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Currently viewing the tag: "Donald Trump"
Current polling:
The Quinnipiac University poll, released Thursday, also shows Donald Trump smashing the GOP presidential competition garnering 28% support from registered Republican voters in the 17-member field. The real estate mogul’s closest competitor is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who tallies 12%.
A total of 40% support for two complete nutjobs…

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Reading about the Donald Trump campaign day after day has gotten me thinking about one of the most influential–and mostly forgotten–media figures of our modern era, Morton Downey Jr. No, he wasn’t Iron Man’s brother, he was a career media guy who, among other things, had a right-wing talk radio show in the very time slot on Sacramento radio that Rush Limbaugh took over after he left (we native Sacramentans have so much to be proud of) and later had a televised talk show that was, for a moment, the biggest thing on television. It was a very big deal, actually–the obvious progenitor of the angry political confrontationalism of Bill O’Reilly, though it included a lot of the trashy/sleazy material that would later find a home with Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. Hell, even someone as anodyne as Jay Leno borrowed some moves from the guy, namely the running into the audience and shaking hands bit. Seriously, all of that stuff gets traced right back to Downey. And, for a year or so, people couldn’t get enough of it. Downey became a TV superstar who somehow managed to fit a music career alongside taping a daily show into what wound up being a very short window of fame. (Seriously, you have to check out his music. It’s insane.) Watch this (featuring a surprise special guest) and tell me that Trump isn’t cribbing Downey perfectly:

Downey’s show keyed off of confrontation. It was a sort of fantasy for very, very angry people: Mort Downey would tell the smartypants pointyheads to their face exactly what they wanted to say to them. There’s no intellectual component to the debate whatsoever. The clip is interesting because Paul is clearly getting the better of the argument on intellectual terms, and obviously is used to dealing with a hostile audience. But he clearly wasn’t used to dealing with someone who had no interest in debating ideas, and was only using Paul as a prop, in effect. He starts to get rattled. Downey keeps escalating, invades his space, lobs gratuitous insults at Paul. And yet Paul winds up looking not much better in the end. Now, admittedly, Ron Paul is a crank in real life, and is perhaps not the best example of a stable person. But this shows just how brilliantly Downey’s method of confrontation worked. Downey is clearly able to reach down into a person’s emotional core, bully them, shatter their composure. Paul after a point just sounds crazy, even though the points he makes are generally solid. It’s Downey who maintains his composure and control, so he ultimately “wins” in the eyes of his audience. Downey may prefer “scum” to Trump’s “loser”, but it’s the same basic strategy of using confrontation to allow an audience to experience some measure of uptake on their anger, vicariously of course. (Also, if you watch long enough, you get a spiel from Congressman Charles Rangel which serves as a forgotten reminder of just how avidly black elected officials supported the war on drugs, once upon a time.)

What ended Downey’s brief reign as the hottest star on television? As the truly excellent documentary about Downey from a few years back tells us, the show ran out of gas because, after a certain point, they couldn’t book guests anymore. Nobody was desperate enough to air their views and get subjected to such savage treatment. As a result, the show simply couldn’t provide the sort of confrontation that set it apart in the first place, and became increasingly reliant on the sort of sleazy programming that would become commonplace on Springer in the next decade. Didn’t save Downey, though, as his show was canceled not quite two years after it began, a mere part of the cycle of self-destruction that characterized Downey’s life generally. (Modern equivalents of Downey–O’Reilly and Bill Maher come to mind, though the latter obviously has different politics, both only go up to a certain point in their confrontations in order to keep guests coming and ensuring a steady dose of conflict that keeps those ratings aloft. Downey didn’t and maybe couldn’t.) Trump’s campaign has been highly successful in much the same way Downey was: by providing the thrill of confrontation with all manner of superior know-it-alls: the mainstream media, John McCain, Megyn Kelly. He knows how to deal with all of them, the respectable types are shocked, Trump wins. But eventually he’ll run out of targets, just like Downey ran out of guests. There are only so many people he can get into a public spat with, and eventually when he runs out of new ones, the thrill will be gone. Then and only then will his poll numbers begin to fade. The real question is: when does this happen? November? Next August? You really have to wonder if the Republican Party will actually be able to field someone other than Trump as the nominee if he’s able to suck all the oxygen out of the room until then. Couldn’t happen, you say? Keep in mind that Silvio Berlusconi–an extremely Trumplike figure–actually served multiple terms as Prime Minister of Italy. During which time he did such things as: have (not alleged, he was convicted) sex with underage prostitutes, comment incessantly and crudely on the attractiveness of female politicians, have all manner of tangles with legal authorities over enriching himself at public expense, not to mention speaking positively of Mussolini and Hitler. His Wikipedia controversies section is longer than most peoples’ full entries. Didn’t matter. After years of political instability and politicians’ scandals, people were extremely, utterly pissed off, didn’t trust politicians, loved the brash anti-politician. In fact, were he not legally ineligible to run for office, he could be running the country right now. Obviously, that’s a different country with a different political system. But people are people.

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167405_600Sometimes I really do wonder if rabid conservatives were put on this earth specifically with the purpose of making my brain melt.

Latest example?  Roger Ailes doing everything short of a reach-around to beg The Donald to steer his mindless wolverines back into the Fox News fold after Megyn Kelly dared to ask him tough questions.

While Trump barnstormed rival media outlets over the last few days, dissing Kelly and Fox at virtually every turn, Ailes remained surprisingly restrained in his response, even after Trump told CNN on Friday that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” during the debate. Paralyzed by the volume of pro-Trump emails from Fox’s loyal viewers, Ailes’s only statement, released a day after the debate, said that he was “extremely proud of all of the moderators.” … After Trump told Sean Hannity in a weekend phone call that he was “never doing Fox again,” appeared on four non-Fox public-affairs shows on Sunday, and did interviews with Today and Morning Joe on Monday, Ailes raised the white flag and picked up the phone on Monday morning. “Roger wanted a friendly relationship,” the source explained.

What was Ailes worried about?

Fox cannot afford to alienate Mr. Trump — or, more important, the network’s core audience. Fox News viewers view the channel as an alternative to a media they see as leaning left. If the network pushes too hard against Mr. Trump, it risks being seen as part of the mainstream media, rather than the antidote to it.

Where the heck would all the mouthbreathers go for “fair and balanced” commentary if Fox News were to suddenly get branded with the now-all-too-common “traitor” tag?  RedState?  Oops, not so much:

 RedState editor-in-chief and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, whose site has become a hub for activism on the right, disinvited Trump from his annual RedState Gathering over the weekend over Trump’s remark that Fox News’ Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” when she questioned him about his treatment of women. Since then, Erickson has gone off on Trump in a nonstop string of speeches, blog posts, interviews and tweets. Trump in turn has called Erickson a “loser” and, through a campaign spokesman, a “weak and pathetic leader.”

Which outlet is next to fall?  Stormfront?  WorldNewsDaily?

I will never understand how rabid conservatives are able to tie their shoes, much less live and go to work every day, with brains this limited in breadth and functioning.

I’m convinced that Josh Marshall of TPM might be the only one in the media who actually understands Trumpism and its appeal. One by one, pundits keep making predictions and embarrassing themselves. Marshall keeps on being right. So keep listening to him.
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And yet, there was not so much as a gust of wind that day.

Three weeks into the Trump Era, we’re starting to see efforts to put the man into a broader context. Trump has perhaps hit his peak for the cycle in terms of media attention and polling support, but it’s worth remembering that the man is fundamentally volatile and unpredictable, and if you’ve ever seen an episode of The Apprentice, then you know that he considers this a point of pride. I could just as easily imagine him dropping out of the race next week as I can imagine him continuing on, with no hope, through every single primary just like Jerry Brown in 1992, and then even possibly taking on a third-party presidential bid when he loses. Or not. In any event, we have to assume that he’s here to stay, which raises the question of what impact he will have on the Republican race. And I think the obvious answer is that he fucks up Scott Walker’s shit. Most people taking this question on argue that Trump helps Bush, which I agree with. Nobody in Bush’s orbit is going to be remotely tempted by Trump. Walker, however, is attempting to replicate what his idol, Ronald Reagan, and previously Barry Goldwater accomplished, which was to beat the establishment from the right. A typical Republican field includes a large number of very conservative minor candidates who split up the vote, while the party’s political professionals and donors will decide on a single candidate and lavish their undivided support on him. It’s why the party wound up with Romney and McCain over Santorum and, well, Mitt Romney. (The party shifted quite a bit to the right over those four years.) But this year was going to be different: weak, compromised establishment choices in Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, and a uniquely strong hardcore conservative in Walker, who had widespread name recognition and a national base. For a noted Reagan idolater, Walker had to just be praising the stars at this setup.

The nightmare scenario for him, though, is a candidate like Donald Trump. While Walker has perfectly followed the Tea Party’s methods in office, as a communicator he cannot touch Trump’s mastery of the movement’s aggrieved, angry, antipolitical rhetoric. As this piece astutely notes, simply by running, Trump can fracture the field’s conservatives and make it much harder for Walker to win. Just by showing up and taking a nontrivial chunk of support, that’s it. And he can’t out-right the guy on substance, either. Trump is willing to go far beyond what best judgment dictates, and it just so happens that on his signature issue of immigrant crime, things on the right are turning rapidly in his favor, in ways that could wreck Walker’s whole strategy and derail his candidacy. I refer to the august Representative from Western Iowa, Steve King. Obviously, King has said some nice things about The Donald’s immigration views just in general. King says essentially the same things as Trump in much the same way, sometimes with even less tact, and it seems unlikely that anyone who actually cares about their general election is even going to try to one-up him/them. But even beyond that, events have conspired that could make this even more meaningful: the right-wing media has recently been caught up in a frenzy–easy for people outside the bubble to miss, given the multitude and rapidity of frenzies they engage in–over the horrific murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco. Why does this connect? Because San Francisco is a sanctuary city, which essentially means it doesn’t enforce deportation laws and the like, and the accused is an illegal immigrant. The right-wing media has been going full-tilt on this–according to my wife, who had unfortunate occasion to watch several hours of FOX News because she was visiting a family member post-surgery, every FOX show was running with this, each one interviewing a separate family member–and now Rep. King himself has weighed in in his typical, considered manner. He has directly tied this to Trump’s message:

King said that three weeks ago, he brought an amendment to the floor on the Commerce Justice Appropriations bill that prohibits any funds from going to any sanctuary cities or jurisdictions just has he has for years.

The amendment passed with strong support, but in previous years it has stalled in the Senate.

“We’ve got an opportunity to hold that language because of Donald Trump and because of this national crisis,” King said.

Though GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has been under fire for his statement that many illegal immigrants are bringing drugs into the country and that some are killers and rapists, King said recent events have shown he was right.

Would King endorse Trump? This is the key question. It would be almost too awesome to come true from a liberal perspective, but there’s very little reason to believe he wouldn’t strongly consider it. Trump donated significant sums to King in the past according to the National Journal article, they share a common stance on King’s pet issue, they are broadly similar in attitude and rhetoric. They like each other. If you find it impossible that King would endorse Trump, then I think you owe us all an explanation of why this couldn’t happen. Someone like Ted Cruz is clearly a con artist whose crazy exterior masks a cynical base, but I’m not sure you can say the same thing about King. He gives every indication of being a sincere kook who would gladly endorse a no-hoper who would damage the party, since that’s what’s so often said of him. And if King endorses Trump, you have to consider the possibility that Trump wins Iowa. If it seems odd that a Manhattan-based billionaire would win the Iowa Caucuses, long the best hope of evangelicals, ultracons and cornpone, well yes, it does. But with a King endorsement, I think it becomes a real possibility. There are, obviously, other hurdles. Winning Iowa would mean a lot of retail politicking that it doesn’t seem obvious Trump would excel at. And then there’s his well-covered history of supporting liberal causes and candidates. I am not entirely persuaded by the arguments that this will be his undoing–teahardists love purity but Reagan himself had a much more extensive record of left-wing politics and activism reaching well into the late 1940s. This sort of thing derailed Newt Gingrich’s moment in the sun three years ago, but Gingrich’s responses tended to be detached and professorial, while Trump’s would be anything but. And it’s also true that envisioning Trump as a man of deep faith is utterly implausible. So, obviously some challenges are there. But given that Walker’s current lead is basically based on name ID as governor of a neighboring state, Trump’s populist approach plus the support of Steve King would certainly put him in the game. And if Trump does win or finish a close second, Walker’s chances are basically hosed. It’s unlikely that he’ll win either in New Hampshire or South Carolina, and Nevada presents real challenges in the form of a genuinely moderate GOP governor who will have to be handled carefully, and a diverse, politically apathetic electorate very different from his exurban Milwaukee stomping grounds. It’s anyone’s guess who would win under those circumstances, but if Bush wound up winning (as I think he will), then that’s two in a row, and the stampede may well happen just from that.

Again, it’s worth saying that Trump is an unpredictable crazy person who could just drop out tomorrow. But if he remains in the race through the early primaries, by dint of fracturing conservatives and screwing up Walker’s strategy, he could end up making Walker 2016 look like Giuliani 2008. Watching Steve King should give us a good sense of whether this will happen. In the meantime, why not enjoy Tom Scharpling’s vintage recaps of The Celebrity Apprentice, easily among the best writing of that form ever. Here’s the web link, or you can download this PDF of The Celebrity Apprentice and let the hilarity roll on your mobile device, without all that scrolling and clicking.

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Early Edition

Tomorrow’s Debate Today

Don’t ask us how, but Library Grape has obtained future transcripts of the very first FOX News debate. Enjoy these, and have a happy Fourth.

BO: Hi, I’m Bill O’Reilly of FOX News, sitting here with Chris Wallace to moderate the first Republican presidential candidates’ debate. All ten candidates here are candidates who have the highest poll averages out of the entire field. So let’s give them all a big hand! [applause as the candidates head to their podiums]

CW: Okay, welcome all of you to the grounds of Brigham Young University, one of our nation’s most famous schools, and the only one on our list that didn’t laugh when we approached them about hosting this debate. This is going to be a very busy night, we have lots of candidates and lots of issues. We will start with some opening statements, but due to the size of the field, we must insist that you keep your comments confined to thirty seconds tops to explain why you are running. We’ve randomly generated the order, so first, Carly Fiorina.

CF: Thanks, Chris. I’m so thrilled to be here tonight! I want to thank the staff of BYU for hosting this event, first of all. Now…the future. In this election, we have a clear choice: do we change course for the future, or continue on the same old course that we’ve been following these last seven years? I think we all want a change of course, but who is best to lead that change? With all due respect to the other fine, great, wonderful candidates on the stage, any one of whom would be a major improvement on the current administration, I have been in business and politics for decades now, and I understand Hillary Clinton better than anyone. Nobody would dare call me sexist for criticizing Hillary Clinton, and no women would be blackmailed into voting for her based on gender if I face her. I look forward to getting the chance to do it.

CW: Thank you. Donald Trump.

DT: Thank you, Chris. You’re the best newscaster out there, you are. It’s true. So I’ll just go ahead and say it: I’m running because this field is full of losers who couldn’t get a single thing accomplished. I mean, take Carly over there. She’s a nice lady, she is. But she’s been a disaster at everything she’s tried: almost wrecked HP, ran one of the worst campaigns in history in 2010, and helped Republicans lose in 2012. She’s a total disaster. You really think she could make China quake in their boots? Or who, John Kasich? He won’t tell you, but that guy helped run Lehman Brothers, which doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s gone! That’s how well he runs things. I look around and I see a lot of nice people, people who I would absolutely consider for my cabinet with close supervision, but nobody who would be as good as I would.

CW: Mr. Trump, I’d ask–

CF: That’s really uncalled for, Donald.

CW: I’d ask that you please refrain from personal attacks on other candidates like that. Please stick to matters of policy or substance.

DT: Sorry, Chris. I mean that. You’re the best, you got it.

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Lev filed this under: , ,  

As I mentioned yesterday, I am profoundly ashamed at how our supposedly “respectable” news sources continue to let themselves get repeatedly ass-shafted by despicable snake-oil fraudsters like Donald Trump:

Donald Trump has released a video on YouTube containing the “big news” he promised would change the presidential election.

It turns out, its not so much big news as a silly challenge. What a shock.

But why quibble over details when those pesky items have never been particularly high on the Trump agenda.

In his latest effort to fill his need for more attention than any human has the right to crave without incurring some serious psychiatric bills, Trump has promised to make a five million dollar donation to any charity of President Obama’s choice if the President, in return, “opens up and gives his college records and applications … and if he gives his passport applications and records.”