A quick trip through the alternate reality that dittoheads mistake for the real thing

Yesterday, I hit the “source” button on my car stereo to switch from Elvis Costello’s “Green Shirt” back to FM, but only hit it once instead of twice, so it first stopped on AM — which I never listen to.

And there was Rush Limbaugh, whose voice I hadn’t heard since Robert Ariail used to play the show in the background while drawing his cartoons. And I decided to pause there, and listen.

This afforded me a glimpse into the alternative reality inhabited by Donald Trump and his supporters.

First, Limbaugh told about the early days of his career when he was first gaining notoriety, and he was so innocent as to think media people were honestly interested in learning about him — before he “wised up” and learned the truth (in the Trumpian sense of “truth”), which was that they all had an agenda and were out to get him.

He spoke of something that commonly happens in interviews — he would say something, then immediately realize that that wasn’t exactly what he meant, and ask to be allowed to rephrase it. At which point, he says, the reporter would say No way: This is what you said, and I’m not going to let you edit the story to suit you.

Yep, that happens. There are reporters who think journalism is some sort of contest conducted under rigid rules that are not subject to personal judgment, and one must never put the source in the driver’s seat, allowing him to control what goes into the paper. That’s collusion.

And they have a point, to some extent. For instance, I would not have allowed Richland County Sheriff Allen Sloan to “take back” what he said to one of The State‘s reporters in that infamous 1989 interview about crime at Columbia Mall. That was a situation of a public figure saying something that was shockingly revealing of his character (even if it was a very bad joke, it was revealing), and not to be papered over.

But in an everyday interview with someone who sincerely edits himself by saying, “That’s not exactly what I meant,” of course I allow him to rephrase it any way he wants. You know why? Because I want to know what he really thinks. It’s not rocket science. And a reporter with half a brain should be able to tell the difference between a source sincerely trying to express himself better and someone trying to manipulate. But you have to use judgment. It’s not black and white.

Anyway, back to Limbaugh. So he had some bad experiences with reporters who probably didn’t trust him any more than he did them — or any more than he does now, since he says he hadn’t wised up yet in those days.

Rush’s point in telling that story was to set up the Wikileaks “revelation” that New York Times Magazine‘s Mark Leibovich emailed a Hillary Clinton staffer to get permission to use some quotes from an interview with the former secretary of state.

Or, as Breitbart would have it (since I was driving and not writing down what Rush said):

The New York Times allowed the Clinton Campaign to pick and choose what parts of an interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton would be used in an article titled, “Re-Re-Re-Reintroducing Hillary Clinton,” the Wikileaks release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails have revealed.

The Clinton campaign vetoed nearly the entire interview, but even in the portions they did approve for publication, they had Mark Leibovich edit out a mention of Sarah Palin, apparently at Hillary’s personal request.

“My apologies for the delay. I finally had to get her in person,” Clinton Campaign Communication Director Jennifer Palmieri replies to Leibovich, implying that she had to wait to talk to Hillary about what parts of the interview they would allow being used. “Fine to use the moose, but appreciate leaving the mention of Sarah Palin out.”…

The email exchange (Wikileaks Podesta Email 4213) between Palmieri and New York Times writer Mark Leibovich was forwarded to John Podesta by Palmieri in July 2015. Leibovich sends a transcript from the portions of his interview with Hillary that he would like to use saying, “I wanted option to use the following (obviously wouldn’t use all, but a portion) *These exchanges were pretty interesting…..would love the option to use….*”…

After dishing out the marching orders, Palmieri finishes by telling Leibovich, “Pleasure doing business.”…

That’s pretty much the way Rush told it, with emphasis on the “Pleasure doing business” part. The alt-right seems to think that was particularly telling.

And in the Trumpkin universe, I’m sure it was. In that world, this was a huge “gotcha.” It was proof positive that the media are in bed with the Democrats!

But in the universe I live in — the universe where people know how these things actually work — I’m thinking, Well, obviously that conversation — or that part of it, anyway — was off the record. And Leibovich, being a good journalist, was pushing to get the source to go on the record with some of it.

And yep, that’s what was going on, according to Politico:

In a midsummer 2015 exchange, Leibovich wrote to campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri, asking that certain pieces of his New Hampshire interview with Clinton be made “on the record,” for use in his July article (“Re-Re-Re-Reintroducing Hillary Clinton”)….

I hardly need mention this, but during the time I was listening, Limbaugh never said, “off the record.”

Breitbart does make some confusing references to on-and-off-the-record, but not in a way that makes it clear that this completely exonerates the writer from any sort of unethical collusion.

In fact, it shows that he was trying to get even off-the-record material onto the record, which was the point of the emails. But folks, if you’ve allowed a source to go off-the-record on something (which you have to ask for BEFORE saying something, not after), then that’s it. The source is in the driver’s seat on that material. You cannot ethically use it without the source agreeing to put it on the record.



Condemn Leibovich for going off-the-record in the first place if you’re so inclined, but I won’t — along with letting sources rephrase what they’ve said, going off the record is one of the best tools for learning what a source is really thinking. Maybe you can’t use the actual words, but that knowledge can help you to better interpret and prioritize the stuff that is on the record, and more accurately represent what’s going on.

Just as there are reporters who won’t let you rephrase, there are those who are philosophically opposed to letting anyone go off the record, ever. But I’m too curious to be one of them. I don’t just want to know what the person is willing to say for print. I want to know everything that person knows. And while going off the record may not tell me everything — and in the hands of a wily source, it can be as much a device for deception as the carefully crafted public remark — it will tell me more than I otherwise would have known. Even if it’s just what the source wants me to think he or she thinks, that in itself tells me something…

Of course, all of this would be lost on most dittoheads. Even if Limbaugh had explained about it being off the record, he probably would have said the words in a way that dripped with sarcasm, portraying “off-the-record” as another one of the tricks those shifty media types use in trying to pull the wool over the eyes of honest, hard-working, angry white men…

Or not. Since I didn’t hear the whole rant, I could have missed the part where he backed off and decided to be fair to Leibovich. In which case, good for you, Rush…

Maybe it takes a Brit to get us to face ourselves


Apparently, all Hogwarts is worried that He Who Must Not Be Named could occupy the most powerful position in the Muggle world.

A friend brought this Tweet out of Hogwarts to my attention:

Yeah, I know: She can’t even vote here. But the Brits are our best friends in the world, and sometimes you need your friends to tell you to take a good look at yourself.

As for those who think she should butt out, she has this good answer:

Folks, this isn’t just about this country; this is about the kind of world we will all live in in the future. And everybody has a stake in it. Even in Hogwarts, the possibility that He Who Must Not Be Named could be elected to the most powerful position in Muggle world is a cause of great concern. (And you’ll notice, she did not name him.)…

Conscience starts gaining ground in the GOP

We’ve seen some impressive moves lately by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan in recent months: First, he wouldn’t, then he reluctantly did, now he’s steadily creeping, step by step, day by day, back toward “wouldn’t.”

Here’s what I mean:

A decision Monday by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to not campaign with or defend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump through the November election sparked a public feud with his party’s standard-bearer within a matter of hours, suggesting that a widening split within the GOP could reverberate long after the presidential race is decided.

Profile in gradual, incremental courage

Paul Ryan: Profile in gradual, incremental courage

Ryan’s move — and a blunt assessment of the race that he and other congressional leaders delivered during a conference call with House GOP lawmakers Monday morning — underscored the perilous choice Republican officials now face in the wake of Friday’s release of a 2005 videotape in which Trump made lewd comments about women:

They can remain in line with their nominee, which would please their base but could alienate swing voters critical to maintaining their hold on Congress. Or they could renounce Trump and offend Republicans eager for a direct confrontation with Hillary Clinton and her husband.

For his part, the speaker — who canceled an appearance with Trump after the videotape surfaced Friday — did neither. He won’t publicly campaign with Trump, but he also did not rescind his endorsement of his party’s controversial nominee or back away from his pledge to vote for him….

That’s today, three days after he refused to appear at one rally with Trump. What will he do tomorrow?

Meanwhile, since I didn’t take note of my man John McCain’s abandonment of the Trump cause over the weekend, let me to do so now:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement today withdrawing his support of Donald Trump:

“In addition to my well known differences with Donald Trump on public policy issues, I have raised questions about his character after his comments on Prisoners of War, the Khan Gold Star family, Judge Curiel and earlier inappropriate comments about women. Just this week, he made outrageous statements about the innocent men in the Central Park Five case.

“As I said yesterday, there are no excuses for Donald Trump’s offensive and demeaning comments in the just released video; no woman should ever be victimized by this kind of inappropriate behavior. He alone bears the burden of his conduct and alone should suffer the consequences.

“I have wanted to support the candidate our party nominated. He was not my choice, but as a past nominee, I thought it was important I respect the fact that Donald Trump won a majority of the delegates by the rules our party set. I thought I owed his supporters that deference.

“But Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy. Cindy, with her strong background in human rights and respect for women fully agrees with me on this.

“Cindy and I will not vote for Donald Trump. I have never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate and we will not vote for Hillary Clinton. We will write in the name of some good conservative Republican who is qualified to be President.”


Not that a write-in accomplishes anything in terms of stopping Trump, but at least he’s not backing the guy anymore.

Oh, and in case you missed it, there was this Tweet from our own Lindsey Graham:

Not that there is a general stampede away from Trump on the part of Republicans in general. Far from it. But their arguments in defense of him are started to get a bit… strained.

Here’s Jeff Sessions’ attempt:

Sessions: ‘grab them by the p___y’ not sexual assault

So, there’s that…

The interesting debate we could have had, under other circumstances


Let’s set aside for a moment this contest of character and pretend we have the luxury of talking about ideas in this presidential election.

Were that the case, the most interesting moment in last night’s debate would have come at this point:

RADDATZ: … This question involves WikiLeaks release of purported excerpts of Secretary Clinton’s paid speeches, which she has refused to release, and one line in particular, in which you, Secretary Clinton, purportedly say you need both a public and private position on certain issues. So, Tu (ph), from Virginia asks, is it OK for politicians to be two-faced? Is it acceptable for a politician to have a private stance on issues? Secretary Clinton, your two minutes…

Let’s set aside the loaded wording of the question (“two-faced”), and look at the underlying issue, which speaks to the nature of leadership and the ways we communicate in a representative democracy.

Can an honest person have a public position that differs from what he thinks in his heart of hearts? Yes, he (or she) can. In fact, there are times when he or she must.

As a longtime editorial page editor, I’m quite familiar with this. Most of the time, our editorial position was consistent with my own personal position. But we operated by consensus — I was not the only member of the board — and what we ended up with was not always exactly what I thought. I deferred to my colleagues, at least to the extent of modifying the position so that we could get everybody on board. And once the decision was made, I did not publicly say things to contradict it, because that would have militated against our consensus. I had a duty as leader of the board not to undermine its positions — even on the extremely rare occasions when our official position was very different from my own, such as when we endorsed George W. Bush over John McCain in 2000.

But my care with my utterances in order to keep the board together was nothing compared to what a president faces.

The president of the United States daily, if not hourly, faces situations in which it would be grossly impolitic, unwise, and even harmful to the country to say precisely what he or she personally thinks or feels about a situation. A president must be diplomatic, not only with representatives of other nations, but with multiple contending and overlapping constituencies right here at home. This is why a president is surrounded by people who are talented at helping choose precisely the right words needed to help move things in a desired direction. It would be grossly irresponsible, indeed a dereliction of duty and perhaps a deadly danger to the country, for a president simply to spout off from the gut without pausing to temper the message (see “Trump, Donald”).

People who don’t work professionally with words are sometimes pleased to call carefully moderating one’s speech “lying.” Those of us who work with words know better. You can say the same true thing many different ways, and how you choose to say it can make all the difference between communicating effectively and having the desired effect, or failing miserably.

Back to the debate

Secretary Clinton responded this way to that loaded question:

As I recall, that was something I said about Abraham Lincoln after having seen the wonderful Steven Spielberg movie called “Lincoln.” It was a master class watching President Lincoln get the Congress to approve the 13th Amendment. It was principled, and it was strategic…

Did you see the film? If so, you know there was a lot more to Lincoln than the fine words in the Gettysburg Address. He may have been the most skilled, determined, clear-eyed, illusionless man ever to hold the office — and the most effective. (The only two men I can imagine coming close to him in these regards were FDR and LBJ.)

The film shows Lincoln involved in the noble task of permanently saving our country from the stain of slavery, going beyond what fine words or even four years of unbelievable bloodshed could accomplish. The Emancipation Proclamation had been a stratagem in winning the war (and one he had held back from issuing, with flawless timing, until the political climate was ripe for it), an ephemeral, self-contradictory thing that did not truly free the slaves. He needed something that went far beyond that; he needed to amend the Constitution.

And he pulled out all the stops — all the stops — in getting that done. Set aside the unseemly spectacle of promising government jobs to lame-duck congressmen — that was routine horse-trading in that day. Let’s look at the central deception — and the word is apt — that was essential to getting the 13th Amendment passed.

Lincoln knew that once the war ended, Congress would see little need to ban slavery — and the war was in danger of ending before he could get it done. In fact, a delegation led by Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens was on its way to Washington to sue for peace. It would in fact have arrived if Lincoln hadn’t ordered Union troops to detain it some distance from the capital. While the delegation cooled its heels, Lincoln worked feverishly to get his amendment passed.

At a critical moment in the debate in Congress in the film, a rumor spreads that there is a Confederate peace delegation in the city. This threatens to defeat the amendment. Lincoln tells Congress that not only is there no such group in Washington, but that he does not expect there to be. He conveniently leaves out the fact that the reason he doesn’t expect there to be is because he has issued orders to that effect.

Another instance in which Lincoln has a public position differing from his private position is with regard to Republican power broker Francis Preston Blair. The reason the Confederate delegation started on its journey to begin with was that Lincoln had reluctantly allowed Blair to reach out to Richmond. Why had he done that? Because Blair urgently wanted peace, and Lincoln needed his support to keep conservative Republicans in line on the amendment.

So… Lincoln did these things — playing every angle, and saying what needed to be said to the people who needed to hear them –, and rather drawing our disapprobation for having done so, he is rightly revered.

As I said above, the only two presidents I can see even coming close to Lincoln in terms of political skill and effectiveness were Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Which reminds me of a contretemps from 2008. An excerpt from my column of January 20 of that year:

It started when the senator from New York said the following, with reference to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.”
The white woman running against a black man for the Democratic Party nomination could only get herself into trouble mentioning Dr. King in anything other than laudatory terms, particularly as she headed for a state where half of the voters likely to decide her fate are black.
You have to suppose she knew that. And yet, she dug her hole even deeper by saying:
“Senator Obama used President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to criticize me. Basically compared himself to two of our greatest heroes. He basically said that President Kennedy and Dr. King had made great speeches and that speeches were important. Well, no one denies that. But if all there is (is) a speech, then it doesn’t change anything.”…

Hillary Clinton was not my choice for president that year. Several weeks later, we endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination (right after endorsing John McCain — whom we would later endorse in the general — for the Republican).

Her point was that fine words (such as those with which her opponent excelled) are well and good, but if you want to see a good thing get done, you need someone who will roll up sleeves, dig in and do what it takes. Which LBJ never shied away from.

When she was a fresh grad at Wellesley, Hillary Clinton was dismissive of politics being the art of the possible. As she grew up, ran into brick walls of opposition and in other ways found how resistant the world could be to fine words and finer sentiments, she learned. Her concept of what it took to get things done — and of what things were doable — matured.

Hence what she said in that leaked speech.

I don’t say this to defend Hillary Clinton personally. As I said, I wanted to raise a point that we might discuss were we in a different situation. But we’re not in a different situation. Right now, our representative democracy faces supreme degradation, and possibly worse, if Donald Trump is elected. So we have that appalling threat to deal with, and fine points and ethical ambiguities are not the order of the day.

So pretend that speech — the one to the paying audience, not to Wellesley grads — was delivered by someone else. Think for a moment about the ideas being expressed, not the person expressing them.

It’s a question that all of us should wrestle with as we grow and mature. When I was a young and cocky editor, very free with my thoughts on everything, and to hell with whether others agreed, my then-boss posed me a question: Would you rather be right, or effective?

Of course, I wanted to be both. But what about when you can’t be?

What needed to happen last night did not happen


What needed to happen in the debate last night was this: Hillary needed to beat Trump — or rather, he needed to beat himself — as soundly as in the first debate. That, combined with the recording of Trump being Trump in 2005, would have meant the end of this drawn-out farce. Continuing the weekend trend, virtually every Republican who has gone along with his campaign would desert him, and we could all talk about something else for the next four weeks, secure in the knowledge that he would be so crushed on Nov. 8 that nothing like this will ever be repeated.

That didn’t happen. Not that Trump debated well, or in any way acted like the standard-bearer of a major party. But the bar for him is the lowest in living memory, perhaps in U.S. history, and in the expectations game, he held his own, since he was no worse than he is on an average day.

There were many low points in this debate, but what was the lowest? It was this:

Only that had been lacking to complete the portrait of Trump as the jefe of a banana republic: The use of the power of the state to persecute and imprison political opponents. All hail the caudillo!

This was no doubt lost on people who support Trump, and those who might consider voting for him. But this was a low point in American democracy, another bold step toward fascism. By contrast, his statement that his opponent has “hate in her heart” — also something we’ve never seen before — was less remarkable. And all the talk about adolescent sexuality was just background noise.

His supporters will protest: But Hillary said he had run a “hateful, divisive campaign!” Yes, she did, and that would indeed be a terrible thing to say if it weren’t true. Even being true, it’s not helpful, only a step or two above deplorable. But the difference between running an awful campaign and having hate in your heart is considerable.

What was Hillary Clinton’s lowest point? Well, I was most bothered by this:

See what she did there? She normalized Trump. She mainstreamed him. She did the thing that I, and many others, have begged people not to do: pretend this is just another election like any other, a contest between (in Republican eyes) wild-eyed, left-wing statists and (in Democratic eyes) fat cats who look like the little top-hatted man in Monopoly. She watered down one of the most disturbing things about Trump — that he’s always out for himself, not the country, or a party, or a class, or a faction. Just himself.

Yeah, I know why she does it: To please the “feel the Bern” crowd in her own party. But this is NOT a contest between classes, or of ideas. This is an election to decide whether an out-of-control, deeply narcissistic, crude, avaricious, vindictive, unbalanced man with fascist tendencies and no concept of what a liberal democracy is about will hold the most powerful position in the world.

That is all this election is about. It could have been about other things, had the Republicans seen their way clear to nominating a normal person. But it isn’t, because they didn’t.

(Perhaps this is a good moment to pause to speak to those just joining us, who have not followed my blog over the past 11 years, or my long career before that: I’m not one of the “liberal media” one hears so much about. I’m a guy known for only endorsing Republicans for president during all those years leading The State‘s editorial board — although we were about 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans on the state level. I’m a guy who is stunned that the GOP didn’t nominate someone normal, such as John Kasich — someone who is as disgusted by Trump as I am, someone I would gladly vote for instead of Hillary Clinton. I just thought I’d mention all that, in case you don’t know me and you think, like Hillary Clinton, that this is about Democrats vs. Republicans.)

Maybe in four years we can have a normal election, talking about the usual tiresome stuff, with 40 percent of the population voting one way without thinking and 40 percent doing the same in the other direction, and the 20 percent of us who don’t subscribe to either brand of nonsense will step in and made the decision.

From the perspective of this election, that almost sounds lovely. But we don’t have that luxury this year…

Join me on Twitter for tonight’s debate


A little over an hour ago, Donald Trump held a brief presser with several women who have terrible things to say about Bill and Hillary Clinton.

His precise point wasn’t clear, but it does seem obvious that he doesn’t intend to elevate the discussion tonight.

But we’ll see… it’s about to start… Join me on Twitter, which is where I’ll be until it’s over…

Even the Gray Lady has been dragged through the mire

Bill Castronuovo, a former editor at The State, shared this with me today.

This is what Trump, the candidate from Howard Stern, has done to America. He’s dragged the Gray Lady, the most staid newspaper in America, down to the point that she has to publish gutter language in to cover what’s going on in the campaign for president of the United States.

He’s also caused my blog to get down on the same level in order to tell you about it.

And the world is not better for that having happened…


NOW Trump’s in trouble: DeNiro’s on his case

At the end of the week, I did a blog post for ADCO about this video that a bunch of celebrities did to urge people to vote.

Not until today did I see the outtake from what Robert DeNiro said about Donald Trump. It’s just a tad more restrained than in his performance below.

So, ya think Bobby’s kinda ticked at this guy? A li’l bit, li’l bit…

Could this farce be at an end? No, because Trump won’t quit

Donald Trump has “apologized” for the things he said on a hot mic on the above video in 2005 — before launching into an attack on the Clintons and saying there was no way he was going to drop out of the race, despite calls from some Republicans that he do so.

So, he’s determined to weather yet another storm that would end the political career of anyone else. Because, you know, he has no shame.

Fortunately, a lot of mainstream Republicans do, which is why Speaker Paul Ryan, regaining his pride and courage, refused to let Trump appear on a stage with him yesterday.

Oh, wait: Did I say Ryan had regained his pride and courage? Well, sorta, kinda. We don’t need to hold a ticker-tape parade for him or anything:

But Mr. Ryan did not go so far as to withdraw his support for Mr. Trump, which for now keeps him in the political purgatory of endorsing the Republican nominee for president while continually having to say why he finds his remarks and policy positions despicable….

On one level, I’m thinking, why is this even a news story? We all know this is what Trump is like. What’s new here? But for some, this has been the last straw, and the pressure on him actually went to the point that he had to issue a statement refusing to resign.

The shock and horror that some Republican supporters, or former supporters, are expressing is reminiscent of Captain Renault’s “shocked!” in “Casablanca.” Really? They didn’t know he was like this? Riiiigghhttt

And do you think this will affect Trump’s support out among the hoi polloi? No, of course not. It never did before when things arose that should have caused his support to evaporate. Why would it happen now?

I wish this would have an effect on the polls; it would raise my estimation of the electorate somewhat from the depths to which it has sunk.

But I fear not.

So, as Trump said in his “apology” (below), on to Sunday night’s debate…

How has the storm affected you so far?


I’m just interested in collecting any stories you have of evacuating, or dealing with kids being home from school, or being prevented from doing things you had planned, or whatever.

My club was closed for breakfast this morning, so I made a smoothie and coffee at home. That’s about it for me personally.

My wife was taking care of all four of our grandchildren who live here into town this morning. They were having a good time when I left.

All that bottled water I bought Tuesday night is sitting there in my garage, probably to await the next emergency.

But then… the storm is still headed this way, and I don’t place absolute faith in those projections that say it will continue to glance off the coast. As I read the map, if it were to continue in the direction it’s going in right now, and not turn for the land or anything else, it would be coming straight at us, with the dangerous west side of the storm blowing straight through Columbia.

So I’m not ready to scoff at Matthew yet.

But how is it affecting you?…

Yet another thing that will roll off Trump’s back


So much about the candidacy of Donald Trump — a man who should have been laughed off the presidential stage more than a year ago — defies all reason, and everything we’ve learned about politics in my lifetime.

For instance, POLITICO tweeted this today:

It haunts him? For any actual politician, that would be a death knell. Seriously, can you imagine any other political figure being best buds with Howard Stern for decades, and regularly going on his show to speak in crude terms about his sex life, continuing to be a political figure? Not even as shameless a yo-yo as Anthony Weiner could accomplish that.

I can’t imagine it, either. We’ve spoken in the past of this or that pol having a Teflon coating, but they were nothing compared to this guy. One thing after another that would destroy anyone else I’ve ever seen in politics, and his fans just love him more.

Then there’s this, in The Washington Post a couple of days back:

The headline alone would send a shudder down the spine of most elected officials: “‘Apprentice’ cast and crew say Trump was lewd and sexist.”

That’s the top of a story from the Associated Press posted Monday morning that details Trump’s often-inappropriate behavior toward women who both appeared and worked on his hit TV show “The Apprentice.” The AP talked to 20(!) former contestants or crew members on the show including 12(!) who spoke on the record to the news organization. That’s remarkable. And what’s as remarkable is that they all told a very similar story about Trump: While on the set of the show, he would openly discuss women’s looks and whether he would sleep with them….

For any normal political candidate, a story like this one would be an absolute cataclysm. Almost two dozen former employees and contestants speaking out about behavior that the average voter would deem deeply inappropriate in a workplace environment?  It would be enough to push some candidates out of a race entirely. For others, it would be a deep wound from which they might not be able to recover.

For Trump, it’s just another Monday….

Absolutely. Everyone, from his fans to those of us who see him as anathema, will just shrug it off. Why? Because that’s Trump. We know that’s who he is. We’ve known it for years, which is why it was so ridiculous when he started running for president last year. The nerve of this bozo!

Which is why it strikes me as pointless that the story currently leading the Post’s site is headlined, “Trump’s use of debts and tax laws spurs concerns about his methods.”

Really? Yawn… You think that’s going to affect anything? Not with this guy, with far more lurid stuff being shrugged off multiple times daily…

Our proud American tradition of anti-intellectualism


There’s a piece in The Washington Post today about the rise of denial in our society, as in denial of climate change, the efficacy of vaccines, the Holocaust.

What grabbed me, though, was the subhed “Anti-intellecualism on the rise.” That drew me because my study of history all those years ago in college deeply impressed me with what a powerful theme that has been in our history (particularly coming into its own when the flat-Earther Andrew Jackson beat John Quincy Adams in 1828).

Anyway, to quote from the piece:

In the United States, anti-intellectualism dates back to the founding fathers, when Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans favored the wisdom of the common man over the expertise of the elites, embodied by Alexander Hamilton. Since then, the American population has tended to support a belief that ‘regular people’ know best and experts are suspect. This notion flares up when we think that our core values are under attack, as with McCarthyism, and today — with immigration, cyber security and other national concerns — it seems to be back with a vengeance….

Yeah, we’ve noticed. Although the chief evidence, it seems to me isn’t suspicion of vaccines, but the rise of Donald Trump, to whom facts are inconvenient, hostile things.

And let me hasten to say, had I lived in Jefferson’s day, I’d have been a Federalist…

Please don’t send in the clowns

Do you like clowns? Have you ever liked clowns? If so, why?

My earliest memory of clowns is this: I can distinctly remember being surprised, and filled with doubt, when an adult explained to me that they were humans in disguise. I had assumed, based on the evidence, that they were some separate species — like aliens, or some particularly bizarre-looking animal. Hey, I was a little kid. Until somebody told me they were people, I saw no reason to think so.

I wouldn’t say I have a complex about clowns, but I’ve never really warmed up to them, even after learning they were just people. And I find myself wondering how this clowning thing got started, and who it was who decided that they were a nonthreatening form of entertainment for children — something that seems highly unlikely.

A piece in The Guardian today gives a little history:

Nobody laughs at clowns anymore.

Maybe antiquated proto-clowns did make people smile. But the legendary Chinese jester Yu Sze and the imperial Roman stupidus would be unrecognizable to us today.

The first clown who fits our description – painted face, frilly collar – was Joseph Grimaldi, who entertained Londoners in the 19th century but had a decidedly dark side. “I am Grim-all-day,” he told people.

A young Charles Dickens ghost-wrote Grimaldi’s memoirs, a saga of abuse, addiction and agony. “A tale of unmitigated suffering, even when that suffering be mental, possesses but few attractions for the reader; but when, as in this case, a large portion of it is physical,” Dickens wrote, it “grows absolutely distasteful”.

Dickens recognized, even with the very first modern clown, that what fascinates us is not the exaggerated painted face, or the dull face of a man underneath. It’s the tension between the two. The dissonance between what is and what appears to be.

That conflict plucks at some ancient strand of human genetic code….

That’s in a piece that starts with the recent sightings in the Greenville area of threatening clowns.

It’s all very well and good for a newspaper in London to be bemused by these sightings — they’ve got a whole ocean between them and the threat.

Not that I’m worried, you understand. But I am kind of creeped out…


The vice-presidential debate last night

Still from NYT video feed.

Still from NYT video feed.

Yeah, I watched it until the end, although I want you to know I didn’t enjoy it.

I liked this Tweet:

… to which I responded by reTweeting, with the added comment, “Rephrase: ‘Please, be gentlemen!’…”

A few general observations:

  • If you have to pick a winner, it was Mike Pence. But it’s less that he won, and more that Tim Kaine lost it — threw it away, really. Yeah, I understand that the running mate is supposed to be the attack dog so that his principal seems more likable, but now we have a situation in which neither Hillary nor Kaine is seen as likable — which means, I don’t think we saw the real Tim Kaine. He was playing a different character last night, and it was awful.
  • When I say Kaine lost, we’re talking in terms of the impressions we got of the candidates’ characters, not about issues. I can’t begin to tell you who did better on issues, although I’ll say that with some exceptions, Kaine did better on facts, especially when the facts involved Donald Trump — which most did. Kaine would cite an incontrovertible fact, and Pence would look incredulous, pained, saddened that Kaine would say such awful things — when all Kaine was doing was quoting Trump. Since Pence stayed above the fray, but failed to offer any substantive defense of his principal, some analysts today are saying Pence won, but Trump did not. (The one way Trump would be a winner is if he did a credible impression of his running mate in the next debate. But is he capable of that?)
  • About that moderator… Last night, I saw something bizarre happening over on Facebook — a couple of Trump fans I’m friends with were protesting vehemently about how the moderator was biased against their guy. One said of Pence, ” Poor guy had to deal with PLANNED INTERRUPTIONS FROM TWO!” Another said, “Can you not see that the questions are biased?” Which kind of made me wonder what debate they were watching. The moderator was a cipher, a nonentity, utterly ineffectual. I know that she asked some questions, but I can’t remember any of them. She was like a substitute teacher in middle school, pathetically trying to keep order, completely in vain. The moments I came closest to turning the thing off was when all three of them were talking at once, and no one listening to anyone.
  • I started off praising them for their civility and maturity, and then having to quickly eat those words. Which were not tasty.
  • Civility returned at the end when both men talked about their faith, for which I was grateful. It caused me to Tweet that “At least they’re not shouting over each other over their religious beliefs. So our politics have made SOME progress since the 15th century.” Toward the end of that segment, Pence did get on Kaine’s case a bit over abortion, but then he was just saying what I was thinking — especially after having read this piece that morning in the WSJ. And it stayed civil.
  • I liked a point that Mark Shields made after the debate was over on PBS. He said yeah, the veep candidate is supposed to build up the head of the ticket, but Kaine was just too fawning when talking about Hillary. Absolutely. Yeah, she’s way, way better than Trump, but she’s not that awesome.

Shields also said this, which I appreciated: “This was supposed to be the nice guys.” Right. So the night was a great disappointment — especially Kaine. I still think he’s a guy I’d like in a quiet meeting in an editorial boardroom. But he did himself no favors last night…

For the next debate, instead of these media types, how about having a Marine drill sergeant 'moderate?'

For the next debate, instead of these media types, how about having a Marine drill sergeant ‘moderate?’

Open Thread for Tuesday, October 4, 2016

You've got to watch the video of Nikki's presser if only to see the dude doing the sign language. I had no idea it involved such dramatic facial expressions....

You’ve got to watch the video of Nikki’s presser if only to see the dude doing the sign language. I had no idea it involved such dramatic facial expressions….

See how you like these:

  1. Here comes Matthew — My wife is scrambling because she’ll have four grandchildren at the house with schools closing. How is it affecting you so far? Meanwhile, the effect in Haiti is described as “catastrophic.”
  2. In their only debate, Pence and Kaine prepare to defend running mates — I suppose I’ll watch this, and I suppose I’ll live-Tweet it. Unless I think of something else to do.
  3. Fact-Checking Family Lore With DNA Tests — I read this with great interest for two reasons — 1) I’m spending all my spare time working on my family tree; and 2) I got an AncestryDNA kit for my birthday, and can’t wait to send my spit off and see what they tell me. Have any of y’all done this? Did you find out anything cool?
  4. British Pound Hits Three-Decade Low on Brexit Concerns — So don’t tell me there’ve been no negative effects of Brexit…
  5. Report: Russians slipped ‘roofies’ to U.S. diplomats — No, really. There’s a news story about it and everything.

I’ll stop on that note. Y’all have anything else?

Today’s mystery earworm: ‘Misty’

This one had me going for more than an hour this morning, and I feel great relief that I finally got to the bottom of it.

I heard the song as a jazz instrumental on the Muzak system at the Cap City Club at breakfast this morning, during a lull in the conversations going on around me. I knew it was an old standard (meaning, from before my time), one that was as familiar as my own heartbeat, but could… not… place it!

Trying to sing along in my mind, I thought the lyric at one point said something about “puppy on a string.”

But that couldn’t be right, could it? Obviously, it would have to be the cliche, “puppet on a string.” Unless, of course, it was a play on the cliche, but I doubted it was. So I started searching on my phone for songs with lyrics containing the phrase, and had trouble getting past the song of that name. Actually, there’s more than one song by that name, although I don’t think I ever heard this one, I’m happy to say.

Then I decided that the last words in the verse were “so much in love.” (Those words turned out to be “holding your hand,” but my words would have worked there just as well, evoking much the same feeling.)

Of course, that produced this. Great pop song, but definitely not what I was seeking.mv5bmtizmtmzotg5n15bml5banbnxkftztcwotc0nzyymq-_v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_

So I gave up trying to figure it out detective-fashion (Tom Sawyer would be ashamed of me) and decided to close my office door and hum it into the SoundHound app on my phone. Since I couldn’t remember the crucial first three notes (“Look at me” in the lyrics), SoundHound wasn’t at all sure what I was humming, but it suggested that maybe, just maybe, I was trying to hum “Misty.”

YES! Finally, I can turn to other things and get on with my day.

Oh, and by the way, the lyric I remembered as “puppy on a string” was “kitten up a tree.” But you can see the association, right? Please say “yes.” Anyway, “puppy” was definitely closer than “puppet.”

That was a toughie…

Your Virtual Front Page, Monday, October 3, 2016


Here’s what we have on this auspicious day:

  1. U.S. Ends Syria Talks Over Russia’s Role in Aleppo Attacks (NYT) — And it that’s not bad enough, consider this related story, which if anything is more ominous…
  2. Russia suspends weapons-grade plutonium deal with US (BBC) — This was one of those reassuring byproducts of the end of the Cold War. Now, Putin’s backing away from it.
  3. Colombia and FARC scramble to rescue peace deal amid worries of return to war (The Guardian) — Talk about an election shocker. All those stories about peace at last; now this…
  4. The bombshell about Trump’s taxes (NYT) — Yeah, this broke over the weekend, but I didn’t post about it then, so it still makes the VFP today. This is such a big story, the rival Washington Post wrote a piece on how this fell into the NYT‘s lap.
  5. N.Y. attorney general orders Trump Foundation to cease fundraising (WashPost) — This shaped up to be a pretty big news day, but where would we have been without Trump and his best bud Putin?
  6. Years before his ‘Aleppo moment,’ Gary Johnson showed little interest in the details of governing (WashPost) — Hey, Johnson got some major media attention! But it doesn’t help! Sorry, Doug.

Hey, I would have included something light, to help with the mix, but there was too much news.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!

Today it’s my birthday, and as has become the custom in this decade, scores of people have reached out to wish me joy.

So here I am thanking all of you:

Dawndy Mercer Plank , Jaime Harrison , Michael Kohn , Stanley Dubinsky , Susan Coleman Fedor , Jennifer Sheheen , Gay Lynne Rouse , Meghan Hughes Hickman , Robin Rawl , Randy Page , Debbie Turner , Gary Karr , Nancy Atkinson , Jack Kuenzie , Alice Brooks Youngblood , Angela Crosland , Cheryl Levenbrown , Deb Kohler Woolley , Lori D. Roberts Wiggins , Dave Moniz , Kay Thomas Packett , Kim Fowler , Lora Keenan Prill , Pat Dixon , Julie Leaptrott Ruff , Walter Powell Jr , Judith Wylie , Andy Phelan , Deenie Phelan , Steve Phelan , William Maxwell Gregg , Joseph Azar , Jim McLaurin , Bryan Caskey , George Johnson , Jessica Cross , Lisa Pratt , Kathy Allen , Chris Roberts , Henry Dukes , Thom Fladung , Shannon Staley , Debbie McDaniel , Walter Durst , Jean Chesno , Jack Claypoole , Will Cooper , Cindi Ross Scoppe , Maria Gonda Smoak , Jim DuPlessis , Elliott Edward Powell , Allison Dean Love , Steve Robertson , Karen Blackmon , John Boudreaux , Robert Bowers , Libby Lambert Lewis , Debra-Lynn Hook , Patty Lambert Gursky , Cherie Abee Mabrey , Kathy Duffy Thomas , Carol Plexico , Kenley Young , Peggy Miller Lawrence , K. Wade Smith , Dan Cook , Stephanie Scholler Hinrichs , Shell Suber , Kathy Randall , Howard Hunt , Manuel Gaetan , Chris Burnette , Carlos Primus , Joan Lucius , Deborah Funderburk McDonald , Beth Tally , John Steinberger , Michael Albo , Amy Kuenzie , Jack Balling , Murrell Smith , Richard Chalk , Doug Ross , Frank E Barron III , Allison Wells , Liz Krejci , Bishop Redfern II , Mike Briggs , Walter Caudle , Harold Watson , Sherry Shealy Martschink , Kathryn Braun Fenner , J Ted Creech , Robert Adams , Bill Connor , Ben Werner , Ginny Wolfe , Sybil Gleaton , Howard Hellams , Jason Collins , Nola M Anderson , Mary Dierkes 

… plus any who came in late or which I otherwise missed. (And I left out immediate family members, whom I am thanking in person.)

Thank you,

your most humble, obedient servant, etc., etc….