Wednesday, September 28, 2016

By Benen

Esta hu sangani hamyo na gof ya-hu i bidada-na si Steven Benen. Kada diha ha na'huhuyong meggai na tinige' put hafa masusesedi gi botasion Amerikånu para presidente. Fihu gof tinanane' yu' guini giya Guahan, ya mappot para bei taitai todu ya tattiyi todu gi sanlagu. Lao sesso inayuda yu' as Steve Bene. Estague noskuantos na tinige'-na ginen pa'go ha' na diha.


Team Trump Wants Credit for all the wrong reasons
by Steve Benen

During this week’s presidential debate, when the discussion turned to race relations, Donald Trump explained that he opened a golf resort in Palm Beach that doesn’t discriminate against racial or religious minorities. “I have been given great credit for what I did,” the Republican boasted, adding, “I’m very, very proud of it…. That is the true way I feel.”

It was a reminder of one of Trump’s worst habits: he wants credit for doing the things he’s supposed to do anyway. In July, for example, the GOP nominee bragged about complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the construction of his buildings – failing to note that he didn’t have a choice.

It’s as if Trump effectively likes to tell voters, “Look at me! I routinely do what laws and basic human decency require of me!”

The same dynamic applies to the Trump campaign’s post-debate boasts. The Republican and his aides are incredibly impressed by the fact that Trump didn’t bring up Bill Clinton’s infidelities – as if attacking a woman over her husband’s affairs is a perfectly normal thing to do, but Trump is too nice and chivalrous for such boorish behavior.
Donald Trump doesn’t think he’s gotten enough credit for not talking about Bill Clinton’s history of sexual misconduct in Monday’s debate.

Just ask his son, Eric Trump, who said it took “a lot of courage” for the Republican nominee not to attack the former president. Or his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who told MSNBC on Tuesday that Trump showed “presidential virtue” by not talking about the Clinton scandals.
Eric Trump couldn’t stop raving about this, characterizing it as some kind of moral triumph. “That was a big moment for me,” he told an Iowa radio station yesterday, adding his father’s reluctance to attack a woman over her husband’s adulterous past “will be something I’ll always remember.”

This is more than a little bizarre.

Right off the bat, let’s note that a candidate doesn’t get credit for refraining from making an attack on Monday if his campaign proceeds to make that same attack, over and over again, on Tuesday and Wednesday. “Let’s talk all about Bill Clinton’s affairs while bragging about remaining silent on Bill Clinton’s affairs” is an inherently nonsensical sentiment.

For that matter, there’s nothing especially virtuous about failing to condemn Hillary Clinton over Bill Clinton’s personal misconduct. The very idea that the public should blame a wife if a husband strays is absurd.

As for Eric Trump, if the candidate’s son seriously believes this is a great example of his father’s “courage,” that doesn’t exactly make Donald Trump look good.

But even if we put all of that aside, perhaps the strangest thing of all is the fact that Donald Trump is himself an admitted adulterer. The Republican nominee doesn’t exactly have the moral high ground when it comes to extra-marital affairs – and he’s on especially shaky footing when trying to go after Bill Clinton’s wife, rather than Bill Clinton himself.

Indeed, here’s the question Team Trump may want to consider while launching this coordinated attack about ’90s-era sex scandals: Hillary Clinton could have brought up Trump’s adulterous past during the debate, but she didn’t. Did that take “a lot of courage,” too? Is Clinton also getting too little credit for her generous graciousness?

Was Clinton’s reluctance to bring up Trump’s affairs a moment her daughter should “always remember” as a classic example of Clinton’s towering magnanimity?

Postscript: Rep. Marsha Blackburn told MSNBC yesterday. “I find it so interesting that there continues to be this conversation about what [Trump] has said when you look at what [Hilllary Clinton] has done: Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky. My goodness.”

My goodness, indeed. Could the far-right rhetoric on this issue become any more ridiculous?


 Has Donald Trump paid Federal Taxes or Not?
by Steve Benen

It was arguably one of the most important moments of this week’s presidential debate. Hillary Clinton was speculating about why Donald Trump would choose to be the first modern American presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. “Maybe,” she said, “he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Unprompted, Trump interrupted to say, “That makes me smart.”

A Washington Post reporter, watching the debate with undecided voters in North Carolina, noted there were “gasps” in the room after the exchange. “That’s offensive. I pay taxes,” one said. “Another person would be in jail for that,” another voter added.

With Clinton eager to let voters know about Trump’s comments, the GOP nominee made yet another Fox News appearance last night, where Bill O’Reilly brought up the issue. From the transcript via Lexis Nexis:
O’REILLY: Now, they are going to come after you, they being the Clinton campaign, on the statement that you made that you were as smart for paying as few taxes as you could possibly pay. You know it’s going to be in the next debate, it’s going to be on campaign ads. Do you have any defense for that right now?

TRUMP: No, I didn’t say that. What she said is maybe you paid no taxes. I said, “Well, that would make me very smart.” … I never said I didn’t pay taxes. She said maybe you didn’t pay taxes and I said, “Well, that would make me smart because tax is a big payment.” But I think a lot of people say, “That’s the kind of thinking that I want running this nation.”
Perhaps now would be a good time to note that “That makes me smart” and “That would make me smart” are not the same sentences.

Indeed, let’s also not forget that in the same debate, Trump talked about how the government doesn’t have the necessary resources for public needs. “Maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years,” Clinton interjected. Trump fired back, “It would be squandered, too.”

As we discussed the other day, comment was striking because of its apparent acceptance of the underlying premise. By saying his tax money would have been “squandered,” Trump seemed to be conceding that Clinton’s argument was correct: he hasn’t paid taxes.

What’s more, the Washington Post reported, “One big problem with Trump’s comments Wednesday is that there is a record of him paying no or very little income taxes. Of the five years for which we have a record of Trump’s taxes, he didn’t pay any or nearly any. So for Trump to suggest that he hasn’t avoided paying income taxes at some point is disingenuous, at best.”

Of course, Trump could clear up a lot of this by doing what every major-party presidential candidate has done for decades: release his tax returns. So far, he continues to refuse, for reasons that have failed to stand up to any scrutiny.


Why the Nuclear First Use Debate Matters in the 2016 Race
by Steven Benen

It’s difficult to choose the single most alarming thing Donald Trump said about foreign policy and national security at this week’s presidential debate, in part because there are so many unsettling comments to choose from.

The Republican seemed to believe ISIS has been around for much of Hillary Clinton’s adult life, which isn’t even close to being true. Trump suggested China should invade North Korea. He took credit for NATO policies that he had nothing to do with, while suggesting the NATO alliance itself should be considered as some kind of protection racket.

Trump also insisted, as he has before, that the United States should have stolen Iraq’s oil – which would have been illegal – in order to deny ISIS the resources it’s actually getting from Syria.

But as Rachel noted on the show the other day, the real gem has to be Trump’s woeful understanding of nuclear policy. Moderator Lester Holt asked an excellent question: “On nuclear weapons, President Obama reportedly considered changing the nation’s longstanding policy on first use. Do you support the current policy?”

Trump rambled a bit before eventually saying:
“I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike.

“I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.”
He then rambled some more, straying between a variety of loosely related topics, including his opposition to the international nuclear agreement with Iran.

But for those paying attention, the real problem was with Trump’s obvious contradiction. Policymakers can adopt a “no-first-use” policy or they can endorse a “nothing-is-off-the-table” position, but Donald Trump is one of those rare politicians who wants to take both sides simultaneously.

This followed a GOP primary debate in December at which Trump appeared to have no idea what the nuclear triad referred to. The Republican could have taken advantage of that opportunity, recognizing the importance of getting up to speed on the nuclear basics, but instead Trump seems to have done no homework on the issue at all.

That remained true in the intervening months.
In May, Trump even suggested he could support South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia, who are not currently nuclear powers, arming themselves with nuclear weapons for their own defense.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked the Republican presidential nominee, “So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?”

Trump agreed.

“Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen, anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time,” Trump insisted, despite a 25-year trend in which numerous nations – Libya, South Africa, Iraq, and former Soviet republics – have been denuclearized.
The New York Times’ David Sanger added this week that, during the debate, Trump “appeared somewhere between contradictory and confused” on the nuclear issue.

Given the importance of the issue, that’s not at all reassuring.

 Trump campaign defends its rejection of substance, policy details
by Steve Benen

If anyone on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign should be willing to defend the importance of substantive details, it’s Sam Clovis. He is, after all, one of the Republican candidate’s top policy advisers.

And yet, as BuzzFeed noted yesterday, even Clovis doesn’t want to bother stressing the importance of governing details in the campaign.
Sam Clovis, Donald Trump’s national policy adviser and campaign co-chair, said Monday before the debate that voters don’t care about policy specifics and would be “bored to tears” by them.

“Our approach has been to provide outlook and constructs for policy because if we go into the specific details, we just get murdered in the press. What we’re dealing with [is] we’re chasing minutia around,” Clovis said on the Alan Colmes Show on Fox News’ radio network.
In fairness, Clovis added that he cares about “specificity,” but the campaign has chosen not to get into policy details because these kinds of campaign debates are of no interest to the electorate.

“I think the American people, the American voter, will be bored to tears if that is in fact the way this thing goes,” he said.

It’s a valuable insight, if for no other reason because Clovis’ comments make clear that Team Trump is deliberately avoiding a substantive campaign debate over the issues. For the Republican candidate and his team, it’s a feature, not a bug.

In May, Politico quoted a campaign insider saying Trump didn’t want to “waste time on policy.” The Trump source added at the time, “It won’t be until after he is elected … that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do.”

A month later, the candidate himself added that “the public doesn’t care” about public policy.

Hillary Clinton, obviously, had adopted a very different approach, recently telling voters, “I’ve laid out the best I could, the specific plans and ideas that I want to pursue as your president because I have this old-fashioned idea. When you run for president, you ought to tell people what you want to do as their president.”

As we discussed several weeks ago, according to her Republican rival, this is an antiquated model to be avoided. Indeed, circling back to our previous coverage, I’m reminded of something MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote nearly a month ago, noting a fairly routine profile in Politico on Clinton’s tech policy advisers. It stood out largely because there is no comparable group on Team Trump, which has made a deliberate decision not to build any intellectual infrastructure.

“[U]ltimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box,” Chris concluded. “No one, probably not even Trump, knows what the hell it looks like.”

And that’s not how national campaigns in mature democracies are supposed to work. Candidates for the nation’s highest office are not supposed to mock the very idea of pre-election governing details, vowing instead to figure stuff out after taking office.

It’s a problem exacerbated in Trump’s case because he’s never held elected office; he has no background in public service; and he’s never demonstrated any real interest in government or public policy. What we’re left with is an odd set of circumstances in which voters are apparently supposed to support the least-experienced, least-prepared presidential candidate of the modern era first, and then he’ll let the public know how he intends to govern.

The alternative, according to Trump’s national policy adviser, is a bunch of boring details that are only of interest to nerdy egg-heads. Why bore the electorate “to tears” with detailed information about the direction of their country after the election?

Stick it in a time capsule. Future generations won’t believe it.

Gary Johnson hurts himself with another "Aleppo moment"
by Steven Benen

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, recently appeared on MSNBC and was asked to reflect on the crisis in the Syrian city of Aleppo. He replied, “What is Aleppo?”

Yesterday, Johnson, a former Republican, appeared on MSNBC again, and as Rachel noted on the show last night, he made matters much worse for himself.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said.
Note, Chris Matthews started naming specific countries and continents, apparently hoping to help Johnson focus. The Libertarian nevertheless came up empty. Johnson said he was having a “brain freeze.”

As recently as Monday, Johnson told reporters how concerned he is about current U.S. foreign policy, which he described as “horrible,” and how eager he would have been to discuss the issue with the major-party nominees had he qualified for this week’s official debate. Of course, presidential hopefuls who care deeply about foreign policy can usually name one foreign leader they like.

The broader problem, meanwhile, is Johnson failing to take advantage of the opportunity that’s been presented to him on a silver platter.

There’s ample polling that suggests a sizable number of American voters are open to supporting a credible third-party candidate this year, and on paper, Johnson – a former governor who’s sought national office before – appears well positioned to appeal to those looking for an alternative to the major-party nominee.

This is especially true for Republican-friendly newspaper editorial boards that can’t endorse Hillary Clinton, but don’t want to support Donald Trump.

But in practice, Johnson can’t seem to get out of his own way. His campaign antics are often clownish and confusing; his campaign platform is radical in a way that alienates potential progressive allies; and when given the opportunity to make a good impression before national television audiences, the Libertarian has “Aleppo moments” that suggest Johnson’s presidential candidacy isn’t altogether real.

Yesterday’s “brain freeze” display was just embarrassing, and represented the latest in a series of missed opportunities.

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