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Friday, March 04, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, now we can imagine what a Trump presidency would be like. This is a man who doesn't hesitate to brag about the size of his package in a national debate, a man who is almost 70 years old and still feels the need to make that clear to the public. Apparently, the denigration of anything relating to size whether it be the size of his fortune, his hands, or his, well, you know. Is that the sign of a mature man? Admittedly, Rubio started it by making fun of his hands and making a joke about what we know about a guy with small hands. I thought that was unnecessary and inappropriate, but geez, a mature man knows to laugh those things off. But Trump seems to have a fixation with establishing the size of his hands.

Are we going to get a fact-check on his debate claims about the size of his hands and manhood?

You can read this Graydon Carter piece from Vanity Fair, this whole thing years ago by referring to Trump as a "short-fingered vulgarian" in an article. And ever since then Trump has sent him pictures of his hands circled to prove that they're not short.
To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him—generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby. The most recent offering arrived earlier this year, before his decision to go after the Republican presidential nomination. Like the other packages, this one included a circled hand and the words, also written in gold Sharpie: “See, not so short!” I sent the picture back by return mail with a note attached, saying, “Actually, quite short.” Which I can only assume gave him fits.
Ah, a gold Sharpie. So we know how wealthy he is - even his marker color is gold! And when Rubio made fun of Trump's hands last week, Trump's response was to say that
I've always heard people say, 'Donald, you have the most beautiful hands,'
Yes, because people always compliment grown men on their hands. Sure.

It's all part and parcel of Donald's shtick of just making stuff up. Since I've been preparing for discussing Hitler's rise to power with my European History class, I was thinking of Hitler's enunciation of the propaganda theory of the Big Lie and how the masses will fall for a big lie because they just won't be able to believe that someone would say something so clearly untrue. Well, Trump is no Hitler, but I think of his technique of just saying things that aren't so and then denying them when there is clearly proof as the Little Big Lie. And maybe it works for his more diehard supporters, but it is getting harder and harder in this world of the internet and everything being taped for someone to say or do something and then deny they said or did it later.

He was forced to come up with some story about why he three times refused to disavow David Duke and the KKK and blamed it on a bad earpiece when he clearly heard the question and mentioned Duke in his answer. So now he has found a way to use Jews as his defense for not rejecting the KKK. Really.
Donald Trump, entering the fifth day of defending himself against his equivocal response on CNN to an endorsement by David Duke, said the former Ku Klux Klan head was a “bad man.”

The characterization Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is about as direct as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has been so far in disavowing the white supremacist who expressed support for him.

But Trump had to add a wrinkle. Having previously blamed a faulty earpiece for failing to condemn Duke, he this time said he couldn’t just come out and condemn groups generically because — what if they were Jewish?

“And the one question that was asked of me on CNN — he’s having a great time — he talked about ‘groups of people.’ And I don’t like to disavow groups if I don’t know who they are. I mean, you could have the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in ‘groups,’” he said.
It's another Little Big Lie. And it's harder to get away from it when we have the video and transcript of what he and Jake Tapper actually said.
The thing is, though, in the original encounter on CNN Sunday, Trump clearly understood that interviewer Jake Tapper was not referring to just any groups, but to white supremacist groups in particular. How do we know this? Because Trump said so.

“Well just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay, I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know, I don’t know. Did he endorse me, or what’s going on, because, you know I know nothing about David Duke, I know nothing about white supremacists. So you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about,” he said.

Tapper pushed back, saying, “But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say, unequivocally, that you condemn them and you don’t want their support?”

Trump again demurred. “Well, I have to look at the group. I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of groups, I will do research on them, and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. But you may have groups in there that are totally fine and that would be unfair, so give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know,” he said.

Even in the unlikely event Trump had never heard the term “white supremacist,'” “white” coupled with “supremacist” is kind of self-explanatory. Now, Trump is making it even weirder by suggesting that when Tapper said “white supremacist,” the candidate heard “Jewish philanthropy.”
When in doubt, blame the Jews.

That's why the Megyn Kelly montage of Trump saying one thing and then another was so devastating last night. And then he tried to claim that there was all this time between his first saying that Europe needs to welcome Syrian refugees and then saying that they had to be banned. But Kelly destroyed that Little Big Lie by pointing out that that flip-flop came one day later. As she asked, “How is this telling it like it is?” Because that is his big selling point to his fans. He's someone who will say the truth and tell it like it is. Except when he doesn't. So now his defense is that he's "flexible." So now his fans, who have turned on Rubio because of the Gang of Eight even though Rubio now says he's changed his mind, have to praise Trump for flip-flopping one day after he said something for an admirable flexibility. That, folks, is what drinking the Kool Aid looks like.

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Fox really seemed to come prepared to take out Donald Trump last night. They had graphics and video ready to go to expose him. He got twice as much speaking time as the other candidates up there. While they also got tough questions, they were basically the same questions and answers we've heard before. And often the questions posed to them were in the framework of asking them to criticize Trump. Rubio seemed oddly tired and faded in the background some of the debate, but he probably redeemed himself with his yoga joke.
Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz were in the middle of talking over one another about whether Cruz had supported the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, with Cruz telling Trump to "breathe, breathe, breathe" as the New York billionaire responded with his favorite nickname for Cruz, "Lyin' Ted."

"You can do it," Cruz said to Trump. "You can breathe. I know it's hard. I know it's hard."

Eventually, Rubio jumped in, asking "when they're done with the yoga, can I answer a question?" Cruz said he hoped yoga wasn't about to happen.

"Well, he's very flexible, so you never know," Rubio quipped about Trump, referring to an earlier answer the New York billionaire had given about the need for flexibility at time on issues.
That was a drop-the-mic moment for Rubio. Considering that more people are going to see clips of such moments than watch the whole debate, what gets remembered later are the one-liners.

John Kasich did his usual shtick of bragging about how long he was in Washington and how he's got great experience and worked alongside Reagan. Did you know that he helped Rumsfeld sort things out at the Pentagon after 9/11? Apparently, so. I find him sanctimonious and tedious, but I do know that he appeals to my liberal friends and to quite a few of my students.

I thought Ted Cruz had the best debate and maybe the best performance of all his appearances in the debates. He was a bit less frenetic than Rubio in his criticisms of Trump and was able to connect those criticisms to why Trump would make a bad president. He and Rubio had an effective tag-teaming effort going on for attacking Trump. But Cruz seemed like the senior partner in that tag team. And Trump's only response over and over seemed to be to cite his poll numbers. Because...size. That's what matters to him.

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Here is some response from around the web to the debate.

Matthew Continetti writes, and I agree, that it was Trump's worst debate yet.
onald Trump had by far his worst debate of the 2016 campaign on Thursday. He was defensive and vulgar, evasive and condescending, rude and imperious. He moved drastically to the center on immigration, repudiating his position on H-1B visas on stage and saying “everything is negotiable,” including the border wall and the fate of illegal immigrants already in the United States. He defended his calls for expansive torture and the killing of civilians related to terrorists, saying the military “will do what I tell them” even if his orders contradict the law. He dismissed his opponents as “little Marco” and “lying Ted” and bragged about his manhood. Over two hours he provided reams and reams of material for Hillary Clinton’s ad writers. And through it all he was cheered by a raucous and heckling audience that seemed to have been transported straight from the courtroom scene in “Encounter at Farpoint.”

The spectacle made me ill. On screen I watched decades of work by conservative institutions, activists, and elected officials being lit aflame not only by the New York demagogue but by his enablers who waited until the last possible moment to criticize and try to stop him. And even then it may be too late.
The line about his military doing what he tells them even if it is against the law was quite revealing of the authoritarian approach he has to leadership.

Jonathan Bernstein argues that there is no debate now about Trump's ignorance. And, on top of that, we're supposed to dismiss the allegations about Trump U because it's just a little lawsuit that will be over in three years. Bernstein points out that that was Trump assuring the American people that " he’ll be fighting a fraud lawsuit for the first three years of his presidency." And he'll be testifying under oath about how his business defrauded ordinary Americans.
Oh, that’s not all. The Fox News team rolled out three examples of Trump contradicting himself. His excuse on one of them?
When I first heard the question, first time the question was ever asked to me, first time I really had known about the question, the migration had just started. I was very much like, OK, by the time I went back and studied it, and they were talking about bringing thousands and thousands, I changed my tune. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
Let me translate: He didn’t know what he was talking about, so he just shot off his mouth.

Changing positions over time when the facts change is a fine trait in politicians, and they are unfairly abused for it by the press. But that’s not Trump’s situation. Trump is instead admitting that he was ignorant on government and public policy, and even current events, and that he didn't think that ignorance was worth correcting until someone happened to ask him a question. At which point the appropriate thing to do, he apparently believes, is to say the first thing that comes to mind and then go back and learn more about it later.

As usual, Trump flailed when pressed to discuss policy. He either doesn’t know or is pretending not to know what a trade deficit is, which is sort of amazing given that trade is one of his top issues. In virtually every area, he has basically one or two sentences, generally off the actual point, and that’s about it. It's sometimes so tangential as to be surreal, almost poetic. His stock answer on gun control somehow wends its way to the Paris attacks: “Many, many people in the hospital gravely injured. They will be dying. Many people will be dying in addition.”

He’s been giving the exact same answer since November. Hasn’t bothered to update it. Doesn’t care what he’s saying. Or, I’d guess, about gun control.
And, remember, that flip-flop on refugees came one day later.

As John Podhoretz writes, we all lost last night.
Since Donald Trump’s reference to the substantiality of his private part came at the beginning of an almost insanely raucous two hours, and cast a shadow over everything that followed, it’s hard to know whether one can properly judge the night’s proceedings as a debate and not a living civic nightmare.

The entire evening was what Trump would call a “disastuh.” Now, I know it makes no sense to bet against him, and that anyone who has written his political obituary thus far (me included, after the “ban all Muslims” moment in November) has had to eat crow.

But the events in Detroit last night will have long-lasting effects even if they don’t affect his path to the nomination in the short term.

Twice during the evening he changed core positions, one of them during a commercial break — when he suddenly announced his support for H1-B visas for skilled workers and contradicted the stance his own Web site had him taking even as he spoke.

He said America had to stay in Afghanistan, which he has opposed, and gave a reason no one else has ever given — we need to because it’s next to Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. So are we there to protect the nuclear weapons, or to steal the nuclear weapons, or what?

He also rather blithely said he would order military commanders to commit war crimes if he thought it necessary — an order they are obliged under American and international law not to obey, as several of them have pointed out in recent weeks. And when challenged, he declared that they would do what he said, believe him, because that’s what a leader does.

He was confronted on his proposed spending and spending cuts, and could not answer. Most stunning, he claimed three times that his Trump University was upgraded by the Better Business Bureau from a D-minus grade to an A grade — which Fox anchor Megyn Kelly basically said was an outright lie.

Ted Cruz got the toughest lick in, when he got Trump to speak the words: “In 2008, I supported Hillary Clinton.” That line will appear in $10 million worth of advertising over the next few weeks, I expect.

All of Trump’s answers Thursday night could be cut into commercials against him. Fox and his rivals gave him the rope. And whether it’s now or in the general election, he may have hanged himself with it.

Now, we’ve been told Ted Cruz is a great debater by everyone who went up against him in college and law school, and in the 10th Republican debate Thursday night in Michigan, he finally showed it with a flawless performance....

It was not just Trump who was damaged Thursday night. That a major debate of a major political party could devolve in this way did damage to the United States.
Podhoretz reminds us that today is the anniversary of Lincoln's inauguration. March 4 was the traditional inauguration day until the 20th Amendment was passed.

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In case you missed it last night, Trump had a major flip flop on immigration during the debate. Byron York writes.
Which is why people who follow immigration closely were stunned Thursday night when Trump, at the Fox News debate here in Detroit, announced that he has changed his position on one key element of the immigration debate -- the use of H-1B visas to bring skilled foreign workers into the United States.

In the distant past -- say, yesterday -- Trump focused on abuses in the system, in which some big companies have been caught using H-1Bs to bring in foreign workers, force American employees to train their own replacements, and then pay the foreign worker less than the American had made -- all to do mostly routine jobs in the tech industry.

At his recent rally in Alabama -- the one in which Trump received the endorsement of Sen. Jeff Sessions, Congress' strongest voice against expanding the troubled H-1B program -- Trump also won the endorsement of some American workers who were victims of H-1B abuse at Disney.

"The fact is that Americans are losing their jobs to foreigners," one of the laid-off workers told the crowd. "I believe Mr. Trump is for Americans first."

In Detroit, Fox's Megyn Kelly pointed out that Trump's campaign website has a strong statement against increasing the number of H-1Bs, saying it would "decimate American workers," and yet in one debate Trump spoke favorably of the program. "So, which is it?" Kelly asked.

"I'm changing," Trump said. "I'm changing. We need highly skilled people in this country, and if we can't do it, we'll get them in. But, and we do need in Silicon Valley, we absolutely have to have."

"So, we do need highly skilled," Trump continued, "and one of the biggest problems we have is people go to the best colleges. They'll go to Harvard, they'll go to Stanford, they'll go to Wharton, as soon as they're finished they'll get shoved out. They want to stay in this country. They want to stay here desperately, they're not able to stay here. For that purpose, we absolutely have to be able to keep the brain power in this country.

"So you are abandoning the position on your website?" asked Kelly.

"I'm changing it," Trump said, "and I'm softening the position because we have to have talented people in this country."
I wonder how Jeff Sessions feels about seeing Trump reverse one of his signature issues just a few days after enunciating the exact opposite position. Will "I'm changing. I'm changing." become the new byword for Trump's flexibility?

And sure enough, Trump clarified his flip flop in a statement sent after the debate. I'm sure his aides realized, if Trump did not, how he had muddied the waters on his supposedly strong stance on allowing foreign workers into the country.
A short time later, Rubio himself issued a statement noting that in the debate Trump "finally took an actual position, but as soon as the debate was over, his handlers made him reverse himself."

"The Republican nominee," Rubio said, "cannot be somebody who is totally clueless on so many issues, including his signature issue."
Trump is now pretending that he's against bringing in low-skilled workers. Of course, that is just what he did at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago Club.
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.
He tried to pretend previously and during the debate that Americans wouldn't take those short-term jobs.
In Palm Beach County, Tom Veenstra, senior director of support services at CareerSource, a job placement service, took issue with Mr. Trump’s contention that he could not staff his clubs with locals. “We have hundreds of qualified applicants for jobs like those,” he said.

After a report by Reuters in July about Mr. Trump’s use of guest workers, executives from Mar-a-Lago met with recruiters from Mr. Veenstra’s agency, promising to request local workers for 50 positions.

But Mar-a-Lago sent over just a single job request, for a banquet server. Mr. Veenstra said CareerSource referred four applicants to the club, and one of them got the job.
Since then, Mr. Veenstra said, “we haven’t received any other job orders.”

Other clubs in the Palm Beach area on Florida’s east coast, including the Breakers, a well-known beachfront resort near Mar-a-Lago, also use guest workers. Industry experts say they can be attractive to employers because they are essentially a captive work force.

The foreign employees must be paid the Labor Department-approved “prevailing wage” for the job and location. But they can work only for the company that sponsored the visa, and cannot, for instance, switch to another resort down the road where the pay is better without a new visa approval. A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office found that guest workers’ precarious position tended to discourage complaints about mistreatment by employees fearful of retaliation by the employer.
That's exactly what Rubio explained last night during the debate. And Trump's excuses were that everyone does that in Palm Beach and it's all legal.

So now he has to twist himself around to say he's against something he's said he was for and used himself. What a big, strong leader who tells it like it is!

Oh, and perhaps it will matter that he's telling another Little Big Lie that H1B visas are not for those who are highly qualified. Jim Geraghty points us to what the real requirements are for an H1B visa.
To qualify for H1B Visa, the foreign professional must hold a bachelor's or higher degree from an accredited college or university in the specialty occupation. If the foreign professional holds a foreign degree, then that degree must be determined to be the educational equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree.
So just another Little Big Lie to try to put forth some sort of excuse for his own ignorance about the policies and his own flip-flops on what he said just a few days ago. What a strong man he is!

Geraghty comments,
Now, if Donald Trump is this uninformed, contradictory, slippery and confused on what’s supposed to be his signature issue . . . how well do you think he knows, understands, or has a plan for all the other issues?
As Bob Dole asked, "Where is the outrage?"

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1 comment:

Suvy Boyina said...

The one issue Trump is absolutely correct on is the trade deficit and on the impacts of trade/international finance. A current account deficit (mostly composed of the balance of trade) is the additive inverse of a capital account surplus. Basically, a flow of trade in one direction requires a flow of capital in the other. Also note that national income is, by definition, consumption+investment+current account balance (you can add in government spending, but government spending is either government consumption or government investment).

So what we've seen when we've been running persistent current account deficits for basically 40 years is that we're importing capital while losing income. When you import capital, it means that foreigners are accumulating American assets which usually means borrowing money while our manufacturing gets hollowed out, we lose our companies/jobs, and we're buying other people's stuff with borrowed money.

He's also correct on currency markets and their impact on trade. I basically trade these markets regularly and you can see it. Countries like Japan and China are devaluing their currency like crazy with the EXPLICIT purpose of stealing American demand.

Also, when you have these trade deficits, the capital inflows are distorting American asset markets. In 2006, the current account deficit/GDP was ~6% and the trade deficit was ~7%. It's not a coincidence that we had a massive housing bubble. When you get such large capital inflows and lose 6% of your income and demand abroad, one way to fix that problem is by taking the money that flows into your banking system and lending it out to buy stuff, like houses or stocks (in 2001, this is what happened) or the savings and loan crisis in the late 80's and 90's.

So we get large asset bubbles that place our middle class in debt, we're losing our manufacturing, and we're basically borrowing money from other people to buy their stuff. Trump is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT on this issue. He knows EXACTLY what he's talking about here. And he's correct when he says we have a lot of leverage over China because China runs a fixed exchange rate. They can't actually dump our Treasury bonds or American assets they own because that would mean their currency gets revalued.