May 06

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Journalists All Missed the Boat

Rarely have so many journalists, analysts, pundits, soothsayers, and bloggers (us included) been so wrong so long about so much. After Jeb Bush rounded up $100 million in his shock and awe campaign, just about everyone announced the general election results: Bush would crush the unopposed Hillary Clinton, just as she was going to be crushed by former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2008. Unfortunately, the voters didn't read the memos. Of course, it is natural for journalists (and everyone else), who see a parade of 100 white swans swim by, to "predict" that the next one will be white, but once in a while a black swan shows up. Donald Trump is a black swan. The idea that a boorish billionaire clown whose stock in trade is insulting the voters would beat out multiple sitting and former governors and senators seemed pretty unlikely a year ago, only slightly more probable than a rumpled, angry, Jewish socialist from bucolic Vermont outraising Jeb Bush and scaring the daylights out of Hillary Clinton.

These developments didn't come entirely out of the blue. The tea party movement was a sign that the peasants were restless. The defeat of Eric Cantor, one of the most powerful people in D.C., by an unknown economics professor, David Brat, was another warning sign that something was going on. Nevertheless, the world is full of clues, many of them irrelevant or wrong, so it is hard to know which ones are portents and which ones are false leads.

In all fairness to the journalists, Trump broke so many rules of politics that no one took him seriously. The Huffington Post covered him—but in the Entertainment Section, not in the news section. Trump spent almost no money, didn't actually campaign, had no staff and no strategy, and knew nothing about policy and didn't care. All he did was emit one outrageous tweet after another. Is it surprising that no journalist thought that this guy had the clear markings of a future President, especially against 16 opponents, many of whom held high public office and had lots of money? What everyone missed was that a lot of people were very angry about how the country was being run and just wanted to send all the politicians a message. (V)

With Nomination Decided, GOP Dominoes Now Falling

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, party insiders can no longer avoid taking a stand on his candidacy. And so, on Thursday, a large number of them announced their intentions (at least, as they stand at the moment). Overall, it was not pretty for The Donald.

The Republican establishment hates Trump, of course, and it appears most of them will not be rallying behind him just because he's the nominee. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) declared he's "just not ready" to support Trump, unless he can give GOP voters "something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of." Trump promptly fired back, saying that, "I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda." So, these two seem unlikely to be able to play together anytime soon. This matters because Ryan is going to be chairman of the Republican National Convention and as such has a lot of power.

Meanwhile, there are currently five people living who have been nominated for President by the Republican Party. Three of them (Bush 41, Bush 43, and Mitt Romney) have already said they will not support Trump, and will not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Bob Dole says he will go, but he may or may not vote for Trump. And Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is publicly saying he will support Trump, but he's privately convinced that The Donald may well torpedo his chances at re-election. So, even if he pays Trump a little lip service, he also seems unlikely to appear in Cleveland.

Several prominent Republicans are not content to merely withhold their support, and are actively trying to get a third-party bid underway. This includes Eliot Cohen, who served in both Bush White Houses, and writes that Trump is, "a man utterly unfit for the [presidency] by temperament, values and policy preferences." It also includes Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who took to Facebook Thursday:

With Clinton and Trump, the fix is in. Heads, they win; tails, you lose. Why are we confined to these two terrible options? This is America. If both choices stink, we reject them and go bigger. That's what we do.

The news was not entirely bad for Trump, however. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson said that he would line up behind Trump as the Party's nominee (though he did not necessarily commit any of his billions to The Donald, just his vote, so far). Former Texas governor Rick Perry also jumped on board, and even offered his services as Vice President. The problem with that is that no matter how smart those new glasses make Perry look, he would add little value to the ticket as a not-terribly-savvy politico from a deep red state (see more below). Plus, if Trump were to give him a list of several things to do, he'd probably do the first two, but forget the third. So undoubtedly the answer will be, "thanks, but no thanks." (Z)

Democrats Launch Brutal New Ad Attacking Trump

During the primaries, Donald Trump's opponents were very careful not to call him a racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic liar in so many words because a significant fraction of the Republican base agreed with him. In the general election, the Democrats will not hesitate for a second to call him all these things and illustrate it by playing video clips of him saying racist, bigoted, misogynistic, and xenophobic things. We don't have to wait until the fall to see what these ads might look like. They are already playing on a computer near you and will soon be on television as well. Their goal is to define Trump to a general election audience as all these things.

In addition, the ads that are coming are going to define him as reckless and unprepared in terms of temperament to be president. Going after his temperament is much more deadly than going after his lack of knowledge. He can parry the latter by saying he will have a great cabinet full of great people with great knowledge and great experience doing great things. When the Democrats say that his plans to bomb the shit out of ISIS and maybe even use nuclear weapons are foolhardy, dangerous, and could get us into war with Russia, he can't answer that as easily because the problem is fundamentally who he is. The Democrats are going to pull out all stops to define him as mentally unstable and a threat to the world. It won't be pretty. (V)

Trump Already Creating Headaches for Republican Candidates

Donald Trump had a rally scheduled for Thursday in West Virginia, in advance of voters going to the polls there next Tuesday. He almost canceled, but decided he didn't have the heart, and so he showed up long enough to tell supporters that he did not need their votes in the primary any more, and so they could stay home and conserve their energy for the general election. Needless to say, Republican candidates who face tough election battles were none too happy about that advice.

California's Republican candidates have the same problem. A lot of them were not only eager that the state would matter in presidential politics for once, but were also counting on above-average turnout of GOP voters, as Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did battle. Now, many think that Republican voters will stay home. Given that California is a "jungle primary" state, this could very well mean that some races will end up as Democrat-vs-Democrat affairs. Most obviously, the contest to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) will now almost certainly end up with Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) facing California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D).

These, of course, are just the foreshocks (to use the geologist's parlance). We can only imagine the different types of damage The Donald will do to Republicans in the general election. (Z)

How Loose Are Trump's Lips? We May Soon Find Out

Once the major parties choose their nominees, it is customary for each of the candidates to be given a several-hours-long briefing on the state of the world. The general purpose of the briefing is to give the candidates a sense of the new political stratosphere they have entered, and to remind them that the world is watching their every move. On Thursday, the White House noted that they expect that Donald Trump will receive this briefing, likely as soon as his nomination is official.

The information given to candidates will be limited, and will be pre-approved by the upper echelons of the CIA and FBI, as well as the White House. Nonetheless, it will include a fair amount of delicate and highly-classified material. And so, it will be an interesting test of whether the stream-of-consciousness, shoot-from-the-hip Trump can avoid accidentally spilling state secrets. Needless to say that if he did let something sensitive slip, it would make Hillary Clinton's e-mail server look like child's play. (Z)

Why the Veep Matters

Now that the nominees are probably known, a lot of media people are going to start playing the well known "Who's the Veep?" game (see below). The choice of the Vice President is important, bur not entirely for the reasons that will be offered. With some luck, the Veep might be able to add a couple of points in his or her home state, but probably not much more. The last time a Veep actually helped anyone get elected was probably 1960, when Lyndon Johnson assisted John F. Kennedy in barely winning Texas.

What does matter though, is the help the Veep can give the President in governing. George W. Bush didn't pick Dick Cheney in order to win Wyoming and Barack Obama didn't pick Joe Biden to win Delaware. They both wanted an experienced pol to help them govern. For Donald Trump, who knows nothing about actually governing, this aspect will be crucial. For Hillary Clinton, who probably knows more about how the White House works than any candidate in history, this factor is less crucial. Nevertheless, she will want someone to be a sounding board and someone to whom she can entrust major projects. (V)

Possible Veep Choices for Trump

The Hill has a list of 10 people Donald Trump might choose as his running mate. McClatchy outdoes The Hill with a list of 22 potential Veeps, sorted by category. Let's go with the latter list. The comments are ours, however.

If he wants to double down
If he wants to address his dismal poll numbers
If he wants a Washington insider
If he wants an outsider ticket
If he wants to unite the party
If he wants a celebrity wild card
And if he wants someone who may actually say yes

Politico has a list of people who have already said they are not willing to run with Trump. They are: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC), Ben Carson, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and Vice President Joe Biden. If this is correct, then the above list is down to 18. (V)

Trump as Opponent Changes Clinton's Veep Calculus

The now almost certain selection of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee has a big influence on who Hillary Clinton might choose as her running mate. Trump polls miserably with Latinos and women so Clinton doesn't need a Latino or a woman on the ticket. Large numbers of both groups are going to vote against Trump and adding one to the ticket doesn't buy much. So Sec. Julian Castro, Sec. Tom Perez, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are probably out. Someone from the Rust Belt might help prevent any losses there, but there is no obvious candidate visible yet.

A cautious and classic strategy is to pick someone from a key swing state who might be able to add a couple of percent and bring in the state. One person certainly on Clinton's short list is Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Not only is Kaine a senator from a key swing state, but he was formerly governor of Virginia and also chairman of the DNC. That gives him plenty of political experience as well as executive experience. A strong factor in Kaine's favor is that his election as Vice President would not cost the Democrats a Senate seat, as the election of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) would. The reason is that the governor of Virginia is Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), a close personal friend and political ally of the Clintons. He is term limited as governor and would almost certainly appoint himself to Kaine's Senate seat. Furthermore, his resignation as governor would promote Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) to governor and give him a leg up in the 2017 gubernatorial race. Thus, the choice of Kaine would give Clinton a running mate who could help in Virginia and neighboring North Carolina, hold the Senate seat, and help the Democrats hang onto the governor's mansion. (V)

Leak: Clinton Didn't Intend to Violate the Law with Her Email Server

A leak from FBI officials investigating Hillary Clinton's email server has been published in the Washington Post. The report says no evidence has been found that Clinton intentionally disclosed any of her emails to unauthorized people. Intention is very important here because the statute she would most likely be prosecuted under says it is a felony to willfully and knowingly disclose secret information to anyone not authorized to see it. Accidental disclosure of secret information is not a crime. To successfully prosecute Clinton, the FBI would have to prove that she intentionally released secret information and that doesn't seem to be the case.

The source also said that the Romanian hacker who claims he compromised her server is almost certainly lying. (V)

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