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“An Alarming History”: Trump Needs To Clear A Higher Bar When It Comes To Women

The New York Times published a rather brutal piece over the weekend on Donald Trump’s problematic history with women. It painted a painful picture:

The New York Times interviewed dozens of women who had worked with or for Mr. Trump over the past four decades, in the worlds of real estate, modeling and pageants; women who had dated him or interacted with him socially; and women and men who had closely observed his conduct since his adolescence. In all, more than 50 interviews were conducted over the course of six weeks.

Their accounts – many relayed here in their own words – reveal unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct, according to the interviews, as well as court records and written recollections. The interactions occurred in his offices at Trump Tower, at his homes, at construction sites and backstage at beauty pageants. They appeared to be fleeting, unimportant moments to him, but they left lasting impressions on the women who experienced them.

The article, according to a spokesperson for the Times, is the most read political story the newspaper has published in 2016.

In response to the piece, we’ve seen some curious reactions from women close to the Republican candidate. His spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, said yesterday, for example, “Women know Donald Trump is a very successful businessperson. He’s raised a wonderful family. His own wife endorsed him for president.”

In a separate interview, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, said, “I’m not in every interaction my father has, but he’s not a groper.”

And Melania Trump, the candidate’s third wife, added in a different interview, “We know the truth. He’s not Hitler.”

So, let’s review. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has an alarming history with women, but (a) he’s not a genocidal groper; and (b) he’s capable of picking up a campaign endorsement from his own wife.

Maybe, when looking for a national leader, Americans may look for a presidential candidate who can clear a higher bar, but this is nevertheless where things stand in the 2016 race.

As for the embarrassment this may cause Trump’s party, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argued over the weekend, in reference to a question about the Times article, “I’ve got to tell you, I think that all these stories that come out – and they come out every couple weeks – people just don’t care.”

Well, Republican primary voters didn’t seem to care, but the national electorate may bring a very different perspective to the table.

Postscript: One of the notable parts of the Times article highlighted an anecdote in which Trump asked Brook Antoinette Mahealani Lee, Miss Universe at the time, for her opinion about his daughter’s body.

” ‘Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?’ ” Lee recalled him saying. ‘I was like, ‘Really?’ That’s just weird. She was 16. That’s creepy.”

Olivia Nuzzi explained why Trump may have said something like this: “Trump says creepy things about Ivanka being hot because, to him, hot is the most valuable thing a woman can be. It’s not about wanting to sleep with his daughter. It’s about his daughter’s worth and, by extension, his own worth.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 18, 2016

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Nominee, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“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

“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

“Washington Weasel-Wording”: After The Trump-Ryan ‘Summit’, Both Sides Can Pretend The Other Is Surrendering

As political theater, the “summit” between Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan was first-rate. By that I don’t refer to the street circus of protesters and counter-protesters and a thousand cameras. The “joint statement” the two men issued after a meeting in the presence of RNC chairman Reince Priebus was a quick espresso shot of nothingness topped with pious hopes for “unity.” It left everyone free to interpret it as they wish.

Like a truce between Roman generals and a barbarian chieftain in late antiquity, the “summit” will probably be regarded by each side as representing the first stage in the other’s surrender. For Trump, the very ritual of meetings with the RNC chairman, the House Speaker, the House leadership team, and (later today) the Senate leadership team connotes the conferral of respectability on a figure each and every one of these potentates has almost certainly disparaged in private as a buffoon, an overgrown juvenile delinquent, or a proto-fascist. And for said potentates, Trump’s day on Capitol Hill represents his coming domestication. This dance could go on for quite some time before any push comes to shove in a public disagreement. And by then Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party will be stuck with each other for the duration.

On Wednesday, Trump’s little-known top policy adviser, the former Iowa politician Sam Clovis, offered a good example of how easy it might be for Trump and Paul Ryan to blur their differences on even the most inflammatory issues. Pressed about whether “entitlement reform” was indeed off the table, as Trump himself seems to have said in debates and on the campaign trail, Clovis allowed as how a Trump administration might actually mosey over in that direction if fiscal circumstances so indicated. I’m sure Paul Ryan was pleased to hear that, and perhaps he was exactly the intended audience for that small but significant shift. Having spent much of the 2012 general election pretending to love Medicare more than life itself after issuing budget after budget proposing to gut it, Ryan knows how to blur his positions as well.

As Greg Sargent shrewdly observed, a lot of the distance between Trump and Beltway Republicans can be bridged by Washington weasel-wording. They’re off to a good start today.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 12, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Trump Is Performing A Kind Of Straddle-Pander”: Why Donald Trump Is Happily Uttering Conservative Heresies

Reince Priebus, the long-suffering chairman of the Republican National Committee, has now resorted to pleading with Donald Trump not to rewrite the party’s platform. “All that anxiety, just take it off the table,” Priebus said on a radio show Monday. “Tell people that, that you don’t want to rewrite, you appreciate and agree with the platform the way it is.” I’m sure Trump will oblige, since it’s not like he cares one way or another what’s contained in some document he’s never going to bother to read, let alone feel bound by. Meanwhile, Trump will continue to utter heresies against conservative dogma whenever the mood strikes him.

So it was that on Sunday, Trump not only said that taxes for the wealthy might go up when he’s president, but came out as minimum wage increase-curious. Don’t wait for him to actually advocate an increase in the federal minimum, though. Appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, Trump expressed both support and opposition to an increase. “I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour,” he said. “I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide.”

The fact that Trump didn’t actually advocate an increase will be little comfort to Republicans watching him trod all over their cherished beliefs. Because even if he didn’t say the federal minimum should be raised, he expressed support for the idea that $7.25 an hour isn’t enough to live on, even if you aren’t in the market for solid gold toilets and faux-Versailles furnishings. That cuts against the rhetorical underpinnings of Republican opposition to an increase, which include the ideas that minimum wage jobs are only held by teenagers anyway, and the government shouldn’t be saying what is and isn’t enough for anyone to live on. Worst of all, Trump expressed sympathy for the working poor and entertained the idea that government should help them.

Saying “Let the states decide” provides no ideological safe harbor — though Trump probably doesn’t understand this. The truth is that despite their rhetoric about federalism, Republicans — just like Democrats — are fans of federal power when the federal government is doing something they want, and fans of state power when the states are doing something they want. Republicans want states to be able to slash Medicaid benefits, but don’t like it when states legalize marijuana. They talk about how the best government is closest to the people, but when a local government passes a non-discrimination ordinance or increases its minimum wage, they’ll pass a preemption law forbidding any local government in the state from creating a more liberal environment than the Republican legislature wants.

So once again, because Trump didn’t rise up through the political system and because he just doesn’t care all that much about issues, he doesn’t have a firm grasp on the combination of moral and practical arguments that provide the foundation for the conservative position on the issue at hand. It isn’t just that he doesn’t get what he’s supposed to believe, it’s that he doesn’t get why he’s supposed to believe it.

And truth be told, Republicans would rather not talk about the minimum wage at all, since this is one of the most unpopular positions they hold. Polls regularly show 70 percent of the public supporting an increase. That’s the biggest reason Democrats always bring the topic up, but it’s also an economic policy that’s simple to understand, and one where government can have a direct and immediate effect on people’s lives.

Unlike other proposals candidates might make, a minimum wage isn’t something you’d have to wait for. It’s not like the tax cuts Republicans say will eventually trickle down to ordinary people, and it’s not like the infrastructure investments Democrats say will produce more sustained economic growth in the long run. Everyone knows what it means to get a raise.

So Trump is performing a kind of straddle-pander, trying to show he’s on the right side of the issue while not actually taking a position in opposition to his party. But this comes at a time when those favoring an increase in the minimum are on the offensive. California and New York have recently passed laws hiking the minimum to $15 an hour (phased in over a period of years), and multiple states will have increases on their ballots in November. Chances are most or all of those measures will succeed (minimum wage initiatives usually do), and Republicans will be even more eager to change the subject.

Conservatives will take Trump’s squishiness on this issue as yet more proof that he isn’t a true conservative, and they’ll be right. But he also seems to have an intuitive sense, at least some of the time, of what people want to hear. Despite all the voters he’s alienated by taking Republican ideas and cranking them up to 11, Trump has also rejected some of the most unpopular positions his party has, on things like cutting Social Security or defunding Planned Parenthood.

That doesn’t mean voters will buy that he’s some kind of man of the people. But by speaking favorably about a higher minimum wage, Trump is once again making the rest of his party look bad.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect;  Contributor, The Week, May 10, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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