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Jason Linkins   |   July 22, 2016   12:16 PM ET

The Republican National Convention is over, and 2016’s movable feast of nonsense and worry now shifts to Philadelphia for the Democratic event. There are many revelations to come, such as the size of GOP nominee Donald Trump’s “convention bounce” in the polls, and the precise metric volume of Democratic Party bed-wetting between the moment this bounce is revealed and the moment when Hillary Clinton gets the chance to earn a bounce of her own.

But if you’re looking to pass the time between then and now, might I suggest we play an anxiety-inducing game together?

The last time the good folks at The Upshot ― the dedicated team of number crunchers at The New York Times ― ran a model of the general election, it was before the GOP convention in Cleveland. And they had a very concise and illustrative way of placing their projection in real-world terms: 

For now, at least, Hillary Clinton has a 76 percent chance of defeating Donald Trump to become president of the United States.

A victory by Mr. Trump remains quite possible: Mrs. Clinton’s chance of losing is about the same probability that an N.B.A. player will miss a free throw.

Everyone can picture an NBA free throw in their mind. Do it now. What do you see? The tickling of twine? The laying of brick? These are both very plausible outcomes. So let’s play.

Pick one word from this paragraph and click on it. You only get one choice! And there are no backsies. This will simulate the election.

So how did you do? Did you extinguish the flame of centuries of Enlightenment thought or nah?

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   July 20, 2016   12:10 PM ET


Anyone looking to tune in to the Republican National Convention this week to hear from the man the GOP is seeking to send to Washington to run the country needs to adjust their DVRs, because that speech won’t be given by Republican presidential nominee and apocalyptic circus peanut Donald Trump on Thursday. Rather, it will be given by the party’s vice-presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, on Wednesday night.


So what gives? Well, it’s not entirely surprising. See, Trump has, throughout his campaign, made it clear that he believes that being president is a really easy job ― no sweat for him! But if you want to get a sense of just how easy Trump imagines the office to be, you should check out the Robert Draper’s account of how Trump came to select Pence as his running mate in The New York Times Magazine. It begins with Trump’s eldest son making a back-channel overture to Ohio governor John Kasich, offering him the chance to be Trump’s running mate:



One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?


When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.



All Dick Cheney jokes aside, let’s remember that the real job of the vice president is actually something like, “being alive on the off-chance the president is not,” not “assuming the duties of the presidency in toto for the duration of the president’s term.” It sort of makes you wonder how Trump envisions the actual role of the country’s chief executive. It certainly made this senior adviser to John Kasich wonder, so he asked Trump’s son what Trump would be doing, if not managing foreign and domestic policy. The response, according to Draper, was: “Making America great again.”


And one wonders why Kasich refuses to endorse Donald Trump. Put yourself in Kasich’s shoes: As he did with the entire GOP field during the primary, Donald Trump never missed the opportunity to mercilessly mock the Ohio governor, referring to him as a loser, and then he turns around and asks him to, essentially, run the country on his behalf. Really, who would have guessed that Donald Trump, in seeking the presidency, wants to claim all of the trappings of the office and none of the responsibility?


At any rate, someone should maybe ask the Indiana governor what he thinks about all of this, given that if America fails to be “great again” after four years of a Trump presidency, it’ll be Pence who’s on the hook for that.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   July 12, 2016   11:35 AM ET


Sometime very soon, we’re going to find out if Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin was correct when he predicted that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would name “a prominent Republican” to be her vice president. This would be a staggeringly strange thing for Clinton to do, given a couple simple facts: First of all, the role of the vice president is to serve as the chief executive in the event of the president’s death or incapacitation, and secondly, the Democratic Party establishment will probably prefer this running mate be a Democrat, the better to keep doing Democratic party stuff should something terrible occur.


So Halperin’s prediction ― which he’s famously based on “instinct and a little bit of reporting” ― is likely to come to naught, just like his 2012 hunch that Mitt Romney would choose Ohio Sen. Rob Portman as his running mate, and his 2008 conjecture that Barack Obama would name Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar as his.


But I’m not here to bury Mark Halperin, because let’s face it, he is hardly alone in the world of outlandish vice presidential augury. Throughout the run-up to the 2012 election, supposedly serious people traded in speculation that Obama would kick Joe Biden off the ticket in favor of Hillary Clinton, because people at Beltway cocktail parties were talking about it. In 2004, the New York Post ― billing it as an “exclusive” ― announced on the cover of its tabloid that Democratic nominee John Kerry had definitely picked Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt as his running mate, when he’d actually picked North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. ("We unreservedly apologize for our mistake,” said Post editor Col Allan, no doubt ruing the missed opportunity to just run something racist in the front of his broadsheet.)


Heck, I will confess to you that I once said Mitt Romney was going to choose New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte as his vice president. I went on to provide a list of reasons why, speaking out loud and with real intensity. I don’t know what possessed me to assemble an argument for Ayotte’s candidacy. It was like an odd dream I’d had ― a dream that ended when I came to find out that the Romney campaign’s internal nickname for Ayotte was “the energy vampire.”


Why do we bother making ornate vice presidential prognostications? What would have been lost if the New York Post had just waited a few more hours to run its story? What benefit is there to being right in making a projection about such a low-stakes matter? Is it all about that little burst of brain-chemical cocktail that races into our veins when we perceive ourselves to be on the razor’s edge of political prognostication? Because it can feel really good in the moment, when we are cogitating on the matter. Later, however, it becomes one of those things we in which we regret having indulged.


The reason I’m wondering about this is because right now, the media is fixated on who presumptive GOP nominee and detached Kuato Donald Trump might choose as his vice president. Over the past few weeks, the presumed apple of Trump’s eye has shifted to one person or another. At one point last week, Newt Gingrich was the presumed favorite. For a brief, mad moment, some guy named Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was said to be in, like his last name. And while Trump is bad at most aspects of campaigning, he is really, really good at playing a media that’s seething to know who he’ll pick as his partner in (probably actual) crime:






You’ll likely encounter headlines like this in the wild: “Report: ‘95 percent probability’ of Pence as Trump VP.” Where does that come from? Well, this story exists because the Washington Times got a convention delegate named James Bopp on the record, and he assigned that probability to Trump picking Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate based on an abrupt change in Trump’s schedule and the fact that Indiana’s House Speaker, Brian Bosma, hit him up for advice on running for governor. In essence, this is based on multiple layers of some random person’s presumptions.


Really, this “95 percent probability” number is just one man’s 50-50 crapshoot combined with a healthy dash of bravado. It could be correct, or not, and there are plenty of opinions one way or the other. Which is probably the whole point: All that we in the media ask of the world is to be given a bright, shiny ball with which to play, to be replaced with a brighter, shinier ball the minute it seems we might get bored.


Let’s face it, vice presidential speculation wouldn’t exist if those of us in the political media weren’t in a mad dash to put on the best display of performative savviness ― and the veepstakes squarely hit the sweet spot where pseudo-intellectual posturing and impossibly low stakes squarely intersect. We know that being correct will earn us a tiny gold star, while our harmless cock-ups will be quickly forgotten.


Typically, when we begin the veepstakes season, we like to form lists of potential candidates that are designed to demonstrate that we’re fully in tune with polite unanimity, but also stylishly daring. This allows us to have polite panel discussions where we all basically agree while also having a moment to bask in the depth of our super-substantial thoughts.


Basically, we talk about potential V.P. candidates the way armchair movie critics talk about the Coen Brothers’ filmography: 






See, we all agree with each other on the consensus picks ― those sturdy elders and zazzy up-and-comers that Beltway wags fixate on as potential ticket-fillers at the nascent stage of the presidential primary, as well as the occasional primary loser who nevertheless showed a little vice presidential potential. But we also have a vested interest in showing off just how knowledgable we are about arcana, and how we have great command of the obscure. 


Along the way, we trade in folk wisdom about vice presidents. Maybe some governor could help the candidate pick up a swing state’s electoral votes! Maybe a general, or a businessman, could fill in the nominee’s knowledge gap. Perhaps what the candidate needs is a vibrant dash of racial or gender diversity! We stroke our chins over these and other magic criteria, bound in the belief that somewhere out there exists a rug that will bring the whole room together. We cling to these beliefs against the urgings of political scientists reminding us that they are mostly bullshit. And these beliefs persist in spite of the fact that over and over again, they don’t bear fruit.


And that is, perhaps, the most ironic thing about our obsession with vice presidential contenders. Once the candidate is named and they’re out hustling, we discover they are only really intriguing when they fail. We notice when they don’t deliver their home state’s votes, when their super-specific cache of knowledge pales in comparison to their overall lack of depth, and ― yes ― when they single-handedly decimate the last hopes of Sen. John McCain. That’s when they are interesting.


What’s more, for all of our talk, we would never in a million years credit the vice presidential candidate for the success of his or her ticket. It just doesn’t happen. We’re all too drunk on Great Man Theory, the broad sweep of capital-H History, and all those enduring myths about Great Communicators and Fireside Chatters to ever rob a victorious presidential candidate of the credit. No one in their right mind would contend that Barack Obama won two elections because of something Joe Biden did. 


And yet, here’s the thing about all this time we spend picking through bird entrails in an attempt to divine a candidates’ help-mates: It might be one of the least cynical activities in which the people who cover politics engage. It’s definitely one of the only times we aren’t wholly fiending on failure and inadequacy like hopped-up schadenfreude junkies. At the root of our obsession lies a naive belief that there’s someone out there who can fill in all the gaps, square all the circles, and knit up the ragged hem of the weird egomaniacs who believe they deserve to run the free world.


So dream those dizzy dreams, Mark Halperin. And keep a little hope alive that there might be some player-to-be-named who can arrive on the scene to lend coherence to the election season spectacle. Here in 2016’s presidential cycle, which often feels like the final season of a television series that’s gone way off the rails, we need to cling to these beliefs as long as we can, especially now that we’ve got a funny feeling about what’s to come.






Sorry, Mike Pence! (Maybe?)

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   June 23, 2016   12:45 PM ET

Just over two weeks ago, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) made news when he became the first of his Republican legislative colleagues to rescind a previously extended endorsement of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump. Now, as Politico's Kevin Robillard reports, he's set to become another famous first in the Trump era: 

The Chicago Tribune confirms that this 30-second spot will be part of a large ad buy -- to the tune of "about $230,000 in broadcast time for the weeklong buy and another $35,520 in cable TV time in Chicago."

The ad, titled "Even More," aims to present Kirk as an independent-minded, bipartisan legislator. Among other things, it points to his pro-choice bona fides and his support for a Senate hearing on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

But most notably, it takes great care to mention his opposition to Trump. Over a parade of floating headlines, the ad's narrator intones, "And Mark Kirk bucked his party to say that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander-in-chief."

There's another politician who is conspicuously not named in the ad -- Kirk's opponent in his re-election bid, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). In 2010, Kirk squeaked out a win over then-Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias to reach the Senate. Duckworth is a bona fide political superstar -- albeit one who is currently dogged by a civil lawsuit alleging various ethics violations.

There aren't likely to be many Republican incumbents -- especially vulnerable incumbents -- who openly disparage their party's nominee in this fashion. However, the particulars of Kirk's race -- deep blue state, popular Democratic opponent, incumbent who won by a thin margin in a wave election -- probably make slagging Trump in public an essential part of the calculus.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   June 22, 2016    1:35 PM ET

As we've previously reported, a significant number of convention delegates are conspiring to stop Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in what would amount to a smash-and-grab heist of the nomination. The mission is daring, a high-wire act with no real certainty of success. To pull it off, the anti-Trump delegate cabal would need quite a bit of help. Here's something they don't need however:

Noooooo, Bill Kristol! My man! You have one job and that's to never offer up predictions. You know this! I mean, look at this nonsense. You are currently competing with ESPN's Steven A. Smith in a desperate battle to see whose oracular abilities are the most star-crossed. 

As The Washington Post's Paul Farhi noted back in February, a black swan event occurred in the lead-up to the GOP primary season: Kristol managed to make two accurate predictions. The Weekly Standard's standard-bearer correctly saw that Rand Paul was not going to succeed in the Republicans' crowded presidential field, and -- in a genuinely nervy moment -- he accurately foretold that Jeb Bush would not win his party's nomination either. “I think there’s no way there will be a Bush-Clinton race in 2016,” he said, in a moment of prescience that rarely comes his way.

Most of the time, however, Kristol's prognostications portend doom for whatever enterprises he seeks to anoint. What he should be doing now is basking in his momentary success and properly anticipating that a reversion to the mean was in the offing. Instead, he's gone all out, predicting that GOP chair Reince Priebus -- who's hitherto demonstrated the fortitude of a box kite trapped in a heavy wind -- will provide the anti-Trump effort with the steely leadership it needs to succeed.

Oh well, R.I.P., Stop Trump Movement.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   June 8, 2016    2:54 PM ET

If you're like, say, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) -- who's given presumptive GOP presidential nominee and foaming man-possum Donald Trump three weeks to "fix" his campaign -- you might be nervously watching for signs that Trump is undertaking an effort to bring order to an organization that has lately lapsed into chaos. Giving a speech with a teleprompter in which the overt white-supremacist content was dialed back a notch might have been a good start. 

But then you read the interview that Trump just gave Bloomberg News and ... wow. I don't know, you guys. Go read the whole thing -- it's a genuine doozy.

As Bloomberg's Michael Bender and Jennifer Jacobs report, there is much that seems off, perhaps even delusional, about how Trump sees the next part of his electoral strategy playing out. He seems not to understand how expensive an undertaking this race is going to be (or he's realizing that donors don't want to be associated with him), and he believes that living off the land of free media is sufficient to the task. Speaking of all that free media, he also seems to think that the issues that have dogged him over the past week -- Trump University and his disparagement of Judge Gonzalo Curiel -- are now effectively in the rear-view mirror.

What might be most alarming to veteran GOP figures is how Trump details his process for choosing a running mate. Bender and Jacobs report that Trump has narrowed his search to four or five politicians, plus two "respected military officials." Of the latter two, Trump says that he probably won't choose them because he believes he will "do very well on national security." (For a counterpoint, see Ian Bremmer in Politico.)

Why Trump would say he'd short-listed two military experts if he's not seriously thinking about choosing them is a genuine mystery. Maybe he reckons they'll be honored just to be on the short list? 

Trump says that the benefit of picking a politician is that the "voters and the media" will have already vetted the person. What this says is that Trump really isn't planning to vet his own candidates, which is generally seen as the essential thing to do when selecting a running mate. As a team of experts at the Bipartisan Policy Center laid out, there are five steps to picking a vice presidential candidate, which I've previously summarized like so:

  1. Take a deep breath, and come up with some names.

  2. Vet their public records.

  3. Narrow the choices and vet them again, this time taking an “‘intrusive’ look at the contenders’ personal lives, including medical and financial matters that could be embarrassing to the ticket.”

  4. Tell your prospects to their faces what you found out and browbeat them into revealing anything that was not “unearthed but which could come out in the media.”

  5. Make a choice, and then pray you did your due diligence and didn’t pick a liar.

So literally three of the steps involve the campaign personally vetting each candidate. Of course, you need to actually have a competent campaign to perform these tasks, and what Trump has is a gaggle of anger-management candidates fighting an anonymously sourced civil war with one other.

Still more unnerving is the process by which he'll disclose his eventual selection. As Bender and Jacobs relate, there has been some tension within the campaign over this, in which "some advisers have worried that Trump may decide on his own to post the announcement on Twitter one night with little warning." But this actually sounds like the saner alternative after Trump describes what he'd really like to do:

"I’d like to save it, give it the old fashioned way, right?” Trump said about keeping the announcement until the convention.

Trump said he'll probably choose one of four or five politicians, and that his short list includes some vanquished rivals who have dropped out of the 2016 presidential race. He is considering at least one ex-rival who has so far refused to endorse him, but who will "come over to my side," he predicted.

Hold up now, let me get this straight: He's going to wait until the convention to make his pick, and it could end up being someone who has not offered Trump an endorsement but who Trump thinks will join up with him anyway? Ordinarily I'd say, "Well, surely he wouldn't actually fail to apprise the selectee of his decision, and nail down whether they'd actually accept the position." But Trump is so enamored of wielding the element of surprise, and so steeped in reality-television tropes, that I can genuinely imagine him springing it on some poor sucker, right there on the convention stage.

You can see it, right? There's an audible gasp, the camera cuts to a shocked Marco Rubio, and some previously unseen emcee asks, "Will Marco accept Trump's nomination? Find out after the break." And then after the break, there are several more breaks, after which Rubio finally renders his decision. "Donald, we'll try to make it work," he says, whereupon a torrent of balloons gently waft down from the rafters as Rubio's soul exits his body in the other direction.

Don't get me wrong -- this would be, on a purely demented level, fun as hell to watch. But I would not, as a matter of practice, recommend this. Trump should definitely not put someone on his short list who has heretofore refused to endorse him, let alone actually name that person as his running mate.

But who knows? The way things are going, he may not have a choice.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   June 7, 2016    5:11 PM ET

How's that "pivot to the general election" going? For presumptive GOP nominee and Dunning-Kruger love child Donald Trump, not very well.

Amid multiple reports of campaign incompetence and the constant blowback from his racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, Trump's alienation of the party he hopes to lead has reached something of a tipping point. Tuesday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) became the first major Republican figure to retract his endorsement. Talk of a contested convention -- which: how exactly? -- has resumed. And now, as Yahoo News' Olivier Knox reports, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) has issued something of an ultimatum:

Donald Trump has two to three weeks to fix his campaign or risk losing enough Republican support that it would doom his run for the presidency, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker told Yahoo News on Tuesday.

“He’s obviously stepped in it. He’s made statements that are inappropriate,” Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said in a telephone interview. The senator was referring to Trump’s widely condemned declaration that a Mexican-American judge is unfit to preside over a Trump University lawsuit because of the judge’s heritage.

Corker went on to say that Trump had entered a "defining period" in which he absolutely must "pivot" to becoming an acceptable "general election candidate." And if you've never heard of this defining period before, well, that's because no major party's candidate has really ever faffed up the post-primary period quite like Trump has.

Of course, no major party candidate comported himself with such reckless disregard for societal norms during the primary process either, so it's hard to see Corker's three-weeks-to-fix-this-or-GTFO deadline as anything other than late in coming. But as the New Republic's Jeet Heer theorizes, Trump's disparagement of Curiel seems to have been, at last, the proverbial bridge too far:

What makes the Curiel case so special that Republicans are acting as if Trump has finally crossed the line? The most likely explanation is that Curiel is a member of the governing elite, like Gingrich and Ryan, and in his capacity as a judge is part of the supposedly apolitical ruling class. Joseph McCarthy followed a similar trajectory: He destroyed the lives of countless Americans with his demagogic anti-communism, but only received bipartisan pushback when he went after the Army in 1954.

As Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall shrewdly noted on Twitter, Curiel is a specific individual with a biography, whereas the objects of Trump’s other attacks were mainly hypotheticals. Trump was promising to bar Muslims and deport undocumented immigrants, but the very fact that these measures would encompass millions of faceless people makes them hard to think about except in abstract terms.

Heer goes on to note that what made Trump's attacks on people like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and others more acceptable is that those could always be chalked up to "politics ain't beanbag." Those insults came at a time when Trump was, as they say, "in the arena," competing against his fellow candidates and the GOP establishment writ large to win the primary. 

Now, Corker believes that Trump has basically got to snap to it and get domesticated in a hurry, telling Knox: "He’s got a period of time here that is incredibly important to his campaign to demonstrate that he has the ability to become a general election candidate, to move away from personality issues and move more towards substantive policy issues.”

The question is, can this be fixed, and who can possibly fix it?

No, no, come on now, let's leave Jeb alone.

It would appear that Trump is aware that he is really cocking this up quite badly. As of this writing, Trump has not tweeted all day, which has to be killing him inside. What he has done, is put out a statement on the Judge Curiel controversy, in which he attempts a gymnastic act of pretend-contrition, blending the passive voice with further carping that he's been treated unfairly in the Trump University case. (Which he hasn't, by the way.)

Basically, Trump is of the opinion that everyone who heard him take numerous shots at Curiel, in which he broadly suggested that his "Mexican heritage" made it impossible for him to justly preside over the ongoing fraud case against Trump University, did not hear him correctly, and he's really sorry that everyone got it wrong.

It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent. The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard. I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.

What follows from there are numerous paragraphs of whinging and prevarication and another shot at Mexico, leaving one to wonder what he is, in fact, attempting to walk back.

Another hasty "fix" seems to have been implemented for Trump's speech Tuesday night:

Ahh, teleprompters: your one-step solution to ridding yourself of white supremacy.

Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- who found in The Donald a candidate who combined his affection for foreign autocrats with his desire for a shorter commute -- told The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman that Trump is in the middle of an important period, during which he'll have to prove to the American people that he can "fill the chair." In this way, Manafort and Corker can be said to have aligned opinions on the matter. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Trump is, thus far, "filling the chair" in the style of an unhousebroken dog.

But he's got three weeks to fix this. Stay tuned!

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   June 7, 2016   10:30 AM ET


[Updated, below.] Recent reports suggest the campaign of Donald Trump, presumptive GOP nominee and irate cartoon volcano, just might be a vastly disorganized mess. Too small to surmount basic challenges, yet riddled with toxic infighting, Trump's organization is reportedly struggling to create a cogent narrative for the candidate and corral his noxious public impulses. Trump himself has countermanded directives issued by his top staff, and seems to not even have met some of the more critical figures in his employ.


Clearly, something needs to be done. So it looks like they might bring on... Dick Morris? Yeah, that should definitely solve everything.*


Rumors of a Trump-Morris alliance stirred to life on Monday after New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, citing "two sources with direct knowledge," reported that the Trump team is talking with Morris about bringing him on board as a campaign strategist. This news comes days after it was revealed that Morris' latest stop on his downward spiral would be serving as the chief political correspondent for the National Enquirer.


Morris, the patron saint of below-average white guys, most recently made a name for himself as the most unerringly erring pundit from the 2012 election cycle, in which he predicted that Mitt Romney would win in an epic landslide, among other wrong things. Since then, Morris has attempted to get in on the scam investment game, pitching penny stocks to unsuspecting rubes in sponsored email blasts.


It's been a good long while since Morris was a valued political strategist to President Bill Clinton, and his relationship with that family-slash-dynasty isn't as cordial as it once was. In 2004, Morris penned Rewriting History (a rebuttal of Hillary Clinton's 2003 memoir Living History), placing him firmly within the subculture of Clinton conspiracy-fiction auteurs that The Daily Beast's Olivia Nuzzi reports has formed the delicious creamy center of Trump's inner circle. 


And by Sherman's reckoning, while it's not certain that a "deal" between Trump and Morris is "imminent," Trumpland seems to be where Morris would feel right at home:



There are signs that Morris has been moving into the Trump orbit this campaign season. In recent days, the National Enquirer, which has been a loud pro-Trump outlet, named Morris its “chief political commentator.” And Morris has told people he’s been a longtime acquaintance of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Morris has been looking for a high-profile perch since being dropped by Fox News in 2013.



In previous election cycles, Morris has vowed to leave America if Hillary Clinton ever won the White House, so you can't really say that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be entirely free of upsides.


UPDATE, 3:25pm: Newsweek is reporting that Trump's camp is denying that they're in talks with Morris. Per Taylor Wofford:



Donald Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks tells Newsweek there is “no truth” to a report by New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman that the GOP front-runner may hire former Clinton confidante-turned-antagonist Dick Morris for his presidential campaign.



We'll see if this is a position to which Trump sticks.


* NOTE TO MILLENNIALS: Dick Morris was a key adviser to former President Bill Clinton in what was called "the '90s," an era today best remembered as the origin of many classic "Rocko's Modern Life" gifs.



Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.



 

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   June 6, 2016    2:53 PM ET

As you may recall, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spent the better part of the past year running for president of the United States, a position that would have required him to take an active role in world affairs and make swift, judicious, and responsible decisions. He failed, however, to secure his party's nomination, and has since offered to speak at the Republican National Convention on behalf of presumptive GOP nominee and baby-fingered bile mitten Donald Trump.

Rubio's offer raised a few eyebrows, because, as you might remember, he and Trump had a very contentious relationship during the primaries. But as Rubio told a Miami radio station back in April, "I've always said I'm going to support the Republican nominee ... and that's especially true now that it's apparent that Hillary Clinton" was going to win the Democratic nomination -- an outcome that Rubio couldn't have seen coming during the period when he was condemning Trump as a "con man." Clinton winning? That's just out of the blue, man.

Since offering his support to Trump, Rubio's found himself once again caught badly off guard by events that no one could have possibly anticipated -- namely, Trump's continual, racist maligning of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over lawsuits against Trump University. Monday, in an interview with WFTV-ABC News reporter Christopher Heath, Rubio responded to Trump's attacks on Curiel: "It's wrong and I hope he stops."

Rubio also told Heath: "I ran for president and I warned this was going to happen." Presumably, what Rubio means by "this" was a warning that he would probably make the offer to speak on Trump's behalf at the convention, but that after he made the offer there would be this whole sticky wicket where Trump revealed himself to be some sort of anti-Hispanic bigot, thus making Rubio's endorsement, like, really super-awkward, up until the moment Trump finally decides to stop doing that stuff -- a decision Rubio sure hopes Trump will make any day now.

Also hopeful is New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who has very shrewdly vowed to "support" Trump, but not "endorse" him, citing the flexibility granted to anyone who perceives mild, hair-splittable differences between English language synonyms. Confronted with Trump's ongoing slander of Judge Curiel, Ayotte said his comments were "offensive and wrong," and added her wish that Trump might "retract" them, because a retraction would definitely put the cat back in the bag and everyone could just move on and forget about that whole time Trump disparaged a federal judge born in Indiana on the grounds that he had "Mexican heritage." 

The hope that Trump will reconsider things has existed for quite a long time. In the Jan. 15 GOP primary debate, Jeb Bush took a similarly plaintive stance against Trump's proposed ban on Muslims, saying, "Donald, Donald -- can I -- I hope you reconsider this."

Making sure that Trump understood the stern point he was making, Bush added, "So I hope you'll reconsider, I hope you'll reconsider."

So, hoping that Trump will stop doing the things he always does hasn't exactly been a winning strategy. But any minute now, it should totally do the trick. 

Hopefully, that is! After all, lots of Republican leaders are now swinging behind Trump with their endorsements, so it would probably be cool if Trump redeemed the judgment of those people with the comportment and decorum that he's always been just a day or two away from manifesting. Trump's all-but-certain domestication has been so long predicted that the fact that it hasn't quite happened yet is really catching GOP bigwigs unawares, as New York magazine's Eric Levitz reports:

Republican leaders spent the weekend registering their displeasure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Chuck Todd that he “couldn’t disagree more” with Trump’s comments about Curiel. Tennessee senator Bob Corker said that the nominee is “going to have to change.” Even one of the mogul’s earliest supporters — and potential running mate — Newt Gingrich called Trump’s attack on the judge “inexcusable” and the candidate’s “worst mistake.” House Speaker (and recent Trump endorser) Paul Ryan condemned Trump's remarks in a similar fashion on Friday.

Paul Ryan has definitely had it the toughest, you guys. In the past few weeks, the House speaker has been pursuing an extended courtship of Trump, in which he's promised to take the time necessary for both men to see eye-to-eye on what the Republican Party needed from Trump, and come to an agreement on how the reality-show host needed to adjust his public persona in order to compete in the general election. That process seemed to have reached a happy conclusion last week, when Ryan went public with his endorsement of the presumptive GOP nominee.

But hours later, Ryan was shocked to see Trump still saying racist things about Curiel -- comments that Ryan said came "out of left field."

Yeah, man, it was really tough to predict that Trump would do that. Who'd have thunk it?

Ryan had a swift and tough response to Trump's sustained attacks on a sitting judge. "It's reasoning I don't relate to," he said. Strong stuff. "I completely disagree with the thinking behind that," Ryan added, in firm words that completely did not depict Ryan as the helpless captive to events that were beyond his ability to influence.

But Ryan wasn't done by a damn sight, continuing in Churchillian fashion like so: "And so, [Trump] clearly says and does things I don’t agree with, and I’ve had to speak up on time to time when that has occurred, and I’ll continue to do that if it’s necessary."

You never know when something like that might occur, after all. At any moment, Trump might say something with which Ryan disagrees, forcing Ryan to have to speak up about it. Could happen at any time. That's why Ryan has to have catlike reflexes, always ready to spring into action.

"I hope it's not [necessary]," Ryan concluded, probably staring wistfully into the middle distance, wishing and hoping for the best.

It may be that someone should step up and do something about this, by making it clear to Trump that he has to change. Usually, one looks to the people who work on the campaign and who advise the candidate to help make the difficult adjustment from saying racist balderdash at all times to not saying racist balderdash ever. For a look on how that's working out, let's check in on the reporting of MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin, Katy Tur, and Ali Vitali:

Republicans working to elect Trump describe a bare-bones effort debilitated by infighting, a lack of staff to carry out basic functions, minimal coordination with allies and a message that's prisoner to Trump's momentary whims.

"Bottom line, you can hire all the top people in the world, but to what end? Trump does what he wants," a source close to the campaign said.

Meanwhile, as Bloomberg's Kevin Cirilli, Michael Bender, and Jennifer Jacobs reported Monday:

An embattled Donald Trump urgently rallied his most visible supporters to defend his attacks on a federal judge's Mexican ancestry during a conference call on Monday in which he ordered them to question the judge's credibility and impugn reporters as racists.

[...]

When former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer interrupted the discussion to inform Trump that his own campaign had asked surrogates to stop talking about the lawsuit in an e-mail on Sunday, Trump repeatedly demanded to know who sent the memo, and immediately overruled his staff.

"Take that order and throw it the hell out," Trump said.

Huh! Well, that's worrisome, right? Not if you ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell! As The New York Times' Adam Liptak reports, McConnell is quite certain that somewhere in the Republican Party, there exists one or more eminence grises who are capable of taming Trump into respectability. There's just gotta be!

“He’ll have a White House counsel,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told Hugh Hewitt, the radio host, on Monday. “There will be others who point out there’s certain things you can do and you can’t do.”

Hey, if you know any Republican leaders who might be really good at restraining Donald Trump's worst impulses, could you maybe let Republican leaders know? 

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 31, 2016    1:02 PM ET


Here's a quaint memory from a bygone period in American politics: Back in November 2012, after President Barack Obama secured his re-election, The New York Times' Scott Shane reported that with "the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term," his administration had "accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures."


It was, as Shane noted, the latest attempt to formalize these policies and protocols since reports that previous summer had revealed the "shifting procedures for compiling 'kill lists'" and the like. But -- but! -- it had, apparently, become "particularly urgent" to nail this stuff down once "it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency."


Mitt Romney, folks! Who, for all his faults, seemed to be one of the least power-mad people ever to seek the Oval Office. We're talking about a guy whose chocolate milk intake is probably governed by a spreadsheet -- whose history of high-risk, impulsive behavior seems restricted to that one time he ironed a shirt that he was still wearing. This was enough to get the Obama administration thinking, "Hey, maybe we better batten down the hatches on this loosey-goosey little assassination program we got going on."


You know where I'm going with this. But here's the thing: we've known all along where we were going with this. It's just that not enough people cared. Liberals more or less trusted that their guy would do the right thing with all his power, and conservatives were torn between hating Obama and really, really loving the idea of drones killing people from the sky.


So the drones pounded on, and now the GOP nominee for president is a guy who respects the rule of law about as much as did Heath Ledger's Joker. I refer, of course, to game-show luminary and rogue talking ball of snot from the Mucinex commercials Donald Trump.


Trump's rise through the ranks has, in many quarters, touched off concerns about the ersatz mogul potentially finding himself in close proximity to the nuclear codes. Believe it or not, there might actually be worse things to worry about. America's drone program -- particularly its under-publicized whoopsie-daisy tendency to kill civilians and drive previously non-radicalized people toward apocalyptic death cults -- seems to be precisely the sort of thing you wouldn't want Trump messing with. Especially if the idea of Mitt Romney running the program makes your blood run cold.


Trump is, after all, the presidential candidate who vowed on national television that a cornerstone of his anti-terror policy would be to "take out" the families of known terrorists. Trump left people feeling a little agog and aghast when he said it, but here's a fun fact: This is a thing that President Barack Obama has actually done, intentionally, with drones.


Heck, right at the beginning of his memoir Worthy Fights, Obama-era CIA Director Leon Panetta describes a situation where the U.S. has located a targeted combatant, but unfortunately he's in close proximity to his family. What to do, what to do? Kill him, that’s what, along with his wife -- a woman “with whom this country had no quarrel,” Panetta writes. The CIA chief goes on to assure us that these decisions “are never easy,” and that they often require “the fingering of a rosary, the whispered Hail Mary.” Which actually sounds pretty easy, if I’m being honest.


In fact, there's not a lot of room for Trump to do something truly unique with the drone program, besides his vow to wage a less "politically correct" war with it. Presumably this means that Trump will be more ostentatious in the way he celebrates killing civilians, the same way he seems to get sprung whenever protesters emerge at his rallies. Maybe he’ll skip the whole rosary part, and grant himself his own market-rate indulgence.


At this juncture, let's pause and consider the high school civics student -- if those are still a thing -- who has to answer the question "Who has the power to declare war?" In a more conventional era, the answer would simply be "Congress." Nowadays, it might be more appropriate to give this imaginary student a little more leeway to properly define Congress' role in warmaking, which might best be summarized as "¯\_(ツ)_/¯."


Over at The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty rightly assails the simpering passivity that has allowed executive power to drift so far from its constitutional bounds during the past two presidencies:



In their lack of jealousy for their constitutional powers, in their opportunistic indifference when the president inserts American troops into a handful of civil wars in the Middle East without congressional approval, in their utter passivity and cravenness before the Executive branch, our ruling class has been implicitly crying out for the rule of a tyrant. Donald Trump is just answering the call.



That's a pretty fair assessment. Congress has reduced its own role in all of this according to its preference for political expedience. Its preferred means of oversight has come in the form of blanket Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, which positions lawmakers as essentially the Statler and Waldorf of U.S. military doings. From that perch, they can take credit when things are going well and offer fervent criticism when they are not, all the while absolving themselves from responsibility. (Unless, of course, the president finds it convenient to put them on the spot for a military action he doesn't want to undertake, as Obama did in Syria.)


It's true that back in 2008, Obama ran for office as someone who'd undo the Bush-era executive-power abuses. But the fact is, Obama took to said abuses with aplomb, overseeing their expansion while Congress just kinda sat around and whistled. Now we have this tidy little "kill chain" process to deliver fully automated death from above, a process that's only occasionally complicated by the fact that, for example, you can't get clear permission to strike from a government that's been taken over by rebels, like in Yemen. Details, details. Just another "politically correct" hiccup that Trump can cut through with his storied autocratic efficiency.


Liberals who abandoned their own criticisms of the Bush era to support Obama -- who definitely wears the white hat, don't worry -- might start returning to their previous point of view on the matter as Trump edges closer to attaining power. How will Congress adapt to these changing times? At a recent briefing with reporters, The Huffington Post asked a Trump-supporting GOP senator whether he was worried about giving The Donald the drone joystick, the chance to waterboard detainees or something even worse. The senator, who requested anonymity, replied as follows:



It's not gonna be Donald Trump singularly, in a room by himself, making decisions. So let me give you one other area where I think the Obama administration has done a good job, that actually impacts all of these questions that you're asking about Trump and national security and foreign policy. If you look at the generals that have been nominated and confirmed... there's a really, really outstanding group of admirals and generals that are running the U.S. military right now... They're gonna have an impact on these kinds of issues and these kinds of questions. With regard to torture, the law is out there right now. It's the Army Field Manual. Right now. That's the law. You know, those guys aren't going away. Chairmans and a lot of the chiefs -- they're coming in and they're going to be here for four-year terms. We have an institutional structure on foreign and national security policy that doesn't necessarily give one person the remote. And the guys around, the guys and women who are already part of that structure, are some of the best members of the military we have.



Leaving aside the fact that the answer wasn't simply "Don't worry, we trust Donald Trump to make good decisions," it's interesting that this senator's response basically boils down to "Don't worry, there are so many smart and responsible people sitting around who will stop bad things from happening."


So... where have those guys been this whole time?


Ryan Grim contributed reporting.







Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.






~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 24, 2016    3:02 PM ET

Every four years, as Democrats and Republicans plan for their national conventions, party leaders come together to decide on how to best dust off and shine up their respective parties' platform -- that catch-all proclamation that signals their political priorities and policy goals. Typically, the publication of these platforms results in a couple days of news stories, in which noteworthy alterations are documented and the other side levies partisan objections.

But this year, there's an interesting twist: Bernie Sanders -- the presumptive second-place finisher in the Democratic primary -- has been granted the opportunity to play a role on the platform committee. Which means that the Democratic Party's platform document may receive up to four days of coverage. Perhaps even five.

If this seems like a cynical way of viewing what is ostensibly an important party document, I invite you to muddle through the last Democratic party platform, authored in President Barack Obama’s re-election year. A red-hot manifesto it is not. Over the course of some 25,000-or-so words, the party outlines, in the safest possible terms, what it stands for. Everything is poll-tested to within an inch of its literary life.

Along the way, the platform is salted with marketing bromides and vague political platitudes. Credit is given to Obama for many accomplishments which need to, in the eyes of the party, continue being accomplished. And, in keeping with recent Democratic Party election-year strategies, much effort is undertaken to cast the GOP in a bad light ("The other guys are crazy!"). It's a tradition that will no doubt continue now that the presumptive Republican Party nominee is reality TV personality and North Pacific Subtropical Gyre garbage patch Donald Trump.

The objectionable nature of Trump's candidacy may be one thing on which this year's platform committee might be able to quickly agree. In an unusual move, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is allowing Sanders to name five appointees to the 15-member committee, instead of reserving the right to name the entire committee for herself. Under this arrangement, presidential rival Hillary Clinton's campaign will get to pick six members and Wasserman-Schultz will name four, including the committee chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

As Mother Jones' Kevin Drum points out, the buried news may be that Sanders is signaling that he understands he won't win this nomination. Whether or not this is true, the independent Vermont senator is hailing this as a major, substantive concession. And he's named a quintet of unconventional-by-party-insider standards as his emissaries: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), environmental campaigner Bill McKibben, Native American activist Deborah Parker, racial justice advocate (and Obama critic) Cornel West and DNC member James Zogby.

Clinton's picks are decidedly more in keeping with her "barrier-breakers" theme: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union leader Paul Booth, former EPA head Carol Browner, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), Ohio state Rep. Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman and Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden.

So, one way in which this arrangement will generate more news than is typically created by the platform committee will be watching West and Tanden co-author a document. But beyond the soap opera aspect of this collaboration, there are several areas in which Sanders' representatives could alter what's traditionally a very staid and cautious party declaration in significant ways.

1. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict 

Since it was announced that Sanders was going to have representation on the platform committee, the bulk of the attention has gone to his appointment of Zogby, whose pro-Palestinian leanings have made headlines. The Democrats' traditional platform calls for a two-state solution and an engaged peace process, but it's fairly clear which negotiating partner earns the party's favor. In the 2012 platform document, Israel is mentioned 16 times, as compared to three mentions of Palestinians. It touts how it's worked to maintain "Israel's qualitative military edge" -- highlighting the U.S.-funded Iron Dome system by which rockets from Hamas are thwarted -- while primarily focusing the demand-side of the platform on the Palestinians.

Sanders has called for a more "even-handed" approach to reaching a peace in recent weeks -- drawing a contrast with the more notably hawkish Clinton. Whether Zogby might be influential in this direction remains to be seen -- though he could draw attention to the ever-thorny issue of Israeli settlements, which was not mentioned at all in the 2012 platform document.

It is possible to overstate Zogby's influence in this regard: Clinton appointees Tanden and Sherman are both well-liked by progressive Israel policy shop J Street. And the Democratic Party is no stranger to conflict on this issue -- or surviving that conflict -- as 2012's row over the words "God" and "Jerusalem" demonstrated.

2. The Working Class

In the 2012 Democratic Party platform document, the middle class and the revival of their economic fortunes gets top billing. And it's presented as the overarching goal of the party itself. But while the middle class has had a stumbling renewal since the crash years, it's the working class that has truly taken it on the chin. You have to dig really far down into the document before you come to the place where the lives of those who face "poverty" and "food insecurity" are finally addressed.

Sanders' appointees could drive more attention to the unmet needs of these underserved citizens. This could be a place where some of the issues that have divided Clinton and Sanders on the debate stage -- such as the minimum wage -- are finally resolved. This should be of particular interest to Democrats, if only because of the efforts that have been undertaken by their Republican opponents to maintain and enhance barriers to voting. As the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out around the same time the Democrats redrafted their platform in 2012, "More than 1 million eligible voters in these states fall below the federal poverty line and live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week."

In addition, while Democrats have, over the past four years, warmed to Silicon Valley innovators and the fruits of their labors (to say nothing of seamlessly swinging through the revolving door of political influence and Valley firms), in recent weeks, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D. Mass.) -- who's been straddling the line between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns -- has heaped a hefty helping of skepticism on the "gig economy," pointing out that some very basic labor standards are being eroded by all the zazzy disruption. This could be another interesting aspect of the party platform to watch.

3. Fracking Skepticism

 In the previous party platform, Democrats celebrated their support for an "all-of-the-above energy policy." But support for "clean coal" (which is not a thing) and "cheap, abundant natural gas," probably represented some red flags to environmental activists. Here is another ripe area for conflict between the Sanders and Clinton camps.

As ABC News' Maryalice Parks reported in April, Sanders has lately been adding some anti-fracking riffs to his standard stump speech, going so far as to propose a nation-wide ban on the practice: "If we are serious about combating climate change, we need to put an end to fracking not only in New York and Vermont, but all over this country.” This is in contrast to Clinton, who promised to put limits on this method of natural gas extraction during the campaign season, but nevertheless has a history of "support[ing] the technology as a potential method for reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil." It's a safe bet that McKibben will be aligned with Sanders on this.

Another important reason why this issue is close to Sanders' heart is that fracking has a disproportionate impact on the poor as well. As Abre' Conner, an attorney with the Kern County Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment told In These Times' Hannah Guzik, “When we look at where the fracking wells are being located,when we look at the health impacts across the state of California and really across the country, we see the same types of issues and the same types of disparities that we’ve seen with education and voting rights.”

4. Black Lives Matter

As has been repeatedly noted during the primary season, support for Clinton in the black community has a sharp generational break, with older African-Americans backing the former Secretary of State while younger members of that cohort more readily aligning with Sanders. This is understandable, considering the major economic themes that each candidate has advanced.

Clinton's approach to mitigating the underlying income inequality of the African-American community would be to "break barriers" -- that is to say, diversify the elite class of professionals and allow more entrance points to people who have been traditionally excluded. Sanders, by contrast, would seek to level the income playing field by providing free college tuition and expanding access to affordable health care. Additionally, the two candidates have fallen out repeatedly over matters that weigh heavily in the minds of younger African-Americans, such as mass incarceration and police brutality. 

As Vox's Dara Lind notes, the appointment of West to the platform committee could disrupt the Democratic Party's traditional approach to African-American voters. West has been a critic of the way that Democrats keep the African-American voter bloc in what he sees as a perpetual state of "electoral capture," wherein these voters are caught between the GOP, which strenuously alienates them, and the Democratic Party, which doesn't need to do much to remain the more attractive option. To Lind's reckoning, West would likely push for concrete promises, focused on the youth and the economy they're set to inherit.

5. The Citizens United/ Wall Street Connection

This is, of course, the issue that animated Sanders' involvement in the race from the beginning -- the corrupt nexus between loose and anti-democratic campaign finance laws and the massive amount of influence that big Wall Street banks and private corporations are able to bulk-buy on Capitol Hill. 

The 2012 Democratic Party platform is, in general, critical of much of this as well. But it hasn't matched the zeal of Sanders. "Our opponents have applauded the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United and welcomed the new flow of special interest money with open arms," say the authors of the 2012 platform document, in the only instance in which "Citizens United" is mentioned by name. "In stark contrast," they continue, "we believe we must take immediate action to curb the influence of lobbyists and special interests on our political institutions." One might note that you can hardly describe the effort to curb this corruption that followed as "immediate action."

Sanders' committee appointees will inevitably ask for some more muscular language in the platform document. Heck, they'll most likely seek to make the platform document as hotly condemnatory as Sanders has been on the stump.

"We believe that we will have the representation on the platform drafting committee to create a Democratic platform that reflects the views of millions of our supporters who want the party to address the needs of working families in this country and not just Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry and other powerful special interests,” Sanders said when he greeted the news of the DNC's concession to him. You can expect this to be the lodestar of his appointee's overall efforts.

Whether or not the platform document will be a watershed moment in the Democratic Party's election year, or fade from memory soon after the convention ends, is an open question. In general, it's not a binding document. It doesn't force Clinton, or any Democrat, really, to radically alter their positions, their campaign strategy, or their policy goals.

But Slate's Jim Newell, who predicted that this concession would come, says that this arrangement will be of great importance because it will be the venue where "Hillary and Bernie will make peace." Newell reckons that Clinton might very readily give in to carving the $15 minimum wage into the platform's planks, as well as a promise to undo Citizens United specifically and to reduce the influence of corporate money more broadly. He also notes that the positions of Sanders and Clinton on expanding Medicare are close enough to reasonably forge a compromise.

But it won't always be that easy. Per Newell:

On other issues it’s difficult to see how they’d reconcile their differences. One expects that Sanders would push hard for a plank to break up the big banks. That’s just a policy with which Clinton disagrees. Clinton technically does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but no one actually believes her on that, and she—and other Democratic leaders—would flinch at any platform plank explicitly opposing all trade agreements negotiated by President Obama. Clinton does not support a blanket ban on fracking; Sanders does. How does that get written up? And how willing is Clinton to change language on something as tense as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict?

In short, granting Sanders the right to put surrogates on the platform committee may be a concession that knits the two candidates together in common cause or the invitation to a deeper crisis of disunity. Ironically, it will probably only make news if the result of this attempt at peacemaking is a complete failure. 

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 24, 2016    1:02 PM ET

As you may recall, back in January, presumptive GOP nominee and smirking meat gargoyle Donald Trump, distressed at Fox News' plans to continue employing anchor Megyn Kelly, bailed from the Fox debate in Des Moines, Iowa. To get a full measure of vindication, he staged a bit of cable television counter-programming, hosting a rally of his own, at which he claimed to have raised several million dollars for veterans

In the months that followed, campaign reporters have been captivated by an enduring mystery: To whom did that money go? How much money was raised in the first place? On April 22, prompted by a CNN report that raised questions about these contributions, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks "shared a list" with CNN, "showing 27 veterans organizations that have received a total of $2.9 million to date" from the rally. That still leaves some $3 million in the wind.

Since then, the Trump campaign has walked back the original claim that $6 million had been raised for veterans. As the Washington Post reported, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski admitted the event had only raised $4.5 million, blaming donors who allegedly reneged on their promises to kick in some booty. (For whatever reason, Lewandowski would not name these donors, perhaps because they are figments of the imagination.) 

This week, veterans protested outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, demanding accountability from the mogul and accusing him of dishonestly hyping his charitable gesture.

Tuesday morning, on his Instagram account, Trump deflected the criticism (onto the Clinton Foundation) and called the media "dishonest" for pursuing the story. He then restated his claim that he'd raised $6 million for vets, despite the efforts of his own campaign manager to walk that back.

In response, Washington Post campaign reporter David Fahrenthold took to Twitter and shared an excerpt from the transcript of an interview that Post reporters conducted with Trump "earlier this month," in which the paper's national business reporter, Drew Harwell, repeatedly questions Trump on the veracity of his claims pertaining to these donations.

In response, Trump basically lies himself silly.

[Click here to enlarge the transcript.]

Perhaps the best part of this interview is when Trump says he is "honored by" the fact that he allegedly gave away money to veterans. Pro-tip: When you donate money, you are "honoring" the recipients. You are supposed to be humbled at the opportunity to donate.

But for all of Trump's protestations about how the Post will inevitably cover this story with "negative spin," this is a case in which the actual facts -- should they match Trump's own claims -- would be a slam-dunk defense. But Trump refuses repeated entreaties to reveal who ended up with this charity money, insisting that he's not obligated to furnish that information. Which is perhaps true! But it's pretty unnecessary to refuse when he could finally put to bed the contention that this rally was just another Trump-authored scam.

Based upon this interview, it looks like this wasn't even a particularly well-thought-out scam. Speaking of, here's the exciting twist ending, courtesy of Fahrenthold and his Post colleague, national reporter Mark Berman:

That's too bad, as Trump's pretend spokesman may know the truth about this.

Fahrenthold has a piece up today accounting for all the knowns and unknowns with regard to Trump's donations to veterans, so please read the whole thing.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 17, 2016   11:14 AM ET


Reports started bubbling up in the press this spring about how the corporations that provide millions of dollars to fund the Republican National Convention were suddenly skittish about participating in their traditional role of facilitating the GOP's quadrennial confab. The reason: Donald Trump.


As The New York Times' Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman reported at length, big corporate brands like Walmart, Coca-Cola, Apple and Google had become alarmed that Trump's "divisive candidacy [had] alienated many women, blacks, and Hispanics." In other words, being seen as too closely tied to the GOP front-runner might be bad for business.


A few weeks later, Politico's Anna Palmer and Brianna Gurciullo reported on the somewhat-predictable twist: Trump was similarly imperiling the Democratic convention and the corporate funds they use to subsidize their gathering:



None of the firms are publicly pointing to Trump as the reason they're staying away. But the GOP's more well-documented struggles appear to be taking a toll on Democrats, since many companies prefer to give to both conventions or neither in order to project an image of balance.



That the party conventions -- ostensibly a public good and a vital part of our democracy -- require corporate boodle to even happen is something we could spend several paragraphs discussing. But for now, let's leave that aside. Here we have major corporations blanching at ponying up for a Trump convention because they properly recognize that he is, on every level, toxic waste in human form.


But in their next move, this recognition is overridden by something these corporations favor even more: the need to be perceived as neutral. And so, everyone who isn't "Donald Trump, madman," has to similarly suffer.


It's something of a deranged arrangement. But our noble corporate underwriters of democracy needn't feel alone. This is a conundrum political journalists are also wrestling with: How can you provide "balanced" coverage of a race in which one candidate is entirely unconventional? In fact, let us note, one of the things we often do as this struggle ensues is use the weasel word "unconventional," when we mean to say "dangerously unhinged and narcissistic autocrat." (And we are perhaps using the weasel word "autocrat" to stand in for "fascist," at that.)


The alternative, of course, is that the media might accidentally normalize Trump, in a witless abandonment of all the evidence that should objectively lead away from this conclusion. 


On the May 13 edition of "On The Media," host Bob Garfield explicitly warned against this process of normalization.





Garfield was reacting to Trump's recent appearances on the Sunday morning political salons, during which the hosts genially asked Trump about his plans for trade, taxes and the like as if these policy positions were the matter of singular interest to journalists covering Trump. (Trump has indicated that he has no real interest in policy positions, characterizing them all as chimeric "suggestions" designed to provide no foothold for critique.)


Says Garfield:



The man is a menace of historic proportions, so who the Chuck Todd cares about his tax proposals? It’s like asking Charles Manson about his driving record. But here comes the political press, going into standard general election mode and treating a demagogue as a legitimate standard-bearer, as if the only thing he has to answer for is the latest blip in the news cycle.


[...]


With every oh-so-decorous question about tax policy or the national debt, the media are not simply abetting him but normalizing him. In effect, accepting his grotesque path to the nomination.



The necessary prescriptive, Garfield says, is for every Trump interview to "hold him accountable for bigotry, incitement, juvenile conduct and blithe contempt for the Constitution." 


At the bottom of this post, my editors (perhaps lacking confidence in my ability to affirm these things about Trump, but that's a conversation for another day) will have affixed an editor's note confirming that we agree with what Garfield prescribes. Other media outlets have stirred in a similar direction. At PressThink, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen provides a lengthy discursion on the topic of neutrality in the age of a Trump candidacy, citing two prominent examples of media leaders who are opting for a different approach.


One is BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, who issued a Dec. 8, 2015, social media usage directive to his staff in which he clarifies that it is "entirely fair to call [Trump] a mendacious racist," because he is "out there saying things that are false, and running an overtly anti-Muslim campaign." This is, Smith underscores, a matter of fact, adding that "there is nothing partisan about accurately describing Donald Trump."


A second example was the nearly simultaneous broadcast of a Tom Brokaw editorial on NBC Nightly News, in which the venerable newsman described Trump's proposed blanket ban on Muslims as "a dangerous proposal that overrides history, the law and the foundation of America itself," reminiscent of other historical moments in which "the consequences of paranoia overriding reason" were laid bare.


Smith's and Brokaw's actions did not go unnoticed. CNN's Dylan Byers, in a Dec. 10 column, made note of this "backlash" against Trump, calling it a "watershed moment" in which "news organizations [abandoned] concerns about impartiality and evenhandedness and stating what they believe are objective truths" about Trump.


Rosen discusses how "impartiality and evenhandedness" became a sort of "ritual," semi-divorced from "objective truth" at length. It would be of benefit to read the whole thing, because Rosen's discussion would help reinforce what "picking a side" means in this context. It's not advocacy for some sort of journalistic skullduggery. Telling the truth is still the order of the day: to lie about Donald Trump is to undermine the overall cause of integrity. This is about couching reporting in equivocating terms, which -- as I'm sure Smith and Brokaw would contend -- robs the truth of its vitality.


But in summation, Rosen notes that while the "ritual" of neutrality would normally lead news organizations to adopt some point of view high above the fray, Smith and Brokaw made a different call, one in which they either decided that they were not "vulnerable to criticism" for doing so, or "didn't care" if they were.


That's really what the "neutral" feint is: an effort expended by news organizations to insulate themselves from these type of attacks. This, Rosen reckons, is an "understandable" pose to take, but didn't, in and of itself, make journalism "legitimate."


Per Rosen:



Protection will come from being specialists in verification who are allergic to any party line. Accountability journalism blows “balance” out of the water. Intellectual honesty is far more important than a ritualized objectivity. Recover your voice and people will have reason to listen.



Of course, it can be difficult for many news organizations to simply adopt a "bring it on" attitude about these things. Elections tend to be reported as events of warring, equally worthy ideas. Deference is offered to all comers out of both the desire to be polite arbiters, and to also maintain media access to the players. The political media tends to like their grand narrative of competition, with ups and downs, best weeks and worst weeks, stumbles and comebacks. So equivalences are drawn for the sake of staging.


In fairness to most other American presidential candidates, very few provide the media with a strong case for deviating from this approach. Trump is unique to this milieu in that he routinely, and intentionally, says highly disturbing and irresponsible things that can't not make one question whether he belongs within a country mile of the nuclear football. He's made it ripe to break with the ritual of even-handedness -- it should actually not be surprising at all to see people like Smith and Brokaw explicitly break from traditional paths.


But Trump is unique in another way that should make it easy for journalists to abandon this neutral pose. In another move unique among American political candidates, Trump has openly invited us to do so, by declaring himself, rather forthrightly, to be in open hostility to a free press. He's not merely complaining about coverage or carping about media bias, as Newt Gingrich famously did during the 2012 presidential primary debates. Trump explicitly talks about destroying the freedom of the press.


In other words, he's taken a side, which absolves the media of the consequences of doing the same.


Trump's promise to menace the media is something he has consistently voiced throughout this campaign season. For example, much attention has been paid to his threat to "open up" the libel laws, to enable him to take a measure of revenge against the media. As I've discussed before, I don't necessarily think of this as something that could be practically implemented. To change libel laws, Trump would have to convince Congress to take up his "protect me, specifically, from criticism" cause. It's unlikely the legislature would do so, unlikelier still that the courts would uphold this as constitutional. 


But even if he could convince legislative majorities and five Supreme Court justices to go along with a plan to change the libel laws, it's highly unlikely these bodies would arrive at the standard that Trump clearly prefers. Current law mandates that the standard for demonstrable libel is a higher hurdle for people like Trump to clear, than individuals who cannot be reasonably thought of as "public figures." But even if the public figure/private citizen standard could be made square, there is a longstanding tradition in libel cases that the truth is always the best defense, and it's hard to see even hardened Trump allies changing this standard -- if only because it would greatly benefit their own political opponents.


But this is why it's useful to reflect on Trump's stated desire to "open up" the libel laws -- Trump doesn't distinguish between negative commentary about him and objectively true facts that cast him in a bad light. To Trump, these are one and the same. Reporting that makes Trump look good is permissible, that which does not is, as far as he's concerned, libel and slander. And Trump has more potent ideas about how he'd tear down media organizations that do not conform to his desires than simply altering libel laws.


New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait, in explicating how Trump's brand of "authoritarianism would actually work," seizes on an example that involves the press.


As Chait reports, Trump, in a rambling monologue recently delivered to Fox News' Sean Hannity, took issue with the negative coverage he has received from The Washington Post, along with the Post's stated intent to just go right along reporting true things about him. Seizing on the fact that the paper is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Trump sends this basic message: It'd be a real shame if something happened to Amazon because of the Post's reporting.



TRUMP: It’s interesting that you say that, because every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from the Washington Post asking ridiculous questions. And I will tell you. This is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He’s using the Washington Post for power. So that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed. He’s getting absolutely away — he’s worried about me, and I think he said that to somebody ... it was in some article, where he thinks I would go after him for antitrust. Because he’s got a huge antitrust problem because he’s controlling so much. Amazon is controlling so much of what they’re doing.



Unlike his plans for libel laws, this is something that Trump could potentially pull off as president, in conjunction with the legislature. Trump would also command a host of regulatory agencies to do his bidding. As Chait notes elsewhere, Trump ally Roger Stone has already spoken about Trump using the office to "turn off" CNN's "FCC license." 


Of course, every great con job begins with a kernel of truth, and as Chait notes, there is a decent argument that Amazon does have a "huge antitrust problem." But this isn't Trump advocating for fair business practices (that would sure be a first!). He's threatening to use anti-trust law exclusively against his perceived media enemies. By extension, it's clear that the reverse is true: Favorable coverage from The Washington Post would lead Trump to look the other way.


You see, Trump doesn't want the media to be neutral. He wants the media to shower him with favor, and he promises to reward those that do and punish those that don't. His hope is that by threatening to use his office to destroy the media, he will encourage fervent, hagiographic coverage of his candidacy, and limit its criticism.


Really, the best argument against attempting "neutral" coverage of Trump is that Trump has very plainly demanded that coverage of his campaign not be neutral. 


This is, as with all things Trump, a "deal" he wants to make, with very clear terms. One can choose to join a Trump brigade of latter-day Pétainist sycophants, flatter Trump as a savior and be rewarded in kind, or one can factually condemn him, using his own words and deeds, as a dangerous presidential nominee and risk his wrath. But as the reporting of "true things that Trump doesn't like" is enough to earn this enmity, performing the old ritual of even-handedness no longer offers anyone any protection. There is no "third side." You can't go "down the middle" anymore. 


This is, as they say, a time for choosing. However you decide, I suggest you go all in.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

Jason Linkins   |   May 13, 2016   12:42 PM ET


In previous dispatches about the billionaire donor class that now runs America, we've had cause to consider casino mogul and ersatz newspaperman Sheldon Adelson. The low-information donor is something of a political oddity. Despite publicly professing to support a number of nominally liberal policies -- he's pro-Dream Act, pro-socialized health care -- he apportions his considerable largesse to politicians who will never enact those policies.


Of course, there has always been a larger lodestar for Adelson's political dealings that has helped to reconcile these contradictions. He is a fervent supporter of the U.S.-Israel alliance, so much so that one could always feel safe in concluding that it was the one issue that trumped all the others. But now, it would seem that Donald Trump trumps even this, because Adelson has officially bestowed his endorsement upon the presumptive Republican nominee.


And this is quite a multi-layered puzzlement, considering that Trump had, during the primaries, rather flamboyantly abjured the support of big political donors, holding Florida Sen. Marco Rubio out for particular derision for the way he was perceived to be courting Adelson's favor.






Of course, Trump's calculus has changed now that he's reached the general election, a challenge he is (in all likelihood, anyway) much too cash-poor to fund himself, despite his braggadocio. But Adelson's calculus has apparently changed even more, because Trump is famously noncommittal on U.S.-Israel relations.


You may remember this during the primary campaign! As The Hill's Mark Hensch reported, during an MSNBC town hall hosted by Trump's buddies Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the reality television star pointedly "refused to pick sides in the conflict between Israel and Palestine." Per Hensch:



“If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you [my choice] and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved,'" the real estate mogul said of potentially winning the presidency and then brokering a lasting peace deal.


“Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” the billionaire added. "I have friends of mine that are tremendous businesspeople, that are really great negotiators, [and] they say it’s not doable.



As with any of Trump's stated stances, this position has changed, depending on whatever way the wind was blowing. By the time it became necessary to present his policy speech at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee's policy conference in mid-March, Trump had begun the work of blurring over his previous "neutral" position. (Nearly simultaneously, Trump was depicting himself as decidedly "non-interventionist" to The Washington Post's editorial board.) But on the eve of Adelson's endorsement, here's what that wind was doing, according to The Hill's Ben Kamisar:



Donald Trump met with former Secretary of State James Baker during his Thursday swing through Washington as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee seeks to unite the Republican Party behind him.


The pair met during Trump's visit to Jones Day, the Washington law firm where many members of his legal team practice, NBC News reported.


The meeting came hours after Baker criticized some of Trump's key foreign policy proposals during a Thursday Senate hearing, including his call to roll back American involvement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).



That's right, the little-heralded stop on Trump's Beltway-establishment rapprochement tour was to visit James Baker, and try to win him over. And while Baker is many things, "pro-Israel" is not one of them -- and he's lately not been on Adelson's side. As The Daily Beast's Lloyd Green reported in March of 2015:




Don’t expect James A. Baker ... to be tapped for another stint at Foggy Bottom. On Monday night, at J Street’s fifth annual conference, Baker lit into Benjamin Netanyahu and his newly elected, Likud-led government. Never one to mince words, Baker told the crowd, “Frankly, I have been disappointed with the lack of progress regarding a lasting peace -- and I have been for some time … in the aftermath of Netanyahu’s recent election victory, the chance of a two-state solution seems even slimmer, given his reversal on the issue.” 


Tart as that message might have been, the 84-year-old Baker had gone there before. Baker, who served as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state, as Ronald Reagan’s treasury secretary, and as White House chief of staff to both Presidents, had laid down a similar line in May 1989 to an earlier Likud prime minister. In a speech to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Baker told the folks in the room and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir to “lay aside once and for all the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel … reach out to Palestinians as neighbors who deserve political rights.” 





Perhaps this all escaped Adelson's attention? He has, after all, been busy dismantling the Las Vegas Review-Journal's editorial independence. The thing is, these subtle, tribal distinctions among competing factions of the Israel-Palestine conflict used to matter a great deal to Adelson. Prior to Trump doing his Ramsey Snow-job on Chris Christie, the only time in recorded memory that the New Jersey governor had been made to grovel came in March 2010, when Christie was forced to apologize to Adelson for referring to Palestine as "occupied territories" -- a big ol' no-no to Adelson.


Christie might lament that Adelson is willing to cut the neutrality-promoting, James Baker-courting Trump considerably more slack -- especially after being forced to endure Trump's primary season-long grandstanding about how he couldn't be bought by megadonors, and that those who sought their favor, like Christie, we "perfect little puppets."


But the Adelson-Trump alliance is stranger still when you consider that there actually is one bona-fide Israel-hawk in the race, named "Hillary Clinton." Clinton, in a letter to her own megadonor pal Haim Saban (the Democrats' version of Adelson -- apparently the two men do not compare notes), vowed to counter the "Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction" movement that has aggressively attempted to counter Israel's policies in Palestinian territories. Per Politico's Annie Karni:



Hillary Clinton has penned a letter to mega-donor Haim Saban and Jewish organization leaders expressing her strong and unequivocal support for Israel in the face of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, known as “BDS.”


“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” she writes, asking for aid working “across party lines” to “fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”



Clinton's own presentation to the AIPAC policy conference left little mystery about how she felt about "neutrality," and she wasn't shy about adopting a criticism of Trump that had previously been argued in the Republican debates by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rubio:



Yes, we need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable. Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.


I have sat in Israeli hospital rooms holding the hands of men and women whose bodies and lives were torn apart by terrorist bombs. I’ve listened to doctors describe the shrapnel left in a leg, an arm or even a head.


That’s why I feel so strongly that America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival. We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren’t negotiable.



"And anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president," said Clinton. Apparently, Adelson disagrees.


In Adelson's endorsement, glancing mention is made of the Iran nuclear deal. To be fair, this is something Clinton would probably seek to uphold. That might be reason enough to sway Adelson. Though, once again, Trump is the candidate on all sides of the issue, vowing to "strictly enforce" it one day, declaring he'd wholly "dismantle" it the next.


Outside of that, support for a more hawkish Israel policy is not specifically mentioned -- save for one moment in which Adelson makes it clear that he now privileges Trump's experiences as a businessman over all other considerations (which is in itself very strange).


Here, Adelson definitely seems to subordinate his passion for Israel to simply honor Trump's success at joining the elites:



Despite being the grandson of a Welsh coal miner and the son of a Boston cab driver, I’ve had the remarkable experience of being part of almost 50 different businesses in my more than 70-year business career. So, tell me I’m not a conservative enough Republican or I’m too hawkish on Israel or whatever else you may think, but I think I’ve earned the right to talk about success and leadership.



Well, one thing's for sure: Having endorsed Trump, I think it's fair to say it's considerably more difficult to paint Adelson as "too hawkish on Israel." If anything, one wonders what all of Adelson's prior carping on the matter meant.


Adelson's long been a study in self-contradictions -- a professed supporter of liberal causes who exclusively funds their opponents. Perhaps even his avowed support for Israel means just as little to him -- at least compared with the simple tribal bonds of the meritocracy. Maybe Adelson is just a bog-standard party hack who prefers power to policy.


Or maybe Trump simply promised to move the Oakland Raiders to Vegas! Who knows? The only thing that's certain is that these addled billionaire weirdos wield considerably more political power than you do. 


~~~~~


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.