Once Again, The Data Shows Clinton Lost Because Obama Voters Backed Trump Over Her

When people have taken a serious look at the data available related to the 2016 election,  similar findings keep coming up. Hillary Clinton did not lose because of Russia, misogyny, James Comey, Bernie Bros, or Jill Stein voters. In March I noted data which showed that Clinton lost because of white working class voters who previously voted for Obama but shifted to Trump. Democratic Party strategists looked more data, and came to the same conclusion. McClatchy reports:

Many Democrats have a shorthand explanation for Clinton’s defeat: Her base didn’t turn out, Donald Trump’s did and the difference was too much to overcome.

But new information shows that Clinton had a much bigger problem with voters who had supported President Barack Obama in 2012 but backed Trump four years later.

Those Obama-Trump voters, in fact, effectively accounted for more than two-thirds of the reason Clinton lost, according to Matt Canter, a senior vice president of the Democratic political firm Global Strategy Group. In his group’s analysis, about 70 percent of Clinton’s failure to reach Obama’s vote total in 2012 was because she lost these voters.

In recent months, Canter and other members of Global Strategy Group have delivered a detailed report of their findings to senators, congressmen, fellow operatives and think tank wonks – all part of an ongoing effort to educate party leaders about what the data says really happened in last year’s election.

“We have to make sure we learn the right lesson from 2016, that we don’t just draw the lesson that makes us feel good at night, make us sleep well at night,” Canter said.

His firm’s conclusion is shared broadly by other Democrats who have examined the data, including senior members of Clinton’s campaign and officials at the Democratic data and analytics firm Catalist. (The New York Times, doing its own analysis, reached a similar conclusion.)

Greg Sargent reviewed polling data and further connected this to economic concerns:

“[Hillary] Clinton and Democrats’ economic message did not break through to drop-off or Obama-Trump voters, even though drop-off voters are decidedly anti-Trump,” Priorities USA concluded in a presentation of its polling data and focus group findings, which has been shown to party officials in recent days.

The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump’s victory, are economically losing ground and are skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems…

A sizable chunk of Obama-Trump voters — 30 percent — said their vote for Trump was more a vote against Clinton than a vote for Trump. Remember, these voters backed Obama four years earlier.

There was brief mention of  Clinton’s“high unfavorable ratings,” but it appears they might be paying too little attention to this key factor. Polls have shown that Clinton is distrusted. There have been numerous stories during the campaign cycle about how she used her political positions to obtain personal wealth, between her influence peddling as Secretary of State and her Wall Street Speeches. This would be expected to alienate those voting based upon economic anxieties, and reinforce the view that the Democratic nominee was not offering solutions to their problems. These people previously voted for Barack Obama, and showed they would support Bernie Sanders. They were not willing to vote for Hillary Clinton.

While there is no doubt that Clinton lost many Obama voters over economic concerns, I do wonder if other problems are missed due to not being represented in the polling data released per the above link. Going beyond economics, during the Bush years, and going into Obama’s presidency, the conventional view among Democrats was that Bush and the Republicans are evil for going into Iraq, restricting civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, and decreasing government transparency. Hillary Clinton’s record here is virtually indistinguishable from George Bush’s, and now the Democratic establishment says: Don’t listen to purists on the left who object to Clinton’s support for war in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, along with a resumption of Cold War style hostilities with Russia, her support for restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism, and her hostility towards government transparency. We must unite to fight the evil Republicans.

Democrats have a serious messaging problem, including but certainly not limited to economics.

Shattered Destroys The Myths That Clinton Lost Due to Russia, James Comey, Or Misogyny

There are two types of books coming out about the 2016 election. There are books from Clinton partisans which paint her as the victim and blame Russia, James Comey, and/or misogyny.  These books do a disservice to Democrats, blinding them as to why they lost an election which should have been easy to win against Donald Trump, and increase the risk of Democrats continuing to lose.  There are also the honest accounts, including the one quoted by Matt Taibi a few days ago. Last week I also posted an excerpt from  Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. The book will be released tomorrow, and I have my order in at Amazon.

While waiting for the actual book, there is another review at The New York Times. Here are some excerpts from the review:

In their compelling new book, “Shattered,” the journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write that Clinton’s loss suddenly made sense of all the reporting they had been doing for a year and a half — reporting that had turned up all sorts of “foreboding signs” that often seemed at odds, in real time, with indications that Clinton was the favorite to win. Although the Clinton campaign was widely covered, and many autopsies have been conducted in the last several months, the blow-by-blow details in “Shattered” — and the observations made here by campaign and Democratic Party insiders — are nothing less than devastating, sure to dismay not just her supporters but also everyone who cares about the outcome and momentous consequences of the election.

In fact, the portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned “a winnable race” into “another iceberg-seeking campaign ship.”

It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and “spirit-crushing” campaign that embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) and that failed, repeatedly, to correct course. A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected to act on warning flares sent up by Democratic operatives on the ground in crucial swing states, and that ignored the advice of the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and other Democratic Party elders, who argued that the campaign needed to work harder to persuade undecided and ambivalent voters (like working-class whites and millennials), instead of focusing so insistently on turning out core supporters.

“Our failure to reach out to white voters, like literally from the New Hampshire primary on, it never changed,” one campaign official is quoted as saying.

There was a perfect storm of other factors, of course, that contributed to Clinton’s loss, including Russian meddling in the election to help elect Trump; the controversial decision by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to send a letter to Congress about Clinton’s emails less than two weeks before Election Day; and the global wave of populist discontent with the status quo (signaled earlier in the year by the British “Brexit” vote) that helped fuel the rise of both Trump and Bernie Sanders. In a recent interview, Clinton added that she believed “misogyny played a role” in her loss.

The authors of “Shattered,” however, write that even some of her close friends and advisers think that Clinton “bears the blame for her defeat,” arguing that her actions before the campaign (setting up a private email server, becoming entangled in the Clinton Foundation, giving speeches to Wall Street banks) “hamstrung her own chances so badly that she couldn’t recover,” ensuring that she could not “cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions.”

The review points out that the authors had previously written a “sympathetic portrait of Clinton’s years as secretary of state.” They interviewed over a hundred sources with promises that none of the material would be published before the election. The review continued:

“Shattered” underscores Clinton’s difficulty in articulating a rationale for her campaign (other than that she was not Donald Trump). And it suggests that a tendency to value loyalty over competence resulted in a lumbering, bureaucratic operation in which staff members were reluctant to speak truth to power, and competing tribes sowed “confusion, angst and infighting.”

Despite years of post-mortems, the authors observe, Clinton’s management style hadn’t really changed since her 2008 loss of the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama: Her team’s convoluted power structure “encouraged the denizens of Hillaryland to care more about their standing with her, or their future job opportunities, than getting her elected.”

The campaign frequently spun its wheels in response to crises and urgent appeals from Democrats on both the state and national levels, the authors report. Big speeches were written by committee. “Evolving the core message” remained a continuing struggle. And the Brooklyn campaign headquarters — which would end up outspending Trump’s campaign by nearly 2 to 1 — frustrated coordinators in battleground states like Colorado by penny-pinching and cutting back on television, direct mail and digital advertising.

The review noted mistakes Clinton made when running against Bernie Sanders, and how, “These problems were not corrected in the race against Trump.”

After a planned appearance in Green Bay with President Obama was postponed, the authors write, Clinton never set foot in Wisconsin, a key state. In fact, they suggest, the campaign tended to take battleground states like Wisconsin and Michigan (the very states that would help hand the presidency to Trump) for granted until it was too late, and instead looked at expanding the electoral map beyond Democratic-held turf and traditional swing states to places like Arizona.

In chronicling these missteps, “Shattered” creates a picture of a shockingly inept campaign hobbled by hubris and unforced errors, and haunted by a sense of self-pity and doom, summed up in one Clinton aide’s mantra throughout the campaign: “We’re not allowed to have nice things.”

The mistakes made during the campaign were consistent with Clinton’s long history of poor performance in whatever government role she was in, along with her losing 2008 campaign against Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly shown that she lacks the judgement to handle a high political office. Rather than learning from her mistakes, she continues to repeat the same mistakes. This has been seen on policy matters, such as when she repeated the same mistakes in her policies on Libya and Syria as she made in backing the Iraq war without even reading the intelligence material prepared for members of the Senate, as well as in political campaigns when she lost to Donald Trump by repeating the same mistakes she made in running against Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders.

Donald Trump is now looking like he is at risk of turning out to be one of the worst presidents in our history. Hillary Clinton, with her poor judgement and the blind support of many Democrats who ignore her mistakes and corruption, very well could have done even more harm to the country.

Update: More at The Washington Post. Another review at NPR. Axios has a list of additional highlights. It is quite valuable how this book is changing the media narrative to a factual discussion of how Clinton mismanaged the campaign as opposed to continuing to hear Clinton’s excuses for why she lost.

Why Hillary Clinton Could Not Beat Our Insane Clown President

In their quick and Orwellian rewriting of the campaign history, the Clinton camp quickly moved from being in an election they could not lose to one in which multiple external factors conspired to make it an election which Hillary could not win. Even many Democrats continue to accept Clinton’s excuses and ignore what Andrew Sullivan calls, “one of the worst campaigns in recent history, leading to the Trump nightmare.” Matt Taibbi, who recently  debunked the arguments from the Clinton camp that opposition to Clinton from Sanders’ supporters was based upon Russian propaganda,  had excellent coverage of the race, which showed many of the weaknesses in Clinton and her campaign. He collected some of his articles in the book Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus. The book concludes with an epilogue which explains why Clinton lost.

The epilogue dealt with many topics I have also written about, including the betrayal betrayal of liberal principles staring while Bill Clinton was president. He wrote about how the Clintons were doomed by their greed, as they violated principles to make money from their position without consideration of the consequences. He wrote that, The Clintons probably should have left politics the moment they decided they didn’t care what the public thought about how they made their money.” Instead we had an election in which Clinton’s lack of ethics, seen in stories ranging from the Foundation scandals to her paid speeches, verified the suspicions of voters that Hillary Clinton could not be trusted, negating Donald Trump’s major negatives.

Following is from Matt Taibbi’s epilogue:

The only “ideas” at the core of the DLC strategy were that Democrats were better than Republicans, and that winning was better than losing. To make Democrats more competitive, they made two important changes. One was the embrace of “market-based” solutions, which opened the door for the party to compete with Republicans for donations from Wall Street and heavy industry.

The other big trade-off was on race. The Clinton revolution was designed as a response to Dick Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which was based on dominating among whites from the South who nurtured resentments about the post–civil rights consensus.

To win those white voters back, the Clintons “triangulated” against liberal orthodoxies, pledging to end “welfare as we know it” and to punish criminals instead of “explaining away their behavior.” Liberal dog-whistling, if you will. Candidate Bill Clinton even went out of his way to attend the execution of a mentally deficient black man named Ricky Ray Rector during the 1992 campaign to signal his seriousness.

The original DLC positions on policing sound almost identical to current Trumpian rhetoric. “The U.S. has unwittingly allowed itself to unilaterally disarm in the domestic war against violent crime,” the group wrote, as part of its argument for a bigger federal role in law enforcement and the expanded use of “community policing.”

These moves worked in large part because of the personal magnetism of the Clintons. Bill and Hillary both seemed energetic and optimistic. Much of the world was enthralled by them, this power couple of intellectual equals. They were something modern, with their can-do positive attitude, which was marketed almost like a political version of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.

Moreover, Bill Clinton was nobody’s idea of a plutocrat back then. He was a self-made success story from a hardscrabble background, raised by a single mom in a rural Arkansas town literally called Hope. He was thought of both as an overgrown hillbilly and “the first black president.”

Clinton looked like a man of the people. He had to be torn away from campaign stops and chatted up everyone from truckers to waitresses to toll operators. He even had a bad junk-food habit, a quality then-Bill shares with today’s Donald Trump.

It helped that Bill Clinton’s first presidential opponent, George H. W. Bush, was a calcified Connecticut aristocrat who had been pampered in power for so long, he didn’t know how checkout lanes worked when he visited a supermarket.

They won, and kept winning, their success papering over fault lines building in the party.

 

In the sixteen years after Bill left office, a lot changed. For one thing, the Clintons personally emerged from the experience of the presidency deeply embittered by press criticism. They became fatalistic rather than optimistic about the burdens of power.

In that Politico piece after the election, an unnamed “longtime confidant” explained that Hillary and Bill decided to embark on a moneymaking campaign after Bill left office because they figured they would get criticized either way.

“Her outlook is, ‘I get whacked no matter what, so screw it,’ ” the person explained. “I’ve been out here killing myself for years and years and if I want to give the same speech everyone else does, I will.”

So the Clintons went from being plausibly accessible to ordinary people to living in a world where it was nobody’s business if they wanted to make $153 million in speaking fees.

Soon they were the politicians who’d been on Olympus so long, they couldn’t navigate the metaphorical supermarket line. Shortly before she announced her 2016 run, Hillary gave a speech to Goldman Sachs executives admitting that she was “kind of far removed because [of] the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy.”
There was another change.

The original Clinton strategy of the Nineties had stressed a rejection of liberal mantras about identity politics, and even the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign had aggressively run against the “fairy tale” of Barack Obama.

That Hillary Clinton generated quite a lot of heat among white voters on the campaign trail. The emotional high point of her campaign came during the Pennsylvania primary, after Barack Obama had made his infamous “they cling to guns and religion” speech.

Hillary Clinton wasted no time in calling Obama “elitist and out of touch,” hammering him for his “demeaning remarks…about people in small-town America.”

I was at some of her Pennsylvania rallies that year, when she railed against her eggheaded opponent and riffed on her background as the “granddaughter of a factory worker” who was raised “outside” of a big city. Her mostly white and middle-class audiences whooped and hollered.

Hillary may have been very wealthy already by then. But the former “Goldwater Girl” clearly enjoyed playing the role of the champion of the silent majority. Her stump speech in that race was an almost exact replica of Nixon’s “forgotten Americans” theme from 1968: Hillary’s version was a call to the “invisible Americans” of the betrayed middle class.

But she lost that race, and the size and breadth of the Obama victory against McCain inspired the change to what her aides described to reporters as the “far narrower” Obama mobilize-the-base strategy in 2016.

But decades of those triangulating politics made her an unconvincing vehicle for that plan, and unforeseen developments like the Bernie Sanders campaign forced her to spend an enormous amount of time trying to hold the Democratic coalition together.

Meanwhile, on the other side, she was now pushing a strategy that couldn’t possibly have been less appealing to the so-called white working-class voter. Always an economic globalist, Hillary Clinton was now an enthusiastic convert to multiculturalism as well, the worst conceivable combination.

In the end, the Clinton revolution went the way of a lot of revolutions. The longer any group of intellectuals sits at or near power, the more they tend to drift away from their founding ideas and resort more and more to appeals to authority.

Trump’s rise massively accelerated this process. By late summer 2016, the Clinton campaign spent virtually all its time either raising explorations of Trump’s evil up the media flagpole or denouncing anyone who didn’t salute fast enough.

The Clinton campaign dismissed flyover Republicans as a “basket of deplorables” and then developed their own Leninist mania for describing factional enemies and skeptics within their own tent. In place of parasites, cosmopolitanites and wreckers, the campaign railed against “Bernie Bros,” “neo-Naderites,” “purity-testers” and a long list of other deviants.

In 2014, before the start of his wife’s presidential run, Bill Clinton was saying things like, “The biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity.”

But by the last months of the general election race, the Clinton camp had done a complete 180 on identity politics, deploying it as a whip in an increasingly desperate effort to keep their coalition in place. They used language against other Democrats they would previously never have used against Republicans. Even ex-hippies and New Dealers were denounced as bigots whose discomfort with Clinton was an expression of privilege and an attack against women, people of color and the LGBT community.

Meanwhile members of the press who wrote anything negative about Clinton, made jokes, or even structured their ledes in the wrong way could be guilty of anything from “both-sidesism” (Lenin would have loved this tongue-mangling term) to “false equivalency” to the use of “weaponized” information, to say nothing of actual treason.

“You are a criminal agent of Putin conspiracy. And a profound enemy of progressive politics,” raged Democratic strategist Bob Shrum to journalist Glenn Greenwald, after the latter made a sarcastic comment about the campaign’s outrage toward previously lauded FBI director James Comey.

There are a lot of people who will probably say that all of these tirades against Clinton’s critics were on the mark. But it’s surely also true that once you reach the stage of being angry with people for wanting a reason to vote for you, you’ve been in this game too long.

The Clintons probably should have left politics the moment they decided they didn’t care what the public thought about how they made their money. Their original genius was in feeling where the votes were on the map and knowing how to get them. But that homing mechanism starts to falter once you make a conscious decision to tune out public criticism as irrational and inevitable.

It was a huge gamble to push forward toward the White House after they crossed this mental line. Moreover to run for president at a time when you’re admitting in private that you’re out of touch with regular people is wildly irresponsible, a violation of every idea even they once had about how to win elections.

All of these things played a role in the still-stunning loss to Trump. They spent virtually all their time attending corporate fund-raisers—more than 400 of them, according to one source I spoke to in Washington the day after the election—and relatively little on traditional canvassing. And they relied upon a preposterous computerized fortune-telling machine called “Ada” to gauge the feelings of voters, instead of sounding them out in person.

After the loss to Trump, the inclusive, upbeat Fleetwood Mac vibe of the original Clinton revolution vanished forever, replaced by anger, recrimination and willful myopia. A movement begun by future-embracing intellectuals ended on notes like, “I don’t want to hear it,” which became a ubiquitous phrase in Democratic circles.

“Samantha Bee Doesn’t ‘Want to Hear a Goddamn Word’ About Black Turnout” was HuffPo’s headline, after the comic’s postelection tirade against any explanations for Trump’s rise other than “white people.”

“I don’t want to hear it” became an expression of solidarity. It felt like a real-world extension of a social media response, where publicly blocking people during this season became a virtue even among upper-class white guys (Vox’s Matt Yglesias boasting in the summer of 2016 about having blocked 941 people on Twitter is one bizarre example).

The “hear no evil” campaign was surely in part messaging from the Clinton campaign, which went from pooh-poohing any poll numbers that showed a tight race (the media was often blamed for pushing poll numbers “without context” in search of a better horse race) to describing Trump’s victory as the inevitable triumph of an irrepressible white nationalist movement.

We somehow went from “suggesting it’s close is a vicious lie” to “we never had a chance” overnight.

The Clintons throughout their history had been survivors. They made it through controversy after controversy by unfailingly finding the lee shore in a storm. Their talent at spinning was legendary.

Any journalist who ever tried to call a Clinton aide for a comment on a negative story was inevitably treated to a master class in double-talk. The bad thing didn’t happen, or they didn’t do the bad thing if it was done, or even if they did do it you shouldn’t report it, because it helped worse people, and so on. They were like junkies: They always had a story. Their confidence was unshakeable and exhausting, their will to persevere a thing to behold.

But in the end, they ran out of stories, except one last one: They lost because there was no hope. They went from optimism, to fatalism, to absolute pessimism, all in the space of 25 years.

The pessimism of the Democratic leadership is like that of a person in a catatonic crisis. Once they were heroes for finding a way to win by selling out just enough on race and economics. But now that that strategy has been closed, they seem stunned to the point of paralysis by the seemingly incurable divisions of our society, as if they’re seeing them for the first time.

Meanwhile the pessimism of Trump’s revolution is intentional, impassioned, ascendant. They placed a huge bet on America’s worst instincts, and won. And the first order of business will be to wipe out a national idea in which they never believed.

Welcome to the end of the dream.

Taibbi is right that the Clintons should have left politics when they decided to concentrate on making money, regardless of how unethically. It is possible to see how such greed and lack of ethics would have compelled Hillary Clinton to remain in politics, as this is what enable the Clintons to make their fortune in influence peddling. What is even harder to understand is how the Democratic Party, which claims to be so shocked by the corruption under Bush and now under Trump, was so willing to ignore their actions.

The nomination of Hillary Clinton by a major political party was ethically inexcusable. It was even stranger that they would rig the process to enable her nomination. Party rules established after the loss by McGovern, and reinforced by the loss of Walter Mondale, supported the nomination of a more conservative Clinton-type candidate who they thought was more electable. The party further changed their rules and policies in 2016 to virtually rig the process for Hillary Clinton–who still managed to be challenged in the nomination battle despite all the factors in her favor.

Rigging the nomination for Clinton  backfired as the party establishment failed to understand that times have changed since McGovern and Mondale lost badly. Instead Clinton was now the type of candidate least likely to win, and a liability against a perceived outsider such as Donald Trump. The party rigged the nomination for the candidate who could not win, and ignored how an unexpected candidate like Bernie Sanders who could have led the party to a major victory.

Update: Thanks to a comment to this post, I found that the painter of the two pictures which capture Trump and Clinton, and fit in so well with the title of Taibbi’s book, is Tony Pro.

Trump and Republicans Escalate War Against Planned Parenthood And Women’s Health

Republicans love to use rhetoric such as talking about small government and freedom, but their real goal is to use big government to impose their religious views upon others. Maybe deep down Donald Trump even realizes that these actions by the religious right are morally wrong, as the usually loud mouthed president signed a bill targeting Planned Parenthood in private. CNN reports:

“President Donald Trump privately signed a bill on Thursday that allows states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood, a group frequently targeted by Republicans.

“The bill, which the usually camera-friendly President signed without any media present, reverses an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from withholding money from facilities that perform abortions, arguing that many of these facilities also provide other family planning and medical services.

“The bulk of federal money Planned Parenthood receives, though, goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women’s health services. Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions and Planned Parenthood says 3% of the services it provides are abortions.

Republican who support such measures cannot claim to be for either liberty or small government. This also contradicts all their rhetoric about keeping government from getting between patients and doctors.

Do Not Reward Trump For Looking Presidential In Unilaterally Going To War

Our history of military intervention in the middle east has consistently failed to provide the desired results, and has repeatedly added to further destabilize the region and produce results contrary to our national security interests, including fueling terrorism. Intervention in Syria is even harder to justify when there is no favorable goal even being proposed, or sides worthy of supporting. Despite this, far too many people who should know better, both in the media and on the left, have been applauding Trump’s bombing in Syria, which appears far more impulsive than based on any coherent strategy to reduce deaths.

There are some who we would expect to be cheering Trump on. As Jack Shafer notes, “Nobody projects network war delight better than CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.”  He showed that MSNBC is no better:

If cable news is just a fancy talk show about the news, then the hoarse hollering of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews is an hour-long news monologue. Almost gleeful about the war, which has temporarily lifted him from the slog of the Trump-Russia and Gorsuch stories, Matthews battled Blitzer Friday night for the title for Cable News’ Most Unbearable.

Unfortunately, far more journalists have fallen for the appeal of war. Margaret Sullivan has chastised those in the media who have become excited over the attack, giving a few examples:

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” declared Fareed Zakaria on CNN, after the firing of 59 missiles at a Syrian military airfield late Thursday night. (His words sounded familiar, since CNN’s Van Jones made a nearly identical pronouncement after Trump’s first address to Congress.)

“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,” read a New York Times headline.

“President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens — a frequent Trump critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist. He added: “Now destroy the Assad regime for good.”

Brian Williams, on MSNBC, seemed mesmerized by the images of the strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word “beautiful” three times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons” — without apparent irony.

She further discussed the media coverage in general:

Why do so many in the news media love a show of force?

“There is no faster way to bring public support than to pursue military action,” said Ken Paulson, head of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.

“It’s a pattern not only in American history, but in world history. We rally around the commander in chief — and that’s understandable.”

Paulson noted that the news media also “seem to get bored with their own narrative” about Trump’s failings, and they welcome a chance to switch it up.

But that’s not good enough, he said: “The watchdog has to have clear vision and not just a sporadic bark.”
Clara Jeffery, editor in chief of Mother Jones, offered a simple explanation: “It’s dramatic. It’s good for TV, reporters get caught up in the moment, or, worse, jingoism.”
She added: “Military action is viewed as inherently nonpartisan, opposition or skepticism as partisan. News organizations that are fearful of looking partisan can fall into the trap of failing to provide context.”

Dan Rather once again put matters in perspective, and showed what we have lost in journalism over the last few decades:

The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief. It is an awesome responsibility. Committing the use of force and American men and women in uniform is about as serious as it gets. But the truly great presidents understand that knowing when NOT to act is as important as knowing when to act.

It is a whole lot easier starting wars than finishing them. And there are many historical examples of where a promise of limited engagement quickly metastasized into something much bigger.

There is a tendency to rally around the flag, and a President who takes on a war footing can see a boost of support. It is often transitory. There are arguments to be made that President Assad in Syria has crossed a line that demands U.S. military interference. Whether this should have been a unilateral action is something we all must consider. Whether President Trump has a plan for what comes next must be debated. Whether there is a coherence to this missile strike fitting into a larger foreign policy strategy is a question that should give us all pause.

The role of the press is to ask hard questions. There is ample evidence that this Administration needs to face deep scrutiny. The lies we have heard, the chaos in governance, and the looming questions about ties with Russia – itself a major player in Syria – demand that the press treat this latest action with healthy skepticism. Perhaps it was the right thing to do. Perhaps a strong and wise policy will emerge. But that judgement is still definitely hanging in the balance.

The number of members of the press who have lauded the actions last night as “presidential” is concerning. War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative. It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike.

Alex Pareene warned about the consequences of pundits praising Trump for the bombing:

You think Donald Trump noticed how the first thing he did that actually got the TV guys to like him was kill a troop?

Here are some things Donald Trump is famous for:

1) Noticing which things he does that elicit positive attention and then doing those things over and over and over again.

2) Craving the validation of the press, generally the sort of press a 70-year-old upper class New Yorker pays attention to, especially cable news.
If one dead American service member won him this much praise, just imagine how much they’ll respect him when he kills a couple hundred—or a couple thousand!

Now that Trump has learned that there is a direct relationship between a president’s body count and how “presidential” the mainstream political press considers him to be, the whole world is fucked.

Eric Levitz gave four reasons why it is “profoundly irresponsible to commend last night’s events without equivocation.”

(1) While eyewitness accounts strongly suggest that the Assad government was behind Tuesday’s attacks, Trump’s retaliation came before any thorough investigation confirmed that evidence. The speed of Trump’s reaction betrays a lack of caution that should be unnerving even to those who support confrontation with Assad.

(2) The strike reportedly killed 16 people, including four children. In the opinion of the White House’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster the strike did not eliminate Assad’s ability to deploy chemical weapons, but merely degraded it. What’s more, there are already signs that the attack might enrage Assad more than it deters him.

If our concern is minimizing the deaths of Syria’s beautiful babies, it is by no means certain that last night’s action will not, ultimately, prove counterproductive.

(3) Congress never gave Donald Trump the authority to commit an act of war against the Syrian government, and to claim otherwise is to give the executive unilateral authority to kill people anywhere in the world, in the name of our republic. It is astounding that more people aren’t perturbed by that prospect, given that:

(4) We know that our president is an ill-informed, obscenely incurious conspiracy theorist who routinely retreats into self-delusion when reality frustrates his ambitions. He is a demagogue who has attacked the judiciary as a threat to national security, and repeatedly insinuated that in times of war constitutional laws become mere suggestions. These sentences may sound polemical, but they aren’t. They merely describe a basic fact that much of the media is eager to forget: Donald Trump’s presidency is an ongoing national crisis.

Plus, if Trump truly has any concern for “Syria’s beautiful babies,” he should reverse his policies to both keep Syrian refugees from entering the country, and his reductions in spending in diplomacy.

Staying out of Syria was one of the few things which candidate Trump had right. Instead he has impulsively followed the lead of Hillary Clinton, who has been calling for far more extensive, and dangerous, intervention, along with the Republican hawks who previously opposed him on foreign policy.

Donald Trump’s War on Journalism And The Price Republicans Will Face For His Presidency

The Los Angeles Times is continuing its series of posts on Donald Trump, today addressing Trump’s War on Journalism. Here are some portions:

In Donald Trump’s America, the mere act of reporting news unflattering to the president is held up as evidence of bias. Journalists are slandered as “enemies of the people.”

Facts that contradict Trump’s version of reality are dismissed as “fake news.” Reporters and their news organizations are “pathetic,” “very dishonest,” “failing,” and even, in one memorable turn of phrase, “a pile of garbage.”

…By branding reporters as liars, he apparently hopes to discredit, disrupt or bully into silence anyone who challenges his version of reality. By undermining trust in news organizations and delegitimizing journalism and muddling the facts so that Americans no longer know who to believe, he can deny and distract and help push his administration’s far-fetched storyline.

It’s a cynical strategy, with some creepy overtones. For instance, when he calls journalists “enemies of the people,” Trump (whether he knows it or not) echoes Josef Stalin and other despots.

But it’s an effective strategy. Such attacks are politically expedient at a moment when trust in the news media is as low as it’s ever been, according to Gallup. And they’re especially resonant with Trump’s supporters, many of whom see journalists as part of the swamp that needs to be drained.

Trump has been criticized many times before for his attacks on the news media. I included some examples here, including criticism from Fox for the benefit of those who prefer that source, here, and here.

Earlier in the week, The Los Angeles Times criticized the dishonesty of Donald Trump and his authoritarian tendencies.

Even many on the right see how terrible a president Donald Trump is. For example, Jonah Goldberg writes, “the problem is Trump’s personality. His presidency doesn’t suffer from a failure of ideas, but a failure of character.”

Republicans are likely to pay a political price for the presidency of Donald Trump. Jonathan Chait has written about how Donald Trump will do far more harm to the Republican Party than if Hillary Clinton would have won.

Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up. The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse, the contours of which they have not yet imagined. The failure of the Republican health-care initiative was a sobering moment, when their early, giddy visions of the possibilities of full party control of government gave way to an ugly reality of dysfunction, splayed against the not-so-distant backdrop of a roiled Democratic voting base. They have ratcheted back their expectations. But they have not ratcheted them far enough. By the time President Trump has left the scene, what now looks like a shambolic beginning, a stumbling out of the gate, will probably feel like the good old days.

The converse is also true. Democrats are in a position to be far more successful than they would be if faced with having to defend a triangulating Hillary Clinton in the White House, who very likely would have been more successful than Donald Trump in moving the country to the right. Rather than facing inevitable loses in Congress and in the states, Democrats now have a shot at retaking the House, especially if they present a clear alternative to the Republicans, as opposed to running again as a Republican-lite party.

The 2016 Major Party Candidates Were Very Similar In Many Ways

The 2016 presidential featured a battle of the two worst people in America. While they have their differences, both are far more alike that supporters of either would admit. They are both corrupt. They both have a very similar disdain for civil liberties. They are both conservative on social/cultural issues–Clinton more ideologically, and Trump possibly more out of political expediency. Neither can be trusted on foreign policy. Both are tone deaf.

Doing a Google search for “tone deaf hillary clinton” I just received 228,000 hits. While he didn’t use the term, Joe Biden was getting at this when he criticized Clinton this week for failing to talk to middle class voters–a conclusion many others have come to. As I noted again earlier this week, data shows that a key reason Clinton lost was that large numbers of working class voters shifted from Obama to Trump.

Of course if you live in the fantasy land of Clinton apologists, where they are convinced that misogyny and not political incompetence and dishonesty doomed Clinton, this counter-argument was given: “Virtually every time I hear someone complaining about something Hillary Clinton supposedly failed to say, it’s not really a problem with her not having said it. It’s a problem with their having failed to hear it.” (Yes this really is a direct quote–follow the link if you doubt it.) To them Clinton managed to lose to a candidate as atrocious as Donald Trump, a man who probably would have lost in a landslide to a name randomly picked out of the phone book,  despite doing all the right things. Democrats certainly can no longer claim to be part of the reality-based world.

(Continuing ten minutes later, after I stopped laughing over that defense of Clinton.) While Donald Trump might have carried out the con of the century in convincing working class voters that his policies would help them, he is certainly not doing anything now to hide his love for the ultra-wealthy. The Washington Post reports:

Ahead of release of financial disclosures, Trump administration brags about how many wealthy people it has

Starting Friday evening, the White House will begin to release financial disclosure forms filed by about 180 members of the Trump administration who are either commissioned officers or paid more than $161,755.

Already, the administration is bragging that its members are way wealthier than those who worked for former president Barack Obama — a point of pride that doesn’t quite match the president’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” of wealthy GOP donors, lifelong political operatives and those who are simply out-of-touch with everyday Americans…

It’s no secret that Trump, who brags about his immense wealth, has filled his administration with fellow uber-wealthy people. The billionaires include Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose family started a marketing company; Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a venture capitalist who has focused on buying businesses in distress; and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, hedge fund executive and Hollywood financier.

That’s as tone deaf as anything to come from Hillary Clinton. Trump’s act was enough to beat a terrible candidate such as Clinton, but it is not working in the White House.  Democrats just might do very well in 2018 when Donald Trump is in the White House and Hillary Clinton is not on the ticket.

Another Prediction That Trump Could Cost Republicans Control Of The House

The failure of Donald Trump to repeal and replace Obamacare, as he repeatedly claimed he would do as soon as he took office, has led to a further deterioration in public perceptions of Trump’s job performance, and risks hurting the entire Republican Party. I have previously looked at predictions that a low approval rating for Trump could cost Republicans control of the House. National Journal has another prediction that Dems Could Take House in 2018:

Demo­crats now have a real­ist­ic shot at re­tak­ing the House in 2018. Each of the past three midterm elec­tions have swung wildly against the party in power—re­flect­ive of the long­stand­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion of voters to­wards polit­ic­al lead­er­ship, no mat­ter who’s in charge. Trump’s job ap­prov­al rat­ing is hov­er­ing around 40 per­cent, a tox­ic level for the dozens of Re­pub­lic­ans run­ning for reelec­tion in swing dis­tricts. Re­pub­lic­ans would be fool­ish to as­sume that Pres­id­ent Obama’s co­ali­tion of mil­len­ni­als and non­white voters—many of whom stayed home in past midterm elec­tions—re­mains dis­en­gaged giv­en their aver­sion to Trump.

Polit­ic­ally speak­ing, the health care bill couldn’t have been more dam­aging for Re­pub­lic­ans. In a dis­cip­lined Con­gress, safe-seat Re­pub­lic­ans would be more will­ing to take risky votes so those in com­pet­it­ive seats could main­tain some in­de­pend­ence from the party. But this time, hard-line con­ser­vat­ives in the Free­dom Caucus de­clared their un­stint­ing op­pos­i­tion early on, for­cing some vul­ner­able Re­pub­lic­ans to go on re­cord in sup­port of the un­pop­u­lar le­gis­la­tion—which didn’t even come to a vote. Adding in­sult to in­jury, Trump bragged on Twit­ter that the health care ex­changes would col­lapse as a res­ult of his in­ac­tion—the worst pos­sible mes­sage to send to any­one who viewed Trump as a can-do ex­ec­ut­ive…

There are already signs that Trump’s sag­ging ap­prov­al rat­ing is rais­ing the pos­sib­il­ity of a stun­ning up­set in an up­com­ing con­gres­sion­al elec­tion in sub­urb­an At­lanta. The race, to fill the va­cant seat held by Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Tom Price, couldn’t be more rel­ev­ant to the health care de­bate. One pub­lic poll shows the Demo­crat­ic front-run­ner, Jon Os­soff, nar­rowly lead­ing sev­er­al of his GOP op­pon­ents in a run­off—this in a con­ser­vat­ive dis­trict that has elec­ted Re­pub­lic­ans to Con­gress for over four dec­ades. Fear­ing an em­bar­rass­ing de­feat, the party’s lead­ing House su­per PAC is spend­ing over $2 mil­lion on at­tack ads con­nect­ing Os­soff with Nancy Pelosi.

Of the 36 at-risk House Re­pub­lic­ans, ac­cord­ing to The Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port’s rat­ings, 28 rep­res­ent urb­an or sub­urb­an dis­tricts where Trump isn’t par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar. In last year’s elec­tion, most of these GOP rep­res­ent­at­ives sig­ni­fic­antly out­per­formed Trump as voters dis­tin­guished between the pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee and the re­cord of their own mem­ber of Con­gress. But with Trump as pres­id­ent, that dis­tinc­tion is harder to make…

Demo­crats need to net 24 seats to win back the House ma­jor­ity, which sounds a lot more im­pos­ing than it ac­tu­ally is. As polit­ic­al ana­lyst Nath­an Gonzales noted in a re­cent column, the pres­id­ent’s party has lost House seats in 18 of the last 20 midterms, with an av­er­age loss of 33 seats in those 18 los­ing cycles. Two of the most im­port­ant big-pic­ture factors—pres­id­en­tial ap­prov­al and par­tis­an en­thu­si­asm—are now point­ing against the GOP.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, Re­pub­lic­ans would ex­per­i­ence some early gov­ern­ing suc­cesses and rally be­hind their pres­id­ent. With Trump, Re­pub­lic­ans have come up empty-handed so far. We’re more than a year away from the next big elec­tions, but there are already signs that a Cat­egory 5 hur­ricane is build­ing.

The Republicans risk further losses following their defeat on health care. Trump continues to lose credibility, and is losing in his attacks on the press. Many sources, including The Wall Street Journal, have discussed the difficulties they will have on rewriting the tax code. Trump’s executive order to reverse Barack Obama’s efforts to fight climate change could also turn out to harm Republicans. The New York Times, in an editorial describing the harm which Trump’s actions will do, concluded in noting the possible public opinion backlash:

And then there is public opinion. It punished the Republicans severely in 1994 when Newt Gingrich and his allies tried to roll back environmental laws. It punished them again in 2008 after eight years of denialism and prevarication on climate change under George W. Bush and his fossil fuel acolyte, Dick Cheney. There is time enough before Mr. Trump’s ignorance translates into actual policy for the public to make its opposition to this anti-science agenda felt again.

It is possible that the Democrats might benefit from Trump’s unpopularity regardless of what they do, but it must also be kept in mind that the Democrats did lose to Trump in 2016 despite all the blunders from Trump during his campaign. That might be written off as the consequence of the Democrats fielding a weak candidate against him, but it also must be kept in mind how the Democrats also  lost badly in 2010 and 2014 when they ran as a Republican-lite party. The Democrats need to have the courage to stand for something, giving voters a positive reason to vote for them rather than counting on dislike of Republicans to be enough.

Once Again, The Data Shows Clinton Lost Because She Was A Terrible Candidate And Not Because of Bernie Bros

While Clinton supporters have blamed Hillary Clinton’s loss on Bernie Bros, Jill Stein voters, James Comey, Russia, and everything other than Hillary Clinton, there is yet more data debunking their arguments. Nate Cohn reviewed an analysis of voter files. The key issue was that Hillary Clinton lost the support of white working class voters who previously backed Obama. He wrote:

…it’s clear that large numbers of white, working-class voters shifted from the Democrats to Mr. Trump. Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.

In other words, he found that that Trump “flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.” The millions of Obama voters who flipped from Obama to Trump was far greater than the votes lost to third party candidates.” He also wrote, “Mrs. Clinton won Mr. Obama’s white-working class supporters by a margin of only 78 percent to 18 percent against Mr. Trump, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study.”

Sanders supporters were also not the likely to be the source of votes which Clinton lost:

Were they mostly supporters of Bernie Sanders? Unlikely: He was popular among the young, but 67 percent of the 2016 drop-off voters were over age 45, and 35 percent were over age 65. Just 5 percent voted in the Democratic primary in 2016, and 7 percent voted in the Republican primary.

This data is consistent with previous reports on the election, including those I discussed here and here. This includes how Clinton ignored states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin until virtually the end of the campaign. When she did campaign, she generally ignored the issues and failed to give reasons to vote for her other than her gender and it supposedly being her turn. Working class voters probably didn’t care about the letter from James Comey. They were more likely to be convinced by Donald Trump promising a stronger economy, even if they were promises he will never keep, as opposed to the negative campaigning from Clinton.

Hopefully, after loses in 2010, 2014, and now 2016, the Democratic Party is starting to realize it needs to stand for something.In one bit of potentially favorable news, NBC News reports, “Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has launched a major overhaul of the party’s organization, which has been stung by recent crises — and the DNC has requested resignation letters from all current staffers.”

Hopefully this will lead to a real house cleaning. The efforts by the DNC to rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton was inexcusable. Even beyond the undemocratic nature of such actions, a candidate as unfit a Hillary Clinton should have never been considered for a major party nomination. If the party is to recover, those who thought that the nomination of Clinton was a an acceptable idea need to be replaced.

Obamacare Repeal Fails

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are both losers.

In a spectacular political defeat for Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, the legislation to repeal Obamacare has been pulled as it was clear it was going down to defeat. It was far easier for Republicans to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act over fifty times in the past when they knew it would be vetoed if it made it through both houses of Congress than it is now that they would be held accountable for a replacement. The New York Times reports:

House Republican leaders, facing a revolt among conservatives and moderates in their ranks, pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor Friday in a major defeat for President Trump on the first legislative showdown of his presidency.

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, conceded.

The failure of the Republicans’ three-month blitz to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement exposed deep divisions in the Republican Party that the election of a Republican president could not mask. It cast a long shadow over the ambitious agenda that Mr. Trump and Republican leaders had promised to enact once their party assumed power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Paul Ryan apparently was  surprised to find that it is complicated to sell Americans on health care plan which will cost them more and provide less.