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“A Dysfunctional Circus”: Trump Picks An Odd Time To Sue A Former Staffer

It’s tempting to assume Donald Trump would have plenty to occupy his time right now: choosing a running mate, preparing for his national nomination convention that begins in five days, trying to close the gap against Hillary Clinton, etc.

But as it turns out, the Republican candidate has also found the time to focus on filing a new lawsuit.

Donald Trump is seeking $10 million from a former aide he accused of leaking confidential information about a public spat between two senior campaign staffers, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Trump claimed that fired campaign consultant Sam Nunberg went to the press with confidential information in violation of a nondisclosure agreement, which the real estate mogul requires nearly all staffers for his campaign and businesses to sign.

Even by this campaign’s standards, it’s an odd story. Nunberg was fired last summer for publishing racist messages via social media. He then allegedly leaked word of an affair between two Trump campaign staffers. This leak, Team Trump believes, was a breach of the non-disclosure agreement Nunberg signed.

Which brings us to today’s court filing.

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa added that Trump reportedly “decided to file a lawsuit in the middle of a general-election campaign because he’s furious” with Nunberg.

But that’s not much of an explanation. Donald Trump is scheduled to receive a major-party presidential nomination literally next week. He’s announcing his running mate in two days. Whether he’s furious with Nunberg over campaign gossip or not, it’s not unreasonable to think Trump should have some impulse control.

As for the larger context, Trump’s entire political operation too often resembles a dysfunctional circus. Let’s not forget that the GOP candidate fired his campaign manager less than a month ago, and he’s parted ways with several other top aides since.

One senior aide was let go after less than three weeks on the job, while another was given the boot after less than three days.

For months, Trump’s campaign staff has earned a reputation for amateurish infighting, high turnover, and a complete lack of direction. I suspect the typical American voter will not know or care about any of this, but it matters: a national candidate who can’t run a credible campaign operation will struggle to oversee a competent White House operation.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republican National Convention, Trump Campaign | , , , , | 2 Comments

“I Can Relate It Really Very Much To Myself”: Asked About Race, Donald Trump Gives The Wrong Answer

Given recent violence in Texas, Minnesota, and Louisiana, race is very much on the minds of many Americans, including Donald Trump. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee sat down with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly last night, where Trump was able to explain why he believes he can relate to African Americans.

O’REILLY: There [are] still some black Americans who believe that the system is biased against them. The American system because they’re black, they don’t get the same kind of shot, they don’t get the same kind of fairness that whites do. What do you say to them?

TRUMP: Well, I have been saying even against me the system is rigged when I ran as a, you know, for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system and the system is rigged.

When the host told the candidate this sentiment probably won’t lift anyone’s spirits, Trump responded, “No, what I’m saying is they are not necessarily wrong. I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play. I’m not saying that. And I can relate it really very much to myself.”

Asked if he believes he can understand the African-American experience, Trump added, “You can’t truly understand what’s going on unless you are African-American. I would like to say yes, however.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

First, let’s quickly note that the GOP’s presidential nominating process was not, in reality, “rigged” against the candidate who prevailed. Trump didn’t understand how states chose delegates to the national convention, but that doesn’t mean the system itself was manipulated unfairly.

Second, for Trump to believe his experiences winning the Republican nomination helps him “relate” to African Americans is so painfully bizarre, it would do real and lasting harm to a normal presidential candidate.

But even if we put this aside, one of the most striking things about Trump’s perceptions of current events is his narcissistic myopia. For Trump, the importance of the mass-shooting in Orlando is something he once said on Twitter. For Trump, the importance of Brexit is how it might affect his golf course. For Trump, the importance of African-American alienation is how similar it is to his treatment during the GOP primaries.

Ask Trump about almost any issue, and he’s likely to respond with a sentiment that boils down to, “That reminds me of me.”

To put it mildly, it’s an alarming personality trait.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 13, 2016

July 13, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sanders Endorses Platform”: There Will Be No Platform Fight At The Democratic National Convention

It obviously didn’t get as much attention as his endorsement of Hillary Clinton earlier today, but Bernie Sanders also made it clear he was very pleased with the compromises worked out on the Democratic platform. The final shoe dropped this afternoon when the Sanders campaign confirmed to the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent that it would not be backing any minority reports when the platform is formally adopted at the convention.

And so we come full circle. Back in March it seemed there could be that rarest of phenomena, a contested convention, at the Republican Convention, while the Democratic convention looked to be a tightly scripted Clinton infomercial. Then, when Trump nailed down his nomination before Clinton was assured of hers, the drama drained out of Cleveland and back into Philly, where Sanders was promising a fight to the bitter end.

Now Philly’s back on course to proceed as a “normal” convention, with the nominee and her rival happily joining hands beneath the smiling visages of the 42nd and 44th presidents and a host of other elected officials and celebrities.  The only mystery now involves the vice-presidential nominee’s identity, and we’ll know that soon enough.

Meanwhile, it’s once again Cleveland that’s looking dark and strange and unpredictable. Around and around they go, and where they stop, nobody knows.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 13, 2016

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , | 1 Comment

“The No-Mandate Election”: No Matter What Happens In November, Don’t Expect The Gridlock To Go Away

Usually when there’s an election cycle full of passionate intensity and near-universal perceptions of high stakes, the compensation for the teeth-grinding angst is a sense of resolution, with voters answering big questions and providing something of a policy mandate. Yes, 2000 was a muddle because the results themselves were hotly disputed (not that this kept the new Bush administration from behaving as though it had a mandate to cut taxes massively and look for excuses to topple Saddam Hussein to avenge that plot to kill Poppy). But usually we know more about the direction of the country after rather than before Election Day. And we could sure use some public guidance after six years of a Republican Congress making the total obstruction of a Democratic president its central, holy mission.

But the closer we get to November 8, the more that hope seems forlorn. Brian Beutler explains part of the problem:

Trump has completely upended the platonic notion of elections as tools to settle public policy debates. His agenda, such as it is, either can’t or won’t be implemented, even if he wins. Mexico is not going to pay for a wall along the border, and the U.S. government is not going to expel 11 million unauthorized immigrants, much less ban Muslims from entering the country. It is altogether more likely that were he to win, the movement conservatives who still control Congress would present him the kind of plutocrat-friendly legislation that alienated their voters and drove them to Trump in the first place. His supporters would be rewarded for their triumph with a vision of change they don’t share and didn’t vote for.

In the likelier event that Clinton wins, but does not secure majorities in both the House and Senate, the public will have rejected Trump’s ugly vision of a resentful, bigoted America, but will not see that verdict translated into any policy changes that reflect Clinton’s vision of a more inclusive, cosmopolitan society.

But it’s actually worse than that. If Trump loses, what Barack Obama used to call “the fever” of conservative extremism won’t “break,” for the simple reason that the keepers of the ideological flame loathe Trump as a heretic and won’t for a moment accept responsibility for anything about his campaign. The lesson many of them would “learn” from a Trump loss is the same they “learned” from McCain’s loss in 2008 and Romney’s in 2012: Only a rigidly orthodox conservative GOP can win national elections.

If, somehow, Hillary Clinton loses, it’s unclear Democrats will “learn” much of anything, either, other than the peril of going into a competitive election with a nominee who has high unfavorable ratings fed by decades of conservative attacks. There is no way a defeated Hillary Clinton runs again in 2020, and the most obvious alternative this time around, Bernie Sanders, will be pushing 80 by then. And there’s nothing about this campaign that suggests Democrats would be open to much cooperation with President Trump.

Now, should things go the opposite way with a solid or spectacular Clinton win and a Democratic conquest of both houses of Congress, there’s a chance things would open up. But as Barack Obama’s experience in 2009 demonstrated, it would almost certainly require not only a workable majority in the House but a majority in the Senate willing to undertake radical filibuster reform (at least for Supreme Court nominations, though possibly for regular legislation). And the window for accomplishing anything would be narrow: If Democrats hang on to the White House this year, 2018 would likely shape up as another GOP midterm landslide (especially in the Senate, where the landscape will be insanely pro-Republican then).

The kind of atmosphere we are more likely to see was, interestingly enough, described by Hillary Clinton herself in her recent interview with Ezra Klein:

“A lot of governing is the slow, hard boring of hard boards,” she says. “I don’t think there’s anything sexy, exciting, or headline-grabbing about it. I think it is getting up every day, building the relationships, finding whatever sliver of common ground you can occupy, never, ever giving up in continuing to reach out even to people who are sworn political partisan adversaries.”

No wonder so many Democratic primary voters thrilled to Bernie Sanders’s talk about a grassroots-driven “political revolution” that would make this “hard boring of hard boards” unnecessary. It would be nice if an election cycle or two could mobilize a previously hidden majority and sweep away all of the gridlock. Ideologues of both flavors (Ted Cruz along with Bernie Sanders) endlessly fantasize about this magic solution; the fact that it’s equally plausible for people in both parties is a pretty good sign it’s an illusion. So any way you slice it, 2017 is likely to feel familiar, and frustrating.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 13, 2016

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, Gridlock, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ask Me No Questions If You Can’t Take The Answer”: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Abandons All Subtlety Towards Trump

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dipped her toe into the political waters last week, conceding to the Associated Press that she’d rather not “think about” the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. “If it should be,” she added, “then everything is up for grabs.”

A couple of days later, Ginsburg went just a little further while speaking to the New York Times. Reflecting again on a possible Trump administration, the justice said, “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be – I don’t even want to contemplate that.” Echoing a sentiment from her late husband, Ginsburg said a Trump victory in November would mean “it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”

Apparently, the more she answers these questions, the stronger Ginsburg’s feelings on the subject.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Donald Trump “a faker” Monday night, doubling down on her critical comments about a potential Trump presidency.

“He has no consistency about him,” Ginsburg told CNN. “He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego…. How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”

It’s at this point that objective observers have to start wondering whether Ginsburg is going further than she should.

I realize, of course, that justices’ ideologies are not exactly a secret. The fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg wants to see Donald J. Trump lose should surprise literally no one. It’s a safe bet that Clarence Thomas is equally eager to see Hillary Clinton lose. There’s no great mystery here.

But as much as I admire and respect Ginsburg, critics are raising a legitimate question. If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t be at all pleased if, say, Samuel Alito started giving a series of media interviews, playing the role of election pundit and intervening in the electoral process. If the question today is whether Ginsburg is breaking with judicial protocol, fairness dictates that the answer is yes.

Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and a Georgetown University Law professor, wrote a piece for the New York Times defending the progressive justice for speaking her mind.

Normally Supreme Court justices should refrain from commenting on partisan politics. But these are not normal times. The question is whether a Supreme Court justice – in this case, the second woman on the court, a civil rights icon and pioneering feminist – has an obligation to remain silent when the country is at risk of being ruled by a man who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a sexist and racist demagogue. The answer must be no. […]

When despots have ascended to power in other regimes, one wonders how judges should have responded. Should they have adhered to a code of silence while their country went to hell? Not on the watch of the Notorious R.B.G. She understands that if Trump wins, the rule of law is at risk.

I can appreciate the argument. I even want to agree with it. If Trump is a unique threat to the American political system and a genuine menace, it’s unreasonable to think people of good conscience should stay silent in the name of propriety.

But Ginsburg isn’t just another voter; she’s a sitting justice on the Supreme Court. If there were a crisis along the lines of the 2000 election, and the high court was asked to adjudicate a case related to this election’s outcome, would Americans have confidence of Ginsburg’s impartiality? Would she have to recuse herself, thus affecting the outcome?

I appreciate the broader context and the fact that Ginsburg may be understandably worried about her own role in sending the nation in a radical and regressive direction. But the fact remains, those who’ve said she’s going too far are raising a legitimate concern that is not easily dismissed.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 12, 2016

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Politics, Ruth Bader Ginsburg | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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