Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Opening On Immigration

It's all the rage now, pundits hedging their bets by arguing that Donald Trump may defeat Hillary Clinton in November. Sean Trende is no exception, maintaining that Democratic presidential candidates from 1992 through 2012 effectively "depicted" their opponents "as agents of the rich, of social conservatives, and of reckless foreign policy adventurists."  He contends

It’s become obvious that, at least for now, Clinton is running the same sort of campaign against Trump. It isn’t clear, however, how well it works against someone with such a strong nouveau riche affect (at best).  Trump isn’t campaigning (anymore) on massive tax cuts for the rich.  He’s against free trade, and is arguably more of a dove on foreign policy than Clinton.  And the two obvious themes against Trump -- that he doesn’t know what he’s doing/is erratic/is inconsistent and that he is actually a right-wing ideologue – are actually in tension with each other.  Because Trumpism is such an odd mishmash of beliefs, it’s hard to run the generic Democratic campaign against him.

They are in tension with each other, although it's unclear that the entire campaign apparatus writ large- candidate, surrogates, elected officials, SuperPacs- must follow one consistent, unified script.Still, there does need to be a theme to the campaign and that it probably must be either that Trump is erratic or that he's a right-wing extremist.

As Donald Trump would say: believe me.

I believe the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is, above all, a charlatan, with every utterance eithe planned or whatever pops into his mind. What he believes about anything is up for debate, although his Supreme Court and economic notions, garnered from failed right-wing policy gurus, ought to convince all liberals/progressives or moderates into voting for the Democratic alternative.

Accusing John Kerry of being a flip-flopper worked for Republicans but although Trump has raised policy reversals to an art form, attacking the Republican for changing his views, whether from what he stated decades earlier or minutes earlier, seems to have had little or no impact. Many Republicans and Independents are unconvinced or unconcerned that he is deceptive, preferring to view him as flexible. While it's helpful to be able to fake sincerity, Trump can fake authenticity like no one can.

So despite my take on the candidate, emphasizing that he is "a fake, a phony, and a fraud" is unlikely to work.  Rather, he should be attacked as an extremist.  And even though I disagree with the standard Democratic take on the issue, illegal immigration would yield perhaps the finest ad the Clinton camp could come up with.

But don't take it from me. Take it from Sid Myers, who was an art director at Doyle Dane Bernbach, which was the advertising campaign for the LBJ election effort in 1964. He has asserted in an interview for  Politico

If you visually showed 11 million Mexicans being deported from this country in trucks, I think that would be unbelievable. Just show how ridiculous Trump’s statement is. Rather than just say it, show it visually. It's much more impactful.

Marks, he of the "impactful," and "unbelievable" to describe what he recognizes would be thoroughly and devastatingly believable, was an advertising guy, not an English teacher. However, he is right,and maybe more than even he realizes.

It would have much greater impact because it is visual. Additionally, recall that when Mitt Romney in 2012 raised the specter of "self-deportation," he was figuratively hooted off the stage. And that was for suggesting that illegal immigrants act voluntarily and at their own pace.

Imagine instead an ad which showed immigrants being forcibly removed from the country.  Hard-working men, women and children (perhaps a two or three with an American flag). When most anti-illegal immigration Americans think of immigrants, they're thinking men, industrious or not. Depict women and, especially, children, and Republicans will be alarmed. Combine it (with permission) with the proper soundtrack, such as one used by the Sanders campaign (below), and they will be terrified.

Make no mistake about it: while most Americans would like illegal immigrants to wake up one day and find themselves in Mexico, they are skittish about removal at the point of a gun. When they see images of it occurring, with cute children and frail women among the victims, their attitude will turn around pronto.

So in the manner of the great anti-communist Nixon going to China, I support workplace raids but acknowledge an ad such as recommended by Sid Myers would be a game-changer.  Moreover, when asked if he would work for the Clinton campaign or an anti-Trump PAC,  he replied "I've got a group all set up! I've got all the senior creative people- a whole group ready for that.... It's like an old fire horse hearing the bell go off."

Republican politicians and ad executives win presidential elections by scaring people. If this ad were run, they themselves would be scared, and would have every reason to be.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

A Pathetic Man, Indeed

Marco Rubio has until June 24 to file for re-election to the Senate and, despite encouragement from colleagues to do so, probably will take a pass. However, The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe speculates "in two years, Florida will be holding a gubernatorial election, and the state's senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, may opt to retire- potentially opening up two opportunities for Rubio."

First, however, he would have to get permission from Donald Trump.

In February, Trump reminded Rubio of "that lunatic in North Korea." He stated of Trump "some would say there's a lunatic trying to get ahold of nuclear weapons in America" the day afte he argued the nation shouldn't give the "nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual."

At the time, Trump also was "a con artist. He's always making things up. No one holds him accountable for it."   He was a guy who has "been exploiting working Americans for 40 years." Nominating him will "fracture the Republican Party" and undermine the conservative movement. Most famously, Trump couldn't be trusted because of his small hands.

Giving as good as he got, Trump was similarly kind and much more effective, labeling Rubio a "lightwight choker" (who) looks like a little boy on stage and had "defrauded" Floridians.

We now know who is not holding Trump accountable for being a lunatic and con artist who is exploting working Americans. That would be the fellow Trump successfully derided as "Little Marco."

Rubio now has endorsed the guy who publicly called him a "choker" and has announced he'd "most certainly be honored to be considered" for anything he could do to elect him.  He noted he would be willing to speak at the convention for Trump. And now we learn that backstage at one of the debates, Rubio groveled to Trump for questioning the size of his hands. The Florida senator told Jake Tapper

"I actually told Donald -- one of the debates, I forget which one -- I apologized to him for that. I said, 'You know, I'm sorry that I said that. It's not who I am and I shouldn't have done it.' I didn't say it in front of the cameras, I didn't want any political benefit.

Initially, Rubio defended his decision to endorse Trump by explaining "I signed a pledge that said I'd support the Republican nominee and I intend to continue to do that." He should have left it at that and gone golfing.

He never has spent much time at his day job.  But now that he's probably leaving the U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio can apply for his dream job: butler for Donald Trump.  It may not pay much but it comes with all the knee pads you want.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Getting Him Off His Game

How do we defeat a misogynistic, bigoted, ignorant narcissistic authoritarian? It appears much harder but thanks to a Massachusetts senator and a Vermont senator, there now is a template.

On March 21, Elizabeth Warren tweeted out that Donald Trump "knows he's a loser. His insecurities are on parade: petty bullying, attacks on women, cheap racism, flagrant narcissism. She promptly followed that with "many of history's worst authoritarians started out as losers"and "The way I see it, it’s our job to make sure @realDonaldTrump ends this campaign every bit the loser that he started it."

On her Facebook page, the Massachusetts Senator then explained

Let's be honest. Donald Trump is a loser. Count all his failed businesses. See how he kept his father’s empire afloat by cheating people with scams like Trump University and by using strategic corporate bankruptcy (excuse me, bankruptcies) to skip out on debt. Listen to the experts who’ve concluded he’s so bad at business that he might have more money today if he’d put his entire inheritance into an index fund and just left it alone.

Trump seems to know he’s a loser. ...

As April and then May developed, Warren kept up her taunting, until Trump could take it no longer and responded, via Twitter twice on May 25. He tweeted  "I find it offensive that Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, pretended to be Native American to get in Harvard." (That would be "into" Harvard, genius.) Warren slammed Trump by responding "Get your facts straight, @realDonald Trump. I didn't even go to Harvard- I'm a graduate of @UHouston and @RutgersU."

Earlier in May, Warren had summarized by noting "But here's the thing. You can beat a bully -- not by tucking tail and running, but by holding your ground."  Just last Tuesday, Warren labeled him "a small, insecure, money-grubber."

Oddly, some Democrats seem not to understand. The day before Trump (not unexpectedly) reneged on the debate challenge he had accepted from Bernie Sanders, Politico reported the reactions of a few Democratic Senators to the specter of a Sanders-Trump debate

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin complained "Bullshit. That confirms what we've been saying. Why would you expect Bernie should be considerate or be nice or be working to bring everyone together? Why? He's not a Democrat."

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan argued "I don’t know why he would do that. I think it’s time to start to wind down the primary. It’s time to move on." Surprisingly, fellow Clinton supporter, the poulist Sherrod Brown of Ohio echoed his sentiments. "It's peculiar. It's “It’s all about Bernie trying to get the advantage in California. It’s not going to work," he contended.

Washington state's Maria Cantwell had a better take, recognizing "the economic future of our country needs to be debated." And Missouri's Claire McCaskill, inspiring the adage "even a stopped clock is right twice a day," realized "the more Donald Trump gets exposed in the context of public policy, the better it is for our country."

An evidently confused Bill Nelson stated "I mean. Why? It would draw attention to Bernie. I can understand Bernie wanting to do it. But why would Donald want to do it? It's a stunt.... Trump won't go through with it, and Bernie has literally nothing to lose."

Nelson obviously was right because Trump pulled out the next day. That suggests the moral of the story for the Democratic Party. Trump should be attacked and ridiculed, as Warren has done. She already has gotten under his skin; ultimately, he may become paranoid enough to cliam he's being stalked.  Meanwhile, Trump has been- in McCaskill's expression- exposed.  Democrats need to challenge him, confront him, and unmask him.

That is harder said than done. Still, it would be a good start to stop whining about a Democrat not being "considerate or nice" and failing to "be working to bring everyone together." Donald Trump's rise is enough to make clear that the American people are not looking for a President obsessed with being considerate and nice with hugs all around.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Coward, But More

Donald Trump gave it all up at a rally in Fresno, California on Friday, arguing

So Obama gets on television. First of all, he's not supposed to be talking when he's in Japan about politics in our nation, OK? He's not supposed to. I think I got him rattled. He's the one that's rattled (if) you want to know the truth.

The truth, if you want to know it, is that Barack Obama is aware that, come hell or high water (neither a good option, though the latter preferable) he will leave office in January. He wasn't rattled by Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, or ISIL, to which he has responded both seriously and calmly. He is not "rattled" over thoughts of who will succeed him.

Someone is rattled, however, and if words mean anything, that someone's initials are DT.  A man who is concerned about what an individual says about him in the Far East, then finds it necessary to accuse that individual of being "rattled," is himself scared.

Admittedly, that's an easy call after Trump backed out of a debate with Bernie Sanders.  In a statement released late Friday, Trump wrote

Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher.

"The Democratic process is rigged,"  so I won't debate the individual who should have been nominated. Makes a lot of sense to those who believe up is down, right is left, summer is winter.

"Likewise," Trump continued, "the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues."  Originally, the candidate had proposed "a nice sum to charity."  Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks said his online network would give to the charity of the candidates' choice $1 million, a nice sum.  ABC would donate "any profits to a charity of their choice" and moments before Trump's announcement, chairman and CEO Richard  Hecker of technology company Traction and Scale offered a $10 million charitable donation to host the event. (And that wasn't all.)

That, too, is "a nice sum." Perhaps, though, Trump meant something quite different when he said "charity."  He concluded by saying- or typing- "Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders -  and it would be an easy payday - I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be."

As much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders- and it would be an easy payday. The juxtaposition of "I" and "payday" makes it clear: Donald Trump expected to be paid to participate in the debate.  He was The Apprentice. He was the big draw in the GOP debates, and was convinced he was the reason they drew big audiences. He accepted Sanders' challenge but when networks started talking about charity, he knew he personally was going to be cut out of it.. When Trump claimed the networks "want to keep the money for themselves," he meant "what they won't give to charity, they want to keep for themselves rather than give to me."

Trump slithered out of the debate because he is a coward (photo from @brendanfillmore). But he accepted the initial offer because he thought he could make a killing.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Not A Cruz-Trump Situation

Hillary Clinton scoffed at the idea of a Trump-Sanders debate. "I don't think it's going to happen," she said. "You know, I know they've gone back and forth on this,and they seem to be saying it's some kind of joke. Trump doesn't sound very serious."

Neither side believes it's a joke, though it's unlikely to occur given that the Republican has little to gain and a lot to lose. Still, Clinton was taken aback by the proposal, unsurprising because three weeks ago in Los Angeles

Clinton appeared to come just shy of flat-out telling the Vermont senator -- who has vowed to stay in the race through the convention in July -- it’s time for him to bow out. (If not that, though, she at the very least made the argument for why she believes he should strongly consider it.)

“I am three million plus votes ahead of Sen. Sanders, right? I am nearly 300 pledged delegates ahead of Sen. Sanders. When I was running against then-Sen. Obama, he and I were neck and neck in the popular vote. Depending on how you counted it, I was a little ahead or he was a little ahead. He was about 60 or so pledged delegates ahead. A much, much smaller margin than what we see in this race," Clinton told a group of black community leaders this morning, just one day after it became clear Donald Trump will be the likely Republican presidential nominee.

It wouldn't be surprising if Clinton were a little envious of Donald Trump, who was fortunate to have had an opponent as accomodating as Senator Ted Cruz.  The relevant comparison here is 49 and 68 vs. 77.

When Senator Clinton ran against Senator Obama in 2008, whe was a mere 60 years old and knew, if she bowed out gracefully, she would be able to run in 2016, when she would be 68 years old. Appointment to a major foreign policy position in an Obama Administration would pave the way, help smooth the path to the nomination in 2016, for which she would be the odds-on favorite.    Ted Cruz is now only 45 years old and in four years will be merely 49 years old. And it is likely, if the Democrat wins the presidency this year or a President Trump has a rocky four years, Cruz will be back in 2020.

The Texan dropped out of the Republican race promptly after losing the Indiana primary but while his organization, far superior to that of Trump, was routing the demagogue in the tough slog for delegates at state and national conventions. Nonetheless, having earlier been intimidated by Trump's recklessness, he withdrew from the race. In his statement

Cruz repeatedly referenced his idol Ronald Reagan’s unsuccessful attempt to wrest the Republican nomination from Gerald Ford in 1976, ending by promising: “There is no substitute for the America we will restore as the shining city on the hill for generations to come,” a reference to Reagan’s farewell address.

Reagan, facing facing difficult odds trying to wrest the nomination from Gerald Ford in 1976, broke the mold by naming a vice-presidential running mate, Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania.  That didn't help him but he returned in 1980 to win the nomination and go on to victory in the general election.  Think of Carly Fiorina as a (far) more nasty version of Schweiker and, as he would like, Ted Cruz as Ronald Reagan.

Although the Texas senator is dedicated to far-right principles and motivated by his conception of "constitutionalism," he also is highly ambitious. Two or three years after serving on the Bush presidential campaign in 2000, Cruz left his wife behind in Washington to return to Austin to become Texas' solicitor general.  The Washington Post in March reported

Cruz, now 45, looks back on that decision 13 years ago to leave Washington as an essential part of his rise as a top-tier Republican presidential candidate. The choice bore the Cruz hallmarks: ambition, a willingness to take major risks and confidence that he could pull it off.

Less ambitious, with an unusual focus on policy and principle, and at age 64, Bernie Sanders knows this is his last rodeo.  And he's not going to ride off until he is convinced he has lost.   That, unfairly or not, is Hillary Clinton's burden.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

No-Lose And No-Win

In one of the many metaphors for the Donald Trump campaign, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee exceeded even his own expectations when discussing the concept of armed teachers in classrooms. He regularly changes his mind on issues but it was particularly impressive when on May 22 he told a GOP News audience "I don't want to have guns in classrooms, athough in some cases teachers should have guns in classrooms, frankly." As if to assure viewers he really is confused (or deceptive), he added  "I’m not advocating guns in classrooms but remember in some cases — a lot of people made this case — teachers should have guns, trained teachers should have guns in classrooms."

Both reversals took place within one sentence and within seconds. It will take Trump a little longer to reverse himself on a proposal he made talking to Jimmy Kimmel Wednesday evening. "So here's the question from Bernie," Kimmel starts, "He asks 'Hilllary Clinton backed out of an agreement, Hillary Clinton backed out of an agreement (wherein Kimmel imitates the voice of Sanders, as well as you or I would of someone we'd never heard) to debate me in California before the June 7th primary. Are you prepared to debate the major issues facing our largest stae and the country before the California primary? Yes or no.'"

Trump replied "yes, I am- how much is he going to pay me." Kimmel followed up and the candidate stated that he would debate "if he paid a nice sum toward a charity." Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley comments

it's hard to immediately say who this would help. On the one hand, Sanders would likely be ruthless in criticizing Trump's business activities and worldview, reducing the chances that Sanders-leaning independents would move to Trump in the general; on the other hand, an effective performance might help him win California, which would be another party-unification-delaying pain in the neck for Hillary.

Yes- it would help either help (probable) nominee Hillary Clinton in the general election or Sanders himself win in California and maybe, just maybe, snatch the nomination.

It's a  win-win for Sanders, who at age 74/75 would not want his legacy to be that he did not do what he could to barricade Donald Trump from the Oval Office. But it takes two to tango (as it was first worded in 1952 and popularized by President Reagan)  and it's hard to imagine how it could possibly help the all-but-certain GOP nominee.

Trump could win the debate, in which his case he would have bested the guy who is not even going to be a nominee (especially if he gets shown up by Trump).     Alternatively, Trump could lose the debate, even get exposed for the kind of guy he is.   Trump never has gone one-on-one with anyone, a confrontation yearned for by Ted Cruz and prevented by John Kasich. (The first paragraph of John Kasich's autobiography should, but won't, include "the governor who remained in the 2016 Republican presidential race well beyond his de facto elimination and thereby virtually assured the nomination of  Donald Trump.")

Trump has nothing to gain by such a confrontation- and he has quite a bit to lose. He might get shown up by a guy who is an underdog for his party's nomination and who many Republicans view as an old, wild-eyed socialist.  That was part of the reason it took Sanders less than an hour to tweet "Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary."

But that might not have been the only reason.  "If he paid a nice sum toward charity," Trump challenged, and Sanders should accept that challenge.  Opportunities abound. They include relatively little-known charites such as FairTest ("The National Center for Fair and Open Testing). Better-known charities could include The Brady Campaign (To Prevent Gun Violence); 350.org; Move To Amend (the Constitution to clarify that money is not speech and corporations are not people); and many others.  Maybe the Vermont Senator should pledge to send a little money to each of several worthy groups.

Imagine the consternation in the Republican Party if its nominee were aiding, however, indirectly, an effort to prevent public school teachers from being undermined; to cut down on gun violence; to promote constructive ways to combat climate change; or to advance reproductive freedom for women.  The "Never Trump" movement is predicated on the notion that Donald Trump is not a true conservative.  The leaders would not be pleased were their Party's candidate to bolster the bottom line of organizations which chip away at corporate control of the government and/or the culture.

By the time this is posted, Trump probably already will have modified his offer or even reversed his position. It's what he does- and otherwise, a mine field awaits.

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Not Up Trump's Alley

At a town hall meeting in December in Iowa, Hillary Clinton was asked whether she'd rather be President or Beyonce. Mrs. Clinton appropriately answered "President," charmingly explaining that she did not have such talent, yet "I want to be as good a president as Beyonce is a performer."

That was nothing.  Politico now reports that in a taping Tuesday of "Ellen," E. Degeneres could be seen

luring Clinton into a facetious game of “Who Would You Rather, VP Edition," which may have been accidentally revealing of Clinton's true feelings about Sanders. The show is set to air Wednesday afternoon.

In the first round, a choice between Joe Biden and Mark Cuban, Clinton said without hesitating: "Oh, Joe!"

But Biden was quickly displaced in a matchup against the actor Tony Goldwyn, a stalwart Clinton surrogate who plays the president on ABC's "Scandal."

"Gotta go with Tony," Clinton said.

The following matchup between Goldwyn and Sanders seemed to present Clinton with another no-brainer for her.

“Tony!” she exclaimed without hesitating. Clinton had a harder time choosing between George Clooney, a big donor to her campaign, and Goldwyn, than she did between Sanders and the actor who only plays a president on television.

She eventually settled on splitting the baby. "Tony can be the first term, George can be the second," she said.

Speaking to an audience undoubtedly well-versed in the entertainment business, Mrs. Clinton can't be blamed for demonstrating that she, too, likes film.  It is not only a nod to popular culture, but an acknowledgement of the ecultural superiority- as is imagined- of film over television (except, of course, for HBO).  CBS, NBC, ABC, even PBS are so twentieth century.  It's almost as if she were tipped off that later that day she could read The New York Times' David Brooks arguing

Clinton’s career appears, from the outside, to be all consuming. Her husband is her co-politician. Her daughter works at the Clinton Foundation. Her friendships appear to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.

People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief.

But Clinton went a little further than praising Goldwyn and Clooney. Politico added

In choosing Beyoncé in a matchup over Leonardo DiCaprio, Clinton explained: “I really believe in making lemonade out of lemons,” a reference to Beyoncé’s latest visual album whose theme is working through the emotions surrounding a relationship with a cheating spouse.

"Working through the emotions surrounding a relationship with a cheating spouse" is all well and good.  But there are a few other things Beyonce is noted for.

They include her "Formation," released approximately 24 hours before her performance at the Super Bowl, which elicited efforts by police unions to boycott her performances. The Washington Post explained the video

opens with the singer standing atop a half-submerged New Orleans police cruiser, a recurring image throughout. Other related symbols periodically flash on screen: Sirens; a jacket that says “POLICE” on it; graffiti that reads “stop shooting us.”

At one point, a hooded boy dances in front of a line of riot gear-clad officers who later join him in raising their hands — an apparent allusion to Michael Brown, who some initially believed had his hands up to surrender when he was shot dead by a police officer. (That version of events was later challenged by federal authorities.)

At the end of the video, the police cruiser fully submerges in the water, taking Beyoncé with it.

In her Super Bowl show

Beyoncé and her back-up dancers wore costumes reminiscent of the Black Panther Party, whose members projected black empowerment and sometimes committed violent acts during the Civil Rights era. The dancers at one point formed an “X” with their bodies, a possible allusion to Malcolm X.

Whether Beyonce's act encourages police violence, as has been alleged, is questionable. Still, Hillary Clinton's veneration of Beyonce is not only suspicious but disturbing and provides an opening for a conventional right-wing politician. Fortunately, Donald Trump is not conventional and because criticism would be legitimate, he probably will ignore it.

We liberals/progressives should consider ourselves fortunate.  An orthodox Republican well-versed in backlash politics and comfortable with cultural conservatism would successfully link Hillary Clinton's musical taste to an antipathy, real or exaggerated, toward police. Alas, that traditional conservative is relegated to planning his re-election campaign for Senator in 2018 and for President in 2020..

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mobbed Up?

In the 1980s, Wayne Barrett reported on Donald Trump's dalliance with La Cosa Nostra.  as did Michael Isikoff  in March, and now David Cay Johnston has broached the almost-forbidden subject. He notes

No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.

Still, the "liberal" mainstream media (video above from Thom Hartmann from September) has been loathe to look at the organized crime connections of the fellow who has nearly an even chance of being the next President of the United States.

Steve M. identifies a few possible reasons:  it seems like old news; The Sopranos, Scarface, and rap music have made organized crime figures into heroes; and the belief "that you can't make a fortune in East Coast real estate without some ties to the mob. We assume he just had no choice."

One of S.M.'s commenters (sdhays) acknowledges those factors but adds

unlike "violent drug gangs" or cartels, "the mob" is made up of white people. Or, at least, that's the way it's thought of. They're the "respectable" organized crime. It even has a civilized name: "organized crime". So it's a "respectable" cultural fixture of the Northeastern US, especially in NYC.

I'll just add to your point of "the mob" being sexy that the vast majority of Americans do not live in a society where they personally experience "the mob's" existence. We experience it solely through popular culture or the national news out of NYC or Boston. It's distant, and almost from a bygone era, "The Sopranos" not withstanding. 

So it all comes back to: the media shouldn't say he has "Mob ties". They should say he has ties to violent criminal organizations. Throw "violent drugs" into it, and you might penetrate the national discussion for a few days.

If the message that Donald Trump has been involved in violent crime is continually repeated, it will penetrate the national consciousness for a few days and become a major issue. Connecting Trump to violent crime should not be difficult, especially now that he has scored the full-hearted endorsement of the National Rifle Association, perhaps America's foremost pro-crime organization. The NRA's opposition to legislation preventing individuals on the terrorist watch list from buying firearms is one place to start, and I'd probably substitute "individuals on the terrorist watch list" to "terrorists."   Let 'em squeal.

The primary reason Trump's former dealings with the Italian-American mob has been ignored is there is no tie-in.  There is no video, nothing visual to make the connection.  The next best thing would be linking Trump's associations to violent criminal organizations involved in drugs. That would be devastating, and nearly effective if drugs were not put into the mix.

Organized crime has become somewhat glamorous.  However, Americans remain fearful of violent street crime and the people involved in it.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Great Ignorance And Recklessness

Soon after EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed on Thursday, Donald Trump knew what had happened. He tweeted "looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When willl we get tough, smart, and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!"  Hours later at a fund-raiser in New Jersey for Governor Chris Christie, Trump claimed the plane was "blown out of the sky" and maintained "you're 100 percent wrong" if you don't agree with him.

Now well over 72 hours since the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's tweet, the number of terrorist organizations claiming credit for the attack stands at: zero (0).

It still is possible the airline was victimized by a terrorist attack, and a little more likely a terrorist group will claim to be responsible. As the GEICO commercial would put it: "if you're a terrorist group, you brag about the murder of innocent civilians. It's what you do."

Frightening civilians and governments is what terrorist groups do- it's why it's called terror. And Donald Trump is making it much easier to do so.  Asked on Morning Joe about Trump's tweet, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted it is"always better to wait until you actually know what the facts are before you open up."

It's not always better, though, if your campaign is based upon fear.  And it is having its intended effect, politically and otherwise.  In December, Hillary Clinton claimed Trump "is becoming ISIS's best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists."

Politifact found no evidence to substantiate that charge, which it rated "false."  Nonetheless, this past Thursday, Clinton maintained 

When you say we're going to bar all Muslims, you are sending a message to the Muslim world and you're also sending a message to the terrorists because we now do have evidence. We have seen how Donald Trump is being used to essentially be a recruiter for more people to join the cause of terrorism.

Returning to the issue, Politifact on Thursday revealed

Not long after Clinton’s initial comments, Al Shabaa, the East African affiliate of the al-Qaida terrorist group, released a 51-minute video telling "Muslims of the West" that they are not welcome in countries like the United States. Ten minutes into the video, it says the United States has a history of "slavery, segregation, lynching, and Ku Klux Klan, and tomorrow, it will be a land of religious discrimination and concentration camps."

It then cuts to Trump calling for a temporary but "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S," according to SITE Intelligence Group, which studies jihadist propaganda, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. It urges American Muslims to leave the United States and join the group.

Later, on March 24, Newsweek reported that an ISIS video released in the wake of the Brussels attack featured an audio clip from Trump.

"Brussels was one of the great cities, one of the most beautiful cities of the world 20 years ago. It was amazing, actually, and safe. And now it's a horror show. It's an absolute horror show," Trump says in the video, as ISIS lets the phrase "absolute horror show" repeatedly echo and fade.

Clinton's initial statement in December "was false at the time," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "It’s true now."

On the same day Politifact re-examined the issue, Donald Trump jumped the gun, boasting of "another terrorist attack" before all the facts were in.  Whether impulsive or planned, the remark was a gift for Al-Qaeda and ISIL and, Trump prays, for himself.

Given Donald Trump's penchant for shooting from the hip and speaking without knowledge of a situation, his response to the horrific news of last Thursday was not unexpected. Nor was it at odds with someone whose slogan "Make America Great Again" suggests a loathing of the nation as it is. Nor is it quixotic for someone who can succeed only by ginning up the fear his campaign is based on.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Clever Speech

In September, 2012 Rush Limbaugh offered a challenge:

He thinks he's the smartest person in the room; he's deceiving himself by thinking he's the smartest person in the room. Hasn't that always been something I've said about him? But here again is the assumption: "Oh, he's smart! Oh, oh, oh, Charlie! Oh! He has high abilities. He's bright, obviously bright, Charlie!" Where's the evidence? Would somebody show me the evidence of this? 

Evidence before and then- including an ability to get re-elected- abounds.  Most of it, however, is eclipsed by the brilliant commencement speech (transcript, Newsweek) recently delivered by the President at Rutgers University, the second finest college in New Jersey with the initials RU.

President Obama told the graduates what they wanted to hear and in the most gracious, skillful manner. He flattered them in the conventional way, stating "Today, you join a long line of Scarlet Knights whose energy and intellect have lifted this university to heights its founders could not have imagined (and) one of the finest research institutions in America."

He flattered them in a less conventional manner, also, remarking patriotically (without having to evoke the Statute of Liberty)

This is a place where you 3-D-print prosthetic hands for children, and devise rooftop wind arrays that can power entire office buildings with clean, renewable energy. Every day, tens of thousands of students come here, to this intellectual melting pot, where ideas and cultures flow together among what might just be America’s most diverse student body. (Applause.) Here in New Brunswick, you can debate philosophy with a classmate from South Asia in one class, and then strike up a conversation on the EE Bus with a first-generation Latina student from Jersey City, before sitting down for your psych group project with a veteran who’s going to school on the Post-9/11 GI Bill. (Applause.)

America converges here. And in so many ways, the history of Rutgers mirrors the evolution of America—the course by which we became bigger, stronger, and richer and more dynamic, and a more inclusive nation.

As with any good, and almost any, commencement speech, this one challenged the students. The President explained

I’m fond of quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Applause.) It bends towards justice. I believe that. But I also believe that the arc of our nation, the arc of the world does not bend towards justice, or freedom, or equality, or prosperity on its own. It depends on us, on the choices we make, particularly at certain inflection points in history; particularly when big changes are happening and everything seems up for grabs.

Economic, cultural, and technological shifts, though, "offer not only great opportunity, but also great peril" and

Fortunately, your generation has everything it takes to lead this country toward a brighter future. I’m confident that you can make the right choices—away from fear and division and paralysis, and toward cooperation and innovation and hope. (Applause.)

Now, partly, I’m confident because, on average, you’re smarter and better educated than my generation—although we probably had better penmanship—(laughter)—and were certainly better spellers.

As he has demonstrated at White House Correspondent dinners, Obama's comic timing and material are worthy of professional stand-up comedians.  He followed "cooperation and innovation and hope" with "now, partly, I'm confident because, on average, you're smarter and better educated than my generation- although we probably had better penmanship- and were certainly better spellers" (funny and undeniable).  Earlier, the President won six bouts of applause in one paragraph, three of them by a reference to Rutgers' tradition of food trucks, saying "Home of what I understand to be a Grease Truck for a Fat Sandwich. Mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers on your cheesteaks. I'm sure Michelle would approve."

When his speech turned serious, Obama again demonstrated his brilliance, saying what needed to be said safely and avoiding major controversy.  In what could be read- and in Obama's mind, probably is- a rebuke to any candidate promising to make America great again, the President argued

in the eight years since most of you started high school, we’re also better off. You and your fellow graduates are entering the job market with better prospects than any time since 2007. Twenty million more Americans know the financial security of health insurance. We’re less dependent on foreign oil. We’ve doubled the production of clean energy. We have cut the high school dropout rate. We've cut the deficit by two-thirds. Marriage equality is the law of the land. (Applause.)

And just as America is better, the world is better than when I graduated.

Further, in what is accurately perceived as a jab at presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, the President added

.... if you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from. (Applause.) So, Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. (Applause.) It's not cool to not know what you're talking about. (Applause.) That's not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. (Laughter.) That's not challenging political correctness. That's just not knowing what you're talking about. (Applause.) And yet, we've become confused about this.

Who is it who has "become confused about this?" The students and professors listening were justifiably confident it is not they. Voters who reject the notion of electing Donald Trump as President realized it was not them.  The President did not have to nod and wink for us to know who he was thinking of.

Democratics and left-leaning Independents assume the confused people are the supporters of the bombastic, anti-intellectual narcissisti who sells his lack of knowledge as a virtue.  Yet, Obama did not mention Trump. Millions of Americans who like the cut of his jib were denied the opportunity to hear the President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces remind them of the major party candidate whose ignorance has proven no impediment to contradicting himself repeatedly on major issues.  The President's response is to claim "we" have become confused about this.

Additionally, the President explained

when our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, while actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem. (Applause.)

You know, it's interesting that if we get sick, we actually want to make sure the doctors have gone to medical school, they know what they’re talking about. (Applause.) If we get on a plane, we say we really want a pilot to be able to pilot the plane. (Laughter.)  And yet, in our public lives, we certainly think, “I don't want somebody who’s done it before.”  (Laughter and applause.)  The rejection of facts, the rejection of reason and science—that is the path to decline. It calls to mind the words of Carl Sagan, who graduated high school here in New Jersey—(applause)—he said: “We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depths of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.”

Who are these leaders? Who are these leaders who reject reason and science? The President, still drawn to the notion of bipartisanship, doesn't say, mentioning only one former or current public official.  He lamented the opposition to an invitation (spring of 2014) to Condoleezza Rice to present a commencement speech at Rutgers. He did mention "a United States senator (who) trotted out a snowball during a floor speech in the middle of winter as “proof” that the world was not warming." That brought some laughter, presumably including the seventeen people who knew he was referring to Republican Senator Inhofe of Idaho.

The President declined to offer names and in so doing, failed to afflict the comfortable.   Clearly, he did not mean himself when he said "we" or "our leaders."  He gave progressives, no doubt the majority among the graduates and others in the academic community, the comfort of knowing it isn't them to whom he was referring. It also spared him criticism he would have received from conservative educators and students if he hadn't shunned clear language.

It made most attendees feel good while others were free to rationalize the comments.  The sentiments President Obama actually expressed were righteous and needed. But devoid of real context in this presidential election year, they benefitted neither Party nor nation.  They were shrewd, and they were classic Obama.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Cowardice In Oklahoma City

Donald Trump, maintaining abortion should be available only in case of rape, incest,or the life of the mother, is wrong. He has commented also on whether the prospective mother, were abortion to be prohibited, should be punished. On that, he has been right, wrong, right, and wrong.

“There has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions if the procedure is outlawed, Trump controversially admitted to Chris Matthews in March. That was followed within 90 minutes with the statement "If in fact abortion is outlawed, the person performing the abortion, the doctor or who it may be is responsible — not the woman is responsible. I have the same stance as Ronald Reagan, I’ve had it from the beginning … It could be that I misspoke but this was a long, convoluted subject."

On a radio interview on April 4 with Sean Hannity, Trump explained "That was a hypothetical question. That was not a wrong answer.”

If honesty were Donald Trump's policy, he would have left it there because Matthews' query was a hypothetical question, and a very good one.  Substituting creativity for honesty, Trump now is quoted in a New York Times Magazine article published May 18 as rationalizing “I didn’t mean punishment for women like prison. I’m saying women punish themselves. I didn’t want people to think in terms of ‘prison’ punishment. And because of that I walked it back." (Evidently, he wants women to punish themselves.)

But if you give Donald Trump a D+ for the courage of his convictions, the legislature of the state of Oklahoma deserves a D-, generously graded.

States which have outlawed abortion have banned the procedure without attaching criminal penalties. However, the Oklahoma legislature recently approved Senate Bill 1552 (sponsored in that chamber by four Republicans), which pertains primarily to physician licensure but which also provides that

No person shall perform or induce an abortion upon a pregnant woman. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than one (1) year nor more than three (3) years in the State Penitentiary.. Any physician participating in the performance of an abortion shall be prohibited from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in this state.

Abortions "necessary to preserve the life of the mother" are exempted. Exempted, too, from provisions of the bill would be the individual who would seek, contract with, and pay an individual to perform what would be considered the taking of innocent life.

In a letter to Republican Governor Mary Fallin, the Center for Reproductive Rights notes "This measure is harmful, discriminatory, clearly unconstitutional, and insulting to Oklahoma women and their families."  It is intended to be unconstitutional, with promoters of the measure anticipating a legal challenge which could end with reconsideration by the US Supreme Court of Roe v. Wade. It is also intended to be insulting to women, casting them as helpless, hapless villains against an evil medical community.

It is an antiquated and demeaning portrayal of women, who deserve to be treated as would men who brazenly defy a law depicted (however inaccurately) as protecting human life.  That is, however, how it always has been in the forced-birth community, which was stunned when the GOP's leading candidate initially acknowledged that a woman who commits a crime should be punished for the crime- or at least in some manner.

If conservatives were to view women as they do men, they would have to reconsider a whole range of policies. As it is now, assigning as much responsibility to the woman/patient as to the doctor in an abortion would  induce a significant case of cognitive dissonace. It also would undermine support for the forced-birth position and lead to its demise. If Donald Trump ever had paid attention, he would have realized that from the start.

Update: Within the past two hours, word has come down that ani-choice Governor Fallin has vetoed the bill because she is concerned it may not have withstood constitutional challenge.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

At Least He Knows A Mistake When He Hears One

You know you've stepped in it when one of your defenders maintains on your behalf that you "have great respect for women."  It is never a good sign given that Donald Trump himself has claimed "I have great respect for women."

Former Philadelphia mayor, Pennsylvania governor, and Democratic National Committee chairman Ed Rendell told The Washington Post's Dave Weigel of Donald Trump

Will he have some appeal to working-class Dems in Levittown or Bristol? Sure. For every one, he'll lose 1½, two Republican women. Trump's comments like `You can't be a 10 if you're flat-chested,' that'll come back to haunt him. There are probably more ugly women in America than attractive women. People take that stuff personally.

It is odd, as recognized here, that one "suggests in public that a woman's own appearance dictates just how she feels about Trump's frequent critiques of other women's looks or his fitness for the Oval Office." Still, there are more unattractive women than attractive women in America, just as there are more unattractive men than attractive women. It is an unfortunate condition of human anthropology or biology unavoidable for most of us, as Shel Silverstein and Bobby Bare seemed to understand over 35 years ago.

Nonetheless Rendell, as a public figure, is unable to speak the obvious and therefore took the more prudent course, telling reporters "it was dumb and insensitive and stupid, and if I offended anybody, I apologize."

Give the guy two points for acknowledging "it was dumb and insensitive and stupid," which is about as close as any public official or celebrity comes to saying "I was wrong." Take one point off for saying "if I offended anybody" and another half-point for the irrelevant "I apologize."

If I offended anybody? It is remarkable that someone could refer to a comment as "dumb and insensitive and stupid" and then confess to uncertainty as to whether anyone was offended. Of course, people were offended if it was insensitive and the "if" draws suspicion upon the sincerity of the entire apology.

Moreover, we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that saying "I apologize" is an apology. Donald Trump does not demonstrate great respect for women by pleading that he has great respect for women. Neither does "I apologize" constitute an apology. My remark "was dumb and insensitive and stupid" is very good; the rare "I was wrong" is better.

"You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass,” Donald Trump said in an interview in 1991.   What Ed Rendell said about women is nowhere near as bad as what Donald Trump stated then or has stated more recently. However.... really, there is no "however."

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Party Like A Business

Theories abound to explain the rise of Donald Trum from a uncouth, boisterous loudmouth to the leader of the Republican Party. Most of them, thankfully, recognize that the GOP merely has sown what it has reaped.

In an inadvertent, unintentional, indirect, and subtle manner, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuiban has thrown light on one of the best explanations.

Cuban, who maintains he has been approached by conservatives about running for President as a third-party candidate, implies that he has not yet decided between Trump and Hillary Clinton. That is not a rousing endorement for the Democrat, given that, Politico reports

The skill set that makes a businessman successful are “absolutely” the same qualities that would carry over into the White House, according to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who questioned Donald Trump’s business chops Monday.

“Absolutely. You have to be knowledgeable. You have to be prepared. You have to be willing to learn. You have to have a thirst for knowledge,” Cuban told MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki. “So that skill set — what makes a great businessperson — definitely would fit as a president. The question is, is Donald that kind of businessperson? I don’t think he is.”

Cuban suggests knowledge, preparation, flexibility, and a willingnesss to learn are essential traits for a successful businessperson. They also are important attributes of a good President- or an effective anything. That is a far cry from the standard GOP template for the dedicated public servant or government official. Salon's Aaron R. Hanlon explains that Mitt Romney, for instance

centered his candidacy on the idea that he was an experienced and effective businessman, despite having also served a term as governor of Massachusetts. The Republican case for Romney was based largely on the idea that the U.S. needed a “lean and mean” business approach to reinvigorate the economy; that balancing the federal budget and managing the national debt are just like making personal finance decisions; that “Washington insider” politicians aren’t as effective at governing as business outsiders. Romney’s “corporations are people” line was a Kinsley gaffe because it illustrated too bluntly the Republican Party’s deliberate conflation of governance and management.

Government shouldn't be run like a business, as residents of Flint, Michigan have learned. But Donald Trump's experience in business, including running a casino into the ground, enabled him to get into the entertainment game with The Apprentice. So far it has been a winning formula, one with a foundation in the business world, flourishing while he (probably) wildly embellishes his personal wealth, makes few charitable contributions while claiming otherwiseinsults military veterans, and lies incessantly.  It's even more impressive because Trump's political career has prospered without the willingness to learn, thirst for knowledge, and preparation cited by the more successful Mr. Cuban. Nonetheless, the Republican Party has another businessman and will thrive or descend, possibly both, with him.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Justice Kennedy, True To Form

It's just Anthony Kennedy being Anthony Kennedy.  But back in late June, after the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges struck down state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, Mother Jones' Pema Levy noted

Adam Winkler, a constitutional law expert at the UCLA School of Law, calls Kennedy's opinion "an ode to living constitutionalism." With Kennedy's ruling, he says, the court makes clear that "the due process clause protects an evolving notion of liberty"....

Going forward, Kennedy's strong words could be cited in future cases and have an impact on issues that could reach (or return) to the courts, such as physician-assisted suicide and abortion. "This case is just one more nail in the coffin of originalism," Winkler says. 

Remarkably, that was a law professor and not the actor with the same surname.   "Justice Anthony Kennedy," Amanda Marcotte finds, "has returned to his true form."  He did so when on Monday morning the Supreme Court in an unsigned opinion remanded to the lower courts a contraception-access case, Zubik v. Burwell (photo below from AP via Salon). Marcotte explains

At issue is a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance plans to cover a range of preventive services without a copay, which is intended to save money by encouraging people to get care that prevents expensive health problems down the road. The HHS included contraception services in the list of preventive service, after the Institute of Medicine issued a report outlining how no-copay contraception reduces unintended pregnancy and helps women space births, which reduces costs and improves birth outcomes....

A number of employers have come forth with claims that it violates their religious fredom to offer insurance plans that cover contraception. Rather than dealing with this in court, the Obama administration offered a compromise position: Religious employers don't have to offer insurance plans that cover contraception. All they need to do is sign an opt-out form, which will allow the insurance companies to offer the coverage to women directly.

Oh, sure, this is going to happen. The opinion, Marcotte adds, reads

The parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accomodates petitioners' religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners' health plans 'receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage."   

A nice idea, but come on,he has to  know there's no way that will happen. That's because the plaintiffs arenot interested and have never been interested in "religious freedom." The goal here is stopping women fromgetting low-cost contraception, full stop. 

Cultural conservatives usually are no more inclined to compromise than Donald Trump is to speak in modulated, nuanced terms. "These are people," Marcotte recognizes, "who pretend that it's onerous to sign a form. They have no shame, no decency, and no interest in good faith compromise. " Forced-birth advocates  rarely find any of that necessary.

Returning the case, though, became unavoidable because three Justices are known to side with the employers and four with the government, acting on behalf of women. Marcotte realizes

The only apparent purpose in stalling is so that whatever happens, it won't be on Justice Kennedy. If President Obama gets his appointee, Merrick Garland, affirmed, thenthere's (sic) five solid votes for common sense, and Kennedy doesn't have to worry about being the swing vote. Or, on the off chance that Republicans can stall the confirmationuntil they get a republican in office, Kennedy can hide in that guy's robes when they vote that women should be denied contraception access to suir someone else's religious beliefs.

We've seen this act, disguised, before. As a supporter of same-sex marriage, Marcotte probably does not fully comprehend the applicability to Justice Kennedy's opinion in Hodges of her remark that to the plaintiffs in Zika "any compromise that protects a woman's right to equal health care access and privacy is unacceptable to them because the goal is stripping women of  equality and privacy."

The dirty little secret of  the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling was that it would not have been possible (given it was dependent on Kennedy's vote) on the legitimate basis of due process and/or equal protection basis alone.  Rather, in his majority opinion in the June, 2015 ruling, before Kennedy got around to throwing in a few comments about the Thirteenth Amendment, he emphasized

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations....

Whatever the wisdom of the conclusion he reached, Justice Antonin Scalia could smell New Age reasoning when it reeked. He wrote

If even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began ‘The constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie.

Of course, as a rabid conservative and cultural warrior, Scalia could not bring himself quite to admit "this whole idea of someone being not fully human unless married is a crock."  Neither could the left, for the outcome itself  was quite satisfying.

Satisfying, but not terribly significant, unless you  are gay, want to get married, live in a state which had prohibited same-sex marriage, and do not want to move to a state with a reasonably broad interpretation of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.  

For all others, as the recent action/inaction of the Court indicates, Anthony Kennedy's swing vote in Hodges v.  Obergefell  was a freebie, a one-off with no applicability to anything except the right of gay people to live together with a legal document rather than to have to suffer through cohabitation without one. Now he has sided with extremists who, in pursuing an anti-contraception agenda, would block the reproductive rights, hence power in the marketplace, of half the population.

Marcotte says Kennedy "has returned to his true form, as a sniveling coward afraid to stand up to religious fanatics..." She is wrong: Anthony Kennedy is still a sniveling coward.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

A Fighting Chance

If evangelicals ever were unsure about what Donald Trump believes about life and death, heaven and hell, they no longer did when they read on February 1

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has been looking for ways to reach out to evangelical voters before the GOP primaries. On Sunday, the businessman and his wife attended church services at the nondenominational First Christian Church, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

But when the Communion plates were passed, Trump mistook the silver plates for the offertory, digging out several bills from his pocket, according to the Associated Press. He, his wife and two staffers took Communion, the AP reports.

“I thought it was for offering,” he told staffers with a laugh. He contributed money several minutes later when the offering plates were passed.

Efforts to reach the Trump campaign and the church were unsuccessful on Monday.

Last summer, Trump spoke about partaking in Holy Communion. “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,” he said, according toCNN. “I think in terms of ‘Let’s go on and let’s make it right.’”

That erased almost all doubt. The little remaining doubt was erased because

Trump grew up and still self-identifies as a Presbyterian, referring to the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, though church leaders in Manhattan say he is not an active member in any of their churches. He usually talks about “the evangelicals” rather than self-identifying as one, but in December, he said, “I am an evangelical. I’m a Christian. I’m a Presbyterian.”

Most theologically conservative Christians read "I am an evangelical (and) Christian" and "I'm a Presbyterian" as mutually inconsistent given that the Presbyterian Church in the USA- to which Trump was referring and which houses most "Presbyterians"- is not part of the evangelical movement. However, that's not the only reason Slate contributor Ruth Graham- who has "recently started attending" a "warm and lively" Congregational church in New England- writes

Since Clinton is in little danger of losing her party’s secular left wing, she has a very real—and rare—opportunity to woo religious voters. Her impromptu campaign forays into her faith could be expanded into a robust public case for the principles of liberal Christianity. She is uniquely positioned to contend that affordable health care, a higher minimum wage, and paid family leave are moral arguments at heart (borrowing from her Democratic primary rival), and to speak about them in the language of what is still the mainstream religion of the U.S.—transforming the idea of who qualifies as a “values voter” in America.

In the America of 2016, that's a heavy lift- a very heavy lift. Most self-described evangelicals are suspicious of Democrats as well as liberals, and being a woman doesn't make it any easier.  For the majority, neither "affordable health care" nor "a higher minimum wage" nor "paid family leave" is the major issue. (If it were, perhaps Republican Trump could concede now and we could go right to the parties on Inauguration Day.) They may not vote for Cllinton- for whom there is considerable distaste- but these voters might not come out in numbers Trump would need to win in Virginia and Florida, or even in North Carolina and Georgia.

Or so some recent polling pitting Trump against Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, indicates. Relevant Magazine filtered out other factors and concluded that 25% of "born-again Christians" plan to vote third-party or not vote at all. Overall, 40.8% of the respondents confess to favoring Trump while 34.1% opt for Clinton, hopeful numbers for the blue team. (It is not clear whether blacks and/or hispanics were included in the survey.)

Mark Silk reports that the Battleground Poll conducted under the auspices of the greatest university in the nation

has the Clinton-Trump God gap at under 15 points, with those who say they go to church at least once a week preferring Trump to Clinton by nine points and those attending less frequently preferring Clinton to Trump by less than six. That compares to a God gap in 2012 of nearly 40 points.

At this point- before either candidate even has been nominated- the (nearly) presumptive Democratic nominee is +40 compared to  2012. Although it's not clarified, the criteria of church attendance suggests the survey was not restricted to whites, startling given Barack Obama's unprecedented appeal to blacks, whose church attendance typically exceeds that of whites.

A more complex survey, one conducted by the Barna Group, compared the unfavorable and favorable ratings (graph below) of the two likely nominees in several defined religious categories: evangelical, non-evangelical born again, notional, non-Christian faith, and skeptics.  The most glaring indication is that both candidates are unpopular among the religious. The largest advantage for Trump is in the first group but is hardly crushing and at 14 points does not bode well for him.

It is Way Too Early. Choice of running mates, the conventions, debates, other campaign activities, and especially national and international events will intervene.   Most fundamentals, including right-track-wrong track numbers and sentiment about the size of government (charts below) favor the GOP candidate, any GOP candidate, among theologically conservative Christians and will be extremely difficulat to overcome.

Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton probably would be the least secular Democratic presidential nominee since James Earl Carter and would face the Trump of the Little Cracker.  What Ruth Graham maintains of Democrats generally since social gospel evangelicals tried to start a movement in 1973 will be particularly true of this presidential race: "it would be unfair to say that liberal Christians haven't tried to make noise. But now, 43 years later, they may have their best chance to be heard."

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Overwrought Reaction

Take the "L" and just move on.  162 Democrats joining Republicans to attack free speech and condemn a phrase that advocates one t...