Browsing the archives for the Republican Party category.


Who Called Whom?

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Asia, Bad Hair

One of the more interesting aspects of the now infamous Taiwan-Trump phone conversation of Friday, is that nobody admits to initiating the call.

When criticism of the call broke out Friday, Trump quickly claimed that Taiwan called him:

Trump offered no apologies, nor did his transition team make any comments. Instead, he defended the discussion amid reams of criticism for having broken U.S. protocol by saying Tsai initiated it.

“The President of taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!” Trump tweeted.

However, Taiwanese officials say otherwise.

Except, a spokesman for the Taiwan government quickly contradicted the U.S. president-elect, saying the call had been arranged in advance: “Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact.”

See also:

If he meant to imply that the incoming call was a surprise, then he either was lying or had been misled; Taiwan’s press had already published news of a “scheduled” call hours earlier. The Taipei Times reported, “Trump reportedly agreed to the call, which was arranged by his Taiwan-friendly campaign staff after his aides briefed him on issues regarding Taiwan and the situation in the Taiwan Strait, sources said.”

Josh Marshall:

Today we learn that the guy who arranged for Trump’s call with the President of Taiwan was none other than Stephen Yates. He’s currently in Taipei and working for the Trump transition team. Yates has a post at The Heritage Foundation while also running his own international consultancy – a typical arrangement for high level foreign policy hands of both parties when their party is out of power.

[Late Update: After I wrote this post but I think before I pushed the 'publish button', Yates has now denied reports that he arranged the call, while saying he thinks he was a great idea. I would suggest keeping an open mind about whether the original reports or the denial are more credible. If it wasn't this Yates, it was likely another.]

For starters this leaves little doubt that this call was intentional – at least in the sense that Trump’s advisors put it together with a full understanding of the diplomatic implications. Just how much Trump understood this or understood the full ramifications of taking this call isn’t entirely clear. The fact that Trump’s twitter freak out pushed the point that the Taiwanese President had called him, not vice versa, suggests an element of defensiveness and incomplete understanding of the situation.

In other words, it’s possible Trump is being manipulated by advisors with their own agenda. Of course, it’s also possible that most of the people advising Trump are dumb as a box of rocks, also.

Back to Evan Osnos at The New Yorker:

In the hours that followed, it became clear that Trump may have been manipulated into doing something he doesn’t understand. Michael Crowley, of Politico, noted that the former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who favors a tilt away from Beijing, visited Trump Tower on Friday for undisclosed reasons. Bolton has argued for “playing the Taiwan card” to pressure Beijing. In a January op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, he wrote,

The new U.S. administration could start with receiving Taiwanese diplomats officially at the State Department; upgrading the status of U.S. representation in Taipei from a private “institute” to an official diplomatic mission; inviting Taiwan’s president to travel officially to America; allowing the most senior U.S. officials to visit Taiwan to transact government business; and ultimately restoring full diplomatic recognition.

Further complicating matters, according to the blog Shanghaiist, Trump and his family are currently trying to win a lucrative contract with a Taiwanese city: “A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September, expressing interest in the city’s Aerotropolis, a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia, Taiwan News reports.” Did Trump break nearly four decades of diplomatic practice to sweeten his family’s business prospects with Taiwan? His supporters, of course, say no. But the President-elect has taken no steps that would defuse that perception.

It’s going to be a long four years, folks. News analysts are saying that China appears to be taking a low-key approach, possibly concluding that Trump must be an idiot. But apparently they had been willing to give him lots of benefits of lots of doubts, thinking he was someone they could work with, and now he’s blown that impression out of the water.

“This is a wake-up call for Beijing — we should buckle up for a pretty rocky six months or year in the China-U.S. relationship,” Wang Dong, an associate professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University, said Saturday. “There was a sort of delusion based on overly optimistic ideas about Trump. That should stop.”

If they’re going to cause an international incident, though, I’d rather they do it now while President Obama is still running things. Perhaps even Trump can learn that actions have consequences. Otherwise it’s going to be one blunder after another until somebody finally has had enough.

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How Trump Learned to Do Business

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Bad Hair

One of the most interesting commentaries on Trump’s so-called deal to save jobs at Carrier Corps. in Indiana was in CNBC, of all places.

Trump’s deal with United Technologies includes $7 million in financial incentives provided by Indiana to keep 1,100 jobs at Carrier, the company’s heating and air conditioning unit, in the state. However, Carrier still plans to move roughly 1,300 other jobs to Mexico and close another facility in Indiana.

Such a deal. With deal-making skillz like that, no wonder Trump went bankrupt, what, four times? I lost track.

Trump boasted about his deal to keep about 1,100 Carrier jobs in Indiana, and also took aim at other companies who may be thinking about moving jobs out of the country.

“Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. Not going to happen. It’s not going to happen, I’ll tell you right now,” Trump said on Thursday.

To which an American Enterprise Institute fellow said,

“The idea that American corporations are going to have to make business decisions, not based on the fact that we’ve created an ideal environment for economic growth in the United States, but out of fear of punitive actions based on who knows what criteria exactly from a presidential administration. I think that’s absolutely chilling.”

And, y’know, that’s a point. Not that a lot of companies wouldn’t mind facing the same consequences Carrier had to endure, but it’s not the sort of talk corporate leaders are used to hearing from Republican presidents.

I mean, who talks like that? Wait … it’ll come to me …

I don’t know anything about the Mob beside what I’ve seen in movies, but it’s known that Trump cut his teeth as a businessman by working with the New York/New Jersey Mob. Even PolitiFact grudgingly admits this, although it wants you to know Trump may not have liked it.

Politico published an article last May that may need more reading

From the public record and published accounts like that one, it’s possible to assemble a clear picture of what we do know. The picture shows that Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.

Now that he’s running for president, I pulled together what’s known – piecing together the long history of federal filings, court records, biographical anecdotes, and research from my and Barrett’s files. What emerges is a pattern of business dealings with mob figuresnot only local figures, but even the son of a reputed Russian mob boss whom Trump had at his side at a gala Trump hotel opening, but has since claimed under oath he barely knows.

See also “The Many Times Donald Trump Has Lied About His Mob Connections” by David Corn at Mother Jones and “The Donald Trump Story You’re Not Hearing About” by Todd Gitlin at Moyers & Company.

Most of the information in the Politico article goes back to the 1980s. Does The Donald still work with the Mob? I don’t know. But he learned to cut business deals by dealing with the Mob. And since he’s never worked for anyone else, no one’s ever told him that leaving bloody horse heads in people’s beds is not a standard negotiating technique.

Ooo, just wait until he gets to negotiate some nuclear treaty.

At the Washington Post, Fred Hiatt sees another model — our buddy Vlad Putin.

It’s good that about 1,000 Carrier Corp. workers will not be losing their jobs. But there is a whiff of Putinism in the combination of bribery and menace that may have affected Carrier’s decision — the bribery of tax breaks, the menace of potential lost defense contracts for Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies.

If this were to become the U.S. government’s standard method of operation, the results would be Russian, too: dwindling investment, slowing economic growth, fewer jobs.

On the same day that Donald Trump took a victory lap through the Carrier plant in Indiana, The Post published a coincidentally relevant article about Russia’s “fixer-in-chief,” Vladimir Putin.

The article, by Post correspondent David Filipov, describes how government-controlled television continually features Russia’s president interrogating or berating factory directors and petty officials. …

…The problem is that it doesn’t work. Russia’s economy is shrinking, year by year, and no matter how many factory directors Putin humiliates, it won’t start growing again without structural and political reform.

It also reminds me of Chris Christie’s method for improving New Jersey’s schools, which was to get himself videoed yelling at teachers.

See also “Trump’s Tough Trade Talk Could Damage American Factories.”

Speaking of salesmanship, Trump also has been cold-calling foreign heads of state to sell them on his new project, to be known formally as The Trump Administration.

Mr. Trump’s conversation with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan has generated the most angst, because, as Mr. Earnest put it, the relationship between Mr. Sharif’s country and the United States is “quite complicated,” with disputes over issues ranging from counterterrorism to nuclear proliferation.

In a remarkably candid readout of the phone call, the Pakistani government said Mr. Trump had told Mr. Sharif that he was “a terrific guy” who made him feel as though “I’m talking to a person I have known for long.” He described Pakistanis as “one of the most intelligent people.” When Mr. Sharif invited him to visit Pakistan, the president-elect replied that he would “love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people.” …

…The breezy tone of the readout left diplomats in Washington slack-jawed, with some initially assuming it was a parody.

The next four years will be such fun.

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Trump Versus the Media

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Bad Hair, News Media

Trump seems to be trying to intimidate the press. While this New York Post story appears mostly to have been generated by Matt Drudge’s fantasies, the Politico version of what happened when Trump met with 25 media executives yesterday — to discuss a “media reset” — was weird enough.

Trump turned to NBC News President Deborah Turness at one point, the source said, and told her the network won’t run a nice picture of him, instead choosing “this picture of me,” as he made a face with a double chin. Turness replied that they had a “very nice” picture of him on their website at the moment. …

… Trump also singled out CNN, the source said, without elaborating on what the president-elect said about the network. A CNN spokeswoman wrote in an email that the network would not comment on an off-the-record meeting.

The Washington Post, which I understand was not represented at the meeting, was less kind.

But if the media elite attended in hopes of improving relations with the forthcoming Trump administration, that wasn’t quite in the cards. The president-elect specifically called out reporting by CNN and NBC that he deemed unfair, according to four people who attended the meeting, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was off the record.

Instead of striking a harmonious tone to build rapport following the election, Trump was combative, participants said. In a calm and deliberate voice, he told the group sitting around a conference table that they had failed to provide their viewers with fair and accurate coverage, and told them they failed to understand him or his appeal to millions of Americans.

But he made no mention of the enormous amount of airtime that the networks, especially on cable, devoted to his campaign. A number of analyses have noted that Trump’s presidential effort was boosted by the news media’s fascination with him.

In a sign of another battle with the media to come, Trump also shrugged off the need for a constant press pool covering him, the people said, though he did not delve into specifics. Trump has repeatedly shirked his pool, upending a long-standing tradition of the president and president-elect.

WaPo currently is featuring an article saying that the Trump Foundation confessed to the IRS it had violated rules on “self dealing.”

Trump had a meeting scheduled with the New York Times, then cancelled it in a series of whiny tweets, but apparently kept the appointment.

But the New York Times had already published a story about how Trump and other billionaires are laying the groundwork for “an unprecedented legal assault on the media.”

 

Whatever Trump’s feelings about the media, New York Times v. Sullivan will surely survive his presidency. The case is revered, and in the last several years, the Supreme Court has moved to expand, not contract, the reach of the First Amendment. And states have taken steps, too: To prevent people from using the courts, and the discovery process, to silence or retaliate against their critics, 28 states and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-Slapp laws — the acronym stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” It’s possible, however, that Trump could appoint judges who would find a way around the usual press protections. More immediately, he could ask his Justice Department to prosecute journalists who report leaks from his administration. (President Obama’s Justice Department investigated reporters, but didn’t charge them.) It’s also possible that the press will be a meeker watchdog because of subtler changes that are harder to track. As the head of the executive branch, the president exerts a great deal of control over access to information. Federal agencies have power to shape the state of the union; they also describe it for us by producing reams of facts and statistics, which in turn shape our assessment of our elected leaders. Trump could hire people who cancel funding for government reports or research that doesn’t serve his interests, or who suppress findings the administration doesn’t like.

The new president will be a man who constantly accuses the media of getting things wrong but routinely misrepresents and twists facts himself. “Their single goal will be to burnish their reputation,” Tim O’Brien predicts of the Trump administration. There are signs, too, of new efforts to harness the law to the cause of cowing the press. Trump’s choice for chief adviser, Stephen Bannon, ran the alt-right Breitbart News Network before joining Trump’s campaign last summer. Breitbart announced last week that it was “preparing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against a major media company” for calling Breitbart a “ ‘white nationalist’ website.” Even if Breitbart is bluffing, the threat will discourage other news outlets from using that term to describe it, and that will in turn help Breitbart and Bannon seem more acceptable to the mainstream. Trump was right about one thing: You don’t have to win every case to advance in the larger legal war.

Because of the proliferation of alternative news sources, the mainstream press doesn’t have the power to make or break a president as in the old days (think Lyndon Johnson, if you’re old enough to remember the news coverage he got). But they could surely pile a world of hurt on an administration if they were pissed off enough, and not cowed into compliance. We’ll see what happens.

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The Pay-to-Play POTUS

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Bad Hair

What we will be complaining about ineffectually for at least the next four years:

Adam Davidson in The New Yorker:

Donald Trump has decided not to put his businesses in a blind trust, a mechanism by which his assets would be managed by people with no direct connection to the President. Instead, he has asked his children to continue to manage the global operation, which raises the possibility of an appearance of a conflict of interest. In the case of Ivanka Trump’s presence at a discussion with the Japanese premier, however, the conflict became explicit. In her new role as co-director of the companies, she will oversee negotiations with real-estate developers around the world. While the company hasn’t announced any projects in Japan, it seems reasonable to assume she might talk to companies there. …

The very nature of Trump’s business is rooted in the subjective value of being associated with Donald Trump and his family. The Trump Organization’s business model, as Danziger describes it, has shifted from building its own projects to selling rights to the Trump name, and to its newest brand of hotels, Scion. As Paul Waldman points out in the Washington Post, the price of such a license is subjective, determined by the buyer’s perception of its value. Licensees—say, a hotel developer in Japan—would have commercial calculations, such as how much business the Trump and Scion brands bring. Those potential buyers may now also have political calculations. How helpful would it be for any other venture they are involved in to also be business partners with the family of the President of the United States?

It occurs to me that some people might start to think of Trump’s buildings outside the U.S. not just as symbols of western hegemony, but as encroachments by the US government on their sovereign territory.

In many countries, being known as an entryway to conversation with the Trump family could, on its own, be worth many millions of dollars. Many have written about fears of overt corruption in a Trump Administration. But even if there is no explicit corruption, it’s impossible for Trump’s Presidency not to affect the way his partners value their associations with him. At the very least, his hotels—particularly the new one in Washington, D.C.—are likely to do a brisk business. As the Washington Post reported, diplomats see staying at the hotel as “an easy, friendly gesture to the new president” and quoted one unnamed Asian diplomat as saying, “Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” It seems clear that he and his family will be enriched by his term as President.

 And anyone who thinks that Trump won’t be discussing the family business with his kids is a bigger rube than Trump’s voters.

 We’re already seeing signs that Trump’s foreign policies will align with his business interests. Washington Post:

Turkey is a nation in crisis, scarred by government crackdowns following a failed coup attempt and on a potential collision course with the West. It is also home to a valuable revenue stream for the president-elect’s business empire: Trump Towers Istanbul.

Donald Trump’s company has been paid up to $10 million by the tower’s developers since 2014 to affix the Trump name atop the luxury complex, whose owner, one of Turkey’s biggest oil and media conglomerates, has become an influential megaphone for the country’s increasingly repressive regime.

That, ethics advisers said, forces the Trump complex into an unprecedented nexus: as both a potential channel for dealmakers seeking to curry favor with the Trump White House and a potential target for attacks or security risks overseas.

Will Trump use U.S. military resources to protect his revenue streams? Note that Indian business partners have met with Trump since the election.

Back to WaPo:

 At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia and the Middle East, a Washington Post analysis of Trump financial filings shows.

The business interests range from sprawling, ultraluxury real estate complexes to one-man holding companies and branding deals in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Panama and other countries, including some where the United States maintains sensitive diplomatic ties.

Some companies reflect long-established deals while others were launched as recently as Trump’s campaign, including eight that appear tied to a potential hotel project in Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich Arab kingdom that Trump has said he “would want to protect.”

And there will be no blind trust.

Roger Parloff writes at Fortune that presidents are exempt from federal conflict of interest laws. However, every president in modern times has placed assets in a blind trust anyway. Federal criminal bribery charges do apply to presidents, so an obvious quid pro quo could get him into trouble. He is also not allowed to accept gifts.

In Donald Trump’s case, according to the New York Times, at least one of his businesses has outstanding loans from the Bank of China, which is majority owned by the state. Loans typically have dozens of conditions, and if the bank were to ever forgive or forbear on any of those, or Trump were to negotiate a refinancing, it would be scrutinized microscopically to see if it was a “gift.” If Trump’s policy toward China were tough, it might look like was exerting pressure in an effort to win better terms on his company’s loans. If his policy were accommodating, it might look like he feared retaliation by the bank in the form of tighter terms on those same loans.

White House ethics lawyers ordinarily pore over presidents’ tax forms each years (and those of cabinet members and nominees) to make sure there are no emoluments problems. Because Trump has refused to make his returns public, scrutiny of potential problems has been impossible so far.

And what about Russia? Again, we don’t know what we don’t know. But by all appearances Trump has long-standing business ties to Russia. How much will that influence his foreign policy?

The Boston Globe:

AS A PRESIDENTIAL candidate, Donald Trump vilified the Clinton Foundation as a dark criminal enterprise. No quid pro quo between any donation to the foundation and any official action taken by Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state was ever established. But Trump told voters the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of money from foreign leaders while Clinton served as America’s top diplomat represented pay-to-play corruption.

If that’s Trump’s definition of a corrupt enterprise, he seems about to create his own version. The president-elect has already named his children — Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka — to his transition team, and said he intends to rely upon them as advisors once he takes office. At the same time, he is putting his children in charge of the family’s vast business empire.

Of course, the IOKIYAR rule applies here, and Trump spokespersons are busily putting out statements that it’s just outrageous to think the POTUS-elect would use his position to make money. Yada yada yada.

Very serious stuff, here.

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Trump: On His Own

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American History, Bad Hair

By now I’ve gone through most of my thoughts about why this election was lost, and it’s time to segue into being an anti-Trump activist. I just hope I live long enough to see the day when progressives win elections. First we’ll have to see the day when progressives are allowed to run in elections without being sandbagged by centrists. But let’s go on …

It’s pretty clear the Trump crew still doesn’t know what it’s gotten into, but for now he’s happily putting together the Cabinet From Hell. The Democrats sure as hell had better fight these appointments. But Chuck Schumer will be Senate minority leader, and there’s no way to know what Chuck might do. Let’s just say he has a rare talent for taking wrong turns.

But if there’s any indicator how clueless Trump is about what he’s in for, here it is

With Vice President-elect Mike Pence attending the show, the cast [of the Broadway hit Hamilton] used the opportunity to make a statement emphasizing the need for the new administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump, a Republican, to work on behalf of all Americans.

It was a deeply felt and altogether rare appeal from the stage of a Broadway show — and it drew a surprisingly sharp rebuke from Mr. Trump on Saturday morning. The president-elect tweeted that the “Hamilton” cast had “harassed” Mr. Pence by making the statement and had been “very rude.”

Oh, my goodness, someone was rude to Mike Pence! Well, here is the statement that was read —

As the play ended, the actor who played Aaron Burr, Brandon Victor Dixon, acknowledged that Mr. Pence was in the audience, thanked him for attending and added, “We hope you will hear us out.”

“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

The audience broke out in enthusiastic applause and cheers.

If there was ever a purer example of American citizens using their First Amendment rights to address their elected officials, that was it. It’s what the founding of the nation was about, right?

Of course, Mr. Trump has free speech, too, which he exercises through Twitter:

Bleepity bleepity bleep.

Pence had been booed by audience members, not by the cast, when he showed up at the theater. I say Pence is a guy who should be booed whenever he shows his face in public. I would have booed him, too.  But I also understand the cast of Hamilton discouraged booing and simply read the statement above.

I’ve since heard that there’s a right-wing call to boycott Hamilton. If only that would make tickets easier to get; I suspect it will not work, though. In New York City,  Hamilton is a lot more popular than Donald Trump.

But aren’t the right-wingers the same people eternally going on about how they value their freedoms? Seriously, I don’t think they know what the word freedom means.

It’s going to be a long four years, folks.

In Hamilton, after the surrender at Yorktown, King George sings:

Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own
Awesome…wow
Do you have a clue what happens now?
Oceans rise
Empires fall
It’s much harder when it’s all your call
All alone
Across the sea
When your people say they hate you
Don’t come crawling back to me

I understand the audience gave that a standing ovation last night. Heh.

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Racism Is No Excuse

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Bad Hair, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Racism, Republican Party

Let’s not overstate the racism factor. While there is much wailing about those awful racists who voted for Trump, a closer look at the numbers suggest that the real story of this election was the people who didn’t vote for Trump … or Clinton, or anybody else.

Carl Beijer, who writes for leftie publications, argues that this wasn’t so much the bigot election as the apathy election.

From 2012 to 2016, both men and women went from caring about the outcome to not caring. Among Democratic men and women, as well as Republican women, care levels dropped about 3-4 points; Republican men cared a little less too, but only by one point. Across the board, in any case, the plurality of voters simply didn’t care.

White voters cared even less in 2016 then in 2012, when they also didn’t care; most of that apathy came from white Republicans compared to white Democrats, who dropped off a little less. Voters of color, in contrast, continued to care – but their care levels dropped even more, by 8 points (compared to the 6 point drop-off among white voters). Incredibly, that drop was driven entirely by a 9 point drop among Democratic voters of color which left Democrats with only slim majority 51% support; Republicans, meanwhile, actually gained support among people of color. …

… The major trend in 2016 was one of increasingly apathy. Within that broader trend, the demographic patterns are muddy. Deviations in relatively support from group to group don’t map well onto the standard media narratives that dominated this election; for example, apathy grew more among women and voters of color than among men and white voters. Among the candidates, Clinton either broke even or lost support among every single demographic group, while Trump won support among voters of color and boomers.

See Carl B’s blog for more data.

I’ve read that, particularly in the Rust Belt states, if the same numbers of people who came out for Obama in 2012 had voted for Clinton in 2016, she would have won those states, even though Trump did better than Romney did in those rust bucket states. For example, this anecdote is from Wisconsin:

Urban areas, where black and Hispanic voters are concentrated along with college-educated voters, already leaned toward the Democrats, but Clinton did not get the turnout from these groups that she needed. For instance, black voters did not show up in the same numbers they did for Barack Obama, the first black president, in 2008 and 2012.

Considering how razor-thin the margin of victory was in Wisconsin and elsewhere — there’s your loss.

It also appears that some people who voted for Obama in 2012 voted for Trump in 2016. So were they not racist in 2012?

Was the loss this year a “whitelash” against the Obama Administration? If so,why didn’t that cost President Obama the election in 2012? I can believe that some bigots are more worked up now than they were in 2012, considering that Trump and his followers have been stoking the fires. But if Democratic voters, including nonwhite ones, had voted as usual, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

During the primaries we were way oversold on Hillary Clinton’s alleged support among African American voters. She clobbered Sanders in the early southern primaries because huge majorities of black voters chose her, and that gave her a lead that he could never catch.  Clinton supporters even held this up as proof that Bernie Sanders is racist, which was absurd, and not that Democratic voters in the South just plain didn’t know who he was. As I wrote several times during the primaries, as time went on he won larger and larger percentages of black voters, and he had the support of a majority of black millennial voters.

But Beijer wrote back in June that people were misreading this.

Hillary Clinton has won an overwhelming majority of black voters who have participated in the Democratic primaries: the Wall Street Journal places her share at 75.9 percent, and my math puts it at 77.9 percent. This is certainly a better showing than we’ve seen seen from Bernie Sanders, who has won support from about a quarter of black voters.

But on this basis, Clinton’s partisans have routinely concluded that their candidate has won some kind of democratic mandate from black Americans. While this is true in the trivial sense — she has won votes from a majority of those who actually voted — this framing overlooks the overwhelming majority of voting-age black Americans who either voted against Clinton or declined to vote at all. In fact, based on an analysis of exit pollsturnout numbers, and census data, an extraordinary 87.9 percent of voting-age black Americans have not voted for Clinton.

The news stories revealing that the Clintons were worried about African American voters began to turn up in September.

“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.”

This article is from November 1.

African-Americans are failing to vote at the robust levels they did four years ago in several states that could help decide the presidential election, creating a vexing problem for Hillary Clinton as she clings to a deteriorating lead over Donald J. Trump with Election Day just a week away.

As tens of millions of Americans cast ballots in what will be the largest-ever mobilization of early voters in a presidential election, the numbers have started to point toward a slump that many Democrats feared might materialize without the nation’s first black president on the ticket.

The reasons for the decline appear to be both political and logistical, with lower voter enthusiasm and newly enacted impediments to voting at play. In North Carolina, where a federal appeals court accused Republicans of an “almost surgical” assault on black turnout and Republican-run election boards curtailed early-voting sites, black turnout is down 16 percent. White turnout, however, is up 15 percent. Democrats are planning an aggressive final push, including a visit by President Obama to the state on Wednesday.

But in Florida, which extended early voting after long lines left some voters waiting for hours in 2012, African-Americans’ share of the electorate that has gone to the polls in person so far has decreased, to 15 percent today from 25 percent four years ago.

Voter suppression was a factor in some states that Clinton lost, but not in all of them.  See Voter suppression didn’t cost Hillary Clinton the election at Vox.

Here’s another analysis:

Of the nearly 700 counties that twice sent Obama to the White House, a stunning one-third flipped to support Trump.

Trump also won 194 of the 207 counties that voted for Obama either in 2008 or 2012.

By contrast, of those 2,200 counties that never supported Obama, Clinton was only able to win six. That’s just 0.3 percent crossover to the Democratic side.

Again, if we were to claim that racism cost Clinton the election, we’d have to conclude that people who were not racist in 2008 and 2012 had become so in 2016. Or, maybe, Clinton lost because not enough voters were enthusiastic enough about her to go to the polls and vote for her. Take your pick.

It’s true that a lot of outspoken white supremacists supported Trump. But I’m writing this because I’m seeing way too many people say that we can’t win over those racist voters who elected Trump, so we’re doomed. It isn’t that simple.

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Voters Are Not Mind Readers

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Democratic Party, Republican Party

Following up on yesterday’s postCharles Pierce wrote,

Today’s installment of our continuing series, People With Whom I Empathize But Do Not Understand, comes to us from the small town of Mexico, in Maine, courtesy of The Portland Press-Herald. …

Leo Grassette gave 41 years to the Rumford mill. He’s 80 now and still works part time at the Mexico Trading Post. He doesn’t have a career to worry about. If the mill closes and takes with it all the jobs, it won’t affect him. His pension is safe. But Grassette and his wife of 57 years have children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. In the 15 presidential elections held since he began voting, Grassette had never voted for a Republican. That changed last week. Like many, he felt Clinton was dishonest but it was more than that. She talked more about why Trump was bad than about why she was good. “Democrats used to be for the working class,” Grassette said. “I don’t feel that anymore.”

There is one party that wants to privatize Leo’s Social Security and one that does not. There is one party that wants to hand him a worthless voucher and call it Medicare and one that does not. There is one party that at least tepidly supports organized labor through which Leo got his pension, and there is one party that does not. There is one party that wants to keep Leo’s pension out of the hands of hedge fund cowboys and Wall Street thieves, and one that wants to hijack Leo’s pension into the casino economy.

How, I wonder, are the Democrats no longer “for the working class,” and why doesn’t Leo feel that anymore?

Because most non-college-educated  voters don’t know that Republicans plan to privatize Social Security. Most don’t know that Republicans want to privatize Medicare. Most don’t understand what how the loss of organized labor has hurt all working people.

And that’s because nobody bleeping tells them.

Indeed, if you were to walk up to a standard red state voter and tell him that Republicans are planning to gut Medicare and Social Security, they probably wouldn’t believe you. Republicans like to tell voters that they are the ones who are going to protect Social Security and Medicare from those goofy liberals. However, somehow, they’ve got it in their heads that the Democrats are the party in thrall to Wall Street and the Republicans aren’t. Having Hillary Clinton as the party’s standard bearer didn’t exactly correct that misunderstanding.

For at least 30 years the U.S. has needed an ideologically progressive, left-wing party to counter the Republicans, which have become an ideologically conservative, right-wing party. We’ve needed a party that would champion progressive economic populism and working people, and which would get blue-collar folks enthusiastic about progressive policy proposals instead of allowing right-wing hegemony to go unchallenged in all but urban and liberal coastal circles. We also needed a party that appreciated how much our younger people are being exploited instead of encouraged by the system.

And we needed a party that knows how to take the fight to the Right. We need a party that won’t negotiate with itself out of fear of what the Right will do. That approach doesn’t work.

Maybe now, if we can move the centrist/neoliberal/Clintonite/DLC crew out of the way,  we’ve got a chance at building that party.

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Election Return Live Blog

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Bad Hair, elections, Hillary Clinton

Well, folks, hang on to your butts.

Everybody says that Florida will tell the tale. If Clinton hangs on to Florida, Trump is probably shut out, the bobbleheads say.

Indiana and Kentucky already called for Trump. Clinton takes Vermont.

There was a shooting near a polling place in California. No indication the shooting was related to the election.

Rudy Giuliani is on MSNBC saying that Clinton got away with multiple crimes, and Chris Matthews isn’t challenging him to be specific.

(7:30) West Virginia called for Trump. No surprises so far.

Steve Kornacki tells us that Trump is doing better with non-college-educated whites than Romney did four years ago.

South Carolina called for Trump; again, no surprise.

(8:00) Okay, they are calling a bunch of states. Let’s see if I can get it straight.

States just called for Clinton: Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.

Tammy Duckworth will be a Senator from Illinois!

Trump picks up Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Marco Rubio re-elected in Florida. Damn.

Florida — 59 percent of precincts reporting, and it’s dead even.

Evan Bayh, centrist Dem Senate candidate, loses in Indiana, MSNBC says.

(8:30) Arkansas called for Trump.

Returns seem awfully slow this year.

New projections — Clinton wins New York. Trump wins North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Clinton wins Connecticut.

Florida — lots of votes to be counted in Broward County yet.

(9:30) Trump wins Louisiana.

This is making me crazy.

Fox News has called New Mexico for Clinton, I understand.

(10:00) Trump wins Montana.

Missouri called for Trump.

The fivethirtyeight crew is saying that Republicans probably will keep the Senate.

NBC is calling Ohio for Trump.

Clinton is pulling ahead in Virginia.

Clinton wins Colorado.

Virginia called for Clinton, finally.

Florida called for Trump.

Clinton wins California.

People, this is not looking good. Clinton has to win some states in which she’s behind right now to get to 270. And I doubt she can do it.  I think she’s going to fall short.  Assuming she takes all of the states she’s currently leading, she’s going to be short. She’ll need Michigan — possible, but she’s behind right now — and one other state with at least 5 electoral votes. And I don’t know what state that would be.

So, folks, it looks like we’ll lose this one.

If there’s a possible silver lining here, it is that it’s going to shake up the Democratic Party.

(1:45 am) Some news outlets are officially calling the race for Trump, sorry.

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New Revelations on Trump’s Taxes and the Russia Connection

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Bad Hair

The New York Times committed an act of journalism and has published a must-read investigative report on Donald Trump’s taxes. In brief, tax experts say “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition.” It’s worth reading the whole article.

Meanwhile, David Corn writes at Mother Jones about what the FBI might be investigating regarding Trump’s dealings with Russia. A former intelligence officer shared with Corn what he had told the FBI:

Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”

The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.” The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos—some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.

“This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,” the former intelligence officer comments. “I think [Trump's] own party should be aware of this stuff as well.”

And Franklin Foer writes at Slate that some computer scientists investigated whether Russian hackers might be hacking the Trump campaign, as they had Clinton’s. What they found was weird. There was regular pinging going on between a bank in Moscow and a Trump server in New York.

The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank. …

…Earlier this month, the group of computer scientists passed the logs to Paul Vixie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no higher authority. Vixie wrote central strands of the DNS code that makes the internet work. After studying the logs, he concluded, “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project.” Put differently, the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence.

There is some weird-ass stuff going on, people.

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The Damn Emails

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Bad Hair, Hillary Clinton

While everyone is hyperventilating about emails that, apparently, no one has read yet, Kurt Eichenwald reports at Newsweek,

Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.

Nothing so far has been revealed in Clinton’s emails that warranted indictments. But it sounds as if Trump has been breaking laws for years and getting away with it. Note that the worst of the actions Eichenwald uncovered relate to Trump’s violations of fair housing laws

But let us review what the new Clinton email “revelations” amount to. Executive Summary: Nothing so far.

My understanding is that at the time FBI Director James Comey sent his letter to Congress about the emails on Anthony Weiner’s “device,” he didn’t yet have a warrant that allowed the FBI to read them. All they knew was that State Department emails ended up on Weiner’s “device,” supposedly forwarded by Huma Abedin, although she says she doesn’t know how that happened. We don’t know if any of those emails were sent or received by Hillary Clinton, or if Clinton even knew about the emails on the “device.”

Some news outlets are reporting that the emails were in Abedin’s Yahoo account, which makes me wonder if somehow an account was set up to automatically forward emails and Abedin didn’t realize it. The Clinton campaign is not exactly a tech-savvy crew. But if that’s the case, it’s likely most of these emails are duplicates of ones already known to the FBI.

But there’s more. CNN is reporting that the FBI knew about the emails on the “device” weeks ago. Why did James Comey sit on this information and then release it days before the election? At first it was assumed that Comey sent the letter as soon as he knew about the emails; maybe he wanted to avoid an appearance of being partisan. But if that was the case, it backfired big time.

Josh Marshall writes:

It is quite telling that even at this late stage of the election, when partisan tempers are naturally running at their fiercest, former career DOJ lawyers, former high level DOJ appointees and legal experts on both sides of the aisle are lining up to say this was not only an extremely poor decision but may even have violated the law. (Note here: President George W. Bush’s top ethics lawyer suggests Comey may even have broken the law. Another example is here.) As far as I can see, no one who actually knows what Comey’s legal, professional and ethical responsibilities were in this case can find a basis to defend his actions. Even Republicans who might be inclined to interpret ambiguous facts through a partisan prism don’t seem able to come up with one.

I’ve said a number of times that I do not believe Comey acted out of a desire to interfere with the outcome of the election. I still believe that. But I’m not sure it matters. What seems inescapable is that Comey has made avoiding criticism from Republicans (and leaks by FBI agents that would generate such criticism) his top, almost his sole priority. That being the case, his intent seems all but irrelevant. It amounts to some professional equivalent of reckless disregard, perhaps with a smattering of largely irrelevant naïveté thrown in.

See also FBI Director James Comey screwed up big time.

The presidential race has tightened up since Friday, although Clinton is still heavily favored to win.

Meanwhile Sen. Harry Reid has not only accused Comey of violating the Hatch Act; he says the FBI is sitting on damning information about Trump’s ties to the Russian government:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

It should be noted that Brian Ross at ABC News reported last September that Trump does millions of dollars of business with Russians, which wouldn’t have been possible without Putin’s approval.

But I’ll give John Oliver the last word today.

Update: Oops! Here’s another last word. CNBC reports:

FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former bureau official tells CNBC.

The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.

Somebody’s partisanship is showing.

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