Thursday Reads: Political ParasitesPosted: February 25, 2016
I’m illustrating this post with drawings from a vintage French fashion magazine. You can read about it at Abe Books: Gazette du Bon Ton: A Journal of Good Taste.
There’s another Republican debate tonight, this time in Houston. I honestly don’t think I can stand to watch it, but I’ll keep an eye on today’s thread and put up another one tonight if necessary. The debate is on CNN, so you shouldn’t have any trouble streaming it on-line if you want to watch from your computer or other device. The freak show starts at 8:30PM ET.
At a CNN-hosted debate at the University of Houston, [Donald] Trump’s rivals will have one of their last best chances to try to derail the blunt-spoken political outsider before the Super Tuesday contests.
Whether they can pull it off is an open question. On stage with Trump will be U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. None have been able to slow Trump’s momentum in previous debates.
“Trump is on cruise control,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a former senior adviser to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. He said Trump should ignore his opponents and focus on the key planks in his platform – a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants, a stronger military, defeating Islamic State and fair trade.
“It’s getting late in the game for everyone else. People who are expecting a sudden shift in the direction of the race are deluding themselves. Trump is Goliath, and we’ve seen enough of the other candidates to know there are no Davids in this field,” Fehrnstrom said.
Rubio, 44, has an added incentive to change the makeup of the race. He is scrambling to attract the financial donors who supported one-time establishment favorite Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race after his disappointing finish in South Carolina on Saturday….
Cruz, 45, enters the debate under pressure. He must do well in his home state of Texas on Super Tuesday. Recently, he has been accused by his rivals of using negative tactics, including one that led to the resignation of his spokesman, Rick Tyler.
Mitt Romney has inserted himself into the GOP race with a highly ironic attack on Donald Trump. The Boston Globe reports:
Mitt Romney, whose 2012 presidential campaign was bedeviled over his own reluctance to publicly release his personal income tax returns, aggressively criticized Donald Trump on Wednesday for not releasing his returns….
“I think we have good reason to believe that there’s a bombshell in Donald Trump’s taxes,” Romney said on Fox News. “I think there is something there. Either he is not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is, or he hasn’t been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay, or perhaps he hasn’t been giving money to the vets or the disabled like he has been telling us he’s been doing.”
Trump quickly responded, ridiculing Romney — whom he endorsed in 2012 in a gold-studded event at Trump Tower in Las Vegas — and calling him a loser.
“Mitt Romney, who totally blew an election that should have been won and whose tax returns made him look like a fool, is now playing tough guy,” Trump wrote on Twitter. Then, he added: “When Mitt Romney asked me for my endorsement last time around, he was so awkward and goofy that we all should have known he could not win!”
In 2012, Republican candidates like Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain were running vanity campaigns–basically running for president in order to sell books.
That also seemed to be the case this year with Ben Carson. He even suspended his campaign for time to go to book signings. But it turns out that Carson’s campaign may be even a worse “scam”–one that Carson himself may not have been aware of until recently. From The Atlantic:
Carson has taken in incredible amounts of money during the race. His campaign has raised more than any other Republican presidential rival, though they’ve raised more when super PACs are included. But he’s also spent more than any of them, so that despite his prolific fundraising, he has barely $4 million in cash on hand.
That’s because Team Carson has been plowing a huge portion of the money it raises back into fundraising, using costly direct-mail and telemarketing tactics. Pretty much every campaign uses those tools, but the extent to which Carson was using it raised eyebrows around politics. First, many of the companies being paid millions and millions of dollars are run by top campaign officials or their friends and relations, meaning those people are making a mint. Second, many of the contributions are coming from small-dollar donors. If that money is being given by well-meaning grassroots conservatives for a campaign that’s designed not to win but to produce revenue for venders, isn’t it just a grift?
These questions have been circling since last summer. If they’re right, the most sympathetic interpretation is that Carson, like his donors, was being taken for a ride by his aides, and wasn’t in on the scam. Carson seemed to suggest as much on Tuesday, implying he was taken advantage of by aides who treated the campaign as an ATM.
Read more at the link.
I’m wondering if Bernie Sanders will use his higher visibility from his campaign–which is basically a vanity campaign at this point–to get a big book contract and increase his speaking fees. It turns out Sanders has done something similar in the past. From The Center for Public Integrity:
Sanders turned a fiery, hourslong filibuster against extending the Bush tax cuts into a book. During the 2012 election cycle, his campaign gave a copy to donors of at least $50.
What he did was use campaign funds to purchase a lot of the books and then “gave” them to donors who contributed at least $50.00 That’s a pretty good profit on a paperback book that sold for around $10.00. I don’t think this is illegal, but it seems a little bit questionable for a man who calls himself a socialist (he isn’t one). Here’s a graphic posted on Twitter.
From US News: Sanders’s 8.5 Hour Tax Cut Filibuster Gets a Book.
It wasn’t exactly Washington’s version of The King’s Speech, but independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 8½-hour blast in December at President Obama’s deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts is getting star treatment. Nation Books is printing it in its entirety in The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class. The senator’s passionate address, which runs over 255 pages in the book, was a rare oratorical tour de force: It attracted so many online viewers it crashed the Senate television website. Some say Obama was so miffed by the speech that he held an impromptu press conference with former President Clinton to divert attention.
So he used the speech to undermine President Obama twice–by giving the speech against the Obama’s wishes and using it to run Senate during the president’s reelection campaign. By the way, Sanders’ book “The Speech” was published by Nation Books, the publishing arm of The Nation magazine which has endorsed Sanders in the 2016 race.
At Politico, Jack Shafer has an interesting piece on Trump and Sanders as “political parasites.”
Think of the Republican Party as a host organism that has only now discovered the parasite it acquired eight months ago. The parasite, of course, is Donald J. Trump—no more a Republican than I—who has inserted himself into the party and appears to be on his way to winning its presidential nomination. Feeding on the Republican Party’s primary and caucus process, the Trump parasite has progressed from egg to larva and has now commandeered many of the Republican Party’s metabolic functions. But it’s been managed growth, as the smart-thinking parasite likes to keep its zombie host alive long enough to develop into the next stage and lay its own eggs and begin the process anew.
Trump isn’t the only political parasite on the hustings this season. Bernie Sanders, who never ran as a Democrat before this election, has likewise attempted to colonize the gastrointestinal tract of a major party in hopes that it will eventually deposit him at the White House. True to his parasitical nature, Sanders loves the idea of the party but has little interest in actually supporting it. He has raised only $1,000 for the Democratic Party’s fundraising alliance, while Hillary Clinton, who is many things but assuredly not a parasite, has raised $26.9 million.
Trump has similarly stiffed his party’s fundraising operations, canceling a scheduled appearance at a December Republican National Committee fundraising event, and Twitter-shouting his fury at the RNC for allegedly using his name in a fundraising solicitation without his consent. “Totally unauthorized, do not pay,” Trump tweeted. The true parasite never supports the host!
The life cycles of the Trump and Sanders parasites are nowhere near as gruesome as the life cycles of the Guinea worm and the parasitoid wasp, but they are as striking as anything we witness in nature. Viewing Trump and Sanders with an ideological microscope, it’s apparent that neither has much affinity for the parties they’ve joined. Their object and their genius has been to seize as much control as they can of the major parties from the various “establishments” and wage their outsider third-party candidacies from inside. Suitably camouflaged, neither Trump nor Sanders is seen by the average voter for political freeloaders they are.
I’m not a big fan of Schafer’s but that makes a lot of sense to me. Are both parties being hollowed out from within?
If the polls in upcoming primary and caucus states are anything close to correct, Sanders has no chance to get the Democratic nomination. But he is still out there trying to tear down the party and attacking Hillary Clinton–the likely nominee–in the most vicious ways he can think of. It is really starting to bother me a great deal, and I’m glad that the party seems to be coalescing around the potential first woman president.
I’ll end this post with another powerful essay from Sady Doyle: America loves women like Hillary Clinton–as long as they’re not asking for a promotion.
It’s hard to remember these days, but just a few years ago, everybody loved Hillary Rodham Clinton. When she stepped down as US secretary of state in January 2013 after four years in office, her approval rating stood at what the Wall Street Journal described as an “eye-popping”69%. That made her not only the most popular politician in the country,but the second-most popular secretary of state since 1948.The 2012 “Texts from Hillary” meme, which featured a sunglasses-clad Clinton scrolling through her Blackberry aboard a military flight to Libya, had given rise to a flood of think pieces hailing her “badass cool.” The Washington Post wanted president Barack Obama to give vice president Joe Biden the boot and replace him with Clinton. Taking stock of Clinton’s approval ratings, Nate Silver noted in a 2012 piece for the New York Times that she currently held “remarkably high numbers for a politician in an era when many public officials are distrusted or disliked.”
How times have changed. “The FBI And 67 Percent of Americans Distrust Hillary Clinton,” booms a recent headline in the Huffington Post. Clinton’s favorability ratings currently hover around 40.8%. Bob Woodward complains that “there is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating.” “Hillary’s personality repels me,” Walker Bragman writes in Salon.How can we reconcile the “unlikable” Democratic presidential candidate of today with the adored politician of recent history? It’s simple: Public opinion of Clinton has followed a fixed pattern throughout her career. Her public approval plummets whenever she applies for a new position. Then it soars when she gets the job. The wild difference between the way we talk about Clinton when she campaigns and the way we talk about her when she’s in office can’t be explained as ordinary political mud-slinging. Rather, the predictable swings of public opinion reveal Americans’ continued prejudice against women caught in the act of asking for power.
I hope you’ll go over to the Quartz link and read the whole thing.
So . . . what stories are you following today?