Sunday, October 30, 2016

Comey Again?

James Comey's decision to inform Congress that the FBI had discovered emails on a laptop belonging to disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner that may be relevant to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private server has roiled the presidential campaign with days to go before the election.   His letter provided little details about the emails, leaving the ambiguous discloser subject to interpretation and wild speculation by Trump supporters.  

At a Friday rally, Donald Trump hailed the news as "bigger than Watergate," even though all of the emails may be just copies of those released earlier to the FBI.  Trump has fallen behind Clinton in the polls but now he has an issue to exploit to take attention away from charges of sexual assault that have hurt his campaign in recent weeks.

The Clinton campaign has criticized Comey for breaking with Justice Department protocol by commenting on an ongoing investigation, and doing anything that could be viewed as influencing the election.  A Justice Department official confirmed to the Washington Post that they advised Comey.   "It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill," the official said, "He is operating independently of the Justice Department.  And he knows it."  Comey had received sharp criticism last July from Republicans when he announced last July that he recommended that criminal charges not be made against Clinton for her use of a private email server.   Comey is a Republican.  In his letter to Congress, Comey said he feared that word of the newly found emails would leak and suggest a cover-up.

Clinton spoke of the revelations at a Saturday appearance in Daytona, Florida.  "Of course Donald Trump is already making up lies about this," she said.  "He is doing his best to confuse, mislead and discourage the American people."   Clinton campaign manager Robby Mock called on the FBI to release the emails.  "Just get it all out there and the voters can judge for themselves," he said on Fox News Sunday.

Before the disclosers, polls showed the race between Clinton and Trump had been tightening.  Trump has enjoyed the ardent support of his loyalists despite his many gaffes and recent charges of sexual abuse from 12 women.  He was recorded on an NBC's Access Hollywood video talking about sexual abuse.  He later described it as "locker room" talk, and has threatened to sue the women and NBC.  During his campaign, Trump has humiliated his opponents, he has disparaged war heroes, and he has consistently insulted women, Mexicans and Muslims.  Trump has refused to release his tax returns, which is standard practice for recent presidential candidates, and many of his business dealings have faced serious scrutiny.   Trump has fought back by blaming the "dishonest media" for his transgressions.  

Trump has consistently display a lack of understanding of foreign policy.  He has advocated the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the possible dissolution of NATO.  He has often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader, he has invited Russian hackers to go after Clinton's emails, and he has claimed he has a secret plan to eliminate ISIS.  He has also attacked fellow Republicans, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, and he has caused a huge rift within the Republican Party.  Recently, he has supported efforts to suppress votes, especially in urban areas that are heavily populated by traditional Democratic voters, like African Americans and Hispanics.  

Both Clinton and Trump have low favorability ratings among a majority of likely American voters.  But, despite her trust issues, and the fact that she should not have used a private email server, Clinton is one of the most experienced candidates to seek the presidency.  Yet the winds of change are blowing heavily in favor of Trump, as they often do after one party holds the White House for two terms.  So even the hint of an additional problem with Clinton's emails can drive independents voters, as well has some soft Clinton supporters, away from the voting booth, while firming up Trump's support with doubtful Republicans.  As Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta observed, "There's no evidence of wrongdoing, no charge of wrongdoing, no indication that this is even about Hillary."  But there may be enough misinterpretation to confuse voters on Election Day.  

As a result, America may elect the least qualified and most unpredictable presidential candidate ever in its history to the White House.   

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Trump's Collapse

"I alone can fix it," Donald Trump bragged at the Republican National Convention last July with swagger, confidence and certitude.   But Trump has since shown no sign he can even run an effective campaign, and he is now on the verge of an historic defeat.  

Many Americans were ready for a change this election, and all of the polls revealed a nation filled with concern that the country was headed in the wrong direction. Meanwhile, Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton, a flawed candidate dogged by an email controversy and a foreign policy record that has come under continuous scrutiny.  Yet Republicans selected as their nominee a brash man who had no political experience, little knowledge of the key issues, an impulsive nature, and a man who bullies those who stand in his way.   They thought they could control him, shape his campaign, and get him "on message."  They failed.  As a result, Republicans are fighting to retain control of the Senate.

Trump did not properly prepare for any of the three debates he had with Clinton.  Consequently, he could not speak articulately about any of the issues that were discussed.  Clinton won all three debates, and her third debate performance was her best.  She set traps for the thin-skinned Trump, and he took the bait.  At the end of the first debate she mentioned how Trump had mocked a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, because she had gained weight.  The result was an overnight Twitter storm from Trump that raised serious questions about his temperament.  

In the second debate, Trump was on the defensive from the very beginning because a videotape had been released of him talking in an inappropriate way about women.  Moderator Anderson Cooper, of CNN, asked Trump, "You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals.  That is sexual assault.  You bragged that you sexually assaulted women.  Do you understand that?"  Trump responded that he was embarrassed by his comments, and scrambled to answer the question.  "No, I didn't say that at all.  I don't think you understood what was--this was locker room talk.  I am not proud of it.  I apologize to my family.  I apologize to the American people."  This incident and the exchange raised serious questions about Trump's character.  

For weeks Trump has been saying that the election will be rigged, and asked that his supporters monitor polling places.  In their final debate, moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, asked Trump that, if he loses, would he accept the outcome as is the tradition in presidential elections.  Trump responded, "I will look at it at the time.  I'm not looking at anything now.  I'll look at it at the time."  He then added, "If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote...millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote."   Wallace followed up, "Are you saying you will not commit to that principle?"  Trump replied, "What I am saying is that I will tell you at the time.  I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"   This exchange dominated the news cycle and received criticism from his fellow Republicans.

On Saturday, Trump appeared at a rally in Gettysburg, the site of an historic Civil War battle, and the place President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg address.  Trump gave his closing argument and outlined what he would do during his first 100 days in office if elected.   But he began by attacking the "dishonest mainstream media" and a rigged election.  He then spoke of the 10 women (now 11) who had come forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual advances.  "Every women lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign -- total fabrication," he said as he gestured from the podium for emphasis.  "The events never happened.  Never.  All of these liars will be sued after the election is over."  Of course, if he actually sues, and if he is elected, a President Trump, will spend an enormous amount of time in depositions, and so will members of his family.  This is another empty threat, but it overshadowed his closing argument.   

No one believes more in Donald Trump than Trump himself.  But his candidacy has roiled and divided the Republican Party, and it has repulsed millions of women, Hispanics, Muslims, and independent voters.  Trump has said he read the bible.  Perhaps he should have carefully considered these words from Luke, "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."   

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.