Friday, September 23, 2016

Cruising the Web

Sometimes, it is what is legal that is the most disturbing. The Daily Beast reports that there is no legal block to Trump running his company from the Oval Office. And nothing would prevent Hillary from keeping active in the Clinton Foundation.
Whether it’s President Trump or President Clinton, both would bring major potential conflicts of interest to the Oval Office if elected—between a large international corporate empire and a global foundation, respectively. And there’s no law that requires them not to engage in self-dealing—something that even senior lawmakers are unaware of.

Senior government officials in the Executive Branch are barred from participating in any matter that has a financial benefit for the official or the official’s immediate family, to include their spouse or child. But the same rules that restrain, say, the secretary of defense, doesn’t apply to the president.
And neither candidate is being all that reassuring about their plans if they should get elected.
The gap between what Clinton promised for transparency with the Clinton Foundation and what actually occurred remains a stain on her reputation. The State Department was not always formally notified when a foreign government contributed to the foundation, as promised, and the organization fell short of its promise to annually publish the names of its contributors.

But Trump’s conflict of interests as a businessman with international investments are a magnitude more complicated than Clinton’s Foundation. His business dealings are attached to locations all around the world, and his daily decisions as president could impact his company’s financial prosperity. And while Trump says that he will not participate in his business while in the White House, he has also been known to change his mind on a whim.

“Trump is a very different beast. His holdings span the globe, with many holdings shared with other governmental officials and some invested in countries with which the U.S. does not have good relations. I have a hard time imagining how Trump could ease his many, many conflicts of interest,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist at the left-leaning consumer rights group Public Citizen. “Though, to repeat, it need not be done under the law.”
It would be nice if Congress would pass a new law to block such conflicts of interest in the future president, but don't hold your breath.

Matt Latimer has written an analysis of Trump's gaffes throughout the campaign. Time after time he's said something that everyone assumed would finish him off. And time after time, he survived.
This defies all the rules of public life as we’ve come to understand them. For decades, a single spontaneous outburst (John Kerry’s “I was for it before I was against it”), a pompous proclamation (whatever Al Gore intended to say about his role in the Internet), a cuckoo pronouncement (George Romney’s claim to have been “brainwashed” about the Vietnam War), or even an embarrassing misspelling (Dan Quayle’s infamous attempt to correctly write the word “potato” on a blackboard), caused irreparable, often campaign-ending damage. Trump has done all these things—some of them multiple times in the same day. The gaffe hasn’t destroyed Trump; it’s made him stronger. The reasons for this are instructive, and they will change the way politics is practiced forever.

At one level, Trump’s survival, so far, is less a testament to his shrewdness—though it is a disservice to claim he hasn’t been shrewd—than it is to Washington’s studied cowardice. Trump is not only making gaffes, he’s brashly owning them, daring the political gods to smite him in what has become an epic rebuke to the dull, predictable, cautious political culture that everyone outside the Beltway has learned to recognize and abhor. In terror of the gaffe, candidates have increasingly immersed their true selves behind carefully vetted talking points, anodyne scripts, and cynical consultants, all with the primary purpose of suffocating in its cradle anything approaching a cavalier statement, never mind a surprising or provocative thought.

The culmination of this effort is before us: the enthusiasm-starved campaign of Hillary Clinton, who over her decades in politics has perfected the talent of making even the most cutting-edge idea immediately sound like a cliche. Set against this apotheosis of safe, gaffe-free politics, millions have delightedly embraced a man who seems to recognize their appetite for something recognizably real, even if it’s vulgar and offensive. His gaffes aren’t a sideshow: they’re integral to his pitch. For this cohort, a vote for Trump is a vote to make the safe, protected, consultant-scripted lives of everyone in D.C. miserable every single day, because they’ve earned it.

The larger explanation for the Trump phenomenon is even more unsettling for Washington’s political class, especially the media. They have lost their power. Only a decade or two ago, the media world was confined to a group of people in D.C. and New York—a group that largely knew each other, mingled in the same places, vacationed in the same locales. The most influential members of the group routinely defined what constituted a gaffe, others echoed that view, and it became the conventional wisdom for the rest of America. In the age of the Internet, with bloggers spread out across the nation, and multiple platforms across the political spectrum, that’s no longer possible. The growing divergence between these “insiders” and the new “outsiders” has played to Trump’s benefit, every single time he made what was once conceived as a “game-changing” error.
And sometimes he'll just deny what he is on video saying. And he gets away with it. What an upside down political moment we're experiencing. I have a feeling that this election will be a lot more enjoyable to think about 8 or 10 years from now. Then we will be able to see if Trump is sui generis or are we seeing a sea change in how politicians can survive gaffes.

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Dan McLaughlin goes through various explanations that analysts have put forth for why Hillary Clinton is having trouble winning over younger voters. There are theories out there to blame the media, liberals' insufficient attacks on George W. Bush, ignorant millennials who don't know what Gary Johnson stands for, and Bernie Sanders. And McLaughlin wonders if everyone is just overthinking this.
People like Chait and Beutler, secure in their high opinion of the wisdom and erudition of every Democratic voter, assume that the only possible reason why younger Democrats could reject Hillary after favoring Obama is that nobody has told them the truth yet about the issue stakes or the nature of the candidates. But I wonder if the answer is simpler: Barack Obama was young (by politician standards), and tall, and cool, and cocky, and trash-talking, and black, and Hillary is none of those things. She doesn’t have a commanding physical presence, and didn’t even when she was younger, even by the standards of female politicians. Her laugh is grating, her sense of humor (when it appears) is painfully corny. She’s old and compromised in the ways adults often are. She seems like somebody’s grandmother, because she actually is a grandmother. She seems like a corporate lawyer who would sit on a Board of Directors, because she actually is a corporate lawyer who sat on a Board of Directors. She seems like she thinks she should be cooler than she is, because 25 years ago everybody thought her husband was cool, and the cool rock stars of the day wanted to hang with the Clintons - but to a 22 year old, Fleetwood Mac is “Dad rock.” Maybe there isn’t much more than that, for a lot of young, liberal-leaning voters who don’t follow the news very carefully.

The great false conceit of liberal punditry is not that a share of Right-leaning voters are dumb or bigoted or tribalist or that Republicans sometimes pander to those base instincts. The great false conceit of liberal punditry is that these things are not also true of Left-leaning voters and their party, when all of American history cries out with counterexamples.

Liberals dined out for eight years on being the cool kids. Then they nominated an uncool candidate, and wonder why the cool kids don’t think she’s the same thing.

Speaking of cool kids, Ross Douthat diagnoses a problem with the Democrats. They are being crammed down our throats by cultural elites.
The culture industry has always tilted leftward, but the swing toward social liberalism among younger Americans and the simultaneous surge of activist energy on the left have created a new dynamic, in which areas once considered relatively apolitical now have (or are being pushed to have) an overtly left-wing party line.
But leftist ideology and the pro-Democrat tilt has just gone a bit too far. Late-night TV has become one big echo chamber.
It isn’t just late-night TV. Cultural arenas and institutions that were always liberal are being prodded or dragged further to the left. Awards shows are being pushed to shed their genteel limousine liberalism and embrace the race-gender-sexual identity agenda in full. Colleges and universities are increasingly acting as indoctrinators for that same agenda, shifting their already-lefty consensus under activist pressure.

Meanwhile, institutions that were seen as outside or sideways to political debate have been enlisted in the culture war. The tabloid industry gave us the apotheosis of Caitlyn Jenner, and ESPN gave her its Arthur Ashe Award. The N.B.A., N.C.A.A. and the A.C.C. — nobody’s idea of progressive forces, usually — are acting as enforcers on behalf of gay and transgender rights. Jock culture remains relatively reactionary, but even the N.F.L. is having its Black Lives Matters moment, thanks to Colin Kaepernick.

For the left, these are clear signs of cultural gains, cultural victory. But the scale and swiftness of those victories have created two distinctive political problems for the Democratic Party.

First, within the liberal tent, they have dramatically raised expectations for just how far left our politics can move, while insulating many liberals from the harsh realities of political disagreement in a sprawling, 300-plus million person republic. Among millennials, especially, there’s a growing constituency for whom right-wing ideas are so alien or triggering, left-wing orthodoxy so pervasive and unquestioned, that supporting a candidate like Hillary Clinton looks like a needless form of compromise.
She can move left, but it will never be far enough for the leftists on the far range of the spectrum. And there is a reaction by those of us who just don't find these cool kids all that entertaining any more.
At the same time, outside the liberal tent, the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion — which may be one reason the Obama years, so good for liberalism in the culture, have seen sharp G.O.P. gains at every level of the country’s government.

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Heat Street links to a report from Citizens Audit that purports to demonstrate how David Brock, Hillary Clinton's favored shill, has been laundering money through his network of pro-Clinton organizations while skimming a 12.5% commission off each transaction to another organization that he heads up, the Bonner Group. This is how it works.
1. Media Matters would receive your $1,062,857 donation

a.The Bonner Group would earn a $132,857 commission

b. Media Matters would retain $930,000

2. Next, Media Matters would give what’s left of your entire donation, $930,000, to the Franklin Education Forum

a. The Bonner Group would ‘earn’ a $116,250 commission

b. The Franklin Education Forum would retain $813,750

c. The Franklin Education Forum would then forward the remaining $813,750 to The Franklin Forum

a. The Bonner Group would ‘earn’ a $101,718 commission

b. The Franklin Forum would retain $712,031

In the end, Brock’s solicitor would have pocketed $350,825, almost a third of your initial donation! That’s a far cry from the advertised 12.5% commission.
Pretty sneaky, eh? And how handy that Brock is chairman of each of these organizations and they all share the same phone number. Isn't it typical that the Clintons attract slimy operatives like Sidney Blumenthal and David Brock?

After the terror attacks in Manhattan, New Jersey, and Minnesota this past weekend, liberals had a variety of targets to blame. They blamed Trump for rushing to call it a bombing and Hillary actually blamed Trump as "giving aid and comfort to our adversaries." The Obama administration blamed our inability to control the narrative. And that is also Trump's fault.
What’s the strategy here? The same strategy Democrats have rolled out since the end of World War II: attempting to demonize Republicans as the true threat to the republic, a greater threat even than foreign adversaries. During the Cold War, Democrats routinely pilloried Republicans as the real risk to American freedoms — LBJ suggested that Barry Goldwater would usher in an age of nuclear war, and Jimmy Carter argued Ronald Reagan would do the same. For two generations, the Left argued that militant conservative anti-Communists were a greater danger to Americans than Communists. Conservatives, meanwhile, argued that the greatest danger to America lay in the Soviet Union.

In the post–Cold War era, liberals have continued to argue that conservatives pose a threat to freedom and peace. Republicans, they say, are the true enemy: They want to take away your free stuff and your sexual freedom, reverse the racial progress we’ve made. On foreign policy, the Left’s true area of political vulnerability, progressives make the same argument with regard to ISIS they once made with regard to the Soviet Union: We have little to worry about from ISIS per se — after all, they’re not an “existential” threat to the United States — but we do have to worry that right-wing rhetoric will turn the entire Muslim world against us, provoking World War III. Donald Trump supposedly represents the tip of that spear. He will lose us the narrative war.

Meanwhile, Trump argues that gormless leftism cripples the West in its fight against Islamic terrorism, and voters buy it. It’s difficult for Americans to stomach talk of the dangers of right-wing Islamophobia when one Muslim terrorist attack after another dominates the news. Nobody in their right mind fears Donald Trump’s rhetoric generating terrorism more than ISIS’s setting kettle bombs in trash cans. Trump isn’t as scary as ISIS, no matter how much effort the media and Hillary Clinton put into persuading us he is.

That’s why Trump seems to benefit in the court of public opinion in the wake of terrorist attacks. The Democratic argument that Trump is the Scariest Man in the World only works in a universe where ISIS isn’t scary. And that means downplaying the threat ISIS poses, pretending that all is well when it plainly isn’t.

Jim Geraghty reminds us of how the media likes to glom on to strange conspiracies as long as they make Republicans look bad.
When presented with a conspiracy theory that depicts Republican skullduggery or Democrats as unfairly victimized, however, the media is prone to give it a respectful hearing.

The New York Times credulously reported on claims that the word “rats” in a 2000 George W. Bush campaign ad was a “subliminal attempt to discredit Mr. Gore.” Salon and others asked if George W. Bush wore a communications device during a presidential debate. Democratic congressman John Conyers conducted his own investigation into the “abuse and manipulation of electronic voting machines” in the 2004 election in Ohio, and The New Yorker reported that John Kerry believed “proxies for Bush had rigged many voting machines.” Harry Reid claimed that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid his taxes, and The New Yorker speculated that Romney’s (eventually released) tax returns hid “politically explosive investments.”

As for the notion of a fringe theory representing a party’s mainstream, in 2006, a survey found 50.8 percent of Democrats believed that “the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.”

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And finally, take this Roger Goodell.