Libertarian

The Donald Trump Show (Telltale Taxes)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This is one of those things that has just been bugging me, even though it’s kind of moot. Well, okay, work with me, here. Let us, first, rewind.

It was arguably one of the most important moments of this week’s presidential debate. Hillary Clinton was speculating about why Donald Trump would choose to be the first modern American presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. “Maybe,” she said, “he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Unprompted, Trump interrupted to say, “That makes me smart.”

A Washington Post reporter, watching the debate with undecided voters in North Carolina, noted there were “gasps” in the room after the exchange. “That’s offensive. I pay taxes,” one said. “Another person would be in jail for that,” another voter added.

Steve Benen’s telling of the tale is not unfamiliar; indeed, his formulation of the moment is not unique, because it reads a little better that way, like a one-two. But it is also inaccurate, as is any telling in which Hillary Clinton sets up Donald Trump by saying, “Maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Hillary Clinton did say that. And as part of the setup. But this telling gives Donald Trump a bit of wiggle room, which Benen, in turn, aims to debunk:

Perhaps now would be a good time to note that “That makes me smart” and “That would make me smart” are not the same sentences.

Indeed, let’s also not forget that in the same debate, Trump talked about how the government doesn’t have the necessary resources for public needs. “Maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years,” Clinton interjected. Trump fired back, “It would be squandered, too.”

As we discussed the other day, the comment was striking because of its apparent acceptance of the underlying premise. By saying his tax money would have been “squandered,” Trump seemed to be conceding that Clinton’s argument was correct: he hasn’t paid taxes.

That analysis responds to Donald Trump’s appearance on FOX News two days after the debate:

O’REILLY: Okay. And those of us in Manhattan know that’s true. Now, they are going to come after you, they being the Clinton campaign, on the statement that you made that you were as smart for paying as few taxes as you could possibly pay. You know it’s going to be in the next debate, it’s going to be on campaign ads. Do you have any defense for that right now?

TRUMP: No. I didn’t say that. What she said is maybe you paid no taxes. I said, well, that would make me very smart.

O’REILLY: Right.

Right there, you see Donald Trump lying and Bill O’Reilly helping him: “I didn’t say that”, Donald Trump explained of saying he was smart to not pay taxes. “What she said is maybe you paid no taxes. I said, well, that would make me very smart.” And this is what Benen picked out, and he is exactly correct insofar as the point goes: “Perhaps now would be a good time to note that ‘That makes me smart’ and ‘That would make me smart’ are not the same sentences.”

O’Reilly teed the point up again:

O’REILLY: All right. I’m Hillary Clinton in the next debate. And I say to you what she said yesterday in North Carolina. Hey, if is he not going to pay any taxes and he thinks that’s smart, what does that make us? We pay taxes. Are we stupid? How are you going to answer that?

TRUMP: Well, first of all―first of all, I never said I didn’t pay taxes. She said maybe you didn’t pay taxes and I said well, that would make me smart because tax is a big payment. But I think a lot of people say that’s the kind of thinking that I want running this nation.

O’REILLY: Okay.

Note they are using the same narrative Benen did. So, here’s the thing about stylistics and narrative: Sometimes tailoring for the punch actually weakens the narrative. And this time, the tailoring hands Donald Trump his talking point.

What Hillary Clinton actually said, and how Donald Trump actually responded:

CLINTON: Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

TRUMP: That makes me smart.

(Washington Post)

The thing is that Hillary Clinton really did say, “maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes”. And then she said, “because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax”. And that is when Donald Trump said, “That makes me smart.”

Telling the story the way Steve Benen and Donald Trump alike tell it overlooks a specific point: Certes, there is a difference ‘twixt, “That makes me smart” and, “That would make me smart”. But what did Donald Trump actually respond to?

CLINTON: … the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

TRUMP: That makes me smart.

In this telling, Donald Trump doesn’t get to rely on “maybe”. He acknowledged Secretary Clinton’s argument. Despite his protestations and Mr. O’Reilly’s agreement, Donald Trump really did say paying no federal income tax makes him smart.

And while the latest absurd chapter illuminated by the New York Times pretty much renders last week’s maybe moot it still seems worth pointing out.

____________________

Image note: Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Barstow, David, et al. “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found”. The New York Times. 1 October 2016.

Benen, Steve. “Has Donald Trump paid federal taxes or not?”. msnbc. 29 September 2016.

Blake, Aaron. “The first Trump-Clinton presidential debate transcript, annotated”. The Washington Post. 26 September 2016.

O’Reilly, Bill. “Interview with Donald Trump”. The O’Reilly Factor. Transcript. FOX News. 28 September 2016.

Advertisements

A Moment Spent Dwelling on Failure

Clockwise from top left: Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Peter Santilli, Shawna Cox, Ryan Payne and Joseph O'Shaughnessy, insurrectionists who participated in the 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in booking photos released 27 January 2016, by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.

And then there is the update we would, on balance, prefer to not give a damn about:

Anti-government militants who seized a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon earlier this year conspired to intimidate government workers and steal property, a heavily armed invasion that was not protected by the U.S. Constitution, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow told a packed courtroom in downtown Portland that during the January takeover, the conspirators, many wearing camouflage and toting rifles, practiced shooting drills and hand-to-hand combat at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. They also had a stockpile of some 15,000 rounds of ammunition.

“We all have a right to bear arms,” Barrow said. “This is a case about what the defendants did with those firearms.”

(Sherwood)

(more…)

The Gary Johnson Trip (Legacy)

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson botches a foreign policy question about Aleppo, Syria, on msnbc's Morning Joe, 8 September 2016.

This is perhaps the greatest contribution former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson’s presidential bid offers our society:

On the surface, the low approval ratings for Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump present a prime opportunity for a candidate like Mr. Johnson, who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Even so, that intriguing blend of policies has made it difficult for the Libertarian ticket, which includes William F. Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, to attract stray Democrats or disenchanted Republicans in large numbers.

“He’s had issues coalescing the anti-Trump Republican crowd, partially because it’s a mix of social conservatives and moderates, and partly because at times he’s seemed more keen on appealing to the Bernie bros,” said Tim Miller, a Republican and a former aide to Jeb Bush, referring to the supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Miller opposes Mr. Trump and is considering voting for the Libertarian ticket this year.

Mr. Miller added that Mr. Johnson’s flub about Aleppo did not make him a riskier bet on foreign policy matters than is Mr. Trump. But, he said, it does highlight the problem that many Republicans have with Libertarians. “It reinforces my top policy difference with him, which is his relative isolationism” on foreign affairs, he said.

(Rappeport)

That is to say, Aleppo is no longer the name of a human atrocity, but, rather, an emblem of atrocious American stupidity.

Then again, it clarifies the remainder for the the Johnson/Weld effort: That would be a hell of an unfortunate legacy.

____________________

Barnicle, Mike. “Gary Johnson asks: What is Aleppo?” Morning Joe. msnbc. 8 September 2016.

Rappeport, Alan. “Gary Johnson’s ‘What Is Aleppo’ Flub Amplifies Skepticism of Republicans”. The New York Times. 9 September 2016.

The Gary Johnson Trip (Dearth and Aleppo)

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson botches a foreign policy question about Aleppo, Syria, on msnbc's Morning Joe, 8 September 2016.

Thus Mike Barnicle interviews Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson for Morning Joe on msnbc:

Say what?Barnicle: What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?

Johnson: About …?

Barnicle: Aleppo.

Johnson: And what is Aleppo?

This is yet another reminder why the American electoral outlook is functionally a two-party system.

____________________

Barnicle, Mike. “Gary Johnson asks: What is Aleppo?” msnbc. 8 September 2016.

Something About “Her”

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign even at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada. 25 August 2016. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This is fair … er … ah … well, you know―

See, it shouldn’t be that hard to cover Donald in a way that feels fair. Simply apply the three immutable tenets of Hillary reporting:

1. Always assume bad character and attribute malicious motives.

2. Completely overlook and invisibilize supporters.

3. Focus relentlessly on negatives — and portray positives as negatives.

―except that it’s about her.

(Right? Isn’t that how it goes?)

At any rate, Peter Daou’s open letter to the media is worth a read.

(more…)

A Moment Unto Itself

msnbc - "55-year-old protester under tarp with gun preparing for altercation". Detail of frame from The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5 January 2016.

This is a moment in American history.

True enough, one can take that in various contexts; it is certainly a moment in American history, but is it significant? To wit, maybe you missed the chyron because you were in the bathroom. Or, you know, were just watching something else. That you watched a game show or answered the call is certainly a matter of, and moment in, American history, but it doesn’t really mean a whole lot unless you suffer a stroke as a result.

Or, you know. Something. I don’t know.

The msnbc chyron really says―

55-year-old protester under tarp with gun preparing for altercation

―and it seems that ought to count for something.

And that really is a fifty-five year old man with some manner of grudge against society sitting under a tarp, holding a gun, waiting for someone to try to arrest him.

It seems significant. The question of meaning, however, gapes.

____________________

Image note: “55-year-old protester under tarp with gun preparing for altercation” ― Tony Dokopouil of msnbc reports from Princeton, Oregon, where armed insurgents have occupied a federal wildlife reserve, 5 January 2016. Detail of frame from The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

O’Donnell, Lawrence. “Oregon insurgents testing law enforcement”. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. msnbc. 5 January 2016.

The Great Florida Goat Scandal

Augustus Sol Invictus declares his candidacy as a Libertarian for U.S. Senate in Florida, 18 May 2015, via YouTube

This is a paragraph most reporters never get to write:

The chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida has resigned to call attention to Invictus’ candidacy in hopes that other party leaders will denounce him. Adrian Wyllie, who was the Libertarian candidate for governor last year, says Invictus wants to lead a civil war, is trying to recruit neo-Nazis to the party and brutally and sadistically dismembered a goat.

(Farrington)

Right. Er … good luck with that one.

____________________

Image note: Augustus Sol Invictus declares his candidacy as a Libertarian for U.S. Senate in Florida, 18 May 2015, via YouTube.

Farrington, Brendan. “Goat sacrifice, talk of civil war upset Florida Libertarians”. Associated Press. 2 October 2015.

The Rand Paul Show (Another Day, Another Dereliction)

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian organization, hosted 9 potential contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nominations at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

If the lede seems nearly nonsensical―

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he doesn’t support a government shutdown, but then proceeded to advocate an approach that was effectively a government shutdown.

(Levine)

―we might as well concede at the outset that it doesn’t actually make any sense. Then again, this is (A) Rand Paul, (B) a Republican, (C) during an election cycle in which he is bucking for a promotion.

Shorthand: Yeah, sounds about right.

Still, though, what does it mean?

“We should no longer continue to spend money at the same rate we are spending money, so yes, we should let all spending expire and then we should renew those programs that are working,” Paul said.”It should require a supermajority to get the new programs started.”

Right. So … if we shut down the government and then require, piece by piece, a filibuster majority to restart each component, it’s not actually a government shutdown.

See how that works? No? Then you’re probably not a Republican, even if you think you are.

____________________

Image note: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian organization, hosted 9 potential contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nominations at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Levine, Sam. “Rand Paul Says He Doesn’t Support A Government Shutdown, But Basically Supports A Government Shutdown”. The Huffington Post. 29 Septemer 2015.

The One About the Guy Waving the Confederate Flag and Wanting to Arrest a U.S. Senator for Treason

Jon Ritzheimer at a 2015 pro-Confederate flag demonstration.  (Photo: Miriam Wasser/Phoenix New Times)

It’s just one of those little things you file away for future reference. Hanna Hess of Roll Call mulls militia mutterings in Michigan:

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) speaks after a vote on legislation for funding the Department of Homeland Security on Capitol Hill in Washington March 2, 2015.  (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)If Jon Ritzheimer travels to Michigan trying to arrest Sen. Debbie Stabenow for treason because of her support for the Iran nuclear deal, he may find a line of volunteer militia men guarding the Michigan Democrat.

“This is wrong. It sounds like mob rule to me,” said Lou Vondette, of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, one of the oldest active militias in the state. “We have no idea what this guy has on his mind,” Vondette said in a phone interview. The threats sound “just as terrifying to [us], as to anyone reading the story.”

Additionally, Mr. Vondette told Roll Call he had been in communication with several other Michigan militia groups and, “We know of no militia in Michigan that is participating in these actions”. He also rebuked out-of-state influences that would claim association.

Jon Ritzheimer, meanwhile, is an Arizona activist with something approaching terrible luck; his imitation “Draw Muhammad” protest was a bust compared to the counterprotest; calling himself an “Oathkeeper”, Mr. Ritzheimer’s latest scheme for attention is to threaten to arrest Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), claiming her support for the P5+1 nuclear accord with Iran constitutes some manner of treason. Judging by Ms. Hess’ earlier report on the desperate menace―

Jon Ritzheimer, the Arizona resident who reportedly attracted FBI attention when he organized an anti-Muslim protest rally and “draw Muhammad” cartoon contest at a Phoenix mosque, shared his plan to organize with fellow U.S. Marines in an open letter posted online Monday.

“We are planning on arresting Senator Debbie Stabenow, who voted yes to the Iran Nuke Deal. She will be arrested for treason under Article 3 Section 3 of the Constitution,” states the letter. “We have chosen her as our first target due to our strong ties with the Michigan State Militia and their lax gun laws that will allow us to operate in a manner necessary for an operation like this.”

Ritzheimer, 31, claims that after successfully detaining the Michigan Democrat, he and his armed militia “will continue to move across the country and arrest everyone involved with the Iran Nuke Deal” including the president.

―we need not wonder why the militias in the Great Lakes State want nothing to do with him.

____________________

Image notes: Top ― Jon Ritzheimer at a 2015 pro-Confederate flag demonstration. (Photo: Miriam Wasser/Phoenix New Times) Left ― Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) speaks after a vote on legislation for funding the Department of Homeland Security on Capitol Hill in Washington March 2, 2015. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Hess, Hannah. “Militia Organizer Threatens to Arrest Stabenow Over Iran Deal”. Roll Call. 22 September 2015.

—————. “Michigan Militia Group Disavows Threat to Stabenow”. Roll Call. 23 September 2015.

Recommended Holiday Reading

McPoverty protesters outside Wendy's restaurant on Lake City Way in Seattle on Thursday, Feb. 20. (Photo: Joshua McNichols/KUOW)

E.J. Dionne Jr. opens his Labor Day column for the Washington Post with a basic reflection:

Many conservatives and most libertarians argue that every new law or regulation means that government is adding to the sum total of oppression and reducing the freedom of individuals.

This way of looking at things greatly simplifies the political debate. Domestic issues are boiled down to the question of whether someone is “pro-government” or “anti-government.”

Alas for the over-simplifiers, it’s an approach that misreads the nature of the choices that regulators, politicians and citizens regularly face. It ignores that the market system itself could not exist without the rules that government establishes, beginning with statutes protecting private property and also the various measures against the use of force and fraud in business and individual transactions.

More important, it overlooks the ways in which the steps government takes often empower citizens and expand their rights. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the realm of work.

It’s Labor Day, so there is no required reading. Might I, then, strongly encourage Mr. Dionne’s holiday offering?

____________________

Image note: Hey, I’ve been there! ― McPoverty protesters outside Wendy’s restaurant on Lake City Way in Seattle on Thursday, Feb. 20. (Photo: Joshua McNichols/KUOW)

Dionne Jr., E. J. “The right question to ask about government”. The Washington Post. 6 September 2015.