Quick post-debate

We’ll have a better idea of where the media narrative reaches consensus in the morning, but for now, I’ll take this as a good sign:

screenshot-9_26_2016-10_47_45-pm

Also, that’s not even saying anything about the taxes.  I think that’s going to have legs.

What to expect from the debate?

I have no idea.

Seriously.

Okay, kind of.  Here’s the thing, it is so obvious what Trump needs to do.  John Dickerson laid it out during a recent Gabfest and Seth Masket quotes:

Yet over at Slate’s Political Gabfest, John Dickerson reminds us that quite a few voters will not be watching the debate as it airs, but will depend upon news coverage of it, which will largely boil down to a few key moments. He offered some suggestions as to how Trump could exploit that feature to change voters’ perceptions:

You should do all the things that people said you have not done. Be self-deprecating, be generous. Show some set of qualities that nobody’s ever associated with you throughout this entire campaign. And if you show them, you will get 100 million people watching, and all the coverage will be about that…. Do that, and you’ll get several days of: “Oh my gosh, look, he can restrain his impulses. Hecan fulfill the role that’s being asked of him. And if he can do that in a debate, he can do that in the presidency.”

That could change the campaign somewhat. But it’s dependent upon Trump’s own discipline as a campaigner, something that’s not really been detected in abundance. Just as that scenario could benefit him, so a lapse into misogynistic slurs could hurt him, and we know he’s prone to that.

Yes.  That’s what scares the hell out of me.  Trump being given a stupidly low bar, and easily exceeding it.  Also, Ezra:

This is the Donald Trump curve. Hillary Clinton needs to answer every question perfectly and make people laugh while she does it. Trump needs to stop lying and bragging so much. It defies parody. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. [emphases mine]

MSNBC is simply echoing the conventional wisdom. Clinton “faces higher expectations than Donald Trump when the two square off for the first debate on Long Island,” reports Politico. This is the conclusion of Politico’s “insiders poll,” which surveys a select group of political elites. The responses — Politico provides anonymity to participants in the survey — are darkly comic.

“To win the debate, all Trump really needs to do is meet expectations, keep his cool, and look presidential,” says one Republican.

A Democrat adds: “The question we are all waiting to have answered is: Can he be serious? Can he answer questions directly? How will he react (or overreact) when he is directly challenged? Can he control his temper?”

So here is where I think we are on the morning of the first presidential debate. For Hillary Clinton to win the debate, she needs to be perfect. For Donald Trump to win the debate, he needs to avoid embarrassing himself.

Do you see the problem?

So, there you go.  But, I think is is very much an open question whether Donald Trump can even pull this off.   I strongly suspect Hillary Clinton will perform well (though, not perfect).  She’s good at these and she’s had plenty of one-on-one debates.  Trump has pretty much never done this and not seen particularly adept at curbing his worse instincts in the moment.

So, I cannot wait to see what happens.  But, I’m horrified that if Trump meets this minimally low bar he will be rewarded with media coverage on a severe curve.

And, because I don’t have any more time to blog today, Drum with a reminder on what happened to Gore in 2000.

Wow. Gore kicked ass! Bush kept sniffing! He also seemed a little lost—a fairly common real-time assessment. As it turns out, Cooper’s prediction was pretty close: Gallup’s overnight poll had Gore winning by 48-41 percent and others gave him an even bigger margin. So why is Gore widely remembered as the big loser in that debate? Here is Alfredo Lanier of the Chicago Tribune a couple of weeks after the debate:

Polls scored both candidates just about even, but that shifted after media analysts picked over the inconsistencies in some of Gore’s statements—and nitpicked about his annoying huffing, puffing and eye-rolling while Bush spoke. [emphasis in original]

Among people who actually watched the debate, Gore seemed fine. He knew his stuff, he attacked without seeming mean, and no one seemed to notice any sighing. But then the analysts put together a mix tape of every one of Gore’s sighs, and it was game over. Gore was a laughingstock.

Overnight polls are hardly infallible. But there’s not much question that the media reaction in the two or three days after a debate can make a big difference. Gore won the first debate in 2000, but only for a few hours. He lost it in the following week.

Donald Trump and raisins

John Oliver nails it. The whole thing is great, but given my distate for denaturing cookies with raisins, I’ll cut to my favorite part of the clip.

Horrible media coverage summed up in one tweet

Via Byron York:

Yes, awful disproportionate media coverage, but damn if this doesn’t say something bad about Americans as well.

Where I go “on the record”

Pretty happy with my appearance this weekend on our local public affairs show discussing HB2 and elections in NC.  I’ve cut down the excess gesturing that does not play well on TV.  Next time will try to limit “you know.”  That said, I think I had some pretty decent stuff to say.

Quick hits (part II)

1) At least temporarily– and hopefully longer– NYT has put an end to awful he said, she said journalism with regards to Trump’s lies.

2) More evidence showing that it’s much better to be a 6th grader not in a middle school.

3) Ross Douthat with a very thought-provoking column on Clinton’s “Samantha Bee” problem.  This provoked a lot of interesting social media discussion among my professor friends.

But the Democratic Party’s problem in the age of Trump isn’t really Jimmy Fallon. Its problem is Samantha Bee.

Not Bee alone, of course, but the entire phenomenon that she embodies: the rapid colonization of new cultural territory by an ascendant social liberalism.

The culture industry has always tilted leftward, but the swing toward social liberalism among younger Americans and the simultaneous surge of activist energy on the left have created a new dynamic, in which areas once considered relatively apolitical now have (or are being pushed to have) an overtly left-wing party line…

At the same time, outside the liberal tent, the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion — which may be one reason the Obama years, so good for liberalism in the culture, have seen sharp G.O.P. gains at every level of the country’s government.

4) NYT editorial takes on NC’s horribly misguided HB2.

5) Not a single Fortune 100 CEO has given to Trump.  A whole bunch gave to Romney.  And this is despite the fact that Trump assures them large personal tax cuts.

6) And speaking of which, Trump’s tax plans would cause deficits to explode.  But nobody cares because it’s Trump and policy.

7) Drew Magery knows he’s not going to convince any Trump voters, so he just unloads with what he really thinks:

Nothing that Trump says, no damning piece of Trump reportage, and certainly no opinion piece like this one will stop his voters from pulling the lever. Nor will anything stop Trump from being the officious, braindead goon that he is. He will never answer for his crimes, and there’s a frighteningly large portion of the electorate that will always love him for that.

And so I’d just like to say to that portion of the electorate: Fuck you. No, seriously. Go fuck yourselves. I’m not gonna waste any more time trying to convince you that you’re about to do something you’ll regret forever. I’m not gonna show you old clips of Trump saying rotten things. I’m not gonna try to ANNIHILATE Trump by showing you records of his hypocrisy and greed. I’m not gonna link to a John Oliver clip and be like, “THIS. So much this.” Nothing’s gonna take down Trump at this point, so I’m not gonna bother. No no, this post is for ME. I am preaching to the sad little choir in my soul here.

Because while Trump is a miserable bastard, YOU are the people who have handed him the bullhorn. YOU are the people willing to embarrass this nation and put it on the brink of economic ruin all because you wanna throw an electoral hissy fit. YOU are the people who want to revolutionize the way America does business by voting for its worst businessman, a disgusting neon pig who only makes money when he causes problems for other people instead of solving them. YOU are the thin-skinned yokels who clutch your bandoliers whenever someone hurls the mildest of slurs at you (“deplorables”), while cheering Trump on as he leaves a bonfire of truly hateful invective everywhere he goes. YOU are the people willing to overlook the fact that Trump is an unqualified, ignorant sociopath because DURRRR HILLARY IS BAD TOO DURRRR.

8) Does terrorism help Trump?  Saletan says the evidence says no.

9) And Adam Gopnik on New Yorker’s non-terrorized response to terrorism.

10) Kevin Drum on who Republican elites listen to summed up in a single chart:

11) Ed Yong with a really nice piece on the inevitable survival of the fittest of bad science (it’s all about the bad incentives).

12) I’ve never been one to fool myself by thinking getting food off the floor in less than five seconds will render it bacteria free (the latest research suggests decidedly not), yet, I figure I would think nothing of picking up a pencil off the floor than eating some food.  So, I’ll just count on my immune system– it’s worked well so far.

13) Political Scientist and media critic extraordinaire, Thomas Patterson, on the media coverage of Trump and Clinton:

IF Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative. [emphasis mine]

While Trump declared open warfare on the mainstream media — and of late they have cautiously responded in kind — it has been Clinton who has suffered substantially more negative news coverage throughout nearly the whole campaign.

14) Just in case you didn’t hear about the Trump county chair in Ohio who said that racism was over in America until Obama brought it back.

15) It’s from just about a year ago, but this Brendan Nyhan piece on the media’s misguided search for “authenticity” is great.

16) Paul Waldman asks if Trump is running the sleaziest foundation in America?  Hell, yes!  The fact that pretty much only the Post is taking this issue seriously is perhaps the largest media failure of the campaign.

In case you haven’t been following the story of the Trump Foundation, that last part is critical: Trump has given zero dollars to the Trump Foundation since 2009. Instead, he gets other rich people to donate money to the foundation, and he then uses their money for self-aggrandizement and sometimes self-enrichment. As Fahrenthold has documented, Trump has used foundation money for things like buying a six-foot-tall painting of himself, sometimes at charity events held at Mar-a-Lago, where he charges the charity for use of the facility, which means that not only is he not making the donation for which everyone is praising him, he’s actually making money on the deal. And then of course there’s the conveniently timed, illegal $25,000 donation from the foundation to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, which was followed quickly by her decision not to join a lawsuit charging Trump with fraud over Trump University.

We’ll have to see if the IRS investigates the self-dealing Fahrenthold has identified and what kinds of fines might result. But one of the many striking details in this story is the shock experts in nonprofit and foundation law express when they hear about how Trump uses the Trump Foundation. “I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” one lawyer told Fahrenthold. “If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while.”

17) No, immigrants are not taking jobs from Americans (says the latest study).

18) Dahlia Lithwick on why Hillary should not stoop to Trump’s level in the debate:

But it seems to me the real challenge for Clinton is that she must stand on a stage and debate the single most awful political person in modern American consciousness. Trying to stifle the impulse just to walk across the stage and belt him in the face would seem an insurmountable task. Add to that the fact that Clinton is expected to speak and listen, and it seems beyond human capability.

When considering these obstacles, Clinton should realize that she has one sole job in these debates: Be the grownup. She doesn’t need to be funny. (She isn’t.) She doesn’t need to be emotional—that’s how the deeply unfortunate “basket of deplorables” remark happened. She doesn’t have to bend over backward to be charming or personable. Her job is to ignore the crazy circus monkey with the broken cymbals and do what she does best: Listen carefully, respond reasonably, and speak to the part of America that truly understands what it means to entrust someone with the nuclear codes.

19) Short Term 12 is a sweet little movie you probably never heard of.  It’s streaming on Netflix and it’s really good.

20) Tim Noah on the death of telephone calls.

21) How lobbying for government regulations helped make the EpiPen so expensive.

22) You really should read James Fallows‘ great Atlantic cover story on the debates before the debate.

Normal vs. Abnormal

Ezra Klein wrote a piece this summer (which I’ve linked multiple times and surely will again) about how this election was really normal vs. abnormal.  One big problem is just how much we have acclimated to Trump’s abnormality.  Chait has an interesting take arguing that another big problem is that the media is also abnormalizing Hillary Clinton:

Americans deem Clinton less honest and trustworthy than a man who lies in public about opponents in both parties with a frequency and brazenness unsurpassed in national politics, who has broken precedent by refusing to disclose his tax returns, who routinely refused to pay contractors for services rendered, who abused a charitable foundation for personal and political gain, who once boasted in a best-selling book about his habit of lying, and who is currently facing trial for bilking thousands of victims in a massive fraud. [emphases mine]

Clinton, as I have conceded, has done some bad things born of secrecy and paranoia. But those bad things have not merely tainted her image but defined it. The email story has utterly dominated the public’s impression of Clinton, who is the second-most-unpopular nominee of all time and whose shortcomings compare in the public mind with those of her grossly unqualified, authoritarian opponent. Open up any interview with undecided voters, and you will find them equating Trump’s shocking lack of qualifications with Clinton’s mundane transparency issues. (For instance, this Florida voter: “Mr. Trump scares him, Mr. Lewis said. Mrs. Clinton, he believes, is dissembling about her health. He, too, is considering sitting out the election.”) The ongoing normalization of Trump is the most disorienting development of the presidential campaign, but the most significant may be the abnormalization of Clinton.

The news media’s obsession with the emails has, without necessarily intending to do so, conveyed the impression that Clinton committed not just run-of-the-mill political scandals but extraordinary offenses of a historic scale. Indeed, this is exactly what most Republicans, even staunch critics of Trump, believe — for all of Trump’s flaws, she too is disqualified…

The funny thing about the scandal surrounding Clinton’s private email account is that there was a similar scandal in the Bush administration. Dozens of White House staffers, including Karl Rove, improperly used email accounts provided by the Republican National Committee, which were supposed to be for political work only, for their official duties, thus evading public-records requirements. They then deleted some 22 million emails, thus systematically flouting the same public-records principle that Clinton evaded.

If you forgot about this episode, it is because it was merely a secondary scandal within a larger one, involving a Bush administration scheme to politicize the Department of Justice…

But even if we saddle Hillary Clinton with every ethical failure of her husband’s administration alongside her own tenure as secretary of State, and include those of the Clinton post-presidency, it simply does not compare with Bush’s. And it should go without saying that the comparison does not excuse Clinton’s very real failures of ethics and judgment. Yet the question is not whether Clinton’s ethics problems exist at all but whether they ought to separate her from normal politicians. The inability to contextualize these flaws has been a signal failure of the general election.

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