Donald Trump Praising Barack Obama (2009-10) And David Letterman Mocking Trump

DONALD-TRUMP

“I would hire him. He’s handled the tremendous mess he walked into very well. He still has a daunting task ahead of him but he appears to be equal to the challenge. He has kept his eye on both national and international issues and his visits to foreign countries have shown him to be warmly received, which is certainly a change from the last Administration.” –Donald Trump in 2009

Plus Trump in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, 2010:

BLITZER: His economic policies, President Obama says, have saved us from another depression, is he right?

TRUMP: Well, I do agree, and this did start prior to him getting there, but he also kept it going. You had to do something to sure up the banks, because the psychology of the banks and you would have had a run on every banks, the strongest and the weakest. So, you have to do something. And I hated the ultraconservative view on that. And ultraconservative is nothing should ever happen. If they go out of business, everybody said, that’s fine.

Via BuzzFeed News

Trump now simultaneously leads the Republican field and is the weakest competitor among the top seven Republican candidates against Hillary Clinton in the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll. Republicans can at least take some comfort in the fact that polls at this point have near zero predictive value. It is hard to believe even the current Republican Party would nominate him.

In related news, David Letterman came out of retirement last week in response to Trump’s candidacy saying, “I have made the biggest mistake of my life, ladies and gentlemen.” He then presented a Top Ten List of Interesting facts about Donald Trump. The Washington Post has the full list, with some edits:

No. 10: That thing on his head was the gopher in “Caddyshack.”

No. 9: During sex, Donald Trump calls out his own name.

No. 8: Donald Trump looks like the guy on the lifeboat with the women and children.

No. 7: He wants to build a wall. How about building a wall around that thing on his head?

No. 6: Trump walked away from a moderately successful television show for some delusional bulls— … oh wait, that’s me.

No. 5: Donald Trump weighs 240 pounds — 250 with cologne.

No. 4: Trump would like all Americans to know that that thing on his head is free-range.

Letterman declared No. 3 “a tie.”

No. 3: If president, instead of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving, plans to evict a family on Thanksgiving./That’s not a hairdo, it’s a wind advisory. 

No. 2: Donald Trump has pissed off so many Mexicans, he’s starring in a new movie entitled “No Amigos.” 

No. 1: Thanks to Donald Trump, the Republican mascot is also an ass.

The video is below:

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Hillary Clinton Tries To Sound Like Sanders & O’Malley While Avoiding Specifics

hillary_clinton_economic_speech

Hillary Clinton’s big economic speech has mostly been greeted with yawns. Previously the conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton was one of Wall Street’s favorite candidates, and her speech has not changed this. She did include a number of points which sounded good, but lacked any specifics to make a convincing case that she would really bring about any changes.

Politico summed up the reaction in an article entitled Clinton speech react: ‘Is that it?’ The Democratic front-runner manages to underwhelm both Wall Street and its reformers in her signature economic policy speech:

Clinton laid out the soft contours of a “growth and fairness economy” in a speech designed to appeal to struggling middle-class workers with promises of higher pay and more generous federal policies.

But she left out many hard specifics on tougher tax policy toward the rich and corporate America. And she offered limited pledges to crack down on big Wall Street banks while hitting her strongest notes promising to toss rogue bankers in prison while ripping recent worker-productivity comments from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Despite those few moments, this was hardly Thomas Piketty invading the land of Wall Street titans and flipping over tables piled high with gold. And there were no radical new proposals aimed at reversing America’s long slide into wage stagnation.

“She appears to have taken a page out of the Elizabeth Warren book on going after bankers and brokers and fat cats and people who may have broken the law,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment office at BMO Private bank. “I’m sure a lot of polling went into that. But in terms of inequality and profit-sharing and general economic redistribution, she was a lot longer on problems than she was on solutions.”

And Clinton sounded some of her by now very familiar themes, invoking her love of being a grandmother and arguing that middle-class wage stagnation since the end of the Great Recession was exacerbating income inequality while pledging that something must be done. But that something, according to Clinton, mainly consists of boosting the minimum wage and increasing overtime pay, something President Barack Obama has been pushing for some time…

Financial reformers gave her mixed grades. “It’s a good start, but after all this listening, planning and thinking by the runaway leading candidate, I expected more,” said Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, a pro-reform group. “The American people deserve a concrete, specific, comprehensive plan that really protects them from Wall Street recklessness and that she as president can be held accountable for once in office.”

Another financial reformer said the anti-Wall Street crowd was waiting to see whether Clinton will “put in place a team of advisers who have a demonstrated history of supporting meaningful reform and tough enforcement, or chooses instead to surround herself with the same crowd of revolving door insiders.”

The real test for Clinton on Wall Street will come when and if she turns this rhetoric into actual policy prescriptions. Big Wall Street titans heavily funding Clinton’s campaign and other business interests fully expect to take some heavy rhetorical hits as the Democratic front-runner fights off the Sanders surge. But they do not expect Clinton to try and fully reshape their industry.

She did correctly criticize Jeb Bush for his recent comment that Americans should “work longer hours” and Marco Rubio’s tax cut for millionaires. She did sound like she might be more willing than President Obama has to prosecute bankers who violate the law. She fell far short of Bernie Sanders’ support for breaking up the big banks, as well as short of the specific economic proposals recently released by Martin O’Malley. She basically seems to desire to use the rhetoric of Sanders and O’Malley, as well as Elizebeth Warren, while keeping the big corporations and banks confident in continuing to bankroll her campaign.

Clinton did call for paid family leave. She supported an increase in the minimum wage without any indication as to whether she will match Sanders and O’Malley on the size of an increase supported. Earlier in the campaign, Clinton was to the right of Sanders and O’Malley when they were calling for increasing Social Security benefits. She now gave vague support for enhancing Social Security without clarifying what this means. About the biggest surprise of the speech was her criticism of the gig economy:

In a note that struck some as odd given the popularity of the services, Clinton specifically criticized “gig economy” companies, a group that includes upstarts such as Airbnb and Uber. These types of scrappy young companies have often provided corporate homes for former Obama administration officials. Former top Obama adviser David Plouffe is now a senior executive at Uber.

Center-right sources such as Politico above indicate no real fear of Clinton from Wall Street. Salon summed up the response to Clinton’s speech from the left:
Hillary Clinton gave her big economic speech this morning, proposing a whole array of policies that she argues will “build a ‘growth and fairness’ economy.” She wasn’t especially forthcoming on details, which is a shame, but she had some interesting and ideas and made some promises that she should be held to going forward.
The full transcript is available here.
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Quote of the Day: Conan on Donald Trump

Conan Photo

“Macy’s has severed ties with Donald Trump and no longer will carry his men’s wear collection. From now on, men who want to look like Donald Trump will have to hunt and kill their own hair piece.”–Conan O’Brien

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Jeb Bush’s Questionable Business Deals

jeb-bush

The Washington Post described many of Jeb Bush’s past business dealings in an article entitled, Jeb Bush dogged by decades of questions about business deals

In early 1989, seven weeks after his father moved into the White House, Jeb Bush took a trip to Nigeria.

Nearly 100,000 Nigerians turned out to see him over four days as he accompanied the executives of a Florida company called Moving Water Industries, which had just retained Bush to market the firm’s pumps. Escorted by the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, Bush met with the nation’s political and religious leaders as part of an MWI effort to land a deal that would be worth $80 million…

Today, as he works toward his run at the White House, Bush touts his business experience as a strength that gives him the skills and savvy to serve as the nation’s chief executive. He has said he “worked my tail off” to succeed. As an announced candidate, Bush soon will be making financial disclosures that will reveal recent business successes and show a substantial increase in his wealth since he left office as Florida governor in 2007, individuals close to the candidate told The Post.

But records, lawsuits, interviews and newspaper accounts stretching back more than three decades present a picture of a man who, before he was elected Florida governor in 1998, often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk.

Years after Bush’s visit to Nigeria, MWI was found to have made dozens of false claims to the U.S. government about its dealings in Nigeria, according to a civil jury verdict in a case brought by the Justice Department. MWI has denied the allegations and appealed the verdict. Bush was not a party to the lawsuit.

Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. In each case, Bush said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said some of the people he met as a businessman in Florida took advantage of his naiveté…

Bush’s business activities and missteps have been widely covered over the years, by the Miami Herald, the St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times, the Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones magazine and other publications, along with books by political scientists and journalists…

There is nothing as flagrant as the actions of Bill and Hillary Clinton when Hillary was Secretary of State, but plenty to wonder about. If nothing else, don’t pay any attention if Jeb claims his skills as a businessman qualifies him to be president. The only “skill” Jeb has shown has been in picking which family to be born into.

In other political news today, H. A. Goodman wrote at The Huffington Post,Why Bernie Sanders Will Become the Democratic Nominee and Defeat Any Republican in 2016. It might be optimistic to predict at this point that Sanders will become the Democratic nominee, but I would far rather see this scenario than to risk going into the general election with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, which places us at a far greater risk of winding up with someone like Jeb Bush or another Republican as the next president.

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Two Liberal Decisions From A Conservative Court

Rainbow White House

It has been a good week for liberal decisions form a conservative court. Yesterday, as I was certain they would, they threw out the absurd case against the Affordable Care Act. I’m not sure that this really changes anything. Conservatives will continue to complain about the law, but lack any effective way to repeal it, and certainly have no alternative.

The case made no sense and if Roberts had wanted to destroy Obamacare he would have done so when they ruled on the individual mandate. In this case it isn’t so much that the Supreme Court has become more liberal, but that the Supreme Court is not willing to go along with every ridiculous case brought by conservatives. Earlier in the week, The New York Times showed that the court has made more liberal decisions this year. Brendan Nyhan followed this up discussing a reason why the court might appear more liberal when it is not:

In a 2009 article, the political scientists Kevin T. McGuire, Georg Vanberg, Charles E. Smith Jr. and Gregory A. Caldeira proposed a theory that provides an alternate explanation to liberal drift. They predicted that conservatives would press their luck to take advantage when they had a majority on the court, appealing more cases they lost in lower courts. (Conversely, liberals would be less likely to appeal cases because they were more likely to prefer lower-court decisions and to fear creating damaging precedents.) Mr. McGuire and his co-authors then showed empirically that this process increased the number of conservative reversals of lower-court rulings but also increased the number of cases in which a more liberal ruling was affirmed because litigants guessed wrong about how far the court was willing to go.

Their prediction seems to fit nicely with recent evidence. The court has reversed lower-court decisions and decided in favor of conservatives on high-profile cases concerning issues like campaign finance and voting rights. But Justice Kennedy and/or Chief Justice Roberts have joined the liberal wing to affirm more liberal lower-court rulings in cases like today’s decisions on health care and housing.

The case also did show a degree of sanity on the court in deciding against an argument which only bat-shit crazy conservatives(such as George Will) could accept. It also demonstrated that at least one justice was persuadable as it takes four justices to accept a case, and only three stuck with this argument in the end.

The decision in favor of same-sex marriage was also predictable but is far more significant. It really does change the status quo for those living in states where same-sex marriage has remained illegal. Andrew Sullivan returned to blogging to describe what this meant to him:

We are not disordered or sick or defective or evil – at least no more than our fellow humans in this vale of tears. We are born into family; we love; we marry; we take care of our children; we die. No civil institution is related to these deep human experiences more than civil marriage and the exclusion of gay people from this institution was a statement of our core inferiority not just as citizens but as human beings. It took courage to embrace this fact the way the Supreme Court did today…

I think of the gay kids in the future who, when they figure out they are different, will never know the deep psychic wound my generation – and every one before mine – lived through: the pain of knowing they could never be fully part of their own family, never be fully a citizen of their own country. I think, more acutely, of the decades and centuries of human shame and darkness and waste and terror that defined gay people’s lives for so long. And I think of all those who supported this movement who never lived to see this day, who died in the ashes from which this phoenix of a movement emerged. This momentous achievement is their victory too – for marriage, as Kennedy argued, endures past death.

This case also shows how the Republican Party has moved to the right while the nation has become more liberal on social issues. Compare the views of the Roberts Court with this year’s presidential candidates which are summarized at BuzzFeed. In 2004 Republicans successfully used proposals to ban same sex marriage to turn out the vote in their favor. While opposition might help some candidates in Republican primaries, it will also hurt them in the general election.

In 2013 I had posted a prediction from George Clooney which is far closer to coming true:

 

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Leader of Racist Group Which Radicalized Dylann Roof Contributed To Republicans

In an update to the recent post on Dylann Roof and the Republican problem with racism, The Guardian reports “The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalise him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum.”

The three have said they will either be returning the donations or, in the case of Rand Paul (who may have learned a lesson from his father’s problems), donating it the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

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Republicans and Denial of Racism

It comes as little surprise that Dylaan Roof, the shooter in Charleston, had posted a racist manifesto and pictures with other racist symbols:

Dylann Roof spat on and burned the American flag, but waved the Confederate.

He posed for pictures wearing a No. 88 T-shirt, had 88 Facebook friends and wrote that number — white supremacist code for “Heil Hitler”— in the South Carolina sand.

A website discovered Saturday appears to offer the first serious look at Mr. Roof’s thinking, including how the case of Trayvon Martin, the black Florida teenager shot to death in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, triggered his racist rage. The site shows a stash of 60 photographs of Mr. Roof, many at Confederate heritage sites or slavery museums, and includes a racist manifesto in which the author criticized blacks as being inferior while lamenting the cowardice of white flight.

“I have no choice,” it reads. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

This comes as many  Republicans, such as Jeb Bush, have been trying to downplay or ignore the racism underlying the shootings.

It has become quite common the last few years to see conservatives write articles denying the racism which is endemic in the GOP, and how Republicans have used racism and xenophobia as a major part of their strategy. While there have been some exceptions with Republicans admitting use of the Southern Strategy, in general conservatives try hard to stay on message. This denial of racism in other contexts now has them reflexively denying racism even in a situation such as this. (Hat top to The Sensible Center for the last link).

Update: Leader of Racist Group Which Radicalized Dylann Roof Contributed To Republicans

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Meaningless But Hopeful News For Sanders And O’Malley

Favorability Fictional Characters And Politicians

This week has a lot of somewhat encouraging news, even if it all has zero predictive value. Bernie Sanders came unexpectedly close to Clinton in the Wisconsin straw poll. While straw polls are pretty much meaningless, as we saw with all those straw poll victories by fringe candidates like Ron Paul, it could be a sign of the enthusiasm for Sanders, which has also been seen elsewhere, and Sanders has far more upside potential than Paul ever had. The first Daily Kos Democratic Straw Poll shows Sanders leading Clinton by more than two to one at the time I am writing. Then there is the survey pictured above.

The data is based upon the favorability of politicians from the latest Quinnipiac poll along with Google Consumer Survey questions on famous movie villains. The Terminator, Darth Vader, and the Shark from Jaws beat all politicians. No surprise there. It is also not surprising that Donald Trump has the lowest favorability of all.

It is also interesting to look at the non-fictional candidates. Of the potential 2016 candidates, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio both beat Hillary Clinton,  and Martin O’Malley, who has barely started his campaign is not far behind Clinton. The latest polls show a sharp drop for Clinton and if this continues she might even wind up below Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Voldemort.

At the moment, it looks like Bernie Sanders is the most electable based upon this chart.

Of course the more meaningful numbers are in the recent polling results showing that support for Clinton is falling among Democrats.

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Rotating First Lady

Politico reports that Lindsay Graham has said that, being a bachelor, should he be elected he will have a rotating first lady.

The political jokes out of that one are too obvious: Bill Clinton wants to know if that is something he could have done.

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Forget The Benghazi Nonsense–Clinton Finally Facing More Questions On Her Real Mistakes In Libya

Clinton Email

Republicans often turn out to inadvertently be Hillary Clinton’s best friend. They are never satisfied with criticizing Clinton’s real faults, and instead feel compelled to fabricate what sounds like far more serious crimes. Thus criticism of Clinton’s actual policy mistakes in Libya as Secretary of State have been largely ignored because Republicans think find that they can raise more money by attacking Clinton over conspiracy theories leading to the deaths in Benghazi.

Clinton’s push for intervention in Libya has often been criticized by Rand Paul, but he has too many problems with credibility. There has been some criticism from the anti-war left. The Nation recently ran a story critical of both Clinton’s rational for intervening and overthrowing Gaddafi and for her the execution. There is a sign that the issue might be entering more mainstream conversation with CNN reporting on the issue:

She’s already grappling with the political headaches from deleted emails and from the terror attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi.

But she’ll face a broader challenge in what’s become of the North African country since, as secretary of state in 2011, she was the public face of the U.S. intervention to push out its longtime strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya’s lapse into the chaos of failed statehood has provided a breeding ground for terror and a haven for groups such as ISIS. Its plight is also creating an opening for Republican presidential candidates to question Clinton’s strategic acumen and to undermine her diplomatic credentials, which will be at the center of her pitch that only she has the global experience needed to be president in a turbulent time.

One person who is thinking of joining the Democratic primary battle does have a record of criticizing Clinton on this issue:

Democrats voice concern on Libya

Concern over what has become of Libya is not confined to the Republican Party.

Possible Democratic challenger Jim Webb, a former Virginia senator, complained in a recent appearance with CNN’s Jake Tapper that: “We blew the lid off of a series of tribal engagements. You can’t get to the Tripoli Airport right now, much less Benghazi.”

Though Webb did not criticize Clinton directly, his comments raise the possibility that the issue could surface in the Democratic primary race.

So Clinton must be ready to explain why she backed a military operation in a region laced with extremism without effective planning for the aftermath. It’s the kind of question that has long challenged Republicans in the wake of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Clinton’s campaign declined to comment for this story, so it is unclear whether what happened in Libya after Gadhafi fell has changed her thinking on military intervention.

It has been typical Clinton to refuse to answer questions from the press on controversial topics, making it difficult to take Clinton’s liberal rhetoric on limited issues seriously. This, along with other advocacy of military force as Secretary of State, suggests she has not changed her thinking sufficiently since when she pushed for war in Iraq based upon nonexistent claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s recommendations for Libya were often a repeat of the mistakes made in Iraq.

The article further discussed how things have gone wrong in Libya, and Clinton’s role in pushing for intervention:

Clinton has little choice but to own what happened in Libya. An email to Clinton in April 2012 from her former top adviser Jake Sullivan, released last month, appears to show that initially her aides were keen to trumpet her role in the intervention and saw it as legacy-enhancing.

Clinton ‘a critical voice on Libya’

“HRC has been a critical voice on Libya in administration deliberations, at NATO, and in contact group meetings — as well as the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya. She was instrumental in securing the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime,” Sullivan wrote.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates also describes her pivotal role in the decision making in his memoir.

Gates said the intervention, which he initially opposed, split the administration down the middle, with heavy hitters such as Vice President Joe Biden and national security adviser Tom Donilon also against.

On the other side were U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Council staffers including Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power.

If Joe Biden decides to enter the race, foreign policy could receive greater consideration. This was typical of the first four years of the Obama administration, with Biden opposing Clinton on foreign policy. Bernie Sanders has also had reservations over this intervention in Libya while Lincoln Chafee has made criticism of Clinton’s support for the Iraq war a key issue in his campaign.

Clinton’s failed policies in Libya might also tie into the email and Clinton Foundation scandals since it was revealed that she was receiving advice on Libya from Sydney Blumenthal, who was both receiving $10,000 per month from the Foundation and was involved with Libyan companies, suggesting further conflicts of interest. The bigger issue is Clinton’s history of both poor decisions and hawkish views on foreign policy, which risk getting the country involved in further needless wars should she be elected.

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