Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Reading

A Good Pick — Charles P. Pierce on the selection of Sen. Tim Kaine as the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

The least surprising moment in the 2016 presidential campaign came down on Friday night, just in time to stop the ceaseless vamping on cable television (Note to Chris Matthews: Using Hugh Hewitt to kill time simultaneously kills your audience, in some cases literally): Hillary Rodham Clinton will run for president with Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.

I will get my personal feelings out of the way first. I am overjoyed. Over Tim Kaine? Hell, no. I am overjoyed because my senior senator will remain my senior senator, ya greedy bastids.

OK, now for the rest of you.

It’s a good pick. It’s a solid pick. It’s the kind of pick that Bill Clinton made in 1992 and Barack Obama made in 2008. It’s nowhere near as risky a pick as John F. Kennedy made in 1960. It’s not the kind of weird pick that Richard Nixon made in 1968, or the kind of misguided pick that Al Gore made in 2000. It’s not the kind of process-of-elimination, who-will-hold-my-straitjacket pick that the opposing party made this week. In fact, I’m more concerned that my judgment on such matters has been so warped by the political wild kingdom I experienced in here that HRC could have chosen to run with a cup of warm cocoa and I might have applauded until my palms bled.

The most intriguing part of the pick to me is not that Kaine speaks Spanish. (Geez, TV people, enough with that noise. It’s not like he learned differential calculus on the back of a coal shovel.) What’s intriguing is that he learned it as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras, taking a year off from Harvard Law School to work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. This shows a commitment more to the Catholicism of Papa Francesco than to that of the retro Papist opposition. And, seriously, does anyone doubt the presidential candidate’s dedication to the constitutional right of choice? I seriously doubt that Tim Kaine is going to go rogue on this issue. And, besides, the party itself has left the whole personally-opposed-but-OK dodge far behind. The Supreme Court is one vote away from a solid pro-choice majority and, even skating one justice down, it’s pushing back hard against the SLAPP suit strategy employed by several states. Nothing Tim Kaine can possibly do will reverse that.

Trade is more problematic. He did vote to fast-track the awful TPP deal, and the optics on that are not good, but they only appear seriously bad if you take He, Trump’s blathering about trade deals seriously and, therefore, think enough progressives believe that bushwah to make a dent in the Democratic base in November. I don’t. We’ll see. Otherwise, he may be boring, but he’s not timid. He fought tobacco in a tobacco state, and coal in a mining state and, in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, he fought for gun-control in a state that has more than its share of NRA members. As Ari Berman pointed out on the electric Twitter machine after Kaine’s announcement on Friday night, Kaine was fighting for open housing in Richmond freaking Virginia when He, Trump was refusing to rent to African Americans in NYC. The fact remains that if, on the basis of his record, Tim Kaine is considered a centrist, then the center of the Democratic party has moved considerably to the left since HRC’s husband first ran for president.

The obvious downside is that it puts a Senate seat in play in a deeply purple, deeply vital state, and that problem was seriously exacerbated by another event that took place on Thursday, far from the convention in Cleveland or the rallies in Florida. In April, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe signed executive orders restoring the voting rights to some 200,000 Virginians who had completed their excursions through the criminal justice system. On Friday, three months to the day from McAuliffe’s announcement and only a few hours before HRC called Kaine to ask him to join the ticket, the Virginia Supreme Court blew that up, issuing a 4-3 decision that invalidated McAuliffe’s executive orders and, according to calculations done by Berman in The Nation, thereby taking away the voting rights of nearly a quarter of the state’s African American electorate. The glass is half-full if you believe that Tim Kaine is strong enough to keep Virginia in the Clinton column. The glass is half-empty if you believe that, not only can he not do that, but also that with this decision, neither can whatever Democrat runs for Kaine’s Senate seat. The Virginia court’s decision is the real joker in this deck.

I expect the usual suspects to be dissatisfied. I expect the usual suspects to raise a kind of hell for a couple of days. I expect the usual suspects who cover the usual suspects to try and make a Trump-Cruz blood feud out of Sanders-Clinton over this decision. I expect that all of this is wrong. Anybody who lived in Cleveland this past week would feel the same. I don’t mind looking both ways when I cross the street for a while.

Donald’s Turn — Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune on Trump’s 11 o’clock number.

Thursday night Donald J. Trump delivered the angriest 11 o’clock number in the history of American show business. If you don’t know that phrase, it’s a useful one. In the old days Broadway musicals began at 8:30 and wrapped up at 11:15 or 11:30. The 11 o’clock number was the biggie near the end, usually reserved for a major character on the threshold of a revelation or a breakdown.

Think “Rose’s Turn” from “Gypsy.” Last night, as he accepted the Republication presidential nomination in Cleveland, it was “Donald’s Turn,” this time for him! For him! For him!

“I alone can fix it,” he said. “It” meant America and all its problems, the “humiliations” it has suffered, the “horrible” trade deals, Obama’s divisive and racist rhetoric (really?), the rampant “crime and violence” that afflicts us. He will fire it all.

“Dark” was the word much of Twitter couldn’t get away from last night, characterizing Trump’s tone and content. It seems like a weak descriptor for what was actually being sold. Business Insider and LA radio host Josh Barro tweeted: “Normally, Trump has a magnetic personality that lets him get away with things. He disarms you by transparently having fun. Not tonight.”

Come November, the speech we heard Thursday night will be reassessed either as a success or a failure. Come November, it may well prove the naysayers wrong in retrospect, as they’ve been wrong all along when it comes to the global branding whiz, bankruptcy-prone developer and famous star of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

Breaking it down, the speech was a methodical, monomaniacally intense rant, delivered by a human repository of angry-mob discontent. Early on, when Trump uttered words such as “humbly” (as in “humbly” accepting the nomination) or “peace” or “warmth,” he took no audible cue from the meaning of those words. He looked and sounded like he was ready to pop.

When he promised that nobody in favor of “violence,” “hatred” or “oppression” would be allowed to enter his United States, if he was elected, it was not easy to tune out his own campaign’s tendency over the past 12 months to stoke the most violent, hate-filled and oppressive instincts in his base.

When he screamed “I love you all!” at the end, he sounded as if he were saying “I can barely contain my bile!” Only when Trump went off-teleprompter for a few ad-libbed fills (“BUH-lieve me,” or “horrible … just horrible”) did he sound like his disarming self, the Trump who has proven so politically effective thus far.

Campaigning on a stern “law and order” platform did the trick for Richard Nixon in 1968. Trump’s speech referenced “law and order” more than once, telling the people, the marginalized, laid-off, passed-over populace: “I am your voice.” By speech’s end Thursday, that voice sounded like a vengeful growl. But then, as convention speaker Tom Barrack said earlier in the evening: “An animal in the jungle … that is Donald.”

In “Rose’s Turn,” the greatest 11 o’clock number Broadway ever wrote (Jule Styne, music; Stephen Sondheim, lyrics), the ferocious stage mother originated by Ethel Merman busts loose, her resentments and regrets and grievances pouring forth in a catharsis combining elements of striptease, revenge and breakdown. It’s an angry number. Conspicuously lacking music, though weirdly Trump’s choice of outro music was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,“ Donald’s turn turned the spotlight on a one-man, 76-minute show performed by the emblem, and beneficiary, of this casually brutal American moment.

Big Words — Humor from Andy Borowitz.

LONDON (The Borowitz Report)—The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking angered supporters of Donald J. Trump on Monday by responding to a question about the billionaire with a baffling array of long words.

Speaking to a television interviewer in London, Hawking called Trump “a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator,” a statement that many Trump supporters believed was intentionally designed to confuse them.

Moments after Hawking made the remark, Google reported a sharp increase in searches for the terms “demagogue,” “denominator,” and “Stephen Hawking.”

“For a so-called genius, this was an epic fail,” Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said. “If Professor Hawking wants to do some damage, maybe he should try talking in English next time.”

Later in the day, Hawking attempted to clarify his remark about the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, telling a reporter, “Trump bad man. Real bad man.”

 Doonesbury — What was that?

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