Trump’s Incompetence And Mental State Alarm Washington

Donald Trump continues to show both his bigotry and his incompetence in his attacks against the federal judges ruling on his travel ban. The Hill reports:

Trump argued the law gives him broad powers to control who enters and leaves the U.S.

“A bad high school student would understand this. Anybody would understand this,” he said.

Yes, a bad high school student very well might be fooled into thinking that Trump is right. Fortunately judges who went beyond high school to study law are more likely to understand how Donald Trump is violating the law and violating the Constitution.

If we can trust Huffington Post as a source, reportedly his own staff is alarmed at Trump’s conduct. Leaks include the content of a rather strange 3 am call:

President Donald Trump was confused about the dollar: Was it a strong one that’s good for the economy? Or a weak one?

So he made a call ― except not to any of the business leaders Trump brought into his administration or even to an old friend from his days in real estate. Instead, he called his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, according to two sources familiar with Flynn’s accounts of the incident.

Flynn has a long record in counterintelligence but not in macroeconomics. And he told Trump he didn’t know, that it wasn’t his area of expertise, that, perhaps, Trump should ask an economist instead.

The story goes on to describe how leaks are becoming commonplace because of government officials who are alarmed by Trump’s bizarre conduct:

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s volatile behavior has created an environment ripe for leaks from his executive agencies and even within his White House. And while leaks typically involve staffers sabotaging each other to improve their own standing or trying to scuttle policy ideas they find genuinely problematic, Trump’s 2-week-old administration has a third category: leaks from White House and agency officials alarmed by the president’s conduct.

“I’ve been in this town for 26 years. I have never seen anything like this,” said Eliot Cohen, a senior State Department official under President George W. Bush and a member of his National Security Council. “I genuinely do not think this is a mentally healthy president.”

There is the matter of Trump’s briefing materials, for example. The commander in chief doesn’t like to read long memos, a White House aide who asked to remain unnamed told The Huffington Post. So preferably they must be no more than a single page. They must have bullet points but not more than nine per page.

Earlier in the week, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reported on the isolation of Donald Trump and difficulties faced by the Trump administration in its first two weeks:

Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room. Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit. In a darkened, mostly empty West Wing, Mr. Trump’s provocative chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, finishes another 16-hour day planning new lines of attack.

Usually around 6:30 p.m., or sometimes later, Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home…

The bungled rollout of his executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a flurry of other miscues and embarrassments, and an approval rating lower than that of any comparable first-term president in the history of polling have Mr. Trump and his top staff rethinking an improvisational approach to governing that mirrors his chaotic presidential campaign, administration officials and Trump insiders said…

Cloistered in the White House, he now has little access to his fans and supporters — an important source of feedback and validation — and feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests, one of the reasons he was forced to scrap a planned trip to Milwaukee last week. For a sense of what is happening outside, he watches cable, both at night and during the day — too much in the eyes of some aides — often offering a bitter play-by-play of critics like CNN’s Don Lemon.

Until the past few days, Mr. Trump was telling his friends and advisers that he believed the opening stages of his presidency were going well. “Did you hear that, this guy thinks it’s been terrible!” Mr. Trump said mockingly to other aides when one dissenting view was voiced last week during a West Wing meeting.

But his opinion has begun to change with a relentless parade of bad headlines.

Can a president whose reading is limited to single page memos make the changes needed to turn this around, or will he become increasingly isolated, perhaps to the point of talking to the pictures on the White House walls like Richard Nixon in his final days in office?

Bowling Green Massacre And Nomination of Betsy DeVos Promote Further Protests

After being mocked for her alternative facts in using a Bowling Green Massacre which never existed to justify Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, Kellyanne Conway admitted she was wrong said that, “Honest mistakes abound.” This was after the Bowling Green Massacre became the subject of further demonstrations. The New York Daily News reported:

New Yorkers can be a sentimental — and satirical — bunch.

That’s why it was no surprise that an impromptu vigil was held Friday honoring the Bowling Green massacre victims that never were.

“We’re commemorating the victims of Bowling Green,” said Chris Bauer as he stifled a smile. “It never happened so they were never commemorated.”

Bauer and a handful of others stood near the Lower Manhattan park, holding signs and shouting, “We all are Bowling Green, never remember never forget.”

The protests against Donald Trump’s Muslim ban included the cover of The New Yorker, showing “Liberty’s Flameout.”

The protest was international, including this cover of Der Spiegel:

Fortunately the ban has been temporarily lifted by a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, promoting Donald Trump to make his own protests on Twitter. While he might not like it, Donald Trump is slowly being forced to learn that there are limitations on his power. In addition, there are reports that he is backing away from the idea floated last week of reopening black site prisons.

Protests against Trump are likely to be commonplace over the next four years (unless impeachment or 25th Amendment solutions make this unnecessary). The Washington Post reports on How protesters plan to get under Trump’s skin wherever he goes:

This is the reality of Trump’s honeymoon-free presidency.

Having sought to create unprecedented disruption in Washington, his critics will now seek to bring unprecedented disruption to his life as president — including demonstrations that follow him when he travels, and protests that will dog his businesses even when he doesn’t.

Already this week, Trump — the most unpopular new president in modern times — canceled a trip to visit Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, where local groups had planned to protest his appearance; the White House said the protests were not the reason for the cancellation.

And, around the business empire that Trump still owns, his critics treat each location as an avatar for the president.

 

The Muslim ban is not the only reason for protests this weekend. Others are protesting the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education secretary. Comedian Mike Birbiglia tweeted, “Betsy DeVos teaches us that if you’re born rich, never go to public schools, and hate public schools, someday you can run public schools.” With two Republican Senators saying they will vote against DeVos, supporters of public education are hoping to obtain a third Republican to flip, but the odds do not look good.

Following What Donald Trump Says And Tweets

The miracles of modern technology now provides a simple tool to keep up with everything Donald Trump has said on any topic. A searchable database can be found here which contains all of Donald Trump’s public statements, including tweets, videos, and material from his campaign website. This even includes deleted tweets, and an indication of the time since his last tweet. At present there are 2,457,084 total words, 254.3 hours of video, 30,379 tweets, and 153 deleted tweets. You are on your own to sort out the contradictions and absurdities.

They are testing the system with Donald Trump, with plans to possibly extend this to others in the future.

For those who prefer a more curated report on what Trump has said, or prefer a pro-Trump, source, there is always Fox. For a while, especially with Megyn Kelley there and Roger Ailes gone, it looked like there was a chance that Fox might be less partisan, or at least not be a pro-Trump organ comparable to the Bush years. While Megyn Kelley has her faults, she would at least present news critical of both Trump and Clinton during the presidential campaign–often making her preferable to both others on Fox, and to MSNBC during prime time. However, her time slot is now being given to Trump supporter Tucker Carlson.

The long term bias of Fox remains uncertain. Rupert Murdoch is more centrist and less partisan than Ailes, and tends to back the party in power. It is conceivable that he might support future Democratic administrations, or possibly even break with Trump, not having been so favorable towards Trump at times during the campaign.

Donald Trump Again Acts Like Hillary Clinton In New Year’s Message

While there is no question there are also major differences between the two, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton also have far more similarities than supporters of either are likely to admit. They both have problems with financial ties including a Foundation and involving family. Trump has acted like Clinton in avoiding press conferences. Policy wise, both will continue the warfare/surveillance state, both have a similar disdain for freedom of speech, and both were seen as a threat to freedom of the press.

Trump also reminded me of Clinton when he released this Tweet: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

I have often noted similarities between Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon. There is something rather Nixonian to this Tweet (along with Trump’s earlier talk of being the law-and-order candidate, a phrase also used by Bill Clinton). Trump referring to his “enemies” reminded me of Clinton dismissing half of Trump voters as “irredeemable” and fitting into a “basket of deplorables.” Clinton’s statement was foolish for alienating a large segment of the country when trying to attract voters, just as Trump’s tweet is foolish for alienating those who voted against him at a time when he should be seeking to unite the country around him as he prepares to take office.

It is debatable as to how accurate Clinton’s statement was about Trump supporters, while Trump’s statement is clearly wrong on the facts. He did win, but it was a narrow win. Perhaps trying to distract from his loss in the  popular vote, Trump has been falsely attributing it to illegal voters, and exaggerating the degree of his victory in the electoral college. Fact checkers including Factcheck.org and PolitiFact have debunked him on these claims.

He is also wrong in saying that those who fought him “just don’t know what to do.” There has been a tremendous increase in donations to progressive organizations, and organization to prepare to oppose Trump’s agenda. The good that could come from a Trump presidency as it stimulates progressive action:

Trump’s ascendancy is already calling forth social and political initiatives aimed at defending the achievements of the Obama years (particularly Obamacare), protecting the environment, standing up for immigrants and minorities, preserving civil liberties, civil rights and voting rights, and highlighting how Trump’s policies contradict his promises to working-class voters. Here is a bet that the mobilization against Trump will rival in size and influence the tea party uprising against Obama.

Another positive for the future: Trump’s campaign forced elites and the media to pay attention to the parts of the country that have been falling behind economically and to the despair that afflicts so many, particularly in rural and small-town America.

It should not have taken Trump (or Bernie Sanders) to bring their problems to the fore. If the powers that be had been paying more attention, the resentments and dissatisfactions that Trump exploited might not have been there for him to stoke.

Of course we would be in a completely different situation if the Democrats had listened to their base and nominated Sanders instead of Clinton.

While Dionne probably would not agree, I would extend his argument to pointing out that, rather than leading to such mobilization of progressives, a Clinton victory would have its dark consequences. Democrats would be split in pushing more liberal goals versus rationalizing and justifying Clinton’s conservative positions, as many did during the campaign, and as they ignore the negative aspects of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

FBI Twitter Feed Gone Rogue?

fbi_logo_twitter_400x400

Following the controversy regarding James Comey after last week’s announcement, there was a much stranger development as an FBI twitter feed started dumping links to a large amount of old material. This included material related to Donald Trump’s father and Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich, along with a large amount of other material. Many pro-Clinton sites posted misleading accounts making it appear that the feed was releasing links related to Clinton alone.

While there were legitimate reasons for Comey to have sent the letter to Congress regarding new evidence related to Hillary Clinton’s email, there would be no legitimate reason to release information related to Bill Clinton’s pardon of Rich at this particular time. This is old news and the release could have been kept separate from the election. The question is whether this is an intentional attempt to harm Hillary Clinton or some sort of misguided release of large amounts of information to the public at an inopportune time.

If intentional, this would also strengthen an argument I previously made that Comey could not have avoided discussion of the resumption of the investigation into Hillary Clinton as it was likely the information would have come out regardless of what Comey had done.

The FBI has responded to questions regarding the Twitter releases with a statement: “Per the standard procedure for FOIA, these materials became available for release and were posted automatically and electronically to the FBI’s public reading room in accordance with the law and established procedures.” However, that does not explain the timing.

Think Progress reports that the FBI is initiating an investigation, as it should. It would be improper, and very likely a crime, if someone did release this old information now with the intent to affect the election.

Besides coming during the debate over Comey’s announcement, there are also a number of questions being raised about inside disputes between the Department of Justice and the FBI, reportedly with disagreements between career and political appointees as to whether Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted. This infighting includes  questions surrounding the Clinton Foundation in addition to the email scandal. While Clinton clearly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, it is a different question as to whether her actions, and actions of others at the Foundation, could be successfully prosecuted. Bret Baier of Fox News claims that “sources in the FBI have told him that indictment is likely in the case of pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation” unless prevented by the Justice Department. This cannot be independently verified.

Late Night Comics On Donald Trump

Conan Photo
In an interview, Newt Gingrich accused Megyn Kelly of being more interested in sex than public policy. Then Kelly explained that everyone is more interested in sex than public policy. –Conan O’Brien

Donald Trump’s campaign has to be getting a little worried because of some of the new poll numbers. Even Trump himself actually admitted that he’s somewhat behind in the polls but not by much. But remember, this is a guy that thinks a million dollars from your dad is just a small loan. –Jimmy Fallon

On Friday, a massive cyber-attack brought down several websites for 11 hours, including Twitter. Experts say it was the best thing to happen to Donald Trump’s campaign in weeks. –Jimmy Fallon

Trump has received his first and only endorsement from a major newspaper — the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that Trump does not represent the danger his critics claim. Which is not exactly a ringing endorsement. That’s like a restaurant review that says this place probably won’t even give you food poisoning. –James Corden

Many news outlets are saying Donald Trump will almost certainly pivot to media and launch his own TV network after the election. Which means as early as next year we could see Trump TV filing for bankruptcy. –Seth Meyers

Clinton Supporters Can Attribute Any Criticism To Sexism

Peter Daou Press Conference

Among the many disturbing things we are seeing from the Clinton camp is their attribution of almost all criticism to sexism, along with their hostility towards the free press. Peter Daou, a  former Clinton adviser, who continues to push heavily for her, showed how ridiculous they can be with this tweet: “Make no mistake: the media’s obsession with forcing a #Hillary press conference is ALL ABOUT HER GENDER.”

Yes, attribute it to sexism when Clinton avoids answering questions, despite two recent reports which have demonstrated that she has been lying to the American people about major scandals for over a year. Both the the State Department Inspector General report and the FBI director’s statement on the investigation demonstrated that Clinton violated the rules in effect when she became Secretary of State, she acted to cover up her actions,  and that many of the statements she has made since the scandal broke have been false. Fact checkers have pointed out how Clinton has repeatedly lied not only about the scandal, but about what these findings against her demonstrated.

Anyone who is likely to become the next President should be willing to answer questions from the press. Someone tainted by scandals to the degree Hillary Clinton is should especially be questioned. That has nothing to do with her gender. It is a fundamental principle of democracy.

Today The New York Times editorial board discussed the ethical issues involving the Foundation. I imagine that those in the Clinton camp see only sexism, and not questions of ethics. Emma Roller elaborated further on the Opinion Page. Is she also sexist?

Even beyond the recent scandals, Hillary Clinton Clinton has a long history of opposing government transparency, along with a terrible record on First Amendment issues. Objecting to her record on government transparency and First Amendment issues have nothing to do with her gender.

Daou acts as though Clinton is being singled out, but in reality both Clinton and Trump have been criticized by the media for the ways in which they are hindering press coverage. It has nothing to do with gender. Daou acts as though the criticism is all from sexist male reporters, but the criticism has come from journalists and others regardless of their gender. Last month, Carol Lee, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, argued that both Trump and Clinton are a threat to press freedom. Again, her criticism has nothing to do with gender.

Hillary Clinton is likely to become the next president despite having been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career, and despite Hillary and Bill having spent years playing fast and loose with the standards others are held to, both to increase their influence and to amass a huge personal fortune. It is no surprise that Hillary Clinton is not trusted, and that people believe she has a lot of questions to answer.

Warnings About Donald Trump’s Dangerously Incoherent Foreign Policy From Dangerous Warmonger Hillary Clinton

Clinton Foreign Policy Speech

Hillary Clinton had a strong take down of Donald Trump’s foreign policy today. She is right that his policy is incoherent and dangerous, but a dangerous warmonger such as Hillary Clinton is not the best one to deliver such a message. Common Dreams noted the “dangerous contradictions” in her speech.

But that was just one of several statements that raised observers’ eyebrows, in a speech that some said was full of fundamental contradictions—and hinted at Clinton’s own hawkish positions.

After all, as journalist Robert Parry wrote in April, “If Clinton becomes President, she will be surrounded by a neocon-dominated American foreign policy establishment that will press her to resume its ‘regime change’ strategies in the Middle East and escalate its new and dangerous Cold War against Russia.”

They cited several comments on the speech from Twitter:

As some of these have suggested, Hillary Clinton is making a strong case to be the mainstream Republican candidate against Donald Trump. Neoconservatives have already been indicating their support for Clinton over Trump, and a DLC Democrat such as Clinton is practically a Republican. As Jeffery Goldberg pointed out, this was more or less a Rubio speech.

warning danger

We will have a terrible choice in November if the general election does turn out to be between Trump and Clinton. Clinton is right that “it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.” On the other hand, President Obama has described how hawkish Clinton was on Syria, and unwilling to accept a compromise to avoid war.

For some foreign-policy experts, even within his own administration, Obama’s about-face on enforcing the red line was a dispiriting moment in which he displayed irresolution and naïveté, and did lasting damage to America’s standing in the world. “Once the commander in chief draws that red line,” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and then as secretary of defense in Obama’s first term, told me recently, “then I think the credibility of the commander in chief and this nation is at stake if he doesn’t enforce it.” Right after Obama’s reversal, Hillary Clinton said privately, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

This is a classic example of Clinton’s poor judgment. We should go to war only based upon security considerations, and only as a last resort when diplomacy will not work.  To make someone who thinks we had no choice in such a situation Commander In Chief is a terrifying prospect.

The bombing of Libya which Clinton pushed for was also a catastrophe. Obama described how “it didn’t work” in the interview linked above, and in another recent interview called it the worst mistake of his presidency. Both Libya and Syria demonstrate that Clinton did not really learn from her mistake regarding Iraq.

There is certainly a considerable risk that Donald Trump could blunder his way into a war. There is also a considerable risk that Clinton will follow her own policies and get us involved in more wars, along with resuming the Cold War with Russia, if not starting another world war.

Carly Fiorina Takes Pandering To A New Low During Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl got peripherally involved in politics for second reason, in addition to the skywriter who wrote “Trump is Disgusting” over the Rose Parade. Carly Fiorina showed that she might be the worst panderer of all among politicians. Before the Rose Bowl, in which Iowa played against Stanford, Fiorina tweeted: “Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today.”

She is saying she is rooting against her own school to pander to Iowa voters. It is one thing to live in a state and extol its virtues (even if we don’t really believe the candidate believes what they are saying), or even alter their accent depending upon where they speaking as Hillary Clinton does. It is a little more questionable ethically, but not unexpected, for a candidate to alter their positions based upon regional issues. However, to betray one’s school in such a manner will fool nobody and is far more likely to result in distrust and contempt than support.

I know several alumni of my alma mater’s rivals at Ohio State and Michigan State. I don’t expect them to do anything but support their teams and they don’t expect me to do anything but support Michigan. Needless to say, responses on Twitter were overwhelmingly negative.

And congratulations to Jim Harbaugh on his tenth win of the season, the first of many bowl victories in the Citrus Bowl, and a possible top ten finish in his first year back home in Ann Arbor.

#goblue

Greater Enthusiasm Seen For Sanders On Social Media Might Propel Him To Victory

Anyone on social media will not be surprised by this. The Washington Post displayed two word clouds from Zignal Labs showing what is being said about the candidates. The top is obviously on Hillary Clinton, and the bottom on Bernie Sanders:

Word Cloud Clinton

Word Cloud Sanders

The words used to describe Clinton are quite different than those used in relation to Sanders, with the largest words being unethical, behavior, fired, and lies for Clinton. According to the article, “It’s driven by the intense dislike for Clinton by activists on the left and the right, but mainly the right. Their constant drumbeat of criticism overwhelms any positive buzz that the Democratic frontrunner gets from her fans.”

The situation is far different for Bernie Sanders:

Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders actually garnered more attention online than Clinton during the past month. The Vermont senator was mentioned more than 2.8 million times across all forms of media, compared with 2.2 million mentions for Clinton.

And the Sanders mentions tended to be more positive.

It is not surprising that Sanders is both receiving more attention and this his favorable attention outweighs the negative.

It is also not surprising that the situation is different with regards to television coverage:

The race continues to look sharply different on television than it does on social media. While Sanders received 57 percent of the Democratic chatter on Twitter, compared with 42 percent for Clinton, the former Secretary of State received 54 percent of the month’s television mentions among the Democratic candidates, compared to Sanders’ 35 percent.

The greater quantity and more favorable view of social media comments on Sanders likely relates to the greater enthusiasm for Sanders, which could have a major impact both in the primaries, and in getting out the Democratic vote in the general election.

Bud Budowsky discussed this factor at The Hill in a post entitled Sanders can win Iowa and New Hampshire

He was not referring specifically to the above data, but his impression is the same:

…Sanders has two things that are pure gold in presidential politics. First, he has intensely devoted and idealistic supporters who are passionately committed to his cause and will turn out in droves on caucus and primary days. Second, he has powerful means of communications through social media, the Internet generally, and word of mouth among his devoted supporters that drive his message, his small-donor fundraising and his statewide organizations in ways that are not visible on political television and poorly understood by political pundits.

The truth is that, whatever her many virtues, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton does suffer from an enthusiasm gap. This is one reason she has underperformed among small donors compared to Sanders and why she should be worried about her supporters not turning out in droves on caucus and primary days.

By contrast, there is close to a 100 percent relationship between citizens who passionately support Sanders and those who will turn out to vote for him. They care, they believe and they will vote in very large numbers because they, like Sanders, are fighting for a cause they believe in and a vision of an America they dream of building together.

It is certainly too early to predict the actual outcome, but I am optimistic that the degree of enthusiasm seen for Sanders will help him outperform the polls, which are generally quite unreliable prior to primaries and caucuses. Democrats should also keep this in mind when deciding which candidate has the best chance to get people out to vote in the general election.

Update:

The Hill also looked at the problems with Clinton’s lack of likability in a subsequent article:

Allies of Hillary Clinton are confident she will win the Democratic presidential nomination, but they are worried about one big thing: her likability problem in the general election.

Clinton has rebounded from a rough spring and summer with a strong fall. And while her eyes remain on the primary, she is already testing general election themes against her possible GOP opponents as they do battle in what could be a drawn-out Republican primary.

Presidential elections are often decided on personality instead of specific policies. Along those lines, people in Clinton’s orbit are worried she doesn’t pass the would-you-like-to-have-a-beer-with-her test.

This is probably one of the reasons why Clinton polls so poorly among independents and in the battle ground states, and why Bernie Sanders does as well as Clinton or better in head to head match-ups against Republicans despite lower name recognition.