Is Trump trying to lose? — Part One

Over the past two months, this question has occurred to me several times. Other commentators have raised it, too, and I’m not speaking of the many joking suggestions that Trump is actively scheming to throw the election so he won’t have to stop playing golf.

For me, the nagging suspicion he might not want to be President began with his apparent disinterest in working on a campaign launch in the weeks after locking up the Republican nomination. Trump boasts endlessly about his skill as a builder. The planning and preparatory steps before a major building construction project can begin are time-critical. But in spite of his alleged savvy as a builder, Trump showed no evidence he was even thinking about the urgent tasks that were required to run a professional campaign.

  • He put off the replacement of his Primary campaign manager, who was not qualified to run a full general election campaign
  • When he finally did appoint a “Campaign Chairman”, he selected a lobbyist with no campaign management track record
  • He neglected to build a professional, proven campaign team that could potentially rival the top-grade legion Clinton’s managers had already assembled in Brooklyn
  • He repeatedly bashed polling professionals, saying he didn’t need them
  • He trashed the Republican National Committee and the Republican leadership in Congress — an odd thing to do since he sorely needed their support and material help
  • He failed to establish and foster a relationship with the RNC on the workaday staff level
  • A self-styled media and TV giant, Trump twiddled his thumbs as, all through June and early July, the Clinton organization pounded him with devastating TV ads in the swing states
  • He was content to make overblown promises about the fast-approaching Republican Convention, while doing little to ensure the show would be successful
  • Most incredulous of all, Trump failed to field an effective fund-raising machine and failed to secure funding from traditional Republic wealthy donors — Trump’s constant crowing about being “self-funded” was turning out to be true, and, after an alleged $50 million investment, Mr. Self was backing away from being Mr. Funding.

As the convention approached, the Trump team, what there was of it, was in full disarray. The antagonistic relationship with the RNC was deteriorating. Trump had no policies, no powerful surrogates, no plan, no swing state ground strategy, no advertising, and, we soon saw, no top-name supporters for the convention. What the Trump team had was baseball caps, which he wore proudly to rallies, with little evidence of a serious brain in the head underneath.

As a manager with national project roll-out experience, my conclusion became firm: Donald Trump had become the Accidental Candidate, and was not sure what to do about it. In spite of his decades of bluster, I remain convinced Trump knows he is a terrible manager, not very bright, and incapable of learning. He dare not confess any of this, but the record of his actions, failures, lashing out like an adolescent, and dumb remarks shows it to be true.

By the end of June, he had found himself faced with a mountain of work and hundreds of decisions to make. Trump does not like to work, nor has he the patience with reading or learning enough to make a rational decision. Licensing his name is not “work”, and requires no more than a few accountants and lawyers to do the actual thinking. Donald can simply fly around in his jumbo jet and play golf in his own country clubs, all in the name of “promotion”.

Life as President would be a form of imprisonment, by contrast.

His wife was not happy with the crazy notion of trading their isolated, private, leisurely luxurious life for the 24/7, minute-by-minute regimented, fishbowl existence of a President and his First Lady. His children may have been opposed, too, but we’ll never know the truth since they’re totally intimidated by their authoritarian father. Not to mention they have the prospect of receiving a hundred million dollars or more each for going along with him.

He was being pulled, maybe dragged, along by his advisors and associates, each of whom had a great deal to gain on the remote chance he could win in November, and as much to lose if he dropped out. Would Trump want to run if the only potential beneficiaries were a bunch of sleaze merchants and political opportunists? I very much doubt it.

All these factors must have given Trump grounds to simply walk away from the nomination before the convention bestowed it in mid-July. But, in my view, all these arguments to quit while he still could paled before a much larger reason.

Along with all his other personal characteristics, like them or dismiss them, Trump is a fighter. He has gotten himself into positions since he was a young man where he had to dig himself or lie his way out from under. In many cases, these situations ended up (or began) on the front page of New York’s tabloid newspapers. He loves publicity, especially when he’s winning a fight, or thinks he is, or thinks he can persuade his fans and detractors alike that he is.

But he’s had enough scrapes in the public eye to know that running for President would be the biggest fight he’d ever face. No doubt, back in the early primaries days, he relished this new kind of battle. Mano-a-bunch of manos! Wow! Knocking them off like so many dumb animals, trophies for his photo wall, proofs of his manliness. It must have been highly energizing for this self-centered, egoistic TV “star”.

Then, after Clinton secured her nomination and turned the focus of her army and her dozens of bigly backers and surrogates on Trump, his view must have changed.

He must have finally understood that the fight with her was not going to be anything like his lightweight battles with the Stumbling Sixteen. He surely realized that every little screw-up or fraudulent or shoddy business deal, and his trail of bankruptcies was going to be brought to light by Clinton’s people or a ravenous media, hungry for signs of the mucky clay under Trump’s feet. He may have suddenly recalled all his bigoted, misogynistic, racist, sexist, mean-spirited remarks that were recorded or videotaped, and that would be dredged up and sprayed on him until even he had to hold his nose. Months of calling Hillary Clinton names were about to return to haunt him. Rally-fuls of absurd claims and lies were now going to be paraded by the national media, and in ads from Florida to Ohio. Years of casting doubts on our President’s citizenship were now going to be used as so many missiles of truth, making him nothing but a cheap White supremacist buffoon, and delivered by the very President he had tried for five years to humiliate.

Mocked mercilessly in his own words as he went down to possibly the greatest loss in American political history — that is what Trump faced as he looked down from his golden palace on the millions of people beneath supremely important Him. The vision of how all those millions he had dominated for so long now seeing his naked shallowness, greed, and utter fecklessness as a person, and worse, laughing at him where once they trembled in his presence: that vision is what, in your Truthteller’s judgment, gave him the most pause in the disorganized weeks before the Republican convention.

We will likely never learn how he mastered his anxieties and continued the quest. But we should not assume that his fears and frightening visions of the coming war were buried forever…

An open letter to Robby Mook

The thunderous Dallas Morning News endorsement of Hillary Clinton this morning must not be minimized, or dismissed as a fluke. For those not aware, this right-wing newspaper is Texas. Not the Texas of the minorities, the students, the working class, or many of Texas’s progressive-leaning professionals; rather, the Texas of the old monied, the propertied, the business barons, the suburban gentry and the ranchers of the endless Texas prairie.

For the Dallas Morning News to defy the official Republican Party line and reject its candidate in damning terms is like splitting the state asunder, letting loose the pent-up energies of millions of forward-thinking Texans who’ve been blocked by decades of obstructionist Republican administrations.

The Dallas Morning News political about-face reflects the low esteem Texans have for Trump, and Clinton’s strong current showing in the state polls. But the endorsement also caps years of steady voter registration drives among minority communities, pro-women activism, and determined election campaigns such as Senator Wendy Davis’ run for Governor.

Today’s striking Dallas Morning News endorsement offers an enormous game-changing opportunity to the Clinton campaign: the Clinton team should mount a bold, aggressive, targeted TV ad campaign, and maintain it through October.

A balanced, sustained anti-Trump, pro Clinton TV campaign in Texas will

  • Force the Republicans to spend hundreds of thousands of scarce dollars on defense
  • Expose Texans to the many flaws and lies of the Trump campaign — most Texans still have little to no knowledge of the Trump U fraud scandal, Trump’s campaign law violations, Trump’s legacy of failed Casinos and other businesses, or Trump’s now-you-see-it-on-video, now-he-denies-it history for over a year of misogyny, sexism, racism, and flat-out anti-Constitutional statements
  • Let Texans see for themselves why so many true Republicans and Conservatives have openly stated he is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief.

On the positive side, the campaign will

  • Energize the Democratic candidates and their supporters — the Democrats of Texas have not seen support from the national party in the past fifty years
  • Motivate Black and Latino voters to register, then come out to vote
  • Be a lightning rod for a hundred thousand or more Texas students — these young people have no effective way to show their contempt for Trump; a push by the Clinton campaign would give their voices a megaphone
  • Show Texas voters who Hillary Clinton really is, and what she has really done over her 40-plus years of dedicated public service.

The potential results of this bold campaign stratagem are profound:

  • Flip Texas, with its 38 Electoral Votes, from red to blue in the current election
  • Potentially carry several Democratic congressional candidates to victory, flipping those vital House seats
  • Give a stunning win to the progressive New Texas Coalition forces in the first battle for a permanently purple Texas going forward.

Moving Texas to the political center in one bold move would radically change the political strategic map for 2020 and beyond.

But the win this November needs to be the first step. It can be accomplished with a precision-guided Democratic ad campaign.

Pivoting, Trump Style

If “pivot” means do a one-eighty, then of course a pivot by Trump has to be twice as great. And sure enough, he’s done a full 360 turn, taking him and his unfortunate watchers full circle, where we can expect him to be just as mindless and ignorant as before, but with teleprompters and a ramped up volume.

Proof? Just a few days after bringing on his new campaign leadership team, we see the “new” Trump on full-throated display, as he shouts his meaningless or outright lying claims from behind teleprompters. I mean, readers, he literally shouts, as if his voice and tone were somehow going to be anything but scary to those his campaign needs to be persuading at this late stage.

“Believe me!” he yells at African-Americans, “I’m your friend! I promise you! Trust me!” he insists, in spite of the history of the Republican Party, which has totally ignored the needs and issues of Black Americans for the past forty years and more.

Of course, we all, I hope, understand that Trump’s not really “outreaching” to all those Black voters safely not seated in his rally audiences; he’s speaking to on-the-fence White voters, ostensibly re-assuring them that he’s not really the racist his sociopath mouth has projected these past 15 months. His real message? He’s suggesting he can make up wholesale lies, undersigned by a phony promise of support for African-American concerns, then sell it to them because, as he and his white-supremacist pals will tell you, these ignorant Black voters will believe anything.

They won’t, Donald. Especially coming from you, who’ve made your racist notions and bigotry clear to all who care to listen. And, more to the point, the 95% of Black voters who support Clinton won’t simply walk away from her; they remember how she and her husband have advocated for all America’s minorities for all those same decades of Republican disdain and hate-based neglect.

Enter the Chief Executive Hatemonger

As if we needed more evidence of Trump’s willful determination to raise his campaign’s level of irrational hate and ignorance, we note how he’s turned over the leadership role to Stephen Bannon, the boss and ideological head of Breitbart News.

Trump has named Bannon as the “Campaign CEO”, although it isn’t clear what a political-type CEO might be–in our mind the “CEO” of a political race is the candidate. But in a case like this one where the candidate appears to have no brains, or will to work, or patience with campaigning, maybe turning all this boring detailed stuff over to an experienced political operations manager is a typically brilliant Trumpian move.

Except…

Stephen Bannon has exactly zero experience in directing a major political campaign, much less in turning one around that’s drifting toward the rocks. What he does have is years of experience in publishing hit jobs targeting Hillary Clinton. And years of experience running hard core right wing racist, xenophobic web sites. And a radio show specializing in promoting conspiracy theories. And the first name of Steve, to go with all those other Steves Trump recently named to his “Economics Advisory” team, even though their history is one of ripping off economies, not fixing them. Bannon’s an ideal Steve for Trump, in short.

For sure, Bannon’s a perfect choice for managing a web-based 80 day hate-burst directed at Clinton, the liberals and progressives backing her, and the huge group of Republican establishment and moderate sell-outs and traitors undermining Trump. But he’s suspect as an actual manager of a full-on national campaign team. Meaning Trump needed to also appoint an experienced political campaign manager.

Step on down, Kellyanne!

Polls going down? Leading Republicans racing for the exits? Women still strongly opposed to the man who would be il Douche? Time to turn up the nasty. Adios, Reince, Ryan, and Mc-Mc-McConnell; Bye bye, Mr. Manaflub; hello, Ms. Kellyanne Con.

Kellyanne Conway! Wow, someone with polling and campaign strategy chops! Now, we’re talking! And talking. And talking. And talking. Which she does really well, provided she is not forced to say anything factual, answer a direct question, or give a rational explanation of Trump’s latest idiotic rant or thoughtless comment. She is really something at saying nothing!

Which explains why Conway is far and away the star performer among Trump’s media surrogates. She’s so accomplished at spreading misinformation on the cable news channels that it’s surprising Trump would pull her off the air. Oh, but he needs a campaign manager, right.

But the problem is, she isn’t one. She’s a mid-rank pollster who’s never managed a campaign of any size, much less a national one. Her role will be the latest in a long, unsuccessful line of Trump whisperers, riding on the plane with him, calming his inner Beast. “Everything’s good, Mr. Trump! Forget those dozens of mean, biased polls; look at these two!…See?! The sun’s coming up, Mr. Trump! The rally tonight in Beyond Hope, Florida, will be a great success, I just know it will! But please try not to speak quite so loudly this time over the teleprompters, OK?…Yes we can sleep at Mar-a-Lago, tonight, poor tired baby.”

What we’re witnessing is supposedly a “new” Trump campaign, but what we’re actually seeing is the same old campaign, namely the non-campaign presided over by Lewandowski, then Manafort. Neither Mr. Hate nor Ms. Sunshine is going to be paying any serious attention to campaign financing, implementing a ground game, or getting the loose-lipped candidate prepped for the debate with one of the true barracuda debaters of our era.

And no, in case you’re wondering, Roger Ailes may try to coach Trump a bit before Clinton slices him up like a pouting, whining, overripe orange persimmon, but Ailes is not going to allow himself to be closely connected with the campaign; he knows it’s basically a lost cause, and he doesn’t need that after being booted from Fox.

The net result? No effective campaign means no change in the likely outcome, which Dr. Sam Wang, the best election pollster for this Truthteller’s money, this morning says is a 95% probable win for Clinton.

Yeah, yeah, I know: “We mustn’t be over-confident! He could possibly make a come-back! Florida isn’t a lock!” The first being wise, and the third being true, for now, but the second being nonsense. Confidence comes from rational, detailed analysis, assisted by solid data if one is lucky or persistent enough to have it. Overconfidence reflects the absence of qualified analysis. A comeback? A great horse may be able to make up three or four lengths with a powerful stretch run, but an inferior candidate is not going to succeed in walking back the mountain of stupid, hateful, insulting, lying, self-destructive words he’s shouted for over a year. Especially if he has to waddle all the way.

A Comedy of Terrors — Part One

The less said about the first day of the Republican Party marriage ceremony to Donald Trump, the better, for both parties to the deal.

We’ll have much more to say in a follow-up post about the Trump Campaign of Fear and Loathing, and the scary speeches of the first and second evenings. But the first day featured three extraordinary events that demand our immediate attention.

The first occurred when, soon after the doors to the convention center opened, Trump’s most senior guy, Paul Manaflirt, attacked John Kasich. the governor of Ohio, for failing to show up in Cleveland to welcome the Trump circus. This, after Kasich had repeatedly made clear that he has no intention of supporting Trump’s candidacy. What makes Manafart’s tirade extraordinary is his dumb decision to attack the extremely popular governor on his home turf. Ohio is still rated a toss-up state by most pundits and pollsters, so one would expect the Trumpeters to try and patch up their differences with Kasich. Instead their campaign boss goes out of his way to step on Kasich, and the toes of the politically savvy Ohio Republicans, the very folks who Trump will need to carry the state in November. I can hear the state tipping to Senator Clinton even now…

After Mr. Manaflub’s attack on the Ohio governor, the second event unfolded. It concerned a mid-afternoon attempt by non-Trump delegations in several states, who’d sought to bring an issue to the convention floor. When stymied by the Trump/Preibus Chair flunky, the delegates made a perfectly legitimate request for a role-call vote. After a voice vote imposed on the body from the rostrum, the Chair simply used the ancient tactic of announcing that, in his judgment, the “Ayes” had it. No role call would be permitted, in short, prompting delegates opposed to Trump from Colorado and several other states to walk out of the hall.

Hey, it’s a political convention, right? The Chair steam-rolled the “minority”. Happens all the time in these uniquely American political conventions. So, no big thing, just a rather mild example of a floor-fight amongst opposing delegates. What made the dust-up extraordinary is that Mr. Manafort surely had anticipated this protest on the part of the “Never Trump” faction, yet had made no move to deal with the mini-rebellion in a less arrogant manner.

These conventions are supposed to showcase each party’s well-oiled campaign machine, appealing agenda, positive focus, and unified national party team. Instead, this opening skirmish demonstrated that, once again, the Trump campaign is run and staffed by amateurs who are long on offensive declarations and short on preparation. It comes after the previous week, when its platform committee issued perhaps the most backward-facing, divisive, party platform in 40 years. It revealed to all that unification remains the most important challenge to the mis-managed Trump campaign, since the 60% of Republican and Independent primary voters who opposed Trump’s candidacy through the winter and spring are still not planning to vote for the ticket in November.

All this confusion and consternation would have been soon forgotten had the evening program of shouted Hillary hating drowned out the grumblers who’d been betrayed by the Republican National Committee that afternoon. And then would come the evening’s piece de resistance, the first national speech by Mrs. Mega-rich, the oh-so stylish and pleasant Melania Trump.

But it was not to be. The entire first day of shouting and fear-mongering was brought into sharp focus when Melania delivered a speech where the most moving and elegant phrases had been lifted almost word-for word from Mrs. Obama’s speech in 2008 in support of Barack!

The Trump campaign was utterly gob-smacked overnight and all through the second day, as, initially, Manafortress denied any such plagiarism, and decried the media for being so nasty to even suggest it. Finally, Wednesday mid-day, the third day of the Trump four day clownfest, the confession came, and a junior amateur speech writer fell on her sword. True justice would have called for Manafumble to apologize to poor Melania, the Party, and the country, then be fired by Donald–but we’d be foolish to expect Trump to do an honorable thing.

This third Monday incident was a reminder to all of us, as if we needed another one, just how callous and incompetent the Trump campaign and its leaders are. As will be discussed in a later post, they had planned a four-day marathon of hate, fear, and mistrust, all focused on Clinton and her supposed puppet-masters, Barack and Bill. Instead it has proved to expose the heartless. mindless, thoughtless nature of Trump, his minions, and his new Republican followers.

Before being gulled by the endlessly repeated Trump message of threats and a failed America, one might wish to question going forward how much Trump and his bumbling scheme team can be trusted, and if they are not to be feared far more than the woman who many have declared the most qualified person ever to run for President of the United States.