Friday, October 30, 2015

Donald Trump deserves to win the Republican nomination. He is fighting fools, not knaves, making him different from all the other Republican candidates.

I saw Donald Trump up close on Thursday, in Sparks, Nevada.  

It helped me notice something.   But in order to understand this I need to explain two different approaches of attack in politics.   Opponent as Knave vs. opponent as Fool.

Knave.   When attacking a political opponent one direction is to condemn the morality, values, intentions of the opponent, saying they are dangerous because their intentions are bad.   In this analysis it is best to claim they are powerful and competent, which heightens their danger.  This is the opponent as knave paradigm.

Fool.  The other approach is to condemn the opponent for being foolish, feckless, easily taken advantage of, maker of bad deals, stupid.    They need not be evil, only illegitimate and incompetent.

All the Republican candidates agree that America is not doing well, that the economy is terrible, that our foreign policy is terrible, and that America is in a disaster and facing a worse one.   I think this is way too pessimistic, and would have been a better description of the state of the country when Obama was inaugurated rather than now, but the Republican opposition is steadfast in acting as if it were January 2009 and Obama had been in office for 7 years, not 7 days.

All 15 of Trump's opponents are ganging up in the knave side.   Trump differs.  Trump calls them out as fools.

I should note that I did not invent this Knave/Fool paradigm or insight.  Canadian political scientist Sandford Borins at the University of Toronto articulated the Knave/Fool paradigm when describing the attack ads in the recent Canadian national election.    I like his entire website,   And especially this article:

Trump's Republican opponents provide a litany of knavish sins, seeing malevolence and religious sin.    In this paradigm it makes sense to call Obama a dictator, a tyrant, with over-reaching executive power, intent on taking away guns, shoving health care onto an unwilling public, confiscating incomes, corrupting the Supreme Court, stabbing Israel in the back, hating police officers, giving special favor to black militants.   Obama is evil.

Trump upset the Republican establishment because his analysis was entirely different.   From the beginning he didn't condemn Obama's evil intent.  He questioned his legitimacy and competence.
**he questioned whether Obama was an American
**he questioned whether Obama wasn't a Muslim, maybe
**he questioned Obama's intelligence suggesting he was an affirmative action beneficiary
**he criticizes the multiple bad deals:  bad deal with Iran, bad deal with prisoner exchange, bad deal with trade with Mexico, Japan, and China, bad deal with Mexico on immigrants, bad deal with Ford and Nabisco bringing factories to Mexico, bad deal with a strong currency hurting exports.

Trump's analysis is disruptive to the Republican message because the Obama/Hillary as knave paradigm needs to heighten their competence because a competent tyrant is more dangerous than a foolish one.   But Trump is going in the opposite direction, citing himself as the "really, really smart" guy who is "really rich" and who is "really good at this" in comparison with a foolish Obama who has been snookered.    And Trump is disruptive because he casts his net of fools widely, including weak Jeb!, money-challenged Rubio, sleepy Carson, ugly and menstrual women among political opponents and foolish bankers and businessmen within the Republican donor base.

Trump does make an argument of knave, but he directs that not against Obama but against all politicians, all K street lobbyists, and the entire donor class hoping to buy influence.   The audience loves this, and it reinforces Trump's appeal as an un-bought truth teller.   But it may be the item which keeps Trump from becoming the establishment and donor class candidate, because he is communicating that he cannot be controlled, either by other people's money or by written, clear policy positions.

Prediction:   Trump will emerge as one of the two Republicans left standing at the end of March.   Trump will turn out to be the non-establishment candidate because he will appear to be uncontrollable and Rubio will be the establishment candidate, because he is so skillful and personally attractive.    Whoever prevails will be damaged by the end-duel.   Rubio will have been revealed as the hostage of his donors; Trump will be revealed as unpredictable and undisciplined.   Trump will manage to define those as positives more successfully than Rubio will be able to define his association with K Street as a positive.   Trump will be the nominee.
Selfie at Trump event in Sparks, Nevada October 29.   I was one of maybe 5000 standees.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Republican debate: the country's a mess and we hate the media

I'm ready to be up close to Donald Trump. I am at The Nugget casino and hotel in Sparks, which is part of the greater Reno area watching the debate on TV and getting in place for the noon Town Hall Trump will be holding here in the hotel ballroom tomorrow at noon.

The hotel room is splendid, and rate is $39 for the night, including the "resort fee" which I think is a device for adding to the room rate while avoiding the room tax.   In any case, the place is cheap, especially for me since I have no interest in gambling.

I have one big take-away:  the Republican candidates apparently think everything about America is a mess, except maybe our armed forces.   They take no joy--no notice even--about the strong rebound in the economy since Obama took office, nor in the much improved employment numbers, nor in America being energy independent, nor in gasoline being about $2:20 a gallon, nor in the dollar doing so well internationally that the currency is the strongest it has been against other currencies, and that compared with other countries hurt by the credit/banking crisis America came out the best.  Oh, and there is no inflation.  And the stock market is up 250% since Obama took office.

Not a word about any of that, not even in a throwaway subordinate clause.   ("Sure unemployment is down and corporate earnings are up and the stock market has recovered along with house values, but what is important is that low gasoline prices at the pump have put a strain on retail gasoline retailers, an important segment of the economy.").  I put the quotation in parentheses because no one said it or anything like it.

The Republican candidates criticize American government as dysfunctional, but they take credit for making it so,   And several members on the stage (Rand Paul and Ted Cruz) jockied to condemn strongest the Boehner budget deal which keeps the government open.

They hate the media.   I have to agree that a question to Jeb Bush--I mean Jeb!--on fantasy football seemed a perfect example of trivializing the situation.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Lincoln Chaffee and Jim Webb drop out

Jim Webb did not attend the New Hampshire Democratic Convention in mid-September, which I considered a major statement.   He would have had an uninterrupted 20 minutes to make his case in front of Democrats whose votes count and he would have had major media coverage.   If his speech had been a surprise hit this would have been news.   He wasn't there.

Lincoln Chaffee had his chance.   He got his 20 minutes.   People were leaving during the speech but he had an opportunity to surprise, to shock, to make his case.   I listened to maybe ten minutes of his speech and there was nothing memorable, so I joined the people standing at the exits.

Bernie Sanders is saying something big and bold.  He says it with passion.   He is earning his audience and he is getting significant support.   So Bernie stays in the race.

But neither Webb nor Chaffee did what they needed to do, so they have left the race.

I never heard Lincoln Chaffee say anything big and bold.   Jim Webb had something to say, but he did not say it.

Jim Webb had an important message on issues of war and peace.   He is spoken of as a conservative Appalachian-style Democrat, almost a Republican, but I recall that the true blue card carrying MSNBC liberal Rachel Maddow wrote a book with much the same message as Webb presents, that Americans have lost touch with their own military, to our detriment.    Given the Republican orthodoxy Fox News monolithic foreign policy position (re-engage and lead from the front in Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Crimea, Ukraine, South China Sea with a much bigger and more aggressive military paid for with lower taxes) then Webb has a good Democratic message.

Webb's point is that the people who are most trustworthy on issues of going to war are civilians who themselves have served and whose children and grandchildren will serve, and that neocon chickenhawks in the Republican party, and Democrats who have never served and whose friends and family have not served, are making decisions of war and peace.   And they are the wrong persons.   Republicans foolishly get us into war because they think war is grand and exhilarating and an expression of America's exceptional wonderfulness, and Democrats get us into war because they get steamrolled by generals and are afraid of looking soft.

He has a point.   I am reminded of the analogous position pro-choice friends say about abortion:   On the difficult issues of whom to trust to decide on abortion, the best and safest person to trust is the woman herself.

Pundits  scoffed at Webb's answer in the debate about the greatest enemy; he said it was the guy who threw a grenade at him, the one who is no longer around.   Silly, stupid answer, they said.

Webb didn't make his point all that well, so I will try to make it for him.  Webb meant that at its most basic, politics is war, as Carl von Clausewitz observed, and war is an expression of politics, by other methods.  Phrases like "projection of American power", and "block communist incursion" and "diplomatic pressure", etc.,  are all expression of politics, trying to get ones way and bending others to ones own will.   These nice phrases obscure the basic reality that the phrases are describing the potential violence and death.    Politics is power.  At its nicest it is persuasion to get concurrence and agreement, but if that fails then it moves to lawsuits or military saber rattling and if that fails then to armed men doing an arrest or execution domestically or armed men going to war internationally, bombs, grenades, rifles aimed and fired.      In Vietnam a North Vietnamese soldier doing the politics of a foreign nation tried to kill Webb, but Webb escaped and instead killed him.  It wasn't personal; it was just politics by other means.

I think that this is what Jim Webb was trying to say.   That the discussion of "who is your biggest enemy" with answers of "the NRA" or "drug companies" or "Republicans" was just the silly niceties of Democrats who were multiple steps away from reality.  They were typical Democrats, in their ivory tower.

Jim Webb point was that he understood political enemies and had faced one: a man trying to kill him with an explosive device.  That is a no-BS enemy, and a Commander in Chief needs to understand that.

Webb should have spelled out his point, the point that a politician who doesn't understand that politics comes down to soldiers in arms fighting on behalf of the politics of others doesn't really understand the world.   And to paraphrase my pro-choice friends,  on the difficult issue of whom to trust to lead a country into potential war, the best and safest person to trust is a former solder himself.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Candidates pour into New Hampshire and the pace quickens

Let me give you a quick view of what is happening in New Hampshire today and tomorrow, Friday and Saturday October 2nd and 3rd.

I learned from experience that every one of these events is fully open to the public, even the "house parties".   House Party does not mean a private, invitation only event.   It means a meet-and-greet held at someone's house.   It's very purpose is to meet people.

Oh, and regarding fundraising and donation "asks".   Out of the approximately 100 political events that I have hosted at my house in my adult lifetime I can remember exactly one in which the candidate said "no request for donations", an after-election "thank you" party we hosted for Senator Merkley.   But in New Hampshire the candidates don't want your money, they want your presence and your vote.   They go to the rest of the country to scoop up money.   New Hampshire is where they spend it.

A note on geography of New Hampshire.   Almost everything is a 20 to 60 minute drive of each other, with a cluster of population in the Nashua-Manchester-Concord corridor along I-93, and another cluster of population including the University of NH on the coast.   Everything is within an hour drive of Manchester, or less.

And New Hampshire has big, nice un-congested freeways, three lanes, lots of room between cars, and nice pleasant two-lane rural roads, very open and un-congested, with gentle curves through New England farms and woodlots.  And depending where you are there is either New Hampshire public radio (89.1) or WBUR out of Boston (89.7), three clicks up on the radio tuner.   Getting there is half the fun.   (As contrasted with going into Boston, 50 miles south of Manchester.   The thirty miles from the NH-Massachusetts border south into downtown Boston or Cambridge takes 90 minutes of tough driving on weekdays.

Ted Cruz10/2/2015Radisson Hotel, 11 Tara Boulevard, Nashua, NH 03062The NH Renewal Project, 12 p.m.
Ted Cruz10/2/2015Home of Linda and Steven Goddu, 5 Candlestick Lane, Salem, NHSmoke a Cigar with Sen. Ted Cruz, 7 p.m.
John Kasich10/2/2015NH Legislative Office Building, 33 North State St., Concord, NHPress conference and announcement, 10:30 a.m.
John Kasich10/2/2015Odd Fellows Hall, 42 Mountain Rd, Goffstown, NH Town Hall, 12 p.m.
John Kasich10/2/2015225 Eddy Rd., Manchester, NHNH headquarters opening, 5:30 p.m.
John Kasich10/2/2015Radisson Hotel, 700 Elm St, Manchester, NHNHGOP Gala Reception Honoring Sen. Judd Gregg, 6:30 p.m.
Ted Cruz10/3/2015Southern New Hampshire University, 2500 North River Road, Hooksett, NH 03106Practical Federalism 2016: Stand and Fight forum, 10 a.m.
Ted Cruz10/3/2015Funspot, 579 Endicott St., Laconia, NH Meet and greet, 2:15 p.m.
Ted Cruz10/3/2015Wright Museum, 77 Center St., Wolfeboro, NHTown Hall, 6 p.m.
Carly Fiorina10/3/2015Southern New Hampshire University, 2500 North River Road, Hooksett, NH 03106Practical Federalism 2016: Stand and Fight forum, 11:30 a.m.
Carly Fiorina10/3/2015Home of former State Sen. Bob Clegg, 39 Trigate Road, Hudson, NHHouse party, 2 p.m.
Carly Fiorina10/3/2015Toyota of Portsmouth, 150 Greenleaft Ave., Portsmouth, NHCheese & Wine Reception, 5:30 p.m.
Rick Santorum10/3/2015Roundabout Diner, Portsmouth, NHRetail stop, 9:30 a.m.
Rick Santorum10/3/2015Southern New Hampshire University, 2500 North River Road, Hooksett, NH 03106Practical Federalism 2016: Stand and Fight forum, 10 a.m.
Rick Santorum10/3/2015Dover, NHStrafford County Republicans booth at Dover Apple Harvest Day, 10:30 a.m.