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:

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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.



Today in email (and Comey’s incredibly reckless decision)

1) Jane Mayer:

Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.

“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”

Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.

The obvious reason for this is that as soon as most people hear “investigation” or “indictment” they think “guilty!!”  Especially, if those people are reporters with news to sell.  Is Comey seriously ignorant enough to believe that his simple letter would not have exactly this absurd outsized impact?!  (Trump calling it bigger than Watergate.  Even for Trump, that’s a whopper, but will his voters know?).

2) Okay, so this is disturbing?  They may not even have any clue at all what’s in the email.  Or even the legal authority yet to read them:

As of Saturday night, the FBI had still not gotten approval from the Justice Department for a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and therefore are still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen.

“We do not have a warrant,” a senior law enforcement official said. “Discussions are under way [between the FBI and the Justice Department] as to the best way to move forward.”

That Comey and other senior FBI officials were not aware of what was in the emails — and whether they contained any material the FBI had not already obtained — is important because Donald Trump’s campaign and Republicans in Congress have suggested that the FBI director would not have written his letter unless he had been made aware of significant new emails that might justify reopening the investigation into the Clinton server.

But a message that Comey wrote to all FBI agents Friday seeking to explain his decision to write the controversial letter strongly hinted that investigators did not not yet have legal authority establishing “probable cause” to review the content of Abedin’s emails on Weiner’s electronic devices.

Ugh.  Seriously?!  Again, you don’t have to be a DOJ laywer to recognize how irresponsible Comey’s letter was.

3) Greg Sargent:

But putting that dispute aside, one thing seems inarguable: Comey had to know that releasing such a vaguely worded letter to lawmakers at this time would allow Republicans to argue that new evidence of Clinton’s criminality has been discovered. This is of course exactly what has happened. This risks “misleading” the American people, which Comey’s latest justification claims he wanted to avoid, and which Comey has now facilitated and enabled in a huge way. If he actually does want to avoid this, he should rectify the situation by providing more clarity right now.

4) To beat a dead horse (but a horse that deservedly need to be beaten to a pulp), from today’s Post:

Federal law enforcement officials said it was possible the messages could be duplicates to others already recovered in the case, and they could also be benign. Former FBI officials said that once agents have the legal authority to more closely examine the emails, they would likely use a computer program to weed out duplicates, then slowly examine the remaining messages for classified information and evidence of obstruction or bad intent.

Got that?  At this point there is literally zero reason to believe there is any evidence that these emails show criminal malfeasance on the part of Clinton or Abedin.  They have already been over thousands and thousands of emails–maybe even these very ones— simple logic dictates there’s nothing actionable here just because they are on a different computer.

5) Former DOJ Public Affairs officer Matthew Miller is on Comey like nobody’s business:

With each step, Comey moved further away from department guidelines and precedents, culminating in Friday’s letter to Congress. This letter not only violated Justice rules on commenting on ongoing investigations but also flew in the face of years of precedent about how to handle sensitive cases as Election Day nears.

Justice traditionally bends over backward to avoid taking any action that might be seen by the public as influencing an election, often declining to even take private steps that might become public in the 60 days leading up to an election. For an example, in one case of which I am aware, the FBI opened an investigation into a high-ranking public official shortly before an election but delayed sending any subpoenas until after the election for fear that they might leak and unfairly tarnish the official. Indeed, that investigation ultimately concluded with no charges…

With that independence comes a responsibility to adhere to the rules that protect the rights of those whom the FBI investigates. Comey has failed that standard repeatedly in his handling of the Clinton investigation.

6) And a great take from Josh Marshall.  My favorite part is he writes the letter Comey should have written:

If he felt he was obligated to inform Congress, he must have realized that that notification would rapidly become public. Because of that, he was obligated to provide substantially more information. From the totality of what we know based on the last 24 hours of reporting, that different letter would have gone something like this:

In the course of the investigation of Anthony Weiner, investigators discovered a new batch of emails from Clinton aide Huma Abedin. We do not yet know whether any of those emails contain classified information or whether some or all are in fact duplicates of emails the FBI already obtained and scrutinized during its investigation of Secretary Clinton’s private email server. At present we have no reason to believe these newly discovered emails would change the decision reached in July. However, based on the recommendations of investigators, I have decided that we will review these emails from on the Weiner/Abedin computer to ascertain the answers to both of those questions. Out of an abundance of caution, I have taken the step to inform Congress of this new development.

Such a letter still would have been a major campaign story. But it would have had the benefit of replacing clarifying information with ambiguity and confusion.

Comey’s rejoinder would almost certainly be that the FBI does not discuss on-going investigations and certainly does not try to prejudge on-going reviews. Normally, that is 100% right. That is the bureaucratic reflex action. But that horse left the barn months ago. Comey’s key, critical error was not realizing that having already dispensed with the most central guidelines of FBI procedure on these matters he could not maintain other norms and guidelines in their entirety without a further analysis of how to address the various equities and interests these policies are normally intended to protect. In other words, once he was operating totally outside the lines – though, perhaps for good reason – he needed to give much more thought to how to address the imperative of non-interference in an election while operating outside the lines. There is little doubt that that meant sharing considerably more detail about what was happening than he did in his letter to Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) and the other committee chairs.

As I wrote yesterday, before we knew the bulk of the information uncovered over the last 24 hours, I still do not think (though my credulity is somewhat more strained) that Comey operated out of any partisan motive. But I do think his highest priority was protecting himself and the FBI from Republican criticism. The net effect was a colossal fuck up which I fear will have profound repercussions regardless of who wins the presidency in 10 days.

7) The reason this is so frustrating is because the media is so irresponsible in situations like this.  And even if they weren’t, Republican politicians (and Democrats if the shoe were on the other foot) are incredibly irresponsible.  Thus, even if the media weren’t horribly irresponsible, their “he said, she said” approach would ultimately award irresponsibility.  In short, irresponsibility wins.  And, again, Comey has to know this.

Does this mean Trump will know win?  I really don’t think so.  But this is an episode of amazingly foolish and careless behavior by a top law-enforcement official magnified to an exponential degree by our pathological campaign press.  I suspect I will be using this as an example for decades when I discuss media feeding frenzies.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I’m quite disturbed by the verdict in Oregon.  Looking forward to reading more about it.  Hard not to see a race angle.  German Lopez:

The defense argued there was no intent to keep federal employees off the refuge. But come on. An armed group occupied a federal building. Your imagination doesn’t have to stretch very far to realize what was happening.

Yet a jury found them not guilty.

It is impossible to ignore race here. This was a group of armed white people, mostly men, taking over a facility. Just imagine: What would happen if a group of armed black men, protesting police brutality, tried to take over a police facility and hold it hostage for more than a month? Would they even come out alive and get to trial? Would a jury find them and their cause relatable, making it easier to send them back home with no prison time?

One doesn’t have to do much imagining here, either. The social science is pretty clear: People are much more likely to look at black people and see criminals and wrongdoers. They don’t get the privilege of innocence in the same way that white people — including these militants in Oregon — do.

2) On how kids can drink too much milk (my slightly underweight 16-year old would be an unhealthily underweight kid without his half gallon or so of whole milk per day).

3) Of course kids should eat healthy, varied diets, but I disagree with the suggestion that we shouldn’t sneak healthy foods into more kid-friendly foods because it will send the wrong messages.  It’s not always so easy to get kids to eat healthy, varied diets.

4) Key Clinton adviser Neera Tanden is no sycophant.  Donald Trump is literally unwilling to employ anybody that is not a sycophant.  That so does not bode well for somebody who wants to be president.

5) Fred Hiatt argues that Hillary Clinton is not just lucky to have Trump as her opponent, but a good candidate.

6) Dana Goldstein with a thoughtful Marshall Project piece on how to decide at what age we treat criminals as adults:

If people in their twenties are a lot like adolescents socially and biologically, should they really be considered full adults under the law? Many advocates who work directly with this population say no. “For many years, the idea of how to achieve public safety with this group was you want to lock them up, protect the community by not having them around,” said Yotam Zeira, director of external affairs for Roca, a Massachusetts organization that provides counseling, education, and job training to 17 to 24-year old male offenders. “The sad reality is that after you lock them up, nothing gets better. Public safety is not really improved. Prosecutors know they are prosecuting, again and again, the same people.”

7) No, Brexit polling does not mean Trump will pull this out.

8) Molly Ball on Trump’s graying army:

The crowd at the Donald Trump rally was a sea of gray and white. They hobbled on walkers and canes into the massive amphitheater, searching for a place to sit on the lawn.

They were old enough to remember a different America—an America that was great. A place of strength and confidence, where men were men and women were women, where people respected the flag and their elders and prayed to God. That was not the America they saw today.

“I am 72 years old, and I have seen our country absolutely fall apart,” Jim Smith, a gray-haired grandfather with an eagle on his T-shirt, told me. Smith retired to the beach after a career in the Army that took him all over the world; at one point, he worked for NATO running logistics in Bosnia. But today, he did not like what he saw all around him.

“Our economy is depleted, our military forces are depleted. We’re a country that’s in trouble,” he said, ticking off the issues: Spanish language everywhere, babies slaughtered by abortion. Muslims invading America, abetted by Democrats. “What culture do we have anymore?” he asked…

At Trump’s rallies across the country—not just in Florida, where the effect may be especially pronounced—it is common to find an abundance of the superannuated. In fact, senior citizens are his strongest demographic. In polls, voters over 65 tend to be the only age group he wins: In surveys conducted for The Atlantic by the Public Religion Research Institute, for example, Hillary Clinton led Trump in every age group under 65, but he beat her by a slight margin with those 65 or older.

In the primaries, too, Trump supporters were older, on average, than those of other Republican candidates. Despite the stereotype of the Trump supporter as a prime-aged working man, Trump’s campaign has actually been fueled primarily by support from the elderly.

This makes sense, doesn’t it? Trump’s whole candidacy is predicated on nostalgia—not just making America great, but making it great again, returning it to an imagined, prelapsarian state of greatness. (Appropriately, Trump stole the slogan from Ronald Reagan.) More so even than most Republican candidates, Trump has run a campaign aimed squarely and frankly at old people’s nostalgia, fear of danger, and anxiety about social change.

9) This local Texas election ad is indeed worthy of going viral, as it has.

10) It would not be hard to fix the problems with Obamacare.  The problem is that Republicans are entirely unwilling to.  Waldman:

Nothing demonstrates how unserious Republicans are about health care policy more clearly than this does. Their preferred reform ideas — such as letting insurers sell across state lines — are positively miniscule in comparison to the challenges the health care system presents. If they were being honest, they’d admit that their real goal is to get the government out of the business of offering or even guaranteeing coverage, and that they don’t really care how many people are uninsured. That’s not to mention the fact that they refuse to grapple with the massive destruction that repealing the ACA would cause. In fact, at this point, repealing the ACA could be more disruptive than it was to implement it in the first place, because so many changes have been made throughout the health care system and so many new people are now insured.

So let’s not forget that when news of some problem with the ACA emerges, as it did yesterday, the Republican position is always the same: This is a terrible thing, and we will fight to our last breath to stop Democrats from fixing it. Which means that the only way that the shortcomings in the ACA can be addressed — just as every major law has been tweaked in the years after it passed, including Social Security and Medicare — is to get a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress who are willing to do it.

11) Jon Bernstein on how Clinton as a transactional politician and Clinton’s “scandals”

Here’s a better theory of what’s going on, from Kevin Drum:

  1. Make a list of the entire chain of command that had some oversight over the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server. That’s going to be at least half a dozen people.

  2. Make a list of all their close family and friends. Now you’re up to a hundred people.

  3. Look for a connection between any of those people and the Clintons. Since FBI headquarters is located in Washington DC and the Clintons famously have thousands and thousands of friends, you will find a connection. I guarantee it.

  4. Write a story about it.

Something like this template has been used for 24 years, since the first Bill Clinton presidential campaign. Eventually, most people get the sense something is wrong with Hillary Clinton. After all, with so many of these stories, there must be something behind them.

And this sense makes it easier to run nonsense stories like the Wall Street Journal’s article. And so on and so on.

Both Clintons, especially Bill, are transaction-style politicians, rather than ideologues. Both of them have been willing to cut deals, to temporarily embrace positions they might not like very much, and to champion the best-available option and hope to win. I like these kinds of politicians, the Bob Doles and John Boehners and Nancy Pelosis. I’d much rather have them govern than any ideological warriors, including those ideologues I agree with on the issues.

I suspect that many people’s dislike of Hillary Clinton has to do with their discomfort with the complicated ethics of transactional politics as opposed to strict ideology-based politics…

So the woman who looks to be the next president is capable of saying one thing and doing another, and of crass political calculations. In that way, at least, she is not unlike a lot of successful U.S. presidents.

That’s no coincidence. The sorts of things presidents need to do — form coalitions and keep them together, bargain for marginal gains, and put a good face on all of it to convince both elites and voters that everything is going as planned — are the skills of transactional, hypocritical politicians. This doesn’t guarantee that Hillary Clinton, if elected, will be a good president, of course. But it’s a start.

12) SNL’s “Black Jeopardy” sketch was great and Dan Zak’s take on it was the best I’ve read.

13) Paul Waldman on how the GOP’s “politics is inherently evil” rhetoric helped give them Trump:

For the moment, let’s set aside the question of whether Republicans would really be winning with a different nominee (I think the race would be closer, but Democrats would still have the advantage). What this hypothetical alternative would bring is the skills, experience, and knowledge you gain by being active in politics, exactly what Trump lacks. He’d know how to run a proper campaign. He’d have a grasp of substantive policy issues, and know how to communicate Republican positions to voters in a persuasive way. He’d understand how not to alienate key groups of voters. He’d be in control of his emotions, able to give a speech or participate in a debate without damaging outbursts.

In other words, he’d be a politician. You may notice that no Republicans are saying this election would be a lock if only Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina had been their nominee.

Yet for years, Republicans have been running against “Washington,” an irredeemable Sodom of corruption and malfeasance. Anyone who wants to actually make government work is immediately suspect, an “insider” whose motives can only be nefarious. They look for “outsiders” who can tell voters, “Elect me because I’m not a politician, I’m a businessman.” Granted, there have been a few Democrats who have made that claim too, but Republicans are particularly attracted to it, despite the fact that it’s ludicrous on its face. If you hired a carpenter to build you a deck and you didn’t like the way it turned out, you wouldn’t say, “What we need to fix this deck is someone who’ll think outside the box. Like a computer programmer, or a librarian. Just as long as it’s not another carpenter.” No, if you were a rational person, you’d decide to get yourself a better carpenter.

14) On a related note, if Republicans really want a sane party in the future, they really need to drain the fever-swamp that is right-wing media:

Perhaps more important, however, the conservative media industrial complex successfully managed over the years to lock the Republican Party away from access to its own base. Those who consumed conservative media were taught not to trust politicians or, even worse, the mainstream media.

As a result, party leaders were beholden to a handful of individuals who controlled the conservative media and, thus, held the keys to their voters. Elected officials and candidates seeking office dared not criticize the conservative media’s most powerful members, for fear of the wrath that would ensue if they did.

The power the conservative press held allowed its members to decide who was accepted by the base and who wasn’t. True conservatives could be painted as unprincipled moderates, and, as in the case of Trump, unprincipled moderates could be painted as exactly what the base wanted.

The GOP “has appeased it, they’ve sucked up to it, they’ve been afraid of going up against it,” said Charlie Sykes, an influential conservative radio host in Wisconsin. “I think that you have seen that played out this year. Has there been any willingness on the part of any mainstream conservative to call out this alt-right media? I’m not seeing it.”

Republicans instead allowed their base to be held captive by a conservative press that moved their base further right, pushed conspiracy theories about Obama, and set unrealistic exceptions for them while in office.

15) In case you missed this NYT story based on lots of interviews with Trump.  As if you needed more evidence of what a pathetic, small, little man he is:

The intense ambitions and undisciplined behaviors of Mr. Trump have confounded even those close to him, especially as his presidential campaign comes to a tumultuous end, and he confronts the possibility of the most stinging defeat of his life. But in the more than five hours of conversations — the last extensive biographical interviews Mr. Trump granted before running for president — a powerful driving force emerges: his deep-seated fear of public embarrassment.

The recordings reveal a man who is fixated on his own celebrity, anxious about losing his status and contemptuous of those who fall from grace. They capture the visceral pleasure he derives from fighting, his willful lack of interest in history, his reluctance to reflect on his life and his belief that most people do not deserve his respect.

16) Dahlia Lithwick calls on John Roberts to speak out about the Republican calls to keep the court at eight members.

17) How bad soccer analytics made soccer a much worse game for a long time.

18) Gerald Seib with a nice essay in WSJ on Republican populism.

19) Why Russia wants to undermine confidence in US elections:

To understand Russia’s recent attacks on American democracy, one simply needs to look back to the country’s Cold War tactics.

Outpaced by American military spending and military innovation—and challenged by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—the Soviet Union sought an alternative approach to counter the U.S. Rather than match America on the battlefield, the U.S.S.R. sought to erode the U.S. from the inside out—using the “force of politics” rather than the “politics of force” to break democracy, fracturing the unity of the American populace and degrading trust in U.S. institutions. In a program known as “Active Measures,” the Soviet Union would deploy agents and provocateurs to spread propaganda amongst American dissident groups and communist causes throughout the Western world.

Cold War efforts to use propaganda to shatter the U.S. democratic system largely failed, but the internet and particularly social media have provided Russia’s “Active Measures” a renewed opportunity to foment American dissent. In contrast to the Soviet era, social media and the wealth of information available through the internet provides Russia the ability to access and disrupt American political figures and democratic institutions without setting foot in the U.S. Plus, the costs associated with hacking and social media manipulation are far lower for Russia—both in terms of money and risk—than deploying actual humans to influence U.S. elections.

20) On how Pat McCrory lost support with moderates.  I’ve been saying some version of the following quote a long time– glad to finally see it in print:

Unaffiliated voters and moderate Democrats helped propel McCrory to office in 2012, and he needed their help. There are at least 644,334 more registered Democrats than Republicans in North Carolina, and roughly a third of all voters—more than two million people—are unaffiliated. CNN exit polls show McCrory won 62 percent of independents and a whopping 15 percent of Democrats four years ago. He even won the Democratic strongholds of Mecklenburg and Wake counties. But as Steven Greene, political science professor at N.C. State University, notes, “That Pat McCrory doesn’t exist anymore.”

21) Former Wikileaks insider on the craziness that Julian Assange.

22) David Wong with a nice piece on the urban/rural divides that divide our politics.

23) I found this Vox headline unintentionally hilarious, “Why women are still voting for Trump, despite his misogyny?”  You probably also knew the answer without clicking the link.  It’s called, Party Identification.  I actually went to the article, searched on part* and decided that with no hits for partisanship or party identification, it was not worth reading.

The latest email craziness

1) This is almost textbook example of media feeding frenzy.  I suspect I’ll be using it in class for years.  The media has gone crazy– and crazy with speculation– when they know so very little.  The two key paragraphs in the Post story (with my highlights):

Officials familiar with the inquiry said it was too early to assess the significance of the newly discovered emails. It is possible, they said, that some or all of the correspondence is duplicative of the emails that were already turned over and examined by the FBI.

Comey made a similar point in his letter, sent to congressional committee chairmen, saying that the FBI “cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.”

In fact, given that the FBI has reviewed thousands of emails and found nothing significant, the odds that reviewing more emails between Clinton and Huma Abedin will find something politically, much less, legally, significant, strike me as minuscule.

Drum with a nice collage of the breathless headlines:

At this point there is literally zero evidence that these emails contain any sort of Clinton wrong-doing, but given the level of coverage you’d practically think they found emails saying, “I really do love TPP, I purposely deleted all those other emails to thwart the FBI, and I decided to stand-down at Benghazi because I wanted those Americans killed.”

Not all that surprising because, from a journalistic perspective– the race had gotten pretty boring.  No more debates, no more interesting revelations.  Clinton with a seemingly solid lead.  We even talked about this in my media class on Thursday.  When you’ve got “news” to sell, that just won’t cut it.  The opportunity to write a story with “Hillary Clinton” and “email” in the headline, well, there you go.  Even if, at this point, there’s no evidence of nothing.

2) Legal scholar Ben Wittes:

When the FBI wants to say it is reopening an investigation, it knows perfectly well how to say that. In this case, the investigation was actually never actually closed, so it doesn’t need to be reopened. The relevance of this letter is likely not that explosive new evidence of Clinton criminality has suddenly emerged.

It is that Comey made a set of representations to Congress that have been complicated by new information, apparently from the Anthony Weiner sexting case. So he’s informing Congress of that fact before the election.

Comey represented to Congress that the Clinton email investigation was “complete.” But as the letter relates, new emails have now come to the bureau’s attention in that appears relevant to this one. (Weiner’s estranged wife is one Clinton’s top aides.) Comey has okayed a review of that new information to determine whether the emails contain classified material and also whether they are, in fact, relevant. And this fact, renders his prior statement to Congress no longer true.

The key point here, in other words, is not that he is “reopening” a closed matter investigation because of some bombshell. It is that he is amending his public testimony to Congress that the FBI was done while the bureau examines new material that may or may not [emphasis in original] have implications for investigative conclusions previously reached.

3) I thought Senator Dianne Feinstein’s response was pretty damn good (oddly, cannot find a cut and pastable version, so I’m going with this edited version:

“This is particularly troubling since so many questions are unanswered,” Feinstein said in a statement. “It’s unclear whether these emails have already been reviewed or if Secretary Clinton sent or received them. In fact, we don’t even know if the FBI has these emails in its possession.”

Feinstein continued: “Without knowing how many emails are involved, who wrote them, when they were written or their subject matter, it’s impossible to make any informed judgment on this development.”

The Democratic senator noted Trump was “already using the letter for political purposes” with just under two weeks remaining until the election.

“Director Comey admits ‘the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.’ He cannot predict how long the investigation will take. And we don’t know if the FBI has these emails in hand,” she said.

Feinstein concluded: “It’s too bad Director Comey didn’t take those gaping holes into consideration when he decided to send this letter. The FBI has a history of extreme caution near Election Day so as not to influence the results. Today’s break from that tradition is appalling.”

All true.  Partisanship aside, this truly is very questionable behavior from Comey.  Maybe, he really had to say something.  But to just come out with this weak tea and leave it to erupt into full/extreme political innuendo just before an election is incredibly irresponsible.

4) Impact on the election?  Not likely.  This may well hurt Clinton some in the polls, but at this point she has locked up Democratic partisans pretty damn well, and that is the key for her.  There’s almost zero chance there’s additional revelations in the emails to come that are going to cause Democrats to defect from her.  Now, ongoing media coverage definitely hurts, but I also suspect it may well peter out quickly once it becomes clear, there’s likely no there there.

What’s up with deep Southern college-educated whites

So, I posted that cool Survey Monkey map the other day, but I was really struck by this one, I didn’t post.  I was reminded of it due to this Ronald Brownstein tweet:

Anyway, here’s the map— Electoral college map by college-educated whites:


Damn!  What is with those deep Southern whites?!  I already knew this on an intellectual level (i.e., 90% of whites in Mississipi are Republican, which obviously means most all the college-educated ones are as well), but it still is striking to see visually. Is this just the power of evangelical Christianity?  Racial resentment?  ‘

If I wasn’t hopelessly behind on half-a-dozen different things, I’d have to play around with the 2012 NES data.  Maybe, I still will.  This is a map I want to understand better.


What college-educated, white Democrats and minority Democrats have in common

In a word: optimism.  Another one of Tom Edsall’s truly great deep dives into the data and social science research:

Democrats, including the party’s elite, remain decisively liberal, and have become more cosmopolitan — more readily accepting of globalization, more welcoming of immigrants, less nationalistic — and more optimistic about the future. [emphases mine]

The Pew Research Center found in April 2016 that:

Highly educated adults – particularly those who have attended graduate school – are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values. And these differences have increased over the past two decades.

From 1994 to 2014, the percentage of voters with postgraduate degrees holding “consistently liberal” views grew fourfold, from 7 to 31 percent, and fivefold among those with college degrees, 5 to 24 percent.

Whites remain the majority in both political parties, 57 percent of Democratic voters and 86 percent of Republicans. White Democrats share a high level of optimism with the two largest Democratic minority constituencies, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Working class African-Americans and Hispanics are, like their white counterparts without degrees, on the low end of the income distribution. When blacks and Hispanics compare their situations to those of their parents, they see their circumstances improving, in contrast to low income, non-college whites, who see a downward trajectory.

As Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins, wrote in February in these pages, African-Americans

may look back to a time when discrimination deprived their parents of equal opportunities. Many Hispanics may look back to the lower standard of living their parents experienced in their countries of origin. Whites are likely to compare themselves to a reference group that leads them to feel worse off. Blacks and Hispanics compare themselves to reference groups that may make them feel better off.

For many whites, Cherlin writes,

their main reference group is their parents’ generation, and by that standard they have little to look forward to and a lot to lament

Less well-educated blacks and Hispanics have not experienced the income gains of the college-educated of all races, but they do see their lives improving when their parents are the reference point.

This is reflected in responses in an August 2016 Pew report to the question “compared with 50 years ago, life for people like you in America today is worse, better or the same?”

The optimists: Clinton supporters (59 better, 19 worse), Democrats (55-23), white college grads (43-39), African-Americans (51-20), voters with post graduate degrees (51-29). A separate June 2016 Pew survey of Hispanic voters found that 81 percent of Clinton supporters expect their family’s finances to improve in the near term, and 72 percent said they expect their children to be better off than they are.

The pessimists: Trump supporters (81 worse, 11 better), Republicans (72-17) and whites without college degrees (60-28).

Among well-educated whites, there are clear reasons for optimism. What is a primary marker of likely success in the contemporary American economy? The answer in one word is education…

The shift of working class whites over the past half-century from the Democratic to Republican Party gained momentum after Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson were granted prime time spots at the 1992 Republican convention to give fire-breathing speeches celebrating social conservatism that drove many suburbanites out of the Republican Party into the Democratic Party.

Looking now at the changing composition of the Republican electorate, what stands out is the failure of party leaders to anticipate the discontent of their own primary voters.

Preliminary indications are that the traditional top levels of the Republican Party hierarchy — heavily populated by the affluent and the wealthy — will face major hurdles retaining control after the coming election. The Trump campaign has demonstrated that many Republican voters are deeply critical of their own party establishment, to put it mildly…

The largely white upscale wing of the Democratic Party is far more liberal on economic policy than its self-interest would suggest. In the UVA-IASC survey, the social elite is not only sympathetic to the poor and to pro-government intervention, but, by 3 to 1, believes that the “system is rigged in favor” of the wealthy; by nearly 6 to 1 believes that Wall Street and big business “profit at the expense of ordinary Americans;” and believes, by better than 2 to 1, that the government “should do more to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.”

This is a longer piece, but so, so much goodness in here.  I expect I will be referring back to the ideas in here many, many times in the future.

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