Quick hits

Decided I didn’t want to spend the last day at the beach working on quick hits for Saturday, so, here you go with an evening edition instead.  Lots of good stuff.

1) Reviews of two books that take dramatically differing views of America’s police.  Of course, one is far more grounded in reality.

2) The Prosperity Gospel is such a disgusting perversion of Christianity.  Donald Trump is a disgusting perversion of American politics.  Naturally, they are a great fit.

3) Sure, politicians are not typically known for their honesty, but, not surprisingly, Donald Trump’s mendaciousness is clearly in a class by itself.

4) Bill Ayers on why he hates electoral politics:

For now, what bothers me so much about the whole mess is the extent to which elections have become an exercise in emotion-driven identity politics. This is true for nearly all people and across pretty much all issues. We want very much to think that elections, and politics in general, are about ideas, about figuring out what’s best for the country. But very little that has been said over the past year, and nothing that will be said from here on forward, is really about any of that.

What we’re really engaged in is a collective effort at ego protection, wishful thinking, and massive cognitive distortion brought about by emotion-driven biases. [emphasis mine]

5) I was shocked, shocked(!) to learn that Donald Trump doesn’t much believe in reading.

6) In other shocking news, GOP Congressional interns are really, really white.

7) Trump’s Art of the Deal ghostwriter thinks he’s a sociopath who would start a nuclear war.

8) I listened to Trump’s recent 60 Minutes interview.  The part about ISIS was truly, truly pathetic, as Drum points out:

This is pathetic. Trump acts like he’s back in the Celebrity Apprentice boardroom playacting a tough guy for the cameras. He declares that he will get “unbelievable intelligence”; he will “get rid of ISIS big league”; and he will “wipe them out.” But when Lesley Stahl repeatedly asks him about ground troops, he repeatedly says this isn’t in the cards. Maybe NATO will do it. Maybe other Arab countries will do it. Maybe troops will magically appear from a genie’s bottle. Even though Trump claims that we’re at war and President Obama is too weak and stupid to get it, in the end he basically endorses what Obama is doing right now. Like all the other armchair generals, he doesn’t have the backbone to risk taking an unpopular stand, even if it’s the only thing that would actually make a significant difference.

And when he’s done with this empty blather, what does Mike Pence say? “This is the kind of leadership America needs.” Heaven help us.

9) Drum also calls out Lesley Stahl for enabling Trump’s serial lying.

10) Slate with a list of (only) 141 reasons Trump is unfit to be president.

11) David Pogue is right.  We should be so done with passwords.  The technology is certainly there.

12) Can’t say I’m all that surprised to learn that the whole customized helmet to unflatten you child’s head (of course, I’m on record as being skeptical of the whole backsleeping thing anyway) is not medically necessary but largely being pushed by the customized helmet industry.

13) Sharp satire on Republicans coming out against Trump.

14) Nice Vox feature on how Trump won the primaries.  I like how it points out the number of truly lucky breaks that Trump got along the way in terms of where and when his opponents won and lost (e.g., I really do think thinks could have turned out different if not for Marcobot in NH).

15) Great New Yorker profile of America’s best jailhouse lawyer.  Mostly, it made me so sad and depressed at how institutionally corrupt our criminal justice system is.  And makes me think there’s probably tens of thousands of innocent people in prison.

16) Loved Brooks on Trump’s Pence announcement:

If you had to do a rough diagram of the Trump remarks it would be something like this: Pence … I was right about Iraq … Pence … Hillary Clinton is a crooked liar … I was right about “Brexit” … Pence … Hillary Clintons ads are filled with lies … We’re going to bring back the coal industry … Christians love me … Pence … I talk to statisticians … Pence is good looking My hotel in Washington is really coming along fantastically … Pence.

Donald Trump is in his moment of greatest triumph, but he seems more resentful and embattled than ever. Most political conventions are happy coronations, but this one may come to feel like the Alamo of aggrieved counterattacks.

17) It’s not nothing at all that Coach K has called North Carolina’s HB2 “embarrassing.”  K is a long-time, staunch Republican.

18) The psychology of why Americans are afraid of low crime levels.

19) Hans Noel argues that more contested conventions would be a good thing– and certainly help us avoid more Trumps.

20) They say a picture is worth 1000 words.  Love this tweet.

21) This USA Today is really harsh on HBO’s new Vice Principals.  And, you know what?  Strikes me as deserved.  I loved “Eastbound and Down,” but found the first episode of this new show simply unpleasant to watch.

22) That’s okay.  More time for me to watch season 3 of Bojack Horseman, which is getting rave reviews.

23) Love this from Will Saletan.  The headline captures it well, “Mike Pence’s New God:
The Christian conservative was supposed to bring morality to Trump’s campaign. Instead he caved to Trump.”

Kaine

Been meaning to write a long post after Trump’s speech, but that will have to wait till I’m back from the beach.  For now, I just want to say I really like the choice of Tim Kaine.  He seems very smart, very competent, knows and cares about public policy, and is plenty liberal enough, so that works for me.  In short, I think he would probably make a very good president, and honestly, that should be the number one thing you want in a Vice President.

And for the Bernie supporters upset that he’s not liberal enough– get over yourselves.  I liked this quick take in the NYT:

Under other circumstances, the Clintons might be more inclined to consider a running mate to inspire the Democratic base the way Warren or Booker or Castro could. But they have correctly concluded that liberal and minority Democrats will still have tremendous amounts of motivation to turn out in November — courtesy of Donald Trump.

So the boring centrist white guy should be just fine.

So, no, Kaine is not going to go out there and draw huge crowds like Sarah Palin did for McCain in 2008, but that’s not what Hillary Clinton really needs.

Also, though it is entirely expected, I cannot help but being saddened by how the selection is overwhelmingly covered through the “game orientation” of why did Hillary pick him and how does he effect her electoral prospects (not much, these days no VP really does) with so little on just what kind of person and politician is this man who very well may be just a heartbeat away from the presidency.  (And to be fair, the same goes for the coverage of Pence).

Real America

Jon Stewart makes a surprise on Colbert and it’s so, so good.  Especially this last part of the segment (though, you should definitely consider watching all of it).

Trump and fascism

So, was not planning on watching Trump’s speech, but I was doing a check on NYT headline’s before I was going to head over to Netflix, and since it was livestreaming there, I couldn’t resist.  Anyway, wow.  Only Donald Trump’s committment to LAW AND ORDER can save us from this dark dystopia that threatens us with only Donald Trump to protect us.  I can see this appealing to angry, scared, old white guys, but not too many others.  And, sure, I’m not much on judging political speeches, but this really just doesn’t seem all that good.

But, it did really get me thinking about these recent, excellent posts on Trump and fascism.  First, Adam Gopnik:

We walk out of the beautiful museum and find ourselves back in a uniquely frightening moment in American life. A candidate for President who is the announced enemy of the openness that America has traditionally stood for and that drew persecuted émigrés like Moholy-Nagy to America as to a golden land, a candidate who embraces the mottos and rhetoric of the pro-fascist groups of that same wretched time, has taken over one of our most venerable political parties, and he seems still in the ascendancy. His language remains not merely sloppy or incendiary but openly hostile to the simplest standards of truth and decency that have governed American politics. Most recently, just this week, he has repeated the lie that there has been a call for “a moment of silence” in honor of the murderer of five policemen in Dallas…

As I have written before, to call him a fascist of some variety is simply to use a historical label that fits. The arguments about whether he meets every point in some static fascism matrix show a misunderstanding of what that ideology involves. It is the essence of fascism to have no single fixed form—an attenuated form of nationalism in its basic nature, it naturally takes on the colors and practices of each nation it infects. In Italy, it is bombastic and neoclassical in form; in Spain, Catholic and religious; in Germany, violent and romantic. It took forms still crazier and more feverishly sinister, if one can imagine, in Romania, whereas under Oswald Mosley, in England, its manner was predictably paternalistic and aristocratic. It is no surprise that the American face of fascism would take on the forms of celebrity television and the casino greeter’s come-on, since that is as much our symbolic scene as nostalgic re-creations of Roman splendors once were Italy’s.

What all forms of fascism have in common is the glorification of the nation, and the exaggeration of its humiliations, with violence promised to its enemies, at home and abroad; the worship of power wherever it appears and whoever holds it; contempt for the rule of law and for reason; unashamed employment of repeated lies as a rhetorical strategy; and a promise of vengeance for those who feel themselves disempowered by history. It promises to turn back time and take no prisoners.  [emphasis mine]

And Chait (and, yes, Trump is not Hitler, but that doesn’t mean we cannot compare how authoritarians rise to power):

Like Hitler, Trump is a radical, authoritarian figure who lies outside the normal parameters of his country’s conservative governing class. Thus, there is a parallel between the two men’s unexpected rise to power that is worth considering: Why would traditional conservatives willingly hand power to a figure so dangerous that he threatened their own political and economic interests? Why, having failed in their halfhearted efforts to nominate an alternative candidate during the primaries, don’t they throw themselves behind a convention coup, a third-party candidacy, or defect outright to Hillary Clinton? Why do so many of them consider Trump the lesser rather than the greater evil? …

All this is to say that German conservatives did not see Hitler as Hitler — they saw Hitler as Trump. And the reasons they devised to overcome their qualms and accept him as the head of the government would ring familiar to followers of the 2016 campaign. They believed the responsibility of governing would tame Hitler, and that his beliefs were amorphous and could be shaped by advisers once in office. They respected his populist appeal and believed it could serve their own ends…

Think of the supply-siderssupporting Trump in the hope he can enact major tax cuts, or the social conservatives enthused about his list of potential judges, and you’ll have a picture of the thought process.

That reality is stark. Trump’s admiration for ironfisted dictators, not only in Ba’athist Iraq but Russia, China, and North Korea, is the ideological lodestar of his long history of political musings. Over the years, Trump has weaved left and right on health care, abortion, taxes, and even the issues currently central to his campaign, like immigration and trade, but has never wavered from his foundational belief that strong leaders are those who crush their enemies without restraint. Whatever norms or bounds that we think limit the damage a president could inflict are likely to be exceeded if that president is Trump. [emphasis mine]

Call it what you will, but Trump’s vision of the presidency is that of an authoritarian strongman.  I don’t care how much you want low taxes and to make it harder for women to have abortions, it’s just not worth it.

It’s not just the polls

I’ll admit, I find the tightness of the polls right now disturbing and concerning.  That said, I’d be a hell of a lot more of both if the numbers for both candidates were closer to 50 instead of around 40, leaving a lot of undecided voters in these polls.  I do think there’s plenty of reason to believe that, when all is said and done, Hillary Clinton should win by a decent margin.  Sure, the polls are close.  And sure external events can intervene and change things.  But there’s a fair amount of stuff we do know about this campaign which suggests a strong advantage for Clinton.  (Big) Steve Saideman is mostly an IR/Comparative Political Scientist, but he sums it up nicely:

But what I am referring to are the fundamentals of the campaign itself:

  • African-Americans will simply not vote for Trump, and there is little Trump can or will do to change that.  Indeed, he has had speakers that have tripled down on racism–Steve King’s no “sub-group” has contributed to civilization crap.
  • Latino-Americans are going to vote overwhelmingly for HRC and are very likely to turn out (large voter registration drives) as Trump has thoroughly alienated this group.
  • Women are going to vote far more for HRC than Trump since the misogyny in his campaign is deep and is likely to worsen as the confrontation between the two candidates goes on and gets face to face in debates. Trump will have to do far better than Romney among white males to compensate for his failures to get minority votes and the votes of women.
  • The gap between the Clinton campaign and Trump’s campaign is about as wide as it has ever been in terms of organization, professionalism, depth, breadth, resources, etc.  The hiring of Manafort was seen as a good move to improve the campaign.  This convention has demonstrated that he has either not made much of a difference or he is wildly overrated.  Either way, this campaign is not getting better at the basic stuff.
  • The convention demonstrates again the wide disparity in the two parties at this stage.  The GOP is divided–people are forgetting about Monday? Not the delegates from Colorado.  Not the governor of Ohio.  Who is Trump trotting out in prime time at this convention?  Who are his surrogates?  His family, Chris Christie (who would have thought that the bridge scandal would be so overwhelmed by the sycophancy and desperation that has destroyed his reputation?), Ben Carson, and Newt Gingrich.  Who will speak for HRC?  A popular President Obama, Elizabeth Warren who will strengthen HRC’s weak flank, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and on and on.
  • Trump lacks discipline.  That could be my biggest understatement in seven years of blogging.  To message well means sticking to scripts and schedules, but Trump called into Fox during one of the more moving speeches at the convention.  He simply has no ability to focus and stay the course.  Indeed, Trump’s personality is a fundamental part of the his campaign–it works for him in some ways (when the audiences are narrow) and not so much in other ways…

But it comes back to the fundamentals that will be constant throughout the summer and fall: Trump is awful, he is awful for larger groups of voters, the demographics favor the Democrats and Hillary Clinton has figured out how to campaign. None of that is changing.  Focus on the uncertainties if you must, but I am going to keep on focusing on what I know and what will not change.

Not quite how I’d put it (and a little more rosy on some of these matters than me), but I think that really does get at some key points.

A new low

Great WaPo editorial on Chris Christie’s truly shameful display the other night.  The headline pretty much nails it, “Memo to Republicans: Democracies don’t lock up political opponents.”

Every convention spends some time rabble-rousing against the opposition, and this one is particularly focused on Ms. Clinton’s alleged wrongs because the Republican Party cannot agree on much else this year. But the Trump campaign’s descent from standard red-meat partisanship to unprecedented accusations of criminality displays contempt for the rule of law and a startling disinterest in fact and reason. [emphases mine] Investigation after investigation into Benghazi, Libya, and Ms. Clinton’s emails have not uncovered the sort of rampant abuse Republican rhetoric suggests. Even if FBI Director James B. Comey had recommended she be charged — an action, he rightly said, no reasonable prosecutor would take — there is essentially no chance she would have seen conviction and jail time.

The “lock her up” motif rightly heightens fears of how Mr. Trump would govern, given the contempt he has shown for traditional democratic norms and the rank ignorance of the Constitution he has displayed. But it is a bad sign for the next four years even if Mr. Trump loses. When the critique of political opponents becomes so disproportionate and divorced from reality, democracy, which requires goodwill and compromise, cannot function.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s vision of the presidency

This is just stunning (and, yet, I cannot say the least bit surprising).  Steve Benen:

And with this in mind, the New York Times’ Robert Draper reports today on an amazing attempt at outreach from Team Trump to the Ohio governor.

One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

This reminds me of a story that went largely overlooked a few months ago.

In May, Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, sat down with the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman for a lengthy interview, which touched on the search for a running mate.

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do,” Manafort said in reference to Trump. “He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

The similarities between the two reports are striking. Trump, who’s never demonstrated any meaningful knowledge of any area of public policy, or really any interest in how government works at any level, apparently wants to be president.

He does not, however, want to do the things presidents are elected to do. That requires hard work, long hours, and, you know, reading and stuff. Trump can’t be bothered with such unglamorous tasks – he wants to “make America great again” while having others roll up their sleeves.

As his own campaign chairman freely admitted, day-to-day governing and overseeing the executive branch represent the parts of the job “he doesn’t want to do.”

Honestly, the further away a President Trump would be from the levers of power, the better.  But, seriously, what the hell?!  Yeah, Trump can just focus on that whole making America great again and leave everything else up to Pence.  I swear, if this were satire I would think it too ludicrous to be good satire.  The fact that this utter clown is above even 25% in the polls says some really disturbing things about the state of our democracy.

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