“The Final And Most Powerful Advantage”: Hillary Clinton Has A Secret Weapon. His Name Is Barack Obama
Hillary Clinton is crushing Donald Trump. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, she thumped Trump 51 percent to 39 percent among registered voters nationwide. That’s an almost inconceivable 14-point swing in the Democrat’s favor since May.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Trump is barely even contesting the election, at least when it comes to the traditional fields of political combat. Last week, for example, it came out that he was running literally zero campaign ads in several swing states. The reason? His campaign is practically broke. It’s unprecedented for a major party nominee to basically not campaign. Is it any wonder Trump has resorted to crowing about polls in which he’s only losing narrowly?
Of course, there’s no guarantee this dynamic will last. Maybe Trump will get his act together and stop behaving like a silage-addled steer. Maybe the economy will crater and Trump will exploit it. Maybe Republicans will somehow oust him at the convention.
But even if these things happen, and Clinton’s healthy lead over Trump dwindles, we shouldn’t forget the final and most powerful advantage Clinton will have: President Obama.
No sitting president in modern times has ever campaigned at full strength for his party’s nominee. George W. Bush was persona non grata on the campaign trail by 2008. Bill Clinton was seen as damaged goods by Al Gore in 2000, who distanced himself from the Clinton name (despite the 42nd president’s tremendous popularity at the time). Ronald Reagan was already elderly in 1988 and did not have a great relationship with George H.W. Bush. LBJ quit politics altogether in 1968. Eisenhower did campaign a bit for Nixon, but he was also old by 1960, and avoided much of the campaign.
President Obama, by contrast, is still quite young (indeed, he is 14 years younger than Clinton herself), and by all accounts is eager to help Clinton, who represents the best chance of preserving his legacy. Any lingering sense that a soon-to-be former president should refrain from campaigning to preserve the dignity of the office is utterly dead. And as he finishes his presidency, Obama is more popular today than he has been since the bin Laden raid — part of an upward trend that shows no sign of slowing.
The economy is doing reasonably okay, particularly compared to several years ago, and as Obama himself is not running for re-election, some of the partisan hatred has passed to Clinton. But perhaps more importantly, Obama’s personality is extraordinarily well-suited for this political moment. Like him or hate him, you have to admit that he is even-keeled almost to a fault. Always cool, always considered, Obama never flies off the handle and rarely expresses any emotion aside from a wry humor. In a chaotic world, Obama is a reassuring presence.
Sometimes that leads to grotesque immorality, as when he flippantly disregarded the legal obligation that torturers be prosecuted. But when instability is breaking out everywhere, and things are developing fast — like, for example, when the U.K. has just voted to leave the European Union, precipitating a financial panic, and potentially auguring the crackup of the eurozone and the U.K. itself — it’s nice to know that the president is always going to keep his icy cool.
This kind of clamor and chaos seems to be happening every other week in 2016. Even aside from the horrifying spree killings and endless war in the Middle East, the tectonic plates of politics in Western nations are crumbling. Open bigotry and ethnic nationalism are making huge political inroads, and pointless austerity has badly damaged or destroyed the political establishment in many countries — Spain, to pick one example out of many, just had its two hung parliaments after not a single one since the end of the Franco dictatorship.
A deranged maniac is about to become the official presidential nominee of the Republican Party. It seems a safe bet at this point that Trump is not going to discover some inner reservoir of quiet intelligence. He’s a hair-trigger showboating ignoramus to the bone. And as the campaign goes on, and Trump says goofy, alarming nonsense in response to one crisis after another, Obama’s quiet, competent reserve is going to look increasingly appealing.
Hillary Clinton will only benefit partially from this, of course. She simply does not have Obama’s unflappability. But she’ll gain much by simple association with Obama’s extreme chill, and can only benefit by contrast with Trump’s extreme capering. Should she win in November — particularly by a large enough margin to take back the House of Representatives — Obama can claim a large share of the credit.
By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, June 28, 2016
“Let’s Make Torture Great Again”: Donald Trump Thinks America Must Commit War Crimes As A Matter Of Principle
Hours after Tuesday’s massacre at Ataturk International Airport, Donald Trump called on America to “fight fire with fire.” The presumptive GOP nominee told supporters in Ohio that, while he likes waterboarding, it probably isn’t “tough enough.”
“We have to be so strong,” Trump said. “We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we’re dealing with violent people viciously.”
On Thursday night in New Hampshire, Trump reiterated his belief that America should hold itself to the same standard as a fascist death cult. Asked by local station NH1 to respond to Senator John McCain’s claim that torture is “not the American way,” Trump replied:
Well it’s not the American way to have heads chopped off and have people drowning in steel cages … And so we can have our disagreements, but we’re going to have to get much tougher as a country. We’re going to have to be a lot sharper and we’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable almost.
It’s worth remembering that, for the Republican standard-bearer, ordering the military to hunt down and kill the wives and children of suspected terrorists falls under the “thinkable” column.
That Donald Trump will happily court human beings’ worst instincts for political gain is not breaking news. What’s interesting about his renewed support for deliberate war crimes is that there’s no evidence such heinousness even has a political upside. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, the American people were scared. Eight in ten told pollsters from the Washington Post and ABC News that they were afraid of lone-wolf terrorism. But those respondents also overwhelmingly preferred Clinton’s response to the tragedy over Trump’s, and had more faith in her capacity to handle terrorism than they did in the mogul’s. This marks a departure from past campaign cycles, in which Republican candidates have consistently enjoyed higher marks than their Democratic rivals on matters of national security.
Part of this change can be explained by the unusually stark discrepancy between the two presumptive nominees’ levels of foreign-policy experience. But in the previous Washington Post–ABC News poll, taken in May, Trump was only three points behind Clinton on the issue of terrorism; he fell 11 points behind her in the wake of Orlando. Thus, it appears that the American people find a former secretary of State calmly laying out a detail-oriented plan for reducing terrorism to be more comforting than a real-estate mogul shouting that the nation must chose between his radical agenda and certain doom.
In light of this finding, it seems unfair to assume that Trump’s pledge to do the “unthinkable” is motivated by crass political calculations. Rather, pundits should give the presumptive GOP nominee the benefit of the doubt, and assume his support for war crimes is a genuine expression of a deeply held faith in the cleansing power of sadistic violence.
By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 1, 2016
“A Casual Yet Coldly Calculated Kiss-Off”: Dumping Donald Trump Would No Longer Be A Coup. It’s Just Common Sense
In a campaign season already twisted beyond all recognition, Donald Trump’s atrocious summer has offered shell-shocked Republicans a potential out: Where “Never Trump” has failed, a far more casual yet coldly calculated kiss-off could succeed.
Trump’s missteps, willful and otherwise, are now so severe that Republicans are justified — and would be legitimated — in throwing him overboard in Cleveland. Bye bye, agonized soul searching. Hello, cruel common sense.
All the GOP has to do is relax.
Throughout this presidential campaign, I’ve done my best to remain level-headed. Rather than fearing Donald Trump, rather than venting my loathing for that which is detestable about him, I have tried — and counseled others to try — an attitude of watch and wait. Trump’s pronunciations are not the surest path to civil disorder or public chaos. For that you need a critical mass of the rest of us to lose our nerve, turning panic into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Although many liberals and progressives I know have quietly shared their nightmare-like sense of certainty that Trump is going to somehow win come November, Republicans have had the hardest time trying to maintain sangfroid. Without question, the stakes are high; even a Trump win could prove disastrous to the GOP (and America, of course). And for principled conservatives, a thorny dilemma has grown around how to translate their conscience into political action, regardless of its impact on Election Day. Since Trump hit the magic number of delegates, it has seemed interchangeably counterproductive and embarrassing to field a third-party protest candidate, throw in with Hillary Clinton or perhaps Gary Johnson, or stay in bed with a bottle of bourbon and weep.
But Trump has now had his shot at rehearsing a general election campaign, and he has fallen flat on his face. It was bad enough that he blew his chance to assemble a team of respected foreign policy advisors, or that he swung incomprehensibly from pitching Latinos taco-bowl bromides to haranguing a thoroughly American judge for his Mexican heritage. These political farces were real, but they were not firing offenses. Then came June. Trump’s already discouraging campaign lurched full-tilt toward disaster, from preposterously staggering fundraising problems to public and protracted palace infighting. The kicker came when news recently broke that Trump — in addition to paying large sums to Trump companies themselves — also coughed up cash for a mysteriously inscrutable firm named after the advertising executives from Mad Men. As a matter of sheer political responsibility, nominating this man is madness.
Of course, Trump critics have been saying this since almost the beginning. But until now, the case against Trump has defeated and delegitimized itself because of its ideological grounding. You can’t just stage a convention “coup” because the candidate who clinched the delegates is mean, nasty, or bigoted. You can’t do it because he disrespects NATO or badmouths free trade. And you certainly can’t do it because you despise the rubes in your party who you somehow failed to keep in a box this time around. Sad!
You can, however, dump Trump for the clinical, confident reason that his campaign is collapsing of its own weight and whim. Yes, there’s still time for a miracle turnaround. Yes, the general election is still months away. And yes, some polls show that Clinton still leads by only a handful of points. But the convention is the closest thing the GOP has to a performance review — to the tough-but-fair moment familiar from The Apprentice where, no matter what, if you’ve so far failed to produce adequate results, you’re fired.
Trump’s epic incompetence as a presidential candidate constitutes a political emergency even deeper and plainer than his jangled ideology. Any CEO, board, or shareholders would cut this guy loose and bring in someone who can close in an emergency. Trump’s failure to measure up to the minimum campaign standard — and the prospect of even more spectacular faceplants to come — is the salvation Republicans have been searching for.
All they need now is a new candidate. That’s hardly as daunting as it once seemed — because everyone should agree that almost anyone else will do.
By: John Poulos, The Week, June 24, 2016
“It’s All Over, And It’s All Just Beginning”: Hillary Clinton’s Next Challenge: Bury Trump And Stay Out Of The Gutter
So the last Sanders argument, like umpteen others, has come around to bite him.
He’s spent the last two weeks talking about the “momentum” he was going to have after winning California, but as the primaries draw to a close, the momentum is on Hillary Clinton’s side.
She exceeded expectations in California, with her victory called early Wednesday (what was up with those polls that had Bernie Sanders beating her among Latinos? They always smelled fishy to me). She demolished him in New Jersey, won New Mexico, and even pulled off a stunning (if small-potatoes) win in South Dakota, which came out of nowhere.
Speaking of nowhere, there’s nowhere for Bernie to go now. He ran an impressive race in many ways, and annoying in others, but he lasted a lot longer than almost anyone thought he would. But today the story isn’t him. It’s the nominee.
It’s a huge historical marker, as Clinton noted in her speech. “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone, the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee,” Clinton said. “Tonight’s victory is not about one person—it belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”
It’s also a huge personal moment for Clinton. For all the arrows, justified and not, she’s absorbed for the last quarter-century, she’s made it. She’s made history in a huge way. If you read biographies of her, you’ve read about the people who thought back when she was at Wellesley that maybe she had it in her to be America’s first woman president. It’s an expectation that has hovered over her for many years, and she’s now in a position to achieve it.
The Democratic Party has now nominated in succession the country’s first African American and its first woman. This is a great sign of progress, but more tellingly it’s a sign of what the two major parties have become over the course of the past 20 years. The Democrats are the party of multicultural America, while the Republicans have become in essence a white ethno-nationalist party. Yes, it has some nonwhites, but it’s a party whose raison d’etre is increasingly to save white America from the new hordes, a point made clearly by its collective decision to reject two Latino nominees and instead elevate the first openly racist major-party candidate since maybe Woodrow Wilson.
So now it’s (almost) officially Clinton vs. Trump, the question is, what will it look like? Big-time ugly. Trump, in his speech, said he’s giving a speech next Monday about the Clintons and corruption, signaling what his campaign is basically going to be about. And Clinton already showed us last week in that San Diego speech on Trump and foreign policy, and reminded us again in splashes Tuesday night, that her main argument is going to be that temperamentally and otherwise, Trump just doesn’t belong in the Oval Office. Every election, people like me say, “This is going to be the nastiest presidential election ever,” and, every time, it turns out to be true—each one has been a little nastier than the last. But this one is going to be hyper-space nasty.
The key challenge for Clinton is going to be one of tone and balance—she’ll need to find a way to trade punches with Trump without letting him get in her head and without reducing herself to his drooling level. This is what the other Republicans could never get right. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz let Trump get inside their heads, toy with them the way Ali used to toy with the bums of the month he was fighting in 1963. Marco Rubio made the mistake of lowering himself to Trump’s level, trading insults. As I tweeted at the time, the two of them came off like Don Rickles and Joan Rivers. Rubio was good at it, but it wasn’t what people wanted out of him, and it certainly isn’t what voters want out of Clinton.
She found the sweet spot in that San Diego speech. She shredded his dignity but managed to maintain, and even augment, her own. Trump is going to be continually trying to take her down into the gutter from which he operates. She needs to stay out of it while staying on the attack. That won’t be an easy thing to do.
And in the near-term, she has an intra-party issue to attend to: How will she woo the Sanders voters? It’s mostly on Bernie, especially the way the air went out of the balloon Tuesday, to do the right thing. Maybe the fact that he requested a meeting with President Obama is a sign that he’s ready to. But it’s incumbent upon Clinton to handle this right, too, not for Sanders’s personal sake, but for the sake of his voters. She needs those voters in November, and they probably represent the future direction of the Democratic Party.
Clinton’s had a great couple of weeks—the terrific San Diego speech, the better-than-expected performance Tuesday night, and most importantly Trump’s self-immolation around Judge Curiel, which led to members of his own party calling him a racist. There’s no way she could have hoped for a better start to the general-election campaign. But she’s still barely ahead, and every week isn’t going to be like these last two.
Back when this was just getting started, I thought that yes, Clinton is going to win, which places a special burden on her to run a better race than she did in 2008 and not blow this. Given who she’s running against, that’s a lot truer now than it was when I first thought it.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 8, 2016
“You can’t always get what you want.” — The Rolling Stones
A few words in defense of pragmatism.
That ideal has taken quite a beating lately, mostly at the hands of Bernie Sanders and his supporters. The Vermont senator faces a virtually impossible deficit in his battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Pragmatism would seem to suggest it’s time for him to pack it in.
But pragmatism don’t know Bernie. Or Bernie Nation.If this weren’t clear before, it has been made abundantly so in the last two weeks, beginning with Sanders supporters in Las Vegas tearing open the Nevada Democratic convention in a protest so angrily chaotic it was shut down by security, fearing violence. But Sanders supporters weren’t done yet; they also sent death threats to party officials.
The proximate cause of this Trumpish behavior was a dispute over rules, a claim that, as Sanders’ campaign manager put it, the convention had been “hijacked” to award more delegates to Hillary Clinton. Politico rated that false.
Not that this has made much difference to Sanders, now locked in a battle with the party he ostensibly seeks to lead. His denunciation of the convention chaos was as tepid and belated as Donald Trump at his worst. He has blasted the party for being, as he sees it, in the pocket of the rich, and specifically denounced Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In a Monday interview, Sanders told the Associated Press that this summer’s convention could be “messy,” though he later insisted that was not a tacit suggestion of violence.
Given the intensity of the emotions at play and the behavior of his supporters in Vegas, it’s hard to see how it could have been anything but. Which is disappointing. A few days ago, Sanders’ campaign seemed headed for an honorable legacy. But he has apparently decided instead upon a legacy of peevishness and sore losing, which is, as Frank Bruni noted a few weeks back in The New York Times, a hallmark of this political epoch.
Look: There is something to be said, under certain circumstances, for fighting to the last breath. Under certain circumstances, it is noble to stand one’s ground, come what may. Under certain circumstances, it might even be heroic to soldier on past the point of defeat.
These are not those circumstances. Trump awaits. And every second the left spends arguing with itself is a gift to the presumptive Republican nominee.
Let’s not get it twisted. For all that some people now seek to normalize him and his campaign, for all that they fool themselves into thinking he wouldn’t be so bad, for all that a party once appalled to find him its leader now coalesces behind him, Trump is still what he’s always been: a tire fire in an expensive suit.
Yes, Clinton is, putting it mildly, a flawed candidate, stiff at the lectern, shameless in her pandering and disliked for reasons both substantive (she sometimes seems to have only a nodding relationship with truth) and not. (Since when is it a sin — or a surprise — for a politician to be ambitious?) But she’s also intelligent and experienced. And compared to Trump, she’s a plate of Lincoln with a side of FDR.
As such, she might make a good president, might be a middling president, might even be a bad president, but at a minimum, she would be a president unlikely to hand out nuclear weapons like party favors or require customs agents to ask would-be visitors, “Are you now or have you ever been a Muslim?”
Clinton is, in other words, a good, pragmatic choice. And no, that’s not an inspiring battle cry.
But a reality show buffoon unburdened by knowledge, decency or dignity is closing in on the White House. We should probably take a little inspiration from that.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 25, 2016