Hillary Clinton 2016

A Necessarily Inevitable Point

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya, 18 October 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

What seems most bothersome about the so-called email scandal is the number of people who ought to have known better, by which we ought to mean among those pretending to be shocked and appalled. Matt Yglesias phrases it delicately for Vox: “The real Clinton email scandal is that a bullshit story has dominated the campaign”.

Because Clinton herself apologized for it and because it does not appear to be in any way important, Clinton allies, surrogates, and co-partisans have largely not familiarized themselves with the details of the matter, instead saying vaguely that it was an error of judgment and she apologized and America has bigger fish to fry.

This has had the effect of further inscribing and reinscribing the notion that Clinton did something wrong, meaning that every bit of micro-news that puts the scandal back on cable amounts to reminding people of something bad that Clinton did. In total, network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.

This is unfortunate because emailgate, like so many Clinton pseudo-scandals before it, is bullshit. The real scandal here is the way a story that was at best of modest significance came to dominate the US presidential election―overwhelming stories of much more importance, giving the American people a completely skewed impression of one of the two nominees, and creating space for the FBI to intervene in the election in favor of its apparently preferred candidate in a dangerous way.

When all is said and done, who else do we treat this way? Who else would tolerate a quarter-century of this? Who else could endure it yet still find ways to flourish? Seriously, they can even tell us it’s bullshit, and there is still a market sector anxious to gobble it up like manna from Heaven.

____________________

Image note: Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press.

Yglesias, Matthew. “The real Clinton email scandal is that a bullshit story has dominated the campaign”. Vox. 4 November 2016.

Advertisements

The Donald Trump Show (Basketeers)

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

This is a long problem in the political discourse:

If you follow Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, you already know that statistics suggest that if only women voted for president, Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide. Yet Trump’s female supporters are some of the most ardent folks on his side. He seems to appeal to women supporters as a candidate who will keep them safe and protect the borders from the bad hombres.

They don’t trust Clinton. And the endless stories about her emails don’t help build confidence with supporters of either gender. Yet when I ask for examples of what bothers people most about the emails, the answers seem to come directly from the Trump playbook. According to Trump supporters, the emails prove that Clinton is funding ISIS, ordered the massacre in Benghazi, is plotting to steal the election and is actually a pimp who procures women for her husband. “It just proves just how nasty she is,” one male voter told me.

When asked about the notion of breaking the glass ceiling by electing a woman to the White House, they all resoundingly said, “Not that woman.” Several women suggested that Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate in 2008, would make a great first woman candidate. “She is so much more prepared to serve than Hillary Clinton,” a stay-at-home mom from California said.

(King Collier)

It’s very nearly petulant, and comes in a variety of flavors. This time around it’s pretty straightforward: It is not that your voice does not matter; rather, forfeiture of reality simply does not constitute a middle ground. There is nothing we can do when the compromise point with conspiracists is granting the conspiracy theory.

And, frankly, it sounds like neurotic desperation, an excuse for supporting terrible people and ideas. The thing about self-indictment is that, for the most part, conscience will out; it’s part of being human. Relatively few of the infamously-designated deplorables actually celebrate their hatred; most of them try to find some way to believe they’re good people. We should find that encouraging; they want to be good. It’s just … I don’t know. This is the challenge. Pathos is one thing; self-imposed alienation is something else entirely.

____________________

Image note: Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

King Collier, Andrea. “What are they thinking? Talking to Trump voters without judgment (and while black)”. Salon. 5 November 2016.

Chuck Portent

Patricia Murphy, for Roll Call:

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks as part of an immigration policy "Gang of Eight", at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., 18 April 2013.  (Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters)Either Clinton or Trump will live in the White House, but when it comes to getting an agenda passed into law, they’ll need Senate Democrats’ votes to do it. And to get those votes, they’re going to need Sen. Chuck Schumer, the rising Senate Democratic leader and the man poised to be a Clinton consiglieri or Trump’s not-so-loyal opposition.

But after one of the ugliest presidential elections in history, Capitol Hill veterans point to Schumer as the glimmer of hope that Congress may finally be entering an era of accomplishment instead of gridlock after years of partisan paralysis.

The Brooklyn exterminator’s son, who finished Harvard and Harvard Law by 23, may seem like an unlikely vessel for hope in the post-Obama era, but Schumer’s existing relationships, caucus loyalty and prejudice toward action may make him the man for this moment.

____________________

Image note: U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks as part of an immigration policy “Gang of Eight”, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., 18 April 2013. (Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters)

Murphy, Patricia. “Chuck Schumer Is on the Line”. Roll Call. 3 November 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Pants on Fire)

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015. (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

At this point, it’s so damn ridiculous we could go on like this all day today and tomorrow and not feel any better even after Hillary Clinton wins, because, really, the Donald Trump presidential nomination is one of those American wild somethings in the whatnow that we really ought not try again, and I won’t say anything about swamp eels.

Damn it. Okay, anyway, it is easy enough to get distracted by the tale of the twitless wonder, but we might also take a moment to raise a glass to the one and only Steve Benen, who took a moment amid his own astonishment at talk of Donald Trump’s vengeful ways to appreciate a great symbol of the Republican nominee’s gaslit campaign, coming as it did while the team rallied to capitalize on James Comey’s clodhopping bombshell. Or, as the New York Timesα put it:

Stephen Bannon, CEO of Republican nominee Donald Trump's presidential campaign, meets with the Trump Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower in Manhattan, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Carl Allegri/Reuters)But they insisted that to truly exploit it, Mr. Trump needed to do something he had been incapable of in the past: strictly follow instructions, let a story unfold on its own and resist the urge to endlessly bludgeon his rival.

They headed to a fleet of cars that whisked them to the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester, where a crowd of thousands was waiting for the candidate to take the stage.

But his aides needed time to sketch out what Mr. Trump should say―and not say. They sent Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, onstage with a mission: stall.

As the aides agonized over which words to feed into the teleprompter, they become so engrossed that a hot light set up next to the machine caused Mr. Bannon’s Kuhl hiking pants to begin smoldering.

“I think my pant leg is on fire,” he said after noticing the acrid smell.

Yes, apparently, really.

Wouldn’t it be nice to say this is one of the silver linings we get from having suffered the Donald Trump Show? After all, what better emblem of the emblematic? This is, unfortunately, the sort of experience for which there really is no excuse. And it is easy enough to say we all have played our part in American society and its reinforcement of some terrible aspects about our human frailty, but let’s face it, this time it’s pretty much all on conservatives themselves. They’re already trying to blame Democrats for Donald Trump, and the election technically hasn’t happened, yet.β

____________________

α And hoist again for the four reporters required to bring us this heady glimpse inside Donald Trump’s existential uncertainty: Maggie Haberman, Ashley Parker, Jeremy W. Peters, and Michael Barbaro.

β Is there a rule about putting a footnote on the last sentence? In the moment, it seems like there ought to be. Nonetheless, it seems necessary to remind that the 2020 Republican presidential nomination contest is already at least informally underway; it has been since, well, before the Republican convention was over, and we even got the fun little joke last month about Kellyanne Conway pitching her credentials toward the next cycle. And, you know, it is possible Ted Cruz has already lost. Republicans are amazing, sometimes.

Image notes: Top ― Donald Trump announces his candidacy. (Photo: Justin Lane/EPA) Right ― Trump/Pence 2016 campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Benen, Steve. “Driven by vengeance, Trump is eager to ‘punish his enemies'”. msnbc. 7 November 2016.

Haberman, Maggie, et al. “Inside Donald Trump’s Last Stand: An Anxious Nominee Seeks Assurance”. The New York Times. 6 November 2016.

Rozsa, Matthew. “The big loser in Donald Trump’s war against the GOP is Ted Cruz somehow”. Salon. 11 October 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Somebody Stop Me)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

“I don’t know, you tell me. You know what? Why don’t you ask Hillary if she cares that cows can’t digest corn?”

Bill Scheft

You know, it’s a lot funnier to actually attribute it to Donald Trump, but there isn’t really a good way of doing that anymore. There is, to the one, Poe’s Law; there is, to the other, Donald Trump’s easily confused legion.

But it’s the one funny line in the premature flaccidity. Nor ought we blame Mr. Scheft; flaccid is the way of the Trump, and pretty much all caricature of this emblematic strangeness extends into that range, eventually achieving its best expression as metacommentary considering Donald Trump’s seminal lack of viability.

Prematurity? Bravado? Mindbending foolishness? It isn’t so much superstition this time; rather, the fact that Donald Trump is the GOP nominee at all tells us there is enough wrong in the world that vigilance serves us best.

____________________

Image note: Detail of photo by John Locher/AP Photo.

Scheft, Bill. “Donald Trump’s exit interview: ‘I just found out what the job paid. $400,000. You’re kidding, right?'”

The Donald Trump Show (Black Box)

Chris Hayes: "But ultimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box. No one, probably not even Trump knows what the hell it looks like. 8/8" (via Twitter, 6 September 2016) Photo of Donald Trump via YouTube.

“I know basically no one cares about this (the lack of policy) but it’s seriously unprecedented.”

Chris Hayes

We are soon to find at least something of an answer. In September, Chris Hayes took to Twitter, offering up a Politico article as an exemplary of a key aspect of the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Steve Benen of msnbc, at the time, called it “an under-appreciated point”α, which is, technically, true, but that really is the thing about the Donald Trump Show; it is impossible to fully appreciate anything about this presidential “campaign”. Such as it is, and inasmuch as Twitter monologuing―monotwitting? tweetologuing?―is all the rage:

[1]I know basically no one cares about this (the lack of policy) but it’s seriously unprecedented. Here’s a snapshot. [2] Here’s a piece on Clinton’s tech policy advisers. [link] Fairly standard arrangement: experts/insiders volunteer. [3] They craft policy on a whole range of important, but fairly technical issues. Happens in all campaigns on both sides. [4] Lots of times these informal advisers over-represent industry, which is bad! But there’s an effort to sketch out a concrete agenda. [5] There simply is no infrastructure like this for Trump. There was for Romney, but outside of a few issues, it doesn’t exist for Trump. [6] There simply is not a real policy agenda. And so, the campaign can’t be about it in any real way. Hence the focus on immigration. [7] At least with immigration there is some kind of policy, even if all over the place. But you can actually talk about policy contrasts. [8] But ultimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box. No one, probably not even Trump knows what the hell it looks like.

And here we are, two months later, at the end of the line. To the one, did Trump ever open the black box? To the other, does it matter that he didn’t?

____________________

α Benen continues:

Trump and his aides considered providing voters with more detailed information about how the candidate would govern, but they rejected it. In May, Politico quoted a campaign source saying Trump didn’t want to “waste time on policy,” in part because he believes “it would make him less effective on the stump.”

The same source added at the time, “It won’t be until after he is elected but before he’s inaugurated that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do.”

As we discussed at the time, this posture turns the whole point of campaigns on its head. Voters are apparently supposed to support the least-experienced, least-prepared presidential candidate of the modern era first, and then he’ll let the public know how he intends to govern.

Image note: “But ultimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box. No one, probably not even Trump knows what the hell it looks like. 8/8” (Chris Hayes, via Twitter, 6 September 2016); image of Donald Trump via YouTube.

Benen, Steve. “Trump campaign’s ‘black box’ leaves key questions unanswered”. msnbc. 6 September 2016.

Hayes, Chris. The Black Box Tweets. 6 September 2016.

Romm, Tony. “Inside Clinton’s tech policy circle”. Politico. 7 June 2016.

Uncertainty as Entertainment (Silver “Say What” Mix)

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks off stage as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump puts his notes away after the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Harry Enten’s headline for FiveThirtyEight: “Has Trump Already Lost Nevada?” There is also his overall outlook on the Silver State:

For now, though, we don’t really know what the early vote in Nevada portends for Clinton nationally. It’s certainly not evidence that this election is over. It is, however, a potentially good sign for Clinton.

The road between is interesting enough; there is a lot to see.

____________________

Image note: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks off stage as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump puts his notes away after the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Enten, Harry. “Has Trump Already Lost Nevada?” FiveThirtyEight. 6 November 2016.

Just a Question About “Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government”

I feel kind of silly because I can’t figure out―

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government ― a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

―if Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) just dropped a headline. It is, to be certain, a breathtaking maneuver by FBI Director James Comey to so deliberately unsettle the presidential election, and Mr. Reid seems rather quite upset by the circumstance. Still, though, what am I missing? Because the bit about “coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government” just begs for attention. Please do, sir, tell us more.

____________________

Reid, Harry. Letter to James Comey. 30 October 2016.

Reilly, Ryan J. “Harry Reid Blasts FBI Director James Comey Over Handling Of Clinton Email Probe”. The Huffington Post. 30 October 2016.

A Particularly Straightforward Example of an Extraordinarily Mundane―That Is To Say, Neurotic―Rhetorical Accident

This is one of those straightforward distillations; Alli Joseph, for Salon:

“Once Obama called all people from Texas ‘swamp crazy,’ people pretty much decided to vote for Trump next time,” she said matter-of-factly. There’s a germ of truth there: At an Ohio Democratic dinner on Oct. 13, President Obama said that some Texas officials who had believed that a routine military exercise might lead to martial law belonged to the “swamp of crazy.”

See how that works?

No, really; it’s an essential transformation that, in other circumstances, actually looks like people rushing to throw in with undesirable outcomes in order to complain that the politician they already don’t like has somehow insulted them. It comes up quite a bit, actually.

This is just a particularly straightforward example.

____________________

Joseph, Alli. “Deep in the heart of TrumpLand―even Texans want our national nightmare to be over”. Salon. 30 October 2016.

Even Less Admirable (The Chairman’s Daughter’s Whatnot)

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03) questions Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. during her testimony in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on 29 September 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This is not what we would ordinarily call a profile in courage:

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz again reversed his position on Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy on Wednesday night, saying he’d vote for the Republican nominee but wouldn’t endorse him.

“I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him,” Chaffetz tweeted Wednesday. “[Hillary Rodham Clinton] is that bad. HRC is bad for the USA.”

The House Oversight Committee chairman had previously backed Trump’s candidacy before withdrawing his endorsement on Oct. 8 following the revelation that the Republican nominee had made lewd and sexually aggressive comments while filming for an “Access Hollywood” interview in 2005.

(Lima)

Then again, this is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03) we’re talking about, so it’s not like anyone expects a lot. To that end, we should at least note the accomplishment, the e’er graceless flip-flop-flip.

(more…)