Saturday, October 8, 2016

Pepublican Party Chaos

The Republican Party is reeling and stunned as a result of the release of 2005 audio recordings of Donald Trump talking about women using vulgar language.  Many leading Republicans have denounced Trump and withdrawn their endorsements.   Some are calling for Trump to be removed from the ticket.   With a month to go before the presidential election, the GOP is in chaos.  

Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence and his team are described as "absolutely apoplectic" and "inconsolable" because of Trump's obscene language.  In his appearance at the Vice Presidential Debate, Pence said, "If Donald Trump has said all of the things that you've said he said, in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn't have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said half our supporters were a basket of deplorables."   Pence may have won that battle, but he is about to lose the war because of his deplorable running mate.  Pence should immediately quit the race in order to save his dignity and reputation.  

Unless Trump withdraws it will be difficult and complicated for the Republican Party to remove him from the ticket and replace him on the ballot.  Some Republicans are holding out until they see how he performs in Sunday’s second Presidential Debate.  But even if Trump has a strong performance, how can any Republican member of Congress stand behind him?  There are reports that more tapes of Trump using offensive language will be released soon.  There already have been plenty of anecdotal reports of Trump's bad behavior towards women.  

Loyal Trump supporters are standing by their candidate.  Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told reporters he wasn't surprised that some Republicans no longer support Trump.   "You look at it, they were all Republicans who all opposed him and didn't support him in the past and this is basically the insiders against the outsiders anyway," he said outside Trump Tower Saturday night.  But the thrice-married Giuliani may not be the best person to make Trump's case.

There are reports that Trump will bring up former President Bill Clinton’s affairs in the debate, and he will again attack Hillary Clinton as an enabler.  But the same could be said for any Republican who supports Trump. 

Trump's crude language towards women is just the latest offense in a long list of embarrassing comments by the New York billionaire.  He has called Mexicans rapists, he called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., he forced a sitting president to produce a birth certificate, he mocked a reporter with a disability, he said Senator John McCain was not a hero, he viciously insulted his primary opponents, and he has harshly attacked a many journalists.   Yet, despite all of that he secured his party's nomination and most leading Republicans endorsed him.   Now they are in a panic.

Trump is now toxic, and he made be headed for an historic landslide defeat November 8.  His actions have put many down ballot races in jeopardy for Republicans, and they may lose control of the U.S. Senate.   Simply denouncing Trump and redirecting campaign funds to House and Senate races may not be enough for Republicans to stop the tidal wave.  

Late Saturday, Donald Trump, living in his alternate reality, arrogantly tweeted, “The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN!’’

Many Republicans are already looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections, when a large number of Democratic Senate seats will be in play, and the 2020 presidential contest.  But humiliated Republicans will first have to rebuild their party and unite their members.  That will be no easy task.  

On Election Day 2016 the Republican Party will reap what it has sown. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Trump Reality Show

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been a disgrace to his party and an embarrassment to the nation.  He has consistently demonstrated that he does not have the temperament, judgment, background or humility to lead our country.  

For more that a year, the Trump campaign has been run like a reality show.  It has been filled with drama, controversy and interesting characters that often mask over the weaknesses of its golden-haired impresario.   Despite his many apparent flaws, Trump was able to defeat all of his GOP opponents, every one of whom is more qualified than he to be president.

Trump's campaign road show travels from town to town playing before large crowds that enthusiastically cheer his boisterous rhetoric and divisive bombast. He plays on the fears and concerns of his supporters like Keith Richards plays his Telecaster.  "You can't always get what you want," can be heard over speaker systems at the end of his rallies. And Trump has many believing he may be what they need.

Trump needs this adulation and praise to feed his huge ego.  He is narcissistic and self-centered.   In his mind the world revolves around him.  He also thinks he is smarter than anyone else, so he believes he is never wrong.  Trump reminds everyone that he studied business at the Wharton School.  He prides himself on being the best negotiator, and the outcome of every transaction must result in a big win for Trump.  He lives in a cocoon, in a bubble, surrounded by loyal and obedient staff members who tell him what he wants to hear, and who carry out his orders.

His attacks on his opposition are often personal and childish.  "Lying" Ted Cruz, "Little" Marco Rubio and "Crooked" Hillary Clinton are names he proudly spends time thinking up.  He mocks and derisively brands his opponents much the same as a schoolyard bully.  You are either all in with Trump, or you are the enemy and subject to his ridicule.  As a result, Trump lives in an alternate reality.

Trump performed poorly at the first presidential debate, held at Hofstra University last Monday.  He was unprepared, often uncomfortable, and he seemed to lose his stamina toward the end of his encounter with Hillary Clinton.   But he believes he won the confrontation.  He cites unscientific internet polls, done immediately following the debate, as proof that he won, and ignores scientific polls by reputable organizations that show Clinton clobbered him.   

Then there is the matter of 1996 Miss Universe Alicia Machado.   Clinton referred to her during the debate, saying of Trump, "He called this woman Miss Piggy.  Then he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina."  Clinton got under Trump's thin skin, and he has since been obsessed with Machado.  On Friday, in a flurry of posts on Twitter that began at 3:30am, Trump attacked Machado and Clinton.  One read, "Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?"  This may have been the first time a presidential candidate referred to a sex tape, in fact, one that may not exist.  

A former Miss Universe has shaken Trump's alternate reality.  His campaign, its staff, the media, and the world have been consumed by Trump's Twitter tirades.  Now BuzzFeed News has uncovered a soft-core documentary, entitled "Playboy Video Centerfold 2000," in which Trump has a brief cameo appearance.  Meanwhile, Trump has started talking about President Bill Clinton's affairs, and has labeled Hillary Clinton an enabler.  Of course, Trump has been married three times.  

During his campaign the all-knowing Donald has insulted women, Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, and African Americans.   He refuses to properly apologize because he believes he is right.  And he claims he did a service for the nation by forcing President Barack Obama to produce his birth certificate.  He refuses to release his tax returns to be fully transparent with Americans, and he uses his charities as an ATM machine.  Trump is unprepared and unfit to be president, and unworthy of the office.  

Yet most leading members of the Republican Party stand by and defend Trump, even his lies, his distortions, his insults and his bullying.  They think that if Trump is elected president they can control him, that he will do what they say, that he will play by their rules.  But this is the man who announced to the world, "I alone can fix it."

This past week may have been an important turning point in the national election.  It may be the beginning of the end of the Donald Trump Reality Show.   

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Hofstra Debate

History is about to be made at Hofstra University, and excitement is building to a crescendo among the school's nearly 11,000 students.  On Monday evening, Democrat Hillary Clinton will face Republican Donald Trump in a presidential debate that will likely be the most watched television program in U.S. history.   It will also be the first time in American history a woman presidential candidate from a major party will debate during a general election.   

Hofstra University 
The Hofstra debate will be a major turning point in the election.  While Clinton is ahead in the polls, her lead is fragile.  Meanwhile, Trump has shown some momentum recently, and he has even pulled ahead in polls from key battleground states, like Ohio and North Carolina.  Political advisors for both candidates are vigorously playing the expectations game so as to favorably position their candidate in advance with the press.   If expectations are low for Trump, a good debate performance by him may win him more supporters.

Each candidate has major hurdles to overcome in how they are perceived by Americans.  Trump is viewed as more trustworthy than Clinton by likely voters in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, but she outperforms him overwhelmingly in temperament, being a good commander-in-chief, and experience.  Trump holds an edge over Clinton in who would be best to handle the economy.   Clinton enjoys a strong lead among minorities, women and young voters.  Trump does well with men, white voters and those without a college degree.  Interestingly, half of Trump's likely voters say they will vote for him because they are against Clinton.   

A majority of Americans polled want a change in Washington, and that frustration with government gridlock and political bickering fueled the rise of Trump.  Trump has campaigned as the change agent while Clinton has had difficulty clearly articulating how she would change Washington.   Trump's loyal supporters don't care what he says and how he says it.  But temperament will be a big factor in winning over independent and uncommitted voters.  So Trump is likely to be on his best behavior Monday night in hopes of securing undecided voters.  Conversely, Clinton will not be able in a single debate to get more voters to think she is more trustworthy.  But she may be able to use her enormous experience to overshadow Trump on key issues.

This will be the third presidential debate held at Hofstra University, which is more than any other university.  During the 2012 Hofstra debate Governor Mitt Romney spoke of "binders full of women," and in the 2008 Hofstra debate Senator John McCain repeatedly brought up "Joe the Plumber."  This year's debate will be moderated by NBC News' Lester Holt.  There will be six 15-segments, for a total of 90-minutes.  The topics, chosen by Holt, will be "America's direction," "achieving prosperity" and "securing America."   The candidates will have an opportunity to respond directly to each other.  

To be sure, Trump and Clinton will try hard to avoid making gaffs that may change the course of the election.   But will Clinton look healthy?  How will she handle questions about her emails?  Will Trump be able to endure 90-minutes of tough questions?  Will he explain his positions on issues in-depth, like his "secret plan" to eliminate ISIS?  And how will the recent police shootings factor into the debate?

Hofstra took over the debate on short notice when Wright State University in Ohio pulled out in July for financial reasons.  Hofstra's president, Stuart Rabinowitz, said at the time, "We greatly appreciate the faith shown in us by the Commission on Presidential Debates."  Now, six weeks later, security around this 250 acre campus in Hempstead, NY, will be unprecedented. Monday's classes have been cancelled, many parking lots and some nearby major routes will be shut all day.  Meanwhile, hundreds of media outlets will take up positions on campus as Hofstra becomes the political epicenter of the universe for one day.  

As one student wrote in her blog, "I firmly believe that this debate is an incredible opportunity not only for the university, but for the students who dream of building and shaping these events in the future."   

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tsar Trump

Donald Trump's interview with host Larry King Thursday on RT, the English language Russian television news network, was embarrassing.  Trump's campaign was caught off guard by his comments and struggled for an explanation.  "A former CNN superstar, Larry King, has a podcast, and Mr. Trump went on his podcast," explained campaign manager Kellyanne Conway Friday on CNN. "Nobody said it would be on Russian TV." 

Trump has been under attack for his repeated praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.   During a presidential forum on NBC Wednesday, Trump said that Putin has been a better leader that President Barack Obama.  "Certainly, in that system, he's been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader."  

Trump has repeatedly made in clear throughout his campaign that he admires Putin.  This has been especially true since Putin heaped praise on Trump at his annual press conference last December.  "He is a bright and talented person without doubt," Putin said, "an outstanding and talented personality."   Putin, a former KGB officer, knows how to manipulate egos, and no one has a bigger ego than Trump.  Trump's response, in the form of a statement, was, "It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond."

Respected?  Putin's annexation of Crimea and military intervention of Ukraine led to international condemnation and the imposition of sanctions.  Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war on behalf of its tyrannical leader, Bashar al-Assad, has also drawn condemnation and prolonged the conflict. Russia is also looking to play a bigger role in Iran's nuclear program.

Putin rules Russia with an iron fist.  Human Rights Watch, a non-government organization advocating human rights, harshly criticizes Russia.  "The Kremlin's crackdown on civil society, media, and the Internet took a more sinister turn in 2015 as the government further intensified harassment and persecution of independent critics," the organization says on its website.  Putin has turned the country against the West, especially the United States, in an effort to keep tight control.  He has successfully shifted blame for Russia's struggling economy from government policies to Western sanctions.  Putin has rigorously maintained a corrupt system of government where he and his loyal supporters reap great personal reward.

Punditfact reported earlier this year that 34 journalists have been murdered in Russia since 2000.  The international watchdog Freedom House ranks Russia 180 out of 199 countries when it comes to press freedom.   Perhaps Trump, who regularly denounces the American media, admires how Putin handles the press.  Trump told King, "there's tremendous dishonesty with the media.  Not all of it, obviously, but tremendous dishonesty."   

Larry King has a regular program on RT, and RT billed the interview as an "exclusive."  RT, a Kremlin sponsored network, describes itself as, "an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints international audience with a Russian viewpoint."   General Michael Flynn, the former director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and now a national security advisor to Trump, attended an RT gala in Moscow last year, and has appeared on the network several times.   

In his RT interview, Trump told King that he doesn't think Russia is trying to meddle in the American election.  "I think it's probably unlikely.  Maybe the Democrats are putting that out -- who knows," he said.  "If they are doing something, I hope somebody's going to be able to find out so they can end it.  Because that would not be appropriate at all."  (However, last July Trump called on the Russians to hack Clinton's e-mails.) Nonetheless, Trump's views on the media and President Obama pretty much align with the Russian viewpoint.  

The website Talking Points Memo reported in July, "Trump's financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin."  Trump's tax returns might shed light on the extent of the investment, but he says he won't release them.  Both Trump and Putin have spoken out against NATO, although for different reasons.  TPM also reported that Putin has sought to prop up nationalist movements in Europe in part to sow discord in those countries.  

Trump is running a nationalist campaign positioning himself as a strong leader, and he is certainly sowing discord.  "I alone can fix it," he said in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in July.  He has campaigned using bombast and bluster, while seldom offering specific answers to policy questions, like details of his "secret plan to eliminate ISIS."  In his Wednesday appearance on NBC, he said, "Under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I think the generals have been reduced to rubble."  He continued, "They have been reduced to a point where it's embarrassing to our country."  Of course, he would fire them.

On Wednesday, Trump praised Putin for "having great control over his country."   If elected in November, perhaps Tsar Trump will try to assert his control over this country.  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Trump's Immigration Plan

Wednesday was a very good day for Donald Trump and his campaign.  He met with the president of Mexico, participated in joint statements that were carried live in the United States on cable channels, and he delivered an immigration speech in Arizona filled with plenty of red meat for his base.  

Sure, there were disputable statements.  For instance, near the end of their joint appearance, Trump said that he and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto did not discuss who would pay for the wall in their private meeting.  Trump has made building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border a centerpiece of his campaign since the beginning. And he has repeatedly told supporters that Mexico would pay for it. 

President Nieto, apparently unprepared for reporter's questions, did not attempt to correct Trump during their joint appearance.   But after Trump departed the presidential palace, Los Pinos, President Nieto took to Twitter to clarify the issue.  "At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall," he tweeted.  The president is very unpopular in Mexico and he received much criticism for agreeing to meet with Trump, perhaps the only man more unpopular than he is in Mexico. Trump may have prevaricated, but he got a much desired photo-op with a world leader.

The Mexican trip was put together over the past few days by Trump's campaign team and then announced the night before he travelled to Mexico City.  The Mexican trip came on the same day he was scheduled to outline in detail his immigration policy in Arizona.   Over the past week Trump had been accused of softening his position on immigration in order to win back Republicans who were concerned about his extreme rhetoric on the issue during the primary campaign.   A Fox News poll released Wednesday found that 48% of Trump supporters would be more likely to vote for him if he "softened his position on handling illegal immigrants living in the United States."

A fiery Trump took the stage in Phoenix vowing there would be "no amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, that he would build a "beautiful" wall along the border, and that Mexico would pay for it.  Trump laid out a ten point plan that focused heavily on securing the border, crime by undocumented immigrants, reforming immigration laws, and cutting off federal funding to sanctuary cities.  His speech included attacks on his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, and Washington for failing on immigration.   Trump fed off the wildly enthusiastic crowd.

But Trump's speech was filled with claims that are factually untrue. Illegal immigration has actually been declining in recent years, and more Mexicans are leaving the United States for Mexico than are coming to the U.S.  Also, numerous studies show that "immigrants--regardless of their legal status--are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated."  And many studies have found that illegal immigrants do not takes jobs away from native Americans.   

Trump's plan for undocumented immigrants included an end to the catch and release policy, zero-tolerance for those who have committed a crime, a tripling of the number of deportation officers, repeal of President Obama's executive orders, no more visas for any country where "adequate screening cannot occur," and an "ideological certification" to ensure that immigrants share America's values.   While Trump said that all 11 million illegal immigrants would have to leave the country and apply for reentry, he did not specify a time frame for deporting them all.  

Trump told his supporters what they wanted to hear.  He also noted that the latest polls show he has closed the gap with Hillary Clinton.  Trump appeared to have his old mojo back, even though he used a teleprompter.  He was brash, strident and at times overly harsh.  Facts don't matter to Trump; rather the performance is what counts.  And his presentation played to those who are fearful, angry and frustrated with the federal government.    

Trump put on quite a show Wednesday.  More importantly, he dominated the news cycle for another day, and no one loves that more than Donald Trump.  eading the main story

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Clinton's Fragile Lead

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.  In 1969, the Cubs had a 9 1/2 game lead over the New York Mets in the middle of August, but ended the season 8 games behind the Mets after losing 17 of 25 games to close the season.  

The average of the latest national polls shows Clinton with about a 5 percent lead over her Republican opponent, Donald Trump.  But Trump has had a rough two weeks, and has now shaken up his campaign staff.   Gone is campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was brought in to make the campaign more professional.  On Tuesday, Trump brought on Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon as campaign CEO, and Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.  

In an article last October, a Bloomberg Businessweek headline read, "This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative In America."   Bannon is a former Goldman Sachs banker and documentary maker who took over Breitbert, a conservative website created in 2007, when its founder, David Breitbart, died suddenly in 2012.  "The recruitment of Bannon will release Trump to be the outsider that won a primary in historic fashion," wrote reporter Joseph R. Murray in The Hill. "Bannon will encourage Trump to be the very person the (Republican National Committee) warned against and, for that reason, Trump stands to win because this election is not about Republicans versus Democrats; it is about outside change versus insider corruption."  Murray's piece was entitled, "Trump's recruitment of Bannon means war and everyone knows it."  

Conway is a long time Republican operative and Trump friend.  Conway earlier ran a PAC for Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  She is a lawyer, a mother, and founded The Polling Company in 1995, which advised many Republicans, especially on women's issues.  Conway is an effective communicator who will work to focus Trump and his campaign on issues.   She reportedly was influential in getting Trump to express regrets last week for derogatory comments he has made in the past, although he was not specific.  

Bannon and Conway will work to turn voters against Clinton.  But reining in Trump may be difficult. And already he has taken many controversial positions that may be hard to clean up.  For instance, last October Trump said he would have a deportation force that would remove undocumented immigrants from the United States.  On Sunday, Conway said the creation of a deportation force by a Trump administration was "to be determined."   A softening of Trump's immigration position, which played a huge role in getting him the nomination, could alienate some of is most ardent supporters.

Nonetheless, Clinton has lots of baggage.  She has been dogged by scandals most of her public career.  Most recently, the Clinton Foundation has come under intense scrutiny for possibly trading favors for donations during Clinton's term as secretary of state.   Sunday's New York Times reported that, "The Clinton Foundation has accepted tens of millions of dollars from countries that the State Department -- before, during and after Mrs. Clinton's time as secretary -- criticized for their records on sex discrimination and other human-rights issues."  Because of the controversy, former President Bill Clinton announced Thursday that the organization would not longer accept foreign or corporate donations should his wife be elected in November.  But that will do little to quiet critics.  Several leading Democrats have called for the foundation to immediately stop taking donations.

Of course, the controversy surrounding Clinton's use of a private email server while at the State Department continues to trouble her campaign.   In July, FBI director David Comey recommended against prosecuting Clinton, but called her use of a private email server "extremely reckless."  Last week the bureau turned the case documents over to Congress, and Republicans are pressing that she be charged with perjury.  

Clinton has maintained a strong lead in recent polls, and has been pulling ahead in several key battleground states.  She is also doing well with women and minorities.  But likely voters view neither candidate favorably.  Clinton is most vulnerable on the trust issue, although Trump is as well.  And more that 60 percent of all Americans surveyed believe the country is on the wrong track.  

For sure, the team of Bannon and Conway will attack Clinton mercilessly on trust in an effort to disqualify her from being president while helping to improve Trump's position in the polls by keeping him "on message" as the candidate for "change."  Expectations for Trump doing so are low, so any improvement can build momentum.  Bannon and Conway know the media prefers a horserace.  

This year the Cubs are dominating major league baseball, and they are currently the favorites to win the World Series. But long-suffering Cub fans remember 1969, including Hillary Clinton.  She must do a better job of winning over uncommitted voters, and with addressing her weaknesses in order to prevail in November.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Trump and the Press

A sure sign that a campaign is failing is when the candidate blames the press for his problems.   The latest example is Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.   

Trump took to Twitter Sunday to attack the press for his sinking campaign.  "It is not 'freedom of the press' when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false," Trump wrote.  In the words of Khizr Khan, directed at Trump during last month's Democratic Convention, "Have you even read the Constitution?"   Apparently he hasn’t.    

The U.S. Constitution is clear: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."  The First Amendment was adopted in 1791 by the Founding Fathers to protect the rights of individuals to express themselves through publication without interference from the government.  

This is a founding principle of the United States, and it has withstood many challenges since its enactment more than 200 years ago.  Trump's assault on the Constitution is just another in his tirades against the press.  "I think the political press is among the most dishonest people that I have ever met," he told a press conference last May.  

Trump has regularly called the press "slime," "scum," "dishonest," "sleazy," and the "worst human beings" at his campaign rallies.  His supporters greeted his attacks with boos and hisses directed at the members of the press assigned to his events.  NBC News correspondent Katy Tur has covered Trump since the beginning of his campaign.  In an article this month in Marie Claire, Tur recounted how Trump singled her out harshly at a rally last December.  "It's unlikely, however, that any of Trump's future attacks will be as scary as what happened in Mount Pleasant (South Carolina), where the crowd, feeding off Trump, seemed to turn on me like a large animal, angry and unchained," she wrote.  "It wasn't until hours later, when the Secret Service took the extraordinary step of walking me to my car, that the incident sank in." 

Trump is the candidate of fear and anger.  He has sought to divide the country into winners, those who support him, and losers--all those who are against him.  He has insulted war heroes, the disabled, Muslims, Mexicans and women.  Rather than offering specific solutions he relies on schoolyard taunts to describe his opponents, like "crooked Hillary Clinton," "lying Ted Cruz," "little Marco Rubio," and "low-energy Jeb Bush."   His campaign has been chaotic and disorganized.  And now he is sinking in the in the polls, and many key Republicans are abandoning ship.  

Trump is desperate to reboot his campaign, but he has not changed his tune.  Instead, he continues to attack the press.  "If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn't put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20%," he wrote on Twitter Sunday.   Constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams told CNN Monday, "The very notion that the press can't say what it wants, or what it thinks is right about a candidate for president, is at war with the First Amendment."

Trump is at war with more than the First Amendment.  He is the man who masqueraded as publicist John Miller to brag about himself to reporters earlier is his career.  The thin-skinned Trump is at war with his advisors over his campaign tactics.  

It should come as no surprise that as Trump is losing ground in the arena of public opinion he blames the messenger.   Maybe it's time to bring John Miller back?