The Key to Retaking Congress Is Not Ideology. It’s Authenticity
Something fascinating happened in South Carolina last month. In this new age of political populism, in a deep red South Carolina district where Donald Trump won nearly 60% of the vote, a Democrat almost won a congressional special election. What’s more, the Democrat in question was a former top executive at Goldman Sachs.
How did that happen?
As is always the case in special elections, there are many reasons ranging from Trump’s low approval to the significant base of African American voters in the district. But one has been largely overlooked: The Democratic candidate, Archie Parnell, never tried to be something he wasn’t. He embraced the fact that he was a wonky, nerdy tax guy — and his campaign told a story about how that experience could help him deliver tax reforms important to voters in his district. Those voters believed in his tax expertise because it was real, clearly connected to his life.
And his near-victory, in a place where embarrassing defeat should have been the rule, spells out a critical lesson. Having spent the better part of a decade working with candidates at all levels, my best advice for candidates in 2018 is: Be yourself.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking into allegations of self-dealing by the Eric Trump Foundation that were raised by a recent Forbes report.
Schneiderman was already investigating the Donald J. Trump Foundation for whether or not the president personally benefited from the fundraising efforts and spending of the foundation before the inauguration.
Donald Jr. certainly doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. Instead of offering a hint of contrition, he offered a complaint that the proffered information was not particularly useful. “I applaud his transparency,” father said of son. But disclosure is not really a virtue if you are admitting highly unethical actions without apology. It is more like the public confession of serious wrongdoing, and the attempted normalization of sliminess.
The ultimate explanation for this toxic moral atmosphere is President Trump himself. He did not attend the meeting, but he is fully responsible for creating and marketing an ethos in which victory matters more than character and real men write their own rules. Trumpism is an easygoing belief system that indulges and excuses the stiffing of contractors, the conning of students, the bilking of investors, the exploitation of women and the practices of nepotism and self-dealing. A faith that makes losing a sin will make cheating a sacrament.
Martin Wolf/FT ($$):
The UK once had a deserved reputation for pragmatic and stable politics. That will not survive the spectacular mess it is making of Brexit.
Remember what has happened. In an unnecessary referendum, a small majority chose an option they could not understand, because it had not been worked out. Thereupon, a new prime minister, with no knowledge of the complexities, adopted the hardest possible interpretation of the outcome. She triggered the exit process in March 2017, before shaping a detailed negotiating position. Some 70 days later, in an unnecessary election, she lost both her majority and her authority.
The Conservative party is so split over Brexit as to be no longer a coherent party of government. It is, as a result, questionable whether the compromises needed over money owed to the EU, rights of EU residents and the role of the European Court of Justice, could win approval in parliament. The Labour party will offer no relief: it wants another general election and is now about as split over Brexit as the Tories.
Even if you can’t get to the rest, this tells you what you need to know.
Trump Campaign Paid Don Jr.’s Lawyer $50,000 Two Weeks Before Email Scandal
About two weeks before the release of Donald Trump Jr.'s emails, his father’s reelection campaign began paying the law firm now representing him.
Scrap dealer finds Apollo-era NASA computers in dead engineer’s basement
Plus hundreds of mystery tapes from Pioneer and Helios probe missions.
At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers—and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased’s electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers. The devices were clearly labelled “NASA PROPERTY,” so the dealer called NASA to report the find.
"Please tell NASA these items were not stolen," the engineer's heir told the scrap dealer, according to the report. "They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212. During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [redacted engineer] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them."
AG Sessions, the Russian lawyer, and the money laundering case that went away
Several quick caveats. Like most other aspects of the growing stench over Trump-Russia right now, there are more questions about the weak settlement of this money laundering case than answers. What’s more, it’s worth noting that Trump, Sessions and their Justice Department has already shown a bias toward corporate wrong-doers in its dubious handling of other cases, so I guess you could argue that the Prevezon deal wasn’t anything criminal, but just what these people do. And frankly, while I’m deeply troubled by the appearance of the settlement, I don’t find it as immoral as some of Sessions’ other long-term projects, like re-starting the drug war, reviving mass incarceration policies (and boosting profits for private prison companies), and curbing Americans’ voting rights.
But if America has learned anything in the last half-century, immorality doesn’t bring down our government leaders, but illegality can. (Take Richard Nixon, who got away with prolonging the carnage in Vietnam, expanding it to Cambodia, overthrowing the government of Chile and setting the climate for the murder of students at Kent State…only to lose everything over a simple black-bag job.) As noted here last week, we’ve now seen too many quids and quos involving the Trump campaign and Russia’s support for Trump to be a more coincidence. Is a favorable settlement for a Russian money launderer with a super-connected lawyer one more quo? It sure looks that way
The “No One Tells It Like An Ex-Repubican” Department
Let me suggest the real problem is not the Trump family, but the GOP. To paraphrase Brooks, “It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a [party’s] mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing.” Again, to borrow from Brooks, beyond partisanship the GOP evidences “no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code.”
Let’s dispense with the “Democrats are just as bad” defense. First, I don’t much care; we collectively face a party in charge of virtually the entire federal government and the vast majority of statehouses and governorships. It’s that party’s inner moral rot that must concern us for now. Second, it’s simply not true, and saying so reveals the origin of the problem — a “woe is me” sense of victimhood that grossly exaggerates the opposition’s ills and in turn justifies its own egregious political judgments and rhetoric. If the GOP had not become unhinged about the Clintons, would it have rationalized Trump as the lesser of two evils? Only in the crazed bubble of right-wing hysteria does an ethically challenged, moderate Democrat become a threat to Western civilization and Trump the salvation of America.
America’s first Republican president reportedly said , “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The current Republican president and the party he controls were granted monopoly power over Washington in November and already find themselves spectacularly failing Abraham Lincoln’s character exam.
It would take far more than a single column to detail Trump’s failures in the months following his bleak inaugural address. But the Republican leaders who have subjugated themselves to the White House’s corrupting influence fell short of Lincoln’s standard long before their favorite reality-TV star brought his gaudy circus act to Washington.
‘Lie after lie after lie’: Fox News’s Shepard Smith has a Cronkite moment on Russia
Between its “Fox and Friends” morning show and Sean Hannity at night, Fox News has become a haven for those who think this whole Russia thing is nonsense. On Friday morning, Steve Doocy even declared that “the Russia story is starting to fall apart.”
But on Friday afternoon, a Fox host went off on the Trump administration's handling of Russia in a way we've rarely seen.
Shepard Smith is no stranger to challenging the administration and occasionally launching into personal editorials — including one about refugees back in 2015. But on Friday afternoon, he took it a step further, repeatedly accusing the administration of lying, deception and a coverup.
After reporting that there appeared to be more people in that meeting with Russian lawyer than previously acknowledged, Smith had either a Howard Beale or a Walter Cronkite moment, depending on your perspective, and he lit into the White House.
It’s important that Fox viewers hear it, too. So far Charles Krauthammer and Shep Smith have laced into Trump where his base can hear it. It takes a toll over time.
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