Why Is It So Close?

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Hillary Clinton

I still expect Clinton to win in November, but I confess I’m surprised the contest is as close as it is right now. Tomorrow’s debate could really matter.

So the question is, why is it so close? Just looking at the Clinton side, here are some possible factors, tossed out off the top of my head —

1. Clinton was never as popular with the Dem voting base as party elites assumed. Over the past few years I heard many bobbleheads on the teevee claim that Hillary Clinton was wildly popular with the base. This notion was placed in their heads, I assume, by the same Democratic Party elites who chose Clinton as the nominee before the primaries had started. But while there were polls taken in 2014 and early 2015 showing that a majority of Democrats would vote for her, I never saw much enthusiasm for her here in Real World Land. Her success in polls was merely a name recognition thing, I suspect. She was getting the same results in 2006 and 2007, BTW.

The way she won the primaries didn’t help her. IMO the primaries usually provide the eventual winner with a pool of supporters whose enthusiasm was whipped up by the primary fight itself. But my sense of things is that while Clinton still has her devoted core supporters who will stand by her through thick and thin, her primary campaign didn’t whip up any enthusiasm among those who weren’t already Hillaryphiles to begin with. Many people voted for her out of duty and because they weren’t sold on the electability of her only rival, the old socialist guy.

2. She’s not getting an expected boost among nonwhite voters. Nate Cohn writes that “Mrs. Clinton is not poised to match the gains Mr. Obama made among nonwhite voters over previous Democratic nominees,” he said.  Put another way, her support among blacks and Latinos was overrated and will not give her the boost in the general that she expected.

3. News Media and false equivalency. Do I have to spell this out? Trump isn’t being vetted in the part of national media that most voters actually see. Clinton, on the other hand, can’t catch a break.

4. The Two Third-Party Challengers. I’m not sure this is really much of a factor, especially the challenge coming from Stein. If it comes down to a very close election in November it might be a factor, however.

5. Independent voters could break either way. The only people who really like Clinton are true blue Dem Party loyalists. Among left-leaning independents, she’s kind of “meh,” if not downright disliked. I don’t think Trump is having the same problem with right-leaning independents.

6. Related to #5 — Trump probably is benefiting from widespread dislike of Clinton. Justified or not, a large portion of Americans genuinely hate Hillary Clinton. I suspect there are a lot of people planning to vote for Trump who wouldn’t consider him if anyone else were the Dem nominee. So while Clinton probably will get some crossover Republican votes, those will be more than offset by anybody-but Clinton voters.

7. Misogyny. I don’t think this is a big a factor as Hillary supporters believe, but it is marginal factor, I’m sure.

8. Young people will sit out this election. She’s not getting the support from younger voters that Obama got. They are less likely to be frightened by Trump and also less likely to vote for someone just because they have a D after their name. She has to give them a reason to vote for her, and so far she hasn’t.

Of course, the other part of this equation is, why are so many people planning to vote for Trump? I’ll cover that in another post.

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Red and Redder

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elections, Obama Administration

I’m getting ready to resurrect the old slogan “Better dead than Red.” Of course, back in the day, “red” meant “Communist.” I’m struggling to come up with a term that sums up what “red” means now, other than “we are so screwed.”

In Red State Missouri the general election candidates are all running on the platform of Redder Than Thou. There’s an open seat in the governor’s mansion; the two candidates are:

  • Chris Koster, the Democrat, who brags about being tough on crime and how he is endorsed by the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police. After Ferguson, that’s, um, a tad alarming.
  • Eric Greitens, the Republican, whose primary campaign ads featured him gunning down some farmer’s field. His major selling point is being former Navy Seal.

I’m pleased to say Kostner is ahead in the polls. Kostner appears to be okay on women’s reproductive rights and also on marriage equality and Obamacare. He may be trusted to continue the illustrious legacy of the current governor, Jay Nixon, who functioned primarily to veto whatever nonsense the legislature came up with. Greitens will, I fear, do to Missouri what Sam Brownback did to Kansas, and also will green light whatever shit-for-brains laws the state legislature comes up with. If Greitens wins, I would advise anyone with business interests in the state to get the hell out before the inauguration.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt, patron saint of lobbyists, is up for re-election. He’s one of those incumbents who feels as if he’s been around since Reconstruction, but it’s probably only been since the Coolidge Administration. The man’s a walking archetype of what’s wrong with Washington. If Blunt were an actor, he’d be the guy they’d always want to cast as the fat cat politician. Naturally, Blunt, who has never served in the military, enjoys the endorsement of the NRA and has featured this prominently in his campaign.

The NRA released an ad attacking Blunt’s opponent, Democrat Jason Kander, who is currently the Missouri Secretary of State. Kander released this ad:

Basically, Kander has the nerve to think there are some people who shouldn’t have guns. People with criminal records, for example. He’s also on the record as being opposed to “stand your ground” laws and thinks there are some places civilians shouldn’t be carrying guns,, such as schools. This makes him an official Enemy of Freedom as far as the gun nuts are concerned.

Gail Collins commented on this race, and added:

Now Hillary Clinton is running on centrist reforms like background checks, while Donald Trump wants to eliminate gun-free zones at, say, nursery schools and give people from Missouri the right to carry their permit-free concealed weapons in Midtown Manhattan.

In gratitude, the N.R.A. has been running an ad that shows an intruder smashing into a house where a woman is sleeping, alone. When the terrified resident opens the safe where she keeps her gun, said weapon vanishes, and it’s pretty much curtains. This could happen to you, if you let Hillary Clinton take away our “right to self-defense.”

Of course, a woman is less likely to be shot by an intruder than by a member of her family. And really, Missouri, do you want to have everybody in St. Louis carrying a concealed weapon? Let’s talk.

Blunt is leading in the polls, but it’s close enough that Kander “has a shot.” Please, oh please …

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Real Courage

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firearms

Josh Marshall:

As I’ve said, I live across the street from where the Chelsea bombing occurred. But I wasn’t there when it happened. I came home with my family Sunday evening. Since subways were still not stopping at the station’s closest to the bomb area we walked ten blocks. Returning to our neighborhood and approaching the guarded perimeter I felt a deep-seated pride in the community I live in, pride as a New Yorker. Immediately outside the sealed off perimeter people were going about their business as if nothing had happened. There was no climate of fear, no sense of a community on lock down. People were walking the streets, going to restaurants and bars.

New Yorkers are the best. Compare/contrast that to the weenies in the Gun Nation video, or this guy who can’t go to a Wal-Mart without an AR-15. Weenies, the lot of them.

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I Love New York

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criminal justice

Today we learn that bombs intended to detonate in New York City and New Jersey were disabled by quick-thinking, patriotic bag-snatchers.

Several bombs planted in both Manhattan and New Jersey—among them one that detonated Saturday night, injuring dozens—were inadvertently disabled by thieves. A pressure cooker bomb was left in a rolling suitcase on West 27th Street in New York City, and according to DNAinfo, well-dressed men allegedly took the bomb out of the bag and then placed it in a garbage bag before stealing the suitcase. By removing it, officials say the unidentified thief accidentally disabled the device. Once disabled, authorities could look at the cellphone attached to the explosive and eventually trace it back to New Jersey resident Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, who is wanted for questioning in more than one explosion over the weekend. “Who in this world finds a pressure cooker with a phone and just takes the bag?” a law-enforcement source asked on Monday.

It’s New York, sweetums. Do you have to ask?

Also, per Wonkette: “Protip: Use a just-purchased burner phone for detonating your IEDs, kids. Don’t terrorists even watch The Wire?” I’d add to that, don’t stash your pressure cooker/IED in a nice rolling suitcase.

Earlier Monday morning, in New Jersey, another set of thieves took a backpack on a trash can that had five bombs, which has also been tied to Rahami. The would-be thieves dropped the bag and called 911, likely preventing it from detonating in a crowded train station later in the day. The bag detonated while police were handling it, but no injuries were reported.

I object to calling these patriotic and quick-thinking New Jerseyites “thieves.” Anything left on a trash can is finders keepers, IMO. Of course, it sounds as if Khan Rahami was not the sharpest bomb-maker on the planet, or the five pipe bombs might have gone off and killed our heroes when they dropped the bag. But all’s well that ends well.

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This Isn’t Freedom

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firearms

My home state only gets in the New York Times when it does something stupid.

Missouri’s Republican-controlled Legislature voted Wednesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto and enact a wholesale retreat from gun safety in the state.

The law will let citizens carry concealed weapons in public without a state gun permit, criminal background check or firearms training. It strips local law enforcement of its current authority to deny firearms to those guilty of domestic violence and to other high-risk individuals. And it establishes a dangerous “stand your ground” standard that will allow gun owners to shoot and claim self-defense based on their own sense of feeling threatened. …

… Republican legislative leaders, who cut short debate on the override vote on the last day of the session, were ebullient in overriding a variety of the governor’s vetoes beyond the gun measure, including one that will force voters to show a government photo ID.

 That’s right; they also overrode a veto of a voter ID law. That one is problematic, however –

Even though the veto was overridden, the bill won’t become law unless voters decide in November to amend the state’s constitution to allow a photo ID requirement. That’s because the Missouri Supreme Court deemed voter ID unconstitutional in 2006, ruling that the law amounted to a “heavy and substantial burden on Missourians’ free exercise of the right of suffrage.”

If voters reject the constitutional amendment this fall, voter ID remains unconstitutional and the enacting legislation voted on Wednesday is moot.

 We’ll see. Anyway, regarding the “Shoot-Me State’s” new Derp Gun Law, most of it won’t go into effect until January 1. This gives residents with any sense more than three months to clear out.

The Guardian has a half hour documentary video up called Gun Nation, “A revealing and unsettling journey to the heart of America’s deadly love affair with the gun.” It’s a genteel British guy interviewing gun owners about why they insist on keeping guns. Several of them mention “freedom,” but these people are not free. Nobody that obsessed with the Awful Dangerous Things That Could Get Me is free.

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It Sucks to Be Poor in America

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economy

I beg to disagree

SHOULD the goal of public policy be to insure that all Americans can have good jobs — or good lives? Politicians of both parties say one thing. Policy experts of both parties say another.

Politicians routinely promise that, if elected, they will create more good jobs, which are understood to be jobs with solid wages, regular hours and, perhaps, generous employer-provided benefits. …

… Far from the campaign stops, in university and think tank offices, the emerging consensus is quite different: Americans should be able to enjoy good lives, even if they have “bad” jobs — jobs with low wages, irregular hours and no employer-provided benefits. Bipartisan experts tend to agree that the decline in employer-provided benefits and the rise of unconventional work arrangements are trends that should be accommodated, by reforms including new portable benefits and expanded income maintenance programs, like tax credits for low-income workers.

For several decades, this consensus has been reflected in what legislators have actually been doing. Slowly, incrementally, Americans have been moving away from a system in which a good job with a generous employer was the key to having a good life to a new system in which even people with low-wage jobs can have access to the basic goods and services that define a decent life in a modern society.

Seriously? From what I’ve seen, people with low-wage jobs and no benefits have access to shit. On what planet is this wondrous transformation taking place? I’m not seeing it. Here in Real World Land, those without money are just SOL. And isn’t there all kinds of data saying that financial insecurity leads to broken marriages and drug abuse and whatnot? I think there is.

Portable benefits sound fine, but how is it supposed to work? Ultimately you’d need at least some kind of government program supporting it. A national health care system would help a lot, for example.

I realize that we may be heading for a bright new future in which “jobs” are no longer the basis of the economy, but so far I haven’t seen anybody replace “jobs” with anything but rhetoric. The Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers is nice (for families; if you are filing as a single adult you’re screwed), but in my experience it really doesn’t help that much. It makes the difference between barely hanging on, or not.

What do you think?

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Deplorable or Pitiful?

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Obama Administration

You will have heard about Hillary Clinton’s infamous “deplorables” remark.

“To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” Clinton said. “Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”

Of course, actual Trump supporters, who whine incessantly about “political correctness,” threw a fit and complained that Clinton wasn’t nice to them. Meanwhile, they’re assaulting Trump protesters again. Those who are not Trump supporters think that “half” is way too low an estimate.

However, I think “pitiful” is more accurate than deplorable.

Here’s a New York Times story that was published a couple of days before the “deplorable” remark. It’s one of those “educated well-paid East Coast reporter spends time with hick southern rednecks, tries to be sympathetic” stories. For example:

Far from the metropolitan hubs inhabited by the main beneficiaries of globalization’s churn, many people feel disenfranchised from both main political parties, angry at stagnant wages and growing inequality, and estranged from a prevailing liberal urban ethos. I heard a lot about how Obama has not been supportive enough of the police, of how white lives matter, too, and of how illegal — as in illegal immigrant — means illegal, just as robbing a bank is. For anyone used to New York chatter, or for that matter London or Paris chatter, Kentucky is a through-the-looking-glass experience. There are just as many certainties; they are simply the opposite ones, whether on immigration, police violence toward African-Americans, or guns. America is now tribal, with each tribe imbibing its own social-media-fed ranting.

I’m hearing him say “This species homo ignarus is like us, only opposite.” But maybe I’m not being charitable.

Hazard is in Perry County, where unemployment is above 10 percent. On a bench opposite the county courthouse, on the Starbucks-free Main Street, I found Steve Smith and Paul Bush. Smith used to work underground at the Starfire mine. He earned as much as $1,500 a week, but was laid off a while ago. His unemployment has dried up and he has four children to feed. His family scrapes by on his wife’s income as a nurse. He’d been in court over a traffic offense; now an idle afternoon stretched away.

“Trump’s going to get us killed, probably!” he told me. “But I’ll vote for him anyway over Hillary. If you vote for Hillary you vote for Obama, and he’s made it impossible to ship coal. This place is about dried up. A job at Wendy’s is the only thing left. We may have to move.”

Trump has promised he will get the coal industry up and running again, but of course that’s not going to happen. A very long time ago someone should have been explaining to coal mine workers and their dependents that coal is going away and not coming back. And politicians in the state should have been pro-active in bringing in industries or something to replace coal. But nobody did that, and nobody ever talks to these people except to exploit them.

Jenny Williams, an English teacher at Hazard Community and Technical College, told me it’s past time to get over divisions between “Friends of Coal” — a popular movement and bumper sticker — and anti-coal environmentalists to forge a creative economy around agriculture, ecotourism, education and small-scale manufacture. Coal, she observed, was never going to last forever. “How could any idiot support Trump?” she said. “But when you’ve been on $70,000 a year in coal mines, and your life’s pulled out from under you, who else can you be mad at but the government?”

This has been beyond obvious for a long time. But while the Trump supporters blame Obama, they should have been blaming the local and state officials and their U.S. Congress critters who did nothing to address the inevitable end of coal going back 20 and 30 years. Even now, according to the article, those same officials are asking for something to be done to save coal.

“We need Trump for a reasonable Supreme Court and an E.P.A no longer skewed against fossil fuels,” Bissett argued. “A lot of jobs here still depend on coal and cheap electricity. That’s why Clinton is toxic right now.”

They still aren’t facing reality.

Back to the guys in front of the courthouse:

He was awaiting his son, in court on a drug charge for the painkiller Percocet. A retired operator of heavy equipment for the Road Department, Bush said his son did nothing, “just a few odd jobs.” He continued: “Obama’s probably never known hardship. He and Hillary don’t get it. At least Trump don’t hold nothing back: If he don’t like something, he tells you about it.”

His son’s girlfriend emerged from the courthouse. “They locked him up,” she said.

“Why?”

“He failed one of the drug tests.”

“Well, ain’t nothin’ we can do about it,” Bush said.

 Like Trump ever suffered hardship, but let’s go on … The small-town and rural South and Midwest are being eaten alive by drugs. Not only is it one way to make money; it’s easier to set up a meth lab or whatever that won’t get noticed if you’ve got lots of woods to hide in, as opposed to a city. And you’ve got a population of people who don’t see a future for themselves, all too willing to self-medicate.

What’s happened to eastern Kentucky is devastating, but far from unique. At France’s diner, another popular Hazard hangout, Daniel Walker, who works from home for a medical software company, told me: “Look, I lived for a while in Mansfield, Ohio, and General Motors moved its stamping plant there to Mexico, with the loss of thousands of factory jobs. The decent middle-class life is gone.”

This is the real complaint, and it goes beyond coal. Somehow, politicians saw that these big global trade deals would boost the economy overall, but they ignored the part about cutting middle-class  workers out of the deal. All those factories closed; people were just supposed to find other jobs. But there were no other jobs, or at least, not jobs that paid at the same rate.

I can remember when George W. Bush promised Americans that it was okay to ship manufacturing jobs to India, because that would just create more jobs here in America. It was absurd, but I suspect he believed it. I suspect all of the people he ever talked to about economics believed it. Outsourcing creates new foreign markets; new foreign markets meant that companies here made more money. Obviously there would be jobs.

But doing what, exactly? That’s where the dots don’t connect. American companies made more money but had no work for American workers to do.

There are communities like Hazard County all over America, where there was once a factory or a mine or some sort of industry that paid good wages. Fifty years ago the boys could graduate from high school one day and get a secure, decent-paying job the next day. And with the money they made they bought cars and houses and kept money flowing through that community. That way of life is pretty much gone in the U.S., and nobody prepared the working class for it or even gave serious thought about what would happen to those workers when the industrial jobs dried up.

“Nobody” includes politicians of both parties. As long as their investment portfolios were doing well, everything was hunky-dory.

In a way, I can’t blame them for preferring the candidate promising change, narcissistic humbug though he may be, over the one who exemplifies the status quo. Yes, a lot of these workers are racist and xenophobic and badly educated, and they have no clue what’s really going on in the world. But who’s telling them anything about what’s really going on? Politicians? News media? Um, nobody, that’s who.

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Correct Remembrance

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American History

Well, it’s that anniversary again. Somehow I woke up today with the phrase “correct remembrance” in my head. This is taken from Buddhism. The Sanskrit term is samyak-smriti (in Pali, samma-sati), and it is often translated “right mindfulness.” But it could just as accurately be “correct remembrance.”

Mindfulness, of course, is trendy now. Popular mindfulness is all about being here now; staying in the present moment without getting lost in daydreams, worries or plans. And it is that.

But the Buddha also spoke of remembrance. Part of this is correctly remembering that none of us will escape sickness, old age, death and loss. It’s also the case that if you are mindfully attending to current events, you will remember them correctly. Otherwise, you won’t.

Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Memory is not like re-playing a video recording. Memories change over time. Sometimes what you think is your memory is something planted in your head that you heard from someone else. It really isn’t that uncommon for people to remember things that didn’t happen, or that didn’t happen the way they remember it.  (See Scientific American on this point.)

Today all kinds of people are “remembering” 9/11. Most were watching on television. The “truthers,” of course, remember all kinds of things that differ from what I saw with my own eyes. By now they’ve grown a whole mythology about 9/11 that has completely replaced any resemblance of verifiable fact, and they can’t be dissuaded from it.

But there’s also the blanket blaming of “religion.” I see memes on social media showing the twin towers with the words “imagine no religion.” But this is incorrect remembrance from people who never bothered to understand the roots of Middle East terrorism.

The 9/11 terrorists were hardly devout Muslims; it was recorded that several of them drank and liked to go nightclubbing. They were fanatics, yes, but not religious ones. Their core grievances had more to do with politics, with history, with western hegemony threatening their cultures, and probably with personal issues also. Religion was just the box they put their grievances in.

And, in a similar way, religion has become the  simplistic, one-size-fits-all scapegoat for violence in the world today. I’m not saying there is no connection at all, but if you study each situation in detail you find that the core issues, the real fanatical grievances that drive violent mass movements these days, are not religious issues. Religion is used to erect a facade of righteousness around the real sources of fanatical rage. It also can be used to absolve perpetrators (in their minds) of blame for what are really acts of depravity and hate.

The truth is, if religion disappeared tomorrow, people would just find other boxes. If the 20th century should have taught us anything, it’s that violent and fanatical mass movements can be formed around politics, nationalism, and ethnic identity. Religion isn’t necessary. Of course, it is regrettable that religion doesn’t seem to help, either, except on an individual level.

By now we’re way past correct remembrance of 9/11. As soon as it happened, people were putting the events through their own conceptual filters, which is way not mindful. By now hardly anybody remembers 9/11. What we recall are our ideas about 9/11. Not the same thing.

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Everybody Hates Matt Lauer

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News Media

I need to preface this by saying that I did not watch last night’s Commander in Chief forum. I’m only going by the reviews. But it appears moderator Matt Lauer bombed, big time. And it’s not just bloggers and liberal websites saying so.

James Poniewozik, The New York Times:

The NBC presidential forum on Wednesday night in Manhattan brought together the candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump to try to determine who has the strength, preparation and presence of mind to lead during a time of crisis.

It sure wasn’t Matt Lauer.

In an event aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, the “Today” host was lost at sea. Seemingly unprepared on military and foreign policy specifics, he performed like a soldier sent on a mission without ammunition, beginning with a disorganized offensive, ending in a humiliating retreat.

The gist of everyone’s criticism of his Hillary Clinton interview is that he spent too much time on the damn emails — no revelations came from this — and then stopped her from providing substantive answers to other questions.

Callum Borchers, The Washington Post:

Roughly a third of his questioning dealt with the emails — a matter certainly connected to national security, but also a staple issue of this year’s campaign-trail reporting. It suggested, as the rest of the forum confirmed, that Mr. Lauer was steadiest handling issues familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of the morning politics headlines.

That emphasis left relatively little time for the forum’s foreign-policy and military subjects. Mr. Lauer and the audience asked about complex topics — the Middle East, terrorism, veterans’ affairs — and Mr. Lauer pressed for simple answers. “As briefly as you can,” he injected when an audience member asked how Mrs. Clinton would decide whether to deploy troops against the Islamic State.

There’s a difference between an interviewer who has questions and one who has knowledge, and Mr. Lauer illustrated it. He seemed to be plowing through a checklist, not listening in the moment in a way that led to productive follow-ups. Short on time, he repeatedly interrupted Mrs. Clinton in a way he didn’t with Mr. Trump. (“Let me finish,” she protested at one point.)

Trump, on the other hand, got softballs:

When a prominent figure representing the United States on an international stage sat down with Matt Lauer recently, the NBC host asked tough questions probing his false statements.

The prominent figure was Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. On Wednesday night, a far different Lauer sat down with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  …

… That interview was the apotheosis of this presidential campaign’s forced marriage of entertainment and news. The host of NBC’s morning show interviewed the former star of its reality show “The Apprentice,” and the whole thing played out as farce.

Like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has had a few controversies related to the military. You might recall him feuding with a Gold Star family, or mocking Senator John McCain for being captured in Vietnam, or likening his prep-school attendance to military experience.

Mr. Lauer evidently didn’t recall any of that. He kicked off by asking Mr. Trump what in his life had prepared him to be president, the kind of whiffle ball job-interview question you ask the boss’s nephew you know you have to hire anyway.

Frank Rich, New York magazine:

Much ridicule, all deserved, has been aimed at Lauer’s laughably empty reservoir of facts, particularly when questioning the fact-free Trump. (“Questioning” may be an overstatement in this context; Lauer didn’t question Trump so much as feed him anodyne cues to spew any hooey he wanted.) The most widely panned example of the moderator’s failure is particularly galling: Clinton herself said in the forum’s opening round that Trump was initially in favor of the Iraq War, having said so on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2002. But Lauer didn’t even listen to her. When Trump said just minutes later that he had been against the war from the start — and cited a 2004 Esquire article as proof — Lauer not only failed to challenge the conflict between what he said and the truth cited by Clinton but seemed oblivious to the fact that the Iraq War began in 2003. And let’s not forget that interlude when Trump was claiming that Vladimir Putin is a superior leader to Barack Obama — an outrageous argument that Lauer never challenged. To prove his point, Trump cited “polls” that give Putin an 82 percent approval rating. What polls? Lauer didn’t ask. I dare say Trump could have cited Chinese polls from the 1960s that gave Mao a 100 percent approval rating, and this moderator would have just nodded and moved on to the next topic on his crib sheet.

Of course, these comments were genteel and measured compared to some on the leftie blogs. But you get the picture.

A few were more forgiving:

Charles Pierce, Esquire:

If you assume, as I do, that simply telling El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago that he is a lying sack of hair who knows less about most major issues than a rhino knows about differential calculus would be frowned upon at the upper echelons of NBC, then there wasn’t much for poor Lauer to do. The man denies he said what he clearly said. He denies he did what he clearly did. He claims to know more about any subject about which he clearly knows nothing. He is the hero of his own epic in which he’s already won because…winning! How do bring someone to a reckoning when he’s already triumphant in his own mind?

Journalism’s great enemy is not untruth. It’s futility.

Donald Trump was appalling last night. He was exposed, again, as someone from whom you wouldn’t buy an apple, let alone a foreign policy. He didn’t know that we already have military courts. He didn’t know that you can’t just go “get the oil.” (Someone should ask the Kurds what they think about this.) He lied, again, about his previous positions regarding the military operations in Iraq and Libya. He defended an old tweet of his about how, if we’re going to have women and men in the military, then the occasional sexual assault is part of the price we should be expected to pay. He pronounced himself impressed by Vladimir Putin’s poll numbers in Russia.

Think about that for a moment.

Hm. Well, if we’re saying here that the media upper echelons will not allow grilling of Donald Trump out of some misguided sense of propriety, then that’s one thing. But then, why even bother? Why have news media at all? Let’s just cut the crap and let the candidates run their own puff pieces and advertising.

Update: See also William Saletan, “NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum Was an Authoritarian Farce.”

More: Jonathan Chait, “Matt Lauer’s Pathetic Interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Is the Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in This Campaign

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My Plan for Fighting Zika

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Congress

The Senate has nixed another Zika funding bill.

As Congress returned from a seven-week recess on Tuesday, Senate Democrats again stymied a $1.1 billion plan to fight the Zika virus, demanding that Republicans drop an effort to block Planned Parenthood from receiving money to combat the mosquito-borne disease.

Democrats, who had essentially blocked the same legislation in late June, had enough votes Tuesday to prevent Congress from moving emergency funding public health experts say is desperately needed as they prepare for the possibility that Zika will spread to other states along the gulf coast. The vote was 52 to 46, and Republicans needed 60 votes to advance the bill….

… The Republican-driven package was supposed to resolve the differences between a bipartisan Senate plan and a less Democrat-friendly House version. The bill would exclude Planned Parenthood from the list of providers that get new funding for contraception to combat spread of the virus, which can be sexually transmitted.

Mitch McConnell sorrowfully wondered how Democrats could be so stubborn.

“It’s hard to explain why, despite their own calls for funding, Democrats would block plans to keep women and babies safe from Zika,” Mr. McConnell said before the vote.

Tell us about how you want to keep women and babies safe by blocking Planned Parenthood funding, Mitch. I’m sure you’ve got an excuse, somewhere.

Oh, and my plan is to spread a rumor in Washington that Zika doesn’t just affect pregnant women; it also causes permanent and untreatable erectile dysfunction. In a month or two there wouldn’t be a mosquito left on the East Coast. Maybe in the Western Hemisphere.

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