Archive for Presidential Race


No, it’s not a metaphor. Really.

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Comedy writer and playwright David Castro shared some impressions of Thursday’s Republican presidential debate:

Some final thoughts on the 10 Guys at Open Mic Nite at the Chuckle Hut in Cleveland:

1. How did Ben Carson operate as a neurosurgeon when he can barely open his eyes?

2. I want to see Trump and Rand Paul in a wind tunnel.

3. Jeb Bush isn’t even the kind of guy his brother would want to have a beer with.

4. Marco Rubio says he knows what it’s like living paycheck to paycheck. What else does he know?

5. Mike Huckabee said the Supreme Court isn’t the Supreme Being. Is this that Cthulu I’ve heard so much about?

6. Chris Christie is clearly running to be the head of the Five Families.

7. Mike Huckabee believes in DNA so his finally accepting the heliocentric view of our solar system is not out of the question.

8. This Kasich guy – he arm-wrestled Carly Fiorina and won the right to be here, right?

9. Ted Cruz – look up the etymology of decimated. You were decimated tonight.

10. Scott Walker looks like the church group youth leader that parents know not to leave their kids with.

Man’s Dominion,” David’s show about a 1916 lynching in Erwin, Tennessee drew great reviews at the Hollywood and Toronto Fringe Festivals. The good people of Erwin once lynched a circus elephant. No, really.

“Man’s Dominion” is at the Chicago Fringe Festival – Sept 3 – 13, 2015.

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Trump on America: We suck

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There will be hundreds of commentaries written today about last night’s Republican debates. The most interesting exchange last night, however, was over Donald Trump’s campaign donations:

BAIER: You’ve also supported a host of other liberal policies, you’ve also donated to several Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton included, Nancy Pelosi. You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business related favors. And you said recently, quote, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.

TRUMP: You better believe it… I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. And that’s a broken system.

BAIER: So what did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

TRUMP: I’ll tell you what. With Hillary Clinton, I said, be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice! Because I gave.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court was watching.

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Who Wants To Be A President?

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Luxury yachts in Saint-Tropez, France. By Ed g2s (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Hiroshima at 70, the Voting Rights Act at 50, Jon Stewart, tonight’s Republican debate, the Texas voter ID ruling. It’s a bit much to take in before work. But I’m going to go with what E.J. Dionne calls Bernie Sanders’ “authentic authenticity” and what that, plus Donald Trump lapping the Republican presidential field in the polls, says about the mood of the country.

Dionne explains that Bernie Sanders “taps into a deep frustration with inequality and the power of big money in politics while also reflecting the public’s interest in bold proposals to correct both.” But at the New Yorker, James Surowiecki observes that fully one third of Republicans with no college education support the candidacy of Donald Trump. They support the billionaire, according to pollster Stanley Greenberg, because of their deep sense that the system is corrupt and that Trump can’t be bought.

Why then would they not demand Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, both of whom have established bona fides in that area? Besides political tribalism, perhaps it’s the money, and because Trump is the perfect game-show candidate. Because as jaded as they may be, voters still haven’t let go of the American dream. Plus, decades of quiz shows (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) and reality TV have programmed them to think they’re just one right answer or good idea away from being Donald Trump, the showman. Surowiecki writes:

Trump is hardly the first Western plutocrat to venture into politics. Think of William Randolph Hearst or, more recently, Silvio Berlusconi. But both Hearst and Berlusconi benefitted from controlling media empires. Trump has earned publicity all on his own, by playing the role of that quintessential American figure the huckster. As others have observed, the businessman he most resembles is P. T. Barnum, whose success rested on what he called “humbug,” defined as “putting on glittering appearances . . . by which to suddenly arrest public attention, and attract the public eye and ear.” Barnum’s key insight into how to arrest public attention was that, to some degree, Americans enjoy brazen exaggeration. No American businessman since Barnum has been a better master of humbug than Trump has.

There’s one born every minute, and Trump has suckered his share of drought-stricken dirt farmers into thinking he’s an economic rainmaker. But there’s a difference, explains Dionne:

As for alienation from the system, Trump and Sanders do speak to a disaffection that currently roils most of the world’s democracies. But their way of doing it is so radically different — Sanders resolutely programmatic, Trump all about feelings, affect and showmanship — that they cannot easily be subsumed as part of the same phenomenon. Sanders’s candidacy will leave behind policy markers and arguments about the future. Trump’s legacy will be almost entirely about himself, which is probably fine with him.

True. But whether Sanders’ candidacy, if unsuccessful, has any policy legacy on the left remains to be seen.

Finally, I’ll welcome back Charlie Pierce from his vacation. Pierce looks at the Jade Helm 15 nonsense and the arrest of three North Carolina men for preparing to meet the Kenyan usurper’s martial law with improvised explosives. It is symptomatic of some Americans’ darker response to disaffection:

For all the talk about how Donald Trump has tapped into some general dissatisfaction with government and some ill-defined populist moment, the energy behind his campaign comes mainly from these sad and angry places, deep in the tangled underbrush of fear, hate, and profitable ignorance, where it’s all funny until somebody builds a bomb.

But tonight, at least, it’s Bread and Circuses in Cleveland.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Poseur for president

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During one sequence in Buster Keaton’s comedy The General, the hapless train engineer Johnnie Gray (Keaton) finds himself caught in a battle between Union forces and Confederate Army friendlies. Finding a sword, Johnnie discovers that when he brandishes it (the way officers do) Confederate soldiers mistake him for someone actually in charge.

That also works for Donald Trump: posture as if you are a leader and people will think you are. He’s just better at it than his fellow poseurs.

Washington Monthly‘s Nancy LeTourneau believes Trump is what you get when you follow Republican rhetoric “to its logical (?) conclusion“:

What is it that Trump is suggesting he would do on the issues the Republicans are so concerned about. When it comes to Obamacare, he’d “repeal it and replace it with something terrific.” Sounds good, huh?

And when it comes to the 11 million undocumented workers in this country, just round ‘em up and get rid of them. If you think that Mexican immigrants are nothing more than rapists and murderers, that sounds good too, doesn’t it? But don’t bother fretting your pretty little head about how to go about doing that. Donald will “manage” it.

As I said, this is the “logical” conclusion of the path Republicans have taken. Climate change…deny it. Iran nuclear deal…oppose it. Terrorism…talk tough, but don’t get into specifics. Their own party leaders are admitting that their agenda is being set by a conservative media that “doesn’t give a damn about governing.

Governing requires compromise, and compromise is for wusses like Alexander Hamilton, the subject of a new musical:

Ron Chernow, whose biography of Hamilton inspired the musical, said that compromise was the timeliest theme in the musical. “What Lin is showing is that it’s very easy when you’re in the political opposition to take extreme ideological positions, but when you’re dealing with real power, you have to engage in messy realities and compromises to move forward,” Mr. Chernow said.

Trump supporters such as last week’s New Hampshire focus group don’t want leaders who school them in messy realities. They want to feel “strength and power.” They want a wise-cracking, Daddy Warbucks action figure, someone to step in, talk tough, and solve problems with a punch or a roundhouse kick. They don’t just want to vote for Trump; they want to be him.

LeTourneau writes, “They have an idealized view of America where white men are in charge, authority is unquestioned, and the world bows to our dominance. The fact that things are more complicated than that pisses them off.” Trump is the big, swinging d*ck who can fix anything with a wave of his, uh, hand.

Daddy Donald is just the ticket, a more manly version of these kiddie-show problem solvers: [above]

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Tax records released this week show that since leaving the White House the Clintons have done pretty well for themselves. Jonathan Allen explains at Vox, comparing Hillary’s finances to Jeb!’s:

Friday’s disclosures make clear that Clinton has made a lot more money than Bush. She’s paid $57.5 million in taxes since 2007, well more than the $38 million Bush made between 1981 and 2013. In 2013, the most lucrative year for which he has provided information, Bush made $7.36 million. That year, the Clintons pulled in $27.47 million.

They also earned $28.3 million in 2014, paying an effective tax rate that year of 45.8 percent in federal, state and local taxes — partly due to the tax joys of living in New York. Their biggest source of income in recent years has been paid speeches, a fact reinforced by Friday’s first-time disclosure of $22.3 million in earnings from lecture-circuit stops in 2013.

For his part, Jeb! has been paying “roughly 36 percent” in a state with no income tax, and to my recollection has not been gauche enough to whine about it, or else he just learned from his father’s “read my lips” #fail. Jeb! has in fact refused to sign Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge.

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Next come the phony quotes

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Donald Trump continues to wow the GOP’s nativist base. Jeff Tiedrich explained why yesterday in a Tweet:

Michael Savage interviewed Donald Trump on his radio show yesterday, declaring, “I’m for Trump. Point-blank. Best choice we have.” The two discussed voter identification laws, immigration and the Iran nuclear agreement.

Savage called Trump the “Winston Churchill of our time.”

Next come the phony Trump quotes, I guess: “You can always count on Americans to pick the right president – after they’ve tried everybody else.”

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Clown car or musical chairs?

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license”.
Attribution: Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

There are only 10 chairs onstage for the first GOP presidential debate on August 6 in Cleveland. The clowns are circling, circling, circling, tripping over their big shoes and eyeing each other, listening for Katie Perry to stop singing “Roar.” Several are going to be left without a chair.

Politico calls the GOP race for 10th place a “Darwinian struggle for survival.” Couldn’t happen to a better bunch of social Darwinists:

Debate host Fox News has decided that only the top 10 contenders, determined by an average of national polls out by Aug. 4, will merit a spot onstage — setting off a Darwinian struggle that has some candidates taking desperate measures to try to move their numbers, and others spinning away their near-certain failure to qualify. Several campaigns also are already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads to boost their profiles, even though the Iowa caucuses are six months away.

So who will be left when the music stops?

According to POLITICO’s latest average of national polls, eight candidates are looking like a lock for the debate: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson. Perry and Chris Christie are in for now, but only barely. Those still with a chance to make the stage are John Kasich, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal. For the other candidates — Carly Fiorina, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham and Jim Gilmore — it will be very difficult to get to Cleveland.

It’s not looking good for Graham:

“I think it sucks,” the South Carolina senator said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Gentlemen, start your blenders.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the ALEC States of America

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Milton Friedman from The Hoover Institution on FORA.tvRepublican presidential hopeful Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is in San Diego this morning to address the 2015 convention of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). If politicians really did wear sponsors’ logos on their jackets like NASCAR drivers, Walker’s relationship with ALEC’s funders would win him the pole position:

It is a relationship that spans two decades. Since he first took public office in 1993 as a Wisconsin legislator, through to his current position as that state’s governor, Walker has maintained close ties to Alec, with policies to match. Many of Walker’s most contentious actions – a tough-on-crime bill that sent incarceration rates soaring, stand-your-ground gun laws, protection of corporate vested interests, attacks on union rights and many more – have borne the Alec seal of approval.

Should Walker win the Republican nomination in 2016 (a plausible outcome) and then defeat the Democratic candidate to take the presidency (a harder, though not unthinkable, challenge) he would become the first Alec alum to enter the Oval Office. In short, it is now possible to conceive of the first Alec president of the United States.

See Merriam-Webster’s definition for “shill.”

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Now that’s a low blow

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Donald Trump seems determined to turn the GOP presidential primary into his next reality show, and to drag other Republican aspirants with him. Check out this Trump twofer insult of Lindsey Graham and former Texas governor Rick Perry. From Politico:

On Tuesday, Trump ramped up his attacks on the South Carolina senator — who made headlines Monday for calling the Donald a “jackass” — and even gave out Graham’s private phone number.

Trump began his rambling diatribe by calling Graham a “lightweight” and an “idiot.”

“He doesn’t seem like a very bright guy. He actually probably seems to me not as bright as Rick Perry. I think Rick Perry probably is smarter than Lindsey Graham,” Trump added, riffing on prior insults he had lobbed at the former Texas governor.

Oh, my.

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Catching up is hard to do

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One reason Donald Trump gets the attention he does is that he’s Donald Trump. He is already a household name. Becoming one as a presidential candidate takes a lot of money, shoe leather, and time. Bernie Sanders will need all three. The Washington Post explains:

A new Washington Post-ABC News national poll offers a fresh look at Clinton’s and Sanders’s standing among Democrats. The survey finds Clinton is overwhelmingly popular across the Democratic Party, but Sanders is a far-less-familiar pol and is weak among a handful of key voting blocs.

Overall, 82 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of Clinton, while 15 percent are unfavorable (a scant 3 percent have no opinion). Sanders’s favorable rating is 36 percent among Democrats, with even more offering no opinion of him. Nearly a quarter — 23 percent — give Sanders negative marks. That’s notable because, despite being better-known than Clinton, his negatives are eight percentage points higher than Clinton.

I assume the Post meant that to say “less-known than Clinton.”

While strong among liberal Democrats, Sanders is still weak with moderate and conservative Democrats, those without college degrees, and non-whites. A high percentage of those groups have no opinion of Sanders, while Hillary Clinton’s favorables are high, unfavorables are low, and virtually no Democrats have no opinion of her. She’s a household name.

That’s a tough, but not insurmountable hill to climb for a Clinton challenger like Sanders. Some little-known guy named Obama has some experience with that.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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