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Jason Linkins   |   February 5, 2016    1:53 PM ET

Donald Trump makes big promises. But how he describes the means by which he'll fulfill them? Well, that's even more outlandish. Basically, it boils down to:

Step One: Trump hates something.
Step Two: ???????
Step Three: "Winning."

That's essentially the model for Trump's campaign as well: He wants to be president, and he's a winner, so it stands to reason that he's just going to win.

Listen to HuffPost's analysis of Trump's current campaigning situation in this week's episode of the podcast "So That Happened." The section on his Iowa and New Hampshire escapades begins at the 52:30 mark. 

As the early voting states are demonstrating, however, there's more to winning than merely wanting it. There's hard work to be done, and it's becoming clear that Donald Trump is lazy.

Elections aren't won with just a popular message, catchy ads and strong interviews. They also require actually hiring and managing people who will knock on doors, talk to voters and help those voters get to the polls. Trump is good at all of the stuff that gets him on TV. The other stuff? So far, not so much.

On the ground in Iowa, this didn't go unnoticed. Mike Kelly, who drives a shuttle bus for a Des Moines hotel, told The Huffington Post that he's never seen a campaign operation as intense as Ted Cruz's team. He said he knew all along that Cruz would win the state caucus -- and not Trump, even though he'd led in virtually every poll.

"Trump's people, they're just like Trump. They're just talking big," said Kelly. "They're like, 'I'm not going out here and knocking on people's doors. It's 22 degrees outside.'"

Via Talking Points Memo, here's Donald Trump summing up his approach to the work in his own words:

"I think we could've used a better ground game, a term I wasn't even familiar with. You know, when you hear 'ground game,' you say, 'What the hell is that?' Now I'm familiar with it," Trump said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if his campaign needed better organization to win in Iowa.

"I think in retrospect we should've had a better ground game, I would've funded a better ground game," he continued. "But people told me my ground game was fine. And I think by most standards it was."

Basically, Trump is an indolent libertine, surrounded by yes men. In fairness, you can get pretty far in life like that. Whether you can get far in a presidential primary is unproven.

As Politico's Ben Schreckinger reports, there's little change afoot in New Hampshire to correct the campaign inadequacies that Iowa revealed. If Trump fails to maintain the big leads he racked up in early polling -- or if he fails to finish first again -- questions about his fitness as a presidential campaigner will persist.

It's genuinely interesting that Trump's competitors have not made more of this. If there's one constant in Trump's vision of how he'd govern, it's that the big problems he identifies will be fixed with such relative ease that it's a wonder being president is a full-time job. Just this week, Trump vowed that he could obtain a comprehensive corporate tax inversion deal "in an hour." This isn't plausible, and it's frightening to think that Trump believes it is. As president, his phone will be ringing off the hook every time there's a problem anywhere in the world. That's the job, and it's a job that most of his competitors clearly take more seriously.

If he governs the way he's been campaigning, Trump is going to want out of the office after a month.

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

Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting.

Jason Linkins   |   February 5, 2016   12:15 PM ET

The intrinsic value of Super Bowl 50, conceptually, will never matter more than it does right now. Your imagination can accommodate the idea that an ideal Super Bowl is possible. You can take some comfort in the notion that the unobserved Super Bowl that only exists in your semi-conscious mind, and on your terms alone, will be an experience that fulfills you. Here and now, Super Bowl 50 could not be more precious.

The moment it becomes possible to begin observing Super Bowl 50 (or Super Bowl L, if you prefer) -- 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Feb. 7 -- the value of the ideal Super Bowl 50 (or "L") will begin to depreciate. You will spend the next few hours, bearing witness to mankind's inherent flaws. Possibilities will begin to restrict themselves. Expectations will go unmet. The infinite spectacle that you once imagined was possible will prove itself to be quotidian and earth-bound, like so many other experiences you once imagined for yourself.

"What a good game!" you might say, afterwards. But deep down, you'll understand that at best, you will be describing one more moment of your life that was, at best, adequate.

Just as the moment we are born, we start dying, so too will the Super Bowl slowly erode, before your eyes, as another ideal that the grotty and base mechanics of this curse we call "life" grinds down into dust. It will be one more experience that serves merely as a mile-marker, noting the passage of time, on this planet, hurtling through empty space in a rapidly expanding universe that is utterly indifferent to works of mankind, be they televised or not.

Some solace: you can make some hot wings. With fun sauces. These too, of course, will fade from existence, leaving only a greasy ache in the pit of your stomach reminding you that you are alive. So you'll make some more.

This is your life now.

~~~~~

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

Jason Linkins   |   February 5, 2016   11:11 AM ET


One of the hotter debates happening in the Democratic nominating contest is really a dispute about governing style. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has argued that she's best-suited to be president at a time when the legislature is under control of the GOP because she's an operator, a "progressive that gets things done." Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) counters by saying that Clinton's style too often leads to a watering down of liberal policy, or the easy acceptance of more moderate policies. 


And yet, at Thursday night's debate, Sanders described an accomplishment of his that essentially validated Clinton's theory of how she'd govern as president.


How has Sanders presented his own theory of his presidency? He's repeatedly said that he'd overwhelm GOP legislative opposition by unleashing a grassroots movement behind his aims. He refers to this, often, as a mistake that President Barack Obama has made during his presidency -- the failure to use his coalition as a source of public pressure.


This is a fair critique of Obama, and Sanders is hardly the first person to make it. And one can certainly point to the tea party as a group that demonstrated the tidal effect of a grassroots revolution. Public pressure from the right definitely accomplished two things: It created an opportunity for a range of conservative ideas and policies to grow in acceptance, and it got enough people elected to change the complexion of Congress. Of course, it also created a situation in which GOP machers like former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could no longer govern effectively. 


It's still fair to say that the governing vision Sanders describes for his presidency is an abstract one. But what happens when Sanders describes how he's governed as a legislator? Suddenly, things get a lot more concrete. Here's how Sanders responded to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow during a discussion on privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs (emphasis mine):



MADDOW: Sen. Sanders, you, as a congressional leader on veterans issues and the Veterans Committee, you've worked in a very bipartisan way with Sen. John McCain and others on veterans issues. Is the right contour of the fight, the way she's talking about this issue?


SANDERS: Let me agree. You know, as the secretary knows, I chaired -- I had the privilege and the honor of chairing the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. And it is interesting to me, you know, Republicans give a lot of speeches about how much they love veterans. I work with the American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, the Vietnam Vets and virtually every veterans organization to put together the most comprehensive piece of veterans legislation in the modern history of America. That's what I did.


And I brought it to the floor of the Senate. Every Democrat voted for it; I got two Republicans. We ended up with 56 votes and I couldn't get the 60 votes that I needed. That is pathetic.


This was legislation supported by all of the veterans organizations, addressing many of the serious problems that veterans face in health care and in how we deliver benefits to them.


So Republicans talk a good game about veterans, but when it came to put money on the line to protect our veterans, frankly, they were not there.


What I did next, Rachel, is I had to retreat a little bit, I had to compromise. I did work with John McCain. I did work with Jeff Miller over in the House. And we put together not the bill that I wanted, but probably the most comprehensive VA health care bill in the modern history of this country.



As Jonathan Chait pointed out Thursday night, as a presidential candidate, Sanders "rejects ... the political model that treats pluralism as the normal model of political action" and "believes the interest of the public is not divided, it is united, and only the corrupt influence of big business has thwarted it." But by his own account of the process by which this legislation was passed, the public pressure failed, and he had to go back and cut a deal, the end result of which was nevertheless, to his mind, "the most comprehensive VA health care bill in the modern history of this country."


Now, perhaps Sanders is motivated to inspire a political revolution because he's seen bills fall short of the mark through this type of governance. And there is, of course, no guarantee that Clinton, were she in a similar position, wouldn't have settled for much less in the way of a piece of VA legislation.


But he sure sounds like he's proud of what he accomplished in this instance, and for a minute there, it sounded like he was similarly enthusiastic about the way in which it was accomplished. And it was accomplished despite the corrupting influence of corporate outsiders and the ideological opposition of the Republican caucus.


Sanders is right on the merits when he talks about the corrupting influence of money in politics, and history has proved that revolutionary populism can sometimes overcome those influences. But in this instance, what he describes validates the premise of Clinton's candidacy.


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   |   February 5, 2016   12:02 AM ET

At Thursday night's debate in New Hampshire, MSNBC moderator Chuck Todd tossed one of this week's bigger questions to Hillary Clinton, asking if she'd provide the public with a record of what she said in the numerous paid speeches she's delivered since leaving the State Department. These would include three speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs, for which she received $675,000 in renumeration. 

In her response, Clinton showed a tiny preview of one topic she may have addressed in those speeches, and sounded a familiar refrain:

TODD: Thank you both. Let me move on to our next question here, and in fact it comes to us through New England Cable News. Secretary Clinton, it's addressed to you, and it's about this issue of the speeches, particularly to Goldman Sachs. This is what the questioner wrote verbatim. 

"I am concerned with the abuses of Wall Street has taken with the American taxpayers' money," and then she asks whether you would release the transcripts of your Goldman Sachs speeches, and then added, "Don't you think the voting public has a right to know what was said?"

But, let's make that bigger. Are you willing to release the transcripts of all your paid speeches? We do know through reporting that there were transcription services for all of those paid speeches. In full disclosure, would you release all of them?

CLINTON: I will look into it. I don't know the status, but I will certainly look into it. But, I can only repeat what is the fact that I spoke to a lot of different groups with a lot of different constituents, a lot of different kinds of members about issues that had to do with world affairs. I probably described more times than I can remember how stressful it was advising the president about going after Bin Laden. 

My view on this is look at my record.

 

Well, Clinton does have something of a record -- or maybe it's a tendency -- of always referring back to the 9/11 terror attacks when the issue of her closeness to Wall Street comes up. As HuffPost's Ariel Edwards-Levy has reported, it came up in a big way at the Nov. 14 debate, at which Clinton gave this answer in response to her perceived closeness to Wall Street interests: "We were attacked in downtown Manhattan, where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country." 

One suspects there must be a better reason to pay Hillary Clinton $675,000 then to hear the story of how Osama bin Laden died, unless Wall Streeters really need the continual rebuking of those terrorists that badly.

Regardless, one can probably now expect Clinton's communications staff to be hounded until those transcripts are produced.

~~~~~

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

 

Read the latest updates on the debate below: 

Jason Linkins   |   February 4, 2016    5:02 PM ET

So, that happened. Hillary Clinton's candidacy has a very compelling mission: She'll hold fast against the GOP's attempts to roll back the accomplishments of the Obama administration. Bernie Sanders presents himself equally compellingly: Holding what's been gained isn't good enough; real progress requires a revolution. For a time, this was a heady debate about the future of a party. But as we entered this week, it's taken a personal turn and is now, essentially, a pissing contest over who's more progressive.

 At this week's debate, Clinton and Sanders were drawn into this argument from the outset.

"Senator Sanders and I share some very big progressive goals," Clinton said. "I've been fighting for universal health care for many years. We're now on the path to achieving it. I don't want us to start over again."

She went on to stake out goals on a range of issues, all of which fell short of the mark Sanders is personally seeking. The difference, Clinton said, is that Sanders' "numbers just don't add up."

Sanders struck a civil chord, but objected to the idea that he would "start over again." "I'm on the health, education, labor committee [which] wrote the Affordable Care Act. The idea I would dismantle health care in America while we're waiting to pass a Medicare for all is just not accurate."

The argument continued, however. Clinton made note of the fact that many Democrats would not be deemed sufficiently progressive under Sanders' definition, from President Barack Obama to the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone. 

Sanders insisted that this whole conflict began when Clinton, earlier in the campaign, self-proclaimed herself as a moderate.

"I said I'm a progressive that likes to get things done," Clinton responded, "Cherry-picking quotes doesn't get things done."

There is, of course, one thing that's revealed a fundamental difference between the two candidates and that drives both the thoughtful and the petty aspects of their rivalry. That thing? Wall Street, and its specter of influence that Sanders has, not so subtly, suggested governs Clinton's decision-making. Clinton has, in past debates, done herself no favors with her bizarre ripostes to Sanders' accusations -- the most famous of which is the claim that her relationship with powerful financial institutions is a mere byproduct of their geographic proximity to the Sept. 11 attacks.

On the debate stage, that divide once again featured prominently, with Sanders framing Hillary as part of an implicitly corrupt "establishment." "What being part of the establishment is," Sanders averred, "is in the last quarter having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street."

Clinton responded that this was an "insinuation" -- "If you've got something to say, say it directly. You will not find that i ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received... I think it's time to end the artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out in recent weeks and let's talk about the issues that divide us."

And that was just the first half-hour of this debate.

There's no doubt that Sanders presents a unique problem for Clinton. She sees the near future as one in which she -- a proven warrior against Republican slings and arrows -- serves as a lonely bulwark against the dismantling of progressive accomplishment. But Sanders is selling glittering visions of a progressive revolution. It's up to Clinton to sell her mission as the more realistic, and to point out that Sanders is going to get his teeth kicked in by an angry and entrenched GOP and that he's had it pretty easy being an independent winning elections in safe Vermont.

For a while, it looked like we'd have a debate over these competing visions. That it's skidded into this contretemps over who has the purest progressive bona fides is bad news for both candidates. For Clinton, it's simply a war she can't win and should avoid fighting in the first place, lest she become more reactive than strategic. And for Sanders, the pettiness cuts against the respectful tone of competitiveness he laid out from the outset, and it's starting to make him look less like a principled revolutionary and more like a conventional politician. It's a street fight tailor-made to sow resentment and depress turnout, and you have to imagine that the GOP candidates do not mind it one bit.

Also on this week's podcast, Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, who made a surprisingly strong showing in her upset bid to unseat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has set her sights on New York's 19th Congressional District. She's aiming to apply her work in fighting corruption to one of Washington's most broken institutions, and she joins us today to tell us how she'll get there.

This week, reform-minded Wisconsin Republican Rep. Reid Ribble announced that he'll be retiring from the House at the end of the year. We'll chat him up about the 2016 scene, his plans for his last year in office and what he hopes life after government is like.

And Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D) joins us in-studio to talk about reforming the U.S. relationship with the brutal and warlike regime in Saudi Arabia.

Finally, the presidential race has finished its sojourn in Iowa, and the movable feast moves on to New Hampshire. We'll discuss everything we learned about voters and the numbers, and how it could affect what happens next.

"So, That Happened" is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week are New York congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, Wisconsin Rep. Reid Ribble and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy. Also on the show are Huffington Post reporters Jessica Schulberg, Janie Velencia and Lauren Weber.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you're there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Also on HuffPost:

Jason Linkins   |   February 3, 2016    4:15 PM ET

When political observers characterize New Hampshire, host state of the first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 9, one aspect that they typically focus on is the state's famed independent-mindedness. That's a quality that helps make sense of the fact that the two insurgent candidates, Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump, boast big leads in the polls. But there's another unique thing about Granite State voters that's worth noting: They always break late. And therein lies the hopes of every candidate with a different surname.

Now these two features of the state's citizens are on a collision course with one another. And if history is any guide, we might wake up next Wednesday with another twist in the tale of this campaign season. Back in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama came into New Hampshire with a head of steam from an Iowa caucus victory and a deemed-to-be-insurmountable lead in the polls. And then, whoops: He lost to Hillary Clinton.

While the media was frantically piecing together the remnants of their broken narrative, I went back to school -- St. Anselm's College, to be exact -- to find out what actually happened:

As the last polls came in the Sunday before the primary, one important number failed to register: 47 percent. That's the percentage of the Democratic electorate in New Hampshire that hadn't made up its mind on who to vote for. Jennifer Donahue of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm's College, told The Huffington Post, "I always look for that number first because historically, New Hampshire voters make up their minds at the last minute." On Sunday night, that was the number that stood out in the CNN/WMUR poll. That large number of Democratic undecideds so close to the vote was unprecedented. And it was no outlier: the pollster at CNN/WMUR said that number was consistent throughout all the polls being taken.

"That, right there, is cautionary," Donahue says, adding that the news should have been, "Half the Democratic electorate still undecided...and that would be the headline until that number hits 30 percent."

There will probably be a fresh CNN/WMUR poll out this weekend, but here's where those numbers stood as of Jan. 31, first on the Republican side:

And here's the Democratic side of the ledger:

 

As you can see, there's still a great deal of fluidity, especially on the Republican side, where as of last week over 60 percent of voters were not yet firm in their choices. Back in 2008, Donahue suggested that media coverage should confront high undecided numbers like this by leading their coverage of the polls to note the high number of undecideds in "bold, red letters." This will have to suffice:

It's worth noting that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have substantially larger leads in New Hampshire right now than Obama held over Clinton in 2008 -- perhaps large enough to not worry about what late-deciding voters decide to do. For what it's worth, though, in Iowa, late-breaking Democratic voters were evenly split between Sanders and Clinton. But on the Republican side, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio outplayed Trump

I'd still say that if New Hampshire surprises, you shouldn't be surprised.

~~~~~

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

Jason Linkins   |   February 3, 2016   11:41 AM ET

For a few months now, Jeb Bush's campaign has been insisting that the Jeb! Comeback is on, and that the media should get in on the ground floor of this amazing narrative. Today, that narrative is channeling Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here's how the comeback is going. 

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words (from The New York Times) appear:

Speaking to a crowd at the Hanover Inn near the Vermont border during his final stop of the day, Mr. Bush finished a fiery riff about protecting the country as commander in chief — “I won’t be out here blowharding, talking a big game without backing it up,” he said — and was met with total silence.

“Please clap,” he said, sounding defeated.

The crowd laughed — and then, finally, clapped.

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

 

This has been the Jeb! Comeback Watch for Feb. 3. Jeb Bush finished in sixth place in Iowa (2.8 percent). He is currently in fifth place in New Hampshire (8.9 percent), fourth place in South Carolina (8.7 percent), and fifth place nationally (5.4 percent).

~~~~~

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

Jason Linkins   |   February 2, 2016    4:53 PM ET

For a few months now, Jeb Bush's campaign has been insisting that the Jeb! Comeback is on, and that the media should get in on the ground floor of this amazing narrative. Well, the Iowa results are in. Here's how the comeback is going.

Monday night, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush became the third member of his family to participate in the Iowa caucus. His father, George H.W. Bush, faced Iowa voters in 1988 -- when he finished third with 19 percent of the vote -- and in 1992, when he won unopposed. Brother George W. Bush did even better, finishing first in 2000 with 41 percent of the vote, and winning unopposed four years later. How did Jeb stack up? Uhhhhhh ... well, here are the numbers.

Poll average going into the Iowa caucus: 3.9 percent

Percentage of vote in the Iowa caucus: 2.8 percent

Standing in the polls before caucus: Fifth

Place he finished after votes were in: Sixth

Amount of money spent by Right to Rise, in Iowa: $14.1 million

Amount of money taken in by Right to Rise in the last fundraising quarter: $15.1 million

Amount of that donation provided by former AIG numbskull Hank Greenberg: $10 million

Money spent on ads per vote: $2,800 (based on voter turnout estimate of 180,000)

Money spent on ads per vote by Marco Rubio: $280 (based on voter turnout estimate of 180,000)

Number of tweets sent by Right To Rise troll Twitter account, "@IsMarcoWorking": Two.

Number of tweets, post caucus, in which a Jeb donor compares the experience of funding the campaign with the Bataan Death March: One.

Share price for Bush win on PredictIt: 5 cents

Likelihood that Jeb is still "happy to not be the front-runner": Nil.

Number of delegates won in Iowa: One.

Which means he trails the leader, Ted Cruz, by how many delegates? Actually ... just seven! See you in New Hampshire!

This has been the Jeb! Comeback Watch for Feb. 2. Jeb Bush finished in sixth place in Iowa (2.8 percent). He is currently in fifth place in New Hampshire (8.9 percent), fourth place in South Carolina (8.7 percent)  and fifth place nationally (5.6 percent).

~~~~~

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

Jason Linkins   |   February 2, 2016    4:01 PM ET

It was right around the time that news broke that certain Iowa precincts were determining which candidates were going to win delegates by virtue of a coin toss that I'd finally had enough, and decided it was time to throw the system by which Iowans determine presidential nominees into a dumpster, set it aflame, and push it out into East Okoboji Lake to disappear from our lives forever. The Iowa caucus: Let's do it, let's erase it from existence.

Lord knows this is only going to get a subset of Hawkeye State residents all up in my face, but enough's enough, you guys. The assignment of county convention delegates should not go down to uncertainty because of everyone's failure to plan for the possibility that there might be an even number of humans in a room.

And look, I know that the media really rode the coin toss story hard. As Pat Rynard of Iowa Starting Line opined the morning after, "It was particularly disheartening to see the national media run wild with the coin flip story." Well, you know, in our defense, we're not the ones who came up with this whole coin toss nonsense. We're not the ones who came up with any of this nonsense.

But between all the horse-trading, the different rules on both sides, the coin tosses, and the fact that a "handful" of precincts kept everyone waiting around Monday night because whoever was in charge forgot the official caucus abacus or something, it's time to take a good look at scrapping the caucuses, which bear a greater resemblance to a game of Calvinball than to an organized electoral process.

There are ancient criticisms of the Iowa caucus, of course, most of which have to do with the ways the state's voters are not representative of the rest of the country. Caucus-goers are too white, for example. They're too evangelical, on the GOP side. Everywhere, the state is too obsessed with ethanol.

Progress, at least, is being made on that last front. Ted Cruz's victory in the GOP caucus marks the "first time a candidate opposed strongly by the state’s ethanol industry came in first." In the homestretch of Hawkeye State politicking, Cruz looked like he might end up stumbling at the finish line after Gov. Terry Branstad called in the ethanol industry equivalent of a code red on the Texas senator. Donald Trump, sensing an opportunity, whacked Cruz hard on the issue. In the end, perhaps Cruz won because of the state's heavy evangelical tilt. Or maybe he won because Trump surrogate and word-salad tosser Sarah Palin made limp cracks about "huffing ethanol" before an unamused crowd of voters.

But who cares? The point is, the Iowa caucus is the only place in America where an election potentially hinges on the quadrennial obsession with a corn byproduct.

Really, who can say who won what and why? Sometime before the night's end, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, coasting to a high-performing third-place finish, came on stage and essentially delivered a victory speech. Normally, the only Americans who caterwaul on and on about their third-place finish are the upset winners of obscure Alpine events at the Winter Olympics, but there Rubio was, proclaiming, "This is the moment they said would never happen," about a thing that everyone was pretty sure was going to happen.

Now, all sorts of people are grousing about how Marco Rubio's gotten more love from the media for his third-place finish than either Cruz or Trump have gotten for beating him. Look, I am more sympathetic than most about the way goofy media narratives take hold in spite of actual facts, but let's face it: Part of the blame here goes to the fact that it's so easy to discount Iowa's results. "Oh, Cruz won Iowa? Well let's see if that holds up after we get the results from New Hampshire, the next wholly cloistered and unrepresentative voting cohort on the docket."

Over on the Democratic side, things ended in a genuine pileup, with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders locked in what's essentially a tie. Here, if the media narrative skids into the goof zone, that's entirely on them. But this process is still pretty nonsensical. Besides the fact that a handful of contests went down to a round of "What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss, friend-o," the Democrats keep things pointlessly obscure. Unlike Republicans -- who at least count the number of votes cast for each candidate -- Democrats don't provide a count of the raw vote totals, only the number of delegates each candidate wins.

So, right now, I literally could not tell you how many human beings in Iowa opted for Clinton or how many went for Sanders. Which is dumb. Don't just take my word for it. When I asked HuffPost Pollster's Natalie Jackson why the Democrats do it this way, she said, "Because they're dumb."

And without raw vote totals, the delegates become all-important, and that's when you trip into the fact that there are county convention delegates (the coin-flip guys) and "State Delegate Equivalents," or SDEs, the total apportionment of which solely determine who was "won." (In this case, Clinton has 701 SDEs to Sanders' 697.)

Steve Kornacki on MSNBC Monday night got so tripped up over these distinctions that he had to come on the air after a commercial and apologize for boofing it. Steve Kornacki! A man so detail-oriented and knowledgeable that when I forget what my wife wanted for her birthday, I just direct message him on Twitter and he tells me. Any election whose vagaries trip Kornacki up is one that needs reforms.

Basically, if a horde of jumpy 10-year-olds made up the rules that governed their clubhouse, and also their budding pre-pubescence, it would probably end up making a lot more sense than the system Iowa is using to kick off what is always "the most important election in American history." It's just no way to run a country, even for one day in February every four years.

I understand that this caucus process occupies a special place in people's hearts. Ardent fans of this process will look at the way normal Americans come out of their homes, gather together, and work their way to a result as a community of citizens, and they'll remember that this really is the essence of democracy. And it actually is nice to be nostalgic for some old aspect of America that didn't involve the denial of somebody's civil rights.

Although, now that I think about it, the Iowa caucus basically excludes people who work nights (which cuts out a lot of working-class Iowans) and who have to take care of young children (which cuts out a lot of parents ... probably mostly women at that). So, sorry, Iowa caucus, you're boned in this respect as well.

Right about now is when someone pipes up about how I've talked about a problem without proposing any solutions. I don't know, man. We could trade around the "first in the nation" status every cycle to give other states a shot. We could just hold a nationwide single-day primary. Or, for Pete's sake, Iowa can just do that thing where citizens of voting age take a whole day to cast their votes in voting booths, we total the results, and call it a night with defined winners and losers, like most of the rest of us here in the 21st century do it.

Sorry if none of these suit your fancy, caucus fans, but when mom and dad tell you that there's no such thing as Santa Claus, it's not on them to make up some new magical Christmas man for you. It's on you to grow up and get on with the business of living an adult life.

Get it together, Iowa. You're blowing it.

 ~~~~~

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

 

Jason Linkins   |   February 2, 2016   11:14 AM ET

The Iowa caucuses, mercifully, are over. The votes are in, the winners have declared victory and the people who finished third are also sort of declaring victory for some reason. The delegates have been apportioned -- or, more precisely, a teensy number of the thousands of delegates the eventual winner will need to collect have been apportioned. But how do we make sense of what happened?

As always, we look to the media for "takeaways." There are a lot for you to sample this Tuesday, but which are the hottest and most yummy? Herewith, Eat The Press offers the definitive ranking of the major Iowa takeaways, chosen by a scientific process of being correct about stuff.

1. The Democratic contest was close everywhere. There was a bunch of conventional wisdom, going in, about where the Sanders vote was strong and where Clinton had a beachhead. That all went out the window as the race proved tight all over the map.

2. "For the first time in the 2016 race, the conventional rules of politics applied to Donald Trump." What we refer to as "norms" made a brief comeback Monday night. 

3. Cruz's opponents threw everything they had at him -- and he survived. This really was a solid win for a candidate who spent his last fortnight in Iowa getting shellacked. (See also: "Ted Cruz proved he can take a punch.")

4. Iowans really need to up their caucus game. Come on, Polk County, it's just counting.

5. Donors will press Bush, Christie and Kasich to drop out. Good news for Marco.

6. The Democrats' bases don't look like they did in 2008. Clinton ceded white working-class voters to Sanders, but she kept the Obama coalition.

7. O'Malley voters held strong -- maybe a little too strong. Per Pat Rynard at the blog Iowa Starting Line, in many instances O'Malley's supporters didn't swing their support to another candidate in precincts where he wasn't viable, "so they weren't counted in the end at all."

8. Hillary Clinton "isn't a very good presidential candidate." It is weird that she keeps picking campaign teams that don't ever seem to actually want to campaign. (See also: "Hillary Clinton is a horrible candidate.")

9. Biden and Warren "must be kicking themselves." Probably Joe a little harder than Liz.

10. The Clinton campaign may shift resources out of New Hampshire. I guess that figures.

11. Trump's supporters "now have a more accurate picture of their size." Tell that to everyone using the #microsoftrubiofraud hashtag. (See also: "Trump underperformed badly.")

12. Bernie Sanders got out his vote. He's proven that organization is not king in Iowa.

13. Ted Cruz's victory shows that organization is still king in Iowa. Uh, this one could go either way, I guess.

14. Iowa is once again a "challenge for Clinton." It seems to have been a challenge for everyone, actually.

15. Ted Cruz is "your new front-runner." You know, for the next week or so.

16. South Carolina could be Clinton's New Hampshire. Maybe Florida will be her Nevada, who knows? Maybe Wyoming will be her Colorado. They kind of look the same.

17. Ethanol: big loser. Sure, but this just sets up the "ethanol comeback" narrative for 2020.

18. Rubio "might turn out to be the real long-term winner." The only problem is, no one can name what state he's going to win.

19. "Had [Trump] won tonight, he would have been extremely difficult to defeat." Been over this before, but the moment is a significant one. (See also: "Trump's relationship to polls finally hurt him."

20. Trump and Rubio are "on a collision course." Sure, who could have seen that coming when they both got into the same primary?

21. It's "now, officially, a 1-on-1 race" on the Democratic side. "Wait, it wasn't before?" -- everyone whose last name isn't Chafee, O'Malley, Lessig or Webb.

22. It was a big night for Rubio. If you (and he) say so! (See also: "Marco-mentum is real.")

23. "Third place is not a win" for Rubio. If you (and his opponents) say so!

24. "Why are the media obsessed with the GOP's populist candidate, when 75 percent of GOP voters in Iowa voted against him?" Probably because it wasn't until Monday night that GOP voters in Iowa voted.

25. "Marco Rubio won the establishment primary." Do you get delegates for this, or just a nice ribbon? (See also: "Marco Rubio is on the rise."

26. The other establishment candidates lost the establishment primary. Oof, you probably get even fewer delegates for this.

27. Sanders is "a serious threat to Clinton." You know, assuming the vagaries of the primary calendar haven't front-loaded his two best chances to win.

28. South Carolina will be "a battle royale." Yeah, man, they're having a primary there and everything.

29. "The Democratic race is still too close to call." Good thing we have The Wall Street Journal to point this out to us.

30. Massive turnout is good. Sure, sure.

31. Why did so many people vote for Ben Carson? (They like Ben Carson.)

32. "Zero percent of Democrats voted for a minority candidate." I'm more interested to know whom minority voters supported on Monday, but I understand my options are limited in Iowa.

33. Trump only turned out enough voters to finish second. Good counting, CNN!

34. "Cruz and Sanders both rail against the Establishment." And USA Today is on it!

35. "I have no idea what the second-place finish means for Mr. Trump -- and neither does anyone else." Cool, cool, definitely put that in a newspaper.

36. Candidates gave speeches. First time watching one of these things?

37. "It was particularly disheartening to see the national media run wild with the coin flip story." Yeah, it's definitely the media's fault that the Iowa caucuses are weird enough to allow coin flips to play a critical role in delegate allocation.

38. "Clinton survives and advances." Did you... did you think she was going to drop out?

39. Sanders fans are an angry lot sometimes. Yep, I'm on Twitter, too!

40. "Martin O'Malley had no chance." This is more like a takeaway from May of last year.

 

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   |   February 1, 2016    6:50 PM ET

For a few months now, Jeb Bush's campaign has been insisting that the Jeb! Comeback is on, and that the media should get in on the ground floor of this amazing narrative. Tonight we'll find out if he's got anywhere to go after the Iowa Caucuses. Here's how the comeback is going.

Tonight, Jeb Bush finds out what fate the voters of Iowa have in store for him. And if his New Hampshire travel itinerary is any indication, it looks like he reckons he'd better write off the Iowa caucuses and build his beachhead in the Granite State. These are pretty dismal times for the candidate who thought winning the nomination simply required him to build an army of big-dollar donors -- the theory being that he could "shock and awe" the rest of the field into surrendering as soon as those old Bush Pioneers were mobilized.

Why Bush thought this was possible in this age of goofy billionaires bankrolling pet candidates is anybody's guess. What seems a lot more certain is that the largesse of his high-rolling connections has all but dried up. According to the most recent round of financial disclosures, the cash flowing into the coffers of Jeb's super PAC has slowed considerably -- the last quarter saw them raising just a shade over $15 million.

And that total is only as high as it is because one donor in particular doesn't have the Bush candidacy properly marked-to-market. Per Mother Jones:

In July, when the super-PAC's first-half numbers were released, we counted at least 23 donors who gave $1 million or more to Right to Rise. This time, there was just one donor who gave more than $500,000—former AIG chairman and CEO, Hank Greenberg, who donated a whopping $10 million.

Greenberg is widely credited with greenlighting AIG's conversion from a major insurance company to a credit-default swap engine that made trillions of dollars in one-directional, wrong-way bets on the housing market.

Although Greenberg had been ousted from power by the time the company got its federal bailout, he literally sued the government claiming that it was treated unfairly by the rescue process. Now, he's giving Jeb Bush's super PAC $10 million to set on fire. 

Hank Greenberg: smart with money.

This has been the Jeb! Comeback Watch for Feb. 1. Jeb Bush is currently in fifth place in Iowa (3.9 percent), fifth place in New Hampshire (8.6 percent) and fifth place nationally (5.6 percent).

Jason Linkins   |   January 28, 2016    5:32 PM ET

So, that happened. Adam McKay, a multi-platform Hollywood hyphenate who helped create some of the most memorable comedies to hit the theaters, is back at the box office with his rendering of Michael Lewis' The Big Short. And he's a man on a mission: "I just feel like if another crisis comes, we're going to get hit again and we're going to be on the hook," he says. 

In an interview with The Huffington Post, McKay says he was drawn to this movie -- which documents the traders who bet big against America's "too big to fail" banks before they collapsed -- because he was "struck by the fact that the conversation had already stopped" after the financial crisis. So he's taken Lewis' story and added a blend of interweaving cinematic techniques, creating a film he hopes will be both enjoyable to watch and offer a call to rectify a system that still shows signs of breaking.

"I think the biggest crime was that no one was prosecuted," says McKay of those who played a part in the housing collapse. "I think for the most part there was one guy that got put in jail, and I think that's shameful. ... The banks are clearly still too big to fail."

Listen to HuffPost's interview with McKay in the podcast embedded above. The McKay segment begins at the 14:38 mark.

But it's very clear that what McKay hopes to achieve by bringing The Big Short to a wider audience is more than merely filing an angry brief against Wall Street. The story's characters -- an odd collection of eccentrics who spotted the rot in the housing market and how deeply embedded the big Wall Street firms were in it -- profited immensely from the tragedy that befell the economy. McKay says there's an important lesson in that: 

It sort of questions, like -- can there be a hero in a system this far gone? And what is a hero? I'm really proud of the fact that, in the end, you have these guys making loads of money -- but we in no way feel good about it. And I feel like that's something that's been lost in our society. Now, it's sort of like, if you make money, you're good, even if you make money through crappy means. ... That's not cool! I love the fact that these characters in the end are having a crisis.

In addition to Adam McKay, this week's "So, That Happened" features award-winning author and Atlantic reporter/essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates, who joins us to offer his perspective on reparations, Reconstruction and the Democratic primary. We're also joined by Florida law professor Tim Canova, who's emerged as Debbie Wasserman Schultz's first primary opponent in a long time. He'll make his case for why he's ready to take up the challenges his opponent has abandoned.

 

"So, That Happened" is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week is Adam McKay, director of "The Big Short"; Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me; and Tim Canova, Democratic candidate for Florida's 23rd District House seat. Also joining are Huffington Post reporters Paige Lavender and Lauren Webber.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you're there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Jason Linkins   |   January 28, 2016   12:40 PM ET

You may have heard that reality teevee mogul Donald Trump has opted to pull out of Thursday's Republican debate on the grounds that Megyn Kelly was mean to him one time (i.e., asked him a question). Instead of joining the rest of the field on the Fox News debate stage, Trump plans to hold what he's called a "Special Event To Benefit Veterans Organizations." Lest you think there is actual altruism behind this move, rest assured that Trump has specifically positioned the event as a spite-driven harrumph intended to hurt Fox News' ratings, with military veterans serving as props.

It's pretty saddening to see veterans caught up in the middle of this primary's stupendous nonsense. Nevertheless, this is a great opportunity for Trump's opponents to differentiate themselves from the frivolous hooligan in their midst, by rediscovering a little statesmanship and reasserting a little seriousness.

As you might expect, this is not what's happening. Days before the Iowa caucus, combat vets are being treated as poker chips in a daffy game of Texas Hold 'em, and Trump's main competitor is going all in. As The Hill's Bradford Richardson reports:

Super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz say they will donate $1.5 million to charities committed to helping veterans if rival Donald Trump agrees to a one-on-one debate with Cruz.

“Not only would this be a heck of a debate, but it would also be a terrific opportunity to generate millions of dollars for the veterans,” the Keep the Promise I and II PACs said in a joint statement Wednesday night.

Phew! At last, we finally have a "terrific opportunity" to support veterans. Man, I was wondering when one of those would come along! All it took was for Cruz to decide to do what he does best: a little opportunistic grandstanding.

As Richardson reports, Cruz's super PAC's came out with the cash offer very soon after Cruz himself announced that he'd gone and booked a venue for this one-off debate. So the added fun of this is that everyone gets to watch political reporters sort of shrug and hedge at an obvious example of a campaign coordinating with its own super PAC. This is, of course, technically illegal, but it hardly matters when everyone's decided to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening. I guess you'd have to be a real heel to point out that this whole arrangement looks awfully corrupt when there are potential veterans' benefits on the line.

If you thought all this conditional patriotism couldn't get any crasser, think again, because also-ran former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is still skulking around in the root cellar. Over the past few days, Fiorina has injected herself into this to-do with this series of tweets:

Right, so what you just witnessed was Carly Fiorina staking $3.5 million to buy her way into either the televised Fox debate (which has shut her out because her polling numbers have dropped so low that she's now surplus to requirements) or Trump's competing event. Pretty classy thing to do -- flaunt a thick bankroll, try to extort your way into the sanctioned debate from which you've been barred by promising the cash to a good cause, and if that fails, use a bigger bankroll to extort your way into Trump's umbrage-fest.

Pretending that all of this is some act of courage is an additional nasty touch on Fiorina's part. But it's all good, right? It's like a reality TV show where some wounded combat veterans might get better health care if everyone properly debases themselves.

Since there seems to be a lot of confusion, let's use the Eat The Press telestrator to draw up a flowchart explaining what everyone with a functioning soul is supposed to do in this situation. 

 And that settles that.

Jason Linkins   |   January 27, 2016    3:33 PM ET

This week's Republican debate, scheduled to take place on Fox News, is all ass over tea kettle now, thanks to that great disrupter of tea kettles, Donald Trump, who is threatening to "boycott" the debate because of Fox's apparently naive insistence that they should be allowed to deploy their journalists as they see fit.

Trump is aggrieved that Fox anchor Megyn Kelly -- who at a previous debate made the impertinent choice to ask him a question other than "Why are you so amazing?" -- is slated to continue to ply her craft as a debate moderator, despite Trump's objections. All of this has led to a round of "What is everyone playing at here?" questioning.

It's actually very simple. Trump is almost entirely informed by the grudges he nurtures. He has a grudge against Kelly. It's an open question as to whether there are any shades of variation to all of the grudges he holds, or if he's capable of distinguishing between a minor slight and a major offense. This question might be worth exploring, considering the guy wants to run a massive structure of regulatory agencies and a military.

This could be explored whether he shows up at the debate to answer for himself or not. Ultimately, of course, it may not matter -- the maintenance of enmity is both central to Trump's "brand" and is the key to unlocking the support of his fan base, and so Trump has resuscitated this grievance ahead of the Iowa caucuses to aid his effort in that contest. Trump was always going to find some way of tweaking the amygdala of his base in the closing days, the Fox debate provided the ripest opportunity, and so here we are.

An obvious question that remains is, "Will Fox News ultimately accede to Trump's demand?" The candidate has asserted that he drives Fox News' ratings and that these will suffer in his absence. That's a gamble. I'd say that his absence, in and of itself, will make the next debate a genuine curiosity, and in any event we're only talking about three hours in the life of a cable news channel that will broadcast thousands more between now and Election Day.

Nevertheless, if you were making a list of the news organizations that would happily throw one of their own journalists under the bus to cater to an extortionist, you'd probably put Fox on that list right away. And given the ongoing power struggles within Fox News right now, you might move them to the top of that list. As Gabriel Sherman reported soon after this mess started exploding, a cave-in could well be in the cards:

How this all ends is anybody’s guess. According to one Trump source, Trump was not taking Ailes’s calls after announcing the boycott. Trump advisers are privately telling people that he will only deal with Rupert Murdoch to resolve the dispute. Having Murdoch dragged into the mess could be a serious problem for Ailes. The CEO earned Murdoch's trust because Fox generates $1 billion in profit, but also because he was always in control. But in recent months Murdoch has been attending news meetings at Fox in the wake of a health scare that forced Ailes to take an extended leave of absence. Succession planning at Fox is very much on Murdoch's agenda. If Ailes loses his grip on the Trump situation -- and right now it looks like he is -- Murdoch will have another reason to worry about the stability of his most valuable asset.

Trump has since made it explicit that he'll only talk to Murdoch about this, so it's down to the News Corp. chair as to whether Kelly's career will be sacrificed on the altar of assisting the GOP front-runner in his continuing quest to dodge questions he doesn't enjoy answering. And for all anyone knows, that might be something that Murdoch specifically and authentically wants to do.

All of this nonsense has given rise to the notion that what we're watching here is some sort of scripted dance between Trump and the cable network, in which both parties have rekindled this acrimony in a mutual effort to boost one another. I make allowances for weird behavior, but this theory seems especially cracked to me. Let's see: Donald Trump and Fox News are going to risk their own credibility, and do Megyn Kelly wrong in full public view, for the sake of purely marginal gains in polls and ratings?

That's quite a game of 11th-dimensional chess everyone is playing here! The simpler explanation, again, is that Trump has an opportunity to play the victim and boost his standing, and Fox may or may not cave in to those demands.

Besides, to focus on what ratings Fox is risking this week by not catering to Trump's bespoke debate demands is to miss the larger threat that Trump's rise portends for the network, which won't be contained to one night in January. Fox News has made a nearly two-decade-long investment in becoming an important institution of American conservatism, and has amassed a loyal following in that time -- so much so that "GOP primary voters" and "Fox News' core audience" are essentially one and the same. What Trump threatens now is to cleave that fan base away from the channel, forcing Fox to make a choice between their maintaining their deeply held ideological underpinnings and maintaining their audience.

If you need evidence that Trump's candidacy really doesn't offer much in the way of fealty to authentic conservative principles, consider this news report from The Associated Press this week:

Republican front-runner Donald Trump says he could save Medicare billions of dollars by getting the massive federal agency to negotiate prices with the major pharmaceutical companies.

Trump told an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,000 people packed into a high school gymnasium Monday night in Farmington, N.H., that Medicare could “save $300 billion” a year by getting discounts as the biggest buyer of prescription drugs.

Said Trump: “We don’t do it. Why? Because of the drug companies.”

This is not a policy position that would normally sit well with conservatives. As our own Jonathan Cohn pointed out at length, this puts Trump "squarely on the Democratic side of a debate that has divided the two parties for at least 20 years."

Per Cohn:

Democrats have long insisted that the U.S. government should have similar power over drug companies. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton issued such a call in 2008 and has done so again this year. Her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has said enabling the government to set drug prices is part of his proposal to create a “single-payer” insurance system. Obama has also called for government negotiation of prices.

Republicans and their allies have traditionally opposed such measures, arguing that cutting into drug companies' profits would reduce innovation. They have also argued that the government could not negotiate successfully with drug companies unless it was willing to walk away from negotiations and deny insurance coverage for certain drugs.

It fell to Ted Cruz to make the point that Trump was, once again, out of step with longstanding conservative principles. But Trump is proving to be very capable of drawing conservatives away from their beliefs. Witness this tweet from Laura Ingraham: 

So now you can see Trump's ability to convince conservatives to abandon their beliefs occurring in nature.

There was certainly a time when Trump and Fox walked parallel paths. Both make great use of grievance politics, gaudy spectacle and the willingness to use rhetoric specifically designed to get liberals' backs up. But Fox News is, nonetheless, rooted in conservative ideology. Any time there is a policy debate making news, Fox will reliably find its way back to articulating and defending the conservative point of view. The news channel produces conservative content, and they've made it their mission to continually inculcate their audience in these philosophies.

By contrast, Trump maintains all of Fox's best tropes as a recognizable outer shell, but he doesn't share Fox News' mission. The content of his campaign is not recognizably conservative. It may be that his candidacy is actually free of content of any kind, to be honest. But the outer appearance has proven to be enough to draw conservative voters away from conservatism. Trump's critics have often referred to him as a "Pied Piper" figure -- this is the precise phenomenon that the National Review noticed and has sounded an alarm against in their latest "Against Trump" themed issue.

So in the end, whatever happens at this week's debate is really just a distraction. Fox may or may not accede to Trump's debate demands, Trump may or may not follow through on his threat to not participate in the event. By the looks of things, Trump may be engineering his own return to the debate anyway, so after this long and tortured walk-around everyone involved may find themselves back where they began.

But the problem that Trump poses to Fox isn't something that can be contained to one debate night, and it's not likely to end after the lights go down at the Iowa Events Center this Thursday night. Trump could end up scuttling the grand mission that Ailes undertook many years ago, by convincing a sizable portion of the GOP base to make a break with recognizable conservatism.

This is essentially the fear that animated the editors and contributors of the National Review to put together their latest issue. They've noticed -- perhaps belatedly! -- that Trump has the power to take the voters that are critical to conservative electoral success and cleave them from conservative philosophies in a way that might set back conservatism for decades. The National Review, in essence, reviewed Trump's basic Faustian bargain -- you get access to power, and at least four years of hippie punching, but in return you give up your basic beliefs -- and have stood athwart it, saying no. Now Fox gets to face the same choice. This problem won't be solved by a debate.