Sunday, October 23, 2016

Why Donald Trump is failing as an agent of change

Saturday Donald Trump delivered a much ballyhooed First One Hundred Days speech in Gettysburg, billed as what he would do in that time period if elected. Instead, it was a case in point of why Donald Trump is failing as an agent of change.

His speech was to be a pivot to issues away from the sensational last few weeks where the focus has been on his alleged predatory sexual behavior.  However, he buried his own intended message by dwelling on the sensational news with his promise to sue all ten women who came forward to testify to his unwelcome advances.  Bully good?  A few hours later, an unintimidated #11 went public. He began his speech by relaunching his claim that into the “system is rigged,” followed by  a riff on  familiar refrains, “the FBI is rigged, the press is rigged”, and  everything and everyone opposed to his views are rigged. He continued with charges and grievances, citing some statistics that had been debunked by independent fact checkers earlier.

His issue discussion was finally reached and it drew together familiar themes, but much more fleshed out and specific.  This deserves coverage and debate, but waiting until less than three weeks to election  day and burying it as nearly a sub point in sensationalistic news making, an opportunity was missed.  A skilled candidate would understand how to direct media attention by not highlighting diversions, but that takes self-discipline, which Trump lacks.

Issues are important, especially in the context that this is a change election and that a large segment of public opinion believes the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Nonetheless, looking at a recent history of polls, Trump has not benefitted by the change sentiment, at least not enough to stay ahead of Hillary Clinton in the polls consistently over the campaign from start to near finish. To turn a Trump ad phrase on its ears, if this is such a change election, why isn’t Trump far ahead of Clinton in the polls instead of constantly running behind her?

There are some good reasons. While his issue message resonates with many, the problem is the messenger himself .Trump takes personal offense at barbs and gets hung up on a compulsive need to respond. He undermines democratic traditions by threatening not to honor the vote, or ignoring facts, legal due process, and standards of proof. Major turnoffs are his hostile comments directed toward women, immigrants, and minorities such as “build the wall”, “nasty woman”, “ban” those from certain countries, practitioners of a religion, ,and promising wholesale deportation regardless of individual constitutional rights, individual circumstances, or family concerns. The implied response from those groups offended by him is, “yes we want improvement, but no, no, not that kind by that person.”

Hillary Clinton represents the status quo, but with an improved version, advocating stronger Wall Street regulation, a no fly zone in Syria, improving Obamacare, and more. She is indeed a political operator, but she still looks better to many more than the Trump brand of replacement. Even fact finders conclude she is far more factual than Trump.The Council of Economic Advisers reported real median household income grew 5.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, the fastest annual growth on record...The number of people in poverty fell by 3.5 million... the largest one-year drop since 1968. Likewise, Pres. Obama’s popularity at 57%, extremely high for a last term president, is another indication that there are  more content with the status quo than the Trump camp counted on.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Trump lynch mob mentality

One of the strangest phenomena of the campaign for the presidency is the response those who normally would be supporting the Democratic candidate for president but will not vote for Trump and will also not vote for Hillary Clinton.  Press those who also say they will not vote for Donald Trump  to tell why they also will not vote for Clinton, and and what they often say "Hillary is a liar." Then if you ask them to give examples and  up comes "the  emails".  Press them more, and ask them what she lied about and they become very vague: "well, she sent classified correspondence and she said she didn't. ". "  They are repeating a slogan Clinton's opponents delivered and yet has not stood up to fact checking, from the FBI or by independent fact checkers.  

Trump's demagogic oratory raises the issue to a dangerous level. If you listen to the rallies Trump holds, the chant becomes: "Jail her, jail her". whenever he accuses Hillary Clinton of lying on whether she knew she sent classified material or destroyed her emails.   Forget the Constitution, the law, the provisions of due process, and any similarity to a Banana republic practcies. In Debate #2 Trump said if he were in charge of the law, she would be in jail. 

 Fortunately he could not be in charge of the law, thanks to the Constitution, but his  rally audience is ready to be judge, jury and executioner: ". Jail her, Jail her" They chant with such fervor that all that is missing from their lynch mob fervor is to grab the torches, and a rope and hang her from the nearest limb.

 Even more frightening are supporters of Trump and Trump himself who claims the election is rigged, undermining faith in the process and setting himself up to fail with a prefabricated excuse: the election "will be"" rigged (the election has not taken place; no proof of fraud yet available)  and the press is rigging it  by covering his controversial statements. Some of his followers feel urged to start a revolution if Trump loses the election. They are getting prepared not to accept the vote outcome.   In fact, a speaker at Grand Lake's" Constitution Week"  recently is loudly proclaiming. Scheduled as the keynote speaker was Milwaukee County Sheriff, David A. Clarke Jr., , ""Grab the torches and the pitchforks; the election is rigged" are comments for which Clarke is most famous. I thought the purpose of Constitution Week was to support the Constitution, not advocating to violate it.

Both independent fact checkers and the testimony of the FBI director set the record straight regarding why they believe Hillary Clinton could not be prosecuted for criminal action. 
The FBI found she did not lie to them, and that she had not intentionally sent emails marked classified (they were not correctly marked and buried in them when quotations were made, they were obscurely marked). In order to even prosecute someone for a criminal act, there must proof of intent to break the law beyond a reasonable doubt, and the FBI found no evidence of either. 
  Typical of Donald Trump, he responded by attacking the Republican FBI director as rigging the findings.  If he does not like the message, he tries to destroy the messenger, facts notwithstanding nor refuted by presenting other facts.

Trump has doubled down accusing Hillary Clinton of acid washing and destroying emails after she got a subpoena but per not factually correct. Nothing was acid washed.  Per,  the sequence and that Clinton ordered the destruction make such prosecution a failure: Trump told Clinton “after getting the subpoena” to turn over documents related to the Benghazi investigation “you delete 33,000 emails.” A contractor managing Clinton’s server deleted the emails. There is no evidence Clinton knew when they were deleted.
Footnotes:  on FBI findings."emails were deleted after Clinton received a subpoena from a Republican-controlled House committee investigation into the 2012 deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. But there is no evidence that Clinton knew that the emails were deleted after the subpoena was issued." and there was no acid wash

Monday, October 10, 2016

The second presidential debate was epic, alright, epic nasty

The second presidential debate Sunday October 9 was an epic one, alright, epically nasty.  The  nation and the world to which this was broadcast was on edge of their seats to see if Donald Trump would  contritely apologize for the leaked audio and video of his boasting of his conquests of groping and sexually predatory behavior toward women.  He did not.  Instead he paraded before the world and placed in the debate audience some of the women with whom Bill Clinton had had affairs. Monica Lewinsky was not among the attendees.   He justified his own behavior because Bill Clinton had spoken or done worse.
 That Trump stopped the run for the exit door of evangelical and “establishment” Republicans withdrawing their endorsement is yet to be seen.  What he did, however, was claim that he “has not groped” and he called the damning audios just “locker room” talk and awkwardly tried to switch the topic to fighting Isis. He can only hope no “groped” women come forward.
It is a good thing that Bill Clinton is not running for president this go around. His actions over twenty years ago were worthy of the consequences.  The candidate, however, is Hillary Clinton and, if anything, she showed remarkable composure, and exuded dignity in the face of Trump’s attempt to rattle her or to paint her with the sins of her husband. In the run up to the debate he had tried to make the point that Hillary was the “enabler” because she showed no respect for women because she dared to try to destroy the reputation of “the other women”.  That must be some male fantasy to expect the victim, the wronged wife, to take a kind and caring approach to the “other women” because of  some feminist ideology. Given the public focus on all of the tawdriness, I imagine not many women would have had the self-control to invoke Michelle Obama’s advice, “when they go low, we go high” as Hillary Clinton did Sunday night.  It is  her steeliness and self control under such provocations that stand in contrast to tweet happy Trump who reacts whenever his manhood or ego is stroked or offended that makes him particularly unsuited to make rational policy decisions regarding war and peace.
Donald Trump made some eyebrow raising comments, especially regarding his differences with his own running mate Mike Pence over policies toward Russia and Syria.  Like a wannabe tin pot dictator, he said he would appoint a prosecutor to put Hillary in jail for her alleged lies on the email server because he disagreed with the FBI director’s findings that she had no intent to relay material marked classified or had lied to him.  In the post-debate spin room, the shock of Trump advocating to abuse legal and due process to get rid of an opponent overshadowed his stock allegations of Clinton lies.  Trump also openly admitted he had used a tax loophole to avoid paying federal personal income taxes for years. She responded by advocating an expanded version of the original  Buffett Rule that would impose a 30% income tax on income over $1 million with her proposed additional surtaxes on the five million dollar earners. She then scored unrebutted points that Trump’s tax proposals would give enormous tax cuts to the wealthy and raise taxes on some in the middle class.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Trump and Pence part ways on Russia. In reality, Trump's view trumps.

One event in the Vice Presidential debate, October 4, was the position of GOP candidate Mike Pence regarding Russia.  The comments on Russia got lost in Pence's  absolute denial that Donal Trump ever said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a better leader than Pres. Obana. The quibble could be whether the correct term was "stronger". In any case, there is plenty of video available on Trump's comments which makes Pence look like a liar, albeit a smoothe one delivered with conviction.

 What should also be the story is that Pence took a hard line on Russia saying we should stand up to them..  This deserves some closer scrutiny and looks like there is a division on foreign policy between the two running mates.  Take a look at the debate as can be accessed via You Tube regarding Pence's views of Russia incursions into the Crimea, Ukraine and Georgia...a great contrast from Trump's prior statements.
What does count in 2016 ,however, is Trump's position, though Pence might use his own quotes in his own future campaigns.

It stands in sharp contrast with the GOP presidential candidate himself, Donald Trump, who has been advocating a foreign policy that strangely runs parallel to the same as Russia's, from declaring NATO obsolete, not objecting to the Russian threats and incursions into Eastern Ukraine, and recognizing Russia's grab of the Crimea.  In fact, the mutual comments between Trump and Putin have been so complimentary that it has been timed a "bromance" of mutual admiration.

Not only is this a major issue in foreign policy, but in calls into question whether Trump can even negotiate with Putin in America's and our alliies' security interests without giving away the store to Russia.  Negotiation means give and take and the question remains what Trump would give away to make a deal.