Archive

November 4th, 2016

Despite emails, Republicans still think Donald Trump will lose. Here's why.

    FBI agents have now obtained a warrant to examine the new emails found on Anthony Weiner's laptop, and it now appears possible that the FBI will share more information about the new significance of those emails -- or lack thereof -- before Election Day. Maddeningly, we don't even know whether that will happen -- sources are now hinting they may tell us more soon, but it's not definitive -- adding layer upon layer of uncertainty in the final stretch.

    But either way, some senior GOP strategists appear convinced that the new revelations -- if that's even the right word for the news -- won't shift the fundamentals of the race in a dramatic enough way to enable Donald Trump to win. With polls showing the race tightening, probably because disaffected Republican voters are coming back to Trump, Politico has a rundown on what these GOP strategists think this tightening really means and what comes next:

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Comey's mistaken quest for transparency

    As an experienced prosecutor, FBI Director James Comey knows that the government's power to bring criminals to justice is as narrow as it is awesome. It can initiate proceedings that will put people in jail for decades, but only when it is ready and able to present evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt sufficient to persuade a jury of one's peers. Short of that, its job is to announce that no charges will be filed, and shut up. It is not the schoolmarm in chief, empowered to criticize the citizenry for perceived but uncharged digressions that fall short of chargeable crimes.

    So how in July did he become a public commentator on the moral failings of Hillary Clinton's email practices, even as he maintained without quaver that no prosecutable case could be brought? And why on Friday, in the heat of the election contest, did he decide to share with the entire country - as he must have known would happen the minute it arrived on the Hill - the totally obscure message that material "pertinent to the investigation" had been located and would be reviewed? Indeed, what gave him the conviction to so proceed, even over the reported objections of his bosses, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general?

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Comey caves to a lynch-mob mentality

    Donald Trump so far is just a presidential candidate. Yet along with his baying partisan hounds in Congress and his angry throngs of devoted followers, he has successfully bullied and intimidated the head of the FBI into discrediting himself and his institution and doing untold damage to the American political system. In case you wondered what life might be like under a Trump presidency, consider this a preview.

    FBI Director James B. Comey is by all accounts a man of integrity and principle, including the principle of nonpartisanship. He made a determination in July, following a lengthy investigation, that Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted. No one had reason to believe that Comey, a Republican who has served in administrations of both parties, made his decision for partisan reasons. As he said, it was "not even close." Yet at the time of his decision, he did something extraordinary and contrary to normal prosecutorial standards: He explained his decision; he talked about the investigation; he even expressed his opinion of Clinton's behavior.

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November 3rd

When you 'Vote for Nobody,' you vote for somebody

    If you ever have the “America blahs” and want to shake out of them, teach a citizenship class.

    I have. I’ve looked into eyes that came here from Iran, from Mexico, from Saudi Arabia, from China, from Sudan. The eyes have it.

    They can’t wait to be Americans. Particularly, they can’t wait to vote.

    Oh, and they understand exactly what voting entails: making a choice. Sometimes you hold your nose, but you choose.

    I would have liked to have seen the faces of those citizens-to-be when they read in these pages about a “Vote for Nobody” campaign among collegians.

    I saw it in USA Today, one of the proponents proudly wearing a “Vote for Nobody 2016” T-shirt. Precious.

    I realize this is mostly a laugh. I don’t assume that these students will flat-line when it comes to a right for which their forebears – wave after wave of them, young, vital Americans of college age -- fought and died.

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Breathe deeply, then go vote

    Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat, until the anxiety attack passes. Then go vote, and soon our long national nightmare will be over.

    FBI Director James Comey's "October surprise" decision to cast last-minute shade over Hillary Clinton, based on emails he and his agents had not even read, was appallingly unfair. But there's nothing to be done about that now -- and no reason to believe it will change the fundamental shape of the race, which has been remarkably consistent. Donald Trump remains on track to lose, and the question is by how much.

    The only way he could possibly win is if Democrats and other "Never Trump" voters stay home on Election Day out of complacency. Comey's intervention should have eliminated that possibility. Look what happened Friday after his letter about the emails was made public: The Dow Jones industrial average reacted as if to a natural disaster, plunging about 150 points before slowly recovering when it was learned that this latest twist grew out of the Anthony Weiner investigation.

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What Did You Do in 2016?

    One day, Americans who were too young to have followed the 2016 campaign will look back and try to make sense of it. They will want to know how such a dangerous person could have gotten so close to the presidency — a man who spoke of abandoning our allies, admiring foreign despots, weakening constitutional rights, and serially molesting women.

    Those future adults may also pose a more personal question to their elders:

    Mommy and Daddy, what did you do in response to Donald Trump?

    It will be a fair question. The reality is, Trump could still win. It is unlikely, yes, but the gift he received from a surprisingly bumbling FBI shows that campaigns aren’t over until they’re over.

    With seven days left, it is not too late for anyone alarmed by Trump to get involved. As it happens, Trump himself has pointed toward the best way to do so. Again and again, he has attempted to undermine democratic legitimacy, be it inviting foreign interference or flirting with voter intimidation.

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The GOP: Don't ask us to govern

    The most depressing news from last week did not come from the presidential campaign. It came instead from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who told us what a Republican Congress would be all about: investigating a President Hillary Clinton, starting on or about Jan. 20, 2017.

    "It's a target-rich environment," the Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee cheerfully told The Washington Post's David Weigel. "Even before we get to Day One, we've got two years' worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain't good."

     The party's post-election slogan: Forward into the Past!

    So, no time to see if we might first refurbish our infrastructure, improve education, or find a compromise to repair the Affordable Care Act. No need to act on immigration reform.

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Working the Refs

    The cryptic letter James Comey, the FBI director, sent to Congress on Friday looked bizarre at the time — seeming to hint at a major new Clinton scandal, but offering no substance. Given what we know now, however, it was worse than bizarre, it was outrageous. Comey apparently had no evidence suggesting any wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton; he violated long-standing rules about commenting on politically sensitive investigations close to an election; and he did so despite being warned by other officials that he was doing something terribly wrong.

    So what happened? We may never know the full story, but the best guess is that Comey, like many others — media organizations, would-be nonpartisan advocacy groups, and more — let himself be bullied by the usual suspects. Working the refs — screaming about bias and unfair treatment, no matter how favorable the treatment actually is — has been a consistent, long-term political strategy on the right. And the reason it keeps happening is because it so often works.

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Vaginas, Penises, Emails and the FBI

    Who would have thought that the final leg of this election cycle would be dominated by crowing about violating vaginas and by probes into penis pictures?

    But even that frame is problematic because it creates an equivalency that doesn’t exist. One scandal is about a man boasting of predation and the other is about a woman weary of people’s prying. These are fundamentally different flaws, one being clearly about a pattern of assault and the other about a pattern of ill-fated insularity.

    And yet an utterly irresponsible media, thirsty for a scoop and ignoring the consequences of its scope, has egged on a public with a scandal lust, aiding and abetting Republicans in turning an email mistake into a colossal crime.

    Far from the faux election rigging that Donald Trump has been harping on for weeks, this election isn’t in danger of being stolen by Hillary Clinton, but in danger of being stolen from her.

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November 2nd

Praying for forbearance

    I have spent much of my weekends of late at gatherings in houses of worship discussing some aspect of the presidential election. Never has 19th-century Episcopal rector Phillips Brooks'sprayer "Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things" been more tested.

    This election season has brought out the worst. The meanness and outrageous lies are revolting, a far cry from Brooks's declaration to "live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten . . . or take away the joy of conscious integrity."

    The "spirit of joy and gladness," never abundant in political campaigning, is totally absent today.

    "Let me not lose faith in other people."

    It's hard to keep faith with a presidential hopeful who labels immigrants "killers and rapists" and who calls for the "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

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