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

Okay, so how many of the 53 percent of voters who say they want a Republican Congress to thwart Clinton’s policy agenda have any idea what that policy agenda IS? Just wonderin’.

But those same polls [suggesting a Clinton lead] don’t suggest doom and gloom for down-ballot Republicans just yet. And in fact, there’s real reason for GOP optimism that Trump won’t ruin their year completely. …

For one, the so-called generic ballot — i.e., whether people prefer a generic Democrat for Congress or a generic Republican — still only favors Democrats by a small margin: 3 points in both the Post-ABC poll and NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, among likely voters. That same Democratic edge on the generic ballot is actually down from 6 points in last week’s NBC-WSJ poll.

Put plainly, these generic ballots are unremarkable and don’t suggest a big Democratic wave ahead.

Part of the reason Trump’s woes might not have filtered downballot could be that a strong majority of people don’t really associate Republicans with their party’s presidential nominee. And many people also appear to dislike Clinton enough that they like the idea of a Congress that could keep her in check.

The Post-ABC poll includes a question about whether people think Trump represents the “core values” of the Republican Party, and a strong majority of likely voters say he doesn’t — 57 percent overall.

The number includes a whopping 62 percent of independents. Just 27 percent of them think Trump does represent the GOP.

And the NBC-WSJ poll might be even more encouraging for Republicans, because it suggests a path forward for them. The poll asked whether registered voters would be more likely to support a congressional Republican who would be a check and balance on Clinton and Democrats, and 53 percent said they would. Just 40 percent preferred a congressional Democrat who would help Clinton pass her agenda.

And now, some legitimately good news for Republicans, Aaron Blake, Washington Post, this morning

Of all the asinine comments by major political pundits about the presidential campaign during the last one and a half years, one that rates among the silliest is a recent claim by Paul Krugman on his Twitter feed pronouncing himself vindicated for his aggressive defense of Clinton as the only Democrat who could win the general election.

Why the claim of vindication?  Well, because no candidate other than Clinton would have had a campaign team deft enough to recognize that Trump could be baited into a meltdown during the first debate by reciting his awful treatment of 1990s-era Miss Universe Alicia Machado because she gained weight during her reign, a meltdown that spiraled for about a week afterward.  And that was what began the turning of the tide away from what appeared to be momentum for Trump and (apparently) triggered the release of the Access Hollywood Boys-on-the-Bus videotape.  See?

Because the only possible way that a Democratic nominee could defeat—at all, but especially soundly defeat—Donald J. Trump was that.  It couldn’t have happened instead based on, say, on a progressive platform pushed by Bernie Sanders in the primaries, or one that would have been advanced by Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown, one or the other who likely would be the Dem nominee had she or he run. That is, on a progressive agenda that is broadly popular among the dominant swath of the public that wants significant change, and much of it among pretty much everyone else who isn’t in the basket of deplorables.

Or, hell, even a platform chosen by Joe Biden, who currently is far more progressive than he had been at any earlier time in his career, had he been the nominee.

That, of course, presumes—surely accurately—that each of these candidates would have run, and run aggressively and constantly, on their progressive platform.  A platform that argues for significant structural change in the power of mega corporations and the very wealthy vis-à-vis everyone whose interests are not the same as those of mega corporations and the very wealthy.

I chuckle every time Krugman or some other big pre-convention Clinton backer angrily notes that Clinton is running on the most progressive party platform ever. As if Clinton has actually campaigned on this, other than to mention it in passing when the last Trump outrage falls from constant view and his poll numbers begin to rise, or hers begin to drop because of some new email-related something-or-other.

I’ve thought countless times since the convention how lucky Clinton is to have a party platform to run on that was largely forced through by Sanders.  But that has presumed that eventually she actually would begin to run on it.  No.  I mean actually campaign on it.  It’s specifics.  Godot may arrive, but he hasn’t really yet.

But if he does, it should be in the form of asking this: What part of Clinton’s agenda is it, exactly, that all those voters want a Republican Congress to halt?  And what part of the Republican Congress’s agenda do those voters want Clinton to comprise on and agree to?

Ah.  It must be re-deregulation of the finance industry that they want.  And immense cuts in taxes for Donald Trump, his heirs, mega corporations, CEOs of mega-corporations, and the insurance that Citizens United will never be overturned, and that the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts will continue to be steady-as-she-goes unapologetic proxies for mega-corporate America; Clinton’s agenda includes some very specific legislation on campaign financing, some of proposals which I did not know of until I read yesterday’s NYT editorial listing them.

Or maybe it’s the stuff about handing federal lands and environmental and energy policy to the likes of the Koch brothers.  And control of the SEC by the Mercers and the Ricketts. The Kochs don’t support Trump, but they sure as hell fund the rest of the Republican Party.  And Harold Hamm, Forrest Lucas, the Mercers and the Ricketts fund Trump—bigly—as well as the Republican Congress.

For starters.  There’s also the healthcare-insurance public option.

Every one of those proposals by Clinton is supported by a majority of the public, some by wide margins.  And every one of the Republican Congress’s proposals are opposed by a majority of the public, most by very wide margins. Yet Clinton’s campaign focuses so little on this that, according to that poll, 53 percent said they want a Republican Congress, to keep Clinton from enacting these policies, and just 40 percent preferred a congressional Democrat who would help Clinton pass her agenda.

I’ve wondered—and wondered, and wondered—for many weeks now why Clinton continues to allow the misconception to persist that Trump’s general election campaign is not funded in part by billionaires and has no ties to the finance industry.  I actually had expected her to mention at one or another of the debates that Trump is funded extensively not only by two oil-and-gas billionaires, Hamm and Lucas, but even more so, apparently, by two finance-industry-titan families: the Mercers and the Ricketts.

When she didn’t, and didn’t mention the Mercers and the Ricketts even when campaigning in Toledo, Ohio, I presumed it was because she was concerned about angering some of her Wall Street donors.  But in light of the leaks of the transcripts of her paid Wall Street speeches, I think there was something more.  I think she knew or suspected that these had been hacked, and she didn’t want to provoke their release.

So now, to borrow from Trump, she’s been unshackled. She can detail to the public the reports that the Mercers in particular, but other billionaire donors as well, including the fossil fuel ones, are directly dictating policy proposals to Trump.

And that the Heritage Foundation—the far-right policy arm of none other than Congressional Republicans, the very ones whom the public wants to write laws, rather than seeing Clinton’s administration do so—in fact has written a fiscal and regulatory policy agenda for Trump that curiously mirrors the policy agenda of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  Neither of whom is exactly popular.

In my opinion, there isn’t much in Clinton’s paid speeches—at least from the articles I’ve read about them—that are really a problem, other than that she said that Wall Street folks should help craft the laws to reign in Wall Street, since they know better than anyone else how Wall street works.  Well, not better than Warren.  And not better than some other law and business professors. And not better than former Wall Street folk who left in disgust.  But, okay; that was three years ago, in a paid speech.

What is seriously problematic, in my opinion, though, is the hacked email discussion about how to go about trying to persuade an angry, adamant Hillary Clinton that Bill Clinton should cancel his paid speech to Morgan Stanley scheduled for a few days after Hillary Clinton was scheduled to announce her candidacy.

The hero in that incident, as in several others, was campaign manager Robby Mook, who appears to be the only actual modern-era progressive in Clinton’s entire inner circle. He’s a millennial, but so are a (precious) few others.  But only Mook appears to be a circa 2016-style progressive.

Trump likes to say that if it weren’t for the conspiratorial news media, he would be beating Clinton by 15%.  But that misses, well, a few points, but this one in particular: that the news media and the Clinton campaign seem to have conspired to keep from the public the most critical fact of all.  Which is that Clinton’s progressive policy agenda is the agenda that a majority of the public wants.

And that the Republican Party’s, so much of it actually adopted by Trump, with a steroid cocktail thrown in, is precisely the opposite of what that very majority wants.

Krugman’s Times column today is largely about the striking similarities between Trump’s depiction of the current state of this country and Ryan’s warnings in a speech last week about this country’s future if Clinton wins.  But the similarities are more in style than in substance. Krugman writes:

But for what it’s worth, consider the portrait of America Mr. Ryan painted last week, in a speech to the College Republicans. For it was, in its own way, as out of touch with reality as the ranting of Donald Trump (whom Mr. Ryan never mentioned).

Now, to be fair, Mr. Ryan claimed to be describing the future — what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins — rather than the present. But Mrs. Clinton is essentially proposing a center-­left agenda, an extension of the policies President Obama was able to implement in his first two years, and it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s remarks were intended as a picture of what all such policies do.

According to him, it’s very grim. There will, he said, be “a gloom and grayness to things,” ruled by a “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy.” We will become a place “where passion — the very stuff of life itself — is extinguished.” And this is the kind of America Mrs. Clinton “will stop at nothing to have.”

So, DSCC and DCCC, why not take this ball and run with it?  Why not take that little clip and juxtapose it with parts of the Dem Party platform and pieces of Clinton’s proposals, such as those on campaign finance reform?  And follow that with a summary of, say, Ryan’s budget’s Greatest Hits?

Clinton, of course, could do this, too.  Robby Mook, can you try to persuade the candidate to start campaigning on this, now that the sexual assault and voyeurism admissions and allegations are becoming old news?

I said here after the second debate that I myself believe that Clinton is very much a changed person now in her support of genuinely progressive structural-power changes.  I still believe that.  But she already has my vote.

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Okay, so today at a rally in suburban Detroit…

“By the way, I’m spending a lot of money on my campaign. And why isn’t she spending some money on hers? I’m spending a hundred million dollars,” Trump said, after criticizing Clinton for accepting donations from Wall Street bankers and special interest groups. “… I think I’ll be over a hundred million dollars.”

Trump tells Obama not to pardon Clinton, even though she hasn’t been charged or convicted of anything, Jenna Johnson, Washington Post, today

Look, folks.  It’s way, way, way past time that Clinton shout from the rooftops that there are three billionaires who are writing extremely large checks to Trump’s super PAC, two—father-daughter hedge-fund duo Rebekah and Robert Mercer, and oil and gas billionaire Harold Hamm—who are determining Trump’s fiscal and regulatory policy proposals and prospective court and agency-head appointees.

No. One. Knows. This.

She also needs to say, and say again, and again, that the aggregate amounts of “Citizens United money” that will have gone respectively to support her, and Trump’s, campaigns by November 8 is far less important than the amounts one or two or three billionaires are donating to each campaign, and the percentages of the total donations to the respective campaign that these billionaires’ donations comprise.

Earlier today, in the Comments thread to my post from earlier this week titled “What Clinton and her surrogates need to get across to millennials, racial minorities and union members,” I exchanged these comments with reader Eric377:

Eric377 / October 1, 2016 8:57 am

Well it seems to me that Trump got and used a lot less “Citizens United” type money than his Republican opponents and Clinton. The deep suspicion – conviction for many, really – is that voting for Clinton is voting to leave the current elite structure completely unchanged.

Me / October 1, 2016 9:57 am

Here’s the problem with looking only at the aggregate amount each candidate has received in Citizens United money: As I’ve written in AB posts here seemingly ad nauseam since early Aug. when I learned of it, sometime late in the primary season two hedge fund father-daughter billionaires, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who had been funding Cruz, began instead funding Trump to the tune of many millions of dollars. They live in the Hamptons and began meeting with him and effectively controlling his fiscal and regulatory policy proposals as well as his selections of nominees for the Supreme Court and for agency chiefs. These people are the main funders of Breitbart–thus, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway–and of the Heritage Foundation, thus Stephen Moore and other ostensible economics experts.

The other billionaire who’s been funding Trump–some oil-and-gas billionaire named Harold Hamm–to the tune of many, many millions of dollars is–surprise–recommending appointments as Interior and EPA chiefs.

If Clinton actually wants to energize millennial progressives, all she has to do, I think, is tell them this. She doesn’t–for fear of, y’know, alienating all those moderate suburban Republicans who would be thrilled to see the oil-and-gas industry control Interior and the EPA, and extreme rightwing hedge fund billionaires and the Heritage Foundation make fiscal and regulatory policy.

Meanwhile, today CNN Politics is reporting, in a story reported by Theodore Schleiffer titled “Trump finally hits the big-money jackpot,” that Trump is now also funded by Republican billionaires Sheldon and Marion Trump and the Ricketts family—two of the uber-funders of far-right Republican campaigns, and of Republican candidates who are far-right mainly because Adelson, the Rickets and the Kochs are. About the Adelsons, Schleiffer writes:

Despite only publicly committed $5 million to what is likely to be the de facto Trump super PAC, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are pledging at least $25 million to pro-Trump presidential efforts, according to multiple people briefed on their donations. That sum includes giving to nonprofit group that will never be required to disclose his donations.

As for the Ricketts, their wealth comes from TD Ameritrade, which the current Mr. Ricketts, Thomas, joined at age 30.  His father founded the company, but it was entirely a merit hire.  In any event, Trump apparently doesn’t know that it is a financial institution.  (It’s a large one, Donald.)

Which brings me to a post that was in follow-up to my earlier post, in which I mentioned that there really, truly, honestly is a difference between Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Anyone know who Gary Johnson would name to the Supreme Court?  It doesn’t matter, cuz he won’t be naming anyone to the Court.  Trump or Clinton will.

So, so much about Clinton’s campaign has just completely missed the mood of a huge swath of voters in this election cycle.  Not least is that moderate Republican suburbanites—to whom she’s directed her campaign almost exclusively—would be less likely rather than more likely to vote for Trump if they knew that he indeed has billionaire puppeteers, who they are, what they want, and the extraordinary influence they’re having on his policy proposals and will have on his court and agency-head appointments.   It’s way, way, wayyy past time for Clinton to tell the public about this.

Also at that rally today, Trump suggested that he be indicted for his serial criminal fraud, bribery, and tax and other laws related to his charity.  Wire fraud, for sure.  Johnson reports in that article:

NOVI, Mich. — Donald Trump called on President Obama on Friday to refuse to pardon Hillary Clinton and her associates, even though they have not been charged with any crimes, let alone convicted of any crimes.

“Mr. President, will you pledge not to issue a pardon to Hillary Clinton and her co-conspirators for their many crimes against our country and against society itself?” Trump said to a cheering audience in this Detroit suburb on Friday evening.

He added: “No one is above the law.”

One of the very many thoroughly disorienting characteristics of Trump’s in this campaign is his routine tactic of accusing others of what he is accused, with supporting evidence, of doing.  I do think, though, that on this he’s playing with fire.  That quote of his will support demands for criminal investigations and civil fines.

Although, I suppose he could assert the defense that he is no one, and therefore is above the law.

I’m guessing that the starkness of Trump’s manic conduct in the last two days—and, really, you don’t need any formal knowledge about severe bipolar illness to recognize that, apart from other obvious mental illness, he is severely manic—will, finally, finish off this candidacy.  But the answer to why Clinton isn’t far ahead in the polls is not just the malpractice nature of so much high-profile journalistic coverage of these two candidates—the obscenely overblown emails-and-related-matters obsession, to cited the most obvious news media indulgence.  It’s also that Clinton has run as an outdated moderate Republican, almost throughout her campaign dating back to its inception.

There’s really no time like the present for her to start campaigning like it’s 2016.  Since, after all, that’s what it is.

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What Clinton and her surrogates need to get across to millennials, racial minorities and union members

Coming soon: President Barack Obama, who’s expected to campaign [in Florida] at least twice before Election Day. First Lady Michelle Obama — more popular than her husband — will likely visit Florida as well, in addition to the ad she cut for Clinton that’s currently airing on Florida radio.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in panic mode. Full panic mode,” said Leslie Wimes, a South Florida-based president of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus.

“They have a big problem because they thought Obama and Michelle saying, ‘Hey, go vote for Hillary’ would do it. But it’s not enough,” Wimes said, explaining that too much of the black vote in Florida is anti-Trump, rather than pro-Clinton. “In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”

Part of the problem Clinton faces is that Obama, the actual black president, is the toughest of acts to follow. Obama enjoyed support from 95 percent of Florida’s black voters in both 2012 and 2008, according to exit polls.

Clinton campaign in ‘panic mode’ over Florida black voters, Marc Caputo and Daniel Ducassi, Politico, yesterday

“In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”  Sounds like a plan!  If your plan is to ensure that the Supreme Court remains in the hands of the rightwing Federalist Society for another two decades, and that the lower federal bench, which after three decades of Federalist Society control is no longer in that stranglehold.

Guess the “we” who, in the end, don’t vote against somebody but instead vote for somebody, are just fine with the Supreme Court’s killing of the Voting Rights Act; the Court’s killing of federal-court habeas corpus review of state-court and state-prosecutor actions wayyy beyond what the 1996 jurisdictional statute they purport to just be interpreting (they’ve actually rewritten it); the Court’s singlehanded creation of a legal doctrine called “qualified immunity” (by their own admission not based on any statute but instead solely on their preferred policy) that exempts all law enforcement people, including (especially) prosecutors (including those who falsify evidence and those who withhold clearly exculpatory evidence) from any civil lawsuit liability, like, ever.

And the possibility of the Supreme Court upholding new campaign-finance laws—federal and state. Including state judicial elections or appointments.  And state attorneys general and local DAs.

You think black lives matter, but you don’t care enough about who in the federal judicial branch is making policy that goes such a long way toward deciding whether or not black lives matter?  Or, you don’t know that it the judiciary—and particularly the federal judiciary—at least as much as Congress that determines the relevant policy, and that the person who determines the makeup of the Supreme court and he lower federal courts, and therefore determines how much latitude state court judges and state prosecutors and state and local police have, is either that person whom you won’t vote for because you’re not enthusiastic about her, or that the person whom you don’t want to just vote against?

Ditto for millennials in general.  Most of the African-Americans saying that are, best as I can tell, millennials, leading me to wonder where they were during the primaries, when African-Americans in the South effectively determined the outcome of the primary contest.  Was Sanders not someone they could vote for?  Apparently not, so I guess they just didn’t vote.  Which should, maybe, suggest to them that if there are things that matter to them that will be determined by whom the next president is, they should ditch their high-mindedness and vote for the one of the two candidates that they would rather see making those decisions who will be making those decisions (court appointments, for example).

But its by means just African-American millennials.  It’s millennials generally.  It’s just the in thing this year.  The fashion. Which is good, to a point.  But not beyond that.

I say: Heck, millennials, just tell reporters and pollsters whatever you want about how cool you are to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or to not vote (even for Senate and House, and state legislators).  It’s certainly the millennial in thing to support Johnson or Stein, or not vote.  And it will be unless and until President Trump, say, fulfills his promise to appoint a justice like Antonin Scalia to fill Scalia’s seat on the Court.  But if that’s not what you want to actually see, then vote.  For Clinton.

It’s one thing to threaten to cast a vanity vote, but quite another to actually cast one, ceding to others, without an iota of input, the actual decision about who will become president.

Care about consumer and employee protections (including the Supreme Court’s series of 5-4 opinions rewriting the Federal Arbitration Act in favor of … well, not consumers and employees), and finance-industry regulations?  Really?  But you’re fine with the prospect of President Trump and all those someones he’ll appoint?  Because you only vote for someone—the candidate herself or himself.  You won’t vote against someone.  Or, apparently, all those someones the candidate will appoint once in the White House.

Clinton, her husband, and her campaign do seem finally, and ever so belatedly, to have gotten the message you’ve sent through the polls.  But she doesn’t seem to fully know what to do about it.  Yes, it’s great that she’s finally campaigning on the Party platform—and even doing so with Bernie!  And her most potent surrogate besides Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, is becoming active after (what I’m guessing) was a period of about seven weeks when Clinton and her campaign didn’t want these two prominently campaigning for her.  Suburban moderate women would have been thrilled about what platform planks these two would have highlighted.  But, y’know, all those name Establishment Republicans whose endorsements she was trying for (successfully, for the most part) might not have happened.

And since this election cycle is nothing if not one in which to highlight support of name Establishment folks, that seemed to Clinton, her husband and her campaign as the route to the White House.  Even if everyone else was stupefied by it.

Well, almost everyone else.  But Clinton, her husband and her campaign really, really do finally understand this (even if Paul Krugman does not and still thinks Clinton’s failure to campaign intensely, or at all, on the Party platform for six weeks, and to not herself respond immediately and very publicly to the late-August Clinton Foundation pay-to-play meme).  Sort of, anyway; Clinton still won’t tell the public about the Mercers or the oil-and-gas billionaires who will in effect be making these appointments—nor, apparently, even wants Sanders and Warren to do so.

But this week there does seem to be real progress. Or at least it had seemed that way.  But today there is this, from Greg Sargent:

Clinton may have erred in calling “half” of Trump’s supporters “deplorables,” but there’s little question she wants this broader national argument. Of course, in some ways, Trump might also want this debate. He obviously sees expressing outrage about Clinton’s “deplorables” and “implicit bias” comments as a way to juice up his base by playing to white grievance.

But Trump also needs to improve his appeal among college educated whites, who are already convinced that Trump is either personally biased against minorities or is running a campaign designed to appeal to bigotry, which could be one reason his unfavorable numbers remain so high among those voters. And in this context, it’s worth appreciating that there’s a basic political imbalance underlying this debate: It energizes the base for both candidates, but it arguably could limit the broader appeal of only one of them.

As Democratic strategists have pointed out, by fully confronting Trump’s bigotry, and by talking about systemic racism as a continuing societal problem, Clinton may be able to engage core Dem voter groups in ways that tip the composition of the electorate in her direction on election day. It is always possible that engaging this debate might alienate some swing voters. But it seems more likely at this point that a continuing national focus on Trump’s racism could further alienate from him those college educated whites that Clinton hopes to win among, which would make her the first Democrat in over half a century to pull that off.

Either way, Clinton appears fully committed to this debate at this point, and most signs are that Democrats broadly see this orientation of the party as a short-term and long-term positive. So she probably won’t stop taking about it anytime soon.

Presumably this is because there are a few people hiding in caves with not even radio transmission who don’t know that this has been debated intensely for the last 16 months.  Or who want to hear still more debate about it. Maybe that’s the ticket.  Then again, maybe not.

It’s the court and agency appointments, stupid.*

Got that?  It’s the court and agency appointments, stupid.**

But … whatever.  As always, it’s only the Republicans who understand and campaign on this.  Or at least who campaign on this–even if they’re not the only candidates who understand this.

Progressives of all generations are tired of this.  Really.  We are.  Although by and large, it’s only millennials who plan to play with matches.

 

____

NOTE: *That line is intended as a takeoff on the (I guess no longer) famous line that Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign manager, James Carville, posted to his office wall to remind himself of what to focus on above all else during the campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The “stupid” being a reference to … himself. As in: Remember, James, you idiot. It’s the economy that should be the main focus of the candidate’s campaign, not the side stuff (like culture wars issues). That campaign was during a recession.

After reading the first comment in the Comments thread I realized that I needed to explain that rather than presume that this would be understood, as it would have been, say, even a decade ago. Oh, dear.

Added 9/29 at 5:07 p.m.

**I just added this link to the Wikipedia article about “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Lordy.

Added 9/29 at 5:27 p.m.

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Oh, God. Why does Clinton refuse to run on the Democratic Party platform? And against pro-Citizens United justices?

The Clinton campaign today made a key concession about its analysis of the fundamentals of the race. This concession was made almost in passing, as an afterthought, in a statement released late last night by Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri:

“One upside to Hillary Clinton’s break from the trail was having time to sharpen the final argument she will present to voters in these closing weeks.  So when she rejoins the trail tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will deliver the second in a series of speeches laying out her aspirational vision for the country: that we are “Stronger Together.” Tomorrow’s remarks will focus on what has been at the core of who Hillary Clinton is as a person and the mission of her campaign — how we lift up our children and families and make sure that every child has the chance to live up to their God given potential.

“Our campaign readily admits that running against a candidate as controversial as Donald Trump means it is harder to be heard on what you aspire for the country’s future and it is incumbent on us to work harder to make sure voters hear that vision.”  [Boldface in original.]

Hillary Clinton’s campaign just admitted she has a real problem, Greg Sargent, yesterday morning

 

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Mission Accomplished! (Wow. Thank you, Matea Gold.)

In, I’m guessing, four or five posts here at AB in the six weeks or so, since hedge fund billionaires Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer were profiled in two or three articles because they’re providing substantial funding to Trump’s campaign and for the last few months have served as his puppeteers—steering both his campaign and his fiscal and regulatory policy plans (and therefore whom he will nominate to the federal bench and to the relevant slew of administrative agency officials)—I’ve pleaded for some real attention to this from political news and commentary journalists.

And from Clinton and her campaign.

It’s finally happening.  Clicking on the Washington Post site just now and seeing as featured article Matea Gold’s piece there today titled “The rise of GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer” had the feel of an out-of-body experience.  I couldn’t believe it.

As I’ve said repeatedly in my references to this duo, their capture of the Trump campaign and fiscal and regulatory policy plans explains why so few Establishment Republicans (Paul Ryan, for example) are renouncing support of Trump.

Also as I’ve said repeatedly, all Clinton has to do to win the Rust Belt (and, I believe probably Florida, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire, too) is run a few ads apprising the public that Trump indeed has billionaire puppeteers—two of them.  And exactly who they are and what they want.  And where and how they live.

Clinton’s obsessive focus on Trump’s two most obviously scary traits—his dangerousness in foreign-policy matters and his alt-right mania—have been, in my opinion foreseeably, insufficient.  Everyone already knows these things about Trump, which is why so many independents and moderate Republicans won’t vote for him.  Incessantly reminding Republicans and independents of this, and repeatedly saying that these aspects of Trumpism isn’t traditionally Republican, gains her nothing, or close to nothing.

And presumably it was her fear of losing Republican support that caused her and her campaign to remain silent—throughout the summer and well into September—about Trump’s puppet-puppeteer relationship with billionaire far-right donors, and these two billionaire far-right and alt-right donors in particular.  Wouldn’t wanna risk causing Meg Whitman to rescind her support for Clinton, I guess.

But now, finally, ridiculously belatedly … no more. I’m guessing that Gold’s piece today was prompted by a very legitimate request from the Clinton campaign.  How legitimate?  Can anyone really say in good faith that the public is not entitled to learn of this information through in-your-face political news media attention?

I’m thrilled.  And I also want to say this: My main sources of news are the New York Times and the Washington Post; I have online subscriptions to both.  And throughout this campaign season, dating back to the truly wonderful coverage of the Sanders campaign by the Post’s John Wagner and certainly continuing through the general-election campaign to date, the Post’s straight political and political-analysis reportage has been excellent, and the Times’ has been, in my opinion, subpar.

In any event, I sure welcome a finally-enlightened Clinton campaign.  And some real news emphasis on the Mercers.  Normally, when I read a commentary or a statement by a major pol, or some such, that appears to reflect a recent AB post of mine, I joke here that, say, “Obama reads Angry Bear!”, or the like.  But this time I think maybe my posts here imploring Clinton and the news/commentary media to tell the public, very loudly, about the Mercers and their puppet/puppeteer role in the Trump campaign and what that would mean in a Trump administration.

I mean, who knows?  Clinton’s taking a few (very entitled) sick days right now and maybe has happened upon this awesome blog called Angry Bear.  If so, she should take up a related suggestion of mine: asking rhetorically what the Mercers think about Citizens United.

And about Citizens United.  Which the Mercers apparently fund (as they do Brietbart).  And whose founder and president for the past 16 years is now, at their suggestion, Trump’s deputy campaign manager.  As a native Rust Belter I’m sorta thinkin’ that maybe some on-the-fence voters in the upper Midwest would like to know that.  So tell them, Hillary Clinton.

Tell. Them.

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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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Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen Gets It Right About the Clinton Foundation (in my opinion)

Back when I worked for the claims department of a major insurance company, I got stuff. Some of the stuff consisted of tickets to Broadway shows and sporting events, and sometimes I got bottles of booze, Canadian Club being a popular choice for some reason. These items were tendered to me by auto appraisers, repair shops and other firms, large and small, that wanted the business my company could offer. Corrupt souls that they were, they offered these items as bribes. Pristine young man that I was, I accepted them as gifts. I was, in my own modest way, Hillary Clinton before her time.

The pattern established by the vaunted Cohen of Claims is similar to the one later copied by Clinton of Chappaqua. You may note that when it came to these matters — these matters being the acceptance of ethically dubious gifts — Hillary Clinton was lots of quid and little quo. The mountains of money that came into the Clinton Foundation, some of it offered by otherwise heartless men, apparently got the donors nothing. They came from parts of the world where a man’s bribe is his word, and yet money offered in New York to the foundation did not open a door in Washington at the State Department.

Clinton Foundation alchemy — turning bribes into gifts, Richard Cohen, Washington Post, today

Cohen’s column today triggers memories for me.  My father, too, turned bribes into gifts.

As a journalist for a major local newspaper, he and his colleagues were inundated with gifts of the sort that Cohen was as an auto insurance claims adjuster.  Free passes to movies, to the annual auto show (fun), boat show (also fun), flower show (pretty), big-deal movie premiers (very occasionally; this was not NYC), and the latest hit play touring after (or before) its Broadway run.  Glamorous cocktail parties called “press parties”.   (Clothes, especially ones for fancy gatherings, were expensive, and my mother would always have two “dressy” dresses, both of them that “went with” black heels (also expensive back then) that she would alternate, depending on who she thought would be attending the particular event or gathering.

During the winter holiday season, the doorbell was ringing often.  There were bottles of French designer perfumes and colognes for my mother, bottles of high-priced alcohol (my mother would just call them “bottles,” as in, “It’s a ‘bottle,’ from so-and-so,” usually said with a sigh; “so-and-so” being a “press agent,” these days known as people in “public relations”).  Our living room was filled with poinsettia plants; we were Jewish, but enjoyed the colorful displays.  The tops of my parents’ bedroom dressers looked like a perfume counter at Saks; almost all the bottles remained in their unopened boxes, for years.  The basement had a mini upscale liquor section, the bottles unopened, also for years.  And years.

One night when I was 10, my father came home gingerly carrying a lovely roughly-200-year-old Japanese woodcut that he’d been sent by the someone at the public relations office at the local art museum.  The museum was having a special exhibit of antique Japanese art, and my father’s newspaper had run a lengthy picture-filled article about it in the Arts section before the exhibit opened.  The exhibit was one of the most successful in memory, and my father had played a role in the article’s prominence and length in the Arts section.  The museum’s PR person sent my father the woodcut, along with a note of appreciation, attributing the popularity of the exhibit largely to that article.  The paper’s art editor, George, himself an artist and art collector, and a close friend of my father’s, had chosen the pictures for the article, and wrote the article.  My father asked him if he could place a value on the woodcut.  He did, and my father paid the museum for it.

My father not long before had asked him if he could find an affordable large painting for the main wall, behind the couch, in our living room, and George suggested instead that my parents by a set of Japanese woodcuts from the same era that would look nice with the museum woodcut that would be on another wall.  George found a set of four that told a story, and framed them in narrow, plain wood frames that he covered with rice paper he died a light blue, with natural-colored rice paper matting.  They were beautiful, and, I’m quite sure, the most valuable things my parents ever had in their home.

That was my father’s foray into quid pro quo—an antique Japanese woodcut he received as a gift and then paid for.  My father, George, and a few others at the paper had received free passes for two to the exhibit before it opened, along with a lengthy press release about the upcoming exhibit.

In an addendum to this recent post of mine here at AB, I wrote:

For me this general election campaign has been an exercise in frustration and dismay at the failure of Clinton and her campaign to apprise the public of critically important things about Trump that they don’t already know.  Like Trump’s monetary motive for his coziness with Putin, and his methods of financing his real estate empire that included bank fraud and partnerships with corrupt foreigners.  Things that make the Clintons’ self-dealing and misrepresentations to the public look utterly inconsequential by comparison.

And like what billionaire is backing Trump financially and calling the campaign shots, and would be calling the shots in a Trump administration.  And what those shots would be.

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Finally—finally—now, Clinton is angry enough about Trump’s statements about Clinton Foundation/State Department connection that she’s willing to depart from her campaign’s strategy of telling the public what they already know about Trump, but nothing else, because informing voters about the stuff they don’t know would require a slightly complex discussion.  Telling people what they already know is quick and easy and soundbite-y.  So it’s what her highly paid consultants and top campaign staff advise.

But in a stark, sudden and surprising departure, Clinton is about to begin educating the public about something somewhat complex, something that requires that she tell them things about Trump that they don’t already know.  She’s about to explain the alt-right, apparently in some actual depth, and illustrate that Trump is the alt-right’s candidate because he himself is alt-right.

So is his billionaire.  The public has no idea he has one, much less what the billionaire’s specific agenda is.  And if Clinton finally is ready to tell the public that, yes, Trump has his very own billionaire supporting his campaign with many millions of dollars, she will get some help from John McCainwho obviously reads Angry Bear even if Clinton and her campaign folks don’t.  Although, of course, it’s more accurate to describe the relationship as one in which the billionaire has his very own presidential nominee.

The post was titled “Trump suggests to undocumented immigrants that they quickly pool their savings and use the funds to buy real estate in extremely leveraged deals* in order to avoid paying back taxes (or income taxes at all) once they become legal residents during a Trump administration.  And Eric Trump agrees!

And a few days earlier, in a post titled “Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel vs. Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer (i.e., the meaning of TRUE CHANGE)”, I wrote:

Amid the widespread media focus last on the Trump campaign’s shakeup that ended Paul Manafort’s reign there (such as it was) and brought in Breitbart alum Steve Bannon as campaign CEO (interesting title, but whatever) and elevated Trump pollster Kellyann Conway to campaign manager, a critical aspect of this, though reported in-depth by the New York Times and a couple of other major news outlets, has, clearly, not made it mainstream: that Trump’s actual current puppeteers are the father-daughter duo of Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer.  And who they are.

So let me introduce them to y’all, by borrowing heavily from an in-depth article by Nicholas Confessore titled “How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign,” published in last Friday’s New York Times:

What followed that colon detailed enough about Robert and Rebeka Mercer to disabuse the reader of any conception that a Trump administration would be pro-blue-collar worker and, to borrow from Bernie Sanders, anti-the-billionaire class.   A purpose of the post was to express dismay that neither the Clinton campaign, nor the DNC, nor most of the mainstream news media had deigned to try to educate the public about who is financially propping up the Trump campaign, and what they hope to accomplish in a Trump administration.

Another purpose was to try in my tiny-readership way to illustrate the absurdity of Trump’s claimed equivalency of his billionaires’ financial backing of his candidacy and the fundraising assistance to Clinton from Hollywood multimillionaire progressives like Timberlane and Biel and other extremely wealthy people whose financial interests are counter to their support of Clinton and of progressive down-ballot candidates, especially for the Senate and House.

Clinton wants to see the demise of Citizens United, and presumably her Supreme Court nominees do, too.  Trump has promised Supreme Court nominees in the mold of Antonin Scalia.  Progressive Democratic members of Congress will attempt to enact new, sweeping campaign-finance-reform legislation.  Clinton will sign it if it makes it that far.  Trump would veto it, and Republican members of Congress will do whatever they can to thwart it.

This media focus on Clinton Foundation donors, while certainly legitimate, seems to hold a monopoly on news media dissection of presidential-campaign financial backing.  Why?

Seriously.  Why?

Cohen writes in that column:

“The fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as Secretary of State because of donations to the Clinton Foundation,” said Josh Schwerin, a Clinton campaign spokesman. Apparently, this is true, and it no doubt breaks the hearts of Republicans everywhere who think that Clinton is both a crook and a fool. She is possibly only a bit of the former and certainly none of the latter.

Let us take the case of Casey Wasserman. He runs the Wasserman Media Group, a sports marketing and talent-management agency. According to The Post, Wasserman’s charitable foundation contributed between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation and his investment company also hired Bill Clinton as a consultant, paying him $3.13 million in fees in 2009 and 2010. For this, aside from a warm feeling, it seems Wasserman got nothing. When he tried to get the State Department to approve a visa for a British soccer star with a criminal record, he got nowhere — so much quid, so little quo.

As Cohen of Claims, I followed the same M.O. Not only did I treat every bribe as a gift, but also I never demanded anything from anyone and went out of my way to award my business on the basis of competence alone. In fact, on the rare occasion that someone complained that I was not sending enough business their way and wondered if a little cash would help their cause, I cut them off completely. I insisted on good work, promptly done. I could not be bought.

My father could not be bought, either; he was not bought.  Which is not to say that none of his colleagues, or his counterparts at the other local newspapers, were, but it is to say that most were not and that the ones who were were bought cheaply and that the quo, while important to the one who offered and gave the quid, surely was pretty trivial to the larger public.

It also is not to say that $3.13 million in, um, consulting fees directly to Bill and Hillary Clinton, not to their foundation, in the space of two years—those two years being the depths of the financial crisis and recession—is trivial.  It’s not.  Nor did it go to a good cause, as donations to the Foundation at least did.  Cohen writes:

But just as I knew that the gifts I got were intended as bribes, and just as only I knew that the bribes were buying nothing, so did Hillary Clinton know that the huge amounts of money raised by the Clinton Foundation were coming from donors who thought they were buying something — access, a favor down the line, even a choice seat at some glitzy Clinton event with the requisite selfie to be sent to clients, spouses and interested others. And just as I never spelled out my rules — never said that the gift/bribe would buy nothing — I, like the Clintons, understood what might be the expectations of the donors. Some of them, probably, felt more strongly about taking a picture with Bill Clinton than about AIDS in Haiti.

The same pattern repeats itself over and over. Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of huge philanthropic endeavors — he is a benefactor of the Louvre in Paris, for instance — donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Yet, when he contacted the foundation for help in meeting with a State Department official regarding Lebanon, where he has business and political interests, he got nowhere. Still, like the occasional tycoon from anywhere, he might have expected otherwise.

There is precious little that’s charitable about the world of charity. Raising money, like sausage-making, ain’t pretty to see, and it would be just criminally naive to rely on the big hearts of big donors. Much is bartered — access, recognition, social standing, proximity to the star at a dinner, a call afterward and, unspoken, the promise of influence if influence is needed. The Clintons knew exactly what was happening — a kind of alchemy in which potential bribes were turned into innocent gifts, leaving everyone with clean hands and, inevitably, the noxious odor of scandal.

What matters at this juncture, in this particular presidential campaign, isn’t what the Foundation or even the Clintons personally received, but instead what, if anything, they gave in return, and what, if anything, Hillary Clinton as president would actually give as quo.  And what Trump as president would, and to whom, and to what extent.  And what the quo’s importance to the public would be.

I’ll quote myself here:

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Please, no false equivalencies on this.  Okay?

Neither of my two recent posts from which I quote received any attention.  I hope this one does.

____

UPDATE: Reader Zachary Smith and I just exchanged these comments in the Comments thread:

Zachary Smith / August 30, 2016 2:24 p.m.

As part of the murder process of Muammar Gaddafi, he was sodomized with a bayonet. Out of respect for any children reading this blog, I’m not going to spell that out any further. What was Hillary’s RECORDED reaction?

“We came, we saw, he died,” followed by a laugh and gleeful hand clap.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgcd1ghag5Y

Under my definiton of “sociopath”, Hillary Clinton qualifies on that one alone. Of course there are others….

*** My father, too, turned bribes into gifts. ***

I know some saintly people myself, and have no difficulty accepting this claim at face value. Stretching the analogy to the Clinton Foundation is, in my opinion, a stretch too far. If Hillary was as pure as the driven snow, why did she work so hard to ensure her communications were beyond the reach of the Freedom Of Information Act? Why has the State department refused to release her meeting schedules until after the election?

Finally, using Richard Cohen as an source for anything is beyond the pale. This shill for Israel was all-in for the destruction of Iraq. He was a big fan of the destruction of Libya. He’s a huge booster for the destruction of Syria. And he most definitely wants somebody in the White House who will finish off Iran.

That person is Hillary Clinton.

____

Me / August 30, 2016 3:04 pm

Well, first of all, my father was never a movie critic, a theater critic, never covered the auto industry or the pleasure boating industry, or, really, anything else that could have involved him in a quo on anything like a regular basis, so maybe that wasn’t a good line for me to use and maybe this wasn’t a good analogy after all. I was never really sure what these folks were after from my father, but that was the era of “press parties” and free passes to this and that, and there certainly were a lot of those. (Maybe these still are; I have no idea what the ethical aesthetic for journalists is these days.)

Still, not a truly apt analogy, as you’ve now illustrated, even though Cohen’s trip down memory lane did evoke incidents from my childhood.

But the point of my post is that the heavy media focus on Clinton’s conflict-of-interest-type transgressions, and the near-total lack of it regarding Trump, the Russian connection being the lone exception, is inappropriately asymmetrical, and does the voting public a major disservice.

As for Libya, you may well not know that the civil war there was quite well underway when this country intervened in order to fend off the imminent slaughter by Gaddafi of about a quarter-million people trapped with no defenses in a particular Libyan city. It was intended as, and was, a humanitarian intervention. And it was considered so throughout much of the Middle East. The problem came afterward, after Gaddafi’s fall, when this country did nothing to assist the rebels, and they were overtaken by ISIS.

As for Syria, here too I’m not sure why you think this country caused its civil war, but it did not.

I’ve hardly made a secret here at AB of my near-virulent distaste for Hillary Clinton and, these days, Bill Clinton. I’m, suffice it to say, not a shill for her. I really, really dislike her personality. But she’s running against Robert-and-Rebeka-Mercer-and-Paul-Ryan’s-legislative-agenda (believe me, and I don’t mean in the Trump sense). I’m sorry that that’s the case. But it is the case.

And about my father, he wasn’t a saint, but he wasn’t that far from one, in my opinion and that of almost everyone who knew him. He was a very good person.

R.I.P., Daddy.

Update added 8/30 at 3:24 p.m.

 

____

SECOND UPDATE:  I’m adding this exchange of comments between reader Nihil Obstet and me because my response to him clarifies a key point about my post that, judging from the Comments thread, some readers did not understand:

Nihil Obstet /August 30, 2016 4:08 pm

The problem with corruption in Washington these days is that they don’t know it’s corruption — it’s the atmosphere they breathe, the ocean they swim in.

People who want something from you give you gifts? Well, the gift-giving has nothing to do with what they want you to do. They just like you. And you aren’t at all influenced by the gifts and their presumed affection. Unlike the rest of humanity, you aren’t at all affected by your perception of others’ valuing of you. Really?

In a criminal trial, potential jurors who know anyone who will be involved in the trial are dismissed. Silly courts? I don’t think so. That level of ignorance between the governed and their representatives is neither possible nor desirable, but its requirement where government will act is, I think, an accurate indication of the probability of conscious or unconscious influence of relationships.

If gift giving to those in power isn’t corrupt or corrupting, what’s the problem with Citizens United again?

In short, this pabulum about the real purity of backscratching is the crony justification of corruption. It’s not corruption. It’s just the way nice honest grownup people with favors to give live.

____

Me / August 30, 2016 5:55 pm

The thing here is that when there has been no action by the recipient of the gift, there is no backscratching. That’s Cohen’s point, and mine.

The problem with Citizens United is that extremely wealthy individuals, and corporations, are funding candidates who as elected officials will be making policy decisions that serve the financial interests of the people who funded those elected officials’ campaigns.

With Clinton, these people were doing what they were doing because she was Secretary of State and they wanted certain things from her as Secretary of State. If she didn’t oblige them, then the issue is one of access–they were able to get through to Abedin or whoever to request these things. That’s not pretty, but it’s not the same as actually getting what they’d requested.

There are big problems, of course, with potential conflict of interest concerning these past Foundation donors and consultant payments to Bill Clinton and speech payments to him and her. Big problems. But my post, and Cohen’s column, addressed only the issue of quid pro quos when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

Judging from the comments, I think several readers of my post missed that fact.

And here’s another comment of mine in the thread, this in response to a comment by Mike Kimel:

“It won’t affect my judgment” is different than “It can’t affect my judgment, because I have no judgment to exercise on this.” Which was true for my father and most of his colleagues.

But it also is different than “It didn’t affect my judgment, as you can see. I didn’t do what the gift-giver wanted, and in fact did nothing.” Which is what Cohen did as a claims adjuster. And, with the exception of trivialities, appears to be what happened at State.

If there eventually is evidence of instances in which something really did happen, that would be a big, big problem. But Trump is a walking conflict-of-interest machine, and his funders/puppeteers are far, far worse than Clinton’s, in almost every respect, not least on climate-change matters.

What this election has done is expose the awfulness of the Democratic Party’s nomination process. Every single day, when I click on the internet, I think, yet again, what a tragedy it is that Clinton so wrapped up the Party before the election season even begun that no progressive other than Bernie challenged her. Not Sherrod Brown, not Elizabeth Warren. No one but Bernie, whom the political news media insisted month after month could never actually win the general election, if nominated.

It makes me sick. and I think this will be the last Dem presidential primary season in which that will happen. But we’re faced with a contest between Trump and Clinton. We each have to choose whom we will support.

Hope this clarifies my post.  Especially since it’s my final comment about it.  I think.

Added 8/30 at 6:22 p.m.

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Trump suggests to undocumented immigrants that they quickly pool their savings and use the funds to buy real estate in extremely leveraged deals* in order to avoid paying back taxes (or income taxes at all) once they become legal residents during a Trump administration. And Eric Trump agrees!

In what would be a stunning reversal on an issue central to his candidacy, Donald Trump floated a possible process to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in America in a town hall that aired Wednesday.

“No citizenship,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an interview taped Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas. “Let me go a step further — they’ll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them.”

Trump said he was moved by concerns from fans who opposed his previous calls for a “deportation force” to remove all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Donald Trump Openly Weighs a Massive Immigration Reversal, Benjy Sarlin, NBCNews.com, today [h/t Greg Sargent)

Meanwhile, son Eric helpfully instructed yesterday that tax returns don’t show anything instructive about such things as who, or what entities, actually are funding the purchases of this real estate, how many times refinancing has occurred and how it occurred, who or what entities own partnership interests (and what those interests are), and whether they are profitable and, if so, how much is paid in taxes on that income.  Politico’s Tyler Pager reported yesterday:

“There is no tax attorney in the world who will tell you to release your tax returns while you’re under a standard, routine audit,” Eric Trump said on CNBC. “It would never happen. Anybody who thinks that is in La-La Land. … It would be foolish to do.”

Eric Trump added that he is the biggest proponent of his father not releasing his tax returns.

“His tax return, did you see the Twitter picture, it’s 5 feet tall,” he said. “You would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions they know nothing about.”

Donald Trump’s tax returns have become a key campaign issue with Democrats hammering him for not disclosing them and saying the returns could reveal hidden business interests, particularly with Russia. Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has publicly challenged Trump to release his tax returns, saying he will release his own if Trump does.

Still, Eric Trump maintained he does not think his father should release them.

“You learn a lot more when you look at somebody’s assets,” he said. “You know how many hotels we have around the world. You know how many golf courses we have around the world. You know every single building we have.”

“We have,” of course, appears to be loosely defined here.  But what we do know, courtesy of Eric’s brother Donald Jr., is that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” and that “[w]e see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”  Or at least this was so in 2008, when Donald Jr. disclosed this to his audience when speaking at a real estate conference.

No one need wonder who suggested that Trump hire Paul Manafort to run his campaign, decades after Manafort had stopped being a Republican Party operative.  But that’s in the past.

The future, by contrast, holds big things for undocumented immigrants. Multimillions of dollars in tax-free income.  At least if they become real estate developers.

Eric’s given away the secret that the Trump University professors withheld.  And he did it without even charging tuition.

There does remain that little question of how to go about having unpaid back taxes count for future real estate purchases under the tax code.  But if the newly-documented immigrants hire accountants and tax lawyers recommended by Trump’s accountants and tax lawyers, this shouldn’t prove difficult.

And for a partnership interest in the real estate, Trump surely will have his accountants and lawyers provide names.

____

*ADDENDUM: About one of those extremely leveraged real estate deals:

“I don’t settle lawsuits — very rare — because once you settle lawsuits, everybody sues you,” he said recently.

But Mr. Trump made an exception when buyers of units in Trump SoHo, a 46­ story luxury condominium­hotel in Lower Manhattan, asserted that they had been defrauded by inflated claims made by Mr. Trump, his children and others of brisk sales in the struggling project. He and his co­defendants settled the case in November 2011, agreeing to refund 90 percent of $3.16 million in deposits, while admitting no wrongdoing.

The backdrop to that unusual denouement was a gathering legal storm that threatened to cast a harsh light on how he did business. Besides the fraud accusations, a separate lawsuit claimed that Trump SoHo was developed with the undisclosed involvement of convicted felons and financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan.

And hovering over it all was a criminal investigation, previously unreported, by the Manhattan district attorney into whether the fraud alleged by the condo buyers broke any laws, according to documents and interviews with five people familiar with it. The buyers initially helped in the investigation, but as part of their lawsuit settlement, they had to notify prosecutors that they no longer wished to do so.

The criminal case was eventually closed. Mr. Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination rests on the notion, relentlessly promoted by the candidate himself, that his record of business deals has prepared him better than his rivals for running the country. An examination of Trump SoHo provides a window into his handling of one such deal and finds that decisions on important matters like whom to become partners with and how to market the project led him into a thicket of litigation and controversy.

Trump SoHo is one of several instances in which Mr. Trump’s boastfulness — a hallmark of his career and his campaign — has been accused of crossing the line into fraud.

Donald Trump Settled a Real Estate Lawsuit, and a Criminal Case Was Closed, Mike McIntyre, New York Times, Apr. 5, 2016

For me this general election campaign has been an exercise in frustration and dismay at the failure of Clinton and her campaign to apprise the public of critically important things about Trump that they don’t already know.  Like Trump’s monetary motive for his coziness with Putin, and his methods of financing his real estate empire that included bank fraud and partnerships with corrupt foreigners.  Things that make the Clintons’ self-dealing and misrepresentations to the public look utterly inconsequential by comparison.

And like what billionaire is backing Trump financially and calling the campaign shots, and would be calling the shots in a Trump administration.  And what those shots would be.

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Finally—finally—now, Clinton is angry enough about Trump’s statements about Clinton Foundation/State Department connection that she’s willing to depart from her campaign’s strategy of telling the public what they already know about Trump, but nothing else, because informing voters about the stuff they don’t know would require a slightly complex discussion.  Telling people what they already know is quick and easy and soundbite-y.  So it’s what her highly paid consultants and top campaign staff advise.

But in a stark, sudden and surprising departure, Clinton is about to begin educating the public about something somewhat complex, something that requires that she tell them things about Trump that they don’t already know.  She’s about to explain the alt-right, apparently in some actual depth, and illustrate that Trump is the alt-right’s candidate because he himself is alt-right.

So is his billionaire.  The public has no idea he has one, much less what the billionaire’s specific agenda is.  And if Clinton finally is ready to tell the public that, yes, Trump has his very own billionaire supporting his campaign with many millions of dollars, she will get some help from John McCain, who obviously reads Angry Bear even if Clinton and her campaign folks don’t.  Although, of course, it’s more accurate to describe the relationship as one in which the billionaire has his very own presidential nominee.

Addendum added 8/25 at 4:07 p.m.

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Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel vs. Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer (i.e., the meaning of TRUE CHANGE)

In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s recent fundraising along the East and West coasts, the Republican National Committee has released a new web ad claiming the Democratic presidential nominee is out of touch with “everyday Americans.”

The 19-second video, titled “Hillary Clinton’s Liberal Elite Summer Tour,” begins with an image of an airplane bearing Clinton’s logo. A voiceover resembling an announcement from a flight attendant names some of the stops on Clinton’s schedule, including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Martha’s Vineyard.

“Please use caution in opening the overhead bins, as Hillary’s baggage may have shifted during flight,” the “flight attendant” says as the ad ends.

Clinton spent her weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and held a fundraiser in Nantucket. On Tuesday, Clinton is headlining a $33,400-per-guest event being hosted by Justin Timberlake and his wife, actress Jessica Biel.

“Hillary Clinton claims she’s running to be a champion for ‘everyday Americans,’ but her busy week of fundraisers with her friends in the wealthy liberal elite show who she’s really fighting for,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Rather than visit flood-ravaged Louisiana or end her more than 250-day streak without a press conference, she’s taking her private jet from coast to coast raking in piles of campaign cash to fund her status quo campaign.

“Donald Trump is the candidate of true change in this election, and he is leading a grassroots movement to put an end to business as usual in Washington and make a difference in the lives of all Americans.”

New RNC ad attacks Clinton’s fundraisers, Rebecca Morin, Politico, yesterday

Amid the widespread media focus last on the Trump campaign’s shakeup that ended Paul Manafort’s reign there (such as it was) and brought in Breitbart alum Steve Bannon as campaign CEO (interesting title, but whatever) and elevated Trump pollster Kellyann Conway to campaign manager, a critical aspect of this, though reported in-depth by the New York Times and a couple of other major news outlets, has, clearly, not made it mainstream: that Trump’s actual current puppeteers are the father-daughter duo of Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer.  And who they are.

So let me introduce them to y’all, by borrowing heavily from an in-depth article by Nicholas Confessore titled “How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign,” published in last Friday’s New York Times:

Last week, as Donald J. Trump endured one of the most tumultuous stretches of his presidential campaign, a few longtime allies in New York conservative circles met for dinner and a drink. As the evening progressed, the conversation turned to an inevitable topic: What would it take to give Mr. Trump his best shot at winning?

A few days later, one of the guests, Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, would become Mr. Trump’s campaign chief in a sudden shake­up. But it was a guest without a formal role in the campaign, a conservative philanthropist named Rebekah Mercer, who has now become one of its most potent forces.

Mr. Bannon’s ascension on Wednesday — urged on Mr. Trump by Ms. Mercer, among others — shows how a cadre of strategists, “super PACs” and political organizations quietly nurtured by her family have emerged to play a pivotal role in Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Over more than half a decade, Ms. Mercer’s father, the New York investor Robert Mercer, has carved an idiosyncratic path through conservative politics, spending tens of millions of dollars to outflank his own party’s consultant class and unnerve its established powers. His fortune has financed think tanks and insurgent candidates, super PACs and media watchdogs, lobbying groups and grass­roots organizations.

Many of them are now connected, one way or another, to Mr. Trump’s presidential bid. Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is a veteran Republican pollster who previously oversaw a super PAC financed by the Mercers. Mr. Bannon oversaw Breitbart, an outlet that has often amplified Mr. Trump’s message and attacked his perceived enemies. Mr. Mercer reportedly invested $10 million in Breitbart several years ago, and most likely still has a stake: A company sharing an address with Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Mr. Mercer helps lead, remains an investor in Breitbart, according to corporate documents filed in Delaware.

Mr. Trump is also relying on Cambridge Analytica, a voter data firm backed by Mr. Mercer, whose staff members are working with Mr. Trump’s vendors to identify potential Trump supporters in the electorate, particularly among infrequent voters.

A Mercer-­backed super PAC supporting Mr. Trump is now being shepherded by David Bossie, a conservative activist whose own projects have been funded in part by the Mercers’ family foundation, according to tax documents.

Mr. Bannon has worked particularly closely with the family in recent years.

“I think they have complete confidence, and rightly so, in Steve Bannon’s decisions and what he brings to the table politically,” Mr. Bossie said. “He has been smart and successful in running these different political operations. And those things have come to the Mercers’ attention.”

The Mercers, who rarely grant interviews, declined through a spokesman to comment. Mr. Mercer, 70, a mathematician and competitive poker player who spent his early career at I.B.M., joined Renaissance in the 1990s and rose to become the co-­chief executive, earning hundreds of millions of dollars along the way.

Today, he and his wife, Diana, live on a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore where, according to court records, he installed a $2.7 million model railroad set (and later sued the vendor for overcharging him).  [Italics added.]

Like many elite donors, the Mercers shun mainstream media attention — even while financing alternative outlets that provide content for conservative activists. That includes not just Breitbart, but also the self­described watchdog organization Media Research Center and the Government Accountability Institute, home to Peter Schweizer, the author of “Clinton Cash,” a book examining the Clinton family philanthropies. (Mr. Bannon co­founded the institute and Ms. Mercer, 42, has served on its board; she also co­produced a documentary based on the book and released last month, just before the Democratic National Convention.)

They have given to libertarian organizations, such as the Cato Institute, and political organizations like the Club for Growth, which spends millions of dollars each election cycle in Republican primaries, hoping to promote orthodox conservative policies on taxes and spending. The Mercers are also significant donors to the sprawling political network overseen by the political activists Charles G. and David H. Koch, which is also libertarian-­leaning.  [Italics added.]

But unlike the Koch brothers, who remained neutral in the Republican primary and have said their organizations will focus on congressional races this fall, the Mercers were deeply involved in the Republican nominating battle this year. And they have shown a taste for more bare-­knuckled and populist politics than most of Mr. Mercer’s fellow hedge fund magnates.

The family originally backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a more traditional conservative but one who, like Mr. Trump, is disliked by much of the party establishment. During the early phase of the campaign, Mr. Mercer donated $13 million to a super PAC supporting Mr. Cruz. In doing so, he broke with many peers in the elite donor world, who looked to candidates like Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

The Mercers maintained close control over the group’s purse strings, installing Ms. Conway to oversee the group and coordinate with several other pro-­Cruz groups, an unusual move for a super PAC. During the Republican primary, the group ran ads questioning Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials, hoping to outflank Mr. Trump.

But the Mercers moved to support Mr. Trump after he won the nomination. They were helped in part, according to a person who asked for anonymity to describe the family’s thinking, by Mr. Trump’s growing emphasis on traditional conservative ideas, such as tax cuts. [Italics added.]  And the family broke with Mr. Cruz in highly public fashion after his speech at the Republican convention, when the Texas senator refused to endorse Mr. Trump and instead suggested that Republicans should “vote your conscience” for candidates “up and down the ticket.”

In an extraordinary rebuke, the Mercers issued a rare public statement, calling themselves “profoundly disappointed” in Mr. Cruz. In late June, the Mercer­-financed super PAC quietly re­formed as Make America Number One, now a pro-­Trump entity. Mr. Bossie, a longtime conservative activist who has produced documentaries about the Clinton family and illegal immigration, is leading the group, which is likely to raise more money from the Mercers to pay for attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

Yeah, yeah, okay, I didn’t borrow heavily from the Confessore piece; I borrowed the whole thing.  But the italics are mine, so … fair use?  In return, I will say that Confessore’s reporting is, in my opinion, unfailingly awesome.

What matters here is, I would hope, obvious: Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, George Clooney, and the folks who attend their, and other Hollywood types’, fundraisers, for Clinton, for the DNC, for Senate and House candidates, for other down-ballot candidates, are donating to politicians whose platform—and in the instances of Dem incumbents running for reelection, their actual legislative votes—run counter to their financial interests.  Sometimes very significantly.

That likely also is true of many of those Martha’s Vineyard fundraiser hosts and attendees.

In any event, I’m not sure why the funds raised by the liberal elite in Hollywood and Martha’s Vineyard, in the service of reducing their own fortunes, is more pernicious than the tens upon tens of millions of dollars provided by two people transferring the money from a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore that, according to court records, features an installed $2.7 million model railroad set, and from other homes owned by one or another of the two, in the service of propping up campaigns for president and Congress whose explicit tax, expenditures, and regulatory plans—not to mention quieter federal legislative proposals—would directly and dramatically increase their already-exorbitant wealth and enable the fully tax-free passage of that wealth from themselves to their heirs.

Heirs, here, being a legal term of art, but it does double duty here as in “heir to the [fill-in-the-blanks] fortune” of common parlance.

Although presumably Ms. Conway can explain it, since yesterday, according news reports, she said in a TV interview that she’s chomping at the bit to see Trump campaign on his tax plan, which, she said, lowers taxes for … the middle class!  Who are in the tax bracket that will save them hundreds of thousands of dollars each year under Trump’s income tax proposal and who will be relieved to know that their wealth in excess of $5 million (or whatever the current level is above which is subject to the estate tax) will pass to their heirs (both uses of the term here) tax-free.

And while Trump is campaigning in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania on his tax plan, maybe he’ll discuss also who will have his ear when it comes time to fill such positions as National Labor Relations Board members, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Commerce, head of the Federal Communications—and Attorney General.  As well as chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

To name only a handful of appointees that, y’know, maybe could matter to some of those Rust Belt blue-collar workers, former and present.

And then there is the matter of Trump’s promise, repeated time and again, to appoint Supreme Court justices who will ensure the continued viability of Citizens United issued, 5-4, in 2010.  And of Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, a bizarre 5-4 opinion fabricating a constitutional ground on which to strike down Arizona’s matching-campaign-funds statute that applied to elections for state office.  This issue is dead only if Trump wins and does as he’s promised: Nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

Yesterday’s NYT Opinion section featured a lengthy piece by former Times Washington Bureau chief Hedrick Smith that made that clear.  Titled “Can the States Save American Democracy?”, Smith writes:

In the pushback against Citizens United, 17 states and more than 680 local governments have appealed to Congress for a constitutional amendment, either through a letter to Congress, referendums, legislative resolutions, city council votes or collective letters from state lawmakers.

In the most prominent case, California’s 18 million registered voters get to vote in November on whether to instruct their 55­ member congressional delegation to “use all of their constitutional authority” to overturn Citizens United. Washington State is holding a similar referendum. In 2014, a Democratic amendment proposal to allow regulation and limits on electoral spending won a 54­42 majority in the Senate, strictly along party lines, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster. Now bills calling for a 6­ to­ 1 match of public funds for small campaign donations up to $150, or requiring disclosure of funders for campaign ads, have wide Democratic support, but are blocked by Republican opposition.

Yet out in the country, even in some reliably red states, reform movements have sprouted. South Dakota is one, thanks to three petition drives. One seeks to make primaries nonpartisan and another calls for an independent redistricting commission. A third is for a ballot measure, similar to one in Washington State, that would create a $50 tax credit for each voter to donate to a political candidate; ban campaign contributions exceeding $100 from lobbyists and state contractors; and mandate that independent groups speedily disclose the top five contributors to political ads and electioneering communications made within 60 days of an election.

In April, Nebraska’s Republican-­dominated Legislature voted 29­15 to set up an independent redistricting commission. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, vetoed the bill, but reformist legislators promise a revised proposal in the next session.

Everyone, of course, knows about Citizens United, but no one knows about that Arizona matching-funds opinion.  Nor does anyone know about the string of 5-4 Supreme Court opinions rewriting, for example, the Federal Arbitration Act to provide what the Act does not provide, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), the statute that delineates key aspects of access to federal court, to provide the diametric contrary to what it actually says and had been accepted as saying since it was enacted in about 1970.

There are other critical rewritings of “codified” law—provisions of the Constitution and legislative enactments, including the very wording of the Constitution’s Eleventh Amendment—also regarding threshold access to federal court, as part of the Supreme Court’s makeover of American law in the vision of the Conservative Legal Movement.

To which Trump’s two funders/puppeteers aggressively subscribe.

And here’s what really matters: Trump himself will not win; that train has left the station and will not be returning.  And in recognition and acceptance of that, the RNC apparently plans to soon start trying to sell their Senate and House incumbent and new candidates a check on Clinton.  Which would seem to raise the issue of what policies she would propose that a majority of voters want checked.

Well, either that or what policies the Republican donors want checked.  And what policies they want to force as part of, say, the annual appropriations bill, including those quietly inserted during the night before the bill comes to a floor vote.

I’ve repeatedly argued here at AB, including here last week, that a fatal problem with Senate and House campaigns for Dems is that they think that “nationalizing” elections for Congress is something that works against rather than for Dems.  I’ve said that this is so only to the extent that Dems think triangulating on economic issues and running entirely on culture-wars issues—running a campaign that, to borrow from Mitt Romney, is an apology tour, albeit with such things as legitimate -rape matters thrown in.  And of course that extent has been pretty darn broad.  Until this cycle—at least to some extent.

But not to a large enough extent.  After Labor Day, Bernie Sanders will begin campaigning around the country, holding rallies not just in support of Clinton but also with—withsome Dem Senate and House candidates.  So this will change, I would think.

But as for the Clinton campaign itself, which has the creativity and guts of the chair I’m sitting in, I offer a suggestion: How about an ad featuring Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel in which they compare their financial gain or loss that of Robert and Rebeka Mercer under Trump’s plan and then under Clinton’s?  (Jeff Weaver, Bernie’s campaign manager, could put together something attention-grabbing, informative and funny; I know he could. And I’ve read that he’s now working informally with the DNC.)

Change? You say you want change, Rust Belters?*  Be careful what you wish for.  Or at least hope you don’t get it.

True change.  The lady promised true change.  She wasn’t kidding.

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*Look, I’ve said roughly 800 times here (rounding out the figure) that Trump will not come close to winning Rust Belt blue-collar workers.  But it’s critically important also to turn both houses of Congress blue.

For roughly that same number—800 (rounding out the figure)—of reasons.

____

I’ll insert a couple more links, regarding Supreme Court opinions I describe here, tonight.  I don’t have time now, and I want to get this posted as early as possible. Because, well … I think it contains darned important information.

 

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