Category Archives: Politics

Will Trump’s War on the Media Work?

A Trump supporters heckles the media.

Earlier today, Donald Trump sent out a push “poll” to his supporters attacking the media, which I covered at The Weekly Standard.

If you missed the story, Trump — who has not, to anyone’s knowledge, spent a dime on internal polling — used a push “poll” to fan the flames of anger against “the media” whom he blames for his dismal general election results.

In my view, his campaign is likely using the clearly non-scientific “poll” for four purposes:

  1. Data mining his supporters’ views.
  2. Something he will seriously cite on national TV as evidence of X. (In any other year, it’d be beyond belief, but alas, it’s 2016…)
  3. Data mining his supporters’ reading/viewing habits. (TWS made the top five!)
  4. To use psychology to further convince them that they’re right and everyone else, including reporters, opinion writers, and outlets they typically read/respect, are wrong.

Zach Hanover, a GOP ad maker, writes in:

I can’t imagine doing anything like that with any of my clients. Easily one of the most pathetic and amateurish displays from this campaign and sadly I have a feeling we aren’t done yet…

Also as you pointed out… seems like the only purpose was data mining with the questions about channel preferences. Not sure what else can be gained from that.

One anonymous pollster I spoke to opined:

Once upon a time, people used to make fun of SurveyMonkey. But they never saw this survey from the Trump campaign’s sophomore-year government class… Direct mail people who send out those fundraising ‘surveys’ are laughing at this until their sides hurt… Trump has no other play than to keep his core supporters on board.

“It’s good to at least see what they’re working on instead of opening campaign offices or running ads…” commented former senate press secretary and communications consultant Michael Freeman. “Each day brings new evidence that this is one man’s ego trip, with a dash of grievance-airing, rather than anything resembling a real campaign”

Charlie Sykes, a prominent Wisconsin-based talk radio host and commentator who has been critical of Trump, has this to say about the Trump push “poll”:

It tells me that he has become rather consumed by his war with the media, even at he expense of talking about Hillary. For Trump, this is consistent. I’m guessing his loudest applause lines at his rallies are his attacks on the media and there is no downside to attacking them, at least when it comes to his own base.

His specific examples of mainstream media bias are likely to resonate with his supporters who have marinated in talk radio over the years.

But this is also now becoming a crucial tactic for his campaign: he lives by the media in the primaries and is dying by the media in the general. The coverage of negative, and it is clearly damaging. Trump’s response isn’t just to push back on negative stories; it is to de-legitimize the media altogether. That way he inoculates himself against stories about his outrageous comments, his phony charitable contributions, his Trump U. fraud case, his taxes, gaffes, or misstatements of fact. He has already benefited from the alternative reality created by friendly conservative media, so he has decided to double down in telling his fan base that they are the only credible sources.

Sykes, in an earlier interview with Business Insider‘s Oliver Darcy suggested that conservative media has “created a monster” as it pertains to their listening base:

We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers. There’s nobody. Let’s say that Donald Trump basically makes whatever you want to say, whatever claim he wants to make. And everybody knows it’s a falsehood. The big question of my audience, it is impossible for me to say that. ‘By the way, you know it’s false.’ And they’ll say, ‘Why? I saw it on Allen B. West.’ Or they’ll say, ‘I saw it on a Facebook page.’ And I’ll say, ‘The New York Times did a fact check.’ And they’ll say, Oh, that’s The New York Times. That’s [a lie].’ There’s nobody — you can’t go to anybody and say, ‘Look, here are the facts.’ And I have to say that’s one of the disorienting realities of this political year. You can be in the alternative media reality and there’s no way to break through it. And I swim upstream because if I don’t say these things from some of these websites, then suddenly I have sold out. Then they’ll ask what’s wrong with me for not repeating these stories that I know not to be true.

This might be charitably described as the “Fargo” strategy, from season one. A poster in Lester Nygaard’s basement reads: “What if you’re right and they’re wrong?” A red fish swims against the current of yellow fish.

This is the audience Trump seeks input from: citizens so distrusting of the media / trusting in Trump, they’re willing to suspend all disbelief in support of Trump. This, despite dozens of unfavorable stories on Trump from outlets they once, ostensibly, trusted.

In short, trust no one but … Trump and your own lyin’ eyes. (Read: Please, please, please stay on board the Trump Train.)

Brian Rell, chief of staff to Rep. Robert Aderholt tweets, about the push “poll,” that it is “a reflection of public sentiment being used as campaign tool…”

Indeed, Trump is doubling down on an old talk radio trope that had some truth to it. No longer is it “the mainstream media is biased” as it sometimes is, now it’s “the media is biased.” Writ. Large.

Will it work?

Sykes thinks so:

I’m tempted to say yes, because the media polls just above used car salesmen and hemorrhoids. But in this case, it just tells me that he is (1) off message, (2) blaming somebody other than himself for his lousy poll numbers. Neither is a good sign.

After submitting their responses, respondents, of course, are asked to donate, as is the custom of all fake surveys. But Trump’s push “poll” seems less about donations and more about voter psychology… Confirming their bias that they are right, and everyone else is wrong. #MAGA.

More importantly, when will the Trump campaign get around to doing serious polling, running campaign ads on television, and shoring up the infrastructure necessary to compete in American politics?

And what role does this “poll” play in such a strategy, if any?

The Best Subject Line in the History of Political Fundraising

kerry

There it is.

You cannot beat that, I promise.

(Disclosure: I found it when digging through archived images. I had so many on my work computer that it messed up the hard drive. Thankfully, all backed up in Amazon Cloud Drive…)

Understanding the Trump Trolls of #NRORevolt

Over the weekend, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg poked the bee-hive by writing a great column (or “G-File”) on Donald Trump.

Not only well-written, it was hard hitting. Goldberg concedes early, and correctly, that “there are plenty of decent and honorable people who support Trump.”

Of course, this column sparked outrage among the crowd that is a complete opposite: the Trump Trolls, who immediately started a hashtag cult called #NRORevolt.

Like a right-wing bastard child of Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous, #NRORevolt was popular among the nom-de-plume crowd on Twitter (i.e. cowards). Like OWS, it didn’t have much in the way of stated goals, other than outrage/revolt. But hey, when you have former Enron Adviser Paul Krugman agreeing, what else do you need?

Goldberg did more than just criticize Trump, he criticized the media celebrities who celebrate Trump, and called them out on their hypocrisy:

Ann Coulter wrote of Newt in 2011: “If all you want is to lob rhetorical bombs at Obama and then lose, Newt Gingrich — like recent favorite Donald Trump — is your candidate. But if you want to save the country, Newt’s not your guy.” Now Ann leads a chorus of people claiming that Trump is our only savior. Has Trump changed, or have Ann and her followers? Is there a serious argument behind the new thinking, or is it “because he fights!”?

Ouch.

Naturally, the Anonymous Trump Trolls of Twitter (ATToT) circled the wagons and went after Goldberg, even going so far as to suggest his dead dog had cancelled its subscription.

Classy!

But who would make such a reference? A prick of a long-time reader of National Review, who would know Jonah’s dog is dead, or a troll who never reads? Consider me skeptical that it’s the former. 

The objections, other than being butt-hurt over Goldberg’s comments regarding Trump, the #NRORevolt crowd was hard to pin down. Many suggested, like Trump supporters often do elsewhere, they would cancel their subscriptions. I found this assertion, that because of Goldberg’s column, that NRO was going to lose a lot of subscribers, a suspect premise.

 

My suspicion was quickly confirmed by none other than fictional television star/radio host Dr. Frasier Crane.

Oh, and if you haven’t delved into the racist underworld of the term “cuckservative”… don’t. If BuzzFeed and RedState agree, well… (Disclosure: I don’t even like Erick Erickson!)

Writer John Tabin chimed in on Twitter.

Quickly called out that none of these anonymous Twitter heroes were actually subscribers who could vote with their subscription dollars, they, like Trump, quickly changed the topic to suggest that conservative magazines like National Review were in danger of going out of business.

Which would be comical if it weren’t so sad that they knew so little of the conservative publishing world. Or the publishing world in general. These publications aren’t around to make money, but they don’t realize that.

Nor do they probably realize Trump himself had a magazine that folded after two years. “IT WASN’T HIS MAGAZINE”, Trump Trolls will tell us, “HE WAS JUST LENDING HIS NAME TO THE OCEAN DRIVE MEDIA GROUP. DONALD NEVER MAKES ANY MISTAKES!”

National Review has been around for how long? Just checking.

Well, these Anonymous Trump Trolls of Twitter remind me, in forming their hashtag cult, of a movie. It’s called Children of the Corn.

scorn Except, for the ATToT, they’re the “Children of the Scorn.”

Donald appeals to them because he is not politically correct, and to some normal people, that is also a part of his appeal. I’ll admit that, if Trump can kill the gaffe–>four day apology media cycle, I’ll be happy. But to the ATToT, it’s different.

Donald, to them, never goes on the offensive. (Not that they bother to check…) He only hits back! And he hits back hard!

Reality aside, these anonymous Twitter trolls are just out to fight with people. They’re the type who wage personal jihads in the comment sections, and get called out. They identify with the Donald because he, like them, is unfiltered, and largely gets away with it when they don’t.

Yet, when somebody, a writer like Jonah Goldberg — who has always been a talented writer without a PC filter — criticizes their hero, they strike.

And since they’re not subscribers, they pretend they are. Until they’re not, because NR, like virtually all political magazines, doesn’t make money.

Then, they resort to racist terms like “cuckservative” and attacks on Jews.

Yeah…

I guess the irony in all of this is that those who love Trump because he’s unfiltered, can’t take it when somebody who has been a part of the conservative movement for decades longer than Trump (Goldberg) criticizes him. Then, they want to muzzle him.

His policy positions aside, there’s a lot to appreciate about a Trump candidacy. Less so, his Twitter cult-following.

My Ideal GOP Debate

After Donald Trump’s embarrassing showing on Hugh Hewitt’s superb radio program, I had an idea for a GOP debate.

Here’s how it would work:

The candidates, however chosen, would appear on stage as they normally do. Except now, they also have a buzzer and a final Jeopardy! writing board.

A random order would be chosen, and the candidates would first be asked to answer a trivia question on something a Presidential candidate should ostensibly know.

Like:

  • Name two types of refundable tax credits.
  • Which is the largest branch of the military?
  • What is the highest marginal tax rate?
  • Under the Congressional Review Act, how many days does Congress have to disapprove of a regulation?

You get the point. Nothing too hard, nothing too easy. Generally, something a 27 year old hill staffer could answer. This is the introductory round.

Get the initial trivia question correct, 30 seconds is added to your clock, visible to the audience. Like money in Jeopardy! (This time is kept on as a point system of sorts.)

For getting a question right, you get a follow-up question about your policy proposals or what you would do in a certain situation, much like a regular debate. You’ll have 30 seconds — not deducted from your clock time — to answer to keep things flowing.

Here’s where it gets fun. After two rounds of each of the ten candidates having the opportunity to get the preliminary question correct, we move to the lightning rounds.

This is where all candidates will be asked a preliminary question, and the first to buzz in gets an opportunity to answer it. Get it wrong, lose 30 seconds. Others can then buzz in if they’re wrong. Get it right? Get 30 seconds.

There would be three lightning rounds with 10 questions, and if any candidate is at 0:00 or negative time after a lightning round, they’re out of the debate.

During the lightning round, there would not be a follow-up question as there was in the introductory round. Only the trivia questions and an opportunity to win time.

After the lightning rounds, there is a single question (like in Final Jeopardy!) where those remaining can wager time and answer the question in writing.

Those who survive move to the last round, which is two more sets of trivia questions / follow-up questions, like in the preliminary round.

And at the end, we would likely have a definitive winner: the person with the most time. And they get to use that amount of time to make a stump speech while the others watch.

Sound fun? I think so. But it will never happen.

 

Meet the One Guy Who Can Make Donald Trump Uncomfortable

Yo, check it Republicans, I have found Donald Trump’s kryptonite. You’re welcome, Jeb!

How to Ruin Your Sunday

Watch this amazing, terrifying, graphic old BBC film called The War Game (1965) about how Britain might respond to nuclear war.

This line stuck out as I watched it:

“Within the next 15 years, possibly another 12 countries will have acquired thermonuclear weapons. For this reason, if not through accident or the impulses of man himself, it is now more than possible that what you have seen happen in this film will have taken place before the year 1980.”

Of course, that did not occur.

While we’re on the topic, Iran’s pretty close to a bomb… and has been for some time. The horrors of one bomb won’t be as bad as global thermonuclear war — but it would be really bad. It could lead to further use of nuclear weapons, going down the road to… yes. Turtles all the way down to global thermonuclear war. Or a small version of it.

Would the survivors envy the dead? Probably.

Who Did It Best?

Bloomberg interviewed a logo maker to discuss Presidential campaign logos:

It was the 2008 election, and that famous letter “O,” that changed everything, says designer Sagi Haviv, a partner in the New York firm Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv who has designed logos for the Library of Congress, Armani Exchange, and Harvard University Press, among other clients.

Overall, I found his insights sort of meh. Read the item and judge for yourself.

Particularly, what he had to say about Rick Perry’s logo:

“Like Hillary’s logo, this design is attempting to combine a letter with another element, here a star. However, unlike Hillary’s design, [which] marries the H and the arrow nicely, this marriage is extremely awkward. The star looks like it’s been slapped on top of the P, and the two elements are fighting each other visually.”

Uh, sure. How about the fact that it’s pretty much a stock logo format used by common brands?

who did it best

Who did it best?

My vote: Popeye’s.

Fiorina Contacting Voters Early

I get a fair amount of Republican mailers. I once worked for the RNC, have donated money to candidates (albeit not very much), and vote in every election.

Which is why tonight, a robo call from Carly Fiorina’s campaign came as a bit of a surprise.

Why?

She’s the first candidate to have contacted me who wants to be President. I don’t think that Fiorina stands much of a chance in winning the nomination, but it was interesting that she was the first candidate to make contact with me — a so-called “super voter.”

And no, I don’t think there is some secret press list that exempts me from being contacted. To the contrary, candidates like contacting reporters — even ones who might not agree with or like them — in hopes they’ll get some press.

Perhaps the handful of people I know in passing who have jumped on Team Carly have my cell number. Or perhaps she’s making aggressive moves early.

Here’s the call:

Mistakes are Bound to Happen

Today in the pages of my former employer, Hannah Hess does some good shoe leather reporting on the United States Capitol Police and incidents involving firearms being left in bathrooms.

It’s concerning, to say the least, that police officers are making mistakes that could yield fatal outcomes for innocents. (The U.S. Capitol is like a supermagnet for insane people, who roam the halls of the office buildings like zombies in The Walking Dead.)

What’s even more concerning about what Hess uncovered is that one of the incidents involved a child finding the weapon:

A 7- or 8-year-old child visiting the Capitol with his parents found the next loaded Glock lost by a dignitary protection officer, according to the source.

That’s really bad.

There are a few types of USCP officers that I know about: Uniformed, Dignitary Protection (DPD) — they protect Senate and House leadership — and plainclothes/undercover.

Of course, anyone who has been around the Capitol complex or has seen a beat cop in uniform knows that their belt rivals that of Batman: Radio, magazines with ammunition, handcuffs, Taser, Glock & holster, ASP baton.

Taking your pants off to take a shit is a huge ordeal. (Probably slightly less so than if you’re plainclothes, or DPD.) And, for the force’s female officers, going number one involves the cumbersome ordeal of dropping the trousers whereas male officers aren’t similarly burdened.

A corollary: As a staffer (and as a private citizen) I have been known to use the cellphone holster. It’s quite common on Capitol Hill for BlackBerry toters (though their prevalence is fading). Even the weight of a phone and holster often results in the wearer unclipping it and placing it elsewhere — whether it’s the floor or the toilet cover holder.

Suffice it to say, I never lost my BlackBerry or personal phone during my years on the Hill, but I did leave the bathroom a few times, only to run back a few minutes later to retrieve it.

Which is why I am empathetic to USCP officers who might make the same mistake. They say the pen (or BlackBerry) is mightier than the sword, yet a sword is not a Glock. So, suspending (or even firing) officers who make such a mistake, at least to me, is certainly justifiable.

In discussing the story (as it’s Friday, a slow news day) with the Federalist‘s Sean Davis, he encouraged me to think about it a bit deeper.

Sean’s contention is that three incidents is bonkers. I’m not so sure (even though nobody condones mistakes as potentially fatal as these) it is.

My concern is the transparency: We don’t know how often these incidents have occurred, since as Hess reports:

How often do officers leave their guns unattended around the Capitol complex? The answer is unknown because Capitol Police are not required to disclose such incidents.

To the best of my knowledge, there are about 1,400 sworn Capitol Police officers. Let’s hypothesize a bit.

Women generally represent 12% of police forces across the U.S. — but at the Capitol, based on my experience, it is probably closer to 20%.

shift

And, while transparency is my main concern, let’s just assume that these three incidents are the only three we know about in 2015. To be clear, we’re measuring only the potential for these incidents since January 1, 2015.

In 2015, 120 days have elapsed. If you multiply that by 1,190 daily duty day bathroom visits, you get 142,800 estimated bathroom visits by USCP officers since the beginning of the year. (Note: I did not control for private bathrooms.)

If the three incidents — and we don’t know this — are the only ones, it represents .0021 percent of bathroom visits.

I think everybody would like the police to make zero mistakes, but that’s not reasonable. If officers make mistakes like this, they should (and they have) been suspended without pay. Or, they should be demoted or even fired — depending on the circumstances.

Until I get more information, I am inclined to disagree with Sean in that it’s “bonkers.”

But, until we have more transparency, we won’t know the extent of the problem. And, until then, I think we should reserve judgement and demand greater transparency.

I Tried to Warn You, Cleveland

UPDATE: Cleveland.com has posted an update: “This story and headline have been revised to clarify the possible train closure would take place late at night.” Of course, we’re still far away and won’t know for sure what will happen until it does. For those wanting to people watch and take the RTA in, you may be out of luck. Or, RTA might be told by Secret Service they have to make changes at the last minute and lots of people could be screwed.

Last year, when Cleveland was a finalist for the 2016 GOP convention, I wrote an item for the Cleveland Plain Dealer suggesting that if offered the convention, Cleveland should say no.

Of course, in true Cleveland fashion, I was labeled a heretic in the comment section for merely suggesting it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and that Cleveland wasn’t well-prepared for it.

The Editors at Cleveland.com suggested I jump into the comments, which is never a good idea. Yet, I did anyway.

Today, I read at Cleveland.com that the RTA might be shut down to the public, which is precisely something I posited might happen in the comments section to a reader.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 12.35.55 PM

 

I hope Cleveland does well with the convention, as I love my home town. But this report is just the first of many to come, and my guess is Clevelanders won’t like the medicine.

Side note: At work, we have already received a prospectus on renting out a home in Shaker on Lee Road next to the RTA. What might have been a good selling point might not be so good if the trains don’t stop at Lee Road and go all the way to Green.