Thursday Reads: Political Parasites


Good Morning!!

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.


Reuters: Trump versus Rubio and Cruz at Houston Republican debate.

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.”gazette-du-bon-ton-by-barbier-1914-deco-pochoir.-la-fontaine-de-coquillages-[2]-59020-p
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?

40 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Political Parasites”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Hillary’s latest ad in SC.y friends Lamar and Cayman are in the last frame! It’s from her Baton Rouge Rally!

  2. dakinikat says:

    Schafer’s piece is interesting. He took the obligatory swipe at Hillary as a bad candidate which was unnecessary and nasty. But then, he is the monkeyfishing King.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yes, I noticed that. They all feel they have to undermine her whenever they have a chance.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Well, she’s a woman after all and she aspires to the most powerful job on earth, there are some men who can’t control their impulses to fight against that in some way or another.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Jonathan Capehart:

    Ben Carson and Cornel West actually agree: Obama’s ‘not black enough’

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Scalia may have been attending a secret hunting society meeting when he died.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Eric Boehlert:

    Campaign Press Adopts The Trump Rules — They’re The Opposite Of The Clinton Rules
    Soft On Trump, Tough On Clinton

    • William says:

      I’m glad someone wrote about this. Actually, Hillary gets the kind of carping microanalysis which no candidate has ever received.

      To watch so many preening media types from broadcast or print give credence to Trump’s adolescent assessments of serious issues, is disgraceful. None of his policies stand up to any economic or political scrutiny, they are just angry or bombastic pronouncements. But that seems to be good enough for most media, which apparently doesn’t know anything about anything, either. They create a very dangerous false equivalence between serious and thoughtful analysis of important matters, and the kind of statements one might hear on a playground.

  6. Ron4Hills says:

    I saw a CNN report about Hills being heckled by BLM over mass incarceration.

    I know it is hard for her to say it because she can’t afford to alienate black voters, but:

    1) Mass incarceration is not any one persons fault. Not Bill and certainly not Hillary Clinton’s. If Bill is to answer for it then Bush, Obama and everyone who voted for the crime bill owe some apologies. Oh, and truth be told, can’t have mass incarcerations without mass law breaking. Just saying.

    2) When Hills said “super-predators” where was the black part? She was talking about criminals and only criminals.

    3) I keep waiting for BLM to confront John Kasich whose state has MULTIPLE ongoing and very high profile cases of wrongful use of legal force by police. Hard to take BLM seriously when they so obviously are trying so much harder to make headlines than to make change.

    I am SICK of this grandstanding BULLSHIT and trying to embarrass Hills.

    WTF. .

    Of all the candidates, Black America has no better friend than Bill and Hillary Clinton.

    • Fannie says:

      I’ll blame it on Reagan………he started this with law and order, and by using the fear tactics, scared the crap out of everybody. His war on drugs, involving CIA, and FBI, and using all the undercover agents to go after drug users. So he did in the ghettos, but not where the upper middle class was using for recreational use, and causing a lot of middle class workers to get trapped in the life style.

      I didn’t like that her rudeness………Hillary was not in office, and Sanders voted for the get tough on crime laws. Who apologizes for all the brown, the Asians, and the poor white people, who have been locked up in this country since the beginning of time. My Irish ancestors were criminals coming to the country, because they couldn’t pay the Landlords for the debts, and were deported to this country as indentured servitude slaves. Living in shanty towns, and always targeted and sent to dungeons in America. I mean we can go on and on.

      Go after those who sold all the drugs and made the money……..mafia…….El Chapo, etc. It was the republicans going after the poor, and using crack cocaine as the tool, to increase prisons, and privatize them.

      I know they want to strike back, hell, I’ve been there done that. I was so pissed at Governor Haley Barbour of Ms. when 2 black girls ended up spending years in prison for a crime that netted them $11.50. When one ended up needing a kidney transplant the republicans refused to let that happen, and at the last minute he allowed both girls to go to Florida, to have the transplant, but under all kinds of shitty conditions. How about the BLM make a trip to his state, and attack him when he is on air, or speaking around the country for republicans. Let’s go after those people.

  7. William says:

    Hillary is attacked by the Right as if she were a radical, and attacked by the Left as if she were a conservative. The Right fears her, and will do anything to try to destroy her candicacy. The Left, particularly those that populate the latte sites like Salon, are disdainful. Of course they have been disdainful of every Democratic general election candidate in the last forty years, except for Obama. They’re quite comfortable with this air of superiority which persists even though they are wrong about virtually everything in a political or personal sense. The combinatioin of daily attacks and scorn from these two supposedly opposed entities, is what has caused this drop in approval ratings. The Right does it because it wants to win at all costs. The Left does it because they are a bunch of spoiled and unhappy cliquish people.

    • bostonboomer says:

      William, I think both sides want her to break down and cry. And if she does, they’ll mock her and say she’s too weak to be president. If she doesn’t, they say she’s cold and inauthentic. It maddening.

      But I also think there are millions of people for who see Hillary as a good person, and who are angry when they see her treated badly. If she were a man, none of this would be happening. I hope you read Sady Doyle’s essay.

      • NW Luna says:

        Doyle’s essay nails it!

        I wish she would quit saying “we” for that large percentage of the population who think strong women must be cold and untrustworthy.

  8. Riverbird says:

    Thank you for finding the beautiful drawings, bostonboomer.

    I’m going to watch at least the first half hour of the GOP debate tonight and more if I can bear it. Watching Rubio and Cruz go at each other in real time is more satisfying than watching clips later.

  9. ANonOMouse says:

    Excellent Post BB!!!

    About Bernie using the Democratic Party for his own gain then trying to sell himself as not beholden to special interests is an argument that I’ve been making against him for months. There are no bigger special interest organizations than the DNC and the RNC. He gets enormous financial benefits from running as a Democrat yet he never acknowledges those benefits as monetary, in fact he never acknowledges them at all. I lost all respect for Bernie when I realized his game. I don’t feel any particular need to play nice. I will be respectful, but I won’t listen to BS that attempts to raise up Bernie and put down Hillary without responding.

  10. This is reassuring-“Her public approval plummets whenever she applies for a new position. Then it soars when she gets the job. ” I’m waiting for that day, I believe she will do a great job.

  11. Fannie says:

    Thanks BB, another fine blog today. I’d love to have a couple of lithographs. I sometimes think I would have loved to had lived during that time period. All the art nouveau and craftsman’s homes, etc. The French had a big influence on Americans.

    Great article (Quartz). I think we can all relate. I found myself in so many places, different times and retracted from going to the top. There were things holding me back, and like other stories here, once I had children, I pursued a different path. To be honest I put my husband first, my children first. I know, I know, many of us did. I really think that’s important in 21st century.

    What really bothers me is why are women letting Sanders lead the way with socialism. He’s really not a socialist, as you point out. Why would they abandon the women’s movement, and call this out, as being there vision. What is that vision, why is that? So, they graduated from college, and realize they have huge debts to pay and it’s tough getting a job? And somehow Bernie is going to create millions of jobs and we are all going to live in socialist economy, right here in USA? In order to have any of that, don’t you think we need to defeat sexism, and racism. In order for women to get the power, there’s the top, and that just pisses men off, when women want to go to the top. Hillary Clinton always brings a whole lot of women with her on the job, and men don’t like that either. That’s why I like her politics, she brings us into the fold. We need restructuring, and that is what Hillary is talking about, knocking down barriers, flinging those doors wide open, and having democratic rights as women, and equable justice. If we are going to have it, the Sander camp best get with the sisterhood, because that is the struggle, to be equal, as we do in the work world, and make it meaningful, in liberating our families and society.

  12. Fannie says:

    Hahahah………………..The former Mexico Governor, said that Trump can pay for the FUCKING wall………………yes he did. Fuck off Gringo.

  13. bostonboomer says:

    Check this out. Absentee ballots are way up from 2008 in SC.


  14. Riverbird says:

    The Lands’ End facebook page is getting lots of posts from anti-choicers protesting an interview with Gloria Steinem in their spring catalog. I haven’t read the interview but according to this story, she didn’t say anything about abortion.

  15. List of X says:

    Come to think of it, there is something parasitic in Sanders’s and Trump’s campaigns. Maybe going forward, DNC and RNC should set the rules that only actual registered party members (and if they’re elected officials, they’re must be representing the party in their office) are allowed to run to be nominated by the party to the general election.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t know if they can do that. I think anyone has the right to run for president if he or she is a citizen and 35 years old. Sanders declared himself to be a Democrat in the spring of 2015. He can’t actually register as one, because Vermont doesn’t have party registration.

      Trump is hopeless, but in return for access to the party infrastructure, why wouldn’t it be better for Bernie Sanders to raise money and campaign for down ticket Democrats and focus on the positive in the nomination race as he promised? Is that really too much to ask?

      • Dee says:

        Senator Leahy has always claimed to be a Democrat –

      • List of X says:

        Anyone can run for president, but the party should be able to set the rules on who can represent the party in the general election. It doesn’t stop anyone from running in the election, just limits who gets to represent the party in the election. I don’t think it would be unfair to make this rule.
        Given that Bernie positions himself as a rebel against the Democratic establishment, it would be out of character for him to be raising money for that very Democratic establishment. But once he’s out and the rebellion is over, it would be interesting to see whether he’ll use his newfound fame to actually help the party he was running to represent.

        • Riverbird says:

          It’ll be interesting to see if he endorses Hillary. I hope he does at least that much.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Then it was dishonest for him to run as a Democrat. He was given access to the DNC data on the condition that he raise money for the down ticket Democrats. So it’s ok that he lied?

          • List of X says:

            I don’t see how it’s dishonest if there’s apparently no rule against independents running in Dem primary. I think there should be, but if the DNC allowed him in the primary, it’s not dishonest.
            This the first time I hear that he was given the access on this condition. I can’t find anything about it online, though. Can you give me a link?

          • bostonboomer says:

            It’s dishonest because he lied when he said he would raise money for other candidates and run a positive campaign. He has also benefited greatly from support from the DNC in all of his national elections!

            Look, I understand you support him, and that’s great. You should vote for him in the primary and do what you can to help him win Mass. I’m glad you keep posting your thoughts here. I give you a lot of credit for standing up for your candidate. Bernie is a good guy and I hope he will decide to remain a Democrat.

  16. bostonboomer says:

    According to Politico, Bernie Sanders held a town hall meeting in a church in Flint, MI today. The audience was all white judging by the photos, but Politico says mostly white.

    The federal government must recognize this city’s water contamination crisis as an “emergency situation” since local government doesn’t have the resources to help sufficiently, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told enraged residents during a wide-ranging and emotional campaign stop on Thursday.
    “If we are looking at children being poisoned,” he said, “if that is not an emergency, I just don’t know what an emergency is.”

    “It sounds to me like people would like to see a Department of Justice investigation,” he later added…

    The Federal government declared an emergency Jan. 16. Justice Department began investigating on Jan. 5. Why doesn’t Bernie know this?

    Sanders did not come armed with any specific policy proposals, and he spent most of the time asking for information from the audience. Much of Sanders’ time on stage was taken up by Flint and local residents telling him about the water poisoning. At one point, when an audience member asked him what he would do as president to help, he demurred and asked what the locals wanted from him.

  17. Fannie says:

    He doesn’t speak, his bros do the speaking.

  18. bostonboomer says:

    Live blog is up.