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Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” gaffe wasn’t a gaffe: Voters seem to agree.

Hillary Clinton was right when she made the (bizarrely phrased) assertion that half of Donald Trump’s supporters could be put in a “basket of deplorables.” But nevertheless, while the immediate post-basket days were spent arguing if Clinton’s assessment was accurate (yep), most people agreed that the statement nevertheless was a “gaffe.” Generally speaking, it is not good politics to insult a significant portion of the electorate: Elections are run by attacking your opponent, not voters.

The Trump campaign could not have reacted more gleefully to Clinton’s comments, which came in the middle of a particularly rough stretch of the campaign for her. Over the last two weeks, “Deplorables” has become a Trump campaign meme: They wanted it to bury Clinton the way that Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe buried him at roughly the same period in the election cycle in 2012.

The problem with this strategy, however, is that, despite being weirdly-phrased and unorthodox politically, Clinton’s comments were still perceptive. She correctly labeled a significant portion of Trump’s base as being “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic.” And she limited her critique—it was broad, but not overreaching. And that, as my colleague Brian Beutler argued shortly after the comments were made, it forced Trump’s campaign into a tight spot: Mike Pence, for instance, argued that no Trump supporters deserved to be called deplorable—even David Duke—because what else was he supposed to do? Anything else would acknowledge that Clinton was right, or partly right.

Clinton’s comments, however, have not negatively affected her campaign—in fact, the opposite may be true. An AP-GFK poll found that “sixty percent of registered voters say [Trump] does not respect ‘ordinary Americans,’” compared to 48 percent who say the same of Clinton. In other words, the “deplorables” comment has not negatively affected Clinton, though it could also be argued that the real takeaway here is that both candidates are tremendously unpopular. “Basket of deplorables” wasn’t Clinton’s “47 percent moment,” and the Trump campaign’s decision to signal boost the “gaffe” may have caused more damage to their side than to hers.

September 28, 2016

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Congress’s first override of an Obama veto is a victory for 9/11 families.

In the same month that the country commemorated the 15th anniversary of the terror attack, the legislature will force through a bill allowing families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudia Arabia for any involvement in the plot.

Senators voted overwhelming to override the veto, 97 to 1, with Minority Leader Harry Reid the only senator voting against.

It is almost guaranteed that the House’s veto override will also be successful, given the bipartisan nature of the initiative. “This is a decision I do not take lightly” Senator Chuck Schumer said, “because it would allow the victims of 9/11 to pursue some small measure of justice, finally giving them a legal avenue to pursue foreign sponsors of the terrorist attack that took from them the lives of their loved ones.”

The legislation will amend a law from 1976 granting countries broad immunity from American lawsuits, the exception being those listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism. Though Saudi Arabia is not on the list, it is widely believed to be a source of funding for terrorism worldwide, even as its government is considered an American ally in the fight against terror.

A New York Times editorial from today highlights the risk such a bill would cause to American diplomacy, with the European Union already warning that “if the bill becomes law, other countries could adopt similar legislation” and sue the U.S. government in turn. A valid concern given the fact that the U.S. has military bases, drone operations, intelligence missions, and training programs all over the world.

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Michiko Kakutani’s review of a new book about Hitler isn’t really about Hitler.

The name “Donald Trump” does not appear in Kakutani’s review of the first volume of historian Volker Ullrich’s Hitler biography Ascent. Here’s how the review starts:

How did Adolf Hitler—described by one eminent magazine editor in 1930 as a “half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” a “big mouth” — rise to power in the land of Goethe and Beethoven? What persuaded millions of ordinary Germans to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred? How did this “most unlikely pretender to high state office” achieve absolute power in a once democratic country and set it on a course of monstrous horror?

Sound familiar?

Kakutani (of Sex and the City fame) then proceeds to lay out, subtweet by subtweet, the similarities. For instance:

  • “Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who ‘only loved himself’ — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a ‘characteristic fondness for superlatives.’”
  • “A former finance minister wrote that Hitler ‘was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth’ and editors of one edition of Mein Kampf described it as a ‘swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.’”
  • “Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising ‘to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,’ though he was typically vague about his actual plans.”

Hitler analogies have already been overused this election, but Kakutani’s winking subtlety gets the job done much more effectively.

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Americans are split on the transgender-bathroom issue.

According to a new Pew Research Center study, 51 percent believe transgender people should be able to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity; 46 percent disagree. It’s evidence that support for so-called “bathroom bills” like North Carolina’s HB2 exists outside the confines of conservative Christianitynot that this is news to transgender people themselves.

Pew’s data also has a twist. Americans aren’t just split on the issue, but also deeply antagonistic to people with opposing views. Of people who support the transgender community’s right to use public bathrooms at will, less than a third report feeling “sympathy” for their ideological opponents. The same is true of people who think transgender people should be required to use the wrong bathroom:

Pew Research Center

There’s been a lot of fear-mongering about transgender people in public bathrooms, and that’s because right-wing groups know it’s an effective political tactic: Everyone fears a predator. Attached to transgender people, that smear travels a great distance.

Pew suggests that its results are evidence of widespread political polarization. And that means the bathroom debate won’t be settled any time soon.

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Hillary Clinton is struggling to hold the Obama coalition together.

For the last few weeks, most of the attention has been on Clinton’s struggles with young voters. She’s currently polling significantly lower than Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012 with voters under 30 and even lower than John “Mr. Windsurfing” Kerry in 2004. But young voters aren’t the only key demographic that Clinton is having difficulty reaching. According to Leslie Wimes, the president of the Florida-based Democratic African-American Women Caucus, the Clinton campaign “is in panic mode” over black voter turnout.

“They have a big problem because they thought Obama and Michelle saying, ‘Hey, go vote for Hillary’ would do it. But it’s not enough,” Wimes told Politico. “In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.” Clinton is polling in the low 80s with black voters in Florida. Trump is only at 5 percent (lol) but turnout, not voter share, is what’s keeping Clinton’s Florida team up at night.

Clinton’s strategy has largely been to make the case that Donald Trump is not fit for the presidency, rather than to explicitly argue why her policies make her the better choice. The Clinton campaign has been fixated on reaching college-educated white voters, who tend to lean Republican, because it expects to lose non-college-educated voters by a historic margin. There’s an O. Henry-ish dimension to Clinton’s strategy, though: By targeting one voting bloc—well-off Republicans—she’s turned off key cogs of the Obama coalition.

Panic or not, there aren’t really signs that Clinton is changing tactics, however. In the first debate, Clinton mostly stuck to her anti-Trump strategy. And, with 40 days until the election, she’s hoping that surrogates like Barack and Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders can lift her with Obama coalition voters. Still, there’s no reason why Clinton can’t take an all-of-the-above approach in the final month of the campaign, arguing that Trump is a threat to democracy, relying on popular surrogates, and making the case for why she would be the best president for black Americans.

Donald Trump was so bad in the first debate because he reportedly couldn’t stay focused while practicing.

Though it lags behind the misogyny and the racism and total ignorance of domestic and foreign policy, Trump’s extremely short attention span is one of the (many) unpresidential qualities that has dogged him for much of the general election campaign. The Art of the Deal ghostwriter Tony Schwartz told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer that Trump’s attention span is shorter than his fingers: “After sitting for only a few minutes in his suit and tie, Trump became impatient and irritable. He looked fidgety, Schwartz recalls, ‘like a kindergartner who can’t sit still in a classroom. ... If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time.’”

Trump’s inability to stay focused was on full display on Monday night:

Trump brings up Russia, then China, then a 400 lb. hacker, accuses Clinton of railroading Bernie Sanders, then discusses how good his 10-year-old son is at computers, before concluding that we have to do cyber better.

Trump’s lack of preparation is being blamed for his poor performance—as is, it seems, the fallout from Roger Ailes’s dismissal from Fox News. Here’s The New York Times on Trump’s debate prep:

Mr. Trump found it hard to focus during those meetings, according to multiple people briefed on the process who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That left Mr. Ailes, who at the time was deeply distracted by his removal from Fox and the news media reports surrounding it, discussing his own problems as well as recounting political war stories, according to two people present for the sessions.

Lack of preparation is a common excuse for poor debate performances—it took the blame when President Obama stuttered out of the gate against Mitt Romney in 2012. The difference, however, is that Obama’s fitness for the office wasn’t a major question in 2012. Trump’s total lack of debate preparedness suggests that he’d be similarly lost in the Oval Office.

It also means that the bar will be set even lower when he and Hillary Clinton meet again in two weeks. Then, Trump will only have to stay on topic to gain points from pundits. Of course, t presumes that Trump will practice and prepare, which doesn’t seem like a safe bet. By all accounts, Trump is incapable of doing either.

September 27, 2016

GIPHY/SPACEX

Elon Musk has an insane plan to create a colony on Mars.

If you have a spare $10 billion and at least another 40 to 100 years left in life, you might just be able to move to the Red Planet. On Tuesday afternoon, Tesla god and designer of very phallic-looking rockets, Elon Musk, revealed his SpaceX plans to make humans a multi-planetary species.

Here’s his plan:

Step 1: Get funding. That’s right, there’s not quite funding for this yet. But Musk has an “if you build it, they will come” strategy for his space fleet.

Step 2: Build the rockets. Musk projected that he would test the spaceship boosters by 2019 and complete the first development of the spaceship in just four years.

Step 3: Send people to Mars (affordably). Musk said flights to Mars could start as early as 2023, or within 10 years. During that time, his goal is to decrease the cost of flying to Mars by 5 million percent, to around $200,000 per person.

Now, we just have to find people who, as Musk himself said in the Q&A section, “are okay with dying.”

SPACEX

Other things to know:

  • Ships will have a restaurant, cabins, and games. “It will be really fun to go. You’ll have a great time,” Musk said.
  • Ships will be reused for up to 1,000 trips
  • Up to 1,000 spaceships will be in the fleet
  • Up to 200 people will be able to fly on each trip
  • A trip would take around 80 days
Getty/Joe Raedle

Lock Chris Christie up!

While the New Jersey governor has long denied that he knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closures until after they were reported in the news, David Wildstein, the mastermind behind Bridgegate, testified on Tuesday that he and Bill Baroni, the governor’s appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had “bragged” about the lane closings to Christie as they were happening during a 9/11 memorial ceremony. Christie, he testified, laughed in response. Needless to say, the governor did nothing to intervene in the following two days during which the lanes were closed and traffic snarled into a multi-day gridlock.

It appears to be a nearly airtight case that the lane closings were a form of political vengeance against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to endorse Christie for a second gubernatorial term. Wildstein testified that he had informed Christie, “You’ll be pleased to know Mayor Sokolich is very frustrated,” because he had not received a response to any of his emails. Christie sarcastically replied, “I imagine he wouldn’t get his calls returned.”

Wildstein’s testimony was accompanied by photos of himself, Baroni, and Christie together at the 9/11 ceremony, some of which show Christie laughing together with the other men. The governor has previously said he did not remember having this conversation. Wildstein’s testimony is some of the most damning evidence to emerge in the Bridgegate trials. It remains to be seen how the constituents of New Jersey will react to the latest news about their lame-duck governor, but, at least for the time being, it looks like Christie is finished unless Donald Trump becomes president.

It’s time for deep thoughts with Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, former mayor and current ferret hater, thinks Hillary Clinton is “too stupid” to be president. According to Politico, Elite Daily’s Alexandra Svokos captured the comment and posted it on Twitter last night:

The president of the United States, her husband, disgraced this country with what he did in the Oval Office and she didn’t just stand by him, she attacked Monica Lewinsky. And after being married to Bill Clinton for 20 years, if you didn’t know the moment Monica Lewinsky said that Bill Clinton violated her that she was telling the truth, then you’re too stupid to be president.

Giuliani is (allegedly) no stranger to infidelity. When he separated from his second wife, Donna Hanover, in 2000, press speculated it was due to his emerging relationship with Judith Nathan. (Giuliani and Nathan are now married.) So this latest Clinton dig seems like a bit of hypocrisy on his part! But maybe that’s his reasoning: He is, after all, an expert on the subject.

Hillary Clinton is starting to enjoy herself.

You know she’s feeling good about the debate last night when she unleashes the gleeful cackle. From a rally today in Raleigh, North Carolina:

After a rough few weeks in which Donald Trump all but eliminated Clinton’s lead in the polls, his unhinged performance clearly came as a relief. We haven’t seen her this happy since she won the Democratic nomination in July.

Trump’s “400-pound hacker” comments did not go over well with his 4chan supporters.

In the first presidential debate, Trump’s feeble command of cybersecurity was an easy target. After noting that it was hard to “get tough on cyber,” he held up his 10-year-old son as an exemplary user of computers, then concluded that “the security aspect of cyber is very, very tough.” But perhaps it was his comments about who was responsible for the summer’s DNC hack that turned the most heads. He waved away the intel that pointed to “Russia, Russia, Russia” and wondered aloud if it was China, or even, he added, “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds.”

In the fringe message board community of 4chan, the barb was personal. “Which one of you 400lb ass holes hacked the DNC,” one joked on the forum, according to this Daily Beast article. It was a strange dig for Trump to make, considering that anonymous 4chan users have been among Trump’s most ardent supporters. They have provided his campaign memes, and are the source of his online mascot, a white nationalist frog named Pepe who often stands in for Trump while bedecked with neo-Nazi symbols. During the debate, in fact, 4chan users had been urging each other to game the online polls to elevate pro-Trump votes on various news sites, which Trump then used as proof that he had won the debates. In the end, it seems, any sense of loyalty Trump may have for his anonymous Internet army cannot match his schoolboy loathing for overweight people.