The Phony Campaign

2020-08-02 Update

It's been a good week for Mr. Ramirez, and he once again provides the day's eye candy:

[1-800-JOE-LOST]

That 25th Amendment theme is only going to get heavier play from here until (at least) November.

Donald Trump continues to charm the marginal bettors, shaving a hefty 0.5 percentage points off his (much heftier) disadvantage. Linear extrapolation would imply he'd be back to even money in about… oh, never mind, that's stupid.

Trump's phony hits continue to dominate Biden's, though:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
7/26
Phony
Results
Change
Since
7/26
Donald Trump 37.3% +0.3% 2,640,000 +250,000
Joe Biden 59.3% -0.2% 689,000 +100,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • As a break from our usual cynically lighthearted take on the campaign, any reader who's undecided about their November vote could do worse than listening to the Reason-sponsored Soho Forum Debate Who Should Libertarians Vote For in 2020? It's Ilya Somin advocating for Biden, Angela McArdle for the Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgenson, and Francis Menton pumping for Trump.

    Unsurprisingly, both Somin and Menton made the same tired pitch for major-party voting: essentially, "you should vote for the best candidate who has a chance at winning."

    I don't buy that. Effectively, it translates to "vote for one of the candidates who'll come in either first or second place."

    But there's nothing magical about the number "two". Why isn't it "vote for one of the candidates who'll come in either first or second or third place"?

    And there's the practical matter: your vote won't swing the election. You might as well make it a statement about who you actually prefer, instead of agonizing over a choice between two different flavors of crap sandwich.

    That said, MxArdle's advocacy of Jo J. was kind of wince-inducing at times, long on strident sloganeering. And, apparently, Jo's an end-the-fed libertarian. Hey, maybe, but I'd like to see that treated as an open question instead of dogma.

  • A major source of outrage was Trump's tweet floating a proposal he has no power to enact. At Cato, Gene Healy asks: “Delay the Election???”.

    In any event, if Trump’s tweet was a veiled threat to postpone the election, it joins a long list of crackpot authoritarian fancies he’s let fly since his inauguration. In just the last two years, this president has (an incomplete list):

    […]

    We’ll no doubt hear from the president’s allies that it’s just a tweet, he didn’t mean what you thought he meant, and/​or he was just being “sarcastic.” Trump doesn’t think he misspoke: look at what’s now his “pinned tweet,” with pride of place atop his feed. The guy’s an attention vampire, and all press is good press.

    The "attention vampire" thing is probably part of it, But (I'm pretty sure) he also thinks this sort of thing is necessary to fire up his base.

    His ever-shrinking base.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At National Review, David Bahnsen looks at a new book (link at right) by one Julie Kelly, and deems it A Dishonest Disgrace.

    Julie Kelly’s new book, Disloyal Opposition: How the #NeverTrump Right Tried and Failed to Take Down the President, is tempting to ignore. She is quite explicit about the fact that she didn’t write it to advance the conservative cause. It is instead meant as an attack on those members of the Never Trump club — and a whole bunch of people she wrongly identifies as part of that club — whom she doesn’t like. I do think a serious and credible treatment of the Right’s various anti-Trump factions would be an interesting read. But Kelly is neither serious nor credible; she’s occupies a place in the MAGA firmament roughly equivalent to Jennifer Rubin’s place among Never Trumpers, which is to say that she’s a hack.

    Those who read this book hoping for useful analysis of what exactly has polarized various figures on the right around their Trumpian positions are sure to be disappointed. What they will quickly learn instead is that treating all of President Trump’s critics as one monolithic group is dishonest, lazy, and ultimately unhelpful.

    Bahnsen points out that it's not particularly difficult to distinguish the positions of Jen Rubin, Max Boot, and Tom Nichols (who Bahnsen considers "completely unhinged") from those of Jonah Goldberg and David French. But this is something that Kelly is too lazy or dishonest to do in her book.


  • So we move to the Biden veepstakes. Evita Duffy reports at the Federalist: Kamala Harris Has ‘No Remorse’ For Ambushing Biden In Primary Debates.

    In June 2019, during the Democrat presidential primary debates, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) blasted the now-nominee, Joe Biden, insinuating he was a racist for applauding segregationist senators and opposing a 1970s federal busing program that put children in schools based on race: 

    … it’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.

    Former Sen. Chris Dodd, a member of Biden’s vice presidential search committee, recently asked Harris about her attack on Biden in that first debate. Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, “She laughed and said, ‘That’s politics.’ She had no remorse.” The donor relayed the exchange to Politico on condition of anonymity.

    As noted before, Biden's problem with Kamala should be that she would start lining up cabinet members to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment sometime in the early afternoon of January 20, 2021.


  • Hey, how about that Lincoln Project thing? At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson suggests we Take the Lincoln Project at Its Word.

    The Lincoln Project has not been suddenly exposed making common cause with Democrats — making common cause with Democrats in opposition to Trump and Trumpism is its raison d’être. Maybe some conservative critics do not think that is a good or worthy undertaking, but those who are engaging with the Lincoln Project have an intellectual obligation to address the actual argument being advanced; i.e., that Donald Trump and his administration represent a special kind of awful that requires bipartisan repudiation. Agree or disagree, that is the question raised by the Lincoln Project. The fact that the Lincoln Project sometimes airs ads on Morning Joe is entirely beside the point.

    What is most worrisome to me is not that Republicans do not by and large agree with the Lincoln Project’s critique but that they are incapable of taking it seriously. They dismiss it as being of interest only to four self-aggrandizing politicos, but there is a great deal of evidence that this is simply not the case. Biden currently leads Trump in the polls in Texas, and Republicans are in danger of losing their Senate majority. This is not because the nation is disappointed in the performance of John Cornyn. The issue is Trump. Pretending that the issue is Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, awful as they are, won’t do.

    But for another take…


  • Declan Garvey at the Dispatch: Donald Trump Stole Their Republican Party. They Want to Take It Back.. He looks at the group "Republican Voters Against Trump" (RVAT); for them, it's simply about opposing Trump, not Republicans generally. But about that:

    It is on this point where RVAT diverges from its more notorious counterpart. The Lincoln Project—announced in December 2019 by political operatives Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, and John Weaver, as well as conservative lawyer George Conway—was founded, according to its website, with a singular mission in mind: “To defeat Donald Trump and Trumpism.”

    That second part—“and Trumpism”—is what has gotten the Lincoln Project so much flak from the right while RVAT has flown largely under the radar. The group is focusing its tens of millions of dollars not just on helping Joe Biden’s odds in the presidential election, but defeating vulnerable Republican senators—like Thom Tillis, Martha McSally, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, Steve Daines, and Mitch McConnell—as well. Weaver—who has worked for Sen. John McCain and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich but also the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—recently told the Washington Post he thinks the Lincoln Project will remain active in a hypothetical Biden presidency, working against GOP lawmakers who oppose Democrats’s agenda.

    Fortuately, I'm not a joiner.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File also looks at the Lincoln Project: Burn, Baby, Burn. Headline aside, Jonah's actually against the idea that the GOP must be "burned down totally" in a Trumpism purge.

    Let me put it this way: Even if the burn-it-down folks are right that the ideal option would be to raze the current GOP and build it anew, they can’t do it. (Indeed, it’s funny: Anti-Trump conservatives have spent three years being told we don’t matter, and many of us have said we’re okay with that. But now suddenly we’re debating—as if it were a real possibility—whether or not we should tear down the existing GOP and redesign it on our terms.)

    And sometimes if you can’t succeed, the worst thing you can do is try. Say I’m in a boat with Steve Hayes, far from both shore and medical assistance. Now, suppose Steve has appendicitis. We know the best solution is to remove his appendix. Well, possibly the worst thing I could do is bust out my Swiss Army knife and start cutting away at his abdomen in search of his appendix. Even if I found it, I wouldn’t know how to remove it, never mind sew him back up. Better to leave it in there and figure out the best possible way to get help. 

    To the extent that the Lincoln Project folks have the power to do anything to Republicans, most of the Republicans they can actually take down aren’t the Trumpiest ones. They’re the least Trumpy. Indeed, the fact that they’re the least Trumpy is the reason they hate them the most. It’s analogous to the way hardcore leftists hate moderate liberals so much. When two camps agree on a lot of first principles, deviation and compromise are seen as acts of cowardice or betrayal. Everyone knows that Sen. Susan Collins isn’t a Trump stooge, which is why her concessions to Trumpism enrage the fiercest Trump opponents the most (including me, sometimes). On a psychological level, you expect more from people who you think should know better. And because she’s a fairly liberal Republican from a liberal state, she can be hurt by the charge of being a Trump stooge in ways that, say, Tom Cotton or Rand Paul can’t. So that’s why the Lincoln Project is running ads calling her a “Trump Stooge.”

    Yeah, that doesn't make a lot of sense. Although Susan is not on Pun Salad's Respectable list, it's not because she's a Trumpite.


  • Ah, Damon Root remembers the good old days: When Joe Biden Tried To Paint Clarence Thomas as a Crazy Libertarian.

    How long has Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden been in the political game? Long enough to have been at the center of a smear campaign during the Senate confirmation hearings of the longest-serving member of the current U.S. Supreme Court.

    The 1991 showdown over Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas is mostly remembered today for the accusations of sexual misconduct leveled by Anita Hill. But the hearings actually kicked off with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Biden trying to discredit Thomas as a crazy libertarian and reckless judicial activist.

    "I assure you I have read all of your speeches, and I have read them in their entirety," Biden told Thomas shortly after the nominee's opening statement. "And, in the speech you gave in 1987 to the Pacific Research Institute, you said, and I quote, 'I find attractive the arguments of scholars such as Stephen Macedo who defend an activist Supreme Court that would'—not could, would—'strike down laws restricting property rights.'"

    Root shows that, despite Biden's claim to have read Thomas's speeches "in their entirety', he managed to obviously snip out the context to misrepresent Thomas's position on Macedo.

    Biden: liar or illiterate? I'm going with "both".