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“Kindred Spirits”: Trump Lies So Much Less To NY Mega-Rich

The crowd outside stretched far across 42nd Street, and police lined the sidewalk as if preparing for an invasion. The protesters called him a racist and held signs that read BEAT UP TRUMP and NO FUCKING FASCIST! Dozens of them were arrested.

But inside the Grand Hyatt hotel, the man they were raging against was hard to find.

In the ballroom, its ceiling opulently outfitted with copper-colored glass, the New York Republican Party was holding its annual gala, and Donald Trump, the first of the three presidential candidates to speak, was on his best behavior.

Maybe it was the tux.

“You know, I thought I’d do something a little different,” Trump began.

As the audience of 800 drank wine and picked at their salads, which had cost them each $1,000 and required that they go through metal detectors in their gowns and dinner jackets, Trump opted out of his usual stump speech—a haphazard string of insults, poll numbers, and tirades against the media—and instead talked for 23 minutes about the New York City he helped shape.

“I love speaking at the Grand Hyatt,” he said, “because I built it.”

Forty-second and Lex was once home to the Commodore Hotel, which opened in 1919 and had, by 1976, seen better, more profitable days.

“It was a mess,” Trump told the crowd. “They had a spa called ‘Relaxation Plus,’ but nobody ever got into what the ‘plus’ meant.”

Trump bought the property and transformed it into a shiny glass behemoth—his first of many such structures in this city. (He was bought out of the building in 1996).

At another point, Trump reminisced about buying a building downtown in the throes of “the depression—literally a depression” in the early 1990s (there was no economic depression in the 1990s). “When I opened, it was like the world had changed,” he said.

Private construction is not the first topic that comes to mind when you imagine a presidential candidate’s speech. But for Trump, his buildings are evidence that he can get things done, and the context doesn’t much matter. In order to achieve success, in Trump’s view, you need to be able to measure it in stories.

Which is not to say that he shied away from politics completely.

Trump enjoys 65 percent favorability in New York, according to a Public Policy Polling poll released April 12, and a 31.9 percent lead on John Kasich—53.8 to 21.9—in the Real Clear Politics average.

The audience at the Hyatt laughed with Trump and applauded for him, but they also just seemed to understand who he is. And he understands them, which seems like the best explanation for why he did away with his usual shtick and talked to them as equals.

At one point, he did mock poor Jeb Bush, who isn’t even a candidate anymore, by saying he should move to New York City to improve his low energy, but the schoolboy humor was kept to a minimum.

Later, Trump spent some time discussing “New York values,” that unfortunate phrase Ted Cruz, his central rival for the nomination, chose to deploy as an insult against him a few months back.

“I want to just talk, just for a second, about New York values,” Trump said.

The crowd cheered.

“It’s just one of those things,” he said.

But he didn’t need to remind the audience to dislike Cruz.

When the Texas senator arrived onstage in a tux with a lopsided bow tie, some people just left.

Others talked loudly over him and clanked their silverware as they ate their entrees.

A few stared down at their phones.

“I will admit to you,” he said, “I haven’t built any buildings in New York City.”


By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, April 15, 2016

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, New York Primaries, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bernie Sanders Isn’t Electable, And Here’s Why”: Revolution On Hold, Politicians Think Of Their Own Necks First

The blunt truth: I just can’t see Bernie Sanders winning a general election. Three months ago, I thought it might be possible, maybe. But watching the campaign unfold as it has, and given some time to ponder how circumstances might play themselves out, I’ve become less convinced that he could beat any of the Republicans. He’d probably have the best shot against Ted Cruz. But in that case, as we now know, Mike Bloomberg would get in, and I think he’d be formidable, but I don’t want to get into why here. That’s another column, if indeed it ever needs to be written.

This column is about Sanders’s chances, which I think are virtually nil for two reasons.

Reason one: He’s not an enrolled Democrat. Understand that I say this not as a judgment on him, but as a description of what would surely become, were he the nominee, a deep, practical liability. Let me explain.

That he’s not an enrolled Democrat doesn’t matter, obviously, to his fans. I’m sure it doesn’t matter to most rank-and-file Democrats. It doesn’t matter to me. But you’d better believe it matters to Democratic office holders and party officials—members of Congress, state legislators, governors, mayors, national committee members, and state committee members across the country. These people are Democrats, and they’re Democrats for a reason. It’s important to them.

A party’s nominee, to these people, needs to lead the party—he or she needs to be the country’s No. 1 Democrat. Sanders has never been a Democrat, which is fine, it’s served him well. But even as he made the decision to seek the presidency as a Democrat, he doesn’t seem to have made any effort to act like he cares about the party he wants to lead.

Politico in early January published an interesting news story comparing Clinton’s and Sanders’s fundraising operations. Clinton raised more than $100 million in 2015, and Sanders $73 million. But here was the key thing: In addition to that $100 million Clinton bagged for herself, she raised an additional $18 million for Democrats around the country.

The Sanders figure? Zero.

There’s a lot I don’t know about life. But I know this: Democratic office holders keep tabs on that sort of thing. Now maybe some of them didn’t want Bernie Sanders at their fundraisers, but that wouldn’t have prevented the Sanders operation from writing checks to progressive Democrats all over the country as a kind of down payment, which apparently did not happen. Also, Sanders could just say at any time, “You know what? I’m a Democrat now.” He cannot, technically, enroll as one, because Vermont has open, non-party registration. He could however simply say it, but he hasn’t. He caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, but that’s just because any senator has to choose one side or the other.

Partly as a result of this, and for other reasons, Sanders has very little Democratic support. He has one Democratic member of Congress, Keith Ellison of Minnesota (out of 232); and, according to the relevant Wikipedia page, just 115 Democratic state legislators across the country. Actually, that’s not across 50 states; it’s across only 14 states. Of the 115, 94 are from New England: Maine 37, Vermont 29, New Hampshire 19, Connecticut five, Massachusetts four. The Vermont number of 29 is particularly interesting, because the Vermont General Assembly (which includes both houses) has 103 Democrats, meaning that Sanders doesn’t have even one-third of the Democrats in his own state.

Maybe 115 sounds like a quasi-respectable figure to you. But there are 3,175 Democratic state legislators in America (.pdf). So 115 is nothing. And again, the vast majority come from states right in his neighborhood. Where are the others from? According to this list, to take stock of some large states and key swing states, there’s one from Ohio; zero from Florida; zero from Virginia; zero from Colorado; zero from New Mexico; one from Nevada; two from New York; one from Illinois; and from California, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, zero, zero, and zero.

Now, my argument is not that endorsements matter that much. Rather, the important part is the likely consequence of this lack of support. Say it’s late spring, and somehow or another, Sanders is charging toward the nomination. He’ll pick up some more Democratic endorsers, in safe liberal districts in states that he won. But here’s what’s going to happen. Every one of those roughly 3,200 elected officials is going to conduct a poll of his or her district to ascertain whether association with Sanders helps or hurts. It’s my guess that for a lot of them—and I would say the substantial majority of them—the answer is going to be “hurts.”

And even if that’s not the case, these legislators will sound out, as they inevitably do, their top donors, and their districts’ major employers. How many Sanders enthusiasts are going to be found among those two groups? These legislators will keep their distance from Sanders. They won’t do the things that party people normally do for their nominee—go out and make speeches, share voter information, give tips about the district that only they know, and so on.

This will vary from district to district and state to state, but the sum and substance will likely be, if I’m right, that in a number of important jurisdictions, the message of the state and local Democratic candidates and party infrastructures to Sanders will be: You’re on your own, pal. Politicians think of their own necks first, and they’re fearful of the unknown and are overly cautious on matters like this anyway.

So that’s the first reason: Having never been a Democrat, and having even not given them any of his money in this past year, Sanders just isn’t going to get much help from Democrats. The Democratic Party hasn’t nominated someone who wasn’t an enrolled member of the party since, I believe, 1872, when it chose newspaperman Horace Greeley (I’m still checking on Gen. Winfield Scott, 1880, but even if it was he, that’s a long time ago).

Now, the second reason. I think Sanders is uniquely vulnerable to scorching foreign-policy attacks. Scorching. He’d be subject to stinging attacks on domestic policy, too, but on domestic policy, I’d imagine he can hold his own. On economics and health policy and monetary policy, whatever you think of his proposals, he clearly knows the nuts and bolts.

On foreign policy, that’s not so clear at all. It’s not his lefty past here that I’m mainly talking about, although you’d better believe that Republicans would make sure every voter in America knew about that, and they’d lie about its extent to boot. But even putting that to the side, the issue is his apparent lack of interest over all these years in foreign policy. The world is in a pretty parlous state right now, so I’d bet foreign policy will matter more in this election than it usually does, even without a Big Event in October. One factor that greatly benefited Bill Clinton in 1992 is that the Cold War had ended and foreign policy was low on voters’ radar screens. Sanders won’t be so lucky. I could write the ad myself, and it would be crushing, but I don’t want to give them ideas. Rest assured, they’ll think of them on their own.

And now, here’s where my first and second reasons relate to each other. If a nominee has strong backing from his party, when those attacks come, the other folks will have his back. If he doesn’t, they won’t. Mind you it is not my intent here to scold Sanders, even though many readers will take it that way. My intent is just to describe what I think would be the reality. When the right started savaging Sanders over foreign policy (and over socialism too, of course), the bulk of the support systems that are usually there for a candidate under attack won’t be.

Now, since I know this column is going to face plenty of rebuttal, let me spend two paragraphs pre-butting myself. It’s possible that if Sanders won the nomination, local Democrats would by and large just say “OK, he’s our guy,” and they’d get behind him. I don’t think so, for reasons stated above, but I concede that it’s possible, with so much at stake. And he still would have the support of the unions, who these days do most of the get-out-the-vote legwork. So it’s possible that a lack of support from Democratic candidates in swing (and other) states won’t be that severe and won’t mean as much as I suspect it will mean.

On foreign policy, we see from his debates with Clinton what Sanders’s reply will be: I opposed the Iraq War, and I was right. And second, I support Barack Obama’s foreign policy, so I’ll just do more of that. Who knows, that might be enough. My suspicion is that it will not be. It certainly won’t be against Donald Trump, who also opposed the war in Iraq, making that issue a wash between the two of them. But I suspect that as a general election campaign progresses, Sanders will have a harder and harder time leaning on a decision he made 14 years ago, even though it was the right one.

So that leads to my first stipulation. I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again. Despite what some of you are going to say on Twitter and elsewhere, I don’t presume to know everything.

Stipulation No. 2: Though I admire Hillary Clinton, my argument doesn’t have anything to do with her. It’s not a brief for Clinton. She has a number of flaws. She lacks the natural pol’s exuberant charisma, she has made errors of strategic judgment in her career that make me wonder how effective she’d be at negotiating with Republicans (or Israelis and Palestinians), and though I don’t think she’s corrupt, this stonewalling reflex of hers is just terrible, and it’s kind of shocking after all these years that she can’t see how poorly it has served her.

And she comes with risk. As I wrote Monday, I doubt she’ll be indicted over the email business. But something short of that could still prove politically problematic: an FBI report that gives Republicans enough grist to grind through the attack-ad mill this fall, say.

So what I’ve written here doesn’t have to do with her. Joe Biden could be the mainstream candidate, or John Kerry, or Joe Manchin, or Claire McCaskill, or a Democratic governor, or anybody, and I’m certain I’d still think the same thing.

My feeling that Sanders could win a general election was never strong, based on the usual stuff, i.e., 74-year-old socialist from Vermont. But recently I’ve been reflecting on these two matters, his lack of affiliation with the party whose standard he wants to bear, and his unique vulnerability to attack on foreign policy at a time when those issues are much more in the forefront of voters’ minds than usual. As I’ve written before, current general election head-to-head polling is meaningless, since conservatives haven’t yet spent a dollar attacking him. If he’s the nominee, they’re going to spend at least five hundred million of them doing that. And some Democrats, more likely a lot of Democrats, are going to run away from him. I can’t see how that ends well.

UPDATE: A first reader reminds me that Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona has also endorsed Sanders. A second reader corrects that the Democratic nominee of 1880 was Gen. Winfield Hancock. Winfield Scott was the Whig Party nominee of 1852.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 27, 2016

January 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, General Election 2016, GOP, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“The Dark Side Of Hillary Clinton’s New Inevitability”: We Live In The Age Of The Enemy-Of-My-Enemy Politics

For her birthday, Hillary Clinton got some conventional wisdom.

In the wake of a dominating debate performance and equally impressive turn at the Benghazi hearings, the usual Washington suspects have decided being inevitable isn’t so bad after all. She became “the heroine of a captivating political drama,” says Reuters. Her 11-hour testimony was, says Vox, “her best campaign ad yet.” Once again, quoth The Fix at The Washington Post, “Republicans saved Hillary.” The Guardian saw a “triumphant October” and “political observers’ doubts fade.” “The Most Likely Next President Is Hillary Clinton,” declared Mark Halperin at Bloomberg News.

Now, Halperin’s judgments on candidates’ political fortunes are fickle enough that there could be a Hallmark card designed for those on their receiving end. (It’s shelved next to the “So I heard Bill Kristol thinks you should run for president” line.) Just last March, based on Clinton’s lackluster response to the revelation that she used a private email server to conduct some State Department business, Halperin got his syntax in a bunch and huffed that he had revised a yet earlier opinion: “I now think that she’s not only not easily the most likely, I don’t think she’s anymore the most likely.”

I’m probably the last one who needs to remind Clinton that the favor of the Washington media isn’t so much a gift horse that requires a look in the mouth as a pile of what comes out the other end. More enduring support has come in the form of dollars; the campaign claims to have had its most successful single hour yet between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the night of her Benghazi testimony and added 100,000 new donors in October.

That is clearly more encouraging news than whatever fresh-baked takes are wafting across Twitter, but the mechanism behind the outpouring of support isn’t an unalloyed gift. We live in the age of enemy-of-my-enemy politics, and analysis that stops with seeing Clinton benefit from the Republicans’ attack on her misses the equal and opposite reaction on the right.

At the moment, that reaction is diffused into the clown car of chaos chugging across the primary landscape. There are more than a dozen campaigns all trying to lay claim to the mantle of Clinton-slayer, and at the moment they look less like an opponent than a tribe of minions trying to scrabble to the top of a living pyramid. Once votes and money coalesce around a candidate, it will be more difficult to count Clinton as the winner in any given contest.

But look, I don’t think your average swing voter cares about the controversies that obsess the right. Republicans have a historically and hysterically bad record at overestimating the degree to which mere annoyance with the Clintons’ foibles translates into active support for their agenda. What’s more, the GOP seems determined to nominate someone whose views aren’t just unpopular with the vast majority of Americans but actively repellent to many. (If the right wants to die on the hill of fake “religious liberty” causes, it’ll die alone). The Republican Party has made little progress on defusing the demographic time bomb that will soon make winning the white male vote an even more dubious distinction.

So I’m not worried so much about the Republican nominee winning come next November, but I am worried that the Democrats’ best hope for holding the White House for the next eight years performs best from a defensive posture. She needs the GOP as much as it needs her. It’s a stance of mutually assured fundraising, a recipe for continued gridlock and a million clever social media memes, but not much progress.

On some level, this winningest loser strategy mirrors the exact scenario Clinton’s anti-Bernie Sanders surrogates stoke: He’ll never get anything done, they argue, he’s too polarizing and extreme! In real life, Sanders is one of Congress’s most successful brokers—the “amendment king” of the House and the co-shepherd of the last bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the Senate’s few bipartisan successes in recent years.

The somewhat sad truth is that Sanders is polarizing because of his positions, not because of who he is. Clinton’s provocativeness is, on the other hand, half intentional bluster and half protective coloring. As a woman, because she bears the burden of being first and among the few, her skill in turning these things into triumphs is an adaptation, an evolutionary advantage that ensures her survival—even as it draws into question her ability to build a legacy.

As it is, the higgledy-piggledy nature of the Republican debate field remains her best friend, even if what it takes to win isn’t the same as what’s required to govern. When the CNBC Gong Show ends Wednesday night, Washington’s wisest will no doubt find more proof of her ascendance. They should keep in mind that’s largely because the rest of the field has sunk so low.


By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, October 27, 2015

October 28, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Outsiders Coordinating With The Insiders”: ‘Citizens United’ Is Turning More Americans Into Bystanders

Are we spending our democracy into oblivion?

This is the time of year when media scribblers bemoan how nasty political campaigns have become. The complainers are accused of a dainty form of historical ignorance by defenders of mud-slinging who drag out Finley Peter Dunne’s 1895 assertion that “politics ain’t beanbag.” Politics has always been nasty, the argument goes, so we should get over it.

In fact, structural changes in our politics are making campaigns more mean and personal than ever. Even Dunne might be surprised. Outside groups empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision are using mass media in ways that turn off Americans to democracy, aggravate divisions between the political parties and heighten animosities among citizens of differing views.

Studies of this year’s political advertising show that outside groups are blanketing the airwaves with messages far more negative than those purveyed by the candidates themselves. That shouldn’t surprise us in the least. “Candidates can be held accountable for their ads,” says Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a consumer organization that is trying to encourage candidates to disown “dark money.” “The outside groups are unknown, and have confusing names.”

No one is advertising under the moniker “Influence Peddlers for Crummy Politics.”

There is far too much complacency about big money’s role in this year’s campaigns, on the grounds that both sides have plenty of it. This misses the point. “It doesn’t balance it out if you have billionaire Republicans battling billionaire Democrats,” says Weissman. “You still have billionaires setting the agenda for the election.”

Moreover, a focus just on this year’s competitive Senate and House races misses the enormous impact a handful of very wealthy people can have on state and local campaigns. A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice details how, at a relatively modest cost to themselves, a privileged few can change how government that is supposed to be nearest to the people is actually carried out.

“At this scale, you don’t have to be a Koch brother to be a kingmaker,” the report informs us. Worse, the supposedly “independent” spending of the super-rich kingmakers isn’t independent at all. The report documents how closely the activities of supposedly outside groups are coordinated with insiders and the candidates themselves.

Like everything else in our politics these days, Citizens United is usually debated along ideological lines. Progressives typically hate it. Conservatives usually defend it. But citizens of every persuasion should be worried about what this precedent-shattering decision has unleashed. More than ever, politics is the only profession that regularly advertises against itself. If voters feel cynical, the outside groups — on both sides — are doing all they can to encourage their disenchantment.

A study by the Wesleyan Media Project of ads aired between Aug. 29 and Sept. 11 found that 55 percent of ads in U.S. Senate elections were negative, up from 43.7 percent over the same period in 2010. Wesleyan found that 91.4 percent of the ads run by outside groups in support of Democrats were negative, compared with 41.9 percent of those run by Democratic candidates themselves. For Republicans, 77.9 percent of the group ads were negative, compared with only 12.3 percent of the candidate ads. Negative ads were down slightly in the next two-week period, but there were still more negative commercials run this year than in the comparable period in 2010.

Defenders of massive spending on advertising, positive or negative, will make the case that at least the ads engage voters. Not necessarily, and certainly not this year. Indeed, the Pew Research Center found in early October that only 15 percent of Americans are following the elections “very closely.” Interest in the campaign, says Scott Keeter, director of survey research at Pew, “is the lowest it has been at this point in an off-year election in at least two decades.”

Hardly a day goes by without someone lamenting how polarized our politics has become. Can anyone seriously contend that the current way of running and financing elections is disconnected from the difficulty politicians have in working together? “How are they supposed to get along with the other side the day after the election?” Weissman asks. Writing recently in Foreign Affairs, the sometimes dissident conservative writer David Frum argues that “the radicalization of the party’s donor base has led Republicans in Congress to try tactics they would never have dared use before.”

Thus the tragic irony: Citizens United is deepening our divisions and turning more citizens into bystanders. Our republic can do better.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 12, 2014




October 13, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United, Democracy | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Insane Defense Of GOP Radical Tactics”: We Have To Do This Because Of The Tea Party

When the it comes to the government shutdown, Democrats are all on the same page — they’ve grudgingly accepted extremely low spending levels; they’re not making any new or extraneous demands; and they see no need to take Americans’ health care benefits away to satisfy a bizarre far-right crusade.

Are Republicans equally unified? Not so much. A fair number of House Republicans see this tantrum as pointless and are ready to end this fiasco; quite a few Senate Republicans have no idea what party leaders are thinking; and no one in the party has any sense at this point of what GOP officials are supposed to do next.

And then there are Republican donors, some of whom are wondering why they should write checks to reward these policymakers. David Freedlander reported yesterday on a recent fundraising event in New York, where Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, fielded questions from wealthy supporters.

Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party — their party — seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.

“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”

Remember, this wasn’t a Democrat condemning the Republican Party for having been hijacked by extremists; this was a Republican leader offering a defense for his party’s radical tactics.

GOP lawmakers could be responsible, keep the government open, and tell Tea Partiers to grow up, but Republican members of Congress are too afraid of primaries to do the right thing. So, they allow themselves to be pushed around.

The problem, of course, is there’s a tipping point at which less-unhinged Republican voters decide they’ve seen enough and walk away. Indeed, in this case, Walden’s explanation hasn’t won over skeptical donors at all.

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based businessman who was a major donor to both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, told the Daily Beast, “I am not writing a check to anyone. That is not working for the American people.” Munr Kazmir, a New Jersey-based businessman and major donor to George W. Bush, added, “I have raised a lot of money, but I am not raising any more for House candidates. I am angry. I am embarrassed to be a Republican sometimes, I tell you.”

For what it’s worth, there’s occasional talk of a moderate GOP rebellion.

As the shutdown stretches on, a bloc of moderate House Republicans could be the key to reopening government.

On Wednesday, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, held meetings with groups of “pragmatist” lawmakers — as Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., described them — who want to pass a policy-rider-free continuing resolution and end the government shutdown as soon as possible. […]

It isn’t fast enough for Rep. Peter T. King of New York, who was one of the most vocal House Republicans criticizing the party’s strategy as the government headed to a shutdown.King wasn’t invited to any of Boehner’s moderate meetings Wednesday, so he held his own. King said he met in his office with roughly 10 members who support a clean CR, and they discussed “what the strategy would be.”

It sounds nice, I suppose, but we appear to be talking about less than 5% of the House Republican caucus, and so far, they’ve demonstrated a complete inability to influence the debate in any way.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 4, 2013

October 5, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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