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“You Hear This One A Lot”: Is History Really Against a ‘Three-Peat’ for the Democrats?

At the end of a post listing various and sundry ways that Hillary Clinton could lose to Donald Trump in November, the Washington Post‘s James Hohmann offers this familiar “reminder”:

Don’t forgethistory is not on Hillary’s side. Since World War II, only once has a party controlled the White House for three consecutive terms. (George H.W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan by beating Mike Dukakis in 1988.)

You hear this one a lot. Truth is, it’s an example of a conclusion reached via taking a very small sample and ignoring the details.

The argument excludes the first post–World War II election, in 1948, since that was an election that gave Democrats control of the White House for a fifth consecutive term. There are five elections that meet the definition: 1960, 1968, 1988, 2000, and 2008. As Hohmann noted, the incumbent party won one of these, in 1988. But then the incumbent party also won the popular vote in 2000; I imagine Democrats this year would settle for that precedent, given how incredibly unlikely it is that the Supreme Court will again step in to award the presidency to the popular-vote loser. So we’re now up to 40 percent of the elections defying “history,” even if you don’t count 1948.

Democrats won in 1960 and Republicans in 1968 in two of the closest presidential elections in history. And neither victory was the product of a straightforward election following some iron law of political science. Republicans lost in 1960 in no small part because JFK attracted a very high percentage of the Catholic vote — a classic onetime event. And you may recall many crazy things happened in 1968, including assassinations, riots, and the turning point of an unpopular war.

That leaves 2008, where Republicans failed to win a third consecutive term not because history shouted “STOP,” or even because voters were naturally restless after two GOP terms. Two events always viewed as “fundamental” game-changers both occurred: a war dragging on and becoming deeply unpopular, and the economy falling apart.

So, truth be told, there’s no “normal” two-terms-is-enough pattern we can point to that makes a GOP win — much less a Donald Trump win — this November significantly more likely. But we’ll keep hearing about it. And if Clinton wins, the next time the situation recurs we’ll hear “Since World War II, only twice … ”

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 17, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Presidential Elections | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Be Glad That’s Not Your Job”: Spare A Thought For Those Condemned To Defend Donald Trump

There’s a perfectly logical reason why any Republican would decide that getting behind Donald Trump is the least bad option they face. If you genuinely care about conservative policy goals, the chance that you’ll see the government move in your favored direction under President Hillary Clinton is approximately zero, while with President Trump you’d at worst see many of those goals come to fruition. You’d get a conservative Supreme Court, an executive branch filled with Republicans, and probably many areas where Trump, who plainly doesn’t care at all about the details of policy, just tells the congressional GOP to write whatever bills it wants and he’ll sign them. In short, ideology demands Trump, ironic as that may be given that he was the least ideological Republican running.

And yet, the end point of that perfectly logical chain of thinking is still supporting Donald Trump. Donald Trump the ignoramus, Donald Trump the liar, Donald Trump the buffoon, Donald Trump the xenophobic sexist narcissist all-around jerk. And supporting him, in today’s media-saturated world, also means defending him.

This is the reality of contemporary partisanship: While there are people (like yours truly, thank goodness) who are permitted to be equivocal about politicians, partisans have no such liberty. Their guy must be defended almost no matter what, while the other side’s champion is cast as a model of perfect villainy, worthy of not a single vote. It’s a ridiculous ritual, and it takes a candidate as ridiculous as Trump to make that clear. Just as the Constitution mandates that even the most heinous criminal should be granted a vigorous defense in court, our media demand that even the most despicable politician have someone defend him on cable news. If you find it depressing to watch some party “strategist” or elected official laboring painfully to argue that Trump’s policy choices are quite clever, or that his latest outrageous statement actually contains a kernel of timeless wisdom, just imagine how they feel doing it.

Look at what we’ve heard about Trump in the last few days. There’s the extensively-reported story in The New York Times of Trump’s sleazy treatment of women over the years, including those with whom he had romantic relationships, those who worked for him, and participants in the Miss Universe pageant he used to own (which in no way did he purchase because he wanted to bang beauty queens, absolutely not, how could you think such a thing). The story is pretty much what you would expect, which means it details behavior on Trump’s part ranging from the comical to the rancid. And that followed a Washington Post story on Trump’s old habit of calling up reporters pretending to be a Trump PR guy named “John Miller” or “John Barron,” who would then wax rhapsodic about his boss’s extraordinary accomplishments, both financial and sexual.

What would you say about all that if you were a Trump supporter staring into a camera? You’d probably say what RNC chair Reince Priebus did in his round of Sunday show interviews, dismissing the allegations one moment and trying to change the subject the next, then arguing that it’s irrelevant when what we should really be talking about is Benghazi.

As one Republican said on Twitter, “I can handle Trump. But watching people I once respected and ought to know better rationalizing and validating him makes me physically ill.” Fair enough, but what is Reince Priebus supposed to do? I suppose he could say, “You’re right, we really screwed the pooch by nominating this train wreck of a candidate. This is a living nightmare.” But he has to put as brave a face as he can on things, because that’s his job. And he really does want to help Trump get elected, even if he wishes someone else had won the nomination, because from where he stands the alternative is much worse.

Keep in mind that there are going to be many more stories like the ones this weekend, because we have seen only the tip of the lurid iceberg that is Donald Trump’s oppo file. You can bet that the Clinton campaign has many stories about Trump that it will be feeding reporters on a regular schedule between now and November. Some may not check out, but others will, and I seriously doubt the media will be deterred from pursuing them by Trump’s insults (and they’ll be doing the same thing to Clinton, just as they have for the last couple of decades).

As the campaign goes on, it will be nearly impossible for Republicans to escape questions about Trump, since whenever it’s been a while since a juicy revelation, Trump will help out by saying something disgusting or appallingly dumb (the latest: He says that Syrian refugees are coming to the U.S. carrying phones with ISIS flags on them, and ISIS is also paying their phone bills. Which, you have to admit, is pretty poor tradecraft if you’re trying to smuggle terrorists into America). In a better world, politicians would be able to be completely frank about a situation like this. They could say, “Yeah, the guy’s a monumental pig, not to mention a fool. Who knows what the hell we’ll be in for if he becomes president. But I just don’t want another Democrat elected, and that’s what it comes down to.”

They can’t say that, because we’re all so used to talking about presidential campaigns not as ideological contests but as personality contests. So Republicans have to pretend that they oppose Hillary Clinton not just because she’s a liberal and they’re conservatives—which ought to be more than reason enough—but also because she’s some kind of cartoonish psychopath who would strangle your children’s puppy if she had the chance. They have to say that Clinton is a worse person than Trump, or that he’s somehow more qualified to be president because he’s a businessman, or that his can-do spirit is just what we need to clean up Washington.

They don’t believe any of it. How could they? But they have no choice but to keep on saying it, no matter how it eats at their souls. Just be glad that’s not your job.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, May 16, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Reince Priebus | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unprecedented Demographic Change”: Adapting To Change Requires Curiosity And Creativity

Our 24/7 news cycle that is addicted to the crisis of the moment and the horse race of electoral politics doesn’t do a good job of recognizing the tectonic shifts of change that are undergirding our lives.

The attacks of 9/11 followed by the Great Recession changed the way a lot of people feel about America in ways that aren’t articulated often enough. We are experiencing demographic change that is unprecedented, are nearing the end of two terms for our first African American president and are likely on the cusp of electing our first female president. All of that is happening as we are experiencing the effects of globalization and automation in our economy while technology becomes more central to how we live our everyday lives. Finally, we are just beginning to see the effects of climate change – with dramatic impacts looming on the horizon.

We can play the political parlor game of trying to suss out which of these is the most responsible for the dynamics of our current politics, or we can notice that the combination of those changes is affecting all of us. When Kevin Drum wonders why both political parties are afraid to talk about an improving economy and Gregg Easterbrook asks when optimism became uncool, I suspect that it is the weight of all of these changes that is the answer. But Easterbrook makes an interesting observation.

Though candidates on the right are full of fire and brimstone this year, the trend away from optimism is most pronounced among liberals. A century ago Progressives were the optimists, believing society could be improved, while conservatism saw the end-times approaching. Today progressive thought embraces Judgment Day, too…

Pessimists think in terms of rear-guard actions to turn back the clock. Optimists understand that where the nation has faults, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The Tea Party responded to these changes by saying that they wanted to “take our country back.” When Donald Trump talks about “making America great again,” that’s essentially what he is saying too. Fear and retreat are a pretty common reaction to change among human beings.

Traditionally progressives have faced challenges like this by working on ways to move forward rather than pinning for days past. To do so requires things like curiosity and creativity. The past can be examined objectively, but the future is still uncertain. Ideologues too often stand in the way of curiosity and creativity. Here is how then-Senator Barack Obama talked about that back in 2005:

…the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, “true” progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive “checklist,” then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems.

I believe that this is why the President so often says that it is young people who inspire his optimism. They tend to be free of the ideologies and baggage of the past. Instead, they bring fresh eyes to the challenges we face going forward. Progressives need not fear the changes we are experiencing today when we tap into all of that.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 17, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Long Past Time For The Farce To End”: GOP Committee’s Lawyer Undercuts Benghazi Conspiracy Theory

Things have not been going well for the House Republicans’ Benghazi committee, which is overseeing an investigation that, as of last week, has now lasted over two years. This morning, things have managed to get worse for the GOP’s partisan witch hunt.

As of a couple of weeks ago, the Defense Department started pushing back against the committee Republicans’ increasingly outlandish demands. In no uncertain terms, the Pentagon let Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) know the panel’s requests have become “unnecessary” and “unproductive.” Worse, the DoD believes the partisan committee is guilty of “encouraging speculation” from witnesses, rather than focusing on facts and evidence.

Today, however, the beleaguered committee, whose very existence has become something of a joke, is facing a new round of embarrassing headlines. The Huffington Post reported:

Shortly before the House Benghazi committee ramped up its battles with the Department of Defense in its probe of the 2012 terrorist attack, the committee’s own top lawyer admitted at least four times in interviews with military officials that there was no more they could have done on that tragic night.

That’s according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post that was sent Sunday to the chairman of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), from the top Democrats on the Benghazi panel and the House Armed Services Committee, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Remember, the whole point of the right-wing conspiracy theory is built around the idea that the military could’ve done more to intervene in Benghazi the night of the September 2012 attack, but it didn’t for political reasons. Military leaders, the State Department, and multiple congressional investigations all concluded that the conspiracy theory is wrong, but House Republicans don’t care, which is why they created a committee, led by Trey Gowdy, to tell conservatives what they want to hear.

Now, however, there’s evidence that Gowdy’s former top committee staffer already concluded that the question has been answered truthfully. The Benghazi panel is investigating a conspiracy theory that the committee’s lawyer considers bogus.

According to the letter, that staffer, former Gen. Dana Chipman, said in interviews with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Defense Department Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash that the department did all it could on that night when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region,” Chipman told Panetta in the committee’s January interview with the former defense secretary, according to transcribed excerpts. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”

Chipman was similarly deferential to Bash. “I would posit that from my perspective, having looked at all the materials over the last 18 months, we could not have affected the response to what occurred by 5:15 in the morning on the 12th of September in Benghazi, Libya,” said Chipman, who himself served 33 years in the Army.

And if the military did everything it could that night, the conspiracy theory is no more. The Benghazi committee is asking questions that have been answered to the satisfaction of the committee’s top lawyer, chosen by the committee’s Republican chairman.

Circling back to our previous coverage, Republicans have already admitted the Benghazi panel is a partisan exercise, making it that much more difficult to justify its prolonged existence – at a cost of nearly $7 million. Now there’s evidence the committee is not just annoying the Department of Defense for reasons no one seems able to defend, the panel’s former top lawyer has also seen the evidence and rejected the investigation’s basic premise.

To reiterate a recent observation, though I find the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee ridiculous, I’m not suggesting the deadly terrorist attack in Libya, which left four Americans dead, is unworthy of investigation. Just the opposite is true – Congress had a responsibility to determine what happened and take steps to prevent similar attacks in the future.

But therein lies the point: seven separate congressional committees investigated the Benghazi attack before the Select Committee was even created. This was already one of the most scrutinized events in American history. Republican lawmakers, however, didn’t quite care for what the evidence told them, so they effectively concluded, “Maybe an eighth committee will tell us something the other seven committees didn’t.”

But even now, Republicans can’t substantiate the various conspiracy theories, which their own lawyer has dismissed.

It’s long past time for the farce to end.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 16, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Reince Priebus Has A Conundrum”: How Donald Trump Trapped The Republican National Committee

On Fox News Sunday, Reince Priebus promised that Donald Trump will “bring an earthquake to Washington.”

At the least, he’s put the RNC chairman on shaky ground.

Priebus, the top official in the Republican Party, has a conundrum. His party’s presumptive nominee is making it extremely hard for him to attack Hillary Clinton, as Priebus’s most recent Sunday morning TV tour made excruciatingly clear. For years, the Republican Party has been developing talking points and strategic attacks to use against Clinton.

And one by one, Trump seems to be rendering them useless.

Priebus’s walk of Sunday shame came in the wake of a brutal few days for Trump. The Washington Post produced audio of Trump allegedly pretending to be his own PR flack, The New York Times released a scorching report about Trump’s creepy and predatory treatment of pageant contestants and female employees. On top of that, Trump spent the week arguing that he doesn’t have a responsibility to release his tax returns and that nobody wants to look at them anyway.

The tax returns—which Trump has said he will probably release at some point—are a uniquely thorny issue. When Face the Nation host John Dickerson asked Priebus whether Trump should release his tax returns, the chairman replied that voters don’t really care either way.

“This sort of traditional review and analysis of individual candidates has not applied to Donald Trump,” Priebus said—without saying why Trump should be immune to that scrutiny.

“Now, whether or not his taxes are disclosed or not is something I don’t think is going to move the electorate,” he added.

People aren’t that interested, Priebus argued.

But when it comes to transparency from Democrats, Priebus is a purist. He released a statement after the April 26 Democratic primaries needling Hillary Clinton for her refusal to release transcripts of speeches she made at Goldman Sachs.

“Whether it’s her secret email server that jeopardized national security, stonewalling on releasing the transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street banks, or deliberately misleading voters on nearly every issue, America cannot afford to have Hillary Clinton’s long track record of dishonesty and reckless judgment in the White House,” he said.

Americans are extremely curious about Clinton’s Wall Street speechifying—but tax returns, which would show how much money Trump earns and how he got it? Boring!

Priebus spent the rest of the interview—arguing that any effort to get a third-party candidate would be a “suicide mission” and that Paul Ryan will get along with Trump because they both oppose abortion. He was able to sneak in a reference to “the Benghazi,” but besides that the Democratic frontrunner went unmentioned. This isn’t a one-time thing. Some of the RNC’s favorite attack lines against Clinton could ring hollow, given the similarities between their guy and her.

Almost exactly two years ago, Priebus said Clinton’s health and age were “fair game” for her critics. He made the comment after Karl Rove reportedly suggested Clinton suffered from brain damage, as Newsweek reported.

“I think that health and age is fair game,” Priebus said on Meet the Press on May 18, 2014. “It was fair game for Ronald Reagan. It was fair game for John McCain.”

But it’s not a particularly fun game for Republicans, given that Clinton is one year younger than Trump. He’s 69, and she’s 68. Trump, in fact, was the only competitive Republican presidential candidate older than Clinton. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich are, respectively, 63, 44, 45, and 64 years old. So much for the age card.

In fact, Trump embodies many elements of the Clinton persona that Priebus used to love to rip. On June 10, 2015, for instance, he told Sean Hannity on Fox News that Clinton was “unrelatable” to typical Americans, dinging her for her wealthy lifestyle.

“She doesn’t live a life that’s even remotely close to any actual average families that are out there in Ohio that are going to be voting,” he said confidently. “And that’s going to be her Achilles’ heel.”

It’s certainly true that Clinton’s lifestyle doesn’t have much overlap with your typical soccer mom from the Toledo suburbs. The former secretary of state raked in millions by giving private speeches, and headed a foundation that kept her connected to global elites.

“The Clinton’s lifestyle has and always will be a liability because they play by their own set of rules,” said RNC spokesperson Lindsay Walters when reached for further comment. “They have enriched themselves and even their friends through any means necessary, whether it be raking in speaking fees from foreign governments or using the State Department and their family foundation for their own personal gain. If Clinton is going to claim to be a crusader against Wall Street on the campaign stump, people deserve to know what she got paid to tell them in private.”

Speaking of planes, don’t expect to hear Priebus criticize Bill Clinton for being a frequent passenger on a plane owned by sex-offending billionaire Jeffrey Epstein (nicknamed the Lolita Express). Epstein faces lawsuits from upwards of a dozen alleged victims, according to Vice. And in 2002—as Vice highlighted—Trump told New York magazine that he was a big fan of Epstein’s.

“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” he said at the time. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

It’s excruciating. And, by Priebus’s standards, it’s fair game. On Feb. 24, 2015, the RNC released a memo complaining that “there was hardly a single headline over Bill Clinton’s travels with Jeffrey Epstein.”

A few weeks later, Priebus told Bloomberg Politics that he had serious concerns about Clinton’s relationship with Epstein.

“I’d like to know what he was doing with Jeffrey Epstein, how many trips did he take, where was he going, what did he do when he was with this guy?” Priebus said. “When you hang out with a guy who has a reputation like Jeffrey Epstein, multiple times, on private jets, on weekends, on trips, on places at least where it’s been reported not very good things happen, it would be good to know what our former president was doing, especially because it appears he’s going to be part of a campaign ticket on the other side of the aisle.”

Vice noted that Epstein’s brother, Mark, testified that Trump took at least one flight on the Lolita Express. Awkward.

The more we learn about Trump, the less Priebus can say about Clinton—and the more uncomfortable his Sunday show swings will likely become. Thanks to Trump, Priebus is permanently on defense.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, May 16, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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