vice-presidential debate

The Donald Trump Show (Piling On)

Melania Trump discusses her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, during an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, 17 October 2016.

To the one, there was no particular (ahem!) “Gary Hart moment” by which Donald Trump explicitly dared the press to do anything … or, you know, maybe there was and … and … I mean, come on, really, it would be easy to miss. After all, the Republican nominee has pretty much declared war against the press. As proverbial shows go, it would seem someone finallyα, took away Trump’s Twitter, which is probably for the best when we pause to consider the idea of a man who “privately muses about all the ways he will punish his enemies after Election Day”, as the New York Times explains, “including a threat to fund a ‘super PAC’ with vengeance as its core mission”.

Setting aside the thought that, “Of course he would”, it always occurs to wonder just how often, within whatever schematic or flow chart or whatever else by which they define their expectations, any given bully so utterly fails to account for the idea that maybe the objects of belligerence might occasionally fight back. That is to say, what does he expect the press will do?

To wit, it’s not like they didn’t have any warning; Associated Press made clear they were onto the story of Melania Trump’s immigration and work history months ago; Alicia A. Caldwell, Chad Day, and Jake Pearson delivered the confirmation of what everyone already kind of suspected:

Melania Trump was paid for 10 modeling jobs in the United States worth $20,056 that occurred in the seven weeks before she had legal permission to work in the country, according to detailed accounting ledgers, contracts and related documents from 20 years ago provided to The Associated Press.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)The details of Mrs. Trump’s early paid modeling work in the U.S. emerged in the final days of a bitter presidential campaign in which her husband, Donald Trump, has taken a hard line on immigration laws and those who violate them. Trump has proposed broader use of the government’s E-verify system allowing employers to check whether job applicants are authorized to work. He has noted that federal law prohibits illegally paying immigrants.

Mrs. Trump, who received a green card in March 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006, has always maintained that she arrived in the country legally and never violated the terms of her immigration status. During the presidential campaign, she has cited her story to defend her husband’s hard line on immigration.

This is what I don’t get: Why? To the one, is it at all possible for any realistic person capable of running a business scheme like Donald Trump’s to expect that the press somehow would not or could not find this? To the other, in fairness, it is entirely possible that the GOP nominee didn’t know; it is entirely possible he is surrounded by so many yea-sayers that he has no idea what is going on, even with his own wife. To the beeblebrox, neither does the other preclude the one.

Honestly, only American conservatives could accomplish … well, this. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Donald Trump Show.

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α GOP strategist Mike Murphy, on msnbc last month after the vice presidential debate:

“Trump is a genius at stepping on his own messaging, and I don’t think there’s a force on Earth, at least without heavy weaponry, that can ever separate Trump from his ability to tweet. I think everybody in that campaign is trying to pry the smartphone away from him, and it’ll never happen.”

Image note: Top ― Melania Trump discusses her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, during an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, 17 October 2016. Right ― U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Caldwell, Alicia A., Chad Day, and Jake Pearson. “Melania Trump modeled in US prior to getting work visa”. The Big Story. 4 November 2016.

Day, Chad, Jeff Horwitz, and Alicia A. Caldwell. “Former modeling agent says he got Melania Trump’s visa”. The Big Story. 4 August 2016.

Gauthier, Brendan. “WATCH: Journalist Katy Tur responds after Donald Trump bullies her in front of 4,000 people”. Salon. 3 November 2016.

Haberman, Maggie, et al. “Inside Donald Trump’s Last Stand: An Anxious Nominee Seeks Assurance”. The New York Times. 7 November 2016.

Sheehy, Gail. “The Road To Bimini”. Vanity Fair. 1 September 1987.

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Your Quote of the Day: Murphy on Trumptastic Genius

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)“Trump is a genius at stepping on his own messaging, and I don’t think there’s a force on Earth, at least without heavy weaponry, that can ever separate Trump from his ability to tweet. I think everybody in that campaign is trying to pry the smartphone away from him, and it’ll never happen.”

―Mike Murphy, 4 October 2016

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Image note: Detail of photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

A Note re: Kaine vs. Pence

22 FEBRUARY 2015: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on 'FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace'. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 'dark horse' for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State's 'religious freedom' bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March. (Image credit: FOX News)

This is important:

In one important area, Pence has the advantage of being perceived as a mainstream pol. Politico published a piece yesterday that characterized tonight’s vice presidential debate as “Battle of the Normals,” and a “sane moment” in a campaign cycle that’s often seemed insane.

On a certain level, I can appreciate where analysis like this is coming from. As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner. Unlike the man at the top of the GOP ticket, no one would ever expect Pence to start tweeting at 3 a.m. about his disgust for a beauty-pageant contestant and encourage Americans to seek out a “sex tape.”

But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.

Steve Benen is not wrong. This has been a factor worth considering in recent years, and even more so this cycle. What counts as centrist or mainstream is, in American politics, a roving range. The msnbc blogger and producer continues:

About four years ago, Nate Silver published an interesting analysis of Paul Ryan, who’d just been named to Mitt Romney’s ticket. Nate wrote at the time, “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. By this measure, in fact, which rates members of the House and Senate throughout different time periods on a common ideology scale, Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900.”

Nate added a chart, highlighting the fact that Ryan’s record put him slightly to the right of Dick Cheney, who was slightly to the right of Dan Quayle.

There are curious circumstances, now and again, in which the GOP hardliners leave me standing shoulder to shoulder with Republicans I generally wouldn’t get along with. George W. Bush on China, and suddenly I’m commiserating with Pat Buchanan? What was it, Jade Helm? How do Rick Perry and I land on the same side? I can tell you, though, that when Lindsey Graham is bagging points off John Kasich being described as a “moderate”, well, at least we have that much in common.

It happens.

We revisit the question for Mike Pence. Benen notes the Indiana governor also has a record in Congress:

In the 107th Congress (Pence’s first, covering 2001 and 2002), for example, out of 435 members of the U.S. House, Pence ranked #428―meaning that 427 members were to his left, putting the Hoosier on the far-right-wing fringe. The results were roughly the same in the 108th Congress and the 109th.

By the 110th Congress, Pence was at #432, putting him to the right of nearly everyone in the chamber. The results were roughly the same in the 111th Congress and the 112th.

Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.

The problem is the gap between perceptions of Mike Pence and his actual record. To use Politico’s phrasing, the Hoosier is seen as “normal” and “conventional.” But on a substantive level, we’re talking about a politician whose claim to fame is an anti-LGBT law that did real harm to his state. Pence is a climate denier. He rejects the idea that cigarettes are deadly. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary biology, but he does support “conversion therapy.”

There was an embarrassing episode having to do with alleged Iraqi WMDs; something about privatizing Social Security not being conservative enough; something about government shutdowns; oh, right, and some manner of conspiracy theory about Disney film and women in the military.

Unfortunately, that last isn’t a joke.

This is the problem: If Gov. Mike Pence is “normal”, then we might pause to consider how we define normalcy.

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Image note: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, 22 February 2015. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 GOP dark horse and the Hoosier State’s infamous “religious freedom” bill intended to empower discrimination. (Image credit: FOX News)

Benen, Steve. “Mike Pence saw secret propaganda in Disney film”. 18 July 2016.

—————. “Pence becomes the most far-right running mate in modern history”. msnbc. 15 July 2016.

—————. “To see Mike Pence as ‘normal’ is to grade on a generous curve”. msnbc. 4 October 2016.

Kaczynski, Andrew. “Mike Pence Argued In Op-Ed That Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Was Liberal Propaganda”. BuzzFeed. 17 July 2016.

Salter, Lamar. “‘My party has gone bats— crazy’: Lindsey Graham jokes about killing Ted Cruz and bashes the remaining GOP candidates”. Business Insider. 26 February 2016.

Silver, Nate. “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan”. FiveThirtyEight. 11 August 2012.

A Note on Narrative (Gregariously Pensive)

Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

Setting aside the extraordinarily stupid headline … okay, look, Trip Gabriel explains::

The meeting of Mr. Pence, a Republican, and Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, two pensive and little-known nominees, might be the least anticipated vice-presidential debate in 40 years.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015.  (Photo: Gate Skidmore)Pensive? I’m sorry, but, really?

When Sen. Kaine was named the Democratic running mate, “gregarious” is a word that went around quite a bit. And while the two words are not specifically listed as antonymous, the one includes synonyms like affable, convivial, and outgoing, while the other matches up with absorbed, wistful, and withdrawn.

How about a show of hands among the press: How many of you just say or write whatever because the word sounds sexy or artistic or, you know, like, whatever?

This is a fun challenge for the day: Craft a narrative sentence properly describing someone as “gregariously pensive”.

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Image notes Top ― Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo) Right ― Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015. (Photo: Gate Skidmore)

Gabriel, Trip. “After Trump-Clinton, Vice-Presidential Debate Isn’t Exactly ‘the Return of Elvis'”. The New York Times. 1 October 2016.