“Generally, I’m concerned, frankly,” said former Democratic Senate leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). “It still looks positive, and I think if you look at the swing states and where she is right now, she’s got a lead. But it’s certainly not in the bag. We have two months to go, and I think it’s going to be a competitive race all the way through. I would say she’s got at least a 60 percent chance of winning.”
At the same time, Daschle said, “all the things that Trump has done, the numbers should be far more explicitly in her favor, but they’re not.”
Among Democrats’ concerns is the fact that Clinton spent a great deal of time over the summer raising millions of dollars in private fundraisers while Trump was devoting much of his schedule to rallies, speeches and TV appearances — although many of those didn’t go as well as his campaign may have hoped.
Clinton has focused more heavily on fundraising than Democratic strategists had hoped would be necessary at this stage, partly to help Democrats running for Congress and state offices who would be useful to Clinton if she is president and partly to hold off further erosion in the polls.
One new goal for Clinton now, aides said, is to spend more time trying to connect directly with voters by sharing a more personal side of herself — and by telling them where she wants to take the country.
— Democrats wonder and worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?, Anne Gearan, Jenna Johnson and John Wagner, Washington Post, today
Back in the late 1920s, after The Jazz Singer, the first Talkie, proved a hit and foretold the rapid end to the silent-movie era and therefore to the careers of any of the stars of that era who could not make the adjustment, the newspapers would cover the transition by writing about various silent-screen stars’ first Talkie. A famous headline in some tabloid—probably a Hearst paper—shouted: Garbo Talks!
But Garbo also became known for a line of her own, made to a Hollywood reporter: “I vahnt to be uhloohn.”
To be confused with, “I want to be with my close circle of longtime minions and my very wealthy friends and acquaintances.”
I thought of Garbo last week when I read that Hillary Clinton was stepping out after her six-week mostly-hiatus from speaking to the hoi-polloi and her months-and-months-long failure to speak to reporters except once-in-a-while to one or another chosen one.
The latter which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing had she actually said anything to those chosen reporters, rather than simply tried to seem appealing. And I don’t mean just to talk about her own policy proposals.
I mean, at least as much, to talk about the several really, really important things some mainstream journalists had uncovered about Trump—such as his extortion payment to Florida AG Pam Bondi; his silencing of the plaintiffs who had sued him in the 2000s for what clearly constituted not just civil fraud but also criminal fraud in a Soho condo project, by settling the lawsuit for enough money to cause them to sign a silencing agreement which—for some mysterious reason—also had the effect of killing a criminal investigation because, um, the plaintiffs stopped cooperating in the criminal investigation.
Prosecutors and law enforcement agencies such as the F.B.I. have subpoena powers that trump such silencing agreements. But, y’know … whatever.
For two days earlier this week, it looked like the Pam-Bondi-extorts-money-from-Donald-Trump-to-drop-her-office’s-investigation-into-Trump University’s-defrauding-of-Floridians story finally had broken through.
The occasion was the revelation uncovered by the awesome Washington Post investigative reporter David Fahrenthold and reported in the Post on Sept. 1, that:
Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump’s company said, after it was revealed that Trump’s charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida’s attorney general.
The improper donation, a $25,000 gift from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, was made in 2013. At the time, Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case.
Earlier this year, The Washington Post and a liberal watchdog group raised new questions about the three-year-old gift. The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint with the IRS — noting that, as a registered nonprofit, the Trump Foundation was not allowed to make political donations.
The Post reported another error, which had the effect of obscuring the political gift from the IRS.
In that year’s tax filings, The Post reported, the Trump Foundation did not notify the IRS of this political donation. Instead, Trump’s foundation listed a donation — also for $25,000 — to a Kansas charity with a name similar to that of Bondi’s political group. In fact, Trump’s foundation had not given the Kansas group any money.
The prohibited gift was, in effect, replaced with an innocent-sounding but nonexistent donation.
On Wednesday morning, Fahrenthold and Post politics reporter Rosalind S. Helderman reported, in a piece titled “Trump bragged that his money bought off politicians. Just not this time.”:
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon has tweeted about the tax penalty 28 times since The Post reported it on Sept. 1, often exhorting other media outlets to cover the donation. Clinton told reporters Monday that there are “so many things that are questionable” about the Trump donation to Bondi, while her husband, former president Bill Clinton, sought Wednesday to draw a distinction between the Clinton and Trump foundations.
Fallon also should have exhorted his boss to deign to do this. Paul Krugman and other progressive political commenters and political-journalism critics have castigated the news media, some of them repeatedly, as they watched, aghast, as this phenomenon failed to ebb. But really, could the mainstream news media have continued that apace had Clinton herself been out there talking about these things–in specifics? This isn’t 2000, when social media consisted of emails, a lot of people did not have internet access and most who did had dial-up, and there was no such thing as blogs in the sense that there is now.
So, no. the answer is: Probably, no. Fallon’s wish is answered, to some extent. But only, I think, because one of the stories out of the Lauer mishap was that Trump didn’t ask about the I.R.S.’s $2,500 fine against Trump’s foundation for donating to political campaign.
Folks, the Bondi/Trump extortion/bribe was reported all the way back in early June, and was picked up by several major news organizations. On June 14, I wrote here at AB:
I recalled reading a news report late last week that I had expected to gain significant traction. Titled “Florida AG sought donation before nixing Trump University fraud case,” by CNN’s Tom LoBianco, Drew Griffin and Scott Zamost, it is stunning even by current standards: The Florida AG, Pam Bondi, announced in 2014 that she was considering having Florida join litigation by several states alleging fraud by Trump U. There had been many complaints to Bondi’s office by former victims. A few days later, Bondi, who was running for reelection, solicited a $25,000 campaign donation from Trump, who obliged. A few days after the check was received, Bondi announced her decision against having Florida join he lawsuit, claiming insufficient evidence.
My first thought was that Trump wouldn’t be calling Clinton “Crooked Hillary” much longer. My second thought was that Trump will be indicted after a plea deal with Bondi.
The article was posted at 9:31 p.m. on Friday. Perfect timing for Sunday’s papers. Then there was the Orlando horror, barely more than 24 hours later. And Trump’s appalling reaction, on Sunday and throughout the day yesterday, and I guess into today.
And mainstream Republicans’ reactions to Trump’s, which Greg Sargent recounts.
Yes, folks. I wrote about those news reports on June 14. Three months ago. Sure the Orlando horror took precedence over pretty much everything else for the news media and also for the Clinton campaign. For two or three weeks. So did the police shootings and subsequent protests in St. Paul and Baton Rouge, and the shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
But those stories faded many weeks ago, in favor of … Clinton’s emails showing trivial or meaningless requests by Clinton Foundation donors to State Dept. aides close to Clinton when she was Secretary of State. One concerning a Middle Eastern prince or something who was a longtime friend of the Clintons’ … and who, because he is a powerful government official in his country met with Clinton’s predecessors and also with her successor. Another who wanted a diplomatic passport rather than a garden-variety one when he traveled with Bill Clinton to North Korea to try to negotiate the release of two kidnapped journalists there. (Maybe the guy thought a diplomatic passport would help protect him from being detained as a spy, or something?) He didn’t get the passport.
But until it was reported last week that Trump’s donation to the Bondi PAC, which actually had come from the Trump Foundation and therefore violated tax laws, prompted the I.R.S. to level a $2,500 fine against the foundation—and which the foundation had disguised by finding an unrelated Kansas political PAC with a somewhat similar name and listing it as the donation recipient—that the donation became a hot political story. For the 36 hours or so until the Matt Lauer’s effort at serious-journalist became the story.
As it should have. But the Bondi/Trump extortion/bribe thing was part of the Lauer-debacle story—because Lauer hadn’t asked Trump about it. And because that morning Huntington Post had reported on two a large fundraiser that Trump held for Bondi shortly after Bondi’s office announced that it was dropping its investigation of Trump University and Trump Institute, which also scammed a number of Floridians, and two $500 donations to Bondi’s campaign, by Trump and by his daughter Ivanka.
Bondi campaigned with Trump last week in Florida. Apparently she supports consumer scams—which could cause her an ongoing conflict of interest in her current public office.
On Thursday morning, the morning after the evening before, Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyann Conway responded to a question from a morning-show interviewer about the Bondi matter with claim unsupported by any evidence that Clinton as Secretary of State tacitly used her position to provide favors and access and make policy determinations in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Only a day or two before that, the NYT had reported that Trump is soliciting multimillion-dollar donations to super PACs whose sole purpose is to fund his candidacy, by explicitly soliciting policy advice from a handful of billionaire donors who support him—particularly hedge-fund guru Rebekah Mercer and her long-established hedge-fund guru father Robert Mercer. Both are longtime funders of extreme economic-rightwing think tanks and the like.
No one—and I do mean no one—in any swing state knows this. Or has ever heard of the Mercers. Or that Trump has super PACS.
So I’m delighted to read this morning that Clinton plans to stop making this campaign about Trump and try to make it about her. The reasons for her outward coldness (i.e., vy she vahnts to be uhloohn with her close longtime friends and supportive extremely wealthy grandmothers and grandfathers, or whatever), which apparently has to do with the fact that in the mid-1970s she was harassed by fellow LSAT takers because she wanted to take the place of one of them in a first-year law school class. And also the nature of her economic and fiscal and regulatory policy proposals are—most of which will be dead on arrival unless the Senate goes Dem and the House also does or nearly does.
Although I guess doesn’t wanna mention that las thing because of all those moderate Republicans who already had decided to vote for her or to sit out the election because of the awfulness of Trump, even before Clinton spent the last six weeks reminding them of how dangerous Trump would be.
So here’s the deal: Union workers (past or present) and other blue-collar workers in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa could actually grasp the concept of the-Mercers-as-Trump-puppeteer, and what exactly that would mean—including but by no means limited to Supreme Court and lower-federal-bench appointees; NLRB appointees; Dodd-Frank-agency appointees; consumer-fraud-agency appointees (including, say, credit-card, bank-fee, mortgage-term-disclosure agency appointees; FEC appointees; FTC appointees; FCC appointees; SEC appointees; FDA appointees; EPA appointees.
David Bossie, Trump’s deputy campaign manager founded Citizens United and is on leave there to join the Trump campaign. Both Bossie and Conway were recommended to Trump by the Mercers. So was Steve Bannon, late of Breitbart.
Hillary Clinton will appoint Supreme Court justices whom she would anticipate would vote to overturn the Citizens United opinion and this opinion when new campaign-finance-reform laws, state and federal are enacted and then challenged by, well, Citizens United. Or its ilk. Trump has promised to appoint justices who enshrine that opinion and then some. No one—and again, I mean no one—knows about this.
Including in, say, Florida. And Ohio. And Michigan. And Wisconsin. And Iowa. And Nevada.
Clinton could tell these voters about all this, even while also telling them about her policy proposals. As a voter in one of those states, I can attest that we can follow dual threads by a presidential nominee. We get that some presidential nominees can walk backward and chew gum, at the very same time.
So Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon has tweeted about the tax penalty 28 times since The Post reported it on Sept. 1, often exhorting other media outlets to cover the donation. Clinton told reporters Monday that there are “so many things that are questionable” about the Trump donation to Bondi, while her husband, former president Bill Clinton, sought Wednesday to draw a distinction between the Clinton and Trump foundations. Where had he been since mid-June? Did he think the bribe would have been fine had Trump himself rather than his foundation made the donation, and so only when the I.R.S. fined the foundation for violating nonprofit-organization tax laws did it become something that the public should be apprised of. Really, truly and actually apprised of? Even members of the public who don’t read the mainstream press that back in mid-June reported on it?
Far more to the point, though—far, far, far more to the point, though—once it became clear to all the world that the only one other than Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who was ever going to gain actual widespread attention in educating the public about Trump and that Trump himself wasn’t educating the public about about himself, is Hillary Clinton.
The actual candidate. Herself.
Why hasn’t she herself been loudly publicizing these things. In specifics, not as part of a generic laundry list intended to refresh the public’s mind about things the public does not know.
Kelllyanne Conway is the perfect spokesperson for Trump. She, like her erstwhile boss (it’s the other way around, it seems to me, but, whatever), is a habitual liar. In that same or another interview on some TV news-show interview on Thursday Conway was asked to point to tangible evidence to support Trump’s claim that he was strongly against the March 2003 Iraq invasion sometime before June 2004 and even, maybe, before the invasion occurred. Faced with a fall 2002 quote in which Trump told Howard Stern or some such radio talk-show host that he guessed he supported the invasion—and with the total lack of evidence that he was against it until it became clear sometime after the Mission was Accomplished that it was a debacle—Conway analogized Trump’s public lack of opposition to the war with what she said was Obama’s.
Everyone in 2008 just believed Obama when he said he had strongly opposed the war before the war. Mainstream news media folks noted within the following day that the public believed Obama because he famously had made a notable speech in 2002 saying so—a speech that helped him win his Senate seat in 2004.
But unless Sanders, Warren or Clinton herself points this out in a very public oral statement, it won’t matter. Even though the very reason it matters is that implicates the critical issue of Trump’s honesty—and now, the honesty of Conway. And the even more critical issue that Trump told Lauer and the nation Thursday night that he said in a magazine interview in mid-2014 that he was strongly opposed to the war because the war had not yet begun and the possibility of invasion was still a topic of intense debate.
So on the off-chance that Clinton’s decision to stop talking about Trump and talk only about herself and her policy proposals, she should use some of that fundraising haul from August to flood the airwaves with commercials that show these things:
One showing Trump’s clip from Thursday night invoking that 2014 magazine article as proof of his pre-invasion opposition to it, followed by a veteran severely wounded in Iraq in 2013 saying that Trump apparently doesn’t recognize his sacrifice since it occurred before Trump is telling the public that the war began.
Another, also featuring a clip from Thursday night, this one showing a rare instance in which Lauer really did do something important. It would be the clip of Trump talking about his secret plan to end the Vietnam War—er, to defeat ISIS—in which he says that he doesn’t actually have one. And just let that video moment speak for itself. With Clinton saying at the end of the message, only “I’m Hillary Clinton, and I approved this message.”
I should explain here I’m recommending these because I doubt that most voters know of them. I myself did not watch the event, but I read a transcript of the secret-plan exchange between Trump and Lauer (it’s priceless; really) and read a lot about Lauer’s failure to query Trump about his false, reiterated I-was-against-the-Iraq-war-before-I-was-against-the-Iraq War claim. But I read about these things in the mainstream news media. And we all know by now that if it doesn’t go viral on Facebook or Twitter it doesn’t matter that these things happened.
And finally this: She should have a series of ads describing the Bondi bribes, and the story newly reported by Yahoo News investigative reporter Michael Isikoff about Trump’s foundation’s $100,000 donation to Citizens United when the latter nonprofit—run by Bossie—was trying to under New York AG Eric Schneiderman, whose office was suing Trump University on behalf of some of its victims.
These ads should feature a few of the victims who had filed complaints with Schneiderman’s office and a few who had done so with Bondi’s office—illustrating not just Trump’s use of his money to kill off public disclosure of his business practices, but also to show that unlike, say, tax evasion, there were very immediate victims whose efforts to enlist the assistance of public law enforcement officials Trump killed or tried to kill using his money as a steamroller.
Just like in Russia!
An ad also should detail his buyoff of the 1990s Soho condo plaintiffs that managed also to stop a criminal fraud investigation in its tracks. Also just like Russia.
But first and foremost there need to be ads informing the public about Trump’s puppet-masters: the Mercers.
I received an email solicitation this morning from a Dem fundraising organization, using as an inducement aa subject line that Trump had just pulled ahead in a new poll. I just shook my head in dismay at the realization that Clinton and the Party now must aggressively seek donations to offset the significant loss of support as against Trump during the five weeks or so that Clinton, rather than campaigning before groups of voters and even speaking to friendly journalists to highlight these stories about Trump, instead spent on vacation and … fundraising.
Clinton’s mistake wasn’t mainly in focusing the campaign exclusively on Trump. It was in focusing the campaign exclusively on the specific things she thought moderate Republicans would care about—all of them things that moderate Republicans and everyone else already knew. It appears that it still hasn’t occurred to her that this was her mistake. This is not good.
Hillary Clinton should talk. About her policy proposals, yes. But also about Trump’s Mercer-directed policy agenda.
As well as about his serial buy-offs to keep himself from the consequences of civil and criminal law. A Law and Order campaign? Go for it, Hillary Clinton!
You can do this. Really. You can talk.