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

The Most Successful Trojan Horse Since the Trojan War

A key to beating Trump is to point out that on fiscal and other domestic policy at least, the election contest will not be to determine whether there will be another President Clinton or instead a President Trump.  There will be either a new President Clinton or a President Manafort.

Every time Trump tries to hint at the beginning of a back-away from Conservative Movement fiscal and other domestic policy, and toward some genuine economic-populist fiscal and anti-Chamber of Commerce regulatory policy, Edgar Bergen, er, [longtime Republican operative and current Trump campaign chief] Paul Manafort, quickly aborts it.

This will be a source of amusement for me going forward, although less so if Clinton fails to note this early and often, whether for fear of losing campaign donations or otherwise.  And less so still if she appears to be running as President Manafort Light.

— Me, here, May 9

Call me prescient.  Or just observant.  In contrast to my own party’s standard-bearer-in-waiting. Who is not.

A dismaying hallmark of Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been her penchant for highlighting the obvious or the already-very-well-known.  That she’s a woman and would be the first woman president, for example.  And that Donald Trump has campaigned on xenophobia and racism, is a blatant misogynist, has invited violence toward protesters at his rallies, and is pretty clearly mentally unbalanced, for another.  The theory is that the public needs to be told or reminded of these things because they’re unaware of them or have forgotten them, see.

Yet, hiding from the public, but (presumably) in plain sight of Clinton and her campaign for more than a half-year, has been Trump’s extreme-supply-side tax plan, posted suddenly on his website last October after months of intimating a preference for anti-supply-side, far more progressive tax policy. Reversing himself, dramatically but quietly, that proposal out-supply-sided, out-fiscal-regressive’d the Koch brothers’ candidates’ proposals, in order to fend off a threatened torrent of anti-Trump ads by a Koch-affiliated super PAC.  Which he did.

Trump’s intended audience, the Kochs, et al., of course have known of that tax proposal since the day he posted it on his campaign’s website.  But since he never mentioned it at his rallies or in interviews, his supporters didn’t.  And they still don’t, because Trump has avoided telling them, and so has Hillary Clinton.

True to form, Clinton sticks mainly to her stock in trade: anti-anti-women, anti-anti-ethnic-and-racial-animus.  A.k.a. identity politics.  Important issues, of course.  But so is supply-side, extremely regressive fiscal policy.  She knows that everyone knows Trump’s campaign positions and conduct concerning the first set of issues, and that very few people know of his tax proposal.  Yet she remains mum on the latter.  Notwithstanding that all she actually needs to do to win in November is inform the public of the latter.  At least until, I had feared, Trump withdraws his Heritage Foundation-inspired tax proposal, slapped together by adopting Jeb Bush’s and just increasing the size of the tax cuts for the wealthy, and began once again intimating support for a more progressive tax code than the current one.

And for about 24 hours late last week, after vacillating between trying to unify the party (via supply-side fiscal policy) and telling the party to go to hell (reversing himself on his supply-side tax proposal), he hinted at the first steps toward a reversal, prompted by Paul Ryan’s refusal to indicate support for Trump.  But faced with the immediate need to decide to largely self-fund his general-election campaign or instead be coopted by the party’s establishment, he opted for cooptation.

Hook, line … and sinker.  Explicitly.  Very publicly.  And with the vigor of a genuine convert, in a burning-his-bridges interview on CNN on Monday.  Reiterated even more clearly to The New York Times’ The Upshot blogger Peter Eavis later Monday.  Eavis writes today:

The 1 percent can breathe a small collective sigh of relief.

Hillary Clinton’s platform contains many new taxes for the wealthy, and in recent days it seemed that Donald Trump might be moving in the same direction. When asked Sunday on “Meet the Press” about taxing the rich, Mr. Trump said: “For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it’s going to go up. And you know what? It really should go up.”

He now says he wasn’t talking about the current income tax rate for people in the highest bracket, which is 39.6 percent. If he had been, it would have been a big move for Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to push that rate higher. His official tax plan envisions a top rate of 25 percent. In a phone interview on Monday, I sought clarification from Mr. Trump on his remarks about raising taxes on the rich. I asked him whether the highest earners would be paying more than 39.6 percent if he were president.

“No, in fact, you’d be lower than that,” Mr. Trump said.

But how, given that he had said that taxes would be going up for the wealthy? Mr. Trump explained that he meant he might have to accept a top tax rate that is higher than the 25 percent his plan calls for. To get his tax plans through Congress, he would probably have to compromise, but even after such concessions, the top rate would be lower than it is now, he said.

The title of Eavis’s post? “Donald Trump’s Plan to Raise Taxes on Rich: Just Kidding.”

That is all Clinton needs to win against Trump.  That’s it.  It also probably is all the Democrats need in order to win control of both houses of Congress.  Yet Clinton thinks triangulation is the way to go right now.  So, mum’s the word.  And I guess will continue to be.

Old habits die hard.  Or don’t die at all.

For all her habitual blow-with-the-winds, follow-the-crowd positioning, Clinton is remarkably slow in recognizing a change in the direction in which the crowd is going.

Her campaign reportedly is ringing its hands today that it, and she, must continue to fight a primary contest that she has already effectively won, rather than redirecting her campaign fully toward the general election.  By which she and her campaign mean rebutting Trump on what Trump rebuts himself on month after month.  And, reportedly, apprising the public of things in Trump’s background that no part of the general public knows about and that have nothing directly to do with actual policy preferences and proposals.  But they do not mean making known to the blue-collar Rust Belt voters who will determine the outcome of the result in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania that Trump is proposing and vowing not to back away from a plan to dramatically reduce federal taxes for the very wealthy.

And it probably will not mean noting that he’s now mouthing, word-for-word, the Mitt Romney/Club for Growth lines about jobs creators needing very low taxes so that they can create jobs.  Or pay more in dividends, stock buybacks and executive bonuses. 

Tomorrow, behind closed doors with Paul Ryan & Friends, he will swear fealty to Mitt Romney’s platform.  And not just the part written literally, it turns out, by the Heritage Foundation and CNBC!  Also the part written by the Federalist Society. Including on Supreme Court and lower-court appointments.  Suffice it to say that his promise to hand Supreme Court and lower federal court appointments back to the Federalist Society would bode well for the Koch legal agenda.  And for the continued life of Citizens United.

For unions and people who aren’t so fond of Wall Street, though, not so much.

This all can be said to the public in a few sentences—most of them quotes from those two interviews, one of them videotaped and readily available.  There’s Trump, himself, saying these things.  This is what unifying “the party” means.  The price of running a modern general election campaign is this.  Literally.  And figuratively.   The pundits and Hillary Clinton have their eye on the red herring.

This candidate is the ultimate 0.1% proxy–potentially the most successful Trojan Horse since the Trojan War.  Trump has perfected to a science the art of the deal.

Clinton can begin saying these things now.  She doesn’t have to wait until the end of the primary season to begin saying them.  Her super PACs don’t, either.  And Bernie Sanders’ supporters won’t object.

Trust me.  I’m one of them.

Clinton admits she failed to do her homework, and therefore misunderstood, when she stated at the February debate that Dodd-Frank already authorizes the Treasury Dept. to force too-big-to-fail banks to pare down and that therefore no further legislation authorizing it is necessary. That’s quite an admission by her, and the New York Daily News editorial board (and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza) should take note.

A notion is rapidly crystallizing among the national media that Bernie Sanders majorly bungled an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News.His rival, Hillary Clinton, has even sent a transcript of the interview to supporters as part of a fundraising push. A close look at that transcript, though, suggests the media may be getting worked up over nothing.

In fact, in several instances, it’s the Daily News editors who are bungling the facts in an interview designed to show that Sanders doesn’t understand the fine points of policy. In questions about breaking up big banks, the powers of the Treasury Department and drone strikes, the editors were simply wrong on details.

Take the exchange getting the most attention: Sanders’ supposed inability to describe exactly how he would break up the biggest banks. Sanders said that if the Treasury Department deemed it necessary to do so, the bank would go about unwinding itself as it best saw fit to get to a size that the administration considered no longer a systemic risk to the economy. Sanders said this could be done with new legislation, or through administrative authority under Dodd-Frank.

This is true, as economist Dean BakerPeter Eavis at The New York Times, and HuffPost’s Zach Carter in a Twitter rant have all pointed out. It’s also the position of Clinton herself. “We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk,” Clinton said at a February debate. No media outcry followed her assertion, because it was true.

As the interview went on, though, it began to appear that the Daily News editors didn’t understand the difference between the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. Follow in the transcript how Sanders kept referring to the authority of the administration and the Treasury Department through Dodd-Frank, known as Wall Street reform, while the Daily News editors shifted to the Fed.

Did Bernie Sanders Botch An Interview With The Daily News? It’s Not That Simple., Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief at The Huffington Post, yesterday

The subtitle of Grim’s article isThe interview exposes as much about the media as it does about Bernie Sanders.”  And indeed it does.  It exposes this particular editorials board as profoundly ignorant about virtually every subject the interview addressed—not just the specifics of Dodd-Frank but (astonishingly) also about this country’s decades-long position on Israel’s policy regarding new settlements in occupied Palestinian territories and also on the general nature and legal effect of treaties and United Nations resolutions pertaining to them, and a few other things.

It also exposes the board members as high-school-amateurish, not just as journalists but as, well, people.  Not just in the adolescent questions they asked but also in their mysterious inability to follow their own questions, which on the banking issue they were unable to recall from one question to the next whether they were asking about current law (Dodd-Frank) or instead about possible new legislation.  Not to mention, although Grim did, their failure to distinguish between the role of the Fed and the role of the Treasury Dept. on this issue under Dodd-Frank.

And it exposes a slew of other mainstream-media political analysts as just ridiculous.  But particularly, it exposes the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, the chemist who started the crystallization shortly after the Daily News released a transcript of the interview, for what he is: a robot, or maybe a computer, whose algorithms are programmed to forecast specific public reactions to certain words, phrases or clauses uttered by politicians in interviews, debates or off-hand responses to a reporter or to a voter at, say, a town hall-type campaign appearance. “I don’t know the answer to that,” or “I haven’t thought much about it,” or “the banks should be allowed to determine what means they will use to pare down in accord with banking-regulation edict” or “I can’t provide the specific citation to the fraud statute in the federal Criminal Code” are definite career destroyers.*  Or at least presidential candidacy destroyers.

And since Cillizza is highly regarded among mainstream political analysts who themselves lack those algorithms and must get by with baas, Clinton had a ball she thought she could pick up and run with.  So, interviewed yesterday morning on “Morning Joe” yesterday, and asked about Sanders’ responses to the Daily News editorial board members’ too-big-to-fail questions, she had a script prepared not by her consultants but by Cillizza, et al., that included this:

I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’d been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood, and that does raise a lot of questions.

She went on to question whether Sanders was qualified to be president.

So the Daily News interview debacle serves handily also to highlight what’s wrong with Clinton.  Characteristically, she echoed a statement by members of that editorial board that she knew was false and also alluded to Sanders’ befuddlement (incredulousness, really) at other misstatements of fact by the editorial board members—it hasn’t been U.S. policy, for decades, to insist that as part of a two-state solution brokered by the White House or State Dept., Israel must withdraw its West Bank settlements on certain specific lands?—as disqualifying Sanders as a presidential candidate.

Grim’s piece links to the RealClear Politics headline from February 4, posted shortly after the February debate, headlined “Clinton Agrees With Sanders: ‘We Now Have Power Under Dodd-­Frank To Break Up Big Banks’”.  The article links to videotape.  Clinton said, “We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk. ”

So Clinton failed to do her homework, either before that debate in February or before that “Morning Joe” interview yesterday.  And that does raise a lot of questions.  A lot of questions.  Which presumably the New York Daily News editorial board will seek answers to when they interview her.

The aforementioned post by Peter Eavis, in the New York Times blog The Upshot on Tuesday, is titled “Yes, Bernie Sanders Knows Something About Breaking Up Banks.”  Time to find out whether Hillary Clinton does.


*These aren’t actually direct quotes. They’re my paraphrases.


ADDENDUM: This is an entry posted yesterday at the New York Times Fact Checks of the 2016 Election blog:

Discussing climate change on Monday, Mrs. Clinton cited her “very vigorous record” on the subject. Then she proceeded to express bafflement about a stance she said her opponent had taken.

“I couldn’t believe it when Senator Sanders opposed the Paris agreement — the best chance we have to actually reverse climate change and deal with the consequences,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview on “Capital Tonight,” an upstate New York cable news show.

The Paris agreement, reached in December, commits nearly every nation to take action to combat climate change. Given that Mr. Sanders has made climate change a major issue in his campaign, his supposed opposition would indeed seem odd.

But Mrs. Clinton’s characterization was misleading.

It is true that Mr. Sanders did not warmly embrace the Paris agreement. But his lack of enthusiasm was for the opposite reason that Mrs. Clinton suggested.

“While this is a step forward, it goes nowhere near far enough,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement in December. “The planet is in crisis. We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that.”

— Thomas Kaplan

So Clinton doesn’t believe her own hallucination.  She just wants Democratic primary voters to.

Then again, maybe she really can’t distinguish between a lament by someone that something doesn’t go far enough or isn’t strong enough and one that objects that the thing goes too far or is too strong.  This seems to be a recurring type of confusion for her.  So she may not be faking it after all.  Maybe she really can’t tell the difference.

Addendum added 4/7 at 8:35 p.m.