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

Garbo—er, Clinton—talks! (Here’s what she should say.)

“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.

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I’m with Brian Fallon

Campaigns are complicated things. No one gets every piece of them right. Some candidates are great at big rallies. Some are good only at small events. Some are terrific TV communicators but bad on the stump. Some delegate well, and others don’t. Some never waver from a message, while others can’t seem to find one with a 10-foot pole. It’s a high-wire balancing act every day with tens of millions of people watching.

Trump is making a real mess of his campaign, Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, Jul.10

Okay, I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that 10-foot poll line two weeks ago, which is why I remembered it today.  It was no mystery which two candidates Cillizza had in mind in drawing that contrast in that sentence.

Throughout Clinton’s campaign pundits and ordinary voters alike have wondered what exactly her justification is for running for president.  But I am not among them.  Her justification, from its outset, has been that she’s a woman and that this particular glass ceiling must be broken, now, and by her.  That was, and remains, it.

Thus her cringe-inducing statement at that debate last winter that she doesn’t understand why people think she’s a member of the establishment.  After all, she’s running to become the first woman president.

And thus the focus of her speech on the night of the California primary, which it turns out troubled a number of her advisors as much as it did me.  Which is, a lot.

Amy Chozick has an article in this morning’s NYT titled “Hillary Clinton’s Team Seeks a Balance: Celebrating Women Without Alienating Men” that begins:

PHILADELPHIA — When Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination last month, her campaign put together a video that framed Mrs. Clinton’s victory as a giant leap in the women’s movement. Scenes of suffragists, Gloria Steinem and little girls in their mother’s arms flashed on the screen.

The footage brought some of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers to tears, but others asked a practical, and delicate, question: What might men be thinking?

Good question. But I’ll amend it: What were women, as well as men, thinking?  The ones who think this election is really, or at least mostly, about the economic and political-power issues that Bernie Sanders has built his campaign around.  That Elizabeth Warren (no less a female than is Clinton) has built her public career around.  That Donald Trump has so fraudulently coopted, these days interspersing his claim to fight the economically and politically powerful on behalf of working class whites with his actual fiscal and regulatory policies written—literally—at the Heritage Foundation.**

Trump is now openly seeking donations on behalf of a superPAC operated by and for some of the most fiscal and regulatory regressive billionaires and multimillionaires in the world.  

Yet he’s apparently winning among white working class men who aren’t all that enthused about Building a Wall, Barring Muslims From Entering This Country, and, now—again, literally; unabashedly—turning this country into a fascist state because five police officers in Dallas were murdered by a mentally disturbed man after he lured them with a 911 phone call.

Yet the Clinton campaign, according to Chozick’s detailed article, now debating “how much her nomination this week should be focused on women.”  Chozick writes:

Some advisers believe that overemphasizing Mrs. Clinton’s historic achievement as the first woman to accept a major party’s nomination could backfire, driving away men who favor her Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, and alienating younger women who are less motivated by gender. The result is what Democrats describe as a cautious mix, attaching the women’s movement to issues like the economy and health care. …

“This has been a long, drawn­-out debate,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic strategist who worked for Mrs. Clinton in 2008 and has been involved in discussions with her 2016 campaign about women’s outreach.

The debate inside the campaign about the focus on women during the convention was described by a person involved in the planning who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The discussions date to the start of the campaign, when some advisers suggested she choose Seneca Falls, N.Y., the birthplace of the modern women’s movement, to hold her kickoff rally.

Others questioned whether she should visit the town at all. In the end, she started her campaign in New York City, and in April, her daughter organized a “Women for Hillary” event in Seneca Falls in her mother’s place.

A campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, did not respond to questions on Sunday about the internal discussions, other than to say, “It will not be lost on anyone that she is a woman.”

So here’s something Clinton should understand: Every time she suggests that the purpose of her campaign is to make history as the first woman to become president she also suggests that she truly doesn’t get this election—that she doesn’t understand the economic populism of this moment.  That is true even though some of the traditional women’s policy issues she will talk about also are very much economic ones.

Brian Fallon is not, I’ll just say, a favorite among Clinton spokespeople, and I know that other fervent Sandinistas shared that sentiment over the last year.  But I think I can speak for all Sandinistas—Sanders Bros and Sanders Sisses alike—in supporting his advice to the candidate: “It will not be lost on anyone that she is a woman.”

And if she really thinks we’re stronger together she should let that speak for itself.  It will not be lost on anyone that she is a woman.

A huge problem for Clinton and her campaign has been that its unremitting focus on things everyone already knows, and its failure to educate the public about things most or at least many people don’t know about Trump’s actions.  Their specifics.  His very modus operandi.  And, for heaven’s sake, his fiscal and regulatory policy proposals.

Also from the Chozick article:*

She drives me crazy with this woman thing,” Misty Leach, 43, a high school teacher who voted for Senator Bernie Sanders in the primary, said of Mrs. Clinton. “‘I’m going to be the first woman president’ to me just feels like she’s entitled.

To me it just feels like she wants to be sure no one misses that she thinks this is what is most on most people’s minds.  Excuse me, on most women’s minds.

Clinton should think back to her husband’s War Room’s famous mantra: It’s the economy, stupid.  This time the campaign’s internal mantra should be: It’s the economic and political power, stupid.

I think Trump made a serious mistake last week in “pivoting” from a (faux) anti-establishment-economic-and-political-power theme to a (bizarre) law-and-order one, which I found bizarre. (I didn’t watch any of that convention, but have more than enough about what transpired.)  In Clinton’s case, the opposite is necessary: She needs to pivot away from her campaign’s raison d’être, and toward the raison that matters.

*The quote and comment about it that follow were added on 7/26 at 1:44 p.m.

**Paragraph rewritten to make sense, 7/26 at 8:10 p.m.

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Clinton Campaign Spokesman Brian Fallon Says Healthcare Insurance Premiums Aren’t Paid by Families and Employers, Because They’re Paid to Private For-Profit Insurers. Seriously.

“Bernie Sanders has called for a roughly 9-percent tax hike on middle-class families just to cover his health-care plan,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, referring to legislation Sanders introduced in 2013, “and simple math dictates he’ll need to tax workers even more to pay for the rest of his at least $18-20 trillion agenda. If you are truly concerned about raising incomes for middle-class families, the last thing you should do is cut their take-home pay right off the bat by raising their taxes.”

Clinton hits Sanders on middle class tax hikes, Annie Karni, Politico, yesterday

No, actually, that’s the third-last thing you should do.  The very last thing you should do is fail to recognize that money is fungible.  And the second-last thing you should do is ignore simple math.

As in: If you and your employer are no longer paying exorbitant premiums to Anthem Blue Cross, and are instead paying significantly less for your healthcare insurance in the form of a tax, you’ll end up with more, y’know, income.  Especially if your employer uses the savings to increase your salary or wages.

Last weekend, the big read-my-lips-no-new-taxes-on-the-middle-class Clinton line was about the horror of Sanders’s plan to pay for guaranteed family-and-medical leave was through a payroll tax.  But then Sanders pointed out that this would be a tax of (I think he said) $1.35 a week.  Which, to many Democrats, sounds like a good deal.

So it was on to Plan B for the Clinton folks.  Then again, Clinton really does seem to be a fan of Anthem Blue Cross, United Health Care, Humana, et al.  And math is not her forte.

Yesterday, in a response to a comment to this post of mine, I wrote:

And, yes, I wish she would talk less like a Madison Avenue copywriter and more like some semblance of someone who can speak in normal and logical statements.

Either she’s trained her spokesman well or he’s trained her well.  In any event, it’s a hallmark of the Clinton campaign.

But I doubt that misrepresenting to the public that Sanders’ single-payer healthcare tax would be in addition to premiums paid to private insurance companies is a very viable campaign tactic. Clinton is running a Republican-style campaign but she is not running for the Republican nomination.  And this is, after all, 2015.

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