Authenticity vs. Focus Group Approved Bureaucracy – The Choice is Yours

In yesterday’s post, I wrote the following about Trump’s unorthodox campaign, and why it was a bonus rather than a hinderance:

Trump has completely thrown that [conventional campaign] playbook out the window, and perhaps forever changed the way campaigns are run. Instead of doing huge ad buys, he interacts with his 20+ million followers on Facebook and Twitter. Because of the increasing move from TV to social media among the populace, these impressions are likely to have more of an impact than any ad buy would. It is well known that more and more people get their news from their Facebook feeds rather than the 6 o’clock evening news.

 

This means that in going directly to the people, with a much more robust message, Trump can circumvent the media and its gatekeepers. This, combined with the fact Trump has a more concrete message has meant that his campaign is having a much more profound impact on people. In comparison, the Clinton campaign’s traditional strategy of 30 second ads full of regurgitated soundbites are easily dismissed, if they are even seen at all by a public which is watching less TV in the first place.

 

To be sure, there are a few Trump-specific features to his campaign that make his robustness possible. The bottom line is that the public is starting to tire heavily of the DC class in general, which renders the hundreds of millions the Clinton campaign has and will spend utterly meaningless.

 

If Hillary loses, the fact that she is a walking stereotype of DC politicians will be the biggest reason as to why. Moreover, being that way for the best part of 30 years in public life, Hillary Clinton can’t change. That is simply who she is, a dying breed of politician. Even if she does manage to scrape by, she will probably be the last of her kind.

Almost straight away, I ran into this article in the Washington Examiner detailing the differences between Trump and Clinton’s social media game, which affirmed much of what I said yesterday:

In just a year, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his close-knit family and team of social media warriors have shattered Internet records, collecting over 30 million followers and fans and generating billions of views, according to a Secrets analysis.

 

 

“The success to our social media is all Mr. Trump and his messaging. What sets his social media apart from the rest is simple — since day one, he has been directly involved and he LOVES communicating with the American people,” a top aide emailed.

A small team, communicating a distinct message directly to the people. It helps that the message is one that cuts rather deep, but that is beside the point. On the reach he is getting, the article points to his nearly 30 million followers on various social media accounts:

That’s a total reach of over 30 million. And just looking at Facebook activity, the campaign has registered 11.5 billion impressions.

 

By comparison, Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, who has had a decade of experience developing an online network, has fewer followers than Trump. And even when including her popular daughter’s followers and the huge network former President Bill Clinton has, her reach is still short of Trump’s.

 

Scavino said that Trump’s fast startup is historic. “It has never been seen before. It will never be seen again. His social media platforms outperform those of Fortune 50 companies.”

Many pundits have pointed to the fact that Hillary Clinton has a ‘deep bench’ of surrogates, including the last two Democratic presidents, the current vice president, First Lady, former Democratic nominee and various A list celebrities. Meanwhile Trump has lukewarm support from the top brass in the Republican party, and virtually no support from the ‘old guard,’ such as the Bush family and former nominee Mitt Romney.

That would be well good for Hillary Clinton if the electorate as a whole was still transfixed by the allure of slick Beltway politicians pushing Politics as Usual on the masses. By all accounts, the electorate is growing weary of that lot, and is amenable to a candidate who goes to the people. In 2016, the way to do that is through social media, and the Trump campaign is clearly ahead of the curve here.

And it’s all being done without the huge social media team Clinton and others in the political world, like the White House, have. Clinton, for example, has at least 100 staffers working social media platforms for her. Trump has 131 total staffers for the whole campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records.

 

At Trump Tower it’s basically the Trump family, with Scavino on the road putting out news and features about events as they happen from Trump Force One.

Just in case you needed yet another example of the efficiency gulf between a businessman versus a bureaucrat. Trump is getting more done with a handful of people than Clinton is doing with hundreds. Just like in the primary, when Jeb Bush spent more to earn 1 of his 3 delegates than Trump did to earn all 1400+ of his. A good message is superior to money, prestige or name brand politicians. This is perhaps the most satisfying part of the campaign.

“We do not have consultants to review messages. We don’t have focus groups, to get their reactions to messaging. We don’t have a public relations firm, like Hillary, where we spend millions of dollars on ‘PR’ to craft messaging. We don’t have 15 people viewing each and every post — before it goes out. We don’t have more consultants crafting additional messaging, should Plan A not work out. We don’t have 45++ staffers working on executing posts via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and now Snapchat — it’s just me with Mr. Trump traveling the United States of America,” said Scavino.

One of the scourges of the modern age has been the obsession with putting forth a ‘polished’ appearance, in many cases at the expense of substance. This is not to say that appearance is meaningless, far from it. But the hyper focus on appearances has left much of politics extremely stale and boring. Politics has devolved to a battle of the best crafty sound bite one can muster. This has created a class of consultants and PR experts who get paid handsome sums to put forth the perfect message.

The problem with that perfect message is that it has to be utterly forgettable. If you can’t say this because it will offend one group, and can’t say that because it will offend another, you’re left with extremely boring messages like ‘Stronger Together,’ which ultimately mean absolutely nothing.

Conversely, while Trump has said ‘controversial’ things, at the very least he’s made people think, and have serious dialogues about certain issues. Trump understands that you can’t please everyone, so there’s no point trying. You go with what you think is right, and the let the rest take care of itself.

Fraying Nerves – Leftists Are Fearing the Worst: A Trump Victory

The increased gnashing of teeth among various leftists over the last week or so is indicative of fraying nerves. As we head into the debates, Hillary Clinton has had her substantial summer lead at the very least dwindle in most polls, and outright flip to a Trump lead in others. Officially, the election is currently a dead heat, but my feeling is that the tide has turned for Trump.

I suspect some on the left are starting to feel this as well, and they are not happy about it. It possibly starts all the way at the top, with Clinton herself. Consider this video today, which went viral:

I’m not sure what that video is from. I suspect it was some sort of private message to a group of donors, perhaps unions. Whatever it is, it obviously wasn’t meant for public consumption. That said, even if it wasn’t it isn’t a good showing for Clinton. She starts out speaking in a normal, if elevated tone when speaking about Trump and his aversion to unions. Then, out of nowhere, she starts screaming, wondering aloud why she isn’t ’50 points points ahead.’

The random escalation in tone, when she is speaking in a room by herself as opposed to a rally crowd, is absurd looking on its face. It just screams ‘crazy.’ That, combined with her subject matter, her disbelief that she hasn’t blown Trump away, is telling. It suggests that she expected this election to be a cakewalk. She thought that all she had to do was show up to a few events per month, talk about how ‘racist’ Trump is, sit back, relax, and prepare for her coronation in January. That isn’t how it’s gone, and she is clearly upset about it.

Of course, she still might be right. At the very least, however, Trump has made things too close for comfort for Clinton and her supporters on the left.

Some, like Charles Lane in the Washington Post article seeks to take an more measured approach to understanding why Trump is maintaining his appeal:

Why do so many Americans support Trump despite months and months of negative, truthful coverage about him?

 

To be sure, there has been too much media puffery about Trump, whether unfiltered live coverage of his rallies by cable networks or Jimmy Fallon’s sickeningly friendly tousling of the Republican candidate’s hair on “The Tonight Show.” Journalists were slow to take him seriously at the beginning of the Republican primaries.

 

The fact remains, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted in an interviewwith the Times published Sunday: “Nobody is confused about the differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. . . . Is she perfect? Of course not. But you’ve got enough information to make the choice.”

 

What must be going on is that people — an alarmingly large number of people, it seems — back Trump even though they know, or could easily learn, that he is a charlatan, clueless about policy, bizarrely sympathetic to Russia’s dictator, disturbingly prone to offending women and minorities, and a serial liar to boot.

Note how he states, matter of factly, that Trump is a racist and sexist, implies he has fascist sympathies and has no idea about policy. In reality, these beliefs are merely a list of opinions. Incorrect opinions at that. However in the mainstream, they have been elevated to a level of truism right up there with mathematical identities such as ‘1+1=2.’ To those with this very left leaning, mainstream worldview, it defies any sort of logic that someone could even think to cast a vote for Trump.

Lane goes on to explain that Trump is benefiting from a sort of ‘jury nullification’ writ large. Since the electorate feels the system is rigged, he reasons, they are more than willing to forgive Trump of the ‘crimes’ that system itself has alleged, particularly because Trump is promising to smash that system. There is some truth to this.

Lane ends by expressing a sort of sadness, that the journalist industry he is a part of has lost its ability to influence and guide the discussion.

Drew Magary has a quite different take.  He took to GQ to deliver this delectable screed. Here’s a sampling:

Nothing that Trump says, no damning piece of Trump reportage, and certainly no opinion piece like this one will stop his voters from pulling the lever. Nor will anything stop Trump from being the officious, braindead goon that he is. He will never answer for his crimes, and there’s a frighteningly large portion of the electorate that will always love him for that.

 

And so I’d just like to say to that portion of the electorate: Fuck you. No, seriously. Go fuck yourselves. I’m not gonna waste any more time trying to convince you that you’re about to do something you’ll regret forever. I’m not gonna show you old clips of Trump saying rotten things. I’m not gonna try to ANNIHILATE Trump by showing you records of his hypocrisy and greed. I’m not gonna link to a John Oliver clip and be like, “THIS. So much this.” Nothing’s gonna take down Trump at this point, so I’m not gonna bother. No no, this post is for ME. I am preaching to the sad little choir in my soul here.

 

Because while Trump is a miserable bastard, YOU are the people who have handed him the bullhorn. YOU are the people willing to embarrass this nation and put it on the brink of economic ruin all because you wanna throw an electoral hissy fit. YOU are the people who want to revolutionize the way America does business by voting for its worst businessman, a disgusting neon pig who only makes money when he causes problems for other people instead of solving them. YOU are the thin-skinned yokels who clutch your bandoliers whenever someone hurls the mildest of slurs at you (“deplorables”), while cheering Trump on as he leaves a bonfire of truly hateful invective everywhere he goes. YOU are the people willing to overlook the fact that Trump is an unqualified, ignorant sociopath because DURRRR HILLARY IS BAD TOO DURRRR.

Magary’s was less ‘woe is me,’ and more ‘you’re all idiots.’ He lashed out at Trump supporters in spectacular expletive ridden fashion, living up to the stereotype of the petulant, whiny modern liberal.

The emphasized part is especially delicious. In it, he displays Vox Day’s third law of Social Justice Warriors, taken from his must read 2015 book, SJWs Always Lie: SJWs always project.

Magary first channels sort of contempt Hillary Clinton did with her ‘deplorables’ comment, and then takes it another level, before declaring that Trump supporters are ‘thin skinned,’ for not taking well to that deplorables comment. This, of course, is extremely rich coming from a SJW type, some of whom have built entire careers out of being offended.

The very idea that Trump is some sort of fantastical bigot is one that is borne out of having thin skin, since in many cases Trump is merely relaying uncomfortable truths. Going even further, Magary’s literary conniption itself is evidence of his own thin skin, given it came about because other people have the temerity to vote for a candidate he doesn’t like.

Charles Pierce at Esquire co-signs Magary’s rant in his own piece, which lambastes what he calls a normalization of stupid.

No kidding. I will never stop hating this election for the incredible deluge of Stupid it has loosed upon the country. It is the pure product of the forces driving the Trump campaign in concert with the attempt to make sense of it without accounting for the pure hate without which that campaign would not exist at all. There is nothing worthwhile about it. It does not raise serious questions with which the country must grapple. It is merely a giant loogie hocked at people whom most Trump supporters have been trained over 40 years to hate.

Or, as Ross Cardinal Douthat suggests, you can blame Samantha Bee. God, he wants to be one of those people in the red ballcaps so very badly, it fairly drips from every sentence. Moron envy is not attractive in a fellow of his education.

Me? I’m with Magary.

What stands out to me is his use of the term ‘moron envy’ to describe Douthat’s piece, which itself was an honest attempt at explaining the cultural norms that Trump supporters are challenging.

The culture industry has always tilted leftward, but the swing toward social liberalism among younger Americans and the simultaneous surge of activist energy on the left have created a new dynamic, in which areas once considered relatively apolitical now have (or are being pushed to have) an overtly left-wing party line.

…the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion — which may be one reason the Obama years, so good for liberalism in the culture, have seen sharp G.O.P. gains at every level of the country’s government.

Douthat raises good points. The fact that the leftist advance, from academia into all aspects of culture, from sports, to late night television, to music, movies and so forth, has so shaped ‘acceptable’ beliefs that one instantly becomes an outcast for displaying the slightest lean toward any conservative view. Note Magary’s appeal to John Oliver, late night TV host who specializes in Daily Shows-esque leftist comedy which masquerades as news commentary. And note the torrent of abuse Jimmy Fallon got last week for merely treating Trump like any of his guests, in a lighthearted, apolitical manner on his show.

fallon trump twitter

As I’ve discussed before, this election is starting to erode the power that screaming ‘You’re Racist!’ has had over political discourse over the years. This is behind a lot of the skittish behavior apparent in the commentaries by Magary, Pierce, and those who are so brutally critical of Jimmy Fallon.

They are starting to notice that repeating racist/sexist/bigot/whatever over and over again isn’t moving the needle the way it once did. This is largely because of the fact that those terms have come to describe more and more things, to the point where this saturation has completely rendered these terms meaningless. When correcting someone’s grammar can be considered a potentially racial offense, we have reached the point at which people will instinctively start to tune out when wailing ‘but he’s racist!’ is the main argument presented.

A more nervous group of individuals over Trump’s strength is the media, as well as the pundit class. Their consternation is revealed in the reports of Trump’s campaign spending, or relative lack thereof:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign and its allies are outspending their Republican counterparts by a factor of about five to one, according to a new analysis released Tuesday.

 

But the former secretary of State has failed to put away Donald Trump, and many anxious Democrats are baffled as to why the race remains so close.

Yet another dynamic that is being exposed during this election is the deterioration of  the legacy media, and by extension legacy politics and punditry. Hillary Clinton is running a campaign from the 80s and 90s – pandering, carefully crafted, focus group tested phrasing, accumulating a big warchest to spend on huge ad buys, etc.

Similarly, the punditry is from years gone by. Countless times I’ve heard pundits on various cable news channels going on about how Trump needed to ‘pivot,’ how his ‘ground game’ was lacking, and things of that nature. Those are chapters straight out of a conventional campaign playbook.

Trump has completely thrown that playbook out the window, and perhaps forever changed the way campaigns are run. Instead of doing huge ad buys, he interacts with his 20+ million followers on Facebook and Twitter. Because of the increasing move from TV to social media among the populace, these impressions are likely to have more of an impact than any ad buy would. It is well known that more and more people get their news from their Facebook feeds rather than the 6 o’clock evening news.

This means that in going directly to the people, with a much more robust message, Trump can circumvent the media and its gatekeepers. This, combined with the fact Trump has a more concrete message has meant that his campaign is having a much more profound impact on people. In comparison, the Clinton campaign’s traditional strategy of 30 second ads full of regurgitated soundbites are easily dismissed, if they are even seen at all by a public which is watching less TV in the first place.

To be sure, there are a few Trump-specific features to his campaign that make his robustness possible. The bottom line is that the public is starting to tire heavily of the DC class in general, which renders the hundreds of millions the Clinton campaign has and will spend utterly meaningless.

If Hillary loses, the fact that she is a walking stereotype of DC politicians will be the biggest reason as to why. Moreover, being that way for the best part of 30 years in public life, Hillary Clinton can’t change. That is simply who she is, a dying breed of politician. Even if she does manage to scrape by, she will probably be the last of her kind.

A Trump Trolling Masterclass

Call it trolling, or media manipulation, whatever you like, but Donald Trump did a number on the media earlier this morning.

It began yesterday with an interview in the Washington Post in which the Birther issue was raised again. Recall that in 2011, Donald Trump led the charge which culminated in President Obama producing his long form birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States.

The Washington Post asked Trump whether or not he believed Obama was born in the US, and he declined to confirm, saying that it wasn’t the right time to answer the question.

This led to the media sharpening the knives, ready to pounce. Momentum started gathering last night about Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Obama’s citizenship and what it meant with respect to his racism and bigotry, the usual nonsense.

Then, this morning, Trump tweeted this:

The Trump campaign then intimated that he was going to be addressing the birther issue. That sent the media into a frenzy, sensing their moment had arrived. From the start of the Trump campaign one of the things that has infuriated the media the most has been Trump’s refusal to apologize for anything.

To be sure, he has been entirely correct in not apologizing, even when he has been in the wrong. The reason is that once he does, he succumbs to the frame of the left/media, thus empowering them to bully him into submission. Lesser Republicans, and other public figures in general have been beaten down in this manner for years, and the fact that Trump has refused to comply has been refreshing.

Going into this, however, the media clearly was expecting different. They thought they were going to get a Jimmy Swaggart ‘I have sinned’ moment. Instead they got classic Trump.

The press conference was held at Trump’s new DC hotel, and one of the first things Trump did was to let the the audience know that it had been completed under budget, and ahead of schedule. He then turned the mic over to a series of retired generals, admirals and Medal of Honor recipients. One by one, these individuals stepped to the podium and were permitted to say a few words about their time in service, and why they were choosing to put their names and careers behind the Trump campaign.

This went on for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, some of the news broadcasts cut out of the press conference to express their disappointment over the fact that Trump was pulling a fast one on them. Here’s Jake Tapper, visibly disturbed that CNN had been ‘rickrolled’:

Trump did return to the microphone after what was probably an hour of veterans speaking their minds on stage. He said a few more words, and then went into the birther issue. Of that he said the following:

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.

That was it. No lengthy statement of contrition. No expression of remorse or sadness, no tearful regrets. Just a point blank  statement and an abrupt moving on to more important things.

With that, the press conference ended, and Trump left, without taking any questions. And the fireworks began. The media, who had been salivating over what it thought would be their moment to derail the Trump campaign for good, got nothing.

There was outrage over the fact that Trump didn’t say he was sorry. Outrage over the fact that he did a drive-by addressing of what to them was one of the biggest issues of the moment. Outrage over the fact that he took no questions. This immediate reaction from CBS was indicative of the way the news media reacted:

The anger in his voice notwithstanding, he is right about the fact that no matter what Trump did, the controversy would linger. If Trump continued to say nothing, effectively maintaining his skepticism over Obama’s birth, he would have been hounded about it constantly in the press. The Clinton campaign would have been able to use it over and over again, to perhaps create a memorable moment in a debate scenario.

Trump had to address it, but at the same time he had to do so without getting on his knees to kiss the feet of the media/leftists as I mentioned earlier.

He accomplished this with his curt ‘statement,’ which was so brilliant because it did so many things at once. It was an official acknowledgement of Obama’s birthplace, which now takes away any power the media/Clinton campaign had. Their excitement over having Trump ‘cornered’ in the buildup to this event was indicative of how much they had banked on this being a weapon to down Trump with.

Now, when the media/Clinton bring it up, Trump can point to the fact that he, indeed has acknowledged Obama’s birth in a public manner. Any further pressing of Trump then becomes petty and unnecessarily punitive on Trump.

The event also highlighted further how in the tank the media is for the Clinton campaign. Furthermore, the event shed a revealing light on their character, given they essentially threw a tantrum over being forced to cover distinguished veterans who have served their country. Indeed, this article has a nice list of several reporters who expressed their disgust and anger on Twitter for having to cover a Trump event featuring veterans. After the event, photographic evidence of angry reporters trashing the setup also emerged on Twitter:

All this because they didn’t get the blood they were after. This sort of petulance can only further erode the trust the public has in the media as a whole.

As a campaign issue, Trump took most of the long term steam out if it, although it might simmer for a few days. The media were planning to hit Trump with this as evidence of his racism and bigotry. The problem with this argument is that every single thing Trump does is evidence of his racism and bigotry, according to the media.

The public as a whole has seem nothing but TRUMP IS RACIST coming out of the mouths of the media for months on end, and thus yet another example of Trump’s ‘racism’ is hardly going to move any sort of needle in the public’s mind.

It does speak to a creeping desperation in the media and the Clinton campaign. The tide is slowly turning, as I described yesterday. Yet their only response is to keep going to the same, tired BIGOT well, which is having less and less of an effect on people. They will continue to do it, because it is the only thing they know. At this point, the Clinton campaign is basically ‘Vote for Clinton, because Trump is a racist.’

That is not a winning message.

Where did the Inflation Came From?

Matthew Klein at the FT asks this question in a blog post he did earlier this week. The obvious answer is ‘The Federal Reserve,’ with their stated goal to make sure that the increase in prices is always a positive number. Klein writes:

Central bankers think steady price increases are a good thing. After all, inflation makes it easier for employers to cut real labour costs and helps monetary policy boost the economy without having to lower (nominal) interest rates below zero.

As an aside, Klein is correct about the intentions of central bankers. In times of recession, pressure is generally put on all prices to fall, including wages. Keynesian inspired central banking seeks to substitute a nominal fall in wages for a real fall in wages, by increasing inflation so that prices rise. The price of goods rises faster than the rise in wages, creating a real fall in wages. This policy sounds fine on paper, but leads to many problems, as I’ve outlined in the past.

Whether or not you agree, we thought it would be interesting to look at which products explain the rise of American consumer prices since 1990. As it turns out, just as the bulk of the growth in employment can be attributed to a few sectors where productivity is either low or unmeasurable, a whopping 88 per cent of the total rise in the price level boils down to four sectors of the US economy:

us-pce-inflation-decomposition-since-19902

The accompanying chart shows that these sectors, healthcare, housing, education, and prescription drugs have accounted for the bulk of the rise in consumer prices. Klein then goes on to list several areas in which the price level has declined over the last 25 years or so.

By contrast, thanks to astounding technological innovation, television prices have plunged at an average rate of 12 per cent each year since 1990 and computer prices have fallen more than 18 per cent per year:

Price stability in goods can’t be attributed solely to higher screen resolutions and faster chipsets, because plenty of other physical objects resisted the inflationary trend. The prices of new motor vehicles only just surpassed the highs set in the mid-1990s. “Recreational books”, as distinct from “educational books”, cost the same now as in the late 1990s. Musical instrument prices peaked in the early 1990s and have since drifted lower. Watch prices are the same now as in 1990, and that’s only because of a recent upward spike earlier this year.

 

Luggage — luggage! — prices have plunged about 44 per cent since the mid-1990s. The prices of “dishes and flatware” have fallen 49 per cent since the peak in 1998 and the prices of “household linens” have dropped 60 per cent from their peak in 1992:

(We suspect the emergence of Asian manufacturing and the admittance of China into the World Trade Organisation were more important to these developments than dramatic spurts of innovation, but we could be persuaded otherwise.)

 

Less surprisingly, “telephone and fascimile equipment” is 78 per cent cheaper than the peak in 1997, in a remarkable reversal of the previous bout of price increases:

In general, the prices of durable goods are about a third lower now than in 1990, while the prices of nondurable goods excluding commodity products (food, drinks, and fuel, which tend to rise at the same rate as the broader price level over time) and excluding prescription drugs, have also fallen, albeit not by as much. Inflation outside of healthcare and education has generally been modest, with the notable exception of a few small professional services such as tax preparation, lawyers, and funeral homes.

The sectors in which prices have exploded (healthcare, housing, education, drugs) all have one thing in common: heavy government involvement over the period of time in question. The housing bubble, Federal Student loans, and increasing healthcare regulations have taken their toll on customers in the shape of rising prices.

The areas in which prices have fallen the most, such as technology and other areas, are relatively devoid of regulation. This is how a freer economy works – increased innovation leads to more efficient production and better products, which drives prices down. This enables more and more people to consume these products, spreading the innovation to as many people as possible. It is precisely the lower prices, which central bankers fight against, which allow this to happen.

Note also the fact that the sectors in which prices have risen are all necessities. This represents the height of the failure of central planning. Regulations and middling by central banks produces inefficiency and rising costs for the consumer, while freer markets produce continued lower costs and improving products. It is really that simple.

Further Thoughts On ‘The Deplorables,’ and Pepe Memes

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The above photo is of Hillary Clinton emerging from her daughter Chelsea’s apartment after her fainting episode on Sunday morning at a 9/11 memorial event.

What is interesting about the photo is the irony of the sign in the foreground. On it reads a well known quote from Mike Tyson. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

If the general election has been a boxing match so far, the first rounds were about even, up until the end of the Democratic convention. After that, all hell started to break loose for the Trump campaign, or at least that was the manufactured perception.

As I outlined in my recap of the summer that was in the election, the media was able to create almost constant drama over various things Trump had said, from the Khan fiasco, to the ‘second amendment people’ comment, among other things. These side issues were enough to continually distract attention from the issues at large and focus them on ‘gaffes’ which would have buried most candidates.

Trump is not most candidates, however, and as such he was able to come out the other side with minimal damage. To continue the boxing metaphor, the Clinton campaign and their sidekicks in the media got a flurry of early punches to the Trump body, but nothing that really hurt him. They expended a lot of energy in doing so, which leaves them susceptible to wearing down into the later rounds.

To be sure, Trump did change his management team, and rolled out a more buttoned up approach which still remained consistent to his views and his tone. Things were ticking along nicely for the Trump campaign, having picked up some momentum from his statesman-like trip to Mexico, his immigration speech, and his outreach to minority groups.

Then Clinton made the ‘deplorables’ comment. Speaking to a group of wealthy donors last week, she declared that half of Trump supporters could be placed into a ‘basket of deplorables.’ She said that these were the racists, sexists, homophobes, and so forth. The other half were those who she said has lost hope economically and were just hoping for a Trump miracle to save them.

In short, she declared that Trump’s support consisted of either bigots or hopeless people.

On Monday, responding to Clinton’s comments, Trump said the following in a campaign speech:

Clinton was using a very deliberate page from the Democratic Playbook – smearing someone with one of those names in order to scare them out of voting for change. She just took it to a whole new level by applying it to tens of millions of people.

 

She used these vile words in order to bully and intimidate honest citizens out of seeking government reform.

 

People who want their immigration laws enforced, and their borders secured, are not racists. They are patriotic Americans of all backgrounds who want their jobs and families protected.

 

People who warn about Radical Islamic Terrorism are not Islamophobes. They are decent American citizens who want to uphold our tolerant values and keep our country safe.

 

People who support the police, and who want crime reduced, are not prejudiced. They are concerned and loving citizens whose hearts break every time an innocent child is lost to preventable violence.

Trump captured a point which I articulated in my initial post on the subject, namely that for years the left has tried to pathologize anything that they disagree with. You simply couldn’t just be wrong if your views differed, you were somehow evil. Hillary Clinton even used the word ‘irredeemable’ in her description of some of those in that Basket of Deplorables.

Given the punishment for harboring bigoted views is generally social ostracism and ridicule, and the threshold for being considered a bigot becoming increasingly easier to satisfy, what Clinton calls for entails the ostracism of people for wanting simple things like a strong border, for example.

In other words, it is an overplay of the leftist hand, which may start to get them into trouble with everyday Americans who don’t appreciate being called a bigot just because they exist.

In attempting to deflect attention from the huge mistake Clinton made making that comment, her campaign has focused on these threads over the last 5 days:

Pepe The Frog Memes

A few days ago, Donald Trump Jr. posted this image on his Instagram:

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It’s a photoshopped riff on the movie The Expendables, but what caused a stir was the green frog. That frog, is a cartoon character called Pepe. It was created back in 2008, and became an internet meme on the message board 4chan some time later, well before the campaign.

The meme has quickly spread, and it has been used in a myriad of ways. One thing about memes is that they are very much used for different purposes, by different people. Consider these Kermit the Frog memes:

kermit-memes-but-thats-none-of-my-business-tho-1-what-the-vogue3

The same meme, used by different people, for different reasons.

Now that you sort of understand memes, let’s look at the Pepe meme. According to the media, the Pepe meme is a ‘white nationalist symbol.’ Here’s Chris Matthews giving a news report on the Don Jr. Instagram:

While it is true that the Alt-Right has adopted Pepe, and while there are plenty of Nazi/White Nationalist themed memes floating around the internet, it is important to understand them for what they are.

Trolling, plain and simple.

This goes back to the ‘basket of deplorables’ comment, and her entire campaign before that. It has been about calling any and everyone who happens to agree with anything Trump says a bigot. The culture in general has conformed to that sort of standard, with Trump’s candidacy being such a breath of fresh air in large part because of the way it eschews politically correct discourse and sanitized ideas.

The memes are essentially saying ‘if you’re going to stand there and scream racist/sexist/homophobe all day, I’m going to give you something to actually scream about.’ Case in point:

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Here we have a Pepe meme, which is a depiction of a scene from the movie American History X, about a neo-Nazi. The swastika tattoo, and the portrayal of violence against a woman combines themes like racism, sexism, and anti-semitism all into one image. It is designed to give oversensitive individuals a conniption, and if you got one from looking at that image, the image did its job. You’ve been trolled.

In the Chris Matthews clip, after he gets done, an analyst comes on and starts hyperventilating about how much of a concern it is that Don Jr. posted that meme. That exact reaction is the only reason these memes were posted in the first place. The fact that mainstream media outlets threw fits over this was exactly what the people on 4chan wanted to see. The pained reaction was the prize.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign fell right into this trap face first when her campaign officially put out an ‘explainer‘ for  the Pepe memes.afafaead

It’s especially rich considering Clinton never tires of calling Trump ‘thin skinned’ and declaring that his Twitter battles may pose a national security risk.

Yet it is her campaign which has been riled up over a cartoon frog meme.

Birther Rehash

Yesterday the Washington Post did an interview with Trump, and decided to bring up the birther issue:

In the interview, conducted late Wednesday aboard his private plane as it idled on the tarmac here, Trump suggested he is not eager to change his pitch or his positions even as he works to reach out to minority voters, many of whom are deeply offended by his long-refuted suggestion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Trump refused to say whether he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.

 

“I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

 

When asked whether his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was accurate when she said recently that he now believes Obama was born in this country, Trump responded: “It’s okay. She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”

 

He added: “I don’t talk about it anymore. The reason I don’t is because then everyone is going to be talking about it as opposed to jobs, the military, the vets, security.”

Clinton got wind of the interview, because shortly after it was published, she brought it up at an event she was doing. She stated:

He was asked one more time where was President Obama born, and he still wouldn’t say Hawaii. He still wouldn’t say America.

 

This man wants to be our next president? When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry? Now, he’s tried to reset himself and his campaign many times. This is the best he can do. This is who he is.

The Trump campaign responded with an excellent reframe, blatantly reminding everyone that it was the Clinton campaign – back in 2008 – which first raised the questions as to where President Obama was born:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President. This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer. Even the MSNBC show Morning Joeadmits that it was Clinton’s henchmen who first raised this issue, not Donald J. Trump.

 

In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.

 

Mr. Trump is now totally focused on bringing jobs back to America, defeating radical Islamic terrorism, taking care of our veterans, introducing school choice opportunities and rebuilding and making our inner cities safe again.” – Jason Miller, Senior Communications Advisor

Both this and the Pepe fiasco both serve the same end. These episodes, to the extent they stick, allow Hillary Clinton to attempt use the same bigot/racist/sexist canard she was trying to use when she made her Basket of Deplorables comment. The issue she might have is that the general public may be at their wits end when it comes to this kind of thinking.

Thus far the Clinton campaign’s response to being pegged back by Trump is to double, triple and quadruple down on the ‘You’re Racist!’ argument. It is extremely weak, as none of this has anything to do with the real issues of employment, trade, the economy, national security and immigration. That Clinton is trying ever so hard to keep the discussion away from policy is telling. It suggests that Trump’s message is catching on.

 

 

Reality Doesn’t Care About Feelings, Volume 3 – The Colin Kaepernick Protest

Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem has been a hot topic of conversation of late, with everyone from news outlets, to political shows to sports shows having guests on to weigh in with their opinion. His rationale for the protest has been the following, in his words:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

This, combined with his decision to wear the following socks, depicting police officers as pigs, suggests that his main concern has been the treatment of black Americans by police officers.

0901-colin-kaepernick-socks-getty-zoom-3

I respect Kaepernick’s right to engage in protest of the flag, and the national anthem. Indeed, the very flag and national anthem is what confers upon him that right. Much of the discussion I’ve seen on the subject has centered around whether Kaepernick’s protest was done in the right way, whether it was wise of him to use NFL games as his platform, and things of that nature.

All of this assumes that his protest is legitimate in the first place. I contend it isn’t. Consider the following passage, taken from this recent article in the Washington Post addressing the subject of the racial distribution of police shootings:

In 2015, The Washington Post launched a real-time database to track fatal police shootings, and the project continues this year. As of Sunday, 1,502 people have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since Jan. 1, 2015. Of them, 732 were white, and 381 were black (and 382 were of another or unknown race).

 

But as data scientists and policing experts often note, comparing how many or how often white people are killed by police to how many or how often black people are killed by the police is statistically dubious unless you first adjust for population.

 

According to the most recent census data, there are nearly 160 million more white people in America than there are black people. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population. As The Post noted in a new analysis published last week, that means black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.

 

U.S. police officers have shot and killed the exact same number of unarmed white people as they have unarmed black people: 50 each. But because the white population is approximately five times larger than the black population, that means unarmed black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.

Passages such as this are used to buttress the point that people like Kaepernick are making with respect to police brutality. The problem with this analysis, which compares the numbers of fatalities to population, is that it assumes that each segment of the population commits crimes at the same rate. This isn’t true. From the Post article:

Because detailed FBI data on crime can lag by several years, the most-cited statistics on this point refer to 2009 data. According to that data, out of all violent crimes in which someone was charged, black Americans were charged with 62 percent of robberies, 57 percent of murders and 45 percent of assaults in the country’s 75 biggest counties — despite the fact that black Americans made up just 15 percent of the population in those places.

The following table shows the distributions of violent crimes by race, both of the offender and perpetrator, from 2012-2013, with homicides excluded:

ncfs-table

From that chart, and the Washington Post story, we can glean that black people commit more violent crimes than their 13% population share suggests they should. As a result, we should rationally expect that there will be more run ins with police, and thus more police shootings involving blacks.

Indeed, when comparing the police shootings by race to the violent crimes committed by race, which is the relevant comparison, the distributions match up relatively well.

From the Washington Post quote earlier, from Jan 2015 to July of 2016, 49% of police shootings involved whites, who according to the Bureau of Justice stats from 2012, commit 42% of violent crimes.

24% of police shootings involved blacks, who commit 22% of violent crimes.

27% of police shootings involve the rest of the races, or unknown, a group which according to the Bureau of Justice commits 35% of violent crime.

If anyone should feel aggrieved, its whites, who are shot by police at a higher rate than they commit violent crimes, excluding homicide. Yet that isn’t the narrative.

The Washington Post tries to temper analysis such as that by claiming the crime level in a particular community doesn’t affect the rate at which police kill, and by stressing the fact that unarmed blacks are killed at a greater rate to whites:

Despite these arguments, police reform advocates and researchers as well at The Post’s own analysis has consistently concluded that there is no correlation between violent crime and who is killed by police officers.

 

A 2015 study by a University of California at Davis researcher concluded there was “no relationship” between crime rates by race and racial bias in police killings.

 

….

In a report covering 2015 data, Campaign Zero compared violent crime rates of 50 major cities to the rate at which police officers killed people, concluding that there was no correlation.

 

As part of its data effort, The Post tracks the “threat level” of each person who is shot and killed by a police officer: Were they shooting at the officer? Were they threatening the officer? Were they fleeing?

 

Overall, the majority of the people who have been shot and killed by police officers in 2015 and 2016 were, based on publicly available evidence, armed with a weapon and attempting to attack the officer or someone else.

 

But an independent analysis of The Post’s data conducted by a team of criminal-justice researchers concluded that, when factoring in threat level, black Americans who are fatally shot by police are no more likely to be posing an imminent lethal threat to the officers at the moment they are killed than white Americans fatally shot by police.

 

[Study finds police fatally shoot unarmed black men at disproportionate rates] 

The study also sought to answer whether officers were more likely to shoot and kill someone who is unarmed if the shooting happened to occur in a high-crime area. They concluded that is not the case.

 

“The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black,” said Justin Nix, a criminal-justice researcher at the University of Louisville and one of the report’s authors, said in April. “Crime variables did not matter in terms of predicting whether the person killed was unarmed.”

 

“This just bolsters our confidence that there is some sort of implicit bias going on,” Nix said. “Officers are perceiving a greater threat when encountered by unarmed black citizens.”

Regarding the point about there being no correlation between high crime areas and police shootings, that might be true, but it doesn’t show that there is any bias involved in either direction.

As for the unarmed argument, it is riddled with holes. Blacks may be more likely to be ‘unarmed’ when shot by police, but that is hardly the full story. Heather Mac Donald details this in a piece she wrote back in February:

In August of 2015 the Post zeroed in on unarmed black men, who the paper said were seven times more likely than unarmed white men to die by police gunfire. The article noted that 24 of the 60 “unarmed” deaths up to that date — some 40 percent — were of black men, helping to explain “why outrage continues to simmer a year after Ferguson.

 

 

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. It is worth looking at the specific cases included in the Post’s unarmed victim classification in some detail, since that category is the most politically explosive. The “unarmed” label is literally accurate, but it frequently fails to convey highly-charged policing situations. In a number of cases, if the victim ended up being unarmed, it was certainly not for lack of trying. At least five black victims had reportedly tried to grab the officer’s gun, or had been beating the cop with his own equipment. Some were shot from an accidental discharge triggered by their own assault on the officer. And two individuals included in the Post’s “unarmed black victims” category were struck by stray bullets aimed at someone else in justified cop shootings. If the victims were not the intended targets, then racism could have played no role in their deaths.

Mac Donald further lists several examples of various incidents in which the perpetrator was literally unarmed, but still posing a threat to the officer in various ways. Perpetrators attacking with their fists, using the officer’s own equipment, or a car were considered unarmed. Innocent victims who may have been caught in crossfire of a police shootout are also included among the unarmed figure. The fact that blacks are more likely to resist arrest or engage in a confrontational manner is why the figures of unarmed black shootings are disproportionately higher.

And what of ‘Driving While Black?’

This was a common refrain uttered after Sandra Bland’s death last year. This goes to the notion that while perhaps police treat all suspects in a similar manner after the interaction has been initiated, there is bias in the choice of police to interact with the population.

In other words, police racial profiling is a big issue. Vox said as much in an article on the subject, stating that black people were more likely to be stopped than whites.

We also know that black drivers are more likely to be stopped by US police. In 2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that about 12.8 percent of black drivers reported being pulled over in 2011, while about 9.8 percent of white drivers and 10.4 percent of Hispanic drivers did.

That statement means nothing by itself. It could be, for example, that there are more repeat offenders in the 9.8% of whites who got pulled over, which wouldn’t necessarily mean there was a bias in police stops.

The very study that Vox links to has the following chart, which is more relevant to the point at hand:

contact-with-police

The relevant column is the second column, which shows that whites made up roughly 65% of street stops, and 69% of traffic stops. Blacks made up 12% of street stops and 14% of traffic stops. Hispanics made up 15% of street stops and 12% of traffic stops.

The population distribution of each group is, according to 2010 census data the following: 63.7% white, 12.2% black, 16.3% Hispanic. In short, there is little to no bias shown by police in stopping people. Vox must have missed this chart in the report they cited.

All in all,  there is nothing that shows that there is some sort of bias shown by police officers against blacks which necessitates outrage, let alone public protests from the likes of Colin Kaepernick.

The bottom line is that if you want to avoid being killed by police, you would do well to first avoid committing a crime. Failing that, or perhaps if you find yourself involved in a police stop despite not having committed a crime, avoid confrontational attitudes with the officer, do not resist arrest if it comes to that, and do not try to fight the officer or grab any foreign object in an attempt to injure the officer.

Follow that, and your chances of not becoming another statistic are quite high.

“You’re Racist” Is Losing It’s Grip as a Control Technique

In my piece on the fall out over Matt Lauer’s performance at an NBC presidential forum earlier this week, I made the point that the outrage is founded on an ever shifting understanding of objectivity as it pertains to the media. Of the outrage, I wrote:

Herein lies the crux of the angst from the media, and those on the left over Lauer. Those parties have all declared Trump to be an uncouth buffoon who says offensive things and thus isn’t fit to be president. That basic assertion is a given, a concrete foundation from which everything else follows.

To this end, Matt Lauer’s greatest sin on Wednesday night was that he didn’t spend the entirety of his 30 minutes with Trump calling him a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, Islamophobe, Transphobe, whatever phobe repeatedly. That would have been ‘doing his job.’

I’d like to expand on this a bit further, if I may.

Back in January, the Huffington Post decided that a disclaimer should accompany each and every article it posts which relates to Donald Trump. It reads like this:

Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

It serves as a Surgeon General-esque warning to readers: ‘You are consuming content the subject of which is a really bad person. Be careful.’ On the back of that declaration, many mainstream journalists feel no compunction in writing about Trump and his supporters in increasingly disturbing ways.

They’ve declared Trump and his supporters to be deluded, and as such the ‘sane’ leftist has a direct duty to ‘un-delude’ the Trump supporter, as one would do if one had a friend or family member who obviously needed Institutional care. Some have taken the route that Trump and his candidacy represents the extinction of democracy, and thus is a threat to the Republic. More worryingly, others have advocated outright violence at Trump rallies.

The leftists’ recent self described abandonment of objectivity in the face of a supposed existential threat would make perfect sense if there was objectivity in their viewpoint in the first place.

On the surface, there is. The main charges against Trump – racism, sexism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia – are real phenomenon with clear definitions. The issue is that none of them actually apply to Trump, objectively speaking.

The charge of racism is based on Trump’s stance on immigration, in particular his comments on illegal immigrants from Mexico. Regardless of Trump said, the bottom line is that ‘Mexican’ isn’t a race. The charge of sexism is largely based on public comments Trump has made which ultimately amount to the same type of locker room talk men have had with each other in one form or another since the beginning of time. Women have their own version of this sort of crude talk as well. Neither of it is sexist.

Showing affection to one’s own country, wanting to advance its interests while preserving its culture and history is not xenophobic. Wanting to curb immigration from a group of people which have inflicted disproportionate amounts of terror against us does not amount to Islamophobia.

This is all objectively true, yet those on the left are steadfast in their condemnation of Trump as a bigot. Consider this  from former President Bill Clinton from a stump speech earlier this week:

In it, he says of Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan that ‘if you’re a White Southerner, you know exactly what it means…What it means is that I’ll move you back up on the social totem pole, and other people down.’

Never mind that Clinton also used the phrase Make America Great Again during his 1992 presidential run, as is shown in the end of that video.

His stance on illegal immigration, as shown in the following video from the his 1996 State of the Union address, is almost Trumpian:

So why isn’t Bill Clinton, himself a white Southerner, and thus must have known what Make America Great Again ‘really meant’ when he used phrase himself, who took a tough stance on illegal immigration, a racist?

Well in some circles, he is. This is because of his 1994 crime bill which stiffened penalties for drug violations, which had a disproportionate impact on black communities and increased the black incarceration rate as a result. One of the themes of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was how she was going to distance herself from the ‘racism’ of that bill in order to assure the black community that she is on their side.

Bill Clinton is not the only leftist icon which has his legacy re-litigated in our new age of hyper political correctness and social justice. Figures such as FDR and Martin Luther King have been criticized by leftists for racism and homophobia, respectively. The Washington Post has been called for the expunging of Woodrow Wilson, one of the most progressive presidents ever, from official places of honor. This is in light of protests, ongoing at the time of this writing, over the fact that Wilson’s name still adorns one of the departments at Princeton University. The ferocity of some of the reporting suggests they would like to expunge Wilson from history entirely.

This sort of judgement of historical figures by today’s standard of safe spaces, trigger warnings, and microaggressions leads me to believe that no president in history, up to and including the 2008 version of Barack Obama, is electable in 2016. The vast majority of past presidents would have been disqualified for their racism and/or sexism. The rest, including 2008 Barack Obama would be disqualified for not having the ‘right’ stance on gay marriage.

Obama eventually got with the program, and by 2012 he was singing the correct tune. He had to do so in on order to conform to an ever changing, ever ‘progressing’ culture. The modern left is infused with the Marcusian belief that anything goes as long as it feels good, and doubly so if it represents a break with moral traditions of the past. If Hillary Clinton were to win, I have no doubts that in four or eight years, the candidate that stands before us now will look like an extremist bigot compared to the politician she will end up being in order to conform to the future cultural zeitgeist.

These continual shifts in interpretations and after the fact declarations of bigotry ultimately cheapen those terms, especially since the threshold for being a bigot is continually lowered. If wanting strong borders is now bigotry, there are now hundreds of millions, even billions around the world who now can be described as bigots. The term itself is rendered near meaningless as a result.

This sets the stage for Friday, when Hillary Clinton decided to delineate  Trump supporters in the following manner:

You know, just to be grossly generalist, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”

 

“Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric.

 

That other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for a change. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

She said these remarks at a campaign rally, but she made similar remarks in a television interview that aired earlier in the day, suggesting that these remarks were well thought out, an perhaps even focus group approved.

In trying to demonize half of  Trump supporters (a figure in the tens of millions domestically, perhaps hundreds more globally) using terms such as racist, sexist and homophobic, she is trying to levy a serious charge on hundreds of millions. Some outlets have tried to defend Clinton, claiming that because she was disparaging something negative, so it the comments were fine.

As previously discussed, the utter meaningless of those terms owing to their overuse has weakened the charge considerably. To deem Trump supporters racists or sexists is to attempt to attach the stringent punishment for those transgressions, ostracism from society and de-legitimization, to views as simple as having a strong country with strong borders which follows the law.

In other words, you should be silenced if you don’t like illegal immigration, or, you have ever disagreed with, or said something nasty about a woman or a person who is not white. Her remarks then come across as nothing more than a declaration that a whole group of people is unworthy, hence ‘deplorables.’ It is an insult, pure and simple.

Ultimately, this is all those on the left seem to have. The charge of racist/sexist/homophobe was once so grave that it forced society to conform to the leftist dogma in order to avoid those damning labels. In 2016, we’re finally beginning to see the Law of Diminishing Returns reduce that stranglehold. People are no longer scared of those labels, not because they are more emboldened to be bigoted by a person like Trump, but because the terms themselves have less and less meaning when they’re applied to every single transgression, big or small.

In short, when everything is racist, nothing is.

Matt Lauer, and The Receding Tide of Media Objectivity

On Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump participated in a televised Commander-in-Chief forum moderated by NBC’s Matt Lauer. What has overshadowed the event was the performance of Matt Lauer. He was almost universally criticized by the left leaning media for appearing to be overly tough on Hillary Clinton, and comparatively light on Donald Trump (‘appearing to be’ is the key phrase here – as we’ll see in a bit).

A summary of the critique of Lauer’s performance is found in this New York Times article. It begins:

Charged with overseeing a live prime-time forum with Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton — widely seen as a dry run of sorts for the coming presidential debates — Mr. Lauer found himself besieged on Wednesday evening by critics of all political stripes, who accused the anchor of unfairness, sloppiness and even sexism in his handling of the event.

 

Granted 30 minutes with each candidate, who appeared back-to-back at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, Mr. Lauer devoted about a third of his time with Mrs. Clinton to questions about her use of a private email server, then seemed to rush through subsequent queries about weighty topics like domestic terror attacks.

 

When an Army veteran in the audience asked Mrs. Clinton to describe her plan to defeat the Islamic State, Mr. Lauer interjected before the candidate could begin her reply.

“As briefly as you can,” he said, one of several moments where the anchor spoke over Mrs. Clinton to remind her that their time was running short.

 

Mr. Trump stormed onstage in his familiar motor-mouth style, often talking over Mr. Lauer and declining to directly answer many of his questions. At times, Mr. Lauer — who has conducted fewer adversarial interviews with Mr. Trump than his colleagues on NBC’s political desk — appeared flummoxed by his subject’s linguistic feints.

….

“Lauer interrupted Clinton’s answers repeatedly to move on. Not once for Trump,” Norman Ornstein, the political commentator, wrote in a Twitter message, adding: “Tough to be a woman running for president.”

Michael Grynbaum, the author of this article, as well as many of his ideological bedfellows throughout the media all seemed to have a problem with the way Lauer constantly interrupted Clinton, asking her to hurry her answers along, while supposedly not doing it once for Trump.

This is technically true, Lauer did not interrupt Trump once to speed him up. He interrupted Trump several times to engage in active debate with Trump, which he categorically did not do with Clinton. Consider the following video:

It shows quite clearly that all of Lauer’s ‘interruptions’ of Clinton were merely in the interest of moving things along to fit as much as he could in a 30 minute segment. He was stern, yes, but he wanted to move things along. There nothing of value in the rambling non-answers Clinton was giving to warrant a waste of precious time.

In contrast, when Lauer (more frequently) interrupted Trump, it was in order to push back against something he said. At stages Lauer was outright debating with Trump point for point, back and forth, in a manner he didn’t do with Clinton. To the extent he didn’t keep going and going down some of the rabbit holes he could have was down to the fact that he was keen to fit a lot into the 30 minutes he had with Trump.

For all the tears in the media over how unprepared Lauer was, he did come armed with a couple obvious ‘gotcha’ setups at the end of Trump’s alotted time. Trump simply did a good job of avoiding those traps, hence the description of Lauer as ‘flummoxed’ by Trump’s ‘linguisitc feints.’

Grynbaum continues:

On social media, surrogates for Mrs. Clinton began mounting a sustained attack on the anchor. “Imagine if @NBCNews had done its job,” wrote Nick Merrill, her press secretary, on Twitter. Neera Tanden, a close Clinton ally, was even harsher: “I guess the good news is that Matt Lauer isn’t moderating an actual debate,” she wrote.

 

The criticism captured what has become a common complaint about media coverage during this election: that news organizations and interviewers treat Mrs. Clinton as a serious candidate worthy of tough questions, while Mr. Trump is sometimes handled more benignly.

Herein lies the crux of the angst from the media, and those on the left over Lauer. Those parties have all declared Trump to be an uncouth buffoon who says offensive things and thus isn’t fit to be president. That basic assertion is a given, a concrete foundation from which everything else follows.

And what follows is this, from the perspective of mainstream media: Given the disaster Trump is, how do we cover him, given he has gotten this far?

Jim Rutenberg of the NYT asked this question, and sought to answer it in this popular column from last month.

If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

 

Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.

The idea that just now, in 2016, mainstream journalists are struggling to deal with having to be more oppositional to a Presidential candidate is quite laughable, given the fact they’ve been oppositional to every Republican candidate for decades. Mitt Romney faced the same charges of bigotry, sexism and so forth that Trump does now. The difference is that Trump is completely and utterly unapologetic, while Romney tripped over himself to get in the good graces of the media.

This is why there is a new level of ‘danger’ attached to Trump. He truly can’t be coo-opted, and is unfazed by the Power of the Pen which the media has used to criticize its ideological opponents into submission. It does not have such power over Trump, hence the public brainstorming about what sort of strategy it should employ to defeat him.

And make no mistake, despite the waffling journalists like Rutenberg does in his article and others, defeating Trump is the goal, not figuring out how to nobly maintain objectivity in the uncharted seas of the 2016 campaign. Brian Stelter of CNN confirmed as much with this outburst on his show last month:

Journalists cannot just play these soundbites, quote these claims and then move on to the next subject. We can’t just let it seep into the discourse like it’s normal. We have to stop and fact check and contextualize… Right now, it’s the Republican candidate for president who is trying to delegitimize our democratic process without proof. It is unpatriotic for any journalist or any interviewer to help him.

To this end, Matt Lauer’s greatest sin on Wednesday night was that he didn’t spend the entirety of his 30 minutes with Trump calling him a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, Islamophobe, Transphobe, whatever phobe repeatedly. That would have been ‘doing his job.’

Given the media has painted Trump as a threat to the world as we know it, they deem this sort of biased criticism, which is supposed to be out of bounds in the journalistic realm, to be acceptable, necessary even.

Furthermore, the Lauer outrage has the potential to set the tone for the Presidential debates, for which the NBC forum was considered a dry run. Consider what David Axelrod, political commentator and former Obama administrative operative, had to say on the matter:

So there we have it. The leftist media has branded Matt Lauer a journalistic failure for not constantly bashing Trump over the head as moderator. The fact that he only bashed him some of the time wasn’t good enough. The message to Lester Holt is clear: If you don’t essentially play Robin to Hillary’s Batman during the debate, we’ll come after you.

From what I know of Holt, he might be hesitant to acquiesce to the baying crowd, regardless of his natural amenability to the leftist worldview. And it might actually be a smart play, for the public as a whole are starting to tire of mainstream media and their complete inability to sympathize with most of America.

Should Holt, or any of the moderators be too transparent in their allegiance to Hillary Clinton, and are too eager to attack Trump, they will run the risk of confirming the stereotype that they are heavily biased, and Trump’s specific critique that the media is dishonest. This will taint any subsequent analysis it offers, which said differently, means it taints the pro Clinton message.

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.