Thursday, September 8, 2016

Hillary hits homers off Lauer’s fastball; Trump pops up slop

By Marc Jampole

If the “Commander in Chief” Forum were a baseball game, moderator Matt Lauer would be an out-of-shape pitcher. His first few innings, against Hillary Clinton, he had a sharp fastball with good control. When Trump came on, Lauer started throwing slop—slow pitches right over the plate that were easy to hit.

But it didn’t seem to matter: Hillary hit every question out of the park, mixing facts with realism and reasoned analysis. Trump popped everything up to the third baseman, except when he struck out.

Let’s start with Lauer’s warnings to each candidate before he started pitching questions. He strictly told Hillary not to talk about her opponent, but to focus on what she would do. She pretty much followed his directives, except to point out that Trump had originally been in favor of the Iraq War. When it was Trump’s turn, however, instead of issuing a direct request, he sheepishly sort-of, kind-of made a wishy-washy supplication. Hillary pretty much followed his instructions, mentioning Trump for well less than a minute. Trump, however, put cork in his bat: forgetting he has spent months equating Hillary with President Obama, he spent virtually all of his time attacking the President, which, of course, meant he didn’t answer the questions.

Lauer’s questions to Clinton were tough, and he made sure she stayed on point. When Clinton needed to fill in some detail before answering a question, Lauer would insist she stick to the question, to which she replied she was but needed to give the background and then proceeded to make the necessary logical jumps to get to the answer. Lauer did not interrupt Trump or press him when he changed the subject of the question or refused to answer the question, which was pretty much all the time. He allowed Trump to go on and on about irrelevancies. For example, when asked what he would do once ISIS was defeated, Trump never broached the subject but attacked both Obama and Hillary. Lauer let it pass.

Lauer spent a third of Hillary’s time on her email scandal. In this part of the forum, Hillary hit a massive home run, similar to Mickey Mantle hitting the ball out of Ebbets Field and into the street to put the Yanks ahead for good in the 7th game of the 1953 World Series. (I give this comparison because Mantle’s feat is usually forgotten; a few innings later a psychopathic teammate Billy Martin made a flashy defensive play.) When Lauer, asking one in a series of very specific questions about the emails, commented that Federal Bureau of Investigation’s head James Comey said that her private server could have been hacked, Hillary correctly pointed out that there is no evidence it ever was hacked, whereas we know for a fact that State Department and other government email systems were hacked. 

In fact, Hillary was pretty much Babe Ruth during her entire appearance. She answered every question directly and factually, corrected the mistakes Lauer and the questioners from the audience made—always in a nice way—and did not quibble or try to shape her remarks to the audience. In a short amount of time, we found out a lot about what she thinks:
  • She will not put ground troops into Iraq and Syria, preferring to combine our air force with aid and counsel to our on-the-ground allies to defeat ISIS.
  • She will always use force as an absolute last resort.
  • She will not privatize the Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare system.
  • She believes that people on the no-fly list should not be allowed to buy or own firearms.

She was definitely scoring points with the audience. One example: From the facial and body language of one man asking about the VA, you could tell that he disliked Clinton and believed the Kool-Aid about her. By the end of her answer, you could see his face softening its frown and his body getting more relaxed, less stiff, as he seemed to begin to realize that Hillary knows what she’s talking about and has an extensive history passing legislation and supporting organizations that help veterans and their families.

Although he was treated with kid gloves and asked softball questions, Trump essentially “took a collar,” which means he struck out or popped up all of Lauer’s easy pitching. Here are accurate paraphrases of some of the slop questions Lauer threw to Trump with the gist of the Donald’s answers, followed by my comment:
  • What have you done that qualifies you as commander in chief? I ran a successful (sic) company and have good judgment. A lie, since other than his TV show and brand licensing, his businesses have been failures.
  • Did you learn anything from the confidential briefings you have received? I learned that the people giving the briefings don’t like what the President and Clinton are doing. I hope someone contradicts Trump on this assertion, which must be a lie. Think about it: would every staff member giving briefings be disloyal, because that’s what it would take to keep hidden the disloyalty of even one in front of a candidate.  
  • What about your praise of Putin?  Here is the exact quote: “If he says great things about me, I’ll say great things about him.” A statement appropriate at a networking cocktail party for sales executives, but not about foreign affairs.
  • Are you studying foreign affairs to learn more? I’m studying sometimes when I have a spare moment from running my business and running for office, but I have a lot of common sense. Trust me, folks.

There’s something to fault with each of these answers. Looks like a lot of pop-ups and maybe a “can of corn,” which is an easy fly to the outfield.

Lauer’s presentation of this last question was obnoxiously obsequious. With the fearful demeanor and voice of a supplicant to the Pope, he said, “You can’t be expected to know the details…” Yes he can, should and must be expected to know the details of defense policy, and from day one. Why would we lower the standard for Donald Trump that we have set for every one of our presidential candidates since Harry S. Truman and Thomas Dewey?

Like an aging slow lefty called in to get one batter, Lauer did strike out the mighty Donnie on the matter of his “secret plan” to defeat ISIS. If he had a secret plan, Lauer asked, why did Trump want to give “the generals” 30 days to come up with a plan? In a series of half-completed jumbled-together sentences that would have done George W. proud, Trump never broached the subject of why he wanted the general’s plans, but said he might use his plans, the generals’ or a combination. It was classic sputtering, followed soon after by irresponsible aggressiveness when Trump insisted he would fire all the current generals. Lauer never connected the dots: Trump wants to give new generals who aren’t current with on-the-ground specifics a mere 30 days to work up a plan.

Trump seems to love channeling Richard M. Nixon. He is calling himself the “law and order” candidate, like Nixon did. He has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, just as Nixon had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. He has been caught and fined for a number of campaign giving violations, has bragged about buying politicians and may have paid off the attorney generals of several states not to pursue lawsuits against his eponymous university. Nixon, Watergate.

One more comparison. Maybe I inferred too much and I can only speak for myself, but by the end of her time, Clinton looked and sounded like a young Ernie Banks, ready to play a double header in the hot Midwest sun. Trump, by contrast, appeared to lose energy as his last minutes on stage ticked down. Some pundits have noted that Trump tended to make all his noise in the first half of the Republican debates. It could be Trump knew that viewers tend to dwindle away the longer a debate lasts. But it could also be that this 70-year-old professed fast-food fan with a large rubber tire around his middle was getting tired.

I come to the debates as a decades-long pacifist, so I reject many of the premises from which our defense policy has evolved over the past century or so. I would rather our candidate be more dovish than any of the candidates who ran for office this year of either party, except possibly Rand Paul. But between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as commander in chief, the choice is about as easy as that between Babe Ruth and Chuck Conners, who hit .238 with two homers for his pro career and later became a television actor. I'm with her.

Judging from the reaction when each candidate appeared, the audience of veterans agrees with me that Clinton is the better choice. The applause for her was both louder and longer than what Trump received. After seeing days of the media’s softball coverage of Donald Trump and their almost morbid fixation on emails that continue to show absolutely no wrong-doing by Hillary (except the admitted mistake of having a private server), it was gratifying to hear the many more vets in the audience voting with their hands for Clinton than for Trump. Now they—and we—have to vote for real on or before Election Day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How many people voting for Trump have been brainwashed by mainstream news media to dislike Hillary?

By Marc Jampole

Yesterday evening I witnessed something frightening.

The masterful jazz trombonist Robin Eubanks was performing at Dizzy’s at Lincoln Center with his big band. In his introduction to a composition titled “Yes We Can—Victory Dance,” he put in a plug for Hillary and asked everyone to vote. Only about half the audience applauded. The other half sat on their hands grimly. I could see many frowns on the faces and some uncomfortable body language.

That means that about half the audience at an upscale jazz club on Labor Day in liberal New York City are either supporting Donald Trump or vehemently opposed to Hillary Clinton. Of course, some may have just objected to entertainers interjecting their political opinions into their performance, but the piece the band was going to play was political in nature and we’re talking about jazz, a musical art form whose practitioners are much given to political statements in their work. (I’m hopeful that one day soon National Public Radio (NPR) will invite Eubanks on “All Things Considered”  to discuss his political opinions, as it did the right-wing Merle Haggard four years ago to discuss why he hated President Obama.)

The frightening thing is that the large number of people not clapping—or cheering insanely—when Eubanks endorsed Hillary is that it suggests that Donald Trump may actually win, or at the very least that the mainstream media’s long campaign to make the country dislike Hillary Clinton has really succeeded (more on that below). Keep in mind that this audience was whiter and probably wealthier and more educated than the United States as a whole, but that means it was full of the educated whites who are supposed to be abandoning the GOP over Trump.

I would have hoped that, when faced with the choice between a poorly informed and compulsively lying narcissist who failed in business, cheated many people out of money and has a long history of racism on one side and a competent, educated public servant with a track record of achievement on the other, virtually everyone in the country other than unrepentant racists would embrace Hillary and that the crowd would have gone as wild over Eubank’s endorsement as they did over his wonderful music.

As the group played “Yes We Can—Victory Dance,” which at times required many of the group members to clap their hands in unison as if at a peace or civil rights rally, I surveyed the audience wondering about the motives for anyone supporting Donald Trump, even after his frequent inflammatory and often racist or sexist outbursts, his multitude of lies about the state of the country and his past, and the revelations that his real estate and casino businesses were mostly failures, that he is involved in 3,500 lawsuits and that he may have paid off at least two politicians to get lawsuits against his university dropped.

Based on months of following the Trump malevolence unfold, I have identified roughly five groups of Trump supporters, or perhaps I should write, five reasons to vote for Trump:
1.      Racists.
2.      Those who do not think a woman should be president.
3.      Supreme Court voters, those who will vote for Trump because he says he will nominate conservative Supreme Court justices (although I think virtually all people in this group primarily support Trump for one of the other reasons listed here).
4.      The ultra-wealthy and wealthy whose sole criteria for voting is who will lower taxes on the wealthy more, keep the minimum wage the lowest and impose the fewest regulations on their businesses.
5.      Those whom the news media have brainwashed to hate Hillary Clinton.

The last two groups have a causal relationship, as it is the ultra-wealthy who own the mainstream and right-wing news media that have demonized Hillary for the past 30 years, essentially holding her to a standard much higher than any other public official has ever been held. There are almost as many examples of the media treating Hillary differently from others as there are of Trump telling bold-faced lies:
·         While there was no investigation of the 13 terrorist incidents at U.S. embassies around the world during the Bush II Administration, millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent looking for something that Hillary Clinton did wrong to cause Benghazi or in the State Department dealings with the Clinton Foundation.
·         There has been no investigation of the millions of emails the Bush Administration destroyed. Likewise no investigation of the emails of Condoleezza or Colin Powell even though the U.S. foreign policy under their leadership was pretty disastrous. Powell, BTW, advised Hillary to destroy her emails, which she didn’t do. I guess that’s why the media is going after Hillary for a lack of transparency.
·         While conveniently forgetting Trump’s early support of the Iraq War and his many overt racist statements in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the news media continues to hammer Clinton over her vote to authorize the Iraq War and her husband’s support of the crime legislation of the 1990’s that proved to be de facto Jim Crow laws. The implication is that only Hillary among all those misled by the Bush Administration knew that the Bushies were lying and that among thousands including many civil rights leaders only Hillary understood the racial ramifications of tougher sentencing laws.

No one in the media mentions it, but when Hillary left her post as Secretary of State, she was the most popular person in the United States, if not the world.  It was then that the news media resumed its anti-Clinton campaign of the 1990’s.

If you want to see a case history of unfair treatment of Hillary over the years, read the article of two years ago by Oliver Willis and Hannah Groch-Begley detailing the NewYork Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd’s 21-year-long verbal war against Hillary, all based on misperceptions, assumptions and Dowd’s special brand of social-psychobabble. Dowd’s unfair and mostly fabricated definition of Hillary has become the playbook for a large part of the mainstream news media: Hillary is a weak candidate because she is a policy wonk (which means she has no passion), and is graceless, sneaky, secretive, devious and open to corruption. Earlier in the election cycle, the news media kept their anti-Hillary sentiments under control, preferring to focus on Trump’s many outrageous statements, rude insults and personal feuds. In retrospect, it seems as if the anti-Trump coverage was always about trying to help any other Republican (other than Ted Cruz) secure the nomination.

Since it began looking like Hillary could win in a landslide, the mainstream and right-wing news media have ramped up their anti-Hillary storylines. At the same time, the media has begun to treat Donald Trump with the softest of kid gloves. His trip to Mexico was taken seriously. Many reporters actually bought the line that Trump had made his immigration policy less Draconian and extreme than it actually was. While ignoring prima facie evidence that Donald Trump paid off elected officials in Texas and Florida, the news media continues to pore over Hillary’s emails, finding that neither she nor the Clinton Foundation did anything illegal or even unethical, which the news media has hidden under assertions of “the appearance of unethical conduct.” Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” has made it his life’s work to sell the country on the idea that Hillary’s handling of emails was illegal. The media has touted the false and baseless rumors that Hillary is physically incapacitated, despite the fact that she has a standard doctor’s letter that covers all the information given by former presidential candidates. By contrast, the issue of Trump’s health quickly faded, even though the letter he has is completely unprofessional and appears to come from a quack.  The media seems to have forgotten that Trump has still not released his taxes. For some reason the many bankruptcies, business failures, lawsuits and the fact that he has taken tax deductions available only to people with annual incomes under $500,000 have not compelled them to dig deeper or to probe further—they’re probably too busy trying to figure out how to spin the meeting of Secretary Clinton with a Nobel prize winner as part of a corrupt enterprise.

The day after Labor Day provides an excellent example of the mainstream news media’s stealth campaign against Hillary. NPR’s story on the campaign starts with what Donald Trump will be doing today, followed by a long quote by someone in the Trump campaign. The story ends with a short sentence on what Clinton is doing today, presented as an afterthought.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a front-page story that draws parallels between the two campaigns.  The article repeats the lie that there are “nagging doubts about her candidacy,” without specifying what those doubts might be. The writer presents Trump’s problems—primarily his lack of appeal to minorities—as a challenge that he is trying to overcome. Elsewhere, the Times prints a story about a Bernie Sanders rally for Hillary that focuses exclusively on the small number of Bernie supporters there who may not vote for Hillary. Near the end of the article appears the sentence: “Still, polls show that the majority ofMr. Sander’s former supporters, like Lauren Glass, 22, plan to vote for Mrs.Clinton.” The number of former Bernitians intending to vote for Hillary is actually 90%, making the statement “the majority” as close to a lie as a true statement can be. The angle for the story is completely misleading and meant to sow further “doubts” about Hillary. 

The Times also carried a very positive story about the supposed influence of Norman Vincent Peale’s church on Donald Trump, despite the fact that Trump has never joined the church and never given it a contribution. Besides being a minister, Norman Vincent Peale was a religiously-based motivational speaker who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale’s optimistic conflation of doing well and doing good has made him a favorite of mainstream business-oriented Republicans since the 1930’s. If it wasn’t in the Times, I would swear that the article was part of the Trump campaign to appeal more to traditional Republicans, similar to his many speeches about helping African-Americans he has given to white audiences.  

The Times also had a snarky story about Hillary, who on Labor Day let reporters ride with her on her jet for the first time in the campaign. This story continues the mainstream news media’s campaign to paint Hillary as unavailable just because she hasn’t held any news conferences. The “Hillary is not accessible” storyline demonstrates the underlying anti-Hillary sentiment in the mainstream news media. Hillary has given a tremendous number of one-on-one interviews. As a public relations professional for more than 30 years, I can state unequivocally that reporters prefer one-on-ones to news conference for several reasons: 1) They can ask more questions; 2) They can get into more depth on the issue(s) of most interest to them; 3) They are more likely to get exclusive breaking news, since by definition there can be no exclusive at a news conference attended by many. The news media should be happy that there are so many opportunities to talk to Hillary one-on-one, but instead they turn it around and make it part of a false narrative.

This news cycle also saw the announcement by one of the moderators of upcoming debates, Chris Wallace of Fox News, declare that he would not point out when either of the candidates makes a factual misstatement during his debate; Wallace must know he has given Trump carte blanc to lie as much as he wants in the debate.

This mainstream media support of Trump began in full swing as soon as the Khan controversy died down. And it seems to be having an impact. The latest polls show the race to be in a virtual tie. The latest CC-ORCpoll has Trump up by two points, 45%-43%. Hillary still has a nearly insurmountable lead in the Electoral College, ahead in virtually every swing state and within striking distance in a number of historically Republican states. But still, it’s frightening to think that almost half the country now intends to vote for Trump.

As I have written before, you would think that the specter of a Trump presidency would induce the mainstream news media to skewer coverage in favor of Hillary, or at the very least to play it straight instead of helping the Republicans, as they usually do.  But it looks like I’m wrong.  Maybe the media corporate overlords figure that we’ve had psychopaths, the ignorant and liars for president before and have survived. Bush II and Reagan were ignorant liars, while Nixon was a lying psychopath.  And we’ve had racists in the White House, too, including Woodrow Wilson and Nixon.  Presidents with little experience have made some awful mistakes, such as Kennedy escalating the cold war and arranging for the replacement of the Vietnam government, Clinton’s handling of healthcare reform or Obama bending too far to compromise with the unrealistic demands of Republicans.

But only twice in our country’s history have we had a Democratic president who was a centrist leaning left with both houses of Congress Democratic and the Republic party in disarray. In both instances, the conditions lasted about two years. Coincidentally, virtually every piece of federal legislation that created more equality of income and wealth was passed during these short periods, under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. As of August 10, the polls suggested that the possibility of a third confluence of these factors could occur.  And that’s what the ultra-wealthy who own and control the mainstream news media are afraid of. They’ve spent more than 35 years undoing most of the damage that New Deal and Great Society legislation did to the ultra-wealthy’s self-imagined privilege to dominate the economy and exploit everyone else. They don’t want to see their efforts undone by the Democratic platform of higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for social welfare programs, lowering the cost of education, improving our infrastructure and promoting non-fossil fuels. 

In short, they prefer the horrors of Trump to anything that affects their sizable fortunes, even if it helps the country and most of its inhabitants.