Sunday, June 30, 2024

Joe Biden seeks to rally Democrats at a time of crisis as he considers possible paths to overcome a debate debacle under the bright lights of a national stage

Joe Biden addresses North Carolina Democrats (Getty)

Many Americans probably spent the weekend relaxing outside, keeping up with sports, or even attending a cultural event (and to show that we have forgiving standards, we will include a heavy-metal concert as a "cultural event.") But Joe Biden probably had bigger things on his mind, especially in the wake of Thursday night's jumbled and lifeless performance in a presidential debate with Donald Trump, the Republican Party's relentless lying machine. So, what likely was on Biden's mind? Here is how Walter Shapiro --  author, political columnist, lecturer at Yale University, and former speech writer for Jimmy Carter -- put it in a piece for The New Republic. Under the headline "Joe Biden Is Facing the Biggest Decision of His Political Career; Can he beat Trump and save American democracy? If not, he should step aside," Shapiro writes:

More than a half-century after he was elected to the Senate and in the midst of his fourth presidential race, Joe Biden should spend the weekend facing up to the biggest decision of his political career.

After an uninspiring, wavering, hoarse-voiced debate performance in which he constantly failed to halt Donald Trump’s torrent of lies, it is time for Biden to face up to the reality of his 81 years. The president, away from his aides and enablers, should ask himself the blunt question: “Can I save American democracy by beating Trump?”

Judging from his performance in the historically early debate that Biden sought, the answer, sadly, is “no.” In the most important moment in the campaign, Biden came across as old and weak. These images are so much more telling than the fact that Trump couldn’t complete a sentence without telling at least three bold-faced lies.

Biden’s defenders—and many Democrats fall into this camp—are certain to argue that the press pack is overreacting to a few bad minutes at the beginning of the debate and that a fresh round of electoral panic is not justified.

Let’s be honest. Biden’s performance made Barack Obama’s listless first debate against Mitt Romney in 2012 seem like Pericles in comparison. I have been writing on deadline off presidential debates for four decades—and this was the saddest, most heartbreaking debate in American history. It is almost impossible to see how the sometimes doddering Biden defeats a crazed guttersnipe like Trump.

What might the debate have cost Biden -- and the country, given that Trump has openly mused about acting outside our constitutional order and installing an authoritarian government that likely would end a democracy that has made America the envy of the world for roughly 250 years? Shapiro addresses this question, and it does not make for easy reading:

Because it’s early, the sputtering performance may not have cost Biden millions of votes in a close election defined by partisanship. But it is hard to picture an up-for-grabs voter in Wisconsin or Nevada watching the debate and saying, “I misjudged Biden. He is at the top of his game.”

Even when Biden gained energy later in the debate, fueled by his rage at Trump, the president could not close the deal. In a key moment late in the debate when Biden was asked directly about his age, the president and Trump began wrangling over golf handicaps. Golf handicaps? It was almost as bad as the 2016 primary debate when Marco Rubio mocked the size of Trump’s hands.

Even in his closing statement, when Biden had an opportunity to partly rectify the damage, the president (undoubtedly following bum advice) squandered his time talking about tax rates and lowering drug prices against the opposition of Big Pharma. There was no talk about democracy or abortion or that Donald J. Trump is an uncontrollable danger to America. Even inflation was wedged in a sentence or two at the very end. 

No one who was anywhere near Biden’s debate prep sessions should ever put that biographical detail on his or her résumé. But you can’t blame Biden’s longtime, handpicked advisers for the president’s own failings. He is, to put it bluntly, a terrible candidate—and there is no possibility that he will age well over the next four months.

The relevant question was posed more than a century ago by Vladimir Lenin: What Is to Be Done?

Here is how Shapiro answers that question, given the scenario now facing the Democratic Party and a country that might collapse under the kind of "leadership" Trump displayed in  his first term:

All the delegates headed to Chicago, with a handful of exceptions, are pledged to Biden. So it is unrealistic to expect an open convention to somehow repudiate a sitting president who ran in the primaries with no real opposition. Add to the mix that because of a wrinkle in Ohio’s election laws the president is slated to be nominated virtually some weeks before the convention kicks off on August 19.

That is why the decision is in Biden’s hands. It is on his conscience that Trump is likely to be the Once and Future President. Only Biden, by withdrawing next week, can change that frightening equation. It would be the ultimate self-sacrifice and it would run against every I’m-a-fighter instinct in Biden’s body. But it is a self-sacrifice that is needed to save the nation from four more years of Trump terror.

Who would replace Biden at the top of the ticket?

Ideally, the president would anoint a replacement candidate who potentially polls well. While I wish Biden would make another choice, Kamala Harris, despite her limitations as a public figure, would probably run stronger at this point than the president.

There are major risks to the Biden withdrawal scenario, which is why I have never taken it seriously until I endured the Atlanta debate. Whoever is the replacement nominee would have a serious learning curve, since running for governor in California or Michigan does not prepare you for the rigors of a four-month presidential race against a dangerous demagogue. But any major figure in the Democratic Party would bring more energy and effervescence to the race against Trump than the laudable, but worn-out, Biden.

Joe Biden, after a lifetime of public service, has the opportunity to save the nation with an inspiring burst of self-sacrifice. Let us pray, after a debacle of a debate, that the president has enough realism to recognize that he cannot win in an election that the Democrats cannot lose.

In the wake of a Doomsday debate against Donald Trump, Joe Biden vows to stand up, dust himself off, and get things done in a job he knows inside and out

Donald Trump and Joe Biden square off in presidential debate (CNN)

Joe Biden has acknowledged his poor performance in Thursday night's presidential debate, but he also is seeing encouraging signs that he might be able to move forward with  his campaign, even as some Democrats have developed a "sense of doom" regarding Biden's post-debate chances against Republican Donald Trump. Biden spent the day after the debate trying to soothe the nerves of Democrats who seem to think all hope is lost if Biden remains their nominee. 

It remains to be seen how effective Biden's efforts to calm nerves will be, but in a report at the Axios AM newletter, Mike Allen reports that the sense of despair among Democrats is deep and widespread. Under the headline "Dems' Sense of Doom," Allen writes:

President Biden (Friday) acknowledged his poor performance in last night's debate — and tried to calm Democrats' panic with a comparatively high-energy rally and a plug from former President Obama.

Biden's mindset was best described in a quote that surely will be the most memorable one from the North Carolina rally. Here is how The New Yorker reported it :

“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious.” The crowd tittered and built to applause. "“ Folks, I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong, I know know how to do this job. and I know how to get things done."

Will the task before Biden be an easy one? No, Mike Allen reports:

Biden's halting, stammering performance forced Democrats' once-hushed fears about November into the open.

  • There has been private, theoretical discussion about Biden being replaced on the ticket, several Democratic lawmakers told Axios — though they acknowledged the decision is ultimately his to make.
  • "There's a lot of chatter out there about whether we can do something, just a general unanimity that it was bad and a sense of doom," one lawmaker said.

️      The intrigue: Top Democrats told Axios today that First Lady Jill Biden would be the only person who could persuade her husband to step aside.

  • "Joe, you did such a great job," Jill Biden told him when they visited a post-debate rally party (Thursday) night. "You answered every question. You knew all the facts.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Joe Biden's tepid debate performance while battling a cold leaves Democrats in a panic while Donald Trump looks like a winner who lies a lot -- and does little else

Joe Biden tries to stifle a cough during debate (CNN)

Within minutes after the start of last night's presidential debate, Democrats went into panic mode over the tepid performance of  President Joe Biden. Several news outlets later reported that Biden had been bothered by cold symptoms -- a cough and sore throat -- with some stating he had been sick for several weeks About three minutes into the debate, it became clear that something was wrong with Biden; his raspy voice made some of his answers unintelligible. At other times, he appeared to be lost in space. After that, nothing else said in the 90-minute debate seemed to matter. You might call it "The Debate Nobody Won" and file it under the heading "Donald Trump unleashes an "avalanche of lies" (the words of CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale) while Joe Biden stumbles and fumbles." In the end, Democrats were in disarray, while Trump looked like a winner -- even though he did little beyond spewing one lie after another. Here is an overview from the Axios AM newsletter, under the headline "Biden's Backfire." Zachary Basu writes:

President Biden's debate performance triggered a meltdown of epic proportions Thursday night, uniting Democrats of all stripes — optimists and bedwetters — in a state of unprecedented panic.

Why it matters: On the biggest stage in politics — with a rule set and date specifically requested by the Biden campaign — the 81-year-old president poured gasoline on Democrats' worst fears about his age and capacity to lead.

  • It was by no means a strong performance by his opponent, former President Trump, who spewed falsehoods and defended the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
  • But the visual frailty, rambling answers and constant gaffes were enough to make Biden — and his fate as the presumptive Democratic nominee — the biggest political story of the year.

How to summarize perhaps the strangest debate in American political history? Basu provides these insights:

4 takeaways

1. Biden's slow start.

  • Biden's unusually hoarse voice — which a source close to the president attributed to a cold — established an immediate contrast with Trump, who is three years younger than Biden.
  • Panic set in among Democrats when Biden froze during an answer just minutes into the debate. Trump was quick to capitalize on Biden's stumbles: "I really don't know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don't think he knows what he said either."
  • Biden found his footing later in the debate, landing shots on Trump for bragging about the end of Roe v. Wade and leaving behind a COVID-wrecked economy.

2. The format favors Trump.

  • After attacking CNN all week over the debate's rules, Trump appeared unusually measured on stage — perhaps benefiting from the lack of an audience and mic cuts that shut off his ability to interrupt Biden.
  • The split-screen broadcast wasn't kind to Biden, who often stared during Trump's answers with his mouth agape. Trump, meanwhile, smirked when his opponent stumbled over his words.
  • Moderators did not fact-check either candidate in real-time — allowing Trump to make at least 30 false claims and Biden to make nine, according to a post-debate CNN analysis.

3. Bizarro world takes over.

  • In a striking reminder of just how unusual this election is, Biden rattled off a list of Trump's alleged crimes and civil liabilities, including his felony conviction.
  • "You have the morals of an alley cat," Biden shot at Trump, to which the former president responded: "I didn't have sex with a porn star."
  • Toward the end of the debate, the two men sparred over their golf handicaps — culminating in Trump urging his foe: "Let's not act like children."

4. Dems admit defeat.

  • Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe called Biden's performance a "DEFCON One moment" on MSNBC, typically home to some of Biden's biggest boosters on cable news.

Some Democrats did try to project a sense of calm in the storm, Basu reports:

The other side: Some top Biden surrogates urged Democrats to keep calm and carry on, acknowledging the president's rocky start while insisting he finished strong.

  • "I'm not going to spend all night with you talking about the last 90 minutes when I've been watching the last 3.5 years of performance," Vice President Kamala Harris said in a testy interview with CNN.
  • "You don't turn your back because of one performance," California Gov. Gavin Newsom told MSNBC. "What kind of party does that?"

The bottom line: A new YouGov poll found that in a blind test, Biden's policy proposals earn far more popular support than Trump's.

  • For many Democrats, Biden's debate debacle confirmed that their biggest problem isn't their message — but their messenger.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

From Israel's Iron Dome to a migrant fighting league, Trump tosses out ideas with seemingly little thought, indicating he is not a serious candidate for the WH

Israel's Iron Dome, from ground level (CNN)

Count me among the millions of Americans who long have held doubts about Donald Trump's fitness for president. Still, it was mighty convenient for Trump to take a campaign swing through Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia on Saturday and wind up erasing all doubts about his fitness for high office. We addressed those rallies in our post of Monday (6/24/24).

To his credit, and in a peculiar way, Trump raised some important issues at the two rallies -- law enforcement, domestic and international defense, the price of groceries, and crime. He even touched on issues related to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (AFC), but in typical Trump fashion, he did it in a way that was demeaning to Latinos and suggested that he, and perhaps his MAGA followers see them as sub-human. 

Owen Levine, of The Daily Beast, provided a detailed account of the promises Trump made to his audiences in D.C. and Philly. In spotlighting Trump's remarks about selected serious issues of the day, Levine helped show that the "Orange Turd Blossom" proves to be "an emperor with no clothes." In short, Trump tends to reveal that he has no clue what he is talking about on matters of governance.

If, like me, you are a Never Trumper who believes our country needs leaders with serious credentials and ideas -- plus an interest in governance and a desire to lead (Trump appears to have neither) -- Trump's Saturday campaign swing should erase any doubts in your mind about his fitness to be president. He is, in fact, glaringly unfit, and our hope is that huge majorities of Americans come to that realization before it is too late -- and Trump drives us off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style, toward a second term that is likely to be a much bigger disaster than his first one.

Let's take the issues that Owen Levine lays out for us, then examine Trump's remarks about those ideas to show that he is not even close to being fit to serve as president. Our impression is that many Trump doubters have tended to focus on his lack of an appropriate temperament for the job he seeks. But we have concluded that Trump simply is not very smart; in fact, it would be fair to say he is ignorant when it comes to matters related to governance -- and that is not exactly a quality any of us should be looking for in a president.

Let's review Owen Levine's reporting on Trump's most recent campaign swing, and we will show 9issue by issue) that, to put it bluntly, he is too dumb to be president.

(1) Immunity for law-enforcement officers

First, what is "qualified immunity," the kind that usually applies to police officers, sheriff deputies, and the like. Here is what the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) says about it:

Qualified immunity has protected law enforcement officers and other government officials from being held accountable when they violate people’s constitutional rights for decades. The doctrine of qualified immunity allows state and local officials to avoid personal consequences related to their professional interactions unless they violate “clearly established law” and has been repeatedly used by police officers to escape accountability and civil liability for engaging in violent and abusive acts against the public. In practice, this often means that, unless there’s a case with nearly identical facts on the record, these officials can violate a person’s rights without being held personally responsible for their actions.

LDF also calls qualified immunity a "judge-created doctrine," indicating it has roots in the courts. It also has roots in Congress, and that brings us to at least three major problems with Trump's take on this issue:

a. Trump says he wants to give police "immunity" to be rough with suspects. But here is how the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) describes the issue's roots in Congress:

The evolution of qualified immunity began in 1871 when Congress adopted 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which makes government employees and officials personally liable for money damages if they violate a person’s federal constitutional rights. State and local police officers may be sued under § 1983. Until the 1960s, few § 1983 lawsuits were successfully brought. In 1967, the Supreme Court recognized qualified immunity as a defense to § 1983 claims. In 1982, the Supreme Court adopted the current test for the doctrine. Qualified immunity is generally available if the law a government official violated isn’t “clearly established.”

b. The history of police immunity indicates Trump probably would not be able to unilaterally give police the protection he promises. First, the U.S. Supreme Court is involved. In a case styled Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335 (1986), the high court held: that immunity does not attach when "a reasonably well-trained officer in petitioner's position would have known that his affidavit failed to establish probable cause, and that he should not have applied for the warrant."

c. Trump "lamented that police officers are “treated so badly” that they lose their jobs and their pensions “if they do something that’s harsh to stop a crime.”

Mrs. Schnauzer (my wife, Carol) and I have dealt with police immunity in an up close and personal way, and we know that cops are not always the benevolent beings Trump would have us believe. They have been known to enter a home with guns drawn when they have every reason to know such entry is unlawful, they have caused serious physical, emotional, and financial injuries, including breaking bones that required eight hours of trauma surgery for repair. They have brought false criminal charges against the victim of their abuse and lied about their handiwork under oath, in court.

They also have the favor of judges who have no problem cheating victims in order to protect their cop and sheriff friends. One such judge is M. Douglas Harpool (see photo at the end of this post) in the Western District of Missouri. We will show how Harpool ignored all kinds of legal precedent, engaging in breathtaking corruption, to protect his buddies in the law-enforcement world -- in a case where he likely was disqualified from taking it in the first place. We will have many more posts on this subject coming soon.

(2) An "Iron Dome

This involves a missile-defense system that was designed for the geographic and logistical challenges Israel faces. As such, it has no practical application for the United States. Here are details about Israel's Iron Dome, from Wikipedia:

Iron Dome is an Israeli mobile all-weather air defense system,[8] developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries.[7] The system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 to 70 kilometres (2–43 mi) away and whose trajectory would take them to an Israeli populated area. From 2011 to 2021, the United States contributed a total of US$1.6 billion to the Iron Dome defense system, with another US$1 billion approved by the US Congress in 2022.

Iron Dome  is designed for use against the enemies in Israel's neighborhood, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. It is designed to intercept missiles fired from less than 43 miles. Can anyone think of an enemy that might fire missiles at the U.S. from 43 miles or less? Would it be Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica. El Salvador?

Trump appears to be looking for a way to waste billions of dollars, and since Congress has the "power of the purse" in our style of democracy. it's likely Trump would not get the funding he craves.

(3) Crime

On this topic , Trump reverts to his usual tactic of lying.

a. This is from our Monday post:

Trump then turns to his usual tactic of simply lying, blaming Democratic incumbent Joe Biden for a crime rate that supposedly is soaring, when in fact, violent crime is at a near 50-year low. You can get a sense of the problems that can come from a president who is a chronic liar.

(4)  Migrants Fighting

Here is how The Hill summarized this whacko idea from Trump:

Former President Trump over the weekend mused about the creation of a migrant fighting league to rival the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), characterizing migrants as “tough” and “mean” during stump speeches.

Trump brought up the idea during two separate events Saturday — one during a gathering of Christian conservatives in the nation’s capital and later at a rally in Philadelphia.

“These people are tough. They’re so tough,” Trump said in his speech during the Faith and Freedom Coalition event in Washington, D.C.

In both addresses, Trump recalled that he had floated the idea to UFC head Dana White.

“I said, ‘Dana, I have an idea for you to make a lot of money. You’re going to go and start a new migrant fight league, only migrants,” Trump recalled during the rally.

He suggested the migrant league champion and UFC’s champion could ultimately battle each other.

“I think the migrant guy might win, that’s how tough they are. He didn’t like that idea too much, but actually, it’s not the worst idea I’ve had,” Trump told the Christian group. “These people are tough and they’re nasty, mean.”

Audience members at the events could be heard laughing as Trump mused about the idea.

White told media members during the UFC Saudi Arabia postfight press conference that the conversation had indeed happened as Trump recalled. He took it as a joke.

“It was a joke. It was a joke,” White told reporters. “I saw everybody going crazy online. But yeah, he did say it.”

trump admitted that White was not big on the idea. Why not?  It's possible that White is familiar with personal injury (PI) insurance coverage, the kind you need when someone gets hurt on your property or is injured because of your alleged negligence.

To put two untrained migrant fighters in an octagon and encourage them to beat up each other, likely would unleash a flood of personal injury lawsuits, and White probably knows the expense of such claims can add up in a hurry. That Trump does not seem to grasp this is another sign that the guy is not too bright.

(5) Trump's "wounds"

This subject took Trump's nuttiness to new heights. Here's how we addressed it our Monday piece:

Trump also bizarrely told the crowd that he has “wounds all over my body,” assuring them that if he “took this shirt off, you'd see a beautiful, beautiful person but you’d see wounds all over me.”

“I’ve taken a lot of wounds. More than, I suspect, any president ever,” Trump added. Evidently, he has not heard of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan or William McKinley.

This sounds like Trump's malignant narcissism talking, but it also suggests he he is not a serious student of history -- and that is a subject about which a president should know a thing or two.

(6) Education

Here is how we addressed this issue in our Monday piece:

Trump also assured his audience he will “shut down the Federal Department of Education,” before promising to spend less than “half” of what President Biden is currently spending on education.

“There will be two people in Washington, the two people will make sure that, we will have to guarantee that they are teaching a little English,” Trump said of his plan for the Department of Education.

That is a plan for education? Doesn't sound like there is much to it. In fact, it does not sound serious. Maybe that's because Trump is not a serious candidate, and even he struggles to pretend otherwise.

Doug Harpool


Monday, June 24, 2024

Trump uses bizarre rhetoric to promise "immunity for cops, an Iron Dome, and lower bacon prices"; does anyone seriously think this guy is fit to be president?

Trump delivers a speech in Philadelphia on Saturday (YouTube)

If there was any question about Donald Trump's fitness to serve as president, the candidate conveniently opened his mouth over the weekend and erased any doubt. During a Saturday campaign swing through Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Trump must have set a record for most inane, ignorant, and insipid remarks by a major-party presidential candidate. If you are a serious voter who believes America needs a president with serious credentials and ideas, you will come away from an account of Trump's most recent utterances convinced that he is NOT that guy. 

Let's turn to Owen Levine, of The Daily Beast, whose account offers proof that Trump suffers from Foot In Mouth Disease -- perhaps the most outrageous case of it to ever appear on the American political stage. Under the headline "Trump’s New Promises: ‘Immunity’ for Cops, an Iron Dome, Cheaper Bacon," Levine writes of a candidate, one who has a habit of talking too much, watching his rhetoric veer wildly off the rails.

Trump's "promises" are based on serious issues, but his remarks on them are about as unserious as the mind can imagine. It would have been like a comedy routine gone horribly awry had Trump not made it clear he was offering up ideas as part of an attempt at legitimate political discourse. Levine provides details on campaign stops that must have left audiences -- assuming they were paying attention -- scratching their heads. From The Daily Beast report:

Police will have “immunity” to be rough with suspects, migrants may or may not be herded into a “fighting league” akin to the UFC, and bacon will be cheaper if Donald Trump wins the 2024 presidential election—according to him.

The former president work-shopped some new lines during two campaign events on Saturday. “I’m giving immunity to police all over the country,” he said, a pledge that he repeated to supporters in both Washington, D.C. , and Philadelphia.

He lamented that police officers are “treated so badly” that they lose their jobs and their pensions “if they do something that’s harsh to stop a crime.”

Trump did not elaborate on what his “immunity” would cover.

He also vowed to ensure that America gets its own “Iron Dome.”

“Israel has it, why don’t we have it?” Trump asked the crowd before telling them he would build a “great Iron Dome” in the U.S. if he is elected. He promised that the construction of the missile-defense system would “create jobs,” though he offered no specifics whatsoever.

That last paragraph involves important matters of domestic and international defense. It would be nice to have a president who knows a thing or two about such matters. But Trump makes it clear he does not have a clue. (How do we know Trump doesn't know what he's talking about? We will address that question, and others related to Trump's promises, shortly.) Trump then turns to his usual tactic of simply lying, blaming Democratic incumbent Joe Biden for a crime rate that supposedly is soaring, when in fact, violent crime is at a near 50-year low. Levine writes:

Elsewhere in his speech, Trump blamed his Democratic opponents for rising crime that he claimed had forced stores to lock up all their soap.

“The pharmacies have to lock up the soap. The soap. You want to buy a little bar of soap? You got to go through a big deal. Open up the glass. Open up the steel. You can’t keep a bar of soap,” he complained.

Bacon, too, has become off-limits for many Americans, he claimed, telling the crowd: “Even I won’t buy bacon anymore, it’s too expensive!”

He said he had presented an idea to UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) President Dana White for a “migrant fighting league,” an idea which Trump said White did not like. Trump then joked, “It’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had.” (Trump probably is right about that, although the migrant fighting idea is depraved, in keeping with Trump's tendency to view immigrants as sub-human; it also suggests Dana White would make a better president than Donald Trump/)

The nuttiness in Trump's presentations was just getting started. Levine writes:

Trump also bizarrely told the crowd that he has “wounds all over my body,” assuring them that if he “took this shirt off, you'd see a beautiful, beautiful person but you’d see wounds all over me.”

“I’ve taken a lot of wounds. More than, I suspect, any president ever,” Trump added. Evidently, he has not heard of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan or William McKinley.

He also assured his audience he will “shut down the Federal Department of Education,” before promising to spend less than “half” of what President Biden is currently spending on education.

“There will be two people in Washington, the two people will make sure that, we will have to guarantee that they are teaching a little English,” Trump said of his plan for the Department of Education.

Trump was not concerned about voter turnout, telling the audience, “we don’t need the votes, we have the votes. I don’t care, all we need to do is guard the votes... I want the steal stopped.”

Why do we know Trump is resorting to word salads -- with little intellectual value for his listeners -- and how do we know his comments make him unfit to be president? We will address those questions and more in an upcoming post.

(To be continued)

Friday, June 21, 2024

A new poll from POLITICO shows many Americans take Trump's hush-money conviction seriously, suggesting the "felon" label might drive voters to Biden


A poll released this week from POLITICO shows Donald Trump's conviction in the New York hush-money trial actually matters to voters and could be more of an electoral headache for Trump than many observers once expected. Ankush Khardori, a senior writer for POLITICO, says the poll shows the conviction has caused a significant number of independent voters to be less likely to vote for Trump than was the case before the verdict was announced. The poll also showed that the conviction would be an important factor in how voters decide to vote come November, and that is another potential sign of trouble for Trump.

Under the headline "New Polling Shows the Real Fallout From the Trump Conviction; A new POLITICO magazine/Ipsos poll shows that Trump’s criminal conviction hurts him with independents," Khadori writes:

Donald Trump’s criminal conviction didn’t instantly upend the 2024 presidential race. But the results of a new poll should be worrying for Trump.

In the weeks since the verdict, both parties have sought to shape the public’s initial reaction, with Republicans largely denouncing it and Democrats citing the result as further evidence that Trump is unfit for office. To figure out how this unprecedented moment is being processed by the electorate, POLITICO Magazine partnered with Ipsos in a new survey.

Among the most notable findings in our poll: 21 percent of independents said the conviction made them less likely to support Trump and that it would be an important factor in their vote. In a close election, small shifts among independent and swing voters could determine the outcome.

The news, however, is not all bad for Trump, as Khadori explains:

And yet there is also good reason to believe that Trump and his allies’ efforts to discredit the prosecution and conviction have cast doubt on the validity of the verdict among many people and limited the potential fallout for the former president-turned-felon.

A sizable number of Americans, including independents, question whether the verdict was the result of a fair and impartial process. And although most respondents rejected the idea that the prosecution was brought to help President Joe Biden, a large number (43 percent of all respondents) either strongly or somewhat agreed that was the rationale for the case.

Taken as a whole, the results of the poll suggest that Americans’ views on the Trump verdict may still be malleable — and could get better or worse for Trump.

Khardori notes the kinds of events that could change the outlook for Trump in one direction or another:

There are plenty of upcoming events and variables that could change public opinion before November, to say nothing of the ongoing efforts by political operatives on both sides of the aisle to influence (or not) public perceptions. That includes Trump’s sentencing in Manhattan (July 11), which could entail a period of incarceration, as well as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s testimony before Congress about the case (July 12), where Republicans are sure to hammer him.

The recent conviction of Hunter Biden on gun charges and a scheduled trial in September on tax charges could also influence Americans’ perceptions, particularly since those cases dramatically undermine Trump and Republicans’ claims that the former president has been the victim of a “weaponized” Justice Department.

POLITICO also examined opinions about the justice system itself and found that Republicans particularly have come to distrust the system -- judges, prosecutors, the works. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) now has come to be viewed as a sketchy outfit by many Americans, the poll shows. Khadori writes:

In the wake of Trump’s guilty verdict, we also sought to measure Americans’ trust in key figures in the criminal justice system — including lawyers, judges and juries — and compared the results against a survey that was taken roughly a year ago, as Trump’s criminal prosecutions were still getting underway. The data showed a drop in levels of trust among Republicans in particular.

But the least trusted actors in the legal system are not the lawyers prosecuting or defending the cases, or even the kind of state judges presiding over Trump’s case. They are the Supreme Court justices themselves, whose public approval has taken a considerable hit in recent years thanks to unpopular rulings issued by the conservative supermajority and a series of rolling ethical controversies involving Republican appointees Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Khadori provides details about the poll, then follows with a summary of the findings:

This poll was conducted from June 7-9 and had a sample of 1,027 adults, age 18 or older, who were interviewed online; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points for all respondents. This is the fourth poll on the Trump prosecutions that POLITICO Magazine has conducted in partnership with Ipsos since last summer.

Here are the key findings.

1. Trump’s Conviction Is an Electoral Liability — Particularly Among Independents

The notion suggested by some pundits that a conviction might help Trump in the general election was always deeply counterintuitive, and our post-verdict numbers rebuff that prediction.

A plurality of respondents in our poll (38 percent) reported that Trump’s conviction would have no impact on their likelihood to support Trump for president, but the results were decidedly lopsided among those who said it would affect their support. Thirty-three percent of respondents said that the conviction made them less likely to support Trump, while only 17 percent of respondents said that it made them more likely to support Trump.

The results were worse for Trump among respondents who said they were political independents. Thirty-two percent of them said that the conviction made them less likely to support Trump. Only 12 percent of them said that it made them more likely to support Trump.

2. Trump’s Conviction Could Drive Voters Away from Him

It is one thing for someone to say that the verdict makes them more or less likely to support Trump, but more important is whether the issue actually helps determine their vote, particularly given the array of other issues — the economy and immigration, to name just two — that are clearly important to many voters this year.

In an effort to isolate the effect of the verdict, we also asked respondents how important the conviction would be in deciding how they vote in November. Here too, the results were not good for Trump.

Twenty-two percent of respondents said that the conviction is important to how they will vote and that it makes them less likely to support Trump. Only 6 percent of respondents took the other side of that question — reporting that the conviction is important to how they will vote and that it makes them more likely to support Trump.

A nearly identical net-negative effect showed up among independents. Twenty-one percent of independents reported that they were less likely to support Trump and that the conviction is important to their vote. Just 5 percent of them said that the conviction is important to how they will vote and that it makes them more likely to support Trump.

3. Many Americans Remain Skeptical of the Verdict

There is, however, a silver lining for Trump: The numbers could be worse. In fact, our poll showed that a sizable number of Americans harbor reservations about the prosecution and the verdict.

We asked respondents, for instance, whether they thought that the guilty verdict was the result of “a fair and impartial judicial process.” A plurality of respondents said yes (46 percent), while others either disagreed (32 percent) or said that they did not know (19 percent).

Those trends largely held among the subset of independents, with a plurality of them saying that they thought that the verdict was the result of a fair and impartial process (46 percent), while others disagreed (27 percent) or said that they did not know (24 percent).

4. Many Americans Question the Origins of the Prosecution

We also asked several questions designed to probe whether and to what extent Americans associated the case with a partisan effort to prevent Trump from being re-elected, as he has repeatedly claimed. Although there is no meaningful evidence that the prosecution was designed to prevent Trump’s reelection, the numbers suggest that Trump has succeeded in casting doubt on the integrity of the prosecution.

We asked respondents whether they thought that President Joe Biden was “directly involved” in the decision to bring the case. A majority of respondents either said yes (29 percent) or that they did not know (25 percent).

The numbers were even more favorable to Trump when we asked whether they believed that the Justice Department was “directly involved” in the Manhattan DA’s decision to prosecute Trump (despite a similar lack of evidence to support this view). Roughly a third of respondents said that they thought that DOJ was directly involved (36 percent) while another third (34 percent) said that they did not know.

5. Many Americans Believe that the Prosecution Was Brought to Help Joe Biden

We also asked respondents whether they thought that the prosecution was brought to help Joe Biden.

Most respondents (51 percent) disagreed with the claim, but a still-sizable chunk of them (43 percent) agreed that the case had been brought to help Biden.

The results were roughly similar among independents: 44 percent agreed that the case had been brought to help Biden and 50 percent disagreed.

These figures may be movable, however, given other data from the poll that suggests a notable contingent of Americans still lack a firm understanding of the case. Roughly a third of all respondents (31 percent) and independents (33 percent) said that they still do not understand the details of the case well.

6. Trust in the Justice System Has Eroded Among Republicans

We also surveyed respondents about how much they trust key actors in the criminal justice system — including prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and juries.

Two notable points emerged, particularly when we compared the results with an earlier survey conducted by Ipsos in July 2023 that posed similar questions.

First, the biggest shift in opinion over that time occurred among Republicans. Democrats generally maintained or increased their levels of trust in these actors, while Republicans’ trust decreased across the board — and by greater margins.

Last year, for instance, 60 percent of Republican respondents reported that they had either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in citizens serving on juries, but in our latest survey, that number dropped to 42 percent. A year ago, 41 percent of Republican respondents reported a great deal or a fair amount of trust in prosecutors; that figure has now fallen to 32 percent.

Second, the least trusted group of actors did not turn out to be the usual suspects — prosecutors or defense attorneys — but the Supreme Court justices. Just 39 percent of all respondents reported having a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the justices — a figure that roughly tracks the court’s historically low approval ratings under the conservative supermajority.

It remains to be seen whether the public’s trust in the court will deteriorate even further given the array of controversial issues and litigants that remain on their docket as the current term wraps up in the coming weeks.

Among them? Another Trump prosecution.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a new memoir, recalls his final talk with President Trump, which included an enraged Trump calling Joe Biden "that f- -ker" and vowing to "kick his f-- -king ass" and bragging that he was going to "win this f --king election" in a 2020 landslide


Dr. Anthony Fauci, who led America's fight against the coronavirus, cannot quite get over the final conversation he had with President Donald Trump. The talk was so bizarre to Fauci's ears that he still describes it as "unnerving." From Trump's end, it was filled with vitriol, rage, deceit, profane language, and attacks against those he thought had wronged him. In other words, it was Trump being Trump.

But that did not make it any more pleasant for Fauci, noted as a worldwide expert in immunology, infectious diseases, and public health, who served as a director at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1984 to 2022 and advised seven presidents on domestic and global health issues. Understandably, Fauci was used to being treated with respect, having earned a significant amount of international prestige.

But that was not coming from Trump, and Fauci still seems perplexed to have been subjected to such an unpleasant encounter with a president. Hafiz Rashid, of The New Republic (TNR), examines the Trump-Fauci relationship and seems to see it as another example of the dysfunction that reigned at the White House during Trump's first term. Under the headline "Fauci Recalls Trump’s Final Enraged Call: 'That F**ker Biden';Dr. Anthony Fauci revealed his last “unnerving” conversation with Donald Trump," Rashid writes:

Dr. Anthony Fauci’s  final conversation with Donald Trump was “unnerving,” according to the infectious diseases expert.

With his new book, On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service, released this week , Fauci spoke in more depth about the conversation on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Live Monday night, detailing how Trump, in a phone conversation, called Joe Biden “that fucker” and promised to “kick his fucking ass” in the final days before the 2020 election. 

Maddow read an excerpt from the book, quoting Fauci’s narration of that call: 

“Everybody wants me to fire you,” the president said to me during [a] call [that day], “but I’m not going to fire you. You have too illustrious a career, but you have to be positive. The country cannot stay locked down. You have got to give them hope.

“I like you but so many people, not only in the White House but throughout the country hate you because of what you are doing. I’m going to win this fucking election by a landslide, just wait and see. I always did things my way, and I always win no matter what all these other fucking people think. And that fucker Biden, he’s so fucking stupid. I’m going to kick his fucking ass in this election.

Maddow seemed to sense, Rashid writes, that Fauci found Trump's words revolting, insulting, and wildly unfitting for a president:

Maddow asked Fauci if the conversation “unnerved you a little bit.”

“You know, it did,” Fauci replied. “It was a little incongruous because he ended it by saying take care, see you soon, something like that. I wasn’t quite sure.

“It was unnerving. Even though you’re convinced you’re doing the right thing, which I had been, you know, trying to say all along, just level with the American public, you wind up being better off to do that; it is not a pleasant thing to have the president of the United States, when you have such a great deal of respect for the presidency of the United States, for the president to get on the phone and scream at you the way he did. So that was very tough,” Fauci added.

Fauci’s new book includes many new details about how Trump dealt with Covid-19 and how he felt about Fauci. Trump would “announce that he loved me and then scream at me on the phone,” Fauci wrote. Their contentious relationship was apparent even in the early days of the pandemic, with Trump reportedly flying into a rage after hearing incorrectly reported information and attributing it to Fauci.

Fauci’s time as the public face of the government’s efforts during the pandemic, as well as Trump’s treatment of him, earned him attacks from conservatives, who spread conspiracy theories about him and attacked efforts such as lockdowns and masks. He was the target of several smears on a recent visit to Capitol Hill, with Republicans proposing getting hold of his personal emails. More new revelations from his book, along with more public appearances, will likely draw him more vitriol and attacks, despite his career in public service.