As Donald Trump lives and breathes. Deconstructing Snifflegate




Good morning Austin:

Recently, I covered the meeting at which the Travis County Republican Party precinct chairs elected a new party chairman. I was seated in the back of the long narrow room at the Crowne Plaza Austin and while the room was crowded, my seat was by itself, set back from the filled rows of seats, and I had ample personal space.

It was a very long meeting, and about an hour in, I recalled that I had half of a few-day-old brownie in my bag. I slipped my hand in the bag, rummaged around, broke off a bite-size piece of brownie and put it in my mouth.  I gave a chew or two and instantly, a young woman seated a couple of feet in front of me turned her head and glared at me.

I had not thought my two chews had made any noise. I didn’t hear anything. But apparently I had made an audible chomp. My jaw stopped still. I let the rest of the brownie piece melt in mouth, swallowing it as quietly as I could.

I had at that moment a flashback to a scene 40 years earlier. I was a student at Tufts University. I went to see Jane Fonda speak on campus in a large gym. I was by myself. I was chewing gum. I didn’t notice that I was chewing loudly, but, after a few minutes, another guy, a few years older, passed me a note. It said, “I didn’t come to see Jane Fonda to hear you chew.”

My jaw stopped still. I was ashen, shamed and ashamed. I nodded apologetically. I also, in my heart of hearts, wanted to stalk my scolder for as long as it took to catch him, somewhere, somehow, making an inappropriate noise in public, and call him out, to shame him back.

A year doesn’t go by that I don’t think of that humiliation.

I am recounting all this by way of saying that when I heard Donald Trump snorting and sniffling during the debate yesterday, I was sympathetic that his essentially private noises, as natural to him as breathing in and out – because when it comes right down to it, that is what those sounds were – had suddenly become a public matter – and a source of shaming – before one of the largest audiences ever to watch anything in the history of the world.

I had heard Trump’s audible breathing before. It was a feature of his public speeches. I didn’t hear it all the time, and I thought maybe it was only a periodic habit, maybe when, after a few smaller breaths, he would take a bigger breath to deliver an important line.

But, at Monday night’s debate, it was very evident. I watched the debate in a front row seat at the Alamo Cinema Drafthouse, Lakeview – a very big screen and a very good sound system – and I thought maybe it was simply more evident because I was seeing Trump breathe on a size and scale and with a volume that I had never experienced before.

It was a little unusual, and a little distracting, but Trump’s got all kinds of facial ticks that keep you from focusing too much on his breathing, and so I didn’t think it was all the big a deal.

Well, I was wrong.











But wait. Back up. Howard Dean? Former Vermont governor Howard Dean? Former Democratic presidential candidate and Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean? Hillary Clinton surrogate and medical doctor Howard Dean?




From Politico:

Despite a lack of evidence, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is refusing to apologize for insinuating on Twitter that Donald Trump might be a “coke user” – instead, he claimed Tuesday that the Republican presidential nominee’s “grandiosity” and “delusions” are characteristic of cocaine use, while acknowledging that it’s unlikely he actually has a drug problem.

One would think that if anyone ought to be gun shy about questioning what a politician is on for emitting an untoward sound, it would be Howard “The Scream” Dean.
Here from a superb oral history of the Dean Scream that Jack Holmes did at Esquire in January.

CBS Reporter ERIC SALZMAN: The communications director, Patricia Enwright, comes around and preps the press. “Get ready guys, he’s going to be firey.” I don’t remember if someone told me before or I learned later, but this was also in part because of Senator Harkin’s advice. So Patricia comes out and is like, “Yeah, he’s going to be firey.” They made the decision to play to the room.

TERI MILLS, grassroots organizer: The governor walked in, and of course the room just went bananas. It was like a rock star. And we all could barely even hear him talk.

ADAM MORDECAI, staffer on the Dean Campaign’s Iowa Internet team: I was near the front of the stage. It was like a rock concert. You couldn’t hear a word. We couldn’t hear anything he was saying, basically.

SALZMAN: I can’t tell you how many Howard Dean stump speeches I watched. You get to the point where you can recite the lines along with him. There’s crescendo lines built into those speeches, and then you wait for applause. Here, he was working himself up. He was giving this ad-libbed pep talk and he started naming the states—”And then we’re going to go to New Hampshire, and then we’re going to go to South Carolina. ” He’s looking down at the crowd, and he got that neck skin roll because he’d gained so much weight during the campaign. So it is an unflattering look. And he gets to this crescendo in his tenor, and he has no line to land on. So he goes, “BYAH!” and then chuckles to himself.

DEAN: I was working 20 hours a day, I’d get 4 and a half hours of sleep. I put on 20 pounds because I was eating Peanut M&Ms all the time.

MORDECAI: He only had a few shirts, and they were all too small for him. And so they would make his head look like it was about to explode if he worked up any emotion at all. It would just tighten around his neck and he’d turn bright red.

JOE TRIPPI, Dean campaign manager: The problem was that it was a unidirectional mic he was speaking into, which is meant to make sure that television stations can hear him and not have the crowd roaring so loudly the people back home can’t hear the candidate. But that, of course, creates a situation where the CNNs of the world and their audiences hear a guy yelling over a crowd that they can’t hear.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT, Head of Online Organizing, the Dean Campaign: Here’s how I think about a unidirectional mic: Picture yourself in a bar. You walk over to a friend you haven’t seen in a while and ask them about their job, with all the noise around. Then imagine the noise shuts down, but they’re talking over all that background noise that isn’t there. It wouldn’t sound pretty, but it would be fascinating to watch.

The speech as it looked—and sounded—from within the room:


KATE ALBRIGHT-HANNA, CNN correspondent: The venue was crazy. There was a sense that it was really loud, but it just felt like a typical rally. Nothing out of the usual happened. Nobody remembered a moment happening at all.

DEAN: Not only did I not have any sense something happened; there were 75 print reporters in the room, and I’ve never talked to one that had any sense that anything unusual was going on.

TRIPPI: Nobody knew what happened until we were all hanging out at the bar afterwards with press, having a beer. And looking up and seeing, repeatedly, this scene of Howard over and over again. So you looked up and went, “What the? What’s going on?” I realized as soon as I saw it that it wasn’t going to be good.

ALBRIGHT-HANNA: We went straight from the event to get on the plane to New Hampshire. I remember sitting next to another reporter from USA Today. It never came up. None of the reporters on the press plane were talking about it. We landed in New Hampshire, and Dean came out and did his speech there, and I met up with my associate producer at CNN, and we got into the car and she was like, “What do you think about what happened?” And I said, “What happened?”

SALZMAN: There were people in the room who were trying to report the story based on what they saw, and their editors were saying, “No, that’s not the story.” It was an interesting example of the power of television, because editors said to their reporters, “Hey, I saw it. I watched it on TV. I know what happened.” And the reporters were trying to say, “No, it was different if you were there.” And the editors were like, “Hey. I’m telling you I know what the story is, and this is what we’re reporting.”

DEAN: By the time I got to New Hampshire, the staff was worried about us, because they’d seen some early stuff from Fox News and stuff like that. But I still didn’t worry about it.

In the four days that followed the Iowa Caucus, according to the AP, national television stations—network and cable—played the clip of what became known as “The Dean Scream” 633 times. The number of times it aired on local stations has never been determined, but must surely be in the thousands.

Maybe. But it seems to me that Trump may have been done in, like Howard Dean was, by a unidirectional mic that amplified his breathing into a meme and a thing when all it was was Trump living and breathing.

Well, to sort all this out, I decided to tune in to Alex Jones’ radio show yesterday. But en route, I came upon Rush Limbaugh talking about microphones and compression and I soon realized that he was explaining, as a knowledgeable insider, a man who knows his way around a microphone, what had happened at the debate, and it made perfect sense.


RUSH: Trump got beat up for this last night, for having the sniffles.  He didn’t have the sniffles last night.  Because I am a highly trained broadcast specialist who understands the technology here.  That’s how Trump was breathing.  They have positioned the mic — I don’t know — not charging anything here, but his mic was positioned in such a way that you were able to hear him inhale.

He was breathing through his nose because it’s more polite to do that than to open your mouth wide and then breathe.  And you can hear when people do that, too.  If you listen to radio — a broadcast professional knows when to breathe and how to breathe and you can hear it.  It’s like stage spit.  Do you know what stage spit is?  Stage spit is the sign of a highly professional live performer.  I first bore witness to this, interestingly enough, when I was attending the Super Bowl in San Diego.

It was the Super Bowl about the Broncos and the Redskins where the Redskins just wiped ’em out.  Doug Williams was the quarterback for the Redskins and Timmy Smith, the unheard of running back, had 135 yards or whatever. The Broncos scored first.  This is the episode I had my first flyover. Sitting in the end zone, the planes coming out, I went bonkers when I saw it.  The night before there was a concert, Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, and Liza Minnelli was spitting all over the place.  And I said, “What the hell is this?”  I was positioned, the lighting, where I could see it.

And I talked to somebody and they said, “Oh, that’s stage spit.  That means she’s really doing well.”  It has to do with projection and voice control and you have to get rid of the saliva in your mouth.  And you can’t spit when you’re performing, you have to find a way to get rid of it as you’re singing, and it comes out — it’s the same thing with breathing.  You will hear on an audio-only commercial when you listen to radio, you’ll hear somebody go “uhh” real quick, take a real deep breath in the middle of it. And if they have compression on you’ll hear that really pumped up and sound as loud as somebody’s voice is what compression does.

Trump last night was breathing through his nose which of course is gonna sound like a sniffle. (interruption) Yes, I did stage spit all the time in the Rush to Excellence tour.  You have to know how to do that.  You have to be able to, shall we say, project the saliva.  You can’t sit there and swallow all night in the middle of a performance.  Sinatra was stage spitting, too.  It’s not glaring.  I mean, it’s not actually spitting.  The saliva comes out of your mouth as you’re singing.

And it’s the same thing with what Trump was doing last night inhaling.  He was inhaling through his nose and you could just hearing it like you can hear it when I do it there.  (interruption) What did Howard Dean say?   Hm-hm.  Are you kidding?  Are you kidding?  Howard Dean speculated that Trump might be blowing coke?  You ever wonder why you didn’t hear Hillary breathe?  What are you gonna say, ’cause she’s a reptile and doesn’t breathe through her mouth?  What are you gonna say?  No, no, no.  You didn’t hear her breathe, did you?  Wonder why.  Wonder why.

.Well, in many cases you don’t hear anybody breathe at these debates.  But you can do amazing things with microphones and compression.  I happen to love compression.  Now, it’s amazing, I talk some audiologists about my implants.  When I say compression, they think that I’m talking about compressing data to make it smaller.  I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about compression of the dynamic range.  And it goes back to the old AM radio days.  You know, if you want to hear what compression is, there’s really no way you can do it now. 

But back in the sixties and seventies when Motown and the top 40 hits were what they were, they were pressed with compression. The stations added it, because so many convertibles driving around with all this noise you had to be able to hear the radio station.  Compression adds volume.  And it does it by every element of a song is the same volume.  If you hear Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot there’s a beginning guitar riff not compressed, you hear it, but it’s not there. But when you hear it compressed, it’s as loud as his voice when he is singing.  I happen to love it. 

I wish there were ways I could demo it here but I can’t because we’re on AM stations and they compress their signal much more than FM does.  The FM guys don’t do it ’cause those are audio files and they claim compression is nothing more than distortion and they’re not gonna muddy up their precious signal on FM with distortion.  Well, believe me, it’s something if you never know exists you’re not even gonna know it until you listen to a song, you listen to I Can’t Help Myself by The Four Tops, back in 1965.  You listen to it on the radio back then and then go buy the album and listen to it at home or on iTunes and it’s gonna sound totally different because the version you buy, there’s no compression.  They don’t add it at the studio level, and it sounds like a whole different song to you. 

I happen to love compression.  Well, you can compress. If they wanted to last night, they could compress Trump’s mic.  I don’t know that they did.  But what happens when you do it, any little noise the microphone picks up is made to sound as loud as his voice.  The compressor here right in this drawer, right to my left, I have compression running on my audio feed just because I like to hear myself sound.  I like my voice compressed rather than flat.  Our stations add compression, too.  By the way, it’s that compression, I could come here with a huge head cold and compression would hide it.  I would have to tell you I have a cold, unless it’s a really severe one, and then you would notice it. 

To me it’s a magical thing.  Some people don’t like it when they hear it and some people, you know, I’ve tried to show them A-B, side-by-side, they don’t hear the difference, which is really frustrating, ’cause it tells me they don’t hear half of what I say, either.  ‘Cause you can’t miss it.  (interruption) Did he lambaste the microphone engineer?  Trump did?  Oh, that’s right, he did.  That’s right, he gave an engineer at one of his rallies a little business ’cause his microphone kept cutting out on him or something. 

Folks, DirecTV, if you have DirecTV, watch a TV show on DirecTV versus how you hear it from iTunes, totally different audio.  It’s compressed.  DirecTV compresses it from their satellite.  Well, it’s actually going up to the satellite.  But it’s all to make sure that you hear what’s going on in a crowded room.  It’s done for reasons.  It’s a long way around saying that Trump’s breathing last night, inhaling through his nose, was conspicuous.  It could have been his microphone placement; it could have been he was looking down and aiming at the microphone. 

But my only point, he does not have a cold.  Howard Dean said he’s doing cocaine.  This is ridiculous.  This was just how he chose to breathe rather than through his mouth.  And I know it was distracting to some.  It was not distracting to me because again, as a broadcast and communications specialist, you have to breathe.  You can’t do that without breathing.  Now, you didn’t hear Hillary breathe.  And we think she does.  We’re not sure.

By the way, if you know somebody who’s a broadcaster/audio engineering and you go tell ’em that Limbaugh was talking about “compression,” they may not know. You tell ’em… If they’re confused, just use the term “the limiter.”  Some broadcast engineers will think I’m talking about the limiter when I mean compression. 

I know what I’m talking about.  Some of them don’t.  The limiter just limits the peaks, lows and highs, and compresses everything down.  It does the same thing.  Anyway, all I’m trying to say is if you go talk to an audio engineer and you tell ’em you heard me talking about compression, they’re gonna say, “No, he’s talking about a limiter.” You tell ’em one and the same.  

Satisfied that I now understood what as going on, I tuned in Alex Jones who was the midst of explaining how fellow radio host Michael Savage had been pulled off the air for diagnosing Hillary’s Clnton as suffering from Parksinson’s Disease.



Texans ought to be especially sensitive to public performances by politicians that lead to the question of, “What is he on?”

The classic is Rick Perry’s encounter with a bottle of pure maple syrup in New Hampshire during his first presidential campaign.





In recent weeks, Perry has harnessed that manic energy on Dancing with the Stars.


But, alas, that ended last night.


From the show:

Former governor Rick Perry bid a gracious adieu to the ballroom in his Week 3 Elimination on Dancing with the Stars. He was in jeopardy from the start after all the stars took part in a Face Off Challenge where one team did battle with another for a chance to be safe from elimination. It was a competition that saw Calvin Johnson, Jr. bring home the top score of the night. The rest of Dancing with the Stars cast also put its best foot forward, but that couldn’t keep Vanilla Ice and Rick Perry from dropping to the bottom of the leaderboard, with the latter ultimately going home.












The 400-pound man in the room: Ten takes on the Great Debate.

Good morning Austin:
Here are ten takes on last night’s epic debate, the biggest public spectacle in the history of the planet. The first three are from me.
1. The smart girl won. The bully lost.

TRUMP: And I will tell you, you look at the inner cities — and I just left Detroit, and I just left Philadelphia, and I just — you know, you’ve seen me, I’ve been all over the place. You decided to stay home, and that’s OK. But I will tell you, I’ve been all over. And I’ve met some of the greatest people I’ll ever meet within these communities. And they are very, very upset with what their politicians have told them and what their politicians have done.


CLINTON: I think — I think — I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.

This bully v. smart kid set up is not a slam dunk. Within limits, Americans prefer the bad boy to the goody-goody, or, as in 2000, Straight-C student GWB, to smarty-pants, I-invented-the-Internet, sigh guy Gore.

But Clinton must have rehearsed this to a fare-the-well, because she got the balance just right – presenting herself as someone who was supremely well prepared and carried the confidence of knowing that, without being a condescending prig.
Also – and this is important – Trump was not nearly the bully he had been in many of the Republican debates, and in his oratory toward Clinton to now. It was kind of reassuring and may help Trump by lowering the level of alarm about his possible election, even if he didn’t ring as many bells as his faithful might have liked.
Not only did he not call her Crooked Hillary, but when he first referred to her as Secretary Clinton, he solicitously asked if that was OK with her. (And yeah, I know he interrupted he a lot, but compared to his interactions with Lyin’ Ted  and Little Marco …)
TRUMP: Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton — yes, is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.
Of course, he couldn’t resist complimenting himself about his restraint.

HOLT: Mr. Trump, could we just take 10 seconds and then we ask the final question…

TRUMP: You know, Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials. Some of it’s said in entertainment. Some of it’s said — somebody who’s been very vicious to me, Rosie O’Donnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.

But you want to know the truth? I was going to say something…

HOLT: Please very quickly.

TRUMP: … extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.” But she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue. They’re untrue. And they’re misrepresentations.

And I will tell you this, Lester: It’s not nice. And I don’t deserve that.

But it’s certainly not a nice thing that she’s done. It’s hundreds of millions of ads. And the only gratifying thing is, I saw the polls come in today, and with all of that money…


Trump was referring to going after Bill Clinton for his treatment of women, but, at least last night, Trump chose not to go all Roger Stone/Robert Morrow The Clinton’s War on Women on her.




2. Trump might go gentle into that good night.

This is along the same lines of Trump appearing less dangerous and fringe than he sometimes appears, but also less like a guy with the momentum on his side, as he had appeared going into the debate but, I think, not coming out of it.

He once again said something almost offhandedly suggesting that maybe he doesn’t expect, and maybe never expected, to get elected president and it’s not that big a deal, that for him, the difference between building a new hotel and being the Leader of the Free World is sort of six of one, half-dozen of the other.

TRUMP: Now, if you want to change the laws, you’ve been there a long time, change the laws. But I take advantage of the laws of the nation because I’m running a company. My obligation right now is to do well for myself, my family, my employees, for my companies. And that’s what I do.

But what she doesn’t say is that tens of thousands of people that are unbelievably happy and that love me. I’ll give you an example. We’re just opening up on Pennsylvania Avenue right next to the White House, so if I don’t get there one way, I’m going to get to Pennsylvania Avenue another.

But we’re opening the Old Post Office. Under budget, ahead of schedule, saved tremendous money. I’m a year ahead of schedule. And that’s what this country should be doing.

Again, Trump came off as less fearsome, less paranoid, less troubling than he sometimes does, which may help him with some voters or lead others to wonder whether the thrill is gone.

HOLT: One of you will not win this election. So my final question to you tonight, are you willing to accept the outcome as the will of the voters? Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, I support our democracy. And sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But I certainly will support the outcome of this election.

And I know Donald’s trying very hard to plant doubts about it, but I hope the people out there understand: This election’s really up to you. It’s not about us so much as it is about you and your families and the kind of country and future you want. So I sure hope you will get out and vote as though your future depended on it, because I think it does.

HOLT: Mr. Trump, very quickly, same question. Will you accept the outcome as the will of the voters?

TRUMP: I want to make America great again. We are a nation that is seriously troubled. We’re losing our jobs. People are pouring into our country.

The other day, we were deporting 800 people. And perhaps they passed the wrong button, they pressed the wrong button, or perhaps worse than that, it was corruption, but these people that we were going to deport for good reason ended up becoming citizens. Ended up becoming citizens. And it was 800. And now it turns out it might be 1,800, and they don’t even know.

 HOLT: Will you accept the outcome of the election?

TRUMP: Look, here’s the story. I want to make America great again. I’m going to be able to do it. I don’t believe Hillary will. The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her.


HOLT: All right. Well, that is going to do it for us. That concludes our debate for this evening, a spirit one. We covered a lot of ground, not everything as I suspected we would.

3. How does a 400-pound man look slim? Sit next to the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
Easily my favorite moment of the debate, in a conversation about whether the Russians are responsible for cyber attacks on the U.S.
TRUMP: As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?


4. His squirming, snorting, and stink eye didn’t compare well with her poker face

From Adam Schiffer, political scientist, Texas Christian University.
This format was a bad fit for Trump.
His lack of policy knowledge is more noticeable with fewer candidates on stage. Once you’ve said “jobs are leaving” a dozen times, it grows stale.
His squirming, snorting, and stink eye didn’t compare well with her poker face. She was unflappable.
Incessant interrupting doesn’t work in a one-on-one debate, and will provide fresh video for gender-studies classes all over the country.
Trump’s best moments were when he highlighted his role as the change candidate, running against the status quo. But there were far too few of those to make that message stick.
Clinton began with a Clintonesque (both of them) laundry list of policy priorities, but generally didn’t get bogged down in obscure details. Her best moments were when she discussed the racial divide, one of many issues for which her lifetime of engagement with politics gave her a formidable advantage over someone who is just learning.
In any other year, this would be called one of the most lopsided debates ever. But it will be interesting to see what narrative emerges in this polarized, media-frenzied environment, where the only news-judgment value on cable is ensuring campaign surrogates get equal time to spin.

5. She won the big moments.
From  Kirby Goidel, professor in the Department of Communication and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University.
For the first 15-20 minutes or so, Trump effectively used interruptions to keep Clinton from really getting into any sustained argument. As the debate wore on though, Clinton maintained her composure, avoided becoming frustrated, and put Trump on the defensive. She also won the big moments, especially the birther exchange and then working in his negative comments about women at the very end.
Before the debate, I thought she needed to not get frustrated (Al Gore in 2000), to appear prepared and presidential, and, ideally, to really connect with voters. I am not sure she really connected but – to quote Meatloaf – 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
Trump, in contrast, I thought might win with a one-liner or by appearing more presidential. I don’t think he scored on either point. He was the same Trump, often rude and overbearing, and he was on the defensive throughout the night. After the first segment, he spent most of his time explaining.
Finally, I think he’ll take yet another hit after the post debate fact checkers do their work.
That said, I don’t know that this will change much, so maybe it wasn’t a Clinton knockout but she definitely won on points and it wasn’t a split decision.

6. Neither came off as a good politician.
From Brandon Rottinghaus, political scientist. University of Houston.
Both candidates hit their marks but Trump chased too many non-sequiturs to qualify for the win.
Clinton outlined a broad vision sprinkled with competency while Trump took to challenge her right away on trade and economic issues.  He made law and order a part of the campaign reminiscent of Nixon’s 1968 strategy.  This is important because he needs to solidify the white vote, especially in the South.
Polite disagreement lasted about 10 minutes before it turned ugly.  Oddly, Trump didn’t throw the first punch which was expected.  He kept his temperament in check for most of the debate but responded to a few taunts from Clinton.
Both candidates were more wonky than warm, and both failed to connect to the people in a direct way. Neither came off as a good politician.  It felt like both were talking to their base to gin them up rather than talking to undecided voters.
Trump pivoted on the tax return issue to Clinton’s email issue which was smart because if he can bring her trust numbers down to his low range.  The flurry of late debate interactions on Trump’s name calling gave Clinton a strong note on to end.
As the challenger, Trump’s demeanor felt more appropriate than expected from the temperamental Trump we often see on Twitter.  He was animated but it more often came off as passion instead of contrarian. Clinton appeared rehearsed but polished.
7. What gets said in the next couple days may be more important than what was said tonight.
From David Redlawsk, political scientist, University of Delaware.

Clinton did very well – calm, cool, collected – and had many facts at her fingertips. In other words, she met the basic expectations.

Trump did not delve into any details, but came across pretty much as we might have expected. Rambling at times with his stream of consciousness. Some of what he said would have had maybe a real
impact if he could stay focused long enough to say it all. But instead he reinforced the idea that he is not all that well versed in details. Still his supporters really don’t care about that.

In the end, Trump was more Twitter Trump (hotel shout out, Latinos as illegals, how bad all blacks have it), than he was Teleprompter Trump. But not really all that surprising.

I really felt Clinton shined in the temperament discussion, but again Trump supporters like his temperament. I don’t see this as winning him any new supporters, but I wonder if it will move undecideds to
Clinton at all. In the end, might move the needle a little toward Clinton, but I suspect as usual any effects will be short term; at least until the next debate.

But of course, I say all of this without reading/listening to the orgy of media conventional wisdom that is undoubtedly spewing all over my Twitter feed and the TV. If the media hands it to Clinton AND even Republican elites find it hard to find much good in Trump’s performance, maybe it does move it toward her. What gets said in the next couple days may be more important than what was said tonight.

I think Trump DID need to reach out beyond his base to get over the hump to actually win – he has to put together a winning coalition. I don’t think he did that tonight. But there are two more debates to go


8. Hillary Clinton carefully managed her facial expressions. Donald Trump was less careful.

From Josh Scacco assistant professor, Brian Lamb School of Communication, Purdue University

Overall, the first debate is the most watched of the three presidential debates and where individuals learn the most about issues and candidate personalities.

In general, debates rarely move the polling needle one way or the other. What debates can do is crystallize or break personality perceptions of the candidates.

Nonverbal communication is critical to shaping candidate perceptions. Hillary Clinton carefully managed her facial expressions. Donald Trump was less careful, choosing to sigh, make rapid facial movements, and shake his head frequently.

Donald Trump’s best debate moment came in the critical first 15 minutes of the debate when he discussed trade. He connected well on this issue, particularly with the blue collar voters in the Midwest. The top viewership of the debate tuned in at this time and Trump was at his best.

Donald Trump’s worst debate moment came in defense of his views on the Iraq War. His answer was off-message and lacked clarity.

Hillary Clinton’s best debate moments came when she discussed the contribution of NATO membership to U.S. foreign policy and her pivot to her experience as Secretary of State when discussing the ‘stamina’ question.

Hillary Clinton’s worst debate moment came in defense of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Selling this position to Midwestern voters will be difficult.



9. He wasn’t in control of his body or his words.

From Jennifer Mercieca, professor, Department of Communication, Texas A&M University, who is writing a book on Trump and demagoguery.

This is from an interview Mercieca conducted last night wit Tom Jacobs with Pacific Standard magazine.

PS: I think it’s fair to say the two candidates have communicated in very different styles this election: Trump is visceral, highly emotional, while Clinton is relatively restrained and intellectual. Did anything change tonight? Did you notice one or both candidates attempting to move more toward the rhetorical center? If so, do you think it worked?
JM: I thought that Trump was less aggressive tonight, which seemed to be his strategy. He referred to her as “Secretary” for example and was only aggressive when defending himself against what he claimed were unfair attacks or misrepresentations of his record. He used paralipsis and Ad Baculum once that I noticed—when he said that he could attack her for much worse that he was, but that it didn’t seem like a good idea during the debate. I thought that Clinton appeared more likable, more knowledgeable, and more presidential than Trump.
PS: Do you think Trump’s bombast or Clinton’s coolness is a more effective way of connecting with voters? Or is each of them effectively reaching THEIR OWN partisans? Is there any way of knowing what the undecided voters are likely to respond to?
JM: My students at debatewatch were disappointed with Trump’s performance. They thought that he didn’t do a good enough job of laying out his policies and positions and spent too much time defending himself or clarifying his record on his business. No one who watched the debate tonight in our 50ish person debatewatch changed their mind about for whom they were voting, including the undecideds.
PS: Trump interrupted Clinton a lot, interjecting ‘no’ or some other objection as she spoke. She basically ignored him and kept talking. Good move on her part? Will that annoy people who believe in politeness, especially women who feel men don’t listen to them?
JM: I thought that she had command of the debate and the debate stage. The only time she seemed smug (a fear for her partisans going in) was when Trump was over explaining or being defensive about his business or his positions or when he was criticizing her. She played to the camera in those moments in a way that looked smug, but I think was probably OK. I think Gore’s problem in 2000 was that he looked smug every time Bush answered, not just when Bush said something wrong or attacked. She showed good restraint.
 PS: And what about body language? Trump couldn’t seem to stand perfectly still; he kept clearing his throat (or something) and shifting his feet. What did that convey? What did Clinton’s much calmer demeanor convey?
JM: He was not in control. He wasn’t in control of his body or his words. He had many false starts, rambling thoughts, interjected new ideas into sentences, etc. It was all of a piece.
PS: Predictably, Trump kept turning the conversation back to himself– he even made some reference to people loving him (I have to look up the specific quote, but it was certainly odd to hear it in a debate). I would think her attempt to keep turning the conversation back to ‘This is about you and your future’ would be more effective. What do you think?
JM: Yes, I agree. The single most memorable and most presidential moment of the debate was at the end when Clinton transcended the debate format, look directly into the camera, and spoke to foreign leaders assuring them that America was going to honor its alliances. In that moment she made him look silly and made herself president.

10. Trump has clearly demonstrated that he is not a “fascist.”
From Jared Taylor, white nationalist editor of American Renaissance.

I think the real lesson of this debate is that Trump has clearly demonstrated that he is not a “fascist,” not “a threat to democracy,” not a hopeless ignoramus. That sounds like faint praise, but he showed himself to be so completely different from the way that he has been described that people who have not been paying careful attention will realize how badly he has been mischaracterized.



The Passion of the Cruz. Or how Ted overcame his martyr complex.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, marks the start of his presidential campaign by giving the convocation address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Monday, Photographer: Jay Paul/Bloomberg
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz marks the start of his presidential campaign by giving the convocation address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Photographer: Jay Paul/Bloomberg

Good morning Austin:

Ever since Ted Cruz was booed off the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, I have thought that Cruz had a martyr complex.

Sure, he would have preferred to have received a thunderous ovation and have the convention, swept up in his oratory, change its mind and, by acclamation, nominate him instead of Donald Trump.

But short of that, I suspected he took a certain pleasure in all that negative attention and all those boos, for having all that abuse heaped upon him for having the courage to deliver this seemingly innocuous, unassailable line.

Please, don’t stay home in November. If you love our country and love our children as much as I know that you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.

I have told people about my Cruz martyr complex theory and no one seems to agree that Cruz took any pleasure in being booed.

But I’m not ready to let it go.

I mean here is a man who has built his political and Senate career on being a man apart, the lonely courageous Ayn Rand hero, one pure voice, one Godly individual, one courageous constitutional conservative, standing alone against the forces of evil, and, if necessary, paying a dear and painful price for his steadfastness.

Sure, he would have to figure as the boos rained down on him, the next few months would be tough, but hey, martyrdom has its price.

And, when it was all over, he would be the last man of conscience standing.

It had the makings of the perfect presidential ad for 2020.



The ad would open with Cruz’s noble words about conscience, the cascade of boos and hoots of derision, the deep-voiced narrator intoning, “At a time when other politicians were taking the easy, opportunistic path, Ted Cruz told the truth and stood tall for constitutional conservative principles and Christian values. He invited the scorn of his own party, but Ted Cruz never wavered.”


But that ad is now on the scrap heap. Doesn’t really work if you stood strong  for a sum total of two months before casting conscience to the wind and bowing down and pledging obeisance to the same false idol – an idolator short and a day late.

As of Friday, Cruz’s time on the cross has ended. If he had a martyr complex, he’s worked through it and overcome it. With a Facebook post he announced he was endorsing Trump and explained why.

Ted Cruz shakes hands after his appearance at the Texas Tribune Festival Saturday

From Erica Grieder at Texas Monthly under the headline, Ted Cruz Caves:

First, both of the reasons Cruz gave for his decision, in a statement he posted on Facebook Friday afternoon—that he signed a pledge and that Hillary Clinton is unacceptable—are demonstrably ridiculous. Even if you agree that Clinton is more “unacceptable” than Trump, and that a pledge made to the Republican National Committee should take precedence over one’s oath of office and one’s repeated promises to work for the 27 million people of Texas, it remains the case that Cruz signed the pledge last year and could have known, months ago, that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. If those are his real reasons for endorsing Trump, in other words, he would have done so at the Republican National Convention, in July. In fact, he would have done so in May, at the Republican Party of Texas convention instead of refusing to do so in our interview.

His answer effectively precluded him from endorsing either Clinton or Trump; I noted that at the time, and he didn’t disagree. Beyond that, multiple sources close to Cruz confirmed to me, last week, that he was considering an endorsement. Every single one of them cited external pressure. There was some disagreement about the source of the pressure, but none of them had changed their minds about Trump, and none of them suggested that Cruz had done so. In other words, Cruz’s assessment of Trump’s merits relative to Clinton’s hasn’t changed; what’s changed is his assessment of the relative risks of refusing to endorse Trump.


In an appearance at the Texas Tribune Festival, Cruz elaborated on his thinking. From my story.

Cruz said it was not the threats or entreaties of the powerful that persuaded him to endorse Trump.

“I’ve heard from a great many grass-roots supporters across the state, Republicans and tea party activists, people who are good, principled, honorable patriots who are tearfully begging me to support the nominee,” Cruz said. “If people from Washington are smacking me with a stick, that doesn’t bother me. To be honest, it actually tells me I might be doing something right. But I tell you, when you hear the voices of the grass-roots activists who believe with all their heart in the principles I believe in, those are the voices that have moved me. “

That’s leadership by followership.

While Cruz kept saying that he could not now, in good conscience, not support Trump over Hillary Clinton,  his description here is not of an act of conscience but an act of political self-interest.

It’s as if Jesus, when confronted with the mob about to stone the woman caught in adultery, had said, “You know, I was going to say that “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” But, after talking to y’all, who believe with all your heart in the principles I believe in, I’ve done some soul-searching, and if you think it’s best to stone her, well, fire away. Anyway, she’s a loser.



The point here is that Ted Cruz’s relationship with Donald Trump has from the get-go has been about Cruz’s political self-interest, and it was only when that self-interest no longer fit with a fawning relationship with Trump, that Cruz found Trump to be morally offensive.

Because there is really nothing we know about the essential Donald Trump that wasn’t apparent from the day he announced for president – nothing except the fact that he would prove so successful.

But Ted Cruz, alone among Trump’s opponents, repeatedly flattered and praised and came to Trump’s defense, until Trump turned on Cruz with a vengeance.

Only Cruz, among Trump’s rivals, found his announcement statement with his talk about Mexican rapists pouring into the country, edifying.

“When it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific. I think he’s brash. I think he speaks the truth,” Cruz said during an interview on Fox and Friends in late June.


Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.34.49 AM

And Cruz stood alone the next month when he refused to criticize Trump for mocking John McCain’s credentials as a war hero.


From CNN on July 18.

For his part, Cruz told reporters he considers McCain “a friend” whom he respects and admires.
“Not only did he sign up to defend our nation, putting his life in harm’s way, but when he was a POW, he was imprisoned, tortured, and most incredibly, he was offered the opportunity for early release, he was offered the opportunity to go home, and he turned it down because he believed it would be dishonorable to accept that.”
But he declined to speak ill of his presidential rival, with whom he met earlier this week in New York after becoming the most notable 2016 hopeful to side with Trump over his controversial remarks on immigration. Instead, Cruz on Saturday blamed the media for trying to pit Republicans against each other.
 “You know I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican-on-Republican violence, and so you want me to say something bad about Donald Trump, or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else,” he said. “I’m not going to do it.”

From Bloomberg TV:

Mark Halperin: I’m trying to understand what separates you from some of the others who feel this is sort of beyond the pale.

Cruz: I’m not going to engage in the media’s game of bashing another Republican candidate.

OK, so the plan was to run for the Republican nomination for president without criticizing his rivals? Really?

This is Ted Cruz, whose essential identity was the man denouncing virtually every other Republican in the Senate, with the exception of Mike Lee, as RINOs, Quislings and quitters, who plotted the demise of House Speaker John Boehner, and who, within a week of the statement above about not refusing to speak ill of another Republican, was calling Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor.

The Cruz-Trump bromance, which Cruz so assiduously cultivated, lasted a long time.

Until Trump crossed a line, and aggressively went after Cruz on the question of whether his Canadian birth might disqualify him from serving as president. (Cruz was not so concerned about the infinitely more far-fetched questions Trump had raised for years about Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president.)


In other words, Donald Trump jumped the shark when he did to Ted Cruz what he had done to every single other rival, back when Cruz thought Trump was “terrific.”

But, what really ripped it for Cruz were an unflattering photo of his wife, Heidi, that Trump retweeted.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 5.09.53 AM


And, especially, Trump’s insinuation, on the day of the Indiana primary, that Cruz’s father, Rafael, was linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, based on a ridiculous National Enquirer story.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 5.03.53 AM

But, let’s look back at that moment.

This is Rafael Cruz in Indiana:

I exhort every member of the body of Christ to vote according to the word of God and vote for the candidate who stands on the word of God and on the Constitution of the United States of America.



And I am convinced that that man is  my son, Ted Cruz.



The alternative could be the destruction of America.




Trump, who is on the phone as this tape is being played for him, is asked by Fox host Ainsley Earhardt, “Does that resonate with the folks in Indiana?”

TRUMP: I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to do it. I think it’s a disgrace he’s allowed to say it. You know I’m backed by, you look at Jerry Falwell Jr., you look at so many of the ministers backing me, and they’re backing me more so than they are backing Cruz. and I’m winning the evangelical vote and it’s disgraceful that his father could go out and do that, and so many people are angry about it, and the evangelicals are angry about it and the way he does that, and there’s a whole thing. And you know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald.

And, you know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean they don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it. But I think it’s horrible. I think it’s absolutely horrible that a man can go and do that, what he’s saying there.

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Right. There was a picture out there that reportedly shows Rafael Cruz standing with Lee Harvey Oswald —

TRUMP: I mean what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting? It’s horrible.


Crazy indeed.

But, keep in mind, the morning of the ultimately decisive Indiana primary, Trump, thin-skinned narcissist and world-class hyperbolist, is confronted with only the latest evidence that Rafael Cruz is going around the country telling evangelical Chrisitans that God wants them to vote for Ted Cruz, and that if they vote for Donald Trump, God may destroy America, and Trump, the renowned counterpuncher, counter punches.

I mean which is more out there – that Rafael Cruz knew Lee Harvey Oswald or that God will destroy America if Ted Cruz is not elected president?





This from Brieitbart’s Dan Riehl on April 19, on a Rafael Cruz interview with Stephen Bannon, who is now the CEO of the Trump campaign.

Rafael Cruz: Donald Trump ‘Would Be Worse Than Hillary Clinton, But He Cannot Beat Hillary Clinton

Citing GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s long history of supporting “ultra-liberal” Democrats, Rafael Cruz, father of Ted Cruz, told Breitbart News Daily SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon that as president Donald Trump “would be worse than Hillary Clinton, but he cannot beat Hillary Clinton.”

“We’ve got to realize, Donald Trump is more of a Democrat than a Republican,” Cruz said. “He has been funding Democrats like Chuck Schumer, like Harry Reid, like Anthony Weiner, like de Blasio and many others. For forty years he has been supporting all these ultra-liberal politicians. He would be worse than Hillary Clinton, but he cannot beat Hillary Clinton.”

“It’s very simple. All they have to do is look at the polls,” he said in response to those who think Trump might be a stronger candidate against Hillary Clinton. “Poll after poll after poll after poll after poll shows that if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, he loses to Hillary Clinton by double digits. Donald Trump cannot beat Hillary Clinton. That would be the dream ticket for Hillary Clinton because all the polls show that Donald Trump would lose and would lose by a landslide.”

As for the convention and the GOP nomination, Cruz predicted his son will win on a second of third ballot once delegates sent by voters to Cleveland deserted Trump. “I think that this is going to go to the convention. And if Donald Trump does not get 1,237 — and I don’t believe he will — he will lose at the convention. I believe that my son will get the nomination, if not by the second ballot, maybe by the third ballot.”

“As we get into the convention and delegates are released, we’ll see Sen. Cruz’s support increase more and more. And I am convinced that he will get the nomination,” he continued.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 7.17.44 AM

He also went on to make the general case for his son versus “dealmaker” Donald Trump at length.

“Liberalism is not the answer and neither is Donald Trump. We need to realize that we are in the problems we are today because of all these corrupt politicians. We don’t really need a deal maker. We are where we are in America today because of all the corrupt deals that have been made behind closed doors at the expense of the American people. And Donald Trump represents the other spectrum of that. Donald Trump is the one, or one of the ones that have been funding all these corrupt politicians. He is the other end of the corruption. He is the ultimate crony capitalist,” he said.

“We don’t need a deal maker. We don’t need a bully. We don’t need another imperial president like we have today. We need a statesman. We need someone that will take America back to the Constitution, to the rule of law, to limited government,” he said. “We need, more than anything else, we need a servant of ‘we the people.’”

“If there’s one thing Sen. Cruz understands, it’s servant leadership. He understands that he would go to the White House to be a servant to every American,” he added.



And, from Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed on the last day of Cruz’s campaign.

INDIANAPOLIS — Ted Cruz has almost reached the bottom of his bag of tricks.

Casting the primary as literally a battle between good and evil, Cruz has pulled out all the stops ahead of Indiana, naming Carly Fiorina as his running mate, making a non-aggression pact with John Kasich, and aggressively barnstorming the state in the final hours, much as he did in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.

Cruz has hung on in the Republican primary longer than anyone predicted, emerging as the last viable alternative to Donald Trump and the unlikely figurehead of a movement of anti-Trump Republicans hoping to stop the billionaire’s rise. But for those anti-Trump Republicans, tonight will be a reckoning — and after this, there may not be any options. Should Trump win on Tuesday night, as he is expected to do, it’s very likely he will be able to clinch the nomination outright in California next month.

“I believe in the people of the Hoosier state,” Cruz told an audience in La Porte on Sunday night. Cruz has repeatedly said that the primary is a pivotal moment on which the entire campaign rests, raising the stakes for himself. “I believe that the men and women gathered here and the goodness of the American people, that we will not give into evil but we will remember who we are and we will stand for our values.”

Unlike Trump, who has relied on constant media attention and large stadium rallies, Cruz’s team focuses on the more nuts-and-bolts building blocks of a successful presidential campaign — delegate hunting, data, get-out-the-vote organizing. Outside of Indiana, his campaign has focused — often successfully — on picking off delegates wherever they can in an effort to hold Donald Trump below the magic number of 1237. They’re resourceful, even cutting a deal with Kasich to cede Oregon and New Mexico to him in exchange for Indiana after facing the reality that a contested convention was their only hope for the nomination.

But in recent days, many of Cruz’s hallmarks — his carefully calibrated message against Trump, his willingness to talk about the process of winning, and his ability to pull out an incredibly effective surrogate when needed — have faded.

Cruz has elevated his rhetoric against Trump, turning toward the moral case against the frontrunner, particularly after Trump suggested that Cruz’s father may have had something to do with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“I’m gonna tell you what I really think of Donald Trump,” Cruz told reporters in extended comments on Tuesday. “This man is a pathological liar.”

Cruz went on to call Trump “amoral,” saying “morality does not exist for him,” and said of Trump that “we are staring at the abyss.” The language is jarring compared to Cruz’s refusal to criticize Trump earlier on in the primary process, when his only response to Trump’s questioning his eligibility for the presidency was a tweeted Happy Days video

But that was then. Hillary Clinton is now a bigger, or I guess deeper, abyss than Donald Trump, and Cruz said Saturday at the Texas Tribune Festival, that while Trump has not apologized for what he retweeted about Heidi Cruz and said about Rafael Cruz, Cruz and his father and his wife have agreed to forgive Trump, clearing the way for an endorsement.

From the Blaze:

For Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), the decision to endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump wasn’t an easy one.

Although for the former Republican presidential nominee’s supporters the decision seemed to be sudden and rash, Cruz told KTRK-TV Friday that the decision to support Trump didn’t come as a result of a political deal, but rather it came after several months of thought and prayer.

And, it would seem, Trump’s improved standing in the polls.

But what of those, like Cruz until Friday, who felt that Trump held a special peril for the Republican Party, for America, for the planet?

From Eric Grieder:

I remember, from our conversation in May, how genuinely distressed he seemed at the realization that Trump would be the Republican nominee. I believe he was sincerely convinced that a Trump presidency would put the country, and the Constitution, in real peril. And I suspect that Cruz, in the privacy of the voting booth, may not tick the box for Trump in November.

At the same time, I’m aware that even before today’s news, it was tricky to persuade anyone to consider giving Cruz the benefit of the doubt about anything—and after today, it will be impossible. Either his endorsement is a pack of lies, or his speech at the RNC was: they can’t both be true. And though it’s possible that “Lyin’ Ted” might still one day become president, the odds, in my view, are now vanishingly narrow. We’ve all heard it a million times: “Everyone hates Ted Cruz.” And now he’s given this faceless “everyone” plenty of reason to do so.

And, the exact same day that Cruz announced he was backing Trump, the Houston Chronicle reported that Heidi Cruz was going back to work for Goldman Sachs:

Heidi Cruz, who left Goldman Sachs Group last year to help her husband Ted Cruz in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, is returning to the bank in a newly created role in the Houston office.

Cruz, 44, will concentrate on helping to win new clients, focusing on strategic relationships, according to a memo to staff Friday from Tucker York, global head of private-wealth management for the New York-based firm. She’ll report to David Fox, head of the southwest region for the wealth business.

Goldman also provided a crucial loan to Cruz’s Senate race, which he didn’t originally report. The Goldman name is not golden in tea party – or for that matter Bernie Sanders – circles.

From the Wall Street Journal today:

Millions of Republicans are agonizing over their presidential vote given the flawed main-party choices, and we know how they feel. Then there’s Ted Cruz, whose lane-jumping over Donald Trump is reminding Republicans why the Texas Senator lost to the New Yorker when he finally got the one-on-one primary showdown he wanted.

On Friday Mr. Cruz announced on Facebook that, after much “prayer and searching my own conscience,” he will vote for Mr. Trump after all on Election Day. He offered two reasons: “First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word”; and, second, Hillary Clinton “is wholly unacceptable.”

Those reasons are less than persuasive as both were also true two months ago when Mr. Cruz so ostentatiously refused to endorse Mr. Trump in his speech at the Republican convention. That non-endorsement was all the more striking because Mr. Cruz had helped Mr. Trump by kissing up to him for months during the primaries when the businessman might still have been defeated. He challenged Mr. Trump only when it was too late, and now he flips again to endorse him.

What has changed since July is Mr. Trump’s standing in the polls. Then it looked like he could lose in a blowout. Mr. Cruz was positioning himself as the principled conservative who could say he had warned Republicans so he could get a jump on the 2020 nomination. This was the post-convention line from the entire Cruz coterie.

Mr. Cruz’s problem is that the transparent calculation of his Cleveland speech alienated more Republicans than it won over, including many of his major campaign funders and Texas conservatives. Mr. Trump has since made it a close race, so Mr. Cruz risked getting some of the blame if the New Yorker loses. The polls show Mr. Cruz could also face a serious 2018 primary challenge from former Texas Governor Rick Perry or House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul. Friday’s reversal thus looks more like damage repair than political principle.

Mr. Cruz’s machinations won’t matter much in November but they are worth keeping in mind after the election. If Mr. Trump loses, the GOP will have to rebuild from the rubble of a third straight presidential defeat. Mr. Cruz is already planning his 2020 campaign and he will try to cast himself as the only true conservative. The Texan’s shape-shifting regarding Mr. Trump reveals his true political character.

Mr. Cruz’s calculations are also relevant for governing in the next Congress. If Mr. Trump loses and Republicans hold the House, they will need to stay united to eke out policy victories in a Hillary Clinton Presidency. Mr. Cruz will make that unity difficult by using his talk-radio and Heritage Foundation echo chambers to claim that any compromise with a President Clinton is an ideological sellout, even if it modestly advances conservative goals.

Republicans of good conscience can differ on the Trump candidacy given his sometimes incendiary comments and his changeable policy views. The way Mr. Cruz has handled the choice is a clinic in political cynicism.

As to Cruz’s talk-radio and Heritage Foundation echo chambers, it can well be argued that they laid the groundwork for Trump’s rise.

From the Texas Tribune Festival:

It’s too late to consider what-might-have-been, but it’s too bad Cruz couldn’t have gotten a gig a la his former communications director Rick Tyler at MSNBC, or Trump’s former campaign manger Corey Lewandowski with CNN, and been on the air tonight as Fox’s debate expert, offering his forensic analysis of the Clinton-Trump showdown. That could have been great.



Trump or no Trump. Ted Cruz’s time to choose.



Good day Austin:

(Note: Since this First Reading was originally filed this morning, Politco is reporting that a Cruz announcement that he plans to vote for Trump is imminent.)

Sen. Ted Cruz’s one-on-one interview Saturday with Texas Tribune editor-in-chief and CEO Evan Smith ought to be one of the highlights of the Texas Tribune Festival.

Smith can be expected to give Cruz a thoroughly Jesuitical, or perhaps Talmudic, cross-examination on the question most on people’s minds about Cruz: Will he or won’t he endorse Donald Trump for president.

On the one hand, Smith may ask Cruz, if you don’t endorse Trump, are you not breaking your pledge, made during the primary campaign that you would back the eventual nominee? And, if you believe, as you say, that Hillary Clinton must not become president, don’t you have an obligation to do what you can to affirmatively back the only realistic alternative? Why play games?

On the other hand, he may ask, if you do now, belatedly, endorse Trump, aren’t you putting party above principle by endorsing a man you believe to be so wholly unfit to serve, and so dangerous the national well-being? What would you tell your wife, your father, your daughters?

From my story of the last day of Cruz’s presidential campaign in May.

Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz made a swift and graceful exit from the Republican presidential race before a dispirited group of supporters Tuesday night, his hopes of carrying his campaign against Donald Trump to a contested national convention crushed by Indiana voters he hoped would be too level-headed to be wooed by Trump.

Hours earlier, Cruz had let his pent-up animus toward Trump burst forth at a remarkable press conference that cast doubt on whether he could ever back the man who by day’s end would be the presumptive Republican nominee.

Infuriated by Trump’s wild implication that his Cuban-born father might be linked to John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Cruz for more than 10 intense minutes at a press conference in Evansville, Ind., unleashed a furious and personal attack that dismissed Trump as desperately insecure and amoral — a pathological liar who would degrade the presidency and disgrace the nation.

As he vented, Cruz appealed to Hoosier decency and common sense, telling voters that this a better country, that they are better people, and that, as the last checkpoint before Trump got his passport stamped for the GOP convention, they just had to say “no.”

“If Indiana does not act, this country could well plunge into the abyss,” Cruz warned. “I don’t believe that’s who we are. We are not a proud, boastful, self-centered, mean-spirited, hateful, bullying nation.”

Infuriated by Trump’s wild implication that his Cuban-born father might be linked to John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Cruz for more than 10 intense minutes at a press conference in Evansville, Ind., unleashed a furious and personal attack that dismissed Trump as desperately insecure and amoral — a pathological liar who would degrade the presidency and disgrace the nation.

As he vented, Cruz appealed to Hoosier decency and common sense, telling voters that this a better country, that they are better people, and that, as the last checkpoint before Trump got his passport stamped for the GOP convention, they just had to say “no.”

“If Indiana does not act, this country could well plunge into the abyss,” Cruz warned. “I don’t believe that’s who we are. We are not a proud, boastful, self-centered, mean-spirited, hateful, bullying nation.”

But instead of being a galvanizing moment, Cruz’s attack was the last gasp of a dying campaign that, for all its success and fortitude, had fallen short.

Cruz, — who was unique among the large Republican field for having cheered Trump’s early ascent as good for the party and what he saw as their shared brand of outsider politics — had long ago soured on the relationship with the man who had come to relentlessly call him “Lyin’ Ted.”

For months, with increasing urgency, Cruz had sought to brand Trump a bearer of New York values, Clinton’s liberal flip side, a political fraud, a pretender making “chumps” of his champions.

But, until Tuesday, Cruz had held in reserve the full depths of his revulsion at virtually everything about Trump and what he represented.

“I’m going to do something I have not done for the entire campaign. I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump,” said Cruz, flanked by his wife, Heidi, and Carly Fiorina, his choice for vice presidential running mate — both of whom have been subjected to personal attacks by Trump.

“If any of you have seen the movie, `Back to the Future II,’ the screenwriter says that he based the character of Biff Tannen on Donald Trump — a caricature of a braggadocious, arrogant buffoon who builds giant casinos with giant pictures of him wherever he looks. We are looking potentially at a Biff Tannen presidency,” Ted Cruz said.

Cruz asked if his listeners could imagine a president who “talks about how great it is to commit adultery” and “described his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam” on the Howard Stern Show.

“I will tell you, as the father of two young girls, the idea of my daughters coming home and repeating any word that man says horrifies me,” Cruz said

It is a really interesting situation Cruz finds himself in, and not one with an obvious, or at any rate a universally agreed-upon answer.

Former Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri told me this week that Cruz’s failure to endorse Trump was “always a lose-lose for Cruz.”

“If Mr. Trump wins, he is president of the United States and it doesn’t look like it’s the best political move to anger a future president,” Munisteri said. “And if Mr. Trump were to lose, there would be some in the party who would blame him.”

As I wrote earlier this week:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, faulted Cruz this week for his failure to jump aboard the Trump train.

In his comments on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Monday and on Mark Davis’ radio show Tuesday, Patrick, who chaired Cruz’s Texas presidential campaign during primary season and is now chairing Trump’s general election campaign in Texas, took pains to frame his criticism of the senator as looking out for Cruz’s best interests.

“I stay loyal to my friends, and Ted’s a friend, but obviously I’m disappointed,” Patrick told Ingraham, a conservative radio host who backs Trump.

“I’m hoping there’s still time for him to come forward, or I think he and all the other people you named (who have failed to endorse Trump) will be left in the rearview mirror of the Republican Party moving forward,” Patrick said. “So I’m hoping Ted comes forward. I’m visiting with him on that issue, of course.”

“If Trump loses, it will be a close race,” Patrick told Davis, a conservative Dallas radio host. “If he loses it could be a state or two, and Ted could make a big difference in those states.”

“I think Ted is secure for his Senate seat,” Patrick said. But, he added, “Ted is a young, passionate, bright conservative with a great future, I mean a long-term future, and nationally, he has definitely taken a hit. He knows it, everybody knows it, at the convention and now by not supporting Trump even at this late date.”

In his comments on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Monday and on Mark Davis’ radio show Tuesday, Patrick, who chaired Cruz’s Texas presidential campaign during primary season and is now chairing Trump’s general election campaign in Texas, took pains to frame his criticism of the senator as looking out for Cruz’s best interests.

“I stay loyal to my friends, and Ted’s a friend, but obviously I’m disappointed,” Patrick told Ingraham, a conservative radio host who backs Trump.

“I’m hoping there’s still time for him to come forward, or I think he and all the other people you named (who have failed to endorse Trump) will be left in the rearview mirror of the Republican Party moving forward,” Patrick said. “So I’m hoping Ted comes forward. I’m visiting with him on that issue, of course.”

McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called it “unconscionable” for any good Republican to sit on the sidelines and let Hillary Clinton become commander-in-chief.

Patrick has eschewed future interest in any elective office other than the one he now holds, but McCaul has been mentioned as a potential Cruz rival.

McCaul didn’t directly answer when Ingraham asked if he planned to challenge Cruz for his Senate seat in 2018.

“There’s been a lot of talk and buzz about that,” McCaul said, before launching into his criticism of Cruz’s behavior in Cleveland.

McCaul is very unlikely to actually challenge Cruz for renomination.

The same is even more true of Patrick. But Patrick’s remarks were really an exquisite example of deftly inserting the knife and twisting it, all in the name of looking out for Cruz and his best interests.

“If Trump loses, it will be a close race,” Patrick told Davis, a conservative Dallas radio host. “If he loses it could be a state or two, and Ted could make a big difference in those states.”

“I think Ted is secure for his Senate seat,” Patrick said. But, he added, “Ted is a young, passionate, bright conservative with a great future, I mean a long-term future, and nationally, he has definitely taken a hit. He knows it, everybody knows it, at the convention and now by not supporting Trump even at this late date.”

And then this line from Patrick, which stands as rebuke not just of Cruz’s failure to endorse Trump, but of the whole raison d’etre of Cruz’s Senate career and political ascent.

The key is that f Trump wins, he’s going to turn to the people that helped him win it in terms of senators and congressman that he works with. I don’t want Ted to be an outsider. He’s too sharp and too bright to be on the outside looking in.



Rice University Mark Jones doesn’t think Cruz has much to lose by withholding his endorsement.

“I think Cruz will be just fine,” Jones said. “I think Cruz likes being an outsider.”

“I think Ted Cruz has shrewdly calculated the odds, because he only loses in the scenario that Trump wins and has a successful presidency and pursues a conservative agenda,  and I think the odds of that are relatively low,” Jones said.

“I think a lot of Texas Republicans are, let’s support Trump just enough so we won’t take blame for his loss  – he’ll win Texas, so let’s not take any blowback but let’s get through the election, we’ll win Texas and then we’ll put Trump in the rearview mirror. It will be a one-off, an unfortunate event and we’ll focus on the future.”

But for Cruz to reverse course and endorse under political duress would not look good, Jones said.

“To do it under pressure would be to be an insider.”


But SMU political scientist Cal Jillson thinks that’s exactly what Cruz is about to do.

“If the idea is that he was acting on principle and Trump had offended his wife and his father and therefore he could not bring himself to support him, that is about to take a back seat to his political instincts and needs I think.”

“I think he will find a way,” Jillson told me yesterday. “I read a story this morning that the fact that Trump had spoken well of Cruz’s internet initiative just might be the thing that allows him to endorse Trump. Now that is ludicrous. There are myriad major issues facing the country and that is not one of them.”

Nonetheless, Jillson said, “I think Cruz will find a way at some point, and I think it will be sooner rather than later. Sometime in the next few weeks he will find a way to make a statement, by no means full-throated, it may be a half measure, but a way to say that he did not deny Trump his support during the general election cycle.”

“I think what he can do is sort of  stop the bleeding but I don’t think he can afford to  make a full-throated endorsement and then go out on the stump for Trump. That would just be too much given the reluctance that he has demonstrated to this point and to the extent that it is a matter of principle, he has every reason to be mad and stay mad on a personal level.”

But, if the refuses to endorse, “and Trump loses, he would get part of the blame.”

“I think the hope in his convention statement was that he would get sort of a Reaganesque reaction, that he would fail to endorse but talk about conservative values and then, if Trump lost, he would be the natural representative of those values in 2020. The idea of his speech was to remain separate  from Trump on the assumption that Trump would go down and that he would pick up the flag and continue to charge up the hill.”

But instead, Jillson said, Cruz’s speech and his failure to endorse was so negatively received then and since – among his grassroots supporters, his big donors, and with Republicans across the board – “all he can do now is to inoculate himself against being blamed in the event of a Trump defeat and also not to be completely on the outside should he win.”

“Cruz is calculating continuously – and the calculation today is just very different than two months ago and I think he does have reason to try to get right with the Republican primary constituency in Texas and other Republican constituencies, all the way up to the Republican Party in Washington, so that he won’t be blamed and completely outside should Trump win.”

Of course, there is also the question of how Trump would react to a Cruz endorsement. Presumably he would accept it with some grace. Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was the pollster for Cruz’s super PACs.

But, the last word from Trump on a Cruz endorsement came the day after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Trump coloring book



From my story:

CLEVELAND — He didn’t call him “Lyin’ Ted.”

But at his first appearance since his generally well-regarded acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday night, Donald Trump on Friday said that Ted Cruz lied when he said the day before that he wasn’t obliged to honor a pledge to support the Republican nominee because Trump had attacked his wife and father during their bitter primary campaign.

And then Trump delivered a tirade that was way off his campaign message, returning intraparty feuding to the headlines.

I don’t want his endorsement. If he gives it, I will not accept it,” Trump said at an event with running mate Mike Pence to thank campaign volunteers in Cleveland before leaving town. “Just so you understand. If he gives it, I will not accept. It won’t matter.”

Trump also referred to the Texas senator’s potential future presidential ambitions: “I don’t see him winning anyway, frankly. But if he did, it’s fine. Although maybe I’ll set up a super PAC if he decides to run. Are you allowed to set up a super PAC, Mike, if you are the president, to fight somebody?”

Trump then gave an extended explanation of what he said and did during the campaign with regard to Cruz’s father, Rafael, and his wife, Heidi — calling attention to a National Enquirer story linking the elder Cruz to John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and retweeting a meme with an unflattering photo of Heidi — and why they didn’t merit Cruz’s outrage.


On Thursday, Cruz and his campaign manager, Jeff Roe, said it was still possible that Cruz would endorse Trump if he becomes satisfied that Trump has said and done things to reassure Cruz about his understanding and commitment to constitutional conservatism.

“By saying he no longer will accept his endorsement, Trump is getting rid of the escape valve for the senator,” Munisteri said, explaining that Trump has made it harder for Cruz to appease his critics in the party by eventually endorsing Trump. It also means that Trump has effectively ended any continuing effort to establish a political rapprochement between the two men.

The majority of the Texas delegation wanted and still want Sen. Cruz to endorse Trump, and this reminds people that he hasn’t, and that doesn’t help him,” said Munisteri, who was an at-large delegate to the convention and a convention consultant to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Roe was asked Thursday whether an apology from Trump for the personal attacks on Rafael and Heidi Cruz might make a difference in enabling Cruz to eventually endorse Trump.

“No,” he said. “That’s playground stuff.”

Ted Cruz supporter at Republican National Convention reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
Ted Cruz supporter at Republican National Convention reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland

So what is Cruz’s way out of this maze?

A few weeks ago I talked with Bryan Eppstein, the Republican political consultant from Fort Worth, who offered the counter-intuitive theory that Trump’s candidacy would lead to an increase in Republican straight-ticket voting in Texas. Why? Because it affords a voter a little psychological distance, a way to vote for Trump as just another part of the ticket, without have to explicitly cast a vote for Trump

So maybe that’s Cruz’s way out – say he’s voting a straight Republican ticket. Period.

“You could see how that would work for Cruz,” said Jillson, though he’s not so sure about that period.

“There’s always that hubris. He sees himself as the articulate debating champion, the thoughtful, principled guy, so I think he has to have something more to say.”

Also complicating Cruz’s moral posturing on Trump is that, more than any of Trump’s other rivals – and a time when Rick Perry was calling Trump out as a carnival barking cancer on conservatism – Cruz coddled and flattered Trump out of most transparently opportunistic self-interest.

From Jim Newell at Slate. in May.

This may be a tedious thing to keep pointing out, but Cruz spent the first six or seven months of Trump’s candidacy as Trump’s biggest booster and validator to the conservative grassroots. There’s always been some truth to the moniker of “Lyin’ Ted.” His greatest lie of all was pretending that he ever thought there was a decent bone in Trump’s body, and he went much further than that. “I’m grateful that he’s in the race,” Cruz said late last summer.

Trump Coloring Book
Trump Coloring Book

But Cruz’s culpability for Trump’s rise goes deeper than that, according to Samuel Popkin, a political scientist at the University of California in San Diego, who is writing a book on all this – The Republican Crackup.

Popkin makes the case that Cruz is singularly responsible for Trump’s rise by effectively destroying the credibility of the Republican establishment – or any Republican trying to get anything done – whether it was Cruz being a purity party of one in the Senate, or discrediting any effort by Marco Rubio or others to achieve immigration reform, or fomenting an insurrection among dissident Republicans in the House to depose House Speaker John Boehner.

As I wrote in August:

“He’s the most despised, distrusted and disliked member of the United States Senate,” said Popkin. As became apparent in the campaign just past, his colleagues in Washington have no interest in helping him either as a senator or as a presidential candidate.

By effectively laying waste to the Republican Party in Washington, Popkin said, “Cruz is the man who made Trump possible.”

“He never picked a fight that he knew he could win,” said Popkin, who studies the presidency. “He had an Alamo strategy to be the last one to die.”

He ran for president with a “now-or-never strategy. He did not have a Plan B. This was burn every bridge so you can’t go back,” Popkin said.

In Austin James Dickey foresaw the dilemma that Trump would place Cruz, himself and much of Republicandom inif he were the nominee.

From an open letter that Dickey, a Cruz delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and three other Texas delegates wrote their colleagues on the eve of the convention.


For what it’s worth, Dickey this past week reclaimed his chairmanship of the Travis County Republican Party saying that as chairman he would back Trump, something that his chief rival, Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin political consultant whose clients include Michael McCaul, said he simply could not do.

Steinhauser, who cut his teeth as one of the national organizers of the tea party movement, believes that Trump’s political ideas are just too at odds with conservative values, and what would likely be Trump’s style of governing too at odds with the precepts of limited government.

When Steinhauser and Dickey were asked Tuesday night at the meeting of the Travis Country Republican Party precinct chairs to select a new chairman, if they supported Trump for president, there were a few gasps from those in attendance when Steinhauser said he couldn’t, and applause when Dickey said he would.

Dickey was streaming the meeting on his Facebook page, and here are some of the contemporaneous reactions to the live-stream









This appearance by Hillary Clinton with Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns is undoubtedly her best performance of the campaign, and was filmed on Sept. 9, the day she was diagnosed by her doctor with pneumonia.


Last night I saw Kinky Friedman perform at Strange Brew.

He was quite good and very funny and performed five new songs, part of what he said was his first new repertoire in 30 years. Friedman said Willie Nelson had advised him that he was depressed and that best cure was to stop watching Matlock reruns and write some music.

Oh, and Friedman, who was an independent candidate for governor of Texas in 2006, said after the show that he prefers Trump to Clinton, because Clinton won’t change anything in Washington and, “Who’s to say that maybe this guy has some real guts, maybe he makes the right call.”

“Jesus rode into town on a jackass,” Friedman said.



Postcards from the Great Divide: On training the camera on local politics.


Good morning Austin:

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will get about 90 percent of the attention but they’ll have about ten percent of the impact on your life. Your state legislative candidates will have about 90 percent of the impact on your life,  but, let’s be blunt, less than ten percent of the attention.

That is Alex Hayes, a former director of the Mainstream Republicans, and a political consultant based in Tacoma, speaking in one of a series of nine short political documentaries – Postcards from the Great Divide – several of which  were screened last night at KLRU, and are part of an online film series focused on local politics in partnership with PBS Election 2016 and The Washington Post.

The series is the brainchild of filmmakers Paul Stekler, Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker, who have produced some of the finest political documentaries of the last several decades.

Paul is the chair of the Radio-Television-Film Department in the Moody College at The University of Texas. I am a big fan of his tremendous body of work as a political documentarian.

Here, from two years ago, is a First Reading Stekler Sampler, looking at his work.

I am hardly alone here.

From Chris Cillizza at the The Fix at the Washington Post:

You might not be reading The Fix right now if it weren’t for Paul Stekler.

Stekler, who makes and produces political documentaries, is one of the big reasons I got into political journalism. During the 1994 election, he made a series for PBS called “Vote for Me” — a series of looks inside the real world of candidates and campaigns.  It was — and is — stunning. (I have the DVDs and, yes, I still watch them. My favorite is the one about a dulcimer- playing Democrat named Maggie Lauterer who ran and lost against then Rep. Charles Taylor in North Carolina. You can watch that one here.)

So when Stekler and his cohorts Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker approached me a few months back about the possibility of running a series of nine “Postcards from the Great Divide” — mini-documentaries from across the country telling stories of our politics and  our culture — I immediately said yes.

Here is Stekler explaining the series in the American-Statesman.

In 2004, Texas author Bill Bishop in his book “The Big Sort” described the migration of Americans inspired by lifestyle choices. In envisioning a growing divide in the country, in advance of today’s political gridlock in Washington, he wrote that “we have built a country where everyone can choose the neighbors (and church and news shows) most compatible with his or her lifestyle and beliefs. And we are living with the consequences of this segregation by way of life: pockets of like-minded citizens that have become so ideologically inbred that we don’t know, can’t understand, and can barely conceive of ‘those people’ who live just a few miles away.”

The political consequences? Increasingly we would live in separate worlds of news and what was recognized as facts, so that bipartisan dialogue and compromise would become impossible.

A decade later, it’s hard not to wonder how our politics could get more dysfunctional. Congress is unable to even pass a budget. The Senate is unwilling to consider filling a Supreme Court vacancy. And voters will soon choose between the two most unpopular major party candidates for president in polling history — candidates whose only paths to victory could come against each other.

We are soon launching an online series of short films, “Postcards from the Great Divide,” that examines aspects of our political divide in nine states. Is anyone happy in Wisconsin, where excessive gerrymandering and heightened ideological division in the Legislature has produced bitter policy fights over everything? How are African-American voters staying engaged in the face of new state restrictions to voting in Florida, a crucial swing state? What were the consequences of outside interests putting more than $1 million into a local school board race outside of Denver?

A hint: It didn’t help produce consensus.

What follows are six of the nine documentaries and the background information on each from the filmmakers.




Pundits seem convinced that a purple Texas is just around the corner due to its burgeoning Latino population, yet the state gets redder and redder. One factor is that Latino turnout remains low. Our study case is Pasadena, a city just outside the limits of Houston, where Oscar Del Toro is registering and motivating potential voters as he plans his own city council race.

The Backstory:

Texas is one of the reddest of red states, a place where Republicans have won every statewide office easily for two decades.  It’s big enough to have boosted five Texans and former Texans in the race for President this primary cycle (Cruz, Bush, Perry, Fiorina, and Paul).  It’s state legislature, with overwhelming GOP majorities, has passed some of the most conservative legislation – restricting abortion, cutting taxes, Voter ID, open carry – in the country.

But will demographics change that?

Pundits in this minority majority state (56 percent other than non-Hispanic white) have been waiting for the Latino voter wave to finally appear for years and turn Texas, if not blue, then at least purple with contested general elections.  Latinos make up over forty percent of the population (not counting the undocumented), are posed to exceed white population by 2020 — but they make up under 20% of the statewide vote.  While new voting restrictions have an impact, extremely low Hispanic voter turnout has been a given for years.  Another question, when 40 percent of the Hispanic voters in ’14 voted Republican in the statewide races, is when the Latino wave comes, just how blue will it be? 

About the Film:

The answers to how soon change might come and what it’ll mean to the state’s politics may be found in the grassroots.  It’s here that neighborhood organizing and Latino candidates for local office can be found.  Our case study is Pasadena, a city just outside the limits of Houston, once famous as the site of Gilly’s, the fictional locale for URBAN COWBOY (even if the “cowboys” and their friends were played by extremely non-Texans John Travolta, Debra Winger, and Scott Glenn).  It’s 70% Latino, with Anglos still holding onto slim control of the city government after a redistricting plan that would have been rejected under the old Voting Rights Act.  That hasn’t deterred Oscar del Toro, a small businessman, immigrant from Mexico, and a man who won’t take no for an answer in registering and motiving potential voters as he plans his own city council race.

About the Filmmaker: 

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Miguel Alvarez is an Austin-based filmmaker. A former mechanical engineer, he decided to pursue a lifetime interest in visual storytelling. He has received awards from the Directors’ Guild of America, Panavision’s Emerging Filmmaker program, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, and the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund for his previous films, Tadpoles, Veterans, KID, and Mnemosyne Rising. He was a Screenwriting fellow for the 2013 Latino Screenwriting Project sponsored by Cinefestival and Sundance and is currently a lecturer in the Radio Television Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

Purple Reign A film by Laura Nix

In the fight to win control at the state level, Republicans have reached an historic high, capturing thirty-one legislatures in the past several years. Now the Republicans are looking for more, even in a supposedly left-leaning state like Washington. With divided knife-edge majorities in both chambers, we follow a GOP strategist as he works with socially moderate candidates, including a Latino Navy vet, to win swing districts and change the statehouse balance of power

The Backstory:

In the aftermath of the Republican off year election landslides in 2010 and 2014, where Democrats lost over a thousand state legislative seats across the nation, there are now Republican majorities in 68 of 98 state legislative bodies, with the GOP control in thirty-one states (including the nominally non-partisan Nebraska), the highest number in the party’s history.  Republicans have total control, with the legislature and the Governor, in 23 states, versus just 7 for Democrats.

This is part of a long term process.  Since the 2004 election, the Republican State Leadership Committee has raised over $140 million  to help accomplish this. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the RSLC’s counterpart, raised less than half that amount in the same period. While other groups also contributed significant amounts to these races, these numbers highlight the emphasis the GOP has put on state legislature elections in recent years.

About the Film:

From a national perspective, most people assume Washington state is all blue, with a long history of Democratic governors and senators.  The state hasn’t voted for a Republican candidate for president since 1984, with the Democratic advantage usually in double figures.  President Obama won the state by 15 points in 2012.

So it may be surprising that the Washington state legislature is actually purple, with the Senate controlled by the Republicans by a single vote, and the House controlled by a slim Democratic majority. And while the assumption is that Washington will remain blue in this year’s presidential election, the GOP is being given a fighter’s chance to win a few more seats and take total control of the legislature.

Meet Alex Hays. A former director of the Mainstream Republicans, Hays is a political consultant based in Tacoma, Washington who’s advising on 14 races in this year’s election. He’s proud to call himself pro-choice and pro-gay rights, and he’s one of many Republicans in Washington state who have discovered the road to the party’s success lies in running moderate Republican candidates in the suburbs of the Western cities.

He’s putting his strategy to the ultimate test this summer with his candidate Pablo Monroy, in a house race in the 31st district outside Tacoma. Monroy is a 28-year old brewery owning, fire-fighting Navy veteran who is also Latino.   We’ll follow Hays and Monroy as they canvass the district and hold “Pints for Pablo” in Monroy’s brewery, the Odd Otter.



A humble school board race in suburban Denver becomes a proxy battle between national political groups like the Koch Brothers and the teachers’ union, as even down ballot races become nationalized. We follow both right and left leaning members of the community as they tumultuously battle to gain control of the Jefferson County school board and by extension, the state of Colorado.

The Backstory:

Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the flood of money in American political campaigns has been a constant topic of media attention, besides also being a staple of Bernie Sanders’ speeches and even part of Donald Trump’s worldview on corrupt politics.  That said, nothing is slowing down the increasing amount of money being donated and spent.  With the current trends, even dark untraceable money will go over the $1 billion dollar spent since 2010 this cycle.

And it’s not just national and federal elections.  Who’d have thought that a proposed local tax increase to provide a permanent funding source for the Columbus, Ohio zoo would attract outside money (in this case the Koch Brother’s funded Americans for Prosperity, whose efforts helped defeat the proposed tax). 

As substantial interest group money flows down into even local races, does it also bring the same stark ideological and partisan divisions that mark our national politics today into debates that were once totally separate from Washington?

About the Film:

Last year, national media began being attracted to a battle over a county school board in Jefferson County, Colorado, just west of Denver.  A newly elected conservative majority had overturned union contracts, put in a merit system for teacher pay, and funded charter schools.  The news flash point was the board considering a proposal to change the AP History curriculum to reflect a more positive view of that history.  The response was a week of student protests and eventually a successful campaign to put a recall election on the ballot.

What set this conflict apart was the location.  Jeffco, as the locals call it, wasn’t a conservative bastion, but a true swing county.  Almost equally divided between Republican and Democratic voters in a largely well off electorate who turned out in elections, the saying was “as goes Jeffco, goes the state.”

Outside observers saw the recall as a battle between conservative interest groups like the Colorado branch of Americans for Prosperity and the Denver based libertarian think tank Independence Institute and the state and national teacher’s Educational Associations.  In fact, Americans for Prosperity had spent $350,000 to protect a conservative school board majority in nearby Douglas County that has also voided their union contracts and put in a school voucher program.  Talk was that the recall campaign funding would top a million dollars in both reported and unreported money.

With money pouring in from the outside over the direction of educational policy, the results of this local school board recall election suddenly had national implications.A

About the Filmmakers: 

Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, and Paul Stekler have been responsible for some of the most respected political documentaries of the past twenty years, bringing an anthropological perspective to the way Americans practice politics. Their work is known for engaging stories and memorable characters, with large dollops of humor and provocative points of view. Vote for Me: Politics in America, a four-hour PBS series on electoral politics and American culture, won a Peabody and a duPont-Columbia Journalism Award. Most recently, Getting Back to Abnormal, their look at race and politics in post-Katrina New Orleans, was shown on PBS’ premier documentary series POV. Other credits include Stekler’s George Wallace: Settin’ The Woods on Fire and Alvarez and Kolker’s People Like Us: Social Class in America and The Anti-Americans.

Look for an appearance here from a very sunny Joe Basel, the man behind the surreptitious videotaping that roiled the last session of the Texas Legislature.



There’s a political self-sorting process that is happening across America. Blue voters are choosing to live in “creative-class” urban oases, as red voters remain in rural areas. Minnesota native Aaron Spading, conservative church-goer turned far-left Powderhorn Park resident, guides us as we explore one of those blue-dots-in-a-sea-of-red. Meetings with family and old neighbors illustrate just how deep the political gulf between people can be, but the film ends on a hopeful note; where there is dialogue, there can still be community.

The Backstory:

In 2004, Bill Bishop coined the term ‘the big sort” (also the title of his book), describing the migration of Americans inspired by lifestyle choices.  “We have built a country,” Bishop wrote, “where everyone can choose the neighbors (and church and news shows) most compatible with his or her lifestyle and beliefs. And we are living with the consequences of this segregation by way of life: pockets of like-minded citizens that have become so ideologically inbred that we don’t know, can’t understand, and can barely conceive of ‘those people’ who live just a few miles away.”  The political consequences?  “Mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes. Heterogeneous communities restrain group excesses; homogeneous communities march toward the extremes.”  The more we self sort and divide ourselves, in where we live, who we talk to, where we worship, and so on, the less bipartisan dialogue and compromise is possible.

About the Film:

So what happens when your political views change and suddenly you feel out of place where you grew up? 

This is the story of Aaron Spading.  Aaron grew up in a fundamentalist, evangelical church family living in a small Minnesota town.  His experience at Bible college led him to break with the politics he grew up with and later to move to Minneapolis.  Now he’s married and lives in the racially diverse Powderhorn Park neighborhood, an enthusiastic volunteer for Bernie Sanders.  The political contrast between the May Day celebration in his new home and his family and old neighbors back in Chisago City couldn’t be greater – and his journey back and forth illustrates what people have in common and just how deep the political gulf is in communities less than an hour’s drive apart.

About the Filmmaker: 

Heather Courtney is a 2014 Guggenheim fellow.  She won an Emmy, an Independent Spirit Award, and a SXSW Jury Award for her film WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM. The film received positive reviews from the New York Times and the Washington Post, and was broadcast nationally on the PBS program POV in November 2011.  It made several Top 10 films of 2011 lists, including Salon’s Best Non-fiction, and was supported by many grants and fellowships including from ITVS, the Sundance Documentary Fund, the United States Artists Fellowship, and POV/American Documentary.  Heather was also a fellow at the Sundance Edit and Story Lab.  She has directed and produced several other documentary films including award-winners LETTERS FROM THE OTHER SIDE, and LOS TRABAJADORES, which were both broadcast nationally on PBS, and were supported by a Fulbright Fellowship and an International Documentary Association Award.

She is currently co-directing and producing (with Anayansi Prado) a Ford and Macarthur-funded feature documentary about undocumented immigrant students in Georgia. She currently splits her time on this project and freelance projects between Georgia, Austin and Washington, DC, and has been an adjunct professor at the University of Texas.  


Here is Bill Bishop talking about The Big Sort.


Post-Obama Drama A film by Cyndee Readdean and Deborah Hardt

In 2008 and 2012 African-Americans in Florida turned out in record numbers for Barack Obama even when voting hours and registration rules were tightened. What are the challenges among the black electorate that the Democratic candidate in 2016 will face in this must-win state? To find out, we visit a number of African-Americans in the city, from a black chamber of commerce meeting, to a picnic of friends, and ending at a lively black heritage celebration.

The Backstory:

One of the hallmarks of the Barack Obama’s two national victories was the enthusiasm of African-American voters to elect the first black President and then to back him for a second term.  In 2012, black turnout exceeded white turnout (66.2% to 64.1%) for the first time in a national American election.

In Florida, the Republican controlled legislature’s actions to cut early voting days and restrict voter registration drives didn’t prevent long lines of African-American voters in 2012, crucial to the Obama’s 50% to 49.1% victory in the state.  But will those same voters be as enthusiastic to vote in 2016?  Without a strong turnout of largely Democratic black votes, can Hillary Clinton take the swing state that’s backed the national winner since her husband’s win there in 1996.

A visit to Jacksonville’s African-American community, where black turnout was high in 2008 and 2012, may give us an answer. 

About the Film:

Jacksonville’s racial politics have been of interest beyond the Obama wins.  While three thousand Palm County ballots for Pat Buchanan got all the publicity in the disputed 2000 Florida election, nearly 27,000 “flawed” ballots were thrown out from largely black polling places in Duval County that same election.  Jacksonville elected its first African-American mayor in 2011, but he subsequently lost for re-election to the former state Republican Party chair in 2015.  Now, after eight years of the Obama administration, will blacks turn out in November?

To find out, we visit with a number of African-Americans in the city.  From a black chamber of commence meeting to a picnic gathering of friends to a weekend black heritage celebration, the feelings are mixed.  Some wonder if its worth voting given the choices, while others enthusiastically register eligible voters, remembering the struggle to gain the vote in the first place.  The black vote in Jacksonville is predominantly Democratic, but Hillary Clinton’s chances to win Florida may ultimately hinge on just how many blacks go to the polls in November.




Once the poster child for bipartisan practical politics, the Badger State has become an ideological battleground in recent years. What happened to the middle? Wandering around the state to find out are former state Senators Dale Schultz and Tim Cullen–one a Republican, one a Democrat. Visiting a gun show, an anti-Trump protest, and a conservative talk radio gathering, they look for insight into what to expect for the state’s political future. A film by Brad Lichtenstein, director of the Sundance virtual reality film Across the Line, Peabody nominated radio series Precious Lives, and Emmy nominated film As Goes Janesville. Original music by Trapper Schoepp.

The Backstory:

Whatever happened to the politics of Wisconsin nice?  During the administration of Governor Scott Walker, bitter partisan and ideological bloodletting has become the norm in Madison.  But the elements of the politics of division were already there.  Small town and rural resentment of the big cities, Milwaukee and Madison, where voters felt their problems with unemployment and poverty were being ignored, reinforced an existing suburban anger in places like Waukesha County, where the radio hosts like Charlie Sykes are conservative stars. 

Wisconsin remains an important battleground in 2016.  While the state hasn’t voted for a GOP presidential candidate since 1984, its electorate is split.  Off year statewide elections have produced conservatives like Governor Walker and Senator Ron Johnson, while presidential years produced Senate’s only openly gay member, Tammy Baldwin.

So how bad has it gotten and is there any common ground left in Wisconsin?

About the Film:

Wandering around the state to find out are former state Senators Dale Schultz and Tim Cullen, one a Republican, one a Democrat, once leaders of their legislative parties, and old friends.  Visiting a gun show, a Black Lives Matter anti-Trump protest, Charlie Sykes’ annual “Insight” gathering, and radio talk shows, they look for answers and an insight into what to expect in the state’s political future.

About the Filmmaker: 

Brad Lichtenstein is an award-winning filmmaker & president of 371 Productions.  He’s won two Duponts: one for the recent Al Jazeera America series Hard Earned (produced by Kartemquin Films) and another for his 2001 film Ghosts of Attica (produced with Lumiere Productions). His first virtual reality film, Across the Line, about accessing abortion amid hostile protests, premiered at Sundance in 2016. His 2012 movie As Goes Janesville (PBS/Independent Lens) was nominated for a News & Doc Emmy. Penelope, his film about a nursing home that performs the Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view, aired on PBS in 2015. 371’s Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff, premiered in June 2014 on Al Jazeera America’s Fault Lines and streams on Al Jazeera English. He’s the executive producer of  “Precious Lives”, a radio/podcast and print series about young people & gun violence. 371’s tech projects include BizVizz, a corporate accountability app available for iPhones. 371 is in development on American Reckoning, a feature doc about unsolved civil rights era murders. There are Jews Here, a feature doc about disappearing Jewish communities will premiere in July of 2016. When Claude Got Shot, a feature doc about race and gun violence in America, is in production. Brad’s also produced for Frontline and Bill Moyers. His work is supported by Bader Philanthropies, Blue Mountain Center, Creative Capital, the Fetzer Institute, The Forward Fund, ITVS, the Ford, HKH, MacArthur, Nathan Cummings, Retirement Research & Tides Foundations, as well as the  IDA and Mary L. Nohl Fellowship. Brad is the founder of docUWM, a documentary program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


MEANWHILE – As you already know, Rick Perry was not voted off the island Tuesday. He was very happy.









Hillbilly effigy: On Rick Perry’s descent from alpha to alfalfa male




Good afternoon Austin:

OK America. You feel better now? You got that out of your system? You all had your big laugh at Rick Perry’s expense?

Hee haw, ladies and gentleman. Hee Haw.

Last week, his debut dance, began with the longest-serving governor in Texas history grabbing a corn dog from Rick’s Corn Dog stand and dancing a cha cha to God Blessed Texas on his way to garnering a last-place finish.

This week, it was Perry climbing off a tractor to do a quick step to the theme from Green Acres on the way to a second last-place finish.

Except, instead of playing Eddie Albert’s Oliver Wendell Douglas character as the urbane sophisticate seeking the simple pleasures of rural life, they had Rick Perry high-stepping like some hillbilly doofus, some rube, some rustic, some simple country simpleton.






OK. So the theme of last night’s show was TV theme songs.

But did they have Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez dancing to the theme from the Bill Dana Show?

No, of course not.

So where was the Yokel Anti-Defamation League lighting up the phones after Perry’s demeaning playing-to-stupid-stereotype?




Where was Donald Trump (who, incidentally, ala Oliver Wendell Douglas, knows what it’s like to have a beautiful, pampered wife who talks like a Gabor). Trump –  The Tribune of the Great Less Well-Educated White Masses – ought to have said,  “No. Stop. This is Rick Perry, who led the most successful red state in America longer than anyone, who commanded the 12th largest economy in the world (Greg Abbott recently upgraded it to 10th.).  Rick Perry, who with greater courage, precision and erudition than anyone else denounced me early on as throwback to the Know-Nothings? How dare you mock Rick Perry.”

But, not so much as a tweet from Trump on Perry’s humiliation.

Of course, Perry, and no doubt many of those who love Perry, saw it as no such thing.

Indeed,  Rick Perry appears to be having the time of his life on Dancing with the Stars.


You can watch the whole sorry mess here:

And here:

When it was announced that Perry would be on DWTS (that’s what we call it – we, now including me), I wrote:

Perry said he’s not a good dancer. He doesn’t particularly like dancing. During his 14 years as governor he danced in public four times “in some attempt to appear to be waltzing” with his wife and daughter at each of four inaugural balls.

So when the ABC reality TV show “Dancing With the Stars” called about six weeks ago asking him to join their show this fall, he turned them down.

But Jeff Miller, who ran his presidential campaign last year, persuaded him to reconsider, telling the longest serving governor in Texas history, “This is a completely different demographic than you’ve ever been around. People will get to see you the way we’ve gotten to see you. You’re not some stiff — well maybe on the dance floor.”

And, Miller told Perry, he could seize the opportunity to bring his advocacy for America’s soldiers, active duty and retired, to a vast audience largely detached from the lives and needs of America’s fighting men and women.

“I want Americans to know these young men and women the way I know them, the personal stories, the sacrifice,” Perry told the American-Statesman.

“Dancing With the Stars” has variously proved a way for a celebrity to build a brand, resuscitate a career or repair a reputation.

Perry is mindful that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, owes much of his success to his long, popular presence on reality TV. But Perry, who a recent Public Policy Polling poll found could beat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz among Texas Republicans in 2018, said he isn’t doing this with an eye to another campaign.

“I think that’s a bit far-fetched for me,” Perry said. “We don’t have to toy around here. People talk to me and ask me about going to the Senate, running for the Senate.”

On a visit to Austin last week, Trump complimented Perry at a taping at ACL Live of Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News and at a private fundraiser at the Headliners Club.

But Perry said, “I’m an executive. That’s how I spent my life as ag commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor.”

“I run big things,” he said, and the Senate holds little allure.

“I would never, ever say absolutely no way,” Perry said. “I would say it’s very far out of my interest and for that matter desire.”

But he described “Dancing With the Stars” and his publicity blitz for military men and women as “a campaign.”

“It’s a campaign to win votes. It’s a campaign to win public relations,” Perry said. “It’s entertainment and one of the things that I came to really respect this election cycle in particular is that this is show business, and if you don’t understand this is show business, you might be at a little bit of a disadvantage.”

True. But the problem here is that Trump’s reality TV series was built around Trump the All Knowing and All Powerful.


Here is Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of the great new book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, explains in a piece in the Boston Globe how Trump’s reality TV life helped explain his appeal to evangelical Christians:

Trump has tapped into the fear and hope underlying the Rapture, I think, by standing as a powerful judge who decides who is saved and damned. In “The Apprentice,” his wildly popular reality TV show that ran for 16 years, contestants compete to win a $250,000-a-year management job — a secular heaven. Trump sits at a table in a corporate boardroom, in black suit and tie, lips pursed, the judge. Later, on judgment day, he tells one man who had been put in charge of two other contestants, “Sam, you’re no longer with us. You’re fired.” Then, addressing Sam’s two subordinates, Trump says, “You guys go up.” To Sam he says, “You go down.”

During his campaign, Trump promotes or condemns as well. If a news report displeases him, the reporter is banished from his campaign events; at one point, even The Washington Post was left behind. And what is building a wall on the Mexican border or banning all Muslims from entering the United States but drawing a line between the saved and left behind?

Like an Old Testament God, Trump judges. Most of all, he tacitly promises his faithful followers that he will restore their sense of being, visibility, and honor. Trump seeks it for personal reasons, they for circumstantial ones. This visibility comes, metaphorically, with the aura of that Trump Tower penthouse, with floor-to-ceiling marble, crystal chandeliers, pillars and statues of gold —not unlike the gold that abounds in many Rapture believers’ descriptions of heaven.

Although Trump is nobody’s model Christian, he has uncannily managed to appropriate the iconography of belief: images of a long-awaited judgment soon to come, when merciless vengeance will be wreaked on evildoers, wrongs will be righted, and untold blessings delivered to the deserving. This hidden source of his powerful appeal is nothing less than a secular version of the Rapture.

But, on his reality TV show, DWTS, Rick Perry is not the alpha male. He’s the alfalfa male, the rube, the bumpkin about to get bumped off the turnip truck.


On his show, Donald Trump did the firing. On his show, Rick Perry is in very real danger of being the first fired.

From Houston Chronicle music critic Joey Guerra’s quick and brutal review of last night:

Rick Perry brought out the rhinestoned pitchfork for his second spin around the floor on “Dancing with the Stars.” And it still earned him the week’s lowest score.

The former Texas governor left no stereotype unturned with his quickstep to the theme song from classic TV show “Green Acres.” The only things missing were a few farm animals.

Perry skipped across the ballroom and planted a kiss on his wife, Anita, after the performance, which lacked any sort of musicality and drew mixed reactions from the judges.


The season’s first couple will be eliminated Tuesday night on ABC. Expect Perry to be the first sent out to pasture.

Now, about Anita.


I don’t think she is pleased about this. I suspect she would like to slap the judges silly, kick Tom Bergeron in the keister, hiss a “stay away from my man” into his dance partner Emma Slater’s ear, and grab her husband by his ear and haul him back to Round Top. Enough with this foolishness.


But dammit, that’s not going to happen. So we – you and I and all those vets he’s doing this for and all those Texans he served lo those many years – need to come to Rick Perry’s rescue and vote for him.


Because it is his destiny. It is our destiny. And, of course, it has for years been Rick Perry’s ultimate dream to be on national television the night of the first presidential debate, only, of course, this wasn’t exactly how he envisioned it, as the lead-in to the debate on a shortened one-hour edition of Dancing with the Stars. (Shades of the presidential undercard debate to which Perry was consigned.)


It is reminiscent of the movie Bedazzled, in which the hapless protagonist is perpetually thwarted by a devil who takes the desires our hero is selling his soul for absolutely and maliciously literally.

From Wikipedia:

The Devil will always spoil his wishes by adding something he doesn’t want. Elliot wishes to be rich and powerful, with Alison as his wife. The Devil makes him a Colombian drug lord whose wife despises him and cheats on him with Raoul, his co-worker, who is secretly planning to get rid of Elliot and take his position and property. Soon after there is a firefight between his and Raoul’s people where Elliot “dies”. When he returns to the real world, the Devil points out that he never wished for Alison to love him.

Secondly, Elliot wishes to be emotionally sensitive so he will understand the needs and desires of women. The Devil makes him so sensitive that he spends most of his time crying over how beautiful the world is, and constantly asks Alison, his girlfriend of “three magical weeks,” whether he has hurt her or if she needs anything. Alison says she has had enough of it and wants to be with a man who is strong and shallow. She then leaves Elliot for a man who is strong, rude and completely different from the romantic and emotionally sensitive Elliot. Elliot then wishes to be a superstar athlete who would be a woman magnet. The Devil makes him a cliché-spewing NBA star, but also gives him a small penis and a low IQ, which causes Alison, a sports reporter, to lose interest in him shortly after they meet.

He then wishes to be intelligent, witty and well-endowed. The Devil grants this by making him a famous writer whom Alison falls in love with at a cocktail party. When they arrive at Elliot’s home to make love it is revealed that Elliot is gay and living with a flamboyant male partner. Lastly, Elliot wishes to be President of the United States to try to improve the world and get Alison to take him seriously. The Devil makes him Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the night of his assassination
























































Birther of a notion: Trump goes rogue. Tells the truth. Obama born in the USA.



Good morning Austin:

Today’s First Reading is about Donald Trump’s heroic defense of President Obama’s born-in-the-USA bona fides.

But first, a recap of some weekend highlights.

Saturday night was the Texas Democratic Party’s annual Johnson Jordan Dinner at the JW Marriott Austin.

The featured speaker was Martin O’Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, governor of Maryland and, the third wheel in the 2016 Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders presidential race.

It was not always clear to me whether O’Malley was running for president or coolest teacher in your high school, and, there he was Saturday night at the Texas Young Dems after party at the Brass House Austin mingling with the kids in his undershirt and performing a few numbers on guitar and vocals.

Here is his cover of Ring of Fire.

Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa is pushing O’Malley as the next Democratic National Chairman.

“I’ll take it,” said O’Malley, in his undershirt.

Marlon Brando with Vivian Leigh


Martin O'Malley with Ed Espinoza
Martin O’Malley with Ed Espinoza


The highlight of the dinner was Mayor Steve Adler’s mock epic taco truck speech, delivered in a tux.

You can read it here in all its footnoted glory.

Or you can watch it.

Adler delivered the speech capably, but the speech did not live up to its potential in connecting with the audience. Maybe they should have been provided copies of the speech so they could follow along with the footnotes. But, believe me, if this same speech had been delivered by Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, he would have killed it.

But that’s Barack Obama, who, you will recall, in 2004, then a state senator, burst on the national scene with the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, in which he said:

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.

Here’s a shorter version, as of this weekend.

We have Chicken Sh*t Bingo in Austin, Texas. We have Chicken Sh*t Bingo in Brooklyn, New York.

I used to live around the corner from Ginny’s Little Longhorn. I now live three miles away. Which means, my daughter, who just moved to Bushwick, Brooklyn, lives closer to CSB than I do, happening at exactly the same time.









Here is a story about its launch a year ago from Briana Seftel at the Bushwick Daily.

The volunteer-run community garden at 354 Stockton Street will be hosting its first-annual Chicken Shit Bingo fundraiser that will have folks praying for crap the whole night. The event involves feeding chickens and then letting them run around a huge bingo board. Attendees pay $5 for two squares, then hope a chicken defecates on their square. There will be prizes, with all proceeds going to the farm.

Bushwick City Farm isn’t the first to do chicken shit bingo. The idea originated in Austin, Texas at a bar called the Little Longhorn Saloon, where chicken shit bingo is a Sunday tradition that pairs nicely with country music and cold beer.





My daughter said that, because there were children present, they referred to orally as ”chicken doo-doo bingo.” Her numbers were 3 and 35. She didn’t win.

OK. Back to business.

Donald Trump crossed a line Friday. He told the truth. For nine words, laid end to end.

President Obama was born in the United States. Period.

Unfortunately, he preceded it with this:

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the Birther controversy. I finished it.

So taking the whole thought in its entirety, here it is.

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the Birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.

Let’s begin with a useful background, from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

I continue to believe this video contains perhaps the most revealing statement Trump ever made about birtherism. It’s video from an interview we did with Trump back in April of 2011.

Former TPMer Evan McMorris-Santoro did the interview in Palm Beach, Florida on April 16th 2011 and Senior Editor Catherine Thompson resurfaced it on Friday. In the video, Trump is digging at former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) for criticizing him about embracing birtherism. He has this moment of near total transparency about why Cantor should watch out about criticizing birthers. In a word, birtherism sells.

As Trump put it in his own words, “people love this issue, especially in the Republican party.”

There was a lot of discussion of Trump’s latest turn on this on the Sunday talk shows, which I think is very useful to review.

From Meet the Press:


For what it’s worth the so-called “Birther controversy” did not start with Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, though there were– there is some evidence some supporters did go rogue in spreading around the rumor. It did start on the fringes and was perpetuated on the far right. And has been promoted and nurtured by Donald Trump for the past five years.

TIM KAINE: Donald Trump, for five years, was pushing the completely false notion that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and wasn’t an American citizen.

And Chuck, it’s really important to know how painful that is to so many people. Because, as you know, from the time African-Americans came here to Jamestown in 1619, through the Dred Scott decision in the 1850s, if you were African-American in this country, you could not be a citizen. Whether you were slave or free or born here or born elsewhere, you could not be a citizen. And we had to fight a civil war and change the constitution to change that.

So when Donald Trump, for five years, has been promoting the notion that an African-American president is not a citizen, that is extremely powerful and painful to African-Americans and to others who know this painful chapter in America’s history.


ALEX CASTELLANOS (political strategist now working for a Trump Super PAC, Building America Now.)

I would explain it this way. Being on the Trump team that I think these two candidates are being treated very differently on this very issue, because this is something that Hillary Clinton’s campaign started when it was convenient for her. But the media covers it as if it is only Donald Trump who has taken the–

CORNELL BELCHER (one of President Obama’s pollsters in 2008 and 2012.)

Alex, I’ve got to tell you that–

KATY TUR (MSBNC correspondent)

That’s not really an answer, Alex.


And by the way, well, there isn’t– there’s an answer here. I think the big question about Obama is not where he was born or his faith. The big question about Obama has been– has he considered himself more of a globalist than an American? There is an otherness to this president. And people have tried to exploit that politically in different ways. The Clinton campaign tried to exploit it this way, the way their strategists said, by saying his lack of American roots is an issue.

From Face the Nation with John Dickerson.

JOHN DICKERSON: I would like to move on to a position that Mr. Trump held for five years, that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He changed that position on Friday. Why?

KELLYANNE CONWAY (Trump campaign manager): Well, on Friday, he made very clear three things, number one, that it was Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist and pollster, who put President Obama’s citizenship in question when he wrote a famous memo in March of 2007 questioning his — quote — “American roots,” saying, at a time of war, how could we elect someone like this? It was pretty radical stuff.

And, then, of course, even Patti Solis Doyle, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008, John, until she was fired by Hillary Clinton, admitted on Friday to Wolf Blitzer that she said, yes, these are her words. There was a volunteer in Iowa who was pushing this.

And so this started with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, number one. Number two, it was Donald Trump who put the issue to rest when he got President Obama to release his birth certificate years later.

And, number three, he said that President Obama was born in this country, period, and let’s move on to creating jobs, defeating radical Islam, rebuilding our inner cities. And that’s what he said.

DICKERSON: The reason I want to stick on this a little bit is he promoted this for five years. So, this isn’t just some passing notion. This was a considerable amount of energy and time and money that he spent promoting this idea.

The Clinton — Mark Penn didn’t say anything about his citizenship. Also, if you look at the Clinton campaign, they fired the one staffer who sent an e-mail about this immediately.

Donald Trump spent five years, his own money, called press conferences to promote this idea.

So, I go back to my original question. Why did he change his mind, and when did he do it?

CONWAY: Well, Donald Trump was not running for president against — in a bruising, vicious primary in 2008 against Hillary — against Barack Obama.

Hillary Clinton was. And you know that the former D.C. bureau chief of McClatchy newspaper, a respected journalist, just on Friday, John, said that he was approached, he had a meeting with Sid Blumenthal, what is a very close confidant of both Clintons and then was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation thereafter, he had a meeting with him where Sid Blumenthal allegedly told him that President Obama was not born in this country and to go check it out. So, the idea that Clinton — that people around Hillary Clinton were not responsible for this, Donald Trump in 2007 and 2008, while the Clintons folks were pushing this theory, he was a successful businessman. He was building things.


DICKERSON: But, Kellyanne, he’s asked us to go back and look at things that he said about foreign policy back in 2003, to draw conclusions about his judgment.

So, things he said in the private sector, something he spent five years promoting, you said he got the birth certificate released and that put an end to it. But it didn’t put an end to it for him. For years after the birth certificate was released, he continued to question it, continued to question whether Barack Obama was born in the United States and whether the birth certificate was a fraud.

So, when the campaign puts out a statement and says he ended in 2011, and you have asserted that today, that’s just not the truth, is it?

CONWAY: No, I didn’t say that.

What I’m saying is, is that it was President Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. Nobody confuses Hillary Clinton with Mariano Rivera. She’s not a good closer. And she wasn’t on this issue at all.

Associates of Hillary Clinton started pushing the issue because Barack Obama came out of nowhere to them. They never expected him to rise in the polls, let alone beat her in her Democratic primary, where a vast majority of voters, by the way, were female and rejected her in that year, just like they didn’t see Bernie Sanders coming and just like they didn’t see our comeback of the Trump campaign coming.


DICKERSON: And we’re back with the chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus.

Mr. Chairman, on Friday, Donald Trump said he no longer believes that Barack Obama was born somewhere other than the United States. For five years, though, he spent a lot of time on this issue, and he now says that he’s the one who was out there just trying to put this rumor to rest.

Do you really believe that’s what he was doing for five years?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think that it was something that got started in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Now, whose fault it was, you know, Hillary Clinton herself, her supporters, her interns, her staffers, clearly, it was something that was circulating in 2008. He — I’m not — so, I’m agreeing with you that he took it further.


PRIEBUS: He took it further.


PRIEBUS: And he brought it into the public debate even more so than what was brought in, in 2008.

However, the point is, people are asking him about it. People weren’t asking him about it for a long time. And he came out and said, listen, I was involved in trying to figure this out as well, and I have determined that the president was born in Hawaii, just like I have said for years

So, this is not like, for me, a mystery.

DICKERSON: So, there is also no evidence that Hillary Clinton herself had anything to do with this. There are some rumors that people on her staff and there was one person was caught spreading rumors about Barack Obama…


DICKERSON: … fired.

PRIEBUS: And people get convicted every single day with circumstantial evidence that is enough to tip the scale.

And by the preponderance of the evidence before us, Hillary Clinton or her campaign were definitely involved in this issue. So, we can’t keep saying it’s not true. That’s ridiculous.


PRIEBUS: I know you didn’t, but there’s enough media people out there claiming that that’s not true, as if it’s some fiction. It’s not fiction. It’s the truth.


But when you think about — it may be contributory, but Donald Trump spent the bulk of his time…


PRIEBUS: But he’s not denying it.

DICKERSON: No, I understand that. But I guess my point is this.

PRIEBUS: But she is denying it, and that’s ridiculous.

DICKERSON: My point — well, her former campaign manager said…


PRIEBUS: All right, so everyone around her is involved, but not her, so, therefore, she’s innocent.

DICKERSON: Well, everyone around her is a little more than the evidence would support.


PRIEBUS: Her campaign deputy manager was apologizing on CNN three days ago for it.

DICKERSON: But she said she fired the one person who brought it up immediately. There’s a difference between firing one person immediately and then…


PRIEBUS: What about Sid Blumenthal? Was he involved or not?

DICKERSON: Well, let’s assume that he was.


DICKERSON: So, you have a person spreading rumors. And then you have someone making a five-year crusade, holding press conferences and spending money.


DICKERSON: Here’s my question to you, which is not to figure out the details anymore, but to ask you this question. Donald Trump said Republicans love this idea in 2011 when he talked about it and congratulated himself for reinvigorating the investigation of it.

The question is, did the nominee of the Republican Party use this issue as a political issue to rile up Republicans? And is this the kind of thing that gets Republicans excited, the question of whether the president was born in America? That was his assertion.

PRIEBUS: I don’t think…


PRIEBUS: … my opinion.


PRIEBUS: I don’t think Donald Trump was thinking about 2016 in 2011.

It was an issue that he was interested in. It was an issue that I believe and I think the preponderance of the evidence shows Hillary Clinton started it. And after getting this issue resolved, he proclaimed on Friday that he believes that the president was born in America, just like I have as chairman of the Republican Party. And I never believed that he wasn’t born in the United States of America.

OK. This is simply not tenable and there is not the slightest chance that Priebus, or for that matter Conway, really truly believe what they are saying, the line of argument they are pursuing. They are simply trying to muddy the water and sufficiently confuse thing so that the issue of Trump’s use of he birther issue can’t be used against him.

It seems plain that Donald Trump seized on the birther issue not because he believed there was a scintilla of evidence to support it but because it was an easy and effective way to manipulate a significant swath of the Republican electorate who was ready and willing to believe it and who he wanted to endear himself with in advance of a potential presidential campaign.

Fine. Now, I guess, he – or his team – wants to clear the decks in advance of the Big Debate so that if Clinton throws the birther issue at him he is all ready to respond by saying, no that wasn’t me, that was you.

And, more audacious yet, here are bunch of surrogates – Conway, Priebus, his running mate, Mike Pence, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – who chairs Trump’s transition committee – who presumably don’t suffer from whatever clinical condition Trump suffers from but who are nonetheless willing to vouch for him and this absurd line of argument.

From ABC’s This Week, with Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: But Governor Pence, it’s not just the national media. Let me read you — we counted since April of 2011, and that’s the year that Barack Obama gave his long formed birth certificate from Hawaii. We counted 67 times where Donald Trump tweeted or retweeted messages questioning his birthplace. He has kept this going. He has been a leader in this birther movement.

MIKE PENCE: Well, and I know there’s news reports that trace this birther movement all the way back to Hillary Clinton’s campaign back in 2008.

RADDATZ: You believe that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement.

PENCE: Look, I’ll let the facts speak for themselves.

RADDATZ: Well, no, I want to talk about the facts. What’s the proof of that?

PENCE: What I will tell you, Martha — look, as I travel across this country, I say this very sincerely and very respectfully to you, this is not what the American people are talking about. Donald Trump put this issue to an end yesterday in Washington, D.C. He essentially said…

RADDTAZ: Why did it take him so long to put it an end? It’s not over.

PENCE: Throughout this campaign, he hasn’t been talking about it. He’s been talking about the need to have a stronger America at home and abroad.

I understand why Hillary Clinton and many of her defenders in the national media want to distract attention from her dishonesty and her disastrous record on the foreign stage and the fact that she wants to simply continued the failed policies of this administration that have run our economy literally into a ditch. But that’s not working.

I promise you, the American people see through all of this. And I think that’s why Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States.

RADDATZ: Governor Pence, I talked voters as well. In fact, just yesterday. And they talked about the birther issue, they believe fueled in part by what Donald Trump has said that President Obama was born outside the U.S. This fuels those conspiracy theories.

Do you think he should have promoted this birther issue for all these years? Was he wrong to do this?

PENCE: Our campaign just really isn’t focused on the past, Martha, and it really…

RADDATZ: Governor Pence, you said yourself Hillary Clinton is at fault. That’s going forward, that’s not just the past. He said Friday that Hillary Clinton and her campaign were at fault for this birther movement as well. And you just said it yourself,

What is the proof because we can’t find any. And fact-checkers have checked into that, that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement.

PENCE: Well, I just would refer you to news reports with the McClatchy News Service and reports of people in your industry, Martha, that…

RADDATZ: The reports of people in my industry say there’s no proof they can find that Hillary Clinton had anything to do with it.

PENCE: I understand your perspective on it. I understand the desire of many in the national media to change the subject from Hillary Clinton’s disastrous record and her dishonesty, we’re just not going to play that game. Donald Trump and I are going to continue to focus right where the American people are focused, and that’s not on the debates of the past, it’s on their future.

You know, yesterday in the midst of this side-bar debate that so many in the national media are fascinated about, the largest law enforcement union in America, the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Donald Trump for president of the united states. They endorsed Bill Clinton back in 1996. But they know here that Donald Trump is the kind of president that’s going to stand with the men and women in law enforcement in this country and restore law and order to the communities in this nation and couldn’t be more proud to stand with him.

RADDATZ: I’m going to ask you a few more questions on this because also, in the midst of this, in the midst of you saying you want to talk about issues and you want to talk about ISIS and you want to talk about law enforcement Donald Trump tweeted an article from The Washington Post– Donald Trump’s birther event is the greatest trick he’s ever pulled. He is proud of this.

Is playing tricks seven weeks out of a very serious election what he should be doing?

PENCE: Well, I thought the fact that Donald Trump on Friday used the media’s preoccupation with certain side-bar issues to really focus on the support that we enjoy from retired admirals and generals — 14 medal of honor winners. Now, I think some 150 retired flag officers in our military recognize that Donald Trump is the right choice for the next commander-in-chief of the United States.

And I have to tell you, I think he paid about as much attention to this issue that you all have focused on as the American people are.

Look, we have more horrific stories about ISIS coming out this last week, a level of barbarism and murder and terrorism the likes of which we have never seen since the advent of the global war on terror.

And America knows that we need a commander-in-chief who will rebuild our military.

And from Jake Tapper with Christie on CNN”s State of the Union.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about this birther thing, because you, as governor, as a politician, you have stood up to some of the darker impulses in American politics. You have been clear for a long time that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Donald Trump, by contrast, he clung to the birther lie for years. He still isn’t apologetic about it.

Do you understand why so many people, including African-Americans, are upset with him over the issue?

CHRISTIE: Oh, listen, I made my position on it really clear a long time ago.

And Donald has now made his position on it clear, which is that, after the president presented his birth certificate, Donald has said he was born in the United States, and that’s the end of the issue.

It was a contentious issue and, by the way, an issue that Patti Solis Doyle of the Clinton campaign in 2008 has recently admitted was an issue that Mrs. Clinton also injected into her campaign in 2008 in a very quiet, but direct way, against then Senator Obama.

And so, you know, the birther issue is a done issue. I have said it’s a done issue for a long time. And Donald Trump has said it’s a done issue now. And so we need to move on to the issues that are really important to the American people.

And, Jake, I got to tell you the truth. If you think that anyone is going to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or against either one of them based upon this issue, then I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the concerns of the American people. Let’s move on to the real issues.

TAPPER: Well, just as a point of fact, again, Donald Trump did not accept when Barack Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. He kept up this whole birther thing until Friday. That’s five years.

But we only have a little time left. So, I want to ask you…


CHRISTIE: No, but, Jake, that’s just not true. It’s not true that he kept it up for five years.

TAPPER: Sure, he did.

CHRISTIE: It’s simply not true.

TAPPER: It is true.

CHRISTIE: It wasn’t like he was talking — no, Jake, it wasn’t like — it wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis until then.

And when the issue was raised, he made very clear the other day what his position is.


Meaning, not OK.

Just look at this single tweet. Study it. Savor it.

Remember. Trump doesn’t really believe that Obama wasn’t born in the USA. He is simply using the issue. And yet he is willing to use a man’s death to make baseless insinuations for the sole purpose of tickling on the fears and prejudices of the conspiracy minded.

And then on Friday, because it no longer serves his purposes, he drops birtherism as if it were come crackpot idea that originated with Hillary Clinton and that only the amazing Donald could dispose of, but only after it had served the purpose of gaining him some purchase on the Republican nomination.

From an NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll was conducted from June 27 through July 5, 2016.screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-7-54-01-am


More astonishing still.


From the NBC analysis:

The fact that more Republicans currently think that the president was not born in the U.S. and that this belief does not depend on how knowledgeable they are about politics is surprising. The country may be divided about both facts and opinions. Moreover, given the persistence of these beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary, not only are we likely to see more rumors emerge, but their effects may be long-lasting. The fact that so many Republicans believe that the president was not born in the United States despite evidence to the contrary suggests that in the partisan-charged environment, it may be very difficult to dispel rumors and outlandish claims regardless of wins on Election Day.

My question is that now that Donald Trump, birther-in-chief, has renounced birtherism as some kind of Crooked Hillaryism, do those numbers change? Does anyone feel betrayed, let down or misled by Trump? Or did all those people who said they didn’t really think Obama was born in the USA never really believe it in the first place?

Ultimately, the most revealing postscript to all this was, as always, Trump’s tweets.


So Donald Trump is retweeting a story by Chris Cillizza that describes Trump’s birther renunciation press event thusly:

It was a low moment for politics and political coverage. A nothing-burger filled with falsehoods covered as though it was the Super Bowl. But for Trump, it might have been his crowning achievement: All eyes on him with the chance to direct the play in whatever way he saw fit. The ringmaster — calling the shots in all three rings of the circus. It was peak Trump.

And, for Trump, a very, very proud moment.

From Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, on Fact the Nation.

LEIBOVICH: Well, I would say, look, the — the notion that — that Donald Trump settled this debate for like however many years and we’re still — when was this ever a debate? I mean it was a debate on the fringes in certain sectors. Donald Trump, I mean for — has been well documented, you know, spent five years doing it. Whether voters respond to it or not, it’s appalling. It’s appalling on its face to actually watch this argument play out. It’s edifying to no one. I mean the facts are very, very clear. And, you know, just speaking as one human being, you know, maybe I’m in the media so I’m suspect, I find it appalling. I think many people do. You know, whether it plays out electorally or not, I mean I think it’s clear that we — we make clear, you know, what we’re talking about here.


`Yes! Five, I love you! You’re awesome!’ On Rick Perry’s higher math




Good morning Austin:

Yes. Texas. Rick Perry and his dance partner, Emma Slater, scored straight 5’s on the season premier of Dancing with the Stars last night. Four fives for a grand total of 20 points, the lowest of any of the couples. Perry and Slater were among the last to dance – a sign of respect for his audience draw, I suspect – so he knew where they stood.

But Perry reacted with the same exuberance as if they had scored straight 10’s.

Yes! Five! I love you! You’re awesome!

Perry’s seemingly irrational exuberance  – directed at a middling numeral – startled and delighted host Tom Bergeron.

“Spoken like a real politician,” said a laughing Bergeron.

But it made sense.

This is a man who was famously, indelibly, done in by the diabolical number 3 when he ran for president the first time, so 5, a whole string of 5’s, had to look really fat and made Perry really happy.

And, truth to tell, it is Perry’s contagious enthusiasm, his lust for life, that has made him an attractive political figure even in some of his darkest moments.

How else to explain a man who, indicted on corruption charges that could have landed him in jail for a century, took the best looking booking photo ever and then went to Sandy’s for ice cream – and tweeted it.




I had never watched Dancing with the Stars before and, being in Austin, where Rick Perry had reigned supreme as the longest-serving governor in Texas history, I wanted to go out and watch it in a public place with other people. But last night was Monday Night Football, and, after calling a few bars inquiring about the possibility that one of their TVs might tune into DWTS, I realized I would have to show up in person and make the request and, if I did, I might end up like Pee Wee Herman dancing on the bar to Tequila.




Luckily, I was pointed in the direction of a Facebook page of some folks raising money for an ailing dog who were going to watch the show at the Star Bar.

And, lo and behold, when I got there, I discovered that these were not just dog lovers, but Democrats, including Glenn Smith, a liberal columnist for the Austin American-Statesman and director of the Progress Texas PAC, who I described when Perry was under indictment, as  the ” field marshal for Texas Democrats,” making the case that Perry was guilty as charged.


(The view from the Star Bar)
(The view from the Star Bar)



In other words, I said to Smith, after Perry’s performance, this was a crowd that would have preferred to see Perry doing time than keeping time.

“He seems to have avoided doing both,” Smith replied.


(Prisoners of Love, from The Producers)

Indeed, Bruno Tonioli, one of the DWTS judges, said Perry seemed in his dancing to be on Midwest or East Coast time, but definitely not Pacific time.

“Timing is very important,” Tonioli told Perry.


But the judges also noted that Perry was starting from scratch, having only, as he says here, previously danced in public four times – once at each of his inaugural balls.

But, truth be told, Perry is leaving out his most famous experience dancing in public, and his most famous dance partner – state Rep. Elliott Naishtat – the Austin Democrat, who was at the Star Bar Perry watch last night.

As one might imagine, Perry’s Dancing with Jews proved very popular, and, Naishtat recalled, led Don Imus to ask on his radio show, “Who’s the guy in the blue yamaha?”

Which led me to suggest that The Guy in the Blue Yamaha would be the perfect title for Naishtat’s memoirs of his years as  New York Jew in the thick of Texas politics.

But, back to Perry, the overnight reviews were tough.


From Joey Guerra at The Chronicle. Headline: Perry dances horribly; security scare targets Lochte on ‘DWTS’:

Rick Perry’s “Dancing with the Stars” debut went about as well as his two presidential bids. But the evening took a dramatic turn when a security scare targeting Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte interrupted the show’s live telecast.

The former Texas governor took his inaugural spin around the floor Monday night during the show’s Season 23 premiere. He was partnered with Emma Slater for a cha cha set against a carnival backdrop to the tune “God Blessed Texas.”

Perry earned a total of 20 out of 40 points for his flailing arms and lumbering footwork. It was the lowest out of the show’s 13 couples.

Judge Len Goodman called the dance “a little bit pedestrian.” Bruno Tonioli dubbed it “not exactly subtle.”

I don’t know if you were on Western or Eastern time. You were not on this time,” Tonioli joked.

Julianne Hough commended Perry for going “full out” crazy instead of holding back.

Perry was unfazed by the reception.

“This is crazy good. This is as good as it gets,” he yelped at the end of his performance.

About that, from the New York Times:

The Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, making his debut on Monday night on the season premiere of the ABC competition “Dancing With the Stars,” was rushed by at least one protester, causing a significant disturbance that sent the program to an abrupt commercial break.

The Los Angeles Police Department said two men were detained by security guards for trespassing during the live broadcast and were handed over to the police. The men’s names had not been released late Monday night.

“No one on set was touched at the time the incident occurred,” said Officer Mike Lopez, a police spokesman.

An ABC spokeswoman confirmed that the disruption had taken place, saying, “An individual stormed the dance floor tonight and was immediately subdued and escorted out of the building.”

Pictures from the scene showed two men seated with their hands behind their backs wearing shirts that displayed Mr. Lochte’s name overlaid with the universal red “no” symbol. News reports citing witnesses at the show said several other protesters were wearing similar shirts in the audience.

It was not immediately clear what had happened during the broadcast. One of the show’s judges, Carrie Ann Inaba, was delivering her assessment of the performance of Mr. Lochte and his partner, the dancer Cheryl Burke, when she suddenly cut her statement short, apparently in response to what was happening onstage.

“Hey, back off!” Ms. Inaba shouted, as security guards appeared to rush past her.

The chaos onstage was not shown on television, but in the aftermath, the camera cut to the show’s host, Tom Bergeron, who sent the show to commercial as an apparently flustered Mr. Lochte wiped sweat from his brow.


From Dawn Burkes in the Dallas Morning News. Perry dances to the bottom and Lochte gets rushed on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

He was stiff, but he seemed in his element. He even said that it was much better than any presidential debate. He’s starting from the bottom here, though.

The former Texas governor says he’s just there to learn how to dance — and to raise awareness for veterans. And he was all smiles all the time, even doing the running man behind another couple as they were in the kiss and cry area. He’s gonna have some fun with this, even with his lowest score of 20.


Former Gov. Rick Perry brought some Texas flair to the Season 23 premiere of “Dancing With The Stars,” but his footwork brought few plaudits from the judges.

The show partnered Perry, who performed in a floral embroidered Western jacket, with professional dancer Emma Slater and the two cha cha’ed to “God Blessed Texas” by Little Texas. All four of the show’s judges — Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, Julianne Hough and Bruno Tonioli — gave the former governor a five out of 10 points, making Perry the lowest scoring contestant of the night. 

Top scoring teams included race car driver James Hinchcliffe and partner Sharna Burgess, and Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and partner Val Chmerkovskiy. Both ended with a final score of 31 out of 40. And although Perry’s low rankings may foreshadow his bowing out sooner rather than later, there are no couple eliminations for the show’s first week, which means Perry still has a shot at winning. 

He came. He cha cha’d. But he hardly conquered.

Former Gov. Rick Perry made a good-natured debut Monday night on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” but tripped the light far from fantastically on the live season premiere.

Because subtlety has no place in a competition of celebrity amateurs and professional dancers, Perry rocked a floral embroidered black Western jacket to compliment his now signature glasses as he spun and sauntered about his pro dance partner Emma Slater to the country hit “God Blessed Texas” by Little Texas.

 Perry clearly had fun cutting the rug with Slater, whom he referred to as having to take “a lump of coal to shine up as a bright diamond.”

Alas, Perry’s cha cha was about as stiff as his ensemble’s bolo tie. Perry and Slater finished with a 20 out of 40 from the show’s four judges, the lowest score of the night. Each judge gave the couple a 5 out of 10.

Head judge Len Goodman called Perry’s dance “a little bit pedestrian at times,” but still gave a “good on you” to Perry for giving it a go with no dance experience. Perry hopes to get that in time for his daughter’s upcoming wedding.

Fellow judge Julianne Hough called it fun to watch but definitely crazy at times. And the ever-effusive judge Bruno Tonioli deemed it “bold, brash, not exactly subtle” and urged Perry to work on his timing.

Perry took the judges’ low poll numbers, er, paddle numbers in stride, calling his final 5 score “awesome!”

OK. Enough. Forget those nattering nabobs of negativism.

Perry may not have the judges. He may not have the press. But as any reality TV star this side of Donald Trump knows, he has (maybe) the ones who really matter – THE PEOPLE.

Or at least I think that’s how it works, because, as I mentioned, this is unexplored territory for me and the DWTS voting rules are more complicated than a Voter ID law in a Southern state.


The voting system is based on the international format for Dancing with the Stars, in which 50% of the judges’ vote and 50% of the public’s vote give the final result. If a celebrity is still in the show after the judges have issued them a low score, it means they have received a large amount of votes from the public.

Voting – frequently asked questions | DANCING WITH THE STARS …

Television New Zealand

From the voting FAQ from ABC.

2. So how do I vote?
We have three convenient ways for you to keep your favorite stars dancing. You can vote by phone or do it online, either at or on the Facebook Canvas Page. You have to be 18 years old and in the U.S. or Puerto Rico to vote on and the Facebook Canvas Page…sorry, tweens and international fans!

3. When exactly can I vote?
Phone voting begins during the show, and is open until 60 minutes after the conclusion of that show per time zone.

Online voting at both and Facebook opens each Monday when the show begins on the East Coast at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) and stays open until 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) the next day the first week of the season, and open until 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT) the following morning for all other weeks, including the finale.


5. What if I want to vote online? Anything in particular I need to do first?
To vote at, OneID account is a must. We’ve hopefully made the process pretty easy for you. In fact, if you already have a Facebook account, you can sign in with that, connect it to a OneID account and you’re ready to go. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can simply sign up for a OneID account at 

To vote via Facebook Canvas Page, you will need to have pop-up blockers turned off for Facebook and authorize the Dancing with the Stars voting app. 

6. Multiple members of my household would like to vote. Can they?
Sure — the more the merrier! Just make sure to log out after you finish voting, then have your other household members log in with their Facebook or OneID accounts. It’s perfectly fine to vote on the same computer.

That would be Jeff Miller, who ran Perry’s second, indictment-compromised presidential run, and who talked Perry into doing DWTS, with the ice cream cone to Perry’s left, in  their visit to Sandy’s to celebrate after his indictment was thrown out.

The point is, Perry may not have fleetest feet on the dance floor, and he may not have been elected president, but he is a proven vote-getter in the nation’s second biggest state and with a national following.

He can do this.

From ABC News in 2010:

Bristol Palin pasa-dobled her way to her highest scores of the season on “Dancing With the Stars” Monday night, and now she is in the final three, but her journey, like most things Palin, has not been without controversy.

The daughter of political powerhouse Sarah Palin, has consistently landed at the bottom of the leader board, yet still managed to earn a coveted spot in the finals. There’s a debate brewing over whether Bristol Palin is being kept alive on “DWTS” by her pluck and charm, or by way of her famous mom’s political pull with Republicans and the Tea Party.

Is the Tea Party stuffing the ballot box?

“There are people on the political blogs who are saying vote for Bristol as part of your allegiance to the Palin brand,” said Matt Roush, senior television critic at TV Guide Magazine.

In an interview with Barbara Walters over the weekend, Sarah Palin addressed the controversy.

“What do we do? Call every Tea Party person? I haven’t got the time,” Sarah Palin told Walters. “Bristol has the greatest work ethic of any person I know. I knew that she would do well. And when ‘Dancing With the Stars’ called her and wanted her to be on the show, I said, ‘Bristol, you know you’re going to open yourself up to criticism just because of your last name. And Bristol said, ‘Mom, you know it doesn’t matter what I do. They’re going to criticize me, so I might as well dance.'”

Who survives on “DWTS” each week is based on the combined total of judges’ scores and public votes. According to PR guru Howard Bragman, who appeared on “Good Morning America” Tuesday, “Dancing With the Stars'” viewership sways Republican — possibly giving Bristol Palin an advantage among the voting public.

“DWTS is a very big show among Republicans and not quite as big among the Democrats. It is very family oriented. Of course that’s helping her,” Bragman said.


Rick Perry reaching for a corn dog at the start of his dance routine.





A `basket of deplorables’ or `strangers in their own land?’ On Trump’s `collective effervescence’

(for an explanation of this meme, see the end of today’s First Reading)


Good day Austin:

Back during the Republican primaries, there was a suspicion voiced by some Cruz partisans and others that Donald Trump might be a Clinton stooge  – a plant, an asset, an operative – whose mission it was to wrest the Republican nomination from any candidate capable of defeating Hillary Clinton and then deliver the general election to Clinton by running a campaign so over the top and beyond the pale that few sane people would vote for him.

The only way Clinton could win, so the reasoning went, was to find an opponent even more unpopular than she was. And that was Trump.

But, after the last week, I have wondered whether this most cinematic campaign might end with a David Mamet Spanish Prisoner  double surprise twist, in which it turns out that it is Clinton who is throwing the election to Trump and not the other way around.

First, amid what seemed groundless and truly outrageous assertions from Rudy Giuliani and others that Clinton was not well, there was Clinton’s Labor Day coughing jag, in which her running mate, Tim Kaine, seated right behind her, seemed to be under instructions not to come to her aid under any circumstances.

And then on Sunday, there was Clinton’s swoon as she was being helped into her car after becoming overcome by the heat at a 9/11 observance, a disconcerting scene, but one which the Clinton campaign belatedly put in context by noting that Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday, explaining both the cough and the swoon.

But could it also explain her  basket of deplorable comments at a Friday night fundraiser?

Here is the context From PolitiFact:

The Donald Trump campaign is slamming Hillary Clinton for saying that half of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables.”

Speaking at the LGBT for Hillary Gala in New York City on Sept. 9, 2016, Clinton said that Trump’s supporters were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic.” Trump said the remarks showed “her true contempt for everyday Americans.”

We wanted to present Clinton’s comments in context to let readers judge for themselves. We also include her subsequent statement on her comments.

Clinton began the night with a standard welcome before criticizing Trump and the types of judges he might appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court if he were elected. She then noted that she had “a special commitment” to LGBT community and spoke in support of gay rights:

“In too many places still, LGBT Americans are singled out for harassment and violence. You can get married on Saturday, post your pictures on Sunday and get fired on Monday. That’s why we’ve got to continue the forward march of progress.”

“And we cannot do it alone. I cannot do it alone. I’m not like Donald Trump, who says, ‘I alone can fix it.’ I’ve never quite figured out what it is he alone can fix. But that’s not what you’ll hear from me. I think we have to do this together. So, together we’re gonna pass the Equality Act to guarantee full equality. We’re going to put comprehensive quality affordable healthcare within reach for more people, including for mental health and addiction. We’re going to take on youth homelessness, and as my wonderful, extraordinary, great daughter said, we are going to end the cruel and dangerous practice of conversion therapy. We’re going to keep working toward an AIDS-free generation, a goal that I set as secretary of state, and with your help we’re going to pass comprehensive gun laws. …”

“I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think, well, he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

“But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy deverything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

“And what I hope is that in addition to your extraordinary generosity, you will go to our website,, or text to join at 47246 to see how else you can get involved.”

Clinton continued to ask people to get involved with her campaign, then introduced singer Barbra Streisand.


From the Independent, with fuzzy video.


Barbra Streisand has mocked Donald Trump with a reworked version of the classic song ‘Send In The Clowns’.

Appearing at an LBGT fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in New York on Friday, the 74-year-old ten-time Grammy-award winning singer changed the lyrics of the Stephen Sondheim tune to poke fun at the Republican presidential candidate’s refusal to release his tax returns so far.

“Is he that rich, maybe he’s poor, ’til he reveals his returns, who can be sure?” Streisand sang to a crowd of around 1,000.

“Something’s amiss, I don’t approve, if he were running the free world, where would we move? Name me a town? Just who is this clown?”

“And if by chance he gets to heaven, even up there, he’ll declare chapter 11. This sad, vulgar clown. You’re fired, you clown,” she added.

And from Zagat, a little context on the Cipriani Club 55, a stone’s throw from The Trump Building, where Clinton delivered her basket of deplorables remarks, and its sister restaurants.

“Air kisses” abound at these “posh” Italians where “pretty people”, “billionaires” and those wanting to “feel powerful” go for “well-prepared” Italian dishes at “absurdly expensive” tabs; all offer “chic” surrounds, including a columned terrace over Wall Street and a “spectacular” perch above Grand Central’s concourse.



More from PolitiFact:

The next day, after facing criticism from the Trump campaign and others, Clinton issued this statement:

“Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong. But let’s be clear, what’s really ‘deplorable’ is that Donald Trump hired a major advocate for the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement to run his campaign and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values.

“It’s deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people.

“It’s deplorable that he’s attacked a federal judge for his ‘Mexican heritage,’ bullied a Gold Star family because of their Muslim faith, and promoted the lie that our first black president is not a true American. So I won’t stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign. I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out and left behind.

“As I said, many of Trump’s supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel like the economy or our political system are working for them.  I’m determined to bring our country together and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top. Because we really are ‘stronger together.’”

In other words, Clinton wasn’t backing off “basket of deplorables,” only the proportion of Trump supporters who belong in that basket.

Indeed, she had talked about the basket of deplorables on Thursday with an Israeli TV station – complete with Hebrew subtitles – without getting into what percentage of Trump supporters fell into the basket.







From Meet the Press Sunday.


Audie, why is it, though, Donald Trump gets credit for being politically incorrect, telling it like it is? And Hillary Clinton, I think some of her supporters are saying, “Hey, she’s just doing what Trump does, she’s just telling it like it is.”


Right. I mean, I think we can put aside for a second that there is a segment of Trump supporters which surveys have shown do have beliefs that people can talk about as being Islamophobic or xenophobic. And he has retweeted white nationalists and we have had this discussion about the alt-right. But putting that aside for a second, what it does is it confirms what his supporters already believe, right? Which is that essentially he is this bulwark against so-called “PC-culture,” right? He is the one leading the charge against that and they are upset that their concerns are routinely dismissed out of hand as being racist or retrograde and he’s the person who’s been out there saying, “No, no, no, you’re perfectly normal, something is quote/unquote wrong here.” And she basically confirmed something they believe which is that Democrats don’t just think that they’re wrong, but like, look down on them.


Yeah, candidates should not be sociologists, they should not be pundits. They should not sit there at Cipriani in New York where the fundraiser was held looking down and making gross generalizations, not only about 50 percent, but about people.




People, even the people that say repugnant things at Trump rallies, are complicated and they’re driven by complicated fears and anxieties to sometimes do some things, sometimes do beautiful things. And so, the truism that you hate the sin, but don’t hate the sinner applies to politics just as well and she was hating the sinner.

And, are there Trump supporters out there who are supposed to hear what Clinton said and think, `Well, she’s not talking about me, I’m not deplorable, it’s those other Trump supporters she’s talking about?”

I spoke Sunday with Arlie Russell Hochschild, an actual sociologist, one of the nation’s most esteemed, at the University of California at Berkeley, whose new book, Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, could not be more timely.

Hochschild, a Berkeley liberal, spent five years in the furthest place politically from her hometown – embedding herself in the lives and thinking of tea party Republicans in Louisiana, people who loathe and reject the federal government even as their state, lurching from crisis to crisis, is among the most dependent on federal help and protection, in an attempt to surmount the empathy wall between their two worlds, with truly remarkable success.





From her recent piece in Mother Jones: I Spent 5 Years With Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans. Here’s What They Won’t Tell You. How Donald Trump took a narrative of unfairness and twisted it to his advantage.

I wanted to leave my subnation of Berkeley, California, and enter another as far right as Berkeley is to the left. White Louisiana looked like it. In the 2012 election, 39 percent of white voters nationwide cast a ballot for President Barack Obama. That figure was 28 percent in the South, but about 11 percent in Louisiana.

To try to understand the tea party supporters I came to know—I interviewed 60 people in all—over the next five years I did a lot of “visiting,” as they call it. I asked people to show me where they’d grown up, been baptized, and attended school, and the cemetery where their parents had been buried. I perused high school yearbooks and photograph albums, played cards, and went fishing. I attended meetings of Republican Women of Southwest Louisiana and followed the campaign trails of two right-wing candidates running for Congress.

When I asked people what politics meant to them, they often answered by telling me what they believed (“I believe in freedom”) or who they’d vote for (“I was for Ted Cruz, but now I’m voting Trump”). But running beneath such beliefs like an underwater spring was what I’ve come to think of as a deep story. The deep story was a feels-as-if-it’s-true story, stripped of facts and judgments, that reflected the feelings underpinning opinions and votes. It was a story of unfairness and anxiety, stagnation and slippage—a story in which shame was the companion to need. Except Trump had opened a divide in how tea partiers felt this story should end.


What the people I interviewed were drawn to was not necessarily the particulars of these theories. It was the deep story underlying them—an account of life as it feels to them. Some such account underlies all beliefs, right or left, I think. The deep story of the right goes like this:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

I checked this distillation with those I interviewed to see if this version of the deep story rang true. Some altered it a bit (“the line-waiters form a new line”) or emphasized a particular point (those in back are paying for the line-cutters). But all of them agreed it was their story. One man said, “I live your analogy.” Another said, “You read my mind.”

And, from another piece by Hochschild The Guardian

Normally when doing field research, a sociologist comes to a scene, then leaves it, and the scene itself remains unchanged. By my 10th visit with my core of white, middle-aged and older, Christian, married, blue- and white-collar Louisianans, I had discovered that virtually everyone I talked to embraced the same “feels-as-if” deep story. But by the end of my research, there had been a profound change.

I checked in with my new friends and acquaintances to see how they felt about Donald Trump. Looking back at my previous research, I see that the scene had been set for Trump’s rise, like kindling before a match is lit. Three elements had come together. Since 1980, virtually all those I talked with felt on shaky economic ground, a fact that made them brace at the very idea of “redistribution”. They also felt culturally marginalised: their views about abortion, gay marriage, gender roles, race, guns, and the Confederate flag all were held up to ridicule in the national media. They had begun to feel like a besieged minority. And to these feelings they added the cultural tendency to identify “up” the social ladder with the planter, the oil magnate, and to feel detached from those further down the ladder.

Trump is an “emotions candidate”. More than any other presidential candidate in decades, Trump focuses on eliciting and praising emotional responses from his fans rather than on detailed policy prescriptions. His speeches – evoking dominance, bravado, clarity, national pride, and personal uplift – inspire an emotional transformation. Then he points to that transformation. Not only does Trump evoke emotion, he makes an object of it, presenting it back to his fans as a sign of collective success.

His supporters have been in mourning for a lost way of life. Many have become discouraged, others depressed. They yearn to feel pride but instead have felt shame. Their land no longer feels like their own. Joined together with others like themselves, they feel greatly elated at Trump’s promise to deliver them unto a state in which they are no longer strangers in their own land.

From her book:

“Collective effervescence,” as the French sociologist Emile Durkheim called it in the The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, is a state of emotional excitation felt by those who join with others they take to be part of a moral or biological tribe. They gather to affirm their unity and, united, they feel secure and respected. While Durkheim was studying religious rites among indigenous tribes in Australia and elsewhere, much of what could be applied to the (Trump) rally at Lakefront Airport, as well as many others like it.


 Seen through Durkheim’s eyes, the real function of the excited gathering around Donald Trump is to unify all the white, evangelical enthusiasts who fear that those` cutting ahead in line’ are about to become a terrible, strange, new, America. The source of the awe and excitement isn’t simply Trump himself; it is the unity of the great crowd of strangers gathered around him. If the rally itself could speak it would say, `We are a majority!’ Added to that is a potent promise – to be lifted up from bitterness, despair, depression. The `movement,’ as Trump has increasingly called his campaign, as a great antidepressant. Like other leaders promising rescue, Trump evokes a moral consciousness. But what he gives participants emotionally, is an ecstatic high.


The costumes, hats, signs, and symbols reaffirm this new sense of unity. To those who attend his rallies, the event itself symbolizes a larger rising tide. As the crowd exited the hangar fans were saying to one another, `See how many of us there are.’ It felt to them that Trump had captured the flag.”

Collective effervescence.

Hochschild’s description precisely described what I witnessed at the Trump rallies I’ve attended.

From the First Reading after Trump’s rally last month in Austin.


I met Zachary Zenteno, in the photo at the top, while he was waiting on the enormous line to get into the rally at the Expo Center on Tuesday. I was drawn to talk to him by his outstanding Trump shirt, which I hadn’t seen before.


Zenteno, 19, from Lockhart, cast his first vote ever for Trump in the March primary and would cast his second vote ever for Trump in November

“It’s cool to have a lot of people behind you, to be part of a group who support what you support,” Zenteno said.

Zenteno said he was drawn by Trump’s personality.

“He stands for what he believes in and won’t take no crap,” Zenteno said.


This was, I think, my sixth Trump rally – having previously attended two in Dallas, two in Iowa and one in South Carolina.

I have written before about the buoyant spirit at the rallies, and the likability of the people I have met at all of them.

From a First Reading after attending a Trump rally  Myrtle Beach, S.C., ahead of the South Carolina primary.

Cruz may prevail.

But in the meantime, it’s time to get used to the idea of Trump Nation.

The good new is that Trump Nation is already readily accessible because they gather with one another in the thousands with great regularity.

The further good news is that, for all the anger and frustration that undergirds his populist nationalism, Trump Nation – at least when it gets together to hear from the man – seems like a pretty happy, even rollicking place.

Hochschild’s publicist sent Clinton a copy of her book.

“I don’t know if she has any time to read anything. I just wish, I just wish. I guess my aim in writing this book is to try to enlighten liberals and get them to reach out, and to make conservatives feel understood, and then to get us out of our enclaves, our geographical enclaves, our technological enclaves, our media enclaves. We’re in this strange schizophrenia because we read the paper, and look at the tube, and see tremendous acrimony, and then got out with our friends and family and everyone agrees with us so we don’t really know people to hash it out with.”

Of Clnton’s basket of deplorables comment, Hochschild said, “She’s got to walk that back. Oh my goodness. And shes’ got to come to Louisiana, I’d be happy to introduce her to my people.”

“She’s throwing it away,” Hochschild said.

“I don’t know what to compare it to other than Romney’s 47 percent,” Hochschild said.


 “I mean you just don’t do that,” Hochschild said. “If you’re going to be president you have to be president of everyone and you have to be very good at appealing to people’s good angels, and those good angels are there with this group too, that’s the point of my book.”

There was, also, of course, Obama in April 2008.

From The Guardian:

Obama was caught in an uncharacteristic moment of loose language. Referring to working-class voters in old industrial towns decimated by job losses, the presidential hopeful said: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The comments were seized on by his rival for the Democratic party candidacy, Hillary Clinton, who saw in them the hope of reviving her flagging campaign by turning voters in the important Pennsylvania primary on April 22 against what she classed as Obama’s revealed “elitism”.

“I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America,” she said on Saturday. “His remarks are elitist and out of touch.” Clinton campaigners in North Carolina handed out stickers saying: “I’m not bitter.”

From Roger Cohen  in Sunday’s New York Times:  We Need ‘Somebody Spectacular’: Views From Trump Country. Appalachian voters know perfectly well the candidate is dangerous. But they’re desperate for change.

But the Trump magnetism goes deeper than resentment at Obama’s regretful tone from Havana to Hiroshima. It seems to go beyond the predictable Republican domination in this part of the country. There’s a sense, crystallized in coal’s steady demise, that, as the political scientist Norman Ornstein put it to me, “Somebody is taking everything you are used to and you had” — your steady middle-class existence, your values, your security. It’s not that the economy is bad in all of Kentucky; the arrival of the auto industry has been a boon, and the unemployment rate is just 4.9 percent. It’s that all the old certainties have vanished.

Far from the metropolitan hubs inhabited by the main beneficiaries of globalization’s churn, many people feel disenfranchised from both main political parties, angry at stagnant wages and growing inequality, and estranged from a prevailing liberal urban ethos. I heard a lot about how Obama has not been supportive enough of the police, of how white lives matter, too, and of how illegal — as in illegal immigrant — means illegal, just as robbing a bank is. For anyone used to New York chatter, or for that matter London or Paris chatter, Kentucky is a through-the-looking-glass experience. There are just as many certainties; they are simply the opposite ones, whether on immigration, police violence toward African-Americans, or guns. America is now tribal, with each tribe imbibing its own social-media-fed ranting.


America is no longer white enough for that to be decisive, but it is significant. To these people, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” is not the empty rhetoric of a media-savvy con artist from Queens but a last-ditch rallying cry for the soul of a changing land where minorities will be the majority by the middle of the century.


Trump can’t reverse globalization. Nor is he likely to save coal in an era of cheap natural gas. His gratuitous insults, evident racism, hair-trigger temper and lack of preparation suggest he would be a reckless, even perilous, choice for the Oval Office. I don’t think he is a danger to the Republic because American institutions are stronger than Trump’s ego, but that the question even arises is troubling.

Still, in a climate where disruption is sought at any cost (whether political in Hazard or economic in Silicon Valley), it would be foolhardy to suggest that Trump cannot win. He can; and he can in part because of the liberal intellectual arrogance that dismisses the economic, social and cultural problems his rise has underscored. Whatever happens in November, these problems will persist, and it will take major public and private investment and an unlikely rebirth of bipartisanship in Washington to make any dent in them.

“Even if she wins what we’re talking about isn’t going away,” Hochschild said. “The bitter feelings and rivalry, that has to be handled carefully and understood to be a deep story.”

“I worry about the country getting into a fisticuffs.”



From Paulina Firozi at The Hill — Trump Jr. and top supporter share White nationalist image on social media:

The image includes photos of Stone, Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Eric Trump, vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), Donald Trump Jr., Infowars’s Alex Jones, conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos and a frog meme associated with the alt-right movement — all under a large heading that reads “The Deplorables.”  

The frog, called Pepe, is a white supremacist meme, the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News. 

“It’s constantly used in those circles,” said SPLC’s Heidi Beirich.

“The white nationalists are gonna love this because they’re gonna feel like, ‘Yeah we’re in there with Trump, there’s Pepe the Frog.'”

Why Texas Republicans would be better off with Hillary Clinton as president

Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri, left, and senior aid Huma Abedin, right, arrives at Westchester County Airport, in White Plains, N.Y., Thursday, AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri, left, and senior aide Huma Abedin, right, arrives at Westchester County Airport, in White Plains, N.Y., Thursday, AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)


Good morning Austin:

I was a bit startled when the massive Washington Post 50-state poll  on the presidential race released Tuesday identified Texas as a purple swing state.



My story for the Statesman – Are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump really tied in Texas? – offered some skepticism about the results and some reasons why the poll should be taken, as University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus put it, “with an absolute lick of salt.”

I sent an email that morning to the Texas Republican Party:

Didn’t know if the chairman wanted to offer a rejoinder to the Washington Post 50-state poll showing Texas a dead heat between Clinton or Trump? Or perhaps you’ve already prepared an urgent fundraising email.

The rejoinder wasn’t forthcoming, but at shortly before 9 that night came the first urgent fundraising email, this one from Texans for Greg Abbott, who never miss an opportunity to sound the alarm.

Austin American Statesman: Washington Post poll has Clinton and Trump locked in dead heat in Texas

Jonathan, this isn’t a joke

Many Texas conservatives have let their guard down, and Hillary’s campaign juggernaut is taking full advantage of it.

After years of success at the ballot box, Republicans have assumed that our state would remain a beacon for liberty and freedom–and never turn blue. 
It’s time to step it up NOW.  We cannot afford to lose Texas in November. 

The Washington Post’s latest poll has Hillary Clinton with a 1-point lead over Donald Trump 
in TexasDon’t sit on the sidelines.  We have to do everything we can to keep Texas red!
It only takes one bad election to undo everything we’ve achieved together.  We must have your help right away!

Will you help us in this fight?  The stakes cannot be higher.  A victory for Hillary in Texas would guarantee her the White House.  But that’s not the only thing at stake.  They’re also trying to win important down-ballot races.  If they win these races, Governor Abbott’s conservative agenda for next session could be dead on arrival.

Our field team has been working across the state, and we’re relying on the support of generous Texans to keep it running–registering voters, training volunteers, and getting Republicans to the polls. 
Can Governor Abbott count on your support?

Hillary and the Democrats have multiple offices in Texas, and have been working tirelessly to win the Lone Star State.  Tim Kaine is scheduled to campaign across Texas again as Election Day draws closer.  
The time to act is NOW.  Please make the most generous contribution you can to help our statewide field team ensure Texas remains red.

The road to the White House could be determined in Texas.

John Jackson

Campaign Director

Texans for Greg Abbott

Next up, Wednesday morning, came the equally urgent email appeal of Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Mechler.

According to the latest polls, the race for the White House is a dead heat. Those polls also have the Obama-Clinton Democrats and their friends in the liberal media thinking Crooked Hillary might be able to pick off Republican strongholds – like Texas.

You read that right.

Hillary Clinton and the Democrats think they smell an opportunity to pull off a shocking upset in the Lone Star State and they’ll pour the Clinton Cash political machine funds into Texas to do just that.

If Donald Trump is going to lead unprecedented Republican victories en route to the White House, he must win here, in Texas –
America’s great stronghold of liberty-loving commonsense conservatives.

And only the Republican Party of Texas has the ability to do what it will take to emerge victorious up-and-down the ticket on Election Day with the staff, volunteers, polling, voter outreach, advertising, and Get-Out-the Vote programs that make all the difference.

That’s why I’m asking you to make an emergency contribution to the Republican Party of Texas now:

Chip in $25 immediately >>>

Chip in $50 immediately >>>

Chip in $75 immediately >>>

Chip in $100 immediately >>>

Or click here to donate another amount >>>

Jonathan,, we must prove the leftist media and Hillary campaign wrong!
Please step forward right now and make an urgent contribution of $25, $50, $75, or even $100 or more to support the Texas GOP today!

And then, late that afternoon, a somewhat less panicked email from Mike Joyce, the state party’s communications director.

Jonathan – have you seen the latest headlines?

The media continues to push the narrative that Texas is not only in play, but Democrats could see historic victories across the Lone Star State this November.

Here is what I told a magazine this morning:

“Hillary will not win Texas, I can promise you that. [This poll showing a slight Clinton lead] is a perfect example of Democrats latching onto anything for relevance. They are always trying to find that one spark that’s going to jumpstart the Party, but the Republican Party continues to be dominant.”

Jonathan, I need your help to make sure I keep my promise. We are confident but can’t take anything for granted.
That’s why your support more important now than ever in the final 60 days of the election cycle. Follow this link today to keep Texas Red this November!

Hillary will not win Texas, I can promise you that – especially if the Republican Party of Texas has your support!

Mike Joyce

Communications Director, RPT

Theses emails all reminded of something that Steve Munisteri – Mechler’s predecessor as chairman – had told me on more than one occasion, that Battleground Texas, which was founded in 2013 with the long-term objective of turning Texas first purple then blue, was the best thing that happened to him as chairman, rousing Texas Republicans from their complacency and providing no end to the kind of stories that the state GOP could effectively fund raise off of.

Best of all, from the Texas Republican perspective, the negative synergy between Battleground Texas and the Wendy Davis campaign for governor helped the state GOP go from a very comfortable, nearly 13-point margin of victory in the 2010 governor’s race, to a whopping 20-point win in 2014.





However, Battleground Texas and Wendy Davis did not do it alone. The real hero of Greg Abbott’s big victory in 2014 was President Barack Obama, whose presidency gave Texas Republicans absolutely everything they could want to run against.

In fact, the central mantra of Abbott’s campaign was that, as attorney general, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.”

Now, just suppose John McCain had been elected president in 2008, or Mitt Romney had been elected in 2012?

What would Abbott have run on?

“I go into the office, work hand-in-glove with the federal government, and I go home.”

That’s no good. No good at all.

Truth is, Texas Republicans are going to sorely miss Barack Obama.

But they need not grieve for long, because Hillary Clinton is pretty near just as excellent as a substitute, which is why, in their most secret heart-of-hearts, Texas Republicans are, or ought to be, rooting, for Clinton to win in November.

Indeed, the elliptical message of those urgent fundraising appeals is, or should be, while for the record we really, really, really want Donald Trump to score a huge victory on his way to seizing the White House, we all know, Jonathan, that the best thing that could happen for our party, would be for Hillary to occupy the White House come January.

Of course there are some Texas Republicans – Ted Cruz you know who you are – who aren’t rooting, even superficially, for Trump to win. But the same logic applies to him. He is much better off running for president in 2020 against another President Clinton seeking to extend Democratic control of the White House to 16 years, than an incumbent of his own party.

I checked this logic with Bill Miller, a lobbyist and co-founder of HillCo Partners, who knows as much about this sort of thing as anyone.

Yes, Miller said, for Texas Republicans, Hillary Clinton would prove a worthy successor to Barack Obama as someone for them to fund raise off of and run against, and, unlike a Trump presidency, a Clinton presidency would provide a clear path for Abbott (not to mention Cruz) to run for president in 2018.

Is Abbott interested in running for president?

Yeah, sure, why not. He is the governor of Texas.

From Bill Whelan – a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution in California – writing at Forbes this week.

We’re going to hit the fast-forward button in this column – way past the upcoming election and whatever 2017 has to offer in the way of a new White House and Congress.

Our arrival point: the day after the 2018 midterm election and the question of which Republican will be in the best position to challenge Hillary Clinton’s re-election (which I’m assuming – for the sake of this argument, not because I think she has this clinched).

That Republican?

I’m going with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

And, the reverse logic applies to Texas Democrats, who, from a purely political standpoint, would be better off being able to fulminate against President Trump than have to defend President Clinton.

Miller points out that if, as Democrats argue, once they flip Texas they will remake the national political map in a way that will make it virtually impossible for Republicans to ever again build a national Electoral College majority, a Trump presidency, while difficult for them to stomach, would almost certainly provide Texas Democrats the key to the electoral lock they are looking for.

From Rice University political scientist Mark Jones:

Certainly having Obama in the White House has made things easier for Texas Republicans than would be the case if there were a Republican in the White House. Looking back at 2008, Bush did drag down Texas Republicans. The Republican losses that year were a combination of Bush’s unpopularity and simple fatigue with the Bush administration, but also Republicans got greedy in the redistricting and therefore over-extended themselves a little bit, which came back to haunt them in the 2008 election when there was a higher than normal turnout among Democratic-leaning voters.
Just look at these numbers. Texas Republicans initially did well with the election of Gov. George W. Bush and the first mid-term election to follow. But, by the time he left office, Democrats had nearly drawn even with Republicans in the Texas House. As soon as Obama was in the White House, Texas Democrats’ fortunes plunged.




For Texas Democrats, Clinton would be more of the same.

Mark Jones:

From a Democratic perspective, Hillary Clinton is probably good for individual Texas Democrats if she’s in the White House, in that she can do things and promote policies that they agree with. She’s bad for Texas Democrats in terms of electoral politics because she will make it all the harder for Texas Democrats to win in 2018 and more likely than not, many of the gains they obtain this cycle, they’ll lose back to Republicans in 2018 when Republicans can campaign against Clinton in the White House and they’ll have Greg Abbott headlining their ticket as opposed to Donald Trump.

For Abbott or Cruz or any other Republican interested in being president, Jones said:

Trump is a no-win situation in the White House because either he is successful, in which case he will run for re-election in four years, or, more likely, he implodes or is such a disaster that the Republican brand is so damaged that it will be a cake walk for the Democratic nominee.

Two years ago, in December 2014, University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, writing in Politico Magazine, laid out Why Parties Should Hope They Lose the White House

Think of the billions the parties must raise to elect a president in 2016. Consider the millions of paid and volunteer man-hours that will be devoted to this enterprise. The White House is the center of the partisan political universe, and Democrats and Republicans alike measure success or failure by their ability to win and hold the presidency.

Instead, maybe they ought to hope they lose. The surest price the winning party will pay is defeat of hundreds of their most promising candidates and officeholders for Senate, House, governorships, and state legislative posts. Every eight-year presidency has emptied the benches for the triumphant party, and recently it has gotten even worse. (By the way, the two recent one-term presidents, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, also cost their parties many lower-level offices, but in both cases this didn’t happen until they were defeated for reelection.)

Since World War II there have been eight two-term presidencies: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, plus the reasonable succession combos of Franklin Roosevelt-Harry Truman, John Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon-Gerald Ford. Not a one has left his party in better shape that he found it, at least in terms of lower elected offices.

Naturally, there are differences. As in all other categories, some presidents were more damaging than others. And while his record is not yet complete, since the 2016 cycle still awaits, Barack Obama is well on his way to becoming the most harmful to his sub-presidential party of all modern chief executives.

From Truman to Obama, it’s a sorry record. Take a glance down this chart, compiled by my colleague Geoffrey Skelley, which catalogues the injury done to each president’s party during his (or their) eight years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:





Q – How in heaven’s name did a doughy pedagogue like Newt Gingrich ever become speaker of the House?


From Sabato:

Democrats were delirious when Bill Clinton restored them to power in 1992, a euphoria that lasted until his unpopularity pushed both houses of Congress to Republican control two years later. Despite a marginal improvement in Democratic fortunes during the rest of Clinton’s administration, the party registered a net loss of 11 governorships, seven Senate seats, 45 House seats, 524 state legislative berths, and 18 state legislative chambers.

George W. Bush’s long-term losses were more modest. Nonetheless, with Bush’s sharp drop in job approval because of his handling of the Iraq War and Katrina (plus GOP congressional scandals), Democrats regained full control of Congress in 2006, and in 2008 secured outright majorities in 60 of the states’ 98 legislative chambers (excluding Nebraska’s nonpartisan unicameral body).

However, it is Barack Obama who holds the modern record for overall losses, at least through 2014. President Obama has presided over two devastating midterms for his party. From 2008 to the present, Democrats in the Obama era have racked up net forfeitures of 11 governorships, 13 Senate seats, 69 House seats, 913 state legislative seats, and 30 state legislative chambers. In the latter three categories, Obama has doubled (or more) the average two-term presidential loss from Truman through Bush.

For Texas Republicans, a Clinton presidency would be healing and unifying.

But, if Trump were elected president Texas would be deep red … with blood everywhere.

You’d have a President Trump trying to lay low Lyin’ Ted and, presumably vice versa, and a Gov. Abbott having to look to a third term as governor before he could fulfill his destiny, and every other Texas Republican having to choose sides or look for cover.




Meanwhile, Robert Caro may be still immersed in LBJ,  but, if he could spare a few years or a decade, it would be great if he could bring his prodigious talents to bear on the making of President Donald Trump.

I have a title all ready for him: Donald Trump: Means of Descent.

It’s a play on Trump’s famous descent on the escalator at Trump Tower when he announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, and also a nod toward how Trump has coarsened American politics.

And here is the extended play version.

But, Means of Descent also refers to Trump’s money quote from Wednesday night’s Commander-in-Chief Forum on NBC.

MATT LAUER: Mr. Trump, as you know, tensions between the United States and Russia have been at the highest level since the Cold War. In your first 120 days of presidency, how would you de-escalate the tensions? And more importantly, what steps would you take to bring Mr. Putin and the Russian government back to negotiating table?

TRUMP: I think I would have a very good relationship with many foreign leaders. I think it’s very sad, when you look at Barack Obama, as an example, lands Air Force One in China, and they don’t want to put out stairs to get off the plane. And he has to use the stairs that mechanics use to get up and down to fix the plane. They wouldn’t give him stairs

I think Trump has a point.


In advance of the forum, I received an email from the Trump campaign.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-11-08-36-pm screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-12-33-22-amscreen-shot-2016-09-07-at-6-17-37-pmscreen-shot-2016-09-07-at-6-17-48-pm

At first I was excited to be representing my zip code – the mighty 78722 – in the Commander-in-Chief Forum focus group. Then I felt guilty that maybe I had stolen that honor from a legit Trump supporter, not someone signed up just to keep an eye on things.

But guilt quickly gave way to suspicion. Maybe I wasn’t the only one chosen to represent my zip. Maybe everyone on their list was told they were representing his or her zip code. Maybe it wasn’t such as special honor after all.

Either way, I took it seriously enough to submit a question in the space provided.


I’ll await Trump’s answer