Friday, February 26, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, I wasn't going to watch the debate last night. I was in a good mood after watching Duke comfortably defeat FSU and I had tests grade so I didn't really want to harsh my mellow by watching Donald Trump for a couple of hours. But I switched it on for a few minutes just in time to see Marco Rubio unload a large can of whoop-a** on Trump and enjoyed that so much that I stayed watching for the rest of the debate hoping to see more of Trump on the ropes and my time was well rewarded as Rubio and Cruz tag-teamed to confound, expose, and belittle the Donald. I think this picture summed up the night.The debate last night reminded me of that first debate between Romney and Obama when Romney demonstrated such a better facility with information and issues and exposed what an empty suit Obama is. Unfortunately, one terrible debate performance wasn't enough to defeat Obama and I've given up hoping that one terrible debate performance will kill off Trump's chances. His supporters seem so blind to any sense of logic concerning his lack of any specificity, consistency, or real knowledge concerning public policy. They just think that he's strong and he's a leader. What Rubio and Cruz were able to do was to attack Trump on his record and biography while ridiculing him. Maybe if some of the top clips from the debate get played over and over like Rubio's robotic couple of minutes in New Hampshire did, it will sink in to some of the less brainwashed Trump supporters that their guy really isn't strong, doesn't tell it like it is, and has no real idea of what he is planning to do.

It is well worth watching how Rubio goes all Chris Christie on Donald Trump and exposes Trump as not really having any idea of what he would do to replace Obamacare. Then Trump actually repeats "I don't repeat myself over and over." Trump's meltdown of thought occurs around four minutes into the clip.
All Trump is to say that Rubio had a meltdown back in the New Hampshire debate and he sweats. I guess that Trump thinks that sweating and drinking water is somehow a disqualification for being president. He keeps coming back to Rubio sweating, but it just doesn't resonate the way that calling Bush low energy does, especially when Trump is melting down in front of our eyes. Rubio was exactly right as he summed up Trump's basic selling points. (Iit starts at about 5:38 and it's a beautiful thing.)
Rubio challenged Trump to specifically articulate what his health-care plan entails, and Trump described — multiple times – ”get[ting] rid of the lines” around states and “bring[ing] in competition.”

After Trump repeated his plan to remove “the lines” separating insurance markets for the third time, Rubio interjected, “Now he’s repeating himself.”

“No, I’m not — no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I don’t repeat myself,” Trump responded. ”I don’t repeat myself … Talk about repeating, I watched him repeat himself five times four weeks ago –”

“I saw you repeat yourself five times four seconds ago,” Rubio shot back. He then accused Trump of repeating himself every night: ”He says five things, everyone’s dumb, he’s going to make America great again; win, win, win; he’s winning in the polls; and the lines around the states. Every night, same thing.”
But hey, Rubio sweats, who cares?

One reason it was so effective was that Rubio was able to turn his own bad moment in the Chris Christie exchange into a slashing attack on Trump. And it worked because Trump did exactly what Rubio had done back in New Hampshire.

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David Graham writes about that moment in The Atlantic.
“He’s repeating himself!” Rubio exclaimed with a grin, echoing the very attack Chris Christie used so effectively against him just a few weeks ago. “I’m not repeating myself. I’m not repeating myself,” Trump insisted, but he was practically drowned out by the huge round of applause sweeping the hall.

It’s a wonder no one thought to accuse Trump of repetition before. As Rubio noted, Trump repeats a familiar set of slogans over and over: Make America great again. Build the wall. Win. Stop losing at trade. Force Trump away from those mantras, and he tends to get lost and confused. Of course, it’s also a wonder that no one has attacked Trump so directly before in debates, and especially that Rubio hasn’t done so. Right from the start on Thursday night, though, the Florida senator unloaded line after line of opposition research. He noted that Trump had paid $1 million to settle a court case over use of Polish illegal-immigrant labor. He pointed out that Trump is being sued for fraud over the so-called Trump University, a glorified real-estate seminar. He said that without his father’s inheritance, Trump would be "selling watches in Manhattan."

It was an incredible barrage. Only Jeb Bush had tried anything like it, and Trump easily talked over him. Unlike Bush, Rubio kept hammering, interrupting Trump and getting under his skin. And unlike Bush, who seemed deeply unhappy attacking, Rubio seemed to be having a blast slashing Trump. It all raised a rather uncomfortable question: What if Rubio had gone after Trump earlier, before Trump became the clear frontrunner with Super Tuesday just days away?

Conservatives had been begging Rubio and Cruz to go after Trump and turn Trump's usual debate behavior back on him. And they finally did it. There were a lot of people in the post-debate analysis and on Twitter complaining that it took until the 10th debate for them to unload on him. I can understand their strategy in laying off while hoping for more of the candidates to drop out. But they needed to demonstrate that they have the strength to take on Trump. Perhaps the desperation of facing the March primaries with Trump taking such commanding leads in all the state led them to try the one thing they hadn't done much of before. Take Trump on frontally. Rubio especially came loaded up with enough oppo research to just hit Trump again and again.

The Rubio campaign had faked everyone out by saying before the debate that he was going to go after Cruz. I know that I was disappointed to hear that that would be his strategy. So it was even more of a pleasant surprise to see that Rubio, perhaps out of desperation, came out to win. Cruz also got in some good attacks on Trump on judicial nominations and Trump University. But then he'd fall back into lawyerly mode like trying to pin down the Donald on whether Trump had ever expressed support for single-payer or asking for an apology. That never works. It was much more effective for Rubio to make his attack and then tell the audience to Google Trump and "Polish workers" or Trump University. Apparently, there were huge upsurges in such Google searches on those two topics last night. Good.
Ee can only hope that the media will do its job and explain more of what Rubio was alluding to. But who knows? The CNN anchors certainly seemed ready to shut down the debate whenever Trump was doing badly by stopping the interchange or going to Kasich or Carson. Kasich would give some of his love mantra and Carson would complain about not getting called on (which was true, but Rubio and Cruz demonstrated that interrupting and interjecting is the only way to get time in these debates.

As Rich Lowry writes, the anchors were certainly running interference for Trump last night.
It was very important that Rubio came out punching for his own image. If he had taken a pass on Trump tonight, he would have seemed incredibly weak and not a leader. Instead, he went toe to toe with him and won.

Much of the night, Rubio and Cruz worked together, seemingly in a belated recognition that if they can’t slow and diminish Trump, neither one of them has a chance to be the nominee.

As for Trump, he was bruised, but he had stabilized by the end of the debate in part through — what else? — interrupting and insulting. He got de facto assistance all night long from Wolf Blitzer, who would cut short exchanges among Rubio, Cruz, and Trump to go to Kasich and Carson. Trump had his moments — “the wall just got ten feet higher” — and, as always, delivered the message, quite effectively for his purposes, that he is not just another politician.

It is true that the core of Trump’s supporters will stay with him, but there is a lot of room between 24 percent (Iowa) and 46 percent (Nevada). There is such a thing as a marginal Trump supporter, and he or she is susceptible to persuasion. At the very least, tonight opened up avenues for further attack on and examination of Trump’s tax returns, his hiring of foreign workers, etc. If there were a coordinated anti-Trump effort, ads on some of these themes would follow in short order and surrogates would be out hammering away at them. But it’s a step in the right direction that other candidates are fighting by the only rules that will make it possible to take him down a notch — namely, the rules the mogul himself has used to establish his current dominance in the GOP race.

Then Chris Cuomo right after the debate interviewed Donald Trump and all Trump could do to respond is to say that Rubio is a "choke artist" and give his poll numbers. Which he repeated over and over as if that is an argument and Trump hadn't just choked himself.

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I hope all those people Googling "Polish workers" will find out how the Trump used illegal immigrants from Poland to build Trump Tower.
Thirty-five years ago, a small army of illegal immigrants was used to clear the site for what became the crown jewel of Donald Trump’s empire.

The 200 demolition workers—nicknamed the Polish Brigade because of their home country—worked 12-hour shifts, seven days a week with no overtime to knock down the old Bonwit Teller building and make room for Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

According to testimony in a protracted civil suit in federal court, the laborers were paid $5 an hour or less when they were paid at all. Some went unpaid after the contractor had financial troubles. A few never received even the paltry sum that was owed them for their dirty and hazardous efforts preceding the construction of Trump’s monument to his own wealth.

“They were undocumented and worked ‘off the books,’” Manhattan federal Judge Charles Stewart said of the workers after they became the subject of a 1983 lawsuit. “No records were kept, no Social Security or other taxes were withheld.”
Trump was speaking with more firsthand knowledge than his readers likely imagined when he wrote in his 2011 book Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again that “illegal immigration is a wrecking ball aimed at U.S. Taxpayers.”

How interesting that he would choose a wrecking ball as a metaphor.
And Trump's defense was quite weak, reminiscent of how he answers tough questions today.
During the 16-day non-jury trial, a number of the Polish workers testified that Trump underlings had threatened them with deportation if they caused trouble. They walked in to the job from Brooklyn when a transit strike hit the city. Some of them slept at the site.

Two workers further testified that they had approached Trump in person to demand overdue wages.

Trump took the stand, even back in those days sporting a red “power” tie, blue pinstriped suit, and that hair. He told the court that he almost certainly did not speak to the laborers, in part because he was fearful of venturing into so dangerous a workplace.

“I tend not to walk into buildings under demolition,” Trump said. “You have to be very brave to be in a building under demolition. I’m not sure I’m that brave.”

He added that he had no need to visit the site because “You can see it from a block away.”

He further testified that in any event he could not remember ever speaking to any of the workers or even being aware there were Polish workers on the site.
For a guy who promises us that he'll get the best people in the job for whatever question arises about what he'd do as president, he sure likes to blame someone else for what goes wrong in his business.
“It was never proven to me that they were illegal,” said the developer, adding that he only heard that they might not be in the country legally “sometime after the demolition work.”

At one point, he allowed that he had become aware that there were undocumented workers there, but only late in the project.

“Probably after the demolition,” he said.

He apparently was referring to having retained the contractor who hired the Polish Brigade when he said, “I can make mistakes. This was a mistake.”

The lawyer representing the Polish Brigade had reported receiving a call from someone who identified himself as “John Baron” and said Trump was ready to hit the lawyer with a $100 million lawsuit if he kept causing trouble.

Trump now acknowledged on the stand that he had used the pseudonym “John Baron,” as had one of his assistants. But Trump insisted that his use of it was only long after the completion of the Fifth Avenue tower, which became the first of many properties on which he so rapturously bestowed his real surname.

“Lots of people use pen names,” he told a reporter after he stepped down from the witness stand. “Ernest Hemingway used one.”
And this was the final result of that lawsuit.
The case was finally settled in 1999 and then sealed. That was 19 years after the demolition began, 16 years after the suit was filed.

Trump did not return a request for comment placed through a spokeswoman.

The tower that is his crown jewel and symbol of his wealth continues to stand on ground cleared by 200 undocumented workers who labored off the books, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for no more than $5 an hour with no overtime.
The Washington Post reported just a few months ago about the undocumented workers at the site of Trump's International Hotel being built in Washington.
"The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally,” Arellano said in Spanish. “And we’re all here working very hard to build a better life for our families.”

Interviews with about 15 laborers helping renovate the Old Post Office Pavilion revealed that many of them had crossed the U.S-Mexico border illegally before they eventually settled in the Washington region to build new lives.

And then there is this story about how Trump hired foreign workers to build his resort in Florida instead of hiring American workers.
Since 2010, nearly 300 United States residents have applied or been referred for jobs as waiters, waitresses, cooks and housekeepers there. But according to federal records, only 17 have been hired.

In all but a handful of cases, Mar-a-Lago sought to fill the jobs with hundreds of foreign guest workers from Romania and other countries.

In his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. Trump has stoked his crowds by promising to bring back jobs that have been snatched by illegal immigrants or outsourced by corporations, and voters worried about immigration have been his strongest backers.

But he has also pursued more than 500 visas for foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago since 2010, according to the United States Department of Labor, while hundreds of domestic applicants failed to get the same jobs.
It is clear from the story that there were Americans who were applying for and wanted those jobs, but Trump's resort continued to bypass them to hire foreign workers.

Let Trump explain to his crowds of adoring fans who applaud his stance on immigration today that his businesses hired foreign, sometimes undocumented workers, because these were jobs Americans didn't want even though they were applying for those jobs. The fact that this guy has become the leader of the tough-on-immigration crowd without much challenge until last night of his own history is a real mistake. This was an attack that anyone one of his opponents could have made.

The Rubio campaign has helpfully set up a site with all the stories of how "Donald Trump puts American workers last." Why did this take so long to do?

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As John Podhoretz writes, we'll soon see if debates matter in this election cycle.
If debates can change the course of an election, we’ll learn it soon, because Marco Rubio utterly trounced Donald Trump last night in the most commanding performance we’ve seen in the 10 GOP scuffles thus far.

I use the word “trounced” advisedly. After an hour in which Rubio turned Trump’s own game on him with quick jabs and mocking counterjabs, and Ted Cruz joined in a surprising tag-team effort with his Florida rival, Trump was actually complaining he was getting too many questions and too much time to speak.

A frustrated Trump tried to flummox Rubio by calling him a “choke artist” and referencing the senator’s bad New Hampshire confrontation with Chris Christie, but the opposite was the case. Rubio came loaded for bear. He knows that his back is against the wall, that Trump leads in almost all of the 12 states that will vote on Tuesday and that he has to alter the trajectory of the race in his favor.

“If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Tower, he’d be using illegal immigrants to do it,” Rubio said.

“Make them in America,” he said to Trump about the ties and suits that bear his brand name, which are made in China.

“You have a fake university,” he said about Trump University.

“If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now?” Rubio said. “Selling watches in Manhattan.”

Rubio said his mother was a maid in a hotel but if she’d sought a job in one of Trump’s Miami hotels, her place would have been taken by an illegal immigrant.

And that was just the first 10 minutes.

Throughout the debate, Rubio seized opportunities to hit at Trump with short, sharp and nearly unanswerable one-liners that entirely belied Christie’s characterization of him as robotic.

When Trump said he wanted to serve as a neutral negotiator in the Middle East, Rubio attacked: “The Palestinians are not a real-estate deal, Donald.” And when Trump came back by talking about his negotiating skills, Rubio asked whether he believed in negotiating with terrorists.
We're not going to get reliable polls between now and Tuesday's voting so we'll have to hear how Trump is leading in all the polls until we see what actual voters do. Maybe bragging about poll numbers will be enough. I sure hope not.

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Shop Amazon Gift Cards. Any Occasion. No Expiration.It's about time that the Republicans brought all this up, because we know that the Democrats won't be so dainty when it comes to taking on Trump. They're already preparing for that.
Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party will make that abundantly clear once Trump is the nominee. It won't be hard — they will just set up a camera, sit down with Trump victims and let these ordinary Americans tell the tale of how Donald Trump is a charlatan who enriched himself at the expense of ordinary people.

Democratic super PACs are already lining up Trump's victims for such a purpose, you can be totally sure. That's why any poll numbers suggesting Trump can beat Hillary should be doubted — they don't take into account the brutal campaign Hillary will wage on Trump....

Democrats could begin with the Americans who believed Trump could fix their financial woes by teaching them the ins and outs of real estate, at "Trump University."

Trump University wasn't a university, and Donald Trump wasn't as involved as he claimed he would be, according to one federal lawsuit. Some of the students are suing Trump, calling the "university" a "fraudulent scheme" in a federal court filing.

"I can turn anyone into a successful real estate investor, including you," Trump said in the ads for Trump University. "We'll help you by teaching you how to profit from the $700 billion bailout that has opened the door for unprecedented investment opportunities," his ad said.

In a promotional video, Trump promised to handpick "professors and adjunct professors." People who paid five figures to attend these seminars are suing, claiming that Trump didn't really handpick any instructors and that none of his real estate secrets were imparted.
As Cruz pointed out, Trump will be forced to testify in this case in July, just as he might be accepting the Republican nomination.
Everyone who paid thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to attend this university is a potential Trump victim.

You can bet Hillary's people are reaching out to every one of them. They will be the stars of super PAC ads. And all the working-class voters who feel like Trump is fighting for them will realize that Trump is playing them like he's played so many before.

Trump has victims all over the country and from all walks of life.

Due to his serial business failures, Trump's companies have gone bankrupt four times. His bankruptcies all involve him not paying back the people who had trusted him to make good on his bets — and these victims aren't just banks and hedge funds.

Dixie-Narco is a vending-machine maker in South Carolina. It also makes bill-changing machines. Trump had ordered 1,350 machines from the company for the Taj Mahal. Dixie-Narco expected to get paid. When Trump sent the Taj Mahal into bankruptcy, he tried to shed some of his debts to bondholders by giving them an ownership stake in the resort. Part of his pitch to them: "Dixie-Marco's $6 million claim was worthless," as the New York Times reported it back then.
Why aren't Republican Super PACs running those ads now instead of waiting for Hillary to do it when it will be too late? The ads would basically write themselves. Trump's business history has been terrible for the little guy. If the Democrats could destroy an upstanding guy like Romney for his business record, imagine what they will do with Trump's records. So ignore those match-ups that show Trump doing reasonably well against Hillary (although Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich do better). Those numbers will decline once the Democratic attack machine gears up.

Rubio's Super PAC should be finding American workers who applied to work at Trump's Florida resort and got turned away so they could hire foreign workers and then blanket Florida with ads featuring those Americans who couldn't get jobs because Trump likes to hire foreign workers instead. Come on, guys. This shouldn't be so hard to figure out.