The price of denouncing Trump

imageThe Cleveland Plain Dealer has a story today speculating that Ohio Governor John Kasich is already planning to contest the GOP presidential nomination in 2020.

They note that Kasich is scheduled to be in New Hampshire on August 28-29 ” for a reunion  with his supporters there and to campaign and raise money for GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu.”

Kasich finished second to Trump in the state primary back in February and has so far declined to endorse Trump. Most interesting is the observation that Kasich has “kept alive his political operation to campaign for down-ballot Republicans across the country this fall.”

Having said that, a story appearing on the CNBC website earlier in August suggests that Kasich’s intentions are anything but clear. His campaign manager John Weaver had this to say:

I suspect he doesn’t know yet,” . . .  when asked about Kasich’s presidential plans. “The day we got off the plane after he pulled out [out of the race], it was a 1 or 2 percent chance he would ever do it again. But I would say the chance has gone up, because of how outrageous Trump is.

Still, Weaver added, “Anybody who is trying to game plan what is going to happen tomorrow, much less what is happening in 2020, is crazy.”

In all the reporting on this, one thing stands out: concern among some Kasich supporters that standing on the sidelines while Clinton potentially wins Ohio, and the presidency, could land some blame on Kasich and hinder his 2020 chances.

Similarly, Cruz’s non-endorsement of Trump, while unlikely to jeopardize the status of Texas as a red state, may not be so easily forgotten.

Here are the important questions: Will Trump be so toxic by the end of the general election campaign that refusing to endorse him will be seen as a badge of honour amongst the party rank and file (or enough to of them)? If this happens, Kasich and Cruz have nothing to worry about. But if  they are seen as having unnecssarily contributed to a Republican loss, even of Donald Trump, will the taste left be just bad enough to disqualify them?

We should probably keep in mind that a Clinton presidency will be as much vilified as has been Obama’s, so any Repubican who can be charged with helping make it happen could be in trouble.

I’m leaning towards option number 2: You don’t get to disavow your party’s nominee and live to soldier on.

Put another way, when John Kasich or Ted Cruz take the debate stage in 2020 (if they do), any one of their opponents will be able to say, “you stood by and let Hillary Clinton become president.” No explanation will be sufficient.

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The Usual List of Pundits

imageSarah Kliff and Ezra Klein: Public option? Collapse? What comes next for Obamacare?

Robert Reich: Aetna shows why we need a single payer

E.J. Dionne Jr.: If you thought old the Donald Trump campaign was wild and crazy, just wait

Steve Benen: Placing more value on crowds than polls is a recipe for failure

Nate Cohn and Toni Mankovic: What a Clinton landslide map would look like, and how Trump could still rally

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Good help is hard to find, and other lessons from the Trump campaign

This is everywhere, so you’ve probably already seen it. Trump campaign surrogate Michael Cohen provides compelling evidence of the existence of a new kind of stupid in an interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar. In short Keilar prefaces a question about Trump’s staffing shake-up by referring to the campaign’s recent poor performance, to which Cohen aggressively asks, “Says who?” just like any playground bully would. Keilar holds her ground by replying that polls are showing that. He presses by obnoxiously asking “Which polls?” She closes the loop by incredulously answering, “All of them.”

It’s pretty amazing, and only made more so by a subsequent claim by Cohen to Yahoo News about the CNN interview in which he said, “I think I unravelled her.” Now, if unravelling someone has now come to mean “being schooled by an interviewer,” he certainly unravelled her.

In Trump World, even when you lose, you win.

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Liz Cheney is likely headed to the U.S. House; Congress’ unfavourability rating braces for impact

image2In the event you don’t keep a close eye on Wyoming politics, you might have missed that Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz, is very likely going to be elected to Congress in the fall.

After eight years, incumbent Rep. Cynthia Lummis(R) decided she’d had enough representing Wyoming’s state-wide sole congressional district, which prompted a large primary field to fight for the nomination, though Ms. Cheney was able to swat them aside without much effort (with 40 per cent of the vote).

She’ll have to contest the seat in the general of course but it’s a very red state so that’s no real obstacle.

When I read the news I was immediately reminded what a disaster her last attempt at gaining elected office was. In fact, as Steve Benen writes, “what’s especially notable about Cheney’s victory is the degree to which … [she] had to undo damage done in her last congressional bid.”

Liz Cheney moved to Wyoming in 2013, and soon after launched a primary campaign against a popular Republican incumbent, Sen. Mike Enzi. She failed spectacularly. Over the course of a six-month campaign, Cheney’s notable accomplishments as a candidate were an unfortunate controversy over a fishing license and a family dispute over her opposition to her own sister’s right to get married.

She ultimately quit months before the primary, citing unspecified “health issues” with an unidentified member of her family. Cheney ended up becoming less popular with Wyoming voters the more they got to know her – she somehow managed to alienate the public, party insiders, former allies, and blood relatives, all at the same time.

That’s great. Liz Cheney: The more you know her, the less you’ll like her.

Maybe the only other thing you need to know is that she is almost as unpleasant as her dad and has fully perfected the family sneer.

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One more way politics is nothing like real life and this election is like no other

image1My guess is that many normal citizens, not particularly politically engaged, look askance at the ability of candidates of the same party to say all manner of nasty things about each other during a primary battle only to kiss and make up in the most over-the-top manner in time to present a common front prior to the general election. But it is the way the game is played.

Sometimes when asked about the previously stated ugly comments they refer to what, sadly, sometimes happens in the heat of battle before they launch into speaking points about why their party’s nominee is the best darn candidate for the office in question. Just as often they ignore any reference to anything previously said of the unpleasant kind and go straight to the happy talk.

As we can all appreciate, that dynamic has been rendered somewhat more difficult in the GOP presidential nomination process by the extent to which so many of the failed contenders truly came to despise the eventual nominee. As we know, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz have avoided endorsement at all.

But Marco Rubio, given the uniqueness of circumstances, is trying a different, rarely seen, approach. He has endorsed Donald Trump while also saying that he stands by everything he ever said in the campaign, hence the Miami Journal headline: “Rubio stands by calling Trump a “con man,” but still backs him.”

The explanation Rubio offered went like those:

We’re in a different place now. Now we have a binary choice — not a choice between 15 people or 12 people. There are two people in the world that are going to be the next president, either Donald or Hillary” Clinton, he said. “In our republic, while the presidency is powerful, there is a balance of power in this country, and a significant amount of it resides in the United States Senate. It’s one of the reasons why I seek to run again.

Loosely translated Rubio is saying that he still hates Donald Trump with every ounce of his being and believes him supremely unqualified, but running as he is for a US senate seat in Florida, he doesn’t really see the upside to failing to back his party’s nominee. At the same time he wants us to know that the man he thinks he has no choice but to support is so dangerous that getting back into the Senate is for Rubio one way to ensure not too much damage is done.

In an odd way, Donald J. Trump has actually added a small amount of integrity to the process. For some Republicans, as the time comes to stand with Trump or against him, and as they consider the stakes, they are finding themselves thinking and acting more like human beings and less like politicians.

As for Rubio, he’s a bit of a hybrid on this one, but it’s better than nothing.

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Double Take: “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” – Skeets McDonald (1952), Perry Como (1953)


Slim Willet

Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” was written by Slim Willet and published in 1952.

It was first recorded by Slim Willet and the Brush Cutters, then by Ray Price, followed by Skeets McDonald in the Western swing style, reaching #1 on the country & western charts in 1952, and staying there for 18 weeks.

A version recorded by Perry Como with The Ramblers was the most successful and reached #1 on the pop charts in 1953.

This was a period in popular music when silly novelty songs were all the rage, like Patti Page’s “The Doggie in the Window.” No great surprise that this one is in the mix.

Still, I like it, and even prefer the McDonald country swing version. Everything can’t be a classic.

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Laughing at the Donald

imageObviously today everyone is talking and writing about Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech at last night’s  Republican National Convention. I tend to agree with John Heilemann that the strangest thing about the theft is that it was of words uttered by Michelle Obama, wife of Donald J. Trump’s archnemesis. If Melania felt absolutely compelled to steal words, she might have looked to Nancy Reagan or Elizabeth Dole, Republican women  the First Lady hopeful could have argued she greatly respected and wished to emulate.

So that was weird.

Though what is likely to have consequences of greater duration is the way the Trump campaign dealt with the flap. Did they choose to apologize, perhaps fire a low level speechwriter, and move on? Well, of course not.

They, through campaign honcho Paul Manafort, said there was no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech and that Melania was simply using common words to express common values.

As anyone who has taken the time to review the ubiquitous side-by-side video clips that have been put together by various news sources can attest, Manafort is blowing smoke.

Common words used in a specific order taken from others can and have placed a lot of people in front of a judge.

Manafort then threw in this nugget: “This is, once again, an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks to demean her and take her down.”

For the love of Pete, what does Hillary Clinton have to do with this episode? Nothing, of course, but for the fact that Manafort and the Trump campaign think they can appeal to women by suggesting Hillary Clinton is everywhere and at all times a menace to those of her own gender.

Odder still is that various campaign surrogates seem not to have received their marching orders, as Steve Benen points out.

While Manafort is trying to redefine plagiarism, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is recommending the campaign fire the relevant speechwriter, while New Jersey Governor Christie is saying it was only a little plagiarism, so no one should make a fuss.

Priebus and Chistie do know how the game is played and understand that taking responsibility for a screw-up is the first step to getting it out of the news cycle.

Instead, stories will continue about how unprofessional the Trump campaign is, how it reflects badly on his competence as a potential president, and how being unable to admit a relatively small mistake is not an admirable quality in anyone, particularly someone running for high office.

Donald J. Trump has run his campaign based on the premise that the truth is whatever he says it is. His attacks on the media have always been a part of this strategy, preparing the way to argue that whatever “they” say is intended to tear him down because he is in fact the only real truth-teller and, in any case, an outsider. If a candidate decides that lying about everything is the only way to succeed, it is necessary to attempt to discredit those who claim to specialize in fact-checking.

It’s a clever approach and has worked well so far.

Melania’s petty theft is not a huge issue for the Trump campaign, but a lot of people are laughing today at this man who takes himself oh-so-seriously. And that’s a bad day, especially when the whole world really is watching.

Voters can think many things of a candidate that may not adversely impact the chance for electoral success, but when they start to think he or she is a joke, things get harder.

Denying things when there is entertaining video evidence to prove one wrong is the stuff that late night comedy shows have been built on, a large part of John Stewart’s career, for example.

Trump is of course a silly little man who has no business running for the presidency. Maybe this episode will start to convince the broader public of that fact.

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“Sentimental Journey” – Les Brown and His Band of Renown, Doris Day, vocals (1945)

1-2-DDD-25-ExplorePAHistory-a0j9h1-a_349Sentimental Journey” was published in 1944, written by Les Brown and Ben Homer, lyrics by Bud Green. The Les Brown and His Band of Renown version with Doris Day on vocals reached  # 1 the week of June 2, 1945 and stayed there through the week of August4, 1945.

For those interested in such details (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Prior to the creation of the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard published multiple singles charts each week. In 1945, the following three charts were produced:

  • Best-Selling Retail Records – ranked the biggest selling singles in retail stores, as reported by merchants surveyed throughout the country.
  • Records Most Played on the Air – ranked the most played songs on United States radio stations, as reported by radio disc jockeys and radio stations.
  • Most Played Juke Box Records – ranked the most played songs in jukeboxes across the United States.

Beginning in March, a composite ten-position song chart called the Honor Roll of Hits combining data from the three aforementioned charts along with three other component charts was published.[1] It served as the publication’s lead chart until the introduction of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958 and would remain in print until November 1963.

Now, back to the song.

“Sentimental Journey” was released as WWII was ending in Europe and, as one source notes,  “became the unofficial homecoming theme for many veterans.”  It reached the Billboard charts on March 29, 1945, stayed there for 23 weeks, and peaked at #1.

Doris Day is, well, Doris Day: singer, actress, talkshow host. Les Brown (1912- 2001) was an American clarinetist, saxophonist, big band leader and composer, best known for his decades-long  work with the big band Les Brown and His Band of Renown (1938–2001).

Sentimental Journey was released on Columbia (36769) on January 22, 1945. The B-side was “Twilight Time,” the best-known version of which was recorded by the Platters and became a number one hit on both the pop singles and R&B Best Sellers charts in 1958 in the U.S.

Continue reading

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Hillary Clinton Campaign ad: “Role Models”

maxresdefault-61I like this ad. It’s the latest effort by the Hillary Clinton campaign to remind voters that boorish behaviour in a candidate aspiring to the presidency of the United States is not acceptable.

The best part is that it relies almost entirely on comments made by the presumptive GOP candidate himself. Depicted also are children watching Trump say the kinds of things he cannot help himself from saying, which is intended to make the viewer think about how hard it is to convey appropriate values to children, and how Trump’s values are surely not the values any responsible parent would want to impart. To put it as Nick Corasaniti at The New York Times does, it is “to imagine what a child might be learning from the campaign.”

“Our children are watching,” a text card warns after two small children watch a scene of Mr. Trump appearing to mock a reporter with a disability. At the end, Hillary Clinton is shown delivering a speech on children, closing with, “We need to make sure that they can be proud of us.”

Corasaniti adds that “as Mr. Trump heads into the Convention . . . set to enjoy several days of free, unabated media coverage, often in prime time and perhaps when children are watching, the Clinton campaign can counter with a paid message placed strategically in the coverage.”

One of the many things about politics that is poorly understood is that so much of electoral success is about courting those who pay little attention to the process until they feel they have to, generally sometime just prior to election day. Others, more consistently engaged, and with strong opinions are sure of what they think and will not likely change their minds.

I would suggest that many voters, once they turn their attention to it, will be embarrassed by Donald Trump’s lack of sophistication, his general inarticulateness and, yes, how hard it will be to explain to children how such a bloviating fool has come so close to being elected president of the United States.

No one thing will turn the election, but for many Americans I am convinced that they do not want to have to explain to their children how it is that they could even consider voting for Donald J. Trump, given everything they are trying to teach their children about how to grow into mature, well-adjusted adults who respect others and are respected in return.

Maybe I am expecting too much. I don’t think so.

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New Clinton ad: Competence vs. foolishness

hillary-clinton-tuesdayI have long thought the question of a politician’s “likeability” or “relateability” to be overblown factors in determining how they’ll do with the electorate. For the record, I don’t want to have a beer with any of them, unless they happen to be someone I already know and like.

Maybe voters make choices based on things as silly as how cool they think a candidate is, or how much fun they’d be to hang out with, or even how nice they are. I know a lot of people who score high on all those indicators, and I wouldn’t want any of them in charge of launch codes or complex public policy issues.

I’ve already seen a couple ads that attempt to soften up Hillary Clinton’s image. They talk about how much she cares about kids or how hard she has fought for healthcare. I’m sure that’s all true, but I also don’t think that’s why people will vote for her.

They will vote for her, if they vote for her, because they think she can do the job. They will think she has the experience, and, yes, the judgment to make reasonable decisions.

Persuadable voters, that all-important class of deciders, will make their decisions, I would guess, on that question, i.e., who do you trust to have their head screwed on more or less straight enough to navigate a complex world?

So, go ahead Clinton campaign. Make as many touchy-feely ads as you like, but make more like this, the sort that remind people she is much more likely to know what she’s doing than the clown running against her. That shouldn’t be hard to do.

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