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Thursday, June 30, 2016

American Bridge v. Trump

Trump's GOP opponents failed at oppo, but Democrats are not making that mistake. At The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker report that American Bridge seeks to define Trump as effectively as it defined Todd Akin in 2012.
In 2016, the group is taking every opportunity to do the same thing with Donald J. Trump. It is maintaining an archive of digital video footage, with 6,500 clips of Mr. Trump speaking or being mentioned, going back to the 1980s, and 17,000 hours of footage over all. It has also compiled more than 5,000 pages of research on the presumptive Republican nominee and has 25 trackers monitoring him.
American Bridge is playing a more significant role in 2016 than it did in 2012, when the Obama campaign was leery of the group, which was founded by a close ally of Hillary Clinton’s. This cycle, Democrats have relied on it openly for research.
There are special systems that allow it to search by specific strings of words to identify issue targets. It is trying to expedite their ability to quickly frame a case against Mr. Trump. And it is monitoring roughly 600 candidates up and down the ballot, in addition to Mr. Trump.
In the 25th paragraph of the Times story about the Trump Institute's sleazy business practices and plagiarism, we find where the story cam from:
Asked about the plagiarism, which was discovered by the Democratic “super PAC” American Bridge, the editor of the Trump Institute publication, Susan G. Parker, denied responsibility and suggested that a lawyer for the Milins, who provided her with background material for the book, might have been to blame.

Trump Sleaze

At Bloomberg, Zeke Faux and Max Abelson report on The Trump Building:
“Iconic and wonderful,” Donald J. Trump said at a South Carolina town hall event last year, praising the 86-year-old Art Deco tower as one of his great possessions. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee also told fans in Maine that critics who mock his failed companies should focus instead on the Manhattan skyscraper. “They don’t want to talk about 40 Wall Street,” he said.
But the 72-story building has housed frauds, thieves, boiler rooms and penny-stock schemers since Trump took it over in 1995 in what may be the best deal of his career. No single property in his portfolio is more valuable than 40 Wall St., according to a Bloomberg valuation of his assets last year. And no U.S. address has been home to more of the unregistered brokerages that investors complain about, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s current public alert list.
Trump wrote in his 2008 book “Trump Never Give Up” that tenants at 40 Wall St. are “many of the top-notch businesses in the world.”

That was once the case. Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton’s nemesis, took an office at that site after founding the Manhattan Company, a forerunner of JPMorgan Chase & Co., in 1799. Work began on that spot 130 years later for the bank’s new tower, which was supposed to be the world’s tallest. It was bad timing. Not only did it lose the height race to the Chrysler Building, but Wall Street’s 1929 crash made renting out space difficult.
Seema Mehta reports at The Los Angeles Times:
As millions of people were losing their homes in the depth of the recession, instructors at Trump University were urging students to seek out anxious or desperate sellers to reap a financial windfall, according to recently released documents in the federal class-action lawsuit against presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The now-defunct for-profit real-estate school, founded by Trump and two associates in 2004, offered workshops on how to take advantage of the foreclosure crisis in some of the hardest hit states, including California.
Jonathan Martin reports at The New York Times:
As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial — one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”
Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.
Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after forking over their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump’s special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier. 
Michael Finnegan reports at The Los Angeles Times:
The Trump Baja fiasco fits a pattern in the Republican presidential candidate’s business record. Over decades of building a business empire in real estate, casino gaming, golf resorts, reality television and the sale of clothing and other merchandise, Trump has left a long trail of angry customers and vendors who accused him in court of cheating them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Libya and the Wrong Target

Dan Friedman writes at Fortune:
Libya is a mess. No one argues that the decision by the United State and its allies to conduct a bombing campaign that led to Gaddafi’s death left behind a functioningcountry, let alone a liberal democracy. The September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate that killed four Americans was part of the anarchy that resulted from Gaddafi’s ouster.
Yet the Benghazi Committee spent more than $7 million and wrote 800 pages in a mostly unsuccessful bid to fault Clinton’s actions before and after the attack. The reportdetails mistakes by U.S. officials, and the probe exposed Clinton’s use as Secretary of State of a private server for her email, the biggest drag on her presidential campaign so far.
But Democrats dismissed the inquiry as a partisan witch-hunt that revealed no information beyond what seven prior congressional probes unearthed. It failed to back conservative claims that Clinton or her staff inhibited a military response that could have saved lives, leaving two conservatives on the panel to issue their own addendum attacking Clinton.
For a political party that has famously focused on faulting anything Obama or Clinton touch, the Benghazi report represents a striking failure to coherently express a view most Americans have held since 2011: Clinton screwed up by urging intervention in Libya.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Trump "Charity"

David Farenthold reports at The Washington Post:
In May, under pressure from the news media, Donald Trump made good on a pledge he made four months earlier: He gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families.

Before that, however, when was the last time that Trump gave any of his own money to a charity?

If Trump stands by his promises, such donations should be occurring all the time. In the past 15 years, Trump has promised to donate earnings from a wide variety of his money-making enterprises: “The Apprentice.” Trump Vodka. Trump University. A book. Another book. If he honored all those pledges, Trump’s gifts to charity would have topped $8.5 million.

But in that time, public records show, Trump donated about $2.8 million — less than a third of the pledged figure — through a foundation set up to give his money away. And there is no evidence that Trump has given to his foundation lately: The last record of any gift from him to his foundation was in 2008.
At Politico, Ben Schreckinger adds:
If Donald Trump’s claims that certain of his commercial ventures benefit charity are untrue, he could be held liable under Section 349 of New York’s General Business Law, which forbids deceptive business acts and practices, as well as under charitable solicitation laws, according to legal experts.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Hillary the Hawk

James Hohmann writes at The Washington Post:
Obama, who opposed going into Iraq in 2003, has been reluctant to embrace his role as a wartime commander-in-chief; Clinton allies insist she would be less reticent. “Unexpectedly, in the bombastic, testosterone-fueled presidential election of 2016, Clinton is the last true hawk left in the race,” Mark Landler wrote in a New York Times Magazine cover story in April.
And, of course, she was in the Situation Room during the Osama bin Laden raid. When it looked like Joe Biden might challenge her in the primaries, Clinton took to telling audience that she supported the risky operation and the vice president opposed it.
While she was embracing the president during the primaries to lock up the African American vote, one of the few issues she broke with Obama on was deploying more special operations forces to Iraq than Obama had committed. She also advocated a partial no-fly zone in Syria, which he has resisted.
-- Hillary’s hawkishness goes back much farther than Foggy Bottom. Clinton made a strategic decision when she arrived in the Senate after her husband’s administration ended to get a seat on the Armed Services Committee. She voted for the Iraq war and sat on an emerging threats subcommittee, all with her sights set on seeking the presidency in 2008.
The chief strategist on that campaign, Mark Penn, outlined his theory of the case for how she could win in a 2006 memo. ...
“And the best role model proves the case,” Penn continued. “Margaret Thatcher was the longest serving Prime Minister in British history, serving longer than Winston Churchill. She represents the most successful elected woman leader in this century – and the adjectives that were used about her (Iron Lady) were not of good humor or warmth. They were of smart, tough leadership. As we move forward, it is important to understand who we are and who we are not. We are more Thatcher than anyone else.”
Of course, it was Hillary Clinton who gave the name to the 1992 War Room. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Anti-PC, Pro-Trump

Thomas B. Edsall writes of Trump at The New York Times:
Why is his opposition to immigrants and Mexicans in particular so resonant when immigration liberalization ostensibly has majority support in most polls?
Research conducted by Lefteris Jason Anastasopoulos, a lecturer and data science fellow at Berkeley’s School of Information, provides one answer: Support for immigration “may be greatly overestimated.”
In an email, Anastasopoulos writes that
polls conducted by large survey organizations never ask about immigration in geographic context. Instead they ask questions about whether respondents support increasing immigration or granting amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the “United States” overall rather than, say, Dayton, Ohio, or Wilmington, North Carolina, places where immigration has been rapidly increasing over the past few years. This kind of abstract framing tends to push respondents toward giving more “politically correct” answers to standard poll questions about immigration.
The result is
a significant underestimation of the backlash against newly arriving immigrants and an overestimation of the support for immigration among the public.
The refusal of Democrats and the American left to hear — or to grant some legitimacy to — the grievances of white America as it loses power and stature to ascendant minorities and to waves of immigrants from across the globe undergirds the Trump movement. In the zero sum world of immigration politics, it has proved impossible so far to convincingly affirm the validity of the claims of both sides.
The quest by American liberals and progressives for support, or at least tolerance, of diversity, inclusiveness and multiculturalism is likely to prevail — particularly if the compulsory dimension of compliance is curtailed.
Jonathan Haidt, a professor at N.Y.U., suggested to me that one way to better understand the intensity of Trump’s appeal is by looking at something called “psychological reactance.” Haidt describes reactance as
the feeling you get when people try to stop you from doing something you’ve been doing, and you perceive that they have no right or justification for stopping you. So you redouble your efforts and do it even more, just to show that you don’t accept their domination. Men in particular are concerned to show that they do not accept domination.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Conservative Talk

At National Review Online, Peter Spiliakos has a true insight. Trump talks to people in language they understand, even when he is lying through his teeth.  Conservatives don't even when they are telling the truth.
Cruz had big wins in Iowa and Wisconsin. Those wins gave him media coverage and an opportunity to make a public impression. Cruz had amassed enough money that he could have used commercials to drive his message in key markets.
And yet, Cruz’s message stayed “below the awareness threshold.” Part of the problem (though there are many parts of the problem) is the language that conservatives have used to communicate with the public. Trump is (sometimes) perfectly clear. If you like him or hate him, you know that he wants to build a border wall and ban Muslim immigration. Conservative politicians have developed rhetorical habits that make them incomprehensible to the average person.
Take the phrase “culture of life.” It isn’t just meant to be poetic. It is meant to signal to pro-life activists that the candidate opposes abortion while being obscure (though pleasant-sounding) to everyone else. Throwing “culture of life” into a speech allows a politician to imply a political commitment while making it difficult for opponents to create soundbites that will be used against them in the court of public opinion.
This has infected the rhetorical style of conservative Republicans. Religious liberty means giving people of faith the benefit of the doubt when government regulations conflict with deeply held beliefs. Growth means lower taxes (usually on the rich.) All of these phrases signal something to an activist community, but they add up to gibberish when they are strung together for a general audience. [emphasis added]