Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bill Weld Does the Right Thing

Gary Johnson's running mate - the one who actually has a clue what day it is - did something incredible the other day. Bill Weld issued a statement that every "undecided" voter toying with the idea of voting third party or Republican should read carefully and take to heart.

No, it was not an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, as many progressive websites are intimating; and no Weld is not stepping down as Johnson's running mate, nor is he urging Johnson to end his candidacy. But Weld did the next best thing: he made it crystal clear just how dangerous a Donald Trump presidency would be.
From the beginning of his campaign, Mr. Trump has conjured up enemies. First it was eleven million criminals in our midst, all bent on obtaining the benefits of citizenship, at our expense. Over time, the enemies became any trading partner of the United States. He says they are nothing but foreigners seeking to threaten our livelihoods. Now we have reached the point where his idea of America’s enemies includes almost anyone who talks or looks different from him. The goal of the Trump campaign, from the outset, has been to stir up envy, resentment, and group hatred. 
This is the worst of American politics. I fear for our cohesion as a nation, and for our place in the world, if this man who is unwilling to say he will abide by the result of our national election becomes our President. 
This great nation has weathered policy differences throughout our history, and we will do so again. Not in my lifetime, though, has there been a candidate for President who actually makes me fear for the ultimate well-being of the country, a candidate who might in fact put at risk the solid foundation of America that allows us to endure even ill-advised policies and the normal ebb and flow of politics. 
In the final days of this very close race, every citizen must be aware of the power and responsibility of each individual vote. This is not the time to cast a jocular or feel-good vote for a man whom you may have briefly found entertaining. Donald Trump should not, cannot, and must not be elected President of the United States.
I'll say this for Weld, he doesn't mince his words. He cuts right to the chase. And the fact that Weld has heretofore made no similar statement regarding Hillary, should imply that he does not view a Clinton presidency as a "lesser of two evils," as so many people have been foolishly saying. In fact, in an interview with Chuck Todd, Weld said, "I'm not sure anyone's more qualified to be President of the United States than Hillary Clinton."

Throughout this campaign, a number of Republicans have done the unthinkable: they've soundly rejected Donald Trump. It is an unprecedented move in American politics to have so many members of a major political party turn their backs on the party nominee for president. Not even Goldwater in '64 had such a defection.

To be clear, Hillary Clinton has many flaws and even more enemies, most of them Republicans. And you don't need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that there is no love loss between her and the GOP, or for that matter the vast majority of conservative writers and pundits, many of whom have spent the better part of the last quarter century trashing her. So it is nothing less than extraordinary that anyone within this lot would even contemplate not voting for Trump, knowing what that could mean.

What that tells you is that while they may hate her, they're terrified of him. In Trump, they see someone who doesn't just pose a threat to their party, but to the country as a whole. The fact that Bill Weld has now added his name to the growing list of conscientious objectors, hopefully will induce most if not all the fence sitters and third-party fanciers to wake up and smell the caffeine.

If the running mate of a presidential candidate who didn't know what Aleppo was and couldn't name a single world leader he admired could figure it out, no one has any excuses.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why the IBD/TIPP Poll is Wrong This Time Around

By now you've heard that the Trump campaign is touting the recent polling by Inventor's Business Daily as evidence that they are actually ahead in the polls; and, further, that all the other polls are wrong. Their evidence? IBD has been the most accurate pollster over the last three presidential elections, according to them. And as of Monday, IBD had Trump leading 43 to 41 in a four-way race*.

And Investor's Daily, for their part, has proudly repeated this claim. So I decided to check it out for myself by going back to the 2008 and 2012 elections. Is the Trump campaign and Investor's right in their assertion? Well, not quite. Here's why.

In 2008, Barack Obama beat John McCain by 7.3 points (52.9 to 45.6). The final RCP polling average was 7.6 points (52.1 to 44.5). IBD had Obama up 8 points (52 to 44). On first look, you'd probably think IBD was spot on.

There's only one problem. Most of the polling was pretty spot on that year. In fact, the pollster that came the closest to the actual margin of the election was, oddly enough, Fox News, which had him up 7 points (50 to 43). NBC News/Wall Street Journal also had Obama up 8 points. The range was from 2 points (Battleground Tarrance) to 11 points (Gallup and Reuters).

In 2012, the polling was a bit more inconsistent. That year Obama beat Mitt Romney by 3.9 points (51.1 to 47.2). The final RCP polling average, though, showed Obama with a slight .7 point lead. (48.8 to 48.1). I remember going to bed election eve night thinking Obama might be a one-term president.

IBD had Obama up by a point (50 to 49). Not bad. Until you look at the other polls and find that ABC News/Washington Post had him up by 3 points (50 to 47), which, as it turns out, tied them with Pew Research as the closest to the actual result. Three pollsters had the race tied, including CNN, and Gallup had Romney with a one point lead.

So, far from being the most accurate pollster in both elections, IBD appears to have been in the middle of the pack. Good, but hardly the stuff of legends.

Which brings us to 2016. The RCP average, as of now, shows Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump by 5 points in the four-way race (44.9 to 39.9) Included in that average are polls by Rasmussen and IBD, which show her trailing by 2 points and ABC News, which shows her up by 12. Apart from the LA Times, which shows the race tied in the head to head poll, but has been polling the same sample voters for the past three months, every other pollster shows Clinton with a sizable lead, including Fox News, which has her ahead by 6 points.

Either IBD knows something that everyone else doesn't, or their polling is flat-out wrong. I'm going with the latter here. The fact is that the RCP average corresponds with much of what we see in the state polling, including the all-important swing states, which show Clinton with a commanding lead in enough of them to get her across the finish line. Indeed, Clinton is polling better than Obama did at this point in 2012, and almost as well as he did at this point in '08. This puts her on track for an electoral college win somewhere between 330 and 365 votes.

How bleak are things in Trumpland? This is how bleak: Rush Limbaugh, the gas bag of the Right, won't stick his neck out like he did in 2012, when he confidently predicted Romney would win. You know your goose is cooked when you can't even count on Limbaugh to back your paranoid delusions.

Look, I get it. Anything can happen. We've still got two whole agonizing weeks to go until this race is over. And it's not like Clinton is FDR or something. As I've mentioned several times, she's a flawed candidate running against a sociopath. In the end that might just be her ace in the hole.

Then again, maybe IBD is right and we're all fucked.

* IBD now shows the race tied.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


When historians write about the 2016 campaign, they will likely look back on this third debate as the moment Donald Trump hopefully committed political suicide on national TV. His answer to one of the easiest and simplest questions ever posed by a moderator wasn’t just beyond the pale, as one Republican called it; it was unprecedented in American politics.

Donald Trump stood before the American people Wednesday night and not only reiterated that the election is rigged against him, he said he might not accept the results if it doesn’t go his way. His exact words were: “I’ll keep you in suspense. Okay?”

No, it’s not okay. It’s not okay for a grown man to behave like a four-year old who needs a time out, gin up centuries of racial bigotry for political gain, encourage violent outbursts at his rallies, scapegoat others for his own depraved conduct and, above all, cast into doubt a pillar of this Republic regarding the peaceful transition of power that its leaders have accepted for 240 years. And it’s certainly NOT okay to draw a false equivalence to the 2000 presidential election to justify such an absurdly offensive answer. That election came down to a Florida recount and a Supreme Court decision that many have questioned but that Al Gore ultimately accepted for the good of the country. To suggest that the two are similar is to add insult to a profound injury.

The truth is that there is only one presidential candidate who, from the moment he entered the race, has complained about the process being rigged against him. Throughout the Republican primaries, he railed against a rigged process whenever he lost a primary or caucus, but then praised it when he won; he has ridiculed the media for holding him accountable for his outrageous accusations, while at the same time conveniently forgetting he has received over a billion dollars of free advertising from that same media; he has attacked his opponents in the most juvenile of ways, belittled leaders in his own party - leaders he would need in the event he actually won the presidency - and managed to offend virtually every voter demographic in the country with the exception of white males.

He has made a mockery of the political system of this country, threatened its alliances throughout the world and so deeply divided the electorate, it will take years to repair the damage. Even now, a majority of his supporters, following in his footsteps, have vowed not to accept the results of the election if he loses. Some have thrown around words like revolution to describe what they'd do in that scenario. Such a prospect should frighten all of us.

Michael Tomasky's piece on Trump's "concession" speech, at first read seems humorous. And if this were simply the case of an ignoramus ascending to the top of his party's food chain, I might've chuckled along. But this isn't some Sarah Palin or George W. Bush spoof on Saturday Night Live we're talking about here. This man is the greatest threat this nation has ever faced, and now is not the time for lighthearted - you'll pardon the pun - banter. This is the time for responsible men and women, regardless of party of political predilection, to rise up and collectively reject his hateful and destructive rhetoric.

I cannot think of a time when the resolve of this country was so thoroughly tested and strained by the antics of a compulsive lying, race-bating, xenophobic, sexist, thin-skinned, narcissistic sociopath. How he won the GOP nomination is a question Republican leaders will have to grapple with in ernest if they ever wish to be taken seriously again as a national party. How the general electorate grapples with him November 8 may well determine the very future of the Republic itself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Protect the Football, Hillary

It's come down to this: one last debate; one last opportunity for Donald Trump to humiliate himself on a national stage. And if the first two debates are any indication, this might be the ugliest 90 minutes the nation has ever seen.

Unlike the first two debates, where I thought Hillary needed to go for the knockout, I actually think the best strategy for her tonight is to play it cool. She's ahead by double digits in the head-to-head polls and ahead by nine in the four-way polls; she's doesn't need to take any chances. If the election were held today, she'd win convincingly.

It's clear Trump is going to do everything he can to drag her down to his level, like he did with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. She cannot let that happen. When he blows a gasket, which he will, she needs to do what she's been doing since the conventions: act presidential, let it slide off her shoulder. If she could keep her composure during the second debate when Trump "invited" four of Bill's accusers to sit in the front row, she should be able to handle the half-brother of the President and the mother of a Benghazi victim.

The moderator, Chris Wallace, may try to pin her down on the email server, the alleged quid pro quo regarding the FBI and State Department and the Wikileaks hacks. Her best course of action is not to try and deflect. Own what's hers and above all else avoid getting into a pissing contest with Wallace. Trump will do his best to help her out anyway, so there's no need to overreact.

When you're ahead by two touchdowns with two minutes to go in the game, you actually don't have to score; you just have to make sure you don't turn the ball over. Trump will do everything in his power to force a turnover. It's his only chance - assuming he has any - to make this a horse race.

So my advice is simple: Protect the football, Hillary. The floor is literally caving underneath Trump's feat. Let gravity have its way and you'll be the next President of the United States.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Why Trump's "Blame the Victim" Strategy Will Backfire

In a 1992 episode of Law and Order, titled "Helpless," Dr Elizabeth Olivett is raped by a gynecologist, Dr. Alexander Merritt. The ADA, Ben Stone, prosecutes Merritt, but cannot get a conviction because of Olivett's close ties to the detectives who were investigating the assault. Stone, however, has an idea. He decides to hold a press conference on the steps of the courthouse, and Merritt, with his attorney, shows up. Merritt looks at the camera, smiling, while his attorney lauds her client's innocence.

A couple days later, Stone has Merritt arrested and brought to his office. Both he and his attorney are aghast that Stone would do such a thing, knowing that double jeopardy was attached in the acquittal. Stone reaches for a case, throws it on the table and says to Merritt:

"Fifty-four women you either raped, molested or abused. In the future, sir, stay off the evening news."

There's an old saying in corporate America: Nothing kills a bad product better than good advertising. And for the last week, Donald Trump has been doing an awful lot of "good" advertising. Good to the extent that he has chosen to blame the women who have come forward in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape and accused him of sexually assaulting them. He has declared himself as the true victim in a giant conspiracy between the media and the Clinton campaign to get him.

It's the sort of strategy that will, undoubtedly, solidify his base, but I submit it will end up costing him whatever shot he has of winning the presidency. The reason could not be clearer. For women, sexual assault is not a made-up issue; it is one that many of them have dealt with throughout their lives. The sight of a man on a stage not only failing to acknowledge his transgressions, but then blaming the victims of the abuse, is triggering to them. It not only dredges up the hurtful memories they have - memories that many of them have suppressed - it has the unintended consequence of riling them up and providing the impetus to come forward and be heard. Michelle Obama's poignant speech spoke to these points.
It is cruel. It's frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It's like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. 
It's that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they've said no but he didn't listen — something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day. It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.
This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn't matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.
And I know it's a campaign, but this isn't about politics. It's about basic human decency. It's about right and wrong. And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer — not for another minute, and let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. This has got to stop right now. 
Because consider this: If all of this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children? What message are our little girls hearing about who they should look like, how they should act? What lessons are they learning about their value as professionals, as human beings, about their dreams and aspirations? And how is this affecting men and boys in this country? Because I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women like this. And I know that my family is not unusual. And to dismiss this as everyday locker-room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere.
The men that you and I know don't treat women this way. They are loving fathers who are sickened by the thought of their daughters being exposed to this kind of vicious language about women. They are husbands and brothers and sons who don't tolerate women being treated and demeaned and disrespected. And like us, these men are worried about the impact this election is having on our boys who are looking for role models of what it means to be a man.
As a man, I was deeply moved by the First Lady's words, but I was also ashamed; ashamed of the scars so many men have left on women over many, many decades and centuries. None of us can ever know the cross so many of them have had to bear. The catcalls, the whistles, the rationalizations of disgusting behavior that cannot be defended. But Trump and his surrogates defend it nonetheless. Without the slightest bit of remorse or empathy, he defiantly exonerates himself from any wrongdoing while shaming the wronged.

But like that gynecologist, who smugly mocked his victims on camera, the wrath that is coming for Trump, hopefully, will be just as definitive. My gut tells me that an overwhelming majority of women in this country are going to make their voices heard loud and clear on November 8. And it wouldn't surprise me if a large percentage of men do the same. Hillary Clinton may not get a majority of them to vote for her, but Trump's deplorable conduct will slice into his lead with them.

It is both ironic and sort of sad that this, of all things, should be the last straw in his pitifully depraved campaign. Over the last seventeen months, Trump has defamed and slandered Mexicans, Muslims, war heroes, the handicapped, African Americans, reporters, and every opponent who has gone up against him. And none of those attacks has been enough to bury him. But going after women - predominantly white women - has proven to be his Waterloo.

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. If that is true, I suspect Trump is about to find out just how hot the fires of hell can be.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Day After

It’s been four days since the second debate and Trump’s decision to go scorched earth has netted him a total of two points. When paired with the fallout from the Access Hollywood video, he is trailing Clinton by 9 points in the latest polling with just under four weeks to go before the election. As things stand now, she still has a solid lead in the all-important battleground states. If the election were held today, she would win with 340 electoral votes. And while, if I were team Clinton, I would resist the urge to do a victory lap, it’s looking more and more like the election is hers to lose.

And that leads me to my greatest concern: the day after the election. What happens on November 9 to all those Trump supporters, like the woman who said she’s “ready for a revolution,” if Hillary wins the presidency? How are they going to take defeat? More importantly, what happens if Trump, himself, doesn’t concede? We could be looking at a Constitutional crisis that would make Bush v. Gore look like a pinky swear gone bad.

We've never seen anything like this in the history of the country. The nominee of a major political party not just suggesting, but flat out stating, that the election has been rigged before it's even held, and that the only way he can lose is if certain people - you know, those people - vote more than once. His call to place "monitors" at polling sites is straight out of the Nazi playbook.

And the worst thing about all this is how he's managed to create an alternate reality for himself. The polls? Don't believe them. His own party? A bunch of weak-kneed traitors. The media? They're nothing but lackeys for Clinton. In Donald Trump's universe, everyone is out to get him. I swear, there are mental patients at Bellevue that aren't this paranoid. Unshackled? Try unhinged! Or how about we just put Donald in a straight jacket and be done with it?

With less than four weeks to go before voters go to the polls, Trump isn't merely a loose canon; he's an entire platoon. He sounds more like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now than a candidate for the office of President of the United States. Forget his misogyny and his racism, I think the guy is bat-shit crazy. Seriously, when Glen Beck is the one calling you on the carpet, you haven't just gone over the edge, you've disappeared into the abyss.

I'm really scared about this. Think about it. Hillary Clinton is likely going to inherit the keys to the kingdom and there's a very strong probability that 40 percent of the country will not accept her. Even worse: depending on how bad Trump loses, the entire GOP might spend the next four years making the last eight look like a glee club. Not only won't she be able to govern, but her whole presidency will be undercut and undermined by the alt-right, which will stop at nothing to make her life a living hell. If you thought things were bad now, just wait until January.

And then there's Russia. It is now crystal clear that the Russians were behind the hacked emails from both the DNC and the Clinton campaign. For the most part the revelations from those emails have been more embarrassing than damaging. But intelligence officials are growing more and more concerned that an attempt might be made to hack into some of the voting machines on election day. I doubt Putin would want Trump to win, as some have suggested. He's a despot, he's not crazy. But if he could produce a situation where Hillary won a narrow decision - say 272 electoral votes - that could play right into his hands. A crippled Clinton Administration would allow him to get away with murder in the Ukraine, perhaps even the Baltics.

I actually do not know how we get out of this looming disaster. It's like watching a movie on the Titanic. You know what's about to happen, yet there's nothing you can do to prevent the inevitable. The Republican Party may have created this monster we know as Trump, but come November 9, they and the entire nation will have to contend with his unholy offspring. 

In the words of Stevie Wonder, Heaven help us all.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Moving the Chains

Okay, so she didn't "finish him off," as I implored her to do. Why? You'd have to ask her. I thought she should've gone for his jugular. He was badly wounded and his campaign was hanging on by a thread. By any and all accounts, she could've wrapped up the election last night and she didn't. Only time will tell if that ends up boomeranging on her.

My overall first impression of her performance was she was good but hardly dominating, at least not nearly as dominating as her performance in the first debate. Her only blemish was her answer to the Wikileaks email about her having a private and public position. Even I thought the Abraham Lincoln reference was weak. You don't give your opponent that kind of a layup in a debate. Trump, for his part, was better in this debate than the first, but that's not saying much, given how unhinged he was that night.

So who won? If we judge these debates based on the all-important criteria of who scored better with undecided voters, then I'd give the decision to Clinton. Trump's decision to go gutter might've been popular with his base, but apart from the red meat he flung at them, I don't think he did anything to move those undecided voters off the fence. If anything, he might've pushed a few Clinton's way.

Think about it. At one point Trump actually said that if he became president, he would appoint a special prosecutor with the express purpose of jailing Clinton. For the first time in the history of this country we have the nominee of a major political party proposing jailing his opponent. That sort of thing goes on in dictatorships, not democracies. Small wonder he's enamored of Putin.

While that was the low point in the debate, it was by no means the only scar on the evening. One particularly bad moment for Trump occurred early in the debate when he was asked to comment on the leaked video of him bragging about sexually assaulting a married woman. His insistence that what he said was simply locker room talk I can assure you won't win him many votes among suburban women - the constituency he desperately needs to make inroads with in order to win the White House.

And then there was the sight of four women, three of whom have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, being used as pawns by Trump. Besides being beneath contempt, it wasn't a particularly smart move on his part and for the following reasons: one, Bill isn't on the ticket, Hillary is; two, using the past sins of the spouse of your opponent as an excuse for your own is lame even for Trump; three, it has the unintended consequence of actually making Hillary look more sympathetic, especially in the eyes of married women, and lastly, the last time Republicans went after Bill and Hillary in this manner, it didn't go well for them. In fact, they lost seats in the '98 midterms.

But I think there were two moments in this debate where Clinton may have done herself a lot of good. The first one came on the opening question from a member of the audience who expressed concern about the divisive nature of the campaign and wanted to know if she felt she was "modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today's youth." I thought Clinton's answer was particular effective. She talked about "celebrating our diversity" and "working together" to be the president of "all Americans." Trump replied that he agreed with her and then spent the next two minutes contradicting himself.

The other moment came when a Muslim woman asked both candidates about the growing Islamophobia in America. While Clinton I thought did a good job trying to allay her fears by pointing out that we've had Muslims in this country since George Washington was president and that scapegoating and banning them would only play into the hands of the extremists, Trump proved that her concerns are valid. He actually responded to a question about Islamophobia by being Islamophobic.

My conclusion is that this debate was not a game changer and that is bad news for Trump. Yes, he was more aggressive and put Clinton on the defensive, but apart from a few fleeting moments, he was unfocused and all over the place. He never put the video issue to bed, nor did he make a convincing case to undecided voters that he is the better choice in November.

Clinton, for her part, I thought was smarter in her approach. Like a good football team with the lead, she protected the ball and moved the chains to get enough first downs to run out the clock. Trump spent most of the evening trying to strip the ball from her, but was unsuccessful. No, she didn't score the knockout punch we all wanted, but she kept Trump off the scoreboard. And in football, they call that a win.

As for the polls, my gut tells me they will stay pretty much where they are, which means Hillary will still hold a solid lead in the electoral college when the dust settles. She played not to lose and her measured and mature responses proved a stark contrast to the otherwise loose canon she shared the debate stage with last night. And, for now, that will have to suffice.