Tag Archives: 2016 presidential campaign

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Donald Trump’s Other Lies: His Campaign Promises

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This week’s political coverage — probably next week’s too — will likely be dominated by deposed FBI director James Comey’s incendiary testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. However, Trump’s “lies, pure and simple” are limited neither to the president’s claim that Comey’s FBI was “in disarray, that it was poorly led” nor his litany of falsehoods — most recently, that the mayor of London doesn’t care about terrorism and that Trump’s First 100 Days were the most productive of any president in history.

Comey’s lucid, Hemingway-tight testimony feels like the beginning of the end for this administration. Anything could happen, of course. But it feels overly optimistic to imagine this circus lasting another year.

If and when the obituary for Trump’s political career is written, his admirers will record his historic, meteoric rise. Indeed, Donald Trump was the most effective presidential campaigner of my lifetime: repeated what lines worked, ditched the ones that didn’t, mastered social media, ignored outdated dogma, tapped into voters’ long-ignored resentments, nailed the electoral college map, and did it all for pennies on the Hillary Clinton donor dollar.

True, the brilliant campaigner can’t govern. But that’s a story for another time.

His critics’ postmortems will emphasize that Trump’s brightly burning campaign rallies were fueled by lies: Obama was Muslim, Obama wasn’t born here, global warming is a Chinese hoax, illegal immigrants are streaming across the border (years ago they were, no longer), police officers are the real victims (as opposed to the numerous black men they shoot).

These lies are scandalous. They ought to be remembered. But we shouldn’t let them overshadow Trump’s biggest lie of all: that he would be different, outside the ideological box of the two parties.

“Trump meets the textbook definition of an ideological moderate,” Doug Ahler and David Broockman wrote in the Washington Post last December. “Trump has the exact ‘moderate’ qualities that many pundits and political reformers yearn for in politicians: Many of Trump’s positions spurn party orthodoxy, yet are popular among voters. And like most voters — but unlike most party politicians — his positions don’t consistently hew to a familiar left-right philosophy.”

Whiff!

Trump promised a hodgepodge ideology, a “pick one from column D, pick one from column R” Chinese menu that appealed to many voters whose own values don’t neatly adhere to either major party platform. Who cares about doctrine? Let’s do what works.

As president, however, that turned out to be a lie.

Trump has governed to the far right. In fact, on just about every issue you can think of, Donald Trump has governed as the most extreme far-right politician of our lifetimes, and possibly in the history of the Republican Party.

Candidate Trump criticized North Carolina’s “bathroom law” and said Caitlyn Jenner could use whichever bathroom she wanted in Trump Tower. President Trump rescinded the right of transgender students to use the school restroom of their choice.

Flip, flop, from somewhat to right-wing conservative, over and over and over again.

Candidate Trump lit up the GOP (and relieved not a few Democrats) by criticizing the stupid Iraq War and promising to put America First. President Trump’s cabinet of generals is bombing the crap out of Syria and asking Congress for a 10% increase in Pentagon spending.

Candidate Trump was all over the place on abortion rights. President Trump is trying to defund Planned Parenthood and appointed Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, a right-wing extremist who will likely cast the decisive vote against Roe v. Wade.

Candidate Trump promised bigger, better and cheaper healthcare for all Americans. Trumpcare will leave tens of millions of patients with no insurance whatsoever.

He even welched on his most controversial promise: to improve relations with Russia. Within a few months, he allowed that U.S.-Russian relations “may be at an all-time low.”

“Trumpism was never a coherent worldview, much less a moral code that anchors the president,” Graham Vyse wrote in The New Republic.

#Wrong!

Trumpism is extremely coherent and consistently extremist. Donald Trump turns out to be Ronald Reagan times ten, minus charm.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Lost. Should We Care?

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If Jill Stein and die-hard Democrats get their way, recounts in three key states will take the presidency away from Donald Trump and hand it to Hillary Clinton. While this effort is probably doomed to failure, the attempted do-over prompts a question: what exactly are we losing with this mother of all paths not taken, a Hillary Clinton administration?

What elevates this theoretical exercise above a parlor game is the deep grief felt by tens of millions of Democrats, especially women. They believe not just that Donald Trump is a disaster, but that the United States will miss out on a great, inspiring leader in Hillary Clinton. For these bereft citizens, Hillary’s departure from the national political scene ranks alongside those of Adlai Stevenson and Al Gore — losing candidates who were clearly superior to the winners, whose loss left America much worse off.

I agree with the Clintonites’ horrorstruck reaction to Trump. But are they right about the rest? Have we really lost much with Hillary? Let’s look at what we know, or can assume with reasonable certainty, would have happened under the first few years of Madam President.

The Cabinet: Hillary’s cabinet would have been drawn from the ranks of her campaign aides, allies from her tenure in the Obama administration, and old hands from her husband’s 1990s heyday. Judging from the center-right Democrats with whom she has surrounded herself, her choice of center-right Tim Kaine as vice president (as opposed to a liberal counterbalance like Elizabeth Warren) and her campaign’s unusual snubbing of staffers who sought to migrate from Bernie Sanders’ progressive campaign, it’s safe to say that Hillary Clinton’s cabinet would have been composed of the neoliberal militarists who’ve been running things for Obama. Like Obama, she probably wouldn’t have appointed any progressives.

Supreme Court Nominees: Not wanting an early fight with Senate Republicans, she’d probably fill archconservative constructionist Antonin Scalia’s empty seat with another Republican, restoring the 2015 ideological balance of the court. She might have gotten to fill another two or three seats, and here is where she might have made a real difference for the liberal cause. The 5-4 question is, would she have gone to war with the GOP by appointing a Democrat to replace a dead or retiring right-winger? Could she win if she had? I lay 50-50 odds on both questions.

Taxes and the Economy: Clinton proposed a slightly more progressive tax structure during the campaign. She only wanted a $12/hour minimum wage — less than many states and cities. Even though NAFTA and trade were her Achilles’ heels, she didn’t propose a job retraining program or welfare plan for workers displaced by globalization. Largely, she pledged to continue the gradual Obama recovery, which has left most workers behind. In the absence of an unforeseen boom or bust, your wallet would have felt pretty much the same as it has over the last few years.

Privacy and the NSA: Even in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations (when she called the whistleblower a traitor), Clinton stridently defended the government’s illegal spying against every American. Spooks would have had a friend in Clinton, as under Trump.

Healthcare: Obamacare would have remained in place in its present form. A few vague promises to add a “public option” do not amount to a pledge to spend political capital to get it past Congressional Republicans. But premiums are skyrocketing, so Hillarian inaction might have led to wider calls for ACA repeal, a big step backward. (No one knows what Trump will do. Not even him.)

Gay and Transgender Rights: Clinton opposed marriage equality until 2013 — after most Americans told pollsters they were for it. She is weak on transgender issues. On issues of individual rights, the Clintons have always followed, not led. She would have had little effect on these struggles, on which Trump has actually been pretty good.

Women’s Rights: No doubt, the election of the first woman president would have been incredibly inspiring to women and girls. Would Clinton’ impact on the feminist movement have gone beyond the symbolism of identity politics? Probably not. The next logical legislative steps to advance women’s rights — paid family leave for a year, federal child care for freelancers and self-employed workers, a federal pay equality law, reviving the Equal Rights Amendment, a full-scale campaign against rape culture — received zero support from the defeated nominee.

Abortion: A federal law legalizing abortion would resolve the SCOTUS wars and guarantee that women in the South had the right to choose. But Clinton seems satisfied with the status quo.

Social Programs: Neither Clinton has ever proposed a major new anti-poverty program. There’s no reason to think that that would have changed. Ditto for Trump.

War and Peace: Hillary has a long history of hawkishness. She didn’t push through any peace deals as Secretary of State. During the campaign, she called for a no-fly zone over Syria, a tactic designed to provoke hostilities. And her hot rhetoric so freaked out the government of Russia that Kremlin military analysts worried about World War III if she won. Trump is a hothead. But Hillary might have been more likely to start a war.

The Middle East: Any breakthrough would have to be brokered by someone who was not as much of an unqualified supporter of Israel as she is. (So is Trump.)

Human Rights: Clinton’s record is dismal. She coddled dictators at State. Her foundation solicited money from the murderous Saudi regime. She rarely mentioned the issue during her campaign. I’d expect more of the same from her — or Trump.

Torture: Obama continued to authorize torture by the CIA, and refused to investigate torturers. Clinton would not have reversed these nauseating policies, which she has endorsed, and will continue under Trump.

Drones: Like Obama and Trump, Hillary is a big fan of using killer robot planes to slaughter thousands of innocent people abroad.

Secret Prisons/Guantánamo: It’s a safe bet that Gitmo torture gulag would have remained open under Hill, though perhaps with fewer inmates than Trump says he wants to send there.

Hillary fans can credibly argue that she would not have made things worse, or at least not as bad as they will be under Trump. By objective standards, however, it defies reason to claim that she would have presided over a halcyon era of progress. At best, President Clinton II would have held the line against Republican attacks. As we know, however, voters are not in the mood for more of the same.

And in 2020, we’d be right back where we are now. Four years into President Hillary, the anger that unleashed Trumpism would turn into boiling rage.

Odds are, Hillary would have committed many of the same outrages as Trump will. As a Democrat, however, she wouldn’t have faced the same level of protest or resistance from the Left — or a media willing to cover it.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Now, A Postmortem By Someone Who Actually Saw Trump’s Win Coming

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You’ve read post-election analysis by the discredited corporate pundits who thought Hillary was a shoo-in. Since I saw Donald Trump’s “upset” coming, my take on what happened and why may be of more interest.

As with any large-scale disaster, the ascent of a spectacularly unqualified buffoon to the most powerful political office on earth came about as the result of numerous system failures and operator errors. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of what went wrong.

System Failures: Problems Hardwired Into the Machine

  1. Democrats took their progressive base for granted.

Following George McGovern’s landslide loss to Richard Nixon in 1972, the Democrats’ conservative southern wing seized control of the DNC and other leadership apparatus. Center-right Dems won four presidential races with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but at a cost. Election after election, liberals and progressives — the party’s base and thus its greatest potential source of votes, donations and enthusiasm — were taken for granted as the party moved right in search of swing voters. Where else, the Clintonian Brahmins asked smugly, could lefties go? The answer was nowhere: snubbed, unmotivated and disgusted, they stayed home this November.

  1. No safety net for workers displaced by globalization and deindustrialization.

NAFTA wasn’t the beginning; it was the last nail in the coffin of the postwar boom that elevated blue-collar manufacturing jobs to professions paying enough to finance the American Dream. Year after year, millions of workers lost good jobs and were forced to make do with two lousy ones. Inner cities, and not a few suburbs, rotted and died. Neither major party talked about the Making of America Not Great Anymore, much less tried to do anything about it. Trump scored big Rust Belt points merely by acknowledging the long-ignored pain of millions.

  1. In media coverage of the horse race, some candidates are more equal than others.

If you were designing American democracy from scratch, you’d probably make it a rule that every candidate for office receives the same attention from the media. (France does this.) But we’re light years away from that ideal. Trump received more TV minutes and column-inches than his Republican rivals because he was (a) outrageous and (b) a celebrity. Clinton’s coverage overshadowed Sanders’ because media gatekeepers were (a) enamored of their pre-fab “first woman president follows first black president” narrative and (b) couldn’t imagine that an elderly socialist from Vermont could be a serious contender. Who would be president-elect today had Rand Paul, Carla Fiorina and Bernie Sanders been given a fair chance to make their cases to the voters? Probably not Trump.

Operator Errors: Screw-Ups By Individual Politicians and Organizations

  1. Hillary’s campaign partied like it was 1996.

Campaigning has changed since the Clintonian heyday of the ’90s, but Hillary’s strategists didn’t get the memo. Trump ad-libbed outrageous vidbytes at his rallies, making them must-see TV and earning billions in free exposure; Hillary stuck to her deadly dull stump speech, doomed to be ignored. While Trump worked Twitter like a tween at 3 am — ensuring that story-hungry editors would see his hilarious rants when they arrived at their desks — it took 12 Clinton staffers to compose a single tweet whose made-by-committee provenance made it dead on arrival. She spent many millions on a repeat loop of anti-Trump TV ads featuring clips everyone had already seen. Considering that she barely survived Bernie Sanders’ primary challenge, it should have been obvious to her team that the Democratic party has moved left (as has the nation). So why did her 2016 campaign follow the old Dick Morris move-right-for-the-general-election model from 1996, moving right in order to “reach out to Republican megadonors“? Meanwhile, Morris himself understood the new reality. “But Trump is doing more than driving populist Democrats into Republican arms,” Morris wrote. “He is separating the establishment left of the Democratic Party from its populist base. His candidacy separates the blue-collar social populists from their partisan moorings even as his economic populism appeals to the Sanders left.” He wrote that in May.

  1. The DNC ignored polls that showed Bernie was a better candidate than Hillary.

Trump’s “surprise” win wasn’t shocking to people who were paying attention. Throughout the primary and general election, the DNC brushed off head-to-head tracking polls that showed that Hillary Clinton never enjoyed a commanding lead over, and sometimes fell behind, Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, consistently held a double-digit lead, sometimes as high as 20 percent, over Trump. As it turned out, Trump would have lost to Sanders. In a change year when Americans were in the mood for radical populism, Sanders offered all the stuff voters liked about Trump — his anti-free trade message, economic populism, opposition to stupid foreign wars, the fiery, outspoken energy of a loud New Yorker — minus his manic loopiness and offensive comments about women and minorities. Granted, Bernie’s poll numbers would have suffered under an onslaught of ads depicting the Vermont senator as the second coming of Stalin, Soviet May Day parade footage and “The Internationale” playing incessantly. But the Cold War is over. Americans are more afraid of cost-cutting CEOs than commissars.

  1. Hillary Clinton didn’t appoint Bernie Sanders as vice president, or to a cabinet position.

Democratic voters wanted Hillary — a lifelong right-wing Democrat — to balance the ticket by choosing a progressive running mate like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or her rival Bernie Sanders. But she never considered any of them, going instead with some guy who’s name I still struggle to remember. Ironically, no one understood the disastrous implications of Hillary’s choice better than right-wing blogger Wayne Allyn Root in The Blaze: ” Hillary desperately needed a shot in the arm; an exciting and edgy vice president by her side…Tim Kaine isn’t just boring… Kaine is an affront to every Bernie Sanders supporter – which happens to be all the youth and energy in the entire Democrat Party.”

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Win or Lose, Hillary is Finished

Image result for hillary clinton goldman sachs            Hillary Clinton, they say, is the most qualified person ever to have run for the presidency. They are, of course, mistaken. But one week away from an election that, for once, really may prove to be the most important of our lives, what boggles the mind of those of us who are paying attention is just how terrible a candidate Hillary Clinton has proven to be.

It feels like years ago, but remember the primaries? Polls notwithstanding, Hillary’s supporters – the editorial board of The New York Times and the CNN talking head who slipped her debate questions so she could cheat against Bernie – argued that her awesome resume put her in a better position to take on Donald Trump in the fall. Yet here we are with national tracking polls in a dead heat or within the statistical margin of error, with Ohio firmly in the Trump column, Florida probably leaning the same way, and the whole thing probably coming down to a slim margin in Pennsylvania. And those polls don’t take the brand-new FBI EmailGate investigation into account. (At this writing, there’s one — and it shows Trump ahead.)

The Very Serious Democrats owe Bernie Sanders an apology.

Objectively speaking, Hillary ought to be wiping the floor with Trump. The man is a maniac. His campaign is a disaster. He doesn’t even have an organization. Why isn’t this race 65% to 35% in her favor?

To be fair, Trump isn’t totally stupid. Whether by scheming or luck, Trump has proven that free social media is much more effective than television advertising. He packaged crassness as authenticity. And he’s a master of crisis management, as seen when he nuked the open-mic “pussy grabbing” video by inviting Bill Clinton’s female accusers to attend the debate hours beforehand.

But those tricks ought not to be nearly enough to give Hillary a run for her money.

With the benefit of hindsight – and in the case of writers like yours truly, foresight – that Hillary Clinton would underperform was foreseeable well before she announced her run for president.

“Hillary is out of touch,” I wrote in May 2015. “She hasn’t been behind the wheel of an automobile for nearly 20 years, is a multi-multi-millionaire who nevertheless considered herself ‘dead broke’ and still believes that she and her husband are not among ‘the truly well off.’ … For a Democrat under heavy fire from her party’s progressive base — with Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio and Bernie Sanders leading the charge — this stuff could be politically fatal.”

Right now, it really could.

We’re screwed.

Even if she wins next Tuesday, a second Clinton Administration will begin with zero mandate other than to be Not Trump. And there’s a serious risk Republicans will begin impeachment proceedings within her first year. And she could easily lose — which would put American democracy in grave peril. Heckuva job, Hillary!

When the political equivalent of the National Transportation Safety Board examines the train wreck of Hillary’s campaign — even if she wins, they’ll find that alienation from the electorate is but one of many unforced errors. Here’s my pre-mortality autopsy report:

Main Cause of Death: Failure to unify the Democratic Party. ClintonWorld snubbed Bernie Sanders and his supporters. This ain’t the 1990s, when Bill Clinton courted the corporate right because he knew he could take the liberal-progressive base for granted. Courting Republicans even before the convention was a major screw-up. Failing to seriously consider Bernie for veep, or even a cabinet appointment, doubled down on that mistake. Clinton operatives wouldn’t even let former Sanders workers volunteer for her campaign. Now the lefties are so pissed that not even Bernie himself can get them back. Many will stay home, leave the president box unticked or even vote for Trump next week.

Major Contributing Factor: Failure to articulate an affirmative policy agenda. You know what Donald Trump would do during his first 100 days: build the wall, mass deportations, ban Muslims, probably suspend the Constitution for some as yet undetermined pretext. What would Hillary Clinton’s first 100 days look like? I don’t know. And I’m a political junkie. No one else knows either. Here is what she has said, and she hasn’t said it very often: “I pledge that in my first 100 days as president, we will make the biggest investment in new good-paying jobs since World War II.” What kind of investment? How much? Where? How?

According to The Hill: “she has indicated that her first 100 days would include nominating women for half of her Cabinet positions, investing in renewable energy, setting stricter rules for health insurers and drugmakers, and pushing for greater protections for voting rights.” Zzzzzzz. Americans want their president to do two things: boost the economy and keep them safe. Trump owns the national security debate. But she still hasn’t told us how she’ll put us back to work, get us a raise, or fix the retirement system to account for the big switch from 40-hour-a-week wage labor to self-employment. Her entire campaign boils down to: I’m Not Trump.

Additional Contributing Factors:

A crazy penchant for secrecy and cover-ups that gave us EmailGate.

Unbridled lust for corporate and dictator cash funneled via influence peddling through the Clinton Foundation, up until the last second before she formally declared she was running. Why didn’t she give it a rest after 2008?

Incrementalism. It’s impossible to get excited about someone who thinks $12 an hour would mark a major increase in the federal minimum wage – after states and municipalities have already gone to $15. Remember, this is a change year.

She still won’t apologize for voting to invade Iraq. Sure, she says she got it wrong. “But Clinton has never explicitly said what, exactly, she did wrong,” Scott Beauchamp wrote in The Atlantic. “From Clinton herself, there has been a demand for nuance in discussing her vote, a clarification of her intentions, and plenty of blame heaped on the Bush administration. But without a clear explanation of what her mistake was and how she plans to avoid repeating it, what does an apology actually mean?”

R.I.P.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Support independent political cartooning and writing — support Ted on Patreon.)

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2003 All Over Again

Remember the run up to the Iraq war? The Bush Administration made the case to invade based on a bunch of what ifs. Now the Democratic Party and its standardbearer Hillary Clinton is theorizing that Russia may have been behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee and seems willing to provoke a possible new cold war with our former rival. The logic seems very familiar.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The 4 Things Hillary Could Do To Close the Deal Against Trump

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She’s ahead in the polls by roughly three to four points. Given her opposition, however, Hillary Clinton ought be doing a lot better than that.

Consider Clinton’s structural advantages over Donald Trump.

Whereas top Democratic Party officials are so supportive of her that they even cheated to defeat her primary opponent, hundreds of leading Republicans – including the speaker of the house and the last two presidential nominees – have declared war against him. She’s been wildly outspending him in televised political advertising. She has campaign field offices in most counties; he doesn’t have any in most states. The news media despises him.

Then consider her personal advantages.

Trump is a novice, never having run for political office. She has served in the cabinet, presented herself for the Senate twice, run for president, weathered countless scandals and political storms. Whereas he rants and raves incoherently, her experience has taught her how to debate, crisis manage, issue sound bites, and carefully calibrate her every phrase for maximum impact and minimum risk. His main advantage is the perception of authenticity – and it’s a big one, having gotten him where he is now – but it has come at a huge price as all his years of running off at the mouth on and off camera are coming home to roost weeks before election day.

Donald Trump has infuriated more than half the voters: women. He has insulted one out of 10 male and female Americans: Latinos, some of whom are registering to vote just to cast a ballot against him. And let’s not forget Muslims.

Given all that, why is he doing so well? Why is she doing so badly – or more accurately, so not well?

Part of Hillary’s problem is personality. Truth be told, she really isn’tlikeable enough.”

“The vote for president is a ‘feel’ vote,” Chris Cillizza wrote in The Washington Post. “Do you think this person is someone who understands you and the problems (and hopes and dreams) you have for yourself and your children?” Polls have consistently shown that most Americans think she doesn’t.

It’s not all sexism: Clinton yells into microphones and overly enunciates. Her voice is objectively irritating. Then there’s her incredibly ugly, unbelievably hideous wardrobe: it’s hard to like someone who makes your eyes burn.

But let’s face it. Hillary Clinton, probably like you and definitely like me, can’t do anything about her personality. At 68, that stuff is baked in. Still, there’s a lot she could do to close the deal against Donald Trump — to widen her within-the-margin-of-statistical-error lead to a chasm, the insurmountable landslide that her institutional and other advantages would have guaranteed a better candidate.

It’s about policy, stupid.

            Recommendation #1: Guarantee Bernie Sanders a high-profile position in the cabinet. (She should have made him vice president, but it’s too late for that.)

Even after the Democratic convention in which Sanders endorsed her, more than a third of Bernie voters – roughly 1/6 of the electorate – still weren’t behind her. Annoyed that Clinton didn’t grant any significant concessions to the party’s progressive base, many of them will vote for Jill Stein or stay home. I’ve been prognosticating about American politics for decades, and I’ve never been more certain of a prediction: a firm guarantee that Bernie Sanders will have a seat at the table for the next four years would singlehandedly put an end to Trump’s chances.

            Recommendation #2: Promise to be a one-term president.

One thing that drives voters crazy is politicians who spend most of their time in office weighing every decision against their future reelection campaign. Nothing would do more to allay voters’ worries that she is a slave of her Wall Street masters than to turn herself into a lame duck on day one — and free herself of the burden of worrying about 2020. Anyway, Hillary Clinton is old and not in the greatest of health. Can anyone really imagine her finishing out the presidency at age 77, the same age as Ronald “Alzheimer” Reagan?

            Recommendation #3: Turn her weaknesses into strengths by promising to finish her own unfinished business.

One of Hillary Clinton’s biggest weaknesses is her support of NAFTA and other job-killing “free trade” deals. Since she can’t run away from her record, why not embrace it by calling for a major national jobs retraining and financial assistance program for people who lose their jobs to globalization, as well as a $25/hour minimum wage? Similarly, her awkward reluctance to concede that Obamacare is too expensive should be replaced by an acknowledgement of what everyone already knows – the Affordable Care Act should have at least included a “public option” – and a promise that she will add one in January. She could also claimed that she learned a valuable lesson from her email scandal; she could promise to be the most transparent president in history by putting a live camera in the oval office and the cabinet, and promising not to conduct government business (other than national security matters) in private.

Recommendation #4: No more optional wars.

You know you’re on the wrong side of an issue when Donald Trump is the calm reasonable one. On foreign policy, Hillary Clinton has quite the reputation as a warmonger. She voted for wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, even though neither had anything to do with 9/11. As Secretary of State she encouraged President Obama to finance the Islamist fundamentalists who turned Libya and Syria into hell. Now she’s saber-rattling with Russia. Americans hate these endless wars. And militarism does us a lot more harm than good. Hillary Clinton should issue an October Surprise: if elected, she should say, she will never deploy American military power anywhere on earth other than to directly defend the American homeland.

I know she probably won’t take my advice. But here’s the thing: she’ll win if she does.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Please support Ted by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Trump’s Guerilla Politics Are Here To Stay

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Donald Trump is a cat with 12 or 13 lives.

This past weekend felt like August 1974. Everyone knew Richard Nixon was toast. We didn’t know exactly how or exactly when he’d be forced out. But we knew it was coming.

After a video/audio recording of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” open mic of Donald Trump sharing his reality TV update of the medieval droit du seigneur surfaced on Friday before Sunday’s big second presidential debate, dozens of Republican lawmakers and senior officials abandoned ship. All that remained, it seemed, was a Trumpian version of the GOP bigwigs who trudged to the White House in ’74 to deliver the news that Dirty Donny could no longer count on Republican support in Congress.

Calling for the mass expulsion of 11 million people didn’t finish Trump. Demanding that Muslims be banned from entering the United States didn’t do it. Encouraging supporters to beat up protesters didn’t do it. Making fun of John McCain for being captured didn’t do it. Bragging that he likes to grab women “by the pussy” — that, of all things, was his Waterloo.

But it wasn’t.

The reason Trump is still in the race, merely wounded and behind (rather than humiliated and out), is important to note. This novice politician understands media better than anyone else.

Normally, we’d expect the election to be a referendum on Hillary Clinton and by extension President Obama. She’s the incumbent effectively running for a third term of the same policies. Instead, everyone is talking about Donald Trump — his fitness or lack thereof, his authenticity or lack thereof, his sanity or lack thereof. The reason is simple: Hillary Clinton delivers a cut-and-paste stump speech at every appearance (except for those to Wall Street, where she likes to share her “private position”). Trump, meanwhile, performs jazz. He extemporizes. No one, including him, knows what he’s going to say. So every rally gets covered live. How can she compete?

Throughout the campaign, Trump has neutralized the outrage over each of his scandalous utterances by supplanting it with a new one. The media, always lazy and now shorthanded, can’t keep up. And each one makes him the center of the conversation.

Flooding the zone was the risky but brilliant tactic that Donald Trump, who seemed to be mortally wounded on Friday afternoon, deployed a couple hours before the debate. He called a press conference announcing that he had invited four women who have spent years at war with the Clintons over allegations of sexual harassment, rape and making light of her legal defense of a rapist to attend the debate.

I don’t blame the women for allowing themselves to be used this way. They’ve been marginalized and ridiculed, their stories never taken seriously by the news media. Tacky publicity is better than obscurity.

From a political standpoint, however, I thought it would be widely perceived as a cheap and disgusting Hail Mary pass by a desperate candidate hours away from being forced out of the race. Boy, was I wrong.

Thirty minutes into the debate, the megastory of the election season had been reduced to one of numerous issues, washed away by Trump’s exercise of a nuclear option. Back to normalish: Hillary Clinton was on the defensive over her emails.

Hillary Clinton was in an impossible position. In politics, the cliché goes, when you are playing defense, you are losing. So she refused to defend herself or her husband. For viewers, however, the effect was to leave Trump’s “I may say bad things about women, but my opponent does bad things to them” argument unchallenged.

If this real estate thing doesn’t work out, Donald Trump can market himself as the brain behind the deftest crisis response in political history. I’m still reeling.

The difference between traditional elites like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is that Trump intuitively grasps the way things get perceived on the idiot box in houses and apartments across the country. Clinton and the corporate media pundit class see Trump’s constant interruptions and interjections while others are speaking as rude and ridiculous. They’re right that it’s rude. But it’s also incredibly effective.

How many times have you seen the president or some other politician say something, and you wanted to or actually did shout “liar!” or “wrong” at the TV? Trump does that for you. You can’t help but empathize with him. Trump has revolutionized political discourse as radically as “cowardly” American colonists did when they shot from behind rocks and trees at British troops lined up in formation, the way armies were “supposed” to fight.

No matter what happens in November, the guerilla politics pioneered by Trump are here to stay.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Please support Ted by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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What I’d Do If I Were Trump

1. Quit. Barring a miracle, it’s all over.

2. If he stays in the race, he must open his debate performance with a statement so self-flagellating that Andrea Dworkin would beg him to shut up and move on, already. (I don’t see this happening.)

3. The pivot: point out that “while I say nasty things about women, Hillary Clinton kills them — with her votes for wars fought for fun and profit, with drones, with bombs, by supporting psychotic terrorists in Syria and Libya. I can become polite, but she can’t bring back her victims.” Leave Bill Clinton out of it. Nobody cares.

4. Show up so prepared that he runs circles around her on policy. Propose specifics that most Americans can get behind. Frankly, her policy chops aren’t that great. (I don’t see this happening either.)

5. Be direct. Respond to the audience questions respectfully and in detail. Don’t go off on tangents. View harsh questions as an opportunity to reveal that, actually, you’re a good person who’s misunderstood because your showmanship gets out of the way.

In the unlikely event that he can do this stuff, it probably won’t be enough to win. But it might save his personal reputation from further harm.

Then he should avoid mics and cameras for a year or two. Americans love a comeback story.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Thrilla at Hofstra: Trump Beat the Spread

Image result for presidential debateHe won last night.

I know it runs counter to conventional wisdom – that’s so rare for me! – but I award last night’s first 2016 presidential debate to Donald Trump.

This isn’t to say that I disagree with what the mainstream men and women of the pundit class said they witnessed. Like them, I watched a well-prepared Clinton outmaneuver a political amateur who showed up to class after a night of partying following a year of refusing to crack open a book. Trump rambled, repeated himself, interrupted and bullied. He conflated NATO and the EU. He even unleashed a fat joke.

All things being equal, I would agree with the corporate media consensus that Hillary won. But that’s the thing – things are far from equal.

Hillary Clinton is a pro. She should have wiped the floor with Trump. Instead, she delivered a performance on the line between a B+ and an A-. Trump gets closer to a C-. That’s much closer than it ought to have been.

As they say in sports, Trump beat the spread.

It went down the same way during the Democratic primaries. Hillary Clinton had every advantage: domination of the Democratic National Committee, support of a sitting president, massive name recognition, experience and personnel from a previous run, a huge pool of wealthy institutional donors, a marriage to a popular ex-president fondly remembered for presiding over a great economic expansion. Despite all that, she nearly lost to Bernie Sanders – an aging self-identified socialist from a tiny, powerless state, with no name recognition. How, many people asked, could Hillary’s inevitable Goliath of a campaign have come so close to losing to such a David?

The answer was obvious. As we learned in 2008 when she lost to another obscure politician — Obama, with a weird name, who had little experience — Hillary Clinton underperforms. She has no charm. She doesn’t learn from her mistakes. She relies on outdated fundraising methods, like sucking up to big corporate donors. Not only does she lie, she insults our intelligence as when she emerged from her daughter’s Manhattan apartment days after being diagnosed with pneumonia. “I’m fine,” she said. What’s the matter with “pneumonia sucks”?

During last night’s debate, I was struck by how many chances Trump had to nail Hillary. If he were a better debater, she’d be toast.

Hillary tacitly confirmed that the United States was behind the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, implying that she deserves credit for forcing the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table. Because cyberwarfare is illegal, U.S. officials have always refused to comment on whether or not we helped create Stuxnet – so it remains classified. If Trump had been smarter, he would have said: “Jesus, Hillary! There you go again, revealing America’s secrets to our enemies.”

He also allowed her to weasel out of her on-again, off-again support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement. Why didn’t he reference the verbal diarrhea of close Clinton friend Terry McAuliffe, who let slip the all-too-credible assertion that President Hillary would sign TPP shortly after coming to office?

His response to Hillary’s demand that he release his taxes came close to disastrous. If ever there was a time to interrupt, there it was. Instead, he just stood there waiting for her to finish. Clearly Trump has a lot to hide. Then he made a lame gambit: “I will release my tax returns — against my lawyer’s wishes — when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release. I will release my tax returns. And that’s against — my lawyers, they say, ‘Don’t do it.’ I will tell you this. No — in fact, watching shows, they’re reading the papers. Almost every lawyer says, you don’t release your returns until the audit’s complete. When the audit’s complete, I’ll do it. But I would go against them if she releases her e-mails.”

It was incoherent and ridiculous. But once he decided to go that direction, why not mention her secret Goldman Sachs speech transcripts? At least that way, he would have conveyed that she has two types of things to hide (emails, speeches) as opposed to his one (taxes).

Rookie errors. But hey, Trump did great for a guy who has never run for political office before – and didn’t cram for the debate. Hillary has debated at the presidential level so many times she could probably do it half of it in her sleep. If I go into the ring with heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury and manage to survive a round with all but one of my teeth, it’s fair to say that I won.

What’s baffling to me is that she wasn’t able to deliver a knockout blow.

Some of it is her inability to just be real.

Part of coming off as an authentic human being is a self-deprecating sense of humor. We saw that when Trump asked Secretary Clinton how she wanted to be addressed: “Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton — yes, is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.” It was deferential. It almost seemed sweet. (Weirdly, she didn’t adjust to the honorific, failing to tack to “Mr. Trump.”)

Hillary seems allergic to humanism. Back to the TPP, for example, she could have countered Trump’s fictional assertion she “heard what I said about [TPP], and all of a sudden you were against it” with something along the lines of: “actually, that was Bernie Sanders.”

Another awkward moment was her apology for using a private email server. This should have been a win for her. It was the first time that she expressed regret in a straightforward manner. But she clearly wanted to keep talking, to make excuses, to mitigate. It was also a missed opportunity to make an email joke.

Maybe the herd is right. Maybe it’s a simple matter of she did better, he did worse. But I keep thinking, debates are graded on a curve. She was supposed to kick his ass. Yet there he is, dead even in the polls with her.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

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