Why I’m worried

Andrew Prokop discusses the tightening in the polls as a reason to worry.  True.  I do have to say I hate the fact that so long as Donald Trump seems to go a whole week without making truly outlandish comments (the Khan family, Access Hollywood), Republican voters seem so happy to come home to him.  Talk about short memories.

What really worries me is what Chait has to say:

The best explanation for the tightening of the race was that questions about Clinton’s ethics dominated the news environment for a brief period. We don’t know yet if James Comey’s surprise Friday announcement will reshape the race in a similar fashion. But it is entirely plausible to believe that it will. He has revived Clinton’s ethics and alleged illegality as the front-and-center question before the voters in the race’s final week. To assume Comey’s statement will have no effect, as many hopeful Clinton supporters do, is to assume the voters will respond in a way they have not responded before…

Comey’s announcement is a shocking breach of a vital, decades-old law-enforcement norm prohibiting the announcement of charges against candidates in the closing stages of the race…The logic behind the norm is very simple: Law enforcement has extraordinary leverage over public opinion, and charges, or reports of potential charges, can be tantamount to proof of guilt in the public eye — even if guilt is not proven, and even if no charges are ultimately filed…

Perhaps Comey believed that a properly measured statement would have a political impact proportional to its scale. That belief was delusional. [emphases mine] If there is any circumstance for which the precedent against late charges should apply, it is to the current race. Hillary Clinton is a morally imperfect figure, surrounded by shady figures and burdened with poor political instincts, but she is a normal public servant and no crook. The lack of proportionality applied to her real but minimal ethics failures is staggering. The email issue has completely dominated the news media’s coverage of her campaign, blotting out any attention to policy issues. Low-information voters — that is, the most persuadable undecided ones in the middle — know her primarily as the subject of ethical and legal suspicion. It is why media coverage of her pneumonia and her campaign’s failure to disclose it coincided with her lead collapsing into a near-tie. A voter following the campaign through cable news and headline snippets would rationally conclude that Trump’s lunatic portrayal of his opponent as a criminal is not far from the truth.

Comey’s announcement will probably not sway enough voters to make Trump president. But it might, and — given the stakes — that “might” ought to be a terrifying and galvanizing prospect.


Enjoyed this from Salman Rushdie on FB:

So, to recap. Trump will go on trial in November accused of racketeering, and again in December accused of child rape. He is a sexual predator, hasn’t released his tax returns, and has used his foundation’s money to pay his legal fees. He has abused the family of a war hero and… oh, but let’s talk about some emails Hillary didn’t send from someone else’s computer, that weren’t a crime anyway, because that’s how to choose a president. Come on, America. Focus.

Even more Wrong than Comey… the media

Drum goes through the latest information that really makes Comey look not good, but concludes with this:

Still, let’s stay clear on something. The behavior of Comey and the FBI is somewhere between clueless and scandalous, but the behavior of the media has been flatly outrageous. Given what we know, there is simply no reason for this to have been a 24/7 cable obsession—or to command the entire top half of the front page of the New York Times. This massive amount of attention has been in the service of literally nothing new. Once again, though, when the press hears the words “email” and “Hillary Clinton” anywhere near each other, they go completely out of their minds. [emphases mine]


Speaking of which, this NBC story lays out in detail the very straightforward logic, of which I have alluded to, that there’s almost surely nothing truly new or actionable here:

While experts caution that it is hard to weigh the impact of largely unknown evidence, they say both the history of the FBI inquiry and the nature of the new emails make it unlikely that federal authorities would reverse course to charge Clinton.

Old Email, New Email

“Given the fact that they reviewed 30,000 emails, most of which were from Hillary Clinton, it’s hard to imagine there could be new emails that are from Hillary Clinton that could result in the prosecution of her,” said Paul Butler, a former Justice Department attorney who has prosecuted politicians and federal officials for corruption…

Because the FBI has already reviewed Abedin’s work emails through other sources, some former investigators said the emails are unlikely to change the case.”There’s probably not a high likelihood that these are new,” said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C.

Zeidenberg estimated that there is a “significant chance” that any new emails would not have classified information. But if they did, he said, that fact would be unlikely to change the FBI’s publicly stated legal analysis in the case.

The FBI determined that even careless handling of classified information did not make Clinton guilty of a crime.

“Suppose there was ‘Top Secret’ information — I think it would be hugely embarrassing, politically damaging, but I still don’t think it would change the analysis of what is being done intentionally,” said Zeidenberg, who served in the Justice Department unit that prosecutes elected officials.

“I don’t see how it will change the analysis about whether she’s going to be charged with a criminal offense,” Zeidenberg said. “I think there is about zero percent likelihood of that.”

Yes!!  Which makes the media’s breathless reporting all the more irresponsible (and Comey’s actions quite irresponsible as well).

This Bloomberg story I semi-randomly came across is just a perfect example:

The bombshell [emphasis mine] that FBI Director James Comey dropped Friday on the 2016 election has accelerated a trend of Republicans moving toward Donald Trump. But early data suggest Democrats in key states are unmoved, a sign that Hillary Clinton is holding together a coalition that has kept her in the lead for most of the presidential race.

Damn.  You don’t think “bombshell” is a loaded term.  All for something which almost assuredly amounts to nothing substantively (I’m sure they’d defend themselves saying this is a political bombshell– of course, with reporting like this, how could it not be).  Second, again, literally zero new evidence Hillary has done something wrong at this point and the lede is written with a presumption that we should be suprised her supporters are not abandoning her.  Ugh!!

And, while I’m at it, James Fallows discusses the Op-Ed from two former deputy AG’s (one of whom worked for Bush) on the wrongness of Comey’s actions.

And, finally, Orin Kerr makes a very compelling case that the FBI’s search of Abedin’s emails likely violates the 4th Amendment.  Again there’s a lot we don’t know, but based on what we do, hard to see how the FBI had the right to search Abedin’s emails in any way (warrants have to be very specific in what they are looking for, as I even explain to my Intro AmGovt students).  Of course, they did now get a warrant, but that doesn’t mean an original 4th amendment violation did not exist.  Would like to learn more about this.

[And, just because… do we really need FBI investigating creepy middle-aged men for sending topless photos of themselves to teenagers.  Yes, creepy and wrong, but a good use of FBI resources?]

This is what libel actually looks like

Recently, Trump threatened to sue the NYT for libel because they printed allegations of sexual assault against him from numerous women.  As I’m pretty sure I mentioned at the time, Trump’s expansive ignorance naturally includes utter ignorance of libel law.  For a publication to be guilty of libel against a public figure the publication must act with actual malice– knowledge that what they are printing is false or reckless disregard for the truth.

Here’s a NY Post cover from this weekend:

Cv4uoJbXgAA0Hlt large

That “Weiner sext probe found dirt on Hill” is absolutely false.  Absolutely.  The probe found that his laptop contained emails of his wife relating to Hillary Clinton.  I’ve not seen a single leak from the FBI (and they are leaking like a sieve while investigating Hillary for not being secure enough) suggesting there was actually “dirt” in these emails.  Thus, in no way is that “dirt” on Hillary.  To suggest otherwise is casebook “reckless disregard for the truth.” And, hey, that’s actually libel.  Not that I expect or think Hillary should sue, but, a useful lesson for Donald Trump.

The good news in the polls for Clinton

Now, it’s still too early to know what impact the FBI actions will have, but even before that, when you look further into the polls, there’s been very good news for Clinton.  As Waldman recently wrote, Democrats are coming home to Clinton:

If a round of recent polls is correct, Hillary Clinton is consolidating support among Democrats in general, young people, Latinos — in short, all the groups she needs to win, but who at various points in the campaign weren’t yet behind her in as large numbers as they might have been.

She may not wind up as the most beloved presidential candidate in memory, but she’s beginning to look much like other recent Democratic nominees — which would be more than enough for her to win. I’ll explain why I think this has happened in a moment, but let’s do a quick run-down first:

Democrats: In recent elections, both nominees have had overwhelming support among their partisans. But since there are slightly more Democrats than Republicans, if both do equally well, then the Democrat wins. For example, in 2012 Barack Obama won 92 percent of Democratic votes and Mitt Romney won 93 percent of Republicans; in 2008 Obama got 89 percent of his partisans and John McCain got 90 percent of his. You’ll recall who won those two elections.

Clinton is fast approaching a comparable level, while Trump trails slightly behind. [emphasis mine]

And, Jeff Stein on Hillary and young voters:

Hillary Clinton has dramatically reversed her struggles with youth voters and is now on track to do about as well with them as Barack Obama did in 2012 — a result that seemed inconceivable just a few weeks ago.

Through most of this fall, it looked like Clinton was letting young voters slip away from the Democratic coalition. She was running way behind Obama among this voting bloc, by as many as 25 points. Some polls had her down to the low 40s among those under 30, setting off a flurry of liberal panic about millennials’ “third-party revolution.”

But if the latest polling is right, this challenge has mostly if not completely dissipated. Young people considered Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and toyed with staying on the couch on Election Day — they have instead decided to come back into the Democratic Party tent.

Clinton is now projected to get exactly the same youth vote share as Obama did in 2012 (60 percent), according to a massive new study released Monday by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago, as part of its GenForward survey series. It’s a stunning turnaround for a campaign that has faced months of fierce criticism and second-guessing over its apparent inability to shore up its millennial support.

“Over time, young voters have really come to think that Gary Johnson doesn’t represent their interests, that [Green Party candidate] Jill Stein is not going to win, and that the stakes are very high in this election,” says Cathy Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and the study’s lead author, in an interview. “And while they still don’t have great love for Clinton, it looks like they’ve decided to vote for her.”
I think the latest email nonsense makes it more likely that some doubting Republicans return to Trump, but given the lack of any evidence for a there there in Abedin’s emails, hard to see how this actually changes Democrats votes.  And if Hillary Clinton has the support of over 90% of Democrats, she is going to win this election.

False Equivalence

Actually watched this on Friday night, was so happy to see the clip shared on Youtube.  So true.

Quick hits (part II)

1) How Republicans undermine trust in the media and universities:

But a closer look reveals that each party’s relationship to information — and the institutions that produce it — is quite distinct. Republicans aim rhetorical fire at “mainstream” news media and “elitist” experts, whom they view as biased actors surreptitiously working to advance the cause of liberalism. Democrats defend these traditional intellectual authorities, accusing Republicans of abandoning scientific consensus and cocooning themselves in a conservative media universe with little respect for objective inquiry.

A common history lies behind those sentiments: only the Republican Party has actively opposed society’s central information-gathering and -disseminating institutions — universities and the news media — while Democrats have remained reliant on those institutions to justify policy choices and engage in political debate, considering them both independent arbiters and allies. Although each party’s elites, activists and voters now depend on different sources of knowledge and selectively interpret the messages they receive, the source of this information polarization is the American conservative movement’s decades-long battle against institutions that it has deemed irredeemably liberal.

Universities are thus caught in the partisan crossfire but unable to plead nonpartisanship without evoking conservative suspicions. Like journalists, faculty members are no longer regarded as impartial conveyors of information by Republicans; academics seek to conform to norms of objectivity but face a skeptical audience on one side of the partisan aisle. As institutions that strive to inform policy debates even as they remain dependent on support from political leaders, universities confront the difficult task of fulfilling their traditional research role and engaging in more active problem-solving missions while they find themselves increasingly treated as combatants in an ideological battle.

2) Obviously, I’m no libertarian when it comes to welfare, but I enjoyed this take from Mike Munger on the welfare state as a bad polygamist.  (On a related note, I often find Libertarians really make me think about things; Republicans, not so much).

3) Seth Masket says the ballot is too damn long.  Damn straight.  When esteemed political science professor/bloggers have no idea who to vote for in way-down-the-ballot races, you really have to question whether these positions should be on the ballot.

4) Jon Rauch on why Hillary Clinton (or any good politician) needs to be two-faced:

Is it hypocritical to take one line in private, then adjust or deny it in public? Of course. But maintaining separate public and private faces is something we all do every day. We tell annoying relatives we enjoyed their visits, thank inept waiters for rotten service, and agree with bosses who we know are wrong.

The Japanese, whose political culture is less idealistic than our own, have a vocabulary for socially constructive lying. “Honne” (from “true sound”) is what we really believe. “Tatemae” (from “facade”) is what we aver in public. Using honne when tatemae is called for is considered not bravely honest but rude and antisocial, and rightly so. Unnecessary and excessive directness hurts feelings, foments conflict and complicates coexistence…

Often, the only way to get something done is to have separate private and public truths. Behind closed doors, nothing is settled until everything is settled. Until the deal is done, everyone can pretend not to have decided anything. But the moment the conversation becomes public, plausible deniability ceases. Everyone knows I’ve made an offer. Angry interest groups, adversaries in the other party, and even purists in my own party start cutting attack ads and lining up challengers to prevent a deal and defeat me.

5) I think Rubio is a very skilled politician.  As a human being, however, my opinion of him is much lower.  Fred Hiatt:

But as evident as Obama’s mistakes have become with time, it is even more obvious that the 2016 candidate most committed to the values these Republicans claim to cherish is Hillary Clinton. She believes in U.S. leadership and engagement on behalf of democratic allies.

Trump, by contrast, trashes the United States’ allies, speaks casually about the use and spread of nuclear weapons and admires the world’s most odious dictators, including Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

What explanation can there be for Rubio’s support of such a man, beyond placing party over country and self-preservation over self-respect? …

But not so long ago, Rubio understood that even that awesome power is secondary. “I think the most important thing a president will ever do is provide for the national security of our country,” he said a year ago.

“Donald Trump has zero foreign policy experience,” he added as the campaign went on. Trump was a “con artist.” He was “an erratic individual” not to be trusted with the nation’s nuclear codes. He was “a serious threat to the future of our party, and our country.” Trump “praised dictators Saddam Hussein and Moammar Qaddafi, and . . . said China was too soft on dissidents,” Rubio noted. He was “not ready for the test.” His rhetoric “reminds me of third-world strongmen.”

These are not the usual insults traded in the heat of a primary campaign. They represent Rubio’s considered, and accurate, judgment that Trump is unfit to be commander in chief.

6) Great summary of the research on how the lack of women in office reflects women’s lesser inclination to run, based in large part upon their lower political self-confidence and ambition.

7a) Catherine Rampell’s headline nails it, “Want to save the Republican Party? Drain the right-wing media swamp.”

If Republicans truly want to save the Republican Party, they need to go to war with right-wing media. That is, they need to dismantle the media machine persuading their base to believe completely bonkers, bigoted garbage.

It is, after all, the right-wing radio, TV and Internet fever swamps that have gotten them into this mess, that have led to massive misinformation, disinformation and cynicism among Republican voters. And draining those fever swamps is the only way to get them out of it.

For a sense of just how misinformed Republican voters have become, consider a few of the provably wrong things many believe.

Seven in 10 Republicans either doubt or completely disbelieve that President Obama was born in the United States. Six in 10 think he’s a secret Muslim. Half believe global warming is possibly or definitely a myth concocted by scientists.

Among just Trump voters, 7 in 10 believe government economic data are fabricated. Half don’t trust that votes will be counted accurately in the November election.

7b) And a somewhat longer take in Busines Insider arguing essentially the same thing.

8) Do parents violate their children’s privacy when they post their photos on-line?  Ehh, either way, mine will simply have to live with it.  Actually, Evan sometimes asks me not to post specific photos on-line, and I always listen.

9) Nice Op-Ed from Erika Christakis on her Halloween email from last year that set of a firestorm at Yale (I’m so with her).

10) A NYT analysis suggests that GMO foods aren’t living up to their promise.  I’m okay with that as there’s still plenty of reason to believe the promise is there and no reason to believe they threaten human health.

11) Catherine Rampell argues that the Democrats need a stable, sane opposition Republican party to help keep themselves sane and not prone to lazy thinking.  She’s right.  The only problem with her analysis is the implication that it’s only recently that Republican policy-thinking has become nihilist and intellectually bankrupt.

12) Dan Wetzel on Louisville basketball’s escort scandal and the depths to which college sports have sunk.

13) Really enjoyed this NYT Magazine story on the professor who lost her job at a Christian college for wearing a hijab.

14) How Trump hacked the politics of foreign policy.

15) We really can and should do more to ensure that our teacher training programs are doing a good job.

16) Seriously, Donald Trump is just about the worst human being ever (or, at least with a major party nomination for president) and we’ve got a press obsessed with emails that almost surely don’t matter.  David Farenthold on Trump’s “charity” through the years.  The opening anecdote is something:

In the fall of 1996, a charity called the Association to Benefit Children held a ribbon-cutting in Manhattan for a new nursery school serving children with AIDS. The bold-faced names took seats up front.

There was then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) and former mayor David Dinkins (D). TV stars Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford, who were major donors. And there was a seat saved for Steven Fisher, a developer who had given generously to build the nursery.

Then, all of a sudden, there was Donald Trump.

“Nobody knew he was coming,” said Abigail Disney, another donor sitting on the dais. “There’s this kind of ruckus at the door, and I don’t know what was going on, and in comes Donald Trump. [He] just gets up on the podium and sits down.”

Trump was not a major donor. He was not a donor, period. He’d never given a dollar to the nursery or the Association to Benefit Children, according to Gretchen Buchenholz, the charity’s executive director then and now.

But now he was sitting in Fisher’s seat, next to Giuliani.

“Frank Gifford turned to me and said, ‘Why is he here?’ ” Buchenholz recalled recently. By then, the ceremony had begun. There was nothing to do.

“Just sing past it,” she recalled Gifford telling her.

So they warbled into the first song on the program, “This Little Light of Mine,” alongside Trump and a chorus of children — with a photographer snapping photos, and Trump looking for all the world like an honored donor to the cause.

Afterward, Disney and Buchenholz recalled, Trump left without offering an explanation. Or a donation. Fisher was stuck in the audience. The charity spent months trying to repair its relationship with him.

“I mean, what’s wrong with you, man?” Disney recalled thinking of Trump, when it was over.

For as long as he has been rich and famous, Donald Trump has also wanted people to believe he is generous. He spent years constructing an image as a philanthropist by appearing at charity events and by making very public — even nationally televised — promises to give his own money away.

It was, in large part, a facade. A months-long investigation by The Washington Post has not been able to verify many of Trump’s boasts about his philanthropy.

Instead, throughout his life in the spotlight, whether as a businessman, television star or presidential candidate, The Post found that Trump had sought credit for charity he had not given — or had claimed other people’s giving as his own.



%d bloggers like this: