underappreciated

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?

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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.

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The Press vs. HRC (Habitually Peeved)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. (Detail of photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Failed Republican congressional candidate Charles S. Faddis is apparently a former CIA officer with no real talent for observation.

It wasn’t until much later in the day that the pneumonia diagnosis was released by the campaign. But, even that information doesn’t completely answer all questions. Clinton and her supporters have dismissed such questions about her health and her stamina as the stuff of conspiracy theorists for years. That cover story may have just gone up in smoke.

One of the under-… er … ah … underappreciated? undernoticed? underdiscussesd? … ―you know, skip underwhatnot; how about seemingly necessarily utterly ignored?―aspects of the 2016 cycle is the overturning of political norms in general. While we all marvel at Donald Trump’s political incontinence, it is easy enough to miss.

Steve Benen considered a question of transparency:

The criticisms of the campaign’s handling of this matter have merit. Clinton and her team learned of the pneumonia diagnosis on Friday, and rather than sharing that information, they kept it under wraps. Had the Democratic candidate not been seen struggling in New York yesterday, it’s hard to say when, if ever, the campaign would have disclosed the infection.

Indeed, keep in mind that Clinton travels with pool reporters who cover her every move in public. Journalists were understandably peeved yesterday when Clinton and her team left yesterday morning’s event yesterday, leaving these reporters behind without explanation.

Trump, however, is so secretive, he’s the first presidential nominee in recent memory not to travel with any pool reporters at all.

We must bear in mind that part of the reason it is understandable that the Clinton press corps―which, being the press, already loathes her generally out of habit after a quarter-century of hounding her for the sake of right-wing conspiracy theories―is peeved at being left behind without explanation is that, being the press, they are accustomed to being handed the story in easily regurgitated bites. But for actually being noticed, the campaign would not have disclosed the infection, and there is exactly nothing extraordinary about this, regardless of the press corps’ hissy fits.

Nigh on a quarter century after the national media’s hate affair with the Clinton family began, it’s weird to think that the Fourth Estate needs to report around what the rest of us can see quite clearly: Much of what we are to consider the strange way the Clintons deal with the press has to do with the press itself; the appearance of statements calculated to a strange, unreal for representing an average, line of best fit is just about the only way to navigate the not entirely arbitraryα obstacle course established by when and how the press decides what is or not its jobβ. In the end, it seems odd that the press should pretend to be peeved that Hillary Clinton’s political operation isn’t going out of their way to fawn over reporters.

We might, then, turn to an actual doctor, such as Jen Gunter, who summarized:

Mrs. Clinton felt faint. It was dealt with appropriately. It looked dramatic, but it’s ok.

And so is she.

The crude joke to express Mr. Faddis’ argument is that a blind man will, if he throws enough darts, eventually hit the bull’s eye. After a quarter century, it’s likely that someone might suggest something about someone else’s health, and that other happen to be ill. All told, Mr. Faddis’ credulity suggests he was as bad a CIA agent as he was a Republican congressional candidate.

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α That is to say, petulant, self-centered, and vicious.

β As the estimable Jim Lehrer once answered the question of fact-checking during an interview, “I would never do that. That’s not my function to do that.” Or, as Rob Corddry explained over a decade ago: “Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.”

Image note: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. (Detail of photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “Clinton camp ‘could have done better’ disclosing pneumonia”. msnbc. 12 September 2016.

Corddry Rob and Jon Stewart. “Kerry Controversy”. The Daily Show. 23 August 2004.

Cox Barrett, Liz. “Jim Lehrer on Billy Bob, Reports of Rain and Stenography As Journalism”. Columbia Journalism Review. 2 June 2006.

Faddis, Charles S. “Hillary: The pneumonia diagnosis doesn’t answer everything”. The Hill. 12 September 2016.

Gunter, Jen. “Yes, Hillary almost fainted: I’m a doctor and it’s really OK”. The Hill. 12 September 2016.