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

Am I the only one who thinks Trump’s New York Times interview probably ends his competitiveness in most of the Rust Belt? Just wonderin’.

CLEVELAND — Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, explicitly raised new questions on Wednesday about his commitment to automatically defending NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance.

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” he added, “the answer is yes.”

Mr. Trump’s statement appeared to be the first time that a major candidate for president had suggested conditioning the United States’ defense of its major allies. It was consistent, however, with his previous threat to withdraw American forces from Europe and Asia if those allies fail to pay more for American protection.

Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack, David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman, New York Times, today

Ooookay.  For all you folks who have never lived in the Rust Belt: Very large percentages of the populations in much of it are of Eastern European descent.*  Now, Illinois and Indiana aren’t in play this election, so it doesn’t matter that a substantial portion of the population of northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana are of Eastern European descent.*

On the other hand, Michigan, Trump thinks, is in play.  (I don’t, but we’ll go with his belief for the moment.)  And southeastern Michigan has, yes, a lot of people of eastern European ancestry.  And some of them are blue collar.  Ditto for the western third of Pennsylvania.  And the heavy manufacturing areas of northern, central and eastern Ohio.

Now sure, Mr. Trump, many of those voters have supported you.  But that was before there was much made in the media of the fact that you had earlier made clear that as Putin’s tanks are marching toward, say, Warsaw (that’s in Poland) you will be awaiting word from NATO’s debt collection agency on whether or not Poland had finally agreed on a payment plan, before deciding whether to order the U.S. military to halt the march of Russia’s army. But now that you are officially the Republican presidential nominee, this sort of thing is likely to get some fair amount of media play.  Possibly even on Fox News.

Look, I hesitate to be the one to break this to you, Mr. Trump.  After all, I’m not using a pseudonym here (joking; this is a pseudonym) and there does seem to be a reason for your assurance to Turkish duly-elected strongman Precep Erdogan (and the rest of the world) that you have no plans to try to dissuade him from imprisoning the entire two-thirds of the Turkish population that has criticized him at some point—another promise you reiterated in the Times interview.  And maybe your idea of national strength, now that you’re making it so very clear at such a critical time in the campaign, really is not what most Rust Belters normally think of as the diametric opposite of national strength: If that’s what Putin wants, we shouldn’t stop him, because Poland hasn’t paid us up and anyway Putin has said some very nice things about you.

But as a native of the Rust Belt, I think the better bet is that you just lost any chance you had to win Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.  And as a Democrat, I think that’s pretty cool.

*Typo correction: Oh, brother.  “Descent”.  Not ‘dissent”.  I’m tempted to say ‘Pun intended.”  But, no, it was just a dumb mental slip.  Thanks, Lindsay Berge, for pointing it out in the Comments thread–and humorously suggesting it was a Freudian slip.  7/22 at 9:09 a.m.

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Making a Difference in American Families’ Lives by Crying ‘Wolf’ about Sexism

“Her campaign has been about how to make a difference in American families’ lives – a cause she’s fought for her entire life,” said [Clinton campaign] spokeswoman, Christina Reynolds. “It’s a shame Senator Sanders’s campaign has decided to make the campaign about political attacks. Voters want to hear about how their candidate will fight for them, not fight each other.”

Bernie Sanders Walking the Line Between Personal Attacks and Political Critiques, Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman, New York Times, today

Absolutely, Clinton’s campaign has been about how to make a difference in American families’ lives, and voters want to hear about how their candidate will fight for them, not fight each other.  Which is why Clinton three times within two days publicly told those very voters and all the world that Sanders told her, and her alone, that she should stop speaking in a literally loud voice about the issue of gun control legislation, and that he did so because she is a woman and he is sexist.

This will make a difference in American families’ lives.  At least the lives of hardworking ones.

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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.



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.


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?


*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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Hillary Clinton (Obviously) Reads Angry Bear! Or at least she did yesterday.

Hillary Clinton will headline a fundraising dinner for Florida Democratic gubernatorial Charlie Crist next month, putting her in a key presidential state in the midterms battle, according to an invitation.

Crist, a Republican turned Democrat running for his old job, is in one of the toughest gubernatorial races in the country. He is facing incumbent Republican Rick Scott.

Clinton will headline a dinner Oct. 2 in Miami, according to an invitation.

She is holding a book-signing the same day in the state.

Hillary Clinton to campaign for Charlie Crist, Maggie Haberman, Politico, yesterday at 7:56 p.m.

Yesterday, as all you AB readers know, I posted this rant, I mean post, that was highly critical of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  About Clinton, I noted (among other things) the unseemliness of her current banalities in her public appearances, and said that because of the media attention she garners every time she opens her mouth, she actually could win elections for certain Dem candidates for senator or governor if she filled a six-year-long public-education-and-correction-of-misinformation void by Obama and actually educated the public about such things as that healthcare costs and healthcare premium rate increases have declined rather than increased since the beginning of the year.  I mentioned that in Florida, a TV ad is running claiming that the ACA has increased healthcare costs, taking money out “your” pocket, and that therefore “you” should vote to reelect Rick Scott as governor. Scott’s opponent, Charlie Crist, the ad points out repeatedly, has said the ACA is working well.

I posted that post at 3:34 p.m., about four hours before someone on Clinton’s staff—I’m not sure why she has a personal staff, other than that having a personal staff is what she does—announced that as long as Clinton was going to be in Florida for a book-signing event next month anyway, she might as well headline a fundraising dinner in the state.  You never know, after all; there might be some Miami-area donors who haven’t yet bought her book.  Not to mention a few members of the wait staff who will pay $30 (or whatever) to get a handwritten personal message from Hillary Clinton to show their grandkids one day.

But the idea hadn’t occurred to her until she read Angry Bear yesterday afternoon, which obviously she did, notwithstanding the very busy day she had yesterday.

The good news is that by then she will be a grandparent rather than an expectant grandparent, so, along with the giggly thinking-about-running-for-president entendres, she will regale the audience with new-grandparent stories.

The bad news is that she won’t actually correct any misinformation about the ACA and its effects, or about anything else, since that would require her to have had a staff member actually obtain statistics and such, and would necessitate her own preparation for the speech by reading a several-paragraph memo from that staffer that recites the information.  Sure, she’d be preaching directly to the choir, but she’d be preaching indirectly, and virally if videotaped, to undecided voters in Florida and beyond.*

She won’t, though.  Unless, of course, she reads Angry Bear again today.  Nah, even if she does, she won’t.  I’m tempted to say that Clinton’s fundraising and campaigning is only ostensibly for others but actually for herself.  But actually I don’t think she’s planning to run for president I think she’s just milking all this for the book sales and the fawning attention. In fact, I think that one reason she’s constantly talking about her impending grandparenthood—other than that she has to talk about something at these appearances—is that she wants eventually to invoke this new, exciting chapter in her life as her reason for deciding not to run for president.

And, if I’m right that she is not planning to run, that may actually be part of her reason.  In November 2016, Clinton will be 69 years old.  Most people are not looking, at that age, to undertake something all-encompassing like the presidency.

But also, I think that she and her husband want most of all to not have to deal with questions about their finances.  Hillary Clinton has achieved what she sought to achieve: extraordinary wealth and extraordinary fame and (in some quarters) adoration.  And running for president again would require her this time around to stay overnight at hotels in Waterloo, Davenport, and (even worse) Sioux City, rather than campaigning mostly in the Des Moines area during caucus season–as, I read recently, she did in 2008 in order to have sufficiently comfortable hotel accommodations.

The article in which I read about that Iowa-hotels-in-2008 thing contained an assurance from someone in her orbit—“orbit”; what an apt journalistic euphemism—that she wouldn’t make that mistake again and open herself up to charges of unapproachability.** But that’s just too much of a compromise, I suspect, and reason enough in and of itself for her to decide not to run.  Some members of her orbit may soon have to find another sun.


*This paragraph and the following one were edited slightly for clarity after posting.  9/23 at 8:22 p.m.

**Sentence edited for clarity in light of confusion by a commenter about whether this was a true anacdote or instead facetious. It was reported as a true anacdote.  9/23 at 10:29 p.m.

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