Donald Trump elected


in Politics

I watched the U.S. election unfold at Massey College, where the mood grew progressively more grim with each new batch of results.

It’s still shocking that the U.S. has made such a self-destructive choice.

U.S. presidential elections: 2008, 2012, 2016

This outcome seems to have had a strong emotional effect on almost everyone I know, and with good reason. It’s a capstone on America’s decline as a world power, and of the growing dysfunction of the American political system. With both houses of congress and the presidency held by a party driven by harmful (often hateful) emotions and determined to disregard evidence, it’s scary to think what will happen in America during the next four years and what it will mean for humanity as a whole and nature.

The most optimistic plausible interpretation seems to be that this is the last gasp of an America that is deeply sexist and racist, threatened by every aspect of modernity and — able on this occasion to win by exploiting popular anger, but doomed in the longer term by demographics and their ineptitude.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

. November 12, 2016 at 12:44 am

Mr Trump was carried to office on a tide of popular rage (see article). This is powered partly by the fact that ordinary Americans have not shared in their country’s prosperity. In real terms median male earnings are still lower than they were in the 1970s. In the past 50 years, barring the expansion of the 1990s, middle-ranking households have taken longer to claw back lost income with each recession. Social mobility is too low to hold out the promise of something better. The resulting loss of self-respect is not neutralised by a few quarters of rising wages.

. November 12, 2016 at 12:50 am

“The genius of America’s constitution is to limit the harm one president can do. We hope Mr Trump proves our doubts groundless or that, if he fails, a better president will be along in four years. The danger with popular anger, though, is that disillusion with Mr Trump will only add to the discontent that put him there in the first place. If so, his failure would pave the way for someone even more bent on breaking the system.”

. November 16, 2016 at 11:48 am

Clinton owed it to her supporters to warn them of this impending collapse of the norms fundamental to a liberal democracy. Instead, she acted as though the election of Trump was business as usual. It wasn’t, and it’s perilous to pretend otherwise. Yes, Trump is “our president,” in the sense that he won the election. But recognizing that fact does not require us to buy into the fantasy that his inevitable lawlessness will be legitimate. We should steel ourselves for a ghastly new era of violence and repression, ushered in by the consolidation of power around an autocratic maniac and his pathetic enablers. As Gessen admits, this may sound hysterical. Maybe it is. I’d like to think I’m wrong. I do not think I am.

. November 16, 2016 at 2:30 pm
. November 21, 2016 at 3:54 pm

At the national level, the Democratic Party has been wiped out. Trump won five states that voted for Obama twice — Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida — pushing Democrats even further toward the coastal peripheries. As a result, Republicans now control the House, the Senate, the White House, and (after President Trump picks a new justice to replace Antonin Scalia) there will be a restored conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

But that is nothing compared with the utter devastation Democrats have suffered in the states. On President Obama’s watch, Democrats have lost a net grand total of 939 state legislative seats, 30 state legislative chambers and a dozen governorships. When Obama first took office, Republicans held just 3,223 state legislative seats. After Tuesday’s vote, the number stands at 4,162. There are now more Republican state legislators than at any time since 1920. And if Gov. Pat McCrory holds on in North Carolina, Republicans will match their all-time high of 34 GOP governors last seen in the 1920s.

Or consider this: Today, Democrats control both the governor’s office and the legislature in just five states — Oregon, California, Hawaii, Connecticut and Rhode Island. By contrast, Republicans have total control of state government in 25 states — half the country.

Milan November 23, 2016 at 3:19 pm

From this week’s Economist:


Really, it should be depicting all the human suffering that a pro-fossil fuel Trump presidency would cause.

. November 25, 2016 at 3:40 pm
. November 30, 2016 at 11:36 pm

These numbers indicate that the story of the election was not primarily about turnout, as many exit poll–based hot takes claimed in the days after. Overall turnout is up 4.4 percent (so far) over 2012.

But shifts within that turnout were significant.

If Clinton’s 65 million votes had been properly distributed according to the ageless geographical wisdom of America’s Electoral College, she would have won.

But they were not (more on that later). Clinton lost the Electoral College, mainly due to whisker-thin losses in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. As John McCormack points out, the cumulative difference in those states was 107,330 votes.

. December 1, 2016 at 12:37 am

“Many people assumed that certain norms and standards still transcend the partisan divide. Surely being accused of, and admitting on tape to, serial sexual assault. Surely swindling poor people with a fake university. Surely crude racial stereotypes. Surely running a charitable foundation as a slush fund. Surely encouraging violence at rallies or threatening to reject unwelcome election results. Surely celebrating torture or vowing war crimes.

Clinton bet most of her chips on there being some floor, some violation of norms too low even for today’s radicalized Republican Party. She thought responsible Republican officeholders would rally. She thought at least well-off, well-educated Republican women would recoil in horror.

She was wrong. There is no floor. Partisanship has been revealed as the strongest force in US public life — stronger than any norms, independent of any facts.”

. December 22, 2016 at 8:03 pm

If Mr Trump fails to master his resentments, his presidency will soon become bogged down in a morass of petty conflicts.

The genius of America’s constitution is to limit the harm one president can do. We hope Mr Trump proves our doubts groundless or that, if he fails, a better president will be along in four years. The danger with popular anger, though, is that disillusion with Mr Trump will only add to the discontent that put him there in the first place. If so, his failure would pave the way for someone even more bent on breaking the system.

. January 2, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Whoever becomes his new secretary of the interior and his energy secretary, the incoming officials are expected to be strong advocates of further opening federal lands to oil, gas and coal production. Mr Trump has also suggested that TransCanada, an Alberta-based firm, renew an application to build the fourth phase of the Keystone XL pipeline project bringing Canadian crude across the border, which was blocked by Mr Obama last year.

Though Mr Trump can unwind many domestic environmental regulations, analysts say he may find his hands tied by market forces, by the limits to federal power and by the fact that energy investments can take decades to pay, making it unwise for owners of power plants, oil-and-gas fields, and pipelines in America to dismiss the clean-energy revolution. First, his desire to open up what he says may be $50 trillion-worth of oil and gas reserves under federal lands will depend on oil prices. Even with lower regulatory costs, oil prices still need to rise well above $50 a barrel to make most drilling in America economic. Now, there is too much oil, not too little.

Low oil prices may also make the Keystone pipeline a non-starter for commercial reasons, because crude from Canada’s tar sands is fiendishly expensive to extract. Moreover, were Mr Trump to succeed in stimulating shale-gas production, his task of rescuing the coal industry would become harder. Utilities may find it cheaper to burn gas rather than coal.

. January 9, 2017 at 12:48 am

Registered Democrats (mostly young and/or racialised) who didn’t vote cost Hillary the election

Fivethirtyeight’s analysis of a Surveymonkey data-set shows that Hillary Clinton would have won the 2016 election if registered Democrats had turned out and voted in larger numbers — in other words, Hillary’s failure to convince registered Democrats to vote, rather than abstain, lost her the election.

This echoes the message from the Democratic Party’s left wing, represented by Sanders supporters, who argued that Hillary Clinton represented a finance-friendly, militarized, neoliberal continuation of the Obama administration, which failed to jail a single banker responsible for the 2008 crisis (preferring to lavish billions on the sector and largely allow it to continue its reckless and greedy speculation); deported more people than any other administration in history; engaged in a secret, unilateral assassination program in countries where the US was not at war; massively increased domestic surveillance; and charged more whistleblowers with espionage than all other administrations in US history combined.

. January 9, 2017 at 12:53 am

“Simply put, Trump got more of his voters to turn out than Clinton did. That’s quite a turnaround from the pre-election conventional wisdom that the Clinton campaign had the better turnout machine. Of course, Clinton’s turnout operation may well have nudged many reluctant voters to the polls, but either way, it wasn’t enough. The polling numbers from SurveyMonkey indicate that Clinton was hurt dearly by the voters who decided not to vote.”

. January 26, 2017 at 6:33 pm

The leaks coming out of the Trump White House cast the president as a clueless child

All White Houses leak. Sometimes the leaks are big, sometimes small. But there are always people willing to talk to reporters about the “real” story or about why the chief executive made a mistake in regards to some decision he made.

That said, I’ve never seen so much leaking so quickly — and with such disdain for the president — as I have in the first six days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

. January 26, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Perhaps if Trump had a national security adviser with White House experience and negotiating skills, or if his nominee for secretary of state had an hour’s worth of diplomatic experience, they could have warned him about using Twitter to insult our neighbor.

Then again, perhaps they tried and Trump — thin-skinned, arrogant and ignorant — cannot be reasoned with. He insists on personalizing every encounter and bullying those who resist his demands. That might work in the real-estate business but not in the White House. Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman observes that this is “proof, if it was really needed, that doing business deals and doing diplomacy are not the same thing.” And by the way, how is Trump going to get Mexico to pay for the wall now?

. January 31, 2017 at 9:56 am

Weak and Incompetent Leaders act like Strong Leaders

An essay by Yonatan Zunger entitled “Trial Balloon for a Coup?” is making the rounds. Such essays are frightening to many. And yet they must be read critically. I am equally taken by the argument that everything that Zunger identifies is evidence not of a deliberate planning by an aspiring authoritarian, but of the exact opposite: the weakness and incoherence of administration by a narcissist.

One of the many things that studying authoritarian politics has taught me is that from the perspective of the outsider, weak leaders often act like strong leaders, and strong leaders often act like they are indifferent. Weak leaders have every incentive to portray themselves as stronger than they are in order to get their way. They gamble on splashy policies. They escalate crises. This is just as true for democrats as for dictators. (Note the parallels with Jessica Weeks on constraints on authoritarian rulers and their foreign policy behavior.)

. February 3, 2017 at 6:40 pm
. April 13, 2017 at 3:17 pm

US climate and energy policies repealed

A swathe of energy policies and regulations introduced by the Obama administration was deleted yesterday with the signing of an Energy Independence Policy Executive Order by US President Donald Trump. Among other things, the order repeals the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2015 Clean Power Plan.

. April 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Trump aides abruptly postpone meeting on whether to stay in Paris climate deal

Unlikely coalition of fossil fuel firms, environmental groups and Republicans are calling on president to stay despite his pledge to ‘cancel’ agreement

. April 24, 2017 at 3:51 pm

The idea running through Mr Trump’s diplomacy is that relations between states follow the art of the deal. Mr Trump acts as if he can get what he wants from sovereign states by picking fights that he is then willing to settle—at a price, naturally. His mistake is to think that countries are like businesses. In fact, America cannot walk away from China in search of another superpower to deal with over the South China Sea. Doubts that have been sown cannot be uprooted, as if the game had all along been a harmless exercise in price discovery. Alliances that take decades to build can be weakened in months.

Dealings between sovereign states tend towards anarchy—because, ultimately, there is no global government to impose order and no means of coercion but war. For as long as Mr Trump is unravelling the order that America created, and from which it gains so much, he is getting his country a terrible deal.

. May 1, 2017 at 6:45 pm

As the Democratic Party rebuilds itself for the 2018 and 2020 elections, Democratic strategists have been preoccupied with a pressing question: Why did so many voters who backed Barack Obama in 2012 switch to Donald Trump four years later, and what can be done to win them back?

Top Democratic pollsters have conducted private focus groups and polling in an effort to answer that question, and they shared the results with me.

One finding from the polling stands out: A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy.

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

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

. May 4, 2017 at 10:46 pm

America’s healthcare is being driven off a cliff by nihilists
Ross Barkan

In a rational society with a quasi-thoughtful legislative body, lawmakers would come together to repair Obamacare. But we’re in this dystopia, not that world

. May 4, 2017 at 11:49 pm

What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation’s history. As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.

. May 16, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Meanwhile, every Trump Cabinet official has to think long and hard about continuing to serve in the administration. Vice President Pence needs to be fully cognizant of the position the president put him in. He can no longer echo White House talking points, which may well be seen as part of the attempt to obstruct justice. With a now not insignificant chance the president will not fill out his term, Pence needs to remember he works for the people and not for Trump.

. May 30, 2017 at 12:26 am

One mark of a successful democracy is the willingness of the losers to accept election results without questioning the system’s moral foundations. Their allegiance to the system — their belief in its essential fairness and desirability — exceeds their unhappiness with the immediate election results. Among both parties, this sense of self-restraint is weakening. There’s a growing tendency to want to replay elections by transforming ordinary political disagreements into impeachable offenses. This is a new norm.

We should be wary, because if the power to impeach is abused, it threatens to weaken or shatter the bipartisan loyalty that now exists toward the larger political system. To overturn the results of an election is bound to alienate most, if not all, of the voters whose winner was repudiated — and perhaps many on the other side who recognize that, under different circumstances, the same might happen to them.

. June 18, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Some political scientists sound more like anthropologists than theologians when they dissect Mr Trump’s success with whites who call themselves evangelical Protestants and attend church regularly—fully 80% of whom told a recent survey by the Pew Research Centre that they approve of his job performance. Those scholars note that for many whites, notably in small towns and rural areas, adhering to traditional Bible values and embracing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—to use one common definition of evangelical faith—is another way of saying “I am an upstanding citizen”. Seen that way, piety is hard to untangle from other markers of conservative identity, from gun ownership to feeling the country is going to the dogs.

Still, it is a mistake to seek purely secular explanations for Mr Trump’s bond with religious conservatives. For one thing, the president’s rhetoric is steeped in time-worn stories about a Christian nation under siege. He is the latest in a long line of politicians to cast believers as a faithful remnant, under attack from the sneering forces of modernity. More specifically, Mr Trump’s language is filled with echoes of a much-mocked but potent American religious movement with millions of followers, known by such labels as “positive thinking” or the “prosperity gospel”.

. June 21, 2017 at 8:57 pm

Whether or not they identified with a party, most people who voted in the 2016 election were partisans. “Approximately 83 percent of voters were ‘consistent partisans,’ ” writes Sides. In other words, they voted for the same major party in both 2012 and 2016. This is the typical case. But about 9 percent of Donald Trump’s voters had backed Obama in the previous election, equivalent to roughly 4 percent of the electorate. Why?

What changed was the importance of identity. Attitudes toward immigration, toward black Americans, and toward Muslims were more correlated with voting Republican in 2016 than in 2012. Put a little differently, Barack Obama won re-election with the support of voters who held negative views toward blacks, Muslims, and immigrants. Sides notes that “37 percent of white Obama voters had a less favorable attitude toward Muslims” while 33 percent said “illegal immigrants” were “mostly a drain.” A separate analysis made late last year by political scientist Michael Tesler (and unrelated to the Voter Study Group) finds that 20 to 25 percent of white Obama voters opposed interracial dating, a decent enough proxy for racial prejudice. Not all of this occurred during the 2016 campaign—a number of white Obama voters shifted to the GOP in the years following his re-election. Nonetheless, writes Sides, “the political consequences in 2016 were the same: a segment of white Democrats with less favorable attitudes toward these ethnic and religious minorities were potential or actual Trump voters.”

. July 5, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Trump called ‘threat to every coastline’ as he pushes ocean drilling plan

Administration moves to ‘unleash’ US fossil fuels by rewriting Obama-era plan that banned drilling along Atlantic seaboard and large parts of the Arctic Ocean

. July 31, 2017 at 7:34 pm
. July 31, 2017 at 11:20 pm
. August 16, 2017 at 5:31 pm

It has been perfectly natural during the first few months of this presidency for commentators and political leaders to treat Trump, his statements and actions like those of his predecessors. But in the past week, the dangers of his reflexive behavior have become even more crystal clear. In a matter of days, the president’s reckless remarks have triggered fears of nuclear war with North Korea, he threatened military action against Venezuela, he continued his quiet war against the environment and the U.S. public health system and then, in response to Charlottesville, he revealed his true colors and that he is not preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution as his oath requires. Rather, he is at war with it and its values — from a free press, to an independent judiciary, to equal protection for all under the law.

Since the Team of Sycophants will never invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him, the responsibility lies with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to reveal his wrongdoing. A great task is upon whistle-blowers in the government to challenge Trump’s attacks on American institutions, upon Congress to investigate not only his ties to Russia but also his possible corruption, and ultimately, upon the American people to vote out Trump supporters and enablers on Capitol Hill, and then, ensure a suitable replacement for him in 2020.

. August 16, 2017 at 6:05 pm

America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,” Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.

Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.

In the wake of Charlottesville, the chorus of condemnation from politicians across the political spectrum has been encouraging, but it is not necessarily reassuring or an indicator about the future, Gregory Downs, a historian at the University of California at Davis, told me. During the Civil War, even Southern politicians who denounced or were wary of secession for years—including Jefferson Davis—ended up as leaders of the Confederacy. “If the source of conflict is deeply embedded in cultural or social forces, then politicians are not inherently able to restrain them with calls for reason,” Downs said. He called the noxious white supremacists and neo-Nazis the “messengers,” rather than the “architects,” of the Republic’s potential collapse. But, he warned, “We take our stability for granted.”

. August 16, 2017 at 6:07 pm

Donald Trump Has Been a Racist All His Life — And He Isn’t Going to Change After Charlottesville

Consider the first time the president’s name appeared on the front page of the New York Times, more than 40 years ago. “Major Landlord Accused of Antiblack Bias in City,” read the headline of the A1 piece on Oct. 16, 1973, which pointed out how Richard Nixon’s Department of Justice had sued the Trump family’s real estate company in federal court over alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.

Over the next four decades, Trump burnished his reputation as a bigot: he was accused of ordering “all the black [employees] off the floor” of his Atlantic City casinos during his visits; claimed “laziness is a trait in blacks” and “not anything they can control”; requested Jews “in yarmulkes” replace his black accountants; told Bryan Gumbel that “a well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market”; demanded the death penalty for a group of black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a jogger in Central Park (and, despite their later exoneration with the use of DNA evidence, has continued to insist they are guilty); suggested a Native American tribe “don’t look like Indians to me”; mocked Chinese and Japanese trade negotiators by doing an impression of them in broken English; described undocumented Mexican immigrants as “rapists”; compared Syrian refugees to “snakes”; defended two supporters who assaulted a homeless Latino man as “very passionate” people “who love this country”; pledged to ban a quarter of humanity from entering the United States; proposed a database to track American Muslims that he himself refused to distinguish from the Nazi registration of German Jews; implied Jewish donors “want to control” politicians and are all sly negotiators; heaped praise on the “amazing reputation” of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has blamed America’s problems on a “Jewish mafia”; referred to a black supporter at a campaign rally as “my African-American”; suggested the grieving Muslim mother of a slain U.S. army officer “maybe … wasn’t allowed” to speak in public about her son; accused an American-born Hispanic judge of being “a Mexican”; retweeted anti-Semitic and anti-black memes, white supremacists, and even a quote from Benito Mussolini; kept a book of Hitler’s collected speeches next to his bed; declined to condemn both David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan; and spent five years leading a “birther” movement that was bent on smearing and delegitimizing the first black president of the United States, who Trump also accused of being the founder of ISIS.

. August 18, 2017 at 2:58 pm
. August 23, 2017 at 1:15 am

McConnell, in Private, Doubts if Trump Can Save Presidency

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.

The rupture between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell comes at a highly perilous moment for Republicans, who face a number of urgent deadlines when they return to Washington next month. Congress must approve new spending measures and raise the statutory limit on government borrowing within weeks of reconvening, and Republicans are hoping to push through an elaborate rewrite of the federal tax code. There is scant room for legislative error on any front.

A protracted government shutdown or a default on sovereign debt could be disastrous — for the economy and for the party that controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

. September 7, 2017 at 7:07 pm

An analysis of exit polls conducted during the presidential primaries estimated the median household income of Trump supporters to be about $72,000. But even this lower number is almost double the median household income of African Americans, and $15,000 above the American median. Trump’s white support was not determined by income. According to Edison Research, Trump won whites making less than $50,000 by 20 points, whites making $50,000 to $99,999 by 28 points, and whites making $100,000 or more by 14 points. This shows that Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker. So when white pundits cast the elevation of Trump as the handiwork of an inscrutable white working class, they are being too modest, declining to claim credit for their own economic class. Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to nascar dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant. According to Mother Jones, based on preelection polling data, if you tallied the popular vote of only white America to derive 2016 electoral votes, Trump would have defeated Clinton 389 to 81, with the remaining 68 votes either a toss-up or unknown.

. September 11, 2017 at 11:53 pm

The biggest problem with confirming the details of the Steele “dossier” is obvious: We do not know his sources other than via the short descriptions in the reports. In CIA’s clandestine service, we spent by far the bulk of our work finding, recruiting and validating sources. Before we would ever consider disseminating an intelligence report, we would move heaven and earth to understand the access, reliability, trustworthiness, motivation, and dependability of our source. We believe it is critical to validate the source before we can validate the reliability of the source’s information. How does the source know about what he/she is reporting? How did the source get the information? Who are his/her sub-sources? What do we know about the sub-sources? Why is the source sharing the information? Is the source a serious person who has taken appropriate measures to protect their efforts?

One clue as to the credibility of the sources in these reports is that Steele shared them with the FBI. The fact that the FBI reportedly sought to work with him and to pay him to develop additional information on the sources suggest that at least some of them were worth taking seriously. At the very least, the FBI will be able to validate the credibility of the sources, and therefore better judge the information. As one recently retired senior intelligence officer with deep experience in espionage investigations quipped, “I assign more credence to the Steele report knowing that the FBI paid him for his research. From my experience, there is nobody more miserly than the FBI. If they were willing to pay Mr. Steele, they must have seen something of real value.”

. September 12, 2017 at 1:10 pm

The Comey Letter Probably Cost Clinton The Election

So why won’t the media admit as much?

. November 11, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Over the course of three rainy, dreary days last week, I revisited and shook hands with the president’s base—that thirtysomething percent of the electorate who resolutely approve of the job he is doing, the segment of voters who share his view that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt” that “has nothing to do with him,” and who applaud his judicial nominees and his determination to gut the federal regulatory apparatus. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how readily these same people had abandoned the contract he had made with them. Their satisfaction with Trump now seems untethered to the things they once said mattered to them the most.

. November 11, 2017 at 4:00 pm

“This reality ought to get the attention of anyone who thinks they will win in 2018 or 2020 by running against Trump’s record. His supporters here, it turns out, are energized by his bombast and his animus more than any actual accomplishments. For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting. Trump is simply and unceasingly angry on their behalf, battling the people who vex them the worst—“obstructionist” Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.

And they love him for this.

“I think he’s doing a great job, and I just wish the hell they’d leave him alone and let him do it,” Schilling said. “He shouldn’t have to take any shit from anybody.””

. November 29, 2017 at 1:41 pm

But such incredulity misses the deeper significance of this stuff. The brazenness of it is the whole point — his utter shamelessness itself is meant to achieve his goal. In any given case, Trump is not trying to persuade anyone of anything as much as he is trying to render reality irrelevant, and reduce the pursuit of agreement on it to just another part of the circus. He’s asserting a species of power — the power to evade constraints normally imposed by empirically verifiable facts, by expectations of consistency, and even by what reasoned inquiry deems merely credible. The more brazen or shameless, the more potent is the assertion of power.

The Post reports today that Trump has taken to privately questioning the authenticity of the “Access Hollywood” tape of him repeatedly boasting about his affection for sexual assault. The Post also reports that when things are going particularly badly, he calls confidantes to “boast about his successes.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Trump regularly brags to people about winning a majority of women — he didn’t — and has even reverted to questioning the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Trump’s advisers sometimes even steer him away from areas where he is prone to dabbling in “manufactured facts.”

To date, Trump has made over 1,600 false or misleading claims as president. Routinely, the lies are demonstrably false, often laughably so. But this actually serves his ends. It is impossible to disentangle this from his constant effort to undermine the news media, seen again in today’s NBC tweet. In many cases the attacks on the media are outlandishly ridiculous, dating back to the tone-setting assertion that the media deliberately diminished his inaugural crowd sizes, even though the evidence was decisive to the contrary. Here again, the absurdity is the whole point: In both the volume and outsize defiance of his lies, Trump is asserting the power to declare the irrelevance of verifiable, contradictory facts, and with them, the legitimate institutional role of the free press, which at its best brings us within striking distance of the truth.

. January 7, 2018 at 10:11 am

Trump’s emotional and mental limitations should debunk a number of rationalizations from his devoted cultists, who insisted he was the best choice in 2016, cheered his first year in office and continue to pretend he’s fit for office. He’s sounding presidential. No, he’s reading off a teleprompter, likely with very little comprehension. He’s playing four-dimensional chess with Kim Jong Un. No, he’s impulsively lashing out, with the risk of provoking a deadly clash. He’s a master manipulator when he shifts from position to position, sometimes in the same sentence. No, he likely doesn’t realize what contradicts what or remember what he originally said. His use of alternative facts is a brilliant scheme to control the press narrative. No, he’s incapable of processing real information and driven by an insatiable need for praise and reaffirmation.

Seen in the context of his intellectual and emotional limitations, some decisions should set off alarm bells. Take the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “Bad. Obama’s deal. Worst ever. Get rid of it. People will love me if I get rid of it.” That is very likely the sum total of his “thinking” on the subject. He’s not considering the next step, the reaction of allies, the implication for America’s standing in the world, the available evidence of Iranian compliance or any other data point that would go into a rational consideration of United States’ policy. Policy isn’t being made or even understood by the president. What comes from his fears and impulses is whatever aides are able to piece together that might satisfy his emotional spasm of the moment without endangering the country. (The compromise was to “decertify” the deal, freaking out our allies but leaving the deal in place — for now.)

. February 26, 2018 at 1:55 pm

As has always been the case, the demons to be exorcised aren’t the ones that led to screams at Mona Charen in defense of Roy Moore, but the animating principles of liberals and leftists, particularly young minorities and women battling racism and sexism. The reactionary impulses behind criticisms of political correctness have been complemented, in Shapiro and Kirk, by an evangelical fervor—the promise of deliverance and victory over a fallen and wicked people in a cultural war that righteous people ought to wage. It was hard to escape the feeling, listening to them, that the rhetoric of opposition to political correctness is expanding to fill the vacuum in conservative cultural politics left by the collapse of the Christian right. Ben Shapiro seems less a “cool-kid’s philosopher” than the new Billy Graham, whose death, incidentally, was mentioned not even a handful of times from the main stage during the conference.

These kinds of shifts are ultimately what makes CPAC, despite its circus-like atmosphere, important to follow. It remains a critical part of the conservative movement’s infrastructure, too. Thousands of young people and potential donors are funneled into various organizations and causes. Young activists are trained; there is a well-attended job fair. The question of whether Trumpism and the forces it has unleashed on the right will have a shelf-life beyond Trump—of whether the chaos can be organized—will be settled, in large part, here. It ultimately depends on how well those changes take within the think tanks and campus groups and publications and nonprofits that fill their ranks and coffers from the conference’s annual attendees. Apart from the Charen flare-up, the transition so far has been largely seamless. The NeverTrumpers and whatever “principled” religious conservatives are left in the movement have self-deported. The kids, the Sheriff Clarkes and Gorkas, Hannity and company—CPAC is their party now. So too is the GOP.

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