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Posts tagged as “Donald Trump”

First take/Debate

That was one long debate. I hadn't bothered to check in advance how long Wednesday's Republican presidential debate would run, figuring on the usual hour to 90 minutes. Instead it ran three hours, and close to a real three hours - there were relatively few commercial breaks. It was a little exhausting to watch, and the candidates - standing in place for three hours, always on call - must have been highly stressed. I'm guessing we won't see another anytime soon that runs as long. And for all that, the subject matter was surprisingly limited; in hindsight, it mostly seemed to come down to Iran, abortion, Russia and personal attacks.

It was nicely set up, however, to allow for some free flow and a considerable amount of interaction, and - in spite of the fact that a lot of it had to do with personal attacks - that was a good move away from the traditional glorified press conference approach. The candidates seemed to be (based on the called-out candidate names) boxed in to short answers; considering the long debate time, they should have been given more time to answer. But the interaction overall was welcome.

Candidate impressions? Carly Fiorina had a couple of very strong video moments. Her brief rebuttal to Donald Trump's "face" comment was the sharpest moment of the evening. Trump probably didn't hurt himself with his base, though he probably didn't make additional gains either, and overall he seemed a little diminished. If someone was looking for a candidate willing to substantively stand out from the crowd, Rand Paul gave them that, though whether that helped with the Republican electorate is unclear. Chris Christie seems to have undergone a careful media makeover, and had better delivery. Jeb Bush seemed not to have made needed progress, and lost his slap-match with Trump.

On to the next debate - oh, wait, that's the Democrats. - rs

Women and Trump’s appeal

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Over and over in the last few weeks a cycle has kicked in. Donald Trump will say something, usually about women (a person in particular or more generally) which generates outrage, and comments surface to the effect: Okay, this is it, he's jumped the shark, he's over and done, stick a fork in him. And then polling results comes back showing him either losing no significant amount of support, or maybe even gaining a little.

The latest shot at Fox host Megyn Kelley, for example, on Friday, when - seeking to convey the idea she was being irrational - he referred to "blood coming out of her wherever", evidently a reference to menstruation. (He was a little vague, but if that wasn't the intended reference, I'd like to know what it was.) Lots of response to that, much of it suggesting that no presidential candidate can get away with that. Especially coming on the heels of his regularly recurring comments about women, which are no new thing; those quotes stretch back over years.

How does Trump survive this?

Simple. There's an audience happily glomming on to it. Trump's comments about women specifically are finding an audience for which that's an important statement as a positive qualifier for president. More important, in fact, than whatever he has to say about social policy (which has been, over the years, much more a mixed bag, some of it relatively liberal).

Here's one way we can be sure of this: The reaction to Megyn Kelly in the social media. She has been drawing support, of course, including from many people who have little positive to say ordinarily about Fox News or about her. But there's also a sudden, and large, bump in the social media commentary to and about her which is stunningly pejorative.

An article on the site Vox put some of this together. It presents a chart showing the number of tweets in recent weeks describing Kelly as a "whore" or "bitch" or other perjorative; it took a drastic rise just as the Trump-Kelly battle (which isn't the right word since Kelly, wisely, hasn't much fought back) took off.

Vox writer Max Fisher noted, "Trump, in response to the controversy over his comments, a backlash that has included condemnations from many in the GOP establishment, has not backed down one iota. Rather, he has encouraged the wave of online sexist hatred against Kelly, for example by retweeting this seemingly random twitter user who calls Kelly a "bimbo"."

There's a real streak of hatred against women out there. That much is not especially new. What is, is that it's metastasizing into a political movement, one which is forming a large part of the base for Donald Trump. How large is that movement? Is it now at a floor or a ceiling? Many political stories in the months ahead may turn on that question.

First take

The most surprising thing about the Republican presidential debate was the questions, and how tough many of them were. Most especially the questions aimed at Donald Trump. Those were so fierce - not least the calling-out on an independent candidacy at the beginning, which ostensibly wasn't aimed at a single candidate (though it really was) - that a clear goal on the part of Fox of seriously damaging Trump was evident. If Trump's constituency were of a different kind, it might have worked, too. The questions hit home on such matters as party loyalty, violation of core party stands and more, matters that would kill off most candidates. But while the questions highlighted, they did not unearth. Trump's threat to run a third-party candidacy has been in the news, as had nearly everything else the Fox questioners brought up. Was Trump damaged by the debate? We'll find out more soon in the after-party polling, but I'd guess not. I think it's more likely Fox drove a wedge between itself and some of Trump's constituency, which may be led by the candidate to now view Fox as just another part of the establishment. And did other candidates gain? Maybe Marco Rubio, a little, since he came cross as polished at least and got some easy questions. In the kids' table debate, Carly Fiorina was described as projecting a strong presence, but she's way back in the pack to start. Jeb Bush did himself little good - he didn't crash, but he came across like a dull corporate attorney. Did the debate change the contours of the race? Probably not much. And on to round two.

In our household when we turn to "the news" on television, that has for many years meant Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert - no other regular "news" TV programming need apply, so poor has most of the quality gotten. (CSPAN is welcome, and scattered individual programming, but nothing else on a nightly basis.) So this has been a significant year: First Colbert and now Stewart, as of last night, have departed. The news won't be the same. But the future beckons. Larry Wilmore, while not yet the equal of either of those two, has been gaining some strength. And while we as yet have no idea of what job Stewart's successor will do, we do know that others can do the job well: A year ago, John Oliver did a terrific job filling in for three months, and he was promptly grabbed away to do his own program elsewhere. So good luck to the new order.

First take

It's under pressure that (and fiction writers know this well) character is most readily revealed. We now have a great vise that stands to be a useful character-revealer, in the form of the first Republican presidential debate of the new cycle, a little more than a week off. In the interest of holding a debate in which the various candidates have more than three or four minutes to speak, organizers have limited participation to the "top 10" candidates, as determined mainly by polling results. There's a problem here. While three of the current candidates - Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker - hold a discernible lead over the others, the other 13 "major" candidates are all clumped together in the mid- or low single digits, and most within a margin of error. There's no easy way to differentiate among them in polling terms, which means there's no easy way to determine which six won't make the cut - and thereby risk being characterized afterward as the minor candidates with minor support. What is this leading to? The New York Times describes some of it in its email report this morning: "Until Monday, most of the Republican-on-Republican violence in the 2016 presidential contest had been along familiar lines — Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey against Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky; Donald J. Trump against almost everybody. But the impending first Republican debate, which has a 10-candidate limit that has already prompted some attention-getting stunts, is quickly turning the race into a food fight." Which may dominate news reports for some days to come. - rs (photo/Senator Ted Cruz, by Michael Vadon)

Welcome, Donald

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Much is heard these days about Democrats welcoming Donald Trump to the 2016 presidential primaries, hoping he’ll really screw things up for Republicans. Much is also heard from many GOPers along the lines of “What the hell is Donald Trump doing screwing up our primaries?” My lone voice says, “Welcome, Donald Trump. What took you so long?”

I’ve been waiting for that most able representative of the worst in American politics to get beyond “threatening to run” to the real thing for a long, long time. I’m not saying he’ll actually do it - because he won’t. He’d have to eventually publish too much of his financial holdings to ever fully and officially qualify for the nomination. That he’ll never do.

No, it’s 99.44% certain Trump won’t be on your November, 2016, ballot. It’s also just as sure he’ll be center stage for many more months. If you’re surprised by his verbosity and dominance thus far, you shouldn’t be. The Republican candidate garden has been cross-pollinating this political weed for years. Trump is that weed taken to the extreme.

As the original Tea Party began devouring the Republican elephant more than 10 years ago, it regurgitated pre-Trump ancestors. Bachman, Gohmert, King, Issa, Mo Brooks, Don Young, Jeff Denham, Dana Rohrabacher, Duncan Hunter, Ted Yoho, Tim Huelskamp, Steve Scalise, Kevin Kramer, Mark Sanford, Jeff Duncan, Kristi Noem, Raul Labrador, Marsha Blackburn, Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling, Joe Barton and a couple dozen more. These spawn began devouring anything moderate in the national GOP about 2004. Dozens of level-headed, knowledgeable and acceptable Republicans were eaten alive at the polls by supporters of these nuts, or the good people just quit after trying to deal with the lies, the intransigence and nasty politics.

Though Trump has been playing around in the Republican gene pool for some years, before that he was a Democrat doing the same thing on a much quieter level. He’s old, very tarnished goods. He didn’t spring full-throated to his present undeserved prominence. The above list of much-lesser, politically-challenged earthworms preceded him, breaking up the anti-intellectual ground and sprinkling it with verbal B.S. so Trump’s most recent incarnation could be hardier stock.

The soil that grew a Donald Trump now covers the GOP garden. It’s from this diseased earth the crazies have sprung. The ones condemning nearly everything governmental. The insane voices in Texas, for example, frothing at the mouth about “secret tunnels and holding cells under empty Walmart stores” where “President Obama plans to confine them” after a long-planned military exercise starting this week. Obama taking absolute dictatorial control so there’ll be no 2016 presidential elections.” Martial law. Armed U.S. Army soldiers gunning down unarmed civilians.

Nourished by verbal excrement of Limbaugh, Beck, Savage, Ingraham and too many others to name - loons who’d normally be left to solitary mutterings are being fed tainted diets of lies and half-truths with which to weave conspiracies and whole worlds of ignorant fantasies. With superb monetary largesse from the Kochs, the NRA, Heritage Foundation, Birch Society, Faux Neus and self-serving political voices, they cling to any word that appears to justify and nourish their demented existence.

Donald Trump is the wall Republicans need to smash into before possibly bouncing back to more moderate positions - something acceptable to us normal folk. Like purging a contaminated water supply, Trump might be the impetus for thinking GOPers to finally act to retake control of what’s left of their party and do some thorough housecleaning. Because it’s now just the party of the old. Of white males. Of vanishing support. Of dwindling numbers at the polls.

One other thing about Trump and the current defective crop of GOP candidates. These “candidates” are not supported by a lot of people who, if their guy loses, will say “Oh, well” and get on someone else’s bandwagon. No, Sir. These are people who will either stay home come election day or will willingly subvert, by any means, the guy who beat their guy. They represent the zealotry of what passes for modern-day Republicanism. “Coming together” is unacceptable to zealots.

The Republican party may take a shellacking at the polls in 2016. Not everywhere. But enough to further diminish the already decreasing size of its share of the electoral pie. Not because of a Clinton or a Sanders. But because more and more folks, who usually frequent that part of the ballot, are coming to realize those running their party are as ignorant and impotent as trickle-down economics.

Trump’s embarrassing use of the Republican brand to further his own fortunes may sound the clarion call for smarter, more reasonable people to step up in and take control. This country NEEDS a healthy GOP! Soon! Donald’s as unfit as it comes in his “candidacy.” Were it not for his demented outlook on nearly everything, he’d be a cartoon character. But he ain’t funny.

Trump could be the wake-up call the GOP needs to be viable again. His racist, war-mongering, exhibitionist rhetoric may be his own undoing. Damn, I hope so!