Thursday, July 28, 2016

Cruising the Web

I get a funny contrast between the people I follow on Twitter who are mostly conservatives and those I'm friends with on Facebook who are mostly present and former students and colleagues who are almost all liberals. So I see quite a contrast. My FB friends are quite excited about the DNC. They all thought Michelle Obama's speech was wonderful as was Bill Clinton's speech. My conservative sources on Twitter were all giggling about Bill talking about how wonderful Hillary is and asking why, if she was so wonderful, he cheated on her throughout their marriage. It just shows how different the views each group has of each other. What both sides agree is that neither side is excited about the two nominees. There is a sense of depression and resignation about both candidates.

James Taranto observes how very strange Bill Clinton's speech was.
His overall theme was that he loves the Democratic nominee madly because she is such an astute analyst and maker of public policy. If it were a poem, it could have been titled “Ode to a Wonk.” The idea was doubly preposterous given the deep but (in the speech) unacknowledged strangeness of the Clinton marriage. But again, maybe it came across better to someone blessed by the good sense or youth not to have paid such close attention to the Clintons.

As for the substance, we were driven to distraction by what Mr. Clinton didn’t mention—namely, anything that wouldn’t have been politically expedient. In describing her time in the Senate, he noted that she was “the first senator in the history of New York ever to serve on the Armed Services Committee,” in which capacity she “tried to make sure people on the battlefield had proper equipment” and “worked for more extensive care for people with traumatic brain injury.” Her vote for the Iraq war? Down the memory hole.

While secretary of state, “she worked hard to get strong sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program.” He didn’t mention last year’s Iran nuclear deal, which she has touted before Democratic audiences but may wish to downplay with the general electorate.

“She backed President Obama’s decision to go after Osama bin Laden,” he said—a no-brainer if ever there was one. But Mr. Clinton didn’t mention the 2011 intervention in Libya, which President Obama reportedly undertook reluctantly, at Mrs. Clinton’s urging.

Mr. Clinton also left out the Trans Pacific Partnership, which Mrs. Clinton touted in her State Department memoir, “Hard Choices”—or at least in the hardcover edition. The topic was cut from the paperback, as the Washington Free Beacon reported last month, presumably because TPP has turned out to be unpopular and she claims she supports it no longer. Politico reports that Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe, “longtime best friend to the Clintons,” says he believes she’ll flip again if elected.

Of course Mr. Clinton said not a word about any of the past 40 years’ worth of Clinton scandals. Tellingly, he never uttered the names Clinton Foundation or Clinton Global Initiative, which surely would have merited a mention if he could defend them as genuinely charitable endeavors.
Of course, no convention speech is going to mention the candidate's great weaknesses. The Republicans didn't talk about Trump's bankruptcies, prior marriages and self-acknowledged adultery, or the Trump U fraud case.

Taranto argues that Clinton's presidency set the stage for Trump's candidacy.
It did occur to us after the speech, though, that Bill Clinton played an underappreciated part in setting the stage for Trump. As we observed yesterday, one of the Democrats’ strategies against the Republican nominee has been to present him as R-rated, somebody from whom you want to shield your children. As Michelle Obama put it Monday night, “we know that our words and actions matter . . . [to] children across this country.”

Many Nevertrump Republicans, and more than a few reluctantly pro-Trump ones, find this line of argument convincing. Trump is surely the most vulgar man ever nominated for the presidency of a major party.

But he would not be the first vulgarian president. That distinction belongs to Bill Clinton, the man whose sexual misconduct led to situations like the one described by Shawn Hubler in the Los Angeles Times in September 1998:

It was Friday midmorning. The house was quiet. The 6-year-old turned the TV on. The camera was zoomed in on someone’s computer, and there was a breathless voice: “Monica Lewinsky” . . . “Oval Office” . . . “sex with the president.”

“Mama,” she said in confusion, cuddling her kitten, “I thought the president was married. Does this mean Monica Lewinsky is having a baby now?”

I stood there, flat-footed.

“Mama, why do you have that look on your face? Did something bad happen?”

“Kinda. Not really. Let’s turn off this dumb TV. I’ll explain later, sweetie-pie.”
Gosh, I remember those years. I first began teaching 8th grade social studies in 1998 and had assigned students to write reports on the news. That's a rather innocuous assignments for social studies classes, but I had parents calling the principal saying they didn't want their children reading the news with its reports on Clinton's sex life. And we had to deal with girls giving oral sex to boys in the locker room and defending themselves by saying that it wasn't sex because the President had said so. Sure, Trump is a vulgarian in many ways, but then so is Hillary's husband.

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Yeah, there is something quite disturbing about one major party candidate asking Russia to release hacked information that they have gained on his opponent as Trump did yesterday. Every time Trump starts talking about Putin, I cringe. Of course, Hillary was the one who thought a mistranslated red button was the way to improve relations with Russia. And we have to remember that Hillary was the one who made this whole situation possible by using a private, unsecured server. Also remember that Obama was the one overheard telling the then Russian President Medvedev in 2012 that Obama would have more flexibility after the election on issues like missile defense. We didn't hear Democrats howling in outrage then.

The Clinton campaign immediately jumped on this by criticizing Trump for calling on Russia to conduct espionage on his opponent. But what Trump was talking about wouldn't constitute espionage on the Secretary of State. He's talking about the personal emails that Hillary claims were deleted from her server before she turned emails over to the State Department. So this isn't calling for Russia to conduct espionage now but to release the emails that Hillary claimed were about her mother's funeral, yoga lessons, and her daughter's wedding. Dan McLaughlin agrees with Sean Davis that the Clinton campaign just walked into a Trump trap.
As Sean Davis noted, the Clinton camp just walked right into Trump’s trap, whether or not he knew he was setting one. For the past year, Hillary’s defense of her private email server has been that the whole thing was a nothingburger that put no sensitive information at risk. Originally she claimed that the emails on her server were harmless things like yoga schedules. ​FBI Director Comey contradicted that, publicly concluding both that there was significant senstive information in the emails and that there was no way to know if they had fallen into hostile hands. And now, this morning, her own campaign admits that it would be “a national security issue” for Russia to gain access to those emails.

Can’t anybody here play this game?
Davis also points to what I'd written about on Tuesday,
Contrary to [Clinton spokesman] Sullivan’s assertion about the unprecedented nature of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) begged the Soviets to help him get rid of President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

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At CNBC Jack Novak also writes that Trump got the Democrats to fall into Trump's trap since he kept the conversation going on topics that Hillary would prefer be smothered. She would much prefer people were talking about the speakers at her convention and their messages about how wonderful she is. She doesn't want the conversation to include words like emails and private server.
Instead of ignoring Trump's already deft stealing of the headlines away from their convention, the campaign hyped the distraction even further. Sure, they meant to make Trump out to be some kind of dangerous traitor. And Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller has indeed issued a series of Twitter statements insisting Trump did not literally ask Russia to commit espionage. But the real result is that the words "Hillary Clinton," "emails," "hacking," "espionage," and "national security" are back in the headlines again.

Instead of ignoring the story or simply scoffing at the obvious distracting attack, the Clinton campaign has fallen into the same kind of trap all those Republican candidates Trump defeated in the primaries fell for: misdirection. Most of the news media seems to have fallen for it, too, as the tone of most of the stories covering Trump's comments seem to indicate this could be the serious gaffe everyone was expecting Trump to make in this election.

Trump's ability to steal headlines with outrageous comments and survive the process is well-documented, but no one seems to have come up with an antidote for it. And, as for trying to make Russia into some kind of villain here and thus tainting Trump for any connection to that country or it's leader Vladimir Putin, ask Mitt Romney how much the voters care about Russia. He found out the answer the hard way in 2012, didn't he?

And guess what no one is talking about right now? All those "historic" stories about Clinton being the first woman to win a major party nomination are off the news sites now. Major lead-up stories to President Obama's big speech at the convention on Wednesday night are almost non-existent now. And no one is talking about Clinton running mate Tim Kaine's speech tonight at all.

Advantage Trump.

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How did DNC organizers not notice that they didn't have any flags for their convention floor and had to go out and order flags when people started remarking on the lack? Usually the stages at these things are weighed down with American flags.

Mollie Hemingway argues that Donald Trump "is living rent-free in the DNC's head." He got them to change her slogan when he made fun of "I'm with her" when he said in his acceptance speech that "My pledge reads: ‘I’m with you — the American people.’" The Clinton campaing quickly added "She's with us" to "I'm with her." They're taking up his opposition to NAFTA and promising the UAW that Hillary would try to rewrite one of her husband's greatest achievements. And he's forcing her to muddy her campaign message.
During his acceptance speech, Donald Trump sold a message of the need for radical and urgent change....

So what was the big takeaway from last night’s keynote address by former President Bill Clinton? He said that his wife would be a “change-maker.” Over and over and over again, that’s what he said....

Trump says, “Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change,” and Clinton’s response is “she’s a change-maker”?

Everything about the Democratic convention seems to be a response to Trump. They’re trying to position him as immoral, his positions as extreme, and his style as gauche. They’re listening to his criticisms and letting them get in their heads.

Of course, before Trump was in Clinton's head, Sanders was taking up space there. She kept changing her positions in order to try to appeal to his fans on the left. But no one really believes her. For example, she's pretending to be against free trade.
Mr. Trump is now assailing Mr. Kaine for Herbert Hoover-come-lately hypocrisy, and he has a point. As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton helped negotiate the yet-to-be-ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership and gave some 45 public speeches for TPP. Then to fend off the Sanders challenge, she renounced the final TPP text in October 2015, and getting tough on China, outsourcing and other specters became stump staples. By opposing TPP, she’s running against the last major initiative of a President of her own party, and the Philadelphia Democrats don’t seem to mind.

More remarkable is that no one takes her statements at face value. Her left-right critics think she’s setting up a trade double cross, while corporate CEOs assure us that she is merely making a tactical TPP feint and after the election she’ll push it through Congress.

his perception of trade insincerity does match the Clinton record. In the 1990s her husband promoted the North American Free Trade Agreement and most-favored nation status for China, and she endorsed both in her 2003 memoir “Living History.”

In the 2007-2008 Democratic primaries, Mrs. Clinton said she would renegotiate the “mistake” that was Nafta, promised to defeat a pending deal with Colombia, and told an AFL-CIO town hall that a U.S.-South Korea pact would “put American jobs at risk.” At Foggy Bottom, she then lobbied Congress to pass the Colombia and Korea agreements, and she deleted her Nafta do-over faster than the emails on her private server.
And then there is the awkwardness of Terry McAuliffe coming right out and admitting that Clinton is going to flip-flop on TPP.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, longtime best friend to the Clintons, said Tuesday that he believes Hillary Clinton will support the TPP trade deal if elected president, with some tweaks.

“I worry that if we don’t do TPP, at some point China’s going to break the rules -- but Hillary understands this,” he said in an interview after his speech on the main stage at the Democratic National Convention. “Once the election’s over, and we sit down on trade, people understand a couple things we want to fix on it but going forward we got to build a global economy.”

Pressed on whether Clinton would turn around and support the trade deal she opposed during the heat of the primary fight against Bernie Sanders, McAuliffe said: “Yes. Listen, she was in support of it. There were specific things in it she wants fixed.”

Later, McAuliffe’s spokesman sought to clarify the governor’s remarks after this story published, saying he was simply expressing what he wants Clinton to do if she is elected president. “While Governor McAuliffe is a supporter of the TPP, he has no expectation Secretary Clinton would change her position on the legislation and she has never told him anything to that effect.”
Translation: "She's going to flip-flop but I made a mistake in saying so. Oops."

This reminds me of the Austen Goolsbee scandal from the 2008 election when he told Canadian reporters that Obama wasn't really as much against NAFTA as his criticisms made it seem. Here is a report on this from 2008.
By now, everyone is familiar with the Canadian television report that alleged an Obama adviser went to the Canadian government and told officials that Obama's NAFTA-bashing is merely campaign rhetoric, and shouldn't be taken seriously.

Also well known are the Obama campaign's denials, and the Canadian government's denials.

Turns out, it may well be true. Someone leaked a memo to the AP that describes a meeting between Obama's senior economic policy adviser Austan Goolsbee and officials with the Canadian consulate in Chicago. In the memo, Goolsbee's comments on NAFTA on portrayed this way:

"Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign. He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."
The Obama campaign has responded by saying Goolsbee visited with the Canadian officials strictly as a professor from the University of Chicago, not as an envoy from the Obama campaign. And for good measure, it is saying Goolsbee was misquoted. A spokesman says, "It all boils down to a clumsy, inaccurate portrayal of the conversation." Goolsbee calls the memo's summary of his views "ham-handed."

Ham-handedness aside, this is a gift to the Clinton campaign, which will use it to maximum effect in Ohio, where NAFTA has cost untold thousands of manufacturing jobs. Clinton herself has already said, "I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors. That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

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Byron York observes
how Hillary is campaigning both as a change-maker and as the steady candidate.
A solid majority, 56 percent to 41 percent, favored change over steadiness. Other polls have had much the same message. The problem is, Clinton, facing the flamboyant and unpredictable Donald Trump, has sold herself as the very soul of steadiness.

Last month, Clinton beamed while Elizabeth Warren praised her "steady hands."

After the Brexit vote, Clinton said uncertainty in the world "only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership."

On Monday, the first lady told the convention to trust Clinton's "steady and measured" approach.

And a few days earlier, Clinton's pick of Tim Kaine as running mate was praised as — you get just one guess — a "steady" move.

But what if steady is not selling? Then Clinton will become a CHANGE MAKER.

There's an obvious tension between steady Hillary and change maker Hillary. But there is also a tension between change maker Hillary and the message from the Obamas, both of whom are arguing that things are going pretty well in the country. The problem with that, for someone running for office today, is that somewhere around 70 percent of voters believe the nation is on the wrong track.

It all makes change maker a harder sell than steady hand.

"Change maker is laughable," wrote the Republican strategist Curt Anderson, in an email exchange after Bill Clinton's speech. "It's a desperate and transparent attempt to deal with Hillary's biggest obstacle to being elected — the fact that 3/4 of the voters believe the country is headed the wrong direction. The wrong track is a ball-and-chain on her campaign."
It doesn't matter. She'll be whatever she thinks will get her votes at that moment.