The Daily Parker

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Fallows agrees: Obama's denunciation of Trump was unprecedented

I thought earlier today that this was unique. James Fallows, who knows more about the presidency than most living journalists, agrees:

To the best of my knowledge, nothing like this has ever happened before.

Presidents of one party call nominees from the other party “bad choices” or “wrong for America” or “risky bets” or in some other way second-best options to their own preferred candidate.

As far as I am aware, none of them has previously declared a major-party nominee categorically unfit.

Again we have two possibilities. Either Barack Obama, with a career’s worth of hyper-deliberate careful phrasing behind him, has suddenly made a lurch toward hyperbole. Or Donald Trump does in fact merit classification in an unfit category of his own.

Obviously I believe the latter is the truth. We’ll get to the pushback and ramifications in subsequent installments, including President Obama’s question to the Republican leaders who “rebuke” Trump but still support him: “What does it say about your party, that this is your standard bearer?”

For now, this is one more for-the-record note of how Campaign 2016 has crossed one more previously unexplored frontier.

It's really that bad.

When was the last time this happened?

President Obama yesterday called Donald Trump "woefully unprepared" and "unfit" to be president:

During a press conference at the White House with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Obama posed the question to the Republican Party: "If you are repeatedly having to say what Trump says is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?"

"The notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that had made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn't appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe, the Middle East, Asia means that he is woefully unprepared to do this job," Obama said.

[He] continued that while there have been Republican presidents he has disagreed with, Trump's actions put him in a different category.

"What does this say about your party that this is your standard bearer? This isn't a situation where you have an episodic gaffe," Obama said. "There has to be a point in which you say 'This is not somebody I can support for president of the United States."

That's an extraordinary statement from a sitting president, and may be unprecedented. I know up until the late 19th century it was common for one side to call the other side unfit—just take a look at some of the things Adams and Jefferson said about each other in the election of 1796—but a sitting president? I don't think this has happened since 1920, and even then, Wilson's slams against Cox came during his own party's nominating process.

Also consider that this president, specifically, doesn't usually get into it like that.

Very interesting.

The lede says it all

This evening's Times:

Back in 1968, at the age of 22, Donald J. Trump seemed the picture of health.

He stood 188 cm with an athletic build; had played football, tennis and squash; and was taking up golf. His medical history was unblemished, aside from a routine appendectomy when he was 10.

But after he graduated from college in the spring of 1968, making him eligible to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that would change his path: bone spurs in his heels.

The diagnosis resulted in a coveted 1-Y medical deferment that fall, exempting him from military service as the United States was undertaking huge troop deployments to Southeast Asia, inducting about 300,000 men into the military that year.

The deferment was one of five Mr. Trump received during Vietnam.

And he has the chutzpah to call out John McCain?

Now, I disagree with almost all of McCain's policies, but I have to say, it would make me happy to stick Trump in Viet Cong prison camp for four years and see how he turns out.

All the political norms Trump has broken, all the taboos he's crapped on, all the damage he's inflicted on the American body politic...even if Hillary Clinton wins, is she just the finger in the dam? What happens in 2020? Are we going to go through all this again?

Another first-time-ever Trump loss

This year's Republican National Convention is the first one in modern times after which the nominee polled lower than before it:

Gallup has surveyed on this question since 1984, and the 2016 GOP convention was the first time where a candidate ended up in negative territory.

The voters who felt less likely to vote Trump after the convention outnumbered those who felt even more motivated for the GOP nominee, 51-36, according to a Gallup poll.

The closest a convention came to such unfavorable closing percentages was the 2012 RNC, when 40 percent of adults felt more likely to vote for Mitt Romney and 38 percent felt more wary after the convention, according to Gallup.

Meanwhile, Fallows' 66th Trump Time Capsule post has so many things in it I just can't list them all right now.

He'll probably win, says Moore

Michael Moore, no friend of Donald Trump, thinks we're just stupid enough to elect him:

Here are the 5 reasons Trump is going to win:

1. Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit.  I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states – but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio.Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states.

He goes on from there. And he's right about a lot of it.

Hello, New Zealand?

Update: Lawyer J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, gave an interview in The American Conservative recently that echoed Moore's thoughts (but from the other direction).

Ten minutes to the next meeting

Items of note:

Off to the meeting. More later.

What I'm reading (later today)

All for now.

Historical precedents for periodic self-destruction

London-based historian Tobias Stone sees the same parallels I see to periodic bouts of self-destruction. Le sigh:

[W]e humans have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self imposed to some extent or another.

At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand. To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another.

But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versaille, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again. But as with before, most people cannot see it because:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future

2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally

3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Trump is doing this in America. Those of us with some oversight from history can see it happening.

What can we do? Well, again, looking back, probably not much. The liberal intellectuals are always in the minority. See Clay Shirky’s Twitter Storm on this point. The people who see that open societies, being nice to other people, not being racist, not fighting wars, is a better way to live, they generally end up losing these fights. They don’t fight dirty. They are terrible at appealing to the populace. They are less violent, so end up in prisons, camps, and graves. We need to beware not to become divided (see: Labour party), we need to avoid getting lost in arguing through facts and logic, and counter the populist messages of passion and anger with our own similar messages. We need to understand and use social media. We need to harness a different fear. Fear of another World War nearly stopped World War 2, but didn’t. We need to avoid our own echo chambers. Trump and Putin supporters don’t read the Guardian, so writing there is just reassuring our friends. We need to find a way to bridge from our closed groups to other closed groups, try to cross the ever widening social divides.

Perhaps it's time to figure out where I can go into exile, if this is in fact inevitable. Is the UK (read, post-Brexit: Scotland) going to work? Is Canada safe as it has been for the past few centuries? Maybe New Zealand, which, as far as I know, has never been attacked by a foreign power?

Also when: do I go immediately if Trump gets elected, or should I wait until the purge begins?

Fun times, fun times.

The unhinged campaign

Brian Beutler argues that Hillary Clinton needs to put the "lock her up" crap to rest:

It’s a problem to have this stench lingering in the air, but just as difficult to address without playing into the hands of her opponents, who’d love nothing more than to turn “lock her up” into a matter of partisan debate. (“Should Clinton be jailed? Some say yes, some say no!”) But a deft communicator could discredit “lock her up” not by protesting too much on Clinton’s behalf, but by treating it as the unhinged chant of a pitchfork-wielding mob that would claim power by imprisoning political enemies. They couldn’t beat Obama, so they questioned his eligibility for office; they’re losing to Clinton, so they want her dead or in jail. These are authoritarian instincts that must be opposed.

Predicting the political fallout of an event like the RNC or of a new ubiquitous talking point like “lock her up” is pure guesswork, and it might be the case that the air of vigilantism around the whole thing will make non-Republicans more sympathetic to Clinton. But on top of all the troubling democratic implications of a major political party believing the opposition party’s leader belongs in prison, Republicans may have successfully damaged Clinton with a false but powerful narrative. And if that’s the case, she will need to be prepared to deal with it.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall (and others) are finding more connections between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump:

To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump's direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin's policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He's the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out 'what's going on' as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.

There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump's financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That's simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.

This is the scariest election of my lifetime.

Sunday morning reading

Ah, I can finally take a few minutes to read through my backlog of articles, which have a common theme coming off this past week's events:

That, plus a tour of the Laguintas Brewery this afternoon (the one here, not the one in Petaluma), ought to keep me busy.