Monday, November 30, 2015

Will GOP leaders support Trump if he is the nominee???

Jeb Bush's comment that he thought Trump was unqualified to be Commander in Chief.   He also said he would support Trump if he were the GOP nominee.

This comment has stimulated a flurry of articles on Republican donors and elected officials regarding whether they would support Trump.   Some Hispanic GOP leaders were uncertain.  Some donors were as well, one saying he might drift off to a desert island for the election duration.

The issue is a high stakes one.   Trump might win the nomination, which gives the risk of dividing the party.   Or Trump might lose amid prestigious GOP elites leading an anyone but Trump effort, in which case notoriously thin-skinned Trump might claim--with good evidence--that he was "kicked out" of the Republican party, and therefore he owes it no loyalty.

He would not need to get onto the ballot everywhere, although he might do so.   All he would need to do is get onto the ballot in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.

Having watched nearly all the Republican candidates up close my own conclusion is that the policy differences between Trump and all the other candidates are tiny.  They are all saying the same thing.

    --Support symbols of traditional America, including saying "Merry Christmas", promoting English-only, validating Christianity as our culture's primary religion, and traditional marriage arrangements
    --Tighten or close the border to immigration, both from Latin America and the Middle East
    --Cancel the Iran nuclear deal immediately
    --Adopt a more bellicose tone in foreign policy
    --Support Israel's foreign and domestic policy with little or no reservation
    --Reverse the Affordable Care Act and return to the pre-ACA situation
    --Increase American military size and involvement in the Middle East, Russian border, and East Asia
    --Re-negotiate trade deals with the world so that America becomes more protectionist
    --De-fund Planned Parenthood and make abortion near-impossible
    --Lower taxes on everyone, especially businesses.
    --Reduce regulations on all businesses, especially financial ones

There is a little bit of ultra-fine point disagreement among the candidates as they attempt a differentiation big enough to run a contrast-advertisement.   Cruz says Rubio briefly considered a compromise acceptable to some Democrats on immigration, shame on him, the RINO.  Graham says we need 20,000 American ground troops in Syria, while Trump only commits to "bombing the shit out of them".  Yes, there is a difference, but does anyone really notice?   All the candidates say they hate Planned Parenthood but some candidates would accept abortion if it would save the mother's life while others would not.  It is a big point if one is the unlucky woman with a 16 week ectopic pregnancy, but it is a small distinction in the context of general campaign speech pledging support for "life."

Bottom line:  Trump shaped the debate and everyone is Trump.  Or Trumpish.

The only difference is in tone and language.   Trump is blunt.   He uses short sentences.  (From Trump website:  "If you give American workers a level playing field, they will win.   The results will be huge for American businesses and workers.   Jobs and factories will stop moving offshore and instead stay here at home. The economy will boom.  The steps outlined in this plan will make that a reality.")  

Bush, the archetypal Establishment candidate has a gradualist, incrementalist tone:  (From Bush website:  "The president should be able to eliminate wasteful spending through a constitutionally sound line-item veto--such as the version that Congressman Paul Ryan has proposed.  From the very outset as president, I would signal a new direction by supporting fundamental reforms that go to the heart of the problem."

Look at the difference.   Trump says things "will" happen, done deal.   Bush says what "should" happen, he cites a constitutional constraint, then not an actual proposal but one "such as" a mere "proposal" of Paul Ryan.   And then he "signals" a new direction of un-described reforms that do not solve a problem but merely "go to the heart of" them, whatever that means.

The difference isn't policy, it's tone.   And tone does matter, indeed enough to make elites uncomfortable with the fact they cannot control his language or the pace of change he promotes.   Powerful GOP interests like Bush more than Trump because Bush is "signaling", with signals he won't actually disturb the status quo very quickly, while Trump is communicating that he won't dither around.   Trump means change, while Bush trends toward it.

Will the GOP establishment support Trump?   They have no choice because Trump has made every candidate Trump-ish.  The only issue is the speed in which Trump-isms are implemented and how much influence they think they will have on the process in which they are implemented.  The establishment candidates will let Trump-ish reforms get massaged by K Street, and Trump may not.

But since anyone-but-Trump will be essentially personal and anti-Trump,  not based on policy, everything Trump has done as a candidate indicates that he will be furious at the personal snub.  When attacked personally he hits back, harder.   That is is brand.   That is Trump.  If he is snubbed,  I expect he will hit and hit back, harder, and the way to do that is to run as a Reform candidate, a pox on both corrupt parties.  Trump would believe he was snubbed by Republicans because Republicans, like Hillary, are indebted to their donors.  Rubio, Cruz, Bush or whoever the Republican candidate that replaced him would be, Trump would believe, illegitimate as a phony, and would be a mere puppet on the strings of unseen puppet-masters.    I would expect him to dislike that Republican interloper at least as much as he would dislike Hillary.

The Republican party, Fox News, and talk radio created and nurtured Trump, and they have created someone very dangerous for them.    In a three way election I would expect him to do at least as well as Perot.  Maybe much, much better than Perot.   He would not have support of Fox, but I expect he would have a lot of support on talk radio.  And of people who want the real thing, someone who will demand change, not someone who will signal a desire to move toward it.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Trump: People like his message, but maybe not him

People ask me, "What do people like about Trump?"
Trump in New Hampshire

And the answer is that some big group of people like his message.   And as I wrote yesterday, the message has more to do with culture and in-group validation than it does with actual policy.

I got the attached message from an elderly but very vigorous friend.   He is intelligent, very prosperous, and is a member of a minority Christian faith.   The forwarded email expressed his excitement at how perfect was the sentiment.

I draw your attention to two elements in the letter.   The first is recognition that the wonderful sentiments expressed in the letter are those voiced by Trump but wish someone else was saying it.

The second is the nature of the sentiments: most of them have to do with in-group validation.   My friend is a prosperous, white, Christian, native speaker of English.   He has had multiple operations and has been a heavy user of Medicare for many years, but does not consider himself to be a recipient of public benefits, and he condemns people who are.   The sentiments he likes are ones ones that celebrate and validate his identity.  

Trump's popularity is not a deep mystery.  It is classic populist, nativist white identity politics.  Trump is saying he will defend native white male Christians that he will defend them against change to their status as the "real" Americans.

Here is his email:



The list of 13 things that ​I as a citizen want. 
  
This is why Trump is zooming ahead. He is at least talking about issues that most Americans are concerned about.  One mantra about Trump is this:  We are usually in agreement with most of what he says but wish someone else was saying it. But here is Our Special Bucket List for 2015,16.... 
  
HERE IS WHAT WE WANT.. 
  
1.  Hillary: in prison! 
  
2. Put "GOD" back in America!!! 
  
3. Borders: Closed! 
  
4. Congress: On the same retirement & healthcare plans as everybody else . 
  
5. Congress: Obey its own laws NOW! 
  
6. Language: English only! 
  
7. Culture: Constitution and the Bill of Rights! 
  
8. Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening       before & during Welfare! 
  
9. Freebies:  NONE to Non-Citizens! 
  
10. Budget: Balance the stupid thing! 
  
11. Foreign Countries: Stop giving them our money! Charge them for our help! We need it here. 
  
12. Fix the TAX CODE! 
  
And most of all. 
  
13. "RESPECT OUR MILITARY AND OUR FLAG!!" 
  
We the people are coming!    

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Blunt Force vs. Delicate Sensibilities

There is a great cultural and political divide on how power should be used and more generally on style and sensibility.  Trump's brand is to be on one side of this divide and the Democratic left is firmly on the other side.

The election will be based on cultural symbols, not policies.   Hillary's speeches are a list of policies, but they are irrelevant except as how they reflect and reinforce her side of the cultural divide.   Same with Trump, but on the other side.

Trump has the better positioned brand in the sensibility war.  The pendulum swung toward nice-nice under Obama but people may be ready to swing back.   Michelle Obama spoke of eating vegetables and getting up off the sofa, but people may be ready to hear a presidential family validate steak, fried potatoes, and football on TV.   Michelle said it nicely, but no one likes to be reminded to eat our vegetables , even if she is right, and it is for our own good.

But Trump, or the Republican who slips in front of him to get the nomination, may overplay his hand in order to get the nomination, which would be Hillary's best hope.

Here are some matched pairs on the sensibility scale:  Trump vs. Hillary.


Plain Talk vs. Politically correct
Tough and combative vs. Weak and cooperative
"Bomb the shit out of them" vs. Diplomatic partnerships
Simple and Clear vs. Complicated and nuanced
Lead vs. Coalition partners
Surge vs. Withdraw
Cop vs. Black teen
"Rough him up" vs. Let him speak
Pro Israel Settlements vs. Two State Solution
Russia is enemy vs. Russia is partner in Syria
Truck vs. Prius
Country Western format vs. Motown
Beef vs. Tofu
Pro-gun vs. Anti-gun
Defend the border vs. amnesty
Fellowship and Evangelical vs. Mainline and Unitarian
Welder vs. Philosopher
Anti-immigrant vs. immigrant is OK
Anti-Muslim vs. Religious tolerance
Second Amendment vs. Fourth Amendment
Merry Christmas vs. Happy holidays
Traditional family vs. Single mom
TV "Law and Order" vs. TV "Modern Family"
Man-and-wife vs. Partner
Prosecute vs. Treatment
Business vs. Government
Churchgoer vs. lapsed
Stop and frisk vs. presumption of innocence
Farm and Factory vs. Office
Real World vs. Academia
SEC vs. Ivy League
Jobs vs. Environment
Free enterprise vs. government regulation
Traditional elites vs. multicultural
White working class vs. globalism
American Flag vs. Peace Symbol
"Illegal Immigrants" vs. "Undocumented resident"
White "regular" folks vs. newer, darker strangers
Christian vs. non-Christian
''Founding Fathers" vs. "Founders"
Nashville vs. San Francisco
American cheese vs. Brie
Duck Dynasty vs. Oprah
Fox News vs. New York Times
Talk Radio vs. NPR
Rush Limbaugh vs. Jon Stewart
Tim Tebow vs. Mahmoud Abdul Rauf
Right to work vs. public employee unions

I could go on and on.

Friday, November 27, 2015

What Hillary Needs to Get Right, But Likely Will Not--to her Peril

There are two themes happening in America, and Hillary Clinton needs to get them both right, but the habits of my friends on the left may not let her.

Theme one:  the regularization of new Americans.   Immigrants are good.  I am married to one, from China, and before that to an immigrant from Poland.  I have some photos below of a theme that is happening in America, the integration of immigrants and dark skinned people in America.   There are photos from the Multicultural Fair in Medford, the Chinese New Year event in Jacksonville.

Is there a political point?  Yes.   They are making the point that people of different ethnicities are here and are part of America, a point of celebration, and patriotism.

I also include a couple of cast photos from two TV shows, "Parks and Recreation" and "Scandal".  They have a character with Indian ethnicity and a black female lead character and in both cases those facts are obvious and givens, but are not the subject of the character's behavior.  They are characters, not ethnic symbols.   This is social progress.

The left--my friends--are comfortable with inclusion, and celebrations and TV like this sits well with them.  With me, too.

But theme two is safety and order, and a history of a white power structure using laws and "gentlemen's agreements"  and housing red lines and quotas and discriminatory policing to enforce ethnic oppression. Currently, Donald Trump has exposed something that has been real and true for all of American history, resentment and fear of new Americans, especially when they differ in ethnicity, race, or religion.

So the hazard for Hillary Clinton is that it is the left's deep instinct to presume that fear of the "other" is just another iteration and expression of prejudice and therefore to assume that observations of disorder or lawlessness by a reviled group is simply an expression of prejudice.   Therefore, disorder by blacks in Ferguson or Baltimore or by Black Lives Matter activists are presumed as mis-identified, or in fact legitimate, as an expression of resistance to oppression.

And that is the hazard Hillary will face and which I suspect she will fail.   She needs to condemn violence and lawlessness by oppressed and discriminated-against groups.  She needs to stand for order.  America expects this from a chief executive and commander in chief.  In the context of order, the rights of the discriminated-against can be expressed.

Republican candidates keep repeating the charge that Obama and Hillary will not condemn "Islamic" terror.   They are getting at a point, a point of Democratic interest-group-politics.   They have figured out that a broad swath of Americans, uncovered and highlighted by the Trump campaign, resent the special exemption enjoyed by discriminated-against groups from being named by their point of discrimination when they are lawless.     They want Obama to say "Islamic" terrorist and "black" looter.

I suspect some of Hillary's allies will complain, and Bernie will gain votes, if Hillary takes the action I think she must.   The next time a black, gay, Muslim, or other representative of a friendly constituency group does a lawless protest, she needs to condemn the lawlessness, firmly and publicly and without sounding tentative.  She needs to show that she can be firm and fair in enforcing laws against "her team", too.   A Black Lives Matter protester who disrupts a meeting is a disrupter, not a patriot.    If Hillary does not "get" this point then a Republican who does get it likely will mobilize American voters to victory in 2016.

And what about taking Muslim refugees?   I am pretty sure the politics of it are messy, that the left has seen admission of Muslims as a point of integrity and honor and the general public is deeply suspicious.   I think that Hillary Clinton needs to recognize that the fear and suspicion is real and that there is some justification for it.   My friends on the left are so suspicious of policing as a form of oppression that they don't want to acknowledge that policing also protects the weak and oppressed.   Hillary can call for newer, higher standards of vetting and attempt to make the point that there are good and bad among potential immigrants and that we discriminate on the basis of character, not the basis of national origin or religion.

Sarah Palin would be comfortable saying to ban them condemn them all and "let Allah sort it out"", and she did in fact say that (August 2013).   Hillary does not need to go that far.   But she needs to make clear that just because the Sarah Palins of the world belittle Muslims that this does not mean that all Muslims would be good Americans.   The left may want to make that leap, and that may be Hillary's instinct, but it would be a very bad mis-step.

Multicultural Fair Logo.
Multicultural Fair Patiortism
What is important here is that he is the President and he's married to someone else








































Just another character

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bread Line in Berkeley. A comment on the modern economy

Bread line in Berkeley, California.  Epicenter of job killing liberal values

Thanksgiving in a time of misery.   I have been reading candidate websites.

Rubio's website:  Marco's plans will help workers who have suffered during the Obama administration's anemic economic recovery.

Cruz's website: The American Dream is under assault like never before.  Ted Cruz has led the way to bring back jobs, growth, and opportunity to America.

Jeb Bush's website: Under President Obama, Americans have now endured six years of tax increases, endless regulation, added debt. We got an anemic economy.

There is a clear Republican message:  the economy under President Obama has been a complete failure.  I have heard about two dozen Republican candidate stump speeches, live, beginning to end, and have never heard a single word or reference to the condition of the economy in 2008-2009 when Obama was elected then inaugurated.  Nor have I heard reference to unemployment being at 5%, to the stock market having gone up 250%, to the recovery of people's 401k's, to the recovery of the housing market, nor to the US being approximately energy independent.

No.   In the Republican analysis this is a time of misery.  And it is caused by Obama and liberals.

I have imagined bread lines.  

And there are, indeed, bread lines, here in Berkeley, California, in the epicenter of job killing liberal values.   But this is not a bread line of misery.   It is one of abundance, and of consumers with the money and taste to enjoy simple luxuries.

Forty six people, by actual count, standing in line to buy especially good bread.  Organic, artisan bread.  The store operation was very fast and efficient so the line moved quickly but people kept forming in the back, staying at about 46 people at any one time.  A young woman in front of me, Robin, said that very, very good bread is something worth paying a bit more for, and waiting in line to get.


Bread line in Berkeley.   The glass is half full, too.

Jared Guyer, a customer.   Employed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Trump: Protester at event: "Maybe he should have been roughed up."

From my observation, Trump is the only candidate who approximates spontaneity in Town Halls and in media appearances.

Trump obviously enjoys being the center of attention and he plays off the people and events taking place in front of him.  In the three Town Halls I have seen he uses different words to say the same ideas.  His words are genuinely extemporaneous.

He is unique in this.  Other, more disciplined candidates, observe the pitfalls of original spontaneous speech and say things that are practiced and carefully vetted.   Same jokes, same witty observation, same apparent off the cuff aside.  It looks extemporaneous, but isn't.

Trump is.   He leans on his podium and riffs, and part of his appeal is that he is so unfiltered and unguarded.,

Trump had a protester at a recent Town Hall, and a college classmate (Constance Hilliard, a History Ph.D from Harvard--who has a blog to complement her academic work, http://soul-wisdom.blogspot.com) wrote that his behavior was that of Hitler in the years prior to becoming Chancellor--the early Hitler, campaign Hitler.

I have resisted making Nazi references because it seems to me a political cheap-shot, too easy, too inflammatory, done too often.  And misplaced.   People who know nothing whatever of politics or history use the Nazi reference to stigmata anything they disagree with.  Black Lives Matter? Nazi!  Obamacare? Nazi! New traffic signal turning a yield sign into a stop sign? Nazi!

Something happened at the town Hall three days ago which has deepened the legitimacy of the early-Hitler analogy.  Trump's words at the event, "throw him out", then the later media interview affirming that indeed he "should have been roughed up", encouraging then justifying non-governmental direct force, all ring a historical bell for me.   Brown shirts at Nazi rallies.

Trump had every right to have a protestor who was disruptive removed from his event.  I am a free speech supporter.  Political speech is fragile and crowds can kill people if they are spooked and stampeded.  Trump and his audience have a right to meet safely and not be disrupted by hecklers.  One or two disrupters can stop a thousand people from exercising a right of free speech and assembly, so I support the rally, regardless of the content of their message.  I certainly would respect a Black Lives Matter gathering removing  a White Supremicist heckler who was making a commotion and interrupting their rally.  And assemblies of unpopular ideas--abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights activists, Muslims, Mormons, nudists, socialists, labor organizers, you name it--have more to fear from a disruptive agent than do happy crowds of majorities.  So I support the rally, not the heckler.

The key to me was not Trump's removal of the disturber, it was that he didn't call for uniformed Security or the police and that he didn't call for an orderly exit.   The disruption happened in real time, and Trump's call to "throw him out" was in the moment.   Was that a carefully considered response?  Well, the next day he doubled down when asked about it, saying the heckler was loud and disruptive and "maybe he should have been roughed up."

Trump had every opportunity, then, to appear to be an advocate of careful justice, but did not. He could have said, "We have 10,000 people here, exercising our rights as Americans. Security, police, please escort that man outside. We have America's work to do here. Walk him to the door. He can spew his nonsense outside with the other people trying to make America weak. Doors are good, right folks? Keep bad people who ruin things for law abiders out. Be careful, Security, he might be dangerous, that's right walk him to the door. OK, let's get back to making America great."

He did not do that.

In the media interview the next day, with time to think, he could have said something like, "Well, I wanted security to walk him to the door so we could get back to business, I was afraid the crowd would do something unnecessary. . . ."

He did not do that.

I think the protestor should have expected to be removed, by force if he resisted, and that this forcible removal--when done properly--reinforces the centerpiece civic ideal in America: freedom of speech and assembly to discuss political ideas.  But Trump encouraged disorder and vigilantism.   This is the ISIS modality now, and it was Hitler's in the early 1930's.

Long campaigns are tiresome but they have a purpose. They expose character, slowly but surely. Trump is better revealed today than he was earlier in the campaign.    The question for Republicans is whether they like what is being revealed. Many do.
Excited crowd at a Trump event in New Hampshire



I think Trump has been presenting himself in a way reminiscent of early-Hitler for some time, but I have been resisting noting this because making Nazi references seems to me a political cheap-shot, too easy, too inflammatory, done too often. People who know nothing whatever of politics or history use the Nazi reference to stigmata anything they disagree with. Black Lives Matter? Nazi! Obamacare? Nazi! New traffic signal? Nazi!

Something happened at the town Hall three days ago which has deepened the legitimacy of the early-Hitler analogy (though to be fair this happened after, not before, the Saturday Night Live show). Trump's roughness in "throw him out" then the "rough him up a little", those forms of non-governmental direct force, ring a historical bell for me. Hitlerish. Trump had every right from my point of view to have a protestor who was disruptive escorted out. (I am a free speech supporter. Political speech is fragile and crowds can hurt people if they are stampeded. Trump and his audience have a right to meet, to meet safely, and not to be shouted down by one ore two disrupters. It is easy for one disrupter to stop a thousand people from exercising a right, and that is why freedom of assembly is important, regardless of the content of the speech. I certainly would respect a Black Lives Matter gathering forcing the removal of a White Supremicist heckler making a commotion and interrupting their rally. And assemblies of unpopular ideas--abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights activists, Muslims, Mormons, nudists, socialists, labor organizers, you name it--have more to fear from the disruptive agent than do happy crowds of majorities.). The key to me was not Trump's removal of the disturber, it was that he didn't call for Security or the police and that he didn't call for an orderly exit. Then the double down comment the next day sanctioning "roughing up", repeats the offense.

He had every opportunity, then, to appear to be an advocate of careful justice, but went the thug route instead. He could have said, "We have 10,000 people here, exercising our rights as Americans. Security, police, please escort that man outside. We have America's work to do here. Walk him to the door. He can spew his nonsense outside with the other people trying to make America weak. Doors are good, right folks? Keep bad people who ruin things for law abiders out. Be careful, Security, he might be dangerous, that's right walk him to the door. OK, let's get back to making America great."

He did not do that.

I think the protestor should have expected to be removed, by force if he resisted, and that this forcible removal--when done properly--reinforces a worthy civic ideal, one that on balance helps the oppressed. But Trump did this in a way that abridged civic values of free speech and rule of law and protection of the vulnerable rather than support them. He encouraged lawless violence. This is the ISIS modality now, and it was Hitler's in the early 1930's.

Long campaigns are tiresome but they have a purpose. They expose character, slowly but surely. Trump is better revealed today than he was at the time of SNL.

The question for Republicans is whether they like what is being revealed. Many do.
Show less

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bringing an audience to tears: telling a story really, really well





I watched Christ Christie tell a story about his mother's deathbed wish.  It brought a crowded room to a hush.   It was a good story and a useful one.   It makes you like Christie.

Can a person become president on the basis of one good story?  We might find out.

I have repeated the story a few times to people here in Medford who asked about Chris Christie.   He is a major talent, I said, and if he can get through the primary he will be a powerful opponent for Hillary, I have predicted.   

And this morning, in the New York Times, I read that Christie is still at it, telling the same story, and still getting a big reaction.  The Times wrote:

"STRATHAM, N.H. — In the course of a two-hour campaign stop here, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey brought a handful of men and women to tears describing the deathbed wishes of his cancer-ridden mother, cracked them up with the declaration that his presidency would be golf-free and riveted them with his remembrances of the family friends he lost on Sept. 11, 2001."

If it turns out that Christie does well in New Hampshire, then the momentum takes him to South Carolina and on to the presidency one reason will be this story.   Christie tells it really well, which makes sense.  He has lots of practice at it.   Rather than describe the story I am going to tell the story.   That way you will know what I mean. 

Here it is, my memory of it, as it would be said by Christie:

 "You have to understand my mother.  She was Sicilian and she was the forceful leader in our family.  I love my father, who is watching right now on a live video feed, but mom was the strong one.  She said what was on her mind.   Straight out, clear and simple.  'There will be deathbed confessions in our family,' she said.   "We don't hold back, we say what is on our mind.'  And she did.   Our family got very good at conflict resolution because we were taught don't hold back.

My mother was a cigarette addict.  She tried everything to stop smoking but could not.   Hypnosis, cold turkey, everything.  And then at age 72 she got a diagnosis of lung cancer.  Sometimes the disease goes slowly, but not for my mother.  The cancer progressed quickly. I was in LA at a conference for US Attorneys when I got a call from my brother.  'Christopher, come home immediately.  Mom is in the hospital, it doesn't look good.  If you want to see her, get home now.'

I got on a red eye and arrived at Newark Airport the next morning and took a cab to the hospital.  She was on pain medication and a little woozy but she opened her eyes when I came in.   'Christopher, what are you doing here?'   First thing out of her mouth.

'Hello, mom, I came to be with you.'

'What day is it, Christopher?'

'Friday, Mom.'

'What time Friday?'

'Ten a.m., Mom.'

Mom lay there, thinking about it.  Then she said. 'Go to work.'

'What?   Mom, I came to spend the day with you.' 

'Go to work.'

'Mom, are you worried about the taxpayers?  The taxpayers are getting more than their share of time from me.  I want to be here, with you.'

Mom opened her eyes and looked at me.   'Christopher, we have said everything that needs to be said.  There is nothing else for us to say here.   Go to work.'

(In telling it Christie pauses for 3 or 4 seconds.)  So I went to work.  (Again, silence.)

I want you to understand that some people say that I am too in-your-face, too blunt.   Well, I learned from my mother that we don't have deathbed confessions.   We say what we mean, right here, right now, so everyone knows where they stand and what we mean.   No hidden agendas.  No tiptoeing around.   My friends and my staff and the people of New Jersey know what I think is right or wrong.  I didn't just learn this as a prosecutor or in politics. That's who I am.   I got that from my mother and we could use some straight, honest communication in Washington DC and that's what I offer, because that  (pause)  that is who I am."

The story drew tears when I heard it and apparently it still does.   The story is useful for Chris Christie because it draws an appealing picture of a boy who loves his mother, it explains his blunt manner as evidence of forthrightness rather than (Trumpian) narcissism, and it suggests that he would be somehow a change in Washington because his blunt honesty is deeply authentic, not contrived or partisan.

The story works better told aloud rather than read and Christie tells it better than I just wrote it.   But if the story is new to you then there it is.   If Christie becomes our next president a significant reason for it will be that he could bring people to tears with that story.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trump charge: Hillary lacks stamina. My eyewitness report: Trump leans on the podium, Hillary does not.

One of the reasons I wanted to see campaign events up close was to see things that were not part of the campaign performance caught by the camera.

And I try to notice things that are not normally recorded because sometimes those things turn out to be important.   Like posture, body language, energy levels.



Back in August I had some question whether Hillary was physically strong enough to be president.  Yesterday Donald Trump picked this up as an argument:

“They only understand strength,” Mr. Trump said. “They don’t understand weakness. Somebody like Jeb, and others that are running against me — and by the way, Hillary is another one. I mean, Hillary is a person who doesn’t have the strength or the stamina, in my opinion, to be president. She doesn’t have strength or stamina. She’s not a strong enough person to be president.” 

I don't know if the rest of the media will notice this but Trump had better be careful with this argument.    Trump leans on his podium.   Hillary does not.    


Here is what I observed with my two eyes.   Hillary has physical stamina.   I saw Hillary standing in a receiving line for an hour and fifteen minutes, doing a stylized meet, handshake, photo, one person every 20 or so seconds.   My wife Debra and I got our photos.    Then she walked out to a garden, stood on a dias, and spoke vigorously for sixty minutes straight.   She stood for 2 hours and 15 minutes without a break and she was full of energy at the end.

She wore very simple flat shoes.   I suppose they are more comfortable than high heels, but they could not have had any arch or other support and my feet would have hurt.

I realize that many people don't want Hillary Clinton to be president.  But her being physically not up to the job should not be one of them.   


At the end of her speech

I know nothing about shoes, but as you can see in the photo above, this is about what she was wearing.  My feet would be tired


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Surprise! Long presidential campaigns are actually OK.

Every one of the 25 or so presidential appearances I have seen begins like this:  The candidate thanks local volunteers, gushing about "my good friend So-and-so", then boasts about how early they started coming to New Hampshire and how many times they have been to this splendid state.

The numbers are high.  For example Donald Trump has been there 23 times, Carson 27, Jeb Bush 59, Christ Christie 112, Lindsey Graham 162.   Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have each had 53 events, as of yesterday.

Is this totally crazy- a two year of campaign?

Having seen it up close I have decided that it isn't crazy.   It actually serves a good purpose.

A long campaign gives voters time to see how candidates handle the unexpected.   It turns out that candidate speeches are a poor way to find out meaningful things about a candidate because speeches are just applause machines.  The Democratic candidates speeches differ in tone (Bernie cranky and forthright, Hillary earnest) but their policy planks sound eerily alike.  Each have honed their speeches to create applause: recovery of the economy and home prices, assist the middle class, affordable college, refinance college loans, protect Social Security and Medicare, end tax loopholes for billionaires.

Same thing with the Republicans.  Again, the tone differs, (Trump and Christie blunt, Bush and Kasich frustrated, Carly and Rubio eloquent and polished, Carson quiet) but the message and applause lines are the same: Obama is weak, the economy is terrible, unemployment is high, cut personal and corporate taxes, balance the budget, increase the military, stop abortions, defund Planned Parenthood, support Israel, end same sex marriage.

We tell candidates apart from how they handle events, not their speeches.    Who calls for stopping world trade when there are two American cases of ebola?  Whose staff quits suddenly and says their candidate is unteachable?   When there's a bomb in Paris who says to pause on considering taking new refugees, who says to stop refugees outright, who says to give them a religious test, who says to implement a government registry of all American Muslims?

Long campaigns are a great equalizer, and give the little guy a fighting chance to make a mark.     A candidate needs few enough votes to be a "winner" in New Hampshire through the force of energy, ideas with appeal, and time.   McCain did, in 2008.   A Republican candidate will need about 25,000 votes to get 10% of the Republican vote in 2016, and any candidate who gets 10% will be declared a top contender, and move on to South Carolina with real momentum.   For reference,  Colleen Roberts got 40,000 votes in her successful Jackson County Commissioner race.  Heck, back in 1980 I got 27,000 votes when I was elected County Commissioner, and you bet I walked door to door.  A Republican presidential candidate who gets 40,000 votes may well be the first place winner.

Real democracy in the form of face to face meetings, answering questions, handshakes and photo "selfies" is happening right now in New Hampshire and Iowa.  It is nice to have a billionaire backer, but even without one a candidate can meet 25,000 people, if they have time to do it.

Long campaigns give the public a chance to evaluate character and it gives candidates a chance to make their case.   Even the candidates who have dropped out had their shot: Perry 75 events in New Hampshire, Walker 32, Jindal 22.    They had a shot.   That is all anyone can ask for.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Podcast link:    https://soundcloud.com/upclose-withpetersage/lindsey-graham-podcast

(click and go to a 4 minute and 3 second commentary)



A brief commentary on, of all people, Lindsey Graham, who polls at zero because he says the un-sayable: that the wars the GOP candidates think we need to fight will cost money and blood—
our money and our blood—and will require sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trump climbs in polls after Paris comments

News Headline today: Trump sees bump in polls post-Paris


There is a real difference between a Trump speech and the speech of the traditional candidates saying rather Trump-like things, i.e. Cruz and Rubio.   Both Cruz and Rubio are using the Paris murders to characterize the war as one against Muslims, not jihad.   Rubio referred to the Clash of Civilizations and Cruz said that we should triage refugees by letting Christians in and keep Muslims out.   They talk differently.

Trump is a plain talker.   Unlike Rubio and Cruz (and Florin and Christie as well) Trump speaks slowly and in punchy sentences that seem more or less formed in his mouth that moment.   He is highly practiced, but he is extemporaneous.   Rubio and Fiorina have fully practiced sentences and paragraphs and they come at the audience very quickly.  It gives an impression of great certainty and competence.   But it doesn't seem anywhere near as genuine.

Trump comes across as guileless.  He says what Archie Bunker would have said.  The audiences I saw liked it.   

It is possible that it will turn out that Trump and Carson will be like the football guard or fullback who galumphs through the line making way for the more nimble and delicate halfback Rubio or Cruz, but this assumes that people actually want someone more polished and smooth and eloquent.   And maybe they don't.  Trump really is offering something unique: plain talk.
Reno:  They stood in line and waited standing up for 3 1/2 hours total to see Trump
Reno:  Yes, I was one of those who stood for 3 1/2 hours, too, and  so I got within 50 feet  of Trump.
New Hampshire:  sold out over subscribed event, the largest in the history of "Politics and Eggs"

Monday, November 16, 2015

Obama may be creating his own new "Willie Horton" vulnerability. But he could fix it.

Obama is in Turkey, a Muslim country, and he is telling Americans to cool it.  He is going ahead with accepting some 65,000 Syrian refugees.   Meanwhile a number of states have moved to say they won't accept them, including Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina.   

The events in Paris give Obama a chance to push the pause button, and I think he should do it.   It is clear that America does not have a good handle on which young men are so filled with anger or romantic idealism or religious fervor or whatever motivates them that they choose to do violence.   Obama and Hillary Clinton need to remember the emotions that caused them to look to gun control measures in response to the shootings in Sandy Hook and Roseburg are ones that are washing across the country.    We have got to do something, anything.  We cannot just let people get killed.

Well, a great many people are feeling that same emotion after Paris--that same feeling that we have to do something.  No one thinks it would be easy to scope out mental illness and to keep guns out of the hands of a person on the brink of mass murder in a school.   But gun control advocates want to try.   For many Americans a policy that admits Syrian refugees is the equivalent of letting just anyone buy an AR-15.   Dangerous.

And it is far more practical to try to protect ourselves by excluding Syrians than it is to attempt to determine which native born Americans are crazy enough to do mass murder.   Is banning Syrians the right thing to do?   Well, we have got to do something, anything.  We cannot just let people get killed.

Meanwhile, Obama is losing ownership of the symbols of patriotism.   The events in Paris, like those of 9-11, have created a wave of fear which the president has the opportunity to direct.   His speech today in Turkey is saying, in effect, not to worry, that we can weather the storms and whatever violent people might do won't be that bad.  Besides, he said, anything violent or bellicose we might do will backfire and make things worse.

That is the argument used by opponents of gun control--that we can weather any damage done by guns and that gun control will do more damage than good.

Obama needs to own and integrate the fear people have, not dismiss it.   And having owned it he can adopt the symbols of patriotism.   He can speak of defense, not endurance.   Increase visible public safety activities.  Encourage watch groups.  Go to Muslim communities in the US and meet them in venues festooned with flags.  Get American Muslims to speak of patriotism as they condemn attacks and jihad.   

Americans have a big defense establishment,  and much of it takes the form of submarines and aircraft carriers stationed far away, invisibly.   Americans have a right to see some of the defense they are paying for.

If Obama does not lead a resurgence of patriotism, one which includes loyal patriotic Muslims, then the leaders of the patriotism movement will be Republican candidates for president who will shape the issue as one of Christian versus Muslim.   Trump or Cruz or any of the Republican candidates will be eager to lead that effort.
Willie Horton



The Echo of "What difference does it make". Words Matter. Prepare for more war.

The Republican orthodoxy has its talking points in order and I heard it up close in New Hampshire.

***Obama condemns jihad, but not "Radical Islamic Terror", and every Republican candidate--plus Fox News--repeatedly points it out.    As Ted Cruz puts it, on his website, in tweets, and in speeches:   "We need a President who says "we'll defeat radical Islamic terrorism," but one party won’t speak its name #DemDebate https://t.co/BZbexG2mqP"

American effort to defeat ISIS depends upon the direct involvement of nations with overwhelming majorities of Muslim citizens, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.  It makes more sense to go to war with enemies and with the religion of our allies, but this is a distinction that the audiences, and candidates, I saw did not make.

***Jeb! has called for a declaration of war and 50,000 troops being sent to Syria now.   

***Every Republican candidate I heard with my own ears condemned the notion of "leading from behind" and every candidate demanded greater air, navy, and ground force involvement in the Middle East.   Republican candidates want the US to replace Russia as the leading air force in Syria, and considered Russian involvement in Syrian bombing as a big win for Russia.  The bombing of the Russian airliner did not change the criticism.

***Ben Carson said we should directly confront Russia and enforce a no-fly zone on them, and if they do not respect it be prepared for war against Russia.

***There is a Republican talking point that get good audience support that Obama is apologetic for America, that he is too weak, and that he lets Putin push us around.  Obama's body language in a photo with Putin, plus Obama's very unfortunate comment about a red line in the sand regarding Assad, have reinforced this view.

The net result is that Hillary Clinton is tacking toward a somewhat more hawkish view, accelerated now by the Paris terror, to try to blunt the uniform Republican criticism.   The eventual Republican nominee will be dramatically more bellicose than Obama and will criticize Hillary for being soft.   Hillary will compensate by being harder in tone and policy.

Some of her problem is that three seconds of video, her looking tired, hair stringy, saying "What difference does it make."   That Benghazi comment last year, arguing that whether the attack on the Libyan  embassy was caused by a video or by a pre-planned 9-11 anniversary riot was not the important issue, allows a video edit which changes the meaning dramatically, but which puts Hillary into a place where she needs to re-establish her defense credentials. "What difference does it make" is a phrase that Republican candidates use to good audience response, implying that he comment was an expression of cavalier unconcern about Americans being killed.   There is no shame by candidates in promulgating this misperception.

Hillary is stuck with the video and the general election campaign will be argued between a very hawkish Republican and a less hawkish Hillary.

The policy of taking small bits of video out of context is a well worn road.   Democrats do it, too.   Mitt Romney's comment about liking to fire people was said in the context of the value of contracting for services rather than having civil service or union employees, which gives greater accountability.   In that context Romney's comment was about the organization of work, not personal cruelness.   In the same election Obama said that roads, bridges, schools, ports, etc. were built by a great nation over a period of centuries and "you didn't build that".   Those four words were severed from the larger thought and used to imply that Obama said--and believed--that businesspeople didn't own and deserve the businesses they created.   

The ambiguity of "that" in "you didn't build that"; of "fire" in contracting services; and of "it" in "what difference does it make?" will end up having life and death consequences, and may help shape policy in the Middle East that will shape the course of history for centuries.  



Saturday, November 14, 2015

You can do it. Yes, you. Get on the ballot in New Hampshire, a candidate for president. It is easy, inexpensive, and not too late.

I went back to New Hampshire because there was a crowded period of candidates showing up there.  New Hampshire has a two week window for filing to get onto the New Hampshire presidential ballot.   I went to the Secretary of State's office, where candidates show up to file, and got the form.   It is on nice thick paper.   It asks ones name, address and directs one to swear under oath that one is a member of the political party in the primary one is entering.

And they want $1,000 in cash or a cashier's check.

That is it.  
Sam Sloan, candidate for president

While I was there scoping out the process Sam Sloan came by to file.   Here he is, with his campaign literature under his arm and ten $100 bills in hand, which he was happy to show me for the photo.   He has well thought out positions on a variety of issues, laid out in the brochures under his arm.   I won't attempt to summarize his thinking because many people resent having their thoughts characterized by others, and I read from a wikipedia article that he has been involved in a number of lawsuits, some handled pro se.

I suspect he will get fewer votes than Senator Lindsey Graham, who is on the Sunday morning news shows almost every week, or George Patacki, the former governor of New York, or Jim Gilmore, the former Governor of Virginia.    But he won't lose to them by a lot.

Sloan seemed rather shy when I visited with him, and it was I who approached him rather than he me, so I suspect that he is going to have trouble with retail politics.

But I tell my readers that if you think you can do a better job being president than "the idiots and crooks running now" then you can file yourself.  Right now.   Donald Trump did it.   Sam Sloan did it.  

You can do it




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New Hampshire: Small venues and an up close look. Hunting for 20,000 votes

As I have noted, New Hampshire voters get an up close look at candidates.  But what they get is an unclose look at a performance that is substantially done for the benefit of the cameras at the back of the room.   There are no surprise questions and original answers from the candidates at this point, except on questions that are silly and offbeat, which is why someone thought to ask about Fantasy Football.

In 2012 Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich got a very respectable 9 1/2% of the vote in New Hampshire, which kept up media buzz about them going into the South Carolina primary, which energized their campaigns.   This meant each got about 23,000 votes.

A candidate who gets 20,000 votes in the Republican primary will be considered a very good prospect for becoming president of the United States.

This is the magic of New Hampshire:   22,000 votes makes you a contender.   It gets you on national television.  

For comparison, Peter Buckley won 20,000 votes in a state representative race for a district consisting of greater Ashland.   Jeff Scroggin won 40,000 votes in a losing race for Jackson County Commissioner.   Heck, this is ancient history but I got 27,000 votes back in 1980 in a winning race for Commissioner.

In my effort to get 27,000 votes I stood in front of grocery stores and post offices, I walked door to door, I said hello to strangers.  It was retail politics.

If it were an imposition on candidates--or others in the audience--to secure a photo with the candidate I wouldn't do it.  But the candidates WANT it.   They are hoping that I would do things like post it on Facebook or a personal blog.   So I will accommodate it.   One of the people shown below is more likely than not to be elected president a year from now.   Or not.   The bigger the crowds the harder it is to get up close.
Kasich
Carly Fiorina
Christie
Graham
Hillary Clinton
Santorum