Trump’s Twilight Zone

 

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.

 

8 Responses to “Trump’s Twilight Zone”

  1. Keith says:

    “Old white men……..” Should I take that as a racist, bigoted, comment?

    I’d be interested in you writing a pro Hillary post based on her successes.

  2. Keith says:

    You are spinning Jeff. You are merely repeating CNN and MSN.

    Let’s just take a look at how you break down his opposition to the gulf war. A war Hillary strong support. (This was reason for you to turn Bush into a horrible president. If he lied, she lied)

    You suggest Trump “was clearly not a support” but also frame his answers as YOU want it to be spun. Your answer certainly isn’t balanced and certainly isn’t fair. He was NOT a public official, he was MOT voting, he WAS speaking to HOWARD STERN on an early morning calling in show. Jeff, I gave you the audio. His answer to ANY fair mind person is not the he was a supported of the war as Hillary was. Yet you say it’s a FACT he was a supporter. Sorry just isn’t fair…

    I was interesting in the NYT article about Trumps tax returns. They used the term “AVOID paying taxes.” Can you now at least see how that is media bias? If not then you believe everyone who takes a deduction is “AVOIDING” paying tax. Clearly framed to make him out to be someone not paying their fair share. They speculated he “might have been able to avoid paying taxes for 18 years.” Jeff I can speculate YOU may have avoided paying taxes for 28 years.

    We now had a VP choice worse the Mrs Palin. Tim Kain was terrible last night.aweful.

  3. Jeff Beamsley says:

    “Old white men……..” Should I take that as a racist, bigoted, comment?

    It would only be racist if I suggested that old white men were somehow inferior. I only suggested that old white men don’t understand women very well. Not sure that any old white man would dispute that.

    Simply recognizing that someone exists isn’t racist, but then I’m not sure you were all that serious in your comment anyway. 🙂

  4. Jeff Beamsley says:

    His answer to ANY fair mind person is not the he was a supported of the war as Hillary was. Yet you say it’s a FACT he was a supporter. Sorry just isn’t fair…

    Trump is the one who made this an issue. He’s the one who has said it is “mainstream media nonsense”.

    Lester Holt tried to clear up the issue by stating the fact that Trump supported the war in Iraq before the invasion. This is the period of time that is in question. This is before Trump Esquire article in 2004 AFTER the invasion when he, along with a lot of other people, began to question the wisdom of the invasion. There are only TWO public conversations that Trump had about the Iraq war prior to the invasion. In both conversations he DID NOT express any opposition.

    You give Trump a pass because he wasn’t a politician? Why can’t he simply admit what he said and move on?

    Clinton has taken responsibility for her vote to support the war. The only thing she has asked is that Trump do the same. That is not unfair.

    I didn’t support Clinton in the 2008 election cycle because of her Iraq vote.

    In this election, that point is moot because both candidates supported the war and both candidates later changed their positions.

    They speculated he “might have been able to avoid paying taxes for 18 years.” Jeff I can speculate YOU may have avoided paying taxes for 28 years.

    This is NOT an issue with the NYT. This is an issue with Trump. 70% of the american public want him to release his tax returns. In the absence of a full set of returns, all we have to work with are a limited set of information. Trump can clear this up in a hurry. Just release the returns. Instead he has said that he will release his returns if Clinton turns over the emails that her lawyers deleted. He knows that she couldn’t even if she wanted to – she doesn’t have them.

    Clinton has released her tax returns.

    Why are you defending Trump from not releasing his.

    BTW, the NYT speculation is based on the information that they have. That information does support both of their statements. He could have used his losses to AVOID paying taxes on a large portion of his income. That’s how those things are generally described in the media. NO ONE IS SUGGESTING THAT THIS IS ILLEGAL.

    If you remember we went through the same thing with Romney. He held out for a long time because he knew that when people learned how little tax he paid, they would be unhappy. It is possible that his late release of his returns may have cost him the election, but the only reason he did release them is because he was behind, so it is also possible that they just confirmed what everyone already suspected. In any case, it would have been better for Romney to release his taxes as early the political process as he could. That way they would have been old news by election day. IMHO Trump is making the same mistake.

  5. Keith says:

    How many dem senators voted to uphold impeachment of President Clinton? How many Republicans are jumping Trumps ship for the tape from last Friday? I think the difference between the two party’s is now crystal clear.

  6. Jeff Beamsley says:

    How many dem senators voted to uphold impeachment of President Clinton? How many Republicans are jumping Trumps ship for the tape from last Friday? I think the difference between the two party’s is now crystal clear.

    You serious, or are you just trolling for a response?

    Clinton had a consensual sexual relationship with an intern. He lied about it to a grand jury though he was never convicted of perjury. That incident, however, was the basis for the impeachment proceeding. All the Democrats and 5 Republicans in the Senate voted “not guilty”. The issue was whether lying to a grand jury is an impeachable offense. It was not whether or not he was guilty of a crime. The constitution says that President can be impeached for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The prevailing sentiment at the time was that this was a personal matter that had little to do with the government or the execution of his duties as President.

    Here’s his attorney’s closing argument to the Senate.

    There is only one question before you, albeit a difficult one, one that is a question of fact and law and constitutional theory. Would it put at risk the liberties of the people to retain the President in office? Putting aside partisan animus, if you can honestly say that it would not, that those liberties are safe in his hands, then you must vote to acquit.

    Trump on the other hand is running for the office and telling people why they should vote for him. He was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. He claimed that he was just talking and didn’t actually do any of the things that he claimed he had done. But there are NUMEROUS documented cases of him kissing women on the lips without their approval. There are also several women who have come forward with claims of being groped by Trump. Given his denial, I suspect that we will see more documented cases of these actions going forward. Makes sense that some Republicans would abandon a man who bragged about that sort of action.

    You are likely going to come back with some claim that Bill Clinton is also a sexual predator. That could be true. But Bill is not running for office.

    Also if Kenneth Starr had been able to bring a case of sexual assault rather than lying to the grand jury, Clinton might not have survived his impeachment hearing. Starr thought he might have a case when he heard Kathleen Willey’s story about a 1993 encounter. Starr gave her immunity in return for her testimony. But he couldn’t make the case stick because, among other things, Linda Tripp (friend of Monica) said that Kathleen told her that the encounter was consensual, the result of her flirting with Clinton, and that she was excited about his reaction. She has since found a way to cash in on her celebrity. Ske wrote a book in 2007 and has been on the conservative speaking circuit along with other women who claim Clinton is a sexual predator.

    If Clinton were running for office in today’s political climate, I suspect that he would have a much more difficult time getting elected than he did in 1992.

    Finally to suggest, assuming this is what you were implying, that Republicans are more principled than Democrats, I need only remind you that most of the Republicans that you are referencing did at one point or another pledge to support Trump once he won the nomination. The ones who are jumping ship now have just been looking for an excuse to distance themselves from a failed campaign as much as a failed candidate. The principled Republicans, IMHO, are ones are who refused to support Trump BEFORE it was clear who was going to win.

  7. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Here’s the transcript from Trump in the St. Louis debate regarding his qualifications for a Supreme Court justice.

    TRUMP: Justice Scalia, great judge, died recently. And we have a vacancy. I am looking to appoint judges very much in the mold of Justice Scalia. I’m looking for judges — and I’ve actually picked 20 of them so that people would see, highly respected, highly thought of, and actually very beautifully reviewed by just about everybody.
    But people that will respect the Constitution of the United States. And I think that this is so important. Also, the Second Amendment, which is totally under siege by people like Hillary Clinton. They’ll respect the Second Amendment and what it stands for, what it represents. So important to me.
    Now, Hillary mentioned something about contributions just so you understand. So I will have in my race more than $100 million put in — of my money, meaning I’m not taking all of this big money from all of these different corporations like she’s doing. What I ask is this.
    So I’m putting in more than — by the time it’s finished, I’ll have more than $100 million invested. Pretty much self-funding money. We’re raising money for the Republican Party, and we’re doing tremendously on the small donations, $61 average or so.
    I ask Hillary, why doesn’t — she made $250 million by being in office. She used the power of her office to make a lot of money. Why isn’t she funding, not for $100 million, but why don’t you put $10 million or $20 million or $25 million or $30 million into your own campaign?
    It’s $30 million less for special interests that will tell you exactly what to do and it would really, I think, be a nice sign to the American public. Why aren’t you putting some money in? You have a lot of it. You’ve made a lot of it because of the fact that you’ve been in office. Made a lot of it while you were secretary of state, actually. So why aren’t you putting money into your own campaign? I’m just curious.

    Notice anything missing?

    Yup you’re right. He said nothing about Roe V. Wade.

    Now you are probably going to say that he just forgot.

    But Clinton had the first go at this question. As with many of her answers, she was precise.

    CLINTON: Thank you. Well, you’re right. This is one of the most important issues in this election. I want to appoint Supreme Court justices who understand the way the world really works, who have real-life experience, who have not just been in a big law firm and maybe clerked for a judge and then gotten on the bench, but, you know, maybe they tried some more cases, they actually understand what people are up against.
    Because I think the current court has gone in the wrong direction. And so I would want to see the Supreme Court reverse Citizens United and get dark, unaccountable money out of our politics. Donald doesn’t agree with that.
    I would like the Supreme Court to understand that voting rights are still a big problem in many parts of our country, that we don’t always do everything we can to make it possible for people of color and older people and young people to be able to exercise their franchise. I want a Supreme Court that will stick with Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose, and I want a Supreme Court that will stick with marriage equality.
    Now, Donald has put forth the names of some people that he would consider. And among the ones that he has suggested are people who would reverse Roe v. Wade and reverse marriage equality. I think that would be a terrible mistake and would take us backwards.
    I want a Supreme Court that doesn’t always side with corporate interests. I want a Supreme Court that understands because you’re wealthy and you can give more money to something doesn’t mean you have any more rights or should have any more rights than anybody else.
    So I have very clear views about what I want to see to kind of change the balance on the Supreme Court. And I regret deeply that the Senate has not done its job and they have not permitted a vote on the person that President Obama, a highly qualified person, they’ve not given him a vote to be able to be have the full complement of nine Supreme Court justices. I think that was a dereliction of duty.
    I hope that they will see their way to doing it, but if I am so fortunate enough as to be president, I will immediately move to make sure that we fill that, we have nine justices that get to work on behalf of our people.

    She mentioned specifically that she would appoint Justices that would support Roe and marriage equality.

    She also pointed out that Trump would not.

    Trump was very aggressive in responding to virtually every other criticism that Clinton made.

    He COMPLETELY ignored this one and wandered off in a different direction suggesting Clinton should put some of her own money into her campaign.

    Still feel good about voting for Trump because of his past statements regarding Roe and marriage equality?

  8. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Oh BTW, turns out that there is a very real possibility that Trump, or at least someone in his campaign, is getting information directly from the Russians regarding emails leaked through wikileaks.

    Here’s the article from Newsweek.

    http://www.newsweek.com/vladimir-putin-sidney-blumenthal-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-benghazi-sputnik-508635

    Turns out that some of the more recent leaked emails are forgeries.

    The reason we know is the author of this story recognized his own previous story on Benghazi in the texts of one of the “leaked” emails.

    Also turns out that this is a propaganda pattern that the Russians have used before in previous efforts to influence other elections in other countries. The strategy is to hack the emails of the candidate that they oppose, release real incriminating emails to gain some credibility for the effort, and then release made-up emails to really take down the candidate they oppose.

    But it isn’t just this strategy that links the Russians to Trump.

    The way that the Newsweek author discovered that some of his writing was showing up in on of these “fake” emails, is that Trump read from the email at a rally.

    The problem is that the email had not yet been made public at the point in time that he read it.

    So the REAL question is how did the Trump campaign learn about this email before anybody else?

    Newsweek asked the Trump campaign for a response, but never received a reply.

    You sure you want this guy in the White House?

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