The Phony Campaign

2019-08-18 Update

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No changes in our phony lineup this week, but the Betfair wagerers continue to be disenchanted with Kamala, sending her back to pre-debate lows. But Liz's odds continue to improve, as she's now the favorite candidate among those not named Donald.

And it's been a relatively quiet week on the phony front, with our leaders, Trump and Bernie, shedding over 3 million phony hits. (Which, see below, were probably not there in the first place.) But in these times, "relatively quiet" means it's gone from "aircraft carrier deck" to "unlubricated chain saw".

Case in point, Ellie Bufkin of the Washington Examiner is seemingly tasked with amplifying every lie, gaffe, stumble, or stutter of the Democratic candidates, and the best she could do this week is: Kamala Harris marks Muslim holiday: ‘Finally got my pork chop!’. Kamala was at the Iowa State Fair.

Also at the fair was Cory Booker, vegan. He went for a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But fried in what, Ellie? Come on, do some reporting!

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 46.5% -1.3% 2,760,000 -2,070,000
Bernie Sanders 7.0% +0.3% 1,910,000 -1,010,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.7% unch 848,000 +1,000
Joe Biden 12.0% -0.7% 411,000 -149,000
Elizabeth Warren 15.2% +3.2% 219,000 -121,000
Kamala Harris 5.5% -1.1% 124,000 -190,000
Andrew Yang 2.9% +0.6% 30,300 -2,600

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

  • So it's been kind of a tough week for candidate phoniness, but fortunately the New York Times is on the case, publishing an exposé by Kevin Roose on The Phony Patriots of Silicon Valley.

    Not long ago, many leading technologists considered themselves too lofty and idealistic to concern themselves with the petty affairs of government. John Perry Barlow, a lion of the early internet, addressed his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” to the “governments of the industrial world,” saying that for him and his fellow netizens, these creaky institutions had “no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.”

    But that was before privacy scandals, antitrust investigations, congressional hearings, Chinese tariffs, presidential tweets and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

    Targets of Roose's scorn: Peter Thiel, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple. Apparently they are… well, it's hard to pull a coherent thesis out of Roose's words. He's long on snarky descriptions of Big Tech government interactions, short on demonstrating that they exhibit even nominal patriotism, let alone the phoniness thereof.

    But: "Not long ago"? Barlow's famed declaration was initially published in 1996, 23 years ago.

  • The Fox News website describes a Fox News show segment ("Fox & Friends"): Dan Bongino on Bernie Sanders calling Trump 'an idiot': Biggest phony I've ever seen in politics. Among other things:

    Bongino argued Sanders and others on the left show hypocrisy on the issue of climate change by using private jets to travel.

    "He is the biggest fake I've ever seen in politics and I can't believe people are getting suckered by this guy every day," he added.

    In addition, Don called Sanders a "fraud". No wonder this was near the top of the Google results.

    Hey, why don't I get paid for going on cable TV and shouting insults and namecalling? Better, I could do it on either CNN, MSNBC, or Fox! Just tell me who to hate!

  • At National Review,  Alexandra DeSanctis profiles Pete Buttigieg: Christian Moralist of the Left.

    Pete Buttigieg isn’t always sure that he knows what it means to be a moral Christian. But he’s pretty certain you aren’t one.


    “The left is rightly committed to a separation of church and state,” he told USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers in an April interview, “but we need to not be afraid to invoke arguments that are convincing on why Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction.”

    Did you catch that? Underneath the McKinseyesque jargon, Buttigieg is asserting that being a good Christian means you must embrace progressive ideology. This is how he’s spoken about religion for the entirety of his campaign, wielding it like a cudgel against anyone who hesitates to champion his policy prescriptions.

    Mayor Pete is a strident moralist right up to… you guessed it, when the discussion turns to abortion.

  • The Washington Times reports: Bernie Sanders' 'Medicare for All' sputters as Kamala Harris, 2020 Democrats flee.

    When Sen. Bernard Sanders reintroduced his “Medicare for All” bill in the Senate in April, four of his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls signed on with him, thrilling liberal activists who believed the universal health care proposal was becoming unstoppable.

    Four months later, Mr. Sanders is looking more and more like a lonely holdout after watching his allies slink away as politics of the plan shift.

    I think the Washington Times overstates the back-off. Even though Kamala is a famous waffler on this sticky point, Elizabeth Warren is still on board. Good luck on getting a straight answer from anyone, though.

  • Finally, at National Review, Kevin D. Williamson on the eighth dwarf, Wheezy: Joe Biden, Designated White Guy. KDW is especially keen in his analysis of Barack Obama's pickle in finding himself the 2008 Democratic nominee:

    And so Obama’s balancing act: a Wilsonian-Johnsonian commitment to expanding the welfare state and regimenting critical sectors of the economy under Washington’s direction; all that dopey, content-free “hope and change” stuff that worked so well for Bill Clinton; and, in both international relations and sensitive domestic cultural affairs, a politics of respectability, which was often enough in practice a politics of condescension — and insincerity. Senator Obama, you’ll recall, was too much of a social conservative to stand a chance in today’s Democratic party — he opposed homosexual marriage and cited his religious beliefs in service of that position, meaning that 2008’s great progressive hope is 2019’s irredeemable hate monster. Not many people thought that he actually believed any of that, but they admired the calculation and the so-called realism of his self-conscious positioning. Democrats do not mind being lied to if they are skillfully lied to — Bill Clinton left the White House a hero.

    Barack Obama is famously unsentimental, including on racial questions, for instance in shaping his romantic life in a way that would comport better with his political ambitions. When it came time for him to choose a running mate, his short list consisted exclusively of white, moderate, establishment Democratic figures, mostly with Catholic backgrounds: a governor of Kansas, a governor and senator from Indiana, a governor of Virginia, and Joe Biden, an eternal Senate fixture who had chaired two committees important to the Obama campaign: Foreign Relations, which might help provide some heft on international relations that Obama’s own résumé wanted, and Judiciary, which would make the vice president a potential asset in high-court confirmation hearings. It was put out that Mrs. Clinton was under consideration, but Obama himself apparently never took that idea seriously.

    So Biden's "Obama likes me!" schtick sounds a lot better than "Obama made a cynical political calculation and picked me!"