Category Archives: The Nation

Did Trump just head-fake us into looking the wrong way?

The main narrative the last couple of days is that Donald Trump has essentially delivered the coup de grâce to his moribund campaign.

By demoting Paul Manafort — the guy who was trying to get him to run a serious political campaign and reach beyond his base of Trumpkins — and elevating the man from Bretbart, Trump was “doubling down,” betting it all that the loudmouthed nativist, populist approach that won the primaries for him was the way to go from now to Election Day.

And that, says conventional wisdom, means it’s all over for Donald J. Trump. His campaign is finished. Liberal pundits are celebrating the inevitable.

But what if he’s faking them — all of us — out? What if he’s getting us all to look in one direction — at the disarray in his campaign, underlined this morning with Manafort’s resignation — while he moves in a wholly new direction, one that could lead to victory?

After all, while everyone’s focusing in horror on Breitbart’s Stephen K. Bannon, the new campaign manager is in fact GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, who is more someone you might characterize as the pro from Dover — someone who can read the numbers and knows how to speak to women, which Trump could use help with, to say the least.

Look away, for a moment, from the apparent train wreck of the Trump campaign, and see what he’s actually doing out there on the campaign trail.

Look at what happened Thursday night: “At a rally in North Carolina, Trump gave a speech that was the sort of speech that presidential candidates give, not the sort that Donald Trump gives.” It involved a teleprompter. It involved sticking to script. It involved doing those things that Manafort had been trying to get him to do, and which supposedly, he just decided to utterly reject.

And this was not just a one-time thing: “Thursday marked Trump’s third teleprompter speech since Monday, a departure from his typically free-wheeling campaign rallies.”

So he has head-faked in one direction — “Let Trump be Trump” — while his body has moved in the direction that offers his only chance of winning the election.

Perhaps most telling of all, in that speech Thursday night just up the road in Charlotte, he did the unthinkable, by Trumpian standards:

CHARLOTTE — Donald Trump on Thursday expressed regret over causing “personal pain” through ill-chosen words he has used “in the heat of debate,” an unexpected and uncharacteristic declaration of remorse for a candidate whose public persona is defined by his combative and bombastic style…

Don’t believe it? See the video above.

This shift has not gone unnoticed by every player on the court. Philip Bump of The Washington Post has picked up on it. To quote more fully from a piece I quoted partially above:

On Thursday night, 106 days since his last opponent dropped out of the Republican primaries, 28 days since he accepted the nomination and 82 days until Election Day, Donald Trump started running for president.

This is sort of an exaggeration, but only sort of. At a rally in North Carolina, Trump gave a speech that was the sort of speech that presidential candidates give, not the sort that Donald Trump gives. Speeches are one of the three ways that Trump gets himself into trouble (the other two being interviews and Twitter) so let’s not get too crazy assuming that Thursday-night-Trump is here to stay. But just in case he is, it’s worth planting a flag on where the race was when this change (however fleeting!) was made….

As Mr. Bump notes, if this is the start of a Trump comeback, he has a long, long way to climb.

But still. Must give us pause. And maybe we should stop focusing so much on the inside-baseball stuff, obsessing about what’s happening in the front office, and notice what’s actually happening out there in the game

regret

Allegations against this Sheriff Arpaio guy

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia.

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia.

Speaking of Trump supporters… I don’t know this Sheriff Arpaio guy from Adam’s off ox, but this release from the state Democratic Party at least lets me know what is allegedly wrong with him.

Consider the source all you like, but it’s quite a list:

SCDP STATEMENT ON JEFF DUNCAN AND MICK MULVANEY HONORING RACIST SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO
Columbia, SC – The South Carolina Democratic Party released the following statement today on the announcement by Rep. Jeff Duncan that racist Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio will be a “special guest,” alongside Rep. Mick Mulvaney, at Duncan’s Faith & Freedom BBQ next Monday in Anderson:
“The fact that Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney would honor a racist and sexist bigot like Joe Arpaio is disgusting, but given their support of a racist and sexist bigot like Donald Trump for president, it is not surprising.
“Pasted below is a list of 10 of Joe Arpaio’s policies, taken from a 2012 article by Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress based on a U.S. Department of Justice legal complaint.  We are interested in hearing which of these policies Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney believe are appropriate.”
1. Forcing Women To Sleep In Their Own Menstrual Blood: In Arpaio’s jails, “female Latino LEP prisoners have been denied basic sanitary items. In some instances, female Latino LEP prisoners have been forced to remain with sheets or pants soiled from menstruation because of MCSO’s failure to ensure that detention officers provide language assistance in such circumstances.”

2. Assaulting Pregnant Women: “[A]n MCSO officer stopped a Latina woman – a citizen of the United States and five months pregnant at the time – as she pulled into her driveway. After she exited her car, the officer then insisted that she sit on the hood of the car. When she refused, the officer grabbed her arms, pulled them behind her back, and slammed her, stomach first, into the vehicle three times. He then dragged her to the patrol car and shoved her into the backseat. He left her in the patrol car for approximately 30 minutes without air conditioning. The MCSO officer ultimately issued a citation for failure to provide identification.”

3. Stalking Latino Women: “In another instance, during a crime suppression operation, two MCSO officers followed a Latina woman, a citizen of the United States, for a quarter of a mile to her home. The officers did not turn on their emergency lights, but insisted that the woman remain in her car when she attempted to exit the car and enter her home. The officers’ stated reasons for approaching the woman was a non-functioning license plate light. When the woman attempted to enter her home, the officers used force to take her to the ground, kneed her in the back, and handcuffed her. The woman was then taken to an MCSO substation, cited for ‘disorderly conduct,’ and returned home. The disorderly conduct citation was subsequently dismissed.”

4. Criminalizing Being A Latino: “During raids, [Arpaio’s Criminal Enforcement Squad] typically seizes all Latinos present, whether they are listed on the warrant or not. For example, in one raid CES had a search warrant for 67 people, yet 109 people were detained. Fifty-nine people were arrested and 50 held for several hours before they were released. Those detained, but not on the warrant, were seized because they were Latino and present at the time of the raid. No legal justification existed for their detention.”

5. Criminalizing Living Next To The Wrong People: “[D]uring a raid of a house suspected of containing human smugglers and their victims . . . officers went to an adjacent house, which was occupied by a Latino family. The officers entered the adjacent house and searched it, without a warrant and without the residents’ knowing consent. Although they found no evidence of criminal activity, after the search was over, the officers zip-tied the residents, a Latino man, a legal permanent resident of the United States, and his 12-year-old Latino son, a citizen of the United States, and required them to sit on the sidewalk for more than one hour, along with approximately 10 persons who had been seized from the target house, before being released”

6. Ignoring Rape: Because of Arpaio’s obsessive focus on “low-level immigration offenses” his officers failed “to adequately respond to reports of sexual violence, including allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse of girls.”

7. Widespread Use Of Racial Slurs: “MCSO personnel responsible for prisoners held in MCSO jails routinely direct racial slurs toward Latino prisoners, including calling Latino prisoners ‘paisas,’ ‘wetbacks,’ ‘Mexican bitches,’ ‘fucking Mexicans,’ and ‘stupid Mexicans.’”

8. Widespread Racial Profiling: “[I]n the southwest portion of the County, the study found that Latino drivers are almost four times more likely to be stopped by MCSO officers than non-Latino drivers engaged in similar conduct. . . . In the northwest portion of the County, the study found that Latino drivers are over seven times more likely to be stopped by MCSO officers than non-Latino drivers engaged in similar conduct. . . . Most strikingly, in the northeast portion of the County, the study found that Latino drivers are nearly nine times more likely to be stopped by MCSO officers than non-Latino drivers engaged in similar conduct.”

9. Random, Unlawful Detention Of Latinos: “MCSO officers stopped a car carrying four Latino men, although the car was not violating any traffic laws. The MCSO officers ordered the men out of the car, zip-tied them, and made them sit on the curb for an hour before releasing all of them. The only reason given for the stop was that the men’s car ‘was a little low,’ which is not a criminal or traffic violation.”

10. Group Punishments For Latinos: “In some instances, when a Latino [Low English Proficiency] prisoner has been unable to understand commands given in English, MCSO detention officers have put an entire area of the jail in lockdown—effectively preventing all the prisoners in that area from accessing a number of privileges because of the Latino LEP prisoner’s inability to understand English, inciting hostility toward the LEP prisoner, and potentially placing MCSO officers and other prisoners in harm’s way.”

###

Do you think critics have been too rough on Trump voters?

trump_ghp_fayetteville_(1)

An image from the Trump campaign website of a rally in Fayetteville. Who’s to blame — Trump, or all those thousands cheering him?

William McGurn, writing in The Wall Street Journal today, thinks critics on the left and right have been excessively mean to “Trumpkins,” the people who have inflicted Donald Trump upon us.

Says he:

In the land of NeverTrump, it turns out one American is more reviled than Donald Trump. This would be the Donald Trump voter.

Lincoln famously described government as of, by, and for the people. Even so, the people are now getting a hard lesson about what happens when they reject the advice of their betters and go with a nominee of their own choosing. What happens is an outpouring of condescension and contempt….

Start with the fondness for the word “Trumpkin,” meant at once to describe and demean his supporters. Or consider an article fromNational Review, which describes a “vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles” and whose members find that “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin.” Scarcely a day goes by without a fresh tweet or article taking the same tone, an echo of the old Washington Post slur against evangelicals as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.”…

Sure, plenty of dismissiveness has been directed at the Trump voter. Many a critic has written or said something along the lines of, “We blame Trump too much; we let those who voted for him off the hook.”

I’ve seen that; you’ve seen that.

But on the whole, those who say that are more in the right of it than Mr. McGurn, I think. Those of us who are appalled by Trump pile on him day in and day out. He’s a big guy, a billionaire tycoon; he can take it — right? (Except, of course, that he can’t — we may never have seen a more thin-skinned presidential nominee.)

And while there is the occasional slap at his supporters, by and large, we don’t seem to blame them as much as we have their candidate. There’s good reason for this — most of us have an aversion for going after “the people” themselves, even when we’re just talking about a minority subset of the people. In out secular religion, it seems impious to blame them. We’re supposed to mumble about their economic dislocation and other things that allegedly give them an excuse for what they’re doing.

Well, I don’t buy that. I’ve been more economically dislocated than most — the average Trump voter easily has a higher income than I currently do — yet I have not lost my freaking mind and joined a movement to elect a fascist blowhard to the highest office in the world.

So I really don’t buy the idea that Trump voters have it so hard that it’s worth doing something like this to the country. In fact, no amount of hardship is worth that. But that’s not really what it’s about, is it? It’s about the fact that a lot of people actually like the nasty, spiteful, ignorant, clueless things that he says.

And remember — without the people voting for him, and telling pollsters they’d do so again in November, Donald Trump would still be the joke he was a little over a year ago, and no kind of threat to our country.

So I appreciate that Mr. McGurn is taking a swipe at elitist snobbery and all that. I’m not for calling anyone names or otherwise hurling insults. But we should not for a moment regard Trump voters as blameless. They’re the reason we’re in this mess.

Lord, what fools these liberals be!

Hey, my liberal friends, it’s Shakespeare! And I couldn’t resist.

Besides, the particular liberals in question were asking for it.

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Some of us, deeply concerned about the possibility of Donald Trump becoming president and wanting to save the country (and the world) from that fate, were pleased when that group of 50 heavyweight GOP policy types came out and said that Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” and “would be the most reckless President in American history.”

We were more pleased when some of those same GOP policymakers and others went the next step and declared for Hillary Clinton — since voting for her is the only way to stop Trump.

Any sensible person would be pleased — particularly, one would think, the liberal Democrats who would want to see Hillary win no matter who her opponent was.

But no. Check this piece in the Post this morning headlined, “Clinton’s Republican outreach a step too far for already suspicious liberals.”

Sheesh. Double sheesh.

Ideologues will be the death of the country.

Apparently, these hammerheads would rather see Hillary Clinton lose — and Trump win — than have her win by appealing to independents and Republicans. It’s more important to them that she slavishly agree with them than that she have a chance of winning.

And yes, I’m even more dismissive of their concerns because unlike them, I am pleased that Hillary Clinton is the closest thing to a Scoop Jackson still extant in the Democratic party. What pleases me appalls them.

But that’s no excuse. There is no excuse for trying to pull Hillary back from courting and receiving the support she needs to stop Donald Trump. And I can’t respect anyone doing that.

I’ve had it with these “suspicious liberals.” It’s best for all of us — Democrats, Republicans and independents — that they be neither seen nor heard from until this election is over. But who can persuade them of that?

Graham, McCain on Trump and the Khans

Khan

OK, vacation’s over and I’m back in the saddle, and we are in mid-outrage over the latest deeply offensive nonsense from Donald Trump. And, as is so often the case, the most pointed criticism is coming from leading members of the party that nominated him week before last for POTUS:

Already, the party’s leaders in the House and the Senate have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks, and other Republican figures are attacking their nominee forcefully.
Sen. John McCain issue a very personal statement Mondaay blasting Trump’s comments about the Khans and paying homage to their son Humayun’s sacrifice. McCain noted that his son also served in the Iraq War and the McCains have been serving in the US military for hundreds of years.

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.

“Lastly, I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said in a statement: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen. There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”

“If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t,” Graham said. “The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”…

As I noted last week (you’ll recall that I did spend most of my evenings blogging despite being on holiday, because I’m just that kinda guy), a lot of the Democratic Convention consisted of fare and themes we normally get from the Republicans — upbeat “Morning in America” patriotism, appeals to fundamental, traditional American values and the like.

Which has to be eating at Sens. McCain and Graham almost as much as anything else. Their values used to be what their party was all about. In recent years, that’s been changing, as ideological loonies have been squeezing them out. It was happening already in 2008, which is why I wrote this column, “Give me that old-time conservatism.” In 2012, the “base” (can an insurgency be called “the base?” Oh, yeah, I guess it can) reluctantly settled for the sane Mitt Romney after spending much of the primary season flitting from one extreme to another.

And this year, of course, it went screaming off the rails, which is why people such as McCain, Graham, Romney, John Kasich and the Bushes did not attend their party’s convention.

Just this one more night, and we’re done! Live-Tweeting Hillary

night 4 crowd

Boy, I could have done with having this convention some other week, when I’m not trying to have vacation. But them’s the breaks.

Here’s hoping I like Hillary Clinton’s speech better than I did this one back in 2008.

First step, please don’t say you’re going to “fight” for me. I hate that.

Another thing I hope she doesn’t do is talk like this is all a Democrats-vs.-Republicans thing, partisan business as usual. She knows better. The picture she must paint is one that reflects the reality that we’re facing: A choice between her, a fairly conventional center-left politician with very good credentials. (Not “the best ever,” as some would have it — she can’t beat a G.H.W. Bush or an Eisenhower — but very, very good.)

No, she has to reach out to independents like me, because she needs every one of us. She needs to reach out to all those Republicans out there who are deeply disturbed at what has seized their party’s nomination, and unfortunately have a problem with voting for her — a sort of Hillary Derangement Syndrome.

That takes some mighty reaching — stretching that might challenge Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man. But she needs to do it. The country needs her to do it.

As David Brooks said a moment ago, her party has done a decent job seizing the ground that the GOP abandoned last week — the role of the patriotic party, the Morning in America party, even in a sense the culturally conservative party, in terms of embracing traditional American values.

She needs to close the deal. We’ll see.

If the internet keeps working — it’s been on and off today where I am — you’ll see my Tweets more or less in real time below, in the comments. If you just can’t wait a few seconds for them to show up here, here’s my Twitter feed

WashPost gets it exactly right: ‘Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy’

That’s one of the best, clearest headlines I’ve read on an editorial in a while. It states the case cleanly and well.

I’ll just quote the first graf:

DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew….

That is a wonderfully well-crafted bit of truth-telling, and every word of it is skilfully back up, in 13 more paragraphs that are just as good. You should go read the whole thing.

I continue to be astounded that some Democrats as well as Republicans are falling into the usual patterns of thinking this is a normal election, and that normal voting patterns should apply. Democrats speak in terms of Republicans ALL being as bad as Trump, and some perhaps worse. Republicans say he may be no gem, but he’s certainly no worse than Hillary Clinton, if not better.

They are all tragically, grotesquely wrong, and this editorial clearly states why.

The point of it is the same I’ve been making here about the unique horror that Trump represents.

Please read it, and take what it says to heart.

Khris Khristie’s Kangaroo Kourt

CHRISTIE TWO

I didn’t watch a whole lot of last night’s RNC festivities, because… Well, I can only take so much of any party’s convention these days, with all the morally and intellectually offensive blackguarding of the opposition, which tends to lower my opinion of the human race.

And I got a headache.

The last straw, for me, was Chris Christie saying, essentially, Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we play lynch mob, and I whip y’all up to condemn Hillary Clinton?

His excuse was that he’s a former federal prosecutor, so this ostensibly would be an appropriate format for a speech from him. But the fact that he has been an officer of the court is what makes what he did so shameful. As though this were a proper way of finding someone guilty of something. On national television.

The call-and-response in which the mob had the role of roaring “GUILTY!” on cue was… wearying… to watch.

Alexandra Petri tried to have fun with it, and bless her for attempting to lighten things up:

Then Chris Christie took the stage. Christie had honed his speaking style in Salem, 1692, and he opened by announcing that he had seen Goody Clinton with the Devil. (Well, to be fair, he did not literally say that Clinton was in league with Satan, but this restraint on his part was unnecessary, as a few minutes later Ben Carson did.) “Let’s do something fun tonight,” Christie suggested: specifically, hold a mock trial of Clinton. The crowd loved this idea and began chanting “Guilty!” when prompted. Given that much of the convention so far has been dedicated to blaming her for the deaths of Americans (“I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” said Pat Smith) and intentionally sabotaging our prestige in the world, this felt like the logical, fun next step. “How do you live with your own conscience when you reward a domestic terrorist with continued safety and betray the family of [a] fallen police officer waiting for decades for justice for his murder?” Christie asked, to give you a sample. “Hillary Clinton, as coddler of the brutal Castro brothers and betrayer of the family of fallen Trooper Werner Foerster: guilty or not guilty?” “GUILTY!” the crowd shouted.

If the speech had gone on any longer, Christie would have brought out an effigy of Clinton to see if it weighed the same as a duck, then handed out torches on which you could still see the “TRUMP­CHRISTIE” logo that had been hastily scratched out and replaced with “TRUMP­PENCE.”

Yes, this is the party of hope and fresh ideas, the one shouting, “GUILTY!” and “LOCK HER UP!” as it holds a mock trial of its opponent in absentia….

Yep, all that was missing was Christie saying, “She turned me into a Newt!

Anyway, I’ve been busy today, so I thought I’d put up something new for y’all to post comments on.

But I didn’t enjoy it.

Life will be more pleasant when both of these conventions are over. I hope.

I suppose I’ll have to watch the Cruz speech tonight. But I’d rather be watching another episode of “Vikings,” which I did after turning away from Christie last night.

The discussions are on a higher plane, and if someone gets tiresome, our hero bashes his head in or heaves a spear into him. It doesn’t go on and on…

And did I mention it has vikings in it?

Tears and flapdoodle: Thoughts on the convention last night

Trump entrance

You might think, “Wow, that Brad Warthen sure is slow on the uptake, just getting to the first night of the Republican National Convention now…”

Except… I wrote and wrote and wrote about it — 25 Tweets or so, plus side interactions here and there — in real time. And when I gave up on it at about 11, staying up to write a blog post saying all that stuff again just didn’t seem sensible to me. A guy can stand only much fun, you know.

But there needs to be a place for us to discuss it on the blog, so here…

Let’s start with this:

That phrase came from the chapter in which the low-rent professional frauds Huck knows as the King and the Duke have assumed the identities of the long-lost brothers of a man who has just died, leaving an estate that they hope to get their hands on. An excerpt:

Well, by and by the king he gets up and comes forward a little, and works himself up and slobbers out a speech, all full of tears and flapdoodle about its being a sore trial for him and his poor brother to lose the diseased, and to miss seeing diseased alive after the long journey of four thousand mile, but it’s a trial that’s sweetened and sanctified to us by this dear sympathy and these holy tears, and so he thanks them out of his heart and out of his brother’s heart, because out of their mouths they can’t, words being too weak and cold, and all that kind of rot and slush, till it was just sickening; and then he blubbers out a pious goody-goody Amen, and turns himself loose and goes to crying fit to bust….

Now here’s where you tell me how heartless I am for dismissing the grief of people who got up before the convention and poured out their hearts before the assemblage. But I’m not. I feel for them. I’m just asking, as I tend to do under such circumstances, what that has to do with public policy.

Take, if you will, the woman whose son died at Benghazi, who blames Hillary Clinton for it even though numerous exhaustive investigations have in no way supported such an accusation.

I’m going to digress now…

I was reminded of a panel I was once asked to participate in, the subject being the Iraq War. This was maybe a dozen years ago. I knew I’d be in a roomful of people who disagreed with me 100 percent, but that comes with the territory. I did NOT know that the organizers had arranged to ambush me with the mother of a soldier who had died in Iraq.

Which, although I was totally polite about it, ticked me off. These folks seemed to think that they had trumped everything I might say by having this poor lady stand up and speak of her grief. I don’t know what they expected me to do in response — toss my notes in the air and cry, I had no idea! Oh my God, obviously, I was wrong all along?

I’m not trying to have another debate about Iraq here. My point is this: If her son had died playing a critical role in a conflict everyone agreed was necessary — say, if he’d been the first guy to set foot on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 — then he’d still be dead, and she would still be, quite understandably, inconsolable. She would be every bit as deserving of our sympathy. On the other hand, let’s assume that Bud, Doug, Phillip and Brett Bursey were all right about Iraq and I was completely wrong — that would be still true even if her son had come home alive and whole and was thriving today. Her grief therefore was not proof of anything; it did not constitute an argument. It was just what it was, a horrible, excruciating void.

Back to last night… The terrible pain experienced by that woman, and by the man who said his son was killed by illegal immigrants (he was one of three, I believe), is a real and true thing that we must respect and stand in awe of — and to the extent we can ease their pain, we should do that.

But that pain should not be the basis for making policy decisions. Or deciding for whom to vote. Because the fact that this lady, in her grief, blames Hillary Clinton does not negate the fact that there’s no reason to think she’s right, despite the fervid efforts of Republicans to find such reasons. And the fact that at least one illegal immigrant — or three — was a killer in no way demonstrates that the rest are, or that a wall needs to be built. It seems silly to have to point these things out.

And yet those are the positions that these grieving people’s testimony was there to support. Their testimony was intended to prove the rightness of what Donald Trump says — something that works with people who only think with their emotions.

And that sort of exploitation of honest grief is obscene. It’s deeply wrong to use those people so, and it’s even worse to use such tawdry means to seize supreme executive power in the world’s greatest nation.

Oh, by the way, in case you’re confused — those honest, grieving people are not Huck’s “king” in my comparison. They are the Wilks girls, crying honest tears at the loss of their father. Trump is the “king.” And as Huck says of the scene, “I never see anything so disgusting.”

See, this is why I wasn’t up to elaborating on my Tweets last night. It took me almost 900 words to explain that one.

But let’s touch on some other highlights and lowlights from last night, before we go:

  • Rudy Giuliani was the highlight — an actual Made Man in the GOP, passionately singing Trump’s praises. That did Trump more good than anything, although how a Man of Respect could say such things about such a huckster left me amazed. Of course, as the official Establishment speaker of the night (OK, there was Sessions, too, but he was less impressive), he helped illustrate how far the Establishment has moved in my adult lifetime. Remember him tearing into the media for saying bad things about his boy Donald? Once, that sort of thing would have been left to an outlier like Spiro Agnew, nattering about the nabobs of negativity. Now, it’s mainstream.
  • Poor Melania Trump was so nervous that he had my sympathy, and I was relieved with her when it was over. She had had such a buildup — Corey Lewandowski had told us ahead of time that she was a really intelligent, capable person. After all, he said with a straight face, she had “had a career… as a model.” Others were less sympathetic. You know how those awful media people just ruin everything by citing facts? Nicholas Kristof noted that the assertion that Donald Trump “is intensely loyal… he will never let you down” came from, ahem, his third wife… I’m not even going to go into the plagiarism thing; I’ll leave that to y’all.
  • I missed what had to be the nadir of the night — the soap opera actor/underwear model who shared his expert opinions with the nation. And who later said he’s “absolutely sure” Barack Obama is a Muslim. Of course he is — why else would he be there?

That’s enough. There’s another whole night of this tonight. Tune in on Twitter

Who cares who Trump’s running mate is?

I got a bit irked at a Tweet from Lindsey Graham last night:

I should have said, “as the senator well knows.” Lindsey Graham, more than any other Republican with the possible exception of Ben Sasse or Mitt Romney, has eloquently articulated the reasons why Trump is unthinkable.

So why this ridiculous reaching for straws to make him feel better about the ticket? The most wonderful running mate in the history of the world wouldn’t change the fact that if elected, he or she would hold an office worth no more than a bucket of warm spit, while He Who Should Not be Named would be President of the United States.

Such an effort to find good things to say about the ticket on the part of Republicans who know better is unseemly in the extreme.

The identity of the running mate is a distraction, a digression, and no one who knows what a threat Donald Trump is to the nation should indulge in it for an instant.Mike Pence

By the way, Trump confirmed a few moments ago that the individual in question is Mike Pence, governor of Indiana.

Like I care.

OK, I’ll say one thing about him: I have a low opinion of anyone who would abandon the people of Indiana to help Donald Trump get elected. That cancels pretty much anything positive he might conceivably bring with him…

Krauthammer’s onto something re Comey’s motivation

comey testify

 

Charles Krauthammer says he thinks he understands why FBI Director Comey recommended that Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted, despite findings of illegality — and it doesn’t fit the usual GOP conspiracy theories.

In fact, it’s remarkably like what I said earlier in the week. Says Krauthammer:

The usual answer is that the Clintons are treated by a different standard. Only little people pay. They are too well-connected, too well-protected to be treated like everybody else.

Alternatively, the explanation lies with Comey: He gave in to implicit political pressure, the desire to please those in power.

Certainly plausible, but given Comey’s reputation for probity and given that he holds a 10-year appointment, I’d suggest a third line of reasoning.

When Chief Justice John Roberts used a tortured, logic-defying argument to uphold Obamacare, he was subjected to similar accusations of bad faith. My view was that, as guardian of the Supreme Court’s public standing, he thought the issue too momentous — and the implications for the country too large — to hinge on a decision of the court. Especially afterBush v. Gore, Roberts wanted to keep the court from overturning the political branches on so monumental a piece of social legislation.

I would suggest that Comey’s thinking, whether conscious or not, was similar: He did not want the FBI director to end up as the arbiter of the 2016 presidential election. If Clinton were not a presumptive presidential nominee but simply a retired secretary of state, he might well have made a different recommendation…

I think there’s something to that. This was a judgment call, and all sorts of factors go into judgments.

As I said before, there’s a point at which it is simply not in the national interest to reach back in time and use criminal statutes to punish those with whom one disagrees. Example: There are lots of folks who’ve always hated Tony Blair because of Iraq who now want to seem him prosecuted for it, just as there were Democrats who wanted to go back and prosecute people in the Bush administration once Obama took office (a proposition that Obama wisely dismissed).

Yep, I believe firmly in the rule of law, in the importance of having a country that is no respecter of persons. But in some cases, respect for the overall good of the country overrides consideration of the legal fate of an individual.

Comey had a judgment call to make, and he chose the less harmful option.

And if you don’t like it, remember that it was just a recommendation. It did not legally bind anyone. What he said was one man’s opinion (and also the unanimous opinion of those taking part in the FBI investigation — the opinions of professionals, not partisans). And I find his opinion defensible, even laudable.

OK, now THIS was news: FBI chief recommends ‘no charges’ on Clinton email

CmnGXr5WEAAZrzI

Seconds after I posted wonder why the chattering classes went ape over Hillary Clinton’s weekend interview with the FBI, actual news was made on that front.

Here’s how I characterized what FBI Director James B. Comey had to say:

We’ll continue to argue over her judgment in setting up and using the private server. We will rightly be concerned over the potential for hostile governments and private actors to have obtained access to classified material, thanks to her carelessness.

But there will almost certainly be no indictment, unless federal prosecutors completely disregard the recommendation of the FBI.

Which could happen, but which seems unlikely.

I’m guessing that those pundits who said the FBI interview was part of a terrible week for Clinton will now be touting this as a big win. And this time, they’ll be right.

Explain to me how FBI interview exacerbated Hillary’s problem

On the way to the beach Saturday, I had my phone off my hip, plugged into the car and sitting perched on the ashtray pulled out from the dashboard. My wife, who insists on continuing to use a flip phone and is not accustomed to such distractions, kept picking it up to look at it when a tone would announce a news alert.

There were some bulletin-worthy items, such as the death of Elie Wiesel and the arrest of Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah on domestic violence charges. But one puzzled her:

FBI

Why, she wondered, was that interesting enough to bother people with? I couldn’t really answer that, since I thought the same thing. It was a turn of the screw in an ongoing process, very much dog-bites-man. Maybe you take note of it in the course of the day’s news; it might even have its own headline. But even in this bulletin-mad era we lived in, it was hardly worth asking people to stop what they’re doing to read about it.

Others seemed to disagree. In fact, it was treated like some major blow to the Clinton campaign, on a level with Bill “It’s All About Me” Clinton’s idiotic tête-à-tête with the attorney general.

As The Washington Post said,

Hillary Clinton’s weekend interview with the FBI stands as a perfect symbol of what is probably her biggest liability heading into the fall election: A lot of people say they don’t trust her.

Clinton sat for an interview of more than three hours as part of a Justice Department investigation into the privately owned email system she operated off the books when she was secretary of state. The timing — less than three weeks before she will claim the Democratic presidential nomination — is an attempt to make the best of a situation that would look bad for any candidate but is particularly damaging for Clinton.

That the interview at FBI headquarters was voluntary does not expunge the whiff of suspicion surrounding the entire email affair that, for many voters, confirms a long-held view that Clinton shades the truth or plays by her own rules….

OK, y’all, explain to me why this was a big deal, or any kind of a deal. If she had refused to be interviewed, that would be news. If they interviewed her and learned something new and told us about it, that, too, would be news. But this? How is it more than a take-note-of-in-the-name-of-transparency thing?

We knew the FBI was investigating Hillary’s emails. They’ve been doing so forever. That’s why it was a big deal that Bill chatted with the AG.

The FBI interviews the subjects of investigations. I mean, right? Why wouldn’t they? It’s not like the headline was “FBI interviews Clinton and decides to charge her.” That would definitely be bulletin-worthy, because it would mean that it’s even more likely that a neofascist will occupy the White House. It would be more than news. It would be history. And not the good kind…

Wexit: George Will leaves Republican Party

Here’s how complicated the world is, how it resists pat explanations…

Every other pundit in the Anglosphere is writing about how Brexit is the result of the same political forces that gave us Trump. It’s widely accepted as axiomatic.

Meanwhile, George F. Will is writing about how wonderful, how salutary, Brexit is, calling it “Britain’s welcome revival of nationhood.”

And yet George Will has staged his own exit — from the Republican Party. Over Trump:

Conservative columnist George Will has left the Republican Party over its presumptive nomination of Donald Trump.George Will

Will, who writes a column for The Washington Post, spoke about his decision Friday at an event for the Federalist Society in Washington.

“This is not my party,” he told the audience, the news site PJ Media first reported.

Speaking with The Post, Will said that he changed his voter registration from “Republican” to “unaffiliated” several weeks ago, the day after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) endorsed Trump.

Will did not say which presidential candidate he will be supporting instead….

He added that it was too late for the GOP to nominate someone other than Trump. Instead, he said, Republican voters should just “make sure he loses,” then “grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

About that sit-in over guns by Democrats in the U.S. House…

ClkNZfVXEAIQsYn

Twitter photo from U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle.

This is my day for going to awards ceremonies. I’m about to go to The State to see Cindi Scoppe get the Gonzales Award.

But while I’m gone, y’all should talk amongst yourselves about the Democrats’ sit-in over guns in the U.S. House.

Here’s what the president thinks:

What do y’all think?

HOW many guys are passing the new Marine fitness test?

'The fitness test? You can't HANDLE the fitness test!'

‘The fitness test? You can’t HANDLE the fitness test!’

I don’t intend to get into the underlying issue of women in the infantry — I’ve intended to ever since that mandate came down from civilian leadership, but I just haven’t felt up to the huge and predictable argument that would lead to — but in reading this I felt motivated to make some remarks on general fitness in the Marines:

New physical standards established so women can compete for combat posts in the Marine Corps have weeded out many of the female hopefuls. But they’re also disqualifying some men, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

In the last five months, 6 out of 7 female recruits – and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits – failed to pass the new regimen of pull-ups, ammunition-can lifts, a 3-mile run and combat maneuvers required to move on in training for combat jobs, according to the data.USMC-logo2

The tests, taken about 45 days into basic training, force recruits who fail into other, less physically demanding Marine jobs. And that, the Marine commandant says, is making the Corps stronger.

The high failure rate for women, however, raises questions about how well integration can work, including in Marine infantry units where troops routinely slog for miles carrying packs weighed down with artillery shells and ammunition, and at any moment must be able to scale walls, dig in and fight in close combat.

The new standards are a product of the Pentagon’s decision to allow women to compete for frontline jobs, including infantry, artillery and other combat posts. But Marine leaders say they are having a broader impact by screening out less physically powerful Marines – both men and women.

“I think that’s made everybody better,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the AP in his first in-depth interview on the subject. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”…

I have a series of reactions to this:

  • These new standards are only eliminating 40 out of 1,500 male recruits? That doesn’t sound like the Marines to me. They’re supposed to be the few, not the 1,460 out of 1,500. Were the ratios always like this? If so, that sort of tarnishes the image I have in my head of the Marines as an elite force. Even the Army, at the very height of WWII, was rejecting a third of draftees. I really that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but still — wouldn’t you think more Marine recruits than that would wash out, if standards were what they should be?
  • Assuming for a moment that we’re all in agreement that women should be in foxholes, I don’t think we have any reason to look at 6 out of 7 women washing out of an elite light infantry unit as bad news. Seems to me that the best argument always advanced for letting women in is that we should treat people like individuals — that we shouldn’t say, just because most women lack, say, the upper body strength to keep up with male Marines, that all women should categorically be barred. Shouldn’t we make exceptions for, say, the Lady Briennes of Tarth among us? That always seemed a good argument to me. (I,for one, would not want to be the officer deputed to tell Lady Brienne she was out, especially since Ser Jaime let her keep that Valyrian steel sword). Besides, if six women don’t make it, the more honor to the seventh.
  • What happened to the notion of “every Marine a rifleman?” Should Marines keep the feathermerchants who can’t pass a test that 97 percent of male recruits can pass? What’s this about “other, less physically demanding Marine jobs?” When did the Marines start offering such jobs? I’ve always known the Army had places for the less fit — or at least they did in the days of the draft, when things like food service weren’t outsourced to civilian contractors and you could always put a sad sack to work peeling spuds or policing the area for butts — but since when is that an aspect of the Marines? They’re the point of the spear, are they not? Let the swabbies do the paperwork, right? Every marine is a rifleman.

I should probably stop there before I offend the Air Force, too.

But when I hear that almost all male recruits can pass the new physical requirements, it makes me think that even I, at my age, might have a shot. And I really like to think of the Marines as having higher standards than that…

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

What sort of person rushes out to buy the weapon used in a mass shooting?

FILE -- In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. While the guns look similar, the bottom version is illegal in California because of its quick reload capabilities. Omar Mateen used an AR-15 that he purchased legally when he killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub over the weekend President Barack Obama and other gun control advocates have repeatedly called for reinstating a federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004, but have been thwarted by Republicans in Congress. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,file)

This is not a post about Constitutional rights or about what sorts of laws we have or don’t have or should or shouldn’t have.

This is about the marketplace. And frankly, there’s apparently something pretty disturbing going on in the marketplace right now.

This morning on public radio, I heard a representative of a gun store say they are currently selling weapons like the one used in the Orlando massacre at a very brisk rate. That is, people are buying more of them in an hour than the store normally sells in a couple of days. Usually, he said, they sell three or four a day. Now, they’re leaping off the shelves or racks at a rate of about 10 an hour, and more than that over lunch hour.

Of course, these weapons have been very popular for years, even as we’ve had one mass murder after another using them.

I have to ask: “What sort of person sees a certain kind of weapon used in something like the Orlando massacre, and thinks to himself “I’ve gotta HAVE me one of those!“?

What goes on in such a person’s head?

Now my gun-loving friends will say, this is just a rational response to talk about once again banning such weapons — red-blooded folk want to get out there and purchase the rifle they’ve meant to get for years before it’s banned.

I’m sure it does work that way with some. But I have to ask a followup question — what is the rational reason why someone wants one? What is the circumstance that this person anticipates that calls for a large-magazine, rapid-fire weapon? Do they expect to be attacked by a herd of deer? Are they preparing for the zombie apocalypse (if so, I recommend they take a cue from Daryl Dixon and obtain a quieter weapon)?

What scenarios call for a weapon ideally suited for a target-rich environment of human beings? What normal circumstance can’t be dealt with with a bolt- or lever-action rifle, or a semi-automatic that uses five-round magazines?

What sort of nails does one drive with such a hammer? And what are the psychological processes that cause someone to want to shell out several hundred dollars for such a tool?

We’ve seen these things grow in popularity the more mass murders they are involved in. Am I wrong to see that phenomenon as kind of sick, and if so, why?

Apparently, Hillary is more ‘with it’ than I am

CkZqglTW0AI7gjr

I saw the reporting on this Tweet from Hillary Clinton, in reply to Donald Trump:

… and I was like, “Yeah, OK. So?” To me, it seemed to be an extremely unimaginative response, smacking slightly of authoritarianism (as though Hillary had, along with winning the nomination, just been named Hall Monitor of Twitter).

Apparently, it’s a thing, and the kids loved it:

Can we get you some ice for that burn, Donald?

Hillary Clinton shut down presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday with a simple, three-word tweet to end all beefs.

Clinton’s tweet — repurposing a well-known and beloved Internet meme — was in response to Trump’s reaction that President Barack Obama had endorsed Clinton (his former Secretary of State) for the 2016 election. …

Well, the fact that that lame response was “a well-known and beloved internet meme” was entirely news to me, so I followed the link to the alleged best uses of the meme ever.

And you know what? Each of those struck me as just as flat and uninteresting and blah as when Hillary used it. To much-younger Twitter-users, though, it is the distilled essence of wit, or so I’m told.

Huh. They don’t ask for much, do they?

But even if the first thousand or so uses of the line were just high-larious (which I doubt, but let’s just say they were), it still shows a lack of imagination for Hillary to use it instead of coming up with something original.

And as “burns” go, it seems decidedly tepid.

But as I say, apparently the kids loved it, and isn’t that the point when you’re Hillary, and desperate for some of that juice that Bernie has with the young?

The reaction she’s gotten probably has the Democrat just hugging herself, saying, “I’m with it. I’m groovy. I’m fab. I’m a hepcat. 23 skidoo…”

Paul Ryan’s capitulation has eroded his ability to reason

screengrab

I like this screengrab from a video put out by the Speaker’s office because it looks like the lady is thinking, “Wait! What did he just say?”

Reading The Washington Post this morning, I saw that some of the nation’s top Lippmans (to borrow a term from Heinlein) were really pounding House Speaker Paul Ryan, which was fine by me because I can hardly think of anyone who more richly deserves it after his abject surrender to Donald Trump last week.

Richard Cohen’s column was headlined “Paul Ryan’s profile in cowardice,” and the body text reflected the hed. An excerpt:

What I know about Ryan is that he could not be proud of endorsing Trump. He shouldn’t be. Trump will not respect him for his acquiescence (he’ll call him a loser), and neither will anyone else. Ryan puts his legislative agenda above his own principles and the good name of the country so someday he could say, yes, Trump got us into a ruinous trade war but I trimmed a bit off the Affordable Care Act….

But that was hugs and kisses compared to the way George F. Will crushed the subject. It began like this:

The Caligulan malice with which Donald Trump administered Paul Ryan’s degradation is an object lesson in the price of abject capitulation to power. This episode should be studied as a clinical case of a particular Washington myopia — the ability of career politicians to convince themselves that they and their agendas are of supreme importance.

The pornographic politics of Trump’s presidential campaign, which was preceded by decades of ignorant bile (about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and much else), have not exhausted Trump’s eagerness to plumb new depths of destructiveness. Herewith the remarkably brief timeline of the breaking of Ryan to Trump’s saddle….

And continued in the same strong vein. While his purpose is to chop up Ryan into little pieces, he manages to eviscerate Trump on his backswing. Caligulan malice… pornographic politics…

Nicely done, sir.

Then he further grinds Ryan down with contempt for the magic beans he sold his integrity for, ending with a final, slashing description of Trump:

All supposedly will be redeemed by the House agenda. So, assume, fancifully, that in 2017 this agenda emerges intact from a House not yet proved able to pass 12 appropriations bills. Assume, too, that Republicans still control the Senate and can persuade enough Democrats to push the House agenda over the 60-vote threshold. Now, for some really strenuous assuming: Assume that whatever semblance of the House agenda that reaches President Trump’s desk is more important than keeping this impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man from being at that desk….

Tell it, Brother George!

But then, I had no sooner finished reading these pieces and sharing them via Twitter than this came to my attention:

So, I thought: The man has a spine after all.

I read on to see that he had also said that what Trump had said about the judge fit “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

All right, then, I thought — the man has awakened from his zombie-like state. He is repudiating last week’s contemptible capitulation.

But no. Turns out that he still manages a complicated backflip and says he’s still supporting the racist who says indefensible things.

About what Trump said, Ryan said:

“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “But do I think Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.”

Who, pray tell, aside from aging members of the Democratic establishment and the Identity Politics warriors who think it’s highly meaningful that she is a woman, thinks Hillary Clinton is “the answer,” in the sense that Neo was “the One?”

She’s not “the answer.” But the fact is, she’s all we’ve got between us and Trump, and as Will suggested, there is no mere political consideration “more important than keeping this impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man from being at that desk.”

Also, Mr. Ryan, examine your words. If Trump is, indeed, “absolutely unacceptable” — and he is — then you have no choice! You have to do all you can that is lawful and moral, even things that might be deeply distasteful to you, to stop him. Because the unacceptability is absolute! (And don’t tell me he just meant the words and not Trump. A president who goes around saying things that are “absolutely unacceptable” is himself just as unthinkable.)

Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase what the Godfather said to Sonny, I think your brain is going soft from all that comedy you’re playing with that buffoon. When Ryan threw aside the interests of the country to preserve his prerogatives in a job he didn’t want in the first place, his ability to reason abandoned him along with his honor.

Will Bernie Sanders have the grace to bow out?

fist 2

I doubt it. What we’ve seen up to now doesn’t point to that.

Sure, we’ve seen plenty of tough primary races in the past, followed by the losers lining up loyally behind the nominee for the general election. Hillary Clinton is the model for that. After hanging on, fighting Barack Obama every inch of the way for longer than seemed (to me, at the time) reasonable, she got with the program and followed him faithfully, with the proverbial salute stapled to her forehead.

That’s the norm.

But there is nothing normal about this situation, starting with Bernie himself.

For one thing, he isn’t a Democrat. Never has been, never will be. He’s not a guy to do the standard thing of lining up behind his party’s nominee for the simple reason that it’s not his party.

Next, do you seem him opting to back down to fight another day? Can you see Bernie, at his age, realistically having an opportunity to run again eight years from now — when he’s 82? No, of course not. And neither can he.

Also, he really, truly thinks he ought to be president, as unlikely as that seems to someone with my centrist perspective. He doesn’t think it’s an outlandish idea. In fact, he believes, he would be president, or at least the nominee, if the system weren’t “rigged” against him. He looks in the mirror and sees a POTUS. He really does.

Finally, there are his followers, whose expectations are at least as unrealistic as his own. They, egged on by him, had an absolute cow when The Washington Post (and others) reported the fact that Hillary had it wrapped up mathematically. (They are so furious about it that, if Sanders wins New Jersey and California today, it will likely be in part because his supporters’ ire toward the facts.) These folks will not be satisfied with, “Well, we gave it a good go and did better than anyone expected, and we got a hearing for our issues.”

Normally, at this point in a campaign (especially if he loses California today, although even winning there won’t get him the nomination), the candidate stands up and says he’s quitting and throws his support to the winner, and his supporters start to boo — we’ve seen this scene a thousand times — and he says no, no, his opponent is worthy and won fair and square and now it’s time for us to get behind her and win the election.

But this isn’t “normally.” There’s every indication that Bernie Sanders is in no way inclined to do something like that.

Why does this matter, especially to someone with an UnParty perspective? Well, to use that word again, normally it wouldn’t. Normally the Republicans would have nominated a normal human being, and the country wouldn’t be in danger from what George Will describes as an “impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man” who practices “pornographic politics” with “Caligulan malice.” (Will came back from England just full of beans — that was one of the best columns he’s written in years.)

All that matters now, for anyone who cares about this country and can see straight — regardless of such petty considerations as party — is stopping Trump.

But Bernie Sanders has indicated that he is unconcerned about that, and will do whatever he can to hobble Trump’s opponent for as long as possible.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Sanders loses tonight, and plays out the usual graceful loser scene, and calms and redirects his impassioned followers.

But I’m not very optimistic about it at the moment.

He's not going to play the loyal Democrat because he's never been a Democrat.

He’s not going to play the loyal Democrat because he’s never been a Democrat.