The Phony Campaign

2019-08-25 Update

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Remmies. Let's bring them on."

I'm in awe. More than usual.

OK, back to our usual Sunday programming. We have the same candidate slate as last week. The probability of a second Trump term continues to slide; at the end of July, the Betfair punters actually had him over 50%!

You'll note the bettors have essentially four-tiered the Democratic candidates: (1) front-runners Joe and Liz; (2) laggards Bernie and Kamala; (3) longshots Yang and Mayor Pete; and (4) everyone else (Tulsi, Kirsten, Cory, Beto!, Tom, Amy, …) who should stop wasting (a) their money and (b) our time.

In the phony standings, however, Bernie's making it interesting between him and Trump! Yang continues his hold on "least phony". See what good that does him.

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
8/18
Phony
Results
Change
Since
8/18
Donald Trump 44.4% -2.1% 1,660,000 -1,100,000
Bernie Sanders 6.4% -0.6% 1,020,000 -890,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.6% -0.1% 917,000 +69,000
Joe Biden 14.5% +2.5% 407,000 -4,000
Elizabeth Warren 14.7% -0.5% 228,000 +9,000
Kamala Harris 5.1% -0.4% 121,000 -3,000
Andrew Yang 2.8% -0.1% 29,300 -1,000

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

But we have a lot to cover this week:

  • At City Journal, Steven Malanga examines The Role of Apology In Recent Politics and American Culture. (That's the HTML title element; the page itself has a punchier headline: "I Apologize For This Article")

    Senator Elizabeth Warren has apologized—again—to Native Americans for the DNA tests she took to determine if she’s really part Cherokee. Speaking at a forum in Sioux City, Iowa, earlier this week, she said, “Like anyone who has been honest with themselves, I know I have made mistakes.” Warren apologized back in January, but only after initially refusing in October to say she was sorry, until the backlash grew so strong that she relented. With her second apology, Warren has set a new standard in the Democratic presidential primary, which some wags have dubbed the “I’m Sorry Primary.”

    Former vice president Joe Biden has already apologized for his fond memories of working with segregationists in the Senate. Senator Kamala Harris, meantime, has apologized for the “unintended consequences” of a truancy law she promoted in California. Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard is sorry for having once opposed gay marriage, while Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has apologized for her formerly tough-on-immigration positions. Beto O’Rourke has apologized for joking about how his wife is the one raising their kids, while Marianne Williamson has asked white people to apologize to African-Americans. Finally, South Bend’s mayor, Pete Buttigieg, has apologized for saying, “All Lives Matter.” It’s not that they don’t—you’re just not allowed to say that they do. And to think that the voting doesn’t even begin for another six months!

    But, as Steven points out eventually, you know who never apologizes? Trump. Also, the people who voted for him.


  • In related news, Megan McArdle wonders at the WaPo: When will Trump supporters finally say, ‘Okay, this is not normal’?.

    The left had an easy time settling on its attitude toward President Trump’s supporters: a mixture of horrified outrage and sneering contempt. For many of us on the right, though, it hasn’t been so easy. The president’s boosters aren’t our natural enemies; they’re former and hopefully future allies. For three years, we’ve been struggling to find some way to discuss Trump.

    We don’t want to destroy Trump supporters but to convince them — that Trump’s main life achievements before the presidency lay in the fields of getting publicity, cheating people less powerful than himself and having a rich, politically connected father who could grease his way into the real estate business, rather than negotiating, managing or building; that impulsive, thin-skinned and belligerent people might be a great deal of fun to watch on television or Twitter but are rarely much good at their jobs; that Trump’s inexperience and lack of interest in policy have made him remarkably ineffective at pursuing even his stated political goals; and that the cost of his inexperience, his indifference to the day-to-day work of the presidency and his bitterly divisive rhetoric are not worth the transient joy of watching liberals have conniptions.

    For the record, I was tired of the conniptions on November 9, 2016.


  • But let's look at the opposition. At the WSJ, James Freeman fact checks something Liz said up in Franconia, and finds that she's Still Pretending.

    “When I was a girl, a full-time minimum wage job in America would support a family of three,” said Warren. “It would cover a mortgage, utilities, and put food on the table. Today, a full-time minimum wage job in America will not keep a momma and a baby out of poverty. That is wrong and that is why I am in this fight.”

    Fact check from John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute:

    Warren was born in 1949 and let’s assume her girlhood ended at age 18 in 1967.

    In 1967 the Federal minimum wage was $1.40. Assume the breadwinner worked full time 40 hours a week for 52 weeks of the year. That’s 2,080 hours, and it would have produced an earned gross income of $2,912. Diminish that by 4.8% - the family’s share of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, and let’s assume they paid no income taxes. That reduces their net income to $2,772.

    In 1967 the poverty level for a nonfarm family of four was $3,335. For a family of three it would have been slightly lower, around $3,000.

    So Warren’s three-person family’s minimum wage level income of $2,772 would have put them $228 under the poverty line.

    Could a three-person minimum wage family in 1967 have been out of poverty, paying on a mortgage, utilities, and food? Not likely.

    [Amazon Link]

    Maybe Andrew Yang could send Liz some of his "Math" buttons.


  • But maybe also send some to Kamala. Because, as WaPo Fact Checker Glenn Kessler details: Kamala Harris uses fuzzy math to suggest her tax cut is paid for. Specifically, the "Lift" tax credit, "$6,000 fully refundable tax credit for couples filing a joint tax return ($3,000 for singles)." Which phases out at higher incomes, but still…

    Of course, handing out $500 a month to many American families is not inexpensive. In the ad, Harris says she will pay for this by repealing the corporate tax cut (which cut the top rate from 35 percent to 21 percent) and “tax breaks for the top 1 percent” in the Trump tax bill.

    We did the numbers, and there is no way that comes close to paying the full bill. The Tax Policy Center estimated the loss of revenue for fiscal 2020 to be about $291 billion. Using the Joint Tax Committee score for the tax bill for 2020, we find that the business tax cut reduces revenue by $114 billion, the estate tax cut amounted to $9 billion and the share going to the top 1 percent is about $50 billion.

    That adds up to almost $175 billion, leaving Harris about $100 billion short.

    This would be a good point to go back to the top of this post and watch that Remy video again.


  • At Hot Air, John Sexton quotes the Washington Post: Kamala Harris has shifted positions on health care at least three times. "At least", because the shiftiness is so quick things get blurry.

    Anyway, if you’re looking for an explanation of why Harris is once again looking like a back-bencher in this race, I think her shifting, confused, and seemingly dishonest positions on health care reform is a more likely cause than Tulsi Gabbard’s repeated hits on her record.

    Good news, she's losing. Unfortunately, this game really is zero-sum. That means someone else is winning.


  • Ah but what's with Joe? Michael Tracey at Spectator USA spectates and speculates: Joe Biden isn’t ‘gaffe-prone’, he’s losing his mind.

    ‘Gaffe?’ Who invented this nonsensical term? Its only common usage seems to be among political journalists and pundits, as a euphemistic cliché for politicians’ discrediting behavior. Do normal people, over the course of normal life, ever call it a ‘gaffe’ when somebody screws up? I’ve never heard a waiter accused of committing a gaffe for misstating a lunch special, or heard a corporate CEO who omits key earnings figures described as ‘gaffe-prone’. The word is reserved only for faltering politicians, to place their verbal embarrassments in a special category.

    Pundits demonstrate their limited vocabulary and laziness when they characterize Joe Biden’s recent struggles in terms of ‘gaffes.’ Biden’s inability to formulate coherent sentences and recall basic facts are not ‘gaffes’ in the traditional clichéd sense, as any reasonable person observing his performance on the campaign trail could acknowledge. They are mounting evidence of cognitive decline. Yes: unless you’re some miraculous orator, everyone engaged in unprepared speech occasionally flubs a word or mangles a phrase. Barack Obama once said he had visited 57 states in the 2008 primaries, but he obviously meant 47. Nobody really thought Obama believed there are 57 states in the US (although that didn’t stop right-wing trolls from pretending otherwise.)

    But that's not the only approach to understanding Joe's unique approach to reality. Liz Mair of the Bulwark offers a different strategy: Joe Biden Is a Gaffe Machine (And His Campaign Should Embrace It).

    You couldn’t have a real beer with Biden (or Trump, for that matter), but the fact that these big, powerful, rich, and very important men flub their words with some regularity probably helps convey that they are guys you could bond with over an ice cream cone, or a Filet O Fish, or a cheeseburger pizza.

    Biden’s team should understand that this fact is actually the core of their candidate’s appeal—and he should lean into it, not away from it.

    Precious few people in 2020 are voting for the “best professor” or “best aligner of management and shareholder value” or even “candidate most in line with me philosophically.” Presidential politics has always been a personality contest. And personality is what Joe Biden has in spades.

    He and his team should embrace it. Gaffes and all.

    OK. But they keep coming. Just yesterday, as reported in the Hill: Biden mistakes New Hampshire for Vermont during campaign stop.

    Former Vice President Joe Biden mistakenly praised the state of Vermont on Saturday when asked about his impression of Keene, N.H., by reporters during a press gaggle.

    Video of the exchange shows Biden remarking about Vermont's "beauty" after an unseen reporter asks him for his "impression" of the town, which is located in southwestern New Hampshire, close to the state's border with Vermont.

    "I love this place. Look, what’s not to like about Vermont in terms of the beauty of it? And what a neat town. This is like a scenic, beautiful town. The mayor's been a good guy. Everybody has been really friendly. I like Keene a lot," Biden said.

    Well, as the reporter noted, Keene is close to Vermont. You can see it from Sarah Palin's house, I understand, if Sarah lived in Keene.

    But it's not just weakness on knowing where he is, what decade things happened in, the difference between his own words and those of a British politician, etc. Also at the Bulwark: Why Biden’s ACA Exaggerations Are Problematic. And this was not an off-the-cuff exaggeration, this was a TV ad produced for his campaign:

    The ad, for which the campaign did a  “high six-figure buy,” claims that, “Together, [President Obama and Vice President Biden] worked to… pass the historic Affordable Care Act, protecting over 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions.”

    Over 100 million? In a country of 327 million? This, after President Obama claimed there were only 46 million uninsured Americans in 2009? Seems like a stretch. This isn’t just another malapropism or slip-of-the-tongue from Uncle Joe. Dozens of campaign staff must have signed off on the 60-second ad.

    Quick, Andrew! Ship the Biden campaign a few dozen "Math" buttons.


  • And finally, a candidate who has yet to crack into Betfair finds his advocate at the Washington Free Beacon in the person of Andrew Stiles. Who reports: America Aches for Lincoln Chafee.

    The American people may finally get a presidential candidate worthy of the Oval Office. Lincoln Chafee, the former governor and U.S. senator from Rhode Island, is reportedly open to running for president in 2020 on the Libertarian Party ticket.

    Chafee, a Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-independent, announced in July that he had joined the Libertarian Party upon moving to Wyoming to pursue his family's love of the outdoors. "If you are a restless Democrat or Republican fatigued by partisan gridlock and the resulting politicization of even the Supreme Court, look up the Libertarian Party’s platform and score yourself," Chafee wrote in an op-ed published in the Boston Globe. "I happily registered as a Libertarian earlier this year. I’m proud to stand with the party of peace and freedom."

    Fun fact: Back in 2016, Chafee's presidential campaign (as a Democrat) lasted from June 3, 2015 until October 23, 2015.

    Hey, if he's on the November 2020 ballot, I'll vote for him. Probably.