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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Trump Tweets Classified Photo for Fun

In Defying the Odds,we discuss Trump's approach to governing. The update --recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Mattis on Trump

In Defying the Odds,we discuss Trump's approach to governing. The update --recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.
Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic:

The subject of North Korea represented my best chance to wrench a direct answer from Mattis. I had collected some of Trump’s more repellent tweets, and read aloud the one that I thought might overwhelm his defenses. It is a tweet almost without peer in the canon:



Mattis looked at his hands. Finally he said, “Any Marine general or any other senior servant of the people of the United States would find that, to use a mild euphemism, counterproductive and beneath the dignity of the presidency.”

He went on, “Let me put it this way. I’ve written an entire book built on the principles of respecting your troops, respecting each other, respecting your allies. Isn’t it pretty obvious how I would feel about something like that?”

Friday, August 30, 2019

Suburbanization of the Democrats

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.


The outcome of the 2018 midterm elections has often been described as a “revolt of the suburbs,” in which white-collar professionals and other highly-educated middle-class voters residing in suburban areas expressed their dissatisfaction with the first two years of the Trump presidency by voting out many of the president’s fellow Republicans in significant numbers. A number of suburban House districts that previously leaned Republican flipped to the Democrats, including multiple seats in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, and California—in fact, the former Republican stronghold of Orange County is now solely represented by Democrats in Congress.
The socially divisive Trump presidency and the alienation that it has provoked among college-educated suburban voters, especially women, has received considerable notice. Much less attention, however, has focused on the fact that suburban voters—once mostly, and even stereotypically, Republican—have been moving away from the party for a much longer time. As this paper makes clear, the much-celebrated electoral shifts of 2018 (and 2016 before it) merely further a much larger set of trends that long predate the Trump candidacy. Especially in the nation’s most populous metropolitan areas, Democratic presidential and congressional candidates have been gaining electoral ground since the 1990s.

While they were once arguably the more over-studied of the two parties, Democrats have received rather less attention from scholars and media analysts alike over the post-1992 period than they deserve—and certainly much less than the well-chronicled Republicans. The focus of this paper, part of a larger research project on the coalitional and ideological changes in the two major parties over the past three decades, is on the ways in which the suburbanization of the Democratic Party has influenced its internal composition and issue agenda. This suburbanization is the product of Democrats’ increasing electoral success in the suburbs, combined with the party’s declining popularity in rural areas and the relative population growth of suburban communities at the expense of large cities and small towns alike.

The central finding of the paper is that suburbanization has allowed Democratic candidates to move to the ideological left on cultural issues such as abortion, gay rights, gun control, and racial/gender matters. Public opinion data demonstrate that suburban voters are aligned with, or at least tolerant of, mainstream liberal positions on these issues. However, the presence of powerful suburban constituencies has proven much more limiting to a leftward partisan drift on taxes and economic redistribution, on which suburban attitudes are less consistently supportive. While Bill Clinton’s 1990s-era New Democratic approach attempted to win suburban votes by pulling his party toward the ideological center on both economic and cultural issues, subsequent party leaders (including Hillary Clinton herself) have reversed course much more aggressively on the cultural dimension than the economic dimension.

Finally, the growing centralization of the Democratic electoral, financial, and activist base in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas has implications for the operation of the congressional wing of the party. The decline of the party’s strength in rural areas has reduced the proportion of Democratic incumbents who had strong persona incentives to visible differentiate themselves from the bulk of the national party. At the same time, the majority of suburban representatives continue to be wary of openly aligning themselves with an ideologically purist approach to politics. the suburbanization of the Democratic Party, therefore, has led to a muting of internal differences. A suburban party, as it turns out, is largely a united party.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

"Our Country, Not Theirs"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of bigotry. The update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. Earlier this month, he told several Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to their countries.

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign attacked Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York in a campaign email Tuesday for her calls to abolish the Electoral College, telling supporters that "this is our country, not theirs."

The attack was prompted by comments Ocasio-Cortez made last week in which she called the Electoral College a "scam" and said that the constitutionally mandated way the United States picks its presidents dilutes the voting power of people of color, as well as voters in large cities.

"Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently called for abolishing the Electoral College. Remind her that this country belongs to AMERICANS from EVERY zip code, not just the Coastal Elites and Liberal Mega Donors. This is our country, not theirs," the Trump campaign petition said, directing supporters to sign.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Offering Pardons to Encourage Lawbreaking


President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.
He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said.
Trump has repeatedly promised to complete 500 miles of fencing by the time voters go to the polls in November 2020, stirring chants of “Finish the Wall!” at his political rallies as he pushes for tighter border controls. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed just about 60 miles of “replacement” barrier during the first 2½ years of Trump’s presidency, all of it in areas that previously had border infrastructure.

The president has told senior aides that a failure to deliver on the signature promise of his 2016 campaign would be a letdown to his supporters and an embarrassing defeat. With the election 14 months away and hundreds of miles of fencing plans still in blueprint form, Trump has held regular White House meetings for progress updates and to hasten the pace, according to several people involved in the discussions.
When aides have suggested that some orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said. He has waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying “take the land,” according to officials who attended the meetings.

Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” he has told officials in meetings about the wall.
“He said people expected him to build a wall, and it had to be done by the election,” one former official said.
Asked for comment, a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Trump is joking when he makes such statements about pardons

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

G-7

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Trump at the G-7:
A lot of people say having Russia, which is a power--having them inside the room is better than having them outside the room. By the way there were numerous people during the G7 that felt that way and we didn't take a vote or anything but we did discuss it. My inclination is to say yes, they should be in. They were really it was say President Obama--I am not blaming him but a lot of bad things happened with President Putin and President Obama. One of the things that happened was as you know what happened with a very big area a very, very big and important area in the Middle East where the red line was drawn and then President Obama decided that he was not going to do anything about it.

You can draw red lines in the sand--you just can't do it and the other was in Ukraine having to do with a certain section of Ukraine that you know very well where it was sort of taken away from President Obama--not taken away from President Trump, taken away from President Obama. President Obama was not happy that this happened because it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him and he wanted (INAUDIBLE) Russia to be out of the--what was called the G8 and that was his determination. He was outsmarted by Putin.
Michael Birnbaum and Philip Rucker at WP report on a Saturday dinner among the leaders.
Trump’s message was that “it doesn’t really make sense to have this discussion without Putin at the table,” according to a European official briefed on the conversation among the leaders.

The official, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sharp discussions at the summit.

The entire 44-year vision of the G-7 gathering, according to the non-U.S. participants, is to hash out global issues among like-minded democracies. So the discussion quickly turned even more fundamental: whether the leaders should assign any special weight to being a democracy, officials said.

Most of the other participants forcefully believed the answer was yes. Trump believed the answer was no. The pushback against him was delivered so passionately that the U.S. president’s body language changed as one leader after another dismissed his demand, according to a senior official who watched the exchange. He crossed his arms. His stance became more combative.
 ...
[H]aving such a forceful advocate for an authoritarian leader inside the room of democracies profoundly shaped the overall tone of the summit, one senior official said. 
The consequence is the same as if one of the participants is a dictator,” the official said. “No community of like-minded leaders who are pulling together.”

Monday, August 26, 2019

Commodus on the Potomac

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Lloyd Green at The Guardian:
Trump’s secretary of state, lumped his boss and Barack Obama together. Pompeo warned that Trump, like his predecessor, would be “an authoritarian president who ignored our constitution”. Understandably, Pompeo has now developed a case of selective amnesia. In hindsight he got one thing very wrong: Obama doesn’t hold a candle to Trump when it comes to encroachment by the executive.
In Gladiator, Maximus, the hero played by Russell Crowe, hacks and cleaves his opponents in the arena then shouts to the crowd: “Are you not entertained?”
In Trump’s case, the American public appears to be answering: “No!”
On Friday, the markets also gave a thumbs-down to his equation of Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. The Dow plummeted by more than 600 points.
The president’s numbers are under water and he consistently trails Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, in hypothetical match-ups.
As Maximus tells Commodus: “The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end ... ‘Highness.’”
Election day is less than 15 months away.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Joe Walsh

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

Bobby Allyn at NPR:
Joe Walsh, conservative talk radio show host and former Tea Party congressman, is launching a long-shot primary challenge to President Trump. He's the second Republican to officially announce a run against Trump, who has a strong approval rating among his party's base.
Walsh, 57, supported Trump during his 2016 campaign but in recent months has been offering a bitter critique of the president, calling Trump a liar, bully and unfit for office. Walsh has also attacked Trump from the right.
"Mr. Trump isn't a conservative. He's reckless on fiscal issues; he's incompetent on the border; he's clueless on trade; he misunderstands executive power; and he subverts the rule of law. It's his poor record that makes him most worthy of a primary challenge," Walsh wrote in a New York Times op-ed this month.
On the Democratic side, meanwhile, 21 candidates are vying for the White House in 2020. But there are far fewer Republicans attempting to deny Trump a second term. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is the only other person so far to announce he'll try to unseat Trump, whose support among Republicans usually polls in the 80s, making him a formidable party incumbent.
At WP, Aaron Blake notes some problems:
Last week, Peter J. Hasson pulled out a number of examples of Walsh’s tweets. They include the falsehood that former president Barack Obama is Muslim, employ the racist trope that he should “go back” to someplace other than the United States, and make frequent use of ethnic slurs... And this is just the tweets. Walsh has also been a radio host in recent years; imagine what he has said there that we don’t have a ready-made transcript of. We already know he was briefly pulled off the air for (similar to above) using racial slurs while discussing racial slurs. Then there’s the matter of the child-support dispute that marred his failed 2012 reelection race, in which his ex-wife accused him of being a deadbeat dad and owing her $117,000. (They later reached a settlement.)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Economic Warning Signs

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax and economics issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. and explains why the Trump tax cut backfired on Republicans.

Paul Davidson at USA Today:
U.S. stocks tumbled more than 600 points Friday after President Trump vowed to respond to retaliatory tariffs announced by Beijing earlier in the day and ordered American companies to seek “an alternative to China,” sharply escalating a trade war that has roiled markets for months.

Investors had hoped for more talks between the U.S. and China in September after Trump delayed part of the latest round of tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports from September 1 to December 15.

“I think markets thought things were moving along,” says Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer of Independent Advisor Alliance. “We just learned things are worse…. substantially worse.”


“Now it seems the truce is off,” he added. “Now it’s anybody’s guess whether there will be talks in September.”

Damian Paletta, Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey, and Philip Rucker at WP:
Top White House advisers notified President Trump earlier this month that some internal forecasts showed that the economy could slow markedly over the next year, stopping short of a recession but complicating his path to reelection in 2020.

The private forecast, one of several delivered to Trump and described by three people familiar with the briefing, contrasts sharply with the triumphant rhetoric the president and his surrogates have repeatedly used to describe the economy.
...“Everyone is nervous — everyone,” said a Republican with close ties to the White House and congressional GOP leaders. “It’s not a panic, but they are nervous.”


Yun Li at CNBC:
U.S. manufacturer growth slowed to the lowest level in almost 10 years in August, the latest sign that the trade war may be exacerbating the economic slowdown.

The U.S. manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers’ index) was 49.9 in August, down from 50.4 in July and below the neutral 50.0 threshold for the first time since September 2009, according to IHS Markit.

Any reading below 50 signals a contraction. The survey is an initial reading for the month of August. The final figure will be released Sept. 3.

“Manufacturing companies continued to feel the impact of slowing global economic conditions,” Tim Moore, economics associate director at Markit, said in a statement Thursday. “August’s survey data provides a clear signal that economic growth has continued to soften in the third quarter.”
Chris Isidore at CNN:
The Labor Department is revising down the number of jobs that employers added to payrolls by 501,000 during the 12-month period that ran from April, 2018 through March of this year. The government initially estimated the economy added 2.5 million jobs during those 12 months, or just over 200,000 a month. Now it appears it will be closer to 170,000 a month on average.
...
The new figures don't suggest the job market is weak. A monthly gain of 170,000 jobs is enough to keep unemployment at its current low level. But it's not quite as hot as previously believed, and risks that unemployment will start to rise if employers slow their pace of hiring any further.
Rachel Layne at CBS:
U.S. Steel is temporarily cutting about 200 workers from its Michigan plant, highlighting the ongoing struggles of a company that President Donald Trump had showcased as benefiting from his administration's steel tariffs.

The layoffs, detailed in an August 5 notice with the state of Michigan, will cover "nearly every area" at the facility, U.S. Steel said in an emailed statement Tuesday. The company already temporarily cut 48 workers at the Great Lakes plant and expects to cut more more in September, bringing the total number of layoffs to 200.
Hints of trouble at U.S. Steel have been emerging in recent months, with the Pittsburgh-based company in June announcing it would idle two furnaces, one in Michigan and one in Indiana. The company said there isn't a "single event" prompting the layoffs. Rather, "Current market conditions are being impacted by a multitude of factors," including price, demand, import volume, cost and projected profit margins, U.S. Steel said in the statement.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The GOP Center Cannot Hold

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the conservative movement and the grifters who have drained its resources.  The GOP's moderate wing is not in great shape, either. (The update of the book -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.)

Susan Davis at NPR:
Three weeks after Democrats took control of the U.S. House in the 2018 midterm elections, about 40 reelected and recently defeated lawmakers in the centrist Republican Main Street Caucus gathered at the Capitol Hill Club to sift through the electoral wreckage.
The caucus — then led by Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Jeff Denham of California, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Fred Upton of Michigan — was scheduled to hold its regular meeting with the outside group that inspired its name, the Republican Main Street Partnership, led by president and CEO Sarah Chamberlain.
Founded in the late 1990s, RMSP raises money to support the Republican Party's moderate wing. GOP lawmakers embraced the RMSP name when, in 2017, it launched the caucus — an official member organization registered in the U.S. House. The member caucus was driven by a desire to counterbalance the weight of the conservative wing inside the House GOP. Lawmakers believe that rebuilding the centrist coalition is key to improving the GOP's odds of winning a House majority in 2020.
...
That Nov. 28 meeting set off a cascading series of events over the next two months. Lawmakers demanded, and were denied, an audit of RMSP's activities. Lawmakers ultimately abandoned the member caucus, and others quietly distanced themselves from RMSP and Chamberlain. Today, lawmakers still don't have answers to their questions about how Chamberlain runs the organization and whether it might be running afoul of campaign finance and tax laws

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Trump and Jewish Voters

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. Earlier this month, he told several Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to their countries.  This week, he said that Jews who back Democrats are stupid or disloyal.

Lloyd Green at The Guardian:
So once again, Jew-baiting will be part of the Trump playbook, just as it was in 2016 and 2018, even if Trump’s allies now proclaim that Jexodus is just around the corner. Old campaign habits die hard, and sometimes not at all.
Three years ago, thinly veiled antisemitic messages from Team Trump were features, not bugs. Pepe the Frog was a constant campaign meme. In July 2016, Trump tweeted out an image of the star of David, Hillary Clinton and piles of money. After the initial stir, the six-pointed star was replaced by Trump with a circle. Still, folks “got it”, on both sides, just like in Charlottesville.
Then just days before the election, George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein took center stage in Trump’s closing ad. Back then Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were not on the stage – someone else would have to make do.
Said differently, religion and ethnicity were fair game for Trump from start to finish, and Jews were not off-limits. As one of Trump’s lawyers told me, it was about expedience, that’s all; nothing personal, just look at Jared Kushner. Or as Steve Bannon confided to Michael Wolff, he couldn’t vouch that Trump wasn’t a racist, but Bannon could say that Trump “probably wasn’t an antisemite”.

Philip Rucker at WP:
Trump’s use of the word “disloyalty” drew immediate criticism from Jewish groups, whose leaders said it echoed anti-Semitic tropes about where American Jews’ loyalty lies. The president insisted his comments were not anti-Semitic.
Regardless, this turn in the president’s rhetoric about Jews magnifies his transactional approach to politics and his miscalculation that his support for Israel should automatically translate into electoral support from Jewish Americans.
It also reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the motivations of many Jews, who are not a monolithic voting bloc and but rather prioritize a wide range of issues — not only Israel, but also education, the economy and the environment, as well as civility and morality.
Image

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wacky Week

In Defying the Oddswe discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms







Martin Selsoe Sorensen at NYT:
The astonishment in Denmark over President Trump’s apparent desire to buy Greenland turned to bewilderment and anger on Wednesday after the American leader abruptly scrapped a state visit because the Danes have no desire to sell.
The cancellation was a rare snub of Denmark’s head of state, Queen Margrethe II, who had extended the invitation to the president and would have hosted him and the first lady.
Mr. Trump further strained ties on Wednesday, calling the Danish prime minister’s rejection of the idea “nasty.”
News that Mr. Trump had called off his visit “came as a surprise,” the Royal House’s communications director told the state broadcaster, adding, “That’s all we have to say about that.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Americans Turn Against Trump on Race, Immigration, and Trade

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about public opinion on key issuesThe update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

At The Atlantic, David A. Graham says that Trump has turned the public against his views on race, immigration, and trade.
A Reuters poll released today contains a trove of interesting data on race. Trump has long sought to use racial tension to gain political leverage, but this summer he has become especially explicit about exploiting and exaggerating racial divisions, with a series of racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen, and then on their colleague Elijah Cummings, as a strategy ahead of the 2020 election.
But the Reuters poll casts doubt on that strategy: “The Reuters analysis also found that Americans were less likely to express feelings of racial anxiety this year, and they were more likely to empathize with African Americans. This was also true for white Americans and whites without a college degree, who largely backed Trump in 2016.”
...
Reuters found that white Americans are 19 percent more supportive of a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants than they were four years ago, and slightly less supportive of increased deportations. Other polls find related results. A record-high number of Americans—75 percent—said in 2018 that immigration is good for the United States. Although the Trump administration took steps last week to limit even legal immigration, the Trump presidency has seen an increase in the number of Americans who support more legal immigration—not just among Democrats, but even slightly among Republicans.
...
One big problem for Trump is that voters have now gotten a chance to see him implement ideas that seemed novel or at least worth a shot during the campaign, and they don’t like what they’re seeing in practice. A trade war with China might have seemed worthwhile in summer 2016, but now that there’s actually one being fought, the public is having second thoughts, and fears of a recession are growing. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday found that 64 percent of Americans think free trade is good, up from 57 in 2017, 55 in 2016, and 51 in 2015. Meanwhile, the percentage who say free trade is bad has dropped 10 points since 2017.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Pompeo

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss the people surrounding Trump (The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.)
The choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
-- Machiavelli

Susan B. Glasser at The New Yorker:
On March 5th, Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, arrived in Wichita for the caucus. Rubio left his closing argument to Pompeo, who told the crowd at the Century II arena, “I’m going to speak to you from the heart about what I believe is the best path forward for America.” An Army veteran who finished first in his class at West Point, Pompeo cited Trump’s boast that if he ordered a soldier to commit a war crime the soldier would “go do it.” As the audience booed, Pompeo warned that Trump—like Barack Obama—would be “an authoritarian President who ignored our Constitution.” American soldiers “don’t swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other President,” Pompeo declared. “They take an oath to defend our Constitution, as Kansans, as conservatives, as Republicans, as Americans. Marco Rubio will never demean our soldiers by saying that he will order them to do things that are inconsistent with our Constitution.” Listening backstage, Trump demanded to know the identity of the congressman trashing him. A few minutes later, Pompeo concluded, “It’s time to turn down the lights on the circus.”

Extreme Liberals

In Defying the Odds, we discuss leftward drift of the Democratic Party.  The update -- recently published -- includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Samuel Abrams at The Washington Examiner:
To many, those on the extreme left appear to be more politically radical, insular, vocal and politically active than their moderate or even extremely conservative counterparts. It turns out that this is entirely correct.

In addition to a host of new studies and reports showing that liberals live in a digital bubble and have less diverse social media networks than moderates or conservatives, new data from the AEI Survey on Community and Society adds another layer to the story: Extreme liberals are notably more active on social media generally and are far more politically engaged than their moderate and even very conservative counterparts.
The AEI data reveals that social media has helped created an echo chamber around extreme liberals at rates significantly greater than other ideological groups. While 25% of very liberal respondents stated that social media made them “a lot” more involved with like-minded others, just 13% of moderates and very conservative identifiers believed that the internet increased their connections to similar people to that degree.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Economic Clouds

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax and economics issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. and explains why the Trump tax cut backfired on Republicans.

Trump has a somewhat conspiratorial view, telling some confidants that he distrusts statistics he sees reported in the news media and that he suspects many economists and other forecasters are presenting biased data to thwart his reelection, according to one Republican close to the administration who was briefed on some of the conversations.
“He’s rattled,” this Republican said. “He thinks that all the people that do this economic forecasting are a bunch of establishment weenies — elites who don’t know anything about the real economy and they’re against Trump.”
Trump has relentlessly bludgeoned Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell over interest rates and has told aides and allies that he would be a scapegoat if the economy goes south.
 Catherine Rampell at WP:
Trump’s economic brain trust consists of a guy who plays an economist on TV, a crank who has been disowned by the (real) economics profession and the producer of “The Lego Batman Movie.”
...
Moreover, Mnuchin’s Treasury Department is rife with vacancies. Many senior jobs lack even a nominee. There is likewise no nominee for the Senate-confirmed job of chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. The acting chair is a health expert.
John Harwood at CNBC reports that there is no tail wind from the tax cut:
Instead, benefits from what President Donald Trump called “the biggest reform of all time” to the tax code have dwindled to a faint breeze just 20 months after its enactment. Half of corporate chief financial officers surveyed by Duke University expect the economy to shrink by the second quarter of 2020. Two-thirds expect a recession by the end of next year.
Corporate executives blame the darkening outlook on Trump’s trade war with China. The president blames mismanagement by Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman he appointed.
But economists who have examined the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act say it isn’t helping much in any of the ways advocates once advertised: overall growth, business investment, or worker pay. The strongest current case for the law’s economic benefits is that it remains too early to see them. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Rhetoric and Violence


At ABC, Mike Levine reports on Trump's rhetoric:
"I think my rhetoric brings people together," he said last week, four days after a 21-year-old allegedly posted an anti-immigrant screed online and then allegedly opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring dozens of others.

But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant's violent or threatening behavior.
Jeremy W. Peters et al. at NYT:
There is a striking degree of overlap between the words of right-wing media personalities and the language used by the Texas man who confessed to killing 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso this month. In a 2,300-word screed posted on the website 8chan, the killer wrote that he was “simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
It remains unclear what, or who, ultimately shaped the views of the white, 21-year-old gunman, or whether he was aware of the media commentary. But his post contains numerous references to “invasion” and cultural “replacement” — ideas that, until recently, were relegated to the fringes of the nationalist right.
An extensive New York Times review of popular right-wing media platforms found hundreds of examples of language, ideas and ideologies that overlapped with the mass killer’s written statement — a shared vocabulary of intolerance that stokes fears centered on immigrants of color. The programs, on television and radio, reach an audience of millions.
Brennan Gilmore at USAT:
I attended the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville equipped with only a cell phone. I happened to be filming counter-protesters as Heyer’s murderer gunned his engine down 4th Street. As the killer and his motive were mischaracterized in the hours after the attack, I feared that others might be in danger and I shared the video to give people an unobstructed eyewitness view: Heyer’s murder was an intentional act, full stop.

But I had no concept at the time of the conspiracy theory network that was about to be ginned up to maximum effect against me and others already traumatized by the events in Charlottesville, including Heather’s own mother. This online community has a terrifying capacity to warp perceptions of an event and mangle it into something unrecognizable, while also inflicting lasting damage on the victims of a heinous act and the bystanders who document it.

Alex Jones and InfoWars comprise perhaps the most powerful conspiracy factory of them all. Pointing to my work with the State Department, they and other online conspiracy theorists militantly propagated a narrative through their online channels that I was a CIA operative. They said I was part of a plot to orchestrate the Charlottesville events, and convinced untold numbers of people.
As a result, my family and I were doxed and I was incessantly harassed online and even in person, in what has become a sadly predictable pattern for online targets.
Every day since, I have had to worry if any one of the countless death threats streaming into my inboxes would materialize into actual violence. These worries are not frivolous. In May of this year, the FBI identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorist threat for the first time, in recognition that these dangers do not remain online.

Friday, August 16, 2019

"Go Back" and "Too Bad"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. Earlier this month, he told several Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to their countries.

Joe Davidson at WP:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cites words similar to Trump’s in a previously issued document explaining employment harassment based on national origin:

“Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.”

When Trump tweeted that Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” he used the kind of racially offensive language that has led to hefty fines, as EEOC employment discrimination cases have shown.

The congresswomen can’t complain to the EEOC because Trump isn’t their boss — he has no authority over the legislative branch and the congresswomen, though he sets the tone for the government and appoints the head of the EEOC.
Private sector employees have successfully taken action against those who make or tolerate similar comments. A Federal Insider review of EEOC documents shows the agency has won lawsuit settlements on behalf of employees in at least a dozen cases over the past decade, in part because a supervisor or colleague said “go back” to an employee in a bigoted context.