Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

It’s Clear By Now That the Second-Most Powerful Person in the Federal Government Will Be Bernie Sanders.

The Big Question Is, Who is the MOST Powerful Person: Paul Ryan or Donald Trump?

“I think my title [of head of outreach] is to be head of outreach and that’s something that I take very seriously,” he said, without explaining any more about the new role.

But Sanders did pound home his remedies for the Democratic Party.

“We need major, major reforms to the Democratic Party,” Sanders said going on to say that Trump was able to tap into discontent among Americans who felt completely ignored by the rest of the American political system.

Trump, Sanders continued, “said I hear that you are hurting and I hear and understand that you’re worried about the future, about your kids, and I alone can do something about it — and people voted for him.”

Sanders went on to tick off the promises Trump made that Democrats would hold him accountable for.

“He said we will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Now I think that we should expand Social Security,” Sanders continued. “That is what he said, and pay attention to see what he now does. The question that will be resolved pretty quickly is whether or not everything that he was saying to the working class of this country was hypocrisy, was dishonest or whether he was sincere — and we will find out soon enough.”

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Hey, Midwestern and Rust Belt Blue-Collar Voters: How’s THIS Workin’ Out for Ya So Far?

UPDATE: LOL.

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President-­elect Donald J. Trump, who campaigned against the corrupt power of special interests, is filling his transition team with some of the very sort of people who he has complained have too much clout in Washington: corporate consultants and lobbyists.

Jeffrey Eisenach, a consultant who has worked for years on behalf of Verizon and other telecommunications clients, is the head of the team that is helping to pick staff members at the Federal Communications Commission.

Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist whose clients include Devon Energy and Encana Oil and Gas, holds the “energy independence” portfolio.

Michael Torrey, a lobbyist who runs a firm that has earned millions of dollars helping food industry players such as the American Beverage Association and the dairy giant Dean Foods, is helping set up the new team at the Department of Agriculture.

Trump Campaigned Against Lobbyists, but Now They’re on His Transition Team, Eric Lipton, New York Times, today

What?  No steelworker?  No auto-plant worker?  Not even a family farmer?  Might y’all have been had?

Who’d a thunk?

Bernie and Elizabeth to the rescue.  Now, pleaseNow.

But, hey, white blue collar folks: You get what you vote for.  The problem for me is that I get what you vote for.  I said roughly 540 times here at AB in the last year: Trump isn’t conquering the Republican Party; he’s the Republican Party’s Trojan Horse.  What was that y’all were saying about wanting change so badly?  Here it is.

Welcome  to the concept of industry regulatory capture. Perfected to a science, and jaw-droppingly brazen.  LOL. Funny, but Bernie talked about this.  Some of you listened.  Then.  Elizabeth Warren has talked about it, a lot. Some of you listened.  Back then.  But she wasn’t running for president.  Hillary Clinton was, instead.  And she couldn’t talk about it because she had needed all those speaking fees, all the way up to about a minute before she announced her candidacy.

Aaaaand, here come the judges.  And of course the justices.  Industry regulatory capture of the judicial-branch variety.

I called this one right, in the title of this post yesterday.  I mean, why even wait until the body is buried?  No reason at all.

So he thinks.  But what if he’s wrong?

Anyway … can’t wait for the political cartoons showing Trump on Ryan’s lap, with Ryan’s arm showing reaching up under Trump’s suit jacket.

Edgar Ryan and Charlie Trump.

Oh, and I do want to add this: If one more liberal pundit or feminism writer publishes something claiming that Clinton lost because of all those sexist men out there who couldn’t handle the idea of a woman president, or claims she ran a remarkable campaign cuz of all that tenacity and stamina she showed in the face of what was thrown at her from wherever, see, or makes both claims (if not necessarily in the same columns or blog posts or tweeter comments), and I read so much as the title of it, I’m gonna … something.

It’s effing asinine.  Everyone’s entitled to their little personal delusions, but why the obsessiveness about this patent silliness?  What exactly is the emotional hold that Hillary Clinton holds on these people? It’s climate-change-denial-like.

Elizabeth Warren would have beaten Donald Trump in a landslide.  So would have Bernie Sanders.  And brought in a Democratic-controlled Senate and House.  Because either of them would have run a remarkable campaign, under normal standards, not standards with a special low bar.

That’s the efffing truth.

 

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UPDATE:  From a new blog post by Paul Waldman titled “If you voted for Trump because he’s ‘anti-establishment,’ guess what: You got conned“:

An organizational chart of Trump’s transition team shows it to be crawling with corporate lobbyists, representing such clients as Altria, Visa, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Verizon, HSBC, Pfizer, Dow Chemical, and Duke Energy. And K Street is positively salivating over all the new opportunities they’ll have to deliver goodies to their clients in the Trump era. Who could possibly have predicted such a thing?

The answer is, anyone who was paying attention. Look at the people Trump is considering for his cabinet, and you won’t find any outside-the-box thinkers burning to work for the little guy. It’s a collection of Republican politicians and corporate plutocrats — not much different from who you’d find in any Republican administration.

And from reader EMichael in the Comments thread to this post about 35 minutes ago:

OH, it will be worse than that, much worse.

Bank regulation will go back to the “glory days” of the housing bubble, and Warren’s CFPB will be toast.

Buddy of mine works HR for a large bank. He has been flooded with resumes from current employees of the CFPB the last couple of days.

Yup.  HSBC ain’t in that list for nothing.  But, not to worry.  Trump’s kids will pick up lots of real estate on the (real) cheap, after the crash.  Their dad will give them all the tips, from experience.

And the breaking news this afternoon is that Pence–uh-ha; this Mike Pence–has replaced Christie as transition team head.  Wanna bet that Comey told Trump today that Christie is likely to be indicted in Bridgegate?

Next up, although down the road a few months: rumors that a grand jury has been convened to try to learn how, exactly, Giuliani got all that info from inside the FBI two weeks ago.  Once the FBI inspector general completes his investigation.  Or once New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, begins looking into violations of NY state criminal law.

How downright sick.  And how pathetic.

Update added 11/11 at 3:19 p.m. 

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At least as of yesterday morning, the Democratic establishment still didn’t get it. Then again, as of late yesterday, neither did the Republican establishment. And neither did Donald Trump. [UPDATED]

CHUCK SCHUMER’S TOUGH BALANCING ACT: CNN reports on an interesting dynamic to keep an eye on:

“For Schumer, the challenges will be formidable. He’ll have to listen to the vocal and outspoken progressive wing of his caucus, led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who have legions of supporters. But he also has five red-state Democrats in states Trump won convincingly — Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia — up for re-election in 2018. And if Schumer takes his caucus too far to the left, he’s bound to could put his moderates in a difficult political spot.”

Worth watching: Whether those red state Democrats claim the party has moved too far to “the left” when it resists Trump’s agenda.

The first big political war of Trump’s presidency will be explosive, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, yesterday at 9:55 a.m.

Late yesterday I received a listserve email from Bernie Sanders’ new organization, Our Revolution, asking what we most wanted the organization to do immediately.  I haven’t responded yet, but my message will be a plea that it begin an intensive effort to inform the public in the Rust Belt states, and the Midwest generally, of what exactly the Conservative Legal Movement was, and is, up to regarding handing control of the federal courts, and federal law, to billionaires and mega-corporate interests.

That’s what Citizens United was really about.  But it’s also what a slew of other 5-4 Supreme Court rulings have been about since the Conservative Legal Movement gained that majority on the Court.  And during the three decades when it thoroughly controlled the federal appellate and trial-level courts.

The Supreme Court effectively rewrote the Federal Arbitration Act to forced-arbitration clauses in almost every aspect of employment, consumer (including banking and credit card law), and securities law.  It also rewrote that Act so that it uses those forced arbitration clauses to effectively eliminate class actions.

It literally rewrote the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 8(a), that sets the parameters for what lawsuit complaints, the legal pleading must state

It has been extremely hostile to labor unions; Samuel Alito openly invites the filing of litigation whose very goal is to undermine or outright eliminate them.

Every single one of these attacks, and many others, were born and grew up through a precision pipeline system of think tanks and so-called legal foundations, small, non-profit (thus “Foundation” as part of their title) law firms, all funded by extreme economic self-styled libertarian (the Madison Avenue-inspired ideological label they use) billionaires, including the Kochs, financial-industry billionaire families that include the Mercers and the Ricketts and who were top funders of Trump’s general-election campaign, and oil-and-gas billionaires, including top funders of Trump’s general-election and primary campaigns.

And that includes, extremely significantly, the Federalist Society, cofounded in about 1980 by Antonin Scalia, and whose most aggressive and unabashed members include Alito, Clarence Thomas and a slew of high-profile members of the federal appellate bench.  John Roberts also apparently was a member, although very quietly, throughout his career as a lawyer.

What I want most, and most immediately, for Our Revolution to do is to begin a major public-awareness push to tell all those Midwesterners and other Rust Belters—including those in rural areas and small towns—what exactly Trump was saying when he promised during the campaign to appoint justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia.  And who, exactly—who, exactly—is feeding him the names on list of possible Supreme Court nominees.  And who exactly will be feeding him recommendations for lower federal court appointments.

Suffice it to say, it ain’t the Rust Belters and Midwesterners who brung him, late in the game, to this dance because they support the Paul Ryan fiscal plan whose goal is to all-but-eliminate both taxes on the wealthy and the social safety net programs, such as food stamps and Medicaid, that many of them rely upon for, literally, survival.

Nor was it because they salivate at the thought of industry lobbyists writing legislation to be fed quickly through Congress and onto President Trump’s desk for him to sign.

Nor, I’ll venture, was it because they want the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts to be proxy arms of economic-winger billionaires and industries ranging from Wall Street to Walmart to communications to chemical and pharmaceutical, to Big Ag, to fossil fuel and lumber industries.   As they were for roughly three decades.

Mitt Romney received the votes of the deplorables, without whose support Trump would not have won.  But Romney isn’t president.  Barack Obama is.  Trump’s bizarre efforts beginning in 2011 to change that fact, notwithstanding.

Yet throughout the day yesterday, the news was filled with Ryan’s and McConnell’s exaltation at their expectation that President Trump will effectively be President Ryan.  Puppet Trump, in other words.  They’ll serve him avalanches of legislation to sign.  And they will control the key appointments to every single federal agency and commission that they want to control.  Which is almost all of them.

Including the SEC and the NLRB, the FDA, the FTC and the FCC.  As well as the Interior Dept., which they presume now will simply hand over to the lumber and fossil fuel industries massive amounts of federal lands.

Which brings me to this: Every bit as important as informing the public of this, for Our Revolution, for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, for Democracy for America, and the reconstructed, soon-to-be-Sanders-supported DNC—and for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren themselves—to do, right now, is to begin a massive public information campaign about this that targets House members and Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2018.  In their states.  In their districts.  Including seemingly safe ones in the Rust Belt and the entire Midwest.

We have their number.  As we do Donald Trump’s.  And we have the grass-roots movement and the social-media networks to determine their latitude for installing these virulently anti-working class, pro-billionaire, pro-mega-corporate, pro-mega-powerful-industry cooptation of each of the three branches of the federal government.  Including that professed savior of the working class, Donald Trump.

I still remember looking that the map of Michigan’s counties the day after the primary last March, showing how each county voted in each of the two primaries—and being utterly stunned looking at the one for the Democratic primary.  If I recall correctly, every single county except Wayne (home to Detroit) and Genesee (Flint and surrounding area)—both counties largely African-American—voted for Sanders.  The Republican stronghold counties in the western part of the state all the way along or near Lake Michigan, went heavily for Bernie.  And, had African-Americans in Wayne and Genesee voted for Clinton roughly 3-1, as projected, instead of roughly 2-1, as they did, Bernie still would not have beaten her.

Apparently Chuck Schumer is unaware of this.  Bernie should tell him.  The old sheriff is gone, run out of town, or more accurately, the country, on Tuesday.  There’s a new sheriff in the country.  Named economic populism.

It could have been our sheriff; thanks to folks like you, it wasn’t.  But we can make due with the one who is not ours.

One side of this divide—the wealthy Republican and corporate elite, proxied by Ryan, McConnell, and the Federalist Society, or the folks responsible in such large part for bringing Trump to the dance—will control the federal government.  Puppet Trump. Puppeteers Ryan, McConnell, Wall Street and other industry lobbyists, and the Federalist Society.  On the other side, Rust Belt and Midwestern blue-collar voters.  Including labor union members.

And if it’s the former, it will last only until January 2019.  Believe me.

Better yet, believe Bernie Sanders.

 

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UPDATE:  Holyyyy macaroni.  Chuck Schumer’s gotten the message now.  It took two and a half days.  But he’s gotten it now.

See “Schumer throws his support behind Keith Ellison for DNC chairman,” posted about an hour ago on the Washington Post’s website.

Wow.

So the first big political war turned out to be a two-and-a-half-day-long skirmish.  And this is why.  The times, they are a-changin’.  Really, really quickly.  In the Democratic Party.

Updated added 11/11 at 11:19 a.m.  Just past the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  It’s Veterans’ Day, folks.  Not to equate the two events, of course.  Just to acknowledge the meaning of Veterans’ Day, which originally was called Armistice Day.

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Okay, so how many of the 53 percent of voters who say they want a Republican Congress to thwart Clinton’s policy agenda have any idea what that policy agenda IS? Just wonderin’.

But those same polls [suggesting a Clinton lead] don’t suggest doom and gloom for down-ballot Republicans just yet. And in fact, there’s real reason for GOP optimism that Trump won’t ruin their year completely. …

For one, the so-called generic ballot — i.e., whether people prefer a generic Democrat for Congress or a generic Republican — still only favors Democrats by a small margin: 3 points in both the Post-ABC poll and NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, among likely voters. That same Democratic edge on the generic ballot is actually down from 6 points in last week’s NBC-WSJ poll.

Put plainly, these generic ballots are unremarkable and don’t suggest a big Democratic wave ahead.

Part of the reason Trump’s woes might not have filtered downballot could be that a strong majority of people don’t really associate Republicans with their party’s presidential nominee. And many people also appear to dislike Clinton enough that they like the idea of a Congress that could keep her in check.

The Post-ABC poll includes a question about whether people think Trump represents the “core values” of the Republican Party, and a strong majority of likely voters say he doesn’t — 57 percent overall.

The number includes a whopping 62 percent of independents. Just 27 percent of them think Trump does represent the GOP.

And the NBC-WSJ poll might be even more encouraging for Republicans, because it suggests a path forward for them. The poll asked whether registered voters would be more likely to support a congressional Republican who would be a check and balance on Clinton and Democrats, and 53 percent said they would. Just 40 percent preferred a congressional Democrat who would help Clinton pass her agenda.

And now, some legitimately good news for Republicans, Aaron Blake, Washington Post, this morning

Of all the asinine comments by major political pundits about the presidential campaign during the last one and a half years, one that rates among the silliest is a recent claim by Paul Krugman on his Twitter feed pronouncing himself vindicated for his aggressive defense of Clinton as the only Democrat who could win the general election.

Why the claim of vindication?  Well, because no candidate other than Clinton would have had a campaign team deft enough to recognize that Trump could be baited into a meltdown during the first debate by reciting his awful treatment of 1990s-era Miss Universe Alicia Machado because she gained weight during her reign, a meltdown that spiraled for about a week afterward.  And that was what began the turning of the tide away from what appeared to be momentum for Trump and (apparently) triggered the release of the Access Hollywood Boys-on-the-Bus videotape.  See?

Because the only possible way that a Democratic nominee could defeat—at all, but especially soundly defeat—Donald J. Trump was that.  It couldn’t have happened instead based on, say, on a progressive platform pushed by Bernie Sanders in the primaries, or one that would have been advanced by Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown, one or the other who likely would be the Dem nominee had she or he run. That is, on a progressive agenda that is broadly popular among the dominant swath of the public that wants significant change, and much of it among pretty much everyone else who isn’t in the basket of deplorables.

Or, hell, even a platform chosen by Joe Biden, who currently is far more progressive than he had been at any earlier time in his career, had he been the nominee.

That, of course, presumes—surely accurately—that each of these candidates would have run, and run aggressively and constantly, on their progressive platform.  A platform that argues for significant structural change in the power of mega corporations and the very wealthy vis-à-vis everyone whose interests are not the same as those of mega corporations and the very wealthy.

I chuckle every time Krugman or some other big pre-convention Clinton backer angrily notes that Clinton is running on the most progressive party platform ever. As if Clinton has actually campaigned on this, other than to mention it in passing when the last Trump outrage falls from constant view and his poll numbers begin to rise, or hers begin to drop because of some new email-related something-or-other.

I’ve thought countless times since the convention how lucky Clinton is to have a party platform to run on that was largely forced through by Sanders.  But that has presumed that eventually she actually would begin to run on it.  No.  I mean actually campaign on it.  It’s specifics.  Godot may arrive, but he hasn’t really yet.

But if he does, it should be in the form of asking this: What part of Clinton’s agenda is it, exactly, that all those voters want a Republican Congress to halt?  And what part of the Republican Congress’s agenda do those voters want Clinton to comprise on and agree to?

Ah.  It must be re-deregulation of the finance industry that they want.  And immense cuts in taxes for Donald Trump, his heirs, mega corporations, CEOs of mega-corporations, and the insurance that Citizens United will never be overturned, and that the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts will continue to be steady-as-she-goes unapologetic proxies for mega-corporate America; Clinton’s agenda includes some very specific legislation on campaign financing, some of proposals which I did not know of until I read yesterday’s NYT editorial listing them.

Or maybe it’s the stuff about handing federal lands and environmental and energy policy to the likes of the Koch brothers.  And control of the SEC by the Mercers and the Ricketts. The Kochs don’t support Trump, but they sure as hell fund the rest of the Republican Party.  And Harold Hamm, Forrest Lucas, the Mercers and the Ricketts fund Trump—bigly—as well as the Republican Congress.

For starters.  There’s also the healthcare-insurance public option.

Every one of those proposals by Clinton is supported by a majority of the public, some by wide margins.  And every one of the Republican Congress’s proposals are opposed by a majority of the public, most by very wide margins. Yet Clinton’s campaign focuses so little on this that, according to that poll, 53 percent said they want a Republican Congress, to keep Clinton from enacting these policies, and just 40 percent preferred a congressional Democrat who would help Clinton pass her agenda.

I’ve wondered—and wondered, and wondered—for many weeks now why Clinton continues to allow the misconception to persist that Trump’s general election campaign is not funded in part by billionaires and has no ties to the finance industry.  I actually had expected her to mention at one or another of the debates that Trump is funded extensively not only by two oil-and-gas billionaires, Hamm and Lucas, but even more so, apparently, by two finance-industry-titan families: the Mercers and the Ricketts.

When she didn’t, and didn’t mention the Mercers and the Ricketts even when campaigning in Toledo, Ohio, I presumed it was because she was concerned about angering some of her Wall Street donors.  But in light of the leaks of the transcripts of her paid Wall Street speeches, I think there was something more.  I think she knew or suspected that these had been hacked, and she didn’t want to provoke their release.

So now, to borrow from Trump, she’s been unshackled. She can detail to the public the reports that the Mercers in particular, but other billionaire donors as well, including the fossil fuel ones, are directly dictating policy proposals to Trump.

And that the Heritage Foundation—the far-right policy arm of none other than Congressional Republicans, the very ones whom the public wants to write laws, rather than seeing Clinton’s administration do so—in fact has written a fiscal and regulatory policy agenda for Trump that curiously mirrors the policy agenda of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  Neither of whom is exactly popular.

In my opinion, there isn’t much in Clinton’s paid speeches—at least from the articles I’ve read about them—that are really a problem, other than that she said that Wall Street folks should help craft the laws to reign in Wall Street, since they know better than anyone else how Wall street works.  Well, not better than Warren.  And not better than some other law and business professors. And not better than former Wall Street folk who left in disgust.  But, okay; that was three years ago, in a paid speech.

What is seriously problematic, in my opinion, though, is the hacked email discussion about how to go about trying to persuade an angry, adamant Hillary Clinton that Bill Clinton should cancel his paid speech to Morgan Stanley scheduled for a few days after Hillary Clinton was scheduled to announce her candidacy.

The hero in that incident, as in several others, was campaign manager Robby Mook, who appears to be the only actual modern-era progressive in Clinton’s entire inner circle. He’s a millennial, but so are a (precious) few others.  But only Mook appears to be a circa 2016-style progressive.

Trump likes to say that if it weren’t for the conspiratorial news media, he would be beating Clinton by 15%.  But that misses, well, a few points, but this one in particular: that the news media and the Clinton campaign seem to have conspired to keep from the public the most critical fact of all.  Which is that Clinton’s progressive policy agenda is the agenda that a majority of the public wants.

And that the Republican Party’s, so much of it actually adopted by Trump, with a steroid cocktail thrown in, is precisely the opposite of what that very majority wants.

Krugman’s Times column today is largely about the striking similarities between Trump’s depiction of the current state of this country and Ryan’s warnings in a speech last week about this country’s future if Clinton wins.  But the similarities are more in style than in substance. Krugman writes:

But for what it’s worth, consider the portrait of America Mr. Ryan painted last week, in a speech to the College Republicans. For it was, in its own way, as out of touch with reality as the ranting of Donald Trump (whom Mr. Ryan never mentioned).

Now, to be fair, Mr. Ryan claimed to be describing the future — what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins — rather than the present. But Mrs. Clinton is essentially proposing a center-­left agenda, an extension of the policies President Obama was able to implement in his first two years, and it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s remarks were intended as a picture of what all such policies do.

According to him, it’s very grim. There will, he said, be “a gloom and grayness to things,” ruled by a “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy.” We will become a place “where passion — the very stuff of life itself — is extinguished.” And this is the kind of America Mrs. Clinton “will stop at nothing to have.”

So, DSCC and DCCC, why not take this ball and run with it?  Why not take that little clip and juxtapose it with parts of the Dem Party platform and pieces of Clinton’s proposals, such as those on campaign finance reform?  And follow that with a summary of, say, Ryan’s budget’s Greatest Hits?

Clinton, of course, could do this, too.  Robby Mook, can you try to persuade the candidate to start campaigning on this, now that the sexual assault and voyeurism admissions and allegations are becoming old news?

I said here after the second debate that I myself believe that Clinton is very much a changed person now in her support of genuinely progressive structural-power changes.  I still believe that.  But she already has my vote.

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President Paul Ryan

I’ve said since last winter, when it first became fairly clear that Trump likely would win the nomination, that Trump hadn’t taken over the GOP, but rather that it was the other way around: Trump is the ultimate Paul Ryan/Heritage Foundation/Koch Borthers Trojan Horse.

I was right. And it’s now, literally, official.

Meanwhile, large numbers of millennials, apparently, remain clueless that that is the situation.  And Clinton still doesn’t think it’s important to discuss anything much other than what everyone does already know about Trump.

Great.

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Oh, God. Why does Clinton refuse to run on the Democratic Party platform? And against pro-Citizens United justices?

The Clinton campaign today made a key concession about its analysis of the fundamentals of the race. This concession was made almost in passing, as an afterthought, in a statement released late last night by Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri:

“One upside to Hillary Clinton’s break from the trail was having time to sharpen the final argument she will present to voters in these closing weeks.  So when she rejoins the trail tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will deliver the second in a series of speeches laying out her aspirational vision for the country: that we are “Stronger Together.” Tomorrow’s remarks will focus on what has been at the core of who Hillary Clinton is as a person and the mission of her campaign — how we lift up our children and families and make sure that every child has the chance to live up to their God given potential.

“Our campaign readily admits that running against a candidate as controversial as Donald Trump means it is harder to be heard on what you aspire for the country’s future and it is incumbent on us to work harder to make sure voters hear that vision.”  [Boldface in original.]

Hillary Clinton’s campaign just admitted she has a real problem, Greg Sargent, yesterday morning

 

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Paul Waldman conflates two entirely different things about media coverage: media coverage of and about Trump himself and media coverage of Republican congressional policy proposals. He’s right about one of those things, but clearly wrong about the other.

[The left’s] belief that Trump’s success is primarily a media failure has a parallel in the way conservatives have always explained their own defeats. We would have won, they insist, if only the media hadn’t been against us! If only they had told the voters just how much Barack Obama hates America, or if only they had explained what a reprobate Bill Clinton is, then of course we would have won, because the truth is so irrefutable.

It’s now becoming clear that this kind of thinking is rampant on the left as well. “I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for,” Bernie Sanders said in March, “It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.” That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how Americans think and what they believe. There are plenty of critiques you can make of how Republican policies are described in the press while still granting that they have substantial support. Conservatism isn’t going to disappear once Bernie Sanders has the opportunity for a full airing of his views, any more than Donald Trump’s support will fall to nothing once he’s “exposed.”

Here’s the truth: journalists are exposing Trump every day. How do you know about what a scam Trump University was? Because journalists told you. How do you know what a liar Trump is? Because journalists explained the difference between the truth and what he says (and yes, they need to do it more often and more quickly). Want to know more about the extent of his business shenanigans? Here’s an article on how he stiffs his contractors and workers, and here’s an article on how he bled investors for millions while mismanaging his Atlantic City casinos into bankruptcy. It’s solid investigative journalism, and it’s vitally important to the public understanding who he really is.

The media isn’t going to save the country from Donald Trump. Here’s why., Paul Waldman, Washington Post, today

I like Paul Waldman.  And I certainly agree with his basic critique of the premise that the media hasn’t exposed Trump himself—his utterances—sufficiently.  That’s pretty much all cable news and many other media outlets have covered, apparently.  And he’s clearly right that journalists have exposed Trump’s business frauds and business-failures-cum-profit-makers-for-only-him.

But what does that have to do with whether or not the media has covered Republican congressional policy sufficiently—which is what Sanders was talking about?

It’s not simply a matter of the New York Times or the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal reporting on the Ryan budget or the legislation to kill Dodd-Frank or the separate legislation passed by both houses of Congress to repeal the Obama administration’s rule under Dodd-Frank making financial advisers legal fiduciaries.  In a story last week titled “Obama vetoes legislation to thwart financial adviser rule,” the Associated Press summed it all up:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has vetoed legislation designed to nullify Obama administration rules that will require financial professionals to put their client’s best interest first when giving advice on retirement investments.

Obama says that some firms have steered clients into products that had higher fees and lower returns, which he says costs families about $17 billion a year.

Republicans say the regulations will make it more expensive for smaller businesses to provide retirement savings plans to their employees, resulting in less advice and fewer choices for many consumers.

Under the “fiduciary rule,” advisers who charge commissions will be required to sign a promise to act in the client’s best interest and disclose information about fees and conflicts of interest.

The rule will take effect next April.

Paul Krugman writes today that Paul Ryan includes repealing that rule in his “anti-poverty plan.” Lewis Carroll ghostwrites for Ryan, something I already knew but most people don’t.

I regularly read the New York Times, the Washington Post, and blogs that cover this type of thing, so I knew of the legislation to repeal the fiduciary rule.  But even I didn’t know that the legislation had actually been passed and had reached Obama’s desk.

What percentage of voters knows any of this, do you think?  Was it covered on the cable stations?  Was it on the front pages of any newspapers?  What about the nightly network news shows that are watched mainly these days by seniors?

For that matter, did our presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president mention it?  Not that I know of.  Then again, she became the presumptive nominee early last week and that made her the first WOMAN presumptive major party nominee.  And Donald Trump doubled down on his the-judge-is-biased-because-he’s-of-Mexican-descent tack.  And had Clinton not mentioned these things again and again last week, the public never would have known.

Unless, of course, the news organizations hadn’t saturated print, internet, network and cable media with them.  Which they did.

Mr. Waldman, most voters don’t know what’s in the Ryan budget.  And most don’t know that financial advisers aren’t legal fiduciaries and that their business model is conflict of interest.  Much less do they know that the Obama administration has used its authority under a financial-industry regulation statute passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Obama to end that, beginning shortly after either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is sworn in as president.

And it’s a safe bet that few people know that the repeal of that new rule is part of Paul Ryan’s poverty, I mean anti-poverty, legislative proposal.  And they don’t know what’s in Ryan’s budget plan, and they don’t know that Donald Trump’s budget plan posted since last October on his campaign’s website is the Ryan plan on steroids, and they don’t know that the Heritage Foundation folks wrote it, and they don’t know what the Heritage Foundation is, and they don’t know that Ryan says Trump has assured him that Trump will be Ryan’s puppet.  And the Heritage Foundation’s.  Which is redundant, I know.  But they don’t.

Waldman is right that conservatism isn’t going to disappear once Bernie Sanders has the opportunity for a full airing of his views, any more than Donald Trump’s support will fall to nothing once he’s “exposed.”  But Sanders is right that conservatism will disappear if the public finally learns what it actually is.  Instead, mainly they’re learning how many times Trump’s latest racial or ethnic or religious or gender slur can be mentioned in a given time period.  And they’ve probably stopped counting.

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How likely is it that Donald Trump, if elected, would serve more than a few months of his term? How likely is it that he will even continue as the nominee much beyond the convention?

My opinion is that Trump is suffering from what I call “Attention-Seeking Deficit Disorder.” He doesn’t want to serve. He doesn’t want to be president; he wants the attention that accompanies the campaign. And now, I think he’s rather afraid that he might win. [Laughs] I don’t think he knows what he’s going to do as president.

— Lloyd Wright, the Democratic National Committee’s media coordinator during the 1964 race.

That quote appears in an interesting interview published on last weekend’s Politico Magazine, with the title “LBJ’s Ad Men: Here’s How Clinton Can Beat Trump–We talked to two of the geniuses behind the greatest ad campaign in political history. Here’s what they’d do in 2016.”  The interview is by Robert Mann, author of the book Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics.  (The other participant is Sid Myers, former art director at the campaign’s advertising firm.)

Earlier this week Trump was quoted as suggesting that he isn’t having very much fun anymore.  I think this occurred the day after the judge in the Trump U. case ordered the public release of deposition transcripts and other documents from the litigation’s discovery process—information that, at least in my opinion, will be a death blow to his candidacy.

But also within the last two or three days, as Trump has spiraled into undeniable madness, I’ve seen articles such as one today by NYT Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak titled “Donald Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say.”  That article begins:

WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump’s blustery attacks on the press, complaints about the judicial system and bold claims of presidential power collectively sketch out a constitutional worldview that shows contempt for the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the rule of law, legal experts across the political spectrum say.

Even as much of the Republican political establishment lines up behind its presumptive nominee, many conservative and libertarian legal scholars warn that electing Mr. Trump is a recipe for a constitutional crisis.

All of the quotes in the article are from libertarian-right law professors.  But clearly, the expectation of blatantly unconstitutional conduct by Trump is hardly limited to that crowd.

Another article I read in the last day or two recounts the many statements Trump has made in the last few months that make clear that he doesn’t know even the basic contours of what each of the three branches of the federal government is charged under the Constitution with doing, and appears not to know that there is a separate of powers among the three branches under the Constitution.

Then there are those private conversations that Paul Ryan mentioned yesterday between him and Trump, which culminated in Ryan’s endorsement of Trump upon the stated ground that Trump would become Ryan’s puppet.  Trump, Ryan said, will support Ryan’s fiscal agenda. And regulatory agenda.  And Legal Movement agenda.  Which is what most large Republican donors care about.  Trump’s made it clear that the federal judiciary will be a branch of Koch Industries.  And that almost certainly is a promise he would keep.

Directly or via succession.  His own.

He’s assured Ryan that the Kochs, the securities and banking industry donors, and the pharmaceutical industry donors will control their respective industry’s administrative agencies, beyond anything that existed even in the Reagan and Bush II administrations. He’s done so publicly about the EPA.  And undoubtedly privately regarding the others.

Ryan doesn’t trust Trump to keep his promises.  But I think he needn’t worry, not because Trump himself actually understands what a promise is—he doesn’t—but because it will be Ryan and the Kochs who choose the vice presidential nominee.  The person who quickly will become the actual or de facto presidential nominee or, if the ticket wins, president within a few months.

I think Democrats need to consider the possibility of this scenario, and start seriously educating the public about the Ryan fiscal and deregulatory juggernaut in store for the country if the Republican ticket wins. And they should recognize that the real ballgame here may be the VP candidate.

If Trump remains the nominee and is elected, how long will he remain in office?

****

I’m not sure whether this is a serious post or not.

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President Chauncey Gardiner: ‘Being There’ at the Bait-and-Switch [Updated]

But one of Trump’s campaign advisers suggested Wednesday that Trump might indeed change Social Security and Medicare — but only after he has been in office for a while. “After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Sam Clovis said during a public forum, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Has Donald Trump stolen Paul Ryan’s party out from under him?, David Fahrenthold, Washington Post, today

As the above quote illustrates, Donald Trump hasn’t stolen Paul Ryan’s party out from under him.  Fahrenthold didn’t write the headline; he just wrote the article, and the headline writer missed its point, reversing the puppet and the puppeteer.

Unlike Chance, Trump knows he’s being coopted by the Republican establishment and that he is perpetrating a coup-like bait-and-switch on a sizable swath of his primary voters.  The most dangerous thing about Trump isn’t even the breadth of his ignorance but instead the casualness with which he has decided to simply front the Club for Growth agenda.

But he does have this in common with President Chauncey Gardiner: the sheer depth of his dumbness.  And therefore the completeness of his manipulability.  He’s switched entertainment genres, from reality TV to puppet theater.

____

UPDATE: Last weekend after reading an article or two about Trump’s statement to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he would like to see the minimum wage increased but wanted it left up to the states, I recognized that Trump was parroting the leave-the-minimum-wage-up-to-the-states standard Republican line, which one of his campaign officials had fed him.  I assumed that he knew this was the standard Conservative Movement invocation of “federalism”—a.k.a., states’ rights!—in the service of the Chamber of Commerce/Club for Growth anti-regulatory agenda.  These folks, after all, don’t put Republican state legislators and governors into their elected positions for the fun of it.

But I was wrong.  The articles I read didn’t quote enough of Trump’s answer.

I just finished reading a post by Paul Waldman on the Washington Post’s Plum Line titled “Trump is waging an assault on the entire structure of our democracy. Now what?”, in which Waldman uses as an illustration Trump’s statements about the minimum wage last fall and his several statements about it within the last four days.   Waldman writes:

Speaking [to reporters after his meeting with Trump today, Paul] Ryan said, “It was important that we discussed our differences that we have, but it was also important that we discuss the core principles that tie us together,” and that “Going forward we’re going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds to make sure we have a better understanding of one another.”

This is a fool’s errand, not just for Ryan but for us in the media as well. And it poses a profound challenge to democracy itself.

Just in the last couple of days, something has changed. Perhaps it should have been evident to us before, but for whatever reason it was only partially clear. The pieces were there, but they didn’t fit together to show us how comprehensive Trump’s assault on the fundamentals of American politics truly is….

The foundation of democratic debate is policy, issues, the choices we make about what we as a nation should do. That’s what the government we create does on our behalf: it confronts problems, decides between alternatives, and pursues them. That’s also the foundation of how we in the press report on politics. Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about the personalities involved, but underneath that are competing ideas about what should be done. Should we raise taxes or lower them? Spend more or spend less? Make abortions easier or harder to get? Give more people health coverage or fewer? How do we combat ISIS? How should we address climate change? How can we improve the economy? How can we reduce crime? What sort of transportation system do we want? Which areas should government involve itself in, and which should it stay out of?

We all presume that these questions (and a thousand more) are important, and that the people who run for office should take them seriously. We assume they’ll tell us where they stand, we’ll decide what we think of what they’ve said, and eventually we’ll be able to make an informed choice about who should be the leader of our country.

Donald Trump has taken these presumptions and torn them to pieces, then spat on them and laughed. And so far we seem to have no idea what to do about it.

Let me briefly give an illustration. On the question of the minimum wage, Trump has previously said he would not raise it. Then Sunday he said he did want to raise it. Then in a separate interview on the very same day he said there should be no federal minimum wage at all, that instead we should “Let the states decide.” Then yesterday he said he does want to increase the federal minimum wage.

I clicked on one of the links, which was to the transcript of the Meet the Press interview.  Here’s the full exchange between Todd and Trump on the minimum wage:

CHUCK TODD:

Minimum wage. Minimum wage. At a debate, you know. You remember what you said. You thought you didn’t want to touch it. Now you’re open to it. What changed?

DONALD TRUMP:

Let me just tell you, I’ve been traveling the country for many months. Since June 16th. I’m all over. Today I’m in the state of Washington, where the arena right behind me, you probably hear, is packed with thousands and thousands of people. I’m doing that right after I finish you.

I have seen what’s going on. And I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour. Now, with that being said, I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide. Because don’t forget, the states have to compete with each other. So you may have a governor —

CHUCK TODD:

Right. You want the fed– but should the federal government set a floor, and then you let the states–

DONALD TRUMP:

No, I’d rather have the states go out and do what they have to do. And the states compete with each other, not only other countries, but they compete with each other, Chuck. So I like the idea of let the states decide. But I think people should get more. I think they’re out there. They’re working. It is a very low number. You know, with what’s happened to the economy, with what’s happened to the cost. I mean, it’s just– I don’t know how you live on $7.25 an hour. But I would say let the states decide.

Trump wants to leave minimum-wage legislation entirely up to the states so that the states could compete with each other on how low the wages of their fast-food workers, Walmart employees, hospitality industry workers and home-healthcare aides can go, folks.  This would be his aim as president.  Because he thinks these workers should get more because they can’t live on $7.25 an hour.  And because less is more.  And more is less.  More or less.

What’s happening here is that Trump hears terms, phrases, lines, clichés that people who talk about policy use, and since he doesn’t understand anything, he just says a memorized policy bottom line—the minimum wage should be left to the states, for example—fed to him from the Republican policy playbook.  And then, when asked to elaborate, he starts spewing terms, phrases, lines, clichés that he’s heard people who talk about policy use.  And—voila!—we have … non sequiturs.

Popcorn, anyone?

Update added 5/12 at 6:58 p.m.

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