Saturday, May 7, 2016

Last Call For The Guy Who Got Trump Right

If there is a reason why one person who got Donald Trump right out of all the pundits was correct, it's probably because he's not a political pundit but an economic one: The Kroog.

Finally, I can almost guarantee that we’ll see attempts to sanitize the positions and motives of Trump supporters, to downplay the racism that is at the heart of the movement and pretend that what voters really care about are the priorities of D.C. insiders — a process I think of as “centrification.”

That is, after all, what happened after the rise of the Tea Party. I’ve seen claims that Tea Partiers were motivated by Wall Street bailouts, or even that the movement was largely about fiscal responsibility, driven by voters upset about budget deficits.

In fact, there was never a hint that any of these things mattered; if you followed the actual progress of the movement, it was always about white voters angry at the thought that their taxes might be used to help Those People, whether via mortgage relief for distressed minority homeowners or health care for low-income families.

Now I’m seeing suggestions that Trumpism is driven by concerns about political gridlock. No, it isn’t. It isn’t even mainly about “economic anxiety.”

Trump support in the primaries was strongly correlated with racial resentment: We’re looking at a movement of white men angry that they no longer dominate American society the way they used to. And to pretend otherwise is to give both the movement and the man who leads it a free pass.

In the end, bad reporting probably won’t change the election’s outcome, because the truth is that those angry white men are right about their declining role. America is increasingly becoming a racially diverse, socially tolerant society, not at all like the Republican base, let alone the plurality of that base that chose Donald Trump.

Still, the public has a right to be properly informed. The news media should do all it can to resist false equivalence and centrification, and report what’s really going on.

This is exactly correct.  It has always been about race in the Age of Obama. Angry white men anting to make sure everyone else gets punished, and using every threat imaginable to discourage the rest of us.

Paul Krugman, to his credit, had Trump pegged months ago.

A Gentlemanly Disagreement Between Co-Workers

Been waiting for this one for months now: Captain America: Civil War is here.

The Non-Spoiler review:  Go see it and enjoy it, it's everything Avengers: Age of Ultron should have been and more, and ties up a lot of loose ends from Captain America: Winter Soldier to boot.

Our movie opens with some unfinished business: HYDRA agents in 1991 programming the aforementioned Winter Soldier (Sebastian Shaw, who was once Cap's faithful sidekick Bucky) to "sanction and retrieve" a target. He is ruthlessly effective, and the mission will have great repercussions 25 years later...

...which brings us to Lagos, Nigeria, present day. Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are tracking down former HYDRA mercenary Crossbones (Frank Grillo) to a chemical weapons lab.  The mission is going well until Crossbones drops Bucky's name and Cap, distracted by the news, almost gets half of a crowded marketplace blown to pieces.

As it is, the dozens of casualties are one international incident too far for the United Nations to continue to stand back and let the Avengers operate without oversight.  General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) drops a rather large set of United Nations accords on the team and says sign, or else.  Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Black Widow all decide doing so is a good idea.  Cap, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch do not.

But when the Avengers once again fail to stop people from getting killed at the accord signing ceremony, and Bucky is the prime suspect, everything goes to hell rather quickly.  Cap is willing to bet everything that Bucky is being controlled again, and he wants to find out who is pulling his strings.  Iron Man is sent to bring Bucky in, especially since the attack at the ceremony kills the King of Wakanda, leaving T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as the new monarch and protector of the African nation, the Black Panther.

What results is a fight long brewing between the Avengers and their allies in the wake of the most recent Marvel films, and it's worth every penny, particularly the fight scene that you know is coming from the opening scene, and behind it all is a secret long buried in the past...

The SPOILERS (you have been warned!) start after the jump.

No Trump Cards For Mittens

Yes, it's a Slate Pitch, but it's Jamelle Bouie and it's right: Donald Trump is going to lose in November, and the proof of that is Mitt Romney.

Romney wasn’t a bad candidate. He ran a competent and largely professional campaign against an incumbent who presided over high unemployment and slow growth. No, Romney wasn’t favored, but he also had a better shot than most candidates who run against a sitting president. If you believe that Trump can win—absent an exogenous shock like a terrorist attack or recession—you need to show how he beats Romney. You need to move this from the realm of speculation and into the world as it exists.

The idea of Trump as a plausible winner is rooted in the same error that drove pundits to discount and dismiss him as late as the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. Then, observers saw the polls—which accurately showed his appeal to a cross-section of Republican voters—but refused to believe them. It was unthinkable that a field of ostensibly talented candidates would fail to stop Trump before he gained traction.

That’s what happened. If Trump had entered the race as an Icarus-type—a candidate who shoots to the top but withers under the heat—then by the fall, he was something different. He was a genuine presence in a crowded field with real support among Republican voters. No one bothered to stop him. Afraid of alienating Trump’s supporters, GOP leaders disarmed themselves; fearful of Trump’s attacks, Republican donors refused to fund a confrontation; complacent about his threat, Republican candidates focused on clearing their respective “lanes” rather than stopping the leader in the field. By the time Republican voters went to the ballot box, Trump had cultivated a following.

None of that is operative in the general election. Unlike Republicans, Democrats plan to hit Trump with a fusillade of attacks from all directions. And they plan to exploit weaknesses that Republicans didn’t touch until it was too late to stop Trump. They’ll hit Trump for his open and vicious misogyny; they’ll publicize his history of racism and discrimination; they’ll attack him where he’s strong with stories of ordinary people he’s scammed and defrauded; they’ll emphasize the fact that he doesn’t know anything about the world or governing.

So just like the math of how Hillary and Trump are going to be the nominees, the numbers also show Hillary Clinton is going to win, unless you think that Trump is going to win the black, Latino, and woman vote.

It's not going to happen.

Like House Of Cards, Only With Idiots

The neocon branch of the foreign policy press is absolutely furious with this NY Times interview by David Samuels with White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

As the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Rhodes writes the president’s speeches, plans his trips abroad and runs communications strategy across the White House, tasks that, taken individually, give little sense of the importance of his role. He is, according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders I talked to, the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself. The president and Rhodes communicate “regularly, several times a day,” according to Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, who is known for captaining a tight ship. “I see it throughout the day in person,” he says, adding that he is sure that in addition to the two to three hours that Rhodes might spend with Obama daily, the two men communicate remotely throughout the day via email and phone calls. Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.

Like Obama, Rhodes is a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal. He is adept at constructing overarching plotlines with heroes and villains, their conflicts and motivations supported by flurries of carefully chosen adjectives, quotations and leaks from named and unnamed senior officials. He is the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign-policy narratives, at a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press. His ability to navigate and shape this new environment makes him a more effective and powerful extension of the president’s will than any number of policy advisers or diplomats or spies. His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.

And if you're wondering why veteran foreign policy Villagers are calling for Rhodes's head on a pike, well the reaction of Tom Ricks is typical.  They hate the guy, because Rhodes called them out.

Rhodes comes off like a real asshole. This is not a matter of politics — I have voted for Obama twice. Nor do I mind Rhodes’s contempt for many political reporters: “Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

But, as that quote indicates, he comes off like an overweening little schmuck. This quotation seems to capture his worldview: “He referred to the American foreign policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.” Blowing off Robert Gates takes nerve.

I expect cynicism in Washington. But it usually is combined with a lot of knowledge — as with, say, Henry Kissinger. To be cynical and ignorant and to spin those two things into a virtue? That’s industrial-strength hubris. Kind of like what got us into Iraq, in fact.

Rhodes and others around Obama keep on talking about doing all this novel thinking, playing from a new playbook, bucking the establishment thinking. But if that is the case, why have they given so much foreign policy power to two career hacks who never have had an original thought? I mean, of course, Joe Biden and John Kerry. I guess the answer can only be that those two are puppets, and (as in Biden’s case) are given losing propositions like Iraq to handle.

Yeah, that's right, one of the more important Pentagon/State beat writers around just called the Vice President and the Secretary of State "hacks" and "puppets" of a 38-year old creative writing graduate.

There's more.

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