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“The Hysteria Of The Hillary Haters”: An Exaggerated Animosity Lacking Any Rational Connection To Reality

Over the past few weeks, Republican politicians and party officials have begun the dreary and demoralizing work of reconciling themselves to the prospect of Donald Trump serving as the GOP’s presidential nominee.

Conservative writers and intellectuals, by contrast, have been more obstinate.

A few have come out in grudging and grumbling support of the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Most of the others, meanwhile, have expressed disgust at the prospect of having to choose between Trump and Clinton at all. This has inspired a small group of dissenters to fasten onto the fantasy of sparking a “true conservative” third-party challenge to Trump.

But many of the rest seem inclined to settle into a pox-on-both-your-houses position: Trump’s unfitness to serve as president is obvious, running the gamut from wholesale ignorance about policy to temperamental volatility and authoritarian instincts that alarm every informed and responsible observer. But Clinton is no better. She’s corrupt! She can’t be trusted! She isn’t qualified to be president! And oh boy, is she unlikeable!

This implies that the most responsible thing for a conservative to do is refrain from voting at all.

That would be foolish. Does Clinton have flaws? You bet she does. But the Hillary hatred that seems to motivate the right’s most adamant objections to her ascending to the presidency is rooted in unfair and exaggerated animosity lacking any rational connection to reality.

The national threat posed by a potential President Trump more than justifies that conservatives promptly get over it.

I can certainly understand ambivalence about Clinton. I feel some of it myself, even though she’s pretty close to my ideological (neoliberal) sweet spot on domestic policy. My hesitation comes mainly from the air of scandal that, as I’ve put it before, seems to follow her and her husband around like the cloud of filth that trails Pig-Pen from Peanuts. If I also opposed her economic agenda, as most conservatives do, I could imagine that concern curdling into something harsher.

On the other hand, I have strong objections to Clinton on foreign policy, where I think her hawkish instincts (on Iraq, Libya, and Syria) have led her badly astray on numerous occasions — and where conservatives probably find her outlook pretty congenial.

That’s a mixed bag. But under present circumstances, it should be good enough to win her conservative support, however reluctant.

Those on the other side usually begin with the signs of corruption that trouble me as well.

The contrast with Barack Obama is instructive. Contending with a rabidly hostile Congress for five of his seven years as president, Obama has nonetheless managed to avoid becoming embroiled in any significant scandals. There have been no subpoenas of White House staff, no special prosecutors.

Is it even conceivable that a Hillary Clinton administration would be so clean? Not a chance. From the string of scandals during Bill Clinton’s presidency (including an impeachment proceeding) to Hillary Clinton’s email imbroglio to signs of questionable practices at the Clinton Global Initiative, the Clintons seem to be plagued by a mix of bad luck and congenitally poor judgment that we have every reason to assume would follow them back to the White House.

But here’s the thing: Every single accusation is trivial. Petty. Penny-ante. Yes, even the business about Clinton’s private email server. And especially the septic tank full of hyped-up, conspiracy-laden nonsense that goes by the name of “Benghazi.” (If well-meaning members of the conservative movement want to explore how the Republican electorate ended up hoodwinked by a transparent charlatan-demagogue like Donald Trump, they could do worse than reflecting on their own complicity in publicizing, or at least failing to defuse, this endless, cockamamie “scandal.”)

In an ideal political world, all administrations would be as clean as Obama’s. But as the events of this election cycle have demonstrated quite vividly, this is most emphatically not an ideal political world — and in the deeply troubling world we do inhabit, the prospect of a president dogged by minor scandals shouldn’t distract us from the far higher stakes involved in the upcoming election.

As for the other conservative objections to Clinton, they are even less compelling.

She’s unqualified? Compared to whom? Clinton’s been a successful lawyer. A first lady. A senator. A secretary of state. If that isn’t a stellar resume for a would-be president, I don’t know what would be. It’s certainly far more impressive than Barack Obama’s remarkably modest list of accomplishments when he ran for president — let alone Trump’s background of inheriting a few hundred million dollars and using that wealth to play a real-life game of Monopoly in the richest real estate market in the country (while still managing to file for bankruptcy four times).

Can Clinton be trusted? Probably no more or less than any other politician. Public servants go where the votes are, and in a primary season in which she’s had to fight a left-wing insurgency against the Democratic establishment and her husband’s centrist legacy as president, Clinton has undeniably moved modestly to the left. The question is whether it’s possible to imagine any presidential hopeful in the same situation not doing precisely the same thing. I think the answer is no.

Finally, there’s Clinton’s likeability. Follow conservatives on Twitter during a Clinton speech and you’ll hear the litany. She shouts. She hectors. She condescends. She’s shrill. She laughs in a really annoying way.

I’ll give Clinton’s conservative critics this: She isn’t the most charismatic politician in the world. But you know what? That’s her problem, not anyone else’s. If the voters find her sufficiently off-putting, they won’t elect her. The question is whether, when conservatives are presented with a candidate whose defects go far beyond style, they will be willing to put the good of the country ahead of what really is a merely aesthetic objection.

The path ahead for conservatives is clear. If they want to assure that Donald Trump loses, they need to assure that Hillary Clinton wins.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, May 19, 2016

May 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“If Trump Wins, Will There Be Blood?”: Maybe It’s Time To Take Crazy At Face Value

That question has gone conspicuously unasked as we enumerate the possible outcomes of November’s election. The potential impact on the nation’s economy, its foreign policy and its standing in the world have all been duly analyzed. But there has been little, if any, discussion of the potential for violence.

It is, of course, Donald Trump’s name on the ballot that necessitates the discussion. His rallies have erupted into brawls with depressing frequency; his followers assaulting demonstrators while he eggs them on.

And then, there’s this: Last year, two South Boston brothers — Scott and Steve Leader — were arrested after allegedly peeing in the face of a homeless, 58-year-old Mexican immigrant sleeping on a bench. They beat him with a metal pole, breaking his nose. Authorities say Scott Leader explained himself thusly: “Donald Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported.”

Trump’s initial response was simply to note that his followers “love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.” If that is the sort of “passion” a few rallies and speeches incite, how much worse would it be in the event — God help us all — of an actual Trump victory? How emboldened in their bullyboy behavior would people like the Leader brothers become with one of their own in the White House?

And that’s not even the worst-case scenario. What if the far more likely thing happens? What if Trump loses? His followers are already filled with fury and an exaggerated sense of their own victimhood and entitlement. What happens if an embarrassingly emphatic repudiation is added to that mix?

Hate crimes might be the least of our problems. The greater worry might be terrorism.

In a nation conditioned to think of terrorism as the exclusive province of Muslim fanatics with difficult names, the idea will strike some as ridiculous. But to be sanguine about the danger of radical right violence is to pretend Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff in Nevada and the armed takeover of federal property in Oregon never happened. And it is to ignore a litany of radical right terror plots enacted or interdicted in recent years.

From the Oklahoma City bombing to the Atlanta Olympics bombing to a New York state plot to murder Muslims by radiation poisoning, to a massacre at an African-American church in Charleston, to the attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, to the crashing of an airplane into an IRS office in Austin to a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs to, literally, dozens more, the radical right has hardly been shy about using violence to frighten people as a means of achieving their political goals — the dictionary definition of terrorism.

Small wonder Mark Potok, editor of Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, does not laugh off the possibility of violence from aggrieved supporters of Donald Trump. Radical right terror, he says, “is a worry anyway, as we go through this huge demographic transition in the United States. But the thing about Trump’s voters is that they are angry, they are riled up, and they are expecting to win.” If and when they don’t, he says, terrorism might well be their response.

It’s not as unthinkable as some of us will want to believe. Too often, as the right has descended into tribalistic incoherence, the rest of us have underestimated the crazy, baselessly reassuring ourselves that they’ll go this far, but surely no further. And too often, we’ve been wrong. Maybe it’s time to abandon baseless reassurance. Maybe it’s time to take crazy at face value.

Will there be blood? Here’s a better question:

Will you honestly be surprised if there is?

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Trump Supporters, Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Rational Outcome Can’t Be Taken For Granted”: Democrats, Don’t Celebrate Trump’s Nomination. Fear it.

I know the polls say Donald Trump cannot win. But what if we are looking at the wrong poll question?

What if Trump’s overwhelming negatives don’t matter? Or, to put it another way, what if the country’s negatives matter more?

Right now, about 6 in 10 Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump, and only 36 percent view him positively.

But the country is faring even worse. In the most recent average of polls calculated by RealClearPolitics, 26.9 percent of Americans think the nation is headed in the right direction and 64.9 percent think we are heading down the wrong track.

So what if even voters who respect Hillary Clinton’s competence reject her as the embodiment of business as usual? And what if even voters who do not like Trump’s bigotry or bluster care more that he will, in their view, shake things up?

Sure, these voters might tell themselves, he may be crude, or inconsistent, or ill-informed. He may insult women and Hispanics and other groups. But it’s part of a shtick. He probably doesn’t mean half of it. He’s just an entertainer. The desire to send a message of disgust or disapproval, in other words, could lead voters to overlook, discount, wish away or excuse many Trump sins.

Meanwhile, Clinton cannot shake free of the status quo. You may remember how this bedeviled Al Gore when he asked voters to give the Democratic Party a third straight presidential term in 2000. The vice president managed to achieve the worst of both worlds, alienating Bill Clinton and his most ardent supporters without establishing himself as an entirely new brand.

Unlike Gore, Hillary Clinton is not an incumbent. But she is no less associated with the establishment, having served as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state over the past quarter-century. Even if she were inclined to do so, she could not afford to distance herself from President Obama, whose backers she will need to turn out in large numbers.

I know there is an element of irrationality in these fears. I understand that not every dissatisfied American will vote for Trump.

About two-thirds of the country may think we are on the wrong track, after all, but Obama’s approval rating is 51 percent and rising.

Meanwhile, only 4.7 percent of eligible voters have actually cast a ballot for Trump in the party nomination process so far, as an analysis by FairVote shows. Many of the remaining 95.3 percent, no matter how unhappy most are with the performance of their government, will take their responsibility seriously enough that they will not vote for someone who casually threatens the faith and credit of the United States, breezily posits the merits of nuclear proliferation and cheerfully espouses torture as an instrument of U.S. policy.

Republicans are divided, the economy is improving, the demographics are increasingly in Democrats’ favor. The likeliest result of a Trump nomination is a Republican washout up and down the ballot.

I do get all that.

Still, when I hear smart people explaining why Trump cannot win, all I can think is: Aren’t you the ones who told us that he couldn’t top 30 percent, and then 40 percent, and then 50 percent in the Republican primaries? Weren’t you confident that he was finished after he called Mexicans rapists, and insulted prisoners of war, and dished out a menstruation insult?

Did you predict his nomination? If not, we don’t want to hear your certainty about his November defeat.

Nor is it reassuring to read how happy the Clinton camp must be to be facing such a weak opponent. They need to be running scared — smart, but scared — now and for the next six months.

I do have faith in the American voter, I really do. But when two-thirds of the country is unhappy, a rational outcome can’t be taken for granted.

 

By: Fred Hiatt, Editorial Page Editor, The Washington Post, May 8, 2016

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, General Election 2016 | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Republicans Are Architects Of Their Present Misfortune”: What’s Coming In November Is A Reckoning, Long Overdue

So it has come to this: Trump 2016.

What first seemed a joke, then an unsettling possibility and then a troubling likelihood, became a grim certainty last week as Donald Trump, real estate developer turned reality show ringmaster turned would-be president, won an emphatic victory in Indiana’s Republican primary. His last remaining rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, both dropped out within 24 hours, leaving Trump the de facto nominee of what used to be called, with some pride, the Party of Lincoln.

In response, a remarkable constellation of Republican officials and enablers have pronounced themselves unalterably opposed to the duly selected leader of their party.

“Never, ever, ever Trump” tweeted Tim Miller, a former spokesperson for Jeb Bush.

“With God as my witness,” wrote GOP strategist Rick Wilson, “I will never vote for Donald Trump.”

A Washington, D.C., blogger tweeted an image of his voter registration card burning. The governor of Massachusetts and the former head of the state GOP both said they will not vote for Trump. “I have no plans of supporting either of the presumptive nominees,” said Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

And, the unkindest cut of all: A number of Republicans say Trump’s candidacy will drive them into the arms of someone the party has long regarded as the very embodiment of evil. “I’m with her,” tweeted GOP speechwriter Mark Salter, invoking the campaign slogan of the dreaded Hillary Clinton.

One is tempted to draw an analogy to rats deserting the Titanic, but that would unfairly malign the rats. After all, they didn’t drive the ship into that iceberg. The Republicans, though, are very much the architects of their present misfortune.

When you spend decades stoking people’s insecurities, resentment and outrage, when you devote thousands of radio and television hours to scapegoating the marginalized and demonizing the vulnerable, when you campaign on coded appeals to xenophobia, racism and misogyny, when you make facts optional and lies routine, when you prioritize expedience above integrity and embrace ignorance as somehow more authentically American, you may not credibly profess surprise when you produce a candidate who embodies all those traits.

The damage the party has done itself is manifest and may be irreversible. But the bigger concern, by far, is how much damage the party has done to this country. It’s a question that has loomed for a very long time.

In pondering Election Day, then, one is reminded of the person who finally makes a doctor’s appointment six months after discovering a mysterious lump. Sometimes, people behave as if avoiding knowing about the bad thing avoids the bad thing itself.

But of course, it does not. You either have cancer or you don’t. Visiting the doctor does not affect that one way or another. It simply tells you what you’re dealing with.

Similarly, this country has either lost itself down a rabbit hole of ignorance and lies, fear and fury, or it has not. Certainly, the symptoms have long been obvious. From faith-based foreign policy to cynical obstructionism to economic hostage-taking to birther nonsense, right up to Donald Trump’s neo-fascism, it has long been clear that something was wrong with the GOP, that it had become a fundamentally unserious haven of cranks and kooks.

Now, the party offers us its kookiest crank as president. Make no mistake: Any country that would elect Donald Trump as president deserves Donald Trump as president. But the question is: Are we that country? Are we that far gone? Whether we are or are not, it’s past time we knew. So fine, let’s do this.

What’s coming in November is not an election. No, it’s a reckoning, long overdue.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 8, 2016

May 8, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, GOP Presidential Nominee, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump’s Most Impressive Boast Is A Brazen Lie”: An Excellent Time To Re-Adjust The B.S. Detector

Every presidential candidate is going to boast about all of the many reasons he or she deserves voters’ support. It’s how the process works: White House hopefuls, without exception, are going to present themselves as the best possible person for one of the world’s most important jobs.

And with that in mind, Donald Trump, perhaps more than most, seems to take great pride in singing his own praises, celebrating his wealth, judgment, and professed wisdom in ways that have evidently won over much of the Republican Party’s base. Some of these boasts have even impressed a handful of political pundits.

Last week, for example, Patrick Smith, Salon’s foreign affairs columnist, argued that Trump’s views on foreign policy deserve to be taken seriously because the Republican frontrunner opposed the war in Iraq – unlike a certain Democratic candidate.

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd devoted much of latest column, published yesterday, to a related point.

The prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like [President Obama], he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea. […]

You can actually envision a foreign policy debate between Trump and [Hillary Clinton] that sounds oddly like the one Obama and Clinton had in 2008, with Trump playing Obama, preening about his good judgment on Iraq….

It’s easy to imagine Trump and his campaign team celebrating pieces like these. It’s equally easy to expect a series of related arguments in the coming months from Clinton detractors looking for an excuse to support the GOP’s nativist demagogue.

There is, however, a rather important problem with the entire argument: it’s based on a fairly obvious lie.

Trump’s claim is that he, relying solely on his extraordinary instincts and unrivaled prognostication skills, recognized that the war in Iraq would be a disaster from the outset. The political establishment at the time lacked Trump’s vision, but if insiders had only listened to him, a catastrophic mistake could have been avoided.

Last fall, Trump went so far as to say, in multiple interviews, that he was so outspoken in his condemnations of the U.S. invasion plans in 2003 that officials from the Bush/Cheney White House actually reached out to him, urging him to tone down his criticism before he started turning Americans against the coming conflict.

These are all important assertions in the 2016 race, which may impress Clinton’s critics, but which aren’t even remotely true. Not to put too fine a point on this, but Trump is brazenly, shamelessly lying. There is literally no evidence to substantiate any of his claims, and extensive evidence that proves the opposite.

On Sept. 11, 2002, for example, Howard Stern asked Trump, “Are you for invading Iraq?” Trump replied, “Yeah, I guess so.”

One can certainly characterize this as lukewarm support for the disastrous war, but it’s hardly a position that can fairly be described as opposition. And for a New York Times columnist to tell readers that Trump “thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea” is both wrong and bizarre. (As of this morning, Dowd’s error has not yet generated a correction.)

In fairness, Trump eventually criticized the war in Iraq, but only well after the Bush/Cheney policy took a devastating turn for the worse and it became painfully obvious to everyone that the U.S. invasion had been a terrible mistake. But by the time Trump acknowledged this, he was only repeating observations that had already dawned on much of the country.

The larger dynamic to keep in mind is that some in the political world have not yet come to terms with Trump’s unique style of campaigning: (1) manufacture self-aggrandizing boast; (2) repeat said boast regularly; (3) wait for unsuspecting media professionals to accept boast at face value; (4) repeat.

It’s a shame some haven’t noticed the pattern sooner, failing to recognize the importance of scrutinizing Trump’s demonstrably ridiculous claims, but it’s not too late. The likely Republican nominee will continue to make outrageous boasts with no basis in fact, counting on journalists to simply give him the benefit of the doubt, between now and Election Day. For those who’ve been fooled by Trump’s falsehoods, now would be an excellent time to re-adjust their b.s. detectors accordingly.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2016

May 3, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Donald Trump, Iraq War | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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