Trick or treat? If you’re going to early vote in the presidential election, Halloween is the day to do it.



Happy Halloween, Austin:

Intellectually, I know that early voting is a good thing, increasing political participation, something especially to be desired in a state like Texas with such sorry habits in this regard.

But, emotionally, I don’t like it.

I like voting on Election Day and I want everyone else voting on Election Day.

Of course, I am also nostalgic for the long-ago days when everyone got their news from Walter Cronkite, or Huntley/Brinkley, or (the one-man, very distinguished, Fox news of his day) Howard K. Smith, when Sunday night was Ed Sullivan and Bonanza, when we were all on the same page, more or less, about what was unfolding before us.

Back when America was great, which I’d like it to be again.

Oh wait. Strike that. Forget I said that.

But, I do like Election Day as a civic holiday, and, to me, early voting feels as wrong, as much an invitation to chaos, as early trick-or-treating.

Sure, with early trick-or-treating, more kids would get more candy.

But what’s to stop a kid from knocking on your door one day dressed as a goblin and then knocking on your door two days later dressed as a ghoul?

Sure, the Brennan Center or some such will tell you that in-person, trick-or-treat fraud is extremely rare, but I don’t know.

I’ll wait to hear what Gov. Abbott has to say about that.

But, more fundamentally, think about this.

Millions of I-simply-can’t-wait-to-vote Texans, and altogether some 20 million over-eager Americans, have already voted in what is commonly called the most consequential presidential election in our history without having Anthony Weiner on the brain.

And, with Election Day coming as late as it can possibly come this year, there is still time for a November Surprise …  or two.

Before this is over, Donald Trump  may, a la Mission Impossible, remove his improbable mask and reveal that he is actually Ted Cruz, or Marvin Bush, or Evan McMullin, or Vladimir Putin, or some alien being sent to enslave us all, or Roger Clinton.

Yes, of course, Roger Clinton, confirming Alex Jones’ worst fears that his man Trump is actually a Clinton mole.

Trump, of course, a little bit suspiciously, had been predicting this all along.




Here he was talking about Abedin, Weiner and the emails in Norwood, Massachusetts, back at the end of August.

Imagine someone so lacking in impulse control, so reckless in what he tweets.

Certainly, Donald Trump calling Anthony Weiner names, shows a certain lack of self-awareness.



I mean, if Donald Trump gropes women the way he boasted about, but which he then said he actually didn’t, but then a bunch of women said he most definitely did, that is presumably a lot worse than Weiner’s consensual virtual sex with women (I know nothing about the latest Weiner charges, involving underage girls, but that too, I presume, is virtual.).

In fact, in the vast realm of personality types, Trump and Weiner seem if not on the same page than at least in the same chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

From The Mind of Donald Trump by Don P. McAdams in The Atlantic:

The same feeling perplexed Mark Singer in the late 1990s when he was working on a profile of Trump for The New Yorker. Singer wondered what went through his mind when he was not playing the public role of Donald Trump. What are you thinking about, Singer asked him, when you are shaving in front of the mirror in the morning? Trump, Singer writes, appeared baffled. Hoping to uncover the man behind the actor’s mask, Singer tried a different tack:

“O.K., I guess I’m asking, do you consider yourself ideal company?”

“You really want to know what I consider ideal company?,” Trump replied. “A total piece of ass.”

I might have phrased Singer’s question this way: Who are you, Mr. Trump, when you are alone? Singer never got an answer, leaving him to conclude that the real-estate mogul who would become a reality-TV star and, after that, a leading candidate for president of the United States had managed to achieve something remarkable: “an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul.”

Here is David Brook’s diagnosis in the New York Times:

Trump continues to display the symptoms of narcissistic alexithymia, the inability to understand or describe the emotions in the self. Unable to know themselves, sufferers are unable to understand, relate or attach to others.

To prove their own existence, they hunger for endless attention from outside. Lacking internal measures of their own worth, they rely on external but insecure criteria like wealth, beauty, fame and others’ submission.

In this way, Trump seems to be denied all the pleasures that go with friendship and cooperation. Women could be sources of love and affection, but in his disordered state he can only hate and demean them. His attempts at intimacy are gruesome parodies, lunging at women as if they were pieces of meat.

Most of us derive a warm satisfaction when we feel our lives are aligned with ultimate values. But Trump lives in an alternative, amoral Howard Stern universe where he cannot enjoy the sweetness that altruism and community service can occasionally bring.

Bullies only experience peace when they are cruel. Their blood pressure drops the moment they beat the kid on the playground.

Imagine you are Trump. You are trying to bluff your way through a debate. You’re running for an office you’re completely unqualified for. You are chasing some glimmer of validation that recedes ever further from view.

Your only rest comes when you are insulting somebody, when you are threatening to throw your opponent in jail, when you are looming over her menacingly like a mafioso thug on the precipice of a hit, when you are bellowing that she has “tremendous hate in her heart” when it is clear to everyone you are only projecting what is in your own.

Trump’s emotional makeup means he can hit only a few notes: fury and aggression. In some ways, his debate performances look like primate dominance displays — filled with chest beating and looming growls. But at least primates have bands to connect with, whereas Trump is so alone, if a tree fell in his emotional forest, it would not make a sound.

It’s all so pathetic.

As for Weiner, here is Mandy Stadtmiller at the end of August in New York Magazine.

Of all the tragic tales in politics, the pathological need for Anthony Weiner to have women look at his erect penis, at a humiliating cost to his wife and family, is one of the strangest, saddest psychological case studies of all time.

This is a man who desperately needs to be looked at, talked about, filmed, discussed, praised, considered, desired, Googled, reviled, and admired. Nothing else matters to him. Not his infant son. Not his wife. Not the fate of the presidential election. Not the potential for a career rebound.

Weiner represents the living embodiment of a beloved social-media insult (“delete your account”), and the new face of the “exhibitionistic narcissist,” a group described as “grandiose, competitive, attention seeking and sexually seductive.”

The hallmarks of exhibitionist narcissism include arrogance, recklessness, and a need to show off, according to the 1998 book The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern: “Practically everything exhibitionistic narcissists do is designed to bolster their self-esteem by demonstrating that they are better, can do more and are above everyone else,” writes author Nina W. Brown. “Acting as if rules, laws and cultural conventions apply to others but not them is another example, particularly when this is consistent behavior.”

With Trump, we all have been able to observe in real-time the very public manifestations of his personality.

With Weiner, we also have, from earlier this year, the superb documentary Weiner.

From Mandy Stadtmiller:

There is a scene in the new Weiner documentary that shows him reacting gleefully to his now-legendarily disastrous 2013 Lawrence O’Donnell segment during his mayoral campaign. Wife Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s top aide and most trusted adviser, is horrified by the shout-fest ensuing. “Why are you laughing?” she asks him. “This is crazy.”

Bruce Handy in Vanity Fair in May asked some psychotherapists to evaluate the Anthony Wiener they saw in Weiner

  • Anna Fels, a psychiatrist and faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College. Her practice includes couples as well as individual therapy, and she has written about issues of betrayal.
  • Meg Kaplan, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She specializes in sexual disorders.
  • Jeannette Stern, a psychiatric social worker who treats couples and has also worked with addicts.




Jeannette Stern: That he could even watch the O’Donnell interview on playback? For me, that would be the kind of thing where I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed the next day, I’d be so mortified. I’d say, “Take all the televisions out of the apartment so I don’t have to watch it.” And when he wanted Huma to watch it, she was like, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” That’s more of a typical reaction. But his need not only to watch it but also to think he won the encounter, it’s so uncomfortable to watch. But he wasn’t uncomfortable. That suggests some kind of disconnect with reality. Everything is about attention, and it’s almost as if he doesn’t care what kind of attention.


Anna Fels: He seems to be in a kind of strange, impervious bubble. There’s a great quote where he says, “Did my personal relationships suffer because of the superficial and transactional nature of my political relationships, or is it the other way around? Do you go into politics because you’re not connecting on that other level?” Watching this movie I’d say it’s the latter. He doesn’t seem to me like someone who’s been changed or corrupted by the political process, but he’s really clueless about certain aspects of interpersonal communication and empathy.


Meg Kaplan: There’s another quote in the movie where he said, or someone said about him, “The same constitution that made him do it helped him weather it.” I think this is his personality. He’s just persevering and hoping it goes away, but not really taking responsibility or acknowledging how people are feeling about what he’s done.



So, I wonder, is all this renewed attention the worst thing that ever happened to Anthony Weiner, or the absolute very best?

As for the rest of us, we have a week and a day – give or take a Florida recount type situation – before we know whether narcissist Anthony Weiner will have elected narcissist Donald Trump president.

In the meantime, if there is a fitting day to early vote this year it would certainly be today, so maybe I’ll drop by the nearby Fiesta early voting spot, pick up some more candy, and see if the spirit moves me.


Mine is Pablo Hazard.

Why every self-interested reporter should vote for Donald Trump for president




Good day Austin:

My daughter took the photo above of, well let’s call him Trump Dogg, at Saturday’s 26th Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in New York City.

On Saturday evening, I went to a screening at the LBJ Library of LBJ – a new movie directed by Rob Reiner and starring Woody Harrelson in the title role – that will be released late this year or sometime next year.

I will write more about it in a future First Reading, but for now, here are a poignant few moments Harrelson shared with Luci Baines Johnson.

I didn’t write a First Reading last week.


Because I was listening to Alex Jones, which, properly done, is an all-consuming experience.

Here is the story I wrote about how he’s the voice in Donald Trump’s head.

He is also madly entertaining.

I know that may be an outrageous thing to say for those who find Jones deeply objectionable.

But, here I quote from Corey Pein’s  Protocols of Moron: Millions dare call it conspiracy, last month in The Baffler.

It begins as follows:

What do you get when you combine an atomized, alienated public that possesses a deep and justifiable mistrust in institutions with a floundering press-political-entertainment complex that’s desperate to hold our nanoscopic attention spans? You get a nation of half-assed shamuses who’ve traded genuine political argument for paranoid fantasies about alien masterminds, lizard overlords, and government airplanes dispersing mind-control mist over population centers, not to mention presidential candidates who think and talk just like conspiracy theorists.

It goes on from there. Read it.

But the quote I want to call to your attention is this line, about Trump and Jones:

The two men share a common gift. They are both virtuoso entertainers, grandiose and tireless. Those who dismiss Jones without having taken in his act often fail to recognize this. Without watching Jones perform, it may be hard to understand how this impassioned showman gained a bigger audience than the predictably one-note Breitbart or the dweeby, sanctimonious MSNBC.

I defy you to find anyone who has written about Jones who has spent any considerable time watching and listening to him, who isn’t awed by his theatrical gifts.  Against all reason, he can have you, wherever you’re coming from, at some point in the endless rant that is his life, rooting for him.

For example, say you’re a self-respecting Austin Democrat. You find Jones deeply offensive and you think you are too good for Jones, that there is nothing the least bit amusing about him.

Fine. think that.

But do me the favor of taking this little test.

Watch this clip of Jones accosting Karl Rove at the airport in Dallas on the way to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. All you really need to watch is the first seconds, but it gets good again about five minutes in.

If you are a Texas Democrat and you watch this without so much as a laugh or at least a suppressed smirk, you are a very good person. You are going to heaven. A very sullen blue heaven.

There is a lot of Sacha Baron Cohen in Alex Jones.

In fact, watching Jones these last few weeks, I am persuaded there is an epic, operatic American biopic in Alex Jones. Far better than Trump Dogg: The Movie, the Alex Jones Story could capture where we find ourselves as a nation right about now.

It is a great pity that James Gandolfini is not still alive to inhabit the role of Alex Jones the way he inhabited the role of another idiosyncratic American anti-hero, Tony Soprano.

Here is Tony warning his captains about the need to be better earners.




Here is Alex Jones, with the precise same Tony Soprano menace, warning Donald Trump, before the second debate, that he “must attack or drop out.”





Like Tony Soprano, Alex Jones runs he gamut of emotions.

Here is Tony tearing up at a therapy session.



Here is Jones, wiping  away tears defending himself from charges that the global conspiracy theory that Trump has, it seems, adopted from Jones whole, is anti-Semitic.



Here, noting that both his grandfathers nearly lost their lives in World War II, Jones launches with :

I almost don’t exist because of World War II and the Nazis,” Jones said. “I didn’t mean to be like this when I shot this report, but I’m sick of a bunch of scum at Media Matters and “Mother Jones” and the rest of them saying I’m some kind of Nazi. I’m gonna sue you. I made the decision. After the election, I’m gonna sue you. I’m done with you people. You’re a bunch of trash. If anybody’s Nazi, it’s you.

And lands with :

I don’t care what color Jimi Hendrix was, he was a great artist, amazing musician. Same thing, Bob Dylan. He’s a great poet. I actually like his voice. I’m a big Bob Dylan fan. I grew up listening to him, listen to him every day.

The point of all this is I have been preoccupied with Jones, and while I was preoccupied with Jones, there was a third and final presidential debate, Trump was declared the loser and, it seems, the race is over.

Apparently, the price Trump must pay for saying that the election is rigged and, I’ll keep you in suspense, OK? about whether to accept the outcome, is that, for all practical purpose, the election is now an afterthought. The only question is the magnitude of Trump’s humiliation.

This left me in a very cross mood.


Because the campaign apparently ended while I was distracted. What am I supposed to do the next couple of weeks?

Already we are reading stories that would more appropriately appear a week or two weeks after the election.

But I suspect I am also experiencing the letdown that any political reporter is going to feel if, indeed, this is the end of Trump.

Because, for all that Trump has said about how the mainstream media has rigged the game against him, the plain fact is that no group of people has more to lose from Trump’s demise than the mainstream media.

From a New York Times Op-Ed on Election Day 2014, by Jason Weeden, a lawyer and psychology researcher, and Robert Kurzban, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, are the authors of “The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It.”

As America completes another costly, polarized and exhausting election cycle, it’s commonplace to characterize our society as being divided into warring tribes of liberals and conservatives. But this view oversimplifies the causes of our political differences.

Most people aren’t ideologically pure, and most don’t derive their opinions from abstract ideologies and principles. People are more strongly influenced by the effects of policies on themselves, their families and their wider social networks. Their views, in short, are often based on self-interest.

This point may seem obvious, but it is overlooked by many political scientists who focus on other explanations: parents and peers, schools and universities, political parties and leaders, and that abstract and nebulous catchall, “values.” But the most straightforward explanation, demographics, is also the most persuasive.

Consider the evidence: Unemployed people are more than twice as likely as people working full time to want unemployment benefits increased. African-Americans are by far the most likely proponents of affirmative action and government help for African-Americans. Rich white men are especially likely to oppose income redistribution. Of course, there are many exceptions, from African-American conservatives like Herman Cain and Ben Carson to redistribution-loving tycoons like Warren E. Buffett and Bill Gates. But they are not typical.

The self-interest of the media – most especially the mainstream media – could not be more clear.

I mean seriously.

Every political reporter should conduct a thought experiment.

Imagine your heart-rate if Trump wins. Imagine the sheer exhilaration you will feel on Wednesday, Nov. 9, if  the story unfolding before your eyes is of a Donald Trump presidency.

Think of all those hits.

Think of all those headlines.

I mean, what is the Daily News thinking?




And, if Hillary Clinton wins? Well that story peaks the day she’s elected.






















Seriously. Alex Jones will do just fine with Hillary Clinton as president. He’ll thrive.

But the mainstream media?

It’s not like Hillary Clinton likes or trusts the press any more than Trump. She is just more circumspect in how she expresses herself.

(For Texas reporters, of course, self-interest is a little more complicated. Texas going blue would be almost as good a story as the country going red. The ideal outcome would be for Clinton to carry Texas on her way to losing nationally, but that’s obviously too much to ask.)

I don’t think even partisan Democrats realize the box they’ve gotten themselves in.

Sure, there will be great elation at electing Clinton and vanquishing Trump.

But, on the way to that victory, they have become cheerleaders for the status quo.

How dare anyone challenges America’s greatness.

How dare they say American politics is rigged.










Elaborating on this theme, there was a brilliant edition of Black Jeopardy on SNL with Tom Hanks as an endearing Trump supporter, a white contestant named Doug.



From Daniel Barna at

There may not be as big a difference between Trump supporters and the black community after all. That was the clever premise behind Saturday Night Live‘s “Black Jeopardy” sketch, which saw last night’s host Tom Hanks don a red “Make America Great Again” cap as Doug, a pretty docile Trumpeteer who gives all other Trumpeteers a good name.

Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata also showed up to answer questions from categories like “Big Girls,” “They Out Here Saying,” and “You Better.” But the sketch’s best moments were between Hanks’ Doug, and Keenan Thompson’s host, Darnell Hayes, who at first was skeptical of having a right wing white dude on the show, but later warmed to him after discovering that they might have more in common than he originally thought.

One thing they definitely saw eye to eye on was voter fraud. When Doug answered the clue “They out here saying that every vote counts,” with “What is: Come on, they already decided who wins even before it happens,” Thompson’s Hayes shot back with: “The Illuminati figured that out months ago. That’s another one for Doug.” Hey, maybe this country isn’t as far gone as we thought.

Sound far-fetched?





Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson has identified as an anarchist and, like Alex Jones, a 9-11 Truther, so I mentioned to him that I had just written about how Jones was influencing Trump in the presidential campaign.

“How do you mean?” he asked.

I explained.

“Really?” said Harrelson. “I can’t see their philosophies being too aligned.”






`I don’t agree with everything I say sometimes.’ On Blake Farenthold flubbing the Trump/rape hypothetical.

Good morning Austin:

U.S.  Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, went on MSNBC – MSNBC! – last night  in support of Donald Trump.

It didn’t work out so well.

CHRIS HAYES: Congressman, if someone off the record said — could someone off the record in a locker room — this was not in a locker room, it was a workplace — said, “I really like raping women,” would that be locker room talk?

FARENTHOLD: Again — it depends — you don’t know the entire context of all of this.

HAYES: But you would be fine that? If a tape came out. …

FARENTHOLD: But I’m not here to defend Donald Trump. I don’t like what he said, but …


HAYES: If a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that — if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that, saying “I really like to rape women,” you would continue to endorse him.

FARENTHOLD: Again, it would, I — that would be bad, and I would have to consider — I’d consider it. But again, we’re talking about what Donald Trump said 10 years ago as opposed to what Hillary Clinton has done in the past two or three years.


Uh oh.





That’s unfair. They probably prepped him  on the obvious threshold question for Trump supporters.

“If Donald Trump stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot somebody, would you continue to support him?”

The correct answer:

“Chris, I don’t answer hypotheticals.”

In fairness, I imagine Chris Hayes coaxing the show’s booker, `Hey, can we get Blake Farenthold on  tonight? That’s guy’s great. Perfect. I would love to lob him a few hypoethicals. Oh, and if you get him, tell him it’s come as your are.”



From Matt Woolbright of the Caller-Times in Corpus Christi:


Farenthold faced a lawsuit last year after a former staffer accused him of creating a hostile work environment, gender discrimination and retaliation. The Office of Congressional Ethics, which launched an investigation after the lawsuit was filed, ultimately disagreed with those claims last summer.

In September, the office made public a unanimous decision there was “not substantial reason to believe” Farenthold had done what was alleged. Farenthold has denied any wrongdoing, and the case was settled out of court late last year.

In a telephone interview with the Caller-Times, Farenthold further distanced himself from his hesitant answer on MSNBC while calling Hayes “unprofessional in asking” a hypothetical question and himself “foolish” in attempting to answer.

“I would never support a rapist, and I would not support anyone that said they like rape,” Farenthold said.


Here from something I wrote in early June.

Like many Republicans, Flores was especially distressed by Trump’s recent attacks on Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over the Trump University case in California, with Trump describing the Indiana-born jurist as a “Mexican,” who Trump said was biased against him because of his promise to build a wall between the United States and Curiel family’s ancestral land.

Trump’s line of attack on Curiel has been widely decried as what House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had just endorsed Trump, called the “textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Flores said it is especially unhelpful in Texas, a state where Republicans depend on doing far better with Hispanic voters than their party does with Hispanics nationally, a standing that Trump could jeopardize.

“That’s not going to do in Texas,” Flores said.

“I don’t agree with what he said, and it’s unseemly that he is using his forum as a presidential candidate for a lawsuit affecting his personal issues,” Farenthold said.

But Farenthold was willing to cut Trump some slack.

“He may have crossed the line there, but I don’t agree with everything I say sometimes,” Farenthold said. He said that Trump should meet with the House Republican Caucus before the convention.

“With President Trump, I’m ready to get off defense and go on offense.” Farenthold said. “Trump is going to slaughter some sacred cows, and I’m ready for the barbecue.”

So, Farenthold got singed at the barbecue.

From the Texas Democratic Party.

Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal K. Perkins issued the following statement:

“Congressman Farenthold, let me make this easy for you: rape is rape, and wrong is wrong. No self-respecting Texan should hesitate to denounce sexual assault or the disgusting Republican nominee.

Republican Blake Farenthold is the worst excuse for a congressman Texas has ever seen.

“If Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott, and the rest of the Texas Republican Party had any dignity left they would immediately denounce Blake Farenthold’s blind allegiance to Donald Trump and his vile misogyny.”

But, as Rice University political scientist Mark Jones told me over the summer, one sign that Texas Democrats are not yet quite ready for prime time is its failure to have recruited and run a serious candidate against an incumbent like Farenthold in the year of Trump.

I checked in with Jones last night.

While all Texas GOP held seats other than CD-23 naturally fall in the safe Republican category, some of the pinker (or less ruby red if you prefer) are potentially vulnerable in the event of a perfect storm involving weak GOP coat tails, a serious unforced error by a Republican incumbent with a less than stellar track record, and a high quality and well funded Democratic candidate positioned to take advantage of this perfect storm.  CD-27 is a pink district whose incumbent (Blake Farenthold) has faced his share of scandal related controversy and alienated many major business leaders in the district. And in the final four weeks of the campaign has just committed a major gaffe on MSNBC.  Unfortunately for Texas Democrats, the party failed to recruit and finance a top tier candidate for this race.

Were for instance the Democratic candidate someone like Solomon Ortiz Jr. with say a $500k war chest (and not Roy Barrera with $2k), then Farenthold’s recent misstep might have pushed this race from Solid R to Likely R; which in turn would have attracted national money which might have in turn moved it closer to the Lean R/Toss Up category.

Democrat Solomon Ortiz was re-elected to the seat 13 times, usually be large margins, until he lost to Farenthold in the terrible Democratic year of 2010 by  770 votes.

Farenthold showed weakness in the March primary.




From Matt Woolbright of the Caller-Times  on the primary.

A couple hours before polls closed on Super Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold was full of confidence.

Farenthold, a three-term Republican incumbent, and some on his campaign team thought the 2016 primary race against little-known challenger Gregg Deeb would be over as soon as the early voting returns were released. The congressman thought he’d jump out to a 15-to-20 percent lead in Nueces County and easily maintain the margin all night.

None of that happened.


Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said the race may have come down to money and name recognition, and not Farenthold’s congressional record.

“Blake Farenthold is not your classic congressman – he’s … a little disheveled, not really commanding and not particularly articulate. He’s also capable of getting himself into difficulties,” Jillson said. “He has been in the position now for several terms, but he doesn’t dominate his district like other political figures.”

The 27th Congressional District leans Republican so Farenthold shouldn’t face as difficult time holding on to his seat in the fall.


“Every congressional election is a referendum on the incumbent. If you’ve done your work and you’re well liked, you probably don’t face a strong challenger,” Jillson said. “If you’re not doing those things and appear to be holding your district tenuously, you get stronger challengers coming out of the woodwork, and that’s what happened here.”


A challenger needs about $700,000 to have a bona fide shot at unseating an incumbent, Jillson said. As of Feb. 10, the most recent date available for campaign finance expenditures, Deeb had spent under $116,000. Farenthold spent about $562,000 by that time, and political activists noted an increase in Farenthold ads just before the March 1 election.

The fact a candidate with little name recognition who was outfunded at least five-to-one secured as many votes as Deeb did opens the door to future challenges, Jillson concluded.

“It’s one of the districts that is most competitive, and since Farenthold isn’t an overwhelmingly strong candidate it looks like he’s struggling to control the real population center of the district,” he said.

In other words, Farenthold was primed for a serious Democratic run at him.

If Democrats have any hope of flipping the U.S. House this year, it would be by picking up seats like Farenthold’s.

But here, from Barrera’s FEC filing through the end of June.








Seems like a nice guy though. Expect to see him soon on MSNBC.





Light on contrite, but Donald Trump’s up off the mat with plenty of fight



Good morning Austin:

Since Friday it looked like Donald Trump might be down for the count, laid low by a 2005 tape, recorded on a hot mic – fittingly enough for Access Hollywood – that was truly obscene in tone and content, and had a fair number of name Republicans deserting the ship, and much of organized punditry declaring his 2016 presidential campaign well and truly Titanically sunk

But, at Sunday’s unrelievedly tense and grim second presidential debate, Trump picked himself up from the mat and delivered a performance that, I think, will resonate powerfully with the Republican grassroots and send a message to nervous Republican officialdom that they should get off the lifeboats and crawl back on deck. Whether they want to keep their life vests on, or rearrange the deck chairs, is a matter of personal style and preference.


This was the push comes to shove moment in the presidential debate, and, for his faithful, Trump delivered mightily.

I have written on First Reading several times before –  including here (From WrestleMania to the White House, is Donald Trump the kayfabe candidate for president?)  – of Donald Trump as a figure out of the world of professional wrestling, an over the top, cartoonish, play-acting, winking figure.

And while the stagecraft of last night’s debate might have suggested a candidate prepared to slam a folding chair over his rival’s head, the tone and temper of last night’s debate was way too real and serious for any pro wrestling metaphor.


The set of this town meeting was more the bare bones, dim, stark, depressing low light of a 1960s Joe Pyne, Alan Burke or David Susskind show (look them up – but last night’s debate should have been in black and white, with Anderson Cooper dragging on a cigarette)  than some kid of edifying civic event.

The front rows were out of Jerry Springer, variously occupied by Bill and Chelsea Clinton, and women who have accused Bill Clinton of various acts of sexual aggression against them, with, they charge, Hillary’s aggressive, defensive behavior compounding the offense. (I wrote about this line of attack in a First Reading last week –Can a male chauvinist pig play the feminist card to Trump Clinton?)



From start to finish, Trump was out to destroy Clinton and, while Clinton held her own, she appeared to be coming glumly to terms with the fact that Trump was not simply going to finish himself off last night, and that Trump was still not, at long last, to be underestimated.



The best received moment with the small crowd at the City Lights Georgetown theater where I watched the debate at a Williamson County GOP debate watch, was among the harshest.



Yes, Trump was facing a low bar. Consider the fact that there was serious speculation before the debate that Mike Pence might, in the face of a bad debate performance, exit the ticket.

One suspects that not a few prominent Republicans would have been just as happy if Clinton had finished Trump off last night and put them out of their misery, or let them really focus on winnable down ballot races.

No, said Trump last night. No such luck.


And you didn’t have to be a swing state Republican, or even be on the ballot this year, to be suffering from Trump Angst since Friday.


Well, Trump’s performance was more true grit than true contrition.

From the Oxford English Dictionary on contrition.

  1. fig. The condition of being bruised in heart; sorrow or affliction of mind for some fault or injury done; spec. penitence for sin. Cf. attrition n.

c1386   Chaucer Parson’s Tale ⁋55   Contricioun is þe verray sorwe þat a man receyueþ in his herte for his synnes.

a1400  (▸a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 25966   Reuth and contricion al es an.

a1400  (▸a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 25090   We hope namli to haf pardun Thoru baptem and contriciun.

c1440   Promptorium Parvulorum 91   Contrycyon or sorrow for synne, contricio.

1530   J. Rastell New Bk. Purgatory iii. xiii. sig. h 2,   In the tyme of thy repentaunce & contrycyon.

a1555   J. Bradford Two Notable Serm. (1574) sig. Bviijv,   This word iust & ful [sc. sorrow], is one of the differences betwene contrition and attrition.

a1638   J. Mede Disc. Mark i. 15, in Wks. (1672) i. 107   Those pangs of Contrition wherewith Repentance begins.

a1753   G. Berkeley Serm. in Wks. (1871) IV. 605   A peculiar season of contrition and repentance.

1858   J. Martineau Stud. Christianity 169   The entire moral value of contrition belongs to it as the sign of inner change of character from prior evil to succeeding good.

Did Trump meet Abbott’s true contrition test last night?

Here are Abbott’s three tweets since his true contrition tweet, but nothing since the debate.

God. The Cowboys. And beautiful Texas sunsets.




Sure, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, the Republican from the 23rd Congressional District, denounced Trump, who he had never endorsed, in more certain terms on Friday, but that was good for Hurd and of no consequence to Trump.

From Rice University political scientist Mark Jones

In some ways the tape and the widespread negative reaction to it among Republicans was manna from heaven for Hurd, since it allowed him to do what he needed to do to close off what was perhaps Gallego’s most prominent line of attack while minimizing any fallout among Republican voters in CD-23 given the cover that the scandal and the simultaneous withdrawal of endorsement by dozens of prominent Republicans provides.

If Texas Republicans currently supporting Trump were hoping that a contrite Donald Trump asking for forgiveness would provide them with some cover with his debate performance tonight, they likely went to sleep Sunday night disappointed.

At the same time, while Donald Trump is most likely not winning over many Texas voters tonight, it’s also not likely that Hillary Clinton is gaining the support of all that many either.  Watching this debate, it isn’t hard to understand why these are the two most unpopular presidential candidates in modern history.

Overall, Abbott’s decision to endorse, but not take a prominent role in Trump’s Texas campaign, was a prescient one.  It allows him more flexibility on his support for the Trump campaign than is the case for some of his GOP brethren such as Lt. Gov. Patrick.


Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, who was reportedly, amid the recent frenzy, rethinking his belated endorsement of Trump, was left to tweet sour grapes that the mainstream media had not done his dirty work during the campaign to destroy Trump before he became the nominee for president who Cruz is, as of this writing, still supporting.


Here are some other takes on the debate from people I look to for wisdom.

From Kirby Goidel, Professor & Fellow, Public Policy Research Institute & Department of Communication, Texas A&M University

Debates are won (and lost) mostly on expectations. Donald Trump came into this campaign under assault and there was a real possibility that he would be overly aggressive and self-implode. The fact that he didn’t implode makes this a “win” for him. He did do a better job of getting the conversation to her emails, her record, and her status as a career politician. His supporters should be pleased. But he also opened up some lines of attack for the future, especially on taxes, on his difference of opinion with Mike Pence on Syria, and his threat to jail Hillary Clinton if elected. I am not sure that this has happened before in an American presidential election.

Hillary Clinton, for her part, did well enough but there was some expectation that she might score a knockout and effectively end the campaign. It is a silly expectation but the fact that she didn’t may lead some to conclude she “lost.” She came closest to connecting with audience members, especially with the question from the Muslim woman, and remained more fact-based and specific when it came to policy questions. 

Given where the campaign is though Hillary Clinton didn’t need to score a knockout, she only needed to fight to a draw, which she did. She moves closer to the presidency. Trump held his own and may have put off calls for him to withdrawal but didn’t improve his overall position in the election and moved no closer to the presidency.


From Brandon Rottinghaus. Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Houston.

Trump seemed more in his element while Clinton seemed less comfortable until they started talking about policy.  Despite the smoke still in the air over the audio leak, he animated his issues better tonight than in the first debate.  Clinton seemed more warm and conversational but not when the attacks were flying.  No one changed many minds, but Trump was able to put a tourniquet on his campaign’s bleeding.    

Trump’s pivot from the leaked audio to ISIS’s crimes and the general state of the world looked less than contrite.  The “it was locker room talk” defense didn’t hold much water.  Clinton’s prosecutorial dismantling of Trump’s comments damaged him but only temporarily.  The debate allowed him to change the subject after two full days of negative coverage about the leaked audio.  As long as he didn’t repeat what he said, he was going to come out looking better than he went in.  

Trump threw a haymaker with the Bill Clinton comments but Clinton didn’t respond in kind.  Maybe she should have.  Funneling people to her website likely didn’t feel satisfying enough for her supporters who wanted a forceful reaction from Secretary Clinton.  In particular, she didn’t directly challenge the claims Trump made against Bill Clinton.  This looked slightly tepid.  

Texas Republicans’ punch card of expressing outrage over Trump is pretty much full at this point in the cycle.  There wasn’t anything special tonight to demonstrate that they should increase the distance between them and Trump.  Trump’s performance gives them cover to collectively pivot to conservative concerns over Obamacare, failure to beat ISIS, troubles with the Iran deal, and the need for tax cuts.


From Joshua M. Scacco. Assistant Professor, Brian Lamb School of Communication Courtesy Faculty, Department of Political Science,  Faculty Research Associate, Engaging News Project Purdue University

(1)    Coverage in advance of this debate reduced expectations for Donald Trump. He came in under crisis and stepped over a low bar. If individuals come away believing he “won,” it is because he overcame these low expectations.

(2)    Donald Trump stopped the bleeding. He used his time, not for policy specifics, but to get in some pointed attacks on Hillary Clinton. The question will be whether the bleeding has been stopped in time to save the patient (his campaign).

(3)    Hillary Clinton was at her best discussing points of high contrast, particularly an inclusive America. Her response to questions about Muslims in America set a major contrast with Donald Trump. This served to set up a critique of Trump’s position on immigration.

(4)    Hillary Clinton faltered on the response to the WikiLeaks emails. Her defense about describing Abraham Lincoln seemed forced and inauthentic, highlighting the weaknesses about her candidacy. The quick pivot she made to the Russians only served to highlight her circumspection.

(5)    Donald Trump was at his best when he critiqued Clinton on her emails and WikiLeaks. He came prepared with attacks that highlight Clinton’s main weaknesses, particularly concerns about trust.

(6)    Donald Trump’s answers to the unearthed videos were not as polished or prepared as I anticipated. He denied what he admitted to in the video and then quickly pivoted to an attack on Clinton. Because this occurred in the first 15 minutes of the debate, it may have deflated any gains he made later in the debate.



From Brendan Steinhauser, Partner, Steinhauser Strategies. Republican consultant and strategist, Austin, and proudly #NeverTrump.

  • Overall, I don’t think this changes the overall direction of the election. Trump survived to fight another day, and even landed some punches against Clinton. His “You would be in jail” line will make his supporters happy, but how will independents and swing voters feel about it? That’s a crucial question.
  • Trump performed better than he did during the first debate. Clinton could have done better, but she was probably happy to fight to a draw. She’s up in the polls nationally, and in most of the swing states. So she benefits from the current trajectory of the campaign.
  • While Trump satisfied his base in this debate, the question is did he expand his supporters, and attract new voters tonight in the swing states? He has to do that in order to have a chance of winning the election. 
  • I am not surprised that the Trump tape was only discussed for a few minutes during the debate. Trump didn’t want to talk about it, and Clinton knew that she didn’t have to pile on, given the enormous amount of media coverage that it has gotten in the last couple of days.
  • It was clear to me that Clinton was trying to appeal to Republicans and moderates tonight with some of her answers. She mentioned working closely with George W. Bush on post 911 recover efforts, and made a comment about how Trump’s Republican supporters are rescinding their endorsements. I think she’s trying to win over suburban Republicans in states like Ohio and Florida.


And from Jennifer Mercieca. Aggie Agora Director, Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Texas A&M University, who is writing a book on Trump’s demao

I think Trump’s supporters will be happy with his performance tonight. He was aggressive, he went after Clinton on all of the issues that they would want him to, and did not seem cartoonish (like he did in the first debate). I thought that his best answer of the night was his last answer: actually answered the question and didn’t quibble.* Clearly part of his strategy tonight was to continue to indict the moderators as part of the mainstream media conspiracy against him. His every answer was an indictment of Clinton’s character and judgment, it was quite overwhelming and I think that he expressed many of the reasons why his supporters despise her so vehemently. His affect was so flat throughout the debate, yet he said so many vile things and made so many accusations, I found it an odd disjuncture.

Clinton did a good job of trying to maintain decorum, answer Trump’s accusations, and seem prepared for office.  I thought that she had a good response to his criticism that she had spent 30 years in office and accomplished nothing, saying that she is quite proud of her record in office and listing her achievements. I also thought that she had a solid answer on the Wikileaks thing about having different public and private policies–invoking Lincoln–and saying that it was good presidential leadership (Jeremy Bentham calls that “eulogistic covering,” which is a phrase I quite like). She was in a tough spot with trying to fact check him and also answer the questions, I thought that she did a fair job at it, but not great. I liked that she pointed out the game of “distraction” or his use of red herrings, throughout the debate. Trump tried to get her to break, he tried as hard as he could to troll her and she remained calm and firm. She kept her composure and responded rationally. I think that she has to be given credit for that difficult task.

I think that the news tonight was that Trump seemed to admit to not paying taxes and taking the $913 billion deduction. He tried to turn it on Clinton by saying that her donors (and cronies?) would also take that deduction and that she was in the Senate and did nothing to stop those kinds of tax breaks. Her response was that senators don’t get to control that and that there was a Republican in the White House at that time. Seemed like the best exchange of the night to me. 

*Oh, and what was that last question?

MARTHA RADDATZ: We’ve sneaked in one more question, and it comes from Karl Becker.

QUESTION: Good evening. My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?


RADDATZ: Mr. Trump, would you like to go first?

CLINTON: Well, I certainly will, because I think that’s a very fair and important question. Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does, but I do respect that. And I think that is something that as a mother and a grandmother is very important to me.

So I believe that this election has become in part so — so conflict-oriented, so intense because there’s a lot at stake. This is not an ordinary time, and this is not an ordinary election. We are going to be choosing a president who will set policy for not just four or eight years, but because of some of the important decisions we have to make here at home and around the world, from the Supreme Court to energy and so much else, and so there is a lot at stake. It’s one of the most consequential elections that we’ve had.

And that’s why I’ve tried to put forth specific policies and plans, trying to get it off of the personal and put it on to what it is I want to do as president. And that’s why I hope people will check on that for themselves so that they can see that, yes, I’ve spent 30 years, actually maybe a little more, working to help kids and families. And I want to take all that experience to the White House and do that every single day.

RADDATZ: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Well, I consider her statement about my children to be a very nice compliment. I don’t know if it was meant to be a compliment, but it is a great — I’m very proud of my children. And they’ve done a wonderful job, and they’ve been wonderful, wonderful kids. So I consider that a compliment.

I will say this about Hillary. She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter. I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for. I do disagree with her judgment in many cases. But she does fight hard, and she doesn’t quit, and she doesn’t give up. And I consider that to be a very good trait.

RADDATZ: Thanks to both of you.

COOPER: We want to thank both the candidates. We want to thank the university here. This concludes the town hall meeting. Our thanks to the candidates, the commission, Washington University, and to everybody who watched.

RADDATZ: Please tune in on October 19th for the final presidential debate that will take place at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Good night, everyone.

Well, apart from the odd fact that Clinton replied, Well, I certainly will, when Raddatz asked, Mr. Trump, would you like to go first?, that was a pleasant coda to an otherwise unpleasant if mesmerizing night.





Even the best Texas politicians can have an `oops moment.’ On Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.




Good Saturday Austin:

I don’t usually post a First Reading on Saturday. But things are moving so fast in the presidential race that I dare not wait until tomorrow, let alone Monday.

I’m keeping this First Reading very simple.

The biggest loser in the last 24 hours has been Donald Trump, for reasons I don’t even need to explain.

But, we are especially interested in Texas politics here, and the second biggest loser has got to be Ted Cruz. Here is a run-on sentence explaining why.

In the last half year, Cruz went from a very slick and effective run for president to a kind of epic fail of bad political timing that had him reaping the full wrath and  scorn of many Republicans – from the greenest of his money men, and women, to the greenest of his grassroots – for failing to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, then reaping the full wrath and scorn of his truest believers, who felt he had betrayed principle and moral values by endorsing Trump in late September in what appeared to be an act of political expediency, and now looks like a cross between a craven mook and the bearer of some kind of political curse for having climbed aboard the Trump Train as it appeared to be gaining steam, but no sooner had he found a seat in the quiet car than the Trump Train went hurtling off the rails for precisely the reasons that Cruz had so precisely and accurately predicted when he denounced him in no uncertain terms in early May.

Here was what Cruz said yesterday.



And here is what others tweeted about Cruz vis-à-vis Trump.


































The Pence-Kaine vice presidential debate and the willing suspension of disbelief




Good morning Austin:

I believe it was Mrs. Tinkhauser in my 9th-grade mass media class who taught me about something called the willing suspension of disbelief.

Here is a description of that phenomenon from

In the world of fiction you are often required to believe a premise which you would never accept in the real world. Especially in genres such as fantasy and science fiction, things happen in the story which you would not believe if they were presented in a newspaper as fact. Even in more real-world genres such as action movies, the action routinely goes beyond the boundaries of what you think could really happen.

In order to enjoy such stories, the audience engages in a phenomenon known as “suspension of disbelief”. This is a semi-conscious decision in which you put aside your disbelief and accept the premise as being real for the duration of the story.

Suspension of disbelief only works to a point. It is important that the story maintains its own form of believability and doesn’t push the limits too far. There are many factors for the budding story-writer or film-maker to consider, including the following….

The initial premise can be quite outrageous as long as the story maintains consistency within that premise. There are many things about the Star Trek universe which are basically impossible in the real world, but because Star Trek makes an effort to work consistently within its own universe, the stories become believable. For example, as long as you’re willing to accept that the Galaxy is mostly populated by humanoids then there is nothing within the series that will break the believability.

The quality of special effects must be believable. It is harder to suspend disbelief in movies where the special effects appear fake.

The genre will determine the lengths to which you can push believability. Audiences will be willing to believe an action hero can perform super-human feats, but the same feats performed suddenly in a romantic drama would result in confusion and disbelief.

Some stories purposely push the suspension of disbelief to the limit. The Indiana Jones movies were a good example, where the audience was expected to find the improbable antics amusing.

One important area of belief is in human actions and emotion. People must act, react and interact in ways which are believable. In cases where such interactions do require suspension of disbelief, the normal rules of consistency apply. Audiences are very unforgiving if they think a character is behaving in an unbelievable fashion.

A couple of thoughts here.

In one of the least surprising turn of events in history, the people who worked on Star Trek–a show which envisions a future Earth without sexism, racism, religion, and even money–find the thought of a Trump presidency abhorrent. More surprisingly, they all want to be clear that a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump.

 A post on the Facebook group Trek Against Trump (“not endorsed, sponsored, or affiliated with CBS Studios Inc., Paramount Pictures Corp or the “’Star Trek’ franchise.”) explains that “Never has there been a presidential candidate who stands in such complete opposition to the ideals of the Star Trek universe as Donald Trump. His election would take this country backward, perhaps disastrously.”

Last night’s vice presidential debate also depended on the willing suspension of disbelief.

By almost all accounts, Pence outperformed Kaine. He was calm, cool, collected, looked vice presidential – or maybe even presidential – in a kind of generic, TV movie kind of way. And he had a Spockian Vulcan calm that served him very well against Kaine’s frenetic, nearly panicked Scotty warnings about where the Enterprise would be headed with Trump at the helm.



Pence’s performance offered Republicans and conservatives some modeling on how you can be a Trump supporter – indeed you can be his running mate – through a kind of Zen denial, through an assertive  suspension of disbelief, and straight-out denial that Trump is who he is or said the things he has said, and to do it in such a steady and unruffled manner that Tim Kaine ends up looking and sounding like Chicken Little.



For example, Pence’s very tough words about Russia and Putin sounded more like what a Trump critic would hurl at Trump than what Trump’s running mate would be saying.

Pence, with impressive aplomb and no hint of irony, defended Trump as more the victim then perpetrator of insults in the campaign.


KAINE: Six times tonight, I have said to Governor Pence I can’t imagine how you can defend your running mate’s position on one issue after the next. And in all six cases, he’s refused to defend his running mate.

PENCE: Well, let’s — no, no, don’t put words in my mouth.

QUIJANO: All right.

PENCE: He’s going…


KAINE: And yet he is asking everybody to vote for somebody that he cannot defend. And I just think that should be underlined.

PENCE: No, I’m — look…


QUIJANO: All right, gentlemen, let’s talk about Russia. This is a topic that has come up.

PENCE: I’m very, very happy to defend Donald Trump.


PENCE: To be honest, if Donald Trump said all those things you said he said, in the way you said he said those things, he wouldn’t have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables.


Some stories purposely push the suspension of disbelief to the limit.



Then there was this, which provoke the loudest reaction (laughter) at the Whip In, where I watched the debate.



KAINE: When Donald Trump says women should be punished or Mexicans are rapists and criminals…

PENCE: I’m telling you…

KAINE: … or John McCain is not a hero, he is showing you who he is.

PENCE: Senator, you’ve whipped out that Mexican thing again. He — look…

KAINE: Can you defend it?

PENCE: There are criminal aliens in this country, Tim, who have come into this country illegally who are perpetrating violence and taking American lives.

KAINE: You want to — you want to use a big broad brush against Mexicans on that?

PENCE: He also said and many of them are good people. You keep leaving that out of your quote. And if you want me to go there, I’ll go there.


Sure. Go there.

This is what Trump said when he announced his candidacy for president, a shocking line that vaulted him to the front of the pack.

 When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

There is a difference between “many of them are good people,” and “some, I assume, are good people.”

Not to mention the infelicitousness of Pence’s phrasing, at once dismissive and obscene, which sounded like a line the repressed, uptight white politician would deliver in a John Waters movie before the bit production number, (I Knew it was Love the Moment) You Whipped Out That Mexican Thing.




Here is a compendium of reactions to the line from Fusion.



So Pence did well, definitely for himself, and maybe for Trump.

But, audiences are very unforgiving if they think a character is behaving in an unbelievable fashion.

In the end, the safest bet is that this debate will have little if any lasting effect.








Alex Jones on Julian Assange going WikiWeak. `It’s karma. We troll a lot. We’ve been trolled.’




Good day Austin:

In the off-chance that you didn’t rise at 2 this morning to watch Alex Jones’ live stream of Julian Assange’s news conference via video link in Berlin, do yourself a favor and steal three hours out of your day to watch it right here.

Actually, I missed the first 90 minutes and you’re fine if you just start watching two hours in when Assange finally appears on the screen. From then on it’s a thoroughly brilliant,  bravura blend of Wayne’s World, Mystery Science Theater, Beavis and Butthead, South Park, Weekend Update, Masterpiece Theater and, of course, Alex Jones and company.

This was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s Y2K. Assange was going to WikiLeak all over her and Clinton was going to melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West.

“This is going to devastate Hillary and this is going to be, quote, the end of the Clinton,” Jones said on his show Monday, bursting at the seams with energy and anticipation.

Jones had been heavily promoting the event.

Roger Stone, a frequent Jones guest, had hyped it as well.

(The Assange event was originally scheduled for Wednesday.)

But, here is what happened this morning, according to Melissa Eddy in the New York Times.

BERLIN — Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, promised on Tuesday to release “significant material” over the next 10 weeks about arms, Google, mass surveillance, oil, the United States election and war.

Speaking via a video link at a news conference in Berlin to mark a decade since the inception of WikiLeaks, Mr. Assange vowed that his organization would continue to provide a platform for the release of classified documents held by the United States and by other governments and institutions in positions of global power.

“We hope to be publishing every week for the next 10 weeks, we have on schedule, and it’s a very hard schedule, all the U.S. election-related documents to come out before Nov. 8,” said Mr. Assange, who made his announcement from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has been living since 2012. “Our upcoming series includes significant material on war, arms, oil, Google, the U.S. elections and myself.”

WikiLeaks used the occasion of its 10th anniversary to trumpet some of its most prominent releases of information, including documents about the United States detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; files about the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan; United States diplomatic cables; and Democratic Party emails that were made public on the eve of the party’s convention in Philadelphia.

The remarks from Mr. Assange disappointed many followers of WikiLeaks in the United States, who had stayed up into the early hours hoping to hear information relevant to the presidential election.

Although Mr. Assange promised to release such documents before the election on Nov. 8, he said, “If we are going to make a major publication, we don’t do it at 3 a.m.” in the United States.

He dismissed speculation that the documents related to the United States election would contain information intended to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. The idea that “we intend to harm Hillary Clinton, or I intend to harm Hillary Clinton, or I don’t like Hillary Clinton, all those are false,” Mr. Assange said.

What? What! WHAT!?!?

And here is where Jones & Co. rose to the occasion, Turning on a dime to stay true to their ideals, they didn’t spend a second trying to rationalize or apologize for Assange, but instead turned on him with a madly entertaining vengeance, producing a video for the ages that was posted within minutes of the live stream’s conclusion as, Full WikiLeaks Press Conference: Assange Trolls the World.



Just in case you don’t get a chance to watch it, or you want a sneak preview, here are some highlights.

By way of background, as I mentioned, the live stream was going for two hours before Assange appeared. The production values of the Assange event were early cable access, while the production values at Jones’ Infowars set in Austin were state of the art Howard Stern.

And Assange, in his “truth” Tee, spoke in a muffled voice that was barely audible through the lousy sound system. And virtually every other word was “um.”

All the quotes below are from Jones, except where otherwise noted. Owen Shroyer is Jones’ co-host for the live stream.

Not long into Assange’s hard-to-hear remarks, Jones realized he’d been- they’d been – had.




Is it true. Yes it’s true. This man has no dick.




(Cackling). He did the big tell. He said “by the end of the year.” They’re going to wait until the election is over and then release whatever it is.

(Owen Shroyer) Who’s got a bigger man piece? Michelle Obama or Julian Assange right now? (Don’t ask. This is another Jones hobbyhorse.)





Let’s go back to Julian Assange. Who I liked until this moment. I’m having a real problem.




It’s karma. We troll a lot. We’ve been trolled.

Now he’s going to hawk some products. (Jones is referring to Assange, but seamlessly segues into a pitch for Infowars products, including “non-GMO heirloom seeds … you will get some real vegetables, fruit trees, you name it.”)




Dude, I can’t believe you just trolled the world. He could have released more documents and then plugged his book. (Jones pitches Hillary for prison shirts. Bill Clinton Rape shirts. … true iodine, liver cleanser.”)




(Assange holds up his book.) Oh my god. This is like Home Shopping Network.




I tell you. This is a joke. This was fop world. He made a deal folks. My gut tells me. I can’t prove it. He made a deal. He said, “”after the election. He said “at the end of the year.” He made a deal.

(mimicking Assange with an effete accent.) I’m sorry. We don’t release documents at 3 a.m. but we make everyone tune in to do it so Julian Assange can troll us.




The name of this is “Julian Assange trolls the world worse than Al Capone’s vault.”





(Owen Shroyer) He’s coming across like a bit of a cuck. (From Wikipedia: Cuckservative is a neologistic epithet formed as a portmanteau of the word cuckold and the political designation conservative. It has become an increasingly popular pejorative label used within the conservative movement and among white supremacists in the United States.)




He said, “By the end of the year. ” Hey buddy. There’s two months to he end of the year after the election.










Man I have never been trolled like this.




You’ve got two choices, Assange. Give us the data or go to the Easter Bunny place.




(Owen Shroyer) Is this the death of WikiLeaks?




This is Hillary’s October surprise. Julian Assange trolling the world is Hillary’s October surprise. Julian Assange is a Hillary butt plug.

(Owen Shroyer) I’m not sure you can say that on TV, Alex.





(Moment of introspection) When you’re showering at 1 a.m. you’re like, what the hell am I into?

(Back to Assange) You were going to release devastating information that would destroy  Hillary Clinton and the indictments would follow.

Indictment. Indictment. Where is he evidence? 34 days.




(Mocking Assange’s interior monologue) “Do you realize how suave I am?”




(More mocking Assange, with accent “We don’t release things at 3 a.m.”





But we will release them at the end of the year. WHEN IT DOESN’T MATTER.




(Assange) There are a lot of fascinating angles …




OK. That’s enough. We may go back to the feed but I’m going to let the crew go home and get some sleep.

Ladies and gentleman, we are not losers because we got trolled by Julian Assange. He’s done some good work in the past. We know he’s under a lot of pressure, being threatened.

But he’s promising this damning, totally destructive evidence and then he doesn’t release, 34 days out, and now he’s saying he’ll release it before the end of the year. So that smacks of a sell-out.

They claim they are going to be releasing documents every few days but I know they tweeted out and said “damning evidence,” “decisive information,” that Hillary Clinton was done.

This is what they were saying. It’s what they said through intermediaries. It’s what they said to our sources. And then he makes this little joke and smiles and, “I don’t tell you this stuff at 3 a.m.” Well it’s 5:30 a.m. bro’ Eastern Time, 4:30 as we speak, exactly. Central Time.




WikiLeaks said they will publish enough evidence to indict Hillary Clinton. That was back on June 13. So we just kept hearing this.




They are doing important work. but when you don’t have the documents, when you don’t have more you don’t sit there and troll people for the (WikiLeaks) tenth anniversary and make yourself look big and have a bunch of weird, lazy liberals – `Oh I’m not actually with WikiLeaks – combing their hair to make sure it sticks up, “Oh I look like I don’t care. Oh, hey, I’m liberal.”




(mocking liberals fixing their hair to make it look casually wild.)




There was a huge buildup. The media will make a big victory out of this. “Oh it was supposed to be this big release and he didn’t give anything out. Ha, ha, ha. It’s all crap.” So thanks a lot Assange. Really, thanks for nothing.





He has really hurt himself. I know how the world works, how the Web works. You have really done it buddy boy. You better release it all within 12 hours, or you’re done.




(Off camera voice ) We’ve been Wiki rolled. That’s what they’re saying on Twitter.



We’ve been Wiki rolled.

(Then, in the emotional high point of the whole live stream, Jones begins singing Ludacris, joined by Schroyer, thought it’s really Jones’ voice that carries the day.)

Move bitch, get out da way, get out da way





(Back to speaking) I mean get out da way man. You think you bitched us? You think you rolled us? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I’m rollin’ Hillary. I’m the dark heart. We ain’t backin’ down. Just because you’re a fake jump don’t think we are.




Get ready. I’ll double down because of this. I won’t be associated with you.





He sold out to Hillary. That’s my gut.





(closing message to viewers) InfoWars will never sell out like Assange because we can’t. It’s in our guts. It’s in our blood. It’s who we are. We will fight for this Republic till the end. If Trump goes sideways we’ll expose him. We can’t help it.











Can a male chauvinist pig play the feminist card to Trump Clinton?

Good morning Austin:

Way back when – a week ago – there was the first presidential debate, and, toward the very end, this:

CLINTON: Well, one thing. One thing, Lester.

HOLT: Very quickly, because we’re at the final question now.

CLINTON: You know, he tried to switch from looks to stamina. But this is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs, and someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, who has said…

TRUMP: I never said that.

CLINTON: …. women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men.

TRUMP: I didn’t say that.

CLINTON: And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman “Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.


TRUMP: Where did you find this? Where did you find this?

CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado.

TRUMP: Where did you find this?

CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet…

TRUMP: Oh, really?

CLINTON: … she’s going to vote this November.

TRUMP: OK, good. Let me just tell you…


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.

Trump spent much of the last week pressing the case not so much against Hillary Clinton as against the former Miss Universe, and her weight gain. But he also warend that he was ready to be “not nice” in attacking Bill Clinton’s sex life and what he described as Hillary’s role as his “enabler.”

From his all-purpose surrogate and fellow misunderstood feminist Rudy Giuliani on ABC’s This Week Sunday:

RUDY GIULIANI: Well, you know, I think it is a bad idea to focus on President Clinton’s personal life. That’s his personal life. It is not a bad idea to point out her hypocrisy. Her hypocrisy, if — I mean, she’s attacking Donald Trump about how he deals with women.


And so now basically it’s don’t lecture me, Hillary, on feminism, because you’re a phony.

OK. So Trump and his inner circle don’t seem particularly well situated to exploit Clinton’s “phony feminism.”

When it comes to his war against political correctness, nowhere has Trump brought more firepower than to  modern sensibilities on matters of sex and gender.

With apologies to Woody Allen – who has his own issues in this realm – Trump is a travesty of a mockery of a parody of a cartoon of two mockeries of a male chauvinist pig, circa 1965.

He is equal parts Austin Powers, Bobby Riggs, Larry Flynt, Andrew Dice Clay and Henry VIII.

From his years of conversation with Howard Stern we have an extraordinary running record of his subjective objectification of women.


Nonetheless, Trump appears prepared to use the next presidential debate on Sunday, to launch his “rough” attack on the sexual politics of the Clintons, whether or not Chelsea is in the house.

From Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times: on Friday.

Donald J. Trump unleashed a slashing new attack on Hillary Clinton over Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions on Friday as he sought to put the Clintons’ relationship at the center of his political argument against her before their next debate.

Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, argued that Mrs. Clinton’s support for Ms. Machado was part of a pattern by the Democrat of treating women to suit her own political ends, and raised Mrs. Clinton’s criticism of women who had been involved with her husband, such as Monica Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers.

He said he was bringing up Mr. Clinton’s infidelities because he thought they would repulse female voters and turn them away from the Clintons, and because he was eager to unsettle Mrs. Clinton in their next two debates and on the campaign trail.

“She’s nasty, but I can be nastier than she ever can be,” Mr. Trump said.


“Hillary Clinton was married to the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics,” he added about Mr. Clinton. “Hillary was an enabler, and she attacked the women who Bill Clinton mistreated afterward. I think it’s a serious problem for them, and it’s something that I’m considering talking about more in the near future.”

Mr. Trump said he believed that his own marital history did not preclude him from waging such an attack. He became involved with Marla Maples while he was still married to his first wife, Ivana, who divorced him in 1991. He married Ms. Maples in 1993; they were divorced in 1999. He married his current wife, Melania, in 2005.


Mrs. Clinton’s team, Democrats supporting her and many senior Republicans have braced for an attack on the Clintons’ marital history, seeing it as inevitable — particularly now that Mr. Trump is being advised by several people connected to efforts in the late 1990s to reveal Mr. Clinton’s affair with Ms. Lewinsky and to the subsequent impeachment battle.

David Bossie, Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign manager, is the president of the conservative group Citizens United, and worked as an investigator who searched Arkansas for evidence of Mr. Clinton’s personal misdeeds during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have tried to suggest focusing on accusations that Mrs. Clinton tried to discredit women who said they had been harassed by Mr. Clinton. Chief among those suggesting this approach is Roger Stone, the longest-serving Trump adviser, who wrote a book called “The Clintons’ War on Women,” laying out accusations from Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey, who have accused Mr. Clinton of sexual assault — accusations the Clintons or their lawyer David Kendall have denied

Earlier last week, Shawn Boburg covered some of the same terrain in the Washington Post  in a story headlined, Enabler or family defender? How Hillary Clinton responded to husband’s accuser.

Hillary Clinton has wrestled with allegations surrounding her husband’s infidelities for much of their 40-year marriage, including a sexual harassment lawsuit, a grand jury investigation and an impeachment vote centered on his untruthfulness about a relationship with a White House intern.

Now, her Republican opponent Donald Trump and his surrogates have signaled that he may bring up the subject in the next presidential debate, treacherous territory, given his own infidelities and treatment of women.

Clinton’s friends say they have seen her deal with Bill Clinton’s conduct before, bristling at threats and countering them with steely determination. Her reaction, said longtime Arkansas friend Jim Blair, is to face accusers and respond thusly: “These people are not going to run over us.”

Her detractors, though, say that Clinton has unfairly lashed out over the years at the women involved in her husband’s indiscretions. Her responses­ have forced her to walk a fine line during the campaign on sexual assault issues, even as she builds strong political support among female voters.


In 2000, while running for the U.S. Senate seat in New York, Hillary Clinton was asked whether she misled the public by defending her husband.

“It is something that I regret deeply that anyone had to go through,” she said. “And I wish that we all could look at it from the perspective of history, but we can’t yet.”

In her treatment of the accusers, Trump has called Clinton an enabler.

Her friends say it’s much more benign.

“I think she felt that she had committed her life to this guy,” Jim Blair said. “They can debate politics from breakfast until bedtime and never get tired of it. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. She loved him. It’s as simple as that.”

The Democratic confidence, and Republican fear, is that any attempt to go after the Clintons on these questions will backfire, like it did with impeachment.

But, as I wrote on First Reading  last November:

(L)ost amid the overreach of impeachment, was a pretty tawdry story.

I suspect the great liability Clinton brings to his wife’s campaign is that this will all, almost certainly, be revisited in a general election campaign, with Stone’s and Morrow’s book well-thumbed if not necessarily well-regarded, and offering Republicans an opportunity to undermine the feminist pride that ought to be fundamental to her success.

It is a critique of the Clintons that one might expect from the left, though, with rare exceptions, like the late Christopher Hitchens, they closed ranks behind the Clintons against a common enemy.

Here is Hitchens, who died in 2011, writing on The Case Against Hillary Clinton at Slate in 2008.

What do you have to forget or overlook in order to desire that this dysfunctional clan once more occupies the White House and is again in a position to rent the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign donors and to employ the Oval Office as a massage parlor? You have to be able to forget, first, what happened to those who complained, or who told the truth, last time. It’s often said, by people trying to show how grown-up and unshocked they are, that all Clinton did to get himself impeached was lie about sex. That’s not really true. What he actually lied about, in the perjury that also got him disbarred, was the women. And what this involved was a steady campaign of defamation, backed up by private dicks (you should excuse the expression) and salaried government employees, against women who I believe were telling the truth. In my opinion, Gennifer Flowers was telling the truth; so was Monica Lewinsky, and so was Kathleen Willey, and so, lest we forget, was Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who says she was raped by Bill Clinton.  (For the full background on this, see the chapter “Is There a Rapist in the Oval Office?” in the paperback version of my book No One Left To Lie To. This essay, I may modestly say, has never been challenged by anybody in the fabled Clinton “rapid response” team.) Yet one constantly reads that both Clintons, including the female who helped intensify the slanders against her mistreated sisters, are excellent on women’s “issues.”

The excellent Frontline on PBS on The Choice 2016 does a good job of presenting the sexual politics of the Clintons’ marriage in context.

From Time Magazine’s Joe Klein, who wrote the fictional-but-rings-true Primary Colors:

She will never open the door to the possibility of opening a conversation about his peccadilloes and I think that goes to the core of a lot of the clenched quality that she betrays in public.

Here Hillary Clinton is in the pivotal 60 Minutes interview after the 1992 Super Bowl. (Note her authentic Arkansas twang.)

Classic line, although, of course, delivered by way of standing by her man.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times
And he’ll have good times,
Doin’ things that you don’t understand

But if you love him you’ll forgive him,
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him oh be proud of him,
’cause after all he’s just a man

Stand by your man,
Give him two arms to cling to,
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely

Stand by your man,
And show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man

Tammy Wynette was not pleased.
Here’s the AP story as it appeared in the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine.


Two things stand out for me here.

  1. Who knew that Hadley’s used to have a men’s happy hour on Fridays.
  2. Wynette’s riposte is pretty good.

“I would like you to appear with me on any forum, including network, cable or talk show and stand toe to toe with me. I can assure you, in spite of your education, you will find me to be just as bright as yourself.”

This was an interesting and telling way to put it because there was something condescending and classist in Hillary Clinton’s declaration that she was not some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.

The women that Bill Clinton took advantage of were, of couse, generally less powerful, of lower standing.

In his Love Story speech in July at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the former president recounted with delight to the awws of a convention crowd none of whom apparently were alive and conscious between the years 1992 and 2000, his smitten, storybook courtship of Hillary Rodham at Yale.

The first time I saw her we were, appropriately enough, in a class on political and civil rights. She had thick blond hair, big glasses, wore no makeup, and she had a sense of strength and self- possession that I found magnetic. After the class I followed her out, intending to introduce myself. I got close enough to touch her back, but I couldn’t do it. Somehow I knew this would not be just another tap on the shoulder, that I might be starting something I couldn’t stop.

Bill Clinton showed restraint because this was the real deal, the woman he wanted to marry, to share his life and career with. Like many of the Great Men of History, Clinton is able to celebrate and treasure their love and marriage quite separate and apart from all that other stuff.

And, if Hillary Clinton never took Tammy Wynette up on her challenge to go ‘toe to toe,”  I suppose that was because, when push came to shove, Hillary Clinton was a Tammy Wynette Stand by Your Man feminist.

If she had not stood by her man, Bill Clinton would never have secured the Democratic nomination in 1992 and gone on to be elected president, and she would not now be the Democratic candidate for president on the threshold of being the first woman – and first former First Lady – to be president of the United States.


From Meghan Daum The ‘stand by your man’ feminism of Hillary Clinton in March the Los Angeles Times

(A) reader wrote to me recently and asked whether I thought Clinton “set back the feminist movement” by not leaving Bill Clinton after all the evidence of his infidelities.


I wrote back what I’ve always thought: The Clinton marriage is — pardon me while I duck for cover — kind of great, even romantic in its own way. Maybe not in a romantic love kind of way (though who knows?), but in the sense of a true partnership that transcends the common conventions of most marriages.

The idea that the Clinton marriage is little more than a political partnership — and therefore a cynical relationship — has been lobbed at Hillary and Bill for decades. I don’t buy it. I see them as intellectually, philosophically and practically well matched, a pairing that’s taken on tasks ranging from raising a child and thinking about how best to effect change in the world.


No two marriages have quite the same yardstick for happiness or success. Hillary’s choice to stay in her marriage sends the signal that she is strong, that she is her own woman, one capable of deciding that being together “in one way or another” can be just as sacred as waking up next to the same person day in and day out.


But then there is this vociferously quite opposite take from Emily Hill  writing at the conservative British publication, The Spectrum: Why Hillary Clinton’s nomination is no triumph for womanhood, This is one more victory for putting up with your dodgy husband

But if Hillary beats Trump to the White House, it won’t be feminism’s ultimate triumph, it’ll be one more victory for the institution of marriage. And, by my feminist standards, if that symbolises anything, it’s regression. Achieving power by means of marrying, and putting up with, a really sh***y husband is something women have been doing for centuries. Yet no one points to Catherine the Great and says, ‘That’s the way to do it, gels!’ At least Catherine, when she got to power, knifed her cruel spouse, confident that she could rule much better by herself. Hillary has not only ridden the Clinton machine all the way to where she is today; she promises Americans that she’ll rely on her husband to govern. In May, she reassured voters in Kentucky that Bill will be ‘in charge of revitalising the economy because, you know, he knows how to do it’.


Margaret Thatcher sprang into power entirely thanks to her own smarts, cleaving to her own political vision, which she implemented, ruthlessly, through three elections. And feminists of the fifth wave never claim that as womankind’s great leap forward. Mrs Clinton, by contrast, has no message, no vision and no creed beyond, as Christopher Buckley recently pointed out in these pages, ‘I am so owed.’

And for what is she owed? Standing by her man, of course. The young women of America are too young to remember the deeply unedifying exhibition the Clintons made of themselves in the 1990s. Back then, Bill referred to his wife as ‘the First Liability’ because everything she touched — in the words of Martin Amis — turned ‘out to have the word gate tacked on to the end of it’. Worse still was how Hillary stuck by her husband as he stuck his penis into any woman willing — plus, according to Juanita Broaddrick, at least one who wasn’t. And she didn’t just stick by him; she helped him stick it to each and every member of her own sex who had the temerity to complain. And she continued to dance to Tammy Wynette’s tune even after he left office, as he gadded about the globe with billionaire Ron Burkle on a plane dubbed Air F*** One. Now, Bill is too ill to carry on philandering, but he was at it as recently as 2008 when ‘a bimbo eruption’ — as a Clinton troubleshooter delicately put it — threatened to derail Hillary’s nascent campaign. Fortunately, Obama won.

The most appalling thing about Hillary Clinton is that she makes Donald Trump seem like a crazed feminist choice for 45th president — for at least he’s making a feminist argument. The Donald has been busy pursuing a line of attack first put forward by none other than America’s radical feminist-in-chief, Camille Paglia. ‘Hillary Clinton’s feminism is a fraud,’ Paglia wrote in an email to the Daily Beast last year. ‘She rode her husband’s coattails to wealth and power, and she has amorally colluded in the vilification and destruction of female victims of her husband’s serial abuse.’ In January, Trump started tweeting, ‘I hope Bill Clinton starts talking about women’s issues so the voters can see what a hypocrite he is and how Hillary abused those women!’

I don’t like sympathising with a misogynist billionaire whose ideas are as mad and bad as his hair — but he has a point. It matters how you get to power, and trampling all over your less powerful sisters without once stopping to help is not the way to do it. When I was a teenager, Bill taught me how men in power are allowed to treat women, while Hill stood by and watched. The most powerful man in the world appeared, with livid face, on television, on permanent loop, claiming that he ‘did not have sexual relations with that woman’, the 22-year-old unpaid intern whose best dress turned out to have the presidential ejaculate all over it. Hillary appeared to disregard the whole existence of Monica Lewinsky, just as she did any other woman Bill discarded as a used receptacle for semen and cigars.

Had Hillary divorced the oily bastard, acquired a clear set of political principles and made it on her own, I’d be the biggest cheerleader there ever was for Democratic candidate Rodham. But she hasn’t and she didn’t. She stuck by Bill, cynically, because she needed the man. That, to me, is no sort of womanhood at all. And I’m content to burn in hell for all eternity for saying so.

Now, about Juanita Broaddrick.

After last week’s debate, and Trump’s remark that he only held back on going after her parents because of her presence at the debate, Chelsea Clinton said in an interview with Cosmopolitan:

“My reaction to that is just what my reaction has been kind of every time Trump has gone after my mom or my family, which is that it’s a distraction from his inability to talk about what’s actually at stake in this election,” she said. “Candidly, I don’t remember a time in my life when my parents and my family weren’t being attacked, and so it just sort of seems to be in that tradition, unfortunately.

That elicited this series of tweets from Broaddrick.

From Dylan Matthews at Vox in May.

So far, this issue has mostly been raised by conservative media and Republican politicians like Prudhomme-O’Brien. But it’s a substantive matter worthy of coverage from non-right-wing outlets as well. There really are multiple accusations of sexual assault against Bill Clinton, accusations that have too often been conflated with his much better-established and much less morally concerning history of adultery. Are the women making these accusations survivors who deserve to be believed, to borrow Hillary Clinton’s language? Or, as she later insisted, have their accusations all been found to be baseless?

The basic answer is that some of the claims appear more credible than others. There are three main accusers, of whom it seems by far the most credible — based on the publicly available evidence — is Broaddrick. Jones’s claim was aired for years and faced several major problems (including the fact that she claimed the president’s penis had a “distinguishing mark” that doctors and Monica Lewinsky said it did not have), and Willey repeatedly lied to federal investigators and changed her story dramatically between grand jury testimony and a deposition in the Jones case (among other issues).

But Broaddrick’s allegation, while hardly proven, has not been definitively refuted. Only Broaddrick and Bill Clinton know what the truth of the matter in the case is. But if one generally believes it’s important to believe the victim, it’s hard to argue that this case should be an exception.

And before that, from Michelle Goldberg at Slate, in December, under the headline, Why Bill’s Past Could Still Hurt Hillary: The right hopes to turn the feminist consensus on rape against the Clintons.

Donald Trump has all but promised us that in 2016 we will revisit the peregrinations of Bill Clinton’s penis. “You look at whether it’s Monica Lewinsky or Paula Jones or many of them,” he said Tuesday on NBC’s Today show. “That certainly will be fair game. Certainly if they play the woman’s card with respect to me, that will be fair game.” Like that, thanks to Trump’s near-supernatural command of the news cycle, Bill’s sexual history returned to the headlines. With Bill about to head out on the campaign trail—and with Hillary putting gender issues at the center of her bid for the presidency—it’s likely to stay there for a while.

Among Democrats, the conventional wisdom is that this can only help Hillary. Bill Clinton remains incredibly popular. People historically rally around Hillary when she seems like a victim—her approval ratings surged during the Lewinsky scandal. Besides, the oft-married Trump can’t credibly attack anyone for infidelity, especially given his own past defenses of Bill, whose only sin, in Trump’s estimation, was not cheating with hotter women. As Josh Marshall writes, “[I]n a general election, with an electorate not driven by the things that drive Trump supporters, having a thrice married, philandering blowhard like Trump trying to beat up on a woman over her husband’s philandering, about which she is if anything the victim rather than the perpetrator, is almost comically self-destructive on Trump’s part.”

I’m not so sanguine that this can’t hurt Hillary, if only by undermining Bill’s effectiveness as a campaigner and complicating Hillary’s feminist message. That’s because, for the right, the Clinton sex scandals aren’t about infidelity. They’re about sexual harassment and assault. Conservatives are itching to turn the new feminist consensus on sexual violence against the woman who wants to be the first feminist president. As a New Hampshire voter asked Hillary Clinton earlier this month, “You say that all rape victims should be believed. But would you say that about Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and/or Paula Jones?” Clinton’s somewhat awkward response: “Well, I would say that everybody should be believed at first, until they are disbelieved based on evidence.”

To be clear: I don’t think for a moment that the people who hope to use Broaddrick against Hillary care about victim blaming. And it would be a profound sexist irony if these accusations, having failed to derail Bill Clinton’s political career, came back to haunt his wife. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see why many on the right are giddy at the prospect of a new national conversation about Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, and thrilled that Trump is giving them one.




But, of course, Donald Trump is probably the last human being on the planet who can effectively raise any of these issues. It is likely, if he tries, it will backfire.




From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.

Trump and his advisors are now convinced that Bill Clinton’s numerous infidelities are the Sword of Damocles they have hanging over Hillary Clinton, the ultimate boom to lower on all her electoral aspirations. But this premise is dubious and far-fetched. According to the Times, Trump said “he was bringing up Mr. Clinton’s infidelities because he thought they would repulse female voters and turn them away from the Clintons, and because he was eager to unsettle Mrs. Clinton in their next two debates and on the campaign trail.”

As I noted over the weekend, what seems blindingly obvious is that for a boorish aggressor like Trump to raise Bill Clinton’s infidelities against Hillary Clinton seems wildly more likely to repulse female voters against Trump than against Clinton. Yes, there are these baroque arguments which purport to show why Hillary Clinton is the true villain of her husband’s infidelities and which leverage faux feminist arguments to brand her a hypocrite. But these are no more than a patch work mask pasted over something more stark and primal: they are meant to shame Clinton sexually, humiliate her publicly and brand her as weak and contemptible. In any case, what attacks are ‘about’ is seldom up to the attacker. The audience decides that. It will be surpassingly difficult for Trump – a man known for attacking women as floozies, pigs and worse – to convince anyone that these attacks are anything other than sadism and cruelty. He can’t even start a conversation, let alone convince anyone, that he cares in any way about how anyone treats women.

He makes that more clear each day with his increasingly sexualized assaults on Machado. Trump told the Times he was “absolutely disgusted” that Clinton has allied herself with Machado. And his ‘disgust’ is driven by his claim that, far from being pure, she is, to put it baldy, a slut. He made this clear in his overnight tweets and he reiterated it in his comments to the Times. Clinton, said Trump, “made this young lady into a girl scout when she was the exact opposite,” before claiming, with no evidence, that she had sex on camera in a sex tape. All of the drama and expectation clustering around the ‘will he or won’t he bring up Bill’s affairs’ question fails to grapple with the simple fact that Trump is highly unlikely to credibly pose as a critic of the mistreatment of women while simultaneously calling women whores and pigs.

The other dimension of the story is Trump’s belief or boast that he will ‘unsettle’ or unnerve Clinton. Everything we’ve seen of these two individuals suggests that there is little that can shake Clinton. She has her shortcomings and insufficiencies. But this is not one of them. She is steely and unflappable. On the contrary, it’s Trump who is easily rattled, easy to make a plaything of his chaotic and unbounded emotions.

All of the talk about raising Bill Clinton’s sexual history are just a replay of Trump’s instinctive penchant for dominance politics. It’s not as though voters can’t think about Bill Clinton’s history unless Trump raising it. It’s not as though there’s any new information Trump can bring to the table. At its essence all of this talk is no more than warnings and threats that he will abuse Clinton in public, shame her and try to humiliate her. Like any abuser he is threatening to hit her and make her cower. “Don’t make me hurt you!” There’s no issue or debate.

For now and for the next several weeks at least Trump is pulling the country into the drama of his own dominance and abuse rituals, ones that plainly aren’t working because his opponent is steadier on her feet than he is. That fact itself is leading him to lash out in wilder and wilder ways, just as electoral reverses are pressuring him into more intense outbursts. The next debate is only a week away. It’s difficult to imagine he can right his ship before then.

But it seems to me that Hillary Clinton, knowing what Hillary Clinton knows and has lived through, should have been more cautious about baiting a trap for Donald Trump on his treatment of Miss Universe, because, for all his cloddish, contemptible sexism and epic, narcissistic obtuseness, his treatment of Alicia Machado is less consequential and fraught with peril than Bill Clinton’s and her own treatment of everyone from Gennifer Flowers to Monica Lewinsky.

Instead of celebrating her success in suckering Trump into his self-destructive Weightgate, if I were Hillary Clinton at next Sunday’s debate and Donald Trump raises questions about her being an enabler of Bill Clinton’s sexual misdeeds, I would look at the camera, and say, `You know what America. I hope you will bestow on me the great and historic honor of electing me the first woman president. It’s been a very long, tough and sometimes bumpy road, but if you will indulge me, I just want to offer a belated apology to Tammy Wynette.”

And with that, Hillary Clinton should launch into simple, heartfelt rendition of Stand by Your Man.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.