Gravity exists and teflon wears off your old pans

For so long, so many people have been convinced that the standard rules of politics don’t apply to Trump at all.  Now, I’ll admit, he’s surprised me plenty and definitely shown all of us, not all of these rules are as fixed as we thought they were.  For example, we have learned that you can basically shamelessly lie day after day after day and get away with it (I think the key is the shamelessness of it).  We didn’t know that. We didn’t know you could be so overtly racist, sexist, and xenophobic and get a major party nomination.  Now we know.

But, there are limits.  You cannot pick a fight with literally every single person who says something negative about you.  You can (apparently), criticize the heroism of former prisoners of war, but you cannot get into a fight with parents of a fallen soldier.  You cannot say one unhinged thing about Russia day after day and be taken seriously.  You cannot expect to lie, slander, and generally make a fool of yourself in front of the American public every single day (both Drum and Fallows have fun cataloging the craziness in just a couple days worth of Trump), and not have any consequences in your electoral support.

Sure, we may be at a post-convention high-point for Hillary, but if I had to guess, my guess is that it only gets worse from Trump from here on out.  We have literally seen that he has virtually no self control (if he did, he would have used it to not get into a fight with the Khans).  We have seen that he has a child/bully-like need to answer every single jab with a strike of his own, now matter how politically counter-productive that may be.  This is who Trump is.  There is no “actually presidential” Trump hiding under there to take over and make a real campaign of this.

To this point, we have seen plenty of unelected Republicans abandon Trump.  I expect that drumbeat to continue.  If elected Republicans, especially prominent ones start abandoning him (and surely, McCain is hanging on by his fingertips), talk about game over.

Now, I’m not predicting with any confidence this will happen, but I think we are reaching a point where a very real possibility looms of Trump going down in epic flames.  There’s lots of Republicans who are currently supporting Trump while holding their nose with both hands.  If we get to September and he’s consistently down more than 5-6 points in the polls, it’s pretty clear he’s not going to win.  It’s one thing to support the Republican nominee in a close election, but I suspect there may well be a lot of Republicans out there who would feel much better about themselves not voting for Trump (whether that’s abstaining, voting for Gary Johnson, or even Clinton) and if he’s got no chance to win, why should they bother.  Now, I’m not saying this will happen, but I do think it is a very real possibility.

Is Hillary Clinton a sure thing to win this election?  No.  But given Trump’s truly amazing inability to control his worst political impulses (and the media’s increasing willingness to call him on his brazen mendacity and bullying), it gets harder to imagine the scenario where he comes back to overtake her in the polls and win the election.

And, in the end, yes, Trump clearly seems to have re-written some rules about how we understand American elections.  But on the bright side, I think we are learning that there really are some limits and it looks like Trump may well have gone past them.

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Photo of the day

Recent National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of Greek ruins at sunset

Ruins of Worship

Photograph by Vincent J. Musi, Archaeological Site of Delphi

In Greece, twilight bathes the ruins of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia at Delphi and its tholos, a circular building. Pilgrims may have offered sacrifices here before consulting the oracle of Delphi at the nearby temple of Apollo.

Reliance on a “jailhouse snitch” is self-evidently reasonable doubt

How about a short break from all things Trump.  I’ve been meaning for a while to write a post about the incredibly problematic nature of relying on witness testimony in trials from witnesses who receive a deal for their testimony.  The classic example is the witness who testifies that the defendant confessed to only him in their shared jail cell about the murder he committed.  The witness then gets a reduced charge for whatever he is up against.

When you read about exonerated person released from prison, far more often than not, a key part of the case is that somebody lied in their testimony to get a lighter sentence for themselves.  All the damn time.  In short, the very existence of this type of deal is itself reasonable doubt.  So what then, is the true value of this kind of testimony.  Well, sadly, the value is that juries convict people based on it every day, despite the evident unreliableness.  Honestly, it is time for courts to consider this type of testimony inadmissible.  Will this help some guilty people go free?  Undoubtedly.  I’ll take that exchange over innocent people languishing in prison because somebody lied to put them there.

Anyway, what finally inspired me to write about this is that the man who has been imprison for 6 years for killing Chandra Levy has just been released from prison and will not be retried.  Why was he convicted in the first place without any physical evidence in the case?

Trying to prove that Guandique was the killer was difficult for prosecutors from the start. There was no forensic evidence and no eyewitness. The heart of the prosecution’s case rested with Morales, who said he shared a cell at a Kentucky prison with Guandique in 2006 and became the first to directly link Guandique to Levy’s death.

Yep.  Maybe if this kind of testimony backs up everything else.  Maybe.  But as the primary evidence?  That absolutely screams “reasonable doubt.”  The fact that juries (and prosecutors!) apparently continually fail to see it this way suggests to me that perhaps they should simply not be trusted with this kind of evidence.

Trump’s lack of self-control

Okay, not a particularly new point, but it is actually amazing to see just how little self control the man has in the wake of the Democratic convention.  Good column from Robert Kagan:

One wonders if Republican leaders have begun to realize that they may have hitched their fate and the fate of their party to a man with a disordered personality. We can leave it to the professionals to determine exactly what to call it. Suffice to say that Donald Trump’s response to the assorted speakers at the Democratic National Convention has not been rational.

Why denigrate the parents of a soldier who died serving his country in Iraq? And why keep it going for four days? Why assail the record of a decorated general who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan? Why make fun of the stature of a popular former mayor of New York? Surely Trump must know that at any convention, including his own, people get up and criticize the opposition party’s nominee. They get their shots in, just as your party got its shots in. And then you move on to the next phase of the campaign. You don’t take a crack at every single person who criticized you. And you especially don’t pick fights that you can’t possibly win, such as against a grieving Gold Star mother or a general. It’s simply not in your interest to do so. [emphases mine]

The fact that Trump could not help himself, that he clearly did, as he said, want to “hit” everyone who spoke against him at the Democratic convention, suggests that there really is something wrong with the man. It is not just that he is incapable of empathy. It is not just that he feels he must respond to every criticism he receives by attacking and denigrating the critic, no matter how small or inconsequential. If you are a Republican, the real problem, and the thing that ought to keep you up nights as we head into the final 100 days of this campaign, is that the man cannot control himself. He cannot hold back even when it is manifestly in his interest to do so. What’s more, his psychological pathologies are ultimately self-destructive…

Trump is, in this respect, unlike a normal politician. A normal politician knows that no matter how much criticism gets under the skin, the thing to do is to smile and wave it off. You don’t have to mean it. You don’t even have to appear to mean it. But it is what you do, if only to avoid compounding the damage. Trump cannot make this simple self-serving calculation. He must attack everyone who opposes him, even after he has defeated them. He must continuetalking about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, even after Cruz has thrown in the towel. He must humiliate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, even after Christie has lain down before him.

Many of Trump’s supporters admire him for his bold challenge to political correctness. But his political incorrectness may be only an unintended side effect of his malady. Some of the insults he fires back at his critics are politically incorrect: the racist and misogynist taunts. But others are just childish: making fun of someone’s height, or suggesting that someone’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It’s not really politically incorrect to say that a prisoner of war is not a hero because he got captured. It’s just a way of saying, I don’t care if you’re a war hero. You criticized me and now I’ve got to hit you. Trump’s insults are scattershot — only sometimes touching the raw racist and xenophobic nerves in society. The most important fact is that he is unable to control his responses to criticism. He must double down every time, even if it means digging himself deeper and deeper into the hole.

Yes, yes, and yes.  And, of course, this is really closely tied to Josh Marshall’s (spot-on) theory that you simply need to understand virtually everything Trump does as asserting dominance.  And while that might have worked fine among the Republican primary electorate, it is proving toxic in a general election campaign.

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