly among the biggest donors to Biden’s political races. Hunter Biden also works on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that has lobbied Congress in its efforts to help Ukraine become energy independent....
And yet Biden is getting lots of media love right now, while Clinton is getting next to none. Read the whole thing, especially what Traister writes about the overwhelmingly positive press treatment of Biden's relationship with Elizabeth Warren, which hasn't been much cozier over the years than Clinton's but sure has been treated that way of late in the press.

I don't deny Hillary Clinton's shortcomings as a candidate. But some of the things she does are seen as flawed because of who she is, not what she's doing.

CONFIRMED: DEMOCRATS SUCK AT MESSAGING

So it would appear that the Iran deal has the support of a majority of Americans:
A new survey of a representative sample of American voters showed that a majority of people want Congress to uphold the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

According to the survey from the University of Maryland, 55 percent of people said that Congress should get behind the agreement, despite some concerns.
Ahh, but:
The poll was conducted online, and the participants went through an in-depth process of listening to arguments from both sides. People were subjected to a detailed list of critiques of the agreement, followed by rebuttals to those arguments with reasons to get behind the deal.
Respondents to this poll got a thorough briefing on the deal, with a balance of arguments from both sides. Then they were asked to come down on one side or the other. Only then did they choose the deal.

By contrast, here's what's happening in the real America, where no attempt has been made to balance the pro and con arguments citizens are hearing:
Other recent polls, providing few details or specifics of the deal, have generally found Americans tenuous about the agreement and tilting toward opposition.

For example, 55 percent of voters opposed the deal in a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday -- more than double the 25 percent who supported it. A mid-August CNN-ORC poll found 56 percent saying Congress should reject the deal....
In the actually existing America, right-wing propagandists flooded the zone with tens of millions of dollars' worth of ads describing the Iran deal as the gateway to nuclear oblivion for the West, while proponents barely tried to combat the media blitz. And polls conducted in that real-world America show significant opposition to the deal.

I realize that the Obama administration was focused on what was necessary to preserve the deal, which was persuading enough Democrats in Congress to sustain a veto of a Republican bill rejecting the agreement. But that's left us with a nation that thinks the deal is a terrible idea -- just as we're heading into an election season in which Democrats are going to have to run on the president's record.

Democrats fought this propaganda battle as poorly as they fought the hearts-and-minds battle over Obamacare -- and we're still dealing with the fallout from that Democratic failure. Yes, Obamacare is in place, but it's unloved, and it may be unloved for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Democrats have been shellacked in two straight midterms, and they're likely to go into the next presidential election with a sitting president of their own party under 50% approval and a nominee (whoever it is) who's regarded with suspicion by even some voters in the party. At least there could have been some effort to sell the administration's last huge foreign policy accomplishment.

But we're Democrats. We don't do messaging.

Monday, August 31, 2015

CONSERVATIVES, WHY DO YOU HATE SARAH PALIN? (updated)

You've probably heard that Republicans, particularly from Ohio, have denounced President Obama for officially restoring Mount McKinley's original name, Denali. Conservative anger is quite strong on Twitter:




Never mind the fact that this is a popular move in Alaska, even among Republicans:



Hey, angry conservatives, do you know who calls the mountain Denali?

Sarah Palin.

She called it Denali in her 2009 gubernatorial resignation speech. Go to 1:25 in the clip:



And getting up here I say it is the best road trip in America soaring through nature's finest show. Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun.

Denali was also Palin's Secret Service codename during the 2008 election.

Angry conservatives, why do you hate Sarah Palin?

****

UPDATE: And since I'm getting some positive reactions to this on Twitter, I'll add it here.



WILL BEN CARSON BE THE ONE PERSON TRUMP CAN'T ATTACK?

There's yet another Iowa poll with Donald Trump and Ben Carson at the top -- but in this one they're tied:
Ben Carson and Donald Trump are tied at the top of the Republican field in a new survey of likely Iowa caucus-goers with 23 percent each, according to the results of a Monmouth University poll released Monday.

The good news continues for the retired neurosurgeon with his favorability ratings, as 81 percent said they view him favorably, compared to just 6 percent who do not....

Carson leads among Evangelical voters, earning 29 percent to Trump's 23 percent, while non-Evangelicals backed Trump with 24 percent, followed by Carson at 18 percent and Fiorina at 13 percent.
Here are the rankings -- which are quite ugly for Jeb Bush, as well as for former Evangelical favorite Mike Huckabee:
When Iowa Republicans are asked who they would support in their local caucus, Ben Carson (23%) and Donald Trump (23%) tie for the top spot. The next tier of candidates includes Carly Fiorina (10%) and Ted Cruz (9%), followed by Scott Walker (7%), Jeb Bush (5%), John Kasich (4%), Marco Rubio (4%), and Rand Paul (3%). The last two Iowa caucus victors, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, each garner 2% of the vote. None of the other six candidates included in the poll register more than 1% support.
So there may be a limit to Trump's dominance of the polls. Now, what does Trump do when he feels challenged? He lashes out in a crude and nasty way. So far, he's gotten away with every attack -- on John McCain, on Megyn Kelly, and so on. He's certainly not upsetting anyone by attacking Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. It seems as if he can get away with attacking anyone.

Now that Carson is threatening to take the lead from Trump, isn't Trump going to attack Carson, crudely and nastily? And what happens then?

I know that Republicans are awfully comfortable with racism -- send them an email forward with a bone Photoshopped through Obama's nose and they'll send it to ten more friends with the subject line HILARIOUS.

But they're awfully protective of black conservatives. They love Clarence Thomas and Allen West and Thomas Sowell and Mia Love. And Carson, although he severely criticized President Obama in that National Prayer Breakfast speech, is usually not in attack mode. He has a nice-guy image. My sense is that conservatives regard him as, well, saintly.

True, they didn't rally around Herman Cain four years ago. But it seemed clear that Cain was guilty of the behavior of which he was accused -- the National Restaurant Association, of which he was chief executive, paid money to one woman who accused him of harassment. and he acknowledged making payments to a woman who said she'd had a long extramarital affair with him.

Trump will probably attack Carson without provocation. He'll say Carson is "weak." He'll mock Carson's way of speaking or something Crson said. He'll say he's known some of the world's top surgeons -- brilliant doctors, he'll say, but otherwise they're not very bright. That's what Trump does.

I know that the safe bet is that Trump will get away with everything, but I'm not sure he'll get away with this. Too many white conservatives really like themselves for liking Carson. They wield their admiration for him as proof that they're not racist, no matter how many nasty things they say about Al Sharpton and the Obamas and Black Lives Matter. Trump's Teflon will probably hold, but Carson just might be Trump's nemesis.


WALKER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TRUMP. THEN TRUMP SHOWED UP.

Today in The Washington Post, Dan Balz and Jenna Johnson are asking, "What happened to Scott Walker?" They blame Walker's decline in the polls on his campaign's stumbles, as well as the rise of Donald Trump:
Walker’s backers see a campaign discombobulated by Trump’s booming popularity and by his provocative language on immigration, China and other issues. They see in Walker a candidate who -- in contrast to the discipline he showed in state races -- continues to commit unforced errors, either out of lack of preparation or in an attempt to grab for part of the flamboyant businessman’s following.
In the latter category are confused statements about immigration -- most recently, he's suggested that we might need a wall on the U.S.-Canada border.

Yeah, he's trying too hard. He's making mistakes. But he'd be struggling even if he were running a flawless campaign.

Walker was supposed to be Trump. Walker was the guy who was going to be smite all the people right-wingers hate. That's what he told them in that January speech in Iowa, the one that, as National Review's Michael Barone wrote at the time, catapulted him into the top tier:
Many activists in the crowd, but by no means all Iowa Republicans, knew that he had battled the public-employee unions in Wisconsin -- and that the Left, which prides itself on compassion and civility -- responded with riots and death threats and a June 2012 recall election. Walker won that contest as he had in 2010 and did again in 2014: three elections in four years in a state that has voted Democratic for president since 1988.

Walker had his applause lines down pat: We celebrate the Fourth of July, not the 15th of April; the safety net should be not a hammock but a trampoline. His emphasis was almost entirely on economic issues, but laced through his text were references that sounded offhand and authentic to family and faith.
Walker was going to crush unions, stop doling out so much government money to them, and get liberals squealing -- he knew how to beat us in elections. Wow! That's slaying a lot of enemies! But Trump has the base believing he can slay all the enemies:



Walker won three elections and hates everyone the base hates -- but Trump seems to hate everyone the base hates and he's a billionaire, which, to the base, means he has the necessary executive experience to do anything he wants to.

Walker isn't a D.C. politician, but Trump isn't a politician at all -- and Trump has now made GOP voters believe they can reject politics altogether in this election. That's helping Ben Carson to rise in the polls as well. Walker was supposed to be the Jesus-loving, soft-spoken Boy Scout who smites all the enemies with his righteous wrath, but voters who like the soft-spoken and God-bothering parts of that formula are gravitating toward Carson, while fans of pure smiting love Trump, who promises to do nothing but smite.

If Walker were what voters really wanted, he'd survive his campaign's awkward moments -- the multiple answers on the question of birthright citizenship, the claim that beating unions means he can beat ISIS. (When Trump claims he can crush ISIS, isn't he also saying you can count on him to triumph because in the past he's bested some foes in stateside wars of wills that are completely unlike geostrategy? And don't the voters nevertheless find him completely plausible?)

Voters liked Walker because he seemed like the best they could do. But now, with Trump (and Carson) they think they can destroy politics altogether. Walker just can't compete.

(Tweet via Paul Canning.)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

MAN WHO IS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING REPEATS PAST IDLE THREAT TO RUN FOR THE SENATE

Former CNBC host Larry Kudlow says he might launch a Senate campaign:
Conservative economist and media figure Larry Kudlow says he’s talked to national Republicans about running for Senate in Connecticut.

During an interview on his radio program with Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., over the weekend, Kudlow said he would mount a challenge to incumbent Sen. Richard Blumenthal if the Democrat supports the international agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
This is not the first time Kudlow has made such a threat. In 2009 he said he might run against Connecticut Senate Chris Dodd the following year. Dodd chose not to run, leaving an open seat, but Kudlow skipped the race. He also considered a run in 2010 in New York against Chuck Schumer, but he passed up that race as well. At the time, both Gawker and The New York Observer asserted that Roger Stone, the veteran Republican dirty trickster and sleazebag, was backing Kudlow.

Kudlow famously spent years predicting that the Great Recession wouldn't happen, and then asserting that it wouldn't really be that bad. This was a serious failing, considering that understanding economics and the financial markets was, y'know, his job. As Salon's Andrew Leonard noted, Kudlow was wrong about this as far back as 2005, when he wrote:
Homebuilders led the stock parade this week with a fantastic 11 percent gain. This is a group that hedge funds and bubbleheads love to hate. All the bond bears have been dead wrong in predicting sky-high mortgage rates . So have all the bubbleheads who expect housing-price crashes in Las Vegas or Naples, Florida, to bring down the consumer, the rest of the economy, and the entire stock market.
(Emphasis added.) I quote this because the sentence in bold is precisely what did happen.

The Huffington Post's Mark Nickolas gathered together some of the pronouncements Kudlow made as the markets were on the verge of imploding. A few highlights:
October 3, 2007:

The recession forecast is all but wiped out....

November 21, 2007:

Too much is being made of both the sub-prime credit problem and the housing downturn.

... It's just not that big a deal.

December 5, 2007:

The recession debate is over. It's not gonna happen. Time to move on.

December 6, 2007:

There ain’t no recession.

December 7, 2007:

There's no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It's not going to happen.... The Bush boom is alive and well. It's finishing up its sixth consecutive year with more to come. Yes, it's still the greatest story never told.

December 10, 2007:

This sort of fiscal and monetary coordination will continue the Bush boom for years to come. Though mainstream media outlets will never admit it, President Bush has kept America safe and prosperous.

February 5, 2008:

I'm going to bet that the economy will be rebounding sometime this summer, if not sooner. We are in a slow patch. That's all. It's nothing to get up in arms about.

April 7, 2008:

And let's also remember that recessions are therapeutic.... If anything, recessions make for clean starts.
And when he's not being wrong about the economy, he's wrong about politics. On August 1, 2008, a few weeks before John McCain announced the identity of his running mate, Kudlow wrote this:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has exactly the high energy, political toughness, and conservative reform message that would boost Sen. John McCain’s presidential run if Big Mac were to put her on the ticket.
After her convention speech, he wrote:
Sarah Palin shows us all that she is a superb communicator, which of course is so essential to a successful politician.... A Western frontier version of Thatcher? Gosh, does the Republican Party need her.

Watching her phenomenal communication skill, and her disciplined yet positive style, I can’t help but be optimistic.
Kudlow will probably go down in history as the only person ever to call Sarah Palin "disciplined."

Yeah, Connecticut GOP? You want to run this guy? A guy who even attacks the Pope when the Pope criticizes capitalism? Be my guest.

TRUMP: HE'LL BE YOUR MIRROR

So I'm looking at the op-eds in today's New York Times and I see that Ross Douthat, the reform conservative, thinks the deeper meaning of Donald Trump is that his candidacy could be a gateway to reform conservatism:
He won’t [win], of course, but it matters a great deal how he loses. In a healthy two-party system, the G.O.P. would treat Trump’s strange success as evidence that the party’s basic orientation may need to change substantially, so that it looks less like a tool of moneyed interests and more like a vehicle for middle American discontent.

In an unhealthy system, the kind I suspect we inhabit, the Republicans will find a way to crush Trump without adapting to his message. In which case the pressure the Donald has tapped will continue to build -- and when it bursts, the G.O.P. as we know it may go with it.
According to Douthat, if I'm reading this correctly, either Trump's candidacy will lead to Douthat-style reform of the GOP or it will lead to a crisis within the GOP that will destroy it -- and what will emerge from the ashes will be, I suppose, precisely the sort of reform Douthat likes.

That's Douthat seeing his own obsessions and hobbyhorses reflected in the Trump candidacy. What does Maureen Dowd see?
Trump is a manifestation of national disgust -- with the money that consumed politics, with the dysfunctional, artificial status quo and with the turgid return to a Bush-Clinton race, with a less adept Bush and Clinton.

“The prospect of Hillary and Jeb as the nominees created a huge opening for something like this,” said former W. strategist Matthew Dowd. “The American public looked at it and said, ‘I do not want that.’”

... Trump’s “gusto,” as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary.

Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics....
Dowd looks at Trump and sees ... a pathogen that contains a precise cocktail of antibodies to the things she hates most in the world, Clintonism and Bushism!

Why, it's almost as if both Dowd and Clinton Douthat are looking at Trump and seeing a reflection of themselves! Funny how that works.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

IS BEN CARSON GOING TO BE THE GOP NOMINEE IF TRUMP FALTERS?

Most people are going to focus on the Democratic results in the new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll of Iowa, which show Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by only 7 (though mostly because of positive feelings about Sanders rather than negative feelings about Clinton -- only 2% of Sanders supporters say their backing is primarly a rebuke to Clinton).

But I'm struck by the Republican results. Yes, Donald Trump still has a clear lead. But look who's gaining on him -- fast:



Yup, Ben Carson is only 5 points behind Trump -- and at 18%, he's 10 points ahead of the next two guys, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, who are at 8%. (Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are tied for fifth, at 6%.)

What's more, Carson has the highest favorable rating among Republicans, at 79%. (Trump's is now a healthy 61% -- so much for Trump being loved by a minority of Republicans and loathed by a majority, at least in Iowa. Jeb is at 45% favorable, 50% unfavorable.)

This is only of several recent GOP polls in which Carson has finished strong. He's second to Trump in the latest Quinnipiac national poll. He's second to Trump in the latest Monmouth poll of South Carolina. He's second to Walker in the latest Marquette poll of Wisconsin. He's second to Trump in the latest Public Policy Polling survey of North Carolina.

And in the new Hot Air/Survey Monkey national poll, Carson ties Jeb Bush for second place, behind Trump.

Which gets to ascenario a lot of people have been pondering: How would Trump do if the GOP race came down to two candidates? In that Hot Air survey, no one does better against Trump than Carson:
... we decided to test Trump’s performance at this point in head-to-head matchups against his Republican opponents, assuming the primary had come down to two choices. Among both Republicans and independents, Trump lost to Bush 47/53, Carson 42/58, Rubio 45/55, and Fiorina 46/54.... When restricted to only Republicans, Trump beat Bush 53/47, Rubio 52/48, and Fiorina 52/48, but still lost to Carson 48/52. Trump beat both Walker and Cruz in both scenarios.

The Trump-vs.-anti-Trump scenario that's been comforting GOP Establishmentarians relies on two assumptions: that 15 also-rans will drop out -- and that the remaining anti-Trump will be a safe, Establishment-friendly, electable candidate.

I don't know if Ben Carson fills that bill. He's not an obnoxious sexist blowhard like Trump, but he's the one other candidate in the race who seems as unqualified and ill-informed as Trump, and, in his quiet way, he says plenty of imprudent, outrageous things. Abortion is comparable to human sacrifice! Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery! President Obama acts like a psychopath! The Advance Placement history curriculum is so bad it would inspire students to sign up for ISIS!

Who's waiting to seize the GOP lead if Trump falters? Not Bush or Kasich or Rubio or Walker. This guy.

STOP EXPECTING EVANGELICALS TO REJECT TRUMP BECAUSE HE'S NOT MUCH OF A CHRISTIAN

Once again, the political mainstream is expecting something to sink Donald Trump's candidacy with a key group of supporters just because it would sink anyone else's candidacy with that same group of supporters. This time it's Trump's indifference to religion, which is presumed to be a dealbreaker for Trump's many evangelical fans:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he attends a church in Manhattan, but the church released a statement saying the real estate developer is not an "active member."

"I am Presbyterian Protestant. I go to Marble Collegiate Church," he told reporters in Greenville, S.C.

Marble Collegiate Church was founded in 1628 and is one of the oldest continuous Protestant denominations in the country. The church is part of the Reformed Church in America denomination and is on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan....

Following Trump's announcement, the church released a statement to CNN about his affiliation.

"Donald Trump has had a longstanding history with Marble Collegiate Church, where his parents were for years active members and one of his children was baptized. However, as he indicates, he is a Presbyterian, and is not an active member of Marble," the statement said.
This follows his refusal to name a favorite Bible verse in an interview with Mark Halperin.

(Veteran Bible-thumper Sarah Palin has declared that this question was unfair, in a Facebook post and in a TV interview with Trump, even though she has made a great show of discussing her own favorite Bible verse with interviewers.)

Let me explain why none of this is hurting Trump with evangelicals by posting one photo:



Do you get it? Right-wingers love American wars. They love the military. Yet they backed a president (and vice president) who'd avoided service during a war, then plunged us into two more wars, including one utterly unnecessary and outrageously foolhardy war of choice.

Right-wingers a decade ago didn't care that Bush and Cheney hadn't fought in Vietnam. Right-wingers propelled them to victory in 2004 against a guy who had fought and won medals. In fact, they mocked John Kerry's service.

So they don't really care about whether a candidate or elected official has lived in accordance with their values. What they want is a candidate or elected official who will use their values (or, frankly, use anything) as a club to beat the people they don't like -- Democrats, liberals, immigrants, Muslims.

At the peak of his popularity, George W. Bush did that -- he waged a war liberals opposed, and seemed to leave us speechless and sputtering with rage after he short-circuited the Iraqi inspections and attacked Iraq. And then he rubbed our faces in it with that plane landing and that flight suit.

Trump is attacking immigrants, insulting women, and generally being an obnoxious, ignorant boor whose attempts to BS his way through questions (about his faith and other subjects, including the details of his policies) are so easy to see through that we can't believe he's getting away with them. And yet he is. He's getting away with them in large part because the right can see he's left us angry and speechless.

But don't evangelicals care about God and faith? I'm not sure white right-wing Evangelicals in America really do care all that much. For many of them, Christianity is mostly a club they use to beat Godless liberals, the less fortunate, and non-Christians. What the faith seems to affirm for them more than anything else is the sense that humanity is divided into the good and the purely evil, and life's main task is to sort everyone into these two categories, and render appropriate punishments on the latter. This worldview isn't limited to God's judgment in the afterlife -- it extends to life on earth, which is why right-wing Evangelicals despise government efforts to aid anyone other than themselves and their kind (the "deserving").

So, in a way, Trump is embodying religion as they understand it when he threatens to round up and wall out immigrants, or bomb Muslims and seize Middle Eastern oil. He's taking things from the undeserving and giving them to the deserving. Isn't that what Christian conservatives think Jesus wants?

*****

UPDATE: There's a lot more on this subject at the Mahablog.

Friday, August 28, 2015

TRUMP'S NEW PAL ONCE ARGUED THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA SLIPPED AN ISLAMIC CRESCENT INTO A GOVERNMENT LOGO

Talking Points Memo reports:
A think tank founded by a notorious anti-Muslim activist is planning to co-sponsor an upcoming rally against the Iran deal headlined by Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump.

Cruz and Trump announced Thursday that they were planning the joint event to voice their opposition to a landmark agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program. Tea Party Patriots, the Center for Security Policy and the far-right Zionist Organization of America were expected to sponsor the rally, which is scheduled for Sept. 9 on Capitol Hill, according to The Washington Post.

The Center for Security Policy is an anti-Muslim think tank founded by former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney, who often speaks about the threat of creeping Sharia law and has accused Republican and Democratic officials alike of being Muslim Brotherhood plants in the U.S.
Yup, and in 2010, when President Obama's policies on missile defense and other issues weren't bellicose enough for his tastes, Gaffney declared at Breitbart that he'd discovered a persuasive theory about the relative lack of saber-rattling:
Now, thanks to an astute observation by Christopher Logan of the Logans Warning blog, we have another possible explanation for behavior that -- in the face of rapidly growing threats posed by North Korean, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and others’ ballistic missiles -- can only be described as treacherous and malfeasant: Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte. They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.

What could be code-breaking evidence of the latter explanation is to be found in the newly-disclosed redesign of the Missile Defense Agency logo.... As Logan helpfully shows, the new MDA shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.
Gaffney cites this post at the Logan's Warning blog. The following is the "evidence" laid out in that post:
Here is the old [Missile Defense Agency] logo.



Here is the Obama campaign logo.



Here is the Islamic crescent.



Here is the hybrid.



Any questions?
Yes, Gaffney found that persuasive. That's Trump's new pal. Can Pam Geller be far behind?

LET'S BAN THE BEATLES, BECAUSE CHARLES MANSON

Right-wingers want to ban the rainbow flag, and are scapegoating calls for racial justice, all because Vester Lee Flanagan, a mentally ill black gay man, murdered two white people this week. But it's clear that Flanagan was not in his right mind, and had a habit of perceiving insults that weren't there, as the New York Post reports:
The words are a part of everyday conversation -- “swinging” by an address and going out in the “field.”

But in the twisted mind of Virginia gunman Vester Lee Flanagan II, they were pure racism -- and saying them became a death sentence for Alison Parker.

The 24-year-old white reporter, who was murdered on live TV along with her cameraman, used the phrases as an intern at ­WDBJ TV in Roanoke in 2012, according to an internal complaint filed by Flanagan, who was black.

“One was something about ‘swinging’ by some place; the other was out in the ‘field,’ ” said the Jan. 21 report by assistant news director Greg Baldwin, which refers to Parker as Alison Bailey (her middle name)....

Trevor Fair, a 33-year-old cameraman at WDBJ for six years, said that the words Parker used are commonplace but that they would routinely set Flanagan off.

“We would say stuff like, ‘The reporter’s out in the field.’ And he would look at us and say, ‘What are you saying, cotton fields? That’s racist,’ ” Fair recounted.

“We’d be like, ‘What?’ We all know what that means, but he took it as cotton fields, and therefore we’re all racists.”
So, according to the right, I guess we have to ban all calls for social justice -- just as, I suppose, we should have banned all calls for social transformation or racial justice, or simply banned all Beatle records, after the Charles Manson murders:



So if Manson misinterpreted a double album's worth of songs -- though he more or less correctly interpreted "Piggies," which was about greed -- and the result was murder, then I guess we should have banned the whole Beatle canon. Right?

NO, PEGGY NOONAN, DONALD TRUMP IS NOT GOING TO WIN THE HISPANIC VOTE

Nobody believes Donald Trump's claim that he can actually win the Hispanic vote in 2016, right? Donald Trump doesn't even believe it. When he says that, he's just blowing smoke.

Peggy Noonan believes it.

Or at least she believes that Trump can make serious inroads among Hispanics. Her evidence? Primarily, secondhand reports from her deli guy about one Spanish-language radio show in New York:
Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!”

“He’s the man,” Cesar said of Mr. Trump. This week I went by and Cesar told me that after Mr. Trump threw Univision’s well-known anchor and immigration activist, Jorge Ramos, out of an Iowa news conference on Tuesday evening, the “El Vacilón” hosts again threw open the phone lines the following morning and were again surprised that the majority of callers backed not Mr. Ramos but Mr. Trump. Cesar, who I should probably note sees me, I sense, as a very nice establishment person who needs to get with the new reality, was delighted.

I said: Cesar, you’re supposed to be offended by Trump, he said Mexico is sending over criminals, he has been unfriendly, you’re an immigrant. Cesar shook his head: No, you have it wrong. Immigrants, he said, don’t like illegal immigration, and they’re with Mr. Trump on anchor babies. “They are coming in from other countries to give birth to take advantage of the system. We are saying that! When you come to this country, you pledge loyalty to the country that opened the doors to help you.”
Did this happen? Were the callers on this show largely pro-Trump? I'll take Noonan's word for it. But when you look at New York Hispanics by place of origin, you see that they're not representative of U.S. Hispanics overall. Even though the numbers are changing, there are nearly twice as many Dominicans as Mexicans here, and there are more than twice as many Puerto Ricans as Mexicans. And remember that the members of that biggest group, Puerto Ricans, aren't immigrants -- they're U.S. citizens. Maybe that skewed the opinions on the radio show Noonan didn't actually listen to. Or maybe affection for Trump is just boosterism for a fellow New Yorker, a guy with a shared local attitude.

But by contrast with New York, the national Hispanic population is 64% Mexican in origin. Now, remind me: Which specific Hispanic group has Trump repeatedly and viciously insulted? And what did that recent Gallup poll say?

Peggy?
It is noted that a poll this week said Hispanics are very much not for Donald Trump. Gallup had 65% with an unfavorable view of him, and only 14% favorable.
There's a pretty close match between the unfavorable percentage and the Mexican-origin percentage, wouldn't you say?

But Noonan still believes in magic. She puts faith in a poll Trump invoked in his confrontation with Ramos:
Mr. Trump and Mr. Ramos actually got into that, when Mr. Ramos finally questioned him after being allowed back into the news conference. Mr. Trump countered with a recent Nevada poll that has him with a state lead of 28% -- and he scored even higher with Nevada’s Hispanics, who gave him 31% support.
Okay, let's take a look at that poll:
WASHINGTON, July 16, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- One America News Network, "OAN", a credible source for 24/7 national and international news, released today its most recent 2016 Republican and Democratic Presidential Polling Results for Nevada conducted by Gravis Marketing. The results show that GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump has a commanding lead of 27.7%, with recently announced Presidential Candidate Scott Walker in second with 15%. In third is Ben Carson with 7.8% with Jeb Bush a point behind at 6.8%. Marco Rubio rounds out the top five with 5.4%. Undecided voters remain high at just over 20%.

With polled Hispanics, Presidential Candidate Trump received 31.4%, higher than his overall performance of 27.7%.
So Trump didn't score "higher with Nevada’s Hispanics" -- according to this poll, he scored higher with Nevada's Hispanic Republicans. According to an analysis of the 2014 midterms by the firm Latino Decisions, fewer than 20 percent of Hispanics in Nevada identify as Republicans. (More than half identify as Democrats.)

The poll Trump and Noonan are citing was conducted by Gravis Marketing -- a much-maligned company (Fivethirtyeight rating for the pollster: C) that was once called "the worst poll in America" by Dave Weigel (although the company did have a run of good polls in the fall of 2014). The survey was conducted for One America News, an upstart conservative cable news channel (created in collaboration with The Washington Times) that (as National Journal puts it) "is positioning itself to be the next Fox News." It recently hired Sarah Palin to guest-host one of its political talk shows; earlier this year, another on-air host questioned the gender of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren:
At [February]'s Conservative Political Action Conference, a 22-year-old woman named Tomi Lahren walked out on the stage and generated the most memorable sound bite from the conference....

In her speech, Lahren -- who hosts a right-leaning talk show on the little-known cable channel One America News Network -- said there is a misconception among young voters that the GOP is populated by "old, rich, white males," and turned that criticism on the Left.

"Let's look at the top three Democrats for 2016," Lahren said. "You've got Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden. Old, rich, white, and if the pantsuit fits ... male too?"
So forgive me if I don't think Trump is going to sweep the Hispanic vote on the basis of this, um, evidence.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RIGHT-WINGERS NOTICE POLL RESPONDENTS BAD-MOUTHING DEMOCRATIC FRONT-RUNNER, IGNORE RESPONSE TO GOP FRONT-RUNNER

It's being reported that a new Quinnipiac poll has Donald Trump expanding his lead over the rest of the Republican field, while Hillary Clinton's lead has shrunk somewhat. But that's not what right-wingers seem to have noticed most about the poll.

* Hot Air's Jazz Shaw: "Uh oh. New poll shows first word people associate with Hillary Clinton is 'Liar'"

* Breitbart: POLL: ‘LIAR’ TOPS LIST OF 50 WORDS AMERICANS USED TO DESCRIBE HILLARY CLINTON

* Warner Todd Huston at John Hawkins' Right Wing News: "POLL: Americans Say the One Word That Best Describes Hillary Clinton is ‘Liar’"

So let's look at the poll. What they're all talking about is a free-association question: "What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Hillary Clinton?" Top three answers:

* liar
* dishonest
* untrustworthy

Hmmm, not so great. But let's consider the GOP front-runner: "What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?" Top three answers:

* arrogant
* blowhard
* idiot

In other words: A pox on both your houses.

Oh, and despite inroads made by Joe Biden, Clinton still leads the nomination contest by 23 points, and still beats every Republican rival she's polled against. So there's that.

OUR PAL THE HATCHETMAN

In honor of his birthday, veteran Republican dirty trickster (and, now, Trump backer) Roger Stone gets a puff piece in the Styles section of today's New York Times:



He also gets delighted best wishes from good pals at NBC, Politico, and the Times:






Yes, it's wonderful when political operatives and the media have such a cozy relationship! Especially politically operatives like this guy:
Notorious Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone has launched a 527 political organization called Citizens United Not Timid (aka CUNT) to educate the public about “what Hillary Clinton really is.” The organization’s sole purpose? To sell $25 T-shirts emblazoned with the organization’s charming name and its red, white and blue logo.



That, from the 2008 campaign, is just one highlight of a career that goes all the way back to Watergate. Ending the career of New York governor Eliot Spitzer was another, as was a subsequent threateningphone call he made to Spitzer's father ("you will be arrested and brought to Albany - and there's not a goddamn thing your phony, psycho piece of s--- son can do about it") while working for New York state Senate president Joe Bruno (now a convicted felon). And then there was this:
The capstone of Stone’s career, at least in terms of results, was the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House.
And possibly this:
Some pointed the finger at him as having a role in the scandal over forged documents related to George W. Bush that were the undoing of Dan Rather. But Mr. Stone denied any involvement.
But, y'know, he's an insider, and he's good copy, so his boon companions in the media don't hold him at arm's length. To them, he's a good pal. Ain't politics grand?

THEY HELD US DOWN AND FORCED US TO FAVORITE THAT MURDER VIDEO

I posted this on Twitter when we first learned about Vester Lee Flanagan's murder video:



As I predicted, National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke has called the killing "America's first social media murde,r" and the New York Times editorial board has lamented that "the outlet provided by social media appears to have whetted" the killer's "murderous appetites." But no one has fretted like Farhad Manjoo of the Times, who believes that we literally have no control over our own reactions to what's on the Internet:
... unlike previous televised deaths, these were not merely broadcast, but widely and virally distributed, playing out with the complicity of thousands, perhaps millions, of social networking users who could not help watching and sharing.

The horror was the dawning realization, as the video spread across the networks, that the killer had anticipated the moves -- that he had been counting on the mechanics of these services and on our inability to resist passing on what he had posted. For many, that realization came too late. On these services, the killer knew, you often hit retweet, like or share before you realize just quite what you have done.
(Emphasis added.)

Really? I admit I watched both the unedited broadcast version of the shooting and the killer's video, but I didn't go into a fugue state and wake up an hour later having retweeted and favorited the clips a dozen times with no memory of having done so. That seems to be how Manjoo thinks we act when we witness violence on viral video, but I think we have a bit more self-control than that.

Manjoo goes on to write:
There was uncertainty in the sharing. Users expressed reservations as they passed on the gunman’s profile and his tweets. People were calling on Twitter and Facebook to act quickly to pull down his accounts. There were questions about the journalistic ethics of posting WDBJ’s live shot and the killer’s own document of the shooting....
Well, yes, exactly. There wasn't an uncontrollable wave of mindless, compulsive voyeurism -- if anything, the public cried out for suppression of the videos.

But that doesn't comfort Manjoo:
Over the course of 20 minutes on Twitter, the shooter updated his status a half-dozen times, culminating in a post showing the video of the killings. He quickly amassed a following of thousands, the sort of rapturous social media welcoming that is usually reserved for pop stars and heads of state.
Wait -- I follow a lot of people I don't like or admire on Twitter. I follow Donald Trump and Michelle Malkin and Michele Bachmann and Mark Levin and David Brooks and Judy Miller and Joe the Plumber, and that's just off the top of my head. After the Charleston shootings, I started following the Council of Conservative Citizens. I'm hate-following these people. What's wrong with that, apart from what it might do to my blood pressure? I want to know what these SOBs are up to. Is that so wrong? (And since when is having "a following of thousands," rather than hundreds of thousands or millions, particularly impressive on social media?)

If you've ever seen a wreck on the highway and not looked, you're a better person than I am. That's not the same thing as having an ongoing prurient obsession with violence. It's just that something extraordinary has happened, and it's an understandable human impulse to want to comprehend the event.

I agree with Manjoo that self-produced videos are likely to become a regrettable feature of future murders:
The videos got out widely, forging a new path for nihilists to gain a moment in the media spotlight: an example that, given its success at garnering wide publicity, will most likely be followed by others.
But I think ISIS has already made that inevitable, as has modern technology's ease of use. What the cynic in me thinks is also likely to happen is that we'll simply become bored with murder videos, the way we've become bored with gun violence in general -- within a decade there'll probably be a murder video a week uploaded to Facebook and Twitter or their future equivalents, and we'll pay attention only to the ones that are exceptional in some way. Which gets back to our real problem: the fact that we'll never deal with the level of violence we have in America, which is a much more important issue than the fact that we're interested in learning more when a particularly striking crime happens.