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“Early Thoughts On A Clinton/Trump Race”: Does Not Preclude Demonstrating To Voters That He Is A Fool

For the last few days, my head has wanted to play with the idea of what a general election match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would look like. To be honest, I’ve tried to fend off those thoughts because – if we’ve learned anything from this primary season so far – it is that forecasting the future of this race is a fools errand. For example, take a look at how David Plouffe handicapped Trump’s chances in the general:

But today I’m reading about Democrats starting to prepare to face Trump in November. Stan Greenberg’s Democracy Corps released some interesting data about Republican voters. In addition, Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy talked to people in the Clinton camp about how they are preparing to face The Donald.

After all that, I can’t stop myself. With full caveats about how things might change, I have a few thoughts to share about a Clinton/Trump contest.

First of all, unlike Greg Sargent, I never doubted that Democrats would take Trump seriously. Given the Party’s propensity to “Oh, my!!” at the slightest challenge, I’d be much more concerned about the possibility of cowering at his supposed strength.

What has been tripping my synapses lately is the reality that the whole conversation changes (mostly for Republicans) once it turns away from appealing to base voters and heads towards the general populace. Republicans have avoided going after Trump too hard for fear of offending his supporters. The Clinton campaign won’t share that concern.

While Mrs. Clinton radiates positive energy on the trail, Democratic groups are beginning to coalesce around a strategy to deliver sustained and brutal attacks on Mr. Trump.

The plan has three major thrusts: Portray Mr. Trump as a heartless businessman who has worked against the interests of the working-class voters he now appeals to; broadcast the degrading comments he has made against women in order to sway suburban women, who have been reluctant to support Mrs. Clinton; and highlight his brash, explosive temper to show he is unsuited to be commander in chief.

On the debate stage, Trump won’t be surrounded by weak candidates trying to show that they can out-bully him with moderators like Hugh Hewitt and the cast at Fox News. He might actually be pressed to answer questions about things like how he would deal with Vladimir Putin or how he would round up 11 million undocumented people or what he would do about climate change. Imagine that!

Chozick and Healy focus on the fact that Clinton and Trump are polar opposites when it comes to approach.

Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton are polar opposite politicians, and Mr. Trump’s direct and visceral style could prove difficult for Mrs. Clinton, whose inclination is detailed policy talk and 12-point plans.

That kind of thing might have been worrying before we all saw how Clinton handled the Republican members at the Benghazi Hearing a few months ago. For eleven hours she maintained her composure while they threw their rants and raves at her. In the end, they were the ones who looked foolish. I can imagine something similar in a general election debate.

Finally, I am looking forward to the day that President Obama is able to weigh in on the campaign trail for the Democratic nominee. Over the years he has shown several characteristics that Clinton could employ. For example, the President has been a master at giving the opposition enough rope to hang themselves. One needs only recall the moment when he simply said, “Please proceed, Governor” to Mitt Romney during a debate. He is also the person who – to this day – has done the best job of using humor against Donald Trump. Remember this?

There are a lot of ways to take a potential Donald Trump nomination seriously. That does not preclude demonstrating to voters that he is a fool.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 1, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Threat He Embodies”: Against Fascism; For Honest Conservatives, The Only Answer Is #NeverTrump

From his opening slur against Mexicans to his current coddling of the Ku Klux Klan, Donald Trump has shaped the Republican presidential race into a character test for conservatives. For months too many of the country’s most prominent figures on the right have failed to respond adequately to the threat he embodies. Yet now, as Trump seems favored to clinch the GOP nomination, a growing cohort of principled Republicans is forthrightly proclaiming #NeverTrump – and placing country and Constitution above narrow partisanship.

It may be too late to save the Grand Old Party from the extremist contamination that Trump represents, but it is never too late to stand on principle.

Many Republicans have opposed Trump all along, of course, while supporting one or another alternative on the party’s overcrowded debate stage. The casino mogul was too vulgar, too inexperienced, too empty, too populist, or simply too compromised by his long record of contradictory political positions and alliances. Back when all of the Republican presidential candidates signed that pledge to support the eventual nominee, however, uniting the party behind Trump still seemed possible. They didn’t trust him, but they might have supported him anyway in order to win back the White House.

That tempting path is no longer open for any honorable conservative – and fortunately for America, there seems to be quite an assortment of them, including Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, RedState editor Erick Erickson, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, and Iowa radio personality Steve Deace. Although they held varying opinions of Trump until recently, they agree today that his appeals to bigotry, his despotic attitudes, and his coziness with white supremacists and neo-Nazis are — as Scarborough put it — “disqualifying” for his presidential candidacy.

And while others like Ann Coulter, Mike Huckabee, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and radio host Hugh Hewitt still promote Trump, to their eternal disgrace, the #NeverTrump conservatives have vowed not to support or vote for him under any circumstances.

Nobody should discount how difficult that stance must be for committed Republicans, especially given the strong likelihood that Hillary Clinton will secure the Democratic nomination. Not a few of them sincerely despise her (and none of them would be thrilled with a President Bernie Sanders, either). Nevertheless they appear to realize that Trump is in a wholly different category from any normal partisan or ideological foe. There is more at stake than a single election, even an election as significant as this one.

It is fair to wonder why so many conservatives didn’t seem to comprehend Trump’s toxic essence from the moment he brayed about Mexican “rapists” in his rambling announcement speech. For too long, right-wing pundits and politicians seemed much more disturbed by his past positions on healthcare, abortion, and guns than his current appeals to racism, xenophobia, and violence. Even last January, when the National Review devoted an entire issue to essays scourging Trump, most contributors worried about his issue positions and electability rather than his demagogic contempt for American values.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party and the conservative movement have not yet confronted the profound problems that Trump did not cause but merely symbolizes. His rise can be traced to the racial undercurrent in the Tea Party movement, the segregationist legacy of Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, the Willie Horton tactics used by George H.W. Bush, and the Southern strategy deployed by Richard Nixon – indeed, the whole long history of ugliness not just tolerated but often celebrated on the right. Combined with the coarse, vacuous culture epitomized by Fox News and encouraged by the right’s leading intellectuals, that tainted history made someone like Trump almost inevitable.

Whether the party of Abraham Lincoln can be preserved and rehabilitated in the aftermath of a Trump nomination remains to be seen. For conservatives determined to rescue their movement and their party from fascist perdition, the way forward is clear if painful. Author and journalist Max Boot — who was among the first conservatives to reject Trump for the right reasons — addressed the depth of their dilemma with refreshing candor.

“I’m a lifelong Republican,” he reflected on Twitter the other day, “but [the] Trump surge proves that every bad thing Democrats have ever said about GOP is basically true.” Bitter as it is, that verdict may signal the possibility of real reform someday.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, March 1, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Fascism, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Senate Republicans Swat Away Obama’s Outstretched Hand”: A Blockade Unlike Anything Seen In The American Tradition

If we were to pretend American politics operated by traditional rules, we’d have some basic expectations about what policymakers would do in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy. A sitting president would reach out to Senate leaders, some names would be floated as part of a conversation, and a nominee would be put forward and considered.

With this in mind, President Obama hosted an entirely predictable gathering in the Oval Office earlier today. Vice President Biden was there, along with the top Senate leaders from each party, and the top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee from each party.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today, “The president … gave everyone in the room, Democrats and Republicans, the opportunity to put forward their own suggestions for potential Supreme Court nominees. The president didn’t guarantee that he would choose that person, but the president did indicate that he would take seriously any recommendations that either Democrats or Republicans had to put forward.”

It all sounds quite routine – or what would be routine under normal American circumstances. But as it turns out, this Oval Office meeting was actually a reminder about just how abnormal the times really are. The New York Times, quoting one of the gathering’s participants, said today’s discussion was “very short.”

Leaving the meeting, [Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid] suggested that the Republicans appear to be waiting for Donald Trump to be in the White House. “There wasn’t much said at the meeting,” Mr. Reid said.

The Hill also quoted Reid saying in reference to the GOP senators, “They were adamant. They said, ‘No, we’re not going to do this at all.’” Referring to Democrats, Reid added, “All we want them to do is to fulfill their constitutional duty, and at this stage, they are deciding not to do that.”

It wasn’t that Democrats were cool to the GOP’s ideas for possible nominees. Rather, Republicans simply said there should be no nominee – and if one exists, he or she will be ignored, regardless of qualifications or merit.

That this was the expected outcome of the meeting doesn’t make it any less scandalous. The political world’s collective assumptions about how this is likely to play out shouldn’t obscure the fact that Senate Republicans are orchestrating a Supreme Court blockade unlike anything seen in the American tradition.

They are doing so without a defense or a coherent explanation, ignoring the Constitution and traditional norms in the process.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this morning that he and his party will “observe the ‘Biden Rule,’” in reference to a 1992 speech then-Sen. Joe Biden delivered about hypothetical high-court vacancies.

Under the circumstances, it seems quite likely that McConnell knows he’s brazenly lying. There is no such thing as the “Biden Rule,” and if there were, it wouldn’t justify the current obstructionism. On the contrary, in his 1992 remarks, Biden, describing the possibility of a Supreme Court vacancy that did not exist at the time, explicitly said that if the then-Republican president “consults and cooperates with the Senate, or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices Kennedy and Souter.”

If McConnell wants to believe this established a “rule” that must be honored, then today’s Senate Republicans will have to meet, consider, and vote on President Obama’s nominee – steps McConnell has vowed not to take.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 1, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , | 3 Comments

“Media Not Doing Its Job”: Campaign Press Adopts The Trump Rules — They’re The Opposite Of The Clinton Rules

Switching back and forth between MSNBC and CNN last Thursday night as they aired competing, hour-long interviews with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, viewers ran the risk of whiplash. The threat lingered not just because Clinton and Trump were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but because the tone and tenor of the two events seemed dramatically different.

Here were some of the questions posed to Clinton from the MSNBC event’s co-moderators, NBC’s Chuck Todd and Telemundo’s José Díaz-Balart:

  • “What would you do to make possible that the [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival] students become permanent residents?”
  • “Would you ever imagine raising the retirement age in the next 10 years?”
  • “Do you foresee a time when the federal government would be able to include the undocumented [workers] in federal grants for education?”
  • “Should people start paying Social Security taxes on income over $120,000?”
  • “Is a presidential visit [to Cuba] a step too far? Would a President Clinton be going this quickly?”

By contrast, here were some of the questions posed to Trump from the CNN moderator, Anderson Cooper:

  • “What do you eat when you roll up at a McDonald’s, what does – what does Donald Trump order?”
  • “What’s your favorite kind of music?”
  • “How many hours a night do you sleep?”
  • “What kind of a parent are you?”
  • “What is one thing you wish you didn’t do?”

Obviously, those questions don’t reflect everything asked over the 60-minute programs. And I’m not suggesting Trump didn’t get any policy questions during his CNN sit-down. But the vibe from MSNBC’s Clinton event was definitely, Midterm Cram Session, while the vibe from CNN’s Trump event leaned towards, People Magazine Wants To Know. (One week later, Clinton sat for a CNN town hall where she did not receive any of the light, lifestyle questions that were asked to Trump.)

In a way, the interviews nicely captured the unfolding guidelines for the 2016 campaign season. With both Clinton and Trump enjoying big election wins last weekend and now apparently with inside tracks to their party’s nomination, we’re beginning to see signs about what the press coverage of a Clinton vs. Trump general election might look like.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have been in the public spotlight so long, and have been sparring with the Beltway press for so many years, that so-called Clinton Rules have been established. They outline the informal guidelines media follow when covering the Clintons.

The one-word distillation of the Clinton Rules? Negativity. Likely followed by distrust, snark, and condescension. Simple facts are considered optional and the Clintons are always, always held to a different, tougher standard than everyone else.

By contrast, Trump has only been in the campaign spotlight for eight months but I’d suggest the media’s Trump Rules have already come into focus: Intimidation, aggrandizement, and a lack of curiosity.

In other words, when you fly above the campaign season with a bird’s eye view, it seems inescapable that the press is being soft on the Republican, while at the same being hard on the Democrat.

Have reporters and pundits given Trump a complete pass? Absolutely not. (See more below.) Just as with the Clinton Rules, there are always exceptions to the coverage. But in terms of a vibe and a feel, it’s hard to claim that Trump is getting hit with the same relentlessly caustic (she’s doomed!) coverage that follows Clinton around everywhere she goes.

Can anyone even imagine what the relentless, almost hysterical, press coverage would look like if Clinton rallies were marred by violence, and if she denounced campaign reporters as disgusting liars? So far, neither of those phenomena from the Trump campaign have sparked crisis coverage from the press.

Some journalists are starting to concede the Trump Rules are in effect. The Washington Post just dubbed Trump a “unicorn” because he gets away with things no other candidate does. On Twitter, BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith suggested “there’s obviously been a trade, mostly on TV, of laying off his dishonesty and bigotry on exchange for access.”

Pulitizer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin bemoaned the hands-off vetting of Trump:

Do we know, at this point, about his modus operandi in business? Do we know how he treated his staff? Do we know what kind of leader he was when he was building his business? I mean, I don’t know the answers to these things. All I know is that, when I see him now, it’s like his past is not being used by the media to tell us who the guy really is.

And neither do I.

For instance, I don’t know much about Trump’s finances. Clinton last year released eight years of tax returns but Trump won’t yet give a firm answer regarding if and when he’ll do the same. So why hasn’t that been a pressing media pursuit?

Last week, veteran Time political scribe Joe Klein also teed off on his colleagues, while appearing on MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell:

It’s the most — probably the most embarrassing coverage of a candidate that I’ve seen in my 11-God- help-me presidential campaigns. First of all, we’re aggrandizing him like crazy because he boosts ratings. Second of all, we’re not doing our job.

Days later, leaked audio from MSNBC’s infamous Trump town hall event seemed to confirm a central claim that excessive Trump coverage — and usually the fawning variety — is good for business and good for media careers. During a commercial break after Mika Brzezinski thanked Trump for participating in the town hall event, Trump said, “I’m doing this because you get great ratings and a raise — me, I get nothing.”

They don’t teach that at journalism school.

Note that the strange part of the larger Trump Rules phenomenon is that the candidate mouths so much constant nonsense on the campaign trail, you’d think he’d dread going on TV and answering pointed questions about his bullying campaign. But it’s quite the opposite. Because even when journalists raise thorny topics with him, they usually give Trump a pass.

For instance, on Sunday’s State of the Union, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump about the white supremacist supporters he had retweeted, which certainly constitutes a probing question that likely made Trump uncomfortable, right?

Not exactly. While the initial question from Tapper was good, when Trump responded with a rambling, 600-word non-answer, which concluded with him vowing to bring jobs back from India, Tapper simply moved on to the next topic instead of drilling down on the fact that the Republican frontrunner was retweeting white supremacists.

Or hit the Wayback Machine to last September when Trump appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation and spun for host John Dickerson the fantastic tale about how 9/11 terrorists had tipped off their (mostly non-existent) wives about the pending terror attack, and had their (mostly non-existent) wives flown home days before hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center.

Dickerson’s response? He didn’t raise a single question about Trump’s concocted claims.

Print journalists seem to be doing a better job at fact-checking Trump. To his credit, Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post has called out some of Trump’s more outlandish claims. Kessler’s recent foray surrounded Trump’s “truly absurd claim he would save $300 billion a year on prescription drugs.”

Kessler’s conclusion? Trump is nuts. Or, more delicately:

Once again, we are confronted with a nonsense figure from the mouth of Donald Trump. He is either claiming to save four times the entire cost of the Medicare prescription drug system – or he is claiming to make prescription drugs free for every American.

Have occasional findings of fact like that changed the often-breezy tenor of Trump’s overall coverage? No they have not. Because two days after Kessler’s Medicare takedown, Trump was interviewed for an hour on CNN where the candidate wasn’t asked about his nutty prescription drug estimates. But he was asked what kind of music he likes and if he orders French fries at McDonald’s.

Welcome to the Trump Rules.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America; The National Memo,  February 25, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trumpkins Beware, It Get’s Worse”: Why We’re Segregated On Super Tuesday And How It Helps Explain Trump

The most segregated place in American politics just might be a partisan primary.

The massive racial disparities in voter turnout between Republicans and Democrats help explain how Donald Trump seems to be insulting his way to the nomination. But this same dynamic also underscores how screwed the GOP is in terms of national demographic shifts if they choose to go further down this dangerous path.

Today is Super Tuesday, nicknamed the SEC primary because it includes many states in the Southeastern college sports conference. Contrary to stereotypes, the South is more racially diverse than many regions in the United States. Also contrary to stereotypes, Republicans field a more diverse set of statewide elected officials than Democrats, as evidenced by the presence of two Hispanic senators from the South running for president on the right side of the aisle.

But the good news stops there. The racial polarization beneath our politics becomes clear when you look at who turns out to vote in partisan primaries.

Let’s start with a look at South Carolina—a state where black people make up 28 percent of the population, roughly double the national average.

Hillary Clinton won a massive victory there this past weekend, winning 86 percent of black vote in a primary where African Americans made up 61 percent of the turnout.

A week earlier, Republicans ran in the same state and CNN exit polls showed that black support for Republicans was almost nonexistent—or, in the statistical parlance of exit polls, “n/a”—not applicable.

This troubling trend is likely to become only more pronounced on Super Tuesday. Eight years ago—the closest comparison we have to this open-seat presidential cycle—voter turnout was high but the diversity was also skewed to one side, especially in the South.

In delegate-rich Texas, for example, black people make up 10 percent of the population, but made up only 2 percent of the voters in the 2008 Republican primary. Hispanics made up 38 percent of the Lone Star State population, but only 10 percent of the Republican votes. But in the Democratic primary, black Americans were 19 percent of the vote and Hispanics 32 percent of the vote, respectively.

In Alabama, black people make up 26 percent of the population, but made up only 4 percent of GOP primary voters in 2008. On the Democratic side of the aisle, black voters made up 51 percent of the primary electorate.

The same dynamic was evident in Georgia. Black Americans made up 31 percent of the population in 2008, but only 4 percent of the GOP primary vote. In contrast, black voters made up 52 percent of the Democratic primary turnout.

We’ll round out the sample set with Virginia, where black people make up 19 percent of the total population but made up only 3 percent of GOP primary voters in 2008. On the Democratic side, black voters constituted 30 percent of the primary turnout.

If you’re from the South or have spent much time there, these results may seem unremarkable. But they are a sign of a deeper sickness in our political system, where race is too often a partisan signifier.

Here’s the short version of how this happened in the South: This division is rooted in the legacy of slavery and the Civil War: The states of the former Confederacy voted against the Party of Lincoln for a hundred years (and blacks who could vote were loyal Republicans) until conservative Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Southern Strategy began. White Southern Democrats became Republicans, but they remained conservative populists.

This dynamic was compounded in recent years by collusion between the two parties in the form of the rigged system of redistricting, which gerrymandered the South into white and black congressional districts, rural and urban, driving the Bill Clinton-era Blue Dogs—centrist white Southern Democratic congressmen—into extinction. There are no swing seats left but the racial polarization of the parties in the South is intact, further reinforcing the sense that partisans can simply play to the political and racial base rather than reach out to form new coalitions.

Almost needless to say, this racial polarization does not mean that voters in the respective parties are racist—especially by the standards of a generation ago—but it does mean that the rank and file of our political parties are more segregated than our society at large. And the elevation of Donald Trump to the GOP nomination will only compound these problems.

This primary turnout explains how the rise of a Trump is possible while spewing divisive racial rhetoric: There is no short-term political cost and quite possibly some short-term political benefit in playing to fears of demographic change, cultural and economic resentment and anger toward the first black president. But the long run is all downside.

That’s because partisan primary turnout is often unrepresentative of the overall state. So you can win a partisan primary without having those results be a predictor of how the state will vote in the fall, especially in the case of a crucial swing state like Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, or Virginia. The primaries become the tail that wags the dog: A small number of voters, represented by an even smaller number of professional partisan activists and special interests, get massive attention from candidates trying to win the nomination. If you’re campaigning for the Republican nomination, you can safely ignore diverse communities, but that play-to-the-base path to winning the nomination is a surefire path for losing a general election.

Say what you want about George W. Bush, but he was genuinely passionate about increasing the reach of the Republican Party into communities of color. The foundation of his 2000 presidential run was his landslide re-election as governor of Texas in 1998, when he won 40 percent of the Latino vote.

Trumpkins will point out that The Donald won the Latino vote in the Nevada caucus last month. This is true and doubly impressive/depressing running against two actual Hispanics, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—as Ruben Navarrette predicted in The Daily Beast. But it’s not incidental to point out that while a record 75,000 Republicans caucused, only an estimated 6,000 were Latino—well below the 27 percent of the population that is Hispanic. Cut this stat with two other facts—President Obama won the Latino vote by 50 points in Nevada and 80 percent of Latinos nationwide have a negative view of Trump—and you quickly pack up any notions that Trump’s Nevada caucus victory is an indicator of general-election strength.

And so it goes. The increasingly narrow base of the GOP, dominated by conservative populists, has created the conditions for a celebrity demagogue like Donald Trump. The absence of a strong center-right or real depth of diversity among the Republican constituency means that the party can be too easily hijacked in five weeks of partisan primaries by pandering to an electorate that doesn’t look much like the America that candidate will have to win—let alone govern.

While the polls show that Donald Trump is primed for a big night, don’t believe the hype: No matter how “yuge” the win, the underlying electoral math is apocalyptic for any party that chooses to not only ignore but insult the growing diversity in America.

 

By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, March 1, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Partisan Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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