Sunday, October 30, 2016

Stop The E-Mail Panic! Hillary Will Still Win!

Come on now, be honest. Did you panic on Friday night? Are you still panicked over the emails that might cost Hillary the election and you your sanity? Are you angry that Hillary set up a private email server in the first place? Even angrier that FBI Director James Comey had the gall to insinuate himself into the election?

I'm here to tell you that you are wasting precious emotional and intellectual capital by doing any of those things. Hillary Clinton will be elected president on November 8 and chances are good that the Democrats will control the Senate, if only because Vice president Tim Kaine will be around to break ties.

What makes me so confident you say? First and foremost, there doesn't seem to be anything that indicates this new batch of (10,000+) emails came from Clinton's server. They are messages that Huma Abedin had because she was printing them out or they were duplicates of emails that Clinton had already given to the FBI. Of course, there could be some messages that we don't know about or ones that Anthony Weiner saw and shouldn't have, but that's what the FBI is looking at. The GOP can say all it wants about investigating Clinton's server, but that's not an issue here.

Also, the Clinton campaign will make this about James Comey, and will do so effectively. He will need to defend his actions when other Justice Department officials told him that they opposed releasing such a bombshell so close to a presidential election date. He will ultimately need to say that he doesn't know what's in these emails and that to conclude that the are in any way incriminating would be wrong. Then the GOP will attack him and the story will continue to be about James Comey, not Hillary Clinton.

I understand why he sent his letter to Congress, because to sit on this information until the election was over would open him up to accusations that he wasn't following the law. And obviously if there was something incriminating he has his duty to release it, but there isn't any. In fact, his letter to FBI employees states specifically that they don't know what's on the computers. This is irresponsible. Imagine if you did that on your job. The job you would then lose, I mean.

The other nonissue is that most voters have already made up their minds and either have voted or wouldn't dream of voting for Trump. This is where polarization works to Hillary's advantage. If the GOP had a reputable candidate and the election was close, then I could see being worried. But Donald has already overreached by calling this as big as Watergate and I'm assuming that Comey will need to clarify that the FBI doesn't know what it has, so that will undercut Trump's attempts at blaming anything specific on Hillary. Plus, the email issue is nothing new and it won't erase the terrible things that Trump has said over the course of the campaign.

What about the polls, you say? The polls have been tightening, right? Well, yes and not-so-yes. The margin by which Hillary has been leading, since July, I might add, is getting a bit smaller, but that seems to be because recalcitrant Republicans who were repulsed by Trump's misogyny are coming back to the party. They'll regret it later, but Trump's improvement has been almost entirely built on his getting a greater share of GOP voters than he did earlier this month.

Most state polls, which are the ones that we should be watching, show that he's behind in most of the swing states and has never led in the Electoral College projections since the campaign started. He could even win Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina and Florida and still lose, assuming that Clinton wins Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, which she will, so I don't know why you're bothering me about this. Probably because you've been consulting the mainstream press, which has an interest in creating uncertainty so you'll continue to consume their messages. Please stop.

The most important thing that Democrats can do now is to vote. I know that some thought that Hillary had this in the bag, but that's not true if people don't vote for her and Democrats for House and Senate. Vote early if you can. This election is too vital not to.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hillary Dumps Donald: The Debates Do Their Job

I love the presidential debates. Why, especially in a campaign that will go down in history as one of the nastiest? Because the debates uncover what the candidates want to cover. They ultimately show us the character of the candidates. And they tell us a great deal about how each person would rule, should they win the election.

This year was no different than any other.

For most of the campaign, the media reported that Donald Trump was unique and that he could say anything without exacting any penalty from the electorate. We were also told that Hillary Clinton was a flawed, unpopular, programmed candidate who could do nothing but damage herself in the debates because, surely, Trump and the moderators would pummel her with the emails and the foundation and Benghazi! It turned out that exactly the opposite was true.

Hillary Clinton's performance in the three debates will become mandatory viewing for anyone who aspires to national office. She utterly defeated, deflated and defanged Donald Trump with clinical efficiency and cool professional effectiveness. She turned questions about her weaknesses into attacks on Trump, and was able to deflect the more damaging accusations into her past with a smile. Of course, we all want candidates to answer for their sins, but part of being a great debater is knowing how to parry and evade. Clinton did that; Trump did not. By the end of the third debate, it was crystal clear that Trump did not prepare or have any strategy other than to bully, interrupt, cite questionable evidence or hurl accusations.

And this is where the debates were so instructive. They really did show us that the Trump campaign is a Potemkin operation, built on personality and the teachings of Chairman Breitbart, with the GOP's greatest conspiratorial hits from the 1990s thrown in. They also showed that Trump is not suited for the presidency. Given the biggest stage of the campaign, he didn't prepare, and it showed. His answers were short and scattered, he didn't press advantages that he did have, and his behavior was abominable. For someone who was supposed to be able to use his television experience, his body language showed him to be too aggressive, and his constant interruptions came off as ill-mannered. He went for every piece of chum that Hillary threw at him and he got angry, which rarely plays well on the tube (contrast Trump with Reagan's "I paid for that microphone" line to see the difference between power and tantrum).

Clinton was not perfect, but she was close. Trump helped by letting her off the hook on many occasions and by reacting too emotionally when she brought up things that he didn't expect, which is part of debate preparation. She interrupted him at times despite her promise to "go high," but she understood that she had to seem even more in control because she's a woman, so she couldn't back down. At the third debate, where she essentially closed the deal on the election, Clinton spoke forcefully and in command of the issues. She's clearly thought a great deal about them over the course of her adulthood and she enunciated them impeccably last week. Trump played along for a while, but his lack of preparation, personal control, and content sunk him.

In the end, we learned a great deal about each candidate. Clinton did her due diligence, Trump did not. She displayed a command of events and issues and explained them in cogent, factual terms. Trump was able to do that on occasion, but he then got caught in rhetorical whirlpools which led to what unfortunately became signature moments that didn't help his campaign. She was able to put him on the defensive and keep him there; he tried, but didn't have the intellectual stamina to press his points. He called her names and accused Clinton of conspiracies and plots that the right has manufactured for almost 30 years. He also, fatally, said he would not accept defeat.

As for Trump being able to say anything he wanted and get away with it, those days ended for good with the groping tape. Trump had always been penalized for what he said, rarely polling over 42% nationwide and never leading in the electoral college count, but the media couldn't fold up its tent in July, so they continued to feed us the story that this campaign was different and that political correctness was on the run. Yes, there is a sizable group of people in this country who support Trump and what he says, but there are far more who finally saw through his tactics and are abandoning him with impressive speed.

The record low for a major party candidate in a presidential election is a popular vote of 39%. I predict that Trump will poll lower on election day. He'll cry fraud, but he's the only fraud in the race. Clinton beat him fair and square in three debates because she's the most qualified of the two, and of many more, to be president.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Indefensible, And Getting Worse

Political parties blow up. That's a fact of life. But not all political explosions are similar and this year's nuclear meltdown of the Republican Party is unique in the United States and, I'm sure, terrifying to other countries who depend upon our, well, dependability to keep the peace, ensure economic tranquility and to fight against injustice most of the time.

Consider. When the Democrats blew up in 1972, the issue was the Vietnam War and the influence of the far left wing, many of whose adherents were communists. That year's nominee, George McGovern, a Senator from South Dakota, was not the party's first choice, but since Nixon's dirty tricks campaign had eliminated Edmund Muskie and scared off Ted Kennedy, this is what the Democrats were left with. Add to the fact that Nixon was popular after having gone to China in February and that the GOP had wads of (unregulated, illegal, corporate) cash, the race was going to be an uphill climb for McGovern. Then he made the mistake of naming a semi-vetted running mate, Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri as his VP. When word got out that he had undergone shock therapy and had to drop out, any momentum McGovern was going to get was gone. His policies veered too far to the left and the pictures of long-haired, drug-taking hippie freaks in Nixon attack ads pretty much sealed his fate. Watergate hastened the return of the party in 1976, behind a religious, centrist Jimmy Carter, but that was just the drain plug that couldn't hold back the conservative tide that won three elections in the 1980s.

Ah, the good old days.

The Republican Party's descent into political hell that Donald Trump is leading makes 1972 seem like a peaceful transition in a Scandinavian country. His especially noxious brand of politics, which by the by has been on display from Day 1 of his campaign, is unprecedented for a presidential campaign in this country. He has decided that the issues don't matter, except to point out that he would arrest and jail his Democratic opponent, arrest millions of immigrants, and build the wall with Mexican money. Everything else he's said over the past week has been offensive, sexist, contradictory, or just plain unintelligible.

His focus on women's looks and bodies is a reminder that we not only continue to have a race problem, we have a gender problem in the United States. We also seem to have a problem understanding how destructive words and actions can be and we also have a problem realizing that words can be equal to an assault if they cause someone to change their physical or psychic behavior. The latest right wing defense of his words seems to rely on the fact that he didn't act on them, and that those women who said that he did act on them should have reported them contemporaneously. But that's not how power relationships and bullying work. Plus, in some ways, it's easier to let it go if that person, and Trump certainly is one of those people, might have control over your financial or personal future.

And his incessant talk about physical appearance is beyond any locker room I've been in. Men joke, men comment, men wish, men hope, men beg, but decent men do not talk about grabbing, groping, or physically assaulting women, and if they do, most of the time they get called on it. Trump's comments saying that he would not have tried anything with the women who've accused him of lewd behavior because they aren't attractive enough for him is far beyond the bounds of respectable behavior. Forget about disqualifying him to be president; that behavior should disqualify him from being an employee at any corporation with a functioning Human Relations department.

It's a good thing that he's going to lose badly, but the terrible part is that he's going to drag down our political culture over the next three weeks. he will not discuss issues and he won't allow Hillary Clinton to say much about policy in the final debate this Wednesday. He will likely challenge the results of the election and I'm assuming he won't concede in the traditional manner. What we as decent citizens of this country need to do is to explain to our young people that this election is an anomaly, and that it should wake us up to the danger of any candidate who objectifies groups of people, shames them or speaks dismissively of them.

This quote never gets old: "Have you no decency, sir?"

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Friday, October 7, 2016

It's October, But This Is Not a Surprise

I suppose the real question is why it took so long for the smoking gun tape to make its way out of the sewer that is Donald Trump's campaign for president. We've been building up to this since 2010, when the Tea Party ran some candidates who decided that rape was a major public policy item, not for the shame and injustice it rained down on women, but because evidently many Republican men believed that a woman couldn't get pregnant as a result of it or that it was much ado about nothing. Yes, we always knew that Trump was disgraceful sexist and that he saw women as objects to be conquered or groped, but somehow the morality bar got buried under the sand this presidential go 'round and his rantings became the stuff of boys will be boys or, worse, lauded by some as evidence that we'd lost our sense of humor in the haze and smoke of political correctness.

There's a reason the word "correctness" is associated with the phrase. Because it's correct to respect women, and the other minorities and physically challenged people that Trump has savaged. It's correct to actually speak from facts and research, not from the good old 1950s paradigm that many of Trump's supporters want the country to return to. And it's correct to hold everybody accountable for remarks that denigrate any person for whatever reason.

And we are learning so much about the Republican Party and its candidates, aren't we? Mike Pence, Trump's running mate, said nothing after reporters repeatedly peppered him with questions about Trump's remarks. Corey Lewandowski, Trump's once and present advisor, reminded us that we're electing the leader of the free world and one who needs to lead by example, not a Sunday school teacher, which presumably means that the president can say anything he wants in the interests of being tough. Paul Ryan didn't appear on stage with Trump.

Sorry, not good enough. The party leaders and elected officials need to condemn, in no uncertain words, what Trump has said. They need to disavow his campaign and, at the very least, withdraw their support. It's bad enough that Trump's ideas are dangerous and incoherent. It's quite another for this man to think that he can follow a man like Barack Obama into the White House and have any moral standing.

This of course will be one of the topics of Sunday's debate, but I expect that since voters will be asking questions, that they will move on to jobs and security and taxes and other issues that should be the crux of Sunday's event. Hillary, though, will not leave it alone, nor should she. This is exactly why we need a strong woman as president. The country needs to get over the female leader barrier in the same way that we've smashed the race barrier at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

 Perhaps this means that we'll get the landslide election we clearly deserve.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, October 2, 2016

This Trump Guy Is Volatile, No?

What a difference a week makes. The buildup to last week's debate was breathless, and so was the debate itself, what with Trump wasting his energy interrupting Hillary and getting red in the face as she baited him all evening. He clearly had not prepared much other than to ask himself who the best-looking, smartest, most leader-like candidate in the race was. And of course his mirror had the answer, as it always does.

Then came the continuing attack on Alicia Machado as Trump tried to tie her to a sex tape and other sordid events from her past, many of which she has owned up to. But he fell into the Republican male blame-the-victim trap. Ms. Machado might have some things in her past. That doesn't mean it's in any way excusable for him to shame her about her weight. And then to continue to do so on Twitter at 3:00am when nobody should do anything on any electronic device anywhere. Anywhere. Go back to sleep.

And of course today there's the report that Trump might not have paid any income tax over an 18 year period because of, well, the tax laws. And the reason he might not have had to pay was because his businesses...sucked wind. Went bankrupt. Failed. For someone who's running on his managerial and business acumen, he surely doesn't have a successful track record. But why would that surprise anyone? He's been running on non-sequiters and nonsense for over a year. Now that the national media has woken up, he's not getting away with saying the things that his base voters think is true.

What's also remarkable about the past week is that media outlets that are normally rock-solid Republican, like the Arizona Republic and the Cincinnati Enquirer. USA Today went out of their way to tell people how dangerous the man is. The free ride is over.

The polls, which saw  movement towards Trump as of last weekend, are now moving to Clinton. That's good news for her, but she does have to be careful because this week has been all about Donald the Terrible and very little about Clinton's vision for the future. I'm sure she'll take the help that Trump is giving her, but she really did want to spend the post-debate period talking positively about what she'd do to help the country. I'm not sure that Trump will ever let her do that because he'll do anything to keep the media spotlight on him and he clearly has no desire to enunciate a coherent policy agenda over the final 5 weeks of the campaign.

There are two more presidential debates, and a VP face-off on Monday, but really, can Donald Trump undo the damage he's done over the past few months? Does the GOP and the media think that one good, solid debate performance from him will wipe away the things he's said about women, minorities and every other group in this country? I don't think so, plus he's shown no compulsion to do anything except try to convince the electorate that he is absolutely right on every issue and that only he can fix our problems. This has to be frustrating to Hillary because she can't seem to lead the headlines with policy, as she wants to. The next debate will likely be an even worse experience for her as I'm expecting Trump to interrupt every answer she tries to give and to bring up everything except what he'll do the help the country.

It will be fiery television, but not much else.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest