A (Valid) Media Attack On Trump And A (Nonsensical) Defense Of Clinton

Apparently the 2016 election will never end. The week began with major pieces on both of the awful major party candidates. The Los Angeles Times started a four part series on Donald Trump yesterday, starting with Our Dishonest President. The major points were:

  • Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based.
  • His utter lack of regard for truth.
  • His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas.

Part II, Why Trump Lies, was posted today:

Even American leaders who lie generally know the difference between their statements and the truth. Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook” but by that point must have seen that he was. Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” but knew that he did.

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold. He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes. If one of his lies doesn’t work — well, then he lies about that.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is as terrible as the Times says, but we must not make the mistake of falling into the trap of binary thinking and ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton is not much better–and likely could have done more harm than Trump because she could act with the support of the establishment.

The Guardian has a pathetic attempt to white wash Hillary Clinton by Susan Bordo. It repeats pretty much every bogus argument which we have heard from Clinton apologists, and which I have already debunked in great detail in previous posts, so I will only touch on the highlights here. Bordo learned nothing from the 2016 election, blaming James Comey, sexism, and especially Bernie Sanders for Clinton losing, while showing zero understanding why Clinton was ethically and ideologically unfit for the presidency.

The absurdities of her argument begin the header which says her book “asks how the most qualified candidate ever to run for president lost the seemingly unloseable election.” She botched health care reform as First Lady. She promoted right wing goals in the Senate, including working with The Fellowship to increase the role of religion in public policy, pushed for war in Iraq based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaedda (despite failing to even read the intelligence prepared for Senators), and has consistently supported restricting civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism (and flag burners). She was a failed Secretary of State who continued to promote interventionism, learning nothing from her mistake in Iraq, failed to abide by the ethics agreements she entered into, and used the position to make money from influence peddling. She was a terrible candidate in two presidential elections. She was wrong on virtually every major decision in her career. How does that translate to most qualified or make any honest observers all that surprised that she lost?

The excerpt from her book repeats the usual claims of sexism, ignoring the fact that the left has opposed DLC, Third Way Democrats like both Bill and Hillary Clinton since the 1990’s. We did not want to see any more Bushes or Clintons in office. Both Clintons and the Bushes all represent essentially the same thing, and the opposition was not limited to Hillary. Many of those who voted for Sanders in the primaries initially supported Elizabeth Warren, and some went on to vote for Jill Stein, with gender not being a factor.

Bordo complains that Sanders branded Clinton as “establishment,” even though Hillary Clinton was the strongest proponent of the Bush/Clinton establishment, and biggest opponent of change, around. She complains about Bernie running against her, ignoring the fact that this is a part of living in a democracy. She complained about how Bernie campaigned against Clinton, while failing to provide any real examples of improper conduct on his part. She ignored how dishonest Clinton’s campaign against Sanders was, from her repeated lies about his record in debates, to her lies about the email scandal and FBI investigation.

Bordo tried to claim Clinton is a progressive and minimize the difference in ideology between Clinton and Sanders supporters, despite rather vast differences of opinion on many issues.  Clinton’s record on corporate influence on public policy received the most publicity during the campaign, as this is what Sanders concentrated on, but those who opposed Clinton also disagreed with her on many other issues, including foreign policy and interventionism, civil liberties, many social/cultural issues, the drug war, and health care (especially with Clinton attacking Medicare for All with bogus claims).

Clinton’s negatives eliminated any advantage other candidates would have had against Donald Trump. Her dishonesty and influence peddling destroyed any advantage in running against the dishonesty and corruption of Trump. Clinton was out-flanked on the left by Trump during the election on foreign policy and economics, despite how incoherent his policies were. Her views on civil liberties were not all that different from what was expressed by Trump. The Clinton record on mass incarceration and immigration further negated Trump’s negatives.

Clinton lost because she was a terrible candidate and ran a terrible campaign, failing to give any reasons to vote for her beyond gender and claims that it was her turn. It is a mistake for Bordo to blame Sanders. Even if Sanders had not run, those of us who opposed Clinton would have still opposed her candidacy. I opposed Clinton in 2015/6 for the same reasons I opposed her eight years previously, and frequently for the same reasons I opposed George Bush. This was because of her dishonesty, her corruption, and how she has spent her career undermining liberal viewpoints. My opposition to Clinton had nothing to do with her gender and did not come from Bernie Sanders.

Update: Some Clinton apologists (including Peter Daou) have moved on from the bogus claims of sexism to adopting McCarthyist tactics in claiming that opposition to Clinton’s policies and support for Bernie Sanders were plot of a Russian plot.

SciFi Weekend: Legion and Sleepy Hollow Season Finales; The Magicians; Legends of Tomorrow; Doctor Who; Batgirl; Renewals & Cancellations; Tina Fey Unintentionally Shows Why Democrats Keep Losing

Just when we seemed to be suffering from super-hero fatigue, Noah Hawley showed that there is more which can be done in the genre. This was helped by excellent performances from the cast, especially Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza. The first season concluded an eight episode story last week and then, Marvel movie-style, used a scene during the credits to introduce a new problem for the second season.

Deadline interviewed Noah Hawley about the finale:

DEADLINE: Let’s start at the end and that orb that captured David. Where is that taking him and us going into Season 2?

HAWLEY: Well, it means that Season 2 is beginning. It means that we’ve completed this story and we’re starting a new one. You know, my goal is always that the first season would be about fighting the enemy within and, you know, learning about this entity that was inside of David and about getting it out of David, and Season 2 will be about then the enemy without and this entity now we know is a person.

But for us it’s never a simple straight line between point A and point B, so you know I wanted to complicate it some by having David disappear just at the moment where he’s about to go off in pursuit of the Shadow King. As for who’s behind the orb and who sent it, I think that’s one of the mysteries we want to explore in Season 2.

DEADLINE: Very deliberately vague of you on a show that specializes in anxiety and the surreal…

HAWLEY: I try to let the show speak for itself. It’s about everyone’s individual experience of it, and you know, so I don’t want to say too much.

DEADLINE: One thing you have spoken of, so to speak, in the last few episodes is the parentage of David Haller, and reaffirming the series’ connection to the Marvel Universe and the comic legacy with the divulging of that wheelchair from The X-Men: Apocalypse movie that Charles Xavier is Haller’s father. You started out so far from the canon of the comics, why did you come in so close to it near the end of this season?

HAWLEY: I certainly played very loosely with a lot of the canon as it relates to this character of David Haller, but one of the things I always felt was off-limits was his origin story. I didn’t really feel like there was any way that I could change who his father was, I mean that seemed like a sacrilegious thing to do.

So, it was always my intention to acknowledge who his father was. The question was when we would do it and how, obviously, we would do it. So you know I think in this case we’ve nodded to it and obviously as to any child who was adopted, he’s going to want to figure out who his father and mother were and there will be that journey.

DEADLINE: Does that mean we are going to see Professor X showing up in Season 2?

HAWLEY: I don’t know about Season 2 but I know that there’s that story will need to be addressed at some point in the future. It’s not something that I want to shy away from, but I also want to make sure that when it’s time to tell that story, we can really tell it and not dance around it.

DEADLINE: So, would you bring in a Patrick Stewart or a James McAvoy?

HAWLEY: Well, some of that is a little more logistically complicated just in terms of would we try to use either Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy. Would they be interested in doing the show? Would 20th Century Fox?

I have to consult with them about the X-Men characters and which characters they want to protect for the future franchise and which ones are available to me. So, there’s a lot of conversations I haven’t had yet but we’re willing to be had. I’m not stressed out about it. I think we all get along quite well and it’s just going to be a question of how and when…

DEADLINE: In real time, Season 1 was eight episodes on FX, and Season 2 looks to be 10 episodes. So will that change your storytelling approach?

HAWLEY: I was the one who asked for eight in the first year and I did it because I wanted to tell a single story. I wanted to tell a story of David Haller who was institutionalized and then was rescued and is told that his powers are powers and not a mental illness. Then we discover that what’s going in his mind is much more complicated, and then we rediscover what is inside his mind. Then we get it out and that’s the first season and that works the eight hours.

But I wanted to do that because I felt like the show’s very complicated and it’s very different. But I wanted the audience to feel like they got it through the coherent story.

Going forward I think that the audience now knows the show and they understand our style, our original language. It’s obviously a large ensemble and so we can expand our story in Season 2. In order to understand David, we can understand Syd more or the other characters. We can expand that universe so that we’re still telling a single story, but we’re taking our time a little bit more and with a little less singular-minded focus.

DEADLINE: Noah, it sounds like you are thinking far beyond a Season 2 like a Season 4 or 5. Is that how long you’ve planned out Legion going on?

HAWLEY: Certainly I have a sort of beginning, middle and end to this David Haller story in mind. What I don’t know is how many hours of television that is, whether it’s 20 hours or 30 or 40, so that’s part of the exploration of it over time — one that I’m very excited to keep going on.

I gave up on Sleepy Hollow before the third season ended. I began watching again this season, but around mid-season was questioning whether I would continue. I’m glad I stuck it out as the season did end well. The series has always suffered from the problem that it can create supernatural problems, and then solve them by just writing in a supernatural solution, and is most watchable due to the interaction between characters. The addition of Seychelle Gabriel as Lara gave the show what it needed to keep the last few episodes interesting. (Spoilers ahead).

I initially reacted negatively when the show brought back the Four Horsemen (who are most powerful when all four are together, like The Beatles), but this did work out well to conclude the season’s story  line. I was happy to see that Ichabod did not remain War very long as there was never any doubt they would invent a supernatural way to save him. Ichabod wound up in a bigger jam as he had to sell his soul to the devil in order to defeat Malcolm Dreyfus (with a little help from Henry agreeing to a truce in the name of freedom). There is no doubt that they will find a way out, but hopefully it does not come across as too much of an easy cheat, as so much does on this series.

The season ended with Ichabod Crane getting set up for faster internet as well as becoming an American citizen. Agency 355 has increased in importance, and size, and now reports directly to the president. If the series is renewed for a fifth season, the concluding scenes give the impression that the show might deal more Agency 355 with handling monsters and supernatural threats, along with efforts by Ichabod to get out of his contract with the Devil.

Entertainment Weekly spoke with executive producer Raven Metzner about the finale:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Crane literally sold his soul to the devil! How’s he going to get out of this one?
RAVEN METZNER: You know, we all were looking for a way to have this character who we know and love come to solid ground. He’s long been searching for a place in the modern world. He’s a man out of time. The question of the Washington letter and what that meant, the fact that he’s had his life rocked in losing the person he cared about more than anyone in the world, the fact that he sort of had lost his family along the way — these were all things that were challenges, and we wanted to find a way to solve some of those things for him, or at least start to solve them. To place him into a family that he felt comfortable with and into a role that he felt comfortable with. And give him his citizenship as an American citizen, which we thought would be really powerful for him and something he never had and always wanted.

But we also wanted to give him a challenge that, if we were to get subsequent seasons, would present an interesting problem. Because we had the Dreyfuss character all the way through, we thought it would be interesting to mirror them and give Crane a similar conundrum. He’s seen the worst version of what it can do to someone; now he’s got to figure his way out. That last bit of dialogue was something we talked about a lot, and actually [executive producer] Albert Kim pitched that little run there, which I really love, which is the idea that, you know, “Sold my soul? It’s Tuesday.” Like, “I can deal with it.” If this is the final episode, I think Crane’s attitude about it is enough that I think fans would trust that he would find his way out of it. If it’s not, and we get more seasons to tell this story, then I think it’s a great problem to be played out.

With Henry, Crane makes this grand speech about how freedom is the most important thing, but now Crane is, in a way, not free. Can you talk about that contrast between sacrificing your freedom out of hatred and sacrificing it out of love?
Oh, that’s actually a really nice way to put it. Yeah, the theme of freedom running through [the episode] came from a lot of different sides. First and foremost, there’s Malcolm Dreyfuss’ desire to rule through tyranny and his belief that as a corporate head, he knows what’s best and he can decide people’s fates. Crane has always been a voice for democracy and for the idea of personal freedom and a country that is built on the ideals of freedom, so their battle of wills through the season has been about that. And Crane’s triumph, and the team’s triumph, in defeating Dreyfuss is a triumph for freedom over tyranny.

At the same time, we have this personal drama between Crane and Henry that’s introduced at the top of the episode in their duel… They’ve failed to connect on so many other levels. For Crane to realize that the one thing they do connect about is that ideal — if you think about Henry in season 2, Henry killed Moloch because he didn’t want anyone lording over him, and he didn’t want to be part of having Moloch push him around. Also in season 2, he tried to create a free nation of witches because he believed they needed to be free. So I think Crane recognizes that that’s their commonality.

The larger piece that’s interesting that you just brought up, about how Crane has just taken on this deal in which his soul is owed to someone — he sort of has a lien placed on him, so the devil, or the devil we’ve met, hasn’t taken his soul yet. It’s a soul that is due on the day that he dies, so he still has his soul, he still has his freedom. It’s more that he knows he’ll have to find a way to defeat this bargain he’s made before the day he dies…

In happier news, the Vault saved the president. Will she play a big role if the show continues?
The idea is that as the show goes forward, there’s a new paradigm, which is: Crane has now officially realized the hope that both Washington and Benjamin Banneker had for him that he would one day be a part of the Vault. And you know Jenny and Diana would absolutely now be officially a part of it, and Jake [Jerry MacKinnon] and Alex [Rachel Melvin] would continue on. So it sets up a paradigm of a more official use of our team in going after [the supernatural] with the help of the U.S. government. We would definitely find ways to twist that and turn that. I thought the actress who played the president did a great job, so we would love to have her come back, but I think it’s more about giving them a new, more official role.

More at TV Line.

One thing I like about The Magicians is that they don’t solve every problem by bringing up new magical solutions at the time. At very least they will foreshadow what can be done. We learned about the multiple timelines earlier, with Jane giving them thirty-nine timelines so they could have a do-over every time The Beast killed them. These timeloops were raised again in last week’s episode. We saw a different version of Alice, in which she survived but Quenton was killed in the battle against The Beast. We also saw what  happened in the other timelines in which Julia was admitted to Breakbills. However, the idea of a deal costing the protagonist their child has been done so many times before.

With so much happening in Fillory this season, at times it no longer seems like we are dealing with a group of students. Blastr checked this out Rick Worthy. Worthy has a strong genre background: “A Cylon on Battlestar Galactica; a Klingon, crewman or Xindi-Aroboreal on Star Trek‘s Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise; mayor of Mystic Falls on The Vampire Diaries; the Alpha Vampire on Supernatural; or, currently, both the leader of the Resistance on The Man in the High Castle and Dean Fogg on The Magicians.”

Brakebills has a liberal attendance policy since these students don’t even go to class. Are they still his students?

They have gone off to a different experience the dean has only heard about. He has not experienced Fillory. But there is a lot of the dean that is yet to be revealed. I know how Season 2 ends, and they will need him again. Trust me. In terms of being the walking epitome of Brakebills, they’ll need the dean even though they’ve seen and done things he hasn’t.

What were the dynamics of that scene in this week’s episode between pre-time loop Fogg and Julia?

I have been dying to talk about that scene because it shows two timelines. We see one version from the earlier time loop where she’s admitted to Brakebills. I was reading the script, and it was what everyone needed to see: What was it like when Julia was admitted? Then we juxtapose that version with now.

This earlier scene with a lovely, bright-eyed, promising young student. And we see another version of the dean, who seems younger. He seems cheerful, more optimistic, sort of happy-go-lucky. He connects with her because they are so much alike, and have the same discipline. In her, he sees himself. Then, we go to the next scene, the timeline we now know, and she’s locked in the dungeon. He becomes an older, more serious person. And so did Stella. The scenes are really powerful and make you think about life and maybe the choices you make in your own life. What if I had taken this road instead of that road? I particularly love that episode.

Part of the fun of The Magicians is how it shows interrelations between the real world and the world of the show. Marlee Matlin played a character who ran the web site FuzzBeat, using clickbait such as internet lists to contain magic spells. Marlee Maitlin discussed her role with Syfy Wire.

Syfy released the above teaser for the final three episodes of The Magicians at Wondercon. It looks like we really have a giant talking dragon (who does not think much of millennials). Like the Sleepy Hollow finale, there is even a visit to the underworld.

Legends of Tomorrow has become the best show in the Berlantiverse this season, although part of that is because of a fall in quality on the other three shows. Like on recent episodes of Sleepy Hollow and The Magicians, we saw a different time line, with the Legions of Doom having created a new reality. This included the death of Felicity Smoak, who was wearing the superhero outfit I showed last week.

The CW Network has released the above trailer for the season finale and appears to reveal how this season’s story will conclude. Of course the devil is in the details, and the consequences. Here is the synopsis:

As the Legends are about to take off for their next destination, a massive timequake rocks the ship. In order to try and fix what has happened, they are forced to break the one cardinal rule of time travel. But if they are able to destroy the spear, they will face the ultimate consequence. Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell, Franz Drameh, Nick Zano and Maisie Richardson-Sellers. Rob Seidenglanz directed the episode written by Phil Klemmer & Marc Guggenheim (#217).

While Doctor Who has had gay characters in the past, we learned last week that Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie, will be the first openly gay companion. From The Guardian:

Doctor Who’s next companion will be the first to be openly gay.

Pearl Mackie, who plays Bill Potts in the upcoming series, told the BBC her character’s openness about her sexuality was important to represent onscreen, but not her defining characteristic.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st century. It’s about time, isn’t it?” she said.

“I remember watching TV as a young, mixed-race girl, not seeing many people who looked like me, so I think being able to visually recognise yourself on screen is important.

“[Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character – it’s something that’s part of her and something that she’s very happy and very comfortable with.”

The official synopsis has been released for the opening episode of the upcoming season of Doctor Who:

Two worlds collide when the Doctor meets Bill. A chance encounter with a girl with a star in her eye leads to a terrifying chase across time and space. Bill’s mind is opened to a Universe that is bigger and more exciting than she could possibly have imagined – but who is the Doctor, and what is his secret mission with Nardole on Earth?

I suspect that we will continue to see a long list of front runners to replace Peter Capaldi. This week the bookies like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the star of Fleabag. Adding to her chances, she has a connection to incoming show runner Chris Chibnall, having appeared in season two of Broadchurch. (Incidentally, I do not want to say too much about Broadchurch as it is not showing in the United States yet, but season three has been excellent, reviving the quality of the first season. There are now many suspects for the crime of the season, with last Monday’s episode causing me to elevate someone I had not suspected to a major suspect.)

The DC superhero movies have been much less fun than those from Marvel. That just might change with Joss Whedon writing and directing Batgirl. Besides the news in the previous link, there are also rumors that Lindsay Morgan, who plays Raven on The 100, might star.

Netflix has renewed Santa Clarita Diet for a second season. For light genre, the first season was enjoyable to watch.

While not genre, Netflix released season three of Grace and Frankie, last week, which is another Netflix series well worth watching.

ABC has cancelled Time After Time after only five of seven completed episodes aired. There are not currently plans to air the final two episodes, but perhaps they will make them available on line or by streaming in case anyone cares. I have no idea if it was worth watching. In this era of peak television, I wasn’t going to try to  squeeze in a two hour premiere of a network series without seeing good reviews.

Tina Fey has criticized those who voted for Donald Trump saying, “‘A lot of this election was turned by white, college-educated women who now would maybe like to forget about this election and go back to watching HGTV.” While her objection to those who voted for Trump is understandable, I fear that Democrats will continue to have problems at the polls as long as their response to those who did not vote for them is to attack them, as opposed to try to understand why so many voters did not vote for Democrats in 2016 when led by Hillary Clinton, as well as in 2014 and 2010 when they ran as a Republican-lite party. Fey has done an outstanding job in mocking Sarah Palin, but attacking the opponent is not enough when Democrats have repeatedly failed to stand up for liberal principles or give people a positive reason to vote for them.

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.

Trump May Be Terrible, But Few Regret Not Voting For Hillary

Donald Trump has given us numerous reasons to dislike and distrust him. His policies, such as the Republican health care plan, have turned out to be horrible for the bulk of his voters. I have seen multiple media and blog stories suggesting that many Trump voters regret voting for him. A new poll suggests that is not the case. An article in The Washington Post discusses a recent poll to determine if Trump voters regret their votes, and how they wish they had voted:

Our Mood of the Nation Poll from Penn State’s McCourtney Institute of Democracy provides answers. Conducted by YouGov, the poll tracks the mood of the public through traditional survey questions and numerous open-ended questions that allow citizens to express themselves in their own words. The poll’s methodology is described here.

Our Feb. 23-27 poll asked a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Americans to report on how they cast their vote in November. The results of these reports closely align with other national polls, with Hillary Clinton voters comprising 49 percent of the sample, Trump voters 46 percent, with 3 percent and 2 percent for minor-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, respectively.

Who would vote differently?

On the next screen, we asked everyone, “Suppose you could go back in time and vote again in the November election. What would you do?”

Respondents were presented with the same choices — Trump, Clinton, Stein, Johnson, someone else, or not vote at all. Of the 339 poll participants who originally voted for Trump, only 12 (3½ percent) said they would do something different.

It will be interesting to see if this changes over time. It is one thing for Trump to propose policies which harm his base. It is a different matter for these voters to realize it. Perhaps this will change if more of Trump’s policies are enacted.

I find it interesting that not only do few Trump voters regret their votes, but that of the twelve people who say they would change their votes, only three said they would vote for Clinton while seven would vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson.

I wish we had similar data on those who voted for Stein or Johnson. Not surprisingly, I have seen many comments from Clinton supporters on social media suggesting that Stein and Johnson voters should regret their votes. However, while a few might exist, I have seen no evidence of any Stein or Johnson voters wishing they had for Clinton.

It is one thing to oppose Trump’s policies. It is a different matter to think that we would have been better off if a corrupt, socially conservative,  warmonger such as Clinton had won. There is at least some consolation following Trump’s election in seeing how quickly we have developed strong opposition to his policies. If Clinton had won, those on the left who are actively opposing Trump would be finding ways to excuse and defend Clinton’s actions and policies, as we frequently saw during the campaign. Those who say there has been no evidence of wrong doing by Clinton, despite all the evidence raised of corrupt and dishonest behavior on her part, are objecting to the corruption seen from Trump, making it far less such corruption would become institutionalized as it would have been if Clinton had been elected.

While large portions of the pro-Democratic media have shown an extraordinary amount of hypocrisy in accepting Clinton’s actions, there has been opposition to Trump from both the left and segments of the right. For example, even the pro-Republican Wall Street Journal is running an op-ed about Trump’s lack of credibility. The article both gave examples of the frequent falsehoods from Trump and noted the consequences:

If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods…

All of this continues the pattern from the campaign that Mr. Trump is his own worst political enemy. He survived his many false claims as a candidate because his core supporters treated it as mere hyperbole and his opponent was untrustworthy Hillary Clinton. But now he’s President, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything. As he is learning with the health-care bill, Mr. Trump needs partners in his own party to pass his agenda. He also needs friends abroad who are willing to trust him when he asks for support, not least in a crisis.

This week should be dominated by the smooth political sailing for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and the progress of health-care reform on Capitol Hill. These are historic events, and success will show he can deliver on his promises. But instead the week has been dominated by the news that he was repudiated by his own FBI director.

Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.

Assuming we survive his presidency, there are also long term political advantages to having Trump in the White House destroying the Republicans, as opposed to seeing Clinton destroy the Democratic brand. Getting rid of the Clintons gives the Democrats a chance to reform the party–which they may or may not take advantage of. If Clinton was elected, we would probably see a continuation of the trend for Democrats to lose in Congressional and state governments, with opposition to Clinton likely to give Republicans a super majority in the Senate and potentially control of enough state governments to enable them to rewrite the Constitution. Having Trump in the White House, as terrible as that is, at least means that the Democrats not only have a real shot at taking control of the House in 2018, but Stuart Rothenburg is writing today that Republican “gains probably won’t be anywhere near what they might have been with President Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.”

Jake Tapper On Holding Trump Accountable For His Dishonesty

Jake Tapper’s appearance on Bill Maher provided some hope about the future of media coverage in challenging government, but the interview also got back to partisan double standards. The Hill summarized some of the good points (with full video above):

CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday tore into President Trump’s claims of news media bias, saying “there’s no bias when it comes to facts and there’s no bias when it comes to decency.”

“I’ve never really seen this level of falsehood,” Tapper said on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

“Just quantitatively. It’s not just, ‘If  you like your doctor you can keep your doctor,’ it’s conspiracy theories based on nothing that have members of his own party distancing themselves from him.”

Maher noted that Tapper “sounds different” lately in adopting a more critical style in “speaking truth to crazy.”

“Politicians lie. It wasn’t invented on January 20,” Tapper said, but Trump is trying to “discredit the entire fourth estate, the entire media, we’re all fake news except for ‘Fox And Friends.’ ”

“The truth of the matter is that there’s no bias when it comes to facts and there’s no bias when it comes to decency,” Tapper added. “It is empirically indecent to make fun of the disabled. You don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican or Independent or socialist or libertarian. That is just indecent. My children know better than that.”

Having the media point out when Trump is lying is far better than the common practice of the media reporting what both side say as if they are equally valid. Trump lies quite frequently in an administration which has become known for its use of alternative facts, and this should be pointed out. The news media provides an important service when it points out when politicians are lying.

While I applaud Tapper for trying to hold Trump accountable, he did drop the ball when Bill Maher reverted to partisanship in complaining about the coverage of Hillary Clinton’s scandals. Clinton violated email policies established to promote transparency in government as documented in the State Department Inspector General report, and then went on to repeatedly lie about the situation. This included her lies about the initial FBI report.  Clinton’s statement that, “Director Comey said my answers were truthful” was the first lie listed by Glenn Kessler (listed in no particular order) in his listing of The biggest Pinocchios of 2016. She also grossly violated the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Candidates of both parties should be held accountable for their lying.

Clinton Supporter With CIA Background Says No Collusion Between Trump And Putin

There is no question that Russia has attempted to influence elections in other countries, just as the United States has. There is also no question that both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have views which are in opposition to liberal democratic ideas. The degree of Trump’s business involvement with Russia is unknown, partially due to Trump refusing to release his tax returns. Claims from Clinton supporters, claims that Russia is responsible for Clinton losing the election are debatable, and there is zero evidence of any conspiracy between Russia and Trump to influence the election. A former acting CIA director, who did support Hillary Clinton, has joined those who say there was no collusion between Russia and Trump. NBC News reports, which has often been quite favorable to Clinton, reports:

Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who endorsed Hillary Clinton and called Donald Trump a dupe of Russia, cast doubt Wednesday night on allegations that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

Morell, who was in line to become CIA director if Clinton won, said he had seen no evidence that Trump associates cooperated with Russians. He also raised questions about the dossier written by a former British intelligence officer, which alleged a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

His comments were in sharp contrast to those of many Clinton partisans — such as former communications director Jennifer Palmieri — who have stated publicly they believe the Trump campaign cooperated with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election against Clinton.

Morell said he had learned that the former officer, Christopher Steele, paid his key Russian sources, and interviewed them through intermediaries.

“On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all,” Morell said at an event sponsored by the Cipher Brief, an intelligence web site.

“There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of people looking for it.”

While Russian hacking to release DNC email would be objectionable, it should also be kept in mind that there has been no evidence that any of the released information about Clinton and the DNC via Wikileaks was inaccurate. If this information did harm Clinton in the election, this ultimately would indicate that it was a mistake for the DNC to nominate a candidate as flawed as Clinton, or for the DNC to violate their own rules to rig the nomination for her.

Rachel Maddow Trolls Twitter With Virtual Non-Story On Trump Tax Returns

Rachel Maddow had Twitter excited yesterday evening when she tweeted: “BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously)” I was immediately suspicious as to whether she really had anything. After all, MSNBC pretends to be a news channel. If they really had a major scoop, they would have announced it at the time on whatever show was on. Instead they used this to build excitement for Maddow’s show, and then waited until after the first break to show what they had.

It turned out that she had virtually nothing. All she had was two pages from Trump’ 2005 tax return which showed that he reported an income of $150 million and pain $38 million in federal income taxes. If anything this helps Trump, debunking claims from Hillary Clinton that Trump has “paid nothing in federal taxes.” There was certainly nothing here linking him to Russia. The little information released was so favorable to Trump that some are speculating that Trump was behind the “leak” of these two pages.

We did learn that Trump has taken legal deductions to legally minimize his taxes. Shocking. I do that too (even if not on the level which Trump is able to). He has also supported elimination of the alternate minimum tax. A wealthy Republican wanting to change the tax laws to reduce taxes on the wealthy is hardly a scoop.

I might say that Maddow has jumped the shark here, but I already thought she did this with her fallacious claims blaming Clinton’s loss on third party candidates rather than on Clinton being a terrible candidate who ran a horrible campaign, and her fear mongering on Russia which has reduced her to the level of a liberal Glenn Beck. Once a journalist loses their credibility as Maddow has, this usually cannot be regained, making last night’s fiasco nothing more than confirmation of where Maddow stands.

Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia remains an open question. There have certainly been some items to raise questions, such as the incidents involving Jeff Sessions and Mike Flynn. It does appear that many who have spoken with the Russian ambassador, including advisers to Clinton as well as Trump, have been Retconned into forgetting the meeting.

Thomas Wood has put together an impressive “Russiagate Timeline.” There is certainly enough smoke to demand an investigation, including a review of Trump’s tax returns. However, despite claims from Clinton supporters, there is zero evidence of the key question of whether there was any coordination between Trump and Russia to influence the election.

Three Reports Demonstrate How It Was A Horrible Mistake For Democrats To Nominate Hillary Clinton

Since Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, many Clinton supporters and partisan Democrats have blamed her loss on sexism, Russia, James Comey, and even Barack Obama. They repeatedly fail to acknowledge that the real problem was that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign. Of course the exact same thing could be said about Donald Trump, but when two terrible candidates are running, only one can lose, and Clinton was even more out of touch than Trump. With many Democrats failing to acknowledge why they have lost badly in 2010, 2014, and now 2016, and some even speaking of nominating Clinton again in 2020, it is important for Democrats to face reality. Three recent studies shed some light on the election.

While perhaps not the most consequential, the most interesting was an experiment to look at sexism performed by Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science, and Joe Salvatore, “a Steinhardt clinical associate professor of educational theatre who specializes in ethnodrama—a method of adapting interviews, field notes, journal entries, and other print and media artifacts into a script to be performed as a play.”

After watching the second televised debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in October 2016—a battle between the first female candidate nominated by a major party and an opponent who’d just been caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women—Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science at INSEAD, had an idea. Millions had tuned in to watch a man face off against a woman for the first set of co-ed presidential debates in American history. But how would their perceptions change, she wondered, if the genders of the candidates were switched? She pictured an actress playing Trump, replicating his words, gestures, body language, and tone verbatim, while an actor took on Clinton’s role in the same way. What would the experiment reveal about male and female communication styles, and the differing standards by which we unconsciously judge them?

…Salvatore says he and Guadalupe began the project assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they’d each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump’s aggression—his tendency to interrupt and attack—would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton’s competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man.

While Salvatore and Guadalupe were surprised at the results, I was not. Audiences did not like the character portraying Hillary Clinton, even when played by a man. The entire argument based upon sexism, with Clinton supporters finding absurd ways to blame any disagreement with Clinton on sexism, has always been absurd.  This is especially true on the left, where many opponents of Clinton had initially backed Elizabeth Warren, and some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Those on the left who opposed Hillary Clinton also object to Bill Clinton and other DLC Democrats for similar reasons, regardless of gender. For many, the choice of a running mate as conservative as Tim Kaine was the last straw. There are many reasons to oppose Clinton based both on her policy positions and her gross ethical misconduct in using her position to exchange influence for wealth which have nothing to do with gender.

Wesleyan Media Project study elaborates on what I have discussed previously on how Clinton ran a poor campaign, including in states such as Michigan which cost her the election. They noted that Clinton’s loss came from states in which she did not advertise until the last week. When I did start seeing ads for Clinton in Michigan, I questioned the judgement of her campaign. While Trump was advertising with promises (regardless of whether he could keep them) of creating more jobs and a brighter future, Clinton’s ads were based upon personal attacks (even if valid) against Donald Trump. The Wesleyan Media Project study showed that  “Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests.” They found that this strategy may have backfired badly.

Throughout the campaign, Clinton gave little reason to vote for her beyond her gender and it being her turn. Her own negatives, both on her record and her character, despite the denials of partisan Democrats, where on a level comparable to those of Donald Trump. It is no surprise that third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson did three times as well against Clinton and Trump than they did against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney four years previously.

Finally, Huffington Post ran yet another article making a case that the letter from James Comey cost Clinton the election. Many factors were involved in the loss, and it is simplistic to blame it on a single factor, but to blame it on Comey is actually an admission that it was a mistake to nominate Clinton.  There would have not been a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton if Clinton had not violated the rules regarding handling email, as documented in the State Department Inspector General report, and then go on to repeatedly lie about the situation. This included her lies about the initial FBI report.  Clinton’s statement that, “Director Comey said my answers were truthful” was the first lie listed by Glenn Kessler (listed in no particular order) in his listing of The biggest Pinocchios of 2016. Hillary Clinton’s frequent lies during the campaign negated any advantage she might have had over Donald Trump, who has also shown very little regard for facts or reality.

I argued before the nomination that it would be a mistake for Democrats to nominate Clinton in light of the email and Foundation scandals. Beyond the details of these scandals, this emphasized Clinton’s dishonesty. An argument might be made that the coverage of Clinton’s scandals distracted from discussion of the issues, except for the fact that Clinton’s own campaign avoided discussion of the issues.

The lesson here is that it was a mistake for the Democrats to nominate a candidate who acted improperly in her last major government position, including grossly violating the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and was already distrusted by voters before the nomination.

Democrats were lucky to come as close as they did in the 2016 election with a candidate as weak as Clinton, and would have probably lost by a far greater margin if not for the many problems with Donald Trump. Running Republican-lite candidates have also cost them control of Congress and many state governments in the 2010 and 2014 elections. Democrats were in a strong position during the Bush years, but squandered this by moving as far right as the Republicans of circa 2002 on far too many issues, and engaging in exactly the same types of unethical behavior as they have attacked Republicans over. Democrats had an alternative in Bernie Sanders in 2016 who could have both motivated voters to turn out for him, and brought in the votes of many independent voters. By rigging the system for a more conservative candidate such as Clinton, and ignoring her major ethical failings, very likely cost Democrats both the White House and control of the Senate.