Friday, March 22, 2019

Is David Brock's SuperPAC A Bridge To Nowhere?

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American Bridge is a SuperPAC founded by David Brock, one of the oddest ducks in American politics. Once a right-wing journalistic assassin-for-hire and purveyor of Bill Clinton conspiracy theories, he turned against the GOP after coming out of the closet and was reborn as some kind of super-operative for the Republican-wing of the Democratic Party. Despite being one of the least trustworthy characters in American politics, he has been allowed to infiltrate multiple layers of the Democratic Party establishment to a degree that nearly every Democratic failure since the early 2000s has his fingerprints on it. Brock has been an especially effective Bernie saboteur and Edward Helmore used an article in The Guardian to note "residual unease among some liberal operatives that Brock's conversion story fits into a pattern of opportunism and self-promotion rather than ideological transformation." I don't know if he's a Republican mole or not, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out he's been enriching himself while sabotaging the Democratic Party from within for years.

Of the $20,460,398 American Bridge 21st Century collected in 2018, almost nothing was spent helping candidates, while $13,864,849 was spent on salaries, close to $3 million of administrative costs and over a million and a half on consultants. Everything about their balance sheet screams SCAM. It was the same pattern in 2016-- $19,894,876 raised; $143,186 to help candidates; $12,598,727 for salaries; and the rest for consultants, administrative costs and so on.

Yesterday, NBC News reported that one of his operations, American Bridge "is embarking on a $50 million effort designed to soften President Donald Trump’s support among the group that cost Democrats the White House in 2016-- white working-class voters in the Upper Midwest." Reaching out for cash from naive, wealthy Democratic donors, his memo states that "We understand that we may not win these voters back entirely, but if we don’t make inroads into these areas, we will win the popular vote, lose the Electoral College, and the Senate could be lost for a decade." He plans to drain $80 million from legitimate Democratic Party vehicles into his own super-shady SuperPAC, a $50 million expansion he claims will help the Democrats win rural and exurban voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and possibly Florida via commissionable and very profitable paid advertising campaigns on TV and radio and via digital dissemination.

The NBC News piece was written by an exceptionally inept reporter, Alex Seitz-Wald, who's never successfully grappled with the distinction between journalism and p.r.
"We're going to focus on real-life testimonials and putting them in front of voters," Brock said.

Trump has already spent tens of millions of dollars on his reelection campaign and held dozens of rallies while Democrats are just beginning the year-and-half-long process of selecting their nominee.

"While the strongest Democratic field in history brings their messages to primary voters and the American people, we are going to take the fight to Donald Trump, who has sold out hard-working Americans," said Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor who ran for Florida governor last year.

Gillum is joining the board of American Bridge’s 501(c)4 non-profit arm, which is chaired by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. New additions also include former DNC Chair Ed Rendell and operative Jessica Mackler, who ran the independent expenditure arm of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in last year's midterm elections.

Since Hillary Clinton lost the formerly solidly blue Midwest states, Democrats have debated whether to focus on winning back those voters or doubling down on their more diverse base.
Progressives within the Democratic Party have instead focussed on making sure the party's next nominee is not another version of Hillary Clinton-- so an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders (or even a Mayor Pete) rather than a Biden or Beto or Gillibrand. In other words, someone whose policy agenda will appeal to those Midwestern blue collar voters rather than chase them to a carnival barker like Trump again.

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Gimmicky

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Ames, Iowa to Nashua, New Hampshire is an amazing 3 hours-- then back to Sioux City!

As of yesterday, Beto had campaigned in all 190 New Hampshire counties (in just 48 hours of his unique brand of superficiality). He also skateboarded through Iowa and the upper Midwest, playing a guitar and balancing a large American flag ball on his nose. Dave Siders reported for Politico that "With no day job, the Texas Democrat's breakneck pace of campaign stops is driving some of his competitors nuts... O’Rourke is rallying college students, bounding onto café countertops and pressing himself into the news cycle in different media markets by the hour."
“We’re setting the pace,” O’Rourke said in Iowa over the weekend, after running a 5K race at the start of a frenzied day of campaigning in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. He then traveled to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, before driving his rented Dodge Grand Caravan more than 430 miles east to New Hampshire.

In less than a week since announcing his campaign, the Texas Democrat has singlehandedly quickened the clip of the early presidential primary, annoying some of his competitors-- and driving others nuts.

...But O’Rourke is also attempting in his go-everywhere-fast campaign to establish himself as a course-correction from Hillary Clinton’s losing effort in 2016. Many Democrats remain bitter that Clinton did not campaign at all in Wisconsin in the general election-- a critical state ultimately carried by President Donald Trump. Asked recently to assess the Democratic Party’s failure in the last presidential election, O’Rourke said, “You’ve got to show up, and you’ve got to come back.”

...For Jeff Roe, who was Cruz’s chief strategist, O’Rourke’s early run is familiar. He said that if O’Rourke remains tied to the road, it will prevent him from advancing any public storyline other than that he is a road warrior-- a narrative that will eventually grow old.

“Coming out of the gate, for the first couple weeks, it’s probably OK,” Roe said. “But this is all he has … he’s in a constant sprint to find himself.”
Meanwhile, I'm sure someone is writing a good platform for him in case he decides to run on issues.

Team Biden has its own gimmickry. Mike Allen reported yesterday that close advisors "are debating the idea of packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president." Gee, what happened to the Biden-Beto team?

Allen wrote that "The popular Georgia Democrat, who at age 45 is 31 years younger than Biden, would bring diversity and excitement to the ticket-- showing voters, in the words of a close source, that Biden 'isn’t just another old white guy.'" Woulda fooled me! Allen cautions that "Advisers also know that the move would be perceived as a gimmick." Another gimmick they're considering is a pledge to serve just one term, in the words of Jonathan Martin at the NY Times, "framing Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign as a one-time rescue mission for a beleaguered country."

Also yesterday, Jonathan Chair noted in his New York Magazine column that Abrams would be a "brilliant move" for Biden... and for Abrams too. He offers 9 reasons why:
1. Most obviously, running with Abrams would help address Biden’s cringe-inducing and sometimes ghastly history of retrograde positions on segregation and criminal justice. As my colleague Ed Kilgore correctly noted, “Serving the protector of Biden’s racial flank, on the other hand, might get a little old and a little limiting” for Abrams.

But that would be the wrong way to construct her role. The addition of Abrams would visibly signal that Biden is a bridge to a different kind of Democratic Party that has moved left on racial issues. Biden can say he’s a different kind of politician with different policies than those he advocated in the 1970s and 1980s, but having Abrams as his partner and presumptive heir demonstrates the point.

2. Abrams would also obviously add an element of mobilization and inspiration to Biden’s comfort and familiarity with the base. “Balance” is an overrated trope in vice-presidential selection, but candidates do have different qualities and the degree to which Abrams’s complements Biden’s is very striking: old/young, white/black, male/female, North/South, experience/potential.

Candidates who have the ability to mobilize voters with inspirational appeals often lack national name recognition and credibility. (That’s Beto O’Rourke’s liability.) And candidates who begin with established credentials often have a longer record of compromises and feel like old news (Biden’s problem, and also to a smaller extent a liability for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders). A pairing with Abrams gives both a chance to take on each other’s assets and cover their own liabilities.

3. The pairing would make Biden’s race feel more serious. Political reporters have approached a Biden race with the unstated assumption that his polling lead is an artifact of high name recognition. His best day will be his first, and he will slowly gaffe his way to irrelevance, as he has with every previous race. Paradoxically, he is a polling front-runner who needs to get the press corps to take him seriously.

From that standpoint, it’s odd to see “inevitability” treated as an argument against joining early with Abrams. “Naming an early running mate could help feed into an air of inevitability,” one senior Democrat who admires Biden tells CNN, which might be “problematic for his candidacy.” So the campaign would appear inevitable, like Hillary Clinton? Or Mitt Romney? Or George W. Bush? Or Al Gore? Or other candidates who were treated as prohibitive front-runners from the beginning of the race and then … won the primary? That’s bad?

4. Yes, by picking Abrams now, Biden would lock himself in very early. Matthew Yglesias argues that doing so would prevent him from having a more complete choice of running mates later in the process. And it’s true, by June of 2020, you can imagine a world where Biden would wish he could pick Warren or Kamala Harris or somebody else. But the thing is, the odds are that he’s not going to be in that position at all. Maximizing his odds of winning the nomination seems far more important, from Biden’s standpoint, than maximizing the potential for exploiting his vice-presidential selection.

5. The move would make just as much sense for Abrams. She currently finds herself in the frustrating position of having demonstrated strong political talent but lacking an obvious next step for her political ambitions. Abrams’s home state is trending purple but not quite there, and while she could run again in 2020, the political environment might not be much friendlier than it was in 2018, an anti-Trump wave election year.

Abrams has said she wants to be president. A vice-presidential spot would fast-track her for consideration-- should a Biden–Abrams ticket prevail in November, Abrams would immediately become the prohibitive front-runner whenever Biden retires. 6. Some of the logic that argues for her to join with Biden would also suggest she join Bernie Sanders, another high-polling old white guy. But even if Sanders would consider such a move, a prospect no reporting has suggested, it makes less sense for her. Abrams is not a socialist, and has a distinctly different worldview, as Rebecca Traister’s profile points out, showing Abrams tell one crowd, “I’m not going to do class warfare; I want to be wealthy.” Sanders has a different set of liabilities than Biden: chief among them, the Democratic Party elite thinks he would have trouble withstanding the attacks on his platform and his radical history that he would face in a general election (but which did not come up in the 2016 primary). Joining with Abrams wouldn’t do much to ameliorate that.

7. Joining the race early makes Abrams a much more attractive vice-presidential selection than she would be in June of next year. Like O’Rourke, her talents offset a résumé that’s well short of the traditional qualifications for president (Abrams’s highest elected office is state assembly). That’s a weakness that might prevent Abrams or O’Rourke from being nominated as a vice-president next summer-- they would face questions about their qualifications and preparedness for office. Paradoxically, for a candidate with a borderline résumé, vice-president is more of a reach than president.

But it’s also a liability that can be addressed on the campaign trail, by demonstrating a command of policy to the media. Abrams, with her advanced degrees in both public policy and law, can answer any doubts.

8. Abrams doesn’t close any options by running with Biden. “Why in the world would Stacey Abrams lock herself into Biden’s fortunes when she would be a top-tier running-mate option for several of these candidates?” asks Republican operative Brendan Buck, who perhaps might not have Abrams’s best interests at heart.

But why would running with Biden prevent her from joining a different campaign if he loses? Presidential candidates pick politicians who who ran against them for president to join their ticket all the time. Why would the fact that she ran on a different ticket as a vice-president disqualify her?

9. The biggest single argument against naming Abrams at the beginning is that it just hasn’t been done before. The closest parallel is Ted Cruz’s last-minute desperation gambit to name Carly Fiorina as his running mate in the closing stages of the 2016 primary. The fact that the combined charisma of Cruz and Fiorina was not enough to overcome Trump’s big lead hardly proves it can’t work. If anything, the lateness of the maneuver gave it a whiff of desperation. If Biden does wait, and his polling lead starts to melt, naming Abrams will have the same pitfall. The Cruz example argues for joining with Abrams on Day One.

Sometimes there’s a new idea that has not been done before for no good reason. “Political brilliance” is not a phrase I would normally associate with Joe Biden. But running with Stacey Abrams seems to qualify.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!

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by Noah

That's one small splat for a baby man. And, one giant splat for Earth if this insanity is allowed to continue much longer.

Your move, Congress. Put the phone down. Stop stuffing your pockets with K-Street bribes and do something besides continuing to collaborate.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Piss Off Washington’s Power Players, Tune Into this Conference on the Israeli Lobby’s Impact on American Policy. Stream It Online Friday, or Access It Later for a Greater Grasp of the Issues than Most in Congress Have

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-by Skip Kaltenheuser

The sixth annual conference on the Israeli lobby’s influence on American policy is being held on Friday, March 22nd at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

I’m hoping that the mainstream media won’t hold to past form, committing media malpractice by virtually ignoring this important conference. It is the thinking person’s antidote to the AIPAC conference that follows in a couple days, where American political figures of all stripes will genuflect and kow tow to the far, farther and farthest right that runs Israel. After watching displays like that of then-US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley at the last AIPAC conference one could be forgiven for wondering if America’s Pledge of Allegiance has been rewritten to include a foreign country.

But decent MSM coverage would be a pleasant surprise. Fortunately you don’t have to be defeated by media suppression and filtering of The Israel Lobby & American Policy Conference 2019. Friday, starting at 9am EST, you can watch the whole day conference if you go to the website of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Perhaps it’ll be accessible at the conference site as well.

And if you can’t catch it live, come back later and locate video, audio and transcripts that will later go online.

All the blather expressing Congressional and pundit shock at US Rep. llhan Omar’s revelation that there is gambling in the casino is a worrisome a sign that many of America’s leaders either haven’t learned their lesson or haven’t yet found their spine. Of course it’s all about the Benjamins, what kind of fools do politicians take us for? That, and fear of being labeled anti-semitic and of having the Benjamins start flowing to primary opponents. Direct all naysayers to this excellent Intercept piece that includes access to segments of a withering documentary on Israeli influence in Congress. In it, operatives describe the highly directed flow of Benjamins, and how to spin this and that to twist the truth to destroy their critics. That courageous documentary was done by Al Jazeera, and allegedly suppressed under pressure from Qatar, under pressure from Israel. But some brave soul galloped it out of the corral, and anyone working in Congress and in media who fails to watch it is a fool. Really, whatever your walk in life, it’s well worth your time.



America’s leaders and citizens will never have a clear perspective on foreign influence until they fully understand the role Netanyahu and his American neo-con confederates in the Bush administration, and sadly many of their enablers in media who continue to percolate up, played in promoting Bush the second’s ruinous invasion of Iraq. Don’t take my word for it, here’s Netanyahu pulling one of his cons, in 2002, performed for Congress and below is a segment focused on his promotion of the WMD con. Better pay attention, because many of the same minions who opened that Pandora’s Box are now hard at work pushing conflict with Iran, the octane of the Iran effort juiced up by their great pals in Saudi Arabia. They haven’t yet unleashed enough Hell in the world.



The conference will likely include some comment on the anti-BDS laws proliferating across America, which amount to nothing less than throwing America’s First Amendment under the bus on behalf of a foreign power. The Intercept has written excellent commentary on tangential issues, such as this piece on the latest disgraceful effort in Congress, and on this Texas preview of the Kafka-like application of such laws.

A couple years ago I wrote this piece on the conference that included a personal experience in Israel, when the scales fell from my eyes, and I saw a disgusting racism at work at the highest levels of Israeli government in its effort to oppress and dehumanize Palestinians.

One matter I hope the conference addresses is American media’s averting its gaze from the systematic oppression of and violence toward Palestinian journalists. A recent UN report suggesting war crimes might have been committed against Gaza protestors, including the deliberate targeting of journalists, children and the disabled. Maybe this will get media and media organizations to throw some light on this. Or not.

But you can throw some light by tuning into the conference, and sending your preferred segments to those who care, or should.




Here’s the conference schedule:
9:00 AM- Dale Sprusansky: Conference Organizer Welcoming Remarks.
9:05 AM- Delinda Hanley: Why Talking about the Israel Lobby Matters.
9:15 AM- Walter Hixson: Israel's Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict.
10:00 AM- Ali Abunimah: What does a Censored Undercover News Investigation Reveal about the Israel Lobby in America?
10:45 AM- Ideas Fair - Morning Break - Ali Abunimah book signing.
11:25 AM- Grant F. Smith: U.S. Foreign Aid and the Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program.
12:00 PM- James North: How the New York Times Rigs News on Israel Palestine.
12:30 PM- Lunch - Ideas Fair.
1:15 PM- Keynote: Susan Abulhawa: Israel: More than Apartheid.
2:00 PM- Panel: Fighting against Illegal Settlements and for Free Speech.

Martin F. McMahon: The Legal Battle for Justice Against Israeli Settlers and their American Financiers.
Saqib Ali: Why I’m Suing Maryland to Protect my Constitutional Right to Boycott Israel.
2:45 PM- Ideas Fair - Afternoon break - Susan Abulhawa book signing.
3:30 PM- Brad Parker: What Lessons can Activists Take Away from the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act?
4:00 PM- Panel: The Virginia Coalition for Human Rights (VCHR).

Paul Noursi: What is the VCHR?
James Metz: Why VCHR is Taking on the Virginia Israel Advisory Board.
Kathy Drinkard: How the VCHR is Preventing Israel Affinity Organizations from Politicizing K-12 Textbooks.
4:50 PM- Closing Remarks - Delinda Hanley and Grant F. Smith.
The video’s, audio and transcripts for the prior five conferences can be accessed here.


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Trump Has No Path To Reelection That Doesn't Go Through Florida

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Yesterday, at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum talked about how he plans to work with Bring It Home Florida towards blocking Trump's reelection bid by helping register more voters in the nation's biggest swing state. This is what Florida party affiliation registration looks like right now:
Democrats- 4,965,139
Republicans- 4,718,813
Independents- 3,593,623
Minor parties- 119,488
When Mike Bloomberg announced he wasn't running for president after all, he said he would run massive voter registration drives and turnout efforts in the 5 top swing states-- Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and... Florida. The Florida Democratic Party has committed $2 million towards a voter registration drive this cycle and Gillum's own PAC, Forward Florida, has $3.9 million left over from his gubernatorial run. In January he told that media that "whatever resources that I raise and time and energy I spend in this state is going to be around voter registration and deep-level engagement, so that when we have a nominee, we have an apparatus we can turn on."

Now the other side of the coin-- how can Republicans hold down voter registration and suppress the vote? First and foremost, they are working towards undermining Amendment 4, which granted ex-felons the right to vote again.
Florida legislators advanced a bill on Tuesday that is expected to limit the number of former felons who can vote, in part by requiring former felons to pay back all court fees and fines before they can register.

Critics say the measure hits lower-income Floridians hardest and is designed to defy the will of the voters, who passed a constitutional amendment last year restoring voting rights to some felons who have completed their sentences without any mention of fines and fees. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wrote on Twitter that the measure was "a poll tax by any other name."

“What the barriers proposed in this bill do is nearly guarantee that people will miss election after election …because they cannot afford to pay financial obligations,” said Julie Ebenstein, a voting rights attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s an affront to the Florida voters.”




In November, 65 percent of Floridians voted to approve an amendment to the state's constitution, Amendment 4, that restored voting rights to certain former felons “after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.” Those who were convicted of “murder or sexual offenses” were not eligible for rights restoration.

The constitutional amendment, which took effect January 2019, said voting rights would be restored to eligible Floridians-- an estimated 1.5 million. Many have registered to vote in the months since then. Still, there was confusion about implementation, such as what qualified as a "sexual offense." The Republican-controlled legislature, at the encouragement of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, decided to write legislation on how the state would implement the change.

On Tuesday, a Republican-controlled committee passed a measure that would require felons to pay back all court fees and fines-- even if they are slowly paying those costs back in a court-approved payment plan, for instance-- before they can register to vote.

Ebenstein said the bill "subverts" the will of Florida voters, who she said couldn't have considered the legislature's method of implementing the amendment when voting.

"Keeping voters who can’t afford to pay their fees immediately, keeping them disenfranchised for additional years, decades, or for the rest of their life, is not what was contemplated by voters who passed this amendment," she said.

The Republican chair of Florida's state House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Rep. James "J.W." Grant, denied suggestions from advocates the bill was politically motivated and rejected the idea that it amounted to a poll tax, according to The Associated Press. Grant did not return a request for comment from NBC News.

Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country have come under fire in the months since the midterm elections for what critics have called attempts to alter or nullify election results where either Democrats or causes championed by progressives triumphed. In Michigan and Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers sought to limit the powers of incoming Democratic governors. In Missouri, Republican lawmakers reportedly said they were considering revisions to voter-approved ethics measures.

In Florida, supporters of Amendment 4 feared having Republicans-- some of whom opposed the restoration of felon voting rights-- craft the legislation on how the new law would be implemented and argued that implementation legislation was not needed.

Ebenstein said the financial obligation element of the bill that advanced Tuesday affects two groups: low-income felons who can't afford to pay back fees, and those who committed property crimes and were sentenced to pay large sums of restitution and put on payment plans.

Even if a court waives the repayment of fees for a former felon, the bill would require the victim or organization to whom the fees were owed must "consent" in order for that person to register, adding a particularly unusual barrier to the process, Ebenstein added.

"I’ve never see anything like that in my time practicing voting rights," she said.

The measure also qualifies a slew of felonies with any kind of sexual component as a disqualifying “sexual offense.” That includes crimes like having an adult entertainment store too close to a school as well as certain prostitution crimes.

“What they’ve done is picked the broadest definition possible to exclude the maximum number of people from having their rights restored,” Ebenstein told NBC News.
There is some possibility that litigation will wipe out the legislative restrictions since there's a legitimate argument on the issue of whether the fees and fines constitute a poll tax when they are a prerequisite to voting. If not, there is talk that a group backed by a big Democratic donor-- Soros I'd venture-- will pick up the tab for a lot of people on their fees and fines, and get them registered. The fees and fines tend to be very modest amounts, although it’s not so modest when you multiply them by 1.7 million felons. I recall that after the 2012 election, Alan Grayson-- who had introduced the first and only national legislation on this (the "No One Can Take Away Your Right to Vote Act")-- did a statewide poll of felons who had served their terms and found that, among this group of non-voters, Obama won by a massive 20%. If that held up in elections without Obama, it would be an insurmountable swing towards Democrats for Democratic candidates. If only the authors of the bill had just copied Grayson's proposed federal legislation, the GOP wouldn't have been able to mount this challenge to it.



Since the founding of the country, conservative have battled to deny participation in the voting process to as many people as they could, fighting viciously to keep the franchise away from women, non-property owners, people of color, young people, poor people, etc. That's pretty much the only way conservatives can win elections.


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Devin Nunes Still Needs A Hug-- And Not The Kind Of Anaconda Hug That Devin Nunes' Mom Wants To Give Him

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For some reason I could never understand, no one on Twitter ever pointed out that Devin Nunes is a hermaphrodite. OK let that go by. But we really do need to ask ourselves if Nunes is a shameless partisan hack-- someone who abuses power and the legal process to injure his political opponents, who plays fast and loose with the truth to advance partisan goals, and who’s prone to conspiratorial thinking on the flimsiest of grounds. That either is or isn't the case. Please-- a yes or no answer!

I couldn't resist a quickie post about Nunes on Tuesday after his attorney lamented about how "he endured an orchestrated defamation campaign... that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life." God, it sounds almost like someone made him work for wages that couldn't sustain a family or like someone took away his family's healthcare. Poor Devin! The terrible mocking must end-- or else! His ridiculous lawsuit is, as Matt Ford put it in the New Republic, a masterpiece of Republican Grievance. Nunes has done the impossible and surpassed even the short-fingered vulgarian in hypersensitivity, even claiming that the defendants in his absurd lawsuit are "part of a grand conspiracy to cripple his political career." The GOP has no issues with broad appeal... so now they're depending on this kind of crap to entice the aggrieved among us to vote for them.
Who’s leading this dastardly plot? Nunes doesn’t quite say. Maybe it’s the Democratic Party, he suggests. Or unnamed liberal donors. Or even hostile foreign adversaries. Whoever these hostile actors are, they’re not only causing him grievous harm; they’re contributing to “the corruption of American democracy and society.”

What the lawsuit really demonstrates, though, is the stunning vindictiveness of a powerful elected official who would use the legal system to punish his critics. If the lawsuit was intended to vindicate Nunes and his reputation, it has achieved precisely the opposite.


Nunes rose to national fame over the last two years as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, a perch he used to undermine the Russia investigation and defend Trump. In the complaint, he depicts himself as an honorable public servant who’s been wrongly maligned by his powerful opponents-- only one of whom, longtime Republican political operative Liz Mair, is explicitly named. The others are unknown to him: the Twitter users responsible for anonymous parody accounts such as “Devin Nunes’ Mom,” “Devin Nunes’ Cow,” “Fire Devin Nunes,” and “Devin Nunes’ Grapes.”

Nunes obliquely implies that Mair is in cahoots with these accounts’ owners, but offers no proof to support the theory. Either way, like a high school teacher hit from behind with a spitball, he’s determined to find out who’s responsible. “The identity of those behind the Twitter accounts is a matter of great public concern,” Nunes told the court. “Whether the accounts are controlled by wealthy Democrats, the Democratic National Committee, an opposition research firm, such as Fusion GPS, the ‘Russians,’ the ‘Chinese,’ or some other foreign government or non-governmental organization, the corruption of American democracy and society by intentional falsehoods, fraud and defamation must stop.”

What horrible things did these accounts say about Nunes to warrant the judiciary’s intervention? The account named “Devin Nunes’ Mom” receives the most attention in the complaint. Its owner frequently posted caustic remarks about him and his actions toward the Russia investigation. One tweet said that Nunes was unfit to run the House Intelligence Committee, while another joked that he was “voted ‘Most Likely to Commit Treason’ in high school.” Some tweets are indistinguishable from legitimate political criticism. Others are more puerile, implying that Nunes wanted to commit sexual acts with Trump and other top Republicans.

“In her endless barrage of tweets, Devin Nunes’ Mom maliciously attacked every aspect of Nunes’ character, honesty, integrity, ethics and fitness to perform his duties as a United States Congressman,” Nunes wrote in the complaint. Twitter apparently suspended the account this month for impersonating a real person, but not before he “suffered substantial insult, humiliation, embarrassment, pain, mental suffering and damage to his reputation as a result of the unprecedented personal and professional attacks on his character.”

Why did these tweets wound Nunes so deeply? The accounts’ jibes resemble much of the political commentary on Twitter—including the president’s. Nunes’s real grievance appears to be with Twitter itself. “Twitter represents that it enforces its Terms and Rules equally and that it does not discriminate against conservatives who wish to use its ‘public square,’” he told the court. “This is not true. This is a lie. Twitter actively censors and shadow-bans conservatives, such as Plaintiff, thereby eliminating his voice while amplifying the voices of his Democratic detractors.”

Twitter has denied that it uses shadow banning-- making a user’s posts visible to themselves but invisible to others-- but that hasn’t stopped Republican lawmakers, including Trump, from making the claim as part of a broader narrative that Silicon Valley is censoring conservative voices.

Nunes’s claim for damages also doesn’t hold up. He says that Twitter bears legal responsibility for any defamatory posts made on its platform. In reality, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act generally shields websites from civil liability related to third-party content on their platforms. Nunes himself should be pretty familiar with this: As Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown pointed out, he and his colleagues have been working to change Section 230 for this exact reason.

Nunes adopts a patriotic mien when it comes to the broader free speech issues at stake. “Access to Twitter is essential for meaningful participation in modern-day American Democracy,” he told the court. “A candidate without Twitter is a losing candidate. The ability to use Twitter is a vital part of modern citizenship. A presence on Twitter is essential for an individual to run for office or engage in any level of political organizing in modern America. This is because Twitter is not merely a website: it is the modern town square.”

This paean to civic speech might be more convincing if Nunes didn’t ask the court to force Twitter to “reveal the names and contact information” behind four of the pseudonymous accounts. What’s more, he also wants the court to “permanently enjoin and order Twitter” to suspend Mair and the other accounts. Twitter is a vital part of modern American citizenship, Nunes says, and he wants the government to strip people of access to it for being mean to him.

But Americans have every right to mock and insult their elected officials. During the election of 1796, the first contested presidential race in the nation’s history, Alexander Hamilton wrote a pseudonymous pamphlet that accused Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with an enslaved woman he owned. (The allegation later turned out to be true.) Jefferson’s supporters jeered at John Adams as “His Rotundity” and called him a hermaphrodite, while Adams’s camp accused Jefferson of supporting prostitution and incest. Adams later arrested one of Jefferson’s pamphleteers during the election of 1800 and tried to prosecute him under the Alien and Sedition Acts. The American tradition of salacious and spurious political attacks is alive and well in the Trump era.



The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a Supreme Court case from 1964, set a formidable threshold for defamation claims by public figures like Nunes. The justices cited a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” even if it includes “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” The tweets against Nunes appear to fall well within those bounds. But Nunes ignores that landmark ruling (perhaps because, like Justice Clarence Thomas, he would like to see Sullivan overturned). Instead, he cites a smattering of other cases to defend his “fundamental constitutional interest and entitlement to the uninterrupted enjoyment of his reputation.” One of his longest citations isn’t from law, but a passage from Shakespeare’s Othello in which Iago bemoans that “he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.”

So why embark on what appears to be a doomed legal endeavor? Perhaps Nunes genuinely believes he’s the victim of a conspiracy theory by Democrats and America’s foreign adversaries. If there’s evidence to support this, Nunes doesn’t offer it. “The full scope of the conspiracy, including the names of all participants and the level of involvement of donors and members of the Democratic Party, is unknown at this time and will be the subject of discovery in this action,” he noted in the complaint. In other words, Nunes wants to go on a fishing expedition to satiate his political grievances, and he wants the courts to light the way.

Or maybe Nunes is trying to use the legal system to get revenge on his political opponents. Defending oneself against litigation is onerous even for those with the financial means to fight back. (Mair urged her Twitter followers on Monday night to donate to her legal defense fund.) The rich have always wielded the American legal system as a cudgel against critics, as Peter Thiel did in financing the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that ultimately killed Gawker. That a member of Congress would attempt to do so is deeply disturbing.

Nunes’s largely anonymous Twitter critics cast him as a shameless partisan hack-- someone who abuses power and the legal process to injure his political opponents, who plays fast and loose with the truth to advance partisan goals, and who’s prone to conspiratorial thinking on the flimsiest of grounds. They say he lacks the temperament and honor to serve on the House Intelligence Committee and safeguard the nation’s secrets. His lawsuit only proves them right.


The headline in the most widely read newspaper in Nunes' district, the Fresno Bee, was By suing Twitter and parody account @DevinCow, Nunes makes himself a laughingstock. Reporter Marek Warszawski wrote that "unless the Tulare Republican plans to undo the Constitution, his lawsuit will never get out of the barn" and reminded readers that Nunes had been a co-sponsor of a piece of legislation by Tom Rice (R-SC) in 2017 called the "Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act."
Nunes’ antics would be tolerable, at least somewhat, if he were good at his job. Which is to serve the people of his district, not act as President Trump’s mole. Unfortunately, after eight terms on Capitol Hill, his list of legislative accomplishments looks up to an earthworm.

Little wonder Nunes hasn’t held a public forum around these parts since 2010. (And, no, those chummy radio appearances and speeches at Republican fundraisers don’t count.) He doesn’t care to engage anyone, besides those in lockstep with him, on air quality, water, immigration, nothing.

Despite the doltishness of the conspiracy theories he propagates, Nunes is no dummy. He knows what he’s doing is legally bogus. The only reason to file it is for attention it gets him.

Since Democrats took control of the House, Nunes’ national status has shrunk. This lawsuit, and those he threatens to file, is nothing but a politician grasping at paper straws to stay relevant.

Nunes will use the headlines and Fox News appearances to raise even more money among like-minded Republicans. Thanks to his staunch defense of Trump, our congressman raised $12.6 million (and spent $11.5) on his re-election campaign.

Now the coffers need replenishing, so why not pull a stunt that will only ingratiate him with right-wing hearts and minds? Especially those with deep pockets to go with their persecution complexes.

And, by the way, the very small and numerically insignificant Nunes' Cow twitter account (about 1,200 followers before Nunes filed his frivolous suit), is about to overtake has now overtaken Nunes' own Twitter account in terms of followers. Nunes has 397,000 followers as of this writing, and Devin Nunes' Cow now has a rapidly expanding 574,000 followers. As you can see, on Tuesday after the brouhaha had already begun, the Cow account had barely 70,000 followers. Thanks to Nunes' whining, the Cow account can reach almost 500 hundred times as many people as it used to-- sharing everything Nunes' wishes no one was thinking about or talking about. Still no declared candidates against him... yet.




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The Scientific Basis for Allan Lichtman's "13 Keys to the White House"

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Allan Lichtman's 13 Keys as applied to presidential elections since 1860. Note the races where the minimum 8 keys favor the incumbent — 1888, 1948, 1996, 2000. In two of these races, the Electoral College went the other way, as it also did in 2016. We may be headed for another such race (source; click to enlarge).

by Thomas Neuburger

I've recently written two pieces that look ahead to the 2020 presidential election. The first, "A Way-Too-Early Handicapping of the 2020 Presidential Race," examined the composition of the electorate — independent, Democratic, Republican; change-wanting, Trump-wanting, or return-to-"normal"–wanting — and determined that if the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders or someone like him, they would win a strong popular vote victory, something on the order of 54-45%. If, however, they nominate someone not like Sanders, they're risking a much closer race.

The second piece, "A Way-Too-Early Look at Allan Lichtman's 13 Keys to the White House in 2020," looked at historian Allan Lichtman's famous "13 Keys to the White House" with an eye to predicting the 2020 outcome by that method.

There again, the result showed that if the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders or someone equally inspiring (note, that's not the same as "someone like him"), they would have 9 of the 13 keys, enough to ensure both a popular vote victory and an Electoral College win based on the historical record of the system. If, however, they nominate someone less inspiring, they're again taking their chances.

What that means is this: If not much changes between now and election day to change the keys (for example, if the administration achieves no new foreign policy success) and the Democrats nominate someone uninspiring (denying them the critical 9th key), they would have the bare minimum — 8 of 13 keys — needed to win the popular vote, but the Electoral College would be up for grabs.

In 2016, for example, Lichtman's system predicted that Clinton, with 8 keys, would win the popular vote, which she did, but the Electoral College voted the other way, as it has done in several previous contests with eight-key-only winners, such as Grover Cleveland in 1888 and Al Gore in 2000 (see graphic at top).

The Scientific Basis for Lichtman's Keys

I've since been asked about the scientific basis of Lichtman's method. Is this more than just lucky guessing? The answer is no. What follows is the simplest explanation of why the system works.

It started with a dinner party at Cal Tech in the early 1980s, at which historian Allan Lichtman was seated next to a Russian geophysicist, Vladimir Keilis-Borok, a man who had just devised a system for successfully predicting earthquakes using pattern recognition. Soon the two began comparing notes. Could they find a pattern that marks every election in which the incumbent party retains or loses the White House? Could such a pattern be used for prediction?

Out of those discussions came their initial paper, "Pattern recognition applied to presidential elections in the United States, 1860-1980: Role of integral social, economic, and political traits," which attempted to apply Keilis-Borok's method to U.S. elections.

After a fair amount of testing, they found a pattern that correctly "predicted" (matched the results of) the popular vote in every presidential election from 1864 through 1980. Since then the method has been modified slightly — 13 keys, and slightly different ones, instead of the original 12. Lichtman has since used it to successfully predict the popular vote winner of every election from 1984 to the present. (Lichtman discusses the science behind his keys at greater length here.)

The method works like this. Instead of trying to identify causes — in seismic terms, the geophysical forces that move the earth; in electoral terms, the polling results and issues discussed — the method identifies patterns that indicate general conditions of stability or instability. Politically this means determining if the party in power is in a stable or unstable position relative to the mood of the electorate.

Thus the method involves responding to a series of true-or-false statements like, "The incumbent candidate is the sitting president" (key 3) and "The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal" (key 9). A yes for both questions shows strength for the incumbent party, and indicate stability. A No indicates some weakness.

Lichtman explained this to the Washington Post in 2008:
"We reconceptualized presidential politics in geophysical terms," said Lichtman, who teaches at American University. "We didn't look at it as Reagan versus Carter or Republicans versus Democrats or liberals versus conservatives. Rather, we looked at elections as stability versus upheavals."

Stability, according to their definition, is when the party that is incumbent in the White House -- in this case, the Republican Party -- wins the next presidential election. Upheavals are when the opposition party wins elections.

The researchers found that four markers or "keys" correctly predicted every presidential election over 120 years. These keys were whether the incumbent party's candidate won the presidential nomination on the first ballot with at least two-thirds of the delegate count, the absence of a third-party candidate who won 5 percent or more of the overall vote, the absence of a recession, and the presence of a major policy victory in the previous term. ...

Given that they wanted to play it safe, Keilis-Borok and Lichtman selected nine other keys that increased the confidence with which they could have predicted all the elections between 1860 and 1980.
Note: The original paper tested 12 yes-or-no questions. The method has evolved into 13 statements that could be assessed as true or false. Most discussions of this research refer to the final 13 keys in true-or-false statement form. The definitive version appears in Lichtman's 1991 book, The Keys to the White House.

Why These 13 Keys?

Where did Lichtman and Keilis-Borok get these particular keys? In an article in Analytics Magazine, writer Douglas Samuelson explains (emphasis mine):
Lichtman is quick to point out that his method is based on a solid statistical model that incorporates a test of competing theories of politics, and the prediction results validate some of the theories and contradict others. His method is based on a statistical pattern recognition algorithm for predicting earthquakes, implemented by Russian seismologist Vladimir Keilis-Borok. The highest plurality of the popular vote, not the electoral vote that actually decides the presidency, is the criterion ...

Out of nearly 200 questions, which were all binary (“yes” or “no”) variables, the algorithm picked those that displayed the greatest difference between the proportion of the time the variable was “yes” for years when the incumbent party won and the corresponding proportion for years when the challenging party won, using all U. S. elections from 1860 through 1976 as the training set.
"Displayed the greatest difference between the proportion of the time the variable was “yes” for years when the incumbent party won and the corresponding proportion for years when the challenging party won" means this: Expressed as a number, determine which questions show the greatest tendency to be right when the incumbent won and also right when the challenger won.

For example, if the answer to a given question (a key) was right in 12 elections when the incumbent won and also right in 7 elections when the challenger won, the key received a differential score of 19 (12+7). The keys with the highest differential scores were then selected as, together, identifying the pattern they were looking to find.

Thus the 13 keys in their final form. So far, right every time.
  

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Other Democrats May Write Off Ohio, But It's A Key State For Bernie's Campaign

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Yesterday, not long after Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson noted that he deserves a whipping for his vicious bad-mouthing John McCain, Señor Trumpanzee was off to Lima Ohio. His for-TV-backdrop was an Abrams tank plant, which he says was destined for closure before massive new military spending ($2 billion for tanks) revived orders. That's on the other side of the state from General Motors' now-idled factory in Lordstown that Trump has been screeching about for a couple of weeks, blaming Mary Barra, GM's CEO, the auto workers union and anyone else but his own policies for the shutdown. In fact, many people say that it was his own misguided and ego-driven actions "to save manufacturing" that have been battering the auto industry and eating into the overall economy of Midwest "rust belt" states. Politico reported that his "tariffs on steel and aluminum have cost Ford and GM about $1 billion each" and noted that "Barra cited the tariffs in November when she announced the 14,000 job cuts that included the Lordstown plant’s shuttering. Potentially making things even worse, Trump is now weighing new tariffs on foreign automobiles that could threaten hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. jobs."
“The reality is auto tariffs would put Ohio into a recession,” said Dan Ujczo, a Columbus-based international trade lawyer who has been closely studying the impact of recent trade actions on Ohio companies.

Ultimately, that could jeopardize Trump’s support in the Mahoning Valley and other blue-collar Great Lakes regions that voted for him in 2016.

“He’ll lose those the second he puts auto tariffs on,” Ujczo said. “These people understand you can’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” According to a Morning Consult tracking poll, Trump’s approval rating in Ohio has fallen 19 percentage points since January 2017.

While Trump is focused on exhorting GM not to shutter the Lordstown plant, where it makes the compact Chevrolet Cruze model, the industry’s economic reality is much more complicated.

Trump’s simple formula of demanding that specific plants should stay open doesn’t account for the sophistication of the global auto industry. The auto making supply chain is global; foreign companies build cars in the U.S. but with some foreign-made parts. Likewise, cars made abroad often contain American parts. And automakers move workers from plant to plant as demand for different kinds of autos shifts.

GM says the Ohio plant is closing because demand has softened for the Cruze; the company says it is talking to workers about relocating to other facilities.

It’s unusual for any president-- especially a Republican one-- to tell private manufacturers how to run their businesses. “There’s a school of thought that these decisions are best left to the companies and the unions,” said Marick Masters, director of the labor studies program at Wayne State University in Detroit.

It's even more unusual for a president to blame a labor union for a plant closing. Dave Green, president of the United Auto Workers local at Lordstown, appears to have infuriated Trump Sunday when he said on Fox News that Trump's 2018 tax cut incentivized imports. Or perhaps Trump was irritated at Green for letting the press know in February that he'd written the president about the Lordstown closing in July 2018 and received no reply.

Whatever the specific provocation, Trump tweeted Sunday that "Democrat UAW Local 1112 President David Green ought to get his act together and produce," then followed up with a tweet that noted GM's Barra "blamed the UAW Union" for the shutdown, prompting an angry retort from the UAW: "Corporations close plants, workers don’t.”

Trump’s previous efforts to intervene in vehicle plant closings have resulted in tepid gains at best.

Trump lashed into Ford during the 2016 campaign for shipping jobs to Mexico, then claimed credit in early January 2017 when Ford, in an unrelated move, announced that it would create 700 jobs in Michigan to build electric and self-driving cars-- while simultaneously expanding two plants in Mexico.

Trump was similarly irate in June 2018 when Harley-Davidson said it would offshore an unspecified number of jobs to offset the impact of European tariffs imposed in retaliation to Trump’s steel tariffs. Trump was so furious that he said he’d support a boycott of Harley-Davidson, prompting the company’s steepest sales drop in nearly a decade.

Trump’s protectionist policies are cutting into profits for automakers, even though they employ far more workers than the steel and aluminum industries the tariffs are designed to protect.
The auto industry employs around a million people, while steel and aluminum less than one tenth of that (combined). Since Trump's ill-starred tariffs went interplay, the steel industry has added 6,200 jobs and the aluminum industry 100 new jobs. Trump's policies have triggered a very steep decline in investment in the auto industry. Economists are shocked not so much that "Trump doesn't seem to understand that the automobile production process involves intensely global supply chains," but that there's no one around him who can explain this to him and make him understand that his policies are harming American industry.

The Washington Post's David Ignatius noted that "Trump's angry, backward-looking approach may still appeal to some Rust Belt voters. But in the Ohio and Pennsylvania towns that helped win the presidency for Trump in 2016, his vow to turn back the clock hasn't worked out very well, and there are signs the Rust Belt may be corroding for him politically."

He explained that "Lordstown's struggles, like those of other nearby mill towns, illustrate the harsh fact that manufacturing is a dynamic process. Old jobs are disappearing because of changes in technology or consumer preferences; trying to resist change is usually a fool's game. Rust Belt communities that are succeeding are the ones that have adapted by embracing new technologies and innovation. Presidential leadership in this period of technological transition should focus on the future, rather than the past. But Trump seems almost a technophobe."
After Trump's Twitter tirade, Rep. Tim Ryan, the Ohio Democrat who represents the Lordstown area, fired back: "The President's tweet ... is offensive and does nothing to help bring back the manufacturing jobs he promised to my district."

Ryan argued that "the best thing is to help" GM renovate Lordstown and perhaps build electric vehicles there. Local residents said much the same thing to the Youngstown Vindicator this month: GM or a new owner should focus on new technology and making products people want to buy, rather than restore production of the low-selling Chevrolet Cruze.

Trump is vulnerable in the Rust Belt because he made such extravagant promises when he successfully wooed voters in 2016. "He won this area-- a largely Democratic area-- and he has not said a word yet, and that's just pathetic," warned Jim Graham a former UAW leader at Lordstown, in an interview with the Vindicator back in November, when GM said it planned to halt Cruze production there.

Local residents remember Trump's proclamation at a July 2017 rally in nearby Youngstown: "Those jobs [that] have left Ohio, they're all coming back... Don't sell your house." Tommy Wolikow, a Lordstown worker, told the Vindicator: "I kind of turned into a Trump supporter at that time. I believed what he said... Almost two years later, I'm seeing nothing but job losses."

Homeowners in Youngstown certainly haven't seen a boom. According to Zillow, the online realty broker, the median price for a house in Youngstown is $39,900. The national median price of homes currently listed is $279,000. Browse the real estate ads for mill towns across Ohio and Pennsylvania and you'll see just how tough it is to be a Rust Belt resident, trapped in a downward cycle.

What's the right answer for Rust Belt towns where the old manufacturing base has disappeared? An interesting example is Erie, Pennsylvania. Most big factories there have closed in recent years, but the city is rebuilding itself around its local universities and a big insurance company. Profits from a big gambling casino in Erie County are funneled partly to "innovation spaces" at four local campuses.

Erie may have lost manufacturing jobs, but it's above the state average in advanced industries, says Ben Speggen, a local journalist who helps run a think tank in Erie called the Jefferson Educational Society. "There has been a real shift in understanding that our Rust Belt economy is not solely tied to manufacturing," he says.

Another key to success is welcoming foreigners. About 10 percent of Erie's population is refugees, according to James and Deborah Fallows in their recent book, Our Towns. One of the 10 characteristics they found in successful local communities adapting to change is that "they make themselves open."
In the 2016 primaries Both Hillary and Bernie got more votes than Trump in Erie County. In fact, Hillary and Bernie together got 37,341 votes. All six Republicans combined took just 30,050. But after months of Trump's extravagant and baseless promises, he beat Hillary in the general election by 2 points. Two years later there was a significant change. In the 2018 midterms, Democrat Bob Casey beat Trumpist Lou Barletta in Erie county-- and by a lot, 58.4% to 40.0%. Governor Wolf did even better there, beating the right-wing Trumpist Scott Wagner 59.8% to 38.7%. Erie County is entirely in the 16th congressional district now and incumbent Mike Kelly was reelected 51.6% to 47.3% against a weak Blue Dog Democrat. But not in the Erie part of the district. The county gave the Blue Dog a massive D+20 margin, almost enough to overcome Kelly's lead in the other 4 counties. Does this foreshadow a Democratic win in Erie County in 2020? Most likely, yes, unless the Democrats nominate another mushy centrist, like Hillary, with nothing to offer but a slick campaign and a bio.




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Midnight Meme Of The Day!

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by Noah

Sure, I'd prefer a Drag Him Out In Chains party but I bet there will be lots of trays and trays, tremendous trays, the best trays, chock full of hamberders and cold soggy fries we can all pelt him with. Make the big orange obese baby man cry, cry, and cry until he drowns himself in his own tears. Lordy, I hope Kellyanne and Stephen Miller are there, too!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What Does Kushner-In-Law Do In The Regime?

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Hopefully, one day all of them will be tried, convicted and hung (think Nuremberg). But what is it that Jared Kushner, a mental midget, is supposed to be doing?He has more jobs than anyone else in the history of the presidency. Officially he's Senior Advisor to the fake "president." He's been tasked with the following 10 big jobs:
brokering peace between Israel and Palestine
leading the White House office of innovation
solving the opioid crisis
overseeing information technology contracting
overseeing Veterans' Affairs (at least, it is said, in terms of politics)
sucking up to Saudi Arabia so that they buy US weapons
overseeing U.S. relations with Mexico
overseeing U.S. relations with China
reforming the criminal justice system
getting super-rich people to finance Trump's reelection campaign
I wonder how much time he's had to put into reading Vicky Ward's brand new (out yesterday) book, Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. In his review for the Washington Post, Michael Kranish noted that "There are no blockbuster revelations here regarding Kushner’s meeting with a Russian banker or his involvement in a meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, two issues that have drawn the interest of investigators. Ward is, however, particularly critical of Trump’s decision to hand over Middle East policy to Kushner, which led to clashes with then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others."
Ward delves into questions about whether Kushner misused his role as a way to find financing to rescue a Fifth Avenue property in Manhattan and suggests that Kushner dim-wittedly nearly dragged the United States into a war in the Middle East. It is a dark and mostly one-sided portrait, one with which the Kushner and Trump families no doubt will disagree.

In the text, while Ward hammers the couple on page after page, she doesn’t explicitly accuse them of corruption as defined by legal statutes. Perhaps the closest she comes is when she writes that “it’s been reported” that Ivanka Trump oversaw her family’s project in Azerbaijan in which a partner’s brother had been described in a U.S. diplomatic cable as corrupt.

“As a result, it’s possible that the Trump Organization violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” Ward writes, providing a notable hedge.

To be sure, Trump and his family have thrown around such concepts loosely, and without hedging. During the 2016 campaign, he called Hillary Clinton the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” retweeting an image that encased the words in a Jewish star against a backdrop of U.S. currency, a tweet widely criticized as anti-Semitic. (Trump said he thought it was a sheriff’s star.) Clinton, like Jared and Ivanka, has not been charged by prosecutors with corruption.

Ward, who relies heavily on the reporting of others (noted in endnotes), as well as her own sources, has a tendency, particularly in the first half of the book, to make sweeping statements and repeat rumors, some of which she then bats down. She writes that one man “was rumored to sleep with men and hired prostitutes,” and says another was “not one to be troubled by ethics.”

Ward paints a sordid portrait of Kushner’s coming of age, retelling tales of how his father’s contributions to Harvard University may have greased his way into the college. A war within the Kushner family led his father, Charles Kushner, to arrange for a prostitute to entrap a relative with whom he had feuded. Charles Kushner went to prison for his part in the scheme and for other matters. Jared later told New York magazine that his father’s viewpoint was: “You’re trying to make my life miserable? Well, I’m doing the same.”

To rehabilitate the family image, Ward writes, the elder Kushner adopted a plan that called for transitioning from owning garden apartments in New Jersey to acquiring a Fifth Avenue office tower, a “trophy” that would dazzle the doubters. In addition, Jared would buy the New York Observer to get friendly media treatment, and he would “date someone prominent.” While the father pulled the strings, the son got the credit-- and later the blame-- for buying the nation’s most expensive office property just before the Great Recession, leaving him with staggering debt. As for the prominent woman, Kushner dated Ivanka Trump.

Donald Trump was not pleased at first, according to Ward. “Why couldn’t she have married Tom Brady?” he said, referring to the New England Patriots quarterback, Ward writes. “Have you seen how he throws a football?”

Who would you rather marry?


In the rather cynical portrait Ward draws, Ivanka, too, was strategic. Ward quotes her as saying in her own book, “The Trump Card”: “If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.”

When Trump said there were “very fine people, on both sides” of a Charlottesville, Virginia, clash during which white supremacists shouted “Jews will not replace us,” Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn threatened to resign, noting that some of his family members had been killed in the Holocaust. Ivanka urged him to stay, telling him: “My dad’s not a racist. He didn’t mean any of it; he’s not anti-Semitic,” according to Ward. Cohn remained in his post.

At first, Jared and Ivanka didn’t plan to work in the White House, but after Trump brought them in as advisers, they frequently clashed with chief strategist Stephen Bannon and others. An “epic” and profane fight took place between Bannon and Ivanka over who was leaking stories, Ward writes.



“Everybody knows you leak,” Bannon is reported to have told Ivanka.

“You’re a fucking liar,” she is said to have responded. “Everything that comes out of your mouth is a fucking lie.”

“Go fuck yourself.... You are nothing,” Bannon reportedly said.

The president, according to Ward, eventually wanted to send Jared and Ivanka back to New York, but after so many firings and resignations in the White House, he needed them more than ever.

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