Why Donald Trump’s rise in polls should scare GOP

Independent presidential candidate H. Ross Perot with one of his ever-present economic charts.

Independent presidential candidate H. Ross Perot with one of his ever-present economic charts.

Many dismiss Donald Trump’s entry into the 2016 Republican presidential race as an ego trip or a joke. I offer one name as to why people should take him seriously: H. Ross Perot.

Trump, the real estate developer, reality TV show star, and professional blowhard, seems to be playing to a limited part of the base of the Republican Party that doesn’t care about insults, political correctness, or veracity. The voters who are choosing Trump as a preferred candidate — and polls show that their numbers are growing — are listening to what they want to hear, claiming that he’s a successful businessman who’s telling it like it is. Which sounds a lot like what people said about Perot, a billionaire businessman turned independent candidate in 1992 who won nearly 19 percent of the popular vote after all the ballots were counted.

Trump isn’t worried about offending people, as he clearly showed when he called Mexican immigrants drug smugglers and rapists when he announced his candidacy. Given multiple chances to backtrack on friendly news venues like Fox, he refused, instead doubling down on his criticism and insisting that others “know he’s right.”

Never mind that several business deals have fallen apart. NBC cancelled The Apprentice, telling Trump, “You’re fired.” NBC and Univision announced that they would not air the Miss USA pageant that Trump partially owns. Macy’s announced that it was phasing out its Donald Trump line of clothing. Of course, he’s threatened to sue, as he usually does.

No matter. A GOP megadonor named Stan Hubbard said the pageant will be shown on Reelz, a cable station at which he serves as CEO of the parent company, Hubbard Broadcasting. Hubbard Broadcasting gave $100,000 to GOP operative Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC in 2012, so it’s not surprising that Hubbard called Trump’s Miss USA pageant a “perfect fit” for Reelz. The pageant’s co-hosts have both dropped out, but I’m sure Trump will find new blood — or maybe he’ll just do it himself.

To be sure, some of Trump’s support in the polls is based on name recognition. “You’re fired” has become part of the American lexicon. But there are true Trump believers.

“Trump has found support from Republican voters looking for a successful businessman to jumpstart an economic renaissance — and someone who won’t be bullied by anyone,” said a story in the National Journal. There’s even a pro-Trump super PAC, Citizens for Restoring USA.

At first, Trump’s poll numbers rose only in one New Hampshire poll. Then it was a national poll by Fox. Now there are multiple polls showing the rise of the Donald, in multiple states. A new CNN/ORC national poll gives him 12 percent of the vote, behind former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush’s 17 percent. Trump is also tied for second in an new Iowa poll from Huffington Post, at 10 percent.

Those are still low numbers, given the plethora of candidates, and it’s way too early in the game to be worried about a Trump candidacy. Right, Republicans? Rove has repeatedly said the rest of the pack should just ignore Trump. But let’s hear from a few GOP voters.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki, one of the many would-be contenders who isn’t registering at all in any poll, tweeted, “Join me. Stand up now. Denounce Donald Trump’s comments today.” He included several other candidates who shared his low polling numbers, such as @JohnKasich, @GrahamBlog, and @GovChristie — Ohio Gov. John Kasich, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Boy, did he launch a Tweetnado, albeit an anonymous one. Here’s a sampling from Trump supporters:

@notmyname02: Absolutely not. He’s telling the truth. The man has balls.

@espowill123: Give it up. Trump is telling it like it is. We have enough empty suit Republicans.

@autgrind: I support Trump, because I support the truth. Have you ever heard of it? I doubt it

@FreedomHaawk: LOVE TRUMP. His statement is based on FACTS. FBI FACTS…

(Once again, showing that facts have a liberal bias.)

@cgroche: His criticism was aimed at the Mex Government. “That giant sucking sound” – Ross Perot.

@gforbespianist: Donald, if @GOP @GovernorPataki disses you, pls do what Lieberman did in ’06 CT election. We’ll vote #Trump!

I don’t think Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee come July 2016, and I don’t think he would waste money on a third-party candidacy. Another National Journal story said most political pollsters and experts believe that his support will fade, and I agree. But Republicans would do well to remember the lesson of Ross Perot.

Perot actually led polls in May 1992 in Texas and California over both incumbent President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. He led June polls nationally with 39 percent, over both Bush and Clinton. Perot’s famous line of “That giant sucking sound” of U.S. jobs leaving because of NAFTA became as well known then as “You’re fired” is now.

But Perot’s bizarre actions and campaign tactics sunk him as much as anything — he dropped out of the race in July, only to rejoin the campaign again in October. He didn’t air ads, reportedly telling his ad campaign consultant when he heard of the cost, “Why would I spend that when I could go on the Today show for free?” He did spend money on TV time toward the end of the campaign. Perot’s re-entry into the race took votes away from both Clinton and Bush (probably more from Clinton), but in the end it didn’t matter.

Trump’s presence on a GOP debate stage one month from now as he throws flame after flame should make the rest of the field ignore him at their peril. Unchecked, he will solidify the Republican Party’s reputation as one of bizarre conspiracy theories, racist immigration policies, and unworkable policy proposals. He’s already drawing support from fans who blog regularly on a neo-Nazi site called the Daily Stormer (sorry, not giving a link).

But maybe Trump’s antics will wear thin. Maybe he’ll have his own “oops” moment, as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry famously did at a GOP debate during the 2012 race (don’t forget, Perry once led the early polls, too).

Democrats can only watch with glee. Here’s a tweet from Democratic consultant Paul Begala:

“I am a person of faith — and the Donald’s entry into this race can only be attributed to the fact that the good Lord is a Democrat with a sense of humor.”

Media “analysis” on marriage equality ruling helping GOP is hogwash

Republicans really think they can move in here and continue to oppose marriage equality?

Republicans really think they can move in here and continue to oppose marriage equality?

At least a few media outlets have published pieces on how the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage really helps Republican candidates running for president.

It must be opposite day in op-ed land.

The logic, if you can even call it that, goes something like this: Because most Republican office-holders and all presidential candidates are against marriage equality, they could use the “we’re still against it” line to placate the most conservative members of their base. Every candidate criticized the Supreme Court decision.

Since then, some candidates have taken the “I disagree, but it’s now the law of the land” approach, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Others continue to throw flames, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who seems to be calling for civil disobedience, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who apparently thinks Supreme Court Justices are elected. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed cutting all funding for the Supreme Court.

But back to the non-logic. Consider CNN’s story, which gives these polling figures on marriage equality: “Polls show that nearly three quarters of Americans believe that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry — including almost 60 percent of Republicans under 50.”

So three-quarters of Americans — even a majority of Republicans under 50 — are fine with marriage equality, but somehow the issue will help the GOP, when they sound like Neanderthals?

“The divide is an early sign that same-sex marriage could emerge as one of the brightest fault-lines of the GOP primary battle,” CNN said. So apparently CNN thinks marriage equality will still be a battle for Republican hearts and minds in the primaries, but all of that animosity will magically disappear in the general election?

A New York Times news analysis takes a different tack. “But even as conservatives appear under siege, some Republicans predict that this moment will be remembered as an effective wiping of the slate before the nation begins focusing in earnest on the presidential race,” the Times analysis says.

Really? With 75 percent of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage, as more and more of us see friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, fellow church members, PTA presidents, etc., etc., in same-sex relationships and observe that the world hasn’t fallen apart, you really think those same voters are going to forget the venomous comments Republican candidates have been making about marriage equality for, well, just about forever?

“Collectively, this optimistic thinking would have it, June will go down as the month that dulled some of the wedge issues Democrats were hoping to wield next year,” the Times analysis says.

Just a hunch here, but I don’t think people will be so quick to forget the insulting and ridiculous comments GOP candidates have been making about marriage equality. After all, there are still issues LGBT voters face in many states, such as job discrimination. Several states, such as Texas, apparently think officials still don’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even though they know they’ll get sued over it. Some counties are just refusing to issue any marriage licenses at all. How’s that working out for heterosexual couples who aren’t able to get a marriage license, as their planned wedding approaches? You really think those voters are going to forget this silliness?

A story from the Washington Post also reported the optimism of some in the GOP. ” ‘Most Republicans look at what’s happening and think we’re watching a new stage of left-wing nuttiness,’ said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). ‘It’s just surreal,’ ” the Post story says. But at least the Post points out the trouble with this position.

“Democrats are hoping for just this approach,” the story says. “They argue — as many Republican Party elites in Washington fear — that if Republicans don’t moderate on issues such as gay rights and immigration and become more tolerant, they will be locked out of the White House. Asked how Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton could motivate voters, several top Democratic officials said: The Republicans may do it for her.”

So keep talking about the evils of marriage equality, Republicans, and see how far it gets you. After all, this is not 2004, when GOP operative Karl Rove worked to put initiatives on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage in 11 states — all of which passed — and got his boss, President George Bush, re-elected in the process. People’s attitudes have changed drastically since then.

” ‘When a young voter sees a Republican coming,’ ” the Post story says, ” ‘many of them roll their eyes and wonder why they can’t get with modern life,’ said Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under George W. Bush.”

That’s the question. Why can’t they get with modern life?

Short history of U.S. marriage equality on this historic day


Just adding my voice — even though it’s a straight one — to the happiness of people across the country who are celebrating marriage equality. But it’s worthwhile remembering how we got here.

The saga actually begins in the early 1970s. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to a ruling against a same-sex couple asking to get married. In 1975, a couple filed the first federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. They lost.

There were similar rulings by lower courts until 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Hawaii Constitution. But in 1998, Hawaii amended its constitution to ban gay marriage, so the court had to dismiss the original challenge.

Other historical footnotes: In 1996, the federal Defense of Marriage Act was signed. Some states, staring with California, legalized domestic partnerships. Vermont established civil unions. Neither state fell into the ocean nor was destroyed by earthquakes. Other states went in the other direction, not only banning gay marriage but also limiting familial rights between same-sex couples.

When Gavin Newsom, as mayor of San Francisco, started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, few realized the sea change that was coming. (Well, I’m sure many did, but few saw it coming so quickly.)

The date was Feb. 12, 2004. There was a flurry of court filings, petitions, court decisions, and local governments taking actions on the legality of marriage equality. Exactly six months later, on Aug. 12, 2004, the California Supreme Court ruled that San Francisco had exceeded its authority.

Then Massachusetts followed suit. With a state Supreme Court ruling, It became the first U.S. state to issue licenses to all same-sex couples, following in the footsteps of the Netherlands, Belgium, and a few Canadian provinces.

Remember, this was just 11 years ago. What a difference a decade makes.

I remember this clearly: A gay friend at work — a liberal who supported Sen. John Kerry’s campaign for president and who desperately wanted President George Bush out of office — dejectedly told me he saw the writing on the wall. He would love to marry his partner, he said, but he feared that the marriage equality from California and Massachusetts would spell doom for it nationally, and ensure Bush’s re-election.

Republican operative Karl Rove, seizing an opportunity, worked with states to get initiatives banning same-six marriage on the ballot in 11 states. The initiatives passed in all 11, with the closest contest being in Oregon, where it still passed with 57 percent approval. The initiative passed with 86 percent approval in Mississippi. One of the states was the swing state of Ohio. Ohioans voted for Bush along with a marriage equality ban, and the president was re-elected.

Conservatives were elated and started to talk of a federal amendment to the Constitution banning same-sex marriage. A story from NBC News after in November 2004 quoted gleeful conservatives, who were sure they could see the next logical step. “Historically, amendments to the Constitution only happen after consensus is reached — they don’t get passed when conflict is raging,” said Robert Knight of the conservative Culture and Family Institute. “But now we’re moving quickly toward consensus. A lot of Democrats may have a change of heart.”

Actually — not so much. Progress was coming, and a lot more quickly than Knight or any of his conservative cohorts could possibly imagine. But several states continued to pass marriage equality bans, even as others passed domestic partnership measures.

On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the state Constitution. People from across the country flew to California to get married. I remember that another friend from work took advantage of the option to live-stream her wedding from a California courthouse, so we all got to watch in real time. But in the fall, voters in the state would approve Proposition 8 at the same time they elected Barack Obama as president.

Then began a period of back and forth, but public opinion was changing. In 2010, for the first time, polls from CNN and the Associated Press showed that a majority of people in the U.S. backed same-sex marriage.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a marriage equality bill, and actor Neil Patrick Harris tweeted that he proposed to his boyfriend — and was accepted. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a marriage equality bill from his state Legislature, claiming that “voters should decide.” As if citizens should ever vote on a matter of civil rights. How’d that stand work out for you, governor?

The District of Columbia OK’d same-sex marriage. Maine banned it. Yet in 2012, Maine voters approved marriage equality, as did voters in three other states. President Obama already said he had “evolved” on the issue. SCOTUS overturned most of DOMA and got rid of Prop 8 in California.

Between acts by state legislatures and state supreme court decisions, marriage equality came to be the law of the land in 37 states. Popular opinion kept growing, with bigger and bigger majorities supporting same-sex marriage.

Until today, when it’s the law of the land everywhere.

I sent a text to a gay friend in New York to report that the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C, was outside the Supreme Court, singing “To Dream the Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha. I admitted that I was verklempt just listening. He texted back that he was driving when he heard the news, and he had to pull off the road because he was crying. He said I better be there for his wedding if he and his partner decide to tie the knot.

So best wishes to all couples who can tie the knot if they so choose. A hat tip to Freedom to Marry for its well-researched timeline, from which this is truncated. It was fascinating reading the whole history.



Donald Trump’s bubble: How much expansion before it pops?

The rare flannel moth that looks like Donald Trump's hair.

The rare flannel moth that looks like Donald Trump’s hair.

Political journalists were caught off-guard by a poll showing real estate developer Donald Trump gaining ground in the race for the 2016 GOP nomination for president.

A recent Suffolk University poll puts The Donald in second place with New Hampshire voters, with nearly 11 percent support, behind former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush, who has more than 14 percent.

Trump, who also can be described as a reality TV show host, supreme egotist, and blowhard, received widespread publicity for his performance-artist-like campaign announcement. “Vanity project” doesn’t even begin to describe Trump’s supposed run for the presidency. He droned on for 45 minutes in his speech in the New York building bearing his name. To make it look as if he has actual supporters, a talent agency paid out-of-work actors $50 each to hold signs and cheer.

Trump says he’s now an official candidate. He’s even filed the official paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, although he still must file a financial disclosure form. He can apply for extensions on that filing, too. (Wonder if those forms will show he’s worth $9 billion, as he claimed?)

No matter. He’s getting what he wants more than anything in the world — attention and publicity. And if Trump knows how to do anything, he knows how to get attention.

According to an article in the National Journal, Trump is topped only by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when it comes to generating publicity in social media — on Facebook, anyway.

“Using data from Facebook, National Journal analyzed the 24-hour buzz surrounding each candidate’s campaign launch. Hillary Clinton took the lead with 10.1 million total interactions. … The No. 2 prize goes to Donald Trump, who saw 6.4 million total interactions.” The story (complete with graphics with numbers from all announced candidates up to this point) continues that although Trump received a surge in social media popularity right after his announcement, “Jeb Bush sees more daily likes and shares on average.”

Early polls don’t really mean anything, and the election is still 15 months away. After all, four years ago, the polling leads see-sawed between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, now-former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gringrich, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Even now-former Rep. Michele Bachmann won the now-defunct Ames Straw Poll.

But there’s barely more than a month before the first GOP debate on Aug. 6, and current poll numbers show that Trump will be on the debate stage with nine of his cohorts. And that means other supposedly more serious candidates will be crowded off stage.

The Suffolk University poll was not a national poll, which usually just shows name recognition. It was a poll from New Hampshire, where voters take their first-primary-in-the-nation responsibility seriously.

Another poll showed an uptick for Trump. According to a story from USA Today, a Fox News national poll also puts him in second place with 11 percent, behind Bush’s 15 percent. “But the poll also notes that only 18% of respondents said Trump is a serious candidate; 77% said he is ‘a side show,’ ” the story says.

There was no breakdown in the Suffolk University poll as to what kinds of voters chose Trump as a first-choice candidate. But The Donald comes up trumps in one category. He consistently has the highest negative ratings of any candidate, in either party. The Suffolk poll said 49 percent of Republican voters viewed him in negative terms. Other polls put that negative number as high as 69 percent. A compilation of different polls on favorabilitiy from Huffington Post spells out probable doom for Trump’s candidacy in the long run, even though his negatives are lower among Republican voters than they are among voters in the general population.

So watch Trump keep spouting off an issues like immigration, where he thinks he’ll get Mexico to build a wall — and pay for it — when he’s not talking about immigrants being drug dealers and rapists; the Middle East, where he has a “secret plan” to win against the Islamic State, or ISIS; and trade, where he says he knows how to overpower China because, well, because he’s Donald Trump.

One interviewer asked him how far he would take his run. He answered that he’s making a serious run, but he would leave the race if he were losing.

The question is: How long will he stay in once people actually start voting?

Time for Confederate flag to stop waving — everywhere

Photo by Jason Miczek of Reuters

Photo by Jason Miczek of Reuters

It’s horrible that it had to take a tragedy like the shooting of nine African-Americans in a South Carolina church to realize that it’s time to retire the Confederate flag to the trash bin of history.

The flag has become a symbol of racism, segregation, and hatred. But let’s not forget its original intent: It was a symbol of treason. A symbol of the reason 620,000 Americans died when one side started a war against its own government. You fly the Stars and Bars, and you’re a traitor to your country.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley now is asking for the flag to be removed from the state capitol. Most GOP candidates for president first used the “states’ rights” excuse in an effort to keep courting the South Carolina white vote in that early primary, but they quickly realized that public opinion was going in the opposite direction. So many did an about-face and joined the no-Stars-and-Bars chorus. That’s showing real leadership, there, gentlemen. A story in The Daily Beast, from which the photo above was taken, called it the GOP’s “Sister Soujah” moment.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham first said the flag represented the “heritage” of the South. Sure, if you want your “heritage” to be firing on U.S. troops, like the first Confederate forces did at Fort Sumter, sparking the start of the Civil War. Now Graham and South Carolina’s other senator, Republican Tim Scott, want it lowered.

But it’s not just about the flag at a government building, repugnant as that may be. It’s the way the Confederate flag is displayed throughout the South, giving the not-so-secret message that racism is alive and well.

“After the surrender in 1865, Confederate flags were folded and put away,” says a story in The Atlantic. “They were most likely to be spotted at memorials or cemeteries. … There was no need for a banner to signal defiance; Jim Crow reigned unchallenged.”

But the Stars and Bars have come to represent Southern culture. You can pick up Confederate flags just about everywhere in the South, and you can order them online (no, I’m not giving a link). Southern Dixiecrat Democrats popularized the symbol, even carrying it into the 1948 Democratic convention. You see it waved at football games and auto races. You even see it flown on the Fourth of July, which is a slap in the face to every soldier who has ever fought for our country. The flag’s popularity grew in the South after passage of the Civil Rights Act, showing the region’s obstinate defiance. It was raised at the South Carolina state capitol in 1961, on the 100th anniversary of the attack on Fort Sumter. It has been there almost continuously ever since.

What is it about that state? The state still has some Blue laws on the books, banning some businesses on Sunday. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union in 1860. In 1856, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina entered the Senate chamber and beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner into unconsciousness with a cane. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina embarrassed the country when he stood during a State of the Union speech and shouted, “You lie!” at President Barack Obama, but he’s been re-elected easily every since.

We even had perhaps the dumbest response ever to a question at a Miss Teen USA pageant from — who else — the entrant from South Carolina.

As Obama and a growing chorus of people are saying, the Confederate flag belongs only in a museum. It has become the Confederate swastika. We wouldn’t want to fly a Nazi symbol, now, would we? (Actually, some neo-Nazi white supremacist groups have embraced that symbol, too, which only strengthens the argument for getting rid of the Stars and Bars.)

“The flag was created by an army raised to kill in defense of slavery, revived by a movement that killed in defense of segregation, and now flaunted by a man who killed nine innocents in defense of white supremacy,” concluded the Atlantic story.

Let’s honor the memory of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the late pastor of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and the other eight victims. Get rid of the Confederate flag, and not just at a government building.



Charleston shooting: How many more have to die?

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine victims of a domestic terrorist attack by a white supremacist.

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine victims of a domestic terrorist attack by a white supremacist.

Another day, another nine people dead in a mass shooting. This time it’s at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., where a 21-year-old white man has now confessed to shooting and killing nine people at prayer, including the church’s pastor.

The shooting occurred during a prayer service at Emanuel AME Church, one of the oldest African Methodist Episcopal churches in the country. People met for Bible study, but they died instead when a white gunman opened fire.

President Barack Obama was visibly angry as he spoke to reporters the next day in the White House press room, saying he’s had to address the country “too many times” on the occasion of a mass killing. “To say our thoughts and prayers are with them … doesn’t do enough to express what we feel.”

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. … Now is a time for mourning, for healing, but let’s be clear. At some point we have to reckon with the fact that this type of violence does not happen in other advanced countries.” Of course, he was talking about the proliferation of guns.

“It is in our power to do something about it. I say that knowing that the politics in this town preclude this from happening right now, but it has to be said and will have to be acknowledged,” Obama said.

Fox News’ reaction? The hosts of Fox and Friends refused to call the shooting by the suspect, Dylann Roof, who has a Facebook photo of him wearing patches from a white supremacist group, an attack on race. Instead, they insisted that it was an attack on faith — anything to prolong Fox’s false claims of a war on Christianity. The prescription from the mental midgets there was to “arm pastors.” Yeah, that’s just what we need — even more guns.

Survivors of the church shooting said they heard the suspect utter the words, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Don’t think he was talking about Christianity there. What part of “hate crime” isn’t clear to the cretins on Fox?

It apparently also isn’t clear to GOP candidates for president. Some, like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, immediately echoed the “war on faith” theme. Others, like former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush, said “we don’t know” what motivated the shooter. I guess Roof’s statement to police that “I wanted to start a race war” didn’t spell it out enough?

Perhaps the most sickening comment was from a board member of the National Rifle Association, who all but blamed the shooting on one of the victims pictured above, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator and voted against the ability to carry firearms in churches. The NRA hack might have deleted that statement now, but that doesn’t delete the outrage people felt or delete the stupidity of the remark.

The Washington Post put together statistics on guns and mass shootings in the U.S. Lots of interesting facts, with comparisons of crimes in the U.S. and other Western countries. But a few stand out, including an obvious fact: More guns mean more homicide.

My “political murder of the day” the day I wrote this post, in which I post stories of people who were killed for political reasons, offers the tale of talk-show icon Alan Berg, who was shot and killed by white supremacists, just because he was Jewish. You can read it if you click above (or go down the list, if you’re reading this on subsequent days).

When will it end? How many more need to die?

Hillary Clinton’s campaign coverage: Pantsuit journalism

imrsWhat’s more important to cover about Hillary Rodham Clinton and her run for the presidency? Her policies or her pantsuits? At least two of the nation’s top newspapers seem to think it’s both.

Clinton delivered a detailed speech with a populist message before a large crowd on Roosevelt Island in the second phase of her campaign launch. Although there were stories about the specifics of her proposals, of course we also had the chance to read all about her choice of pantsuit.

A New York Times story gave a detailed description of Clinton in a blue Ralph Lauren pantsuit. “She stuck out a mile, matched her H campaign logo — which was also the design of her stage — and looked appropriately patriotic, especially when standing next to Bill Clinton in his red polo,” says Vanessa Friedman in her “On the Runway” column.

But obviously, there must be a problem. There’s a “possible weak spot” in Clinton’s relationship with designer Ralph Lauren, Friedman writes. “Because for a candidate who has been pushing her connection to, and understanding of, the middle class — and whose speech while wearing the pantsuit was largely about closing the income gap — Ralph Lauren is a relatively inaccessible brand.

“An average Ralph Lauren Women’s Collection pantsuit, which this was — not, in other words, a style from the more accessible line, Lauren Ralph Lauren — is a few thousand dollars. … That is out of reach for most voters.”

So are we to assume that Friedman’s next column will be on the custom-made suits of male candidates? Somehow, I doubt it.

Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan, on the other hand, takes a different tack. In her style blog, she claims that Clinton has embraced the pantsuit as a campaign theme, making jokes about her appearance and all of the attention paid to it.

“Clinton has gone on the offensive by finding humor in her fashion foibles and beauty regimen,” Givhan writes. “The fashion monster has — for the moment — been wrestled into submission. Clinton stands victorious.”

Clinton now talks about dyeing her hair and how no one will see her turn gray. Givhan calls it an “everywoman” comment. “Fashion is now working for her — as a pleasure, an aesthetic proposition, as well as a campaign symbol,” Givhan writes.

So we haven’t had one presidential debate yet, but we’ve had multiple analyses about Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits. Thanks, New York Times and Washington Post, for showing us your priorities.

Friedman and Givhan are two women who cover fashion for a living, so it makes sense for them to write about it, even if you think their conclusions are vapid. Still — do Hillary’s pantsuits deserve this much attention? And is anyone paying attention to what the men are wearing?

Apparently, someone is. According to a story from CNN Money, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who likes to project an “everyman” image, brags that he buys his shirts at Kohl’s — a Milwaukee-based chain — and that his suits come from Jos. A. Bank, where suits average $225 and which frequently offers promotional offers like “buy one, get two free.”

But apparently no other candidate would dish. “Spokespersons for Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz did not respond for comment. Senator Rand Paul’s spokesperson declined to comment,” the CNN story says. “While female politicians have long complained about the focus on their appearance, it’s a sign of the times that male candidates now tout their own wardrobe choices.”

One story about Walker and his cheap suits isn’t exactly leveling the playing field when it comes to focusing on a candidate’s appearance.

When President Obama was still a candidate, there was reporting about the $1,500 suits he favored from a Chicago-based manufacturer, Hart Schaffner & Marx. Just as Clinton is willing to buy pantsuits from an American designer like Lauren, Obama wanted to help the firm, which faced a rough patch during the Great Recession.

The shopping service Gilt isn’t afraid of touting a little presidential preference. “If looking presidential is your sartorial goal, look no further than Hart Schaffner & Marx. Based in Chicago, this iconic men’s clothing label outfitted President Barack Obama — an unabashed fan — for his 2008 acceptance speech and 2009 inaugural address,” read the Gilt website.

I’d hate to see what such a site would write about a female candidate’s choice of designer.

The group “Name it. Change it.,” a nonpartisan joint project of the Women’s Media Center and She Should Run, works to identify, prevent, and end sexist media coverage of female candidates. Its extensive research gives numerous examples of such coverage of female candidates of both parties. Examples include a Boston radio station endorsing a female candidate because she had a “banging little body” and a “tight little butt,” and a male pundit describing a female candidate as being “absolutely adorable.”

But the sexism doesn’t have to be so blatant. “When the media focuses on a woman candidate’s appearance, she pays a price in the polls,” one of the group’s studies found. “This finding held true whether the coverage of a woman candidate’s appearance was framed positively, negatively, or in neutral terms.”

One of the best lines from comedian Cecily Strong at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner was a dig at coverage of Hillary Clinton’s fashions. She asked all of the members of the media to raise their right hands and pledge: “I solemnly swear not to comment on Hillary Clinton’s appearance, because that is not journalism.”

Didn’t last long, did it?

Jeb! Bush the musical coming to a campaign near you

But can he campaign in tap shoes?

But can he campaign in tap shoes?

Some of the great musical theater composers and lyricists are gone, but Jeb! cries out for a ballad, a belting show-stopper, and a quick dance break.

Many have poked fun at the new logo for the campaign of former Florida Gov. (and former front-runner) Jeb Bush, but they’re not looking at the opportunity to turn this into a new hit show. Tony winners like Fun Home? American in Paris? Move over. Jeb! the musical is opening on the political equivalent of Broadway. Let’s start with a little Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim and a rewritten version of “The Jet Song” from West Side Story:


When you’re a Bush, you’re a Bush all the way

From your first Iraq War to your Wall Street pre-pay!

When you’re a Bush, when oil pollutes tar sand

You’ve got brothers around, you’re a family man!

You’re never too rich, you’re never disconnected.

You’re home with your funds

When Clinton is expected, you’re well protected!

Then you are set with a capital B

And you’ll fight for the votes of a party called Tea.

Here comes Jeb! Bush — neocons’ war machine.

ISIS gets in our way, we’ll send troops to the scene.

We’re drawin’ the line, so keep Dick Cheney hidden!

We’re hangin’ a sign, says “Democrats forbidden”

And we ain’t kiddin’!


No? How about a little Cole Porter? A new version of “You’re the Top” from Anything Goes:


At policy specific, I’m so horrific that I always have found it best

To change my mind. You’re unimpressed?

I hate parading my serenading, as I’ll probably sing off-key,

But if this ditty is not so pretty,

At least it’ll say you should vote for me!

I’m a Bush! I’m a Cheney creation!

I’m a Bush! So what if I ruin the nation?

Losing personal staff, I can’t run a good campaign.

But my super PAC’s healthy even if money’s filthy

It’s a billionaire’s gain!

I’m a Bush! I’m too much like milquetoast.

I’m a Bush! Not too Right or Left Coast.

I’m the nominee of the G.O.P., or GOP!

So vote Jeb! please come November or I’ll pop!


(Note: The “GOP nominee” line contains Cole Porter’s actual words in the song.)

We have to include a little Rodgers and Hammerstein! Here are updated words to “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music:


Rubio and Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson.

The Cleveland convention has a guy named Jeff Larson.

Carly and Lindsey — they’re running, too.

Maybe the Donald! What am I gonna do?

Rand Paul sounds nutty, and so does Santorum.

They should be stuck on Fox’s afternoon forum

Then there’s a loser named Mike Huckabee.

Why can’t we get the list down to just three?

When Fox News calls, when the polls drop,

When I’m feeling sad,

I simply remember my mother’s advice:

“When you’re in doubt, go ask Dad.”


Thanks to a local Dem friend for putting this idea in my head. Apologies to musical theater composers and lyricists everywhere, who have much more talent than I do.

Come to think of it, maybe Jeb! Bush running for president is more like Finding Neverland.


GOP presidential hopefuls in debate quandary

Cartoon by Gary Varvel of the Indianapolis Star

Cartoon by Gary Varvel of the Indianapolis Star

The 19 or so candidates who may be gunning for the 2016 presidential nomination are in a bind. The first debates are less than two months away, and both Fox News and CNN have decreed that space is limited to those polling in the top 10. What’s a second-tier candidate to do?

Fox is proposing an afternoon “forum” for those left off the evening debate stage, which doesn’t make those polling near the bottom very happy. There have been better proposals to make the debates a two-night event, with match-ups drawn at random — an idea from several outlets, including the National Review.

The first debate is set for Aug. 6 in Cleveland, Ohio. And Ohio Gov. John Kasich, long considered a contender, although he hasn’t done much publicly about the race, is polling under the top-10 threshold, so he wouldn’t even be able to take part in a debate in his own home state.

New Hampshire’s influential newspaper, the Union Leader, is having none of it. The same day as the Aug. 6 debate, it plans to host a presidential forum, to be broadcast on C-SPAN, which also will broadcast it on the radio.

“Criteria for the New Hampshire Forum on Aug. 6 will include such things as established campaigns and staffing,” said a story in the Union Leader. The story didn’t address timing; or if some candidates would take part by satellite, in case they were in Ohio; or what would happen if a candidate in the Fox News debate refused participation in the Union Leader forum.

Union Leader Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid said the newspaper has been considering such a forum for some time,” the story said. “He said an open protest letter sent Wednesday to Fox and the Republican National Committee from 56 prominent state Republicans should be a wake-up call to everyone in New Hampshire.” No doubt about it; New Hampshire takes its first-primary-in-the-nation status very seriously.

There also was so little enthusiasm among the GOP hopefuls to schmooze and spend money on Iowa Republicans that the Ames Straw Poll has been cancelled, tossed out like a stale corn dog. The event always has been basically a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Iowa anyway. “We set the table and they didn’t come to dinner,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a story in the Des Moines Register announcing the straw poll’s demise.

(In case you don’t remember who won the straw poll in Iowa in 2011, it was former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, which shows you how effective its predictive powers were.)

Whatever anyone thinks of these candidates or potential candidates, Republican voters deserve a chance to hear from them. A debate of 19 or 15 — or even 10 for that matter — is certainly unwieldy and won’t give GOP hopefuls a chance to say much. But saying a little on a national stage is better than saying nothing.

I still think a great approach is to put them all in a big box, like they did on Hollywood Squares. If Donald Trump doesn’t actually throw his toupee in the ring, he could host it — something he actually has experience in.

Better yet, run an NCAA-like tournament with different debate brackets, as I suggested in an earlier post. I still want to see a Rand Paul-Ben Carson match-up, just to see who could say the screwiest thing, or a Mike Huckabee-Rick Santorum faceoff, to see which one mentioned Jesus more.

Either would make better TV. Get the popcorn ready.

GOP’s baby steps on climate change


No one expects Republicans to embrace the ideas that are needed to slow global warming and limit the harm to the planet. But there are a few glimmers of hope.

A story in Politico reports that a North Carolina Republican businessman, Jay Faison, will spend $175 million of his own money to nudge his party away from the dark side on the issue of climate change.

“The aim is to get the Republican Party to shift its skeptical view of climate change and green energy, topics that usually fall to the bottom of its list of priorities when they don’t generate outright opposition among conservative voters,” the Politico story says.

Faison, a conservative Christian with strong GOP credentials, made a fortune when he sold his audio-visual equipment company, SnapAV. He will pour $165 million into a public education campaign through his ClearPath Foundation. ClearPath is a Republican group Faison founded in December that has partnered with government agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as National Geographic, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and Climate Central. ClearPath’s mission is to “empower people with information to take action that will accelerate a clean energy future and make America stronger and more prosperous.” It pushes clean energy solutions in wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear power.

You’ll notice the glaring omission on the government partnership list — no EPA. Faison wants answers to come from the market, not regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. Of course, without the EPA — passed in the Republican administration of President Richard Nixon — our air, water, and land would be a lot dirtier than it is. Let’s see a show of hands on who thinks Congress would establish an EPA today.

Yet Faison remains optimistic. He wants Republicans to “debate the solutions to climate change, not the science,” according to the Politico story. Faison plans to spend $40 million through 2016 and will put another $10 million into a separate political advocacy operation, using a nonprofit tax status like other political groups. He hopes to attract more money into that organization.

There are a few other Republican groups trying to change people’s minds on the climate issue. According to a story in Forbes, other GOP organizations, such as ConservAmerica and RepublicEn.org, “are slowly creating the sort of space where Republicans can comfortably and publicly discuss various paths forward on an issue of vital importance to everyone.” The story also notes polls suggesting that “more than 60 percent of young Republican voters support government limits on greenhouse gas emissions — even if it meant raising their own monthly energy expenses by $20 each month.”

Whatever Faison, ClearPath, and the other groups hope to achieve, It will be an uphill fight. Of the announced and unannounced GOP presidential candidates, only Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have acknowledged mankind’s effect on worldwide climate, although Bush is quick to add that it is “arrogant” to think that climate science is settled. Actually, it’s arrogant to spread that particular kind of idiocy, since 97 percent of scientists worldwide believe climate change is caused by humans. (Faison has already donated to both Graham and Bush but says he’s keeping his options open.)

Others sound even sillier. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is taking heat for criticizing Pope Francis for speaking out on global warming. “We’re probably better off leaving science to the scientists,” Santorum said. While he’s not a working scientist, being the pontiff and all, Pope Francis does have a degree in chemistry — more expertise than Santorum.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also thinks that Americans should resist federal efforts to curb carbon emissions, telling ABC News that such programs would be “against God’s Will,” since “for all we know, God wants the Earth to get warmer.” Tell that to the Californians restricting water in a multi-year drought or to the families of the hundreds of people who have died in a massive heat wave in India. It’s just easier to worship at the church of Koch.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has perhaps the dumbest idea of all. He thinks all of the EPA’s functions should be shifted to the states. If you thought conditions in Texas were bad because of the lack of state environmental regulations, they would be worse if left solely to the Texas Legislature.

Nor should we expect any clear thinking — whether it’s on a ClearPath or not — from the Republican Congress. A New York Times editorial fears a GOP counterattack on President Obama’s planned proposals on clean water, clean air, and natural resources. “The usual complaints about ‘executive overreach’ and ‘job-killing regulations’ have been raised,” the editorial says. “But beneath all the political sound bites lies a deep-seated if unspoken grievance that Mr. Obama is actually trying to realize the promise of laws that Congress passed years ago but wouldn’t stand a chance with today’s Congress.”

But we may be seeing a dent in the climate change denial firewall. In a piece in RollCall, James Dozier, the executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, says he thinks that at least some Republicans are ready. “The fact is that in the early primary states there is a sizable cohort of the GOP primary electorate that is tired of ceding the issue of environmental sustainability to liberals,” he writes.



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