Friday, August 28, 2015

NO, PEGGY NOONAN, DONALD TRUMP IS NOT GOING TO WIN THE HISPANIC VOTE

Nobody believes Donald Trump's claim that he can actually win the Hispanic vote in 2016, right? Donald Trump doesn't even believe it. When he says that, he's just blowing smoke.

Peggy Noonan believes it.

Or at least she believes that Trump can make serious inroads among Hispanics. Her evidence? Primarily, secondhand reports from her deli guy about one Spanish-language radio show in New York:
Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!”

“He’s the man,” Cesar said of Mr. Trump. This week I went by and Cesar told me that after Mr. Trump threw Univision’s well-known anchor and immigration activist, Jorge Ramos, out of an Iowa news conference on Tuesday evening, the “El Vacilón” hosts again threw open the phone lines the following morning and were again surprised that the majority of callers backed not Mr. Ramos but Mr. Trump. Cesar, who I should probably note sees me, I sense, as a very nice establishment person who needs to get with the new reality, was delighted.

I said: Cesar, you’re supposed to be offended by Trump, he said Mexico is sending over criminals, he has been unfriendly, you’re an immigrant. Cesar shook his head: No, you have it wrong. Immigrants, he said, don’t like illegal immigration, and they’re with Mr. Trump on anchor babies. “They are coming in from other countries to give birth to take advantage of the system. We are saying that! When you come to this country, you pledge loyalty to the country that opened the doors to help you.”
Did this happen? Were the callers on this show largely pro-Trump? I'll take Noonan's word for it. But when you look at New York Hispanics by place of origin, you see that they're not representative of U.S. Hispanics overall. Even though the numbers are changing, there are nearly twice as many Dominicans as Mexicans here, and there are more than twice as many Puerto Ricans as Mexicans. And remember that the members of that biggest group, Puerto Ricans, aren't immigrants -- they're U.S. citizens. Maybe that skewed the opinions on the radio show Noonan didn't actually listen to. Or maybe affection for Trump is just boosterism for a fellow New Yorker, a guy with a shared local attitude.

But by contrast with New York, the national Hispanic population is 64% Mexican in origin. Now, remind me: Which specific Hispanic group has Trump repeatedly and viciously insulted? And what did that recent Gallup poll say?

Peggy?
It is noted that a poll this week said Hispanics are very much not for Donald Trump. Gallup had 65% with an unfavorable view of him, and only 14% favorable.
There's a pretty close match between the unfavorable percentage and the Mexican-origin percentage, wouldn't you say?

But Noonan still believes in magic. She puts faith in a poll Trump invoked in his confrontation with Ramos:
Mr. Trump and Mr. Ramos actually got into that, when Mr. Ramos finally questioned him after being allowed back into the news conference. Mr. Trump countered with a recent Nevada poll that has him with a state lead of 28% -- and he scored even higher with Nevada’s Hispanics, who gave him 31% support.
Okay, let's take a look at that poll:
WASHINGTON, July 16, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- One America News Network, "OAN", a credible source for 24/7 national and international news, released today its most recent 2016 Republican and Democratic Presidential Polling Results for Nevada conducted by Gravis Marketing. The results show that GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump has a commanding lead of 27.7%, with recently announced Presidential Candidate Scott Walker in second with 15%. In third is Ben Carson with 7.8% with Jeb Bush a point behind at 6.8%. Marco Rubio rounds out the top five with 5.4%. Undecided voters remain high at just over 20%.

With polled Hispanics, Presidential Candidate Trump received 31.4%, higher than his overall performance of 27.7%.
So Trump didn't score "higher with Nevada’s Hispanics" -- according to this poll, he scored higher with Nevada's Hispanic Republicans. According to an analysis of the 2014 midterms by the firm Latino Decisions, fewer than 20 percent of Hispanics in Nevada identify as Republicans. (More than half identify as Democrats.)

The poll Trump and Noonan are citing was conducted by Gravis Marketing -- a much-maligned company (Fivethirtyeight rating for the pollster: C) that was once called "the worst poll in America" by Dave Weigel (although the company did have a run of good polls in the fall of 2014). The survey was conducted for One America News, an upstart conservative cable news channel (created in collaboration with The Washington Times) that (as National Journal puts it) "is positioning itself to be the next Fox News." It recently hired Sarah Palin to guest-host one of its political talk shows; earlier this year, another on-air host questioned the gender of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren:
At [February]'s Conservative Political Action Conference, a 22-year-old woman named Tomi Lahren walked out on the stage and generated the most memorable sound bite from the conference....

In her speech, Lahren -- who hosts a right-leaning talk show on the little-known cable channel One America News Network -- said there is a misconception among young voters that the GOP is populated by "old, rich, white males," and turned that criticism on the Left.

"Let's look at the top three Democrats for 2016," Lahren said. "You've got Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden. Old, rich, white, and if the pantsuit fits ... male too?"
So forgive me if I don't think Trump is going to sweep the Hispanic vote on the basis of this, um, evidence.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RIGHT-WINGERS NOTICE POLL RESPONDENTS BAD-MOUTHING DEMOCRATIC FRONT-RUNNER, IGNORE RESPONSE TO GOP FRONT-RUNNER

It's being reported that a new Quinnipiac poll has Donald Trump expanding his lead over the rest of the Republican field, while Hillary Clinton's lead has shrunk somewhat. But that's not what right-wingers seem to have noticed most about the poll.

* Hot Air's Jazz Shaw: "Uh oh. New poll shows first word people associate with Hillary Clinton is 'Liar'"

* Breitbart: POLL: ‘LIAR’ TOPS LIST OF 50 WORDS AMERICANS USED TO DESCRIBE HILLARY CLINTON

* Warner Todd Huston at John Hawkins' Right Wing News: "POLL: Americans Say the One Word That Best Describes Hillary Clinton is ‘Liar’"

So let's look at the poll. What they're all talking about is a free-association question: "What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Hillary Clinton?" Top three answers:

* liar
* dishonest
* untrustworthy

Hmmm, not so great. But let's consider the GOP front-runner: "What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?" Top three answers:

* arrogant
* blowhard
* idiot

In other words: A pox on both your houses.

Oh, and despite inroads made by Joe Biden, Clinton still leads the nomination contest by 23 points, and still beats every Republican rival she's polled against. So there's that.

OUR PAL THE HATCHETMAN

In honor of his birthday, veteran Republican dirty trickster (and, now, Trump backer) Roger Stone gets a puff piece in the Styles section of today's New York Times:



He also gets delighted best wishes from good pals at NBC, Politico, and the Times:






Yes, it's wonderful when political operatives and the media have such a cozy relationship! Especially politically operatives like this guy:
Notorious Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone has launched a 527 political organization called Citizens United Not Timid (aka CUNT) to educate the public about “what Hillary Clinton really is.” The organization’s sole purpose? To sell $25 T-shirts emblazoned with the organization’s charming name and its red, white and blue logo.



That, from the 2008 campaign, is just one highlight of a career that goes all the way back to Watergate. Ending the career of New York governor Eliot Spitzer was another, as was a subsequent threateningphone call he made to Spitzer's father ("you will be arrested and brought to Albany - and there's not a goddamn thing your phony, psycho piece of s--- son can do about it") while working for New York state Senate president Joe Bruno (now a convicted felon). And then there was this:
The capstone of Stone’s career, at least in terms of results, was the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House.
And possibly this:
Some pointed the finger at him as having a role in the scandal over forged documents related to George W. Bush that were the undoing of Dan Rather. But Mr. Stone denied any involvement.
But, y'know, he's an insider, and he's good copy, so his boon companions in the media don't hold him at arm's length. To them, he's a good pal. Ain't politics grand?

THEY HELD US DOWN AND FORCED US TO FAVORITE THAT MURDER VIDEO

I posted this on Twitter when we first learned about Vester Lee Flanagan's murder video:



As I predicted, National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke has called the killing "America's first social media murde,r" and the New York Times editorial board has lamented that "the outlet provided by social media appears to have whetted" the killer's "murderous appetites." But no one has fretted like Farhad Manjoo of the Times, who believes that we literally have no control over our own reactions to what's on the Internet:
... unlike previous televised deaths, these were not merely broadcast, but widely and virally distributed, playing out with the complicity of thousands, perhaps millions, of social networking users who could not help watching and sharing.

The horror was the dawning realization, as the video spread across the networks, that the killer had anticipated the moves -- that he had been counting on the mechanics of these services and on our inability to resist passing on what he had posted. For many, that realization came too late. On these services, the killer knew, you often hit retweet, like or share before you realize just quite what you have done.
(Emphasis added.)

Really? I admit I watched both the unedited broadcast version of the shooting and the killer's video, but I didn't go into a fugue state and wake up an hour later having retweeted and favorited the clips a dozen times with no memory of having done so. That seems to be how Manjoo thinks we act when we witness violence on viral video, but I think we have a bit more self-control than that.

Manjoo goes on to write:
There was uncertainty in the sharing. Users expressed reservations as they passed on the gunman’s profile and his tweets. People were calling on Twitter and Facebook to act quickly to pull down his accounts. There were questions about the journalistic ethics of posting WDBJ’s live shot and the killer’s own document of the shooting....
Well, yes, exactly. There wasn't an uncontrollable wave of mindless, compulsive voyeurism -- if anything, the public cried out for suppression of the videos.

But that doesn't comfort Manjoo:
Over the course of 20 minutes on Twitter, the shooter updated his status a half-dozen times, culminating in a post showing the video of the killings. He quickly amassed a following of thousands, the sort of rapturous social media welcoming that is usually reserved for pop stars and heads of state.
Wait -- I follow a lot of people I don't like or admire on Twitter. I follow Donald Trump and Michelle Malkin and Michele Bachmann and Mark Levin and David Brooks and Judy Miller and Joe the Plumber, and that's just off the top of my head. After the Charleston shootings, I started following the Council of Conservative Citizens. I'm hate-following these people. What's wrong with that, apart from what it might do to my blood pressure? I want to know what these SOBs are up to. Is that so wrong? (And since when is having "a following of thousands," rather than hundreds of thousands or millions, particularly impressive on social media?)

If you've ever seen a wreck on the highway and not looked, you're a better person than I am. That's not the same thing as having an ongoing prurient obsession with violence. It's just that something extraordinary has happened, and it's an understandable human impulse to want to comprehend the event.

I agree with Manjoo that self-produced videos are likely to become a regrettable feature of future murders:
The videos got out widely, forging a new path for nihilists to gain a moment in the media spotlight: an example that, given its success at garnering wide publicity, will most likely be followed by others.
But I think ISIS has already made that inevitable, as has modern technology's ease of use. What the cynic in me thinks is also likely to happen is that we'll simply become bored with murder videos, the way we've become bored with gun violence in general -- within a decade there'll probably be a murder video a week uploaded to Facebook and Twitter or their future equivalents, and we'll pay attention only to the ones that are exceptional in some way. Which gets back to our real problem: the fact that we'll never deal with the level of violence we have in America, which is a much more important issue than the fact that we're interested in learning more when a particularly striking crime happens.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

HE SCARED HIS EMPLOYERS SO MUCH THEY CALLED THE COPS. STILL, HE COULD LEGALLY BUY A GUN.

From the Daily Beast:
Vester Lee Flanagan’s bosses called 911 on the day they fired him from WDBJ because of his volatile behavior. ...

At a February 2013 meeting, WDBJ managers told Flanagan he wasn’t a good fit and would be terminated. Flanagan -- who went by the on-air name Bryce Williams -- became “agitated,” then issued a threat, according to documents obtained by The Daily Beast that were filed in Flanagan’s lawsuit against the station in 2014. (Flanagan lost.)

“He repeated … his feeling that firing him would lead to negative consequences for me personally and for the station,” former station manager Dan Dennison said. The manager said Flanagan “said he had to go to the bathroom, stood up abruptly, stormed out of the room, and slammed the door” -- prompting a frightened sales team to take shelter in a locked office. During the episode, Flanagan told police there was a watermelon in a station hallway and that was akin to someone calling him the N-word. Flanagan flipped off employees and swore at them....

Finally, Flanagan handed his boss a small wooden cross and warned, “You’ll need this.”
Could a guy like that legally buy a gun? No problem!



U-S-A! U-S-A!

VESTER FLANAGAN CLEARLY HAD A LOT OF ISSUES, WELL BEYOND RACE

This is a revised version of a post I briefly had up speculating on the mental state of Vester Flanagan, aka Bryce Williams, the man accused of shooting a TV reporter and photographer during a live broadcast this morning, who's now died of self-inflict gunshot wounds. In the original post I expressed skepticism about the belief that race was the principal motivation for the shooting, despite these messages from his now-suspended Twitter account:



Flanagan was black. Alison Parker and Adam Ward, his victims, were white. Now, however, based on a fax sent to ABC News by Flanagan, it's undeniable that race sent him over the edge -- though there's clearly more going on than that:
In the 23-page document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is Vester Lee Flanagan II.” He writes what triggered today’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them."

... He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.
Note: Flanagan's Twitter makes clear that he was a Jehovah's Witness, at least as a child.



But we can see from this manifesto that Flanagan has been thinking about mass shootings for a while, that he was psychologically unhealthy by his own admission, and that he felt personally discriminated against as a gay man, not just as a black man.
Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.'"

... He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work

He says he has been attacked by black men and white females

He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man...

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily...I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
He really does seem to have been "a human powder keg" -- and it's possible that some of the discrimination he's describing didn't happen as he claimed it did. The New York Times tells us:
The Twitter account of Mr. Williams, who is black, referred to a complaint he had filed against the station with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming to have been subjected to racist comments in the workplace.

Jeffrey A. Marks, president and general manager of the station, confirmed that the complaint had been filed, but said it was dismissed as baseless. Of the racist comments, “none of them could be corroborated by anyone,” he said. “We think they were fabricated.”

... Mr. Marks described Mr. Williams as someone prone to angry outbursts without much provocation.

“Eventually, after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him,” he said. “He did not take that well, and we had to call the police to escort him from the building.”
This may well have been a pattern in his life. An on-air host for a San Diego TV station has tweeted this ("ND" = news director):



And there's this:
The Tallahassee Democrat published this story on Flanagan's lawsuit in 2000:

A local television anchor-reporter, slated to lose his job with Tallahassee's NBC affiliate in two weeks, has filed a racial discrimination suit against the station --- alleging that news producers and other managers made offensive remarks about blacks and fired him for complaining about it....

Vester Flanagan, who has reported for WTWC-TV since last March, said he and another black employee were referred to as "monkeys" and that a supervisor once told him that "blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money" for scholarships and economic opportunities. He said when he cited his own background of nearly seven years in television, going back to internships at San Francisco State University, the supervisor told him he was an "exception."
Could he have been a victim of discrimination and racist remarks at every place he worked? It's possible. But I think the tell is the word "bizarre" in that tweet -- it's a word people use to refer to behavior that's incomprehensible, not merely angry. Also see the reference to "angry outbursts without much provocation" in the Times story.

And I wonder about this, from the suspended Twitter feed:



Worker's comp? For what? WDBJ let him go two years ago, for unstated reasons:
Flanagan was fired from the station, though the reason was not made public, the ex-employee said.

"Two years ago, we had to separate him from the company. We did understand that he was still living in the area," WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks said.
More, from Adweek's TVSpy column:
TVSpy spoke with former WDBJ reporter Orlando Salinas who said Williams often complained about racial discrimination at the station.

Salinas said that on Williams’ last day -- in February of 2013 -- he created a “ruckus” by berating people in the newsroom. Salinas said employees were put in a room for their protection and police were called. Police then escorted Williams from the station. Salinas said the station provided security for station employees for an unknown time after the incident.
He was unemployed as of this morning, according to his now-suspended LinkedIn page.

I suspect he had anger issues, possibly as the result of schizophrenia. I also wonder if he'd internalized the Witnesses' disapproval of his homosexuality. He said he'd been discriminated against as a gay man, but he also said Jehovah told him to commit the murders -- if you're a Jehovah's Witness, you're not supposed to act on homosexual impulses. He was killing in response to discrimination, but he was also killing on behalf of a God that discriminates.

****

But, as Media Matters notes, Breitbart wants to make this all about race:
Breitbart News reacted to reports that two Virginia journalists were shot to death on-air by a disgruntled former co-worker by publishing an article with the headline, "RACE MURDER IN VIRGINIA: BLACK REPORTER SUSPECTED OF EXECUTING WHITE COLLEAGUES - ON LIVE TELEVISION!"

... The piece was widely condemned by other members of the media, many of whom pointed out Breitbart News' lengthy history of racially charged reporting and commentary. The headline has since been changed.
Actually, the headline was still up at the Breitbart homepage when the Media Matters item was published; the current headline is "‘RACE WAR’: MANIFESTO RELEASED OF VIRGINIA MURDERER."

This is going to be the right's takeaway from this incident. The reaction is going to be overwhelmingly racial, to judge from what I'm seeing at Free Republic:
He was a protected class. Of course he’s not going to be prohibited from purchasing a firearm.

****

The classy lady he murdered probably shunned his disgusting advances.

****

This is one of the first shots of a slow motion race war that has been fanned from the fruits of Ferguson and Baltimore by the liberal academic/media/government/shakedown complex.

****

When do the riots begin?
When does the REVERUND Al Sharpton show up?
When does the Justice Department being their phishing expedition and witch hunt for racism at WDBJ in rural redneck southwest Virginia?

****

A highly privileged member of a government-certified victim class has everything handed to him free. He then sets his reptilian eyes on on a beautiful woman, but can’t have her.
The "polite" version will be that, yes, he needed mental-health treatment, but he was driven to act on his unhealthy impulses by the liberal culture of victimization. Bet on it.


UPDATE: Breitbart tops itself.

VIRGINIA SHOOTING SEEMS TO BE A MENTAL ILLNESS STORY, WHICH THE RIGHT IS TURNING INTO A RACE STORY


I've reworked this post to reflect new information. The revised version is here.

AND SOME DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEES WITH EASY ACCESS TO GUNS, I SUPPOSE, ARE GOOD PEOPLE

You already know about this, I'm sure. No, I'm not going to post the video.
A television reporter and cameraman were shot to death on the air during a live broadcast Wednesday morning from a shopping center in Virginia.

Jeffrey A. Marks, general manager of CBS Roanoke affiliate WDBJ-TV, identified the two killed as Alison Parker and Adam Ward....

Virignia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told WTOP-FM in Washington that authorities believe the shooter was a "disgruntled employee" and that the shooting was "not a case of terrorism."
So the gunman wasn't an undocumented Ebola-infected ISIS terrorist gangbanger from Mexico? Because I keep hearing that those are the people we really need to worry about the most in America. Or at least I'm told (by, for instance, the leading Republican candidate for president) that the major source of American violence is undocumented immigrants:
[JORGE] RAMOS: One question, is there one question I want to ask --

TRUMP: Okay. The one thing we're going to start with immediately are the gangs, and the real bad ones, and you do agree there are some bad ones. Do you agree with that or do you think everyone is just perfect? No, no, no, I asked you a question. Do you agree with that? We have tremendous crime, we have tremendous problems -- I can't deal with this. Listen, we have tremendous crime, we have tremendously, we have some very bad ones. And I think you would agree with that, right? Okay. There's a lot of bad ones. Real bad ones. Because you know, they looked at some of the gangs -- excuse me.

They looked at some of the gangs in Baltimore, they looked at some of the gangs in Chicago, they looked even in Ferguson. They got some rough, illegal immigrants in those gangs. They're getting out. You mind if I send them out? Now, if they come from Mexico, do you mind if I send them back to Mexico? No, no, do you mind if I send them back to Mexico?
Right -- that's supposedly our #1 problem.

Or we're told this by a guy who was once asked by John McCain and other Republicans to run for the Senate in Massachusetts:



Regular old angry Americans who assume they can redress whatever grievances they have with a blaze-of-glory shooting spree are just a force of nature we have to tolerate. (2014 Onion headline: "‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.")

Nothing will change. We'll have more of these. And we'll still be peeking under the bed for members of ISIS and undocumented Latino rapists, not our own crazies.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

WOULD CLINTON VS. BIDEN GET UGLY? NAHH.

At the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky tells us that "Hillary vs. Biden Would Get Ugly Fast." I don't see it. I can' imagine that it would be as bad as Tomasky believes.

Tomasky's first reason for dread is understandable: the possibility that "an old white guy is going to saunter in and step on" Hillary Clinton's long-delayed chance to be the first female president. Obviously, that's a problem. But Tomasky thinks the style of Biden's campaign will inevitably make matters far worse, and that's where I disagree with him:
... if he’s going to do it, he’s not going to be able to do it politely, which brings us to reason number two why this would get ugly. Biden is not going to get anywhere with a campaign that says: “I have better ideas than Hillary Clinton does,” because he probably doesn’t, and she has perfectly fine and laudable ideas, even if a lot of liberals don’t want to admit that yet.

No. He’s going to have to run a campaign that says, sub rosa: “I’m a stronger and safer nominee because she’s corrupt.” Because that’s the only argument, is it not? He can’t out-populist her, really.... He can maybe say he has more experience, but she’s got plenty of that....

Biden would have no choice but to build a run around the idea that she’s too risky. He or his surrogates will need to press the idea that the party could nominate Clinton and then next fall, Trey Gowdy finds that Holy Grail email that brings the whole thing crashing down. In other words, his candidacy is going to have to be built around what is in essence a Republican Party talking point.
Tomasky assumes Biden will figure out that this is the way to beat Clinton, then do what's necessary. I don't believe that, for the simple reason that Biden has never shown that he knows how to win a presidential nominating campaign. He's not going to do whatever it takes to win because, as we saw in 1988 and 2008, he doesn't have an instinct for that; he just runs as himself, so far unsuccessfully.

That's not to say he won't try to throw some punches -- but they're not likely to land. The best-known interview of his campaign for the 2008 nomination took place in early 2007. The interviewer was The New York Observer's Jason Horowitz, and Biden went negative. But his criticisms of his opponents weren't particularly damaging:
Addressing Mrs. Clinton’s latest proposal to cap American troops and to threaten Iraqi leaders with cuts in funding, Mr. Biden lowered his voice and leaned in close over the table.

“From the part of Hillary’s proposal, the part that really baffles me is, ‘We’re going to teach the Iraqis a lesson.’ We’re not going to equip them? O.K. Cap our troops and withdraw support from the Iraqis? That’s a real good idea.” The result of Mrs. Clinton’s position on Iraq, Mr. Biden says, would be “nothing but disaster.”

... he thinks that at such a precarious point in the nation’s history, voters are seeking someone with his level of experience to take the helm.

“Are they going to turn to Hillary Clinton?” Biden asked, lowering his voice to a hush to explain why Mrs. Clinton won’t win the election. “Everyone in the world knows her,” he said. “Her husband has used every single legitimate tool in his behalf to lock people in, shut people down. Legitimate. And she can’t break out of 30 percent for a choice for Democrats? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in a place where 100 percent of the Democrats know you? They’ve looked at you for the last three years. And four out of 10 is the max you can get?”
He's so in the weeds here. On Iraq, he's debating what an average voter would regard as fine policy points; then he talks about Clinton's polling numbers. This isn't the kind of talk that gets voters' blood boiling.

In the same interview, there's a passage about Obama that might be the best-remembered thing Biden said during the nomination campaign:
Mr. Biden is equally skeptical -- albeit in a slightly more backhanded way -- about Mr. Obama. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

But -- and the “but” was clearly inevitable -- he doubts whether American voters are going to elect “a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate,” and added: “I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.” (After the interview with Mr. Biden and shortly before press time, Mr. Obama proposed legislation that would require all American combat brigades to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of March 2008.)
The part of this that everyone remembers is the first part -- which was meant to be a compliment, and which was instead a significant gaffe. The second part -- the insult of Obama -- was immediately forgotten.

Still concerned? Watch this clip, from a debate in September 2007. I've cued it up after Judy Woodruff's question, which is about single-payer health care. The response is a classic jazzy Biden riff -- it really seems as if he picked up his debate style from watching the Rat Pack banter in Vegas -- and far from being an attack dog, he actually has Bill Richardson laughing, and hardly seems to be offending Clinton and John Edwards. Really, watch this and try to imagine Biden as the guy who draws blood:



He's a comedian! He likes being a comedian. He wants to be thought of as a guy with reserves of gravitas, but he has no interest in suppressing his jokey side. He's really not going to be capable of making this thing truly ugly.

A Biden race makes sense only if he's going to be the middle-of-the-road alternative to a very wounded Hillary Clinton. He's not going to win the race on his own; he'll win if she's seen by Democratic voters as no longer a viable choice, and if they prefer an Establishment liberal to Bernie Sanders. But no, he's not going to beat her up.

THAT SHOW OF FOX SUPPORT FOR MEGYN KELLY SEEMS ABOUT AS SPONTANEOUS AS A NORTH KOREAN MILITARY PARADE

So I'm supposed to believe that this is a sincere expression of Roger Ailes's rage, and that Boss Rupert had nothing to do with it? Oh, please:
On Tuesday, Fox News Chief Roger Ailes said in a statement Donald Trump should apologize for a tirade of tweets aimed at Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

"Donald Trump's surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise," Ailes statement reads....

Late Monday night Trump tweeted several times about Kelly, who had just returned to hosting after a vacation, writing that he "liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!”

Trump also tweeted that Kelly was "really off her game" and retweeted a tweet that called Kelly a "bimbo."
It just seems way too coordinated:
Fellow Fox News hosts soon came to Kelly's defense.

"Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade said Tuesday morning that Trump is "totally out of control" and that his attacks on Kelly are "totally unwarranted."

Host Bret Baier, who moderated the GOP debate with Kelly and Chris Wallace, tweeted "It's been 19 days since the debate - @realDonaldTrump has made his feelings clear. But THIS needs to stop," adding the hashtag "#letitgo."

Sean Hannity, who has one of the first interviews with Trump on Fox after the debate and initial Kelly flare-up, also tweeted his support of Kelly, though he called Trump a "friend."

"My friend @realDonaldTrump has captured the imagination of many. Focus on Hillary, Putin, border, jobs, Iran China & leave @megynkelly alone," he wrote.
There have also been tweets critical of Trump -- some of them less bridge-burning than others -- from Kirsten Powers, Bill Hemmer, Geraldo Rivera, Dana Perino, Fox contributor Michelle Fields, and even Fox meteorologist Janice Dean.

Here's the thing: Rupert Murdoch is clearly freaking out. He tweeted this on Sunday night:





I assume he's been thinking that Bloomberg might take voters away from the Democrats the way Trump would likely take them away from Republicans.

But wait, there's more -- look at what Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman spotted:



When questions arose about whether Murdoch would renew Ailes's contract, which was set to expire in 2016, Ailes reportedly said, "Rupert is going to need me to elect the next president." Ailes got that contract renewal -- but clearly his job is to get a Republican elected. And not that kind of Republican -- Ailes is supposed to get someone elected who'll pursue an agenda somewhere between Establishmentarian and Kochian. Trump threatens that. So Ailes, on Murdoch's behalf, is clearly expected to rein him in now.

Ailes thinks of himself as a tough guy, but we'll see if he can really handle Trump. Maybe it's going to be total war -- but I think Ailes is going to see a serious hit to his ratings if he succeeds in bringing Trump down. But Murdoch my be giving him no choice.

NO, YOU CAN'T DEFINE TRUMPISM AS JUST THE WHINING OF THE PRIVILEGED

The New Republic's Jeet Heer thinks we mischaracterize Donald Trump when we describe him as a populist appealing to the working class. Heer says Trump is "the voice of aggrieved privilege":
As The New York Times reported on the weekend, Trump's actual supporters come from a broad demographic swath of the Republican Party. "He leads among moderates and college-educated voters, despite a populist and anti-immigrant message thought to resonate most with conservatives and less-affluent voters," the Times noted. College-educated Republicans hardly constitute a populist constituency, so there is good reason to think Trump's putative populism deserves another label.

Rather than a populist, Trump is the voice of aggrieved privilege -- of those who already are doing well but feel threatened by social change from below, whether in the form of Hispanic immigrants or uppity women (hence the loud applause he got at the first GOP debate when he derided “political correctness”). Far from being a defender of the little people against the elites, Trump plays to the anxiety of those who fear that their status is being challenged by people they regard as their social inferiors. That’s why the word “loser” is such a big part of his vocabulary.
That may be true now, but it hasn't always been true -- recall the July Washington Post/ABC poll in which Trump was backed by 32% of non-college-educated Republicans and only 8% of college-educated Republicans. The less well off may not be the core of Trump's support now, but they were early Trump adopters.

Also recall the story of the two brothers who beat and urinated on a homeless Mexican man in Boston:
The brothers, Scott Leader and Steve Leader, were being held without bail on charges including assault and indecent exposure....

Scott Leader told troopers after his arrest, "Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported," according to a state police report filed in court....

Court records show Scott Leader served a year in prison for a hate crime against a Moroccan coffee shop worker after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks....
Privileged? I don't think so. And here's more about them:
The two brothers from Boston who were arrested early Wednesday for allegedly severely beating a homeless Hispanic man do not appear to exactly be law-abiding citizens. Steve and Scott Leader of South Boston are now being investigated under suspicion of living illegally in public housing. The Boston Globe explains:
After their arrest, the Leader brothers told State Police that they lived in public housing, but records show that only their mother is listed as a resident. Housing officials said she now faces eviction proceedings.

The Boston Housing Authority requires lease holders to list all residents and to pay their fair share of the rent, because public housing is for needy families whose average income is $14,000 a year. Some 36,000 people are on the waiting list for housing. Police records say Scott is a mason and Steve, 30, is a carpenter.

“Based on the police report and other information, there’s reason to believe that the Leader brothers were living at the Mary Ellen McCormack development illegally,” Lydia Agro, the housing authority chief of staff, said Friday.
These are just two guys, one of whom has expressly praised Trump. I'm not saying they're typical Trumpites. But whatever you might say about them, if they're bunking with Mom in public housing, a few years after one of them spent a year in the joint, they're not exactly living a life of privilege.

But there are a lot of white people in America who aren't living privileged lives but think they should be. They don't just aspire to the middle class, they feel as if they're part of the middle class, even if, economically, they aren't. What they really feel they're a part of, for want of a better term, is white privilege. They may just think of it as American privilege. They think they're entitled because they believe white people played by the rules from the minute our ancestors hit these shores, and while they may have benign feelings for any non-whites they think are similarly playing by the rules (yay Ben Carson!), they generally feel most non-whites have failed to play by the rules, and therefore deserve less. Moreover, they believe the government -- particularly because of liberal Democrats, but also because of "RINO" Republicans -- has cosseted those non-whites in a way white immigrants and their descendants never were cosseted.

I'd say a lot of economically comfortable white people have similar beliefs -- they're doing fine, but they're dissatisfied with their lot. They're sure they'd be doing a hell of a lot better if it weren't for all the damn parasites.

And as Matt Yglesias notes, the European voters who are analogous to the America's Trumpites actually tend to believe in the European welfare state, just as the Trumpites believe in preserving Medicare and Social Security -- they just think too much of their share of government spending is going to people of certain ethnicities who are undeserving:
For example, when I read the platform of the French National Front, I found a genuinely extreme and super-right-wing view of immigration combined with a critique of the Eurozone and the European Central Bank that would be comfortably at home in a Paul Krugman column. They also promised to avoid cuts to France's version of Social Security and indeed to enhance benefits for stay-at-home moms.

* The Danish People's Party and the True Finns are both more friendly to the Nordic welfare state than are the more traditional center-right parties they are currently allied with in coalitions.

* The UK Independence Party manifesto promises to increase NHS funding and to start an early retirement option for Britain's social security system.

* The Freedom Party in the Netherlands blew up a center-right cabinet by refusing to endorse an austerity budget.

... As Lee Drutman detailed for Vox, the policy blend that combines hostility to immigration with support for Social Security and Medicare is actually quite popular.

... many people are both beneficiaries of government programs to support the living standards of the elderly while also being skeptical of the kinds of social change brought about by immigration.
So there may be quite a few privileged people in Trump's coalition. But they have what Barbara Ehrenreich, many years ago, called "fear of falling," and the less well-off Trumpites have it too. They think they deserve more. They think they're owed.

I'll add this: Occasionally a rich guy will fret about the possibility that ongoing economic inequality in the wake of the Great Recession will soon lead to a class-based revolt against the rich. Nahhh. A Trumpite war of insecure whites against non-whites is what we're getting instead.

ASKING TRUMP TO SIGN A PLEDGE: WOULD IT EVEN WORK?

Politico tells us that a couple of state Republican parties think they have a brilliant plan to tie Donald Trump's hands:
The Virginia and North Carolina parties are in discussions about implementing a new requirement for candidates to qualify for their primary ballots: that they pledge to support the Republican presidential nominee -- and not run as a third-party candidate -- in the general election.
Why would this work? There are too many ways Trump can get around it.

Obviously, he could bolt the party right now and announce a third-party run, which would leach votes from the GOP and all but guarantee a Democratic victory. But short of that, he could just sign the damn pledge and say, "Sure, I'm happy to sign it, because I'm going to be the nominee." If he signs it, fails to secure the nomination, and then runs third-party, what can the party do to him? Can he be arrested? I don't see how. Can he be sued? I know he's not as rich as he says he is, but he's still a fairly wealthy guy. Why would that scare him? Are there even grounds for a suit? And how long would a case like that drag on?

And if Trump doesn't want to lie, what prevents him from just running a write-in campaign? If you have high name recognition, that can work -- remember, we have a U.S. senator, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, who won her last race as a write-in, after she lost her primary to a Tea Party lunatic. Trump has the name recognition and, for now at least, the popularity to mount a serious write-in campaign -- and wouldn't it be humiliating for a state party (and for the national party) if he won this way, or even came close?

Or he could bankroll and endorse some schlub who'd sign the pledge and then run in his stead. If Trump demonstrated that he could get his followers to vote for a complete nonentity as his placeholder, that, too, would be humiliating to the GOP Establishment.

So, no, I don't think this will slow Trump down. By the way, if Trump is the nominee, are all the other canidates willing to pledge their support for him? I hope someone asks that at the next debate.

Monday, August 24, 2015

GOP TEFLON HOLDS: TRUMP STENCH STILL NOT RUBBING OFF ON OTHER REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES

At The Atlantic, Molly Ball is asking, "Can the Republican Party Survive Trump?"
As Trump evinces surprising staying power atop the Republican field, nervous party members increasingly fret that he is hurting the image of the GOP and damaging its eventual nominee -- who most assume will not be Trump. The most obvious problem is Trump’s outspoken opposition to immigration and immigrants, which has offended Hispanics -- a fast-growing voter demographic the party can’t afford to lose ground with -- and dragged other candidates into a discussion of inflammatory ideas like ending birthright citizenship.

... As Democrats jeer that Trump has merely laid bare the true soul of the GOP, some Republicans wonder, with considerable anguish, whether they’re right. As the conservative writer Ben Domenech asked in an essay in The Federalist last week, “Are Republicans for freedom or white identity politics?”
But so far there's no evidence that Trump is doing any such damage to the Republican Party's image, in the eyes of Hispanics or anyone else. It seems quite likely that most Americans, including Hispanics, believe the master narrative of the Republican race: that Trump is a rogue elephant whom the real Republican Party would dearly love to corral. Moreover, Trump's media dominance means that many Americans have only the vaguest sense of what the other candidates believe.

And so we get this, from Gallup:
Hispanics Frown on Trump, but Not Rest of GOP Field

U.S. Hispanics are still getting to know most of the Republican contenders for president. At this point in the campaign, less than half have formed an opinion of any Republican candidate except Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. Partly because of this, Hispanics' views of most GOP candidates range from mildly positive to mildly negative. The sole exception is Trump, whose favorable rating with Hispanics is deeply negative.

Now, Hillary Clinton does have a +40 net favorable rating among Hispanics. But Bernie Sanders is +5, Jim Webb is +2, Lincoln Chaffee is at par, and Martin O'Malley is at -2. Earlier polling of Hispanics suggests that Joe Biden polls well, but he's not in the race and we don't know if he'll enter.

If you take away the two parties' front-runners, the approval ratings of the remaining candidates are roughly even. So there's no sense that Democrats win the trust of Hispanics because of party affiliation, and no sense of the opposite for Republicans. And there's absolutely no evidence that Trumpism is rubbing off on Bush or Rubio or Walker or Carson or Fiorina.

The GOP survived Watergate. The GOP survived the Gingrich impeachment. The GOP survived Bush-Cheney. The GOP will -- alas -- survive Trump.

TODAY IN ONLY HALFWAY RIDICULOUS HOT TAKES

Once again we're hearing rumors of a Joe Biden presidential run. First Read, Chuck Todd's inside-skinny corner at NBCNews.com, suggests that this might be excellent news for Hillary Clinton. He and his crew offer two reasons, the first of which is actually somewhat plausible:
First, it would force Clinton and her campaign to step up their game. "She's a terrible front-runner but she's a marvelous candidate when she gets into the middle of the race," as NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D) put it on "Meet the Press" yesterday. In other words, give her a real Democratic race -- a la what she experienced in the spring of 2008 when Clinton trailed Barack Obama -- and it'll force her to be a stronger candidate.
I wrote in July that Clinton campaigned best in 2000 when her opponent in her Senate race, Rick Lazio, attacked her, and she rallied, of course, in the latter part of the 2008 presidential race, even though she fell short of a win. So maybe she needs a challenge she takes seriously.
But the second reason a Biden run is supposed to be good for Hillary strains credulity:
Two, Biden jumping in would swap the scandal-focused coverage of Clinton and replace it with horserace-focused coverage. It has become increasingly apparent that Hillary Clinton might not be able to beat a unified political press corps on constant scandal patrol. But she could beat Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
It's nice of Todd & Co. to acknowledge that the press is actually working to defeat Clinton. But why would that stop if Biden gets into the race? The press is already writing both types of stories -- stories about the email saga and stories about Clinton's battle to win what was supposed to be an easy race -- with just Sanders in the race as a major challenger. (Look at his crowds! Look at his poll numbers in New Hampshire!) The coverage isn't going to switch to all-horserace if Biden gets in -- the GOP and its many loose-tongued email-saga leakers will see to that. Clinton's difficulties won't change. They'll add up.

But she may still retain a lead, perhaps because far fewer real Americans care about the scandals than we think, perhaps because she'll find her voice on the campaign trail, perhaps because neither nor Sanders or Biden is a strong enough candidate to beat her. We have no idea. But no, a Biden candidacy is not going to change the press coverage of Clinton. It'll remain relentlessly negative, because this year the press is determined to take Clinton down.

HOW TRUMPITES WILL PERSUADE THEMSELVES THAT TAXING HEDGE FUNDERS IS ACTUALLY CONSERVATIVE

This seems like something you can't possibly say and retain the support of rank-and-file right-wingers:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he would change the tax laws to force people who work at hedge funds to pay more in taxes, because "the hedge fund guys are getting away with murder."

In an interview with Time Magazine published last week, Trump said he might want to "switch taxes around" because "I have hedge fund guys that are making a lot of money that aren't paying anything." He confirmed on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that he would change the tax system to force those who work for hedge funds to pay more.

"They're paying nothing and it's ridiculous. I want to save the middle class," Trump said. "The hedge fund guys didn't build this country. These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky."
Raise taxes?! On job creators?! Heresy!

But no, as I learn from at least some of the folks in this Free Republic thread, it's cool, because hedge-funders are primarily Democrats:
i approve forcing hedge fund to pay the same rate, but this rate should be lower. So many hedge fund managers are democrats who advocate higher taxes on others, but not themselves

****

Eliminating carried interest will hit leftist billionaires such Tom Steyer, Warren Buffett, Soros, Jon Corzine, and the boys at Goldman Sachs hard.

It won’t affect the 20% capital gains rate for the average middle class taxpayer with stocks in her/his retirement portfolio.

Generally I’m not for higher taxes but at least this one might actually reduce some of the millions of dollars progressive billionaires give to leftist political candidates and causes.

****

I wouldn’t care if marxists hang from the lampposts. They created the current financial system. The investors play by their rules.

****

Then-US Sens Clinton and Corzine. Corzine was fresh out of Goldman Sachs executive suite, buying his NJ Senate seat office for $65 million; then buying the NJ governorship. Out of office, Corzine ran a hedge fund where $1.5 B went missing.

Chelsea's husband, Mark Mezvinsky, runs a hedge fund that gained access to bigtime Wall Street investors w/ ties to the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation.

****

I know a couple of hedge fund guys from business. Pure sleaze. Think wolf of wall street. And they’re Dems.
So, are hedge-funders really Democrats? Judging from their giving -- at least in the recent election cycles -- no, they aren't, according to Open Secrets:



It should be noted that New Jersey senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, was the largest individual recipient of hedge fund cash in 2014. But the next 19 recipients in the top 20 were all Republicans:



And, of course, in 2012 Mitt Romney received nearly four times as much hedge fund money as Barack Obama.

Hedge funders give to Democratic presidential candidates when they think a Democratic presidency is inevitable and they want to try to ensure that the winner of the election will play ball. (That happened in 2008.) They give to some useful Democrats in the Senate, particularly in states such as New York and New Jersey, where Republicans rarely win Senate elections -- and, yes, frequently they get what they pay for from those Democrats. (What they get is not liberalism.) But none of this means that the majority of hedge-funders are Democrats, or liberals (except on certain social issues).

But if it comforts the Trumpites to believe this, and to believe that "marxists ... created the current financial system," which are then imposed on poor, suffering investors, well, whatever floats their boat.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

FACT-CHECKING DONALD TRUMP'S CHRISTMAS PANDER

So a couple of days ago this happened:
“I go out of my way to use the word ‘Christmas,'” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told an Alabama radio host....

“There’s an assault on anything having to do with Christianity,” Trump told Yellowhammer Radio host Cliff Sims on Friday. “They don’t want to use the word Christmas anymore at department stores.... There’s always lawsuits and unfortunately a lot of those lawsuits are won by the other side.”

As president, Trump vowed, “I will assault that. I will go so strongly against so many of the things, when they take away the word Christmas.”
Trump is clearly an avid consumer of right-wing media, so he knows what the battle lines are. As December 25 approaches, Real Americans are supposed to say "Merry Christmas," rather than the hated, "politically correct" "Happy Holidays."

But is it true? Are references to "Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays" always preferred in Trumpworld?

Er, no:



Okay, that's just one tweet. But then there's this, from the Trump at Home Tumblr page:



And this, from the Trump Hotel Las Vegas:



And this, from the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York:



And while the image is no longer available, I see this in a 2006 posting to a message board for casino chip collectors:



Which must be the same chip referred to in this 2007 newsletter from the Atlantic City Casino Collectibles Club:



And then there are these chips, from the Trump Marina in Atlantic City. Note the legend on the first one: "Have a wild holiday!" -- yes, "holiday," not "Christmas":



So no, Trump doesn't "go out of [his] way to use the word 'Christmas.'" But he doesn't care. He knows he can say anything at this point and his idiot fans will believe him.


(Via NewsHounds.)

DOWD: FRED TRUMP'S SON WILL SAVE US FROM AN AMERICA CONTROLLED BY "ENTITLED FAMILIES"

Maureen Dowd today, in her latest Donald Trump puff piece:
He’s tapped into a hunger among those who want to believe that America is not a shrinking, stumbling power passed like a pepper mill between two entitled families.
Yes, the son of real estate millionaire Fred Trump is, according to Dowd, the champion of ordinary Americans in the battle to wrest control of the Republic from "entitled families." Dowd writes this in a newspaper whose publisher's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all held the title of publisher before him, a newspaper published in a state whose governor was once campaign manager for his father, also a multi-term governor of New York. And if we may be indelicate, let's not forget that Dowd's most famous romantic relationship was with Oscar winner Michael Douglas, the famous Hollywood son of the famous Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas.

There are a lot of entitled families in Dowd's world. Only some of them upset her.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I TOLD YOU THE MEDIA IS STARTING TO FALL IN LOVE WITH TRUMP

I told you in the last post that the attitude of the mainstream media toward Donald Trump is evolving from "What an absurd vulgarian!" to "Y'know, he's kinda cute." If you doubt that, watch this video, which just went up on the website of The New York Times, and which purports to explain Trump's appeal. Really, just watch it.



The fans say exactly what you expect them to say (Trump says what the rest of us can't because we're forced to be "politically correct"; Trump's immigration plan is not only brilliant, it's short and "easy to read") -- but it's what they don't say that reveals the video's tilt. There's no rage. There's no animosity toward immigrants, even though hostility toward immigrants is Trump's only issue. The fans seem like sold, thoughtful citizens. The video sanitizes them.

And sanitizes Trump as well. No anger from him, either -- he's a genial guy who has a comedy club MC's timing and a jolly rapport with the press. When the one skeptic in the video, who appears to be an earnest teenager, asks why there aren't position papers on the Trump campaign site on any issue other than immigration, Trump humiliates the questioner by asserting that the media cares about silly old policy papers, but not real people. The editing makes clear that we're supposed to regard this as a sensible, appealing answer.

This video is awful. I know it's meant to show us Trump as his admirers see him, but his admirers don't admire him just for being shruggy and jokey and disarming -- they admire him for saying ugly things and getting away with them. But the press likes a winner, so expect a lot more Trump coverage like this.

TRIUMPH OF THE TRUMP: THE MEDIA STARTS TO FALL IN LOVE, AND THE FANS BECOME NASTIER

Last night I saw this tweet from The Washington Post's Robert Costa, who was covering Donald Trump's rally at a football stadium in Mobile, Alabama:



It seemed that Trump, in a fit of hubris, had booked a too-large venue for his rally. If that was the case, I expected to wake up to news stories describing the rally as a failure and an embarrassment. Reporters would be telling us that Trump might finally be peaking; Trump would angrily deny it, of course, and he'd blame an aide for the stadium decision. The campaign would roll on, but the Mobile rally would be a bad moment.

So I turned to Costa's story, written with Dave Weigel -- and it's a love letter. Costa and Weigel may not be falling in love with Trump exactly, but they're head over heels in love with the Trump campaign. And that's dangerous, because coverage like this, if we get it from more and more influential journalists, is going to make a Trump presidency seem increasingly thinkable:
It was the most audacious Donald Trump spectacle yet in a summer full of them, as the Republican presidential front-runner, in his Boeing 757, thundered over a football stadium here Friday night and gave a raucous speech to one of the largest crowds of the 2016 campaign.

But Trump’s flashy performance was about more than showmanship. His visit to Alabama was coolly strategic, touching down in the heart of red America and an increasingly important early battleground in the Republican nominating contest.

The Manhattan developer, who strode onstage to “Sweet Home Alabama,” is trying to show that his candidacy has broad and lasting appeal across every region of the country -- especially here in the South, where Alabama and seven other states are holding a clustered voting blitz March 1.

The scene Friday night put an exclamation point on an extraordinary run in which the flamboyant mogul has thoroughly disrupted the presidential campaign and kindled a national discussion about not just politics but American culture itself.
Clearly the earth moved for Costa and Weigel.

I know what's going on: Our campaigns are interminable, and reporters whine endlessly about the tedium. The campaign press corps hates Hillary Clinton, so I've been expecting the journos to develop a crush on some Republican or other, but I thought they'd turn to whoever seemed like a frattish glad-hander, the equivalent of George W. Bush in 2000, who also ran against a Democrat the press loathed, just because he at least made his part of the trail a welcoming place. Instead, reporters seem to be delighting in the Trump spectacle more than Trump himself, because it's lively and entertaining and not at all tedious. They're having fun -- and the coverage is just going to get better and better as a result.

The press is now starting to see the Trump campaign as not only enjoyable but smart -- Costa and Weigel accept the campaign's premise that Alabama, and the South in general, might be the key to a Trump victory in the primary contest, a notion to which Bloomberg's Joshua Green devotes an entire non-skeptical article. Yes, the media is now treating Donald Trump campaign strategists as wily savants. We truly are in the last days.

Costa and Weigel are impressed by Trump's newfound friendship with Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, who was brought onstage at the rally and donned a "Make America Great Again" hat. (Costa notes on Twitter that Sessions still hasn't endorsed Trump, however.) This is also catnip for reporters -- they know that you're not supposed to be able to win the nomination without support from party elites, and now Trump has some. He's legit. Reporters are starting to swoon.

****

The coverage of the rally in The New York Times is less breathless, but it's still somewhat giddy: "Donald Trump Fails to Fill Alabama Stadium, but Fans’ Zeal Is Undiminished." Those fans are, um, a little creepy. Here's a quote about the candidate from one of them:
“Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill,’” said Jim Sherota, 53, who works for a landscaping company. “That’d be one nice thing.”
Costa and Weigel turn up this Trumpite:
Cheryl Burns, 60, was on a road trip from California when she heard that Trump would be in Alabama. She turned her car around and got in line, warning people of what happened to states when liberals took them over.

“There is no more California,” Burns said. “It’s now international, lawless territory. Everything is up for grabs. Illegal aliens are murdering people there. People are being raped. Trump isn’t lying about anything -- the rest of the country just hasn’t found out yet.”
Michael Froomkin writes:
Various online commentators have suggested that the two attackers of a homeless Hispanic man in Boston, who cited Trump as their motivation, are the forerunners of American Brownshirts.

... I’m always alert for those brown signals, but I didn’t find nearly as strong signal in the actions of a couple of thugs (so long as it remains just a couple...) as I do in quotes like the one above. If large numbers of voters are living a reality-distortion zone in which California is now Mad Max land, anything is possible.
Also in attendance at the Trump shindig, though perhaps more interested in picking up recruits than showing support, was this guy:
On the street, Olaf Childress, a neo-Confederate activist, gave out copies of “The First Freedom” newspaper, which had headlines about “Black-on-white crime,” “occupied media” and “censored details of the Holocaust.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on Olaf Childress in 2008:
The neo-Confederate stalwart plans to transport a casket bearing a copy of the 14th Amendment from his southern Alabama home to the shores of the Potomac River for burial....

The vehicle carrying the deceased will be none other than Childress' "Death to the 14th Amendment" hearse. After buying the 1995 Buick Roadmaster about a year and a half ago, Childress outfitted it with magnetic Confederate battle flags on both front doors and the words "Death to the 14th Amendment" on the rear doors....

Childress, a 32-year resident of Silverhill, Ala., population 616, announced the amendment's upcoming interment in the September issue of his newspaper, The First Freedom (motto: "Inviting the Zionist-controlled media'cracy to meet a rising free South").
At one point in 2008, the SPLC story goes on to tell us, Childress and his hearse were stopped at a police checkpoint:
As he tells it on his website in a post headlined, "Alabama's Mossad-trained stooges capture politically-incorrect hearse," when Silverhill's police chief asked to see his license and insurance, he informed her that she had no legal right to stop him. He even offered to show her where it says so in the Constitution, a copy of which he just happens to keep in the hearse. But the police chief wasn't interested. Instead, because Childress refused to sign some papers, she hauled him off to jail. Not only did Childress have to spend the night behind bars, but also police impounded the hearse at Dixie Auto Body Repair. He had to pay $135 to retrieve it two days later.
(You'll notice that he wasn't shot or Tased or beaten to within an inch of his life. Childress, of course, is white.)

Childress continues to publish The First Freedom -- check out this article, in which he argues that the culprits in the Charlie Hebdo massacre were trained agents of the Mossad. This is a guy who thinks a Trump rally could be fertile ground for recruitment. And hey, who knows?

But is the mainstream press going to pay more attention to the ugliness of the Trumpites' rhetoric or to the increasing professionalization of the campaign? I fear it's the latter -- and thus I fear for America.