The Phony Campaign

2019-08-04 Update

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This is why Pun Salad tries to stay away from making predictions. ("Especially about the future" — not Yogi Berra.) Andrew Yang has popped back into a slight amount of favor at Betfair, putting him above our 2% WinProb threshold. Also reappearing in our list: Tulsi Gabbard, for the first time since February!

I did not see that coming. Good for them, even though their odds remain slim.

Most hurt, probably by her lackluster performance in the recent debate: Queen Kamala I. And (with, I imagine, an air of resignation) Joe Biden failed to babble incoherently enough in his debate, so he has retaken "favorite Democrat" position away from Elizabeth.

In the phony standings, Trump maintains a solid lead overall, but Mayor Pete edges out Bernie for second place this week:

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 49.0% -1.1% 1,990,000 -990,000
Pete Buttigieg 3.4% -0.2% 947,000 +88,000
Bernie Sanders 5.3% +1.3% 861,000 -169,000
Joe Biden 12.0% +2.2% 384,000 +63,000
Elizabeth Warren 10.2% +0.1% 197,000 +24,000
Kamala Harris 8.5% -4.0% 152,000 +38,000
Tulsi Gabbard 2.3% --- 48,900 ---
Andrew Yang 2.2% --- 24,400 ---

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

  • Ann Althouse notes a Democrat trend: "We cannot keep with the Republican talking points on this. You got to stop.". A long excerpt, but she has a lot to observe and something good to say:

    I […] want to talk about the rhetoric "Republican talking point." It wasn't just Kamala Harris. It was Joe Biden: "This is not a Republican talking point." And Julian Castro: "Open borders is a right-wing talking point."

    And (to go back to the Tuesday night debate), Elizabeth Warren said it twice: "We should stop using Republican talking points in order to talk with each other...." And "What you want to do instead is find the Republican talking point of a made-up piece of some other part and say, Oh, we don't really have to do anything."

    There was Bernie Sanders: "And, Jake, your question is a Republican talking point."

    Marianne Williamson used the phrase, but warily: "And I do have concern about what the Republicans would say. And that's not just a Republican talking point."

    It's such a cliché already that its usefulness may already be gone, but let me do my part to try to kill it. I assume — and I am a moderate voter in Wisconsin, capable of going for either party's candidate — that the Republicans' talking points are their best arguments on all the various issues. A Democratic Party candidate, to be any good, better demonstrate skill at countering these arguments, these talking points!

    It's especially bad to use the line against the debate moderator, as Bernie did — "Jake, your question is a Republican talking point." It sounds as though he's implying that Jake Tapper should go easy on him and not challenge him with the very arguments he'll have to deal with if he's the Democratic Party candidate.

    And it's terrible to use the phrase as a way to refuse to deal with a problem with your position. Julian Castro said "open borders is a right-wing talking point, and frankly I'm disappointed that some folks, including some folks on this stage, have taken the bait." His whole argument was Shut up, you sound like a Republican. And he wasn't even talking to the other candidates. He was talking to one of the moderators (Don Lemon), who had quoted President Obama's homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson. Your immigration policy sounds like open borders! If it's not open borders, you'd better explain why!

    And look at that Kamala Harris quote I put in the title: "We cannot keep with the Republican talking points on this. You got to stop." You've got the slang "We cannot keep with" and the (intentionally?) bad grammar "You got to stop." Is that supposed to be sassy and cute? To me, it sounds tired and unprepared. Or worse... it sounds like you know your policy is bad and vulnerable to attack but you're going to bull forward with it anyway. It's the best you got... the best you've got.

    "Republican talking point" is a Democratic talking point.

    Well, ouch.

  • At Reason, Ira Stoll notes another irritating Democrat usage: Sanders, Warren Compare Capitalists to Vampires, but Socialism Is What Really Sucks (published pre-debate).

    At the Democratic presidential debates this week and as the campaign heats up in the months ahead, listen for the word "suck."

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) has been using it frequently in connection with health care. In the first round of debates she said, "the insurance companies last year alone sucked $23 billion in profits out of the health care system."

    She also uses the term for those in the financial sector more broadly, beyond health insurance. Recently, Warren issued a plan to "rein in the financial industry so it stops sucking money out of the rest of the economy."

    Ira notes the unsavory history of othering hated groups as "vampires", "vultures", and "ticks".

    And Ira also notes the hypocrisy of folks who (1) want to be in charge of an organization that already demands 15-20% of GDP out of the private economy and (2) want to increase that fraction even more to fund their wacky schemes. So, for those who indulge in that sort of metaphor, who are the bloodsuckers again?

  • As Jane Austen never got around to observing: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a newspaper writer in possession of a good word processor, must be in want of a writing hook. Because otherwise that writer will not be paid. And sometimes that want can reflect utter desperation, as pointed out by the Free Beacon: the WaPo's Deena Prichep discovering that Even Trump's Favorite Food Has a 'Hidden Russian Connection'.

    American hamburgers unquestionably predate Russian versions, but Prichep's "Russia connection" is that in 1936, Soviet food commissar Anastas Mikoyan introduced the hamburger to his country after a fact-finding mission in the States.

    "Mikoyan shared Trump's opinion of fast food. He was a great admirer," University of Helsinki sociologist Jukka Gronow told the Post. "If the war hadn't broken out in 1941, we would have a chain of McMikoyan's."

    The jab that even Trump's food has Russian ties ironically mirrors an administration talking point back in 2017. "If the President puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russia connection," complained White House press secretary Sean Spicer. (In response, a CNN fact-check noted "Russian dressing is actually from Nashua, New Hampshire.")

    Wow, I didn't know that about Nashua. What would we do without CNN fact checkers tracking this stuff down?

  • Pre-debates, Megan McArdle attempted to help CNN clarify something important: What debate moderators should ask Kamala Harris about her Medicare-for-all plan.

    Sen. Harris, like Bernie Sanders, you envision your Medicare-for-all plan covering many services that Medicare currently doesn’t, such as dental, vision and hearing aids. Will it eliminate co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses, as the Sanders plan does? Exactly how much do you estimate this plan will cost?

    Your plan will make private insurance illegal for covered services. Will clinics and physicians be able to provide covered services for cash, or will there be no way to obtain those treatments outside the public system?

    And many more. I don't know if Kamala was asked any of that. Because even if she was, her answers tend to have a half-life of hours, as she struggles to explain what she really meant. (I'm reminded of the phrase: "trying to nail jelly to a tree.")

  • At the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein deals directly with the phony issue: Elizabeth Warren is a policy fraud.

    When Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks, liberals swoon over her supposed mastery of policy. She markets T-shirts emblazoned with her refrain that she “has a plan for that.” Even those political journalists who question her chances of capturing the Democratic nomination accept this basic premise, and their skepticism is often framed as: Can somebody so wonky appeal to a broader electorate? The truth is that when it comes to policy, Warren is a fraud.

    Whatever reputation Warren may have had as an academic, as a presidential candidate, she has churned out or endorsed one half-baked policy after another.

    True policy innovation requires creativity and grappling with genuine challenges to achieving one’s vision. Rather than seriously working through issues, Warren’s simple solution for everything involves giving away lots of free stuff and insisting that only major corporations and the ultra-wealthy will pay more. Any legitimate questions about her policies are waved away with triumphant lines about the need to think more boldly.

    Phil's number one example is health care, where Warren has not submitted a plan of her own, instead leeching off Bernie's M4A scheme. (See, this bloodsucking metaphor is catching. I'll have to remember to avoid that.)

  • And those crazy libertarians at Reason are similarly unimpressed with Warren's trade policy. Because, as Eric Boehm notes: Warren’s Trade Policy Dresses Up Trumpism with Progressive Rhetoric.

    The Warren campaign's trade policy plan attempts to draw a distinction between the progressive senator and President Donald Trump, who has spent a good deal of his time in office threatening to terminate existing trade deals without getting very much in return. Warren says her administration "will engage in international trade—but on our terms and only when it benefits American families."

    It's a classic example of a sentence where nothing that comes before the "but" really matters. Warren's policy is aiming, essentially, for a more competent version of the protectionism that Trump has brought to the forefront of American politics in the past two years. Warren's plan calls for "establishing a set of standards countries must meet as a precondition for any trade agreement with America." Those standards include enforcement of collective bargaining, elimination of domestic fossil fuel subsidies, and a long-term plan to reduce carbon emissions—rules so strict that they effectively disqualify any developing country from reaching a trade deal with the United States.

    Off the table for both parties, at least for now: dropping tariffs, subsidies, and regulations hampering free trade, and let Americans decide what they want to buy from and sell to those nasty furriners without either Trump or Warren looking over their shoulders.

  • David Henderson has Reflections on the Democratic Debate too. One bit centers on the John "Mr. Peterson" Delaney/Elizabeth Warren imbroglio:

    In criticizing Senator Elizabeth Warren’s and Senator Bernie Sanders’s call for “Medicare for All,” Delaney said, “we don’t have to go around and be the party of subtraction, and telling half the country, who has private health insurance, that their health insurance is illegal.”

    A lot of people on the web made fun of Delaney. I thought he did a good job. It’s too bad that he also has the worst proposal of any of the candidates: compulsory national service for every American at age 18. [Note: If you go to the above link, you’ll see that author Rebecca Klar writes, “Every American over the age of 18 would be required to serve the country for at least one year under a plan proposed by presidential candidate former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.). ” There are over 200 million Americans over age 18. I’m pretty sure that Delaney plans to go after “only” the vulnerable 18-year olds, not 68-year olds like me.]

    Senator Warren seems to be getting kudos for this comeback to Delaney:

    I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.

    Really? That gets kudos? Delaney talks about what’s politically and economically feasible and that’s bad? In fact, the contribution of someone who talks about what we really can’t do is enormously valuable.

    Trying to dig some liberty-friendly content out of Democrat debates is… well you know the joke Reagan used to tell about the kid digging around merrily in the room full of horseshit: "There has to be a pony in here somewhere!"

    No there doesn't, kid.

  • And let's give Andrew Yang a big welcome back by pointing to an article by Reason intern Alex Muresianu: Andrew Yang Is Wrong About Shopping Malls and Amazon.

    At the second round of Democratic debates, entrepreneur Andrew Yang criticized Amazon, accusing the online retail giant of "closing 30 percent of American malls and stores." Yang has a plan to protect dying malls, proposing to direct $6 billion to prop up struggling shopping centers.

    But one company is already repurposing many of those suburban behemoths: Amazon. 

    Yang, bless him, thinks $6 billion is the precise amount of Federal cash needed to prop up the "right" number of malls, as determined by the propeller-beanied wizards that will take over the government in the Yang Administration. No doubt these bright boys and girls will be unswayed by pleadings from local pols and mall owners, relying instead on cold hard algorithms!

    And that $6 billion extracted from the private economy. What would that have done, if left in private hands? Well, that's the thing. Yang doesn't care about that "unseen" use.