Sunday, August 28, 2016

Trump and the Rise of Despotism and White Nationalism In America

Over the last few days I've been watching the talking heads on cable news to see what their reactions were going to be to Hillary Clinton's speech on Donald Trump and the Alt Right. Not surprisingly most of them thought that while she had a few good points, she overreached, which some of them viewed as bad politics. Some engaged in the time-honored tradition of false equivalency. Hillary calls Trump a racist, Trump calls Hillary a bigot. Both sides need to cool their jets.

I even went back over my piece to see if maybe I had in fact overreached. After all when you spend that much time eating junk food - which is what most cable news channels sadly are these days - your diet tends to suffer.

So, after careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that not only didn't Hillary Clinton overreach, she was, if anything, reserved. In fact, she was far more reserved than I was in my last piece or am about to be in this one. What she said needed to be said and the media in this country, if they have any interest in being journalists, need to start doing their jobs before this mockery of a campaign ends up becoming a national tragedy.

Let's start out by disposing of this false equivalency bullshit. Whatever else you may think about Clinton, she is no racist. Nor is the Democratic Party a racist party. No one with access to the facts could ever make that assertion. Trump and a good chunk of what's left of the Republican Party are. I say good chunk because there are many Republicans and conservatives alike who aren't and to a man and woman they have spoken out vehemently against their party's nominee. If there is any hope for the GOP it will rest with them.

It would be tempting to suggest, as some have foolishly done, that the ascendency of Donald Trump is some kind of aberration. Sadly, it isn't. His campaign is the culmination of years and years of fomenting hate and bigotry within the Republican base. The GOP, whether wittingly or unwittingly, made a deal with the devil in order to gain power at both the federal and state levels. And early on it worked. Frankenstein's monster at first proved a most useful tool in curtailing the perceived excesses of President Obama. The Party of No made quite a name for itself among the rank and file.

But then the rank and file grew restless at the lack of results and the monster became uncontrollable. When it realized it had been betrayed, it went on a rampage, took out its creator and burned down the village. It then found a new master, one who would fulfill the promise that had been made to it. And that new master is Donald Trump.

From the moment he descended down that escalator in his ivory tower, Trump has been a hero to a certain malevolent and vile segment of the population. Its critics often refer to it, mistakenly, as a fringe element. There is nothing fringe about it. If the last seven years have taught us anything, it's that this element is a lot larger than any of us would've dared imagined. And they have become emboldened of late, spurred on by Trump's willingness to go where others would fear going.

Mexicans are rapists and drug smugglers, Muslims should be banned, women are weak, Hispanics must be rounded up, blacks shoot whites, China is screwing us. Think about it. These are the sort of things one would expect to hear coming from a hate group. But the nominee of a major party? Who would've thought that in the last half of the second decade of the 21st century we would ever hear such blatant racism and sexism coming from someone seeking the Oval office?

But we hear it all the time from Trump. Like clockwork he spews his hate and his disciples lap it up like it was manna from Heaven.  His apologists and pundits alike would like us to think that only a small percentage of Trump's supporters are racists; that the majority of them are just frustrated people who are fed up with the system. They see Trump as someone who will fight for them in a way that neither political party has been willing to do.

I beg to differ. Oh I have no doubt that some of his supporters fall into this category. But it would do a grave disservice to Bernie Sanders to confuse his supporters with Trump's. With the exception of the brouhaha that took place in Nevada, most of Bernie's supporters comported themselves with class and dignity. True, they were somewhat unrealistic and naive on policy issues, and when it became apparent that Hillary was going to be the nominee, a number of them behaved like spoiled brats who didn't get everything they wanted under the Christmas tree. But compared to the mobs we saw and continue to see at Trump's rallies, they were practically Benedictine monks. I dare anyone to find me the soundbite of Bernie telling his audience to knock the crap out of someone. Go ahead, I dare you.

The fact is that the revolution Sanders was proposing was, as I described in my last piece, a bottom up revolution. A people's revolution. The kind we all read about from our college days. The oppressed rise up to depose their oppressors and divide the spoils up evenly. Egalitarianism in all its glory. Can you imagine a country with a President Sanders at the helm? Wall Street would've shit its pants.

That is not the revolution Donald Trump is proposing. Trump's revolution is a top down revolution. One in which one man rises up to take the reigns of power for the "good" of all to restore what was supposedly taken (i.e., stolen) from the people. This sort of revolution has happened before in places like Italy and Germany, where fascist dictators seized power under the auspices of a democratic uprising. Typically the first thing to go is the democracy, followed by years of brutal oppression.

But dictators do not simply seize power in a vacuum. Typically they are aided and abetted by a series of government scandals and corruption. The citizens of these countries lose faith in the institutions that are charged with the delegation of authority. When a government no longer has the respect of its people, it begins to lose credibility and then ultimately its authority. The collapse of the Weimar Republic is a prime example of this. Adolph Hitler's rise to power was a direct result of the German government's inability to effectively govern.

While it would be a stretch to make a direct correlation between the Washington of today and the Berlin of the 1930s, it would be equally wrong to not be gravely concerned with the current state of paralysis that has gripped the federal government. A majority of Americans are disgusted by what they see from their leaders. To assume all that is needed is a tweak here and there would be the height of arrogance.

When Donald Trump says he is going to fix things, implicit in his words is the idea that he and he alone will take care of it. Congress? No thanks. The courts? Not interested. Harry Truman used to say that the buck stopped with him. With Trump, it's the whole damn bank. Not only is he not interested in partners, he's making it clear they won't be needed. In the world of Trump, it's his way or the highway.

The scariest thing about all this is that his supporters don't seem to care. In fact, the more he rails against the government and the system, the more they love him. He isn't just a candidate for president, he's their champion; the deliverer. He can do no wrong in their eyes. Trump was right when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn't abandon him. These people have stuck with him since he got into the race and they will be by his side right up to the election, and perhaps beyond.

And who exactly are these people? The majority of them - mostly white males, though some are female - don't like the direction that the country is headed. They view an ever-inceasingy pluralistic and multi-cultural society as a threat to their way of life. The election of Barack Obama sent them right over the edge. His presidency has been a painful reminder that their hegemony is coming to an end. And they don't like it one bit.

Contrary to what some of their critics - including me - have said, they are not stupid, most of them that is. They can count. They know that within the next thirty to forty years they will cease to be a majority in this country. This makes them all the more resentful and desperate. Desperate people sometimes do incredibly stupid things, like vote for despots.

The parallels between Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler are unmistakable and hardly hyperbolic. Indeed, the two have a great deal in common. Both manipulated the facts to suit their agendas. Hitler scapegoated the Jews to rile up resentment among the German people; Trump scapegoated virtually every ethnic group in the country to galvanize support from the white community. And both depended on fear in their rise to power. The major difference is that Trump hasn't succeeded in his quest; not yet, at least.

We've read a great deal about the sudden rise of the Alt Right, a term I find offensive because alt stands for alternative. There is nothing alternative about these people. They are nothing more than white nationalists, posing as conservatives. Klansmen without the hoods. Yes, sadly, they have taken over the GOP, but that is the fault of the GOP. When you don't care who you bed down with, you lose the right to complain about what disease you end up catching.

They are unapologetic about their intentions. Indeed they brag about their bonafides. They taunt minorities at Trump rallies the way storm troopers in Nazi Germany used to taunt Jews. Go back where you came from you wetback, nigger, chink or whatever colorful metaphor they come up with to describe a racial or ethnic group they can't stand. When a Jewish journalist wrote a piece about Melania Trump that wasn't very flattering, she received hate mail and death threats from some of these fine upstanding citizens. One such threat said she'd make "a good lampshade." I've written many unflattering things about Bernie Sanders and his supporters over the last few months, and the worst thing that happened to me was I got called a sellout and a traitor.

Now of course the sixty-four thousand dollar question is what percentage of the white population falls into the category of white supremacist? We already know that Trump's rallies are loaded with them. But what percentage of the of the overall white population do they comprise? Probably not a very high percentage. If I had to guess, I'd say maybe 10 to 15 percent. But that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of racists out there. Racism takes on many forms, both overtly and covertly. One does not have to subscribe to a white pride publication or affiliate him or herself with a hate group to be considered a racist.

The sad truth is we all know people who would never call themselves racists who say racist things. Many times they don't even know they're saying it. Be honest, haven't we all been in the company of a group of people when news of another unarmed black man being shot broke and heard some genius say "unarmed my ass" or "maybe if they didn't commit so much crime they wouldn't get shot?" The sheer ignorance of such statements is enough to make your blood boil.

When I was in retail it was standard operating procedure to never let a black man roam around the store unattended. If a manager noticed that, he would make an announcement over the loudspeaker that went something like this: "salesperson needed in small electronics." That was code for nigger in aisle three.

And speaking of codes, even Trump's so-called outreach to the African American community was nothing more than a dog whistle. When he rhetorically asked at a recent rally, "What do you have to lose?" he was speaking not to blacks but to whites, particularly white women, as I wrote in an earlier piece. And his tasteless tweet following the shooting of the cousin of an NBA all-star - which I won't dignify by repeating here - was yet more red meat for his racist supporters. "See, I told you, they're animals. All they do is shoot each other."

Do not be deceived. While not all white people are racists, a good percentage of them are. And the farther south you go the higher that percentage gets. Want proof? Just take a look at all those confederate flags flying high in Dixie. Or for that matter the plethora of insults this president has had to withstand. Not even George Bush endured this much abuse. And the death threats against Obama rival those of any president in the history of the nation. I'll bet the ranch and my retirement savings that the overwhelming majority of these people will cast their votes for Trump in November.

It has been suggested that the reason Trump is doing so poorly in the polls is because a lot of people who intend on voting for him are afraid to admit it to a pollster. Afraid? These people? If anything they have been brazen in their support for Trump. Over the last 14 months he's been the closest thing to a rock star they will ever know. In fact, if anyone might be underperforming in the polls, it's more likely to be Clinton. Face it, it's hard getting excited about her. As one writer put it, she's the Judy Woodruff to Trump's Kim Kardashian.

The real test for the country will come November 9, assuming Trump loses. And pray God he does. What happens with all those white supremacists? Clearly they aren't all going to go away. Hatred that intense doesn't let go, not without a fight. And I fear we may have one on our hands. If the election ends up being close, you could well see riots in the streets. Trump himself has set the stage by inferring that the election is already rigged against him. So when he loses it'll be because the elites stole it from him, and, by extension, the people.

The fallout would cripple Washington even more so than it already is, thus making it even more vulnerable four years later. The Clinton Administration will get little if anything done. What's left of the Republican Party will crumble and melt under the searing heat of a base that no longer has any use for it. The Democrats will benefit in the short run but the gridlock will drag them down as well. Third-parties will spring up like so much cotton candy at a county fair, and the people will grow even more disillusioned than they already are.

Corruption will grow as more and more special interests vie for what's left of a functioning government. The United States could potentially descend into a period not unlike what happened to the Roman Empire in its twilight years.

Depressing? Yeah, it is. I wish I had some good news, but my gut tells me this isn't going to end well. This is what happens when governments break down and become corrupt. They invite despotism and anarchy. And the most damning indictment of all is that this Greek tragedy that appears to be unfolding before our very eyes was avoidable. Had we, the voters, simply done a better job of holding these elected officials accountable, and had these elected officials simply done a better job of governing instead of grandstanding for their bases, Donald Trump would still be on his reality TV show firing Gary Busey. Then again, maybe if the Fourth Estate had done its job earlier in this campaign, we wouldn't be in the predicament we find ourselves in now.

That might not seem like much of a consolation prize to hand down to our children and grandchildren, but in lieu of anything better, it'll have to do.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hillary Goes For the Jugular

I'll be honest, I've been critical of Hillary and her campaign over the last few weeks for some unforced errors regarding her email server and the Clinton Foundation. And while these unforced errors were being committed, her opponent, Donald Trump, was in the middle of his long-awaited pivot, trying to rebrand himself as a softer, kinder, bigot by appealing to moderate white women, who for some strange reason find him offensive.

I've also made no secret of my concern that in the midst of the distraction of trying to justify her and her husband's actions to an electorate that just doesn't believe her anymore, Trump could reset the entire campaign; we were already starting to see signs in the national polls that were portending trouble ahead.

Well, I'll say this for Hillary: she's got balls of steel. In a speech Thursday before a crowd of supporters, Clinton ripped Trump, his campaign and, perhaps most importantly, his supporters for taking "white supremacy mainstream." Not only did she effectively preempt Trump's pivot, she exposed the charade he and his surrogates have been attempting to pull off.

They say timing is everything in politics. Well, if that's so, Hillary's was impeccable. I've seen this woman and her husband give a good many speeches over the years; some great, a few not so. This might go down as one of the best she's ever given. It might well prove to be the signature moment in this campaign: the point at which Hillary ostensibly delivered a knock-out blow to Trump and saved the country from what would've been one of the darkest chapters in its history.

Let's face it. It's been easy - way too easy - to simply brand Trump as a fool, an asshole, a man child, a con artist (that's the term I use most often). He is certainly all those things. But he is also something far more sinister and menacing. Donald J. Trump is the closest thing the United States has to a despot since its inception as a country. He isn't just your run of the mill bigot with delusions of grandeur. He embodies virtually every personality trait of some of the most notorious dictators the world has ever seen from Stalin to - yes I'm going there - Hitler.

The Hitler comparison is striking and, in this instance, quite relevant. His rise to power in Germany in the 1930s was due in large part to his ability to convince a majority of the population that the reason for their deplorable condition was due to a certain segment of society; a segment that had to be removed.

Nativists decry the watering down of American culture and find aid and comfort in Trump's rhetoric. They see in him a hero who self identifies as one of them and who promises a "solution" that will ameliorate their concerns. It is no accident that someone as loathsome as David Duke extols his virtues and, upon hearing that Breitbart head Stephen Bannon had been brought in to run the campaign, proudly pronounced, "we have taken over the Republican Party." If one listens closely enough they can hear the first burning embers of the Reichstag building going up all over again.

This is no populist movement. Bernie Sanders had a populist movement. His was a bottom up revolution; a people's revolution. What Trump is offering is nothing less than a coup d' etat, first of the GOP, then the whole damn country. The racist elements that permeate every corner of this campaign have been around for quite some time. Sadly, they go all the way back to the founding of the Republic. But not since the ascendancy of Trump have they had this kind of platform. Hillary was correct when she said this is something "we've never seen before."

And that is why it is essential that she not let up, not for one second. To have remained silent and played it safe in an attempt to run out the clock till November, as some advisers were telling her to do, would've been foolish. You don't do that when the stakes are this high. This isn't Mitt Romney she's running against here. To be honest I'd take Romney over Trump in a heartbeat. Shit, I'd take Bush over Trump. That's how dangerous this man is.

I think Hillary gets it, finally. Yes, there is the issue of his temperament to consider, along with his thin skin. But those qualities are not the paramount concern here. Let's not forget, the nation both elected and survived the presidency of Richard Nixon. They don't come much more temperamental and thin skinned than Tricky Dicky. But the existential threat this man and his followers pose to America is without precedent.

Are all his supporters racists? Obviously not. Just as some of Hitler's followers were attracted to the manner in which he gave voice to their frustrations, there are some Trump supporters who are fed up with the system and see him as someone who will tilt the scales in their favor for once. As B.T. Barnum is alleged to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute."

Every tyrant needs a flock of sheep in order to succeed. It is no less true for Donald Trump. It is now up to Hillary Clinton to make sure that the sheep don't fall asleep.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

An Appearance of Impropriety

Michael Tomasky may have a point. In fact, he's probably right. Despite all the good the Clinton Foundation has done for millions of people, it has become an "albatross" around Hillary's neck. It isn't enough to say, as Bill has done, that if she wins the presidency the Foundation will stop taking foreign contributions. It's time to shut it down - NOW, not AFTER the election. Any delay could prove fatal to Hillary's chances in November. I'm not joking. This is getting serious.

Is there any evidence of illegal activity or quid pro quo? No. Nor is there any evidence that Hillary violated the terms of the agreement she signed with the Obama Administration that forbid the kind of activity that she and the Foundation are accused of. Unfortunately none of that matters, at least not to the majority of voters. At this point, neither Hillary nor Bill are getting the benefit of the doubt here. This "scandal" has become yet another example that the Clintons play by their own rules.

Look, let's get honest for a moment. I'm not suggesting that there isn't some right-wing conspiracy going on here. Judicial Watch has made it its goal to turn the Clintons' lives inside out for over a quarter of a century. The GOP has had a hard-on for Bill since he got elected in '92. The Far Right may detest Obama, but they absolutely loathe Hillary. The idea of her sitting in the Oval Office sends them completely over the edge. Why else would the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh be so giddy about a man they would otherwise despise? A man who they know in their heart of hearts isn't one of them.

But there comes a point when you have to stop blaming the other team for fumbling the ball so goddamn much. The painful truth is that it has been the actions of Hillary directly and Bill indirectly that have landed the both of them in the tight spot they're in. Yes, Hillary continues to lead Donald Trump in the national polls, but that lead has slipped to 4.3 points according to the RCP average. A week ago it was 5.8. She continues to hold commanding leads in several swing states, and if the election were held today, it is likely she would win a landslide victory in the electoral college.

The problem for her is that the election isn't going to be held today, or tomorrow, or the day after. The election is going to be held November 8, two and a half months from now. That is a lifetime in politics. Her unfavorables are only slightly better than Trump's, and a majority of the country is so dissatisfied with both candidates that flakes like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are seen as legitimate alternatives.

How in the name of God did these two very talented and savvy politicians allow this nightmare to happen to them? Arrogance? Perhaps. I think at their core the both of them believe they have done no wrong. And according to the letter of the law, they are right. But according to the spirit of the law they are guilty as sin.

To tell you the truth, I'm more surprised and disappointed with Bill than I am with Hillary. Bill, perhaps more than any politician in modern history, should know that perception is what drives voters. It's the reason he defeated both Bush and Dole in consecutive elections. Facts, ultimately, are inconsequential; indeed, they're open to interpretation. Ask anyone who's ever served on a jury. Many a courtroom has seen verdicts come down that defy logic, and right now the court of public opinion is rendering its judgment on one Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Do I still support her? Is the Pope Catholic? Of course I do. First, despite the unforced errors, I agree with Obama: she might well be the most qualified person ever to run for president in our lifetime, and if she wins, she could actually get something done in Washington. Second, she's running against the most unhinged, unqualified candidate the nation has seen quite possibly in its entire history. Either is a good enough reason to vote for her, but I suspect it's the latter that has propelled her to the lead she now holds.

Sooner or later, though, this insistence on playing Russian Roulette is going to cost her. Now she's maintaining that Colin Powell advised her it was ok to have a private email server. Does she really believe that throwing the only member of the Bush Administration with any semblance of credibility under the bus is a good strategy? If so, I give up. Maybe she does have a death wish.

One thing I know for certain. There's way too much at stake for this horse shit to continue any longer. Someone, anyone, has to sit her down and drive some sense into her; both of them actually since they're a team. The Clinton Foundation has to go. Not permanently, mind you, just for as long as she is running for office, or, if elected, holds that office. It won't do to simply pass the baton to Chelsea.

Fair is fair. If judges recuse themselves from cases for the mere appearance of impropriety, then Bill and Hillary need to do the right thing for something far greater than a mere court case. Will people suffer without the Foundation? Sadly, yes. But ponder this: how many more people are likely to suffer if Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office next January?

Shitting your pants yet? You should be.

Monday, August 22, 2016

This Is An Outreach?

Every successful salesperson knows that the way you grow your business is by reaching out to new customers and giving them a reason to buy from you. You paint a positive image of yourself and create a value in the customers' mind that you are someone they can rely on. What you don't do is belittle them and then say what Donald Trump said to an almost completely white audience in Michigan.
"What do you have to lose? You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose."
In all the jobs I've had in sales over the years, not once has a manager every encouraged me to do what Donald Trump did in that speech. It runs counter to everything we know about growing market share in a particular industry. In fact, any company that were to employ this tactic would almost assuredly lose market share and put themselves in a very precarious position.

But let's cut to the chase here. Donald Trump was not "reaching out" to African Americans in that speech. The fact that he gave it in one of the whitest neighborhoods in Michigan is proof that none of this is about attracting black voters, or Latinos for that matter.

So who was the target? White suburban women, that's who. Even someone as obtuse as Trump knows there is no way he's going to make any serious inroads with African Americans or Hispanics. Xenophobic and racist he may be; stupid he is not. He can read polls. He may not like them right now, but he can sure as hell read them.

And right now the polls show he is getting trounced with respect to white suburban women, the kind that live in the suburbs of Philly and Akron and Cleveland and northern Virginia and Raleigh, North Carolina and South Florida and just about any place else where there is a fairly large suburban population. The way the race is shaping up, Trump is cleaning up in rural America and getting his clock cleaned in the cities. If he is to make up any ground, it has to come from those suburbs.

There is a certain percentage of white voters who are, less face it, racist. You see them at Trump rallies and Trump has done nothing to call them out or disown them. Just the opposite, in fact. He's ramped up his rhetoric so as to reassure that crowd that he is still their champion. That by itself is a political scandal and a national disgrace.

But there is another percentage of white voters - otherwise conservative - that are appalled at the racial overtones of his campaign and the obnoxious comments that come from his mouth. They do not wish to be associated with anyone perceived as being that racist. And right now those people - a majority of them women - are not voting for him. So Trump delivered a speech that to many blacks would seem insulting and demeaning, but to that target audience might be perceived as an olive branch of sorts. See, I care about blacks. I'm not a racist.

Will it work? For the most part, I doubt it. For one thing, that isn't the only reason those suburban women aren't voting for him. The way he and his surrogates are going after Hillary Clinton's "stamina" and "health" is pure sexist and quite frankly doesn't sit well with many of them. If you're going to make a pitch to suburban women that they should vote for you, you first have to prove you're not a misogynist pig before you can claim you're not a racist bigot.

And therein lies Trump's biggest challenge. He's pissed off so many potential voter demographics that even when he tries to mend fences with one of them, his campaign ends up digging the hole deeper with the others.  The sad truth is that Trump's speeches, despite how his campaign wants to frame them, are little more than dog whistles to the same mobs he's been preaching to since he got into the race last June. They will stick with him to the very, hopefully, bitter end.

The majority of the rest of the electorate, however, is unlikely to fall for his "outreach."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Return of the Swift Boats

The prevailing logic among many political pundits - indeed among many establishment Republicans - is that the shakeup in the Trump campaign won't work. That letting Donald be Donald is really the crux of the problem. Doubling down on a failed strategy would only makes things worse, not better.

And while I would tend to agree with that reasoning, what concerns me most is what's coming. Back in May my fear was that we could be looking at a repeat of the 2000 election. That was the year progressives sat on the sidelines sucking their thumbs and feeling sorry for themselves over the fact that Al Gore wasn't the second coming of FDR. The result was we got stuck with George - numb nuts - Bush for eight years.

Since wrapping up the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton has mended fences with the majority of Bernie Sanders's supporters and solidified her position with Democratic voters. She's now at 91 percent with her party compared to Trump's 73 percent among Republicans. And with Breitbart head Stephen Bannon running the show, it wouldn't surprise me if that percentage goes down a bit, at least temporarily.

I say temporarily because the real reason Bannon was brought on board has nothing to do with letting Donald be Donald. Face it, he's been his own man for 40 years. No force in the universe is going to keep him from behaving like the asshole he is. Bannon's talent lies elsewhere, in the work his sleazy publication Breitart has done over the years, and if I'm the Clinton campaign I'd take notice right now.

That's because this campaign is about go from the ridiculous to the tragic. It's clear to everyone that the difference in the polling - the reason Clinton enjoys a 6 point lead nationally, and substantial leads in many swing states - comes down to the perception by most voters that Trump is not fit to be president. On matters like trustworthiness and who's better on the economy, the race is basically a push.

So Bannon's job ostensibly is to bring Clinton down to Trump's level and make this race a tossup. How will he do that? By doing to her what the GOP and Bush did to John Kerry in '04. If you remember, Bush and Kerry were neck and neck in the polls that year. It was clear the Iraq War wasn't going as expected and Bush's popularity was sinking fast. Something had to be done or Kerry was going to win.

That was when the swift boat ads started appearing, falsely accusing Kerry of being unpatriotic. The Kerry campaign didn't take the ads seriously, believing that the majority of voters would see through the charade. They were wrong. The ads began to gain traction and a slight Kerry lead turned into a slight Bush lead. By the time Kerry finally responded, it was too late. Enough of the electorate had already made up their minds and Bush narrowly won reelection to a second term.

On the surface it would seem Bannon has his hands full. He not only has to swift boat Clinton, he has to do it while making sure Trump's poll numbers don't plummet any further. The latter could prove impossible, but the former is well within his grasp.

Already the innuendos have started. Crooked Hillary is now Tired Hillary. Did she suffer a stroke? Is she fit to handle the duties of commander in chief? Out of nowhere a doctor - some quack Breitbart dug up - has seen fit to cast aspirations on her health. There's a photo circulating of her stumbling while walking up some stairs. Of course plenty of people have stumbled while walking up or down a flight of stairs. And the overwhelming majority of them are in perfect health.

But for some, just the mere appearance of an imperfection allows them to make the most outrageous claims without providing a scintilla of proof. An old college professor of mine used to say that if you throw enough shit at the blackboard, some of it will stick. Bannon will need to throw a ton of shit and he's just the sort of creep to do it.

And that, sadly, is politics 101. Seek out the one advantage your opponent has and neutralize it. Can it work? It already has. True, it'll be a tall order. Over the last 15 months, Trump has managed to piss off every possible demographic group with the exception of while males. Bush, at least, reached out to minorities. He actually managed to get 44 percent of the Latino vote. At present, Trump is polling in the teens among Hispanics and the single digits with African Americans.

But if I'm Hillary Clinton, I don't sit around waiting to see if history can repeat itself. She and her campaign need to be proactive on this and strike back hard. When Trump comes at her with health "concerns," she should go at him with a psychological profile that lays out the case that he's unhinged. It won't be a hard case to make. There are already dozens of professionals who've commented on his erratic behavior. Run a few ads on the Dr. Strangelove angle. It'll be funny AND true at the same time.

The big difference between 2004 and 2016 is that the Republican nominee is hardly in a position to question the fitness of his opponent. It's incumbent upon the Clinton campaign that they drive this point home until it sticks with the electorate. Assuming the voters will somehow parse out the bullshit from the truth was how John Kerry lost.

In my opinion, Trump has about five weeks to make this election a horse race. If he goes into October trailing by 5 or 6 points nationally, and if Clinton maintains her big lead in the swing states, I frankly don't know how he can come back. That's why he and his campaign will pull out all the stops between now and the debates. If you thought you'd seen it all, trust me, you haven't. We are about to go into unchartered waters.

Over the years, Hillary Clinton has had to endure a series of relentless attacks, many bogus, but to be fair some legit. She's sat through a grueling eleven hour Congressional committee investigation over Benghazi, and had to contend with a damning FBI report over her email server. And after all that, she's still standing and comfortably ahead.

But the shit storm that's headed her way will be her greatest test yet. How she handles it will ultimately end up determining whether she becomes the next president of the United States.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Bye, Bye

When I heard the news of John McLaughlin's passing, I was saddened but hardly surprised. Over the last few months it was obvious McLaughlin's health was failing. It wasn't just his age; he seemed frail, his voice strained, and that vaunted McLaughlin wit seemed to betray him at times.

Ironically, it was my wife who first noticed his decline last December. Being a long-time admirer and viewer of the show, I guess I hadn't picked it up. Or maybe I didn't want to. The man had been such an integral part of political discussion, I couldn't bring myself to admit this legend was entering the twilight of a brilliant career.

I made it a point to never miss a Mclaughlin Group show, except last Sunday. I had to pull double duty at my church so I wasn't able to watch it. I thought about DVR'ing it but elected not to. As it turns out, McLaughlin was gravely ill and couldn't do the show; the first time in 34 years he was unable to perform his duties. He did a few voiceovers that without captions were completely unintelligible. The show was taped on Friday. By Tuesday he was gone.

Gone, but not forgotten. I will miss him, as will the world. Yes, he was a conservative, but what I appreciated most about him was the way in which he gave equal time to both sides of the political spectrum on his show. He pulled no punches and held back nothing. The word ambivalent was not in his vocabulary. And while the people who comprised his panel - people like Pat Buchanan, Jack Gerrmond, Eleanor Clift, Jeff Barnes, Clarence Page and Mort Zuckerman - often went at it in heated and passionate exchanges, never did the discussion descend into personal attacks. You always had the sense that everyone on the set respected one another. Put another way, McLaughlin wouldn't allow it.

I had been a fan of the show from its early days. It, along with Agronsky and Company, in many ways informed my opinion of Washington politics in the '80s. While I always considered myself a liberal - and still do - shows like The McLaughlin Group were essential in helping me understand how the other side felt. To this day, I am astounded at how narrow-minded some liberals are. In many ways they are as thick headed as their conservative counterparts.  I make no apologies for the way I went after many Bernie supporters throughout the Democratic primaries. I detest bubbles regardless of their ideological leanings. It was people like John McLaughlin who helped me appreciate that a hundred and eighty degrees from wrong was still wrong.

So who will assume the mantle that Mclaughlin has left behind? No one, that's who. I can't think of a single person worthy of sitting in that chair. He didn't just moderate a talk show, he invented the whole damn medium. To the extent that we now have political talk shows, we can thank McLaughlin. The best eulogy we can give him is to acknowledge his incredible contribution and give him a heartfelt sendoff.

So, for one last time, we say, bye, bye.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Playing With A Lead

One of the reasons I love football so much is because it's the ultimate battle between two fierce competitors. Both teams go at it mercilessly for four quarters, doing everything to win the game. And the one that comes up short has to wait seven long days to get back on the field and earn a shot at redemption.

In many respects, a political campaign is just like a football game. It's fierce and tough. Nothing gets held back and the losing team has to wait, in this case, four long years to make its case to the electorate again.

This year, team Clinton is ahead - way ahead. And that is certainly better than the alternative. But as any football coach knows all too well, getting off to a big lead is one thing; holding onto it is another. Many a team has seen a big lead vanish late in the game only to lose. As a Giants' fan I can attest to this. Last season, the Giants blew four fourth-quarter leads and lost every one of those games. It ended up costing coach Tom Coughlin his job.

So, knowing that, how does Hillary Clinton avoid her own fourth quarter collapse? Well, for starters, stay on the offense. Since the Democratic convention, Donald Trump has had one disaster after another, from picking a fight with the parents of a Gold Star veteran, to kicking a crying baby out of one of his rallies, to encouraging a second amendment remedy for Hillary, to accusing Barack Obama of being the founder of ISIS. From a football perspective, it's like playing against a team that keeps picking up personal fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct. Team Clinton started at their own twenty-yard line and now find themselves on the Trump twenty.

But no amount of penalties, regardless of their egregiousness, can push the ball over the goal line. That's where a good offense comes in. Face it, the Clinton campaign hasn't had to do much over the last two weeks. Basically, they've stood by and watched Trump pick up one red flag after another. They even managed to escape scrutiny over the latest batch of emails concerning the Clinton Foundation. While nothing in the emails appears criminal in nature, under normal circumstances, the controversy would've proven costly. Put another way, Hillary took the snap from center, fumbled the handoff, but then fell on the ball before team Trump could recover.

Lucky? You bet your ass, but then running against Trump has proven to be a goldmine for Clinton. Against a superior opponent, say John Kasich, she'd be trailing badly by now. So how do you play offense against an opponent that insists on committing suicide? By letting him, that's how.

I've seen enough football games to know that winning teams manage the clock well. They move the chains and come away with points whenever they can. But, above all, they avoid turnovers. It's an axiom that the team that has the fewest penalties and commits the fewest turnovers usually prevails.

It is crucial that Hillary do her best to avoid any further unforced errors. A good way to do that would be to give up this ridiculous insistence that James Comey said she was being completely truthful. He didn't and everyone with access to a computer and a flat-screen TV knows he didn't. Here's what she needs to say: "Look, I've said all I'm going to say on this matter. It was a mistake; I regret it; if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't and now I'm moving on." Period. No qualifying, no re-litigating, just cry uncle. Had she done that a year ago, this would be behind her now. Having said that, she can't afford to keep digging this hole. This will be one of the first questions she gets in the debates; how she handles it could still cost her the election.

Next, keep the pressure on Trump. When he isn't doing his impersonation of a kamikaze pilot, the Clinton campaign needs to stay focused on its message to the voters that Hillary has the temperament and the experience needed to be commander in chief. Be steady and be resolute. They can go on the attack but they should resist the urge to go gutter. Instead, they should borrow a page out of the president's playbook: No Drama Obama. It worked twice for him; it could seal the deal for her.

But above all else, they should avoid complacency. It's worth noting that at this point in 1988, Michael Dukakis had a huge lead over George Bush. We all know what happened that year. Don't think for a moment that lightning can't strike twice in the same spot. Remember, neither of these two candidates is well liked. They both have enough baggage to fill the cargo hold of a jet plane. It's up to Hillary to make sure her baggage doesn't end up bringing down the flight.

That's why if I'm the Clinton campaign, I'd continue to expand the electoral map as much as possible. Already there are signs that Georgia and Arizona, two reliably red states, are in play. The latest polling from Georgia shows Clinton with a slight lead. And in Arizona, it's basically tied. Even in dark red Utah, of all places, there are signs that Trump is in trouble. While I sincerely doubt Utah will flip in November, just having a presence in that state will force Trump to play defense, and that's what you want if you're Hillary.

And last, but never least, a good defense is vital. As the race begins to slip away from him, Trump will throw caution to the wind. He won't just throw the kitchen sink at Clinton; he'll throw the whole damn kitchen. If you thought that floating the possibility of an assassination attempt at her was beneath contempt, just wait until those 7 point leads turn into 10 or 12. We may well see him completely unravel.

But what if the opposite should happen. What happens if Trump, sensing he's got nothing to lose, actually manages to do an about face and start behaving like an adult. For almost a year we've been hearing that he is capable of controlling himself and acting presidential. What if, like Mitt Romney in 2012, he waits until the first debate to roll out President Trump to the nation. I still remember the expression on Obama's face as if he suddenly found himself on a stage with an imposter.

Obama was taken by surprise by Romney's pivot in that Denver debate. It is crucial that Clinton not make the same mistake. She has to prepare for the eventuality, however slim, that Donald Trump may pull a Romney when the two debate this fall. Why? Because Trump can win when he stays on message. Lost in this race is the fact that most of the country is either pissed off or worried or both. Like it or not, Trump's whole candidacy was built on tapping into that vein of discontent. It wouldn't take much to turn his train wreck of a campaign around.

Face it, the reason Hillary is ahead by such a wide margin is because of the way Trump has behaved rather than any particular position she holds. Contrary to past elections, this race is not issue-based. If it were, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz would be their respective parties nominees. I've said this before and it bears repeating: when the voters go to the polls this November, most of them will chose between a person with trust issues and a person who's certifiable. If they should come to the realization that the certifiable guy is just sane enough to be president, it could be game over for team Clinton.

So, yes, it's nice having a lead, but the only lead that counts, in politics as in football, is the one at the end of the game. T-minus 87 days and counting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Words Matter

"If she gets to pick her judges - nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people ... maybe there is."

Let's cut to the chase. What Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton and "second amendment people" at one of his rallies was profoundly disturbing. There was nothing ambiguous about his choice of words. He knew exactly what he was saying and, even worse, those who were in attendance knew as well.

This was not some liberal media spin. In fact, there's is nothing to spin here whatsoever. The fact that so many Republicans have called him out for this statement only proves how ridiculous such a claim is. To even suggest that your political opponent could be assassinated just because she might have a different, less warped, interpretation of the Second Amendment crosses a line that no serious candidate running for president should ever be allowed to cross. What Trump said was no different than what Sharon Angle said six years ago when she was running for the Senate against Harry Reid in Nevada. It was reprehensible then and it is just as reprehensible now.

This was not a joke gone bad, as Paul Ryan alluded to. Nor was it about a political movement, as his apologists are attempting to turn it into. There was nothing in the statement referring to going to the polls to vote. Virtually the entirety of the statement was about what happens AFTER the election, not before. Trump knows this and so do, I suspect, his apologists.

I don't know, I give up. Every time I think he has hit rock bottom, he finds a new low to sink to. Not 48 hours after giving a "major" policy speech that his supporters were hoping would allow him to reset his badly hemorrhaging campaign, he goes completely off the deep end. Again.

This is becoming more than just predictable; it's becoming pathetic. Not only does he not have the impulse control necessary to keep himself from uttering the first thing that pops into his head; he lacks, as I've said, the capacity for self reflection. He still has no idea of the potential consequences his words can have; that there are people who attend his rallies who are deeply disturbed and who don't need much provocation to send them over the edge. It only takes one lunatic to carry out an atrocity. We haven't had an assassination of a president or presidential nominee in this country in over 50 years. Given the powder keg this nation is sitting on such an event would ignite a firestorm that might well take decades to extinguish.

Thomas Friedman was right when he said, "People are playing with fire here, and there is no bigger flamethrower than Donald Trump. Forget politics; he is a disgusting human being. His children should be ashamed of him. I only pray that he is not simply defeated, but that he loses all 50 states so that the message goes out across the land — unambiguously, loud and clear: The likes of you should never come this way again."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Crazy Like A Fox

I'll be honest, I've used words like wing nut and batshit crazy unapologetically to describe far-right conservatives for years. It wasn't so much a medical diagnosis - I'm not a psychiatrist after all - as it was a political observation that I felt and still feel is justified. Seriously, how does any reasonably objective person listen to the likes of a Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann and not come to the conclusion that they're a couple sandwiches short of a picnic?

But Donald J. Trump takes the cake. Shit, he takes the whole fucking bakery. Palin and Bachmann are rank amateurs next to him. For the last thirteen months the country has had a ring-side seat to the most unabashed, bizarre, unhinged behavior ever exhibited by a politician running for anything north of dog catcher.

David Brooks calls him a "man-child." I think that's being unfair to all the children trapped in the bodies of men and women, and, which I'm sorry to report, I occasionally behave like. Hey, I never said I was a gentleman or a diplomat. Catch me with my hair down and you'll get an earful of stupid but good.

But there is one difference between Donald Trump and me; in fact there's one difference between Trump and 99 percent of the human race. All of us have checks and balances in our lives called people who reel us in and remind us that we're assholes.

I've made no secret that I once did my fair share of drinking. I don't anymore, mainly because when I did bad things would tend to happen. I go to a support group of people just like myself to make sure I don't forget who I am. These groups are instrumental in allowing me to "grow up" and become a more responsible person in society.

By no means is this process perfect. We are hardly saints, but we try our best. Someone once coined a phrase that perfectly describes us: we are ego maniacs with inferiority complexes. That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but it's really not. When you think about, it's the textbook definition of an addict. A person who needs to control his or her environment to overcompensate for feelings of inferiority. That is why people drink, drug, overeat, compulsively gamble, you name it.

That is precisely who Donald Trump is. He is an ego maniac with an inferiority complex.

Now not all addictions are physical. In other words, they all don't require the ingestion of a substance or actively doing something like gambling. For some addicts, it's all about power. When you think about it, power is the ultimate drug. Who doesn't want to be the master of his or her own universe? The world of politics and business afford people the opportunity to live out the ultimate dream: domination.

Trump is hardly alone when it comes to men looking to dominate their field. One of the greatest myths about capitalism is that it's about free enterprise. In actually, it's about market domination. Companies may publicly say that all they're looking to do is simply grow their market share, but privately their end game is to take over and control the market. Trust me, I have worked in several industries from banking to computers to home theater to security door hardware and in each one of those industries there has been a dramatic consolidation of that market as smaller companies were bought out, i.e., acquired, to form larger, more powerful ones.

The moral of the story is that, in America, size matters. You're taught about the American dream in school and that all you have to do to realize it is to work hard. But then you find out that the reality is far different. It isn't about getting your fair share; it's about screwing the other guy before he screws you. Absolute power corrupting absolutely, sadly, is the engine that drives the U.S. economy.

Donald Trump grew up in that environment. He learned how to game the system in a way few could only contemplate. He made his fortune - such as it is - on the backs of people who never saw him coming. He became a success by rewriting the rules to suit his own agenda. And he did it without hesitation, free from any burden of responsibility for the pain he might be inflicting on others. And when his plans didn't work out, he left his investors holding the bag while he hid under the bankruptcy protection laws of this country. FOUR TIMES! His excuse? He was simply taking advantage of the rules. It's not his fault.

It never is with Trump. Think about it. There was no one to reign him in during his formative years, no one to hold his feet to the fire and say, "You're wrong." The thought of Trump making an amends to someone is laughable. People have lamented about his lack of empathy and his inability to apologize. How can a person empathize or say I'm sorry when they seriously believe they have never been wrong or made a mistake? I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to think I'm perfect, but for Trump, it's axiomatic. The man is his own god.

When you combine his maniacal quest for power, his unwillingness to allow anyone in that could challenge his preconceived notions or beliefs, his incapacity for self reflection and his thin-skinned hypersensitvity, you have a disaster in the making. This man is looking to become leader of the feee world and he exhibits all the personality traits of a Charles Manson with a fountain pen. He boasts about what he would do on his first day as president. I and millions of people shudder at the mere thought.

He doesn't belong in the Oval Office; he belongs in a psychiatric facility. Or perhaps a good 12-Step program. Either is preferable to the White House.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Who's Really Responsible for Donald Trump

The infinite monkey theorem states that if you put an infinite number of monkeys in a room with typewriters with an infinite amount of time, one of them will eventually end up typing the collected works of Shakespeare.

Of course that outcome is highly improbable, primarily because there's no indication that a monkey, much less an infinite number of them, has the capacity to type out anything remotely close to even one of Shakespeare's plays, yet alone all of them. A year or a million, it simply wouldn't happen.

Republicans have had their own infinite monkey theorem of sorts and it concerns who's responsible for the rise of Donald Trump. Seems the GOP locked themselves in a room and for the last 12 months has been frantically typing away in a desperate attempt to answer this most perplexing question.

Well, fear not, Karol Markowicz has found the culprit and you'll never guess who it is. None other than Paul Krugman.

Yes, Paul Krugman, the nobel prize-winning economist whose only crime was being right with just about everything concerning the U.S. and global economies over the last eight years is the man responsible for the ascendency of Donald J. Trump. Seems Krugman did such a suburb job of demonizing past Republican candidates that he greased the skids so to speak for Trump. Markowicz writes,
Take Paul Krugman in The New York Times. In Tuesday’s column he wondered how any “rational Republicans justify supporting Mr. Trump.” He concludes it’s about “feelings,” a dismissal of legitimate arguments many people, both Republicans and not, have against Hillary Clinton. But no one is more feelings-based than Krugman when it comes to Republicans. If he wants to know how people can take Donald Trump seriously, he should take a hard look at himself. 
In 2012, Krugman called Mitt Romney a “charlatan,” pathologically dishonest, and untrustworthy. He said Romney doesn’t even pretend to care about poor people and wants people to die so that the rich could get richer. Romney is “completely amoral,” “a dangerous fool,” “ignorant as well as uncaring.

In March, Krugman had a column called “Clash of Republican Con Artists.” In it, he called Trump’s foreign policy more reasonable than that of Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz and said he’s just as terrified of either of those men in the White House as he is of Trump. He wrote: “In fact, you have to wonder why, exactly, the Republican establishment is really so horrified by Mr. Trump. Yes, he’s a con man, but they all are. So why is this con job different from any other?”
 Yet a few weeks ago Krugman wondered how Republicans could rally around Trump “just as if he were a normal candidate.” It was exactly Krugman who normalized him! What makes Donald Trump normal to so many is that they’ve heard all the hysteria from people like Krugman before. If you use the most vile language available on a good man like Romney, or on real candidates like Rubio and Cruz, you find you have none left for the Donald Trumps of the world—and no one is listening to you anyway.

That's a lot to chew on, I know, but let me take a crack at it if I may. First, Markowicz is correct in pointing out that Krugman, along with about a hundred or so liberal writers, went after Mitt Ronney in 2012. I, myself, called him a used-car salesman from hell. What she is conveniently leaving it out is that Romney, who had been a fairly successful moderate Republican governor of a blue state, decided to cash in any semblance of credibility in order to win the GOP nomination. He could've run on a campaign of bipartisanship; instead he ran a very polarizing campaign that all but guaranteed the reelection of Barack Obama.

Next, she cites a piece Krugman wrote this past March in which he argued that there was little if any difference between Donald Trump and the rest of his fellow Republican candidates. I remember the piece well and I also remember agreeing with him. My conclusion was ostensibly the same as his: the difference between Trump and the GOP comes down to volume and tact, not policy. No, the GOP didn't actually call for a wall to be built on the Mexican border nor for a restriction on Muslims entering the country, but their stances on immigration and Muslims, along with a myriad of other issues, are far more in line with their nominee's positions than they care to admit. Krugman didn't "normalize" Trump; he merely exploded the ridiculous notion that he was somehow an aberration.

The fact that Markowicz can't understand this isn't all that surprising. Conservative writers like David Brooks and David Frum have suffered from similar afflictions of near-sightedness. Their love for what the Party once stood for has blinded them to what it has become. That's why it's vital that they blame an outsider for the state that they find themselves in, because it's so much easier than looking in the mirror.

The truth is that for the last eight years - maybe more - the Republican Party has been playing Russian Roulette and hoping they didn't catch the bullet. They've stoked the fears of millions of their voters with ridiculous accusations against this president, ginned up their base to a fever pitch, and now that the Frankenstein monster that they themselves created is on the loose and terrorizing the village, they've finally figured out that their master plan isn't working out as they had hoped for. Turns out you can't continue to play Russian Roulette forever without catching the bullet.

Psychologists call what Markowicz is doing here deflection; I call it bullshit. The sad truth is you can put as many monkeys as you want in a room, lock the door and throw away the key. They still won't be able to recreate the collected works of Shakespeare, and they damn sure won't be able to explain how the Party of Lincoln allowed itself to be transformed into the Party of Trump.

But what they won't do is blame the other monkeys for it. Not in a million years.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What Happens If Trump Drops Out Or Is Forced Out?

A new Fox News' poll has Hillary Clinton up 10 points over Donald Trump in a two-way race and up 9 points in a four-way race. Rasmussen has her up 4 points. So that we're clear here, two of the most conservative polling firms on the planet show the Democratic nominee up by a healthy margin over the Republican nominee with three months to go before the election.

In the swing states, the latest polls show Clinton up by 4 points in Florida, 13 in Pennsylvania, 15 in Hew Hampshire, 9 in Michigan, 4 in Wisconsin, 7 in Virginia and 13 in Colorado. And lest you think these polls might be outliers, they actually are in line with other polls, give or take a point or two. She's even leading in, of all places, Arizona, a state both John McCain and Mitt Romney won by large margins in '08 and 2012 respectively.

The only bright spot for Trump was in Ohio, where the latest poll has him up 4 points. It should be noted that that poll was taken before the Democratic convention and is one of only two polls taken over the last month that has him in the lead. The others all show Clinton in the lead. When you factor in the recent Circuit Court decision that tossed North Carolina's draconian voter suppression law, the signs are pointing to a potential landslide in November.

Maybe that's why Trump is now talking about a rigged election. Look, I know it's scary getting inside that warped cranium of his, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize what he's doing here. Even he can read the polls, and he needs an excuse in the event he gets his ass handed to him. What better way to save face with your minions who blindly supported you than by blaming a "rigged" system for your loss. Face it, the man is incapable of accepting any responsibility. No matter what happens, it's always someone else's fault.

But it turns out he's not alone in thinking this thing could get out of hand. Seems a lot of Republicans are concerned about November. That's why you're starting to see reports surface that the RNC is considering "replacing" Trump as the nominee. A piece in the Daily Beast lays out the case for how it could happen. And, yes, it is possible, however improbable. Trump could either be booted or, smelling the caffeine, he could drop out.

So, let's play this out. Trump quits or gets dumped. What happens? Well, for starters, if I'm Hillary Clinton, I'd resist the urge to celebrate. With all due respect to her and her supporters, the principle reason she's enjoying such a bounce in the polls is due almost exclusively to the fact that she's running against the worst presidential nominee quite possibly in the history of the country. Seriously, there are doctors who are guilty of the most egregious malpractice whose patients are in better shape than Donald Trump's campaign.

If the RNC were to replace Trump with, say, Paul Ryan or John Kasich, those poll numbers would tighten, and tighten fast. Kasich, as I've mentioned on several occasions, has polled exceptionally well against Clinton. Throughout the entire GOP primary, he was the only candidate who was consistently ahead of her. In the event that the RNC tapped Kasich, that 5 point lead in the RCP average that Hillary currently holds would almost certainly flip within a week. And instead of a potential Democratic landslide in November, we could be looking at a Republican landslide.

No, the best possible scenario for team Clinton and the Democrats is for il Duce to continue to shoot himself in the foot just enough so that he remains far enough behind in the polls, but not so far as to force the hand of his party. Right now, he's the gift that keeps on giving and they should get down on their hands and knees and pray nothing changes that.

There's also another reason why the Clinton camp should want Trump to stay in the race: voter turnout. Let's be honest, shall we. Hillary isn't exactly beloved by her base; frankly, she isn't beloved by a lot of people, even the ones who are voting for her. Yes, a majority of Bernie supporters will vote for her, but they're not doing it out of admiration for her or her husband; they're doing it because Trump scares the living shit out of them. And not just them. Seems a number of moderate Republicans and a good chunk of Independents are deeply concerned about the prospects of a Trump win in November. Many of them are prepared to vote for Clinton, but they won't if a less extreme nominee were to take his place. Yes, you and I know that John Kasich is no moderate, much less the boy wonder, Paul Ryan, but compared to Trump, they're practically Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

What about Mike Pence, you ask? According to the piece, he would not "automatically" jump to the top of the ticket. He was nominated as the running mate, so he would remain there unless he himself dropped out. Ironic, isn't it? The running mate can't become the party nominee, but someone who wasn't even nominated at the convention can. Go figure.

Look, I know all of this is conjecture. It's really hard imagining an egomaniac like Trump dropping out and it's equally hard seeing the GOP at this late date having the balls to pull the plug on him. The time for doing that was the convention and they let that opportunity slip away. Like it or not, they appear stuck with him.

And that might be the best news, short of actually winning the election, that Hillary Clinton ends up getting this year.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Don't Get Cocky, Hillary

Well it looks as though Hillary Clinton got a bigger bounce out of her convention than Donald Trump got out of his. Coming out of the Republican convention, the RCP average had Trump up 1.1 points. That meant he got roughly a three-point bounce. Given the morose tone of the convention, that was pretty impressive.

As of now the RCP average has Clinton up 4.4 points. That translates to a five and a half point bounce. And it should be noted that that average includes one poll that showed both candidates tied. If you subtract that poll, the average jumps to almost six points. The news for the Clinton camp gets even better. Gallup released another poll which showed that a majority of people who watched the GOP convention reported they were LESS likely to vote for Trump, the first time that's happened since the poll was first conducted in 1984.

And keep in mind, these polls were taken in all likelihood a couple of days ago, before he was stupid enough to get into a pissing contest with the parents of a war hero. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Clinton's lead doesn't increase another point by this time next week. Imagine Hillary being up five and a half points by mid August. Obama had to wait till election day to see that kind of lead over Mitt Romney.

And yet if I'm Hillary Clinton, I wouldn't go counting my chickens just yet. As an avid baseball fan I can tell you no team has ever won a pennant, much less a World Series, in August. Many a good club has seen its sizable lead wither away under the pressure of a stretch drive. Remember, we're talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton. Yes, she's capable and yes she has the resume, but she's hardly FDR. If she were, this race would be long over by now. Face it, if someone as vacuous as Trump could take a lead over her, albeit a small one, then you know this race is far from over. We've been waiting for a year for old motor mouth to show even a semblance of self control. If that were to happen, say, in September, with Hillary up by only a few points, well I don't have to tell you what could happen; you should already know.

So how I would I play this? The same way any good sports team would: by keeping the pedal to the metal. It's clear it doesn't take much to get under Trump's skin. Think about it. Of all the speeches that were made at the Democratic convention, the two that drove him up the wall were the ones by Khizr Khan and Michael Bloomberg. The former exposed him as a xenophobic racist; the latter as a fraud. Not surprisingly, these two speeches went after the main thrusts of his campaign: his insistence that illegal immigrants, Muslims and bad trade deals are at the heart of the problems that beset the country. So when Khan accused him of not knowing what was in the Constitution and Bloomberg inferred he was a con artist, he went nuts.

Knowing that I would keep pouring salt in that wound. Don't let up or relent for a minute. No prevent defense. Just keep marching forward. Campaign like you're five points down instead of five points up. Expand the electoral map and go after states like Arizona and Georgia. You may not get them, but you'll force Trump to defend them. and with his current financial situation, that'll pay dividends in the end.

But there's one thing I would do above all else: stop making unforced errors. Case in point, Clinton in a Fox News' interview with Chris Wallace, claimed that FBI Director James Comey said she was being "truthful" about her emails. Comey said a lot of things about Clinton's emails during his press conference. Truthful was not one of the words he used. While he did say that he had "no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI," that is NOT the same thing as saying she was being truthful.

A careful analysis of the evidence would lead any reasonable person to conclude that a lot of what Clinton has said repeatedly throughout the investigation simply doesn't jive with the facts. She might not have technically lied to the FBI, but she was hardly being truthful with the public. Not surprisingly, Politfact rated her claim as "pants on fire."

It's time for Hillary to stop this madness. She isn't fooling anyone with her denial of wrong doing. She may have escaped criminal prosecution, but she hasn't escaped the ire of the general public. There's only one reason why this race is as close as it is. Because in a head to head match up against a narcissistic, pathological liar who might actually be mentally ill, Clinton is seen by a majority of Americans as being only slightly better.

That's not a lot to hang your hat on, and the campaign has little more than three months to figure out how to significantly improve that perception with the electorate. If they can't, the most qualified presidential candidate we've seen in our lifetime may well lose to an extra from the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.