A Few Thoughts on Last Night’s Town Hall

Like I’m sure most of my audience, I spent last night watching the Town Hall style debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The so-called “Commander-in-Chief Town Hall” onboard the Intrepid in front of a gaggle of military men and women, along with their commanders. I’ll take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the night.

Frankly, the event was such a complete shit-show, especially where Trump was concerned, that it would be neigh-on impossible to mention all of it. At least, not without help from other news sources. So I guess you might say this is my list of Most Awful Moments, if you have to call it anything.

Seriously, NBC?

I honestly cannot tell what NBC is covering, anymore. They’re so pleased with themselves with the Williamsian theme music and lush lighting effects, it could be a Macy’s Day Parade, a sporting event or a critical portion of the democratic process. They all come out looking more-or-less the same. Speaking of which,…

Matt Lauer..

Matt Lauer has his perfect job: getting up early in the morning to discuss lizards at the San Diego Zoo, “recipes” featuring pre-made cake mix, and laser hair removal. Why NBC insists on putting him in serious situations that he’s grossly unprepared for is beyond me. But please, NBC: you have a bullpen of fine reporters both male and female. You needn’t settle for the fluff.

* Side note: you could be doing much better with the Macy’s Day Parade, too. Keep that morning show shit in it’s place.

A lot has been made of Lauer’s lack of follow-up. But I think looking at the way the night went overall is more instructive. Trump was asked open-ended questions about his fitness to serve, about ISIS, about our military generals. He was pressed to explain his position on “taking the oil” (more on that in a sec). He was pressed to explain why he wants to keep his strategy vis vis ISIS a “secret.” No one subject dominated the night for Trump. In fact, Lauer was happy to move on even when as people have said, he should have pressed for details. Hillary was asked about..

Ferchrissakes, Email

Lauer’s first question to Hillary Clinton was about the email server. In fact, the first third of Hillary’s part was spent on the email including at least one question from the audience. You could perhaps make the argument that information security is national security. And you would be right. But when focused, ostensibly, on foreign affairs in 2016 with only a half hour per candidate.. is that really the first question you ask?

Again, it is instructive to notice the layout of Lauer’s questions: after grilling Clinton on what is truthfully a trivial matter of security for almost half the time he had with her, Lauer breezes from topic to topic with Trump. Clearly, Matt Lauer set his agenda from the very first question.

It is clear now that the email server is an issue for which Clinton needs to answer in real time in front of a national audience. It’s an issue with which she clearly has a problem doing just that. But then…

Hillary Clinton

She did a shit job answering for her email debacle. And even if the “debacle” part was manufactured by her opposition, by now, we can officially call it a debacle. Because she had no real answers that weren’t focused on exonerating herself legally. That’s fine in a court of law – it may even be fine with a reasonable military person, all of whom have a lot of experience with security in their own jobs – but it’s not a persuasive argument for good judgement.

I think she came back pretty strong on veterans affairs and foreign policy. But the best moment was when she shut down that flake Lauer when she was trying to answer a complex question about the Middle East. If you’re going to sacrifice ten minutes on email, don’t expect to just gloss over Middle East foreign policy, dummy. And I think she came off well for the thinking person who wants to be treated like an adult and given the facts. Hillary has them in spades.

To the extent that Mrs. Clinton was allowed to discuss anything other than being Emailer-in-Chief, I think she did the best with what she had to work with. And then there’s..

Donald Trump

Seriously, ignoring the avowed racists like the Klan who support him, how can any thinking person consider this guy qualified to be President of the United States?

Matt Lauer managed to not press Trump on any but the most preposterous of his claims – including when Trump offered to list things that make President Obama equivalent to Vladimir Putin. He just sorta let that slide by.

No, accusing the sitting Commander-in-Chief of being a dictator doesn’t require any follow up. A person on the Today Show, demonstrating the wonders of her new skin cream? That needs follow up. Not this. Not a line of argument that would get a military man shoved in the brig.

But the most amazing, telling part of that exchange is when Matt Lauer asks if Putin would “change his mind.” You tell me, but I get the sense Trump thinks Lauer is asking about Putin’s mind where Donald Trump is concerned, not the litany of aforementioned crimes in Crimea and elsewhere. Check about 1:19 in this video:

“Possibly! It’s possible. I don’t know, Matt. And it’s not going to have any impact. If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”

Stand by your man, Donald. But the question was not about you.

Perhaps the problem for Lauer is the same one that has vexed so many other reporters: Trump is so completely full of shit that it’s hard to know where to begin. Because literally not a single answer of Trump’s was substantive. They were the same angry tone poems he’s been reciting all election season long. Word painting in blood. But not a single policy declaration.

There was one decent Lauer moment when even he couldn’t buy into the Trump Horseshit Roadshow. Trump has insisted for months that describing his broad-strokes strategy will be versus ISIS is somehow equivalent to giving an enemy general his battle plans. That’s just farce and even Lauer had enough backbone to question it. I think we all remember the little asshole in elementary school who would insist, “I know, but I’m not going to tell you!” Right up there with “my dad’s a lawyer” and “my girlfriend is from Canada.”

Wow. Did Trump just shit in the mouth of every general in the US Military?

I know that Trump’s brand of “negotiating” is to employ bully tactics. I know that he stakes outrageous claims specifically so he can walk back to a place where he wins. But just as often these days, I get the distinct impression that what’s really going on is that Trump fucks up, and then begins his strongman routine to cover for it.

Standing in the middle of a room full of servicemen and talking shit about their commanders is a mistake. Forget whatever they might say among themselves, it’s just something you don’t do. But returning to Trump’s tone poems if revanchism, it’s simply not a part of his campaign or his brand that he can live without. And insisting that we’re losing in the world necessarily means saying nasty things about the leadership of the military. You can’t get around it.

He says he’ll listen to “his” generals, but insists that “Obama’s generals” are decimated and in ruins. What does that mean? Is he aware that military brass are not political positions that he can just fill at a whim?

Take the Oil. Please!

Out of all the weird shit that Trump has said for lo, this many months, one of the weirdest was the idea that we could “take the oil” from Iraq. I really want to believe that even Trump supporters can see this nonsensical claptrap for what it is. But alas! I have no such hopes.

Take the oil. How, exactly? Even Matt Lauer wanted to know, and it was pretty obvious from the beginning: Matt Lauer didn’t really want to know shit. If you could just pull all the oil out of the ground at once, don’t you think someone would have thought about that before now? We’d have barrels of crude stacked up behind every Hess station in town. But you can’t because…

Jesus. I might as well be talking to my four year old. You just can’t, OK?


Messaging in a Time of Micro-celebrity

I mentioned this on social just a little while ago, but I wanted to expand on my thoughts here. Watching the below-linked video, it occurred to me that what separates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in the minds of lots of Internet-aware voters is that Hillary is ready to find a message and pound it into your head the old fashioned way. Sanders has shown a willingness to let his supporters define their own versions of the message.

In a world where every individual with a smartphone – including yours truly – can become a celebrity in their own minds, is it self-defeating to try to define your own message at those voices’ expense? We hear a lot about Hillary’s lack of authenticity, but it seems like the real problem is that she’s trying too hard to get the old Clinton mojo back.

Even if she could play sax, showing up on a late night show to play an instrument didn’t do Mike Huckabee shit, so why would she expect that we’ll all behave as we did in the 90’s? Maybe it’s because, as a career messenger and “triangulator” in the parlance of our day, she can’t afford the messiness of an off-message supporter.

Bernie Sanders has no such hang-ups. He’s been willing to say “we don’t need you.” And he can do so without irony, because he’s not secretly huddling up with them in some bank-funded private luncheon.

The Senator didn’t reach out to me all of a sudden because he needs help with Black people. He didn’t put out a press conference announcing that we would be working together. He didn’t force me to frame my support of him around a subject matter that special interest groups that support him can get behind. They said we are glad to have your support, how do you want to plug in. You will see a lot of Black leaders handing out endorsements, think to yourself, have they historically been a rubber stamp for the establishment? I hope this expresses why I think Bernie is our guy!

Source: Erica Garner’s Commercial Endorsing Bernie Sanders for President – Erica Garner


Ah, The What Ifs. . . discusses the questions circling amongst Dems as to what might have been different had Edwards gotten out of the race earlier. Mark Penn thinks everybody would have swung for Hillary. That’s because Mark Penn is a hapless douchebag. Who really thinks that the uber-Liberal Edwards supporters would have broken for Hillary who doesn’t also think that naked racism is the way to win a Democratic primary? Show of hands?

Interesting discussion, but Hill and ‘Bama are bestest buddies now. Let’s not get this shit started again. . .



It’s exactly this kind of clumsy language that cost Mrs. Clinton the primary and it’s exactly this kind of clumsy language we hope she can avoid in the future in her role as the chief diplomat of the worlds last remaining superpower.

I understand what she’s saying – and even agree with it, to the extent that a failed world economy necessarily means more human rights violations around the world – but seriously? Without being a career politician, I can think of better ways to says this.


Now, That’s Class

Hillary Clinton? Bob Lonsberry? Are you taking notes:

Ben Smith’s Blog: Obama apologizes to Muslim women; apology accepted –

Sen. Barack Obama today called the two Muslim women who were barred from sitting behind him at his Detroit rally to apologize, one of the women and two other sources said.

“Sen. Obama called himself and he apologized to each of us,” one of the women, lawyer Hebba Aref, told me just now.

Senator Obama’s campaign screwed up – it was a couple volunteers at a local event, but it was still technically his campaign – and they refused to let a few Muslim women in hajib, or traditional headscarfs, sit behind Obama at a rally. Most likely, the volunteers objected for fear of eliciting more “Obama is a Muslim” rhetoric from the fringe Right. Whatever is the case, it’s still wrong.  And Senator Obama called each of the women to apologize because he knew it was wrong.

He could easily have dodged the problem by “firing” the volunteers.  He could easily have made excuses for why it didn’t happen the way the reports said it happened.  He could have blamed the volunteers and said, “that’s what happens when you use volunteers.”  He chose to do none of these things.  He assumed responsibility, took three whacks, and got it over with like a decent human being.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but its the right thing to do.  Especially for a leader.


Suspend or End? Eliminate Superdelegates?

Now that Hillary is making plans to concede the Democratic Primary race on Saturday, there’s a lot of talk about how she should go about that – whether to simply suspend her campaign or end it outright.  Many people on the Obama side are clamoring for her to end it outright, fearing that she’s just laying in wait for some reason to turn her campaign engines back on again.

Well, suspending now wouldn’t leave much wiggle room for that type of thing, even if that’s what she’s considering.  But ending the campaign rather than suspending it is probably the worse choice for Barack Obama.  Because, of course, once she ends the campaign, all those delegates become free agents again.  They can fall in line with Obama or not.

And since there are likely to be die-hard Hillary fans and anti-Barack votes in their midst, it would make for a lot of unpleasantness if the Obama Campaign had to answer for every delegate who chose not to join his campaign when there is no other rival.  It’s not the kind of question he really wants to answer in the media, nor is it the kind of situation that’s going to breed much party unity.  All of this would be fodder for the Republican attack machine.  Better that Hillary concede the race, endorse Obama and quietly encourage her delegates to switch over to Obama if they want.  There’s nothing really wrong with delegates voting their conscience at the convention, as long as they accept the results and come together.


There is also a fair amount of discussion about the role of the Super Delegates and whether that position should be eliminated from the Democratic Party’s primary process.  My view is that the Supers ultimately contributed very little to the race and thus the role is really the beauty contest prize we all thought it was.  Keep ’em or get rid of ’em, I don’t think it really matters.

It *was* Super Dels that put Barack Obama over the top.  However, that only happened once the elected delegates put him over the top.  In point of fact, Barack Obama won the Primary according to conventional count, and nothing short of a complete defection of Supers would have altered that outcome.  To put it another way, the only thing the Supers really contributed was four hundred extra votes in the “magic number.”  Instead of 2100+, the number could have been 1700+ and the results would have been the same.  The only time that the Supers *would* or *could* matter is in a primary at least as close as this one – and as it’s been deftly proven – in such a case the pols that are Supers would be entirely too fearful of negative reactions at home to bother declaring anything until the matter has been decided by the normal process.

So, here’s what I propose: keep the Super Delegates, but instead of getting an extra vote at the Convention, let’s just give them free car washes at Delta Sonic and nice, up-close seats at the Convention.


Hillary: Write Your Own Caption



The Great Veep Debate

Now that there seems to be a relatively high degree of satisfaction amongst the Democrats and the media that Barack Obama is going to be the nominee – though we are constantly reminded that there is not a guarantee of anything – the discussions of whom shall be the vice presidential running mate of Obama and McCain can finally begin in earnest.  Oh, joy.

These are always discussions that, like a great many in the talking head media, stroke the egos of journalists more than enlighten the public; naming possible veep nominees is a great way to show you know a whole lot of crap about party politics that the rest of us don’t have time for.  Its a way to show you know every second-stringer and governor from fly-over country that matters, but none of it matters even as much as the discussions during the primaries, which wasn’t a lot either.

One trend that has proven somewhat interesting in the last week and a half has been the media’s setup for how they plan on covering the Clinton defeat.  They seem to be relishing it.

One track of the discussion has been whether or not Hillary will be a “sore loser.”  You hear that phrase quite a bit from a great many talking heads.  Where the discussion previously turned on whether or not Clinton would go to the convention floor and yank the nomination at the last minute, now it’s just a case of how nasty she looks when she loses.

The other major track has been the “Democrats don’t suffer losers” discussion.  Here, it is pointed out that while many Republicans have lost the nomination in one primary only to gain it back in the next, Democrats have never rerun a nomination.  The implication is that Clinton will not get a second chance at the presidency in the likely event that she loses the nomination this time.

So if you haven’t noticed those two themes, look out for them and how they evolve over the next few weeks. Like the Jeremiah Wright story and the noticeable lack of a Pastor John Hagee story, it will be these themes that dominate how the media attempts to shape our opinions.


Go Ahead, Defend This

Any Clinton supporters going to be takers for defending this? Like I said: asshole wing of the party. Deny it.

Clinton Supporters Send Last-Ditch Obama Attack Emails To Supers – Politics on The Huffington Post

Added another: “Obama, in my opinion, will NOT survive the general election against McCain.”

Clinton Supporters:

The exit polls show I am not alone in refusing to vote for Obama and opting to McCain.

Clinton Supporters:

“How can we elect someone who has never accomplished anything, refuses to take stands on issues, befriends anti-American terrorists, attends a church for 20 years with Wright, and denies ever hearing anything controversial, and then stages a *public fight* so he can finally denounce him, takes credit for bills in the Senate that he had nothing to do with, and is propped up as the candidate of change??” wrote one Democrat.


This Just In: Voters are not Idiots

Well, NY Senate Republicans, John McCain and Hillary Clinton seem to disagree, but even the Rochester Business Journal’s readers don’t buy into the “Gas Tax Holiday” garbanzo that they’re selling:

Rochester Business Journal – Snap Poll

Nearly two-thirds of respondents oppose a gas-tax holiday this summer.

It’s a shame the RBJ is so insistent on selling their papers instead of embracing new media with any kind of gusto. They don’t publish any internals to the polls, which would be helpful.


White People are So Cool

And not just cool, they’re super popular in the Democratic primaries! I mean, everybody’s trying to get a few on their side:

Clinton makes case for wide appeal –

“I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

Yeah, white people rock, ya gotta have white people. Especially because they’re such hard workers! Not like those lame-ass non-white people. Why, if you’ve got a big convention in a few hours but you forgot to put up a podium, what you need is some white people! They’ll get that podium up lickity-split, no shit!

Let me just say for what I hope to be the last time this election season that my dad has worked thirty plus years at Xerox, putting in fifty and sixty hour weeks to pay for mine and my sister’s upbringing. His dad worked at Bell and Howell. I learned to cook because my mom was working two jobs and somebody had to put mac and cheese on the table for me. I graduated from Sodus High School, also known as the “Not Quite Ready for Ivy League Players.” I went to school for a year for music. . . it was MCC.

If some southern Republican douchebag with shit on his boots wants to call me a New York liberal elitist, that’s on him. But when my multi-millionaire Senator – who is married to a Rhodes Scholar, for Chrissakes – does it, it fucking pisses me off. I’d like to let it go and vote for her next time she’s up for reelection in the Senate, but she makes it very hard to do. 2000 may go down in my personal history as the last time I voted for a Clinton, . . unless Chelsea runs, and then only because she’s hot.

And yes, goddamnit, I like lattes. The largest one you’ve got, caramel, with drizzle on top, hold the scones. Happy?


Does Hillary Represent the A$$hole Wing of the Party?

What the hell is this?

NYT: Options dwindling for Clinton – The New York Times-

And in Indiana, for example, less than half of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters said they would support Mr. Obama in a general election, while one-third said they would vote for Mr. McCain. About one-fifth of Mr. Obama’s supporters in Indiana said they would vote for Mr. McCain in a general election should Mrs. Clinton get the nomination.

I realize that a lot of this is bitterness – and that there’s a lot of bitterness on the Obama side as well – but to publicly make the statement that you’d consider four more years of Bush doctrine in the world, more Conservative judges in the Supreme Court and the McSame Health Care Plan? I don’t believe it’s true, I don’t think they’ll really side with McCain. If anything, maybe a few will pout at home come election day and feel guilty about it later. But what kind of gaping asshole says things like this to pollsters?

But I think that more than anything else, it’s the Clinton campaign style that brings this out. She’s thrown every nasty bolt she could find his way, she has used every single excuse in the book to justify her campaign, she and her surrogates have used Republican playbooks and even Republican sources while pretending to want to lead us in a different direction, she’s even metamorphosed from Queen Wonk to Shot Slammin’ Anti-Intellectual Diva for the sake of a few Indiana votes. She has whipped up a virulent hatred that is unambiguous in blog posts, comments and now in exit polls.

And for what? A two-percent margin of victory in Indiana that contributes absolutely nothing to her delegate count. A double-digit loss in North Carolina that puts her at least fifteen or twenty delegates further into the hole. A supercharged hate machine that threatens – bluff or no bluff – to ruin the party and probably the country if it doesn’t get what it wants.

And ask yourself this, Electability Monkeys: has Barack Obama won against a good campaign or has Hillary Clinton lost to a lame campaign? Because neither answer bodes well for Hillary’s electability rationale.