Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lots of Republicans...

... will vote for Hillary, not just sit it out. While Dems may feel very uncomfortable as bedfellows with neocons like Kagan, or with centrists like Scowcroft and Salter, we should recognize this as an opportunity to move them to the left on social issues. The Republican Party is dissolving, and we're entering a new political era. It has plenty of dangers -- we don't know what the end of the two-party system will look like. But as that works its way through future history, we should welcome the shift of the Overton Window.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

He's bored

Donald Trump is bored. It's his primary (pun intended) characteristic. It's why he has long since stopped actually putting up buildings -- too much process, too many considerations, too much actually to operate -- and instead turned his business model into licensing his name to others, who do the actual work. It's also why he hasn't set up an actual campaign operation. How boring is that?

Donald Trump isn't just a little bit bored, or periodically bored. He's deeply bored. He's always bored. He's essentially retired from the real estate business, and his boredom has increased exponentially -- as it does for many retirees -- as he runs away from actual work or any demands from the actual world... from reality itself, in its endless, inescapable boredom. Fantasy is much more entertaining. He's even bored with the project of building those temples to boredom, golf courses.

This is, however, a perfect emotional fuel for a reality TV celebrity/host/impressario. It gives him a perfect ear for what will bring in continued ratings. He himself is a programming weathervane for the boredom of the depressed white no-longer-working class, people who despair of having a trajectory in their lives and desperately crave a stimulus to distract them from the depressing subject of trajectory entirely... the people who are killing themselves in record numbers. Trump is reality TV -- an endless stream of superficial-stimulus drugs.

And, by the way, this is also why the television news media has eaten him like cotton candy throughout the primaries. Boredom is their principal fuel, too. And Trump is a walking, breathing news feed. But it's also why they have now turned on him and will work to destroy his legitimacy. Because he's a threat to them -- as any drug on which one overdoses is. He exposes their own ADHD. They depend on the premise that reality is real, and substantive and mostly boring... and that their job is to go meta on that. If everything is stimulus, then the whole thing becomes meta and floats off into the ether. They need a tether. They didn't understand at first that Trump wasn't of the world, but of them, so he perplexed and fascinated and played them for a year. That's over now.

Anyway, bottom line -- Trump isn't running to become president. He's running to run. And when he suffers a crushing defeat -- well, that won't be boring, will it? In fact, there's nothing to stop him from continuing his "campaign" against boredom indefinitely, in public view, on satellite TV and radio. Hillary will actually have to be president -- and bless her heart, she actually craves that. She gets off on real thinking, real work, on setting up and running operations. Whether she governs in prose or poetry, she'll be putting her whole and true self into it. Meanwhile, The Donald will help her by making sure there isn't a five-minute stretch in which either her name or his is not trending.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hillary's convention speech

Brexit notwithstanding, I'm feeling pretty confident that Hillary's got the election in the bag. And I've been thinking about her acceptance speech in that context.

Trump is self-destructing every day. By late July he’ll be a puddle on the floor. Hillary was right to attack him vigorously at first – and her San Diego evisceration of him was both the beginning and the end of the campaign. But the convention speech represents an opportunity to pivot from campaigning to governing. Only, in this case, the person who is stereotyped as entirely prosaic will govern in poetry. 

She will use the hook of FDR’s famous 1936 acceptance speech – “Rendezvous with Destiny” – also in Philadelphia, 60 years ago. The thrust of the speech will be to lay out her vision of the future – a country and a planet of complex systems that invite and require a new kind of smart, activist government based not on fantasies of control but on engagement with a newly activist citizenry. She will co-opt Bernie’s activist army but give it something actually to do – a Peace Corps-esque generation of service that will be mobilized and paid for through a New New Deal. 

This will be a spectrum of programs funded by the Infrastructure Bank and other similar mechanisms, which will draw on activist citizen power to tackle rebuilding our physical infrastructure (as in the WPA), cleaning up and greening up the environment (cf. CCC), reinventing education (doubling the nation’s teaching corps), tackling the "last mile" of community health, etc. This will directly and materially impact employment, and it will also build a 21st century foundation for America’s competitiveness in the global economy. And there will be a regulatory component – the new sheriff we needed in 08, extending Dodd Frank.

This will reveal a dimension of Hillary few have seen – her intellectual and emotional ambition, her profound capacity to dream and to inspire. Everyone thinks she’s a boring, dogged wonk. But with this speech, she will, for the first time, unveil the historic world-changing leader she has always been inside. It will be grounded in a feminist view of the world – a collaborative, tolerant, low-ego, hard-working approach to problem-solving, the “it takes a village” approach. If she had had a real opponent in the election, she probably would have needed to run as Hillary the Fighter. But because it’s Trump, she can take her toughness for granted, and dare to go deeper. She already owns the fact that she’s a safe choice – vs. putting Claribel the Fascist anywhere near the button. Now she can surprise the world by dreaming big.

She will emerge here as the leader of a true movement – not the ephemeral cult of personality that was Bernie’s “movement.” Indeed, this speech will be the kickoff not of a campaign, but of a new idea of America, a woman’s America, an America that nurtures and listens to and relies upon its people. That’s why it’s a new New Deal. FDR was a classic alpha male – he did stuff for us. Hillary will be a Mrs. Ramsay – she will enlist us to do stuff for each other.

The result of the speech will be that people will immediately be impatient for this new era to begin.

The vision will also be seriously wonky – though artfully so. For those inclined to think in this way, it will offer a compelling worldview – a complex systems understanding of the world. It will be entirely compatible with her smart power past – her m.o. of studying systems and making forceful but thoughtful interventions. Her bias for action is real, but it isn’t a bias for control. Also, it is very different from Trump’s and Bernie’s isolationism.

The philosophy that will emerge is of government-as-catalyst, rather than either government-as-bystander or government-as-dictator. Maybe she returns at the end to FDR’s speech, which explicitly and at length described a philosophy of government, derived both from America’s origins and from the trauma of the Depression: 
“The defeats and victories of these years have given to us as a people a new understanding of our government and of ourselves…. We seek not merely to make government a mechanical implement, but to give it the vibrant personal character that is the very embodiment of human charity.”


This seems right to me -- Brexit, as disturbing as it is, is not a preview of the election here. What it certainly is, however, is a loud warning bell for Hillary's presidency.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Whither CNN?

Classing up the joint, eh? From mud-slinging to mud-wrestling in the newsroom.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Whither the GOP?

As is their wont, 538 has a valuable analysis of the outlook for the House. Bottom line: It won't flip to the Dems this cycle, but it will shift significantly, enough to make a material difference in legislative outcomes. And the chances for the flip in 2018 and 2020 look quite strong.

Stepping back from this election, what's interesting about this picture is the questions it raises about where the GOP is headed. Its current position as a local, rather than national, Congressional rather than presidential, party is almost entirely a function of latency in the system -- of the territory it secured over the years through Karl Rove's master plan. The longer-term secular shifts -- in demographics, in social mores, in economics -- all favor the Dems. And despite the very deliberate and aggressive work over decades to institutionalize the Reagan era, those institutions have almost entirely dissolved before our eyes. There is no longer any ideological glue, nor even any professional discipline to keep the ship in one piece, much less afloat. 

Will it become a nativist rightwing party, a la Le Pen? Will it become a loosely tied network of red state governments -- and can such an inherently fragmented existence last? Will a libertarian party -- either the actually existing one, or a newly reformed GOP -- emerge in its place?

In other words, how long can latencies survive in a complex, emergent system when they are not grounded in actual ideas or broadly compelling goals? The GOP today looks like a fragile shell of its former self, almost incapable of action or coordination or even enlightened self-interest. Krugman's analogy to the Soviet Union in 1989 is persuasive.

Of course, that also begs the question: Whither the Democratic Party? What does it become without a serious antagonist? I expect Hillary's first term to be a spectacular success -- but what then? It's non-trivial for the winner, as well as for the loser, to evolve in a constructive way after total victory.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dowd cloud

This piece tells you everything you need to know about Maureen Dowd. Her celebrity obsession, her self-deluding faux irony, her intellectual vacuity. Trump gave her access a few months ago, and pulled the wool over her eyes. She's just now waking up to what every intelligent person has known for decades -- that he is a narcissistic phony, America's asshole laureate. No, his ideas do not make sense. No, trade deals have not left swaths of America devastated. No, our allies do not importantly take advantage of us. Trump isn't just -- mysteriously to Dowd -- spoiling his real chance and soiling his real smarts. He never had either smarts or a chance.

When Dowd writes about Hillary, she reveals how desperately she is in need of psychotherapy. When she writes about Trump, she reveals how painfully gullible she is. In either case, she remains a public embarrassment in America's paper of record.

Friday, June 17, 2016

From yuge to yawn - updated

The pervasive narrative -- and we live in a media environment dominated by narrative... just ask Somerby -- is that Trump is on the way down. One small data point in that: After Orlando, Trump said he was going to "meet with" the NRA to persuade them to accept no-fly/no-buy. One would think that departure from GOP orthodoxy would have attracted media attention. Instead, the filibuster by Chris Murphy dominated the cycle. In fact, the Senate GOP effectively gave Murphy, hence the Dems, ownership of victory on this.

Everybody, and I mean everybody, is jumping off this ship. Trump has gone straight from gruesome object of fascination to yesterday's boring news, without a stop at schaudenfreudian contemplation.

Update: Of course Trump is a horror -- but Egan's Times op-ed is silly in its melodramatic overreach. History will not remember this week. Trump may make it into a history book as a bizarro-world footnote, but it's the winners who write the history, and Trump is already what he most despises -- a loser. If he does make it into a history book, it will be because that history book is recounting the Whigging-out of the GOP, not because Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are cowards.

Fact-free "progressives"

This piece was just posted to Facebook by an avid Bernie supporter with the comment, "Not buying it." And, of course, the Nudge of the North is continuing to stick his fingers in his ears in the face of the facts that his "revolution" was a failure.

"Revolution." "Progressive." We're gonna need to stock up on quotation marks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Running in place

I've been saying that Donald Trump isn't really running for president but for King of All Media. Tonight's epiphany: He isn't running for anything -- or, at least, he isn't actually moving. He's just vamping on a treadmill, playing each day by ear, saying whatever comes to mind. He has no direction, no plan, no strategy.

He certainly isn't running against Hillary. Yes, he keeps saying "crooked Hillary," but that's not a game plan. He had five weeks between the time he locked up the nomination and the time she did, and yet he didn't lay any serious pipe, line up any helpful surrogates, run any effective ads. Even today, in the wake of Orlando, when one might have thought he'd have some way of tying Hillary to a failure of security, he directed almost all his brickbats at Obama. Put aside the fact that Obama's positives are high and Trump's are low. Put aside the creepiness and ineffectiveness of hinting darkly that Obama is secretly trying to help the terrorists (reminding everyone of his flunko birther days). Put aside the fact that nobody thinks Obama is a "fool," and saying that reminds everyone that Trump is one. Put all that aside, but the main point is that Obama isn't the target. He's not the candidate. Say what one will about the moral repugnance of Trump's attempt to capitalize on this horror -- but he isn't even employing good tactics.

When he had no response to her San Diego speech, where she knocked him around the ring, the takeaway seemed to be that she is a formidable contender who will be too much for him. But it's looking more and more as though he would have no strategy if he were running against a potted plant.

The fact is, he's got nothing. His candidacy is going to collapse at astonishing speed, and with it the Senate. Next stop: the House.

Has anybody ever made a dumber prediction than Scott Adams?

Monday, June 13, 2016


This election is presenting not just a clash of ideology, but of maturity. Hillary is the only grown-up in the room. Trump is obviously an infant, but Bernie isn't a whole lot farther along the developmental curve. He's a spoiled brat -- a superannuated terrible two -- who pouts and has to be coddled into accepting reality. His "revolution" isn't based on any real idea of a future society or a political process to get there. He hasn't envisioned new social or economic relations. This "revolution" is nothing more than a simplistic kvetch about not getting everything he wants.

In fact, as many have noted, the real story isn't these comically inadequate candidates, but their followers. How, one wonders, can millions of people actually decide they like Donald Trump? Similarly, how can alleged progressives choose to turn their future over to someone so patently incapable of actually doing anything?

The hunger for apocalypse

We so dearly wish to be present, not at the creation, but at the end of days. Suicidal jihadism is just that -- the wish for death, and the denial of its loneliness. Above all else, we must not die alone. Emperors can command thousands of terracotta companions, but we mere mortals can at least bring along a planeful or classroomful or clubful of our planetmates.

As humanistic, scientific modernism marches forward, the Romantic desire for absolute presence -- and its necessary anti-matter, absolute absence -- intensifies. This manifests itself in everything from Paris, San Bernardino and now Orlando to the cosmi-comic presence of The Donald.

A reverie sparked by the thought that "The Second Coming" and I, Claudius -- both visions of a 2,000-year cycle of empire and apocalypse -- came out within 15 years of each other, on the eve of Western civ's 19th and arguably final nervous breakdown.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

This is correct...

... as far as it goes. It goes as far as a kind of Peter Jackson Gollum -- a half-baked notion of psychological complexity.

What it doesn't explain is why "Don Trump" should exist at all. If you're going to posit this level of rational self-interest, then you should take it back one step: Why even run for president in the first place? Why put yourself in a position where The Donald needs to create The Don?

My take: Trump never intended to become president, but he did want to transform himself into a sui generis reality star. That's why he wanted to win more than the public's eyeballs. He wanted to win their votes. That alone puts him in a category-redefining place among reality TV celebrities. Snooki can't compete with that. Rush and Sean and Kim and even Howard can't compete with that. He'll wind up the new King of All Media, with a reality TV-cum-radio-cum-web-cum streaming empire of which he is the impresario, host and star. People will tune in every day just to see what outrageous thing he'll say next. He'll give a show to every tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist in America. He'll claim that he speaks for the real America -- and would have been president but for the politically correct Establishment. He'll continue to generate controversy after controversy -- including, I expect, some legal ones. I think this reality TV empire will have a very active version of Court TV (or, I guess, Judge Judy-cum-Jerry Springer). He'll file lawsuit after lawsuit -- welcoming the malicious prosecution counterclaims. Maybe he'll even have a Malicious Prosecution Watch show. And he'll sit amidst it all with undisguised glee.

Donald Trump has been transitioning for two decades from the scion of a real estate empire, where he hasn't done very well, and where his natural talents don't seem to lie (even if lying does remain a natural talent). He's basically pursued two paths over that period: 1) the wildly litigious general counsel of a real estate equivalent of a patent troll, and 2) celebrity clown. The latter has looked increasingly more promising over the years -- but maybe he doesn't even have to choose.

In that context, one doesn't need to ask why The Donald created The Don. It's the obvious business model.

Friday, June 10, 2016

As do the whitewashers of past perfidy - updated

It's so heartwarming to hear Frank Rich and Chris Matthews extol Hillary's historic accomplishment. The same people who excoriated her in the vilest terms. They're deeply guilty of exactly the things they're saying she weathered. How quickly we forget...

Update: At least one of them retains her integrity. She's true to her madness. The enduring mystery is how a newspaper with editors decides it should continue to provide this lunatic obsessive with a megaphone long after she's stopped being even clever.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The testimonials start coming in - updated

This from Kevin Drum.

This from Ezra Klein.

More to come.

Update: Another.

Update 2: Another good one.

Putz - updated

We're separating the woman from the boys. From the Times this morning on Bernie's post-defeat speech:
"At almost every turn, he was grudging toward Mrs. Clinton, passing up a chance to issue the kind of lengthy salute that many, in and out of the Democratic Party, had expected and craved.
"'It’s a blown opportunity to build bridges that are going to be extremely important in the fall,' said David Gergen, an adviser to four presidents, both Democratic and Republican. He worried that Mr. Sanders was becoming 'a grumpy old man.'"
This guy is so unready for prime time.

Update: This portrait of the man is devastating -- and very depressing. He's effectively a Trump ally.

Update 2: More grist on the hypocrite of Vermont. And this was before he got creamed last night.

One tough cookie

Peter Beinart's accurate encomium to Hillary's resilience reminds us of those bad old days of 2008 -- and, of course, he only scratches the surface of the betrayals. This person will utterly destroy a paper tiger like Trump. He won't know what hit him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016


What the DNC and the superdelegates tooketh away (in 2008), the AP, NBC and the people giveth (in 2016).

But, of course, this was supposed to happen tomorrow night. Where was the spoiler alert?

There's something in the structure of the universe that conspires to deny Hillary Clinton a proper joyous climax. Instead of a primal, I am woman hear me roar "Whoopee!!!!", it has to be, "According to the news, we are on the brink of a historic, historic, unprecedented moment, but we still have work to do, don’t we?"

Maybe God actually is male. A case of premature computation.

Fight Club

It's getting harder and harder not to conclude that Trump is deliberately trying to lose, on an epic scale. Even if one grants him a narcissism beyond prior measure, even if you think he's mad as a hatter, there's no question the guy knows branding, and there is no brand more toxic or indelible in America circa 2016 than "racist." Thanks to his utterly gratuitous bashing and threatening of Judge Curiel on explicitly racial grounds -- gratuitous because the trial isn't even happening until after the election -- and his insistence on doubling and tripling down on it whenever given half a chance ("yeah, no Muslim judges, either") -- he has rendered himself a pariah to everybody but actual racists. In contemporary normative society, you cannot remain the owner of a professional sports team, you cannot remain a network performer, you cannot remain the CEO of a public company if you are clearly racist.

What you can be is the host, impressario and mogul of a subscription-based reality TV/radio empire -- call it the WTF (as in World Talk Federation... and also the obvious).

I still think Hillary's speech last week was a Mike Tyson round one knockdown -- but it wasn't a knockout. So Trump is answering the bell by one-upping her. "You think you can kick my ass, bitch? Wait'll you see how I kick my ass. You got nothin'!"

Remember, there was no "Tyler Durden." There was only Edward Norton pummelling himself.

The Senate

Fivethirtyeight's Harry Enten admits it's preliminary, but his handicapping of the Senate races is interesting -- and encouraging. If Hillary cleans Trump's clock, it looks like she'll have at least the Senate (and therefore the courts) in the bag.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pow - updated

This. In case anyone was getting nervous.

Also worth reading.

Update: I know it's premature to say, but Hillary Clinton's presidency began yesterday (kinehora pooh pooh). She is already acting as our Commander in Chief, protecting us against enemies foreign and -- in this case -- domestic. America is safer than it was 24 hours ago.

And it's very interesting to me that her first act as president was not an exercise in the wonkery that is her natural metier, but an aggressively political J'Accuse. The first woman President of the United States is going to take on the bad guys with brilliance and vigor. She is going to be a bracing and inspiring breath of fresh air -- as far from "the status quo" as it's possible to be.

Update 2: Think about how the world is different today because of this speech:

1) The terms of the election and the actors in it have been defined -- both Trump and Hillary. We now know what this contest will be about. We know who the contestants are. And we know which team will be playing offense. Hillary is the force of nature here, and Trump is a cardboard figure who will struggle to remain upright. We knew that just watching her (because we all agree with her definition of him -- even those who believe they support him), but if more proof were needed, Trump provided it in his pathetic (sic) response.

I had been thinking that Hillary's best plan for this campaign would be rope-a-dope -- namely, to stand off to the side and let Trump punch himself silly. There has never been a major party candidate in my lifetime who is as likely as Trump to strut into the middle of the ring and start punching himself in the head. I thought he would knock himself out.

But yesterday was not rope-a-dope, not Ali, not even float like a butterfly, sting like a bee (i.e., Obama). It was Mike Tyson in the first round, who famously said, "Everybody has a plan until they get hit." The Donald will, of course, continue to punch himself in the face and the balls (plenty of low blows). He'll be a regular Jim Carrey from Liar, Liar. But Hillary will not stand to the side and gesture to the audience while he does that. She will finish him off. She already has.

2) Bernie has been completely marginalized. This was a speech he could not give. He neither knows enough about foreign affairs or the world, nor is he capable of being the world's leader in anything like the way that Hillary described here. One can substitute his name for Trump's in the speech's most vivid and chilling passage, and the answers would be the same:
"Now imagine [Bernie Sanders] sitting in the Situation Room, making life-or-death decisions on behalf of the United States. Imagine him [Bernie] deciding whether to send your spouses or children into battle. Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account [his rallies and stump speech] at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal. 
"Do we want him making those calls – someone thin-skinned and quick to anger, who lashes out at the smallest criticism? Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?"
Yesterday Hillary enacted -- not just described, but embodied -- a kind of leader Bernie is incapable of being. She didn't mention his name, nor did she say anything about the contrast between the two of them-- because she didn't need to. It's like watching Olivier play Lear. He doesn't have to say, "Jerry Lewis can't do this." It's self-evident.

3) The questions about Hillary herself have been blown away. She doesn't have to answer her critics, because she has seized the agenda from them. Sure, they'll continue to natter about emails and Vince Foster and Benghazi -- but the majority of voters won't pay any attention to them. Trump can say "crooked Hillary" all he likes. It would be as if -- again with the Shakespeare -- an audience were walking out of a performance of Olivier's Lear and somebody said, "Well, okay, but you know the playwright was sued by his tailor." Absolutely no one would care. Absolutely everyone would regard such a person as silly.

4) Most importantly, we have all been reminded what real leadership, true gravitas, looks like -- and how it changes the way we feel about our prospects and ourselves. Obama may have thrilled a lot of people, but he didn't have this kind of depth or seriousness. FDR did, and so does she -- only hers is informed at an even deeper level by the seriousness of women's history and consciousness.

All of this is already evident in the coverage of the speech -- including from the left.

Eight years ago, something happened. A powerful woman allowed her heart to be seen in public, and the public (at least the female portion of it) fell hard.

Yesterday, something happened again -- not a transformative moment of vulnerability and shared humanity, but a moment of metamorphosis, the butterfly shucking its larval skin.

It's a new day.

Update 3: Gail Collins gets it.