The political rhetoric of Donald Trump and Alex Jones: On fake news and weaponized communications

 

“Again you’re in trouble for saying the sky is blue.” Alex Jones to Donald Trump, December 2015.

Good day Austin:

I was at Revival, a nice cafe on East 7th Street, working on this First Reading late yesterday afternoon about a discussion I will be moderating at the Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday morning.

PARTNER PROGRAMMING

9:00am-9:30am
The Political Rhetoric of Donald Trump and Alex Jones: On Fake News and Weaponized Communications
Charlie Warzel, senior technology writer at BuzzFeed and Jennifer Mercieca, historian of American political discourse and author of the forthcoming book, “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Brilliance of Donald Trump,” will speak with Austin American-Statesman chief political writer Jonathan Tilove about the limits of fake news in the age of Trump.

This event is part of Open Congress, a free, open-to-the-public street festival held on Austin’s historic Congress Ave. on Saturday, Sept. 29. RSVP to attend Open Congress here.

Presented by the Austin American-Statesman
Walmart Partner Tent, Open Congress

At some point, I paused to check Twitter and saw this.

What?

Huh?

So, while I’m sitting there trying to figure out the best way to describe weaponized communication and what Jennifer, Charlie and I will talk about Saturday morning, President Trump was strafing America, the world, with some freshly weaponized communication.

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

The best way to understand Donald Trump’s presidency and Donald Trump’s election as president, is to study his  rhetoric – his rhetorical brilliance – because it is that, and not his policy chops, his negotiating skills or anything else, that best explains how he gained power and maintains it, unless and until he is impeached by the House, convicted by the Senate and removed from office (either that or removed a la the Rod Rosenstein conspiracy – or not – via the 25th  Amendment) – which seems far less likely to happen than his being elected to a second term.

TRUMP: They’ll use anything they can! They’re not in love with me. They’re not going to beat me in the election. They know that. They’re not going to beat me. The people that I’m looking at are total light weights. I dream of running against those people. Maybe they’ll come up with somebody that’s not. They’re not going to beat me. I’m against what they want to I’m in favor of law enforcement. I’m in favor of safety and security and low taxes. I want low taxes. I want borders. We’re getting another $1.6 billion in borders. I want borders. We’ve spent 3.2, and we’re getting another 1.6. And then eventually we’re getting the whole thing and we’ll complete the wall.

They don’t want that. They don’t want that. They don’t want the things that I have. Now, I must say. I know many of the Democrats. They’ll say things and then wink at me. And, again, it’s the same old story. They’ll say things, they don’t mean it, it’s politics. The reason they don’t want me is because they want to run the show. They want it. It’s power, it’s whatever you want to call it.

But what they have done here is a disgrace. A total disgrace. And what they do — I know it’s interesting. In one case, they say, he’s a fascist, he’s taking over the government, he’s the most powerful president ever. He’s a horrible human being. He wants to take over the entire government and he’s going to do it. We can’t stop him. That didn’t work. The next week, he said, uh, he’s incompetent. I said, wait a minute, in one case I’m taking over the world. And in the other case, he’s they tried that for a week. That didn’t work. Look, these are very dishonest people. These are con artists. And the press knows it. But the press doesn’t write it. That’s a lot of hands. That’s a lot — Steve, go ahead. Here’s a very high-quality person, this man. But he’ll probably hit me with a bad one. Go ahead, give it to me, Steve.

From Julie Hirschfeld Davis at the New York Times:

President Trump complained on Wednesday that “evil people,” including women in search of fame and fortune, routinely fabricate sexual assault charges against powerful men, and argued that his own experience with such allegations makes him more skeptical of the accusations threatening to bring down Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, his nominee for the Supreme Court.

In a remarkable and rambling 83-minute news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Trump was by turns combative, humorous and boastful. He defended Judge Kavanaugh and railed against what he called the “big, fat con job” that he said Democrats were perpetrating to derail the nomination, even as he suggested he could still jettison his pick depending on the outcome of a high-profile hearing on Thursday

Or a genius.

From David Graham at the Atlantic:

At a rambling, often self-contradictory press conference Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump baselessly claimed a vast conspiracy to concoct sexual-misconduct charges against him and offered a surprisingly weak defense of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee who has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct.

 “I’ve had numerous accusations about me … They made false statements about me knowing they were false,” Trump said. When a reporter asked why the president always seemed to give the benefit of the doubt to men accused of sexual misconduct, he acknowledged that the allegations against him colored his response to the claims made against Kavanaugh. “It does impact my opinion … because I’ve had a lot of false charges made at me.”

More broadly, Trump offered a broad critique of the #MeToo movement and the growing calls for accountability in cases of sexual misconduct, implying they had gone too far.

“This is beyond Supreme Court. This has everything to do with our country,” Trump said. “When you are guilty until proven innocent, it is just not supposed to be that way … In this case you are guilty until proven innocent. I think that is a very, very dangerous standard for our country.”
 
Trump attacked Democrats and others for bringing forth the allegations.

“They’re actually con artists, because they know how quality this man is, and they’ve destroyed a man’s reputation,” the president said. “They know it’s a big, fat con job. And they go into a room and I guarantee you they laugh like hell at what they’ve pulled off on you and on the public.”

Yet Trump refused to rule out withdrawing Kavanaugh’s nomination, and speculated about nominating a woman in Kavanaugh’s stead, even as the White House and Kavanaugh himself have spent the past 48 hours staunchly insisting that they will forge forward.

 “I can’t tell you. I have to watch tomorrow,” he said. “I’m gonna see what happens tomorrow. I’m gonna be watching … I’m gonna see what’s said.”

REPORTER: Are you at all concerned at the message that is being sent to the women who are watching this when you use language like con job? Allegations —

TRUMP: That’s probably the nicest phrase I’ve ever used. Con job. It is. It’s a con job. You know, confidence. It’s a confidence job. But they — it’s a con job by the Democrats. They know it.

REPORTER: What about the message that’s being sent to women —

TRUMP: The same with the Russia investigation. They tried to convince people that I had something to do with Russia. There was no collusion. Think of it. I’m in Wisconsin. I’m in Michigan. I say, gee, we’re not doing well. I won both those states. I’m not doing well. Let me call the Russians to does anybody really believe that? It’s a con job. And I watch these guys, little Adam Schiff and all of the guys. He takes a call from a Russian who turned out to be a faker. You know, he was a comedian or something. This is so-and-so calling for — he took the call. Why is he taking a call from a Russian? Senator [Mark] Warner took a call from a Russian. He was a comedian or something. But he said, we have pictures of President Trump — where can I get them? If we ever did that, it would be a big deal. Yeah, it’s a con job, and it’s not a bad term. It’s not a bad term at all.

REPORTER: Are you worried —

TRUMP: I’ll tell you one thing I can say. I have had a lot of people talking about this to me with respect to what’s happening. Because it’s a horrible I’m going to have to get other judges and other supreme court judges, possibly. I could have a lot of supreme court judges, more than two. And when I called up Brett Kavanaugh, spoke to him and his family and told them that I chose them, they were so happy and so honored. It was as though — I mean, the about biggest thing that’s ever happened. And I understand that. US Supreme court. I don’t want to be in a position where people say “No, thanks. No, thanks. I don’t want to. You know, I spoke to somebody 38 years ago, and it may not be good.”

We have a country to run. We want the best talent in the world. But I’ll tell you this. The people that have complained to me about it the most, about what’s happening, are women. Women are very angry. You know, I got 52% with women. Everyone said this couldn’t happen. 52%.

Women are so angry. And I, frankly, think that — I think they like what the Republicans are doing. But I think they would have liked to have seen it go a lot faster. But give them their day in court. Let her have her day in court. Let somebody else have a day in court. But the ones that I find — I mean, I have men that don’t like it. But I have women that are incensed at what’s going on. I’ve always said, women are smarter than men. I’ve said that a lot. And I mean it. But women are incensed at what’s going on. Yes, go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead in the back. Who are you, where are you from?

REPORTER: Me?

TRUMP: No, you. That guy looks like he’s shocked. This is going to be not good.

REPORTER: It’s going to be good, sir.

TRUMP: The guy looks totally stunned. Have you ever been picked before for a question?

REPORTER: Yes, sir, but not from the president of the United States.

TRUMP: Go ahead. Give me your question.

REPORTER: Thank you very much. I I want to ask you, you always talk about —

TRUMP: Excuse me, you said from where?

REPORTER: Iraq. I’m a Kurd.

TRUMP: Great people. Are you a Kurd? Good. Great people. Great fighters. I like them a lot. Let’s go. I like this question so far.

And there was this:

TRUMP: I want to watch. I want to see. I hope I can watch. I’m meeting with a lot of countries tomorrow. But I will certainly in some form be able to watch. And I’ll also rely on some very fair and talented Republican senators who — look, if we brought George Washington here and we said, we have George Washington, the Democrats would vote against him. Just so you understand. And he may have had a bad past, who knows, you know? He may have had some — I think accusations made. Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past?

George Washington would be voted against 100 percent by Schumer and the con artists. 100 percent. So it really doesn’t matter from their standpoint. That’s why when John asked about the FBI, if the FBI did the most thorough investigation in the history of the FBI, and they found him to be 100 percent perfect, he would lose every single vote.

Anything you’d like to add here Jennifer?

And when did Jones and Trump have this conversation? In their one and only public dialogue, when, in a rendezvous arranged by Roger Stone, Trump, at Trump Tower, appeared remotely on InfoWars with Jones in December 2015, during which the two masters of their craft lavished praise upon one another.

Trump: My favorite president in the more or less modern era would be Ronald Reagan. I’ve always liked him. And by the way, he was a Democrat. Lot of people don’t know. A liberal Democrat Alex as you know. And he became a somewhat conservative, I wouldn’t say the most conservative, but a somewhat conservative Republican. But he wanted to make America great. And he really did.  He wanted to make it. He had actually, “Let’s make America great,” that was his, and mine is, “Make America great again.” So there’s a little bit of a difference.

Alex Jones: My son finally sold me on being a bigger supporter of yours. I mean I liked you, love America, you’re pure Americana. I’m still, you know, was, but my 13-year-old son is really smart, he has done a lot of research. He watches all the debates. He just really loves you. He is on cloud nine that you’re here –  Rex Jones – and it was his question, you know which president was your favorite. But all time, all time who is your favorite?

Trump: Well, all time I’d say Ronald Reagan, shorter term. I would say,well you know, you look at Lincoln, you look at Washington. You have to go with, they are the classics. Right Alex? You know you think in terms of the great classics, you have to go with the Lincolns and the Washingtons.

Alex Jones: I agree, he was a man’s man. George Washington was a badass.

Trump: Yeah that’s what they say. I mean that’s what they said. they say he never told a lie. Let’s hope that’s true, okay.

But George Washington was pretty good. Look we had some great presidents. So we had some good presidents on the other side too in all fairness. But we will hopefully be right at the top of that list.

Here was how the Alex Jones December 2015 interview with Trump starts out.

Alex Jones: Well we had Matt Drudge about a month ago in studio, only does interview every 3, 4 years, and I thought that got me excited. But I’m telling  you, Donald Trump is our guests ladies and gentlemen for the next 30 minutes or so. And obviously he is a maverick, he’s an original, he tells it like it is. He doesn’t read off a teleprompter, neither do I. He’s self-made. This whole media operation that reaches million people a week worldwide, conservatively, self-made.

That’s why I’m so excited. And he joins us from Trump Tower in New York City. He is the leading 2016 Republican presidential contender. Donald Trump again joins us. And I’ve got so many questions but first off, Donald thank you for joining us.

Donald Trump: Thank you Alex, great,  great to be with you.

Alex Jones: I’ve got so many questions but you are vindicated, this has got to be the 50th time the last six months, on the radical Muslims celebrating not just  in New Jersey, but New York, Palestine all over. What do you have to say?  They’re still attacking you, though we’ve got Dan Rather on video, we’ve got New York Post, we’ve got Washington Post, we’ve got, I mean what’s going on here?

Donald Trump: Well I took a lot of heat and I was very strong on it and I held my line and then all of a sudden, you know, hundreds of people were calling up my office. I was the other day in Sarasota, Florida, and people are in line and we had 12,000 people, which is fantastic. And the people were saying, many of the people from New Jersey, 4 or 5 people, said Mr. Trump I saw it myself, I was there

They talked about Patterson. But they said, “I saw it myself, Mr. Trump. I was there.” So many people have called in and on Twitter, @realdonaldtrump,they were all tweeting.

So I know what happened and I held my line and people wanted me to apologize, and we can’t do that. People like you and I can’t do that so easily. Now we can do it if we’re wrong Alex. You apologize. I’d apologize if I was wrong. But they were celebrating and they were celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center.

I think that’s disgraceful.

Disgraceful. And also not true.

From Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker:

The Pinocchio Test
This appears to be another case of Trump’s overactive imagination, much like his baseless claim that the George W. Bush White House tried to “silence” his Iraq war opposition in 2003. We looked and looked — and could find absolutely no evidence to support his claim.

But that was merely a matter of self-aggrandizement, whereas now Trump has defamed the Muslim communities of New Jersey. He cannot simply assert something so damning; he must provide some real evidence or else issue an apology.

Update: Despite Trump’s efforts to throw up a lot of smoke, such as snippets from news clips, he continues to fail to demonstrate that his claim that he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering on TV has any basis in reality. The Four Pinocchios continue to stand.

Four Pinocchio

Kessler: He must provide some evidence or else issue an apology.

Ha!

As Trump told Jones, “You apologize. I’d apologize if I was wrong.”

And, in fact, Jones, under threat of lawsuit, has apologized and backtracked on occasion and is receding from public view amid bans by social media platforms.

Alex Jones: I am the most banned person in the 21st Century. There is no doubt that I am the most demonized and attacked person in the world today.

While Trump, president of the United States, bigger and better than ever, said he would only apologize if he was wrong, which, so far, he never has been, so he never has apologized for anything and, as president of the United States, no one can make him.

He is, said Mercieca, the “uncontrollable leader” which, she said, “is another word for a demagogue.”

Forget Pinocchios. The better measure is Alex Jone’s blue sky test.

As he told Trump a couple of times during his December 2016 interview: Again, you are in trouble for saying the sky is blue.

Meanwhile, Trump nemesis Michael Avenatti will be at the TribFest on Friday.

And we’ll see what happens today.

(Which one is up for re-election?)

And maybe I’ll see some of you Saturday.

 

For Ted Cruz, Bernie debate previewed `socialist’ strategy against Beto, and one peril lying in wait

 

Good day Austin:

Just this morning I stumbled upon a First Reading I wrote last October that I had forgotten I had written but that looks pretty good right now. Pretty, pretty good. So much so that I am going to reprise it, untouched and in its entirety. I changed the headline – For Ted Cruz, Bernie debate previews `socialist’ strategy against Beto, and one peril lying in wait – to put it in the past tense.

I will merely add a short preface and postscript.

This from a story on the debate from Todd Gillman at the Dallas Morning News under the headline, Unforced errors: ‘True to form,’ Ted Cruz slaps ‘socialist’ label on Beto O’Rourke.

(Cruz) called O’Rourke a socialist – an epithet circulated routinely among Cruz supporters, but which the senator has been careful to avoid. Before Friday night, Cruz has insinuated it. He’s linked O’Rourke to socialized medicine and Sanders and other self-proclaimed socialists. But his aides have insisted, at times forcefully, that Cruz has never directly applied the label to O’Rourke.

The pretense lifted on Friday night.

“There is a fundamental choice in this election. It’s a choice between – we’re seeing nationally, socialists – like Bernie Sanders, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and indeed, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, advocating for those same policies: full-on socialized medicine.”

O’Rourke loves to say the race isn’t about Republicans and Democrats, that he shuns partisan labels and wants to focus on Texans, on Americans, even on human beings. But labels do matter. They matter to voters. They can turn elections.

And this label, O’Rourke did not deny on Friday night.

His gaffe was one of omission.

OK. Here is the Oct. 23, 2017 First Reading.
Good Monday Austin:

Beto O’Rourke filled Burdine Hall, with a seating capacity of 521, at the University of Texas Sunday afternoon for a high-energy town hall meeting organized by the Indivisible group in Texas’ 25th Congressional District.

Afterward, I asked O’Rourke how he scored the Ted Cruz-Bernie Sanders debate on tax reform Wednesday night on CNN.

O’Rourke:

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t watch much of it, kind of heard their opening arguments and listened to them answer a few questions. I don’t know if I saw enough to give a score.

Did O’Rourke think that Sanders was giving Cruz a platform and prominence that would prove unhelpful to O’Rourke’s long-shot campaign?

O’Rourke

I would much rather be on the stage and make some of the points I’m hearing at meetings like these about giving tax cuts to the very wealthiest and doing it at the expense of the middle class. I think the estimate is a third of middle class Texans will pay higher taxes. But there is some good that comes out of someone like CNN having a public policy debate. There’s not enough of that so I’m actually glad that they did that. I think Texans deserve to hear the alternative in Texas.

My view is that, overall, Sanders didn’t do O’Rourke any favors by debating Cruz, and that we can expect that, if and when Cruz and O’Rourke debate each other – which I assume they will – Cruz will cite chapter and verse from Wednesday’s debate and force O’Rourke into the no-win situation of either aligning himself with Sanders, or distancing himself.

And yet, there was one dark cloud for Cruz, and silver lining for O’Rourke, in Wednesday’s debate, as Cruz, a skilled debater since his days at Princeton University, displayed once again one of his least attractive qualities, and that is a single-minded focus on scoring debating points even when it involves saying something that is manifestly and provably not true – and saying it with straight-faced certitude.

It might be enough to tempt O”Rourke to reach deep into his  Columbia University English major soul and see if he can locate just enough of his inner Trump to give his Senate rival a withering nickname – like Two-Tongued Ted or, maybe, Prevaricatin’ Cruz.

Cruz, who debated Sanders on Obamacare on CNN in February, clearly enjoys debating Sanders, and why not?

The contrast between the two men, in style and substance, makes for great theater. Both men style themselves as fearless truth-tellers driven by ideas and purpose. Sanders enables Cruz to make his case in the clearest and least ambiguous fashion.

And they both love to talk.

As I wrote in a First Reading in April 2015, when Sanders came to Austin as he was exploring a bid for the presidency:

In 2010, Sanders, conducted an eight-and-a-half hour filibuster against President Obama’s proposed tax cut compromise (he was spelled only briefly by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu) that, Sanders said, would provide “tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who don’t need it.” Here’s the last half hour of that filibuster, which he turned into a book, The Speech.

Three years later, Sen. Ted Cruz conducted a 21-hour, 19-minute speech on the Senate floor denouncing Obamacare.

Somewhere in that speech, and I can’t remember whether it came before or after Cruz read Green Eggs and Ham, as a bedtime story to his girls back in Houston, Cruz quoted the writer Ayn Rand: “There are two sides to every issue. One side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice.”

Or, as Cruz put it: “I would far prefer a Senate with 10 Bernie Sanders and 10 Mike Lees to a Senate where the views, the actual commitments, are blurred by obfuscation.”

Lee, a Utah Republican, is Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate.

In that same First Reading I noted that Sanders is “an avowed socialist, unlike most Democrats, who are only accused socialists.”

Cruz partisans were delighted with Wednesday’s performance

From The Blaze: Ted Cruz mops the floor with Bernie Sanders at CNN town hall debate

Cruz, or rather his office, tweeted throughout the debate all the blows he landed against Sanders.

(Of, course, Bernie partisans saw it differently. From Salon8 times Bernie Sanders made a total fool of Ted Cruz during their town hall debate/The Vermont senator was in vintage form Wednesday night)

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Cruz, in the thick of his 2016 presidential campaign, called a liar on the Senate floor, cheered Cruz on.

For Cruz, this was the money moment.

Here from the debate transcript:

CRUZ: Now, one of the things I like about debating Bernie is he’s honest. When he ran in Vermont, he ran as a socialist, an unabashed socialist.

SANDERS: No, I didn’t. No, I ran as an independent. Longest serving independent in the history of the United States Congress.

CRUZ: Are you a socialist or not?

SANDERS: I am a democratic socialist…

CRUZ: OK. Good.

SANDERS: But don’t tell them — I didn’t run as a socialist. I ran as an independent.

CRUZ: You told people you were a socialist. Fine, fine.

SANDERS: You didn’t run as a right-winger. You ran as a Republican, right?

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ: I am happily a conservative.

SANDERS: Conservative, all right.

CRUZ: I am happily conservative.

(APPLAUSE)

So Bernie ran telling the voters he was a socialist, and then in this last election he ran in the Democratic Party. He almost won the Democratic Party’s nomination. And if you didn’t have superdelegates and the corruption of the DNC, you probably would have been your party’s nominee.

SANDERS: Are you looking for a job as my campaign manager?

CRUZ: You know…

(LAUGHTER)

But I’ll say it was interesting. Right before the campaign — right before the commercial break, when I said Bernie and the Democrats want to cut defense, cut the Army and the Navy and the Air Force and Marines, Bernie reacted and said, no, no, no, the Democrats don’t, that’s just me, Bernie.

So it’s interesting. Listen, I think today — I think the lesson the Democratic Party took from this election was Hillary Clinton was too moderate, and I think the Democratic Party is the party of you and Elizabeth Warren. But let me just ask, since this is a tax debate, what is the difference between a socialist and a Democrat on taxes?

SANDERS: Well, I don’t know the answer to that, because I don’t know what every Democrat…

CRUZ: I don’t, either.

So, one can expect Cruz to confront O’Rourke at their debate with that exchange, note O’Rourke’s support  – which he expressed with great vigor in front of a friendly crowd at UT Sunday – for Sander’s Medicare-for-all plan, and ask whether, like Sanders, he is a socialist or only a political fellow traveler.

But, on the flip side, there was an exchange Wednesday which may not serve Cruz so well.

It’s better if you watch it in its entirety, because Evan Smith is scrupulous in attempting to exact an answer from Cruz – this is September 2011 and Cruz was then a candidate for the Republican nomination for Senate – and here is Cruz, in front of God and Evan Smith, saying that, yes, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

From Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in a CNN debate on tax policy with Cruz on Wednesday evening, said: “Sen. Cruz, I think you were quoted as saying Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

“I’ve never said that,” Cruz replied. “That’s false.”

Sanders initially replied that if Cruz says he didn’t make the Ponzi scheme reference, he accepts that. Later at the event, though, Sanders said: “Go to my Twitter page, and you will hear Ted Cruz say Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

So, what gives?

It looks to us like Cruz was comfortable with describing Social Security as a Ponzi scheme in a September 2011 public interview with Evan Smith, CEO of the Texas Tribune.

Cruz, then bidding for the U.S. Senate seat that would be vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, was asked if he considers Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

Cruz replied: “There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word ‘Ponzi scheme’ mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system–if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it, we would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

SMITH: “So I am going to take that as a yes, that you believe that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

CRUZ: “I think there is an effort to treat that as rhetoric. But there’s no doubt that’s what it is.”

Cruz also called Social Security a “vital bulwark for our society” and “a commitment we’ve made.” He also said he favors saving the program.

See the full Smith-Cruz exchange in the video here.

In Cruz’s office, spokesman Phil Novack responded to a request for comment Thursday by sharing a transcript of the 2011 Smith-Cruz exchange about Social Security.

Novack said by email: “You will note looking at the full transcript,” Cruz “never explicitly called Social Security a ‘Ponzi Scheme’ and he also vigorously defended the importance of the program and of keeping the promises we’ve made to our seniors.”

While running for president, Cruz indicated that he favored shoring up Social Security by raising the retirement age and capping increases in the cost-of-living adjustment. He also advocated allowing workers to save up to $25,000 per year in Universal Savings Accounts (USA).

 And here from Eugene Kiely of FactCheck.org:

Later in the show, Sanders returned to the topic and said he had proof that Cruz did indeed call Social Security a Ponzi scheme, and, again, Cruz denied it.

Sanders: “You said a little while ago that you never said that Social Security was a Ponzi scheme. Go to my Twitter page, and you will hear Ted Cruz say Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. …”

Cruz: “I can’t let what Bernie said go by without responding to. He’s referring to an interview where I was asked about another Republican who made the comment about Ponzi scheme. It wasn’t my comment. It was somebody else’s.”

Sanders’ staff tweeted a clip of Cruz talking about Social Security in a Sept. 9, 2011, interview with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. Smith asked Cruz: “Yes or no. Is Social Security a Ponzi scheme?” In response, Cruz jokingly asked Smith if NBC’s Brian Williams had written his questions — referring to a question Rick Perry was asked during a Republican debate co-hosted by Williams two days earlier.

In that Sept. 7, 2011, debate, as we wrote at the time, Perry called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. That’s what Cruz meant when he said that Sanders was “referring to an interview where I was asked about another Republican who made the comment about Ponzi scheme. It wasn’t my comment. It was somebody else’s.”

Cruz is right that it was Perry’s comment, but the 2011 interview shows that Cruz clearly agreed with it.

Cruz, Sept. 9, 2011: There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word Ponzi scheme mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system — if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it. We would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.

Smith: So, I’m going to take that as a “yes.” That you believe that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

Cruz: I think there is an effort to treat that as rhetoric, but there’s no doubt that’s what it is.
The full video of the back-and-forth between Smith and Cruz shows that the Texas senator studiously avoided using the term “Ponzi scheme,” saying that Smith was asking a “loaded question.” Smith tried several times to get a yes or no answer, but instead got — as we show above — Cruz’s definition of a “Ponzi scheme” and his opinion that “that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

For the record, we said in 2011 that Perry’s description of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” is a gross exaggeration.

FactCheck.org, Sept. 8, 2011: The [Social Security] system doesn’t meet the common definition of a “Ponzi,” which is a criminal fraud, relying on deception. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, says a Ponzi is “an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.” Ponzi schemes draw their name from Charles Ponzi, who in the 1920s promised his victims that he could provide a 50 percent return in 90 days by putting their money into a speculation scheme involving postage stamps. In reality, Ponzi simply paid early “investors” big returns with the money eagerly offered by others who came later — pocketing millions for himself — until the bubble inevitably collapsed. Bernard Madoff’s more recent fraud — while much larger — was another example of a Ponzi scheme. Madoff and Ponzi lied to their victims about where their money was going, while Social Security’s finances — while troubled — are an open book.

We should also note that Cruz in 2011 and again this year described Social Security as an essential part of the security net for Americans. In the CNN debate with Sanders, Cruz described Social Security as a “fundamental bulwark of our society” and criticized “politicians in Washington” for “letting it careen towards insolvency.”

In a 2017 report, the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds project that the Social Security trust funds will be depleted by 2034. Once the trust funds are gone, Social Security can still pay benefits — but not more benefits than it takes in from revenue. The trustees say tax income would be “sufficient to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through the end of the projection period in 2091.”

So, Misleadin’ Ted?

But that seems to understate the audacity of Cruz saying this in 2011:

“There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word ‘Ponzi scheme’ mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system–if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it, we would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

And then, six years later, when Sanders said: “Sen. Cruz, I think you were quoted as saying Social Security is a Ponzi scheme,” responding:

I’ve never said that. That’s false.

xxxxxxx

Postscript:

From Todd Gillman’s story on Friday’s debate.

The moderators tossed the contenders a softball as the debate came to a close: “We want to end this on a positive note. … Tell us something you admire about your opponent.”

O’Rourke has spent 18 months projecting an upbeat persona. But in his first high-stakes campaign debate, he’d come off as nervous and emotional at times. Cruz needled him enough to get him flustered and put a dent in the image.

This was their first joint appearance, and these two seem to genuinely dislike each other.

But that softball question was a golden opportunity to reclaim the high ground, and O’Rourke did.

“We both have young children. I know how hard he works,” he said. “I know what a sacrifice that is to his family. … I have no question that Senator Cruz wants to do the best for America. He does so at great sacrifice to his family and his kids. I thank you, Senator Cruz, for your public service.”

Then came Cruz’s turn. He lauded O’Rourke for his own sacrifices, but couldn’t resist taking a potshot.

“I think Congressman O’Rourke is passionate, energetic.” Like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “Bernie Sanders believes in what he is fighting for. He believes in socialism. Now, I think what he is fighting for doesn’t work. But I think you are absolutely sincere, like Bernie. You believe in expanding government and high taxes.”

That was Cruz’s gaffe. He couldn’t help himself, and he gave the Democrat the chance to cut him down with that withering “True to form.”

As I wrote in Sunday’s paper:

Everyone knew going in that Cruz would be the more skillful debater. He was a debate champion at Princeton University, debated his way through the 2016 Republican presidential primaries and has debated U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on policy three times since. He misses nothing and leaves no opportunity unexploited, a tendency so irresistible to Cruz that it provided the opening for O’Rourke to deliver the line of the night.

xxxxxx

Those three words (“true to form”), just before their closing statements, did the work of Donald Trump’s repeated references to Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” in the 2016 presidential debates, and Ronald Reagan’s “there you go again,” to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential debate, which proved so effective that he redeployed it against Walter Mondale four years later.

And it wasn’t the only example of Cruz overplaying his hand Friday night, as I wrote in yesterday’s First Reading – Hubris: At the first debate, Ted Cruz plays the race card in the name of Lincoln and MLK.

 

Hubris: At the first debate, Ted Cruz plays the race card in the name of Lincoln and MLK

 

Good Monday Austin:

This is the tweet that went out from the Cruz campaign during Friday night’s debate.

Here are “Beto O’Rourke’s own words.”

How can it be, in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African-American, in his own apartment, is shot and killed by a police officer. And when, and when we all want justice, and the facts, and the information to make an informed decision, what is released to the public? That he had a small amount of marijuana in his kitchen. How can that be just in this country? How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers? That is not justice. That is not us. That can and that must change. Are you with me on this?

 

What the Cruz campaign is doing here seems a pretty naked appeal to white racial resentment, to racism.

And it was meant to complement Cruz’s performance at the debate, particularly the first quarter of the debate that focused on race.

And yet, in making the play during the debate, Cruz does it all while claiming the moral high ground on Civil Rights as a member of the party of Lincoln, and even, in the back-and-forth about some NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police violence and racial injustice, suggesting that Martin Luther King would be with him, and not O’Rourke, on an issue that he, out of nowhere, recasts as having something to do with flag-burning.

Here is a transcript of the questions and answers on the recent killing of Botham Jean in Dallas.

Q: Sen. Cruz. This question is to you. This month in Dallas, Officer Amber Guyger shot Botham Jean, a black man, in his own apartment. Why did you caution Rep. O’Rourke and others not to jump to conclusions when the Texas Rangers and the Dallas County District Attorney said she committed manslaughter?

CRUZ: What happened to Mr. Jean was horrific. Nobody should be shot and killed in their home. it was tragic. Now, the officer, as I understand it, has contended that it was a tragic mistake. It was a case where she thought she was in her own apartment, she thought she was shooting an intruder. Right now today, I don’t know what happened that evening. Congressman O’Rourke doesn’t know what happened. He immediately called for firing the officer. I think that’s a mistake. We have a criminal justice system, a system that will determine what happened that night. If she violated the law, if she did that intentionally, she’ll face the consequences. But without knowing the facts, before a trial, before a jury’s heard the evidence, Congressman O’Rourke is ready to convict her, ready to fire her. And I’ll tell you, it’s a troubling pattern. Over and over again, Congressman O’Rourke, when faced with an issue about police and law enforcement, he sides against the police. In the United States Congress he voted against allowing funds to go to body armor for sheriffs.

(Note: PolitiFact Texas rated this claim false.)

When it comes to customs enforcement, he has said he’s open to abolishing that law enforcement agency. Just this week,  Congressman O’Rourke described law enforcement, described police officers as modern-day Jim Crow. Let me say something. I have gotten to know police officers all across the state. That is offensive. Just today, Fort Worth is burying Office Garrett Hull, with his wife Sabrina and his two kids,  who was shot in the head, risking his life. Here today, Officer Brian Graham, an Arlington SWAT officer, was shot in the head. He is here today  Every day police officers risk their lives for us. Office Graham is standing there, his two kids. He took a bullet in the head protecting us. I think it’s offensive to call police officers modern-day Jim Crow. That’s not Texas.

O’Rourke: What Sen. Cruz said is untrue. I did not say all police officers are modern-day Jim Crow. I, as well as Sen. Cruz, mourn the passing of Officer Hull in Fort Worth. My Uncle Raymond was a sheriff’s deputy in El Paso. In fact he was the captain of the El Paso County Jail. He was the one who taught me to shoot and the responsibility and accountability that comes with owning a gun. But he also taught me what it means to serve everyone, to be sworn to protect everyone in the community. With the tragic shooting death of Botham Jean, you have another unarmed black man killed in this country by law enforcement. Now no member of law enforcement wants that to happen. No member of this community wants that to happen We’ve got to do  better than what we’ve been doing so far. If African-Americans represent 13 percent of the population in this country, that they represent one-third of those who are shot by law enforcement,  we have something wrong. If we have the largest prison population on the face of the planet and it is disproportionately comprised of people of color, we have something wrong in this country. Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together with law enforcement and members of the  community for real, lasting, meaningful criminal justice reform.

Q: Quick follow-up to you, Sen. Cruz. Do you agree that police violence against unarmed African-Americans is a problem and if so, how would you fix it?

CRUZ: I believe everyone’s rights should be protected, regardless of your race, regardless or ethnicity. But I’ll tell you something, I’ve been to too many police funerals. I was here in Dallas when five police officers were gunned down because of irresponsible and hateful rhetoric. I was at the funeral in Houston at Second Baptist Church where Deputy Darren Goforth had been shot in the back of the head at a service station because of irresponsible and hateful rhetoric. Just now, Congressman O’Rourke repeated things that aren’t true. He stated, for example, that white police officers are shooting unarmed African-American children. The Washington Post fact-checked that claim and concluded Congressman O”Rourke was wrong.

(Note: the Washington Post fact-checked O’Rourke’s statement that, “Black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed, and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement without accountability and without justice. It concluded that, There’s little question the black community faces extraordinary levels of violence. But whether O’Rouke’s statement qualifies as Pinocchio or Geppetto-worthy depends on how you hear it. There have been virtually no shootings of unarmed black children by police in the past five years. But hundreds of black children have been homicide victims  Given the varying interpretations of O’Rouke’s statement, we won’t offer a rating.)

CRUZ: But I’ll tell you something, that rhetoric does damage. That rhetoric divides on race. It inflames hatred. We should be bringing people together instead of suggesting – the police are risking their lives to protect all of us, to protect African-Americans, to protect Hispanics and. I think turning people against the police, is profoundly irresponsible.

O”ROURKE: You said something that I did not say.

CRUZ:  What did you not say? What did you not say?

O’ROURKE: I‘m not going to repeat the slander.

CRUZ: You’re not going to say what you did say?

O’ROURKE: No. This is your trick in the trade to confuse and to incite based on fear and not to speak the truth. This is a very serious issue and it warrants the truth and the facts.

Q: Rep. O’Rourke, this question is for you. It’s about the National Anthem protest. Polls show that most Americans don’t think that NFL players should be kneeling during the National Anthem, even if  they believe they have the right to do so. But you have said there’s nothing more American than protesting for your rights. What do you say to people who claim you are out of step?

O’ROURKE: I mentioned, members of law enforcement are not sworn to serve and protect only some people. They are sworn to protect and serve everyone.Those service members who put their lives on the line serving tonight in Afghanistan an Iraq and Syria. They swear not to a man or a group of people in this country. They swore to support  and to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution for all of us. The Civil Rights marchers who took their lives in their hands crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, some beaten within an inch of their lives. Those who lost their lives in the Deep South to the racism of America at the time.. Those Freedom Riders who had the audacity to take Greyhound buses in the Deep South using the bathrooms or the water fountains of their choice, knowing full well they would be end up in Mississippi State penitentiary, Parchman, as it did for John Lewis. They marched not just for themselves but for everyone. And when we now have injustice in this country, two sets of criminal justice systems depending on your race, your ethnicity and your color, that prison population that I talked about that is disproportionately comprised of people of color, too many unarmed African-American men losing their lives in this country. To peacefully protest that injustice non-violently and to call attention to that, to prick the conscience of this country so that those in positions of public trust and power in this country will finally do something, standing up not just for your rights but everyone’s rights in the country. There’s nothing more American than that.

CRUZ: You know, Congressman O’Rourke gave a long soliloquy on the Civil Rights Movement. And I’ll tell you, one of the reasons that I’m a Republican, is because  Civil Rights legislation was passed with the overwhelming  support of Republicans, and indeed the Dixiecrats who were imposing Jim Crow, the Dixiecrats who were beating those protesters, were Democrats. And that’s one of the reasons I’m proud to be member of the party of Lincoln, a member that stands for equal rights for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, every human being is a creation of God that our Constitution protects.

CRUZ: But nowhere in his answer did he address the fact that when you have people during the National Anthem taking a knee, refusing to stand for the National Anthem, that you’re disrespecting the millions of veterans, the millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines that risk and fight and died to protect that flag and to protect our liberty. And to be clear, everyone has a right to protest, you have a right to speak. But you can speak in a way that doesn’t disrespect the flag, that doesn’t disrespect the National Anthem and I’ll tell you, those Civil Rights protesters would be astonished if the protests were manifesting in burning the flag. Dr. King, that’s not something Dr. King stood for. He  stood for justice without disrespecting the men and women who fought for this country.

O’Rourke: You heard Sen. Cruz’s answer. First of all he again tried to mislead you by taking a peaceful protest during the National Anthem to burning a flag. No one here, myself included, has suggested that anyone should be doing that. He also grounded his answer in partisanship, talking about the GOP being better than the Democrats. Listen, I could care less about either party at this moment, at this deeply divided, highly polarized time in our history. This moment calls for all of us, regardless of party or any other difference, whether it’s race, or sexual orientation or how many generations you’ve been here or whether you just came here yesterday, we need to come together for this country that we love so much.

What Cruz misses in his historical analysis is that many of the Republicans who voted for Civil Rights legislation are what he and his allies now call RINOs, to be driven from the party, and that many of he Democrats who opposed Civil Rights switched parties. Goldwater began the Republican takeover of the South by opposing Johnson’s Civil Rights program, securing the first Republican toehold in the region, and the South turned Republican precisely as a result of the white racial reaction that Cruz was appealing to Friday night to rally his base.

The Republicans that Cruz admired were those like Jesse Helms,

Cruz: The very first political contribution I made in my life was to Jesse Helms.

Here Cruz also recalls a story about how, when a young Helms received a campaign donation from John Wayne, Helms reached out to Wayne to ask why. Wayne replied, “‘Oh yeah, you’re that guy saying all those crazy things. We need 100 more like you.”

“The willingness to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town, and you know what? ” Cruz said. “It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

Ted Cruz Loves Arch-Racist Jesse Helms

By Lee A. Daniels

NNPA Columnist

Sept 16, 2013

In office just nine months, Ted Cruz, the junior Republican Senator from Texas, has already established himself as that body’s most divisive force since the witch-hunting, 1950s demagogue, Joe McCarthy.

A darling of the most extreme factions of the conservative movement, Cruz exemplifies what was obvious about the GOP’s fortunes since the Tea Party emerged on its right flank two months after President Obama took office in 2009: That it would have to destroy the GOP’s establishment – that is, those Republican officeholders who, though rock-ribbed conservatives, actually believed in the old American win-some-lose-some tradition of political accommodation and pragmatism.

And last week, speaking at an event meant to honor the late Jesse Helms, the longtime segregationist senator from North Carolina, Cruz, Texas’ first Hispanic senator, revealed again for all to see how unbreakable is the connection between conservatism and White racism.

Cruz, who was born in 1970, first briefly spun a tale of how he had idolized Helms, who served in the Senate from 1972 to 2001, since he was 10 – when he had sent Helms a $10 campaign contribution “’cause they were beating up on him, they were coming after him hard and I thought it wasn’t right …”

Then, after a moment, Cruz added, “The willingness [of Helms] to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town, and you know what? It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

The bulk of Cruz’s remarks laid out his analysis of Helms’ positions on foreign affairs (an analysis that in fact was laughably wrong). Even the deeply-conservative Heritage – which just months ago was embarrassed by the discovery that one of its Fellows, Jason Richwine, had written a doctoral thesis that recycled bigoted claims about the intelligence and cultural suitability of Hispanic-Americans – wouldn’t want to expose Helms’ domestic attitudes and activities to scrutiny.

But Cruz’s gushing, thankfully, did remind us that for nearly two centuries, the United States Senate was comprised of a substantial number of senators “like Jesse Helms.” That bloc, along with their confederates in the House of Representatives, was responsible for establishing and maintaining Negro slavery and its successor, racial apartheid, in the South into the latter third of the 20th century.

By the time Helms reached the Senate, the legislative victories of the Civil Rights Movement – which Helms staunchly opposed and continued to denigrate throughout his political life – had pared those politicians’ numbers sharply.

But Jesse Helms, provincial and mean-spirited, continued to fight on. In 1983, he was the only Senator to vote against approving Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday. In 1990, he waged what many called the most racist political campaign since the civil rights years to fend off a challenge from Harvey Gantt, an African-American Democrat and former mayor of Charlotte. In 1993, he tried to taunt Illinois’ Carol Moseley-Braun, newly-elected as the nation’s first Black female senator, by singing “Dixie” as they rode the Senate elevator one day in order, as he said, to try to make her cry.

Moseley-Braun did not cry, but the act revealed something fundamental about Helms’ character that went hand-in-hand with a vicious bigotry that also targeted gays and lesbians, women and other people of color, including Hispanic Americans.  A few weeks earlier, Moseley-Braun had led a successful charge against Helms’ trying to guide a renewal of a federal patent on the Confederate flag for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She won the substantive political battle; his response was a juvenile gesture.

In 2001, when Helms announced he would retire from the Senate, the columnist David S. Broder, a widely-respected political centrist, wrote a column in the August 29 issue of the Washington Post that appeared under a headline that was simple and stunning: “Jesse Helms, White Racist.”

In the column, Broder declared “What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent  unabashed white racist politician in this country … [and] the squeamishness of much of the press in characterizing Helms for what he is suggests an unwillingness to confront the reality of race in our national life.”

Broder continued that “What is unique about Helms – and from my viewpoint, unforgivable – is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African-Americans.”

Finally, after setting Helms in context of the modern-day segregationist politicians who fought the Civil Rights Movement, Broder concluded:  “That is not a history to be sanitized.”

Ted Cruz tells us Jesse Helms is his political idol. What does that say about Ted Cruz?

Some more on Helms from Chuck Smith writing in the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 4, 2001.

Jesse Helms began his career as a radio newsman, and broke into politics by assisting segregationist Willis Smith in his 1950 Senate campaign. Mr. Helms is credited with inventing the description of UNC, the University of North Carolina, as the “University of Negroes and Communists.” He may have written–and, at a minimum, was certainly aware of as part of the campaign–newspaper ads that asked: “Do you want Negroes working beside you and your wife and daughter eating beside you, sleeping in the same hotels teaching and disciplining your children in school, occupying the same hospital rooms, using your toilet facilities?” Another of Smith’s ads featured a doctored photo of the incumbent’s wife dancing with a black man. Mr. Helms later denied any involvement, but a newspaper advertising manager told Helms biographer Ernest Ferguson that Mr. Helms personally cut up the photos. Mr. Helms was rewarded for his campaign work with a job as an administrative assistant to Smith in Washington.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Helms won a seat on the Raleigh City Council, where he took up the charge of defending segregation, criticizing black student sit-ins attempting to desegregate the luncheon counters in downtown Raleigh. As soon as Mr. Helms was sworn in, he immediately spoke up for Arkansas’s Gov. Orval Faubus’s confrontation with federal troops after the court desegregation. Mr. Helms attacked integration by declaring that many more “race riots” and other such troubles occur in the North.

In 1960, he took a job as a TV commentator, initially hired to counter David Brinkley’s repeated calls for an end to institutionalized racism. He spent the next decade railing against Martin Luther King, “Negro hoodlums” and anyone on welfare. Mr. Helms derided the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.”

Long after segregationists like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond began making amends and attempting to court black voters and avoid racially divisive politics, Mr. Helms continued to only raise racial issues when it would possible stoke white resentment. In addition to his election tactics to which Mr. Broder’s piece referred, Sen. Helms consistently opposed every piece of civil-rights legislation. He opposed the Martin Luther King holiday, arguing that Dr. King and his associates had “proven records of communism, socialism and sex perversion” and feeling that the issue was of such grave importance that it warranted a filibuster. In 1983, asked whether his denunciations of Dr. King as a “Marxist-Leninist” might cause difficulties in his re-election bid the following year, Mr. Helms replied, “I’m not going to get any black votes, period.” Mr. Helms continued his crusade to get Dr. King’s, J. Edgar Hoover-created FBI files opened to the public.

With the end of segregation, Mr. Helms could only attempt to preserve segregation abroad. During the 1970s he defended the racist regime in Rhodesia, offering amendments to eliminate economic sanctions. In 1979, two Helms aides showed up in London to monitor negotiations over the independence of Zimbabwe, eliciting a protest from the British government that the senator’s staffers were encouraging the former Rhodesian prime minister, Ian Smith, to hold out longer.

In the 1980s Mr. Helms defended the apartheid regime of South Africa as a friend, describing economic sanctions as a “kick in the teeth” and denouncing the Mandela-led opposition as a communist front. He claimed sanctions would produce violent revolution and tyranny.

Mr. Helms has also made his views on race clear through a series of merely symbolic actions. Soon after a Senate vote on the Confederate flag insignia, Mr. Helms ran into then-Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun of Illinois, who is black, in a Capitol elevator. Mr. Helms turned to his friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, and said, “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.” He then proceeded to sing the song about the good life during slavery.

One of the most telling commentaries on whether Mr. Helms ever abandoned his racist views was provided by a conservative commentator. Fred Barnes wrote in The Weekly Standard last week that “Helms hasn’t grown at all since his days as a conservative commentator on WRAL-TV in Raleigh in the 1960s and early 1970s. So far as I know, he’s changed his mind on only one issue in three decades, dropping his criticism of Israel and becoming a strong supporter.”

The leading proponent of Cruz’s historical analysis is Dinesh D’Souza, for whom Cruz recently helped secure a pardon from President Donald Trump.

From Christopher Hooks writing in the Texas Observer in August: I Watched Dinesh D’Souza’s New Movie with the Travis County GOP

 

 

In D’Souza’s telling, racism, fascism and authoritarianism have always been left-wing ideas. Preposterously, he cuts directly from footage of people maligning Trump to a re-enactment of Abraham Lincoln walking in a field of wavy grain.

“None of this is new,” he intones. “In 1860, America elected its first Republican president.” Soon after, over footage of a Confederate infantry charge, “to stop Lincoln, Democrats revolted.” After the Civil War, Democrats built up the federal government to replace the system of social control they had exercised over blacks in the South, in which “the [new] plantation master is the president.” The stuff you’ve heard about Republican racism in the last 60 years is all a lie. Trump is Lincoln’s inheritor. The subtitle of the movie, about saving America a second time, refers to the “new” civil war — Trump against his critics.

Every fascist ever was a left-winger, or inspired by the American Democratic party. FDR was “infatuated” by Mussolini, who was himself “a man of the left.” Hitler was initially OK with gay people, before he killed many of them, so “Hitler was no social conservative.” And concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele believed that his work was leading to human progress — in other words, “Mengele saw himself as a progressive.” After the war, scared progressives concocted a “big lie” that fascism was a right-wing phenomenon.

It seems a little bit silly to say that Lincoln, if brought back to life today, would be a member of the party that honors the Confederacy he tried to so hard to crush. Some of the people in the theater with me seemed to agree: When the film talked about Lincoln’s nobility, and the many wonderful things in world history that came from the Union victory, a man behind me loudly interjected, “Oh, come on!”

Meanwhile, from the AP back in February:

Fifty-seven percent of all adults, including more than 8 in 10 blacks, three-quarters of Hispanics and nearly half of whites, said they think Trump is racist. Eighty-five percent of Democrats consider Trump racist, but just 21 percent of Republicans agree.

The results show a stark divide on racial issues gripping the country during the presidency of Trump, who has made divisive comments after a white nationalist rally, called African nations “shitholes,” and promised to build a wall along the Mexican border to prevent immigrants from entering the country illegally.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the poll’s findings. When asked earlier this year what he thinks about people who think he is racist, Trump replied, “No, no. I am not a racist.” He also told reporters: “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.”

Trump became the favorite of white nationalists in the 2016 campaign. But, were it not for Trump …

U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa was crucial to Cruz’s victory in the Iowa caucuses. He was national co-chair of Cruz’s presidential campaign.

King: “This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

King:

We have to do something about the 11 million (undocumented immigrants) and some of them are valedictorians and my answer to that is – and by the way their parents brought them in, it wasn’t their fault – it’s true in some cases. But they are not all valedictorians. They were not all brought in by their parents.

For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

Which brings us to the question that opened Friday’s debate.

Q: Congressman O’Rourke, you drew the first question. We’re going to start with you. You said last week, representative, you want citizenship for Dreamers today. And yet others who apply to come to America continue to wait. Sen. Cruz said he doesn’t support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, which means they could be sent back to a country they’ve never known. Who’s right, representative?

O’Rourke: My wife, Amy and I were in Booker, Texas – we traveled to each one of the 245 counties in Texas -and one of the reddest communities in the state and we were surprised as we were going door-to-door to hear the number one concern from people in that community was the fate of Dreamers. There are nearly 200,000 in the state of Texas. And the salutatorian from Booker High School had just been deported back to his country of origin and everyone there was concerned about his welfare. But they’re also concerned about the fact that he’d just been sent back to a country whose language he didn’t speak, where he no longer had family connections, where if he was successful against those long odds, he’ be successful there for that place  and not here for Texas. There’s no better people than those of us here in this state – Republicans and Democrats and Independents alike, the defining border experience, the defining immigrant experience – to rewrite our immigration laws in our own image and to ensure that we begin by freeing Dreamers from the fear of deportation, by making them U.S. citizens so they can contribute to their full potential to the success not just of themselves and their families but to this country. The economists who have studied it said we would lose hundreds of billions of dollars to the negative if we deport them. We’ll gain hundreds of billions of dollars to the positive if we keep them. Sen. Cruz has promised to deport each and every single Dreamer. This cannot be how Texas leads on this important issue.

CRUZ: This issue presents a stark divide between Congressman O’Rourke and me. My views on immigration are simple and I’ve summed them up many times in just four words: Legal, good. Illegal, bad. I think the vast majority of Texans agree with that. I think when it comes to immigration, we need to do everything humanly possible to secure the border. That means building a wall, that means technology, that means infrastructure.  That means boots on the ground. And we can do all of that at the same time that are welcoming and celebrating legal immigrants. There’s a right way and a wrong way to come in this country. You wait in line. You follow the rules like my father did in 1957 when he came from Cuba. He fled oppression and he came to Texas. He came seeking freedom. We’re a state and we’re a nation built by immigrants, but it’s striking that Congressman O’Rourke, over and over and over again, his focus seems to be on fighting for illegal immigrants and forgetting the millions of Americans. You know, Americans are dreamers also and granting U.S. citizenship to 12 million people who are here illegally, I think it’s a serious mistake. I think Congressman O’Rourke is out of step with Texas.

O’ROURKE: I’ll tell you about being out of step with Texas. Sen. Cruz has sponsored legislation that would  have this country build a 2000-mile wall, 30-feet high at a cost of $30 billion, and that wall will not be built on the international border between the United States and Mexico, which is the center line of the Rio Grande.  It will be built on someone’s farm, someone’s ranch, someone’s property, someone’s homestead, using the power of eminent domain to take their property at a time of record security and safety on the border. Sen. John Cornyn and I introduced legislation that would invest in our ports of entry where a vast majority of everyone and everything that comes into this country first crosses, knowing who and what come here in makes us safer. It allows us to lead on the issue of immigration reform.

Q – Representative, quick follow-up for you. You’ve addressed the Dreamers. Do you think anyone undocumented living here should have a path to citizenship?

O’ROURKE: There are millions of people in this country who are working the toughest job. When we were in Roscoe at a cotton gin with 24 jobs, every single one of them worked by someone who came to this country. Not a person born in Roscoe or nearby Sweetwater willing to do that work. That’s the story of Texas and of this country. We need to bring people out of the shadows, allow them to get right by law. There should be an earned path to citizenship. The alternative, as Sen. Cruz has proposed, is to deport 11 million people from this country. Imagine the cost. Imagine the stain on our conscience going forward for the generations who look back at his moment.

As always, Cruz cited his father’s experience in explaining his hard-line on illegal immigration.

Here from his 2015 book, A Time for Truth.

My dad, a Cuban immigrant who sometimes seems larger than life, has always been my hero. He has always felt a visceral urgency about politics. Having the right people in office was vitally important to my dad, as if it were a matter of life and death. Because for him, in a very literal sense, it was.

There isn’t a day that goes by that my thoughts don’t turn to boy with jet-black hair, a curious mind, and an instinct for rebellion who was just emerging into manhood. He was born to a middle-class family in Cuba and had earned straight A’s in school. His future was filled with possibility and he might well have progressed under the regime of Fulgencio Batista.

But he and his friends soon realized the cruelty of Batista’s totalitarianism. He watched in horror as military police beat the government’s opponents. Along with other young students, he secretly allied with an underground movement to replace a cruel and oppressive. The movement was led by Fidel Castro, whose own capacity for tyranny and terror was not yet known – at the time he seemed to hold the promise of freedom. That dark-haired boy be came a guerrilla, throwing Molotov cocktails at the buildings of Batista’s regime, whatever the resistance needed.

He describes how his father recruited and formed a unit in the pro-Castro, anti-Batista underground.

Their unit concentrated on propaganda, acquisition and movement of weapons, and acts of sabotage.

His father was captured, but released

(He) returned to Matanzas and resumed control of his rebel unit. He formed a second one, focused on sabotage throughout the province, especially trying to disrupt communications and transportation. 

His father was captured again and this time he was tortured, but again released, with a warning that “if another bomb explodes in this city, we’re coming to get you.”

When he came home, my grandfather was adamant. “They know who you are now,” he told his son, with fear in his eyes. “It’s only a matter of time before they kill you. You’ve got to get out.

Cruz writes his father was visited by a woman from the Castro underground.

My dad asked if he could join Castro in the mountains and keep fighting, but he was told there was no way to  get to the rebels.

And so my dad decided to flee Cuba. He had been a good student in high school, graduating first in his class. So in 1957, he applied for admission to three American universities: the University of Miami, Louisiana State University, and the University of Texas, the first to let him in, which set our family’s roots in the vast and opportunity-rich Lone Star State. With the letter of acceptance from Texas in hand, he went to the U.S. embassy and received a student visa. All he needed now was an exit permit from the Cuban government. That was not easy to get, especially for a young man who had been arrested as a rebel. Fortunately, the Batista regime was nothing if not corrupt. A lawyer friend of the family quietly bribed a Cuban government official, who stamped my father’s passport to let him out

xxxxx

He was headed to America.

It is difficult for many of us to fully comprehend what a beacon of hope this country offers the rest of the world. There is no other place on earth that would have welcome so freely to its shores a man like Rafael Cruz. He was eighteen, penniless, and spoke no English. He own three things: the suit on this back, a slide rule in his pocket, and a hundred dollars that my grandmother had sewn in his underwear.

America, quite simply, saved my father. America gave him a chance.

It’s a powerful story, especially if it’s your father’s story.

From this story, Cruz has drawn the conclusion that today’s Dreamers should be deported.

And yet, imagine putting this hypothetical question on a survey of Texas voters?

A penniless 18-year-old from Latin America with a history of violent anti-government terrorism, who has bribed a government official from his home country to gain an exit permit, is seeking a student visa to study at the University of Texas even though he doesn’t speak a word of English. Should he be admitted to the United States?

How many respondents would say “yes,” and would any of them be voting for Ted Cruz?

 

 

 

 

 

x

Yes he did! Retired game warden Pete Flores poaches Democratic Senate seat!

 

Good day Austin:

Well, at least they didn’t chant, Sí, se puede.

That would have been overkill, gloating, rubbing it in.

But exultant Republicans did spontaneously chant the English version of the United Farmworkers-cum-Barack Obama motto – Yes we can! – at Pete Flores’ victory party last night, because, yes they did, yes he did, with the retired game warden convincingly defeating Pete Gallego, a former state representative and member of Congress, in what for Democrats was a must-win, can’t-lose district, a devastating defeat that serves as a pin prick to what overnight looked like overblown Democratic expectations in Texas for 2018.

This from last night’s Flores’ victory, in every detail, could be the most excruciating seven minutes of video a Texas Democrat could ever have to endure watching.

Dan Patrick: Pete Flores made history. For the first time in history there are 21 Republican senators. For the first time in history we have an Hispanic Republican senator.

Seven weeks from tonight I have a message for the Democrats that Pete Flores and his hard work delivered here. All this talk about a blue wave, well the tide is out.

Patrick: And here’s the message to the Democrats: If you think – and this is a 66 percent Hispanic district – if you think Hispanic Republicans across the state are going to vote for abortion, open borders, to take your guns away, to raise your taxes, well, the message was sent tonight and the answer is “no.”

Patrick introduced Flores and then, at about the 2:15 mark, as Patrick was high-fiving Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey – he’s the one under the Trump (and some, I assume are good people)  sign – the crowd spontaneously began chanting, Yes we can!

From Chuck Lindell’s story:

Casting serious doubt on Democratic hopes for a blue wave in Texas, Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego in Tuesday’s runoff election for a vacant seat in the state Senate — a seat that had been safely Democratic in previous years.

Flores will represent Senate District 19 when the Legislature convenes in January, filling the final two years of the term vacated when former Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, resigned in June, shortly before he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in defrauding investors in a Texas oil services company.

With Tuesday’s victory, Republicans will hold 21 of the Texas Senate’s 31 seats, giving Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick an even stronger base of support in the 2019 legislative session.

¡Ay, caramba!

Reading those three paragraphs and you realize this was as important, as consequential an election as is likely to occur in Texas in 2018.

The stakes could not have been higher.

Yup. There it is. Right above ROGER STONE: “I will never roll….

But Democrats, don’t worry. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has it covered, issuing the following statement:

Come November, no Democrat can sit on the sidelines and no campaign can take any vote for granted. We need to make sure that every voter understands what’s at stake.

Governor Abbott stole an election, plain and simple. Republicans set a date that would guarantee low voter turnout, then Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Republican special interests poured money into the race, denying the people of West Texas and the U.S. Mexico border representation that shares their values.

This was a hard-fought race, but make no mistake, Texas Democrats will not stop fighting to give every Texan the fair shot they deserve.

Shame on Texas Republicans – using their money and power to win an election.

LBJ is rolling over in his grave.

And it was ultra-sneaky running a candidate who bore such a superficial resemblance to Gallego.

And the same first name.

And, who without any doubt, actually lived in the district.

Christian Archer struck a more somber, realistic note:

From Dylan McGuinness’s story in the Express-News.

Christian Archer, Gallego’s campaign strategist, said he was shocked by the results, adding that they weren’t able to generate as much excitement as the Republicans.

“I don’t have any regrets, but I have a lot of disappointment,” Archer said.

Flores’ win marked an incredible upset in a district that political observers said shouldn’t have been competitive for Republicans. Low turnout in special elections and high-level GOP interests in preserving a Senate supermajority helped push Flores across the line, they said.

“It will provide a completely unexpected gift for Republicans for the next legislative session,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University.

Jones said Flores’ victory all but assured a Republican supermajority next year, which would allow Senate Republicans to bring bills to the floor without any Democratic support

Maybe Gallego lacked a spark.

From yesterday in the thick of Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts, Gallego was the calm in the storm. Or the drizzle.

Before Gallego decided not to run again for his old seat in Congress, now held by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, whose own already decent re-election prospects against Gina Ortiz Jones, look brighter this morning, I quoted Rick Treviño, who ended up in a runoff for the Democratic nomination against Jones, as saying, of Gallego:  “Sequels are bad, trilogies are worse, and this guy is no Rocky IV.”

 

From Asher Price’s story on the Quinnipiac poll:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has a 9 percentage point lead over challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, according to a poll of likely voters released Tuesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll has Cruz holding a 54 percent to 45 percent lead over O’Rourke. Ninety-three percent of those polled who picked a candidate said their minds were made up on the matter.

As in previous polls, white and male voters tend to favor Cruz; voters of color and women tend to favor O’Rourke.

“The Texas U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic hopes for an upset win there, have boosted talk of a Senate takeover. These numbers may calm that talk,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in an analysis accompanying poll results. “Congressman O’Rourke may be drawing big crowds and media attention, but Texas likely voters like Sen. Cruz better.”

From Quinnipiac:

Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz has a 54 – 45 percent likely voter lead over U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, his Democratic challenger, in the Texas Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today.

This is the first survey of likely voters in this race by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll, and can not be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters. Among Texas likely voters who choose a candidate, 93 percent say their mind is made up. That includes 94 percent of Cruz backers and 92 percent of O’Rourke backers.

Women are divided as 50 percent back Cruz and 48 percent back O’Rourke. Men back Cruz 57 – 42 percent. White voters back Cruz 66 – 32 percent. O’Rourke leads 97 – 3 percent among black voters and 54 – 45 percent among Hispanic voters.

Republicans back Cruz 94 – 6 percent, as Democrats go to O’Rourke 94 – 4 percent. Independent voters are divided with 51 percent for O’Rourke and 47 percent for Cruz.

Texas likely voters approve 53 – 44 percent of the job Cruz is doing and give him a 52 – 43 percent favorability rating.

O’Rourke gets a divided 43 – 42 percent favorability rating.

This is not good news for O’Rourke. Cruz has a higher favorability rating. And O”Rourke is not doing nearly as well as he needs do with Hispanics, and Lupe Valdez, the Democratic candidate for governor, may be of marginal help to him on that score.

From Quinnipiac:

There is a wide racial gap in the Texas governor’s race, as Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott leads former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez 58 – 39 percent among likely voters.

Gov. Abbott leads 69 – 28 percent among white voters as Valdez leads 83 – 16 percent among black voters. Hispanic voters are divided with 49 percent for Abbott and 45 percent for Valdez.

But, that’s just one poll.

From Reuters:

Among the bright spots for Democrats: U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas had a 2-percentage-point lead over Cruz among likely voters in the state and U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had a 3-point lead over Republican congresswoman Martha McSally in the race to succeed U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, one of Trump’s most vocal critics from within his own party.

Both leads are within the poll’s 4-percentage-point credibility intervals, a measure of precision, meaning the candidates are drawing about the same level of support.

The finding suggests that O’Rourke has a shot at becoming the first Democrat to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate in a quarter century.

“There’s a possibility it could happen. I’m not saying probable. But it’s possible,” said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics.

Cruz’s feuds with Trump during his unsuccessful 2016 campaign also hurt his standing with some Texas Republicans, Sabato added, saying: “That damaged him with parts of the Texas electorate that he needs for re-election.”

The Reuters/Ipsos/UVA poll was conducted online, in English, from Sept. 5 to 17. It surveyed between 992 and 1,039 people in each of five states including California and weighted the responses according to the latest government population estimates.

So, take your pick.

Beto O’Rourke is no Pete Gallego. Or rather, Pete Gallego is no Beto O’Rourke.

But no Democrat can be cheered by yesterday’s outcome.

As Henson and Blank recently laid out, even if everything breaks O’Rourke’s way, he’s still very unlikely to win, and yesterday’s outcome in Senate District 19, while not a real test of general election mobilization, does nothing to suggest that Texas Democrats are going to be able to expand the electorate – especially with Hispanic voters even in the thick of the Trump presidency – in the dramatic way on which their success in the  2018 midterm election depends – or that Texas Republicans are less motivated or will be caught napping.

THE ODDS AGAINST O’ROURKE: SOME BACK-OF-THE-ENVELOPE VOTE COUNTING IN THE TEXAS SENATE RACE

A series of recent articles focused on Republican concerns over Senator Ted Cruz’s reelection chances has Democrats beaming, and national reporters falling all over themselves to get in front of the possible defeat of Cruz in deep red Texas. The attraction of the storyline for editors and reporters is obvious enough, and poll numbers showing low single-digit leads for Cruz provide a ready rationale for ever more breathless speculation on Beto O’Rourke’s chances of pulling off an upset. But a look at recent election outcomes and some simple back-of-the-envelope math highlight just how unlikely an O’Rourke victory is in Texas.

While “unlikely” doesn’t mean impossible – this is where we usually insert something about a “non-zero probability” – the magnitude of the change in the patterns evident in recent Texas elections would have to be historic. If we consider recent midterm elections since 2010, the average Republican vote total has been 2,798,519 votes, which we can round to 2.8 million for simplicity. The average Democratic vote total in those races has been 1,846,459, which we can round up to 1.9 million (again, for simplicity). This means that Democrats, on average, have to make up approximately 900,000 votes to get in the range of a tie in Texas. What would this take? (The table below also includes presidential results from 2016, just to provide context, though those results are not factored into these averages).

Recent Top of the Ticket Election Outcomes in Texas
Year Race Republican Vote Total Democratic Vote Total Republican Vote Total Advantage Republican Vote Share Advantage
2016 President 4,685,047 3,877,868 807,179 +9
2014 Senator 2,861,531 1,597,387 1,264,144 +27
2014 Governor 2,796,547 1,835,596 960,951 +20
2012 President 4,569,843 3,308,124 1,261,719 +16
2012 Senator 4,440,137 3,194,927 1,245,210 +16
2010 Governor 2,737,481 2,106,395 631,086 +13

This assessment is based on some quick math, rather than finely grained projections, geographic or otherwise, and there are plenty of other ways one might go about this exercise. But simply thinking about vote totals based on previous elections provides a succinct look at what one is talking about when one considers Beto O’Rourke defeating Ted Cruz.

A good starting point is one of the underlying assumption of many assessments of O’Rourke’s chances: the potential migration of votes from the expected GOP vote either to O’Rourke or to the Texas army of the non-voting. The most recently released poll, as of this writing, showed 15 percent of likely Republican voters saying that they’ll cast a vote for O’Rourke. According to a few different analytic approaches using University of Texas / Texas Tribune polling data of registered voters, as well as Texas Lyceum data of registered and likely voters, the size of the poll of potential Republican cross-over voters is probably closer to 6 percent. This estimate is drawn from current polling, which almost certainly reflects a different underlying population than the likely electorate once general election voting begins, so the size and magnitude of the shift in this data may or may not emerge in actual voting. But assuming just for the sake of this exercise that O’Rourke has or will convince 15 percent of Republican voters to cast a vote for him (which would be quite impressive), we can subtract those votes from the average Republican vote total and add them to the average Democratic vote total, resulting in 420,000 votes shifting to the O’Rourke column. This would cut his likely deficit to 480,000 votes.* While this 15 percent estimate seems high given the context (and divergence of) the polling data, it tests the outer limits for one of the clear concerns of Republicans in Texas and elsewhere: the possibility of either a lack of enthusiasm or outright discontent leading to an increase in Republican non-voting among usually reliable midterm voters.

In addition to discontent with Cruz amongst Republicans, O’Rourke would also have to turn out Democrats at significantly higher rates than normal. So let’s assume, again for the sake of argument, that Democratic turnout increases by 20 percent, which would add another 380,000 votes to O’Rourke’s total. Even under this optimistic scenario, combined with the outer-bound estimate of Republican defections, this surge in turnout would only result in a decrease in the overall expected gap between O’Rourke and Cruz to 100,000 votes – a little more than 3.5 percent under our rough turnout assumption – still in Cruz’s favor.

This simple, back-of-the-envelope calculation using incredibly optimistic expectations (if you’re a Democrat) about the electorate shows why, when experts are asked about O’Rourke’s chances at toppling Cruz, they are so cautious in feeding the hype. Even under extremely rosy circumstances, O’Rourke needs BOTH a momentous shift in voter sentiment, AND a momentous shift in Democratic turnout: possible, but still not probable.

Political designs: How Beto’s basic black and white and Ocasio-Cortez’s revolutionary look defined their candidacies

 

Good day Austin:

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at the end of June won a Democratic primary for a congressional seat in New York City against one of the most powerful politicians in the city, soaring into the national political consciousness, have a few things in common.

Both project an upbeat, youthful vigor — or, more properly vigah, because O’Rourke is a virtual Kennedy and Ocasio-Cortez cut her political teeth working as an intern in U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s office while going to school at Boston University.

Of course Ocasio-Cortez is very young — at 28, a generation younger than the 45-year–old O’Rourke (she’s a Millennial, he’s Generation X).

Both also are masters of political virality, not to be mistaken for political virility, though maybe they are, these days, one and the same.

And both Ocasio-Cortez and O’Rourke have benefited from campaigns with very distinctive and effective graphic design that have gone a long way toward branding them in ways that complement their strengths.

From n+1 magazine on June 30:

The democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking victory in this week’s Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district has rightly provoked enthusiastic commentary and analysis. If she beats her Republican opponent in November, as seems assured, Ocasio-Cortez will be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Her grassroots campaign against the business-friendly incumbent Joe Crowley, who until Tuesday was a likely candidate for speaker of the House, sends a significant signal to the Democratic Party. Ocasio-Cortez’s election to Congress would be the clearest sign yet of the electoral viability of the left in the US.

Her campaign also marks a major step forward for graphic design in American politics. Rather than the tired repetition of white letters on blue backgrounds, white letters on red backgrounds, and American flag iconography, energetic diagonals cut across Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign materials in an unexpected yellow and purple. When paired with the instantly iconic photo of the candidate by Jesse Korman, the vibrancy of the system is infectious.

And from Didi Martinez at Politico on July 7:

One of the year’s most distinctive, break-the-mold campaign designs belongs to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the giant-killing New York progressive who recently pulled off the upset of the primary season by defeating veteran Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley.

Using purples and yellows and drawing inspiration from old United Farm Workers of America posters, Ocasio-Cortez’s logo and campaign signs are a dramatic departure from customary practice.

Scott Starrett, who oversaw the creation of Ocasio-Cortez’s posters — which embraced Spanish-inspired inverted exclamation marks to highlight her Puerto Rican heritage — said they could afford to take design risks as they reached for a “bold, revolutionary look” for the campaign.

 


From Aileen Kwun at Fast Company on June 29:

Opting for bold lettering and a flat design treatment that forgoes drop shadows, gradients, American flag motifs, and other visual cliches, the identity intentionally avoids pretentious signifiers to refreshing effect; one might even liken the energetic campaign visuals to a local poster bill. In place of red, white, and blue, Ocasio-Cortez’s color scheme draws upon purple–a symbolic blend of the two-party system’s red and blue, also used by Brand New Congress–and yellow, as its aesthetic complement.

Enlarged, all-caps text–set bilingually in English and Spanish, in equal weighting–frames Ocasio-Cortez’s countenance with similarly angular effect, and her name, proudly flouted with inverted exclamation marks and stars, is emphatically, unapologetically multicultural. It’s an outward display of Ocasio-Cortez’s roots as a third-generation, working-class Bronxite with Puerto Rican heritage.

(Campaign volunteers for Beto O’Rourke, left to right, Canan Yetmen, Debbie Cahoon and Bessie Tassoulas, prepare yard signs at a rally at Mount Sinai Baptist Church on Monday August 27, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

O’Rourke’s design went the other direction — no photo, no color, just BETO in black and white, in keeping with his stripped-down punk sensibility and perhaps also in subliminal homage to a particular Texas comfort zone – Whataburger.

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Anna Tinsley wrote on Aug. 9:

What’s black and white and reminds some people of a tasty Texas treat?

Apparently it’s the campaign signs and logo being used by U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat embroiled in a battle with Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for the Senate.

Some are taking to social media to say those campaign messages remind them of the design on the Whataburger spicy ketchup container.

 

On Sunday, I wrote a story about following O’Rourke on a three-day swing through South Texas the previous weekend.

The last rally was in Brownsville, emceed by the local state Rep. Eddie Lucio III.

From the story:

Was O’Rourke getting a late start in the Rio Grande Valley?

“I don’t think so,” Lucio said. “You’ve got to peak at the right time. You’ve got to conserve your energy. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I think he’s peaking and moving and gaining speed right when he needs to.”

But O’Rourke, 17 months into a relentless Senate campaign that has already taken him to all 254 Texas counties, is running the marathon as a sprint. Last weekend’s stops in Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, drawing raucous crowds amid the campaign’s fecund fundraising and with poll after poll showing a competitive race — combined with his uncanny ability to draw national attention with viral video clips, most recently showing him skateboarding in a Brownsville Whataburger parking lot and another in which he explained his support for professional football players kneeling for the national anthem — suggested a campaign on a roll.

Following a candidate on the campaign trail is a time-honored way of reporting on politics. There were several other reporters following O’Rourke on his border swing.

It is, in fact, the next best thing to not being there if you are interested in what really matters — which is what’s going on on social media — Facebook, Twitter, likes, retweets, clicks, etc. The demands of the road can only distract from a disciplined attention to these coordinates.

Case in point, this viral tweet from Josh Billinson, the editor of the Independent Journal Review and a very talented tweeter, based in Washington, D.C., who I don’t believe was in Texas at all, but rather was, I assume, observing O’Rourke via his campaign’s  Facebook live stream of virtually everything he does on the road.

Up until Billinson’s tweet, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the skateboarding story, if that’s what this was.

I had asked O’Rourke about his newly acquired board as he clutched it at a gaggle with reporters between his Saturday evening rally in Brownsville and his dinner at a Brownsville Whataburger with some 32 El Pasoans who had come by bus to Brownsville with Veronica Escobar, the Democratic candidate to replace O’Rourke representing El Paso in Congress, to help rally support for their hometown hero.

O’Rourke was in a punk band — Foss — as a young man and I asked about his skateboarding background.

O’Rourke:

My dad bought me a skateboard when I was in the sixth grade for my birthday, so I must have turned 12.  I met the guy who sold my dad that skateboard. He now lives in San Antonio. So I skated in elementary and little bit in high school and then my kids have a skateboard and I’ll jump on that. They have a long board. This is the opposite of a long board but it’s got these nylon wheels, really good wheels.

Filling out the profile of a punk skateboarder, I asked O’Rourke if there was any graffiti he wanted to cop to. Beto would be a great tag, after all, and I’m sure the Cruz campaign is scouring freight trains and overpasses in and around El Paso for incriminating evidence.

O’Rourke: No, no, no, no, no.

I didn’t follow O’Rourke to the Whataburger that night because, while I heard the El Paso crew was headed there, I didn’t know he would be joining them — though I should have assumed he would be. And frankly, I had a Whataburger for dinner the previous evening while waiting to get a new tire in San Antonio to replace one of the two new tires I had purchased the previous day in Austin that went flat on my way from an afternoon O’Rourke rally in San Antonio, to one that evening in Laredo.

Worse still, in order to get the quarters needed to turn on the air to see if I could revive the flat tire at the gas station where I had pulled over about 20 minutes outside San Antonio,  I had to make a purchase, so I grabbed the first thing at hand, an orange package of Trident gum, though I don’t generally chew gum. But as the tire hissed air as quickly as I added it, and without a full-sized spare, I called AAA for a tow, sought comfort in my pack of orange Trident, and began chewing, quickly dislodging a crown.

I shoved the crown back where it belonged — where it remains to this day — got the tow to San Antonio, and while I waited for a new tire I repaired to a close-by Whataburger to do some research.

From Tinsley’s story on the resemblance between the Beto logo and the Whataburger spicy ketchup package:

Cruz’s campaign responded to the likeness.

“Unlike the spicy ketchup, when Texans unwrap the O’Rourke packaging, they are definitely not going to like what they see underneath,” Cruz campaign spokeswoman Emily Miller said. “He’s like a Triple Meat Whataburger liberal who is out of touch with Texas values.”

This was apparently not a good riposte.

https://twitter.com/MMove101/status/1027669546042372097

I confess in the my five-plus years in Texas I have only had a couple of Whataburgers, all via drive-through. The experience was fine but not life-altering, though I acknowledge and admire the fierce devotion of Texans to the chain. Like for HEB, only that one I actually live and feel.

In any case, unaccustomed to being inside a Whataburger, I looked around for the spicy ketchup package, and before I ordered my basic burger, I asked the guy at the counter how to secure a spicy ketchup in the Beto-like container. He looked at me as a bit of a security risk. I didn’t realize that a young woman would come around, when I received my order, with a condiment tray, like a cigarette girl in a 1940s nightclub.

Very classy.

 

The burger was pretty good. A single meat Whataburger was hefty. I doubted a triple-meat Whataburger was ever a good idea. And, at first glance, the resemblance between the ketchup package design and the Beto logo didn’t seem to me to be all that extraordinary.

But let us pause here to consider Ocasio-Cortez’s eye-catching design and how, there but for a former Austinite’s search for an acceptable taco in New York City, it might never have come off the way it did.

From that n+1 piece:

We were curious about how such a complex and impressive visual schema emerged, so we sought out the designers responsible for it: Scott Starrett, cofounder of Tandem (along with Shaun Gillen), and Maria Arenas, lead designer on the campaign. (Tandem’s Carlos Dominguez also assisted the campaign.) We spoke by phone on Friday, June 29, three days after Ocasio Cortez’s victory.

—Rachel Ossip and Mark Krotov

MARK KROTOV I first saw your campaign poster months ago, in a storefront on Queens Boulevard, in Sunnyside. At first I wasn’t sure if I was even looking at a campaign poster, but whatever it was, I knew I’d never seen anything quite like it. That poster was the first I’d heard of Ocasio-Cortez, and she more or less had my vote right at that moment. I was trying to remember when it was that I had that first encounter, and it feels like a long time ago—long before the articles began to be written. How did the process of working with Ocasio-Cortez and her campaign begin?

SCOTT STARRETT We’ve known Sandy [Ocasio-Cortez] for some time. We started talking politics before she began her bid for Congress—we even lent her our GoPro when she went to Standing Rock. But the seed of the campaign identity came from the fact that our whole studio really loves Sandy. That was a big part of why the design turned out so well.

MARIA ARENAS We really knew Sandy well, and we knew we had her complete trust. She trusted us to represent the campaign authentically.

RACHEL OSSIP How did the identity for the campaign evolve?

SS We’re in a revolutionary moment, so we went straight to the history of grassroots, civil rights, and social justice movements in search of a common language we could participate in. One that Sandy could participate in and that she belongs in. The most inspiring figures to us were Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, the cofounders of the National Farmworkers Association. They had a positive, uplifting message about bringing power to the people. It resonated so deeply with who Sandy the person was, and who Sandy the candidate became, that it was a good fit.

We also researched revolutionary posters, union badges, et cetera. But the National Farmworkers Association inspired us a great deal. We looked to a lot of low-fidelity activist materials bred from necessity, and we knew we couldn’t have too much polish. We wanted the identity to have a populist look, in the sense that it was simple enough that it could have been cut out of construction paper or made by hand in some way. But it also had to have a modern bent, with a nod to the visual culture of subway posters.

I’ve worked in politics for years. I had my first political clients in Austin almost seven years ago. The cultural and visual language there is so different. Had we run Ocasio’s identity in Texas, I don’t think it would have resonated to the same extent. In the Bronx and Queens, people speak and understand a different visual language. So when they saw it—and when you yourself saw it, Mark—they and you recognized that it kind of spoke to the visual language of New York and New York street advertising. People are advertised to differently in the subways than they are in, say, the Midwest or Texas.

Aha. Austin. I spoke to Scott Starrett back in early July.

Starrett, 34, moved to Austin from Lawrence, Kansas, where he was the director of marketing for the University of Kansas Memorial Unions, when he was 27. He was hired by Katie Naranjo at GNI Communications where his clients included state Sen. Kirk Watson, Mayor Steve Adler and Hugh Fitzsimons, who finished out of the money in a three-way race against Jim Hogan and Kinky Friedman for the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner four years ago. Despite that fact that Starrett did this beautiful map of Texas for his campaign.

Fitzsimons campaign effectively ended the day he filed his paperwork to be on the ballot.

Starrett: It meant a lot to him, it was meaningful and he asked he go in alone to put his name on the ballot because it was sentimental. He put his name on the ballot as Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III. He came out and showed us that and we were all like, “What have you done to us?”

Starrett subsequently moved to New York and co-founded Tandem.

I asked him about his comment that he didn’t think the Ocasio-Cortez design would have worked in Texas.

STARRETT: New Yorkers “are exposed to so much in their visual culture that — I don’t want to use the word sophistication, because that’s condescending to you guys — but (in New York) you are bombarded by the different visual languages and meeting that visual culture halfway we found to be a really positive thing and it may have been too much for Texas, and that also sounds condescending.

The Ocasio-Cortez design, he said, “borders on sentimental and dramatic, right? Like the ethos is excessive on some level and Sandy’s a bombastic candidate. She’s a firebrand, so when you hear her talk, you instantly go, ‘Oh, Ok, the poster fits, so it works.'”

“It might have been a little high-falutin’ for Texas.”

 

Originally, he said, the campaign “wanted a ton of inspirational text packed on there and we tried and we tried and at first we said, `I don’t think it’s going to work, it just doesn’t work, it was overbearing.’ They said, `Make it work.'”

“Some campaigns force you to do things that won’t work,” he said. But, ultimately the Ocasio-Cortez campaign relented.

Why?

“Not only was Sandy our friend, but she trusted us and believed in us.”

And they came up with a selection of buttons that each emphasized an issue.

Starrett and his partner became friends with Sandy because of Starrett’s yearning for tacos like the ones he’d grown to love in Austin.

“Oh man, I miss all the tacos, but Pueblo Viejo, that was my taco lunch,” said Starrett of the taco truck in the parking lot next to the GNI office on Brushy Street (it’s since moved inside the North Door).

(Note that the Pueblo Viejo color palette is to the Ocasio-Cortez campaign what the Whataburger spicy ketchup black and white is to O’Rourke’s look.)

STARRETT: New York does not always have the best tacos. Our office is in Union Square. So I was roaming around looking for something to eat and this new restaurant had just opened. I think I walked in on the second day and, I said, `OK, this could work out. You know there’s a taco joint less than a block from our office. This is a good thing. I could see good things happening for us.

“It’s called Flats Fix. It’s attached to the Coffee Shop,” a Union Square institution known as a hangout for models, he said.

It turned out that the bartender/waitress at Flats Fix was Ocasio-Cortez.

As she explains in a clip from Knock Down the House — a documentary being made about four women candidates for Congress, including Ocasio-Crotez — “I started waitressing after the financial crisis because we were about to lose our house.”

STARRETT: We’re fairly down-to-earth people. Over time my business partner, Shaun Gillen, and I,  we gravitated solely toward lunching and having business meetings at Flats Fix.

We’re pretty much always talking business so we made friends with the staff and they could see we were up to something and so that, along with politics — everyone in New York was talking politics in 2016 leading up to the race — so we really hit it off being politically inclined folks and when Sandy went to Standing Rock and she went to Detroit (Flint), we let her borrow our office studio’s GoPro to help document her trip and then later, as things started heating up, she got me in touch with … and we started working for Brand New Congress and justice Democrats (both groups supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy) and then I let her borrow my car to drive upstate to attend endorsement meetings.

She calls us out on Twitter as her Day One Brothers. So we were there from the start just encouraging her, telling her we thought she had it in her, just encouraging her every step of the way.

She is fierce now in a way that I think has impressed and surprised all of us but she’s always been gregarious and intellectual and kind.

Starrett said she worked at Flats Fix until about 10 months ago. (Her image, working the bar, continued to adorn the Flats Fix website after her election, but is now gone.)

She apparently previously worked at the Coffee Shop, which had a different clientele but the same ownership.

“The owners are clearly not fans of her politics — they are wealthy and they want to keep as much of their wealth as they can,” said Starrett. And, indeed, since our conversation they announced they are closing the Coffee Shop, blaming increases in the minimum wage, though they are keeping Flats Fix open.

Before heading down to South Texas, I spoke with Tony Casas in El Paso who designed the Beto logo.

Casas is a partner and part owner of Stanton Street, a web design and development company and digital marketing firm founded and formerly owned by O’Rourke, who hired Casas as a junior designer in 2008. O’Rourke turned the firm over his wife, Amy, when he was elected to Congress, and she in turn sold it just before O’Rourke announced for the Senate to Casas and Brian Wancho, the president and CEO.

He really took a chance on me and I’m glad that it worked out,” Casas said of O’Rourke.

I told him what Starrett said about the Ocasio-Cortez campaign being too bold a look for Texas. I wondered whether the O’Rourke campaigns choice of black and white confirmed that assessment.

Casas said that what guided O’Rourke to like the spare black and white design was his punk sensibility.

“Beto was real big on black and white to begin with,” Casas said. “It goes back to his punk rock roots, which are very black and white.”

Cases who, at 36, is a decade younger than O’Rourke, also grew up in the El Paso punk scene, designing posters and flyers for groups appearing locally.

CASAS: A lot of his campaign is based off of transparency and honesty and being straightforward about who he is and no sham about that, and the black and white more appealed to that and I think he just identified more with the black and white than the color, and it was less about what Texas was going to think.

He didn’t want the smoke and mirrors that everybody else has. He wanted it to be as bold and straightforward as he possibly could.

“I am punk rock at heart too so I knew about his band,” Casas said.

Had he ever seen him perform?

“I’m pretty sure I have, I know I’ve seen him on fliers,” Casas said. ” I did all the punk rock posters for bands after he was already out of the scene but I’m almost positive that I have (seen him) but I just don’t recall off-hand because it wasn’t as significant as it would become — who would ever have thought.”

Casas also designed the retro RFK Beto buttons in a more traditional red, white and blue.

CASAS: That was mine. A lot of people kept on making that comparison early that he looked a lot like Robert Kennedy and we were talking about it and I’m, “That’s an awesome statement for people to make the comparison.” I was, “we’re already working on some retro designs,  let’s play off that,” and we created those buttons and passed them out during the launch.

Casas said the punk palette is black, white and bright pink.

I asked where the pink was in O’Rourke’s campaign and he said Veronica Escobar, the Democrat running for Beto’s seat, was using it in her campaign, which is being designed by another El Paso outfit.

Having said all that, Casas’ original design for the Beto logo was in color, and that’s what he presented to O’Rourke and the campaign team. But, because it didn’t feel quite right to him, he had also prepared a black-and-white version that was not part of the presentation.

CASAS: They didn’t hate them but at the same they had the same feeling, they’re good but, uh, oh i don’t know. I said, “Let me show you one other thing. I made the same logo in black and white. Let me know what you guys think.” And the second I showed it to them, Beto was the first, “That’s it, that’s what I’m going for,” and everyone else was, “Yeah, that’s more or less what we wanted,” and then we tweaked it until we got it right.

His whole campaign has been, “This is me and this is what I’m doing, transparency and honesty and what  better way to do that than simple black-and-white signs saying Beto’s running for Senate.”

Prospective first-time voters at San Antonio rally.

 

Casas said it’s the black and white that most draws comparison to the Whataburger spicy ketchup package. That and the lines on either side of Spicy, on the ketchup lid, and For Senate on the Beto logo.

CASAS: At one time the lines from the E were extended all the way through to the end of the logo and that looked weird to me, so I cut the lines off and left them there, and then centered the “For Senate”, and then added the lines to the other side. so those lines are just the extension of the E and then when I did that it was, OK, it looks symmetrical, it looks a lot better like that.

When he showed the final version to O’Rourke, Casas said, “I was talking to people in the office and it hit me, you know this feels very Whataburger, but at the same time, the consensus was, that could work, you know, it’s OK. It’s not like we copied it, but I mean it could work. It’s Texas. People love Whataburger and I’m included, and one of the funniest things, the very first time I sat down to talk to Beto about the logo, I kid you not, the entire campaign was there (in the campaign office) eating Whataburgers, and I think back to that now, and it was a sign from the beginning.”

After he finished the final design, Casas said, “I didn’t want to look at it.”

CASAS: I knew this was potentially going to get national attention and I didn’t want to read the comments. I know what the comments are like on social media and I don’t want to be a part of it. I know how mean social media can be. Up until maybe the last week I have never felt proud of it, not because it wasn’t good but just because I was scared. Now that people are embracing him and embracing it and sticking up for a logo they had nothing to do with, it’s empowering. It feels great.

Not leaving well enough alone, I asked Casas the ultimate question — is Whataburger objectively good or just a home state favorite.

CASAS: I don’t know. Whataburger is always just a thing for us. My wife and I have been friends since we were 13 years old and her loyalties are always Whataburger. She says, “I like the taste more than anything.” She orders a plain Whataburger, no cheese, no nothing on it,  just a burger and bun and she says it has the best meat of anybody.

Either we were raised to like it or it’s plain good.

Indeed, Casas recalls how his father, who used to work at Wendy’s, would bring Whataburger home for the family.

Which brings us to the 1984 Democratic presidential campaign and the popular Wendy’s ad that Walter Mondale used to truly devastating effect against Gary Hart, when it appeared Hart had Mondale, who had seemed a prohibitive front-runner, on the ropes.

 

Four years later, New York Times political correspondent R.W. Apple wrote that, “Walter F. Mondale’s memorable ‘`Where’s the beef?” response to Gary Hart’s ‘new ideas’ …  may have enabled the former Vice President to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from Mr. Hart in a very close race.”

Now, 34 years later, comes a Cruz spokesman suggesting that O’Rourke has too much beef, albeit of the liberal variety, with O’Rourke and company offering a playful reminder of the miscue by ordering triple meat Whataburgers in Brownsville after O’Rourke worked up an appetite with a block walk in Laredo, town halls in McAllen and Brownsville, and the quick skate seen ’round the world in the Whataburger parking lot.

I stayed at the same hotel that night as O’Rourke and the next morning saw him in the breakfast area.

I quickly recounted for him my conversation with Casas and my earlier conversation with Starrett about Ocasio-Cortez’s design.

I asked if he had met Ocasio-Cortez and he said he hadn’t. I said I thought she had been at the Father’s Day march he led on the immigration detention center in Tornillo to protest the separation of families at the border, but it turned out she was there a week later on the eve of her primary.

“I would love to meet her and I should probably  get her phone number and just reach out to her and talk to her,” O’Rourke said. “I am just really impressed, not just by her victory, but she is on the march. How old is she? 32? Is she that old?”

I asked about Casas and the decision to go back and white with the Beto logo.

“I just remember having a conversation with him — I don’t want flags, I don’t flames of liberty,” O’Rourke said.

“I don’t want the stuff you see all the time in logos. Just make it as plain as you can, and then I remember, he was showing us the color version and I said, `Just black and white… Beto.”

“It’s turned out well and I don’t know what we sold in t-shirts and what we’ve sold in yard signs and bumper stickers for 3 bucks. That’s actually been a big part of what we’ve raised, people wanting to buy that gear or the signs. So Tony did good.”

And, O’Rourke said of Casas, “He’s a skater, actually.”

“In his free time,” his company bio says, “Tony pops crook grinds, trey flips, and back tails at the local skateparks.”

With that, I checked out of the hotel and as I put my stuff in the car to follow O’Rourke’s pickup to the block walk, he rolled by me.

 

How Big Tech’s war on Alex Jones left First Reading pockmarked with Orwellian dead zones

 

Good day Austin:

I’ve been in Austin five-and-a-half years. For the last couple of years I’ve had an obsessive interest in Alex Jones. This is important work, I tell myself.

But I know the way other people look at me.

I read the snide comments.

I have been formally recognized for my obsession.

I was named a Best of Austin by the Austin Chronicle last year, thanks to my coverage of Jones, but, as grateful as I was for the distinction, I knew that it was more in the nature of being humored than honored.

I went to the Best of Austin event, but before the actual program got underway, I got an email from Roger Stone, who had brokered the political marriage between Alex Jones and Donald Trump that, perhaps as much and probably more any Russian collusion, elected Donald Trump, and who has since become part of the InfoWars broadcast team.

The message from Roger:

Yo: I am in Austin – headed to – you guessed it. Russia House!

Give me a call.

I had introduced Roger to the Russian House the previous June – are you listening Mueller (oh, but you already knew that).

On Tango Tuesday  no less.

I split the Chronicle event when I got Roger’s message and headed to the Russian House. We had a drink and I took him to Licha’s Cantina where we had dinner on the porch.

Paul Manafort, Stone’s former partner at Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, had just been indicted by Robert Mueller. Stone said Manafort told him he wasn’t worried.

Stone, who also serves as the Daily Caller’s Men’s Fashion Editor, and compiles an annual Best and Worst Dressed List, noted that Manafort had spent an enormous amount of money on ill-fitting suits that he thought looked good on him.

The man, it seems, had more money than fashion sense.

Manafort didn’t make Stone’s 2017 list, though Steve Bannon, his successor at the helm of the Trump campaign, did rank as among the worst dressed: Not meant to be confrontational. In all seriousness: Lose the three button down shirts on top of each other.

It’s an eclectic bunch that included, among the best dressed, Mark McKinnon  (His trademarks are hats and scarfs, which he pulls off in almost any climate or setting with aplomb.)  and Anthony Scaramucci (During his short stint at the White House, he showed America how a well-built man of medium stature should properly tailor his suits.)

Among the worst dressed were Harvey Weinstein (For a slovenly and blobby man, he relies far too heavily on white dress shirts… is he trying to showcase his grease stains from the KFC bucket he downed in the limo before hitting the red carpet?), and Mark Zuckerberg ….

Mark Zuckerberg: All the money in the world and he still can’t dress. In 2017, we saw a lot more attempts to dress up his look, but it just has not worked. Zuckerberg at least looked confident in himself when schlepping around in t-shirts and hoodies — looking like the control-freak coder that he really is. When he puts on a suit, it is horribly tailored and looks like he got it off the rack at a red-dot sale. Instead of concocting new ways to censor Facebook users, Zuckerberg should swing by Saville Row. This is his first year on the WORST DRESSED list.

Ah yes, Mark Zuckerberg – the man who reminds you every day that someone you know is celebrating a birthday, even friends who have already died, and then has the ghastly Big Brother nerve to prepare anniversary albums with you and whoever – living or dead – recollecting the good times.

Which brings us back to Alex Jones.

A week ago Saturday Ted Cruz was at Erick Erickson’s Resurgent Gathering in Austin, where, in a gaggle with reporters, he expanded on his tweet criticizing Facebook’s suspending Alex Jones’ personal account.

From Cruz:

When I sent the tweet on Alex Jones it was striking how all – I did not see any liberals saying, “Like Cruz, I don’t like Jones either, but  I do believe in free speech and we shouldn’t be censoring speech we don’t agree with,” and it’s worrisome that the left, so much of the left, and for that matter, so many in the media – look there were reporters who took a lot of shots at me for that.

There used to be a time when reporters were big supporters of the First Amendment. And you know as the poem goes, ‘First they came for Alex Jones…

I stayed up most of that night Sunday night writing a First Reading about it.

While Cruz notes that he is rising to Jones’ defense even though he says Jones spread the story about Cruz’s father and Oswald, that canard, as I note, was more the handiwork of Trump and Stone (who insists it’s true.)

I predicted that Cruz could reap political rewards by standing with Jones amid a Big Tech crackdown on InfoWars:

Which will give Cruz more reason to press his, “I don’t like what Alex Jones says but I will fight to the death defending his right to say it,” which will be well good enough for Jones, who will tout Cruz’s stout defense of him against the Big Tech/Deep State to his legion of listeners who in 2016 proved they could help elect a president,and in 2018 could help re-elect a Texas senator.

I had to get that First Reading done by Monday morning so I could set off with my daughter, who was visiting from Brooklyn, on a one-week tour of such West Texas landmarks as Marfa, the McDonald Observatory, Big Bend, Boquillas del Carmen and the Chinati Hot Springs outside Ruidosa, all first-time visits for me and precaution in case my tenure at the Statesman should come to an abrupt end and I find  myself back where I came from with only my memories of Texas.

I had already devoted much of the previous two weeks to Alex Jones – one week preparing a story about all the defamation lawsuits being filed against Alex Jones, then a couple of days the next week covering efforts by Jones’ lawyers to dismiss two of those cases in Travis County District Court.

I was already being temperate in my Jones coverage – neglecting to be in the courtroom two other days that week when Kelly Jones, his ex-wife, pressed cases against him.

Enough. I had a yurt to pitch in Mara. (I know, it was already pitched.)

El Cosmico, Marfa

But, of course, Mark Zuckerberg knew of my plans, based on Facebook’s surreptitious but perfectly obvious surveillance of my searches and purchases, and still he plotted down to the final moment to ruin things for me and my daughter.

From Kevin Roose’s Aug. 10 story in the New York Times: Facebook banned InfoWars. Now what?

Late on Sunday, after returning to his hotel room on a trip away from home, Mark Zuckerberg made a decision he had hoped to avoid.

For weeks, the Facebook chief executive and his colleagues had debated what to do about Infowars, the notorious far-right news site, and Alex Jones, Infowars’ choleric founder, who became famous for his spittle-flecked rants and far-fetched conspiracies, including the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was an elaborate hoax promoted by gun-control supporters.

Mr. Jones is just one Facebook user out of 2.2 billion, but he had become symbolic of tech platforms’ inconsistency and reluctance to engage in a misinformation war.The pressure on Facebook to do something about him had intensified after executives gave a series of vague and confusing answers to lawmakers and reporters about the company’s policies. Misinformation was allowed to stay on the platform, they said, but hate speech wasn’t. So users dug up and reported old Infowars posts, asking for their removal on the grounds that they glorified violence and contained dehumanizing language against Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people.

These posts clearly violated Facebook’s hate speech rules. And in a normal situation, a low-level content moderator might have reviewed them, found that they qualified, and taken them down.

But Mr. Jones was no typical internet crank. He has millions of followers, a popular video show, and the ear of President Trump — who once told the provocateur that his reputation was “amazing.” Banning such a prominent activist would lead to political blowback, no matter how justified the action was.

The situation was volatile enough that Mr. Zuckerberg got personally engaged, according to two people involved in Facebook’s handling of the accounts. He discussed Infowars at length with other executives, and mused privately about whether Mr. Jones — who once called Mr. Zuckerberg a “genetic-engineered psychopath” in a video — was purposefully trying to get kicked off the platform to gain attention, they said.

The pressure on Facebook to do something about him had intensified after executives gave a series of vague and confusing answers to lawmakers.

And there was the peer pressure.

Back to the New York Times story:

Late Sunday, Apple — which has often tried to stake out moral high ground on contentious debates — removed Infowars podcasts from iTunes. After seeing the news, Mr. Zuckerberg sent a note to his team confirming his own decision: the strikes against Infowars and Mr. Jones would count individually, and the pages would come down. The announcement arrived at 3 a.m. Pacific time.

In the days that followed, other platforms — YouTube, Pinterest, MailChimp, and more — said they, too, were banning Infowars. The notable exception was Twitter, which decided not to ban the site or Mr. Jones. The company’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, tweeted a veiled shot at the way his rivals handled the situation.

“We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short-term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” he said.

Now, cut off from most of his audience, Mr. Jones will have to chart a new course. He has already stepped enthusiastically into a role as a free-speech martyr. (After the ban took effect, Infowars slapped a “censored” label on its videos and launched a “forbidden information” marketing campaign.) And conservatives — and even some free-speech advocates on the left — worried that social media companies may be entering a new, censorious era. Senator Ted Cruz, the Republican from Texas, paraphrased the famous Martin Niemöller poem about German accommodation of Nazism: “First, they came for Alex Jones.”

By Monday morning my obsessive interest had become the nation’s obsessive interest, but  my yurt beckoned.

So, a few hours late, my daughter and I embarked on our 1,647-mile journey, leaving behind Alex Jones and, for the first time since we’d met, my Macbook (at the Apple Store no less,  where it was to get a new battery and a better listening device, I suppose.).

As Sebastian Herrera and Nicole Cobler wrote Friday in the Statesman ,in the short-term at least, the crackdown on Jones resulted in a surge in his audience.

For once in his life, Jones seemed to be at the center of a genuine conspiracy against him, and whatever the ultimate financial cost, if there is one, for now and for some time to come Jones was in a kind of InfoWarrior Nirvana.

 

So, if this social media crackdown on Jones is not hurting Jones, who is it hurting?

Oh, I can answer that one: Me.

It’s not so much Facebook cutting off Jones that’s done me in. It’s YouTube.

For the last two years, I have written First Reading after First Reading about Jones, about his rising influence, about how he is to be taken, about what he represents, and an indispensable element has been posting YouTubes of various rants and interviews, along with screen shots and my transcriptions of the pertinent moments. But the YouTubes let the readers see it all for themselves.

And now, whether its my recent First Reading about Jones’ working (i.e. hectoring Bernie Sanders at LAX and the like) family vacation in Hawaii, or Roger Stone’s last tango in Austin, my hand-crafted blog is pockmarked with these ugly, dark Orwellian dead zones.

It is hideous. And hurtful.

What’s more, YouTube was the most effective way for me to keep up with what Jones was up to.

He’s on about three hours a day, or more. With YouTube I could return to the show, scroll through to get the good stuff, transcribe what I wanted and grab the most evocative screenshots.

But now, from my first experience with the new world order yesterday, it seems the only way to really follow what’s going on is to actually listen to it live. Yes, you can go back and listen to the radio show again, but a rant is only half a rant without the visual.

Maybe there is a way to do what I used to do without YouTube, but in the meantime, I simply can’t do as good a job of keeping track of what Jones is saying as I did when I earned that Best of Austin encomium.

As for the public good, I don’t know.

It is a mistake to simply conflate the defamation suits with the social media restrictions.

The lawsuits are built around the argument that Jones pretends to be a journalist on the air, but then retreats behind the legal argument that he is merely an opinionated blowhard protected by the First Amendment when he defames someone.

And I am not at all comfortable with Mark Zuckerberg in his footie pajamas making some unilateral, 3-in-the morning decision about what speech is permissible and what is not on his ubiquitous platform.

As Matt Taibi wrote in Rolling Stone, under the headline, Censorship Does Not End Well: How America learned to stop worrying and put Mark Zuckerberg in charge of everything

Jones is the media equivalent of a trench-coated stalker who jumps out from from behind a mailbox and starts whacking it in an intersection. His “speech” is on that level: less an idea than a gross physical provocation. InfoWars defines everything reporters are taught not to do.

Were I Alex Jones, I would think Alex Jones was a false-flag operation, cooked up to discredit the idea of a free press.

xxxxxx

Moreover, Jones probably does violate all of those platforms’ Terms of Service. I personally don’t believe his Sandy Hook rants — in which he accused grieving parents of being actors in an anti-gun conspiracy — are protected speech, at least not according to current libel and defamation law. Even some conservative speech activists seem to agree.

And yet: I didn’t celebrate when Jones was banned. Collectively, all these stories represent a revolutionary moment in media. Jones is an incidental player in a much larger narrative.

xxxxxxx

In about 10 minutes, someone will start arguing that Alex Jones is not so different from, say, millennial conservative Ben Shapiro, and demand his removal. That will be followed by calls from furious conservatives to wipe out the Torch Network or Anti-Fascist News, with Jacobin on the way.

We’ve already seen Facebook overcompensate when faced with complaints of anti-conservative bias. Assuming this continues, “community standards” will turn into a ceaseless parody of Cold War spy trades: one of ours for one of yours.

This is the nuance people are missing. It’s not that people like Jones shouldn’t be punished; it’s the means of punishment that has changed radically.

For more than half a century, we had an effective, if slow, litigation-based remedy for speech violations. The standards laid out in cases like New York Times v. Sullivan were designed to protect legitimate reporting while directly remunerating people harmed by bad speech. Sooner or later, people like Alex Jones would always crash under crippling settlements. Meanwhile, young reporters learned to steer clear of libel and defamation. Knowing exactly what we could and could not get away with empowered us to do our jobs, confident that the law had our backs.

If the line of defense had not been a judge and jury but a giant transnational corporation working with the state, journalists taking on banks or tech companies or the wrong politicians would have been playing intellectual Russian roulette. In my own career, I’d have thought twice before taking on a company like Goldman Sachs. Any reporter would.

Now the line is gone. Depending on the platform, one can be banned for “glorifying violence,” “sowing division,” “hateful conduct” or even “low quality,” with those terms defined by nameless, unaccountable executives, working with God Knows Whom.

These are difficult things to sort out and I don’t understand the workings of social media well enough to know exactly what I think about all this, and I may never.

In the middle of last week, my daughter and I went to the Lost Horse Saloon in Marfa, which was recognizable by its neon sign.

As I sat a small table with my daughter drinking a beer, two guys at the bar – they turned out to be brothers – were having a loud and lively conversation about Alex Jones. l couldn’t help myself. I listened intently, I looked over at them and then, when one of them noted my interest, I joined their conversation.

They enjoyed listening to Jones, but thought he could be destructive, even dangerous, and yet didn’t think any form of censorship was the way to go.

The  brothers brought up Jim Bakker, a natural enough association. Now selling huge buckets of food on TV to survivalists with his mesmerizing rap (and Trump love), Bakker is an Alex Jones forerunner

I used to watch Jim Bakker with his wife, Tammy Faye, before he went to prison.

The brothers, a lot younger than I am, watch the post-prison Jim Bakker and his new wife, Lori. (Here, courtesy Vic Berger. )

InfoWars ran on on-line poll yesterday.

As of this morning, Drudge was edging out Breitbart.

But, as of this morning, Drudge is still going strong.

There in the lower left was a link to InfoWars’ latest.

But leading the page was Roger Stone.

It links to a Daily Caller column by Stone: The Witch Hunt Continues.

Under his byline, Stone is identified as the Daily Caller’s Men’s Fashion Editor.

 

InfoWars depends on sales of its nutraceuticals, t-shirts and what-not.

Stone yet again yesterday was swearing by Brain Force Plus to get him through some very long days.

And yesterday Jones was, as usual, high on adversity.

This is bad folks. What’s the big event? We all know they are going to try to overthrow Trump. Economically, they’re trying to crash things, they admit it. They are trying to start big wars.

We’re living in an incredibly volatile time so I’m getting excited knowing I’m over the target. But at the same time I’ve got to think, they wouldn’t be pulling this unless they’ve got something big planned.

They wouldn’t be doing all this  all this unless they didn’t want us in the public square when they launch this big thing.

Ted Cruz defends Alex Jones’ free speech; praises Trump for having `permanently unmasked the media’

[cmg_anvato video=4455221 autoplay=”true”]

Alex Jones catches Ted Cruz in an elevator in Washington, D.C. after President Trump’s inauguration.

Good Monday Austin:

U.S. Ted Cruz spoke at Erick Erickson’s Resurgent Gathering in Austin on Saturday.

Early on in their conversation, Cruz was interrupted by a protester.

A protestor interrupts U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as he is escorted out of the Resurgent Gathering at the Capitol Sheraton, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

From my story in Sunday’s American-Statesman:

Holding up a cardboard sign with the words, “Cruz: Russian bootlicker,” a young man stood and shouted toward the podium, “You’re a coward, Ted. Fight the trade war. Stand up to Russia. Stand up for all Texans.”

As he was being hooted at by the audience and led out of the hall, the young man chanted, “Beto, Beto, Beto,” a reference to Cruz’s Senate campaign rival, Democrat O’Rourke of El Paso.

xxxxx

In his immediate response to the protester’s outburst Saturday, Cruz said, “What you saw there, it’s not about Russia. That young man, bless his heart, couldn’t tell you a thing about Russia — has no idea.”

“He’s just angry, and Russia’s the latest thing they’re screaming,” he said.“That anger, by the way, is dangerous.”

Then Cruz said something that I found troubling.

There’s a rage on the left and it’s being irresponsibly stoked. It’s being stoked by the media. I will say one of the greatest blessings of the Trump presidency is he has finally and I think permanently unmasked the media.

Do you remember when there used to be people who would get on TV and try to argue in a gravelly voice, “There’s no bias in media.” No one even says that any more. They don’t even try it. They are so foaming at the mouth, unhinged. I was with the president a few weeks back, I told him, I said, “Listen, I think you’re greatest friends ironically are the media because they’re so deranged about you, the American people turn on the TV, they see that and say, `If those nuts are that mad, you’ve got to be doing something right’.”

I don’t think this is healthy advice to give President Trump, especially coming from Cruz, who knows firsthand the hurt that Trump’s loose attachment to the truth can cause and how that loose attachment has long been at the core of Trump’s nature.

I understand the political necessity for Cruz to make his political peace with the president, even to become his staunch ally, but I think he would be doing himself, the country and even President Trump a service to not encourage the president’s pernicious presentation of the news media – i.e. Fake News, which is simply any reporting the president doesn’t like – as the enemy of the people.

And I think Ted Cruz is uniquely qualified to provide the president with advice that would be infinitely more useful to the  president – even if the president is unlikely to take the advice and even if offering the advice is unlikely to improve Cruz’s chances of being re-elected.

Then, in the wake of Facebook temporarily suspending Alex Jones’ personal Facebook account, and YouTube taking down his videos and Spotify taking down his podcasts, there was this.

I spent much of last week covering two defamation suits against Jones in Travis County District Court, and Jones, who thrives on adversity, heralded Cruz’s defense of his right to be heard.

In his conversation with Erickson, Cruz decried the ugly state of political discourse.

CRUZ:

It’s not healthy in our culture for these divisions to be as ugly, to be as nasty, to be as hateful as they were. Listen, all of us gathered together when  Obama was president, we disagree with what Obama was doing, but you know, I remember Trump’s inauguration, all the young people with hats and shirts that said, “not my president.”

As much as a I disagreed with Barack Obama, as much as I thought his policies were harmful, he was always my president, every day he served in office he was he president of the United States and I respect the office and the democratic process that elected him. And you see the fever pitch to impeach the president. Listen, as bad as I thought Obama was, I didn’t call for him to be impeached. I wanted him to be defeated in the ballot box.

CRUZ: You know when Trump went to Helsinki and did a press conference with Putin, now I think that press conference was a mistake, I don’t think he handled it well. I think we’ve seen good policies on Russia, I think the sanctions put in place have been a good thing. I think providing lethal weapons to Ukraine to stand up and resist the Russians have been a good thing, but I think that press conference was a mistake, I don’t think the American president ought to be apologizing for Russian aggression.

That being said, the Democratic response to it was thoroughly unhinged. It was most captured by John Brennan who began  bellowing that Trump committed treason. Now Brennan is not just a fly-by-night individual, he is the former head of the CIA,  Treason is a capital crime defined in the United States code and punishable by death. Now having a foolish press conference with the head of Russia is not treason and for the former Democratic officials ratcheting  it up to that rhetoric, listen it contributes to that environment, it is not good for our country, and I’ll tell you, on our part, we have a responsibility not to respond in kind, not to respond with the same anger and hatred back but to instead respond with reason, with facts.

After that, Cruz, typical for him, did a 26-minute gaggle, providing long and detailed answers that suggest that Cruz actually respects the press and its obligations and his obligations, and that perhaps, for the same reason that he has agreed to five debates with O’Rourke, he also out of ego, confidence, delight in intellectual sparring, and genuine commitment to the democratic process, enjoys and embraces these opportunities.

He was asked a question about his concerns with censorship on social media.

CRUZ: I have deep concerns about social media and Big Tech. We have a concentration of  power in a handful of giant tech companies that are controlling a vast proportion of political discourse in this country and these companies have a degree of power and an ability to censor that William Randolph Hearst at the height of yellow journalism could never have imagined.

They have the ability  if there is a speaker who is disfavored simply to silence the speaker, to shadow ban them. You might speak but  your words float off into oblivion and nobody hears them.

And what’s so pernicious about that is it’s invisible. You might never know you’re shadow-banned. You might just think no one seems to be responding to what you’re saying because no one is in fact hearing what you’re saying.

On the flip side, they have the ability to curate your feed so that every piece of news you hear is news they approve of. Every piece of news you  hear conforms with their political ideology.

A couple of months ago, Mark Zuckerberg testified  before the Senate and I engaged in pretty vigorous questioning with Mr. Zuckerberg. The first question I asked him was whether Facebook considers itself a neutral public fora. He didn’t really answer that question and I have asked numerous representatives of Facebook that question. They’ve given multiple and contradictory answers.

The reason that  question matters so much is under current federal law – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – Facebook and other social media companies, have an exemption from liability. And the predicate, the reasoning behind Congress passing that exemption, was that they were neutral public fora, that if someone says something slanderous or libelous that  it wasn’t fair for Facebook or the social media site to be liable for it because it was not their speech, it was whoever was posting.

And so there’s a special exemption from liability.

Well, my question to Zuckerberg was, are you in  fact a neutral public fora. If you are than the reason behind that immunity from liability under the CDA is still sound. If you’re not, if you’re in fact a First Amendment speaker, if you’re engaged in politics, if you’re espousing your views, you have a right to do that, everybody has a First Amendment right, but  you  don’t have an entitlement to a special immunity from liability.

If (Patrick) Svitek (who was part of the gaggle) writes something in the Texas Tribune that is libelous, he can be sued, he doesn’t have an immunity from liability. There’s no reason Facebook or Twitter should get a special immunity that Pat doesn’t get, and that  question is a question that’s got the tech companies very nervous because they like their immunity from liability but at the same time they have demonstrated a pattern of bias that is deeply concerning and one of the most maddening aspects of it is there are actually no clear and objective data.

So I went through a number of anecdotes, examples, where they had silenced conservatives.

Now look, reasoning  by anecdote is not the most reliable way to reason, it’s not the most satisfying way to reason, but  it’s the only choice we have because all of the data are controlled by Facebook and Twitter and Google and YouTube and it’s completely opaque, it’s not remotely transparent, so we don’t know how many people Twitter has shadow-banned, how many conservatives, how many liberals, how many Republicans, how many Democrats. We don’t know. We have no idea.

That lack of transparency is dangerous, particularly when combined with a heavy ideological skew to the left, and I think it poses a real threat to our democracy.

I followed up:

FR: Senator, substituting Alex Jones for Patrick Svitek in that example …

CRUZ: They are very similar.

FR: You  were critical of Facebook, saying, what made them the arbiter. (Alex Jones) has been in court this week defending himself against defamation suits and the argument (his lawyer is making) is he can’t be held liable because he’s not a journalist, what he presents as facts are merely his opinions and are protected. Is there a line there and does Facebook have any responsibility to police it?

CRUZ: Look Alex Jones, I don’t listen to his show. I don’t know what he says. I  do know that he has this odd fixation with spreading lies about my dad and accusing him of killing JFK and I would encourage him while he’s at it, he also buried Jimmy Hoffa in the backyard and is, in fact, Elvis.

Look those theories are nutty, they’re fringe and they’re nutty.

The reason I sent out the tweets I did defending someone whose defamed my own family, is I actually believe in the First Amendment. I believe in the First Amendment. It protects the right of people to be nutty. It protects the right of people to say things that are dumb.

And I think the right solution to bad speech, john Stuart Mill told us the solution to bad speech is more speech. Censorship is profoundly dangerous and it’s wrong. And if Facebook or anyone else thinks that what Alex Jones is saying is wrong, is nutty, the right way to respond to it is lay out, here’s why you’re wrong, to engage it on the merits. It’s not simply to say, we’re banning you from speaking and we, the Star Chamber – mind you, this is one company but it is a company that is the portal of communication for the vast majority of Americans. It is a company with power – by any measure the big tech companies today, they are bigger and control more market than Standard Oil did when the federal government broke them up under the anti-trust laws. They are bigger and have more power than AT&T had when the federal government broke them up under the antitrust laws.

Q – Are you proposing to break them up?

TC: I think it’s an issue that policymakers are looking at seriously. We have existing anti-trust laws that protect against monopolies, and part of the reason is monopolies’ history has shown they abuse their power, and in this instance, I have to say I watched a lot of the Twitter response when I sent out the tweet on Alex Jones. I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of Democrats attacking me. I was sad though to not see any liberals willing to make the same point. And for a long time I’ve wondered what’s happened to real liberals. There was a time not that long ago when liberals defended free speech.

By the way, free speech, the First Amendment is all about offensive speech, bad speech, stupid speech. One of the big First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court out of Skokie, Illinois, was the right  of the Nazis to march in protest. Now Nazis are vile, despicable idiots and bigots, which means I’m not remotely scared to have Nazis protest and speak. Now I think we should speak out and respond to them, that the answer to that kind of stupidity is to counter it with truth, but the Supreme Court rightly said that even Nazis have a right to speak.

When I sent the tweet on Alex Jones it was striking how all – I did not see any liberals saying, “Like Cruz, I don’t like Jones either, but  I do believe in free speech and we shouldn’t be censoring speech we don’t agree with,” and it’s worrisome that the left, so much of the left, and for that matter, so many in the media – look there were reporters who took a lot of shots at me for that.

There used to be a time when reporters were big supporters of the First Amendment. And you know as the poem goes, ‘First they came for Alex Jones…

That doesn’t end well.

There is a reason I have picked someone who has been nasty to me. To illustrate this is not about defending someone I agree with, this is about a First Amendment principle that everyone has a right to speak and the people can sort out those who are making sense from those who are full of crap.

A few things here.

It is fine to say that you are defending Alex Jones’ right to say despicable things not because you agree with him but precisely because you don’t agree with him. Cruz was, in fact, victimized as he says he was by InfoWars.

But it is inconsistent to encourage President Trump in his war on the media when it was in fact Trump, and not Alex Jones, who most publicly said those despicable things about your father, which you denounced in no uncertain terms at the time. Furthermore, what Trump said about your father was a blip on the radar screen of Trump’s dabbling in fake news. His dissertation was the birther movement, which he carried for years based on even less evidence than that grainy photo of Lee Harvey Oswald and some guy purported to be Rafael Cruz in New Orleans and, contrary to Cruz’s assertion that Republicans like himself didn’t ever question whether Obama was “our president,” Trump successfully helped persuade a sizable chunk of Republicans that Obama was not a a bona fide American and was fraudulently elected.

In their approach to news, there is very little daylight at this point between the Alex Jones approach – his lawyer argued in court last week that Jones’ speech is protected because it is simply his opinion, even if it is sometimes “opinion masquerading as fact”- and the Donald Trump approach, and for Cruz to denounce Jones while defending his First Amendment rights, seems inconsistent with encouraging Trump’s Jones-like devotion to conspiracy theories – only in the president’s case there seems even less reason to believe he pursues them for anything but politically transactional reasons and the stakes are immensely higher.

I doubt that President Trump ever doubted that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii or ever thought, or cared, whether Rafael Cruz was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Cruz’s JFK/Jimmy Hoffa/Elvis comment Saturday was verbatim what he said when the accusation about his father went national, not because of anything Alex Jones said or did, but because of what Donald Trump said and did on the day of the crucial Indiana primary that ended Cruz’s challenge to Trump.

From May 3, 2016, the day of the Indiana primary.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father.

Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Now, let’s be clear. This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky. And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard.

You know, Donald’s source for this is “The National Enquirer.” “The National Enquirer” is tabloid trash. But it’s run by his good friend David Pecker, the CEO, who has endorsed Donald Trump. And so “The National Enquirer” has become his hit piece that he uses to smear anybody and everybody.

And this is not the first time Donald Trump has used David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” to go after my family. It was also “The National Enquirer” that went after my wife, Heidi, that just spread lies, blatant lies.

But I guess Donald was dismayed, because it was a couple of weeks ago “The Enquirer” wrote this idiotic story about JFK. And Donald was dismayed that the folks in the media weren’t repeating this latest idiocy, so he figured he would have to do it himself. He would have to go on national television and accuse my dad of that.

Listen, my father is has been my hero my whole life. My dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba. And when he came to America, he had nothing. He had $100 in his underwear. He washed dishes making 50 cents an hour. You know, he is exactly the kind of person Donald Trump looks down on.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign. For those of you all who have traveled with me all across the country, I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.

Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, dude, what’s your problem? Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar — and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he would pass the lie detector test each time.

Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute, he believes it. But the man is utterly amoral.

And Trump didn’t let it rest.

The day after the Republican National Convention in July 2017, at which Cruz refused to endorse Trump, Trump revisited the  issue.

Is it true that Cruz didn’t deny that his father was involved in the Kennedy assassination?

Well, according to Politi-Opinion, err PolitiFact, no.

From Dylan Baddour at PolitiFact on July 22,2016:

Donald Trump, fresh off triumphantly accepting the Republican presidential nomination in Cleveland, surprisingly revived an explosive unfounded tale related to someone with no chance of beating him in November.

The day after the 2016 Republican National Convention, Trump said his vanquished Republican rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, had never denied that his father was in a 1963 photo with Lee Harvey Oswald, who went on to assassinate President John F. Kennedy that November.

At a rally, Trump initially told supporters he doesn’t want the backing of Cruz, whose convention speech two days earlier drew boos for not including a Trump endorsement; the Texan did offer congratulations. Next, Trump resurrected his unconfirmed claim about Oswald and Rafael Cruz, the senator’s father, possibly knowing one another.

Trump said: “All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Now, Ted never denied that it was his father. Instead he said, ‘Donald Trump.’ I had nothing to do with it. This was a magazine that frankly, in many respects, should be very respected.”

In May 2016, PolitiFact found incorrect and ridiculous–Pants on Fire–Trump’s claim that Cruz’s father was with Oswald before Kennedy’s assassination.

There was no evidence the man next to Oswald in the black-and-white photo published in the Enquirer was the elder Cruz. Notably, facial recognition experts advised that no such match could be made; meantime, historians found no corroborating records. The Enquirer never said how it determined the man in the photo with Oswald was Rafael Cruz.

Could it still be that Sen. Cruz never denied his father was in the photo?

To our inquiry on this point, Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed out a statement the Cruz campaign gave to the McClatchy News Service in April 2016 at the time the photo in question was printed on the Enquirer’s cover.  

The Cruz campaign’s communications director, Alice Stewart, said then: “The story is false; that is not Rafael in the picture,”according to the Miami Herald’s April 22, 2016 news story.

Stewart’s “not Rafael” declaration appears to have gotten play. We found it in stories or web posts on the McClatchy website and for the conservative web network The Blaze plus in the International Business Times, on the FactCheck.org fact-checking site and on sites for Yahoo! News, The Hill, Gawker, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Trump first cited the Enquirer article during a May 3, 2016, telephone interview with the Fox News program, Fox and Friends. Later that day, at an Indiana campaign event, Cruz spoke to reporters, saying: “This morning Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father. Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Let’s be clear, this is nuts. This is not a reasonable position, this is just kooky.”

Cruz said the Enquirer “just spread lies, blatant lies” and described the article as “this idiotic story about JFK.”

Also,  on May 3, 2016, Ben Jacobs, political reporter for the Guardian, tweeted a statement regarding the claim that Jacobs generally attributed to the Cruz campaign. It said: “It’s embarrassing that anyone would enable Trump to discuss this. It’s a garbage story and clearly Donald wants to talk about garbage.”

The same day, Rafael Cruz told ABC News in a TV interview that the links insinuated between him and Oswald were “ludicrous.”

“I was never in New Orleans at that time,” he said.

Our ruling

Trump said the day after the Republican convention that Cruz “never denied” his father was pictured with Oswald before Kennedy’s assassination.

This spring, Cruz called the National Enquirer story “lies.”  Earlier, a Cruz camp spokeswoman said outright the elder Cruz wasn’t in the published photo.

That’s far enough from “never denied,” it makes Trump’s claim incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

For what it’s worth, PolitiFact had also offered a negative judgment on the original claim linking Rafael Cruz and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Of course, that’s just PolitiFact’s opinion. It’s a circumstantial case built on reasonable assumptions.

But, to InfoWars, that’s fake news.

From October 26, 2017, via InfoWarrior/Alex Jones political guru/ Trump’s political brain, Roger Stone:

Of course, Cruz and Trump eventually reconciled, which Jones celebrated when he ran into Cruz in an elevator after the inauguration.

In the meantime, Big Tech continues its assault on Alex Jones.

Which will give Cruz more reason to press his, “I don’t like what Alex Jones says but I will fight to the death defending his right to say it,” which will be well good enough for Jones, who will tout Cruz’s stout defense of him against the Big Tech/Deep State to his legion of listeners who in 2016 proved they could help elect a president,and in 2018 could help re-elect a Texas senator.

 

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to supporters during the Resurgent Gathering at the Capitol Sheraton, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

 

 

 

 

 

`The blue wave has a physics all its own.’ On electoralizing the Indivisible resistance.

Good Monday Austin:

Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, the married couple, co-founders and co-executive directors of Indivisible, the network of grassroots organization founded to resist the Trump presidency in the immediate aftermath of his election as president, returned this weekend to Levin’s hometown of Austin, where the idea of Indivisible was born over drinks at DrinkWell, 100 days out from the election where the success of their efforts to electoralize the resistance will be tested.

I first wrote about Indivisible on Jan. 18, 2017, two days before Trump’s inauguration as president. Here’s the top of the story:

WASHINGTON, DC – When the history of grass-roots resistance to President Donald Trump is written, it might be recorded that the movement was born in Austin – prefigured at the Randalls supermarket on Brodie Lane in the summer of 2009, conceived at a North Loop neighborhood bar over Thanksgiving weekend 2016, and crafted in great part by battle-tested veterans of the office of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

It was at Randalls in the first summer of the Obama administration that Doggett, the longtime Austin Democrat, was besieged by tea party protesters chanting “Just Say No” to the health care reform that would come to be known as Obamacare. It was a jarring scene that set the tone for what would be a dreadful August recess for Democratic members of Congress at bitterly contentious town hall meetings across the country and presaged an Obama presidency to which the tea party and Republican Party just said “no.”

Seven years later, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, Ezra Levin, who grew up in Austin and Buda and worked for Doggett in Washington from 2008 to 2011, was back in Austin for the Thanksgiving holiday with his wife, Leah Greenberg, another Capitol Hill veteran. They got together at Drink.Well. on East 53rd Street with an old friend who was leading a new progressive group in Austin, to talk about how to channel their mutual despair and knowledge of congressional politics into effectively doing to the Trump presidency what the tea party did to the Obama presidency.

“We knew how Congress works and we knew how a pretty darn small group relative to the total population came together and implemented a very thoughtful strategy with very specific concrete tactics to resist an administration and a Congress that they didn’t agree with, and that was the tea party,” Levin said. They left Drink.Well. with a plan to draft a manual to replicate the tea party strategy — stripped, of course, of what they considered its noxious ideology and mean streak.

Three weeks later, on the evening of Dec. 15, Levin, 31, tweeted out a link to a Google Doc: “Indivisible: A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda. Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.”

“The tea party implemented a two-pronged strategy, and that was very locally focused, focused on their members of the Senate and their one member of Congress, and then they consciously chose to be defensive and almost exclusively defensive,” said Levin, who now lives in Washington.

“And they also understood that they weren’t setting the agenda, that at that time Democrats controlled the House and the Senate and the presidency, so what they could do is simply respond to it,” he said. “And they did that in a few concrete, not rocket science kinds of way. They showed up in person at public events, at town halls, at district offices and then called in response to whatever new thing President Obama or the Congress was trying to do.”

“We started out writing a practical guide for progressives who find themselves in kind of the same situation now, with a president we believe is illegitimate and is looking to destroy some key tenets of American democracy, and who controls the Senate and the House,” he said.

The response from across the country was swift and overwhelming: high-profile coverage in mainstream and progressive magazines, two segments on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” an op-ed in The New York Times, and a tsunami of grass-roots interest.

I spoke with Levin and Greenberg, who are 33 and 32 respectively, just before they spoke to a phone bank training attended by about 40 folks in a room at the Austin History Center on Guadalupe Street.

“We are at 100 days until the election. Literally it’s 99 days and nine hours,” Levin said. “This was the weekend of action pivoting directly into electoral activity.”

“Indivisible began as an advocacy, talking about how to pressure their member of Congress, whoever that was, and then whoever their elected officials were at the local and state level,” he said. “That’s a great strategy in off years. When an election is coming up, a great way to build power is to change who that member of Congress is, or to change who the senator is, or change who the state rep or state senator it.”

“What we’ve been doing at the national level, is preparing to pivot folks in that direction.”

“n the same way that we provided call scripts on Trumpcare in Ohio or national days of action to do sit-ins or die-ins at congressional offices against Trumpcare, we’re trying to help the groups now register voters, endorse  candidates, get out the vote, phone bank, text, all the nuts and bolts of electoral politics, is where we have the most power now.

“What we’ve seen over the last 16, 17, 18 months is in the special elections, in the primary elections, in the off-year elections, they don’t get won on Election Day,  they get won by boots on the ground doing the work, day in, day out leading up tot that.  So we’re building the blue wave. That’s what the groups  are doing.”

Why spend pivot weekend in Texas, which still seems an uphill climb for electorialization?

“I think the story of the last 18 months has been surprises. We’ve seen 3, 6, 9, 12-point swings against Trump in competitive races, places that traditionally political prognosticators in Washington, D.C., say, “Oh they’re not winnable.

“But then we win in rural Virginia. We win an Alabama Senate race. We win special elections w. we win a plus-Republican district in Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb. ”

“The blue wave has a physics all its own and it’s going to come crashing down in places that traditionally don’t see this kind of progressive power. So Texas is fertile ground for that because the powers-that-be in Texas, for instance, have used redistricting to gerrymander themselves a whole bunch of districts that are gerrymandered for traditional election years, not for wave election years.”

“And when you have a candidate that’s  as hated as Ted Cruz going for re-election you even have a shot of going statewide, even tough Democrats haven’t won a statewide election since the mid-90s. This year could be different.”

” A year ago the question was, is it even possible we could take the House back,” Greenberg said. “We were very optimistic because of what we were seeing on the ground level. Already people were doing the work at the ground level in places where nobody was expecting a victory.”

“We’ve actually focused on Texas,” Greenberg said. : We have a statewide organizer for Texas in part because we think there is real potential here.”

Let us pause here for a moment, and fast forward a few hours to the latest in a series of Walk the Lines events organized by Justin Nelson’s campaign for attorney general against Ken Paxton as a critique of gerrymandering, which is nowhere more obvious than in Austin, which has been carved up into six congressional districts leaving Austin votes the master of none of those districts and leaving Austin the largest city in the country without a congressional district to call its own.

From a June 15 story by Chuck Lindell on how Nelson and Paxton are on opposite sides of the gerrymandering debate:

Before they became election foes, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic challenger Justin Nelson landed on opposite sides of a U.S. Supreme Court fight over the ability of politicians to gerrymander political districts to give one party a distinct advantage in future elections.

In one of this term’s most eagerly awaited cases at the high court, Paxton came down on the side of Wisconsin Republicans who are defending state Assembly districts that were ruled unconstitutional for giving the GOP a disproportionate advantage at the polls.

Because redrawing political districts after each census is an inherently partisan task, Paxton told the Supreme Court in an August brief joined by 15 other Republican-led states, there is nothing “invidious or irrational” about having a partisan political purpose in preparing new maps.

Paxton also warned about letting judges decide when the quest for partisan advantage goes too ggfar, saying it would create legal standards so vague that every state would be exposed to lawsuits, giving the losing political party a “plausible chance” of overriding the will of a majority of lawmakers.

Nelson, on the other hand, argued that allowing the party in power to gain an outsized electoral advantage undermines democracy and improperly dilutes votes.

“The foundation of American democracy rests on ‘the consent of the governed.’ When lawmakers engage in partisan gerrymandering, they corrode this consent by punishing groups on the basis of their political beliefs in an effort to deprive them of equal representation,” Nelson wrote as the lead lawyer for a Supreme Court brief on behalf of two voter advocacy groups, FairVote and One Nation One Vote.

Here’s some of what went on last night, at an event attended by Nelson and four of the six Democratic candidates representing pieces and shards of Austin: Longtime gerrymander survivor Lloyd Doggett, the only incumbent in the bunch; Julie Oliver, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, and would count Dogged as a constituent if she is elected; Joseph Kopser, who is facing Republican Chip Roy in the campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who is retiring, and Mike Siegel. Siegel is challenging U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who, living with his family at the intersection of great wealth and bad pipes, consumes more water than any other family in the city of Austin.

Here’s a litte of what they had to say at the event, held upstairs at Antone’s, a classy venue, albeit the Home of the Blues, and not House of the Blue Wave.

Also in attendance last night were the Lafairs, who have created a gerrymandering board game, Mapmaker.

Becca Lafair, left, Josh Lafair, her younger, taller brother, and Louis Lafair, Becca’s twin.

Louis just graduated from Stanford University, and Becca is entering her fifth year at Northeastern University in Boston (a school where the normal course of study is five years, as students alternate academic and real world experience.) Josh is a senior in high school.

Josh: “We grew up in a gerrymandered district in Austin.” They were formerly represented by Doggett, now represented by McCaul.

The Lafairs took moral umbrage at this.

“Voters should be choosing their politicians, but what’s happening is politicians are choosing their voters, and that’s just not right.”

And, Louis said, “we’ve always loved playing board games with each other.”

“I invented a board game when I was 11, that was my first board game,” said Louis.

Well, that explains Stanford.

What was that?

“I was called Pathwayz, spelled with a z, because I was 11.”

“It was published eight years later.”

More Louis: “We researched it. There weren’t any other gerrymandering games out there.:

The goal of the game is to win the most districts.

Louis: “The real reason we’re doing this is to start a conversation about gerrymandering.”

In other words, the goal is to win, but feel bad about it.

Louis: “We have a proclamation inside every box – gerrymandering is not a game.”

But Louis said, “We spent a lot of time making sure it was a really fun game. There’s the whole anti-gerrrymandering community and there’s the whole board game community.”

In the meantime, the game, which will be available shortly is  being sent to the Supreme Court, governors and others, and has been endorsed by notables like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lawrence Lessig and Doggett.

Back to Levin and Greenberg.

I wondered why they chose to spend pivot weekend Texas, not necessarily the ripest for victory.

“I think the story of the last 18 months has been surprises. We’ve 3, 6, 9, 12-point swings against Trump in competitive races, places that traditionally political prognosticators in Washington, D.C., say, “Oh they’re not winnable.'”

I asked them how they would counsel Democratic candidates to talk about impeachment.

This was apropos a recent back-and-forth on impeachment between the O’Rourke and Cruz campaigns via Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas.

Cruz’s campaign said in a July 17, 2018, press release that O’Rourke “continued today his reckless and radical Senate campaign based on impeaching Pres. Donald Trump. He is the only candidate to the U.S. Senate to call for impeachment,” the release said.

We wondered: Is O’Rourke alone among Senate hopefuls in advocating the Republican president’s impeachment?

Not so, we found, though it looks like he’s the only Senate nominee to date to say he’d vote to launch impeachment proceedings.

xxxx

Our search of the Nexis news database showed that as early as August 2017, O’Rourke said he’d vote for Trump’s impeachment. Most recently, the Dallas Morning News quoted O’Rourke saying in July 2018 that Trump merited impeachment for his performance in the just-completed summit with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin.

O’Rourke responded to a News reporter: “Standing on stage in another country with the leader of another country who wants to and has sought to undermine this country, and to side with him over the United States — if I were asked to vote on this I would vote to impeach the president. Impeachment, much like an indictment, shows that there is enough there for the case to proceed and at this point there is certainly enough there for the case to proceed.”

Then again, O’Rourke in December 2017 was among 364 House members to vote for tabling a proposal by Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, to impeach Trump, records show. Before that vote, Democratic leaders released a statement referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry that said impeachment wasn’t timely.

When we asked Cruz’s campaign how the senator determined that O’Rourke was alone among Senate candidates calling for impeachment, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed out by email that the News story noting O’Rourke’s willingness to vote for impeachment quoted Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, leveling a more limited claim. Roe called O’Rourke “the only major-party candidate in America to call for impeachment.”

Another Cruz contact, Emily Miller, emailed us a web link to a November 2017 Reuters news story describing O’Rourke saying that Trump’s racially charged rhetoric and divisive governing style had led O’Rourke to support impeachment. O’Rourke was quoted saying: “I’m now convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump is unfit for that office.”

O’Rourke spokesman says he’s not ‘called’ for impeaching Trump

When we reached out to O’Rourke about Cruz calling him the only Senate candidate to call for impeachment, campaign spokesman Chris Evans said by email: “Beto has never called for the impeachment of President Trump.”

Evans maintained that O’Rourke’s responses to reporters and voters about voting in favor of impeachment weren’t the same as the candidate calling for impeachment. Evans elaborated that O’Rourke hasn’t brought up impeachment “at town halls or rallies, has not sent fundraising or petition emails on it, has not posted social media advocating for it, and has not used his current position of public trust to do so through floor speeches, letters or resolutions.”

Evans also pointed out an interview we’d missed. For an episode of Showtime’s “The Circus,” posted online in May 2018, O’Rourke replied that as a member of the House, he’d vote right then to impeach Trump. Asked if he’d vote as a senator to convict Trump, O’Rourke replied: “Until I’m in that position and am able to hear the case made by each side, all the facts laid out, I can’t give you an answer on that–nor would you want me to.”

xxxxx

Our ruling

Cruz said O’Rourke is “the only candidate to the U.S. Senate to call for” impeaching Trump.

Since August 2017, O’Rourke has been saying that he’d vote to impeach Trump, which would start with a vote in the House, where he serves. O’Rourke might be the only Senate nominee to say as much. However, Democratic Senate contenders in Minnesota and California also have talked up Trump’s impeachment.

We rate this claim about O’Rourke’s uniqueness False.

“Our network got involved in response to Trump. They want to resist the Trump agenda. So this is something that animates them,” Levin said. “I will say that impeachment is a political process. It’s something where you need not just vote to impeach in the House but convict in the Senate. You need Republican votes, by definition. You are not going to get two-thirds of the Senate just from Democratic hands, so you need Republican votes. So, it’s a process.

“On the first day of Congress, if we take the House or the Senate, we can get Donald Trump’s tax returns, we can launch investigations, we can get more information, we can get the smoking gun that is out there. To say you will vote for impeachment right now – it is a fine line to walk when folks are not putting it front and center, or when they’re saying they’ll re-evaluate – that’s actually the right move. We need more information, we need investigations.

“And the things that Texans care about when we talk to them in Wimberley, is they care about the state of democracy, they care about democratic institutions, like voting, like redistricting, like money in politics. They worry that it’s being taken over by a small segment of society. They care about health care. They care about families being detained and separated and put in cages along the border and elsewhere. These are the things that we see getting a lot of folks out.

“And I think it’s smart for candidates like Beto and others to be talking about those issues. We will get to the questions of what is going on in the Trump campaign and this administration, and the only way we will get there is if we retake the majority and force them to give reveal that information.”

“We were both congressional staffers, we both worked for Democratic members of Congress,” Levin said. “I didn’t have a super high opinion of Republican members of Congress, but I would not have accused them of doing essentially what they’ve done, which is turn a complete blind eye to what this administration does. They have proven again and again and again that they are not willing to act as a check on this administration, which is their constitutional duty, so the only answer in this moment is,we need to retake power so that we can start having a Congress that acts as a check on this administration.

“And then what comes from that, will come from that.

“We are in favor of impeachment proceedings, but the way impeachment works is to start investigations and you get information, and it’s worth noting that the Senate doesn’t vote to impeach, the Senate votes to convict, so that is going to be the question put before Sen. O’Rourke, and that will come after a long series of investigations that reveal exactly what’s going on.”

(*in the realm of phone banking on a summer Sunday in Austin, ginormous is defined as around 40.)

“The only question we get asked again and again is, “Yeah but, can the resistance be electoralized, can you actually win elections?” Levin said. “The rule of the last 20 months has been surprise wins by anti-Trump forces all over the country. Is it a sure thing? A Democrat hasn’t won statewide in Texas in over 20 years. And yet we  were out in freakin’ Beaumont Texas on a Friday night and there were 15 people phone-banking for Beto O’Rourke.

“This is everywhere.

“It’s going to be won if people put in the work day after day from now until Election Day, and so far we’re seeing the energy out there.”

 

 

xxx

Hey, RNC. Forget holding the convention in Charlotte. Why not Moscow 2020?

 

Good Friday Austin:

The Republican National Committee, meeting in Austin this morning, is expected to choose Charlotte, N.C., as the place where the party will renominate Donald Trump for president.

From Katy Friel at Culture Map Austin:

The Republican National Committee quietly convened in Austin on July 18 to begin planning for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Members of the RNC are hosting closed-door sessions inside the Fairmont Austin to decide details about the event, including the host city for the next convention — the site of Donald Trump’s likely renomination for president.

It’s unclear why Republicans chose Austin in the middle of summer to host their meeting, and a rep for the Fairmont said they “are not able to comment on or confirm whether a particular individual or group is a guest within our hotel.”

Host cities for 2020 have been narrowed down to Charlotte, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, though it’s been a contentious battle. On July 16, the Charlotte City Council faced protestors and heard from more than 100 citizens speaking out against the event, mostly in regards to safety concerns. The Charlotte City Council narrowly approved the measure 6-5, with four Democrats joining two Republicans in the decision.

Charlotte?

Come on. That’s an old-school, hopelessly conventional, Deep State choice.

Las Vegas would be better, but still.

The big, bold, Trumpian choice should be obvious by now.

The Republican Party should hold its 2020 convention in Moscow.

Just look at the numbers.

From Numbeo.com:

You would need around 284,572.04руб (4,482.90$) in Charlotte, NC to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with руб in Moscow (assuming you rent in both cities). This calculation uses our Cost of Living Plus Rent Index to compare cost of living. This assumes net earnings (after income tax).

 

Indices Difference Info
Consumer Prices in Charlotte, NC are 65.68% higher than in Moscow
Consumer Prices Including Rent in Charlotte, NC are 58.10% higher than in Moscow
Rent Prices in Charlotte, NC are 45.09% higher than in Moscow
Restaurant Prices in Charlotte, NC are 57.58% higher than in Moscow
Groceries Prices in Charlotte, NC are 108.95% higher than in Moscow

Restaurants Moscow Charlotte
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 600.00 руб
(9.45 $)
952.19 руб
(15.00 $)
     +58.70 %
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course 2,500.00 руб
(39.38 $)
3,808.77 руб
(60.00 $)
     +52.35 %
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) 350.00 руб
(5.51 $)
380.88 руб
(6.00 $)
     +8.82 %
Domestic Beer (1 pint draught) 100.00 руб
(1.58 $)
285.66 руб
(4.50 $)
     +185.66 %
Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) 185.22 руб
(2.92 $)
380.88 руб
(6.00 $)
     +105.64 %
Cappuccino (regular) 170.96 руб
(2.69 $)
273.64 руб
(4.31 $)
     +60.06 %
Coke/Pepsi (11.2 oz small bottle) 58.18 руб
(0.92 $)
110.27 руб
(1.74 $)
     +89.53 %
Water (11.2 oz small bottle) 41.29 руб
(0.65 $)
83.99 руб
(1.32 $)
     +103.41 %
Markets Moscow Charlotte
Milk (regular), (1 gallon) 245.44 руб
(3.87 $)
192.70 руб
(3.04 $)
     -21.49 %
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (1 lb) 34.50 руб
(0.54 $)
145.96 руб
(2.30 $)
     +323.11 %
Rice (white), (1 lb) 31.70 руб
(0.50 $)
107.68 руб
(1.70 $)
     +239.69 %
Eggs (regular) (12) 76.70 руб
(1.21 $)
140.92 руб
(2.22 $)
     +83.73 %
Local Cheese (1 lb) 253.87 руб
(4.00 $)
310.34 руб
(4.89 $)
     +22.24 %
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1 lb) 125.98 руб
(1.98 $)
222.01 руб
(3.50 $)
     +76.22 %
Beef Round (1 lb) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) 240.93 руб
(3.80 $)
369.83 руб
(5.83 $)
     +53.50 %
Apples (1 lb) 43.07 руб
(0.68 $)
157.36 руб
(2.48 $)
     +265.36 %
Banana (1 lb) 27.72 руб
(0.44 $)
38.41 руб
(0.61 $)
     +38.57 %
Oranges (1 lb) 38.45 руб
(0.61 $)
152.00 руб
(2.39 $)
     +295.32 %
Tomato (1 lb) 70.02 руб
(1.10 $)
132.96 руб
(2.09 $)
     +89.88 %
Potato (1 lb) 16.21 руб
(0.26 $)
81.25 руб
(1.28 $)
     +401.34 %
Onion (1 lb) 13.39 руб
(0.21 $)
92.33 руб
(1.45 $)
     +589.32 %
Lettuce (1 head) 73.84 руб
(1.16 $)
113.08 руб
(1.78 $)
     +53.15 %
Water (1.5 liter bottle) 45.12 руб
(0.71 $)
114.08 руб
(1.80 $)
     +152.82 %
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 600.00 руб
(9.45 $)
666.53 руб
(10.50 $)
     +11.09 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle) 65.07 руб
(1.03 $)
196.15 руб
(3.09 $)
     +201.45 %
Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) 126.67 руб
(2.00 $)
272.71 руб
(4.30 $)
     +115.30 %
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) 125.00 руб
(1.97 $)
317.40 руб
(5.00 $)
     +153.92 %

 

And can the Spectrum in Charlotte really rival the Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center.

From Trip Advisor:

Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center is an international venue for business and leisure. Annually Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Centre hosts over 100 large-scale events – exhibitions, conferences, forums, political.

  • Excellent76%
  • Very good9%
  • Average11%
  • Poor3%
  • Terrible1%

Terrible?

Filthy one percenters.

Don’t worry.

They’re dead. Their families are dead. Their dogs are dead.

 

OK, you say.

That’s ridiculous.

Holding the Republican National Convention in a place where every delegate would need a passport is preposterous.

And Moscow?

Well, yeah, sure, it sounds odd.

But really, no odder than what has happened in the last week, or, at any rate, than what has happened in the last week would have seemed if it hadn’t actually happened and if the Republican Party, by and large, hadn’t shown its capacity to adjust to, accommodate, make its peace with and maybe even embrace, all in a matter of hours and days, the same sequence of acceptance that would follow the daring choice of Moscow for 2020.

Watching Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who is America on Sunday  I wondered yet again how he gets people, real people, members of Congress, to say and do the most outrageous things.

Why in the world would Trent Lott be endorsing a program, peddled by Cohen, made up like Frankenstein as “Col. Erran Morad, anti-terror expert,” to arm toddlers in schools?

Trump, man of the world, is proud of the fact that he saw through Cohen as Ali G.

But, in this case, Trump is Ali G, double negatives, or lack thereof, and all.

Are we being punked?

Is the Republican Party being punked?

Like Sacha Baron Cohen, Trump never breaks character, he is capable of doing something totally outrageous and then double down.

From Mark Landler at the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to invite President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to visit Washington in the fall, the White House said Thursday — an invitation that stunned the nation’s top intelligence official, who said he was still groping for details of what the two leaders had discussed in their encounter this week in Helsinki, Finland.

“Say that again,” the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, replied when Andrea Mitchell of NBC broke the news while interviewing him at a security conference in Aspen, Colo. “O.K.,” Mr. Coats said, taking a deep breath and chuckling awkwardly. “That’s going to be special.”

The announcement came as the White House spent a third day trying to explain statements made by Mr. Trump after the Helsinki meeting, and as uncertainty spread throughout the government about whether he had reached agreements with Mr. Putin on Syria and Ukraine, leaving his military and diplomatic corps in the dark.

Yielding to intense criticism, Mr. Trump rejected a proposal by Mr. Putin for Russia to question American citizens, including a former ambassador to Moscow, Michael A. McFaul, in return for giving the United States access to 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted on charges of trying to sabotage the 2016 presidential election.

Two hours after the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, issued that reversal, she said on Twitter that Mr. Trump had asked his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, to invite Mr. Putin, framing the decision as part of a dialogue that began in Helsinki and would continue at lower levels until the Russian president comes to Washington.

Beyond saying the meeting would be in the fall, the White House did not announce a date. That means Mr. Trump could meet Mr. Putin again before the midterm elections, giving him a chance to redress the widespread criticism of how he handled the first meeting and possibly injecting further volatility into the campaigns.

Ha. C’mon. Donald Trump,  didn’t get where he is today by redressing the widespread criticism.

That is fake news.

Donald Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word redress.

That’s if the man we think is Trump is really Trump.

Perhaps Putin insisted they meet alone for two hours so the Russian tech team – or Sacha Baron Cohen or Elon Musk – would have time to check, service and update the circuitry that was installed in Trump, whenever that was. Maybe when he was in Moscow for the Miss USA Pageant in 2013, or maybe during that time Trump said he and Putin shared in the 60 Minutes green room, which never really happened, but, who knows, shades of Hitchcock, maybe it actually did.

Trump’s invitation to Putin to visit the White House in the days leading up to the midterm election is breathtaking. But by then, it won’t even be shocking when Trump announces that he had gratefully accepted Putin’s “incredible offer,” to remain at the White House through the election to guide ballot security efforts.

What a coup. Sharing he Oval Office with Vladimir Putin.

And, after all, who knows more about ballot security than Vladimir Putin?

Even Trump, who noted, yet again, in his appearance with Putin, the enormity of his own electoral triumph in the teeth of an Electoral College that offers prohibitive advantages to the Democrats, would have to acknowledge that Putin’s triumph in March was pretty impressive.

From Wikipedia

Why fight Russian interference when you can embrace it?

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House on Thursday eliminated new funding for states to strengthen election security, drawing protests from Democrats who said Republicans are not doing enough to prevent Russian meddling.

“The Russians attacked our democracy. They will be back, and we are not ready,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill. “The president is unwilling to meet this challenge, but we must be willing to meet the challenge.”

Quigley and other Democrats blasted President Donald Trump for failing to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin at this week’s summit in Helsinki and said Republicans were not taking threats against the integrity of U.S. elections seriously enough. Democratic lawmakers erupted into chants of “USA! USA!” during the debate, which came as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she has not seen evidence that Moscow had tried to help elect Trump.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party,” Nielsen said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, adding that Russia is attempting to “cause chaos on both sides.”

Trump has made shifting statements on whether he agrees with the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. When asked Wednesday if Russia is still targeting the United States and its midterm elections, Trump responded “no,” but White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said Trump was saying “no” to answering more questions.

Quigley’s election security amendment would have extended funding for a state grant program overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission. Congress approved $380 million in the current budget for the program, which is intended to help states strengthen election systems from hacking and other cyberattacks.

Democrats want to approve a similar amount through 2019, but Republicans say money from the current program is still available to states and new spending is not needed.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said Congress has already spent more than $3.5 billion on election security since the contested 2000 election. States still have money left from the current $380 million appropriation, and lawmakers have not been made aware of any new requests for more money as the November midterm elections approach, he said.

Sessions called the Democrats’ argument a “shrewd political shenanigan that has no merit to it.”

The amendment was defeated, 182-232, as the House debated a broader spending bill.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said Republicans’ refusal to spend more money on election security “represents nothing less than unilateral disarmament” against Russia, citing the U.S. intelligence community’s finding that Russia intervened in the 2016 election and charges brought by the Justice Department against Russian officials for hacking Democratic groups.

Relax LLoyd.

Listen to Mike.

Huckabee: The fact is we tried to interfere in elections all over the world ourselves.So let’s not be too much patting ourselves on the back about how pure we are.”

Right. And if Putin, who acknowledged at his joint press conference with Trump, that he wanted Trump to be elected, put his thumb on the scale for Trump, so what?

From McKay Coppins at the Atlantic: A New Talking Point From the Pro-Trump Fringe. A new line of punditry is bubbling up among the president’s followers online: It was a positive thing that the Russians hacked the 2016 election.

On Wednesday morning, in the midst of yet another contentious news cycle dominated by coverage of Russian election meddling, I tweeted a kind of thought experiment: “If Trump & co. just pivoted to ‘Aren’t you glad Russia helped us defeat Hillary Clinton?’ would there be any serious blowback from his base?”

 The question was rhetorical. The answers that began trickling in were not.

“No,” said Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer at the right-wing news and conspiracy website Gateway Pundit (and a former Sputnik employee). “I mean, I would be cool with it. I’m already there. If Russia was involved we should thank them.”

 “No,” responded another self-identified Trump voter. “Hillary is a greater threat to our Republic.”

Several people pointed me to Jacob Wohl, a Trump booster with a large Twitter following, who had mused just hours earlier, “If Russia assists MAGA Candidates on the internet in this year’s midterms, that’s not the end of the world.” And others re-upped a C-SPAN clip from the day before in which a caller identified as Mary Lou from Connecticut said, “I’ll try not to sound too awful, but I want to thank the Russians for interfering with our election to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president. That woman has got illusions of grandeur.”

These are anecdotal cases, of course. As Phillip Bump notes in The Washington Post, there hasn’t been much polling data measuring how Americans feel about foreign governments interfering in United States elections; up to now, disapproval has simply been presumed. The polls that are available suggest that most Trump supporters don’t believe there was any Russian election interference, and if there was, it had no effect on the race.

 But as Washington braces for special counsel Robert Mueller to release the findings of his investigation, this new line of punditry bubbling up in the pro-Trump social-media conversation is worth taking seriously.

Bubbling up?

How about full boil.

As usual, we can count on Alex Jones to be just slightly ahead of the curve.

AJ: We have a criminal Deep State in control and if we ever remove these face-suckers, if we we ever get oxygen back in our country, which we’re starting to see. Trump has gotten two tentacles off of our neck. We still have three more over head, laying eggs in our guts and we’ve got to pull the damn thing off and  have emergency surgery and get the embryos out of our stomachs, to use any alien analogy. He has not even got the face-sucker off yet and it’s trying to strangle us.

You leftists. You fools. You scum. Look, coming up I”m going to break it down. From Chicago to Portland to San Francisco, everyone is canceling their conferences. Everyone is leaving. There are piles of feces and trash. People running around. It’s like a demon spirit. Men dressed as women with huge beards with feces running down their legs. This is happening in Austin now too. They worship men with huge beards wearing wigs with feces all over them, and they just run around BLAAHH, BLAAHH!

We are seeing epic history unfold. Just days after the enemy of the American people, the enemy of world peace, the enemy of prosperity, the globalist Chinese-controlled, big mega-bank controlled, big college-controlled, big Hollywood, filth bag-controlled whore media complex said Trump was a traitor for meeting privately with Putin, which every president does with every other major leader.

After lying about what was said and done. After covering up Hillary and all their collusion with the Russians, after all of this he came out and said, “Yes, I accept these conclusions, all these countries meddle in each other’s elections, but Russia’s barely on the Richter scale, a lot of people meddle, hell the U.S. spends billions a year trying to mess with Russia. We want prosperity. We want economic development. Russia’s cutting their defense spending. Let’s not start a new Cold War with them. China’s the big threat. They’re the big enemy.

Jones went on to predict, as he has for some time now, a civil war, really an insurrection to remove Trump, a  coup, beginning in late summer.

AJ:

I“ve been proven 1,000 percent correct in royal flush, in absolute ace of spades every time, because I’ve studied history, I’ve studied globalists. I know how they’ve overthrown other countries and I can read their damn statements, I can read their statements. I can read their actions. I know an enemy when it’s attacking me, I know an enemy when it’s attacking my family. I know an enemy foaming at the mouth to abort as many babies as it can, I know an enemy trying to inject us with deadly vaccines filled with pathogens declassified to brain damages. I know they spike our troops when they leave the military with a final round of shots to debilitate them. That’s declassified. We’ve got a criminal Deep State in control and if we ever remove these face-suckers, if we ever get oxygen back in our country…

Assuming Trump dodges the coup, Moscow 2020 will be way better than Cleveland 2016.

So what if Michael Flynn isn’t there to speak.

Alex Jones will be terrific.

Run Hard: Blue Action Democrats rally against `naysayers’ and `conventional wisdom’

Good Monday Austin:

While other people yesterday were doing whatever people do on a summer Sunday afternoon in Austin, I spent several hours with a couple of hundred Democrats at a fundraiser for Blue Action Democrats, a relatively new club in Southwest Travis County.

My favorite moment was Austinite Julie Oliver, the Democratic candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, invoking Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Oliver:

Naysayers. Have any of y’all come across any of them?

So,  I’m going to reference a movie: Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story.

“I do believe in you. I just ruthnow you’re going to fail.”

If y’all haven’t seen it, there’s a really funny scene where John C. Reilly, he is playing this Johnny Cash figure, he’s young, he’s about to hit the road on his very first musical tour and his wife is played by Kristen Wiig, and as she’s saying goodbye to him, kissing him, seeing him to the door, she’s like, You’re never gonna make it,” and smiling and waving and singing out the window and it’ really funny.

This is not the exact scene. Couldn’t find that. But close.

Oliver:

So I see that because I hear it sometimes, but when I hear that something clicks inside and I never thought of myself as competitive, but since I’ve been hearing that lately I’ve been game on. Game on.

Because, honestly all these race are winnable. We have to believe that. That’s the very first step is believing. Because when you believe that these races are competitive and winnable, that informs your reality. You know what happens from there. Action is stirred. 

“Well it looks like I got some proving myself to do.”

Walk hard, hard
When they say, “You’re all done”
Walk bold, hard
Though they say, “You’re not the one”

Even if you’ve been told time and time again
That you’re always gonna lose and you’re never gonna win
Gotta keep that vision in your mind’s eye
When you’re standing on top of a mountain high

You know when I was a boy, folks used to say to me
“Slow down Dewey, don’t walk so hard”
And I used to tell them, “Life’s a race and I’m in it to win it
And I’ll walk as damn hard as I please
How do I walk boys?”

“I’m casting my vote for Julie because we got cut five blocks out of our own district,”  said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who, thanks to gerrymandering lives outside his district. ” I have never seen a more dangerous time for our country. Our democracy is under direct threat from someone who daily tells us that he admires every third world thug that he salutes and praises.”

Doggett told his mostly white audience that while talk in Democratic circles is getting the Hispanic or black vote out, “What we really need is our next-door neighbor, the person across the street.”

(See Ken Herman’s column on this from last week.)

The key races where we can win are right here in theses precincts – electing Vikki Goodwin  to serve in the state House. We know gerrymandering divided up our city in the way that we’re the largest city in America that does not control a congressional district. It’s wrong, but it’s obvious that the Supreme Court will provide no remedy for that. The remedy is in our hands, not at the courthouse but at the ballot box.

This is an election in which we either resist and stand up and provide a genuine check and balance to all of the hatred and bigotry of Donald Trump or we let our country continue to sink and decline.

One of the nice touches of the Blue Action Democrats event was that the runners-up in the contested races were invited as well and given a chance to speak.

All three of U.S. Rep. Joseph Kopser’s three rivals for the Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in the 21st Congressional District, were on hand.

Mary Wilson, who is back in the pulpit full-time at the Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, talked about a recent mission delivering supplies to Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries on the border.

Next up was Derrick Crowe, who is moving with his wife to D.C., where his wife just landed a good job with Ballou High School.

Crowe:

Raise your hand if you know what the Dunning-Krueger Effect is?

For folks that don’t know it’s a phenomenon that’s been well documented. There are two types of people that are absolutely sure that they are great at the thing that they are doing. The first group of people are the experts. And the second group of people are the people that are too dim  to know they are not good at it. I am convinced that the Trump administration are the best example of the Dunning -Krueger Effect that we’ve ever had in an American administration. 

I think if psychologists would look they would find a very similar effect in terms of empathy. That there are people that are so lacking in empathy that they think they are great it.

xxxxxx

And you mentioned the folks that are loath to speak out against Donald Trump unless they’re retiring. We call that ring and run where I come from. And the solution to a ring and run Republican is a knock-and-drag Democrat.

It is absolutely essential that we take these congressional seats. Do everything you can to put Joseph Kopser and Julie Oliver in Congress this year.

Then it was Elliott McFadden’s turn.

On vacation last week, I read a book called the Storm Before the Storm. It’s about the generation before Julius Caesar the led to the end of the Roman Republican, and we are that generation in our country.

(OK. so this is Elliott McFadden’s idea of beach reading? Was he on Martha’s Vineyard shunning Alan Dershowitz?)

From the book description:

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome’s model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable. The Romans commitment to regular elections and peaceful transfers of power was unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled. Rising economic inequality disrupted traditional ways of life. Endemic social and ethnic prejudice led to clashes over citizenship and voting rights. Rampant corruption and ruthless ambition among the elite sparked violent political clashes that cracked the once indestructible foundations of the Republic.

Chronicling the years 146-78 BC, The Storm Before the Storm dives headlong into the first generation to face the treacherous new political environment made possible by Rome’s triumphant success. Abandoning the ancient principles of their forbearers, men like Marius, Sulla, and the Gracchi Brothers set dangerous new precedents that would start the Republic on the road to destruction—a stark warning for modern readers about what happens to a civilization that has lost its way. This was the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.

Yikes.

McFadden:

Congressman Doggett said it today. Our Republic is at stake in this election. If you don’t believe it, look at those children being ripped from the families. Watch a Supreme Court that is hanging in the balance which  can roll back Roe v. Wade. 

This is the election of our generation That is why I am supporting Joseph Kopser so he can go to Congress with Julie Oliver and hold this president accountable.

Kopser said that the primary had made him a much better candidate, which I think is true.

I talked with Steve Kling of Dripping Springs, who is taking on state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

I asked Kling a question prompted by some recent tweets, and his answer was a variation on Oliver’s rap on naysayers.

Kling:

When we started this 16 months ago we were considered a long-shot race. We’ve been upgraded by various pundits to a tough-but-winnable scenario. If we’re looking at some of the trends we’re seeing precinct-by-precinct across this district, if we can just get the level of turnout we get in a presidential – that’s saying a lot – but if we can get that, we can win this.

And it’s organizations like Blue Action Democrats that have a template of producing really strong turnout. If we can replicate that in just northern Bexar County alone, just that part of my district, we’ll actually win this, despite whatever happens in Comal or Kendall. 

I think we can actually win this by two or three points if we do that.

I asked, per the tweets, whether the felt he was getting the kind of support he needs or expects from Democratic Senate incumbents in adjoining districts?

 

Kling:

I really wish I could say that I was.

Unfortunately, that is a long string of unreturned phone calls, unresponsive. I’m surrounded by  Democratic state senators. We tried to set up meetings with them. I don’t know why they decided to stay on the sidelines. I don’t really know how to interpret that. They either don’t understand how important 2018 is or they don’t care. I don’t know which is worse.

We have an opportunity to break the (Republican) supermajority. 

If we turn two Senate seats we will be in a Senate where they won’t be able to do a vote without at least one member of our caucus.

I have been running this for 16 months and I have said the enemy is conventional wisdom. Getting the number that we’re seeing from our primary, getting the numbers we are getting from growth and talking to groups like Progress Texas and seeing the demographics that are moving into this area, the fastest growing area of this country.

This is a very winnable district. And really there’s an outcome if we get the help from the Democratic Party and the incumbents, and there’s one without, and they may be very different, and so trying to get an audience with my fellow Democrats that can really help make a difference in this race has been really important. We just haven’t been able to get the traction, and I don’t really know why.

The one Democratic senator I sat down with, who will remain nameless, has told me that one of the reasons that, at least from his perspective, that we are not getting traction, is they are frightened by the vindictiveness of Dan Patrick, which to me, that’s a vote of no-confidence for my friend Mike Collier (the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor).

The most important race right now is Mike Collier’s race. Even if I win, I’m really relegated to banging my head against the brick wall of Dan Patrick for four years. We’ve got to get Mike Collier in there and he’s the one who really needs the support from Democratic incumbents and, to my knowledge, he isn’t getting it either.

To be fair, the Senate Democratic Caucus, headed by Sen. (José ) Rodríguez, has  been as helpful as they can be. They have contributed to our campaign. Sen. Rodriguez has been an outspoken advocate of Democratic challengers. The adjacent. 

Of the Democratic incumbents who have been less forthcoming, Kling said, “If they want to make Dan Patrick happy, they can switch parties and let us know where they really stand.”

Yikes.

We conclude our coverage of yesterday’s event talking to Will Simpson, who is writing a book about his losing campaign for the Democratic nomination to challenge state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, in House District 47, which was ultimately won, in a runoff, by Vikki Goodwin.

From the Texas Tribune:

C’mon Trib, give the guy a break.

That’s better.

Simpson:

I have very thick skin. I spent a lot of time with (Austin City Council Member) Jimmy Flanagan who helped me try to get an idea of what it was going to be like. And he prepared me –  `You’re a first-time candidate, you’re probably going to lose, no matter what.”  

And we never believe that.

I probably will run again.

Simpson said he hopes to have a E-book out before Election Day.

Even if I don’t run again, somebody else may be able to learn something from my story.

Or maybe not.

I’m anal with note-keeping so I was able to reconstruct an outline of a book really fast.

I want to tell the story. I want somebody else to read the story of what it’s like.

I’m calling it Blue Wave.

His campaign slogan – a good one – was, ‘Where there’s a Will there’s a way.”

He lost his father during the campaign. That was tough.

:

We knew it was a rough district. Western Travis County is not blue Travis County. The south end is, the north end, where I live really is not. I live in Leander. the Travis County part of Leander. I’m a native. I was born in Austin.  I knew what I was getting into, but there was a ton that I didn’t know.

Like …

What I thought was a good candidate was way, way, way, way apart from what the masses were looking for. I’m very critical thinking and `can they win’ is part of the equation. Average person is emotion-driven, especially right now.

I didn’t focus enough on hard-core fundraising up front. I put in a lot of my own money, which is now gone. It really is a marketing campaign.

One of the things that almost kept me from running is that I believed I had too much integrity to be a national Democrat. I tend to tell it like it is too much. And that can hurt you in a campaign. I may not ever be a good candidate. A candidate needs to be a marketer first. I don’t like that, but that’s a very true statement.

At the end of the day a lot of what I had to offer wasn’t actually good for what a lot of the voters in the Democratic Party wanted by the time it came to the primary in March.

They wanted someone more progressive and they wanted someone who was female. And I understand why they wanted that because I can see it and I agree.

One of the things I may do, because I still do want to serve and make a difference, I may actually go and try to run in Wilco where those Democrats that you can find are different. And so I’m closer to them, I’m an old white guy like them. People want someone they feel they can relate to.

Did he find the loss emotionally wrenching?

Not for me. I’m a COO by nature. I am the wet blanket. I don’t tend to live in the emotional world. My wife, who is my better three-quarters, is, so it was harder on her and the family, even though we talked about it. That was hard on me.

Me losing? I live to take risks.

Simpson is the chief operating officer of a technology recruiting firm.

Simpson:

I’m fully supporting Vikki. It’s going to be damn close. She has 13,000 votes to switch out of 100,000, that’s a big margin to turn, and the blue wave isn’t going to hit. HD-47 is in the top ten districts in voter turnout, period, so it’s already a high-voting district.

What?  No blue wave?

Not in Texas there won’t be.

So why is his book going to be called Blue Wave?

That title is meant to be ironic. I don’t know what I’m going to put underneath it (as a subtitle.)  Overall in the nation, we are going to have a better midterm then we’ve had in a long time.

But, Simpson said:

I believe in math. It is going to be very hard in Texas. God love Beto, I am out writing checks and helping him every chance I get. He is not going to win. I don’t believe it. I’ve got his yard sign in my yard.

I think Julie has a shot. Personally I’m not a big fan, but I do think she has a shot, so that’s good for us.

Kopser?

I think Kopser has the money, he has the ground troops. Mathematically, it is a harder one to win. But he is more attractive to those kinds of people, so I think it’s a tossup.

And MJ Hegar, who is challenging U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in CD31?

I don’t like her at all. But the Travis County Democratic Party should hang its head in shame to see how effective and how hard Wilco works relative to Travis County.  (He thinks John Bucy has a good shot at ousting state Rep. Tony Dale in House District 136.) MJ has very good ground game going and lot of money and national recognition. When Guy Kawasaki posts your video …

She will get traction. I think she’ll actually kick it open. I think she’ll turn it. We’ll know in the next 60 days how fired up the other side is. If 100 percent turns out, the Democrat loses. Period.

So there you have it.

Political curmudgeon and forthcoming memoirist Will Simpson says there is no blue wave coming, that if everyone turns out, Democrats lose, that Beto O’Rourke, the great blue hope, God love him, can’t win, but that Julie Oliver and MJ Hegar, neither of whom he particularly cares for, could pull upsets.

Wet blanket? Sure. But naysayer? Apparently not.

A little while later, Lynn Kurth, who was emceeing the Blue Action Democrats program, called out for Simpson.

“We have something for you.”

But Simpson had already left.

I asked Kurth later what she had for Simpson.

“Will was going to get one of the Get Shit Done Club pins. I’ll mail Will his pin.”