Live-Blogging the 2018 State of the Union Address

10:18 pm: Trump tells us it was important for him to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  The Liberal Ironist is having a hard time unseeing a common theme of racial conquest in so many passages of this speech.

10:15 pm: Why is the maintenance of a terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba such a source of concern for either party?  Do Republicans really think that suspected terrorists can’t be as securely held or as effectively interrogated anywhere else?  Do Democrats really think that detainees will only have their rights at risk in military confinement at Guantanamo Bay, or that a detention facility there can’t be well-run or legitimate?

10:07 pm: Trump Russia and China competitors that challenge our values (as surprisingly measured a criticism of China as it is frank about Russia).  Trump calls for ending sequestration’s caps on Defense spending.  Congress certainly should end the spending caps on Defense, but it should end the spending caps on non-defense Federal programs as well; they wouldn’t raise Federal spending much, and Trump has never really contended with what so many of those artificially-constrained programs do for Americans.

10:03 pm: Trump talks about opiate addiction.  His most-animated line, of course, is for punishing drug dealers–as if this were a new or controversial approach.  There isn’t discussion of much else, given Trump’s voiced certitude that we can fix the opiate-abuse epidemic.  Trump can make the Liberal Ironist miss even George W. Bush.

10:00 pm: Trump calls-out “chain migration” to the United States for special criticism, saying that immigrants shouldn’t be able to sponsor anyone outside of their nuclear family for lawful immigration to the United States: Boos from the chamber.  I don’t think Trump’s immigration “compromise” has good prospects in either chamber of Congress.

9:58 pm: Trump proffers his “compromise” immigration proposal that was recently estimated to propose reducing legal immigration to the United States by as much as 44% on a yearly basis; Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) frowns and shakes her head.

9:55 pm: Trump acknowledges ICE Agent Celestino Martinez for his role in anti-gang operations.  Trump affirms ICE’s work in deporting “thousands and thousands and thousands” of gang members.

I guess no one has succeeded in explaining to Trump that deported gang members reenter the United States easily (and no, they don’t have to walk across the Southern Border to reenter the country unnoticed).

9:48 pm: Trump gets boos (as he should) for decrying illegal immigration by focusing on a pair of minors murdered by MS-13 gang members.  (I guess Trump thinks that American minors have never been killed by gang members who were native-born Americans, which would be an odd belief.)

9:47 pm: Trump gives his support to paid family leave.  Here’s a rare example of a simple proposal that Trump hasn’t found a way to completely ruin yet.

9:46 pm: Trump promises a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.  He doesn’t say that the Federal Government is only going to put-up $200 billion for this plan, and that…someone else is supposed to pay the other $1.3 trillion for new infrastructure construction.  I won’t spare more words on such hooey; show us the money.

We want the money, Lebowski!

9:44 pm: Trump laments, as he should, that it can take 10 years to approve the building of a road in America today.


9:42 pm: Trump promises to lower prescription drug prices in the United States.  No discussion of how it would be done; Congress is going to figure it out.

9:38 pm: Trump approaches a few favorable siting decisions by manufacturers, including auto manufacturers, in the South and the Midwest as evidence that the trend  towards deindustrialization in the American heartland is being reversed.  Does this mean that Wal*Mart’s decision to close 63 Sam’s Club stores is ravaging American retail employment?

9:33 pm: Trump ticks off a lot of Culture War bullshit: Support the police without qualification; stand for the National Anthem (both of are just a cynical code for swipes at the Black Lives Matter movement); “we’re appointing judges that apply the law” ( he just means Originalists, and the cameras cut to a remarkably stoic Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch); and finally, an invocation of “religious freedom” which would be fine if it weren’t largely cover for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ campaign to allow employers to deny their female employees access to contraceptives and to fire their gay employees on the pretext of their religion.

Attorney General Sessions must have watched Philadelphia and felt terrible for the old homophobic partners at that law firm given how they were treated by the justice system…

9:30 pm: Trump makes a shout-out to the young boy Preston Sharp, who started a nationwide campaign to plant flags and flowers on veterans’ graves for Veterans’ Day.

9:29 pm: Trump peaches unity among Americans by loudly intoning “IN GOD WE TRUST” into his microphone.

9:24 pm: Trump notes that under the Republican tax cut bill, owners of their own businesses (“pass-through” entities) cam now deduct 20% of their total income, and that is a real stimulus to small businesses in this country–but like nearly all individual tax relief in the Republican tax cut bill, that measure is temporary while the corporate tax cuts are permanent.

9:23 pm: Trump celebrates the zeroing-out of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty as the removal of a “cruel” tax cut that punished Americans making under $50,000 a year.  Those Americans could obtain subsidized health insurance; now the cost of insurance premiums on the individual market risks rising, and many Americans, due to vague information or disinformation, may not realize that the benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act remain the law of the land because Republicans couldn’t get their limited-government hatchet job done.

9:20 pm: “We have enacted the biggest tax cuts, and reforms, in history.”  Those claims are both false; 1986 constituted a more radical tax reform, and even President Obama oversaw a more-significant and broad-based tax cut than the Republicans’ in 2017.

9:18 pm: Trump focuses on the one substantive claim he can currently make in his favor: He hasn’t upset the longest economic recovery in history, yet.

9:15 pm: Trump starts with a safe minimal consensus: It was a bad thing when House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was shot during the Republican practice for the Congressional baseball game, it was some fine work by the Capital Police that saved him and other members of Congress from their attacker, and we should try to achieve comity at other times besides moments of tragedy and crisis.

9:14 pm: Trump stiffly white-knuckling the delivery of a speech in which he says nice things about many people and (thus far) broadcasts enmity towards none, like a non-practicing alcoholic.

9:11 pm: “A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our great land…”  Yes, that was optimism that Trump would stop spreading gratuitous falsehoods about Inauguration crowd sizes and millions of “illegal immigrants” voting; a year later, such wishful thinking has disappeared.

9:08 pm: The Democratic side of the aisle stands for Trump, but does not clap for him…Oh, there’s Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who represents one of Trump’s best States, clapping a little bit.

9:06 pm: Ah, there he is.

9:02 pm: What a strange Cabinet.  We’re lucky that General James Mattis is the Secretary of Defense and General H.R. McMaster is the National Security Advisor, but the Liberal Ironist notes a certain absence-of-mind in Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, with their storied lack of professional experience in those high appointed positions, walking down the aisle into the House Chamber almost abreast.


Live-Blogging the Third 2016 Presidential Debate

This is it–by which I don’t mean “It all comes down to this,” but rather, “You’re already looking at the election, folks: An increasingly-surreal, indeed improbable succession of humiliations for Donald Trump as he is revealed to be an even more depraved human being than all but the most-creative of us had imagined.”  (Maybe this is why Stephen King of all people seems to be horrified that millions of people have already supported Donald Trump for President.)  I know I could draw the wrath of…Whatever from High Atop the Thing, but after those 4 days that shook the world that opened on a Friday with the release of a 2005 hot mic video in which Trump bragged about being able to force himself on women, which featured an alternately tense and morally-obscene Second Debate performance on a Sunday and closed on a Monday with Trump threatening to turn his voters against elected Republicans who didn’t support him, tonight’s final Debate of the 2016 Presidential Election is more likely to serve as an effective public flogging than as a source of edification for the voting public…Oh, and there’s the dozen women who have accused Donald Trump of forcing himself of them over the years, often with details.  Don’t worry; the Christian Right will vote for him.

10:28 pm: The last question is about the national debt, “which hasn’t been asked about before tonight,” Chris Wallace notes in an aside.

Secretary Clinton promises to “go where the money is”–to raise taxes on the rich.  Trump proposes a large upper-income tax cut, which Secretary Clinton notes would greatly contribute to the national debt.

Trump calls the Affordable Care Act a big contributor to the national debt; Secretary Clinton clarifies that the Affordable Care Act cut Medicare spending, and that repealing the Affordable Care Act would compound Medicare’s structural budgetary insolvency.

10:19 pm: FOX News moderator Chris Wallace refers to Trump’s previous Debate comment that “Aleppo has fallen” to the Assad Regime; Wallace corrects Trump, noting that Aleppo is divided between the Assad Regime and many Syrian rebel factions and still very hotly-contested.

I think Chris Wallace might be the agent of an Establishment Republican stealth operation to undermine Trump on front of this election’s last truly national audience.

10:05 pm: Again, Trump has his “Colonel Jessup, did you order the code red?” moment, acknowledging that he doesn’t pay Federal income tax due to extremely favorable Federal tax treatment of real estate tax returns.  Secretary Clinton gets off what is likely to be the zinger of the night: “Half of illegal immigrants pay Federal income taxes–which means that half of illegal immigrants pay more Federal income tax than a billionaire!”

9:55 pm: Secretary Clinton speaks eloquently on the abuse that women–all women–have had to confront from bad-mannered men.  She speaks with rare fervor for this debate and manages to narrate the subject of Trump’s alleged mistreatment of women entirely in her favor…if that were necessary.

9:52 pm: Trump categorically denies that he groped any of his dozen accusers.  He suggests that they are paid agents of the Clinton campaign…and then accuses President Obama and Secretary Clinton of paying agents provocateurs to start violence at his rallies!  He even comes up with uncorroborated details.  That’s an odd claim to just toss out in the middle of the Debate.

9:40 pm: Trump actually defends his loose talk of mid-summer that the United States’ wealthier allies should pay more for their own defense; it’s really a terrible and potentially-damaging argument.  If Trump actually won the election he would walk into a diplomatic quagmire as he promised–publicly–to compel our many allies to carry their weight in the common defense.

9:30 pm: A friend watching the Debate notes that, while Secretary Clinton leans too hard on concerns about apparent Russian governments, and Trump actually misses an opportunity to criticize Clinton for sounding like a conspiracy theorist.  Clinton makes the best of her misstep by focusing on Russian aggression, a subject where Trump is very weak with the hawks in his own party.

9:23 pm: Secretary Clinton goes in hard against Donald Trump on immigration: She notes that Trump’s combination of a proposed “deportation force” and zero-tolerance policy towards illegal immigrants, along with fringe proposals to rescind birthright citizenship would precede the deportation of 15 million people from the United States.  Trump just flubs this subject completely: This is not the right venue to warn us that America is being “overrun.”

9:20 pm: Trump equates illegal immigration with heroin-smuggling in New Hampshire.  This is difficult to comment on, people.

9:15 pm: Oh, that’s interesting: Trump answers a question on abortion by referring to “partial-birth” abortion as “rip(ping) the baby out of the womb.”  Clinton refers to this as “empty rhetoric”; she should have called it “hyperbolic violent imagery.”

9:12 pm: Clinton and Trump both affirm that they take the Second Amendment seriously.

9:05 pm: The first question is about the Supreme Court: The next President will likely appoint 2, maybe 3 Supreme Court Justices.  What kind of judges will you appoint, and how will this reflect your views on the Constitution?

Clinton and Trump both give safe answers: Clinton focuses on judicial principle, while Trump mentions having a list of candidate appointees and a Pro-Life judicial litmus test.

Live-Blogging the Second 2016 Presidential Debate

Well, this was promising to be a make-or-break moment for Donald Trump before Friday’s revelation of a 2005 hot mic video of the Republican Presidential candidate bragging to Billy Bush about being able to grope women because he’s a celebrity.  Now that we have heard from the Donald that he intends to make an issue of the former President Clinton’s affairs, I think this is a break-or-break moment for Trump.

10:30 pm: To make his case for trade protection, Trump says that China is dumping steel in the United States to put American steel companies out of business; Secretary Clinton says that Trump has bought that steel himself to build his buildings.  That’s a relatively mild takedown of Trump tonight, and Trump lets it go unanswered.

10:11 pm: “Why can’t we do something secretly, where we knock-out their leadership?”
–Donald Trump

You mean like when President Obama and Secretary Clinton oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011? What were you doing around that time, Donald?

9:54 pm: I’m sorry, I can hardly do this because I can’t focus on what’s being said.  Donald Trump has rambled through a number of responses.  I think the most-unbelievable was when he was asked what he would do about Islamophobia due to fears of terrorism and religious bigotry.  In response, Trump said that Muslims need to do more to report on what other Muslims are doing.  He also averred, when asked, on whether he would ban Muslims from entering the United States as he had previously promised, that it would simply be necessary to subject them to “extreme vetting.”  Secretary Clinton expresses horror at the idea of an ideological test for suspect populations trying to enter the United States.  Live by the bigotry, die by the bigotry.

9:25 pm: Trump gets the first (though weakest) applause of the night by asserting that Secretary Clinton is glad that he isn’t President because she would be in jail.  In response to this, Anderson Cooper asks the audience not to applaud.  “You’re just wasting time.”  Take that, undecided voters!

9:20 pm: Donald Trump just threatened to use the Department of Justice against Secretary Clinton of he became President.  He just threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to go after his politics opponent.  “A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for an arbitrarily-prosecutorial government.”  What a catastrophe this debate is for him.

9:16 pm: Donald Trump brings up President Clinton’s affairs and accuses Secretary Clinton of vilifying the womem he had affairs with.  Clinton responds with, “When they go low, you go high.”  She brilliantly moves on to Trump’s vicious comments about racial and religious minorities, saying that this is about the way Donald Trump bullies anyone who he considers vulnerable.

9:09 pm: This is a town hall debate: Undecided voters ask their questions.  Anderson Cooper asks the second question, regarding the creepy boasts he made about groping women.  Cooper asks Trump if he has actually sexually assaulted women.  Donald Trump doesn’t actually answer the question.  We just saw the election decided, just now.

9:00 pm: (A friend watching the debate stage before the candidates come out): “Anderson Cooper always looks disgusted.”

Live-Blogging the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) may make former Vice President Al Gore look like his old college roommate Tommy Lee Jones, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence gives off such an aw-shucks good-ol’-days vibe that even his hair is White, but we must have TOTAL COVERAGE!

10:35 pm: The Vice Presidential Debate closes-out: Senator Kaine notes both the professionalism and the respect commanded by Secretary Clinton; Governor Pence refrains on discontent with the results of the policy status quo at home and abroad, and offers Donald Trump as a multipurpose delivered.

In closing, Governor Pence has an admirably easygoing and calm demeanor; it’s almost enough for you to forget that he repeatedly referred to millions of illegal immigrants as “aliens” and angrily implicated them, and Syrian refugees just trying to survive, en masse in criminality.

10:22 pm: Senator Kaine is asked about the challenge of allowing his religion to inform his approach to government; he had an excellent and frank answer about being a Catholic and opposing the death penalty, and being elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which sustains the death penalty.  He says that he swore to uphold the laws of Virginia, and that he did so.

It’s interesting that when abortion comes up in the venue of this debate, he does not mention it as being a burden to his living of his religion even in running with an ardent Pro-Choicer in Secretary Clinton.

Governor Pence has an equally interesting but more policy-focused and less ethically-challenging answer on his Pro-Life views.  He implies, importantly, that he has a lot of support in this from the Indiana Legislature, and notes that to be Pro-Life one must be emphatically pro-adoption.

10:20 pm: “Governor Pence, I will give you 20 seconds to respond, but I would like to remind you gentlemen that the question was about North Korea.”  Ms. Quijano does have a surprisingly taxing job before her with a debate that is following its own frenzied logic.

10:20 pm: Well-done, Senator Kaine: While defending the work and the outside certifications of the Clinton Foundation, Kaine manages to completely-narrate 1 of Trump’s many scandals: The Trump Foundation was cited for a violation of its non-profit status in giving $2,500 to the reelection campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who subsequently dropped a massive fraud case against Trump University.

Governor Pence shakes his head and does not touch this one.

10:07 pm: Senator Kaine notes that he has mentioned inflammatory comments by Trump 6 times, and on no occasion has Governor Pence defended or even circumscribed the strange outbursts from his running mate.

I must say, when Senator Kaine observed that Donald Trump called for more nations to build nuclear weapons, and that if they should use them on other countries or if they fell into the hands of terrorists then that was on them, it was a defeat for the Trump-Pence ticket when Governor Pence couldn’t do anything but shake his head in response.  It almost looked like he was thinking, “I know, that’s really scary.”

10:00 pm: Senator Kaine again hits on Trump’s expressed admiration of Russian President-for-Life Vladimir Putin, noting that his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was let go due to his shadowy connections to pro -Russian Ukrainian government officials and Russian Oligarchs; again, Governor Pence shakes his head but doesn’t respond.

This time he throws in a red-meat line: “Governor Pence has said, ‘Inarguably, Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama.'”  Ouch: Senator Kaine notes Putin’s military oppression of gays and transgender people, his repression of journalists.  “Anyone who can’t tell the difference between leadership and dictatorship needs to go back to civics class.”  Governor Pence takes exception but doesn’t explain the comment further.

9:56 pm: Senator Kaine makes a tactical use of exaggeration, asserting that Trump had called NATO “obsolete”.  Governor Pence lets the tactical exaggeration stand.

9:45 pm: Senator Kaine says, in the context of promoting Secretary Clinton’s proposed Middle East security policy, that “Donald Trump can’t start a Twitter War with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot.”  Governor Pence solemnly shakes his head, but doesn’t offer a response to Kaine’s charge that Trump lacks a statesman’s temperament.

9:43 pm: During a long and surprisingly- charged exchange, Governor Pence says, “We have a deportation force: It’s called Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  For the first time in its history, it has endorsed Donald Trump for President.”

That, I think, was Governor Pence’s biggest mistake of the Debate thus far; he solidifies Hispanic and other immigrant-minority group aversion to the Trump-Pence ticket more than he gains acknowledgement from undecided voters.

9:41 pm: Senator Kaine smartly notes that Trump and Governor Pence have proposed deporting more than 11 million people from the United States, because in addition to proposing the deportation of illegal immigrants frm the United States (itself a cruel and impractical act), they want to end birthright citizenship– which is enshrined in the 14th Amendment.  Governor Pence cringes but lets the point stand.

9:24 pm: Senator Kaine and Governor Pence, in the latter’s words, “at the risk of agreeing with” each other, both talk about community policing.  Senator Kaine lands 2 good hits, referring more than once to Trump’s support for stop-and-frisk police profiling, and noting that Governor Pence actually said that we should stop making a political issue of a long history of police shootings of unarmed or crimimally uncharged Black men.  Pence’s callous dismissal of vulnerable people is far more-genteel than Trump’s tends to be, but he’s still just telling Black civil rights protesters to sit down and shut up.

9:18 pm-9:24 pm: Governor Pence gets a little more-spirited during an exchange over government spending and taxes.  Governor Pence was a close ally of now-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on taxation and spending issues; he lays the blame for underemployment (unemployment and even wage stickiness are no longer as compelling issues as they were, so Governor Pence has to proscribe the critique he made of President Obama when he was in the House of Representatives.  Basically, this whole exchange is still a barely-inflected trading of optimistic and pessimistic economic projections.

I do notice that Governor Pence seems to have less to say about Trump’s tax and spending proposals that Senator Kaine does about Secretary Clinton’s.  He is eager to go on the attack against President Obama’s record and Secretary Clinton’s proposals, but he tiptoes around the weeds that are his running mate’s economic plans.

9:13 pm: Senator Kaine really is interrupting Governor Pence too much; he almost seems to be protesting that he  can speak during what is effectively Governor Pence’s turn.  Kaine cleverly launches into a list of favorable changes under Secretary Clinton’s stewardship– the killing of Osama bin-Laden, the Iranian nuclear program deal, the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, and the drawdown of the large military deployment in Iraq.  Governor Pence gives the single hardest blow here, though, asserting that President Obama is responsible for the chaos that the Islamic State has caused in Iraq owing to his precipitous withdrawal of our forces there.

It’s not clear if that reflects on Secretary Clinton, though, as she is well-known to be more-hawkish and assertive in her foreign policy style than President Obama.

9:12 pm: Senator Kaine makes the first interruption, calling Governor Pence out for Trump’s claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a good leader.  It’s a little incongruous.

9:08 pm: Governor Pence includes among his opening remarks the aside, “–Senator Kaine, it is an honor to be here with you…”  Why, in 2016 such respect and courtesy is…positively un-Presidential!

9:07 pm: “We trust Hillary Clinton, my wife and I, with the most-important thing in our life…”  Senator Kaine compellingly ends his introductory remarks by offering his personal confidence that a President Clinton would used the Armed Forces prudently — both Kaine and Pence have a son in the Marine Corps–and that “the prospect of a Donald Trump Presidency terrifies us.”

9:05 pm: Elaine Quijano: “It truly is a pleasure to be here with both of you tonight.”  Sure, because the probability of a marathon of verbal abuse and unwarranted interruptions is very low tonight.

9:04 pm: Even moderator Elaine Quijano already seems mildly-sedated, before these 2 barn-burning running mates even stride onto the stage.

9:00 pm: Americans are notoriously overworked and sleep-deprived, so a Kaine-Pence debate may be just what we need–specifically, the cure for insomnia.

Live-Blogging the First 2016 Presidential Debate

10:32 pm: Lester Holt asks Trump about his recent comment that Secretary Clinton “doesn’t look Presidential”–you know, she’s a woman.  He tries very hard to shift the focus to a claim that Clinton “doesn’t have the stamina to be President.”

Clinton comes back by saying that Donald Trump should negotiate international agreements and cease-fires, open up new markets, and sit through 11 hours of Congressional testimony before deciding what kind of stamina is required to be President.

10:21 pm-10:28 pm: Trump talks about geopolitics like someone’s drunken uncle–NATO members should pay us for the privilege of their defense, China should “go into North Korea” and take care of the problem of that state’snuclear brinkmanship.  He has no grasp of policy particulars or of statesmanship; his very presence on this debate stage is scary.

10:18 pm: Holt asks Trump about his suggestion that U.S. defense of NATO members should be contingent on what those members have paid into the common defense of NATO members–which could embolden Russia to attack certain Eastern European countries with relatively low military budgets–and he defends that dangerous claim, by arguing that he effected recent announcements of enhanced commitment to military spending by NATO members.

Secretary Clinton notes that the only time NATO’s Article V (An attack on 1 NATO member constitutes an attack on all NATO members) has been invoked was after September 11th, when all NATO members honored their defense commitment and joined the NATO campaign against Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan.

10:14 pm: Trump attacks President Obama’s decision to make a complete withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, noting that this created a military vacuum in Iraq.  He says we should have kept at least 10,000 US Armed Forces personnel in Iraq as a monitoring force, to prevent an incursion by militant Islamists such as the Islamic State…them he says the United States should have stayed and taken Iraq’s oil.  See? Trump was giving a measured critique, but then he kinda lost his mind there and called for some kind of weird neocolonial redux.

Clinton notes in response that the 2011 withdrawal was in response to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s refusal to reach a status-of-forces agreement over US military forces in Iraq.

10:00 pm: Donald Trump really is a fool.  When Holt asks him to elaborate on the Birther movement he led, which demanded to see President Obama’s birth certificate, he defends the action.  He says that he did the country–and most-gallingly, the President–a service by demanding that he prove he was born in the United States.

Secretary Clinton notes with indignation that President Obama quietly bristled foot a long time under the suggestion that he should have to repeatedly aire the public that he was really a native-born American citizen while the White Presidents who proceeded him did not.

Clinton also cited the fact that the Department of Justice brought charges against Trump twice for violations of Fair Housing policy; Trump defends himself by noting that he settled–paid a fine–without an admission of guilt.

9:45 pm: A surprisingly civil discussion over police procedure and the Black Lives Matter movement.  Secretary Clinton calls for procedural reforms that can address tragic police killings of Black men–she notes incidents over the past week in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina.  Trump notes the high violent crime rate in many majority-minority inner cities, suggesting that respect for “law and order” would benefit Black Americans in the inner city.  He calls for the reinstitution of the stop-and-frisk program in New York City, suggesting that it would be upheld on appeal in the Federal Court system.

Clinton later drives the stake into a vulnerable point of his, suggesting that Trump’s loose way of talking about crime in the inner cities comstitutes a slur, and that noting that stop-and-frisk program was found unconstitutional by a lower Federal Court for encouraging police to target young Black men for frisking for weapons.  Donald Trump’s trawling for Black voters is unlikely to go anywhere, tonight’s debate being a case in point.  He makes another try for it, though, calling Clinton out for use of the racially-toned term “super-predators” in reference to hardened criminals and criticising American politicians for paying most attention to Black voters at election season.

9:36 pm: Holt asks Secretary Clinton if she wants to comment on her privatr email server now that Trump has brought it up; she says that she does, and that she made a mistake and that she would handle her private communications very differently if she could do it again.  She apologizes.

In response, Trump accuses her of deliberate malfeasance.  He isn’t the first person to suggest this, but he just sounds feckless, as if he wasn’t expecting Clinton to admit that she made a mistake.

9:33 pm: You’re a good man, Lester Holt: Holt asks Trump about his excuse for not releasing his tax returns–that he is under IRS audit.  He notes that a person under IRS audit is free to publicize his or her tax returns.  Trump tries to shift the focus to Secretary Clinton’s emails; Clinton suggests that Trump won’t release his tax returns because he may not be as rich as he claims…or as charitable as he claims…finally, in a master stroke, she suggests that  Trump may not have paid income tax for several years due to real estate tax provisions.

9:26 pm: Question #2.  Secretary Clinton bum-rushed Trump for almost 6 minutes, and all he did was reactively protest.  Even Lester Holt was unable to reign her in because she knew what she wanted to say and jumped right into it.

9:24 pm #ItsnotLestersfault

9:20 pm: Donald Trump loses his composure 20 minutes in.  He tries to go after Secretary Clinton very hard on free trade, but she talks for a full 4 minutes with only terse protests from Trump.

9:17 pm: Secretary Clinton notes that Donald Trump called global warming “a hoax brought to us by the Chinese,” which he denies several times.  She’s really getting under his skin.

9:13 pm: Trump calls Clinton “Secretary Clinton,” and asks if she is happy with that title.  “Good,” he says.  “I want you to be happy.  That’s important to me.”  He’s being tense; I think she got under his skin.  He maintains his composure for now, though; it isn’t enough for him to be agitated for am attack to count as a grand slam in this debate.

9:11 pm: Secretary Clinton draws first blood, calling Trump’s proposals to lower taxes and reduce regulations just a buffed Reaganomics–“Trumponomics.”

Then she notes Donald Trump’s good luck in getting a $14 million investment from his father to get his start in real estate.  She suggests that the very rich don’t appreciate how difficult social mobility really is.

9:09 pm: Donald Trump talks for almost his entire period about the ravages of past free trade agreements; he particularly focuses on declining auto manufacturing work in the Midwest.  As a supporter of free trade, the Liberal Ironist really doesn’t know how this will go down with viewers.  Trump does take an early lead with those who interpret or economic problems through a lens of anxiety.

Oh, he calls for tax cuts.

9:07 pm: Secretary Clinton starts off addressing a question on shared prosperity–We need equal pay for equal work, corporate profit-sharing with employees, paid family leave.

That’s paid family leave; Secretary Clinton’s proposal allows either parent to stay home to raise a newborn, and it’s much more-generous in its provisions than Trump’s.

9:05 pm: Lester Holt: “And now, let’s bring out the candidates–Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.”

Friend sitting next to me: “Oh, I can’t believe this is happening!  How horrible!”

9:00 pm: A lot of boring discussion about political optics.

Live-Blogging the 2016 Democratic National Convention: Night 4

10:39 pm: The Reverend giving the closing prayer at the DNC first asks the assembled Democrats to stop bursting the post-speech balloons, and when they keep popping, he says, “Friends, take the hand of sometime next to you, in recognition of what we can all accomplish together!” The Democrats hold hands, and the balloon bursting ceases: That’s the power of rhetorical grace.

10:38 pm: Thousands of Democrats are bursting balloons.

11:06 pm: I’ve been conferring over Secretary Clinton’s Presidential acceptance speech, and what we’ve observed over the past 20 minutes or so is that Clinton really isn’t a strong orator.  My friend’s observation is that Secretary Clinton’s speech lacks a clear overarching theme; I notice that this is ironic, since the speech is very explicit on hitting all the necessary points.  It’s like a series of opportunities to give a Democratic message, with an overall result that the speech lacks impact.  Too much substance, not enough integration of that substance.  Sun-Tzu said “He who defends everything defends nothing,” and this is a speech that, in addressing all points of contention between the parties and making Progressive promises, feels like it stakes no claim for its audience’s intense affection.

10:46 pm: Secretary Clinton accepts the Democratic Presidential nomination: We officially have our first female major-party Presidential candidate.  Maybe the novelty of this nomination has worn-off a bit since it failed in a contested primary 8 years ago–but you can’t tell that from the convention hall.  The applause is long, and it is as loud as any moment of this Convention.

10:40 pm: Secretary Clinton invokes the famous, ground-breaking words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”  She is of course beginning an attack on Donald Trump.  She observes that Donald Trump explicitly promised that “Only I can fix this.”  She notes just how incongruous this promise is in our tradition, that it’s almost un-American.  We do what we do working together, not subordinating our judgments to a strongman.  That’s what Republicans, with characteristic hyperbole, used to call Barack Obama, and now they have nominated a man who promises to be a strongman for President.

10:34 pm: “…And Bill, that conversation we started in the library 45 years ago: It is still going strong.  That conversation had gone on through good times that fulfilled us, through hard times that tested us, and I even got a few words in along the way.  And as we saw 2 nights ago, my Explainer-in-Chief is still on the job.”  Secretary Clinton doesn’t just thank her husband, the former President Bill Clinton (who obviously embarrassed her personally several times in the 1990s), and President Barack Obama  (who defeated her in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary and upset what many thought was her moment), and her running mate Senator Tim Kaine (who could lose a contest for attention to eel grass), but ends on an acknowledgment of this year’s primary running mate, Senator Bernie Sanders  (D-VT), who raked her over the coals for not going too far-enough as a Progressive.  In the 1990s she was regarded by many as going too far as a Progressive; she has remarked in the past that she personally lacks charisma, and that’s true–but she makes up for it in grace and respect.  Secretary Clinton’s skeptics haven’t acknowledged this.

10:07 pm: “I never once doubted that my parents cared about my ideas–and I never, never doubted that they loved me.”  This part is by the numbers, of course, as Chelsea Clinton’s introductory speech for the candidate gets off to a rolling start, but she’s building towards Hillary Clinton’s essential message: “(My parents) taught me that I have to fight to change what I think is wrong.  That, they told me, is what you owe for being smiled upon by fate…”  Thus far, the most-effective part of her speech has been her description of the movie night tradition she has with her parents.  “My father, as you now all know, likes Police Academy…And my mother likes Pride and Prejudice.  But afterwards, she gets back to work…”  This is Hillary Clinton’s link to the theme of the 2016 Democratic National Convention: America is a country liberates people–but there is a staggering amount of vulnerability and human deprivation in this country, and a tireless (and yes, ambitious) advocate is needed.  She isn’t a deliverer making empty promises of settling scores, she is an advocate for those in need who studies a problem and becomes an entrepreneur for change.

9:50 pm: “My father used to have a saying: ‘Show me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are.’  Hillary Clinton has walked with us all her life.”  Congressman Becerra says one of the best things he can say on Secretary Clinton’s behalf, but Trump has laid more than half of the groundwork for Clinton with Hispanic Americans already, calling for a border wall with Mexico and vowing to expel 11 million illegal immigrants who would probably be happy to pay taxes if they didn’t feel they had to hide from the police.  In any case, it was Donald Trump who explicitly wed the Republican Party to White nationalism, so the communities now associating strongly with the Democratic Party are simply the wages of Republicans’ own unintelligent choice.

9:47 pm: “Hillary has what she calls the ‘Chelsea test’: If a school isn’t good-enough for her daughter, it isn’t good-enough for anyone’s daughter.”  Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) gives a good take-home one-liner focused on Secretary Clinton’s Liberalism, which is longstanding and central to what motivates her.  Too many people simply associate her with the corridors of power and pay no attention to what she has used them for or the perspective she has sought to give a hearing there.

Much of the rest of Congressman Becerra’s speech is an attack on Donald Trump.  It’s still satisfying to hear, though.

9:44 pm: Senator Brown reminds the assembled delegates (as if they could forget it) that Donald Trump has called for lowering the minimum wage.  He also accounts for the economic ruin and spoiled dreams that Trump left in the wake of his many failed or fundamentally unsound ventures.  Again, Senator Brown’s delivery isn’t great oratory, but his anger at Donald Trump’s insularity and conceits is easy to believe.  (Ohio is, after all, a State with a well-established center-right proletarian tradition.)  Also, unlike the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Senator Brown doesn’t put the Sun to sleep.  Senator Brown makes a fantastic attack dog on questions of political economics and Trump’s unfavorable classist overtones.  He may not be Senator Sanders, but he’s a substantial representative of the Midwestern working class–precisely the people and the place Trump will need to win over in November, and would screw badly starting right away in 2017.

9:37 pm: Having briefly addressed his modest upbringing, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) launches into an indignant account of stagnating wages and growing corporate profits.  He’s a popular Senator from Ohio, folksy and populist…I wonder how long Secretary Clinton considered nominating this man as his running mate.  He doesn’t demonstrate great charisma in his speech, but unlike Tim Kaine, when he talks flags don’t stop blowing in the wind.

Live-Blogging the 2016 Democratic National Convention: Night 3

11:40 pm: President Obama says that the energy and creativity and care and right aims of the American people in political life are what has renewed his faith in America; by a remarkable symmetry, Barack Obama is the man who ended my own cynicism about Progressive causes.  This was a fine speech, one that linked Barrack Obama’s Presidency with Hillary Clinton’s Presidential candidacy but which met a much higher bar in defining the American tradition: America is a country that raises up the many precisely in asking them to be stronger.  That strength isn’t found in spite of the affection of each for the others that the President referred to, but is made manifest in it.  It’s an unflinchingly-positive message; it’s also a message.

11:35 pm: “We don’t fear the future, we embrace it.”  President Obama’s speech has a great narrative unity to it: Americans are Americans as the inheritance or the earned benefit of many individual choices, and Americans are bound together both by rational adherence to law and common bonds of affection.

11:26 pm: President Obama calls on Americans to turn-out to vote Democratic up and down the ticket. Democrats have lost 14 Senate seats, 71 Congressional seats, 10 Governorships (figuring Alaska’s independent Governor essentially a Democrat), and almost 1,000 State Legislature seats and over a dozen State legislatures since President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009.  That’s the power of the demographic contrast–the older, Whiter, more-affluent, rural voters with lots of local social capital who turn-out to vote in State and local elections when Barack Obama isn’t on the top of the ballot.

11:23 pm: “(Secretary Clinton) knows that driving to make a better life for oneself is the quintessential American Dream, and the American Dream is too big for any wall to keep out.”  President Obama casts the Democratic Party as the party of immigrants; Republicans are unlikely to be able to challenge that claim, as it cannot agree not to oppose legal immigration as well, through the advocacy of such Congressional luminaries as Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Congressman Steve King (R-IA).

11:16 pm: “I have to say, people outside of the United States don’t understand what’s going on in this election.  That’s because they know Hillary.  They know her work…”  Yes, President Obama is trying to reinforce the most-important message of this Convention, the one former President Clinton made so compellingly last night: Hillary Clinton is her many good qualities.  The impression you may have of her is a cartoon character created by Republicans a generation ago.

11:08 pm: “For 4 years, I came to see (Hillary Clinton’s) intelligence, her drive, and her work ethic.  I came to realize that this wasn’t for praise, that it wasn’t for attention, that Hillary Clinton was in it for every one of us…”  President Obama is a fine character witness for the former Secretary of State.  He also says “…there’s nobody–not me, not Bill, no nobody, more-qualified to be President of the United States than Hillary Clinton.”  That’s a big applause line in the Convention hall, but what I think people need to hear is something people should be able to see for themselves but have been told otherwise for too long, that Hillary Clinton is a human being.

11:03 pm: “What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican–and it wasn’t very Conservative.  It was a deeply pessimistic vision in which we turn away from the World, and turn away from each other…It wasn’t representative of the America I know.”  If there are Republicans and Conservatives watching, you might as well confront them with it: In your heart, you know Trump is wrong.

10:58 pm: “…I stand before you tonight, as your President, to tell you that I’m more-optimistic about the future of America than ever before.  How could I not be, after all we’ve achieved together?”  He reads off the list: Overcoming the 2008 Financial Crisis, bringing health care to millions of Americans for the first time, protecting consumers from financial fraud, and a remarkable push that has led to acceptance of gay marriage among other things.  He admits that there have been frustrating failures: Millions of Americans need work or better wages, and gun violence is a plague upon our country.

10:53 pm: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.”

10:45 pm: What follows is a compelling accounting of President Obama’s difficult decisions and frustrating moments of his term.  I have such admiration and gratitude of this man; I grieve fire the passing of his term already.  We need leaders who champion the truly disenfranchised and who will speak difficult truths–but who can maintain that professorial calm and sense of responsibility in the moment–that he may pursue the sometimes non-linear course of justice rather than just try to settle scores or give the crowd instant gratification.  It’s hard to find these qualities, but much easier to find either without the other.  This is the great character of a great President.

10:40 pm: Sharon Belkofer, the Gold Star Mother of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Belkofer, says “I wish every American could hug President Obama, so they could see the goodness in his eyes and feel the warmth in his heart.  She recounts her loss of her son in wartime, and President Obama’s encouragement of her successful school board election.  This is a story that, in our acrimonious era, hasn’t received the attention it deserves: President Obama is a decent man who asks himself what is right, and who strives to build others up and to foster the best in them.

10:30 pm: A friend says that Senator Kaine’s speech was much stronger while he was staying positive, before he counted the ways that Donald Trump is a crook and a liar (which I think any person being honest would have to agree that Trump is).  He says that Senator Kaine’s affability is his asset.  Upon reflection I agree that he is right; but before he brought it up, both when he was positive and when he was negative, Senator Kaine struck me as a man who could prevent dough baking in the oven from rising into bread by talking to it.

10:25 pm: Senator Kaine’s Donald Trump impression is a much better Senator Sanders impression, clearly distinguished only by the references to criminal mischief in business and xenophobic promises.

10:16 pm: Senator Kaine correctly identifies Virginia as a Commonwealth, not a State; he is also so uncharismatic that he makes George Bush Sr. look like Charlton Heston.  He is at the Democratic National Convention, and he makes you want to shrug in assent when he describes the richly-diverse cultural tapestry of strivers with ancestry from around the World who continually beat the odds to build and renew America; that’s a line that should have you clapping and nodding and your eyes misty.

10:14 pm: Senator Kaine accuses Donald Trump of abandoning the legacy of the Party of Lincoln.  Trump does that for reasons that alienate limited-government Conservatives (in opposing existing free trade agreements) and both Conservatives and Liberals (in what us undeniably race-baiting).  You’d think that condemning Donald Trump in the light of the example of the Republican Party’s many past statesmen would be a more-central theme of this Convention than it has been; I think it would be a more-compelling way of condemning Trump than repeating so many of the almost-inexhaustible examples of his vulgarity and bigotry.  There is only so much we can even say about all of that nonsense, however scary.

10:11 pm: “We all live in the same country; we are all Americans,” Senator Kaine says in very crisp Spanish. 

10:03 pm: That’s right, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) is a loyal congregant of a majority-Black church, and he was Governor of Virginia during the tragedy of the Virginia Tech mass shooting.  At least part of Secretary Clinton’s thinking in choosing Kaine as her running mate has become clear to me.

It certainly isn’t because Senator Kaine is a charismatic public speaker–And those are the words I type as Kaine accepts his party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States.  “I wasn’t supposed to be here,” he jokes, but his voice is a little too authentic in the delivery of that particular line.

9:59 pm: Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) speaks next. The shape of his Congressional District changed considerably last year when a Federal Court ruled (as later upheld by the Supreme Court) that Virginia Republicans’ Congressional District map constituted an unconstitutional “racial gerrymander”, likely preventing the election of a 2nd Black Congressman.  As a consequence, Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) will likely lose re-election now that he is no longer protected from the large Black population in the Virginia Tidewater.

9:44 pm: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks on behalf of Secretary Clinton.  A moderate Republican who became a political independent, Mayor Bloomberg really did straddle contemporary political ideologies in many ways, closing down Manhattan streets for pedestrian thoroughfares and celebrating the arrival of an international billionaire class in New York City, continuing Mayor Giuliani’s numbers-driven policing policies and becoming a nationally-prominent advocate for gun control.  Months ago, Mayor Bloomberg made headlines when he said he would run for President as an independent if either Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz won the Republican Presidential nomination and Senator Bernie Sanders won the Democratic Presidential nomination.  It’s not surprising that Mayor Bloomberg has endorsed Secretary Clinton, a confirmed advocate of gun control.

Gun control gets its own night at the 2016 Democratic National Convention?  Meanwhile, most Congressional Republicans cannot support any gun control regulations while 74% of NRA members express support in an internal poll for transaction-point background checks on firearms purchases.  Our country really does seem to be dividing in 2, but much of this is interest-group driven and not representative or organic.

I really appreciate Mayor Bloomberg’s support for Clinton, but his speech is not a barn-burner.  There doesn’t seem to be much passion or much of a message behind being an independent (Wow); I’m more convinced than ever that we simply need a means for elected Democrats and Republicans to have benign structured interactions with each other.  Mayor Bloomberg, a Republican in a different era, has become a Democrat in all but name.