Saturday, October 31, 2020

Trump in a dumpster but still at war with America

Quote of the Day:Madame Tussauds waxwork museum in Berlin threw its statue of Trump into a dumpster in preparation for a new president.” - Reported by Heather Cox Richardson.

Denialism, Dishonesty, Deflection: The Final Days of the Trump Campaign Have It All writes Susan B. Glasser in the New Yorker. The President is ending his reĆ«lection bid with scandals that call into question the legitimacy of next week’s vote.

No one wants to admit it, but in Washington, D.C., the election might as well be over—except for the what-if-the-polls-are-wrong jitters, which are real and have been the stuff not just of nightmares but of all-day worrying since Donald Trump’s 2016 upset. Still, there are post-election plans to be made, lobbying strategies to be gamed out, Cabinet positions to speculate about. The election forecasters at The Economist currently give Joe Biden a ninety-six-per-cent chance of winning the Electoral College. According to the political Web site FiveThirtyEight, the former Vice-President has an only slightly more circumspect eighty-nine-per-cent chance. The Cook Political Report has moved Texas into the tossup category—Texas, which has not gone Democratic since Jimmy Carter, in 1976. No wonder the rumors are rife about Biden’s White House, about who will get what job and why. Will Susan Rice, a surprise finalist for Vice-President, be tapped as Secretary of State? Is Ron Klain a lock for White House chief of staff? On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was “very confident” that Biden will win, and spent her weekly press conference outlining her governing agenda for the new Administration, from instituting green infrastructure policies to lowering the cost of prescription drugs. …

What if the polls are right—and Trump still wins? The election may be over, but the counting is not. His path to victory through the Electoral College may rest with only a few states where Election Night results are ambiguous enough that Trump could question them and, instead, pursue a win via friendly Republican state legislatures and the pro-Trump Supreme Court. Trump has already spent months laying the groundwork for this, preĆ«mptively attacking the “rigged” election, baselessly suggesting widespread voter fraud in the use of mail-in ballots, and authorizing lawsuits to push for as many restrictive conditions on voting as possible in key states. An American President attacking American democracy in advance of an election has simply never been seen before. But he continues to do it every day, in the final run-up to November 3rd. Whatever the election’s outcome, this is already one of the greatest political scandals of our time, and a lasting blot on Trump’s record.

In many ways, the whole Trump Presidency can be encapsulated in the past few days and weeks. It is self-dealing, denialism, dishonesty, and deflection. It is narcissism, recklessness, and disregard for the public good—and for democracy itself. There is nothing and no one he has not corrupted—or tried to. Even the remaining uncertainty about the election’s outcome is a product of Trump’s cynical, self-serving, and dangerous assault on the political system. Washington can read the polls, but after four years there’s still no poll that can fully account for this President. Folks, it ain’t over till it’s over.

Writing in the October 30, 2020 edition of Letters from An America, Heather Cox Richardson describes some ways that Trump and his sycophants plan to game the system and steal the election.

The polls at the popular political website FiveThirtyEight favor Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are not out of the running. Every poll shows Biden far ahead of Trump in the popular vote, but because of our Electoral College system, the president could still win reelection. Virtually no one is suggesting that Trump could win the popular vote, and his campaign’s plan is simply to get enough Democratic votes thrown out in swing states that he can win those electoral votes and clinch the election. Never before in our history has a candidate openly planned to win an election by gaming the system, but here we are.

The motivation for such games is clear:

Some stories from the past are continuing despite the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today he would not take up a coronavirus relief bill until January. He also told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he had every intention of continuing to confirm judges, despite the Senate’s traditional practice of stopping judicial confirmations at some point during an election year. “We’re going to run through the tape. We go through the end of the year, and so does the President,” he said. “We’re going to fill the 7th Circuit. And I’m hoping we have time to fill the 1st Circuit as well.” “We’re going to clean the plate, clean all the district judges off as well,” …

Turning the corner
Peter Steiner via Jonathon V. Last

For all of the attention on the election, the top story remains the coronavirus, which is infecting Americans and killing us at an alarming rate. Today we broke a terrifying record: the U.S. had more than 100,000 new infections. In all but a handful of states, the virus is spreading unchecked. A scathing new report from a congressional panel chaired by Jim Clyburn (D-SC) calls the administration’s response to the pandemic “among the worst failures of leadership in American history.”

As Glasser noted, “There is nothing and no one he has not corrupted—or tried to. ” Now he’s after the medical personnel who risk everything in performance of attempts to save lives.

The coronavirus story is also the story of the election, as Trump and his supporters insist those eager to combat the pandemic are simply trying to hurt the president. Trump complains bitterly of the attention media is giving to “covid, covid, covid,” and today told people attending his rally in Michigan that doctors are exaggerating the threat of coronavirus because they get paid more if a cause of death is listed as Covid–19. The American Medical Association released a statement saying “The suggestion is a… malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided charge.” It pointed out that doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are risking their lives daily to try to defeat the virus.

And after all these stories from the past, a story from the future: today Madame Tussauds waxwork museum in Berlin threw its statue of Trump into a dumpster in preparation for a new president.

Friday, October 30, 2020

GOPlins REALLY don't like debates - and that could be trouble for Georgia's senator

Perdue becomes the latest Senate Republican to balk at a debate reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). For many of these candidates, the calculus is simple: would participating in a debate make them appear worse than refusing to debate?

This year’s U.S. Senate races have produced plenty of memorable debates. One of my personal favorites came a couple of weeks ago in Iowa, when Theresa Greenfield (D) faced incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in a debate, and both were presented with an agricultural pop quiz. Greenfield aced the test; Ernst did not.

That one was fun. One of the two candidates knew he price of soy beans and the other did not. And that in a deeply agricultural state!

But perhaps even more dramatic was a debate in Georgia this week, in which Jon Ossoff (D) humiliated incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R) – more than once. The two were scheduled to meet again for another debate last night, but that didn’t happen.

Ossoff tweeted that Perdue cancelled their final debate, adding that at last night’s debate Perdue had, “no answers when I called him out on his record of blatant corruption, widespread disease, and economic devastation.” Perdue’s spokesman John Burke confirms that the incumbent senator did cancel the debate, but says it’s because President Donald Trump will be in the state campaigning and Perdue intends to be by his side.

Sure. Whatever you guys say.

More details of the Ossoff/Perdue debate are below.

What’s just as notable, however, is the familiarity of these circumstances. In Mississippi’s U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) declared two weeks ago that she won’t debate former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (D). “The only people interested in debates are reporters and losing candidates,” the Republican argued.

In Alabama, incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D) has said he’s eager to debate Tommy Tuberville (R), a former college football coach and failed hedge-fund manager, but the Republican challenger has refused to share a stage with the senator. (Tuberville has also avoided questions from journalists and generally avoids public appearances. He’s favored to win anyway.)

In Louisiana, incumbent Sen. Bill Cassidy (R), at least as of a few days ago, ruled out debating Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins (D), too.

And in Michigan, incumbent Sen. Gary Peters (D) has offered to debate challenger John James (R), but the Republican’s campaign has raised concerns about the terms and proposed formats.

For many of these candidates, the calculus is simple: would participating in a debate make them appear worse than refusing to debate? The answer is apparently obvious. Just as Georgia’s David Perdue.

Update: While we’re on the subject, it’s also worth noting that in Kansas’ surprisingly competitive U.S. Senate race, Rep. Roger Marshall (R) was invited to participate in a debate in Topeka this week, but he refused to show up. When the Republican congressman said he didn’t know about the event, the local NBC News affiliate, KSNT, literally brought the receipts to refute his claims.

Second Update: A reader emails to remind me that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently skipped a debate, too.

Ossoff’s hard-hitting Georgia Senate debate performance goes viral, for good reason writes Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos Staff.

Jon Ossoff and Sen. David Perdue debated on Wednesday night, and Ossoff was pulling absolutely no punches, calling Perdue a “crook” to his face. The debate came days before the election and with Ossoff narrowly leading in many polls—though often below the 50% mark that Georgia law requires to avoid a runoff—and Ossoff had clearly decided not to play it safe and bland.

That “crook” comment came as Ossoff talked about Perdue’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying: “Perhaps you would have been able to respond properly to the COVID–19 pandemic if you hadn’t been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading. It’s not just that you’re a crook, senator, it’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent.”

You did say COVID–19 was no deadlier than the flu. You did say there would be no significant uptick in cases,” Ossoff continued. “All the while you were looking over your own assets and your own portfolio, and you did vote four times to end protections for preexisting conditions. Four times. And the legislation that you tout—the Protect Act—it includes loopholes that specifically allow insurance companies to deny policies to Georgians with preexisting conditions. Can you look down the camera and tell the people of this state why you voted four times to allow insurance companies to deny us health coverage because we may suffer from diabetes or heart disease or asthma or have cancer in remission. Why, senator?”

That clip (watch here) has gone viral, drawing over 6 million views and counting. But there was another important moment in which Ossoff took it right to Perdue, too.

“You’ve continued to demean yourself throughout this campaign with your conduct,” Ossoff said, addressing Perdue. “First, you were lengthening my nose in attack ads to remind everybody that I’m Jewish. Then when that didn’t work, you started calling me some kind of Islamic terrorist. And then when that didn’t work, you started calling me a Chinese communist. It’s ridiculous, and you shouldn’t do everything that your handlers in Washington tell you to, ‘cause you’ll lose your soul along the way, senator. What the people of Georgia deserve is a serious discussion of economic relief for Georgia families and how we’re going to protect coverage for preexisting conditions.”

That’s going to leave a mark—and check out Perdue’s face during both of those moments.

Possible new role for Trump - loser.

As Election Day nears, Trump ponders becoming one thing he so despises: A loser. Here is one item from that Washington Post story.

Biden, who has eschewed large rallies for smaller events, has sought to contrast his approach to the pandemic with Trump’s.

During a speech Wednesday in Wilmington, Del., Biden referenced a Trump rally in Omaha at which thousands of supporters were left stranded waiting for buses in near-freezing weather. He called it “an image that captures President Trump’s whole approach to this crisis.”

"He gets his photo op, and then he gets out,” Biden said. “He leaves everyone else to suffer the consequences of his failure to make a responsible plan. It seems like he just doesn’t care much about it. And the longer he’s in charge, the more reckless he gets.”

You think this is bad? Try Trump II - another four years.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

After Omaha rally, Trump takes off leaving thousands stranded in sub-freezing weather

There are two parts to this story so read the whole thing.

(Part 1) Newsweek reports that Omaha Trump Rally Attendees Stranded, Several Taken to Hospital Suffering Hypothermia.

Backers of President Donald Trump were left stranded overnight, with several taken to hospital for hypothermia after an Omaha campaign rally ended in chaos.

Hundreds were bussed in to the Eppley Airfield site, leaving their cars in parking lots, but were left wandering up to four miles in the cold after coaches failed to pick them up.

“President Trump took off in Air Force One 1 hr 20 minutes ago, but thousands of his supporters remain stranded on a dark road outside the rally,” CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny tweeted at 10:21 p.m. CDT.

President Trump took off in Air Force One 1 hr 20 minutes ago, but thousands of his supporters remain stranded on a dark road outside the rally. “We need at least 30 more buses,” an Omaha police officer just said, shaking his head at the chaotic cluster that is unfolding.

It’s hundreds and hundreds of people who came on buses - forced to park miles away - who were stranded," he wrote.

Thousands turned up to the Make America Great Again rally in Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday night.

Parking at the Trump rally is full," Omaha Police Department tweeted just after 6 p.m.

Shuttles will no longer be transporting people to the event. You will not be able to access the rally by foot, Uber, or any other means of transportation. Parking is not allowed in surrounding neighborhoods, roadways or businesses."

By 9 p.m. the event ended but many faced a 3.7-mile walk from TAC Air to the South Economy parking lot at Eppley.

(Part 2) Blaire Erskine on Twitter reports that a Woman stranded at MAGA rally in Omaha says Trump wanted to teach them a lesson.

What lesson? Who knows. She doesn’t know and it’s “nasty of you to ask”.

Perhaps it has something to do with elderly people passed out and unresponsive. Why so many? If you [media] stopped counting there would not be so many.

That woman summarizes the cultish craziness of Trumpism. Trump does not give a shit about his followers, the woman knows it, but will walk hundreds of miles to hear him anyway.

https://mobile.twitter.com/blaireerskine/status/1321394578952495105/video/1

New ads from the Lincoln Project - and a series of ads featuring Jeff Flake supporting Biden

Quote of the Day: “This year the most conservative thing you can do is to put country over party” Jeff Flake tells conservatives in a series of ads supporting Joe Biden.

In Two New Ads, The Lincoln Project Condemns the Stupidity and Barbarity of the Trump Administration, David Gordon writes at Blog for Arizona.

In two ads released over the last day, the Lincoln Project condemned the stupidity and barbarity of the Trump Administration in its mishandling of the Coronavirus Pandemic and its separation of migrant children from their parents.

The first ad is called “Last Call” and deals with two daughters having their last contact with their dying (from COVID 19) mother with a nurse on a phone call because they can not physically be with her to say goodbye.

The second ad, “Cruel” deals with the Trump Administrations barbaric treatment of separating migrant children from their parents.

The Project mocks Trump by playing his comment at the last Presidential Debate saying the children are “so well taken care of.”

Gordon also reports that Former Senator Jeff Flake stars in Get Out the Vote Ads for Joe Biden.

In three ads with different time allotments that will appear on digital platforms like YouTube, Hulu, and Roku, former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake asks conservatives to vote for Joe Biden by November 3, 2020.

In the one-minute spot, Senator Flake tells the viewers that, since 1984, he has always supported the Republican Candidate for President until this year.

Saying “principle and conscience require him to do just that,” Mr. Flake said he is voting for Joe Biden.

He then encouraged other Republicans to do so, saying:

“Ask yourself. Who will best restore decency and civility to the White House? Who can I be proud to tell my children and grandchildren I voted for… I also know that character, moral leadership and integrity are values that we can not put aside when we cast our vote for President. If we hold on to these values, our country will be better for it and so will our party.”

Flake concludes by relaying:

“Please, don’t let anyone tell you that by casting your vote for Joe Biden, you are somehow not being conservative. This year the most conservative thing you can do is to put country over party. That’s what I’m doing. I hope you will join me.”

The greatest danger to Trump voters is ...

Trump!

Here is some of what Heather Cox Richardson writes in her October 28 edition of Letters from an American.

If the Biden campaign looks strong, news looks less cheery on the Republican side.

First the good news for Trump: today golfer Jack Nicklaus endorsed him—as he did in 2016— warning that “if we want to continue to have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream, and not evolve into a socialist America and have the government run your life,” voters should back Trump. …

Consult the October 27 edition for more on defining socialism - and why most such charges reflect a complete misunderstanding of that term.

That was the day’s high point for Trump. To launch the final week of the campaign, last night the president held a rally at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, in near-freezing temperatures. The campaign bussed attendees to the site from parking lots about three miles away, but when the rally was over and Trump had headed off on Air Force One, the buses could not navigate the crowded road and rally-goers were stranded. By the time the last people were finally rescued, 30 people needed medical attention.

Critics said this negligence showed how little Trump values his supporters but, rather than contradict that impression, the campaign’s national press secretary Hogan Gidley made it worse. This morning, CNN host Alisyn Camerota asked him about the vice president’s campaign events during the pandemic. She asked, “[A]re you at all concerned given that there has been an outbreak in the vice president’s orbit of people around him and that there is currently an outbreak – I mean, hospitals in Wisconsin are near capacity…. [D]oes that give you any pause or the vice president any pause about going there and holding a big rally?” Gidley responded “No, it doesn’t. The vice president has the best doctors in the world around him, they’ve obviously contact-traced and have come to the conclusion it’s fine for him to be out on the campaign trail.”

Ouch.

Today coronavirus continued to spike around the country as we approach 9 million coronavirus cases. More than 20 states have record levels of infection. Today the nation reported 81,181 new cases and 1,016 deaths.

The rising numbers of infections, and how that will delay an economic recovery, drove the stock market down sharply today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 943.24 points, or 3.4%, its worst drop since June.

Understanding Socialism

Heather Cox Richardson explains in her October 27, 2020 edition of Letters from an American.

During her interview with the vice-presidential candidate on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday, journalist Norah O’Donnell asked Senator Kamala Harris if she would bring a “socialist or progressive perspective” to the White House. Harris burst out laughing before she said “no.”

Trump and his campaign surrogates, as well as Republican lawmakers, continue to refer to Democrats as “socialists.” In Florida on Friday, Trump said: “We’re not supposed to have a socialist—look we’re not going to be a socialist nation. We’re not going to have a socialist president, especially a female socialist president, we’re not gonna have it, we’re not gonna put up with it.”

The American obsession with socialism has virtually nothing to do with actual international socialism, which developed in the early twentieth century. International socialism is based on the ideas of political theorist Karl Marx, who believed that, as the working class was crushed under the wealthy during late stage capitalism, it would rise up to take control of the factories, farms, utilities, and so on, taking over the means of production.

Since that time, Americans have cried “socialism” whenever ordinary Americans try to use the government to level the economic playing field by calling for business regulation—which will cost tax dollars by requiring bureaucrats—or for schools and roads, or by asking for a basic social safety net. But the public funding of roads and education and health care is not the same thing as government taking over the means of production. Rather it is an attempt to prevent a small oligarchy from using the government to gather power to themselves, cutting off the access of ordinary Americans to resources, a chance to rise, and, ultimately, to equality before the law.

It is striking that O’Donnell felt it appropriate to ask Harris if she is a socialist—and lots of people apparently think that’s a legitimate question—while no one seems to be asking Trump, who is currently in power, if he’s a fascist.

Fascism is a far-right political ideology born in the early twentieth century. At its heart is the idea of a strong nation, whose people are welded into a unit by militarism abroad and the suppression of opposition at home. While socialism starts from the premise that all members of society are equal, fascists believe that some people are better than others, and those elites should direct all aspects of society. To promote efficiency, fascists believe, business and government should work together to direct production and labor. To make people loyal to the state, fascists promote the idea of a domestic enemy that threatens the country and which therefore must be vanquished to make the nation great. The idea of a hierarchy of men leads to the defense of a dictatorial leader who comes to embody the nation.

Trump has certainly rallied far-right thugs to his side. At his first debate with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, he told the far-right Proud Boys to “stand by,” and last week a study warned that five U.S. states are at risk for election-related armed violence by right-wing terrorists who have already threatened elected officials.

Today, Trump repeatedly attacked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer at his rally in Lansing. Whitmer was a target of right-wing extremists who plotted to kidnap her and put her on trial for “treason,” and she has asked him repeatedly to stop riling up his followers against her. He has also weaponized government police for his own ends, sending them into the streets to bash peaceful protesters in a campaign he insists, in an echo of fascist leaders, will produce “law and order.”

He has certainly behaved as if some Americans are better than others, telling us that we simply must accept more than 225,000 deaths from coronavirus even as we know that those deaths disproportionately hit the elderly and Black and Brown Americans. Over the past week, the U.S has reported more than 500,000 new cases—a record—while Trump claimed credit today for “ENDING THE COVID–19 PANDEMIC.” He uses images of himself as a strongman, insists he has handled his job perfectly, and increasingly uses our public property as props for dramatic videos and photoshoots.

He is purging the public service of career officials and replacing them with loyalists. Recently, he issued an Executive Order stripping public servants of their civil service protections so he can fire those who are insufficiently loyal and fill their posts with cronies. Last night, his hand-picked head of Voice of America, Michael Pack, scrapped a federal regulation giving editorial freedom to the U.S. media outlets under the VOA umbrella. Pack wants editorial control, to turn the public outlet into a mouthpiece for Trump. Former VOA director Amanda Bennett told NPR she was “stunned” at his actions, which remove “the one thing that makes Voice of America distinct from broadcasters of repressive regimes.”

He has set up Muslims and immigrants as scapegoats, and has increasingly threatened Democrats, saying they should not be allowed to win the upcoming election, an election he has threatened to ignore unless he wins.

It’s a frightening list, no?

But for all that, Trump is an aspiring oligarch, rather than a fascist. He has no driving ideology except money and sees the country as a piggy bank rather than as a juggernaut for national greatness. Still, that his drive for power comes from a different place than fascism makes it no less dangerous to our democracy.

Over the next few years, we are going to have to have hard conversations about the role of government in society. Those conversations will not be possible if any Democratic policy to regulate runaway capitalism is met with howls of “socialism” while policies that increasingly concentrate power in a small group of Americans are not challenged for the dangerous ideologies they mimic.

—-

Notes:

https://www.newsweek.com/kamala-harris-video-her-laughing-socialism-questions–60-minutes-has-been-viewed-over–1–1542398

On November 3rd, what if ...

What if Trump loses? Or even loses in a landslide? Already he is on record refusing to agree to a peaceful transfer of power. What if …?

How Far Might Trump Go?. No one is quite sure. The possibilities are myriad and deeply unsettling.

Credits: Thomas B. Edsall writes in the NY Times. Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality. Thanks to Scriber’s Editor at Large Sherry for this tip. I’m sure that there will be more. I’ll break with my usual format and just advise you to read this one for your selves. Here are two samples.

On election night and the days that follow, the country may be in for a roller-coaster ride, with ups and downs that raise and dash expectations, provoking anger and frustration.

Here is a scenario, sketched out by Edward B. Foley, a professor of constitutional law at Ohio State, "The president might attempt to defy even a landslide in the popular vote in battleground states,” Foley writes …

If Trump were to take advantage of chaos on Election Day and in its aftermath to claim victory, there is the near certain prospect of protests that would make this past summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations look mild in comparison.

The Armed Conflict Location Group report warns:

Militia groups and other armed nonstate actors pose a serious threat to the safety and security of American voters. Throughout the summer and leading up to the general election, these groups have become more assertive, with activities ranging from intervening in protests to organizing kidnapping plots targeting elected officials.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

How Trump could exit quietly

Greg Sargent (Washington Post Plum Line) asks Could Trump end up going quietly? He answers with “5 ways that might happen.

No other human being has had a closer-up view of President Trump’s corrupt machinations than Michael Cohen, so when Trump’s former fixer says Trump won’t give up power even if he loses reelection, it’s worth entertaining.

“There will never be a peaceful transition of power under Donald J. Trump,” Cohen told MSNBC on Sunday, adding that Trump is desperate to retain the immunities he enjoys from ongoing legal threats, including possible prosecution for tax crimes.

We already know Trump hopes to prematurely declare himself winner while invalidating millions of mail ballots, which could unleash a sustained post-election struggle.

But if you squint, you can discern various scenarios in which Trump ends up going quietly — or relatively so. Presuming for now that Joe Biden wins, here are five such possibilities:

Biden wins by a landslide. This is the most obvious: Biden wins in a rout so convincing that there is literally no avenue open for Trump to contest or resist it. This might seem a bit more plausible with new polls finding Biden up three points in Texas and up by one point in Georgia.

To be sure, a landslide win is unlikely. Trump is still narrowly favored in Texas and Georgia. But as Harry Enten notes, Biden is closer to winning places like that than Trump is to winning Michigan and Wisconsin, which makes a landslide as plausible as a Trump victory.

If so, there would be no possibility that post-election litigation in, say, Pennsylvania could rescue Trump. And large swaths of Trump’s supporters might accept the inevitable, leaving no support base for holding out.

Biden wins Florida on election night. Because Florida’s voting rules permit mail ballots to be counted well in advance of Election Day, an election night call here is likely.

This means avoiding a scenario in which Trump declares himself winner even as enormous numbers of mail ballots remain outstanding in key states. Since Trump has no plausible path without Florida, it would probably mean a winner is called on election night.

Also: Because Florida has had years of experience using mail balloting, a process often run by Republicans, it will be much harder to contest the result with “voter fraud” lies.

Indeed, Trump himself has praised Florida’s absentee balloting at “Safe and Secure,” because he thinks it will benefit him there (while claiming it’s fraudulent where he thinks it’ll hurt him). Given how corrupt this duality is, it would be poetic justice if this made it impossible for him to contest the results.

Biden wins Arizona and runs strong (enough) in the Rust Belt. Arizona is another state that begins counting mail ballots well before Election Day. As the New York Times notes, it may end up boasting the smoothest election process of any battleground.

If Biden is called winner of Arizona on election night or early the next morning, it might be very apparent early that he’s winning the electoral college. Biden can get to 270 with the states Hillary Clinton won plus Arizona plus only two of the three “blue wall” states Trump swiped. (Even if Biden wins Michigan and Wisconsin but loses Pennsylvania, he gets there with Nebraska’s 2nd District, where he leads).

It’s plausible Biden could be called winner of Arizona even as early tallies in the three “blue wall” states (where mail ballot counting is expected to be slower or more prone to litigation challenge) show that Biden will win at least two of them no matter what happens with those challenges. Republicans would continue litigating, but at this point the real outcome couldn’t be obscured.

Vote-by-mail goes well for Biden in Pennsylvania. Once Amy Coney Barrett is seated on the Supreme Court, Republicans will try again to overrule a lower ruling allowing for the counting of absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day. (They failed when the eight-justice court deadlocked.)

It’s unlikely that will succeed. But either way, early voting has been so explosive in Pennsylvania — nearly 1.5 million people have already voted by mail there — that it’s plausible late-arriving ballots might not be pivotal.

“It does appear that people are returning their ballots sooner than in 2016,” Michael McDonald, who runs the U.S. Elections Project, told me. “It reduces the chance that those late-arriving ballots would be decisive.”

It’s true that in the state, counting might drag out for days after Election Day. And if it’s very close, Republicans might be able to make up the difference through litigation invalidating mail ballots in small numbers.

But the state Supreme Court just ruled that non-matching signatures can’t be used for this, depriving Republicans of a big weapon. And it’s plausible Biden could win by a sizable enough margin that even if litigation does continue, it won’t make the difference. This is even more true if the numbers of late-arriving ballots aren’t big enough to matter.

If Biden is leading in Pennsylvania, it’s hard to imagine him losing Wisconsin or Michigan, meaning he’d be on track to winning the electoral college.

Fox News behaves responsibly. Fox News’s decision desk is one area of the network that’s reportedly immune to pressure from Trump and his propagandists. So it’s plausible that Fox News might call the election against Trump before he and his supporters are willing to surrender.

Fox News-trusting Republicans are overwhelmingly more prone to believe vote-by-mail will be fraudulent. Which means Fox News has played a major role in helping lay the groundwork for Trump to contest the results even if he’s losing.

The flip side is that, if Fox News’s decision desk handles this responsibly, educating viewers about the realities of Trump’s pending loss, it could badly cripple such efforts in the minds of his supporters.

None of this is meant to sound sanguine about avoiding serious bedlam. All kinds of terrible outcomes in the courts remain possible, as does serious violence.

But there are ways this could end with a relative whimper (and a barrage of ALL CAPS tweets) as opposed to something far worse. And there’s one way to make these scenarios more likely: Vote in enormous enough numbers to make them happen.

FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 28

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times. The most recent result is listed first.

Wednesday, Oct 28: Biden wins 89 in 100, Trump wins 11 in 100. The simulation results favoring Biden continue upwards albeit slowly.

Friday, Oct 23: Biden wins 88 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100.

Thursday, Oct 22: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100.

During the past 2 weeks Biden gained 5 points while Trump lost 5 points. You can track that history by clicking on the “more” tag.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Federal judge nixes DOJ's attempt to represent Trump in defamation case

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that a federal Judge blocks DOJ’s gambit in Trump’s E. Jean Carroll case. After a woman accused Trump of sexual assault, he lashed out at his accuser, prompting a defamation case. The DOJ wants to intervene; a judge won’t let it.

Donald Trump’s private legal team have repeatedly tried and failed to make E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit go away. As regular readers may recall, the Justice Department filed court documents last month, declaring its intention to represent the president in the case.

That doesn’t appear to be going well. CNBC reported this morning

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected an effort by the Department of Justice to have the United States government replace President Donald Trump in a lawsuit in which he is accused of defaming writer E. Jean Carroll after she said he raped her in the mid–1990s. The DOJ had argued that Trump was acting in his capacity as a government employee when he said Carroll was lying and motivated by money. Because of that, the DOJ said, the government should be the defendant in Carroll’s civil lawsuit, not the president.

U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the Justice Department’s arguments, clearing the way for Carroll and her attorneys to sue the president for defamation personally.

For those who may need a refresher on the controversy, let’s revisit how we arrived at this point.

Carroll spent years as a prominent writer, media figure, and advice columnist, including having hosted a show on America’s Talking, which later became MSNBC. As regular readers may recall, in June 2019, she also joined a long list of women who’ve accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

Indeed, in a book published last year, Carroll alleged an encounter in a New York department store in the mid–1990s, which the writer described as a violent sexual assault committed by the future president. Though definitively proving or disproving Carroll’s claim is difficult – there is no security footage to review – the writer said she confided in two friends shortly after the alleged incident, telling them at the time what she said occurred. Those friends soon after came forward with on-the-record accounts.

She also wrote in her book, “The Donna Karan coatdress still hangs on the back of my closet door, unworn and unlaundered since that evening.” It’s led Carroll to seek Trump’s DNA as part of her case.

The president has denied the claim, arguing, among other things, that his latest accuser is a “liar” who isn’t his “type.” Following those comments, Carroll sued Trump for defamation. (When the allegations first surfaced over the summer, Trump issued a statement claiming that he’d never met E. Jean Carroll. There is, however, a photograph of the two interacting at an event in the mid–1980s.)

In August, a New York judge rejected the latest in a series of efforts to delay the case, and soon after, the Trump/Barr Justice Department decided to intervene.

In fact, the Justice Department peddled a very strange argument, asserting that the president was “acting within the scope of his office” when he lashed out at the woman who accused him of sexual assault, which meant not only that American taxpayers should pay for Trump’s legal defense, but also that the United States government should be the defendant in the case.

And since the government can’t be sued for defamation, the gambit appeared to be an effort on the part of the Justice Department to make the entire case go away.

Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal described the Justice Department’s position last month as “insane,” adding that DOJ officials “are doing everything they can to appear to be Trump’s personal law firm.”

The judge in the case, not surprisingly, also failed to find the Justice Department’s argument persuasive, concluding that Trump clearly was not acting in his official capacity when he publicly targeted Carroll. “His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States,” Kaplan wrote.

Today’s ruling will very likely be appealed. Watch this space.

Postscript: It’s also worth noting for context that the public was confronted with a recording from 2005 in which Trump was heard bragging about committing sexual assaults. The Republican said that he kisses women he considers attractive – “I don’t even wait,” Trump claimed at the time – which he said he could get away with because of his public profile.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the recording. “You can do anything. Grab ’em by the p***y.”

Among the claims raised by Carroll was an allegation, denied by the president, that Trump “forced his fingers around my private area.”

Why Republicans needed to pack the supreme court

Heather Cox Richardson reviews yesterday’s good, bad, and ugly.

The big news yesterday was the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.

Shortly after the ceremony, Trump released a video of the event with Barrett walking alongside him through the doors of the White House onto a balcony where the two stood for the crowd. It was a triumphant demonstration of Trump’s power, and undermined the illusion that Barrett will be a nonpartisan judge. Traditionally in America, Supreme Court justices keep a distance from political leaders, yet she has just appeared in a campaign commercial for the president.

The thing is, Barrett signaled her intentions in her acceptance speech which seemed more like a campaign ad.

So what we have tonight is the Republican Party under Trump ramming through a third Supreme Court justice who is far out of sync with the vast majority of the American people, an authoritarian ceremony for an election ad, and a sign that partisans are working to steal the upcoming election.

More bad news for Tump and the GOP

The administration is sinking in bad news. It has given up on combatting the coronavirus, which infected 74,323 more Americans today and killed at least 534. Reflecting that the rising infection numbers mean a slower economic recovery, the stock market today had its biggest drop in a month. Financiers are so tired of Trump’s volatility, including his tweets, that they are pouring five times more money behind Biden. Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who admitted the coronavirus policy on Sunday, is so hated that 18 administration officials talked to Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post about him; one White House advisor said “It’s hard to count the ways Meadows has failed as a chief of staff…. It’s been an unmitigated disaster.”

A Trump appointee who chaired the Federal Salary Council overseeing federal pay resigned today in protest over Trump’s recent Executive Order enabling him to fire key federal workers. “[T]he Executive Order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process,” Ron Sanders wrote, “As a matter of conscience, I can no longer serve him or his administration.”

And staffers at the Department of Health and Human Services are openly looking for other jobs. Three of them told Politico’s Dan Diamond that they are voting for Joe Biden. “I’ve never voted for a Democrat for president, but Biden hit the sweet spot. I know he’s not too far left and he understands how to make government work,” one said. "And I know he’ll never make fun of [Anthony] Fauci in public.”

Biden’s campaign, run quietly and steadily, has picked up steam until he is ahead in the polls by about 9 or 10 points nationally, and there is no sign that Trump is closing that gap. Clearly, the president had hoped the malarkey about the Hunter Biden laptop story—which we learned today White House lawyers tried to pitch to the Wall Street Journal before Rudy Giuliani took it to the New York Post– would create the same stampede from Biden that the email laptop story caused from Clinton in 2016, but that stampede has not materialized.

On Sunday, nine days before the election, about 58.6 million Americans had already voted early, more than the total number who voted early or by mail in 2016. Registered Democrats have made up 51% of those votes, while registered Republicans have made up 31%, leading Trump officials to attack the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and to insist that “the huge majority of President Trump’s supporters” were planning to vote on Election Day. But Black Americans, the heart of the Democratic Party, are turning out in huge numbers. “This election is for saving the U.S.” business consultant Dave Richards told CNN’s Faith Karimi.

People like Biden. They think he’s a decent man, who cares about someone other than himself. He has plenty of that old word, fallen into disuse in the last four years: character. He has principles, honor, a work ethic, and he treats people with respect—attributes we should demand in our officials. He has provided detailed plans about how he would address the country’s problems: systemic racism, economic inequality, and coronavirus, among others. At the same time, he offers a positive vision of America, a welcome contrast to Trump’s dark vision of American carnage. Biden constantly repeats that there is nothing Americans can’t do if we do it together.

And that, right there, is why the Republicans needed to pack the Supreme Court.

Two Lincoln Project ads

David Gordon at Blog for Arizona presents two ads from the Lincoln Project.

Please watch the Lincoln Project Ad “Fairy Tale”.

The Lincoln Project Presents its Closing Argument for Joe Biden.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Lincoln Project Times Square ads trigger legal battle - good read.

Ever since a group of former GOP strategists and conservative columnists founded the Lincoln Project, there’s been a steady stream of hard-hitting ads that annoy the Trumpkins to no end. Most recently, the Project has billboards in Times Square that expose Ivanka and Jared as the grifters they are. They struck back with a threat to sue unless the Project takes down the billboards. (Remember that one of Trump’s bullying methods is to sue those who threaten his ego.) Here is the counter punch from the Project’s counsel. Read and form your own conclusions.

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NH Union Leader says Biden 'is the president we desperately need.'

Heather Cox Richardson, in the October 25, 2020 Letters from an American, writes about how the Trump administration has conceded defeat - not that they were ever serious about controlling COVID–19.

While the administration is working to fire up Trump’s base, it is also working to downplay the coronavirus, even as infections continue to rip across the nation. Daily infection numbers are the highest they have ever been during this crisis, with 78,702 new cases reported on Saturday and more than 20 states at record levels of infection. We have had more than 8.5 million infections in the country and have lost almost 225,000 Americans in the official count to Covid–19. Wisconsin has opened a field hospital; Utah is so overwhelmed it is preparing to ration care.

We learned last night that at least five people on the staff of Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for the coronavirus, including Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short. Nonetheless, the vice president is not going to quarantine; he is going to continue to campaign. According to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Pence can travel because he is working and he is “essential personnel.” According to other officials, Meadows was hoping to keep the outbreak out of the news.

Today, Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the administration was “not going to control the pandemic.” Instead, “What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it’s therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don’t die from this.”

Other countries have managed to bring their numbers of infection and death downward, but the White House plan seems to be simply to let the disease take its course. South Korea, with 55 million people, got the disease at the same time we did. It has had fewer than 500 deaths. With our population of about six times theirs– 331 million— we have almost 225,000.

But Trump is trying to demonstrate that all is well by rejecting mask use, holding rallies, and telling people, “It is going away.” He has held nearly three dozen rallies since August, usually at airport hangars, appearing to revel in speaking before crowds. In an investigation, USA Today discovered that, in at least five counties, Covid–19 cases rose after Trump’s rallies. “We are coming around, we’re rounding the turn, we have the vaccines, we have everything,” Trump said in New Hampshire on Sunday. “Even without the vaccines, we’re rounding the turn. It’s going to be over.”

The staunchly conservative New Hampshire Union Leader, from Manchester, New Hampshire, isn’t buying it. Objecting to the president’s dramatic expansion of the national debt by more than “7 TRILLION dollars” (their capital letters), as well as his weaponizing of social media, the editors note that “We may be turning a corner with this virus, but the corner we turned is down a dark alley of record infections and deaths.”

The Union Leader is backing Joe Biden. “We have found Mr. Biden to be a caring, compassionate and professional public servant. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to be a president for all of America, and we take him at his word. Joe Biden may not be the president we want, but in 2020 he is the president we desperately need. He will be a president to bring people together and right the ship of state.”

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The city upon a hill - less shining, more tarnished, hurtling through a darkest hour

Tim Miller, writing at The Bulwark appraises the current state of our shining city upon a hill.

I’m sure many of you have watched Reagan’s powerful farewell address over the years. I’d ask you to do it again.

Because I don’t see how you can look at America in 2020 and believe that we are living up to Ronald Reagan’s call. We are not acting like a city atop a hill standing on rocks stronger than oceans. Nor are we a land teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace.

What I see instead is a country of pilgrims hurtling through the darkness … yearning for home.

I hope we can still find it.

The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the shining “city upon a hill.” The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important, because he was an early Pilgrim - an early “Freedom Man.” He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat, and, like the other pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace - a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.

That’s how I saw it, and see it still. How Stands the City?

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm.

And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

Somehow, I cannot see Donald Trump making anything approaching that speech.

See Miller’s post for a litany of why not.

Trump's nonexistent health plan - a Lincoln Project chronology

As one of the characters in the Mad Max movies put it: “Plan? There ain’t no plan.”

The Lincoln Project takes on Trump’s laughably nonexistent health care plan reports Aldous J Pennyfarthing at Daily Kos.

Donald Trump has been pretending he has a health care plan for at least four years — and it’s usually just two weeks from being unveiled.

He has no health care plan. Never has.

Other than risibly claiming he’s going to protect guaranteed issue for people with preexisting conditions — in the ether, as Joe Biden pointed out last night — he has nothing at all. He reminds me of a mob capo driving his victim out to the Pine Barrens. Yeah, the health care plan is just up ahead. Who’s that in the back seat? Never mind. He’s my girlfriend’s cousin. Don’t worry about it.

Well, The Lincoln Project has noticed, and they put together this comical supercut.

Nearly every substantive promise Trump has ever made has been vaporware. The one big thing he managed to get done — a giant tax cut that went overwhelmingly to the wealthy and big corporations — sucked donkey bits.

There’s zero chance he has a health care plan. …

Why Trump is Finished - but let's crush it. Vote!

Jonathan V. Last in The Bulwark makes the case for Trump finished.

Yesterday morning [Oct 22] I wrote about how the polling data are all lined up in a way that makes logical and numerical sense. I painted the picture of a race where the range of outcomes runs from Biden landslide to narrow Trump win.

But by late afternoon, I saw two pieces of data that changed my mind and I have now settled into a view that, barring some unforeseen event—such as a terrorist attack, or a candidate death—the election is over. You can read my reasoning here; it mostly has to do with the level of turnout that we’re seeing.

(A Trump victory would mean that there was a giant polling error and such errors are more common in low-turnout scenarios. The higher the turnout, the more accurate polls tend to be, because math.)

A lot of readers were uncomfortable with this analysis and worried that I was taking a victory lap prematurely.

So allow me to reassure you that this was not my intent. Let me explain.

Over the last two weeks we published two extraordinary pieces at The Bulwark. One was from James Carville, one of the great political minds of his generation in Democratic politics. The other from Stuart Stevens, who is the same, but from the GOP.

I cannot tell you how proud I am to be associated with an institution where these two men—each brilliant, but each having spent their careers opposing the other—could publicly link arms. This is, literally, what it means to put country over party.

I want to quote each of them to you, as a way to explain why I thought it was important to say—now, out loud—why Trump is finished.

Here’s James:

In just a short time, America will go from its darkest hour to its finest hour.

Very seldom in American history have there been periods when people can nobly wage a crusade to create real and lasting change. But when these crusades do occur, when those moments arrive, what we do to vanquish the threat to freedom builds something everlasting into the framework of our society… .

We find ourselves again at such a turning point. Donald Trump’s authoritarian presence behind the Resolute Desk is amongst the gravest threats America has ever faced from within. And Americans have risen to meet this threat… .

I can say with certainty that in all my years, joining in this crusade to take America back from the brink of destruction is the greatest thing I have ever been a part of in my life.

This crusade is something noble.

And here’s Stuart:

I sense a strange lack of confidence with Democrats, as if they have been juggling eggs for most of a marathon and can’t believe they actually might cross the finish in first place.

In these last two weeks, I would plead with Democrats to change that mindset and banish the timidity. If I ran the Democratic party, here’s what I’d be telling my troops:

We are going to crush Donald Trump and the sickness he represents. There are more of us than there are of them. We are right. They are wrong. This is our moment. This is our destiny. Walk with confidence. Do not falter. Victory will be ours.

Let us go forward in this final stretch with the confidence that our mission is vital and our opponent is weak.

Do not hesitate to swagger. These last two weeks belong to you. Years from now you will look back on these last days as some of the best in your lives. An evil was unleashed in the country you love and you rose to smite it. You will slay this dragon… .

Now is when you turn a victory into a rout. We are all tired, but the other side isn’t just tired. They are frightened and confused. As they should be. Because they are losing the fight for the soul of this country. And they know it.

If you’d permit me to put aside my professional detachment for a moment, I agree with both of these good and honorable men. Completely.

Which is why I thought it was important to say what I thought, out loud, rather than hedging and weaseling and positioning.

He’s going to lose.

New Biden ad narrated by actor Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt Narrates the latest Biden/Harris Ad reports David Gordon at Blog for Arizona.

During Game Four of the 2020 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, the Biden/Harris Campaign released an ad called “Make Life Better,” emphasizing Joe Biden’s commitment to inclusiveness, unity, and his desire to work hard for everyone, including the people who did not vote for him.

The ad is narrated by actor Brad Pitt.

The ad starts with video clips of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nominee meeting the American People on the campaign trail, always smiling, always personable, and always displaying his humanity.

Brad Pitt then starts narrating saying:

“America is a place for everyone. Those who chose this country. Those who fought for it. Some Republicans. Some Democrats. And most, just somewhere in between. All looking for the same thing. Someone who understands. Their hopes. Their dreams. Their pain. To listen. To bring people together. To get up every day and work to make life better for families like yours. To look you in the eye and treat you with respect and tell you the truth. To work just as hard for the people who voted for him as those who didn’t. To be a President for all Americans.”

If you are undecided about voting for another four years of Trump, you must read this NOW

The Washington Post’s Editorial Board warns undecided voters about why Trump’s America in 2024 would be America not at all. Here it is in full with block quotes suppressed. (Thanks to Scriber’s Editor-at-large Sherry.)

MANY PEOPLE may find it hard to understand, but just over a week before the election, some voters remain undecided. To them we would say: A vote for a second Trump term is a vote for an America in decline and an American democracy in danger.

At best, the demise would be gradual — a descent into diminished prosperity, constricted opportunity for your children and grandchildren, waning influence overseas and continued erosion of democratic norms at home.

This is not a matter of conjecture; it is a judgment based on President Trump’s record and promises.

What are the sources of U.S. prosperity — of our ability to generate and enjoy more than 15 percent of the global economy with just over 4 percent of the world’s population? They include a predictable rule of law; a professional civil service; a position as global leader that lets us help set the rules and have the U.S. dollar accepted as the only true international currency; and high, if not world-leading, standards of health care and education.

Also key has been a broadly shared commitment to fairness and equal opportunity, even if we argue ferociously about how to translate that commitment into policy. We have prospered, while other developed nations have begun to stagnate, by attracting talented, entrepreneurial and ambitious immigrants from all over the world. Our commitment to freedom has allowed immigrants and native-born alike to contribute to the fullest extent of their abilities.

Mr. Trump would undermine all of those strengths. He replaces rule of law with presidential whim, picking and choosing corporate favorites and twisting the criminal system to favor his friends. At an accelerating pace, he is politicizing, corrupting and sapping the morale of our government — our foreign service, our health and scientific agencies, our keepers of statistics. Many will hesitate to invest — to build new factories or create new jobs — if law and governmental power become unpredictable, wielded to reward cronies and punish the disfavored.

He craves the approval of autocrats who wish our country ill while abandoning and insulting allies; the latter will not stand by and take his abuse for four more years, while the former will exploit his credulity. Already the United States finds itself humiliatingly isolated on key issues, like relations with Iran. As Mr. Trump fulfills long-held ambitions to undermine alliances with Europe, Japan and South Korea, the United States will be further enfeebled; China, increasingly dominant; the world, ever less stable.

He is in court seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, so that no one with a preexisting health condition could be sure of obtaining insurance; tens of millions of Americans could lose access to health care.He pretends to object only to undocumented immigration, but he has cut legal immigration in half. The most talented scientists and computer engineers of the next generation are choosing Canada, Australia, China — anywhere but Donald Trump’s America.

That America, in Mr. Trump’s vision, is one in which groups are pitted against each other, not encouraged to cooperate. States and cities with Democratic-leaning populations are enemy territory. He is contemptuous of any movement for equal justice and friendly to white supremacists. He has named 56 men and women to the nation’s highest courts—the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. Not a single one is Black.

In Mr. Trump’s America, science and truth are treated with contempt. With his mangled response, the novel coronavirus has claimed more lives here than in any other country, and the pandemic and its accompanying recession could drag on long into a second Trump term. The contempt for science likewise shapes Mr. Trump’s utter failure to respond to climate change. The Earth is ailing; the damage from four more years of regression could be irreparable.

In Mr. Trump’s America, political rivals are traitors who must be prosecuted and jailed. Congressional oversight is an inconvenience that can be ignored and, eventually, suppressed. Journalists seeking to report on his administration are enemies of the people. He welcomes foreign interference to help his campaign, undermines confidence in the election and threatens not to accept its results. If he remains in power, fairly or fraudulently, there is no reason to believe that in a second term Mr. Trump will not act on his authoritarian impulses. His incompetence in government, though real, will be no protection; he has shown himself, in the past year, increasingly adept at evading the checks and balances we thought the Constitution guaranteed.

Finally: Mr. Trump has proven himself, in the covid–19 catastrophe, incapable of leading in crisis. What if the next virus is far more deadly — which health experts say is entirely possible? What if the next emergency involves a risk of nuclear war, given Mr. Trump’s abject failure to rein in the nuclear programs of Iran or North Korea? Can anyone trust him to manage such a challenge, atop an administration from which he has hounded almost all knowledgeable and experienced officials?

As we’ve written before, we believe former vice president Joe Biden well-suited to be president. You, undecided voter, may be less sure; maybe you disagree with some of the policies he espouses — that’s fine. We would simply ask you to weigh your concerns about the unknowns of a Biden presidency against the certain dangers of a second Trump term. On the one hand, a tax, a minimum wage, an energy policy you might not like; on the other, the demise of U.S. democracy, prosperity and global leadership. It shouldn’t be a hard call.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

No October surprise - Wall Street Journal

In The Bulwark morning email, Charlie Sykes predicts that Donald Trump is Finished. Here is one reason why - there is no October surprise, at least no HunterGate.

WSJ vs. WSJ: This. Is. Amazing.

For days, we’ve been hearing that the Wall Street Journal was working on a big investigative piece on Hunter Biden. At first, last night, it looked like it was this opinion piece by Kimberly Strassel that rehashed the details of Hunter’s attempts to launch a business venture in China. But within a few minutes, the Wall Street Journal’s news department weighed in with a dueling article, essentially debunking the whole thing.

Text messages and emails related to the venture that were provided to the Journal by Mr. Bobulinski, mainly from the spring and summer of 2017, don’t show either Hunter Biden or James Biden discussing a role for Joe Biden in the venture.

Mr. Gilliar told the Journal: “I would like to clear up any speculation that former Vice President Biden was involved with the 2017 discussions about our potential business structure. I am unaware of any involvement at anytime of the former Vice President. The activity in question never delivered any project revenue.”

So, to sum up: Hunter may have had some sketchy ideas; the deal never happened; there is no evidence that Joe Biden played any role; and the whole thing happened in 2017, after the former VP had left office.

Pfffffffft.

We can expect continued heavy-breathing from TrumpWorld and self-stroking from the usual suspects in the conservative media, but this is not going to be the October Surprise of Trump’s dreams.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Trump was Trump - and he lost the debate

The Scribers watched the Biden/Trump debate last night. The Trump performance was not as bad as in the previous debate - but that’s a pretty low bar for a particularly low man. He interrupted and frequently spoke over moderator Kristen Welker - who nevertheless managed to enforce a modicum of order. And then he turned to ad hominem attacks on Biden and his family. Here are some other responses.

Frank Bruni, writing at the NY Times, says That’s the Last We Need to Hear From Trump. He was nasty. He was dishonest. Next, please. (Thanks to Editor at Large Sherry for this one.)

It’s funny that everybody talks about Joe Biden as the old jalopy in this race, because on Thursday night in Nashville, it was Donald Trump who seemed to be running on fumes.

I don’t mean physically: He had his full repertoire of facial expressions (cocky, kooky, menacing, martyred) and the usual grating bray. I mean metaphorically. I mean politically.

He needed to show voters something different from what he had been showing them over the course of this wretched year, and he just didn’t have it in him.

He needed to part company with his foul temper, but that’s really the only weather left in him. His calmness during the first third or so of the debate gave way to the usual excitability during the rest of it. He was back to his characteristic grandiosity, his customary falsehoods, his mocking, his taunting.

“We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does,” he pouted. “He has this thing about living in a basement.”

Then, later, addressing Biden directly: “Don’t give me the stuff about how you’re this innocent baby.” What a perfect example of Trump’s habit of assigning his opponents caricatures that apply perfectly to him.

(That’s known as psychological projection,)

For most of the evening, Biden shook his head in disbelief, smiled the way you do at an incorrigible toddler, said less than he could or should have and counted down the minutes until it was all over. …

[Biden’s] message in general and his closing comments in particular were that we’re better than this and that we can move past it. He delivered them just sturdily enough that he probably will get the chance to lead us into our next chapter.

What [Trump] needed on Thursday night was a “Hail Mary,” not a “Biased Lesley,” which was his tack in the hours beforehand, as he pressed an obsessive, unwarranted attack on Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes,” one of the most popular and trusted news shows on American television. That pique and petulance followed him onto the stage in Nashville. While his advisers had urged him to smile more than he usually does, he sneered and scowled as much as he always does.

… what I’ve come to appreciate about Biden is that he’s not claiming greatness, not the way Trump does with just about every breath. He’s claiming steadiness. He’s claiming good intentions. If he wins, he may be the rare president who’s not convinced that he’s the smartest person in every room.

I nodded along with his final remarks, when he said, yet again: “What is on the ballot here is the character of this country: decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity.” He’s right about that. And he’s the right person because of that.

“You know who I am, you know who he is,” Biden said earlier. “Look at us closely.” I don’t need to turn my eyes toward Trump anymore. I’ve seen all that I can take, and I’m long past ready for a different view.

In her October 22, 2020 Letters from an American Heather Cox Richardson has another take on the debate.

The bottom line:“Instant polls gave the debate to Biden by the same margins showing in the polls in general. CNN had Biden at 53% and Trump at 39%; Data Progress had Biden at 52% and Trump at 41%; US Politics had Biden at 52% and Trump at 39%.”

This was not a good day for the president’s reelection campaign. He seemed unable to get over how angry he was at Lesley Stahl from CBS’s 60 Minutes after yesterday’s interview for a special program Sunday evening, and ultimately decided to post on Facebook the video the White House took during it. Trump’s team had said they were recording “for archival purposes only,” and posting the video meant Trump violated his agreement with the network.

Trump seemed to think showing the clip would illustrate how poorly the media treats him, but in fact it shows Stahl behaving professionally, asking solid questions and fact-checking the president, while Trump argues and denigrates her. If the clip was supposed to generate sympathy for him, it backfired.

The debate did him no favors either. Debate moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News was far more effective at keeping control over the debate than the previous two moderators were, especially at first, when the two men appeared to be afraid of her cutting their mics. Trump could not contain himself for long, though, and slipped pretty quickly back into talking over Welker and Biden both. Still, he was far more restrained than he was at the first debate.

More significantly, he made little effort to use his time to connect with voters. He focused simply on badgering Biden and rehearsing the talking points that have become almost set pieces in his performances. They are not entirely comprehensible to someone who is not reading or watching right-wing media, but they are quite shockingly full of lies. And while his language is familiar to his usual audience, it is unlikely to attract new voters, who will likely be confused at best and, possibly, bored after hearing the same phrases for so long.

While Biden, too, strayed from the truth on occasion, CNN fact checker Daniel Dale put it this way: “For a fact checker, you’re kind of sitting there w/Biden. Occasionally you’re like oh that’s wrong. With Trump you’re like the ‘I Love Lucy’ episode in the chocolate factory. You don’t know which one to pick up because there’s just so much.” He noted, “From a lying perspective, Trump is even worse tonight than in the first debate.”

Trump did not make much of a case for his reelection tonight. He seemed to have no plans for what he would like to accomplish in a second term, although he did say he hoped to create a new healthcare plan (he has said repeatedly he already has one). He mocked Biden for talking about the so-called “kitchen table issues” that are important to ordinary voters, and insisted that Biden should have done everything he talks about accomplishing in the future back when he was vice president under President Barack Obama. At one point, Trump talked about what he would do “when I become president.”

For his part, Biden largely ignored Trump’s wild answers and tried to outline his policies, which he described with more detail than clarity, but which were interesting nonetheless because they offered something new when compared with Trump’s rote performance, worn thin by familiarity. Biden had no major slips. Trump pounced on Biden’s declaration that the nation must transition away from oil, instantly responding, “Will you remember that Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?” But Pennsylvania and Ohio produce just a tiny bit of crude oil—they are both primarily natural gas states—and Trump’s identification of Texas and Oklahoma was a self-own. He is worried about carrying Texas and Oklahoma?

Most telling was that Trump was unprepared for Welker’s final, excellent but softball question: if they were to be elected, what would they say on Inauguration Day to voters who did not support them. Trump claimed that rebuilding the economy “to make our country totally successful as it was prior to the plague coming over from China” would bring Americans together, and then pivoted to attacking Biden, warning that if he were elected, “you will have a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen.”

Biden, though, recognized that Welker had deliberately lobbed them the opportunity to make a final pitch to voters. He promised to represent all voters, not just those who voted for him, and promised to put “science over fiction” and “hope over fear.” “We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities, enormous opportunities to make things better,” he said. “We can grow this economy, we can deal with the systemic racism, and at the same time we can make sure that our economy is being run and moved and motivated by clean energy creating millions of new jobs. That’s the fact.”

On the ballot this year, he said, are “Decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance, and I’m going to make sure you get that.”

FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 23

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times. The most recent result is listed first.

Friday, Oct 23: Biden wins 88 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. The simulation results seem to have stabilized during the past week.

Thursday, Oct 22: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. The simulation results seem to have stabilized during the past week.

During the past 2 weeks Biden gained 5 points while Trump lost 5 points. You can track that history by clicking on the “more” tag.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 22

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times. The most recent result is listed first.

Thursday, Oct 22: 18: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. The simulation results seem to have stabilized during the past week.

During the past 2 weeks Biden gained 5 points while Trump lost 5 points. You can track that history by clicking on the “more” tag.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Biden has 'sizable cash advantage', Bloomberg investing $100M in Florida

Kerry Eleveld, Daily Kos Staff, reports that Trump’s final ad buy shows just how broke his campaign really is.

On a call Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien revealed the campaign’s total ad buy for the last two weeks of the presidential race would be a whopping a paltry $55 million … split between no fewer than 11 states.

Um, just wow. And that’s not only the Trump campaign, it represents coordinated spending with the Republican National Committee (RNC) too. Far from being a muscular way to close out the race, it feels more like a cry for help. By comparison, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said last week that she still anticipates raising another $234 million through the election.

What is perhaps most interesting in these final weeks is just how small Trump is playing even as Team Biden has played very big—and not just in terms of overall spending. As this Politico piece explains, the Biden campaign has seen so many paths to 270 open up that in some cases they realized it would be more cost effective to make national buys rather than spending astronomical amounts in smaller battleground markets. It’s a worth a read.

Under normal circumstances, most campaigns at this point would be making buys to leverage their position in 10 or even fewer states. But the Biden campaign realized that making some national buys through the networks would actually cost only slightly more, for instance, than purchasing air time in states with major Senate races like Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia, where pricing had gone through the roof. The big upside of the national buys was that they had the advantage of not only reaching the desired markets in key battlegrounds but also establishing a Biden presence in states that were newly on the radar, like Texas.

“We are looking at a very wide map right now,” Becca Siegel, the Biden campaign’s chief analytics officer, said. “Normally at this stage of the campaign, we would be narrowing in. But at this stage of the campaign, we have a lot of pathways that have opened up.”

So as Trump closes out with a whimper, Biden is heading out with a roar, and his sizable cash advantage has made all that possible.

Bloomberg Says He’ll Spend $100 Million in Florida to Help Biden. The move came as polls show a tight race in Florida, and after criticism that the New York billionaire had not delivered on his promise to put his fortune behind defeating President Trump. (Updated Sept. 18, 2020)

That distribution of funds will free up Biden campaign funds for investing in other critical states. For example:

… Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, had told Democrats privately that if Mr. Bloomberg were not the nominee he would form a new super PAC and mount an enormous effort against Mr. Trump in the country’s biggest swing states.

The new $100 million commitment in Florida will be routed through one of Mr. Bloomberg’s super PACs, Independence USA, as well as other Democratic groups, according to a spokeswoman. The effort is expected to emphasize communications with Hispanic voters, the spokeswoman said.

In a statement issued Sunday, Mr. Sheekey said Mr. Bloomberg’s latest commitments “will mean Democrats and the Biden campaign can invest even more heavily in other key states like Pennsylvania, which will be critical to a Biden victory.”

Trump in Tucson - false coronavirus claims and sexist insult to GOP Sen. McSally

Tim Steller’s opinion: In Tucson, Trump sends erroneous signal the pandemic is over. Actually, Trump blared self-agrandizing bullsh!t. The pandemic is not over. Here are some observations from Steller.

A recent Centers for Disease Control study on Arizona showed how the state’s COVID–19 cases spiked after emergency measures were lifted in mid-May, then dropped sharply after cities and counties started imposing mask requirements in mid-late June.

Before that improvement, we had scary weeks of June and July, when cases surged and our hospitals overflowed. Then after the mask mandates took effect, the positivity rate for diagnostic tests dropped sharply.

We had a manageably low positivity rate of about 4% for five consecutive weeks, from late August to early October. But then the rate rose to 6% the second week of October and 8% the third week.

The “Rt,” a measure of effective spread that the governor’s office frequently cited in July and August when it was low, has risen in Arizona to about 1.10, meaning the spread is accelerating here now.

And that means more deaths.

Sen. Martha McSally was another target of Trump’s invective.

In Prescott, introducing Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, Trump also said something intriguing about Ward: “She would have been, if she didn’t have three, four people running at the same time, she would have been your senator. I hate to say it. She would have been your senator.”

The comment was a slight to McSally, who defeated Ward in 2018 to win the Republican nomination. McSally went on to lose the general election to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. He was also probably wrong — it’s unlikely Ward would have done better than McSally against Sinema. (After McSally’s loss, Ducey appointed her to Arizona’s other Senate seat after John McCain died.)

Perhaps Trump is seeing the polls that show McSally losing to Kelly and preemptively distancing himself. Or maybe he didn’t like it when McSally wouldn’t answer directly a question about whether she was proud of her support for Trump during a senatorial debate.

Paul Ingram at the the Tucson Sentinel covers Trump’s sexist denigration of McSally, Trump blasts Biden and praises border wall at Tucson rally.

Trump pauses to praise Arizona politicians

During his speech, Trump praised Gov. Doug Ducey, and Sen. Martha McSally, who he said is “saving your Second Amendment.”

“She’s been a great, great senator,” he said. And, then he pointed to her, “Martha, come here, honey.” McSally briefly took the stage as Trump continued, “She has been a great, great senator and just go out and vote for Martha McSally. Save your Second Amendment, save your Second Amendment.”

“Thank you, darling,” he said, and McSally left the stage.

“She’s done a great job, she’s a worker, and a great fighter pilot,” he said. “They told me all about her, the other pilots, they said she was a great fighter pilot.”

What might explain his insulting, sexist barbs at a senator from his own party (McSally) and from a state he needs to win (Arizona)? Try this. Trump is on record insulting another GOP senator (McCain) saying he does not respect “losers.” As of today, October 21, McSally is losing to Democratic challenger Mark Kelly.

FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 21

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times. The most recent result is listed first.

Wednesday, Oct 21: 18: Biden wins 88 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. The simulation results seem to have stabilized during the past week.

Monday, Oct 19: Biden wins 88 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Sunday, Oct 18: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100, a point down. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized. That probability seems locked in for now so I will only post again if there is some change.

Friday, Oct 16: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized.

Thursday, Oct 15: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized.

Wednesday, Oct 14: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, Oct 13: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Monday, Oct 12: Biden wins 86 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Friday, Oct 9: Biden wins 85 in 100, Trump wins 14 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Wednesday, Oct 7: Biden wins 83 in 100, Trump wins 17 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, Oct 6: Biden wins 82 in 100, Trump wins 17 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Post-election prospects for Trump - 'Maybe I'll have to leave the country.'

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports Facing possible defeat, Trump ponders ‘leaving the country’. “Maybe I’ll have to leave the country,” Trump said. It’s likely this was a clumsy attempt at humor, though it’s a curious thing for him to joke about.

It’s become a strange running joke at Donald Trump’s campaign rallies: the president keeps telling audiences that they’ll never see him in their home state again if he loses the 2020 race. At a recent event in Iowa, for example, the Republican said if he comes up short in the Hawkeye State, “I may never have to come back here again…. I’ll never be back.” He used the same line in Minnesota, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina.

But campaigning in Georgia on Friday night, Trump used a new line for the first time.

“Could you imagine if I lose? What am I going to do? … I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.”

It’s likely this was a clumsy attempt at humor, though it’s a curious thing for the president to joke about.

For one thing, Trump has spent several years embracing a performative patriotism, surrounding himself with American symbols as a way to demonstrate love of country. But his apparent joke in Georgia suggests the Republican has actually adopted a conditional patriotism: Trump loves the United States, and plans to stay here, just so long as he believes enough of the electorate loves him back.

What’s more, the president weighing the possibility of “leaving” his own country raises notable questions about extradition. As New York’s Jon Chait noted over the weekend, “He faces serious legal jeopardy by prosecutors in Manhattan and New York State for what seems to be, on its face, fairly cut-and-dried criminal fraud in his private business dealings. It is also possible that, having left office, prosecutors may turn over some rocks and discover more criminal behavior as president of the United States. (The Department of Justice has a policy of not charging the president with crimes, but that expires if he leaves office.)”

But it’s also worth emphasizing that for all of Trump’s bravado, chest-thumping, and dubious confidence about an overwhelming 2020 victory, it’s likely the president is talking this way because he’s slowly coming to terms with the fact that his defeat is a distinct possibility.

As he confronts increasingly long odds, Trump is apparently thinking less about changing his electoral strategy and more about where he might go after Election Day.

Mad King Trump heads toward the bottom with attempted bribery and expressed vulgarity

Heather Cox Richardson reports on the Mad King’s latest Journey Off the Rails in the October 19, 2020 Letters from an American.

The biggest story, by far, remains coronavirus. While we are all understandably buffeted by the craziness of politics these days, no historians will ever write about this election without noting that over it hangs the pall of more than 220,000 Americans dead of Covid–19 and more than 8 million infected, and that numbers, once again, are rising. Today the U.S. had 58,387 new cases, along with at least 445 deaths.

After Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and, theoretically anyway, an adviser to the White House, was quoted on CBS’s 60 Minutes last night criticizing the administration’s response to coronavirus, Trump attacked him this morning in a conference call with staff to which reporters had been invited. “Fauci is a disaster,” Trump said. “If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths." Later he increased that number to 700,000 or 800,000. “People are tired of Covid,” he said. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”

In Prescott, Arizona, this afternoon, Trump expanded on this idea. He told the crowd: “They are getting tired of the pandemic, aren’t they? You turn on CNN, that’s all they cover. ‘Covid, Covid, Pandemic, Covid, Covid.’ You know why? They’re trying to talk everybody out of voting. People aren’t buying it, CNN, you dumb bastards.”

Just in case you missed it, as Trump coninues to lose more and more in the polls, his demeanor and language becomes less and less presidential.

Indeed, we are all tired of it, but as cases are surging and hospitals and medical staff again appear to be on the verge of being overwhelmed with cases of Covid–19, a majority of Americans trust Fauci’s cautious advice more than we trust that of the White House, which is embracing the idea of simply letting the disease spread to try to create immunity. Trump’s final push for reelection centers on holding in-person rallies, trying to illustrate that there is nothing to fear from the disease and that the country needs to get back to normal despite it.

The Exxon bribe: “it never happened”

Trump’s anger at Fauci seems to be part of his general anger these days, seemingly sparked by the polls that show him trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. He is using his rallies both to express his grievances and to boast of his own power. Today, in Prescott, he boasted “I call the head of Exxon. I’ll use a company. ‘How, how are you doing, how’s energy coming? When are doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh?’ But I call the head of Exxon, I say, ‘you know, I’d love you to send me $25m for the campaign.’” This sort of a bribe—the official term is quid pro quo—is illegal. Exxon promptly clarified: “We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO… and just so we’re all clear, it never happened.”