Archive for October, 2016

The Three Ironies of Trump

Friday, October 14th, 2016

double-standards-illo

Trump has been talking about Bill Clinton’s infidelities and his alleged predation of women since the start of his campaign.

After his poor showing in the first debate, he brought it up again. He promised to respond to Clinton’s use of a former Miss Universe with a no-holds-barred expose on Bill Clinton’s history.

Then the famous “lewd” tape broke which caused him to double-down on his attack on Hillary in an effort to deflect attention away from his outrageous statements.

Prior to the debate, Trump had a Facebook live event featuring three women who claimed they had been assaulted, or in one case raped, by Bill Clinton. There was also a fourth woman who blamed Hillary for defending the man who raped her when she was 12.

Trump made a big deal of the treatment that these women had received from the Clinton’s in particular and the media in general.

At the debate, Trump said that his claims of sexual assault was just talk. He said had never assaulted anyone. That wasn’t the best answer because it simply invited women to report their past experiences with Trump. This past week we’ve seen the count of women reporting Trump assaults rise to 10. The famous Hollywood feminist attorney, Gloria Allred, is now involved. She issued a public offer to take the cases of any other women who were victims of Trump’s assaults. We can probably expect the list of assault claims to grow daily pretty much up through the election.

Fact-Check Fatigue
Trump has said he was going to publicize information which would support his claims of innocence. But the sheer number of women coming forward is going to make it difficult for his “fact checking” to keep up. The first irony is that at least in this case, Trump is suffering from the same fact-check fatigue that has been a basic part of his strategy. The sheer volume of his lies has made it difficult for the fact-checkers and the public to keep up. Now he is faced with exactly the same challenge.

The Real Bill Cosby
Trump’s campaign manager predicted they were going to turn Bill Clinton into Bill Cosby. They were successful in attracting the attention of the attorney who helped make the case against Bill Cosby. The second irony is that Gloria Allred plans to make her case against Donald Trump.

The Real Donald Trump
The final irony is Trump’s response his accusers.

He attacked them with fury and intensity.

These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false. … They’re pure fiction, and they’re outright lies. These events never, ever happened and the people said them meekly, fully understand. You take a look at these people, you study these people, and you’ll understand also. The claims are preposterous, ludicrous and defy truth, common sense and logic. We already have substantial evidence to dispute these lies, and it will be made public in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time very soon. …

Last night we hear that after 12 years — this took place 12 years ago, this story — a new claim that I made inappropriate advances during the interview to this writer [Stoynoff, reporting for People magazine] and I asked a very simple question: Why wasn’t it part of the story that appeared 12 years ago? … These people are horrible people. They’re horrible, horrible liars. And interestingly, it happens to appear 26 days before our very important election, isn’t that amazing?

On the other hand, here’s how Trump described his rescue of the women who accused Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton’s accusers “have been trying to get their feelings out for so long, and the media wouldn’t take it. One thing with me, the media takes it. Whatever. So they were able to get what they wanted to get out. To quote Juanita Broaddrick, ‘Hillary Clinton threatened me after Bill Clinton raped me.’ She’s been struggling to get the media to pay attention to her for many, many years. So last night, I decided we would expose the hypocrisy of the Clintons and the media and our politicians to the entire world.”

And from the Wash Post.

For most of this past week, Trump advocated for accusers of Bill Clinton. He said it was “very beautiful and very sad” to hear their stories. He blamed Hillary Clinton for attacking the women and discrediting them — even though her criticism was directed toward the “vast right-wing conspiracy” by Republicans, whom she said started rumors about Lewinsky, rather than against Lewinsky herself. He made no reference to how the allegations were made in the 1990s, or that some of the alleged attacks date as far back as four decades — and that the women waited years to make their claims.

This past week, Trump faced exactly the same situation that Bill and Hillary faced in 1998. Women from years ago started making embarrassing claims about past behavior and directly contradicting his public claim that he had not engaged in the behavior he had described on tape.

How did Trump react?

Similar to Hillary Clinton, he blamed a vast left wing conspiracy. That conspiracy included the “Clinton machine”, the New York Times, and the Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim who happens to have an investment in the New York Times. He said “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends and her donors.”

Unlike Clinton, he attacked the media for printing these claims. This is the same media that he had previously attacked for NOT giving the Clinton accusers sufficient attention.

Unlike Clinton, he personally and publicly attacked the honesty of all of his accusers calling them “horrible, horrible liars”.

Unlike Clinton, he threatened legal action.

Unlike Clinton, he suggested that some of these women were lying because they weren’t sufficiently attractive for him to consider assaulting them.

Unlike Clinton, he questioned why these women had not come forward sooner.

The answer to the last question is obvious. Why would any woman want to subject herself to this sort of public abuse after already being the victim of such private assault? The reason, over and over again, that these women have shared for overcoming their fear is that Trump’s denial on national TV was the last straw.

It should also be the last straw for any thoughtful person. Whether these women are telling the truth or not does not justify the treatment that they received. This behavior is NOT NORMAL. It is not acceptable. This is not the sort of behavior that gets rewarded with a trip to the White House. This is the sort of behavior that must be repudiated in a dramatic and public way. Trump’s loss must be a bold and bright warning to every person who even considers sexual assault.

Sexual assault is not acceptable under any circumstances. Not at home. Not at work. Not at the bar. Not on an airplane. Nowhere. Never.

Shaming the victim is also not acceptable. We have an innocent until proven guilty legal system, but proof in the court of public opinion should not fall on the victim.

This now becomes another test for those who contemplate a public career. They have to make sure that aren’t women in their past. If there are, they must first make it right before asking for anyone else’s vote.

If that’s what comes of this election. If that is the lasting legacy of electing the first woman president. If this is the reward the nation receives in return for enduring Trump’s candidacy, then maybe it was worth it.

Trump Couldn’t Care Less

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

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By now everyone on earth knows that Trump sometimes behaves like a pubescent middle school jerk.

His excuse is that this sort of stuff goes on in places where men gather all the time. As a man who has spent a lot of time in locker rooms from my youth to the present day, I can testify that many men tire of these conversations as we grow older. About the time that we become parents or uncles, we appreciate the hurt that objectification can cause. We choose not to associate with those men who remain focused on their own desires. We certainly don’t encourage it, as Billy Bush did. But some men never grow up. Trump appears to be one. The significant difference is that 12-year old boys are talking about what they would like to do. 70-year old billionaire celebrities have the power to live out their adolescent fantasies.

He said it was all talk. No harm was done. He didn’t actually do any of the things that he claimed he did on that video. He admitted that it was a mistake. He asked voters to forgive him and move on.

What moving on in this case means is criticizing perhaps the highest profile woman in US politics today who happens to be his opponent — Hillary Clinton.

The primary point of attack is Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State. This particular incident has been thoroughly investigated by both the Congress and the FBI. No charges were filed. Clinton admitted that it was a mistake. She said that no harm was done to anyone. She apologized for her mistake and has asked voters to move on.

Trump has built his campaign on the claim that Clinton did something illegal.Unbiased fact checkers dispute that claim. So I’m not going to dwell on the details of his false claims. They appear to motivate his base and they certainly are doing damage to the whole political process.

Hopefully the hypocrisy of these similar requests for forgiveness is obvious.

But there is more here that needs to be discussed.

That’s the claim against Clinton that her email use was an arrogant disregard for the law. That perceived arrogance is what fuels the deep distrust and even hatred of many Trump supporters.

Trump’s claims regarding this tape, whether true or not, also reveal an arrogant disregard not only for the law, but also for the dignity and respect that all women deserve just because of our common humanity.

Trump blames his actions on the way that beautiful women make HIM feel. He can’t resist the urge to go up and kiss them. What’s worse, there are many documented incidents where he has done just that. He has a pattern. People with OCD who also struggle with impulse control have behaviors that they repeat over and over again. Trump’s pattern involves consuming a breath mint so that his breath will not offend prior to “stealing” a kiss. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that it isn’t his breath that is offensive. It’s his assumption that every woman would welcome that sort of unsolicited embrace. This is the core of his arrogance. He can’t imagine why a woman would object.

He feels that his process of rating women based on their appearance is a complement to those at the top of his scale. He fancies himself as a connoisseur of beauty. But if a woman fails his test, or worse yet, objects to being treated that way, then he feels entitled to demean her in every way imaginable. Worse, he feels no remorse because, in his own words, they deserved it. They deserve it for their failure to “take care of themselves”, or their gall to reject him.

Some of his comments about groping women reveal another dimension to his delusion. Women allow themselves to be groped because he is powerful.

In Trump’s mind, his ability to assault them without consequence is part the privilege that he has earned as a star and a billionaire. Even if this were true, and women did allow those with that sort of power to fondle them without complaint — what sort of man would take advantage of this power?

That’s the difference between Trump and Clinton.

Clinton has used her power and position to protect her private life from those who would seek to use that information to attack her. She uses her power to defend herself and her family from powerful men like Trump who have attacked her from her earliest days in politics. As the first woman to be nominated by a major party for the most powerful political office in the country, she has had to confront sexism her whole life. Her success can in part be attributed to her willingness to acquire and use the power that she needs to accomplish her ambitions. Trump’s supporters admire his unbridled ambition. Unfortunately, an ambitious powerful woman is still feared by many in our country.

Trump has used his power for self-gratification. He doesn’t appear to have any concerns about how his actions affect others. I suspect he equates empathy with weakness. He celebrates his ability to prey on beautiful women because it supports his basic narcissism. When asked by Howard Stern about how he satisfies all of the women that he sleeps with, Trump said “I couldn’t care less”.

Trump’s Twilight Zone

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

 

This has been a remarkable week or so in a remarkable campaign. There appears to be another dimension that the Trump campaign and their supporters live in. It’s the twilight zone where belief trumps fact and reality is defined by the campaign and the candidate.

Exhibit 1 — Who won the debate?

This one is easy on several different levels.

The debate happened. Reputable organizations polled the public using scientific methods. They reported the results of those polls. They all indicated that Clinton won by a wide margin.

The second measurement is what happened to the polls after the debate. Again Clinton’s polling numbers have gone up and her prospects for winning the election have improved. That improvement was directly related to her debate performance and the actions of the Trump campaign following the debate.

To hear it from the Trump campaign’s perspective, he won the debate because a number of online unscientific polls on conservative sites said he was the winner.

Any problem with the debate was the result of a bad microphone that affected sound in the auditorium. Then there was the moderator who attempted to fact check Trump. And of course there is the crooked media who are now operating as an arm of the Clinton campaign in attempting to report the facts on the ground.

Perhaps this approach makes some sense in perpetuating the “us versus them” meme that is at the heart of the Trump campaign. The problem is that this meme makes it very difficult for the Trump campaign to recruit any new voters. When anyone who isn’t with you is your enemy, how are you going to convince some of those that you have been treating as enemies that they should change their minds?

Exhibit 2 — I did not have sex with that woman. Oops sorry, I meant to type I opposed the Iraq War.

This was one of the key moments in the debate.

Trump has made this particular position his Big Lie. He insists that he was against the war in Iraq FROM THE START.

The fact is that in answer to Howard Stern’s question “Are you for invading Iraq?”, he said, “Yeah, I guess so.” That isn’t a hearty endorsement of the invasion, but it is clearly not opposition either. He also provided an equivocal answer to Neil Cavuto, “it’s sort like either do it or don’t do it.” Trump clearly was not a supporter, but he also was not the opponent FROM THE START that he claims.

In the debate, he doubled down by attacking the media for reporting the facts (again) and then suggested that the moderator give Sean Hannity a call. While they may have had private conversations, there is no public record of it. Since Sean Hannity is now an official advisor to the campaign, he is hardly a reliable reference to past private history.

The result is that many Trump supporters now question whether fact-checkers can be trusted rather than admit that Trump was again making stuff up.

Exhibit 3 — Trump loves women

Hillary Clinton set several traps in the debate and Trump fell into most of them.

The Alicia Machado trap was a public confirmation of two of Clinton’s basic claims. Trump is unstable and Trump mistreats women. In front of a national audience he not only admitted to attacking Rosie O’Donnell, but said that she deserved it. He continued to attack Machado after the debate suggesting that she deserved the treatment that she received because she gained weight. This caused a whole avalanche of new information about Trump’s past statements and behavior with other women including many of those who were involved with The Apprentice show.

Trump and his campaign have reacted by attacking both Bill and Hillary Clinton for their treatment of women who have claimed past relationships with Bill.

Women represent a substantial swing vote in this country. Trump is doing himself no favors by perpetuating his attack on Machado and attempting to drag around old news about Hillary and Bill.

Those old white men who are the core of Trump’s support appear to have no problem with either Trump’s past history or his current aggressive response any time a woman criticizes him.

Exhibit 4 — Trump and taxes

We finally found out that Trump lost a lot of money in the 90’s and may have used those losses to shelter roughly $1B in income.

Trump and his campaign have not disputed those figures. Instead they have tried to spin Trump as a savvy business man who is an expert in tax law and will fix the tax system that he took advantage of.

This fails to answer the basic question that many people have regarding Trump’s loss. How does a savvy business man manage to lose $1B. His weak defense is that it was a tough time and many people were losing money. So does that mean his business skills are going to be effective only in good times? In bad times he is going to lose money just like everyone else?

His debate comment that he was “smart” not to pay taxes is also losing him blue collar votes. His campaign has gone further by suggesting that he does pay a lot of other taxes. But that’s not the issue. Everyone else also pays all of those other taxes too. The issue is how does he support his populist stand when he pays no federal income tax? It isn’t a question of whether or not he has done anything illegal. It is the fact that he IS part of that .1% who have benefited at the expense of working people. So it is curious that some of those very same working people still trust him.

Trump and his campaign have been trying to cast the NYT as the culprit by releasing the documents. The reality is that he could have avoided this by releasing his tax returns as every other candidate has done for the past 50 years. The NYT has a responsibility to its readers to provide them all of the information that they need in order to make an informed choice. They are doing their job. Trump isn’t.

Trump supporters believe that the tax returns aren’t important. Clearly that’s not the case with the rest of the country.

Exhibit 5 — Trump and OPM (other people’s money)

The Trump Foundation may turn out to be the smoking gun, at least from a financial point of view, that Trump opponents have been looking for.

Trump already had to pay a fine because of a “contribution” that was made “in error” from the foundation to the Florida AG Bondi’s political campaign shortly before she declined to participate in the Trump University lawsuit.

Now it turns out that Trump hasn’t contributed to his own foundation for a decade. Instead he has used other people’s money. Why did those people contribute that money? Turns out that most of those contributions were directly connected to business dealings that Trump had. The contributions were NOT because of the charitable mission of the foundation.

We also learned that Trump used the foundation like a piggy bank to pay personal expenses to the tune of $250K.

Now we also have learned that Trump not only used the foundation to pay his personal bills, he also used his foundation to purchase speaking engagements at various conservative gatherings over the past six years. These speaking engagements were the start of his presidential campaign.

Finally, the NY AG confirmed that the foundation was operating illegally in taking contributions from third parties when they were licensed to only distribute family money. Until the foundation resolves those issues and provides more detailed reports on past activities, they are effectively out of business.

Trump and his campaign have not denied any of these claims. Instead they have said that Trump contributes millions of dollars of his own money to charity in addition to the money that comes from his foundation. They also say that the foundation is a volunteer organization that can’t be expected to get everything right. Finally, they are suggesting that the NY AG actions are just partisan politics.

But there is big difference between making a mistake and the pattern of behavior that the NYT and Real Clear Politics have discovered. If Trump is in fact the tax genius that he claims to be, he should have known about foundation tax rules too. If he did, then he knew what he was doing was illegal “self-dealing”. If he didn’t know, then perhaps he isn’t really the genius that he claims to be, and won’t be able to single-handedly rewrite the tax code.

Trump supporters don’t want to talk about the Trump foundation. They only want to talk about the Clinton foundation and how she brazenly “sold” influence during her time in the State department to big Clinton foundation donors. The problem is that they have failed to connect the dots between this supposed influence peddling and some evidence of personal enrichment. Even if she did provide special access to big donors, all that money went to charitable purposes that have all been documented and are easy to track. There is no evidence that any of the Clinton’s benefited from those donations in any personal way. Unfortunately the bias is so strong, that in the absence of evidence, suspicion is sufficient to convict Clinton in the minds of these voters.

Summary

The one thing that Trump is VERY good at is stoking the fears and supporting the biases of his voters. His success in branding his opponents from Low Energy Jeb to Crooked Hillary is at the core of his campaign’s remarkable showing.

His populist message combined with his caustic “take no prisoners admit no weaknesses” style appeals to disenfranchised and marginalized groups of voters. Ben White from Politico best summarized it.

The GOP nominee could probably set himself on fire and still count on around 40 percent of the electorate to support him.

Those 40% are content to live in the twilight zone that Trump and the right wing media have built for them. It works. They are less fearful. They are more optimistic. They feel justified that the evil doers are finally being held accountable. They feel part of a winning team.

The problem is that it is a fantasy. It is not real.

Hopefully the rest of the voting public will decline the invitation to join them.