Near the end of the debate, Hillary Clinton brought up a little anecdote about Donald Trump calling one of the women in the Miss Universe pageant (which he then owned) "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping." Clinton knew her name, Alicia Machado, much to Trump's surprise. The anecdote showed that Trump disparages women, Latinas, and low-paid workers, all at once. It even has a great punchline: The woman became a U.S. citizen and will vote in November. It won't be for Trump.
This whole episode was not an accident. It was a trap that Clinton has been planning for weeks, and Trump stepped right into it. For someone who thinks he is a shrewd operator, he got suckered. Within an hour of the debate, Clinton released a devastating, professionally produced video in which Machado talks about her experience with Trump. For starters, he told her she was ugly (and this after she just won the Miss Universe pageant). He also would say, "Hello, Miss Piggy" or "Hello, Miss Housekeeping," just as Clinton noted. As Miss Universe, she participated in many ad campaigns. According to her contract, she was entitled to 10% of what she earned for Trump's company, but he simply didn't pay her, just as he has stiffed many people who have worked for him in the past. When she gained some weight, he had her work out—and without her knowledge—invited reporters and photographers to watch. He tried to humiliate her. She also said that he is a racist who bears grudges and is completely unfit to be president of the United States.
The interesting thing about the video is not so much what Machado says in it, but the fact that it undoubtedly took weeks to collect the 34 clips in the video (including some old footage), add transitions and subtitles (the bilingual Machado speaks in Spanish in the video—no doubt for the benefit of Latino voters), and generally put together a very professional ad. Clinton's bringing this up during the debate—and near the end to maximize the chance of people's remembering it—was no accident or idea that suddenly popped into her head. Trump may eventually realize that he is up against a pro.
Worse yet, the story is raging on and on. Machado was interviewed yesterday on CNN, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News, Telemundo, and Univision. Pundits of all stripes are talking about her. She was mentioned in 150 print articles, 6,000 times on television, and 200,000 times in tweets. When you combine a beauty queen and tabloid journalism with presidential politics, it doesn't go away quickly. Machado, who is an actress in Spanish-language soap operas, is used to appearing and speaking in public and is well known to Latinos, so she could become a powerful voice for Clinton's outreach to that community. (V)
While Donald Trump claims to have won the first debate big time, his advisers know better. They also have a plan to improve matters next time. The plan is clear; it is the execution that is problematical. What they want is for Donald Trump to sit down with briefing books they prepare and have him read and absorb them. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is good at managing the candidate, but this will be her toughest assignment, since the candidate does not like sitting still for hours at a time. They also want to drill him in how to handle a town hall meeting, where many of the questions are formulated and asked by audience members, and some questions may be unusual or very difficult for him to understand. They also need to teach him how to debate a woman. Since Trump does not take well to other people telling him he must absolutely not be himself, but must act as they have instructed him to act, the entire exercise may not work. And it could collapse completely if Clinton springs another trap on him, as she did the first time. (V)
Donald Trump was not happy on Wednesday, lashing out at just about everyone within sight. On a conference call with his campaign staff and various surrogates, he blasted the unknown insiders who have criticized his debate performance and revealed to the media that he's being pressured to change his approach. Not long thereafter, while being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, Trump aimed his guns at Lester Holt, insisting that the debate moderator, "was much, much tougher on me than he was on Hillary." Appearing at a rally after the O'Reilly appearance, The Donald somewhat bizarrely decided to unload on Google, which he accused of "suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton." He also took a shot at Clinton herself, accusing the Democratic nominee of running an "unserious" campaign that "focuses only on small and petty distractions." Someone might want to remind him of the old saying that people who live in houses made out of a coughing fit, a birth certificate, and a bunch of e-mails should not be throwing stones.
Presumably Trump is upset about his debate performance, and the fact that poll after poll has given the nod to Clinton. On the other hand, he might just be upset at the news that his net worth has dropped by $800 million in the last year. So much for the presidential run helping his brand. (Z)
While professional polls done by polling companies and universities are generally more-or-less unbiased (albeit with some house effects), Internet polls can be completely rigged. A scientific poll conducted by CNN/ORC after the debate showed that 62% of the respondents thought Clinton had won, vs. 27% who proclaimed Trump to be the winner. Republican pollster Frank Luntz ran a focus group that gave a similar result. However, most of the Internet polls gave Trump a huge victory. How can this be?
It turns out there is an explanation: The Internet polls were rigged. Several websites, including 4chan and reddit, had messages urging Trump supporters to vote in all the Internet polls repeatedly, which many of them did, and it worked. Sean Hannity said: "I have it in front of me. Time magazine, Drudge Report, CNBC, The Hill, CBS—the only one that has Hillary winning is CNN, and they are the Clinton News Network." Of course, the CNN poll was the only one that did a random sample instead of letting anyone who wanted to vote do so, over and over. And Trump didn't really win the CBS poll Hannity had mentioned because CBS didn't conduct an online poll at all.
There is more Internet mischief in store. The Commission of Presidential Debates has decided to let people submit potential questions for the second debate on its Website presidentialopenquestions.com. Some of the people on 4chan are organizing a campaign to have large numbers of people submit questions about Hillary Clinton's email server or her speeches to Goldman Sachs, in hopes that the moderators (CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Martha Raddatz) see how much the voters care about those topics, and ask about them. However, the official ground rules state that questions have to be such that they can be asked of either candidate. Theoretically, either candidate could be asked about Clinton's email server, but Cooper and Raddatz are unlikely to pick such a question. The top 10 most popular questions at the time this item was written were:
While it is not clear if 4chan/reddit is having an effect here, it appears that most of the top questions were formulated and voted up by Trump supporters. The only one Clinton supporters are likely to have supported is the one about making healthcare affordable to everyone. If the people voting on the questions were roughly half Clinton supporters and roughly half Trump supporters, there would have been more questions like "Do you want to build a wall on the Mexican border?" and "Do you want to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.?" So while the Internet is democratic, it is easy for a small but determined group to manipulate it. (V)
Donald Trump has plans to have a busy first day if he is elected president. He has enumerated nine specific actions he will take on Day 1. Since presidents are sworn in at noon and generally give a speech and wave to the people a bit, he will probably have only 9 or 10 hours at most to accomplish the following goals:
How might he go about this? Let's take a look. Could he do these things on Day 1?
In reality, he wouldn't be able to do any of these things on day 1, and probably not in month 1, either. And some of them, like 1 and 3, probably never. (V)
Cybersecurity expert Andrew Appel, a professor at Princeton University, testified yesterday to a House subcommittee that a team of dedicated hackers could change enough votes in a few swing states to change the outcome of the presidential election. Four other people, none of them with any computer expertise, said it could not be done. Many Democrats have blamed Russia for interfering with the election in order to help Donald Trump, and are afraid the capstone on Russia's hacks could be an attempt to swing the election results themselves. It has been reported that U.S. intelligence officials are highly confident that the hack of the DNC was perpetrated by elite Russian hackers, most likely working on an official project of the Russian government. (V)
Last month, it was revealed that hackers had gained access to the election databases in the states of Arizona and Illinois. On Wednesday, we learned that the breach was actually much worse than originally reported, with roughly 10 states' databases either probed or compromised.
There are two obvious ways in which hackers working for the Russian government could try to influence the outcome of the presidential election. The first would be to gain access to voting machines and to tinker with their output. This would be difficult to execute, however, particularly without being detected. Far easier would be to delete voter registrations en masse. If, say, 10% of the Democratic voters in North Carolina were deleted, those individuals would be unable to vote when they showed up at their polling places. That could easily flip the outcome in the Tar Heel State, with a net switch of 30 electoral votes.
At the debate on Monday, Donald Trump suggested that we do not really know if these attacks are the work of the Russians, and that, "It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds." Who knows what the point of slurring the 37% of the population that is obese was, but in any case he is in error. CNN spoke to several cybersecurity experts, and they said that there are two problems with Trump's thesis. The first is that the attacks are very sophisticated, and would be beyond the capability of someone who was not state-sponsored. The second is that each group of hackers has a signature collection of maneuvers, leaving behind a distinctive "footprint." The recent hacks of the DNC, Arizona, Illinois, etc., all have the Russian footprint. So it was definitely a team effort, and a large enough team that it weighs well over 400 pounds. (Z)
Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State and an expert on disputed elections, has written an interesting piece for Politico about what might happen if Donald Trump breaks his debate-night promise and disputes the election results. The short answer: It could be a real problem.
The problem, says Foley, is that the people who oversee elections are all partisans. He uses, as his example, the state of Pennsylvania, which is among the states that use paperless voting machines. If Trump questioned the outcome there, there would be no proof that the numbers were correct. Any dispute would be handled by Pedro Cortés, a Democrat, who reports to Gov. Tom Wolf, another Democrat. Said dispute could ultimately find its way into the courts, which are highly partisan, and eventually to the eight-person Supreme Court, where a 4-4 decision is probable. In short, there might well be no clean resolution, which in turn could cause Trump supporters to feel they have license to respond as they see fit. Violence in the streets? Skipping out on taxes? Occupying federal land in Oregon? Anything is possible.
Foley asserts that we've been lucky to have avoided a constitutional crisis for as long as we have, and credits Al Gore in 2000, Richard Nixon in 1960, and Samuel Tilden in 1876 for dropping their claims to the presidency and prioritizing the good of the democracy. He suggests that we stop relying on such generosity of spirit, however, and that Congress immediately create a non-partisan three-person panel to arbitrate election results (following the lead of Australia, the UK, and others). It's a nice idea in theory, but seems a bit far-fetched in practice. First of all, how exactly will these "non-partisan" people be identified and appointed? The courts are supposed to be non-partisan, and that hasn't exactly worked out. Second, it seems a tad bit dangerous to put that much power in so few hands. If Larry favors Hillary, and Curly prefers Trump, then Moe could single-handedly be choosing the president of the United States. And giving Moe so much power might make Anthony Kennedy, who currently makes all the big decisions on public publicy, jealous. The proposal would just create a situation begging for democracy-threatening corruption. (Z)
As the former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson presumably did not negotiate many treaties or invade too many countries. So, a certain lack of familiarity with foreign affairs is understandable. But now he is running for president, a job whose responsibilities include serving as America's chief diplomat. You might think he would want to get up to speed, particularly after being embarrassed by not knowing what Aleppo is. You might think that, but apparently you would be wrong.
On Wednesday, Johnson was appearing at a foreign affairs-themed town hall sponsored by MSNBC. Host Chris Matthews asked what should have been a true softball of a question: "Who's your favorite foreign leader?" And, in a moment eerily reminiscent of Sarah Palin's "What magazine or newspaper do you read" debacle, Johnson couldn't come up with one. He hemmed and hawed, and finally grinned sheepishly and admitted that he was having another "Aleppo moment."
In truth, this was far worse than the Aleppo incident. That was a fairly specific piece of information, whereas this question has literally hundreds of answers. All he needed was any leader who is not a brutal dictator or a communist. Angela Merkel? Bam, done. Theresa May? Fine. Shinzo Abe? Sure. The non-response can only be interpreted as evidence that he doesn't really know the names of any foreign leaders, perhaps outside of Vladimir Putin. Maybe his staff should make him some flash cards. (Z)
Nothing terribly unexpected today, although Clinton's lead in Washington is probably more than 6%. (V)
|Nebraska||29%||56%||7%||Sep 25||Sep 27||Emerson Coll.|
|New Hampshire||46%||42%||6%||Sep 20||Sep 25||ARG|
|Washington||44%||38%||7%||Sep 25||Sep 26||Emerson Coll.|
Ditto for Murray vs. Vance. Emerson's sample seems to be weighted too much towards Republicans. Murray is going to crush the unknown Vance. (V)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|New Hampshire||Maggie Hassan||47%||Kelly Ayotte*||47%||Sep 20||Sep 25||ARG|
|Washington||Patty Murray*||48%||Chris Vance||41%||Sep 25||Sep 26||Emerson Coll.|