Was Trump Really Against the Iraq War From the Start?

One of Donald Trump’s biggest claims during this election is that he was against he Iraq war. This places him in opposition to Hillary Clinton, George Bush, basically the entire government and the public at large, who sanctioned the war. In the end, the war was proven to be a mistake, at least in terms of execution, if not the decision to start it in the first place. That the outcome of the war was so bad has opened a lane for those to play the ‘I told you so’ card.

With respect to the 2016 election, Trump has been chided for his lack of experience and judgement, which renders him unfit to be the president, so the argument goes. Trump points to his call about the Iraq war as proof that his judgement is sound. This would be a great argument, if indeed it were true. But proof has been lacking.

Many in the media have pointed to the following interview Trump did with Howard Stern back in 2002, and declared it the smoking gun that definitively closes the issue and confirms beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump is a big liar (start at 1:30):

Stern asks Trump point blank: “Are you for invading Iraq?” Trump responds, “Yeah, I guessss….soooo.”

Anyone who hears that, and  has a modicum of understanding of human beings can hear the doubt in his answer. The phrase ‘I guess’ is one of the most non-affirming affirmations in the English language, and the way he drags out that 4 word answer is further indicative of his uncertainty.

At the very least Trump was conflicted. At most, he was against the war but was wary of giving an answer which would have been extremely unpopular in 2002. Given that it’s Donald Trump we’re talking about, arguing that he might have shied away from a controversial comment is hard to believe. However, even the most fervent anti-Trump diehard must clearly see that his response is hardly a full throated endorsement of an Iraq invasion.

Trump points to this Esquire interview as his proof that he was against the war at the time. It is (to my knowledge) the only recorded evidence of his claim. The problem for him was that it was in August 2004, nearly 18 months after the Iraq war began in March 2003. Esquire has conveniently added a disclaimer to the article to make sure the reader knows this, and coming just short of outright calling him a liar.

The interesting thing is that even despite this, Trump does come off very well in the interview. Consider the following passage (emphasis mine):

My life is seeing everything in terms of “How would I handle that?” Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the county? C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he’ll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn’t have.

 

What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing!

 

I would have been tougher on terrorism. Bin Laden would have been caught long ago. Tell me, how is it possible that we can’t find a guy who’s six foot six and supposedly needs a dialysis machine? Can you explain that one to me? We have all out energies focused on one place—where they shouldn’t be focused.

 

When I look at some of the things that happened in government, I can’t believe it. Countries that we’re protecting are screwing us on oil prices. It’s unthinkable. I wouldn’t stand for it. How would I handle that? That’s what it feels like to be me.

He shows what proved to be superior understanding of the situation, both in terms of the basic flaw with our Middle East adventures, and the strategic implications of our skirmishes. On the first front, he is correctly arguing that the US trying to bring democracy and liberal Western values to places which do not value them, and never have, is an exercise in futility.  Secondly, he accurately understood the destabilization involved would lead to the most vicious assuming power. Which is exactly what happened, with our Regime Change philosophy producing ISIS and Iran on the path to full nuclear capabilities.

At the end of the day, I’d say Trump is shooting par. While he did answer in the affirmative to the question of invading Iraq, the answer was clearly tinged with conflict and doubt. His more full throated disapproval came after the war had already started, yet it did show a superior understanding of the situation and Middle East dynamics than can be expected of a civilian.

This is not an insignificant point. To date, the argument over Trump’s Iraq war stance as it pertains to the election has ignored the fact that Trump was a civilian at the time, while Hillary Clinton was a member of the Congress that carried out the war, and who personally voted for it. Thus, Clinton at best can only try to bring Trump down into the realm of the Incorrect as it pertains to this issue.

And even if she is successful, and it is proven that Trump was for the war at first and then changed his mind later, it does absolve Hillary Clinton, and those who voted yes for the colossal mistake they made in sending our troops to Iraq. Whether the decision was made on an outright lie, faulty intelligence, or a combination of the two, there’s no hiding from the fact that the blunder that was made calls into question the judgement and leadership abilities of the establishment, of the incumbents, of the old guard that guided us during that time. And the end result isn’t favorable for that lot.

In this way, this episode of the campaign is a microcosm of the decision Americans will have to make. From a strictly political perspective, are we going to go with the old guard candidate, which has proven to be a failure, simply because she has ‘been there before?’ I would think not, but you never know. At the very least, this country will have had a real choice for once.

The “Trump Just Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About” Argument is Based on a Flawed Analogy

In my view, one of Donald Trump’s biggest hurdles to the presidency is the idea that he has no idea what he’s talking about with respect to many issues, but mostly in terms of foreign policy. Since Hillary Clinton has spent nearly three decades in and around Washington DC as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, during which time she’s flown around the world to meet with leaders and diplomats, and actually been in the ‘war room’ when key decisions were made, she is the candidate we should trust with the nuclear codes. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a buffoon business tycoon who shoots off at the mouth with little regard for any fall out.

Or so the story goes.

Last night at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Fourm, Matt Lauer touched on this point with Trump, asking him the following:

So many of the issues that we’ve talked about with you, Mr. Trump, tonight, and Secretary Clinton, are so complex that even career military people and career diplomats and politicians have trouble getting their arms around them….You’ve had a very different background, in business. So nobody would expect you to have taken over the last 20 years really deep dives into some of these issues. But I’m curious about what you’re doing now. What kind of research are you doing now? What kind of homework are you doing? What kind of things are you reading as you prepare for the day in two months where you might be elected the next president of the United States?

On the surface, it’s a good question. Trump really does have no experience in the narrow arena of Geopolitics and military conflict, at least compared to Hillary Clinton. The issue is that in this case, Clinton’s experience may actually be a big negative. Thus the premise of the question is flawed.

The root of the flaw is the false equivalence being made between foreign policy and a discipline like physics. Physics is a scientific discipline which is founded on universal principles and phenomena in the natural world which are known to be true. Foreign policy is the extension of a political ideology onto a world stage.

In other words, people are wrong to be making the following analogy:

Trump is to Hillary Clinton in Foreign Policy, as a Physics 101 student is to Stephen Hawking in Physics

Again, this would hold if foreign policy was based on falsifiable arguments and hypotheses the way physics is. The reality is that it simply isn’t.

Donald Trump is extremely ignorant, when looking through the tinted lens of the post WWII US foreign policy of interventionism, nation building, and soft imperialism. He sings an unabashed America First song, in direct contrast to what he correctly terms the ‘false song of globalism.’ His views on the place of the US military in the world seems to be ‘Peace Through Strength,’ rather than the more passive aggressive, relative half measures the US has currently been undertaking in war.

This doesn’t represent ignorance, but a complete difference in views. Which is fine when we’re dealing in an ideology based arena such as foreign policy. Trump is not arguing that Bernoulli’s Principle doesn’t exist. He is arguing that the current ideology has failed us and we must try something different.

And on that point, there is little to argue about.

Regardless of what you think about the intentions, the bottom line is that the ‘Russian Reset,’ the Syrian Red Line, toppling Ghadafi in Libya, the Arab Spring, Benghazi, and setting the foundation for the Iran deal had disastrous outcomes. The destabilization created room for ISIS, which now has a gigantic swath of land in the Middle East from which it is fanning out terror operations worldwide.

This is not a partisan argument either – the Bush administration had numerous blunders in the foreign policy arena as well, chief of which being the handling of the Iraq War.

Trump stands against both Republicans and Democrats, which is why he’s been pilloried by both sides. Just last month, 50 former GOP national security officials wrote an open letter imploring Americans to steer clear of Trump because of the ‘danger’ he represents.

 

This merely confirms the fact that Trump is a true agent of change. Both the Republican and Democrat establishments have been happy to feed the Military Industrial Complex for decades, despite the warnings of President Eisenhower. To people like those who wrote that open letter, the ‘danger’ is that the status quo is disturbed.

Regardless of the outcomes of the wars and skirmishes America has been involved with over the last few decades, regardless of the bloodshed and the lives lost, the elites in the government and those in the defense industry have reaped rewards.

Trump doesn’t care about the status quo. He cares about America engaging in foreign policy that benefits the people, as opposed to the special interests in government and the defense industry. As such, his advisers are outsiders, just like he is.

Consider Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general who served in the Obama administration as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was ultimately forced out of the role in 2014:

Stars and Stripes said Flynn “did not leave the Obama administration on warm terms,” adding that, “in 2014, he was effectively forced out of the Defense Intelligence Agency as part of a leadership shake-up after clashing with officials over his management style and vision for the agency.”

 

Flynn explained his firing, according to the New York Post, by saying he “knew then it had more to do with the stand I took on radical Islamism and the expansion of al Qaeda and its associated movements. I felt the intel system was way too politicized, especially in the Defense Department.”

Despite being a Democrat, he has been one of Donald Trump’s key advisers, even making the short list to be his Vice Presidential pick. The reason for this is that Flynn, like Trump, disagrees with the the way the establishment is taking to foreign policy, if not the basic ideology itself.

That Trump may not be well versed in some of the political lingo, some of the more detailed strategic points, or arcane historical facts which may affect policy is not automatically disqualifying. After all, Barack Obama was similarly cast as inexperienced, and ill-informed on matters of foreign policy – by none other than Hillary Clinton back in 2008.

Given Obama’s election, the country obviously didn’t think those claims were valid. It is rich, however, that the same Obama-turned-Clinton supporters are now claiming that Trump has no clue what he’s doing, and doesn’t have the experience.

This is because Obama, of ‘adequate’ experience, exercised that wisdom to put Hillary Clinton in the Secretary of State position, which led to the aforementioned failures of her tenure. These failures are currently being touted as the evidence of the requisite experience needed to be president, that Trump lacks. It’s not a very convincing argument coming from Obama and Clinton.

The bottom line is that the type of experience matters. Trump’s experience has been in business, overseeing large complex problems by giving it direction, and making sure the right people are in charge to take care of things at a more local level. This translates almost directly to what he would have to be doing as a President. It is up to those underneath a President Trump to carry out the day to day grunt work involved in getting the job done. Trump’s job is to hire the best people, who will give him the best information, to then devise strategy based on this information within the framework of an overarching goal, and then to implement it. In short, true leadership is the ultimate job of the President.

Trump has been doing this for his entire adult life, to great success. In that respect, he is far more qualified than the perpetual failure Clinton has ever been.

On Phyllis Schlafly

Earlier this week, Phyllis Schafly died, aged 92. She was a conservative icon, and as such there was much outpouring of joy on Twitter and other apparatchiks in the leftist media.

Although I was aware of who she was, I didn’t know the extent to which she was a force for preserving traditionalist views for over half a century. Her most notable achievements came in the gender relations arena, particularly her battles to stop feminists from passing the ERA in the 1970s.

For this, she became the mortal enemy of the feminist, and therefore the eternal friend of civilization itself. Indeed, of feminism, she believed that it was “doomed to failure because it is based on an attempt to repeal and restructure human nature.”

The aspect of human nature which the feminist is interested in is the fact that men and women are different, and thus have different roles to play in families and societies as a whole. Feminism rejects the obvious biological fact that men and women are different and ascribes any differences to ‘social constructs.’ It seeks to reshape the world in its image, to the point that it’s logical extension would lead one to posit that a 5’0” 105 pound woman is equally as capable of saving people from a 10 story burning building as a 6’2” 195 man.

Schalfly stood steadfast against such absurdity for decades, and thus is deserving of respect. There is a bit of a paradox, at least on the surface. In spending her adult life championing traditional views, and exalting the traditional housewife, she was a tireless worker outside the home. She gave speeches all over country, wrote and/or edited dozens of books, learned a law degree, wrote regular columns, and appeared on radio for years.

She also had 6 children, breastfed all of them, and taught them all basic reading and writing before they entered school. In short, she ‘had it all,’ which is what feminists claim their ideology offers women.

Yet the results of 50 years of feminism don’t really bear that out. Women are less happy now than they were during the 1970’s, while men have roughly maintained their level of happiness. Women are marrying later, and the fertility rate in the US is the lowest on record.

A far cry from Schlafly, who actually attained what feminism claimed to offer. Yet, Schlafly is universally met with scorn by feminists.

What squares the apparent paradox is the fact that Schlafly, in embarking on professional pursuits, had no burden, beyond a moral one to uphold traditional views. She had married a wealthy lawyer, so she didn’t need the money from her speaking fees or book sales. She could fully concentrate on her roles as a wife and a mother, while taking the spare opportunities she had to engage in activism, which she called a ‘hobby.’

She would work on her early books after 10pm, when her kids went to bed. She didn’t go to law school until she was in her 50s, at which time her children were all at least in their teens and thus didn’t necessarily need the constant supervision toddlers would have.

She ‘had it all’ precisely because she eschewed the feminist model. She married well, had children, raised them while slowly building up her professional ambitions when she could. Then, in her 50s, after her children had grown, she embarked on her largest and most expansive efforts.

The feminist model preaches to women to do the opposite –  establish a career first, then look for a husband after age 30, then have kids, then juggle them with the expanding career. It doesn’t work, for multiple reasons. Nature, not society, has given women a relatively short window to have children. Waiting until after 30 severely limits that window, and increases the likelihood of complications. Furthermore, having a child right when professional ambitions are escalating is a recipe for disaster. Both the child and the job need one’s full attention, and by definition only one can win it.

It is little wonder that the modern woman, influenced by 40 years of feminism is so unhappy. Perhaps she would be better off to take a little inspiration from Phyllis Schlafly, and much, much less from Betty Friedan.

MSNBC ‘Unskews’ The Polls – Thinks 2016 Electorate = 2012 Electorate

In my article recapping the election as it unfolded over the summer, I took some time to break down why the mainstream media making fun of ‘Poll Truthers’ could potentially backfire. More specifically, I explained why the comparison between Trump supporters’ distrust of the polls in 2016 and that of Romney supporters in 2012 was off base:

Back in 2012, Republicans were convinced that polling which showed President Obama leading were heavily skewed in favor of Democrats. They were made to pay for that optimism on Election Day, and in pointing to that experience, the likes of Perino and others have been quick to point out that the polls were right in 2012, and as such they are Gospel now.

 

The issue with that analysis starts with the fact that in 2012, Republicans had the Tea Party shake up of 2010 midterm election fresh in their memories. This, to many, marked a repudiation of President Obama’s agenda, and as such a torrent of Republicanism would sweep the nation in 2012. Romney was assured to ride on in that wave, and thus, the fact that the polls said otherwise meant they were faulty.

 

The disconnect was that Romney as a candidate was nowhere near the Tea Party ideal, to put it mildly. Thus, he didn’t come close to capturing the momentum the Tea Party had generated. In the end, he marginally improved on McCain’s effort in 2008, which meant that Obama won comfortably, despite having a lower turnout than he had four years earlier.

 

Those who took the polls as Gospel earlier in this summer are making the inverse error as Republicans made in 2012. Whereas Republicans then thought the electorate had shifted from where it was in 2008, those giddy about Clinton +12 polls in early August might prove to have been erroneous in thinking that the electorate hadn’t shifted from 2012.

Right on cue, this article from Politico confirms part of my thinking – that mainstream polls are skewed towards the 2012 electorate:

MSNBC ‘unskewed’ a CNN national poll on Tuesday that showed Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by two points, re-weighting the results to match the 2012 electorate and showing a four-point lead for the former secretary of state.

 

The poll of likely voters, released Tuesday by CNN/ORC, showed Trump ahead of Clinton nationwide in a four-way contest, 45 percent to 43 percent. But MSNBC host Chuck Todd explained that the poll, in his network’s estimation, may have oversampled white voters without a college degree, one of Trump’s strongest groups.

 

“Whites without a college degree appear to make up nearly half of their sample. In 2012, by the way, whites without a college degree was slightly more than a third of all voters,” Todd said. “The point is, your numbers may not be wrong but your weighting may be, your assumptions. So the CNN folks assumed an electorate that is not an impossible scenario for Trump, but it would be an historic shift if it occurred.”

 

With the numbers adjusted to reflect how the electorate shook out four years ago, Clinton’s two-point deficit shifted to a four-point lead, 46 percent to 42 percent.

It is my view that thinking the 2016 electorate will end up looking like the 2012 electorate is a recipe for failure, yet this is what most mainstream polls do. I believe that the 2016 electorate, owing to the large number of new/disaffected voters Trump is bringing to the table, is far more amenable to the Republican candidate than it was for Mitt Romney.

Data from that CNN poll bears this out:

CNN-Polling_2_Enthus

According to that, the electorate as a whole is less enthusiastic about going to vote than it was four years ago. But given the choice between Trump and Clinton, there is more enthusiasm for the former.

Despite that major flaw in mainstream polls, they have tightened, to the point where many of them show at best a Clinton lead within the margin of error, if not a dead heat. Given that those polls refelct the 2012 Obama friendly electorate, the Clinton campaign should have some serious concerns. Because once the relatively large, and more enthusiastic Pro-Trump portion of the electorate is truly reflected, those polls might look a lot different. Indeed, we might not find out the true extent of that until election night.

Is Oil Weakness Ahead?

The WSJ certainly thinks so (emphasis mine):

Surging demand from drivers in the richest countries helped power a big rally in crude this year. But many analysts say that surge is ending.

 

In the U.S., lower gasoline prices led consumers to drive a record three trillion miles in the past 12 months. In June, gas consumption hit an all-time high, 9.7 million barrels a day. And in July, pickup trucks, SUVs and other gas guzzlers reached a record share of auto sales.

 

Yet as the summer-driving season ends, low fuel prices may not be enough to entice consumers to pump in more gasoline. More broadly, economic growth isn’t strong enough in the U.S. and Europe to produce the necessary increase in jobs or new manufacturing that would spur large, long-term increases in oil demand…

 

….Many traders, pointing to stockpiles that are holding or even growing, are betting that a glut hasn’t eased enough to keep supporting this year’s rally.

 

Data last week showed U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined fuels growing to a record. Supplies of crude, gasoline and diesel are so high that even record demand hasn’t been enough to balance the market. Global gasoline storage has been filled to a near-record level all summer, almost 500 million barrels, according to Citigroup Inc.

I’d certainly agree with that, but mostly for technical reasons. Over the last three years of this oil bear market, there has been a seasonal pattern. A low early in the year, followed by a slow melt up through the spring, and a June/early summer top which gave way to declines through the fall. The following chart highlights this.

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The three arrows indicate the early year bottoms in 2014-16, and the gray circles indicate the early summer tops, and potential top of this year. This is far from certain of course, but owing to the continual bearish fundamentals, the existence of bearish technicals as well does not bode well for oil  bulls.

In the moderate to long term (at least 18 months to two years), I am rather bullish, as I expect global central banks to further ease monetary policy, leading to a rise in asset prices and commodities. Before this happens though, I do believe there will be one last swing lower to demoralize people. I’ve always maintained that the price would approach $20 at some stage. We shall see.

A Summer to Remember: The State of The 2016 Election at Labor Day

Table of Contents:

  • The Coordinated Media Attack On ‘Dark’ Donald
  • The Democratic Convention and The Khan Episode
  • Trump’s ‘Failure’ To Stay On Message
  • The Polls
  • Trump ‘Flip Flopping’ On Immigration
  • Other Narratives
  • Conclusion

 

Labor Day weekend in America generally marks the unofficial end of summer, and the beginning of football and school season, among many other things. In election years, it is the final bend before the sprint down the stretch to the finish.

This piece will look back at the themes and narratives which developed over last few months of the campaign, from the conventions onward, with a view to analyzing how we got where we are, and what is likely to take place over the next 2 months to the election.

The Coordinated Media Attack on ‘Dark’ Donald

One of Donald Trump’s most oft used phrases during his campaign to date has been ‘dishonest media.’ During campaign rallies, Twitter rants, and even in interviews with the media on media airwaves, he has called the media out for what he describes as unfair and biased treatment against him.

On one level it may seem like whining, excuse making, or just being a poor loser. But in 2016 is room to wage such a war. The approval rating of the media is at an all-time low of just 6%, and ratings are falling almost across the board. Alternative media is on the rise. Despite this, legacy media still retains an air of respectability and legitimacy, and as such anyone who the media thinks ill of stands to gain if they are able to vanquish the media in any way.

This is the framework underneath the ongoing battle between Trump and the media. The media cannot ignore him, because he drives ratings, and thus is a boon to an industry which is increasingly starved of eyeballs. Yet the media does not like him, as he stands in opposition to the Cultural Marxist agenda it supports.

The media strategy has been simple: Give Trump the floor, and then paint whatever he does with the airtime in the most negative light possible.

Take Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention. While Trump did spend a lot of time outlining the problems with United States as it stands, he did close the speech with a message that essentially boiled down to ‘we can fix it, and make it even better than ever.’

And while he did essentially yell at us for roughly 75 minutes, it was hardly an Apocalyptic tone. Rather it was one of great energy and passion.

Yet, what followed from the media was a near universal description of the speech as ‘dark,’ or ‘dystopian.’

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Such uniformity can only be a result of a coordinated message, or one that highlights the high levels of groupthink pervading the media as a whole. Either result belies the idea that the media is some sort of objective entity tirelessly in search of the truth, which in turn does great damage to the message it is putting forth.

The Democratic Convention and The Khan Episode

Naturally, the media generally had only positive things to say about the Democratic National Convention, despite the inconsistent messaging. On one hand, the United States was the best it had ever been, which is, of course, down to the adoption of enlightened progressive ideals. On the other, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were keen to describe an America which had record inequality and substandard basic infrastructure.

They described how the system has been rigged to favor the financial and corporate elite, mere days after hacked emails from Democratic National Committee revealed it was actively working against the Sanders campaign, and working with the media to shape both a pro-Clinton message and an anti Trump one.

All this while standing on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center, neighbored by its sibling athletic cathedrals Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field. That scene is the US system in a nutshell – loud mouth politicians talking a good game against the entities which finance their campaigns, but ultimately doing their bidding legislatively when the time comes.

The inconsistencies are down to the fact that the Democrats have to talk up the Obama presidency as an unqualified success, while simultaneously playing down the fact that the ultimate results of that ‘success’ have been economic stagnation and rising health care costs for the average American. It was a tightrope act Philippe Petit would have admired.

However what really lingered from the Democratic Convention was Khizr Khan’s speech and the fallout. Khan, a Muslim, gave a rousing speech, lecturing Trump about the supposedly Un-American merits of his policies on immigration and terrorism. At one point he brandished a physical copy of the Constitution and waved it in the air, suggesting that Trump had never actually read the document.

This grandstanding was widely praised, and given legitimacy because of the fact that Khan’s son had died fighting for the US during the Iraq war. The premise was that a Trump presidency would have robbed the nation of people like his son who would have contributed to its defense and furthered its prosperity.

The media did not in any way criticize Khan, or the Democrats, for standing atop the grave of a fallen soldier to score a political point. That criticism was only reserved for the Republicans, who a week prior had allowed Pat Smith, the mother of one of those killed during the Benghazi raid, to speak. This hypocrisy was highlighted most clearly by Steve Benen in MSNBC.

media

 

The same writer, somewhat similar occurrences, vastly different takes. Again, ‘dishonest media.’

The Khan episode was escalated thanks to an interview Trump did with George Stephanopoulos, in which Trump was made to defend himself from Khan’s charges. Trump defended himself pretty tamely, apart from a comment in which he intimated that Khan’s wife, who had stood silent beside Khan during the speech, might not have been allowed to speak, presumably because of her Muslim faith.

Admittedly, that remark was rather naughty, but it wasn’t deserving of the 10 day firestorm it engendered.

Khan was paraded around all of the major networks over the next few days for exclusive interviews on the Sunday talk shows and other prime time slots. He called out the Republican leadership by name and instructed them to withdraw their support for Trump, while intimating that anyone who had the temerity to vote for Trump lacked decency and empathy.

The media did their part by constantly griping about Trump’s ‘attack’ on a Gold Star family, preying on the American proclivity to revere its armed forces in order to drum up negative feelings about Trump himself.

The reality of this saga was that a man with a negative opinion of Trump was somehow exalted to having The Final Word. Trump pushed back against that notion, rather than the man himself, and was pilloried for it, mostly due to the ‘spirited’ nature of his response. It was never really a big deal, and ultimately never really became one, despite the best efforts of the media.

Trump’s ‘Failure’ To Stay On Message

Beyond the Khan episode, there were numerous molehills which became Himalayan in stature with the addition of media commentary. They were, in no particular order:

Trump Asking the Russians to Find Hillary Clinton’s E-Mails:

This saga kicked off when grilled about his relationship with Russian president Vladamir Putin during a press conference. The current allegations had been that the Russians had hacked the DNC emails with the intent to help the Trump campaign. Trump responded by saying that even if it was the Russians who were responsible, it would represent a lack of respect for the United States and President Obama, more than anything else. He then shifted his demeanor, looked square into the camera and said the following: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will be mightily rewarded by our press.”

Despite the obvious tongue in cheek nature of the comment, the press dusted off centuries-old laws to seriously suggest that those comments were treasonous in nature. At the very least, Trump had brought great dishonor to the campaign to lobby for foreign entities to influence the US election.

Babygate

During a campaign rally in Virginia, a baby started to cry. Trump acknowledges the moment in a lighthearted manner, saying: “Don’t worry about that baby, I love babies. I hear that baby crying. I like it. What a baby. What a beautiful baby. Don’t worry, don’t worry. The mom’s running around like…don’t worry about it, you know. It’s young and beautiful and healthy, and that’s what we want.”

Trump carries on talking for a few minutes, and then the baby started to cry again. This time, Trump said: “Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here… I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking.”

The key here is that prior to the second comment, the mother had already gathered her baby and was taking it to the exit as a courtesy. Trump noticed this and then made that second comment which amounts to jokingly telling her to leave when she was already doing so. This dry humor was corroborated by eye witnesses, and the mother herself in an interview.

 

 

Despite this, the episode was taken by the media as more evidence of how much of a jerk Trump is, how little empathy he has, and all the rest of it. Yet it is obvious that throughout the entire clip he is merely making fun of a light disruption and nothing more.

Trump Says Hillary Clinton is The Devil

During a campaign rally, Trump said that Bernie Sanders ‘made a deal with the devil – she’s the devil’ in surrendering his campaign, and that he should have kept going in fighting Clinton. Given that he punctuated this common turn of phrase by saying ‘she’s the devil,’ Trump was said to have made another controversial comment.

Trump and the ‘Second Amendment People’

During a campaign rally in North Carollina, Trump said the following: “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

The media ran with it as Trump calling for the assassination of Hillary Clinton. The reality is that Trump mentioned the NRA in the next breath. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of politics understands that the NRA and the ‘gun lobby,’ as derisively termed by leftists, have been in the way of their gun control efforts for decades.

Trump’s comments were made in the context of that legislative battle, which if won by the leftists at the level of Supreme Court, he said could not be overturned. Unless there was something that the 2nd Amendemnt People – the NRA/gun lobby – could do about it. In other words, perhaps there might be some arcane legal hijinks which could be employed after the fact, given the influence of the NRA/gun lobby in Washington.

That was my reading of it. The fact that Trump immediately mentioned the Supreme Court before that comment, and immediately mentioned the NRA after suggests that the legal battle is what Trump had in mind, rather than a battle involving a stereotypical Texas gun range attendant as the media intimated.

 

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I’m sure there are other outrages that I’m forgetting, but you get the gist. I’ve spilled plenty of words discussing them, and that perhaps is the point. The media has been willful in their misinterpretations of every little thing Trump has said in order to erect these mountains from molehills.

All of these ‘controversies’ were borne from throwaway comments. They were 10 or 20 second sound bites taken from hour plus long events, and used to further a narrative that Trump had become unfocused in his rallies and was not staying ‘on message.’

The ubiquity of this narrative across the mainstream media outlets is yet another example of their bias and dishonesty. The narrative itself is faulty. Trump has, to the point of being repetitive, been patently on message during his appearances throughout the summer, with his message of America First in all aspects constantly adhered to.

Furthermore, one canard which has dogged the Trump campaign from the start was his lack of substance in his proposals, despite releasing such details on his website. Even still, since the convention, he has given structured, detailed, politician –like speeches on the economy, foreign policy, immigration and veterans issues.

These events, with the exception of the immigration speech, received little fanfare beyond your standard 60 second news report. However, the various controversies I laid out, which originated from off the cuff, throwaway moments in campaign rallies, resulted in round the clock coverage, with multiple panelists shuttling in and out of television studios to discuss the latest outrage for days on end.

In short, the media itself has shown itself to be hypocritical in ignoring and all substance coming from the Trump campaign while trying to frame any slight off color remark as the Titanic iceberg. Yet again, the media reveals itself as biased, and ‘dishonest.’

The Polls

The aforementioned ‘scandals’ had an effect on Trump’s polling. Numerous post-convention polls came out over the last few months which showed that Trump had initially taken a 5-7 point lead after the RNC, and then regressed to as much as a 15 point deficit post DNC and the litany of ‘controversies.’

These swings in the polls led many on the right to start to wonder if these polls were being rigged, or, rather if they were using faulty methodologies. Outlets like Reuters didn’t exactly quiet these charges when admitting that it explicitly changed its poll, unsurprisingly ending up with a result that was more favorable to Hillary Clinton.

Many of these ‘Poll Truthers’ have been admonished for touting conspiracy theories, much in the same vein as those Romney supporters, who in 2012 were famous for waiting for a Great Unskewing which never came. This is the premise of the following interview with Fox News anchor Dana Perino, who used that point to elaborate on why she excoriated ‘poll truther’ and colleague Eric Bolling on TV earlier that week.

 

 

Back in 2012, Republicans were convinced that polling which showed President Obama leading were heavily skewed in favor of Democrats. They were made to pay for that optimism on Election Day, and in pointing to that experience, the likes of Perino and others have been quick to point out that the polls were right in 2012, and as such they are Gospel now.

The issue with that analysis starts with the fact that in 2012, Republicans had the Tea Party shake up of 2010 midterm election fresh in their memories. This, to many, marked a repudiation of President Obama’s agenda, and as such a torrent of Republicanism would sweep the nation in 2012. Romney was assured to ride on in that wave, and thus, the fact that the polls said otherwise meant they were faulty.

The disconnect was that Romney as a candidate was nowhere near the Tea Party ideal, to put it mildly. Thus, he didn’t come close to capturing the momentum the Tea Party had generated. In the end, he marginally improved on McCain’s effort in 2008, which meant that Obama won comfortably, despite having a lower turnout than he had four years earlier.

Those who took the polls as Gospel earlier in this summer are making the inverse error as Republicans made in 2012. Whereas Republicans then thought the electorate had shifted from where it was in 2008, those giddy about Clinton +12 polls in early August might prove to have been erroneous in thinking that the electorate hadn’t shifted from 2012.

The possible evidence of that latter claim is the 42% increased turnout during the Republican primary over 2012 versus the 25% decrease in turnout for the Democrats compared to the last contested primary of 2008. In addition, the vast discrepancy in crowd sizes for events in favor of Trump, does suggest a shifting level of enthusiasm, despite Perino’s protestations.

The Conservative Treehouse likes to talk about what it terms The Monster Vote – the idea that there are many Trump voters who are unaccounted for by polling and surveys that will descend upon voting booths en masse in November. While I am amenable to that view, I don’t take it as a given.

What is given is that many of the polling methodologies essentially mimic the 2012 electorate. Many participants will be disregarded if they didn’t vote in the last election, which therefore leaves out much of Trump’s constituency – disaffected citizens who were not active in the political process.

Any poll which is ‘skewed’ toward the 2012 electorate may not be ‘rigged,’ but they may not necessarily be accurate or indicative of how the results will play out in 2016.

The bottom line is that conventional, pre-Trump political analysis is of little use in 2016, and this applies to the polls, despite the fact that they have now tightened, and many now show Trump with a slight lead as of this writing.

Trump ‘Flip Flopping’ on Immigration

That Trump didn’t die off earlier in the summer after the constant media attacks was rather impressive. He simply took the punches and rolled with them, maintaining his rigorous schedule as though nothing happened.

So a new narrative needed to be created, and it came in the shape of a potential flip flop by Trump on immigration, his signature issue. If by now you haven’t seen or heard about the speech Trump gave announcing his candidacy (or at least carefully edited clips of it), you have been truly living under a rock.

In that speech he defined immigration, and more specifically immigration over the US-Mexico border as one of the greatest problems we face right now. There were others, of course, but it was this that garnered the most attention for various reasons. Trump’s ‘hardline’ stance on immigration, which involved building a physical wall on the border, and deporting any and all who were here illegally both gained him numerous followers and howls of criticism.

Throughout it all, he remained steadfast in his views. That is, until this town hall appearance with Sean Hannity a couple weeks ago.

Hannity asked Trump whether there was scope in the law to accommodate those who had been in the country illegally for decades and had children and an established identity here. Trump responded by saying: “There certainly can be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people. We want people — we have some great people in this country.”

That clip was played over and over again and used to paint a picture of Trump walking back his previous hardline stance on immigration. The Anti-Trump media narrative thus became one of betrayal to the base he had built by being so strong on immigration from the outset.

Charles Krauthammer called it a ‘complete turnabout.’ Others gleefully invoked Jeb Bush on two levels, one in the sense that Trump’s ‘new’ stance had moved him to the left of Bush, and secondly because Bush, in an interview earlier in the summer, had essentially said Trump was a snake oil salesman who wouldn’t deliver on anything that he had been saying.

Trump’s apparent ‘flip-flop’ was an apparent validation that statement. Joe Scarborough of MSNBC started calling Trump ‘Amnesty Don,’ making as much fun of Trump’s penchant for branding his opposition as Trump’s position itself.

Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters started to waver. Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin both gave very critical interviews of Trump, fearful that the end was near. The media got what it wanted, at least temporarily. There was rancor and disharmony in the Trump camp for a few days, which opposition forces hoped would lead to general demoralization and an unwillingness to vote for Trump the Flip Flopper.

And over what, exactly? 30 seconds from an hour long town hall, and a questionable Buzzfeed article?

If one only took the time to listen to a bit more of the Hannity interview, he or she would note that Trump repeatedly used the phrase ‘follow the law.’ He must have said it a hundred times.

Follow the law means that if ICE finds you in the US illegally, you are deported. Follow the law means sanctuary cities should not exist. Follow the law means a wall should be built. The current law on immigration is actually quite stringent, but isn’t currently being followed diligently in the slightest. Trump has always maintained that will change under his administration. The reality is that such a change, to actually follow the laws on the books, would represent a drastic change from what goes on today.

When Trump says ‘follow the law,’ it does mean that ICE and the border patrol will do their jobs, and do it properly. This means kicking illegal immigrants out when they are found. The much maligned ‘Deportation Force’ already exists. And Trump plans on tripling its size. That he hid this behind the term ‘follow the law’ doesn’t equate to a softening.

It’s all there, in black and white on Trump’s immigration platform, which has been up since August…of 2015.

The immigration speech Trump gave last Wednesday was essentially a repetition of that platform, fleshed out with some anecdotes, statistics and testimonials. The truth is that at no moment did Trump deviate from that platform. The flip flop assertion was more media nonsense, plain and simple.

So what of Trump’s use of the word ‘softening’ in the Hannity clip? It certainly is a good question. It also  must be noted that further on in the interview, Trump clarified that there would be no citizenship, and no legal status for those here illegally, a stance he underlined in his subsequent immigration speech.

Perhaps he was trying to stir up some attention, in that the speculation of Trump flip flopping would attract the maximum attention to his headline immigration speech, in which he would reiterate to the widest possible audience his real ideas.

My personal view was that he was merely walking back the idea that he was going to turn ICE into a black ops ninja outfit from a movie that was going to be kicking down doors around the clock. It was one that Trump sort of allowed to fester earlier on during his campaign. In truth, anyone who believed that was going to happen believed in the impossible, so perhaps it was important tamp down those expectations. By no means does it represent a softening in any manner. That should be apparent from the immigration speech he gave last week.

The bottom line is that he has never been soft, and never flip flopped on immigration. He is exactly what you thought he was, good or bad.

Other Narratives

Here are some of the other, less sensationalized storylines that unfolded during the summer were are not as big, but still have a role to play going forward:

Hillary’s ‘AltRight’ Speech

Clinton gave a speech almost two weeks ago which was meant to attack the ‘alt right,’ short for Alternative Right, which has been a significant combatant opposing progressivism in the culture war. It has been mostly active on the internet, and its proficiency in that arena has impacted the presidential race, mostly due to the interactions Trump has had with it on Twitter.

The purpose of that speech by Clinton was to ostensibly reduce the whole movement to nothing more than a big group of mean racists. Instead she essentially gave the group a big shoutout, and exposed it to a much wider audience. A nice summary of the speech is included below:

If you don’t understand why simply repeating “racist, sexist, homophobic, White Nationalism, Islamophobe, xenophobe, bigotry” over and over again is not an argument, then you don’t understand the extent to which the culture is tiring of Politically Correct language policing, and will be surprised at the changes which are afoot in society.

Hillary’s Health

After Paul Joseph Watson posted this video

And Mike Cernovich posted this article:

http://www.dangerandplay.com/2016/08/12/hillary-clinton-has-parkinsons-disease-physician-confirms/

The media went apoplectic in defense of Hillary Clinton’s health, and claimed that anything other than her being in perfect health was a conspiracy theory perpetuated by the same sort of Alt-Right White Supremacist Racist Nationalist Sexists that Clinton would speak of in her speech.

Dr. Drew, who dared to raise questions about the state of Clinton’s health, and the care she was getting, strictly from the cold analysis of a physician, had his show terminated less than a week later.

Clinton ‘proved’ that she was in great health by opening a pickle jar which was likely pre-opened on the Jimmy Kimmel show, in a stunt that probably raised more questions than it answered.

The bottom line is that it may be a real issue, and events of the last few days have confirmed it. The FBI released the details of the investigation it did into Hillary’s emails on Friday. The most relevant part of the investigation as it pertains to Hillary’s health is the following:

However, in December of 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion and then around the New Year had a blood clot. Based on her doctor’s advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received.

In other words, the FBI confirmed that Clinton was impaired and unable to put her full weight behind her work as Secretary of State. Given that those heath issues still remain, it is not inconceivable that the same might be true of her as President.

Indeed, according to Mediaite, there are least 40 occasions during the investigation in which Clinton couldn’t recall something.

Now, this could be health related, or it could be ‘willful’ amnesia. Either way, it puts the claim that her experience is what makes her a better candidate than Trump, when that experience is full of illegality, health impaired performance, or both.

Trump Looking Presidential

Twice over the last month, Trump was afforded the opportunity to look ‘presidential.’ Once after the Louisiana floods, when he altered his campaign schedule to fly down to tour the devastation and to donate an 18 wheeler full of supplies. The actual President, President Obama, was pictured golfing in Martha’s Vineyard at the time.

The second opportunity was when Trump was invited by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to come into Mexico and discuss immigration. Trump did so, and was rewarded by appearing in front of cameras with Nieto side by side in statesman like fashion. The optics were a clear win, giving a visual of a President Trump. Trump’s words and general demeanor were also that of a president, speaking in reserved, but strong tones and generally handling himself well.

In one fell swoop, it put the lie to the argument that Trump would be a disaster on the world stage, whose thin skinned nature would result in potential global conflicts over Tweets. Yet, he went to Mexico, to meet with a man who had called him Hitler, and conducted himself professionally. Not even an awkward handshake.

Trump Appeals to the Black Community

‘What do you have to lose?’ That was the question Trump has asked the black community in recent weeks, in an effort to gain more of that vote. The premise is that as a result of over 50 years of Democrat rule in major inner cities, the conditions have deteriorated substantially for blacks in America.

Ultimately this line of argument is coming from a place of strength, given that the facts lend itself to Trump’s case. Blindly voting for Democrats has not resulted in a positive outcome, and as such one might be inclined to have a rethink.

Going Forward

And that’s where we stand, on this Labor Day weekend. Here’s what I’m looking forward to in the next 10 weeks or so until the election:

The Debates

Both sides have been relatively optimistic about the debates. Of course, the media, being on Team Clinton, believe it’s going to be a blow out for Clinton. Consider this, from the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton is methodically preparing for the presidential debates as a veteran lawyer would approach her biggest trial. She pores over briefing books thick with policy arcana and opposition research. She internalizes tips from the most seasoned debate coaches in her party. And she rehearses, over and over again, to perfect the pacing and substance of her presentation.

 

Donald Trump is taking a different approach. He summons his informal band of counselors — including former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, talk-radio host Laura Ingraham and ousted Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes — to his New Jersey golf course for Sunday chats. Over bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs and glasses of Coca-Cola, they test out zingers and chew over ways to refine the Republican nominee’s pitch.

 

Trump’s aides have put together briefing books, not that the candidate is devoting much time to reading them. Trump is not holding any mock debates, proudly boasting that a performer with his talents does not need that sort of prepping.

Long story short, Trump is low informed and winging it, while Clinton is a scholar who will make mincemeat of intellectually inferior opponent.

I beg to differ, for two reasons. Firstly, The Washington Post is behaving as though Trump has never come into contact with an Ivy League educated Lawyer on a debate stage. He has. Ted Cruz is one of the most formidable debaters on the planet, having been a National Debate Champion and a Global Semifinalist in college.

Alan Dershowitz, one of the most famous Harvard Law professors around, declared that Cruz was one of his smartest ever students and that he was ‘off the charts brilliant.’ His intellectual brilliance and legal mastery of policy should have made swift work of Trump but it didn’t. Trump was able to outdebate Cruz relatively easily. The same could be in line for Clinton.

Secondly, this framing by the media, that the ‘intelligent’ Clinton will expose the ‘buffoon’ Trump sets a low bar for expectations of Trump that can only favor him. Even if Clinton expertly displays her ability to spit out memorized talking point after talking point with scholarly effectiveness, it will be only what we expected of her.

All Trump really has to do is hold his own, and not get blown out of the water on any one issue and he’ll have won. The fact that he will be relatively short on explicit policy prescriptions may even be a bonus – given the presidency is essentially a CEO position.

CEO’s rarely know the extreme intricacy of all the moving parts in their organization. Their jobs are to make sure that there are people who do know these moving parts back and front, and can give the CEO the right intel to make critical decisions going forward. In this sense, Trump’s business experience is far more relevant than Hillary’s public sector experience, and a fresh approach to the office might be exactly what the country needs.

Trump’s Work Ethic vs Clinton’s Apathy

During the primaries, Trump basically ended Jeb Bush’s campaign when he described him  as ‘low energy.’ It had such an effect because when you looked at Jeb, with his terrible posture, shuffling across the floor in a sloth-like manner, Trump’s moniker made perfect sense.

In contrast, Trump was bombastic, loud and full of gusto. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of Trump’s campaign has been the nonstop nature of it. He is in the news every day, mostly because he is creating news every day through his daily events. He has made himself available to the media for interviews in an unprecedented manner. Many days he has been doing two campaign rallies, one in the afternoon, and then flying to another one later in the evening, filling out multi thousand seat arenas at each stop.

At each event, he has been able to bring the same energy and gusto, despite the grueling schedule. The man is 70 years old and is seemingly operating with the energy of people half his age without breaking a sweat. His commitment and relentless energy is a testament to his work ethic and should be an inspiration to most.

Clinton, on the other hand has appeared on the campaign trail at most once a week, drawing crowds in the hundreds as opposed to the thousands Trump has been getting.

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She has spent most of her time in the last month collecting money from high profile donors at swanky fundraisers in Hollywood and The Hamptons.

The media has jumped on this, pointing to the large discrepancy between the amount Clinton has raised and what Trump has raised. Last month alone it was $143 million, although most of that money goes to the DNC.

The large sums have many on the left excited because they believe Hillary will use this war chest to unload on Trump via ads and other things over the home stretch, giving her a massive advantage.

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier in the piece, Donald Trump has rendered the standard political analysis nearly irrelevant to this campaign. As such, excitement over standard ad buys and fundraising is a bit premature. Recall that in the primaries, Jeb Bush had over $150 million behind him from large donors. Yet that was only enough to purchase 3 delegates.

Hillary Clinton may go down as the female Jeb Bush in this regard. She is a legacy politician relying on an extensive network of established donors. In short, she is politics as usual. Donald Trump represents the true change those donors are wary of.

The most important thing is that the electorate seems amenable to change. Voters know that there are problems, and that the old guard politics of the Bushes and Clintons are unlikely to fix anything. Hence the enthusiasm for Trump. What holds Trump back with a certain portion of the electorate is the perception that he is a bit of a wild card. For some, that is his direct appeal.

To win those who have concerns, Trump will have to allay them in one way or another. It may be through something as simple as adjusting his cadence when speaking, perhaps coming off more like a charming grandfather rather than an excited orator. Events like the press conference in Mexico, and his visit to a black church were good steps in that regard.

In my view he has been able to get his message across as an agent of change, which is what most seem to want deep down. It is up to Trump if he can appeal to the emotional side of people as well, which he will need to do in order to secure their vote.