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About the same

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The subtext underlying last night's Democratic presidential debate was the election coming up in three weeks: The caucuses of Iowa, which likely will mark a significant inflection point in the race to the Democratic nomination.

The widespread and probably accurate view is that four candidates are closely bunched together near or at the lead: former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Oneother senator, Amy Klobuchar, seems clearly to in a well-behind fifth place but has some chance, in the hotly-contested caucuses of a state similae to her home of Minnesota, of exceeding expectations.

The tension over this comes in part from an unusual but clear fact: The polling numbers are tight enough that, given the vagaries of the Iowa's byzantine caucus system, there's no realistic way to know which of the four major candidates will emerge on top: What the order of finish will be. A plausible case can be made for any of the top four finishing first or fourth, an uncommonly fluid situation (and fascinating for those of us who enjoy watching), and even a not-unreasonable longshot scenario for Klobuchar.

It reminds me of a something similar: The long-running debate over which of the candidates would be most or least able to defeat Republican Donald Trump in November.

The realistic answer: Their chances all would be close to the same.

Consider Biden, who probably most often has been described as the strongest of the contenders against the president. He would bring definite strengths: White House experience, deep political experience generally, strong support within his own party, strong support among minorities Democrats are counting on to vote, a generally good reputation and affection by many people who aren't even political allies; among other things. But there are minuses. He would not excite many Democratic activists, he has had trouble with campaign organization and fundraising (and getting campaign spending under control), age gas been an issue with him, and he is perceived in many quarters to be more of a mainstream stand-patter than an overturner of applecarts - an image not greater in line with the mood of the day. The pluses and minuses balance.

So do they balance with the others. Sanders has clarity and focus and a massive and extremely motivated support base (Biden's is wide but not deep); his campaign organization and funding are in fine shape; while his age shows visibly, you can easily forget it when watching the energy he brings to the field. There are also a number of Trump voters who might more easily flip to him than to any other Democrat. On the down side, his rhetoric and Democratic Socialist label are off-putting to many; many Democrats may resent the idea of nominating a contender who doesn't even consider himself one of them (not to mention having little background in supporting Democrats for office, at a time when the Senate hangs in the balance); the health issue will not vanish entirely; and so on.

You can run through the same exercise with Warren, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, and come up with similar results: A balance of pros and cons, arguments in favor and against any of these contenders. Most analyses have tended to focus on one particular strength or weakness of one or another of them, and promote or diminish their chances on that basis. Look at the larger picture, with all of these elements in place, and what you see is a field of candidates with genuine strengths and counterbalancing weaknesses. They're all different among the various candidates, but which plus or minus you focus on may say more about you (or the analyst) than it does about which would be the strongest candidate.

This works another way too. Any of these candidates may gain votes from some quarter that another candidate might not, but they also lose. Maybe Biden could pick up some centrist and minority votes that, say, Warren might not; but Warren might draw votes from millennials and upscale suburbanites that Biden might not. And so on around the circle. (Of course, in a general election context, all of that is also pretty speculative anyway.)

Here's a larger point. In nearly any election with an incumbent on the ballot, the nature of the incumbent is a lot more important to the outcome than the nature of the challenger. That will be much more true than usual in 2020; the vote for and against Trump is far more likely to be decided by attitudes toward the incumbent than it will be attitudes toward the challenger.

Message to Democrats, then: Quit chasing your tail and driving yourselves crazy. Choose a good nominee. That's the the best you can do and, from this vantage point, that looks to be sufficient.
 

Fake news

politicalwords

Post-truth is pre-fascism.
► Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny, Tim Duggan Books (2017)

The English Telegraph newspaper noted in April 2019 that “As well as being a favourite term of Donald Trump, [fake news] was also named 2017 word of the year, raising tensions between nations, and may lead to regulation of social media. So great is the danger, the ‘Doomsday Clock,’ which symbolises the threat of global annihilation, remains at two minutes to midnight thanks to the rise of fake news and information warfare, its keepers have said.”

And that much is not fakery. But a lot else is.

As this was written, here are a few samples from the site FactCheck.org, which reviews questionable information and debunks a lot of what’s out there:

“Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has not proposed giving Social Security benefits to ‘illegal aliens,’ as a popular meme claims. ... An image of elected officials playing a computer card game has gone viral on social media. But the photo is from 2009, and it shows state lawmakers in Connecticut, not members of Congress. ... Former President Barack Obama, like many major party presidential nominees before him, released his tax returns – despite a popular social media post that implies otherwise. ... President Donald Trump didn’t call for the ‘death penalty’ for ‘suicide bombers,’ as social media posts say. That’s a made-up quote from a satirical story published in 2017. ... A doctored photo circulating on Facebook falsely claims that a California middle school congratulated President Donald Trump ‘on reaching his 10,000th lie.’ The image came from an online generator that lets users enter their own text.”

That’s just from one part of the front page.

What is “fake news”? Many things. It may include satire and humor pieces, and writings that specifically were intended as fiction – but might not have been taken that way. There’s also poorly researched or otherwise sloppy news articles that weren’t intended to be misleading, but through poor standards (and we should remember how small and short-handed many newsrooms are becoming) wind up contributing to misinformation. And outright propaganda.

The FactCheck.org staff said that much of what it reviews include popular memes and viral emails and social media reports, and sometimes the exact category – other than that the contention in the piece was false – can be unclear: “Our first story was about a made-up email that claimed then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to put a ‘windfall’ tax on all stock profits of 100% and give the money to, the email claimed, ‘the 12 Million Illegal Immigrants and other unemployed minorities.’ We called it ‘a malicious fabrication’ – that’s ‘fake news’ in today’s parlance.”

Incorrect or even made-up information about the world around us has grown to be a real problem. In our household we routinely sift through what’s real and what’s either satire or otherwise not reality-based.

But that’s a matter of fact versus fiction. In a sense, that’s not too hard to deal with; most of the time you can (if you’re willing to keep your mind open to do the work of sorting) work through to what’s real and what’s not. Inevitably, if you do, sometimes you’ll find data that supports your world view, and sometimes you’ll find something that undermines it. The latter is useful, if you’re into thinking: It means you may get to add another level of sophistication to the way you interpret things.

Then on the other hand, there’s this from the just-released survey American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy, from Gallup and the Knight Foundation:

“Seventy-three percent of Americans say the spread of inaccurate information on the internet is a major problem with news coverage today; this percentage is higher than for any other potential type of news bias. A majority of U.S. adults consider ‘fake news’ a very serious threat to our democracy. Americans are most likely to believe that people knowingly portraying false information as if it were true always constitutes ‘fake news.’ Four in 10 Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be ‘fake news.’”

The study noted that “The research community often defines ‘fake news’ as misinformation with the appearance of legitimately produced news but without the underlying organizational journalistic processes or mission. However, some political and opinion leaders, including Trump, commonly label news stories they disagree with or that portray them in a negative light as ‘fake news.’”

Reading critically, however, is not a skill that comes equally to everyone. Consider the story of UndergroundNewsReport.com.

That site (no longer live) was launched in February 2017 by James McDaniel, an American ex-pat living in Costa Rica. Observing the unreliability of so many web sites, he decided to launch one consisting of made-up articles, including such headlines as “Obama tweet: Trump must be removed, by any means necessary.” “Whoopi Goldberg: Navy SEAL Widow was ‘Looking for Attention’.” “Man pardoned by Obama 3 months ago arrested for murder.” None were true; all were fantasy, as McDaniel readily acknowledged.

The site picked up enormous viewership; within 10 days it collected more than a million views. McDaniel remarked, “I think that almost every story I did, or at least the successful ones, relayed off of things that Trump supporters already believed. Obama is a Muslim terrorist. Hillary (Clinton) is a demonic child trafficker,” McDaniel said. “These are things much more widely believed among Trump supporters than I had previously thought. ... I saw how many fake ridiculous stories were making rounds in these groups and just wanted to see how ridiculous they could get.” He even included disclaimers that the stories were fiction, but traffic barely slowed.

Paul Simon has turned out to be right about people who hear what they want to hear, and disregard the rest.
 

Britain’s ugly Brexit explained

mendiola

Sir Xavier Rolet's explanation to the City Club of Idaho Falls about the significance of the controversial British exit (“Brexit”) from the European Union (EU) could not have come at a more momentous time. The former London Stock Exchange Group CEO addressed the club on Thursday, May 23.

The very next day after he spoke, a tearful British Prime Minister Theresa May announced at No. 10 Downing Street in London that she would resign on June 7 after three years leading the United Kingdom – primarily due to her failure to finalize Britain's divorce from the EU.

Rolet's talk also coincided with the start of European Parliament elections that weekend which saw far right political parties surge in popularity and gain a sharp increase in delegates, causing a seismic shift among the 751 members representing more than 512 million people from 28 European member states.

“A new Europe is born!” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Lega Nord (League), declared after his far right political party won the majority of votes in Italy's shocking election. “I am proud that the League is participating in this new European renaissance.”

The Daily Mail of London reported: “The surprising result comes on a night of high drama. In France, Marine Le Pen’s right-wing group National Rally secured victory against Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche. Germany also saw leader Angela Merkle lose six seats, but continue to claim a majority. And in the U.K., the Brexit Party completed a historic win as the region’s split over leaving the EU deepened.”

(picture: Sir Xavier Rolet, right, discusses Britain's exit from the European Union with veteran Idaho Falls banker Park Price/Mark Mendiola)

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage tweeted following his victory: “Never before in British politics has a party just six weeks old won a national election. If Britain does not leave the EU on October 31st, these results will be repeated at a general election. History has been made. This is just the beginning.”

A French businessman, Rolet has been chief executive of CQS Management Ltd., a global investment company, since January. He was CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group from May 2009 to December 2017. As of April 2018, the London Stock Exchange's market capitalization stood at $4.59 trillion.

Rolet was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015 and named as one of the best 100 CEOs in the world in the 2017 Harvard Business Review. His great grandfather was a founder of the French Foreign Legion.

Rolet owns property in southwestern Montana's Centennial Valley, which is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a 385,000 acre wildlife corridor that links the Yellowstone and Salmon-Selway Wilderness habitats.

Through the Centennial Valley Association, Rolet became acquainted with Jerry and Carrie Scheid, Idaho Falls residents who also own neighboring property in Montana. As a result, the Scheids – City Club of Idaho Falls members – invited him to address their organization.

Rolet told the club that if nothing of sustenance happens between now and October 31, the United Kingdom will be bound by law to leave the European Union on that date in what he called “a cold turkey separation,” deeply impacting Britain's position in relationship with the rest of the world.

In a June 2016 national referendum, the British voted by 52 percent for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Rolet described the past three years as a time of “amazing contradictions,” calling May “a Remainer prime minister leading a deeply Brexiter party.” He commented that opposites often attract.

The British people generally believe political representatives made a mess of negotiating the Brexit process and have been disappointed in the political class, Rolet said. “The public in general is fed up that everything has been put on hold.”

The European Union, he noted, arose from the ashes of World Wars I and II. It was designed to prevent future wars in Europe by binding Germany and France initially in a steel and coal community, but expanding to establish economic and political unity on the continent.

In 1963 and 1967, Britain applied to join the Common Market, but it was rejected both years by France. In 1973, Britain entered the European Economic Community. Two years later, British people voted 67 percent in a referendum for the United Kingdom to remain in the EEC – the EU's predecessor. In 2002 when 12 EU countries introduced the euro as legal tender, Britain opted out, keeping the pound sterling as its currency.

For more than 40 years, Britain has been deeply integrated with the European Union, Rolet stressed. It at one time was one of the top economies of the Group of 8 industrialized nations, “but today it is the bottom of the pile.”

During the 2016 Brexit referendum, London was a “gleaming metropolis” bustling with business, the arts and other activities, but the rest of Britain's economy was hurting. Most of London's residents voted in favor of remaining in the EU, but following the financial crisis of 2008, “the United Kingdom was particularly left behind.”

He said the way for the EU to survive is to prosper, but some 22 million people are unemployed there. The majority of British voters who favored leaving the EU “were given the opportunity, pardon my French, to 'stick it to the establishment',” Rolet remarked, noting “even in the best of times, 'blue chips' do not create jobs.”

The economic consequences of Britain exiting the European Union remain to be seen, but some have feared they could be severe, he said. Belonging to the EU has hedged Britain's interest rate and foreign exchange exposures, Rolet added, emphasizing that extricating itself from the EU will be extremely difficult and “really, really complex” for Britain.

It will be left to the market to sort out hundreds of trillions of invested euro-denominated securities and 150 trade agreements signed by the EU that cover the United Kingdom, Relot said.

In history, nationalism always has arisen as a sign of decadence, he said. By 2022, it has been estimated that the United States and China will account for 52 percent of the world's gross domestic product and will own 75 percent of global financial assets.

The U.S. is by far the world's mightiest military power while Europe has virtually no military capability left, Rolet said, adding neither Britain nor France could put 50,000 combatants on the ground.

Rolet accurately predicted that Theresa May would probably be replaced by early June as Britain's prime minister because of her failure to finalize Brexit. The status of 1.9 million British citizens in the European Union, meanwhile, remains unsettled.

“There will be many, many more years, possibly a decade, for these issues to be resolved,” Rolet said, predicting the United States, China and Russia will be the dominant economic and military powers in the near future as the world moves from its post World War II binary status between the U.S. and USSR to a multi-faceted outlook.

“Don't be surprised if there is a peace treaty between Russia and the United States in the Middle East,” Rolet said, adding that reforms in Saudi Arabia also could lead to peace between the Saudis and Israelis. He also predicted the U.S. and China ultimately will sign a trade agreement, ending the increasingly hostile trade war between the two super powers.
 

Trump and Santa

jones

It is well known that the President is a big fan of coal. It plays a central part in his energy program. In fact, he has repeatedly called for an increase in the mining and burning of coal. He has promised to revitalize the coal industry and bring back coal-mining jobs. During campaign appearances in coal country leading up to the midterm elections, his supporters passed out placards proclaiming “TRUMP DIGS COAL.”

Energy sector analysts point out that other sources of energy are cleaner and have become cheaper than coal, but that has not diminished the Chief’s passion for coal. He has directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to implement a program to subsidize the use of coal. Perry, the candidate who famously forgot the name of the agency he now runs during the 2016 presidential debates, is working on a plan to keep coal-fired plants running with taxpayer help.

And, the President is not afraid of ruffling a few feathers in the process. During meetings in Germany and Poland in November and December, his people touted the benefits of burning coal at meetings designed to fight climate change. While participants from almost every country were pointing out the planet-killing effects of burning coal, our guys were in there pitching for that much-maligned substance. It took some moxie to stand up for a fuel whose pollution contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths around the globe every year.

In a little-noticed report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey on Black Friday, it was disclosed that about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in our country come from coal and oil extracted from federally-controlled lands. The President wants to open up additional federal lands for extraction of fossil fuels.

Another federal report released the same day warned that damage from climate change is intensifying across the country, thanks to greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels--coal and oil. The President pooh-poohed the findings of his own governmental agencies. Apparently, it is full-steam ahead with heating up the planet.

This has created a real dilemma for Santa Claus. According to some sources, Santa has placed the President on a naughty list, partly for global warming issues but also for having a standoffish relationship with the truth and a too close relationship with a bunny and a star of prurient movies. In the President’s defense, his friends Vladimir the Russian and MBS, a Saudi prince who turned a Saudi human rights advocate into hamburger, were higher up on the naughty list.

The coal-burning/global-warming issue is personal for Santa because he lives and works at the North Pole. It is not a secret that global warming is melting the ice at Santa’s workshop and he is sore that he will eventually have to move his operation or close it down.

Santa normally puts lumps of coal in the stockings of people who are on his naughty list. But, if the purpose of doing so is to admonish the naughty person, what do you do with the delinquent who actually love coal and lots of it? It presents a real dilemma for the Jolly Old Elf. My thought is that we ought to take the coal away from our leader--leave it in the ground. That would help Santa and all of the rest of us to breathe easier.
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 24

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 17. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

TO OUR READERS: This edition is the last of 2018, as we take a one-week break for the Christmas holidays. We’ll return on January 7 with an edition covering the end of 2018 and first week of 2019.

More growth in business news continued through the week as unemployment levels dropped to near record lows. How long will those levels persist? Meanwhile, as much of the state saw snow or slush, Idahoans prepared for the Christmas-New Year’s holidays.

Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill and Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Terry L. Myers will step down from their roles as the chief judges effective January 1. U.S. District Judge David C. Nye and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Joseph M. Meier will assume the role of chief in their respective courts on January 2, 2019. Judge Winmill and Judge Myers will continue to carry full caseloads.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.6% in November, down slightly from October and continuing at or below 3% for the 15th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – was 854,243, increasing by 0.1% and essentially unchanged since July.

Governor-elect Brad Little’s transition committee continues its work. Kelley Packer will lead as Bureau Chief of the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licensure. Packer is a former Idaho State Representative from McCammon. Tom Kealey will be the new Director of the Department of Commerce. Kealey is a co-owner of the restaurant chain Chicago Connection and a former executive at Morrison-Knudsen. The chairman and executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party have announced their impending exits which will take place March 16. Chairman Bert Marley, will not seek re-election when the post is next up for election on March 16. Marley has been chair of the IDP since August 2015.

Legislation championed by senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch to bring into wide use newer, more efficient energy reactors cleared the United States Senate by a voice vote.

Idaho’s growing economy, a consistent decrease in layoffs and a solvent Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund are all contributing to a 6.6% decrease in unemployment insurance tax rates for 2019.

Boise Kind is a community-wide initiative that highlights, protects and promotes the community’s core values and helps to ensure Boise remains kind and welcoming.

IMAGE Higher elevations in Idaho saw increasing snow levels in December, and road managers scrambled to clear them. (photo/Idaho Department of Transportation)
 

In review

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I for one take note that what may be the most important thing to happen in Idaho this year - ballot placement and voter passage of the initiative to expand Medicaid access in the state - wasn’t even mentioned in the looking-ahead column I wrote a year ago.

Why not? The initiative effort was active and rolling by the end of 2017; the ballot effort was filed and the campaign in place; the advocates were at work. But it looked then like a long shot. Getting any initiative to Idaho ballot status has been, in recent years, a daunting task completed by few. And what would be the odds of Idaho voters backing one of the key components of Obamacare, which so many of their elected officials have described for years like the work of the devil?

But here we are, with the measure passed (and under challenge in court, though - prognostication alert - the challenge probably will fail). Goes to show how many of the most important developments in the course of a year also are the most surprising.

Last year I couched much of the look-ahead column in the form of questions, such as: “Should we shut the door on Democratic prospects in Idaho? And even if major offices prove elusive, might Democrats see substantial gains in the legislature or in the courthouses?”

These remained fair questions through much of the year, though the answer on election day seemed close to what had been broadly expected: Democrats did a little better in 2018 than usual, both in filling key ballot slots and in the final vote, but not by a lot. Republicans remain solidly in control. Makes you wonder now if the Medicaid expansion measure had an effect on that.

Another question I raised then turned out to be relevant, though not in the way anticipated: “There are candidates from the establishment Republican world (Brad Little for governor and David Leroy for Congress), and from the outside-activist wing (Raul Labrador and Russell Fulcher, respectively), and candidates a little harder to easily classify. Will we see a consistent thread running between them? Will this year’s Republican primary turn into a battle between slates of candidates the way 2014 did? Will it lead to bitter conflicts the way that one did, or settle out more easily?”

The inside and outside question was on point. But unlike in 2014, when the two sides split cleanly into de facto slates, the races in 2018 did not cohere so simply. The governor’s race featured three significant candidates, enough to splinter the vote and alter the conversation - and alliances - in important ways. Republicans up and down the ballot were not lumped together in groups as they had been four years earlier, maybe reflecting the complex governor’s race. Republicans came out of this year’s election no doubt with some hard feelings (tough primaries almost always generate at least some, and did on the Democratic side too), but of nowhere near the depth or scope that the party had to deal with after 2014.

I did say that “2018 stands to be a lively political year,” and it was, with several hard-to-predict primaries (the Democratic gubernatorial primary result was a surprise to a lot of people) and a heated general election contest. But the end result in most of the major races, and in overall control of the state legislature, were never much in question. 2018 did not change the basic political equation in Idaho except for the Medicaid expansion (and a subtle but maybe significant voting shift in western Ada County).

2019 won’t feature a major election in Idaho (at least, not that we can foresee right now). But the after-effects of 2018 will be in evidence. I’ll get to that next week.
 

Now what?

schmidt

It’s been over eight years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law with NO republican votes. Since, we have had many political campaigns propped up on “Repeal!”, then “Repeal and Replace!” and now we have the decision of a Texas Federal judge that the whole thing should just go away. He bases his opinion on the fact that the Trump tax break for corporations and the wealthy passed last year overturned the individual mandate. OK. I get it. You Republicans don’t like the Affordable Care Act. But just what did you have in mind to get us out of this mess we are in?

Americans pay almost twice as much per person for healthcare as the next developed country in the world. And ALL of the other developed countries have universal coverage, either through a single payer plan or regulated private insurers like the ACA was headed toward. So just what do you Republicans have in mind for us? I hear all these “free market” and charity care notions. Is that the direction you want to take a 21st century American economy? It’s about time we heard your plan. Obstruction politics is getting old, don’t you think?

Most Americans get their health insurance from their workplace. If they have a medical condition, they then become a slave of that expensive benefit. If they try to change employers, thanks to the Texas judge who heard from lawyers with Republican support and funding, their preexisting condition can exclude them from coverage. If they don’t have a medical problem, they just think they could start a business on their own that might be a real economic driver, now they can’t afford to buy their own or their employees’ coverage since the individual marketplace is in shambles, thanks to eight years of republican obstruction. The ACA tried to address this. It didn’t very successfully, since there was no real congressional oversight of the individual health insurance marketplace for the last 8 years, thanks to Republican posturing.

And that’s what it’s all about here is posturing. Strike the pose that gets the crowd roaring. I guess we can afford to waste this time. We are all so comfortable with our Netflix and ATV’s that we don’t see the money we are wasting on this health care industrial complex. After all, it’s only a $20 Trillion-dollar national debt we hand to our children, and if our economy just grows at 5%, then that will all disappear. I am not comforted.

Where are the Republican ideas? Is it too painful to admit that the ACA was actually a pretty conservative plan put forth by a charismatic Democratic president who had to twist a lot of left arms to get it to pass? Is it too painful to admit that the ACA resembles Romney’s plan for Massachusetts or McCain’s 2008 plan? I’m sorry it is so painful, but we need you Republicans to start giving us some answers. And please, one without a promise that the Mexicans will pay for it.

We have serious issues regarding our national health care. Why can’t we have serious discussions about the solutions? Do you republicans who hate the individual mandate think all people should have health insurance? Do you republicans who have fought the individual market place think health care coverage should be portable and affordable for people who don’t get insurance through their big employer? Come on, let us know your plan. I’d love to hear it.
 

Ad 1, for Individual 1

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You could reasonably say that campaign season is on when the television ads begin.

If so, then the 2020 presidential is definitely under way, since President Donald Trump has released his first TV ad. And what an ad it is - drastically unusual in one very specific respect.

I've seen loads of political TV ads, and helped design a few. They can accomplish a number of things: Make you feel good about the candidate, attack the opponent, highlight an issue.

Trump ad #1 does none of these things.

Oh, it takes a pass at the personal candidate support. In this one, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale is featured, and talks about the candidate, declaring “President Trump has achieved more during his time in office than any president in history.” Because initial ads from incumbents are intended to help rev up the support base, that isn't so unusual (however highly debatable it may be).

Nor is the eventual appeal to contribute to the campaigns. Most candidates, in one fashion or another, do that too. You can do that by way of a toll-free telephone number highlighted on the screen (also not unusual).

But the pitch for money actually comes later, after you've already gotten on the phone. The reason to get on the phone, Parscale says: “I need you to call the number on your screen and deliver a ‘thank you’ to President Trump.”

And later: “We need to let President Trump know that we appreciate what he’s doing for America.”

Or, well, what? He might not run again if not enough people sufficiently feed his ego?

The ad does not hit at any specific reason supporting Trump would be good for either the country or you, the viewer, personally. (There's a quick runthrough of talking point phrases, but nothing linking any of those things specifically to anything specific Trump did.) The ad at core is about telling Donald Trump how wonderful he is. The phrase "thank you" turns up in it more than anything else. And oh yeah, have your credit card handy.

This is truly something new in political ads. Usually, we're given at least some sort of a case why we should support candidate A (or oppose candidate B). This one doesn't do that. It doesn't give any reason at all. It doesn't even seem to indicate whether Trump would appreciate it.

There's no reason at all.

The only point we hear from Trump is at the end when his voice delivers the legally-required message that he approved this ad.

Will be interesting to see how many other people do.