Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bush: Obama Created Trump

I agree with Jeb Bush.   Obama created Trump.

Obama opened a hidden compartment in the GOP base.   Obama awoke something that had been dormant.

Jeb Bush remains the classic member of the Republican "establishment", or what is now called the "establishment wing."  He hasn't given up yet, and his PAC is going to spend the money they raised to make a point, but the point of electing Bush is probably beyond them.   Now the money is spent to warn the GOP. 
Bush is Cassandra, the unheard prophet.   

His warning is worth looking at closely because it shows how the people who used to control the GOP think about what has happened.   

They blame Obama.  Obama made it OK for Republicans to voice contempt.

"But for Barack Obama, Donald Trump's effect would not be nearly as strong as it is," Bush said to an NPR reporter. 
"The point is that we're living in this reality TV political environment, where [Trump] fills the space by saying outrageous things [and] then people based on their emotions will express support for the sentiment, not necessarily the specifics, because there's none and then he'll backtrack.   And he'll move on to the next thing and he fills the space." 
I demonstrated the Trump technique for controlling the argument and manipulating the media in my parody article "Apology" two days ago.  But the caged beast that Bush says Obama unleashed isn't the media/entertainment industry.   
It is contempt for Obama.  I use the word "contempt" rather than "racism" because the audiences who feel the contempt would object to being described as racist. And black candidates in certain roles do not trigger the contempt: black athletes, black actors, black neurosurgeons.   

But a big group of people see Obama as fundamentally illegitimate.  He is "other".  He was a bridge too far, elected because Obama inspired Democrats more than did Hillary, barely,  and then in the debacle of the financial crisis of 2008 any Democrat would win, even Obama, even in red state Indiana.   So Obama won.  But Obama was over-reach.

Republican contempt shows in candidates and audiences, in doubts that Obama was born in Hawaii, that he is not a Muslim.   Raul Cruz (Ted's father) claims--to great applause-- Obama refuses to say "under God" when he says the Pledge of Allegiance.  (Demonstrably untrue--not that it matters, because what is important is that audiences want to believe it and do.)    Obama makes a significant percentage of Americans feel uncomfortable.  So they want to "Take America Back", a notion that only makes sense if America has been taken from them.  

And Muslims make Americans even more uncomfortable that do Spanish speaking Catholics from Latin America, so the events in Paris and San Bernardino fit perfectly into Trump's appeal.  

Prior Republican presidents and nominees were careful about open discrimination.  McCain corrected the questioner who asserted that Obama was an Arab.   Romney, the archetypal business establishment person was sensitive to the legal and business environment of 2012.   Some things you just don't say, i.e. allusions to a woman's menstruation, or discrimination against women, Muslims, Asians, Mexicans, immigrants, or the disabled.   You think them, sure, but you don't say them.  And you never, ever write them or say them on camera.   Otherwise you get sued or fired.

But Trump says what cannot be said.   Contempt for Obama conjoins policy and white identity politics.    Trump is saying aloud the kinds of things David Duke things said, the "outrageous things", the "emotions", the "sentiment."  He can do it because contempt for Obama is so widespread that Trump is free to say aloud what could not be said.   Many people feel liberated.  Vindicated.   Joy in the freedom to say what was unsayable.

Trump can say things and get away with it.  He is so popular he cannot be shunned. Therefore, Obama created Trump.

Contempt is personal, not policy.  Obama cannot be credited with doing anything good.   He is not credited with having presided over a recovery in real estate markets, saving tens of millions of people from bankruptcy.   Nor with a 250% increase in the stock market, restoring 401k balances.  Nor with a 7 year period during which Islamic terror attacks, including the ones at the Boston Marathon, Fort Hood, and San Bernardino have been a fraction of the 2,900 deaths during 9-11 in the Bush presidency, and a fraction of the non-Islam related mass shootings such as the ones at Sandy Hook, Charleston, or Roseburg. 

Facts like these are irrelevant.   Not wrong.   Irrelevant.

In some 25 Republican events I have never, ever heard one sentence of praise for anything whatever done by Obama in any matter,   Not for getting Bin Laden, not for having cute kids, not anything. (Google it yourself.   Try to find words of praise for Obama from Republican candidate on anything.)   Obama does not engender disagreement in Republican audiences.  He generates contempt.

You don't disagree with contempt or compromise with it or work with it.   You reject it out of hand.

Obama is the first target of contempt, but not the last.  It spread to the Republican establishment.   Trump assails people who attempted compromise with Obama, which means establishment Republicans and Congresses who pass bills that get signed, budgets that get implemented, the actual work of governing. 

Take a moment to reflect on Trump's criticism of Bush.  He does not criticize Bush's positions or policy.  The criticism is personal, said with a dismissive sneer.  Bush is "weak", "a loser".   It's not disagreement.   It's contempt.

Obama made it acceptable for Republican audiences to express their contempt aloud, and to pollsters, and presumably soon at the ballot box.   The genie got out of the bottle and its current victims are establishment Republicans.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rubio/Cruz Two Styles

I listened closely to live speeches by Rubio and Cruz, given at Town Meetings in New Hampshire.   The policy distinctions are tiny, except perhaps in how willing either might be to  engage in regime change.    But there is enormous rhetorical difference.

When listening to the speeches in real time, there in the middle of an audience, I could see that each of them were connecting.  Each are superb communicators, at the level of Obama or Bill Clinton, and better than Hillary who lists problems paired with legislative and policy solutions.  

But Rubio and Cruz are very different, and I will summarize the differences this way:  Rubio is poetry set to the music of a fluent smooth delivery of ideals and aspirations.  Cruz is a prosecutor, hammering out accusations.

First, Rubio, who I quote verbatim, from a Town Hall in Nashua November 4:

"If this generation can confront these challenges and embrace these opportunities we’re not just going to save the American Dream we’re going to expand it to reach more people and change more lives than ever before.    And when the story of our time is written it will say that we were the authors of the greatest era in our history.
That the 21st Century wasn't just as good as the 20th, it was better.  The 21st Century was a new American Century.”    (Audience applause)
This is the language of hope and aspiration.   Looked at closely it says nothing about policy or the means to implement it.  And it is delivered rapidly and smoothly and without pause so in the moment all I remembered was that it was beautiful.   Only on writing out what I had recorded is it evident that it communicates youth and confidence and aspiration but nothing more.    
Note that I say this not as observation, not criticism.  The speech works.  It is impressive and it makes the listener like Rubio.   The speech is better received than Hillary's stump speech which list problems and solutions but leave the underlying impression that change is hard, slow, controversial, and uncertain.   More trudging through gridlock.  
Rubio makes you hope; Hillary brings you back to earth.
Rubio flys over gridlock, which is his strength and his weakness.   He inspires and thrills, but Republican opponents are noting that he is all "communication" and no substance.
Cruz's style is very, very different.   Short sentences.  Big pauses between hard declarative  statements.   This is from a speech given on Veterans Day 2015 in an overcrowded VFW Hall, immediately after a live interview with Sean Hannity's show on Fox:
Cruz spoke of the fantastic field of Republican candidates then turned to the Democratic debate:

"Hillary and the chipotle club.  (Audience laughs)   You cannot forget about Bernie Sanders   (Audience boos and hoots.)  “The Democratic field today consists of a wild eyed socialist, with ideas that are dangerous for America and the world—and Bernie Sanders.”    (Laughter and cheers.)

[ Cruz asked veterans and soldiers to stand.]   "Thank you for standing and fighting for your country.”    “I think all of us were rather stunned, about a week ago, when Hillary went on the radio and said the VA scandal was overblown.   I was waiting for her to say, ‘what difference does it make’.   (Audience laughter, extended)    What a stunning statement.  It’s overblown!   What difference does it make that the VA is keeping fantom ledgers, fake books, falsely delaying care.  (Pause)  Then lying about it.  (Pause)

And just like four Americans murdered in Benghazi.   I think it makes the world of difference.

“If I’m elected president there’s going to be accountability.   People will be fired, and people criminally liable will be prosecuted.  
(Emphasis on the word "prosecuted", then extended audience cheers.)

“The Democratic prescription is that everything has to be controlled by the federal government.  I believe in empowering the American people.   Empowering citizens. (Pause)  I believe each of our veterans knows a lot better what is needed for your health care than does some bureaucrat in Washington.”   (Audience cheers.)

There were full 1 second pauses between many of his sentences, as if laying out a case.  Take that!   Take that!.  

An idea that is widely current now among many Democrats and some Republicans is that Ted Cruz is unlikeable, that he has no friends in the Senate, that the establishment of the Republican party cannot stand him and that he looks like a TV villain.    

This meme underestimates Cruz's connection with his audience, and Cruz opponents need to wake up to the fact that Cruz connects with many Republicans.  

His manner communicates resoluteness and conviction and he relishes in his enemies:  Bernie, Hillary, the VA, Benghazi, bureaucrats.   And the speech went on in the next minute to blast the IRS, tax preparers, taxes, and immigrants who swim across the Rio Grande, each blast getting boos and jeers.  The audience knows who they are angry with, and it isn't Cruz.

The Republican primary may come to a showdown between Cruz and Rubio.  There is a real difference in mood and tone,  Rubio more optimistic, Cruz more angry.  

My observation of New Hampshire Republicans is that their anger is deeper than their hope.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Marco Rubio has just announced that Trey Gowdy of South Carolina will be campaigning for him in Iowa.   Trey Gowdy is the Chair of the Benghazi Committee that investigated Hillary Clinton for two years.   Gowdy said his purpose was to discover the truth about the official explanations for the incident; Kevin McCarthy, the Republican expected to be the new Speaker, blurted out on the Sean Hannity show that its purpose was to hurt Hillary and it worked splendidly.   

Hillary testified for some 11 hours and came out of it looking strong in a way that served her reputation, the Hillary brand:  she could be attacked but she knew how to fight back.   Democrats impatient with Obama for appearing to be a calm, reasonable conflict avoider saw a different kind of potential president in the on-deck circle: scrappy Hillary.

So now my apology.   In the middle of the hearings last summer I remarked that Trey Gowdy looked weird, especially since he had a haircut that shaved the sides of his head but left hair on top.   I said he looked like his head was squished, that perhaps he put his head sideways onto a tree stump and an elephant stepped on it.

That was unkind, and I apologize.    

We will be seeing more photos of Trey as he travels with Marco Rubio, and maybe I will get a selfie with him when I am in South Carolina, so I want to remove that image from your mind and to apologize for it.

I realize there is a political idea going around now, a Trumpian one:  never apologize.  Instead, double down.  In the Trumpian world what I should do I assert again that his head looks weird, oddly squished.  I should say that maybe it was a female elephant not a male one.  I would continue the discussion by getting the media to question what kind of elephant squished him, whether it was actually verifiable that at elephant squished his head, whether it was true but unkind to say that Trey Gowdy looks weird.   Ideally Jeb Bush would criticize me for saying he looked weird and would defend Trey's appearance as being OK.   Others would admit he looks maybe a tiny bit flat-headed but would say that it is in the range of normal.  Others would say the criticism is admittedly true but clearly "out of bounds."   The result would be three days on the subject of whether Trey Gowdy looks in any way abnormal.   Which is a better story for Trump than the fact that a congressman is endorsing your opponent.

 But I don't want to do that.  I do not want to have my blog be about insults and I am tired of talking about Trump.   Which is why I am purposely NOT doing this the Trump way.   I want to go on record affirming that Trey Gowdy's head looks perfectly normal.   And if I get to see him live in South Carolina, and I come to any different observation, then I will update this.  But for now, I am sorry for saying his head looks squished.

And I am really, really sorry if the image of his head on a tree trunk and an elephant's foot is stuck in your head.  Please forget it.

Really.   Don't think about the elephant.

Tea Party in South Carolina

Tea Party Convention
I will be going to South Carolina to attend a Tea Party Convention and a the Republican debate.   (OK, I have confirmed tickets as a Bronze participant in the Tea Party Convention and I am in the Lottery drawing pool for the Debate.)   But the events will put lots of Republican candidates into South Carolina for a short time, which is the ideal way for me to see people and events up close.

A feature of this campaign is the applause lines that really work.   Republican audiences want ferocious statements, not statements of cooperation and bipartisanship.   Indeed, descriptions of bipartisanship receive boos.   And Republican audiences respond enthusiastically to words of outright contempt for the federal government generally and Obama specifically.   Applause words I draw from memory are  "pathetic", "weakling", "miserable".   

Republican Debate
I will attempt to use some real discipline and order in listing and actually counting the words and themes that get the strongest responses.   I will chart and graph them or in some other way try to bring some rigor to my report.

There is a great deal of difference in Republican candidate tone (angry, calm, bombastic, etc.) but actual policies differ only within a small range.   I think this is because audiences have trained the candidates and there is something these audiences want to hear.  But I want to test that hypothesis, so off i go.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Policy Decision: Cruz vs. Rubio

Your life could depend on this.   All your money, too.

If America gets our foreign policy in the Middle East wrong then some big bombs could go off in New York and Washington, DC, and if they do your retirement savings will evaporate.   Poverty and chaos.

If bombs in New York set off bombs all around the USA (remember, Pakistan and Russia and North Korea have nukes) then you will die.  As will your kids and grandkids.  


My posts on Trump get more readers than my post a couple days ago regarding policy.   So I am making the point again here, one that preceded the New York Magazine article I am linking to, which says what I said then and repeat now.   It is worth knowing who is who in the policy debate.

We are going to elect one of these people, after all.

There is a neoconservative foreign policy idea out there that America is very special, that we are a beacon of democracy and that people all over the world want democracy and want to emulate America and that we have a sacred obligation to spread this gospel of freedom.   Plus, the idea is that countries with democracy will be generally very friendly to us, and be both foreign policy allies and trading partners.  They will sell us dates and olives and oil and we will sell them computers and movies with hot naked actresses, just what those previously backward and traditional cultures want.

Not neocon
Neocons recognize that in order to clear the way for this democratization and Americanization of their politics and culture we need to get rid of the current evil tyrant.   The removal of Saddam Hussain was an archetypal neocon move, and the idea was that we would be greeted as liberators and that the country, free of Saddam Hussain, would form a democracy and become something like Denmark, or at least India.

Marco Rubio is a neocon.   (So was George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.)    And therefore, notwithstanding the mess that the Iraq war caused, the neocon mindset led America to assist the revolt that toppled Gaddafi in Libya, which has been working out poorly so far.  And it wants us to remove Assad in Syria, a precursor to a stable governable country. 

Ted Cruz speaks in policy while Trump speaks in general goals, so the distinctions are clearer when one looks at what Crus is saying.   Cruz is not a neocon.  Policy makers are noticing that Middle East tyrants are undeniably corrupt murderers but that they have some value because they keep a lid on religious sectarian tribal divisions that would otherwise throw their countries into chaos.  Islam is a unifying idea in the face of chaos so Islamist factions start to re-create order.   And those Islamist factions are anti-American.   They see American culture including movies with hot naked actresses, our alcohol and pork, our attitudes toward women and families, our Christianity,  our form of government all being deeply foreign.  Which it is.  We like it, but it is undeniably foreign to them.   They resent it, hate it, and coalesce popular support by rejecting it.

(Americans act surprised, which we shouldn't be.   Americans wave American flags and shout 'We're Number One" and celebrate Americanism and pass laws forbidding sharia law.   They are waving flags all right--their flags, their culture, their religion.  What did we expect??)

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are expressing the view that America need not attempt to sell democracy to the unwilling and that these Middle East tyrants serve American purpose.   Cruz binds together Americanism and Christianity and democracy which gives him the perspective and flexibility to treat foreigners as different.    He doesn't need to sell democracy to them.  America's interest is in world stability not Middle East democracy.   Cruz says ferocious things to distinguish himself from Obama rhetorically, but his actual policy is now the one that Obama is practicing in Syria: focus on removing ISIS rather than removing Assad, Syria's murderous tyrant, and limit our military actions to bombing and drone assassinations.   

This does not make Cruz a dove or an isolationist.  But in real world application it means reduced foreign military engagements.

On the Democratic side Hillary has been more neocon, backing the removal of Gadaffi and Assad while Bernie has been more skeptical.   The rhetoric of both Hillary and Bernie is much less bellicose than any Republican, especially Cruz, and Hillary would emphasize diplomatic over military pressure, but it is entirely possible that Hillary is nearly as hawkish as Cruz and that she would push for regime change more aggressively than Cruz.

Reading this may disappoint my Democratic readers and cause disbelief among my Republican readers, but we need to look at the policy being proposed not the ferocity of the rhetoric.   Republicans win the language ferocity fight, but Cruz and Trump may be more quick to withdraw from the Middle East than is Hillary.

Here is a link to a longer article on the subject:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fussy Primary Voters

The primary election balloting is the time interested engaged voters make small distinctions.  I participate in a lively email discussion group of classmates from the Harvard/Radcliffe Class of 1971.   Everyone in this group has some things in common:  

***We are all about age 65 or 66 years old
Liberal feminist, concerned about income inequality
***We were all pretty good at high school back in the 1960s
***We got pretty good--or very good--professional or business jobs
***Most of were imprinted with anti-war liberal orientation which still survives

A number of people in the group like Bernie Sanders for president and many of those people  oppose Hillary.   I don't just mean they prefer Bernie as being a preferable type of liberal; I mean that they see the difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as a giant chasm.  They oppose Hillary.

Liberal feminist, concerned about income inequality
I consider this to be a sign of their privilege, their being so comfortable in their upper middle and upper income situation that the tiny distinctions between "better" and "even better" loom large.   Napa Valley pinot noir grapes get warmer August nights than do West Slope Willamette Valley pinot grapes, making a berry note in the after-taste, justifying the much higher bottle price: the distinctions of the effete and privileged.

I have urged my classmates in that position to get out more.  Watch some Fox News.  Read the Wall Street Journal editorial page.  About half the country is Republican.  (And about half are Democrats; it goes both ways.)   I have sat in on some 25 Republican campaign events so far.   I have witnessed where the applause lines are:

Audiences like it when the candidate says we will easily, quickly, and inexpensively utterly destroy ISIS without using ground troops.   (Wild Applause)

Audiences like it when the candidate says that we will immediately end all abortions, end all funding for Planned Parenthood, end Obamacare, and slash most regulations on banking, small business, and the environment.   (Wild Applause)

Audiences like it when the candidate says he or she will increase the military significantly, cut taxes significantly, while balancing the budget.  (Wild Applause)

Audiences like it when the candidate dismisses Hillary as a crazy liberal feminist dishonest weakling, almost as liberal as socialist Bernie.  (Wild Applause.)

Republican voters are also acutely aware of the tiny distinctions among the candidates.   All of the candidates have essentially echoed the themes set by Donald Trump.  The other candidates hasten to draw distinctions which they present as important.   Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Kasich, Christie all echo Trump's ban on Muslim immigration, but instead of a blanket ban it should be a case by case ban which gets the same result.   But they draw little distinctions among themselves which they use as a reason for picking them over another.   Cruz and Rubio say we should just have a "pause", Bush says to admit refugees from Muslim-majority countries but only the Christians, etc.   

On immigration from Asia and Latin America Cruz is attempting to show that he is very different from Rubio; Cruz says he has always opposed a path to citizenship and accuses Rubio of having briefly attempted a bipartisan bill that would have included a path.   Cruz says: Rubio is a Compromiser:  Deal Breaker, Unacceptable, Untrustworthy!

Some of the Republican candidates would permit abortions in the event of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother (Trump, Kasich, Bush, Graham), and some not even then (Cruz, Rubio, Santorum).   Voters get to pick the features that appeal to them.

My sense from responses in Republican audience is that they perceive Hillary's actual policies to be essentially identical to Bernie's: very liberal and totally objectionable.  

Conservative Christian Hawk
My sense from responses at Democratic events is that they perceive Trump as a buffoon and that all the other candidates have equivalent policies to Trump but have a better working gaff filter.  But Democrats consider them all to be way right of Reagan, Dole, either Bush, and Romney, very conservative and totally objectionable. 

Conservative Christian Hawk
Having observed the full spectrum of candidates and audiences, from Bernie Sanders to Trump and Cruz, I think both sides are essentially correct in viewing the other side--but wrong when they are looking closely at their "own team."   Republicans are correct in seeing Hillary and Bernie as being about the same in policies; Democrats are correct in seeing all the Republicans as being essentially alike in policies. 

But in the primaries voters are urged to focus on the little distinctions, and they do.

Voters have some choices when it comes to personalities and tone and style but come next November there will be two basic flavors regardless of what happens in the primaries--a Republican flavor and a Democratic one.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hillary Shifts Left

"Us" is the squeezed middle class
There is a bipartisan coalition of people who believe that global thinking, free trade, and lots of immigration are good things.  Economists and foreign policy experts tend to like it.  Wall Street likes it.  Bill Clinton and George Bush and the policy elites of both parties like it.  The Republican Party "Establishment" likes it.   The Wall Street Journal and The Economist like it.

Hillary agreed, which makes sense.   She was a star student at Wellesley, an attorney, First Lady, a Senator, and Secretary of State.  She understands globalism and its value, and it worked for her.  (Alaska sells oil and buys pineapples--trade makes sense.  And smart people can find a place within the new economy.)

Free trade and immigration create winners and losers within a country and they disadvantage people who are on track to do work that can be sent offshore.  And immigration means that jobs in fast food and agriculture and general labor pay a bare subsistence wage, and this problem is moving up the food chain.  Offshoring of work means some accounting, financial, and internal back office work has moved to Asia and everyone has experienced the frustration of attempting to understand the accented English of the person in "customer service" who puts your newspaper on vacation hold or changes the billing address on your cable service, or explains why your insurance company will not cover the drug your physician prescribed.

Those jobs aren't American jobs anymore, and it isn't just poor people being squeezed.  The middle class is as well.

Hillary has increased her focus on income inequality because it is a real problem, one that has a constituency.  Bernie has identified the plight of working families being squeezed, and he talks economics and targets corporations.   Trump addresses the same people and the same issues, except when Bernie says "NAFTA" Trump says "really bad trade deals."  Trump is a plain talker.   And Trump adds the ethnic fear and resentment piece.

What is Hillary doing in response?   Hillary is political and crafty, which is her weakness and her strength.  (Bernie is true-blue, which is his weakness and strength.)  

Hillary shifted her public position on the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Deal, from supporting it to opposing it.  I suspect Hillary’s basic instinct is to be a free-trade open border liberal, which was Bill Clinton's position in his presidency,  and I am confident she believes that net-net it is the best thing for America as a whole.    But her discussion of income inequality is getting at a very important issue in our society and politics, that it is not just about what is good for the whole but about how the pluses and minuses are distributed within the whole, and some Americans are being hurt.   

The 1% winners are running up the score and it isn't trickling down.  Democrats say this and Trump says this.    Mitt Romney, the archetypal "Establishment" Republican was sure it would trickle down, but establishment candidates are not drawing the crowds this year.   Republican crowds and sending the message that America isn't working for them, and Democratic crowds for Bernie have sent the same message.  Hillary is observing this, and taking action.

Hillary is doing a mid-course correction in her policies.   Her campaign signs read “Fighting For Us”, and the “us” isn’t just Ivy League elites. It means the middle class, people whose jobs have moved offshore.    She is not anti-immigrant/deport in the way Trump is, but she is not saying "open up the borders, we need more immigration" either.
There are two ways to look at her shift on the TPP.   For some, it confirms a negative view that Hillary has no political integrity.   The more generous view is that she is a progressive liberal who understands that the world's problems get revealed and significant over time and that policy adjustments are necessary to stay up with unfolding progress.   This is a feature of responsive progressive government, not a bug in political integrity.   

Free trade looked like it was working pretty well under president Bill Clinton, when widespread prosperity masked the middle class wage squeeze that was beginning, but now that the problems are evident her policy evolves to address it.   That is progress. (Similarly, the tough on crime three strikes attacks on crime in the 1980s and 1990s addressed a crime problem, but there is now revealed to be a new problem--mass incarceration--which she is addressing with a policy change.   Again, her evolution ins't a bug; it's a feature.)

Is Hillary credible as a "Fighter For Us, and does the "us" include factory workers, or just attorneys with law degrees from Yale?   If so, she can contest Bernie and Trump for the Reagan Democrat vote.   If not, she will lose those people and her path to the White House is much narrower.   Or closed off.

Friday, December 25, 2015

My Christmas Gift: Trump Explained

Here is my Christmas gift:  I am going to explain Trump to you.

Most of my extended circle of friends and readers find Trump interesting but not vote-worthy.   He fails the "presidential dignity" test, he seems unfiltered and undisciplined, and the issues he talks to seem a little too raw in their xenophobia/racism.   Many see a "grain of truth" in what he says, but don't like how it sounds, coming from Trump.

Since he has so dominated the Republican agenda Trump has shaped the rest of the field into Trump-lites, Trumps-in-code, and sort-of-Trumps.   For example Trump says "stop all Muslim immigration", while Cruz, Rubio, Bush, etc. say we just need to do this for a couple of years, or until we have the investigatory processes in place, or just Muslims from the Middle East but not India or Indonesia, or yes on people from majority Muslim countries but only the Christians from those countries.    It gets at the same impulse but puts a legal distinction on it so that the result can be justified as an act of rigorous rationality instead of simple xenophobia.  

So that is Trump's appeal number ONE:  Trump acknowledges that people profile one another and tells people to quit worrying about it, that it is okay.
Everyone profiles others.  It is an essential part of living in the world.   Liberal orthodoxy condemns it, which people resent.   

Of course we profile others.   It is as inevitable and human as needing to use a bathroom.  We do it, it is essential, and we do it privately.   Example:  When I see a person at a grocery store with gray hair, a bent posture, leaning on a walker I jump to the conclusion from that glance that the person is elderly, frail, gets Social Security and Medicare, is retired, is likely to watch TV, but is unlikely to be tech-savvy or use multiple apps on a smart phone, is also unlikely to drive a sports car, and is unlikely to listen to rap music genre radio stations.  

I might be wrong in some of my guesses, but it would guide my actions.   I wouldn't approach that person in the grocery aisle and ask their advice on which app is superior for getting reviews on the calorie count of potatoes versus yams.)

Profiling on the basis of age, in a grocery store, is safe for me to admit to.   But if I were in a position to hire someone in a job, then it would be considered immoral and illegal.  And certainly profiling and assuming a suite of behaviors or predilections based on presumed race or ethnicity, is condemned,  especially when one assumes that black people rob you and Mexicans rape you and Muslims want to terrorize you.    Many people carry those assumptions around with them, maybe just a little, sometimes a lot, and the presumptions are fed by news shows, deep held stereotyping and, the selective ways humans believe and discount what they observe depending on whether it fits or contradicts existing paradigms.   Anyhow, people profile others, it is reality, and a lot of voters are tired of being told to feel bad about it and having to hide it.  

To summarize,  Trump gives people permission to do what they already do, profile others with racial, religious, and racial stereotypes.

Trump's appeal number TWO: Trump advocates for the legitimate interests of people hurt by globalism and immigration.

Prosperous readers are a little out of touch with the economic reality that globalization of our economy and the somewhat free movement of labor has created a giant group of economic losers.   My prosperous readers tend to have college degrees and have (or had) good jobs using skills in managing data or people.   Licensed professional people or managers are helped by globalism.   Barbie dolls that cost $10 at Walmart are sourced in China for 47 cents, in a box with cardboard and clear front, packed into a stout cardboard case, and loadable into a container for transport to Long Beach.  This means that $9.53 of that $10 comes to Americans for the branding, marketing, distribution--a pretty great deal for us.   But those American jobs and share of the pie goes to the owners of the Mattel brand, to the owners of Walmart, and to a few good American jobs in high level data-manipulation, brand management, accounting, and trademarking--jobs for accountants and lawyers and logistics professionals.  The low end incomes are Americans at final Walmart distribution and of Chinese laborers in manufacturing.   

Bottom line:   globalism and the easy entry of low skilled immigrants help highly skilled people with jobs that a few Americans can be well paid to do but it hurts non-college people who might have otherwise had manufacturing jobs or better paid retail jobs in a specialty toy store.   

Prosperous people, both Democrats and Republicans,  have been reluctant to acknowledge this, happy to hold on to the notion that "free trade helps everyone".    Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama assert this, as does the Republican establishment.  Personally,  I probably agree that free trade helps national economies on the whole, but lives are lived as individuals and there are winners and losers within the whole.   The 23 year old with an accounting degree and good social skills can find a place in the global economy; the 23 year old who got through high school but who found college both boring and difficult finds himself competing with workers in east Asia and immigrants from Latin America.   

So that squeezed person looks at the political landscape and notes that Clinton (both Bill and Hillary) like free trade, they note that the Wall Street Journal type Republican likes free trade and hates unions to boot, he resents the fact that establishment Republicans (Bush, Rubio, Graham, and the Wall Street donor class)  talk of "responsible immigration".  They look at these immigrants as un-entitled interlopers and competitors.   

One does not have to be racist or xenophobic to see those people as unwelcome.   It is reasonable and rational for non-college people to say that America should be for Americans.   We or our parents fought the wars, we are here paying the taxes, we live here, we vote here, we are native born.   It is OUR country and "We the People" make the rules, just like it says in the first three  words of the Constitution.    It shouldn't be crazy or selfish or racist to think this; it should be common sense.   

These voters might not buy into the racial and religious prejudice and profiling part of the Trump argument, but they are ripe for hearing it and a great many hear it loud and clearly because the newcomers are in fact culturally different and, after the Boston Marathon and Paris and San Bernardino, they are frightening.   It is their children who come home saying that their teacher spends extra time repeating things in Spanish to some of the kids taking time from them.   It is some of them who pay full price for their kids' school lunches while others--perhaps darker skinned newcomers--get it free.  They see a Republican and Democratic establishment that appears to be bending over backward to helping outsiders--at their expense.

A Democratic solution perhaps making their kids, too, eligible for free lunches is just another iteration of rubbing in how the Democrats are trying to buy votes with welfare, not a policy of family wage jobs.   Trump voters resent this enormously.   They don't want welfare.  They want to not need welfare.   

A Republican solution that says that free trade builds wealth pleases Wall Street and their chosen candidates, especially Jeb Bush, who is roundly condemned by these voters who understand that Bush isn't representing them.   The Republican donor class is their enemy, not their ally.

But Trump does attempt to represent that struggling American.   Trump says he isn't obligated either to liberal "politically correct" orthodoxy nor is he obligated to the Wall Street Journal donor class of globalists.   Trump understands their economic interests--"good trade deals" and sending the illegal immigrants home--and he understands their resentment over being shamed for having gut feelings of dislike or suspicion of others.

So:  that is my Christmas gift, wrapped up for your Christmas morning.  That is Trump's appeal.   Trump gives people permission to feel resentment, suspicion, and dislike for competitors and enemies.   And Trump represents the economic interests of people who are being hurt by foreign competition and immigration and who are being ignored by the Republican and Democratic establishment.   

The appeal that Trump has is real and legitimate, and the sooner that Hillary bends in that direction the stronger will be her candidacy.  Meanwhile, on the Republican side, either Trump will ride this appeal to the White House or it will be done by someone else who is a better messenger of the same appeal.   

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Obama Christmas Card

I give enough money to Democrats that I assumed I would be on his list, and I am.   This is a nice card and they are a very nice looking couple.   Here it is, front and inside for 2015
2015, Front

Last year we got an extraordinary card, with this die-cut popup of the White House, windows glowing, the two dogs in the front, signatures from the entire family.    My wife liked it so much she kept it out all year.  

I posed the card here on my desk among some of the melon-themed art I keep around.   I like artistic depictions of fruit, especially melons.

Trump Christmas Card

Yes, Donald Trump sends Christmas cards.

I put my name and email address on a sheet of paper when I entered a Trump rally in Rochester, New Hampshire.   This is the rally where the guy asked the question: 

"We have a problem in this country, it's called Muslims, we know our current president is one, you know he's not even an American, birth certificate man, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us, that's my question, when can we get rid of them?"

Neither Trump, nor the audience rejected the premise of the question.

Here is what Trump's card looks like.   He split the difference between "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays," including them both.

So now you know.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Actual Policy Debate

Regime change necessary for victory
This post is not mostly about Trump.   It is more important than Trump.

But I get it.   Policy is boring and Trump is interesting.  Policy is complicated.  But our lives may depend on getting policy right, and there is an election to decide who gets to make the policy.   So I am going ahead with this.

Actual policy disagreements that were revealed in the Democratic and Republican debates last week.    What do we do about Assad?

In the Democratic debate Hillary Clinton revealed herself to be more of an interventionist than Sanders.   Sanders noted it and reported it, explaining politely to the audience that there was a legitimate difference of opinion being revealed here.  Hillary said--and Sanders reiterated--that Hillary's basic instinct is to do diplomacy in the context of military action and to have supported regime change.   She supported "regime change" in the form of deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Gaddafi in Libya and now Assad in Syria.   Deposing a strong secular dictator runs the risk of leaving a potentially ungovernable country, a void into which ISIS can step in.   Hillary says that Syrian president Assad has been so murderous of his own people and is so closely tied to another American enemy, Iran, and has such a tenuous grasp on legitimacy that he must be removed even though he perhaps provide some governmental order as an alternative to ISIS.    Her goal, expressed in the Democratic debate, is to fight both ISIS and Assad simultaneously.  There can be no real order, she said, unless Assad is gone.

Sanders and O'Malley say that stopping ISIS comes first, even if it means we support a corrupt form of order in the form of Assad because although Assad is bad he is still the only real alternative to ISIS.  Without Assad there is no glue of legitimacy other than an Islamist organizing principle:  ISIS.   Better to accept Assad than ISIS.
Victory, then regime change

In the Republican debate every Republican was eager to show how hawkish they are, how firm, how resolute, how willing they are to justify collateral damage, how Putin-like they can be.  They varied a little on the volume setting on anger and bellicosity, but the shakeout on policy turned out not to be linked to the strength of their language.    This makes things confusing and unintuitive.   Kasich is mild mannered as he says we should "punch the Soviets in the nose."    But others sounded fierce.  Christie was insistent he would shoot down Russian airplanes because he is not a "feckless weakling" and Ted Cruz spoke of carpet bombing whole cities to kill a few ISIS fighters hiding within them, and they sounded angry and tough when they said it.   But they are on opposites sides of the issue on regime change and whether it is a necessary evil to support a secular dictator strong man so that there is non-ISIS order in place.   Let me chart it.

Intervene and depose bad secular strong man along with fighting ISIS  (the Hillary position):
Rubio, Christie, and Kasich.  

Katich put it this way:  'Assad is aligned with Iran and Russia. He has to go."

The other view, that fighting ISIS comes first, so we must support Assad, who creates some order around which anti-ISIS forces can coalesce, and in general America may need to settle for secular order by a corrupt leader  (the Sanders/O'Malley position, and now Obama, too):  Trump, Cruz, and Paul

Paul put it this way  "Topple Assad. And then there will be chaos, and I think ISIS will then be in charge of Syria."   

Trump noted that in World War Two we allied with Stalin, arguably exactly as evil and murderous as Hitler, in order to stop Nazi Germany and said that the same policy may apply.   "We have to do one thing at a time."

None of these positions are "dovish".   No one wants simply to withdraw from the Middle East.   The Obama position is essentially this one now, since the Russians have stepped into Syria, making reluctant common cause with Assad because we have no other choice.   No Republican would say aloud that they share a position with Obama, even when they are doing so.     Every candidate of both parties agree the situation is a tangled mess, everyone agrees that Assad is terrible.  Everyone is suspicious of the Russians.   But some candidates are happier working with the Russians and Assad than others and it doesn't divide on partisan lines.

For now the policy is to work with the Russians and to hope the Assad-controlled area grows back at the expense of ISIS, while simultaneously voicing rhetoric condemning the tools of our own policy.   So viewers cannot just listen to tone and get the gist of things.   The actual policy is hidden in the finer print.

If you want to read a more detailed examination of some of the same issues, look at this post by a college classmate, Jeffrey Laurenti:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"It's Disgusting": Trump considers Hillary using bathroom

Trump:  "Disgusted"
It makes sense to Trump supporters to be disgusted by Hillary.

Trump spoke to some 9000 people at a rally yesterday and referred to Hillary's delay returning from the bathroom at the Democratic debate:

"I know where she went.  It's disgusting.   (AUDIENCE CHEERS)  I don't want to talk about it.  It's too disgusting."


What's up with that?   Doesn't Trump pee?   Didn't--don't--the women in Trump's life use a bathroom?   Trump finds it "disgusting."

What's going on here????

Jonathan Haidt's book The Righteous Mind examines a fundamental difference between certain sets of voters nicely divided between Hillary's base and Trump's.    Hillary's base voters have a moral sense that is centered on one key idea: fairness.  Something is moral if it treats people fairly, equally.   Public policy grows out of that idea:  it is fair for women to be paid the same as men if they are doing the same job.   It is fair for blacks or Muslims or Hispanics to be treated the same way as whites in housing or public accommodation or in police profiling.   It is fair for people who work full time not to be in poverty and therefore need a minimum wage because somehow the allocation of benefits need to accommodate their problem.

Fair:  That is Hillary.   And Trump's audience thinks Hillary is so crazy and politically correct about fair that Hillary wants to be fair to germs!!!

Trump's base is more than half the American population.   These are politically more conservative or traditional in orientation and, yes, they agree with the notion of the morality of fairness but they also have additional notions of morality on top of fairness:

***  the integrity of the tribe,
***  respect for strong legitimate leaders
***  disgust over impurity.  

Those three items are the key to Trump's message.  Trump speaks to those values, and Hillary does not.   She ignores them--to her peril.   Trump understands that those values are at at least as important as being "fair".  And when there is danger--i.e. terror--these values come first.

That is why Trump and Hillary are missing each other's point, and why Trump is getting huge crowds of people who think Trump "gets" them.

***Trump wants to keep immigrant interlopers out unless they are really, really part of the American tribe--integrity of the tribe value.

***Trump respects strong leadership (Putin, himself, cunning Chinese) and is contemptuous of weak or flawed leadership (Obama, Jeb!, and the media)--respect for authority value.

***Trump is disgusted by impurity or outside pathogens in the form of immigrant rapists, "foreign-born" illegitimate president Obama, World Trade Center destruction celebrants, or the thought of Hillary using a bathroom--disgust over impurity value.

The Trump audiences want someone who speaks to those three elements of morality and correctness.   And Trump does exactly that.  

Hillary is all about "fair", i.e. political correctness, which means she wants to be "fair" to Muslims while Trump sees Muslims as a pathogen to be avoided or at least highly scrubbed.  Trump and Trump supporters think this is crazy.

It is as if Hillary is being fair to "germs" destroying America.   Crazy!!

 Trump adds the other elements of morality, and combines them in himself:  A strong leader fighting for the interests of real Americans who are angry and grossed out by the pathogens of rapist Mexicans, Trojan Horse Muslims, and whatever disgusting things Hillary might be doing in a bathroom.