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“Floating Around The Political Ether”: Has Trump Reached The Self-Sabotage Stage?

In my lifetime, and I’m assuming in the life of the United States of America, there has never been a major-party candidate other than Donald Trump who anyone would think to ask if they’d actually serve as president if elected as president. But that’s what New York Times reporters asked Trump during a recent interview with him in his New York office. His answer wasn’t what you’d expect.

Presented in a recent interview with a scenario, floating around the political ether, in which the presumptive Republican nominee proves all the naysayers wrong, beats Hillary Clinton and wins the presidency, only to forgo the office as the ultimate walk-off winner, Mr. Trump flashed a mischievous smile.

“I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens,” he said, minutes before leaving his Trump Tower office to fly to a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

And he definitely left more than a spoken impression.

But the only person who could truly put any doubts to rest seemed instead to relish the idea of keeping everyone guessing, concluding the recent conversation with a you’re-on-to-something grin and handshake across his cluttered desk.

“We’ll do plenty of stories,” Mr. Trump promised enigmatically. “O.K.?”

Now, maybe he’s just messing with people’s minds, but it hardly helps him to leave the impression that he considers this just a game and that he won’t serve as president even if elected. It’s actually a kind of dangerous impression to leave at a time when he has not yet actually been confirmed as the nominee of the party.

I think this show was a lot more fun for Trump when he was leading in the polls and he wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s fate. Maybe, consciously or unconsciously, he actually wants to have the nomination wrested away from him in Cleveland. That’ll make him much more of a martyr than a loser, or at least he might feel that he can spin it that way.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 7, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Nominee, Republican National Convention | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pulling Back The Curtain”: In The Presidential Race, Atlantic City Isn’t Just Another Place

Hillary Clinton will deliver a speech today in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which at first blush doesn’t seem like an obvious locale for the Democrat. Polls show Clinton with a comfortable lead over Donald Trump in the Garden State, and few expect Republicans to compete seriously in New Jersey in the fall.

But by all appearances, Clinton is headed to Atlantic City to drive home a rather specific point about her opponent’s ostensible strength: his private-sector background. The editorial board of the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, published this piece over the holiday weekend.

There is still a lingering misperception that Donald Trump is some kind of business wizard, but it’s actually easy to identify one of his key strategies for success: He excels at ripping people off.

The Associated Press pulled back the curtain on his ruined casino empire in Atlantic City last week and exposed a gold-plated scam, on in which survivors from the Taj Mahal disaster – a long parade of naïve artisans who still have Trump’s skid marks on their backs – all told similar stories, cautionary tales that make you wonder how anyone would consider him trustworthy enough to hold elected office.

Their consensus: Trump is a master grifter, who uses bullying and arrogance as negotiating methods, before ending the relationship by withholding payments and making contractors settle for far less by threatening them with litigation – knowing the cost of litigation would eat up most of the money in the dispute.

As is usually the case with so many of Trump’s failed business enterprises, it was small businesses that suffered – and in some cases, collapsed – after the Republican’s venture went bankrupt.

As recently as May, Trump boasted, “Atlantic City fueled a lot of growth for me. The money I took out of there was incredible.”

But as the New York Times reported last month, Trump’s ventures in Atlantic City failed – badly. The article quoted a local investment firm’s casino analyst saying, in reference to Trump, “There’s something not right when every single one of your projects doesn’t work out.”

And a USA Today report added this week, “Donald Trump often boasts he made a lot of money in Atlantic City, despite the repeated failures of his casinos there, but what he does not mention is his casino empire’s repeated run-ins with government regulators over broken promises and violating casino rules.”

To hear Donald J. Trump tell it, he’s ready to be the Leader of the Free World because of his extraordinary success as a businessman. The assertion that private-sector experience is relevant to serving in the Oval Office is dubious in itself, but there’s also no reason to accept the underlying claim at face value – because Trump’s business background isn’t nearly as impressive as he likes to pretend.

I realize that casinos may not be as sexy a story as email server protocols – the political world’s interest in IT appears to be endless – but Trump’s Atlantic City efforts show a wealthy developer who made millions while everyone else lost big. It’s the sort of story that should undermine his entire candidacy.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 6, 2016

July 7, 2016 Posted by | Atlantic City, Casino Industry, Donald Trump | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Acts Of Journalistic Malpractice”: Email Servers Are Just The Latest Manufactured Scandal

You read it here first: “Fearless prediction,” this column began last April 6:  “No legalistic deus ex machina will descend to save the nation from the dread specter of President Hillary Rodham Clinton…no Kenneth Starr-style ‘independent’ prosecutor, no criminal indictment over her ‘damn emails,’ no how, no way.

“Ain’t gonna happen…

“Those impassioned Trump supporters holding ‘Hillary for Prison’ signs are sure to be disappointed. Again. Played for suckers by a scandal-mongering news media that declared open season on Clinton 25 years ago. And haven’t laid a glove on her yet.”

If they wanted to prevent Hillary from taking the oath of office next January, I wrote, voters were “going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: defeat her at the polls.”

As of this writing, that’s not looking too likely either. Minutes before the news broke that FBI Director James B. Comey announced that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring criminal charges against Secretary Clinton, I’d made an observation to a Republican friend on Facebook regarding his expressed wish to see her jailed.

“As a personal matter,” I wrote, “you wouldn’t trust Trump to walk your dog.” After Comey’s announcement, he groused that Hillary had friends in high places, but didn’t dispute my characterization of Trump. Although we disagree politically, I’d trust my friend with anything requiring honesty and steadfastness—dog-walking, cow-feeding, anything at all.

I see Trump, I keep my hand on my wallet. Seen that bizarre interview on Lives of the Rich and Famous where Trump speculates about the eventual size of his infant daughter’s breasts?

No? Then read on USA Today about the thousands of contractors—carpenters, plumbers, electricians–Trump’s stiffed on construction jobs. You do the work, he doesn’t pay. Even his own lawyers sometimes.

The man’s been sued 3500 times. Think he gives a damn about you?

So anyway, last week saw the collapse of not one, but two ballyhooed Hillary Clinton investigations. Even after two years, $7 million and 800-odd pages, Rep. Trey Gowdy’s celebrated Benghazi committee—the eighth of its kind—failed to come up with hurtful new evidence against Secretary Clinton in the tragic events in Libya on September 11, 2012.

But then that wasn’t necessarily the point.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee,” GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted last September. “What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable.”

So the committee folds its cards, Bill Clinton does his happy Labrador retriever act on Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s airplane, and The Washington Post says we’re nevertheless back to Square One: “Can Hillary Clinton Overcome Her Trust Problem?” reporter Anne Gearan asks.

Clinton herself acknowledges that voters don’t see her as Miss Congeniality. She says she’s working hard to overcome that impression, but acknowledges it’s an uphill struggle.

“You know, you hear 25 years’ worth of wild accusations, anyone could start to wonder…Political opponents and conspiracy theorists have accused me of every crime in the book. None of it’s true, never has been, but it also never goes away,” Clinton told the Post.

“And it certainly is true that I’ve made mistakes. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t,” Clinton continued. “So I understand that people have questions.”

Indeed many of those “questions” about Hillary’s dishonesty originated in acts of journalistic malpractice so crude that their authors would have been shamed out of the profession—if the profession had any shame at the Washington pundit level.

Back in December 1995, ABC’s Nightline broadcast a doctored video clip that made Hillary appear to be lying about representing a Whitewater savings and loan. In reality, she’d explained her role as billing attorney on the account. No wonder “the White House was so worried about what was in Vince Foster’s office when he killed himself,” Jeff Greenfield observed, an insinuation as ugly as it was false.

Her imminent indictment was widely predicted.

A few months later, financial journalist James B. Stewart appeared on the same program, promoting his farcically inaccurate book “Blood Sport.” (He’d failed to read the Treasury Department’s “Pillsbury Report” and taken soon-to-be-convicted Jim McDougal’s word for everything.) Stewart gravely produced a loan application he alleged that Hillary had falsified, a federal crime, he said.

Joe Conason noticed something at the bottom of the page: “(BOTH SIDES OF THIS DOCUMENT MUST BE COMPLETED.)” Sure enough, Stewart had neglected to examine page two of a two page application.

Oops, hold the handcuffs and the orange jumpsuit.

If you think Stewart’s career suffered, you must not read the New York Times or the New Yorker.

Anyway, nothing’s really changed. Paradoxically, the collapse of one ballyhooed Clinton “scandal” after another appears to have hurt her. Few follow the details. But people suspect that she must be especially cunning and slippery to keep getting away with it, the bitch.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 5, 2016

July 6, 2016 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Conspiracy Theories, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Flunks Supreme Court Arithmetic”: Counting To Five Should Be Pretty Easy, Unless You’re Donald Trump

For the typical adult, counting to five should be pretty easy. It makes Donald Trump’s trouble with Supreme Court arithmetic that much more puzzling.

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down arguably the most important abortion-rights ruling in a generation, prompting the Republican presidential hopeful to say … literally nothing. To the consternation of some of his social-conservative allies, Trump acted as if the court’s decision didn’t exist, offering no response in speeches, interviews, or social media.

It took a few days, but this morning the presumptive GOP nominee broke his unexpected silence in an interview with conservative radio host Mike Gallagher.

“Now if we had Scalia was living, or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that, OK? It would’ve been the opposite.”

Actually, no, it wouldn’t have. This week’s ruling was actually a 5-3 decision. Yes, Antonin Scalia’s passing meant the Supreme Court was down one justice, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to know 3 +1 does not equal 5.

Remember, the decision was on Monday, and today’s Thursday. Trump and his team had three days to come up with the candidate’s response to a major court ruling, and this is what they came up with.

In the same interview, the New York Republican complained about Chief Justice John Roberts, telling the host, “He could’ve killed [the Affordable Care Act] twice and he didn’t. That was terrible. And that was a Bush appointment. That was so bad, what happened. And you know, to me, you know, almost not recoverable from his standpoint. Very, very sad situation.”

Actually, the second time the justices considered the constitutionality of “Obamacare,” the law was upheld in a 6-3 ruling. When Trump said today Roberts “could’ve killed” the ACA, his math is still wrong – because 6 – 1 does not equal four.

Do you ever get the impression that Trump hasn’t really thought this issue through? Ever wonder if there’s an issue he has thought through?

Postscript: Trump’s math troubles notwithstanding, the GOP candidate, who used to describe himself as pro-choice, continues to talk about how eager he is to restrict reproductive rights. In this morning’s interview, the host added, “So just to confirm, under a Donald, a President Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court, you wouldn’t see a majority ruling like the one we had with the Texas abortion law this week.”

The candidate replied, “No, you wouldn’t see that.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 30, 2016

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, John Roberts, Reproductive Choice, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, President Obama | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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