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Henry Kissinger won’t endorse Hillary Clinton for president. (Or anyone else.)

On Friday morning, to the consternation of many of Clinton’s liberal critics—and supporters—it was reported that Kissinger was about to endorse Hillary Clinton alongside former Secretary of State George Schultz. But, after weeks of will he, won’t he speculation, Kissinger decided not to endorse anyone, releasing a joint statement with Schultz:

The Clinton campaign has explicitly targeted prominent Republicans throughout this election as it tries to convert suburban Republicans who are skeptical of Donald Trump. While many of Clinton’s critics on the left (myself included) have rolled their eyes at that outreach, Kissinger—along with Iraq War architect Paul Wolfowitz—was considered a bridge too far, given his decades-long record of “murderous, illegal foreign policy.” Courting Kissinger in the first place was a mistake, but missing out on his endorsement is the biggest gift the Clinton campaign has given the left in weeks, if not longer, even if it was inadvertent.

October 24, 2016

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Edward Snowden is wrong.

The NSA whistleblower tweeted this morning that, “There may never be a safer election in which to vote for a third option.” Attached to the tweet was a New York Times forecast showing that Hillary Clinton has a 93 percent chance of winning the election. The underlying assumption here, also made by others who favor a third-party vote even if they acknowledge Trump is unfit to be president, is that the only real danger is Trump winning. If there is almost no chance of Trump winning or if you live in state where the vote is so lopsided that it won’t influence the election, the logic goes, there’s no dire reason to vote for Clinton.

The problem with this argument is that a Trump victory isn’t the only danger. Trump has been doing his best to gin up a legitimacy crisis, saying that the system is rigged and that he might not accept the results of the election. Further, the better Trump does, the more likely it is that his political movement will have an after-life and be imitated by future Republican candidates. Trump is leading a dangerous racist movement that is mainstreaming all sorts of hate. For that reason, he needs not just to lose, but to lose by a wide margin, to be buried so deeply that Trumpism can never rise again. A vote for a third party is not at all safe, but one way of giving Trumpism a longer lease on life.

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Is Donald Trump the fabled Snake?

In his speeches, Trump often recites the lyrics of the 1968 Al Wilson song “The Snake,” written by Oscar Brown, Jr. A variation of the fable “The Scorpion and the Frog,” the song tells the story of a naive woman who takes in a wounded snake, only to be betrayed by the predator who bites her and says, “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.” From the point of view of Trump and his supporters, the meaning of the song is this: The United States can’t let in Muslim refugees because they are irrevocably hostile and will turn on those who help them.

But this weekend, an old Trump tweet was recirculated that offers a new layer of meaning to his use of the story.

In “The Scorpion and the Frog,” the scorpion bites the frog even though the act will lead both to drown. He justifies himself by saying, “It’s my nature.”

The identical phrasing is uncanny. It’s almost as if Trump, in some corner of his brain, is aware that he himself is the snake or the scorpion who was too readily accepted by credulous Republicans. That he knows Republicans were wrong to put their faith in a creature who is by his nature both destructive and self-destructive.

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Evan McMullin is part of the problem.

McMullin, who announced his conservative protest bid in August, has nearly pulled even with Trump in his home state of Utah. His appeal is based largely on the fact that he is not Donald Trump; instead, he is a genuine religious conservative. He’s therefore been upheld as an acceptably sane alternative to Trump by #NeverTrumpers on the hunt for a savior.

This is a mistake. McMullin certainly produces sane soundbites, but he, like Trump, represents the extreme fringe of the GOP.

He is stridently anti-abortion and wants to repeal Obamacare. His platform is broadly anti-public education; he promotes charter schools and school vouchers, and reserves a special shout-out for homeschooling. He also supports a sort of soft privatization of the Veterans Health Administration (something the majority of veterans still oppose):

McMullin also boasts some truly fascinating opinions about federal ownership of western land:

Because this election really needed The Ammon Bundy Candidate.

McMullin, of course, is not going to become president. He might not even win Utah. Even so, #NeverTrumpers should rethink their support for McMullin. Normalizing the party’s fringe is precisely what got them into their current predicament.

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How long will Harvard hold out against its striking dining hall workers?

Seven hundred and fifty workers at one of the nation’s most elite universities have been on strike for higher wages and a revision to their health care plans since October 5. It is the first strike at the school in 33 years. But three weeks in, Harvard’s administration shows no signs of budging. Today, one of the striking workers, Rosa Ines Rivera, penned an op-ed for The New York Times in which she wrote, “While I’ve earned no college credits here, I’ve had a lesson in hypocrisy.” As a worker in the public health school dining hall, Rivera noted the gap between the school’s purported mission to make health care a fundamental right for all and its proposal that its lowest paid workers take on a larger share of their health insurance costs.

That proposal would take nearly 10 percent of the workers’ annual incomes, according to an analysis by Harvard medical students, and isn’t affordable for most of the workers based on state guidelines. Ironically, Harvard faculty protested similar changes in health insurance premiums last year, when their deductible was raised from $0 to $250 a person. The school ultimately conceded to the faculty in that fight, offering them plans without any deductibles or coinsurance costs.

The dining hall workers are also demanding a raise, to $35,000 a year. Currently, according to Rivera, the average salary for a Harvard dining hall worker is $31,193 a year. This wasn’t enough to keep her and her two children in their own apartment in the Boston area. Harvard has countered that this salary is higher than the minimum wage and higher than what other cafeteria workers make in Boston. Yet the sticking point for many is that Harvard is the wealthiest school in the nation, with its $35 billion endowment, far above the next school’s by $10 billion.

As faculty, students, local politicians, and even celebrities join the picketers, it is clear that momentum is building to push the administration to re-negotiate with the striking workers and finalize a contract. But there has been no sign from the administration that any progress has been made. Instead, the school has hired temporary workers and offered boxed lunches, a solution that has resulted in students finding meat in bread pudding, uncooked chicken, and bugs in their food. How long will the nation’s wealthiest school hold out?

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Anti-Semitism isn’t “ironic,” “sly,” “mischievous,” or “dissident.”

BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray reported Monday that the alt-right is popularizing an old Nazi term used to discredit journalists: “lügenpresse,” German for “lying press.” As upsetting as that is, the more pernicious problem Gray identifies in her piece is the way white nationalists justify this language as “serious … ironic … and with a sly reference to boot.”

This is becoming a pattern. Earlier this year, after National Review editor Jonah Goldberg was bombarded with anti-Semitic messages online, alt-right hero Milo Yiannopoulos told talk-show host Dave Rubin that “it’s not because there’s a spontaneous outpouring of anti-Semitism from 22-year-olds in this country.” “What it is,” Yiannopoulos said, “is it’s a mischievous, dissident, trolly generation who do it because it gets a reaction.”

Words have specific meanings. Using anti-Semitic slurs, however mischievously, does not erase the original meaning of those words, or the very real pain that their usage causes. Trolling with hate speech is no less bigoted than earnest hate speech.


No, Donald Trump is not losing because of “oversampling.”

On Monday morning, Trump flagged a ZeroHedge story (that had been previously flagged by Matt Drudge) alleging that the reason Trump is down in the polls is because the Clinton campaign conspired to rig polls by “oversampling” Democrats.

This is an outstanding tweet. The double “the,” the use of the third person—top shelf stuff. But it’s also bullshit. Here’s the relevant portion of the WikiLeaks email from Tom Mattzie that ZeroHedge claims is about public polling:

I also want to get your Atlas folks to recommend oversamples for our polling before we start in February. By market, regions, etc. I want to get this all compiled into one set of recommendations so we can maximize what we get out of our media polling.

The email is from Clinton’s 2008 campaign, which you may recall did not turn out so well for her. But Mattzie is not talking about the kinds of polls that show Trump is losing big league, to use one of his favorite phrases—those polls are done by pollsters in concert with media outlets. Instead, he’s talking about polling that campaigns do internally to decide how to target voters.

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who has an excellent explainer on what is (most likely) going on here, writes: “Mattzie’s talking about polling that’s done by campaigns and political action committees to inform media buys. In other words, before campaigns spend $200,000 on a flight of TV spots, they’ll poll on the messages in those ads and figure out what to say to whom and then target that ad to those people as best they can.” The oversampling portion of the email, Bump goes on to explain, refers to the fact that it’s often difficult to get the right sample sizes: “Normal polling in a state will usually have no problem getting enough white people in the mix to evaluate where they stand, but you may need to specifically target more black or Hispanic voters to get a statistically relevant sample size.” In this instance, Mattzie is probably referring to “Native Americans and Democrat-leaning independents and moderate Republican women.”

Could the polls showing Clinton with a sizable lead be wrong? Sure. But not because they’ve been rigged by the Clinton campaign.

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Donald Trump is nearing Act IV of King Lear.

Trump has been in the wilderness ever since the Billy Bush tape knocked his already off-course campaign far, far off-course. Trump has had moments where he seemed like a classic underdog politician, but they’ve been undermined by Trump’s instability. Saturday’s “Gettysburg Address,” for instance, in which he laid out a plan for his first 100 days in office, was overshadowed by the fact that he spent fifteen minutes railing against the women who accused him of sexual assault. (Trump promised to sue his accusers. He won’t.)

On the one hand, his rallies are more venomous than ever, especially now that Trump himself has embraced the “lock her up” mantra. But on the other, Trump has been increasingly reflective (for him), often asking the audience if he did the right thing by running for president. Here’s Jenna Johnson’s Washington Post report from a rare Sunday Trump rally:

Trump has said he plans to campaign as hard as he can because he does not want to look back and regret not holding “one more rally” in a key battleground state. But on Sunday evening, he seemed unsure about his original decision to run, suddenly halting from reading a teleprompter speech to ask the audience.

“When I’m president, if companies want to fire their workers and leave — Are you okay? Listen. When I’m president, this is to me, like, this is why I started. Are we glad that I started? Are we happy?” Trump said, as the crowd encouragingly cheered him on. “Well, I’ll let you know on the evening of Nov. 8 whether I’m glad.”

Trump continues to insist that he’s winning the election, citing increasingly obscure polls in his defense. But he also appears to be trying to wrap his brain around the prospect of losing the presidential election. And more pathos is yet to come. Trump has always been more Regan than Lear (and his children, at least, seem less shrewd and more loyal than Lear’s), but as he lashes out more and more, these pitiful moments are becoming common.

Of course, it’s also possible that losing will change absolutely nothing. On Sunday, Trump told the audience that he wants to continue having rallies for eight more years, no matter who wins on November 8. God help us all.

October 21, 2016

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Chris Christie is screwed.

On Friday, Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, testified that Christie knew and approved of a “traffic study” that would close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge at least a month before the lanes were closed. The lane closures were allegedly political payback against a Democratic rival.

This is very bad news for Christie, who has repeatedly denied knowing anything about the lane closures before they went into effect, despite the involvement of his top aides. Over the last several weeks of a federal trial investigating Bridgegate, however, the dots have been connected. Kelly’s testimony has made clear what was already widely assumed, that Christie was aware of, if not behind, this petty and illegal act of political retribution.

Christie still has one year left to serve as governor, but could very well be impeached before that. He’s already essentially a lame duck, and has spent much of the last six months campaigning on behalf of Donald Trump. Christie’s avid support for Trump has been mystifying to some, but it makes perfect sense: Both politicians never give an inch, Christie is enamored with the rich and famous, and, perhaps most importantly, President Trump represents the only possible salvation for Christie. Riding Trump’s coattails, as Mike Pence has proved, can be a good way to escape being an unpopular governor.

But it increasingly looks like Christie has no escape: Trump is going to lose and Bridgegate is slowly but surely undoing his career.

This is the most moving political ad of 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has released an exceptionally effective video in which Khizr Khan tells the story of his son, Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq while stopping a suicide bomber in 2004.

“He saw a suicide bomber approaching his camp,” Khizr Khan explains as he walks in living room toward a photo of the fallen soldier. “My son moved forward to stop the bomber. When the bomb exploded he saved everyone in his unit. Only one American soldier died. My son was Captain Humayun Khan. He was 27 years old and he was a Muslim American.” Khizr Khan’s voice starts to break as he says, “I want to ask Mr. Trump, would my son have a place in your America?”

What makes this ad so bracing is not just the story of Khizr Khan, but that last question, which lays out the implications of Trump’s xenophobia in the most basic terms.

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The Trump campaign’s version of “exit polling” sounds pretty scary.

As the campaign continues to stoke fears of a “stolen” election and widespread voter fraud, Trump himself has called on supporters to “go out and watch” the polls. But until now, his appeal for poll monitors wasn’t linked to any organized effort. Enter Roger Stone, the Republican Party’s dirty trickster. Stone will lead a crowd-funded exit poll targeting nine Democratic-leaning cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, and Charlotte, encompassing 600 precincts that have large numbers of minority voters. With exit poll volunteers potentially including armed vigilante groups like Bikers for Trump and other groups from the controversial Citizens for Trump coalition, this looks more like a voter intimidation campaign than a watchdog effort.  

While Stone has long trafficked in conspiracies of “manipulated” voting machines by the Clinton campaign, this is a new tactic. Never mind that exit polls, in general, are often not an accurate gauge of how voters actually voted, or that approximately 80 percent of voters will be using paper ballots. 

With Trump’s poll numbers continuing to slide, all signs from his campaign point to an unprecedented wave of dangerous messaging that targets vulnerable voters and districts on Election Day. The Stone-founded organization coordinating the exit poll, Stop the Steal, is also spreading the claim that Clinton plans to “flood the polls with illegals,” which just sounds like code for harassing legitimate Latino and other non-white voters. Which leads us to the question: Who will be watching the poll watchers?