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

I doubt that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.

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

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?, Me, Angry Bear, Jun. 3

That sentence is how I ended that post.  A few days later I read, on Politico, I think, that conservative Republican donors (yes, that’s redundant, but that’s what the article said) are trying to persuade the RNC to pass an emergency rule change at the opening of the convention to release the delegates from their primary commitment on the first ballot.  (The article said this group was leaning toward favoring Scott Walker as the nominee, to which I said to myself, “Please do.  That’ll put the Rust Belt states in your corner!”)

But last night, after I posted this post arguing that the Dems and progressive pundits should not conflate media coverage of and about Trump himself, which obviously is extensive, and media coverage of Republican congressional policy proposals, which is almost nonexistent and which Ryan says Trump has assured him that he will help implement, I read this piece by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank.  It’s titled “Trump exploits Orlando’s tragedy to smear Muslims and Obama.” Posted at 6:35 p.m. it ran through all of Trump’s many statements yesterday, and one by Trump surrogate Roger Stone.

As I read that, I realized that Trump likely won’t be the nominee.

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.

Politico’s Jake Sherman reports today that Trump will meet with House Republicans on July 7:

“Since Mr. Trump became the presumptive nominee, members have asked for us to organize an opportunity for our conference to spend time with him before the convention,” an aide to McMorris Rodgers said. “The chairwoman announced to members at the morning’s conference that on July 7th they will have the chance to meet with Mr. Trump; share their policy priorities, learn about his plans to unite the party; and get details about his plans to move America forward. This was the first date that worked with everyone’s schedules for a special conference. Details of exact time and location will be forthcoming.”

I’m interested in what they tell Trump are their policy priorities.  And what happens 11 days later, when their convention begins.

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UPDATE: Greg Sargent writes:

After President Obama ripped Donald Trump today for betraying American values and further endangering the country with his ban on Muslims and all around hatemongering, Trump responded in a brief statement to the Associated Press:

“President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people.

“When I am President, it will always be America First.”

He titles his post “Republicans discover nominating world’s most famous birther might not be a great idea.”  Perfect.

I meant to say in my original post, but for forgot to, that I think the Republicans will say that their primary motive in refusing as a party to nominate Trump is based not on ideology but on Trump’s clear mental instability, which poses am existential threat to this country.  For some of them, that will be their motive.  For others it will be ideology.

I think they’ll point out that Trump did not win a majority of that primary and caucus popular vote, and they’ll say that since the effective end of the primary season more than a month ago Trump’s mental instability has become obvious enough that some voters who voted for him probably would not do so now.

I do suspect–possibly naively, I recognize–that for many party elites, concerns primarily about ideology and even the likelihood of devastating electoral losses are starting to seem like unaffordable luxuries.

Added 6/14 at 5:16 p.m.

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Looks Like It’s All Over But the Shouting.*

The New York Times’ report today by Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin on Clinton’s, Sanders’s and O’Malley’s speeches last night at the annual Iowa Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner includes this:

“I’ve been told to stop shouting to end gun violence,” [Clinton] said, repeating a line she has begun using since Mr. Sanders said in the debate that “all the shouting in the world” would not keep guns out of the wrong hands. “I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting.”

I guess she’ll keep this up until Sanders or the mainstream media asks whether Clinton actually can’t recognize figurative speech and can’t distinguish between a statement to her about only her and one about groups of people that include members of both sexes.

Sanders’s comment was clear.  If she misunderstood it, that doesn’t speak well for her level of skill in understanding statements by people that presidents need to communicate with.  If instead she understood Sanders perfectly well but thinks the public has forgotten, and won’t be reminded of, what Sanders actually said, she’s mistaken.

The NYT article also mentions that by the time Clinton spoke, many of Sanders’s supporters already had left the hall in order to catch chartered buses or to party (or both).  That’s too bad, because I doubt that had they remained and heard that comment they would not have cared much for it.  In any event, I don’t see how this helps a candidate whose Achilles heel is a perception that she is somewhat dishonest by nature.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I don’t think this horse is even nearly dead.  Sanders needs to recognize that apparently Clinton plans throughout the campaign to misrepresent his statements by selecting a clause or phrase and misrepresenting its context.  Sleights of hand will be a primary tool in her campaign.  He needs to respond to these quickly.

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UPDATE: From CNN:

Sanders on Sunday laughed at her suggestion that his remarks were about gender.

“All that I can say is I am very proud of my record on women’s issues. I certainly do not have a problem with women speaking out — and I think what the secretary is doing there is taking words and misapplying them,” Sanders told [CNN’s Jake] Tapper. [Boldface added.]

“What I would say is if we are going to make some progress in dealing with these horrific massacres that we’re seeing, is that people have got to start all over this country talking to each other,” he said. “It’s not Hillary Clinton. You have some people who are shouting at other people all across this country. You know that. This nation is divided on this issue.”

Indeed. I think Clinton will find that this type of campaign tactic is very much out of tune with large swaths of Democratic voters right now.

Updated 10/25 at 12:22 p.m.

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SECOND UPDATE: The New York Times’s Thomas Kaplan wrote on the Times’ political blog First Draft:

Hillary Rodham Clinton has seized on remarks Senator Bernie Sanders made in the first Democratic debate that “all the shouting in the world” would not keep guns out of the wrong hands, suggesting that Mr. Sanders used those words because of Mrs. Clinton’s gender.

“I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting,” she said at the Jefferson­-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.

But Mr. Sanders’s past comments about gun control suggest that his “shouting” line is just that – a favored turn of phrase that he has used regularly in the past few months, long before Mrs. Clinton released her plan to address gun violence.

In July, Mr. Sanders, senator of Vermont, said that people needed to “stop shouting at each other” on the issue of guns. In August, he said that “people shouting at each other” about gun control “is not doing anybody any good.” And on Oct. 1, reacting to the mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, he said that the nation needed to “get beyond the shouting” on the issue.

Mrs. Clinton, the former secretary of state, announced her proposals to curb gun violence on Oct. 5, and in recent weeks she has been particularly vocal on the issue of gun control, a subject on which Mr. Sanders has a mixed.

Looks like this controversy is all over but the shouting.  Or is about to be.  And like her ‘Denmark’ sleight of hand, it’s not a plus for Clinton.

I think it’s a concern for Democrats that Clinton, who remains the party’s frontrunner, has an apparent compulsion to campaign in this way.  In this instance, she managed to trivialize sexism by claiming it so obviously falsely—the woman who cried wolf—and cheapen the very process of campaigning.  Why does she keep doing this kind of thing?

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*The original title of this post was “Update to: “Hillary Clinton Says the NRA’s Leadership is Comprised Entirely of Women.  Seriously.”

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Did Scalia Pointedly Hint At A Major Limitation To Citizens United? (No need for the Disclose Act, because Citizens United itself requires disclosure?)**

I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech, the better.  That’s what the First Amendment is all about. So long as the people know where the speech is coming from. … You are entitled to know where the speech is coming from — you know, information as to who contributed what.

— Justice Antonin Scalia,responding to interview questions by CNN’s Piers Morgan about Citizens United, Jul. 18

Antonin Scalia, bless his heart, is on a book tour, which he kicked off yesterday in an interview with Piers Morgan of CNN.  The online and print headlines, predictably (both substantively and procedurally, as lawyers would say), mostly read along the lines of “Scalia Says He Had No ‘Falling Out’ With Chief Justice” (Adam Liptak, New York Times) and “Scalia says no ‘falling out’ with Roberts” (Jesse Holland, Associated Press).  Well, of course that would be the attention-getting subject of the interview.  (Procedurally.)  And, of course Scalia’s had no lasting falling out with Roberts. (Substantively.)

And, of course that would be the subject of the headlines and the opening paragraphs of news reports on the interview.

But these headlines and opening paragraphs bury the lede.  Which is that the Disclose Act, which would require disclosure of the identity of all contributors to purportedly-independent campaign-expenditure groups, and of the amounts contributed—the enactment of which congressional Republicans keep blocking—is, it turns out, unnecessary.  As the Times’ Liptak notes, the proposition that “[y]ou are entitled to know where the speech is coming from — you know, information as to who contributed what” is actually part of Citizens United itself; eight justices (all but Thomas) endorsed this in that case, as a rule of First Amendment law.  The First Amendment right of the Koch brothers and the Chamber of Commerce and ExxonMobil to make “independent” campaign expenditures via nonprofit tax-exempt “social welfare” advocacy groups depends upon disclosure not just that the nonprofit tax-exempt “social welfare” advocacy group paid for the ad but also that the Kochs, the Chamber of Commerce, and ExxonMobil donated a specified amount to the nonprofit tax-exempt “social welfare” advocacy group.*

So sorry, Karl Rove.  But such is life.

Or at least it will be, sometime before the November election, I think.  Because all that is necessary now for this disclosure to be compelled is for the Obama campaign, or the DNC, or the campaign of any Dem candidate who’s being attacked in “independent” campaign ads—or, for that matter, even the news media—to file lawsuits invoking none other than Citizens United, asking the courts to order the disclosure of that information.  Because of the shortness of time before the election, and because of the obvious relevance of this to the November elections—and because this is purely a legal issue, requiring very little factual record—this would proceed through the courts very quickly.

Liptak also mentions Scalia’s invocation of what even Scalia surely knows is a pretty porous defense of Citizens United:
Mr. Morgan argued that spending may be regulated because it is not speech.

Justice Scalia responded that money facilitates speech and suggested that it would be unconstitutional to tell a newspaper publisher that “you can only spend so much money in the publication of your newspaper.”

Mr. Morgan said that was different, as “newspaper publishers aren’t buying elections.”

Justice Scalia said that “newspapers endorse political candidates all the time,” adding that “they’re almost in the business of doing that.”

Yes, indeed; they almost are in the business of doing that.  But the most jaw-dropping, and mocked, part of the Citizens United opinion is its out-of-nowhere—and clearly false—statement of fact upon which the opinion’s outcome relies: The five justices said they “find” as a matter of fact that unlimited “independent” campaign expenditures gives rise neither to corruption nor to the appearance of it, and therefore the First Amendment free-speech interest trumps the interest in allowing statutory limits on these expenditures.  This is, in other words, not like falsely shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater.  Or like inciting to riot.  Or like …. 

The New York Times and the National Review endorsements and commentary don’t operate as de factobribes, real or perceived by the public.  Nor does anyone other than Scalia and his four cohorts pretend to think so.

About that independent-expenditures-give-rise-neither-to-corruption-nor-to-the-appearance-of-it thing, among those whose opinions the justices neglected to ask were the seven current justices on the Montana Supreme Court, and those justice famously begged to differ with the Citizens Unitedmajority on that point last December, in a case about a longstanding Montana campaign-expenditure statute.  Six to one, they upheld the constitutionality of the Montana statute.  The seventh justice dissented because of Citizens United’s clear mandate, but trashed the finding of fact as clearly false.

On June 25, the Citizens United majority summarily reversed the Montana Supreme Court.  In a dissent joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, Stephen Breyer acknowledged that the four dissenters could have forced the Court to have a full hearing on the case—full briefing and an oral argument—next term.  But, he said, there would be no point to it, as the majority had made clear in discussing the Montana case that no member was willing to reconsider any part of the Citizens United ruling, including the ridiculous finding of fact.

It’s not hard to recognize the likelihood then that both Kennedy—the author of Citizens Unitedand apparently the force behind the deeply controversial decision by the majority to raise, on their own, the issue of the constitutionality of centerpiece of the McCain-Feingold statute rather than to just strike down the minor section of the statute the challengers had challenged as unconstitutional—and Roberts, who allowed this stunningly inappropriate judicial role, understand by now that, at least from the prospective of a vast majority of the public, the Citizens United-created status quo is simply untenable. 

There appears to have been some horse-trading there, forced by the minority, who agreed to not force a full hearing in the Montana caseAmerican Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, thus relieving the majority from having to defend its indefensible finding of clearly-false fact.  And in return, the majority agreed to interpret Citizens United as mandating meaningful disclosure rather than just gimmicks for effective nondisclosure.  And to do so informally, with enough time before this November’s election for it to actually matter.*
As someone who believes that the current system results in actual corruption and certainly the appearance of corruption, I think the minority got the better of the deal.

In any event, I don’t see how, in light of Scalia’s straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth public statement, lawsuits requesting immediate injunctive relief compelling disclosure could be legitimately denied.  

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*Obviously, this is speculation on my part. [Added Wed. at 11:36 a.m.]
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**CORRECTION: Turns out that I was confusing super PACs with nonprofit tax-exempt “social welfare” advocacy groups. (No surprise, I guess; I’m neither an election-law specialist nor a tax-law specialist.)  So I’ve changed “super PACs” to “nonprofit tax-exempt ‘social welfare’ advocacy groups.”  This matters only because super PACs already have to disclose their donors. Nonprofit tax-exempt “social welfare” advocacy groups don’t, and so the Disclose Act targeted the latter but not the former in this respect.  The Disclose Act also, though, would have required certain disclosures in each ad itself, whether the ad was sponsored by a super PAC or a “social welfare” advocacy group. [Corrected Fri. at 6:38 p.m.]

UPDATE: Hmm.  Here’s an article from the Sunlight Foundation published on July 13 about the Disclose Act.  The article suggests that super PACs do indeed legally hide the identity of their donors.  [Fri. at 8:37 p.m.] [Ah. There’s the link; I didn’t put the link in last night when I posted the update.]

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