Hillary Clinton has to do better.

The deck was stacked against Clinton at last night’s NBC presidential forum. Matt Lauer, who rolled over like a trained poodle when presented with 99 percent of Trump’s lies, had his real journalist hat on when grilling Clinton. The questions she received from the audience were more pointed as well, compared to the relatively straightforward ones Trump still managed to screw up. If you needed evidence that Clinton is being graded on a curve, this was it.

As my colleague Ryu Spaeth wrote this morning, Clinton’s performance shouldn’t really matter. This election is about Donald Trump, and there was plenty of evidence in last night’s 30-minute interview that he is not fit to lead.

But still: Going into the debates, Hillary Clinton has to do better. Last night, she played political prevent defense. She was trying to project an appearance of being detail-oriented and ready to lead, but she came off, as The Daily Beast wrote shortly after the debate, as “lawyerly—technical where unnecessary, vague where details were necessary, or simply utterly wrong.”

The way she addressed the question of ISIS were representative. Clinton, like Trump, did not explain how she would defeat ISIS; unlike Trump, she presented something that sounded like a plan, but wasn’t. “We have to defeat ISIS,” she said. “That is my highest counterterrorism goal. And we’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS.” But we won’t do it with ground troops, she insisted. It was a mix of defensiveness (trying to atone for her previous position on the Iraq War) and pandering (We’re going to defeat ISIS!), with a hint of her real strength: her passionate and comprehensive policy knowledge.

At other times, she simply seemed defensive.

Again, Clinton was held to a different standard than Trump on Wednesday night. But answers like this don’t work in a presidential forum and they especially won’t work when juxtaposed with Trump’s straight talk.

October 21, 2016

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Hell is working at Wells Fargo.

The Times has published a series of stomach-rolling firsthand accounts of what it was like to work for the bank, which in September was hit with a fine of $185 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for creating millions of fake checking and credit card accounts to bilk customers. At the time, Wells Fargo said it had laid off more than 5,000 employees caught up in the scheme, which suggested that it was rooting out bad apples. But the Times story shows that Wells Fargo employees were victims of merciless pressure across the company to jack up the number of accounts per customer, resulting in as many as five accounts for a single person, including accounts that were supposed to be used on special days like Christmas or a family member’s birthday.

The employees knew that they were robbing these customers, but were intimidated by their superiors if they voiced dissent. In response, one woman developed a hand sanitizer addiction—as in, she drank hand sanitizer around the office to deal with it all, eventually developing a bottle-a-day habit. Another had to go to the emergency room for anxiety attacks. And yet another contracted shingles from the stress. Shingles is painful!

As Elizabeth Warren told CEO John Stumpf at a Senate Banking Committee hearing in September: “So you haven’t resigned. You haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings. You haven’t fired a single senior executive. Instead, evidently, your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves. It’s gutless leadership.” Stumpf should definitely be fired for overseeing a massive scam. But what’s the punishment for turning your workplace into a psychological torture chamber?

Bless your heart, Brian Babin.

Babin, a Republican congressman and erstwhile dentist, shared some profound thoughts about Donald Trump’s “nasty woman” comment on the Alan Colmes Show yesterday evening. Via MSNBC:

“You know what, she’s saying some nasty things,” the Texas congressman answered.

Colmes asked again if the comment was appropriate, to which Babin responded, “Well, I’m a genteel Southerner, Alan.”

“So that means no?” Colmes asked.

“No, I think sometimes a lady needs to be told when she’s being nasty,” Babin replied. “I do.”

Let’s pretend, just for a moment, that the archetypal genteel Southerner does exist outside the fevered imaginations of Confederate re-enactors. Calling a woman “nasty” sits far outside the mythological etiquette Babin is trying to invoke. It’s an amusing and ultimately doomed attempt to deploy the self-congratulatory legend of The Southern Gentleman (in defense of a foul-mouthed Yankee, no less).

There’s only one proper response to Babin, and it’s one any real Southerner fears: Bless his heart.

October 20, 2016

Orjan F. Ellingvag/Dagens Naringsliv/Corbis via Getty Images

Donald Trump is the candidate the pro-life movement deserves.

In The Washington Post today, Fordham University professor Charles Camosy argues that Trump represents an existential threat to the pro-life movement:

[I]f he is elected president, our opponents on abortion will be able to rightly point out that the anti-abortion movement is led by a misogynist, racist, narcissist who is blinded by his own privilege. Successfully making this case is the only way left for abortion rights activists to stop anti-abortion momentum, but it plays into deeply-held stereotypes of the movement—stereotypes still held by media formed during the culture wars.

Camosy neglects to mention that those “stereotypes” of the single-minded pro-life activist are based on facts. He even writes, We [the pro-life movement] have almost completed the struggle of disentangling ourselves from the toxic, simplistic, binary culture wars of the 1970s.”

This is false. The pro-life movement still frames abortion as murder. That framing makes it a binary issue by default and therefore lends itself easily to hyperbole: Good and moral people hate baby murder. Bad and immoral people don’t.

This is tempting prey for someone like Donald Trump. If there is anything he knows how to do very well, it’s crafting a sales pitch. Trump understood that he simply needed to repeat a few pieces of boilerplate in order to win the bulk of the pro-life vote, despite being famously squishy on the issue. And it worked. Pro-lifers backed him; they campaigned for him; they even joined his advisory committee. By endorsing Trump, prominent pro-lifers proved their critics correct: They really do prioritize the welfare of fetuses over the welfare of everyone else.

Donald Trump just declared he won’t accept the results of the election if he loses, and he is going to lose.

“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election—if I win,” the Republican nominee said at a rally in Delaware, Ohio, on Thursday.

Trump may later claim he was joking about this deadly serious subject—he was smiling broadly as he delivered the line. But he has long claimed that the election is being “rigged” or “stolen” from him, and he spoke without a trace of humor at the rally when he said, “I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.”

A questionable result, as far as Trump is concerned, is any result that shows he lost. If voters’ current preferences hold, then, it seems clear he’ll be contesting the results of next month’s election.

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Jane Sanders does not beg.

Bernie Sanders’s wife lashed out on Twitter Thursday about a WikiLeaks email from Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook last year saying she twice called Peter Shumlin, Vermont’s Democratic governor, “and begged him to change his mind” about endorsing Clinton in the presidential primary. Sanders also slammed Shumlin for the timing of his endorsement, which came just hours after her husband’s campaign announced plans for its kickoff event.

The Sanders campaign’s frustration was understandable. The press cast Shumlin’s move as a “snub” and evidence the democratic-socialist senator was “not getting support from key leaders in his home state.”


Of course Mark Halperin is trying to defend Donald Trump.

Every episode of Morning Joe is special, but today’s episode was truly very special. Morning Joe bullied Bill Kristol and almost made him cry. And grade-obsessed android and objective member of the elite media Mark Halperin dropped by to decry the elite media’s fixation on Trump’s refusal to say he would respect the results of the election. Here is a portion of the transcript:

MARK HALPERIN: I’m fascinated by a parallel universe in which [Donald] Trump hadn’t said what he said about respecting the results because he had a lot of good moments. I think he got more of his message out than he ever has. He had the demeanor that a lot of people wanted to see. But there’s no doubt that it’s the revenge of the elites. Elites do not accept that that was an appropriate answer and it’s not just the coverage in the immediate aftermath of the debate, the coverage this morning, but until he explains it and gets in sync with everyone on his campaign team I don’t think he’s going to get to talk about much else and that means every bit of good he might have done last night, with a strong performance and her strong performance, I don’t think matters much.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mark, let me ask you. And I’m sure people will disagree with me here—just the implication of my question, the suggestion of my question—how many people in Scranton, Pennsylvania, care about what he said in that answer compared to people in newsrooms that are—whimpering and whining with their, you know—

HALPERIN: Almost --

SCARBOROUGH: With their soy lattes?

Soy lattes! Hell yeah! Everything old is new again—like the Volvo that I am driving right now while reading The New York Times.

What Halperin and Morning Joe are doing is throwing around signifiers—they signify “smug liberal elite”—even though Trump’s comments have been condemned across the ideological spectrum. Do people in Scranton care about the possibility of mass unrest? I grew up nearby and have no idea, but that’s not the point. The point is to ask what it means when Trump says the election is rigged. Oh, and also don’t ask what an imaginary person in Scranton thinks about everything.

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There’s a twisted reason Donald Trump thinks Hillary Clinton is “such a nasty woman.”

At the third and final presidential debate on Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton slipped in a dig at her opponent while explaining how she wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to help pay for Social Security.

“My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald’s—assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it,” she said. “But what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security trust fund—”

“Such a nasty woman,” the Vulgarian interjected, his short index finger wagging in the air like a baby carrot in the grip of a hungry toddler. Then he flashed a self-satisfied smirk, quite like toddlers do when they wet their diaper.

Viewers rightly mocked Trump, the most famous nasty person in America, for having the audacity to call someone else nasty. After all, this is the man who has bragged about his penis size during a Republican primary debate; said “it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass”; called Rosie O’Donnell a “disgusting” “slob” and a “big, fat pig”; allegedly described Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe winner, as “Miss Piggy”; told New York Times columnist Gail Collins she had “The Face of a Dog!”; said Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her ... wherever”; couldn’t imagine Carly Fiorina as president because “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?”; and said his fame allows him to grab women “by the pussy” without their consent. Not to mention that so many women have accused him of sexual assault that I’ve stopped counting.

This is a mind-boggling list of offenses for any human, let alone one who still has a viable, if diminishing chance of running this country for the next four years.

But given all of these horrific things Trump has said and done, his “nasty woman” remark could be characterized as just the latest hypocritical outburst from a known sexist and misogynist. And yet, Trump’s insult of Clinton isn’t precisely hypocritical—not within the logic of his warped mind. His entire worldview is founded on a perceived inequality of the sexes. Thus, he may accuse a woman of being nasty, even if he’s infinitely nastier, because he holds the sexes to different standards.

In Trump’s world, men are allowed to be fat and ugly—orange hair, say, and stubby fingers—as long as they’re powerful, and they’re allowed to treat women as sex objects, brag about sexual assault, and even commit sexual assault. Women are supposed to be thin, polite, hot, and, most importantly, deferential to men in all aspects of life, if not outright subservient. When women behave this way, Trump treats them with ... well, sometimes he gropes them, allegedly. But he thinks he treats them with respect, anyway.

When women behave otherwise, Trump makes no such pretense; women who do not act ladylike are not deserving of respectful treatment. This is why the women who have criticized him publicly, from O’Donnell to Kelly to Machado, have been on the receiving end of his nastiest comments. And it’s why he devolved into a petty toddler when a powerful, attractive, brilliant woman attacked him on national television, emasculating him in front of millions of women whom he sees as nothing more than future sexual conquests.

Watching Bill Kristol and Morning Joe yell at each other makes me feel good.

The third presidential debate was a nightmare. Its defining moment was a rain check for post-election malaise, if not outright violence. With the 2016 race all but over, it increasingly feels like a big, long national crack-up.

Most of this is anxiety-inducing. But every now and then, it is deeply funny. Today’s Morning Joe was full of the usual morbid symptoms: Kellyanne Conway trying to spin Trump’s refusal to accept the election results as “smart,” and Joe “Morning Joe” Scarborough claiming it wasn’t a big deal because Democrats were mad that Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the White House in 2000. Then came the catharsis. It was almost as if Joe and Mika “Morning Joe” Brzezinski knew that the nation needed to forget its troubles, even briefly, when they trotted out Bill Kristol and yelled at him for five minutes.

Here is the best bit:

KRISTOL: A lot of people accommodated Donald Trump at different times. I think I’m— but I’m not going to get into it.

SCARBOROUGH: Well no no no you just did. You lied. Please don’t come on my air and lie. You said in late ‘15, in early December—I can’t even believe you’re doing this, I don’t know why you’re so bitter.

KRISTOL: I’m not bitter. I’m trying to say that Republicans, I’m trying to say that Republicans need—

SCARBOROUGH: You’re practically crying. You’re practically crying.

KRISTOL: I am upset about this election. That’s right Joe, because you think it’s amusing that Donald Trump is the nominee.

To be fair to Scarborough, Kristol really did sound like he was crying. And to be fair to Kristol, the coverage of Trump on Morning Joe has been truly shameful. But Bill Kristol—who is as responsible as any other elite Republican for creating the historical conditions for Trump and Trumpism—is not the person to make that claim.

But whatever: Watching Morning Joe and Morning Mika yell at Bill Kristol, and watching Bill Kristol almost start crying, is very funny. It almost makes last night worth it. Almost.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

I am tired of Donald Trump.

I am tired of seeing his scrunched-up face on TV. I’m tired of hearing his voice through a microphone, amplifying his absolutely bonkers, incoherent arguments. Tonight, some pundits will say that Trump did well, because he stood behind a podium and said some words. But the truth is that it’s insane that Hillary Clinton—honestly, any human being—had to go through a third debate where Trump constantly interrupted her by bellowing the word “WRONG.” Where Trump can say, to her face, that Clinton is “such a nasty woman” without being challenged. Where he can cite crazy conspiracies—including that Clinton and Barack Obama paid people $1,500 to incite violence at his rallies and that the women who are accusing him of sexual assault are Clinton campaign plants—and the debate marches on.

Once again, Trump said things that are completely disqualifying—calling immigrants “bad hombres,” insisting that the election is “rigged”—and the post-debate analysis will still focus on who “won.” I am tired of Donald Trump. I hope America is, too.


Only one thing mattered in the final presidential debate.

The third debate had its memorable moments. The “You’re Putin’s puppet”/“No you’re the puppet” exchange was funny. Hillary Clinton’s “I mean, who does that?” about Donald Trump using his own charity’s money to buy a painting of himself was one of the election’s better burns.

But until Trump fully descended into incoherent babbling in the final half-hour, the third debate felt like three people cosplaying a presidential debate. Hillary Clinton remained the well-prepared professional. Donald Trump tried to sound like someone who is running for president. (He was mostly incoherent.) And Chris Wallace played to type: He hit both candidates equally, but his questions had a distinct Fox News sheen to them. Normally that would’ve helped the Republican candidate, but we’re talking about Donald Trump here.

CNN led its post-debate coverage by being shocked—shocked!—that Trump said he might not accept the result of this election, despite reassurances from Mike Pence and his own daughter that he would. Deciding after the election if you will respect the tradition of democracy is a shocking thing. But it’s also in keeping with everything Trump has said for weeks. The setting was different, but Trump hasn’t exactly respected the sanctity of national debates.

This was a microcosm for the third debate as a whole. Trump was shocking and repugnant and disgusting in ways that he has been shocking and repugnant and disgusting for months. Presidential debates are interesting because they reveal how the candidates think about complicated issues. But Trump’s thinking—his seat-of-his-pants, temperamental thinking—was abundantly clear in those first two debates. Make no mistake about it: Trump’s performance in the third debate was a nightmare. But it did nothing to change anything about this nightmare of an election.