The tweets heard ’round the world. Donald Trump and Gregg Phillips reap the whirlwind.

Good Tuesday Austin:

I guess the president-elect does not have a consuming interest in football, so on a lazy, post-Thanksgiving, pre-actually-being-president Sunday afternoon, Donald Trump flexed his twitter finger and tapped out the following:

No biggie, right?

I mean, here he is the duly elected, stunningly, surprisingly big Electoral College winner, and yet he has to suffer through all this blah-blah-blah reporting about how Hillary was building up a sizable, couple of million popular vote margin and now, somebody named Jill Stein, who apparently also ran for president, is mounting an effort to recount the vote in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan – states Trump stole in the best sense of the word right out from right under Clinton’s nose in a brazen daylight robbery that should have left the Democrats too shamed and embarrassed to do anything but avert their eyes when somebody says, “Hey, can we count those votes again?”

But, no, instead of allowing the Big Guy to blow off some steam, the media all got on their collective high horses and demanded that Trump back up his preposterous  claim, and, in their new non-normalization mode, competed with one another to most boldly, bravely, forthrightly label the president-elect’s tweet a lie.

Here is the top of the editorial in the New York Times: Donald Trump’s Lies About the Popular Vote

One big fear in the weeks leading up to the presidential election was that Donald Trump would try to delegitimize the results by claiming rampant voter fraud — a bogus specter he had raised throughout the campaign, particularly as his polling numbers got worse.

In that scenario, of course, Mr. Trump was the loser. No one imagined he would say the election was rigged if he won. And yet here we are.

On Sunday, President-elect Trump unleashed a barrage of tweets complaining about calls for recounts or vote audits in several closely contested states, and culminating in this message: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

This is a lie, part of Mr. Trump’s pattern, stretching back many years, of disregard for indisputable facts. There is no evidence of illegal voting on even a small scale anywhere in the country, let alone a systematic conspiracy involving “millions.” But this is the message that gets hammered relentlessly by right-wing propaganda sites like InfoWars, which is run by a conspiracy theorist who claims the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax — and whose absurdities Mr. Trump has often shouted through his megaphone, which will shortly bear the presidential seal. Mr. Trump added more fuel to the fire with the false claim of “serious voter fraud” in California, Virginia and New Hampshire — all states that went for Hillary Clinton.

Let us pause here to make a few points. First InfoWars is Austin’s own Alex Jones’ very popular site. Go Austin!

And this particular bit of what the Times disparages as right-wing propaganda, is an appropriation, or perhaps misappropriation, by Jones of a couple of tweets from Austinite Gregg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services official and founder, CEO and president of AutoGov. Go Austin!



Phillips is no stranger to controversy.

And here are the tweets that has made him the man of the moment.




The Times editorial linked to Glenn Kessler’s Washington Post fact check on Donald Trump’s bogus claim that millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton

Winning the electoral college is all that counts in the presidential race. But losing the popular vote by such a substantial margin apparently gnaws at Trump. Is there any basis for his claim?

The Facts

The simple answer is no. This is a bogus claim with no documented proof.

Our colleagues at and PundiFact have already examined this claim, back when it was hot in the right-wing blogosphere, not a statement made by a future U.S. president. The whole thing started with a few tweets by Gregg Phillips, a self-described conservative voter fraud specialist, who started making claims even before data on voter history was actually available in most jurisdictions. (It had not even been determined which provisional ballots were valid and would be counted.)


These claims were then picked up by such purveyors of false facts as, a conspiracy-minded website that, among other things, claims that no one actually died in a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. One article described Phillips as being affiliated with but in reality he says he is the founder of, supposedly an app that detects vote fraud. Phillips also has claimed that Obamacare is the “biggest voter registration fraud scheme in the history of the world” because it provided opportunities for voter registration.

In any case, Phillips made this claim — and then has declined to provide any evidence to back it up, even though reporters have asked.


“He said he has chosen not to release more information because he is still working on analyzing the data and verifying its accuracy,” PundiFact reported. “Phillips would also not say what the data is or where it came from, or what methodology he used.”

It’s certainly rather odd that Phillips would make such a claim before he had verified whether it was true. He did not respond to a query from The Fact Checker after Trump tweeted, although he gleefully celebrated anger at his claim.

The Pinocchio Test

Simply put, there is no evidence that “millions of people” voted illegally in the election.

Now that Trump is on the verge of becoming president, he needs to be more careful about making wild allegations with little basis in fact, especially if the claim emerged from a handful of tweets and conspiracy-minded websites. He will quickly find that such statements will undermine his authority on other matters.

Four Pinocchios

Same story from PolitiFact.

From PolitiFact:

Phillips would not provide any additional information when asked by PolitiFact. He said he has chosen not to release more information because he is still working on analyzing the data and verifying its accuracy. Phillips would also not say what the data is or where it came from, or what methodology he used.

Phillips said he would release the information publicly once he is finally finished.


Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, called Phillips’ claim “fake news.”

“There is no credible evidence I have seen to show large numbers of noncitizens voting in U.S. elections anywhere,” Hasen said. “The idea that 3 million noncitizens could have illegally voted in our elections without being detected is obscenely ludicrous.”

Our ruling

Reports claim 3 million “illegal aliens” cast votes in this year’s election.

The articles point back to tweets from Gregg Phillips, who has worked for the Republican Party and has a voter fraud reporting app. But Phillips will not provide any evidence to support his claim, which happens to be undermined by publicly available information.

If Phillips does release a more detailed report, we will consider that information. But for now, this claim is inaccurate. We rate it False.

The Trump Transition Team, in the meantime, pointed reporters to a 2014 Monkey Cage piece by two academics in the Washington Post, Could non-citizens decide the November election?

Here are the authors and the abstract of their findings.

Jesse Richman is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Old Dominion University, and Director of the ODU Social Science Research Center. David Earnest is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Old Dominion University, and Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies in the College of Arts and Letters

In spite of substantial public controversy, very little reliable data exists concerning the frequency with which non-citizen immigrants participate in United States elections. Although such participation is a violation of election laws in most parts of the United States, enforcement depends principally on disclosure of citizenship status at the time of voter registration. This study examines participation rates by non-citizens using a nationally representative sample that includes non-citizen immigrants. We find that some non-citizens participate in U.S. elections, and that this participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congressional elections. Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.

So non-citizen voting enabled Obama to pass Obamacare. Well, that doesn’t seem particularly trivial.

From the Post story.

Could control of the Senate in 2014 be decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens? Some argue that incidents of voting by non-citizens are so rare as to be inconsequential, with efforts to block fraud a screen for an agenda to prevent poor and minority voters from exercising the franchise, while others define such incidents as a threat to democracy itself. Both sides depend more heavily on anecdotes than data.

In a forthcoming article in the journal Electoral Studies, we bring real data from big social science survey datasets to bear on the question of whether, to what extent, and for whom non-citizens vote in U.S. elections. Most non-citizens do not register, let alone vote. But enough do that their participation can change the outcome of close races.

Our data comes from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Its large number of observations (32,800 in 2008 and 55,400 in 2010) provide sufficient samples of the non-immigrant sub-population, with 339 non-citizen respondents in 2008 and 489 in 2010. For the 2008 CCES, we also attempted to match respondents to voter files so that we could verify whether they actually voted.

How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.

We also find that one of the favorite policies advocated by conservatives to prevent voter fraud appears strikingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.

An alternative approach to reducing non-citizen turnout might emphasize public information. Unlike other populations, including naturalized citizens, education is not associated with higher participation among non-citizens. In 2008, non-citizens with less than a college degree were significantly more likely to cast a validated vote, and no non-citizens with a college degree or higher cast a validated vote. This hints at a link between non-citizen voting and lack of awareness about legal barriers.

The Post piece provoked considerable hubbub.

As the paper noted: The post occasioned three rebuttals (here, here, and here) as well as a response from the authors. Subsequently, another peer-reviewed article argued that the findings reported in this post (and affiliated article) were biased and that the authors’ data do not provide evidence of non-citizen voting in U.S. elections.

Here is the abstract of one rebuttal, which, like the original, appeared in the journal, Electoral Studies Volume 40, December 2015, Pages 409–410

The perils of cherry picking low frequency events in large sample surveys

 The advent of large sample surveys, such as the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), has opened the possibility of measuring very low frequency events, characteristics, and behaviors in the population. This paper documents how low-level measurement error for survey questions generally agreed to be highly reliable can lead to large prediction errors in large sample surveys, such as the CCES. The example for this analysis is Richman et al. (2014), which presents a biased estimate of the rate at which non-citizens voted in recent elections. The results, we show, are completely accounted for by very low frequency measurement error; further, the likely percent of non-citizen voters in recent US elections is 0.

Zero? Wow. Really?

And here is the response from Earnest and Richman to the rebuttal of their original piece.

Although our estimates of non-citizen registration and voting are higher than previous estimates, this should not be surprising. To our knowledge, ours is the first study to use survey data to estimate non-citizen voting, while other studies have relied upon incidents of detected vote fraud. Estimates of illegal behavior based upon survey data are frequently higher than estimates based upon detection rates. For example, survey-based estimates indicate that more than six percent of the U.S. population over age 12 uses marijuana on at least a monthly basis — a rate more than 15 times the annual arrest rate.


A final criticism concerns how we communicated our findings rather than the findings themselves. As our colleagues have colorfully suggested, our post “contributed to the circus” rather than made sense of it, and they question whether we intended “to provide fuel to the conspiracy theorists” who suspect widespread voter fraud. Ahlquist and Gehlbach even criticize the title of our post, which was not our proposed title.  (Editor’s note: Most guest post titles are written by whichever of the main Monkey Cage contributors handles the submitted post.) We trust that our colleagues do not mean to suggest that authors should self-censor findings that speak to contentious debates.

Reading the back and forth between Richman and Earnest and their critics, it seemed to me their thesis remained alive and well, thought fiercely contended. But, watching the coverage yesterday, the media generally was treating it as soundly debunked, and I’m not sure why.

Snopes also examined the claim that three million non-citizens voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. and rated it “unproven.”

Phillips offers no evidence whatsoever to back up the claim that he “verified” more than three million non-citizen votes. Nor does he divulge his data sources or methodology, much less explain how it was possible to “verify” three million fraudulent votes within five days of a national election. In point of fact, Phillips bluntly refuses to share this information with journalists, claiming it will be released “in open form to the American people”:


Phillips, who also founded the technology consulting firm Autogov and served as managing director of Newt Gingrich’s Winning Our Future super PAC during the 2012 presidential campaign, is no stranger to voter fraud controversies. He was quoted in a 30 October 2013 Breitbart article (which described Phillips as a “voter integrity activist”) characterizing Obamacare as “the biggest voter registration fraud scheme in the history of the world.” Per the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), Obamacare health insurance exchange web sites provide voter registration services to customers. While some observers have complained that the exchanges are inadequate to the task of signing up new voters and have actually failed to register millions of eligible people, according to a 2014 MSNBC report, others, Gregg Phillips among them, argue the opposite — that Obamacare has opened the floodgates for millions to register illegally.


In the absence of supporting data, however, he has really made no case at all. The “three million non-citizens” figure may just as well have been plucked out of thin air.

I talked to Phillips for about an hour yesterday afternoon.

Phillips is a board member of the organization True the Vote, a Houston-based, right of center group devoted to voter integrity.

Clearly, Phillips in his tweets overstated what he could prove right now. But, he said, that doesn’t mean that he is plucking the number out of thin air. He is ball-parking what he expects to find when he does an analysis of True the Vote’s extraordinary 50-state, 180-odd million registered voter database, which it is now updating following the November election.

Phillips also dramatically underestimated the impact his tweets would have.


When did a tweet become news? I’m just like a guy. I’m an ordinary guy. There are  billions of tweets every single day and because somebody picked it up, made something of something I wrote, all of a sudden the president-elect is talking about me? No he’s not referring to me. He’s not referring to our  information. He’s not referring to our analysis. He was referring to a  Washington Post story from 2014 and, the idea all of a sudden a tweet is news – it’s not news, I mean, I didn’t testify in court.

Seriously, is a tweet really news? Isn’t everything on Twitter fake?

In fact, I think that it was Phillips’ tweet that Trump was picking up on and responding to – and that the Presidential Transition Team subsequently cited the Washington Post piece to buttress his claim because that was better than referring reporters to the president-elect’s likely original source – Alex Jones’s InfoWars.


What apparently happened here is that Phillips tweets his heart’s desire, but Alex Jones, without ever having any contact with Phillips, picks it up and maybe dresses it up a little, not mentioning that what he is citing is is just based on a couple of tweets, and, for good measure, attaching some bogus organizational affiliation to Phillips.

Alex Jones has a huge audience and then, as is often the case, the Drudge Report picks up what InfoWars reports, and, then well, it can’t escape Trump’s attention, with or without a helpful  nudge from Roger Stone.


And, Phillips was simply not prepared for the whirlwind that followed Trump’s Sunday afternoon tweet.

People figure I must have the ear of the president. I’m sitting at home with my granddaughter. What?

So Phillips tweets an overstatement of what he was able to prove at this point in time. He did not intend for his tweet to reach a mass audience, let alone the president-elect. But suddenly he was besieged by a media that was now pinning the president’s lies on his disinformation, and demanding that he put up or shut up.


We’ve been working on this project since 2009. we approached the Department of Justice with some of our findings.

I am going to stand by the numbers. The numbers are accurate. I am going to do exactly what I said I’m going to do. I’m going to release all the information  whether it turns out I’m  right or wrong, whatever comes out of our final analysis and all the hard work of going through this stuff. I’m  going to come out and say either I was wrong or I was right. I’m going to come out and do that.

But, what really unnerved Phillips was the Twitter venom directed his way after he was identified as the president-elect’s apparent inspiration.

In the last couple of days I’ve beeen called a Nazi, a Russian, a traitor, an asshole, a racist, all on Twitter. I’m none of the above, none. I’m truly just an ordinary guy.




After talking to Phillips I called Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of True the Vote, and we spoke for another hour.

Here is how True the Vote describes itself.

True the Vote was established in 2009, after a small group of volunteers worked at our local polls and witnessed firsthand both the need for well-trained election workers and blatant, undeniable acts of election fraud. Since then, we’ve continued to grow – and  now we’re a national organization, providing comprehensive, state-specific programs of education, research, and support for volunteers in all 50 states.  We have empowered fellow citizens, increased public awareness, advocated for continued election improvements and reforms, and spoken out about the misleading messaging of those who insist voter fraud does not exist. It does. 

As you read through the pages of our website, we hope you will gain a better understanding of who we are and what we do. Our purpose is really very simple – to remind voters that they are the safeguards of our representative democracy. Together, we can ensure that our voting process truly does reflect the will of the People. Together, we can True the Vote. 

Engelbrecht said it will be some time into the new year before True the Vote will, as completely as it possibly can, have updated its 50-state database and that Phillips and others will analyze it looking for flaws – dead people on the rolls, duplicate registrations and non-citizen voters, who they will ferret out by triangulating against other databases.
It is, she said, an unprecedented effort.

We’ve been very quiet for a very long time and we have watched the degradation of the data wash across the rolls in waves and it was hard to know when to jump in because it just consistently been getting worse and so we’ve been very thoughtful about what and how that approach would look like.

We are going to take our time.

Engelbrecht said she felt for Phillips since the tweets.

When reporters demanded that she react to his tweets, Engelbrecht, who is not on Twitter, said her initial reply was, “First of all, time out. Really?”

At the end of the day he is on my board, he is my friend, he is a rock-solid individual and I stand by him and I stand by what he said and that’s it.

We put out a statement saying we support president-elect Trump’s comment about the potential that millions of votes were illegally cast.

This isn’t  huge number in the  grand scheme of things, but we have to be grown up about the process of election integrity and the importance of securing it. Third World nations have better processes than we do. We are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t use voter ID as a standard.

Engelbrecht says that the tweet by Phillips and Trump provoked so much reaction because they “really hit this chord, that we’re all kind of scared, especially coming out of this election cycle, which was admittedly something like we’ve never seen. I think it hits this really deep chord in all of us that we want it to  be a Pixar movie, where everything is OK in the end and you know  we can play rough but in the end we’re Americans and nothing really really bad can really happen because somehow we just kind of have happy endings. But the dirty little secret is there has been fraud all over the place and it’s institutionalized.’

“Do I think it’s true (what Phillips and Trump tweeted)? Absolutely.”

Here is the rest of today’s New York Times editorial:

And why is Mr. Trump so hung up on the popular vote in the first place? After all, he won where it counts — in the Electoral College. And yet, in the three weeks since his victory, Mr. Trump has already admitted at least twice that he would prefer the presidency be determined by the popular vote, and not by 538 electors. It’s clear he feels threatened by Mrs. Clinton’s popular-vote lead — now more than 2.3 million and expected to exceed 2.5 million; as a percentage of the electorate, that is a wider margin than five presidents enjoyed. With support for third-party candidates added in, 54 percent of voters rejected Mr. Trump.

So maybe his touchiness is understandable. Like most people, Mr. Trump senses the fundamental unfairness of awarding the presidency to the loser of the popular vote. In fact, he made that argument himself, back on election night in 2012, calling the Electoral College “a disaster for democracy” when he believed, incorrectly, that President Obama would lose the popular vote and still win re-election. (In recent weeks he’s changed his tune, calling it a “genius” idea.) What Mr. Trump may not know, given his lack of interest in American history, is that the Electoral College was designed specifically to enhance the influence of white voters in Southern states, which were allowed to factor in their large slave populations.

Today the Electoral College continues to give an outsized benefit to smaller and less populous states — a Wyoming resident’s vote weighs 3.6 times more than a Californian’s. So the less populous states will never agree to amend it out of the Constitution. But states may allocate their electoral votes however they choose, and that opens the door to greater equity without changing the Constitution — namely, the National Popular Vote interstate compact. This is an agreement among a group of states to award all their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have already adopted it, representing 165 electoral votes. The compact would take effect once states representing a majority of electoral votes, currently 270, signed on — ensuring that the national popular-vote winner became president.

We can’t expect Mr. Trump to throw his weight behind this initiative, given his new support for the Electoral College. But if he’s truly worried about the legitimacy of the 2016 election, why doesn’t he call for a recount?

This is a truly fatuous argument. Trump won. Why would he ask for a recount? What is the history of winners demanding recounts? And a recount is a recount, not an examination of the citizenship of every voter, which is the only way his fraud claim could be answered and satisfied.

But let’s just suppose that on Sunday, Hillary Clinton had tweeted, “Would have won Electoral College but for GOP voter suppression in key states.”

And what if it turned out that calculation was based on informed but unprovable estimates by some voting rights activists.

Would the Times Editorial Board have written a scolding editorial, Hillary Clinton’s lies about the electoral college

I don’t think so.



Fake news and ‘useful idiots.’ On Vladimir Putin, Alex Jones and Donald Trump



Good Monday Austin:

Hope you all (or y’all) had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Since our children and the rest of our family are back East and weren’t here for the holiday, my wife and I decided to do an early Jewish Christmas this year – back-to-back movies at the Regal Stadium Gateway 16, and takeout Chinese from Szechuan House on Burnet.

The first movie we saw was Allied. My wife loves Brad Pitt, but, she agreed, it was not so good.

Michael Phillips got it right in his review in the Chicago Tribune: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard team up for gorgeous, empty WWII spy thriller

In the swank but waxy new World War II-era Robert Zemeckis film “Allied,” starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard and whatever sunglasses they happen to be wearing at the time, we’re in the land of patently artificial intrigue, as opposed to fakery trying to be, in any sense, real.

But, it made me wonder, amid the recent neo-Nazi revival, what would Richard Spencer think. I mean, when a neo-Nazi goes to a World War II movie, do they root for the Nazis? Do they weep when the Nazis are foiled and cheer when the Americans are killed?

Spencer, you may recall, is the white nationalist who recently inspired some followers to snap into the Nazi salute at a well-covered gathering of supporters in the ballroom at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center near the White House.

From the account in the Washington Post:

Spencer’s voice rose as the speech neared its end.

“For us, as Europeans, it is only normal again when we are great again!” he shouted. “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”

He raised his glass and, in video caught on camera by the Atlantic, the heart of the alt-right stood and cheered — and a number of them offered their leader the Nazi salute.

And from the stage, Spencer looked at his followers, smiled and applauded.

From the Atlantic:

For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word to attack their critics in the press.

“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”   

The audience offered cheers, applause, and enthusiastic Nazi salutes.

The night before, Spencer and company had a dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italian in Northwest Washington. From the Washington Post report:

As the dinner neared its end, and with the TV cameras all downstairs, he explained the schedule for the next day’s conference. Then, as Spencer considered how they should mark its finish, he smiled and offered a joke.

“Let’s party like it’s 1933,” he declared, referencing the year Hitler was appointed Germany’s chancellor and the Nazis embarked on the creation of their own ethno-state.

Beneath chandeliers and amid dark, wood-paneled walls, the alt-right erupted in cheers.

Spencer, his expression now serious, waited for them to quiet, then spoke once more.

“Let’s party like it’s 2016!” he shouted, raising his bare arms and pumping them in the air as the room roared even louder.

I’ve been to that Maggiano’s a number of times and never took it to be a fascist front. The last time I was there with my daughter they had a special where for $1 they gave you the meal you had just ordered a second time – you could take it home. It a bit odd, but more socialist than fascist.

Back in February, Jimmy Kimmel presented the Trump campaign as modeled on The Producers.

Like The Producers, the Trump campaign succeeded despite doing everything it could to fail.

However, it goes even beyond that script if it turns out that the American electorate not only fell in love with the political equivalent of Springtime for Hitler, but actually believed, with Trump’s election, it was springtime for Hitler.

But, in fact, I don’t think that was what happened.

Americans may have many things to fear in a Trump administration, but goose-stepping, Sieg Heiling neo-Nazis, is not one of them

People like Spencer, with his overt neo-Nazism, are not a serious threat. They are ridiculous.

I say this with some confidence.

In 2000 and 2002 and 2006 and 2008 I was the only mainstream reporter to cover the biennial white nationalist American Renaissance conferences.

I was covering race and immigration in those years and when I started on that beat in 1991 I believed that the biggest story of my life was America’s dramatic demographic transformation into a nation in which whites would no longer be a majority as an unintended consequence of mass immigration, a policy that while it had elite support from  the multicultural left and big business, didn’t really have broad-based democratic sanction and was especially unpopular with working class people of all races who faced economic competition and loss of their sense of place.

It seemed unlikely that the transformation would come off without a hitch, and it seemed at least possible that at some point white nationalist thought would gain greater public purchase. And, it seemed to me, that Jared Taylor, American Renaissance’s smooth, sophisticated, intellectual leader, was the kind of white nationalist leader who could sell it to a larger audience.

Well, I was wrong about that. I didn’t see Donald Trump coming. Or that Richard Spencer, a Jared Taylor protege, would ride to public consciousness in Trump’s wake.


But, no one at the American Renaissance conferences I went to, which included some people whose neo-Nazi credentials were as well in order as Spencer’s, would have been foolish enough to behave the way that Spencer and company did at Maggiano’s – and in front of the Atlantic’s cameras. 

Indeed, it seemed that Spencer was playing to those cameras in a bid for notoriety, and the rush of press and profiles that has now made him a newborn celebrity in the age of Trump, but at the expense of being anything more than a self-parody.

A native Texan, Spencer will be speaking at Texas A&M on Dec. 6, and while protest may well be the order of the day when he comes to College Station, I can guarantee you, the only thing that would delight Richard Spencer more than a big crowd of supporters would be an even bigger crowd of protesters, the more ferocious, the better.

The second movie my wife and I saw on Thanksgiving was Arrival. I love Amy Adams, and it was pretty good Thought-provoking, even.

From Jia Tolentino in  the New Yorker.

“Arrival,” the new movie from Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario,” “Prisoners”), which Anthony Lane reviewed in last week’s issue of the magazine—and which, this past weekend, earned twenty-four million dollars at the box office, more than people were expecting—is based on “Story of Your Life,” by the literary sci-fi writer Ted Chiang. It stars Amy Adams as a linguist who comes to play an extraordinary role during an alien visitation. The movie is a model of faithful, transformative film adaptation. It’s also an exploration of a humble and brave ontological position that, in the aftershock of the Presidential election, feels as sublime, unfamiliar, and vaguely oracular as the iron-gray spaceships that hover in the film.


Adams plays a self-effacing professor named Louise Banks, who remains calm as the spaceships descend. Viewers, on the other hand, might find their pulses rising, as I did; post-election, the panic resonates.


As the global panic escalates, an Alex Jones type rants about the heptapods on YouTube: the smartest thing we could do, he says, is display force. A war nearly begins when the heptapods state their desire to offer a “weapon,” which Banks frantically tells her superiors could mean something as innocuous as “tool.” In a stupefying final encounter, the heptapods communicate to Banks that they’ve really been trying to pass down a gift. It’s a trade, in the long run: in three thousand years, they’ll need the help of humanity.

The Sunday after the election, I watched this and wept. What a dream—to perceive instinctive purpose in what happens around us, to submit to that teleology, to enact it. What a fantasy, to imagine that we’ll be around to help anyone in three thousand years.

OK. So take that, intertwine it with that bit from the Allied review – we’re in the land of patently artificial intrigue, as opposed to fakery trying to be, in any sense, real – and we arrive at the real subject of today’s First Reading – fake news and the 2016 election.

According to a highly-clicked Thanksgiving Day story by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post, it is not the Nazi we have to fear, but the Russkies.

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

I don’t know. Reading that, I was skeptical. Or at any rate when Timberg writes about the origins of a propaganda campaign portraying Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers or to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia, a more obvious culprit leaps to mind.

It’s not Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in Moscow. Its Alexander Emerick “Alex” Jones right here in Austin, who, I am pretty sure, doesn’t really need Putin’s help in coming up with this stuff or disseminating it to a huge audience.

Back to Timberg’s story.

“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”

 Watts’s report on this work, with colleagues Andrew Weisburd and J.M. Berger, appeared on the national security online magazine War on the Rocks this month under the headline “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.” Another group, called PropOrNot, a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds, planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns. (Update: The report came out on Saturday).
OK. Click on the report. Here’s how it begins:

So this story depends on a group that prefaces its earth-shaking report with, Thanks to the Generous Sponsorship of Nobody. (Funding? Hah!)


Here’s more from the Post story.

The researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.

PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were “useful idiots” — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.


The Russian campaign during this election season, researchers from both groups say, worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with “buzzy” content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.

Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports, the researchers say. On other occasions, RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social-media accounts to amplify misleading stories already circulating online, causing news algorithms to identify them as “trending” topics that sometimes prompted coverage from mainstream American news organizations.

The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience. Some of the first and most alarming tweets after Clinton fell ill at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York, for example, came from Russian botnets and trolls, researchers found. (She was treated for pneumonia and returned to the campaign trail a few days later.)

This followed a spate of other misleading stories in August about Clinton’s supposedly troubled health. The Daily Beast debunked a particularly widely read piece in an article that reached 1,700 Facebook accounts and was read online more than 30,000 times. But the PropOrNot researchers found that the version supported by Russian propaganda reached 90,000 Facebook accounts and was read more than 8 million times. The researchers said the true Daily Beast story was like “shouting into a hurricane” of false stories supported by the Russians.

This propaganda machinery also helped push the phony story that an anti-Trump protester was paid thousands of dollars to participate in demonstrations, an allegation initially made by a self-described satirist and later repeated publicly by the Trump campaign. Researchers from both groups traced a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia — to Russian propaganda efforts.

The final weeks of the campaign featured a heavy dose of stories about supposed election irregularities, allegations of vote-rigging and the potential for Election Day violence should Clinton win, researchers said.

“The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign. . . . It worked.”

Wait. Hold on.

The executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers…


Maybe I met the executive director on Nov. 19 among the anti-White Lives Matter counter-protesters at the Texas Capitol, many of whom also wore masks to protect themselves from the alt-right’s legions of skilled hackers.

(Dave Creaney)
(Photo by Dave Creaney)

Here’s some more from the PropOrNot FAQ.

11) Who put this together? Who is PropOrNot?

We are an independent team of concerned American citizens with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including professional experience in computer science, statistics, public policy, and national security affairs. We are currently volunteering our time and skills to identify propaganda – particularly Russian propaganda – targeting a U.S. audience. We collect public-record information connecting propaganda outlets to each other and their coordinators abroad, analyze what we find, act as a central repository and point of reference for related information, and organize efforts to oppose it.

Some of our members have been aware of Russian influence operations in a professional context for quite some time, but others have become increasingly aware of existing research on the subject in light of recent events in Ukraine, Western Europe, and the Middle East. We formed PropOrNot as an effort to prevent propaganda from distorting U.S. political and policy discussions. We hope to strengthen our cultural immune systems against hostile influence and improve public discourse generally.

We are completely independent, because we not funded by anyone, and we have no formal institutional affiliations. We are nonpartisan, in that our team includes all major political persuasions except the pro-Russian kind. We are anonymous for now, because we are civilian Davids taking on a state-backed adversary Goliath, and we take things like the international Russian intimidation of journalists, “Pizzagate”-style mob harassment, and the assassination of Jo Cox very seriously, but we can in some cases provide background information about ourselves on a confidential basis to professional journalists. We do not publicly describe all of our sources and methods, although we describe most of them, and again, we can in some cases provide much more detail to journalists and other researchers in order to contextualize their reporting.

We are American, and our team has more than 30 members, including Ukrainian-American, Iraqi-American, and quite a few other varieties of folks. We are united in our overall objectives: to identify, help counter, and eventually deter Russian propaganda. Any time an outlet consistently echoes, repeats, or refers its audience to Russian propaganda, we’re going to analyze it and call it out. We work to shine a light on propaganda in order to prevent it from distorting political and policy discussions, to strengthen our cultural immune systems against hostile influence, and to improve public discourse generally.

So, to that end, they have released a list of American websites and media outlets who it identifies as either agents of Russian propaganda or its useful idiots, with this explanation:

Please note that our criteria are behavioral. That means the characteristics of the propaganda outlets we identify are motivation-agnostic. For purposes of this definition it does not matter whether the sites listed here are being knowingly directed and paid by Russian intelligence officers, or whether they even knew they were echoing Russian propaganda at any particular point: If they meet these criteria, they are at the very least acting as bona-fide “useful idiots” of the Russian intelligence services, and are worthy of further scrutiny.

We assess that this overall Russian effort is at least semi-centralized, with multiple Russian projects and influence operations working in parallel to manage the direct and outsourced production of propaganda across a wide range of outlets. It is data-driven, and rewards effective entrepreneurship and innovation with increased funding and other resources. There are varying degrees of involvement in it, and awareness of involvement. Some people involved seem genuinely unaware that they are being used by Russia to produce propaganda, but many others seem to know full well.

Very well, but, it seems to me that before it publishes a story that purports to name the names of those engaging in fake news, the Washington Post, which covered itself with glory for its Trump coverage, should make quite sure it is well sourced and ironclad.

At least Joseph McCarthy wasn’t wearing a Zorro mask when he said on February 9, 1950, in Wheeling, West Virginia, “I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party, and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy of the State Department.”




From Glenn Grenwald and Ben Norton at the Intercept: Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group

The Washington Post on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The article by reporter Craig Timberg — headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” — cites a report by an anonymous website calling itself PropOrNot, which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian “misinformation campaign.”

The group’s list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig, and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as and the Ron Paul Institute.

This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of U.S. journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering exposé. It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website on Friday after it was published.

Yet the article is rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations, and fundamentally shaped by shoddy, slothful journalistic tactics. It was not surprising to learn that, as BuzzFeed’s Sheera Frenkel noted, “a lot of reporters passed on this story.” Its huge flaws are self-evident. But the Post gleefully ran with it and tand then promoted it aggressively, led by its Executive Editor Marty Baron:


Mathew Ingram of Fortune also critiqued the Post story, under the headline, No, Russian Agents Are Not Behind Every Piece of Fake News You See

In effect, both of these groups want to portray anyone who shared a salacious but untrue news story about Hillary Clinton as an agent of an orchestrated Russian intelligence campaign.

Has the rise of fake news played into the hands of those who want to spread disinformation? Sure it has. But connecting hundreds of Twitter accounts into a dark web of Russian-controlled agents, along with any website that sits on some poorly thought-out blacklist, seems like the beginnings of a conspiracy theory, rather than a scientific analysis of the problem.


Here is how PropOrNot reacted to criticism.

As Elmer Fudd.

From the Intercept:

Included on this blacklist of supposed propaganda outlets are prominent independent left-wing news sites such as Truthout, Naked Capitalism, Black Agenda Report, Consortium News, and Truthdig.

Also included are popular libertarian hubs such as Zero Hedge,, and the Ron Paul Institute, along with the hugely influential right-wing website the Drudge Report and the publishing site WikiLeaks. Far-right, virulently anti-Muslim blogs such as Bare Naked Islam are likewise dubbed Kremlin mouthpieces. Basically, everyone who isn’t comfortably within the centrist Hillary Clinton/Jeb Bush spectrum is guilty. On its Twitter account, the group announced a new “plugin” that automatically alerts the user that a visited website has been designated by the group to be a Russian propaganda outlet.

Also, of course, on the list are Alex Jones’s InfoWars and Prison Planet sites.

But, a week earlier, PropOrNot tweeted a simpler way to spot a Russian dupe

Well that would include Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. And Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. And U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. And  state Party Chairman Tom Mechler.  And well, really, virtually every Republican official in Texas.

And it would include the president-elect of the United States.

And here we get to the nub of the fake news dilemma.

The person most spectacularly spreading the word about Hillary Clinton’s ill-health was Donald Trump (and, in fairness, Rudy Giuliani). It was Trump who warned that the election was rigged and was going to be stolen from him. It was Trump whose final ad was all about resisting the conspiratorial global special interests, complete, when those word were spoken, with an image of Soros,

Forget the professional propagators of fake news.

Is Twitter going to suspend President Trump’s Twitter account?

Is Facebook  going to block users from posting unfounded emanations from the president of the United States?




No evidence, huh?

So where did Trump get that idea?


No. Alex Jones.

Three Million Votes in Presidential Election Cast by Illegal Aliens: Trump may have won popular vote


“Report: 3 million votes in presidential election cast by illegal aliens.”

Bloggers on Monday, November 14th, 2016 in an article on InfoWars

Fact-check: Did 3 million undocumented immigrants vote in this year’s election?

Were there 3 million illegal votes from undocumented immigrants in this year’s presidential election? Well, that’s what some websites are saying.

“Report: 3 million votes in presidential election cast by illegal aliens,” reads a headline on InfoWars, a conspiracy website ran by Alex Jones. The article has been shared via Facebook more than 48,000 times when we last looked.

Other websites also have touted this report, including Milo, TheNewAmerican and FreedomDaily.

So is there any truth to it?

Well, we don’t know for absolute certain. But the report is actually a tweet, and the person who authored the tweet won’t explain how he arrived at his figure. If that isn’t reason enough to be skeptical, independent experts and historical analyses suggest it’s highly suspect.

In other words, don’t buy it


Meanwhile PropOrNot has tweeted and  retweeted images of Putin dining with Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, and Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, all apparently part of the Russian  conspiracy to elect Trump and defeat Clinton.



Stein, in fact, said during the campaign that Clinton was more dangerous and more likely to lead us into war than Trump.

So why did she quickly raise a lot of money – more than she had raised in her entire campaign – to seek a recount in critical states that Clinton lost?


And why has the Clinton Team now joined Stein’s Wisconsin’s recount effort?




Meanwhile, this from Lee Fang from the the Intercept on Saturday: Some Fake News Publishers Just Happen to Be Donald Trump’s Cronies


Laura Ingraham, a close Trump ally currently under consideration to be Trump’s White House press secretary, owns an online publisher called Ingraham Media Group that runs a number of sites, including LifeZette, a news site that frequently posts articles of dubious veracity. One video produced by LifeZette this summer, ominously titled “Clinton Body Count,” promoted a conspiracy theory that the Clinton family had some role in the plane crash death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., as well as the deaths of various friends and Democrats.

The video, published on Facebook from LifeZette’s verified news account, garnered over 400,000 shares and 14 million views.

Another LifeZette video, picking up false claims from other sites, claimed that voting machines “might be compromised” because a voting machine company called Smartmatic, allegedly providing voting machines “in sixteen states,” was purchased by the liberal billionaire George Soros. Soros never purchased the company, and Smartmatic did not provide voting machines used in the general election.

Where do they come up with this stuff?

Soros Linked Voting Machines To Be Used In Key Battleground States Top globalist doing his best to control upcoming election Infowars Nightly News – October 25, 2016 65 Comments

One LifeZette article misleadingly claimed that the United Nations backed a “secret” Obama administration takeover of local police departments. The article referenced Justice Department orders that a select few police departments address patterns of misconduct, a practice that, in reality, long predates the Obama presidency, is hardly secret, and had no relation to the United Nations

InfoWars shared this report. UN Backs Secret Obama Takeover of Police International org calls for federalization of U.S. law enforcement to be ‘beefed up,’ cover all of America

Another LifeZette article, which went viral in the week prior to the election, falsely claimed that Wikileaks had revealed that a senior Hillary Clinton campaign official had engaged in occult rituals. Ingraham’s site regularly receives links from the Drudge Report and other powerful drivers of Internet traffic.

 Now that’s truly strange. Where did that come from?

Bombshell: Hillary Clinton’s Satanic Network Exposed Learn more about Hillary’s demonic ties November 4, 2016 534


But the boldest idea in this regard comes from Mike Cernovich, an influential pro-Trump social media presence. (See The New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz on Trolls for Trump: Meet Mike Cernovich, the meme mastermind of the alt-right.)

From Cenovich:

The White House Press Corps must be disbanded. You cannot allow snakes inside your house. We know what snakes do.

Some will call this an attack on the free press, which is nonsense and shows ignorance of both the Press Corp and the First Amendment.

The White House press corps is the group of journalists or correspondents usually stationed at the White House in Washington, D.C., to cover the President of the United States, White House events, and news briefings. Their offices are located in the West Wing.

The First Amendment does not give hoaxing journalists the right to set up an office inside the Trump House.

Members of the press have every right to write about Trump. Under NY Times v. Sullivan, they even have a constitutional right to lie about him.



Cenovich was on the InfoWars broadcast this weekend with editor Paul Joseph Watson

They agreed that neo-Nazi Richard Spencer was a embarrassment and a joke who the mainstream media was promoting to smear and undermine the alt-right.

And they agreed that, in Cenovich’s words, “We are the media. we don’t need the fake media.”

In fact, Jones has already announced the creation of a Fake News Analysis Center. to fight back as the  discredited “mainstream” media makes desperate attempt to control narrative

And, last week, in what I thought a brilliant stroke, Jones extended backward in time his identity with his hero – suggesting that Trump, like himself, is and has always been a 9/11 Truther, the very matter on which Jones went from cultish Austin gadfly to man of the world and, ultimately, most trusted news source of the president of the United States.


It’s 9/11 2001.  Donald Trump is being interviewed. The Towers have just collapsed. He talks about the fact that I’ve built buildings like this. This building is incredibly sturdy. It’s one of the strongest in the world . It’s basically solid metal. How in the world did they collapse without there being bombs in the airplane or bombs in the building.

Now, why is this so important? Because if Donald Trump had been an insider he would have known there was a stand-down that day and Saudi Arabia was involved in 9/11 with criminal elements of our government. He would have gone along with the official story but he didn’t. He he was there Day ne saying he same thing I was saying on the radio at the same time.









`The Rhetorical Brilliance of Donald Trump, Demagogue for President’

(Trump Coloring Book)


Good Wednesday Austin:

A little less than a year ago, on Dec. 11, 2015,  Jennifer Mercieca, associate professor of communication and director of the Aggie Agora at Texas A&M University, wrote an influential piece for The Conversation entitled, The rhetorical brilliance of Trump the demagogue.

Trump possesses an arrogance and volatility that makes most voters recoil. So how has he maintained a grip on a segment of the Republican base that – at least, for now – seems unshakable?

And how has his support persisted, despite the fact that some have called him a demagogue and a fascist, or that political observers have found parallels between him and polarizing figures like George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy, Father Coughlin – even Hitler?

As a scholar of American political rhetoric, I write about and teach courses on the use and abuse of rhetorical strategy in public discourse. Scrutinizing Trump’s rhetorical skills can partially explain his profound and persistent appeal.

The Greek word “demagogue” (demos = people + agōgos = leader) literally means “a leader of the people.” Today, however, it’s used to describe a leader who capitalizes on popular prejudices, makes false claims and promises, and uses arguments based on emotion rather than reason.

Donald Trump appeals to voters’ fears by depicting a nation in crisis, while positioning himself as the nation’s hero – the only one who can conquer our foes, secure our borders and “Make America Great Again.”

His lack of specificity about how he would accomplish these goals is less relevant than his self-assured, convincing rhetoric. He urges his audiences to “trust him,” promises he is “really smart” and flexes his prophetic muscles (like when he claims to have predicted the 9/11 attacks).

Trump’s self-congratulating rhetoric makes him appear to be the epitome of hubris, which, according to research, is often the least attractive quality of a potential leader. However, Trump is so consistent in his hubris that it appears authentic: his greatness is America’s greatness.

So we can safely call Trump a demagogue. But one fear of having demagogues actually attain real power is that they’ll disregard the law or the Constitution. Hitler, of course, is a worst-case example.

Amazingly, one of Trump’s very arguments is that he won’t be controlled.

On the campaign trail, he’s harnessed his macho businessman persona – crafted through social media and years spent on TV (where he was often the most powerful person in the room) – to make his case for the presidency. It’s a persona that rejects restraints: he speaks of not being constrained by his party, media, other candidates, political correctness, facts – anything, really. In a sense, he’s fashioning himself as an uncontrollable leader.

(Slides are from Mercieca’s power point on her book in progress.)


A few notable things have happened in the last year. Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president. Mercieca signed a contract with Texas A&M University Press to write a book, The Rhetorical Brilliance of Donald Trump, Demagogue for President, and then, a few weeks ago, Trump, the uncontrollable leader, was elected president of the United States.




“The book is a risk,” Mercieca said yesterday.

“I think it’s a risk for the press,” she said. “It’s a risk for me. I feel very nervous. I thought I was going to be writing this book and he wasn’t going to be president.”

“I had no idea he was going to get elected,” Mercieca said. “I thought that I was writing a book where we would kind of smugly laugh. like, `Oh, ha ha,’ and then he got destroyed by Hillary Clinton, and,`Isn’t it a good thing the demagogue didn’t win.’

I sent an email to the editor the next day (after the election), Wednesday morning, I had to catch a plane to a conference, and said, `Ah, I don’t know. Can I still write this book, you know, can I call the president of the United States a demagogue?’ And she said I could, if that’s what I thought because, academic freedom.”




For nearly seven years, Mercieca had been working on an academic paper about demagoguery, but just the right example had eluded her. Until Trump.

JM: “Just watching him, I kept hear him doing the same things, over and over and over again, using the same strategies,  and so I started to think about why those strategies seemed to work when they wouldn’t normally.”

It seemed that somehow his out-of-bounds style perfectly fit a public mood founded in frustration, polarization and mistrust.

JM: “And I realized it was very smart what he was doing, diabolically smart, but smart.”



Also last December, Mercieca was contacted by the New York Times, which was preparing a piece that would call Trump a demagogue, and catalogue the evidence.

In November Trump had mocked Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter, who had formerly worked for the Washington Post, after Kovaleski contested Trump’s claim that Kovaelski’s reporting confirmed Trump’s debunked claim that crowds of Muslims in New Jersey had publicly celebrated the 9-11 attacks. (see Donald Trump Criticized for Mocking Disabled Reporter The GOP candidate performed an unflattering impression of Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a congenital joint condition, at a South Carolina rally. from Snopes)

JM: To them (the New York Times reporters) it was debased, it disqualified him from office.

Why attack the reporter in such a malicious/juvenile way?

JM: “He is vindicating himself about the terrible lie of what Muslims do. So it is a way of further alienating the Muslim population, and making fun of the reporter, an ad hominem  attack. He can’t be trusted he’s not a real person. He’s disabled.

“So it’s all of these things rolled into one. The purpose is to distract from the claim that he has misrepresented the truth. So the story shifts. It’s not about him misrepresenting the truth. Instead, it’s about him mocking a disabled person, in the mainstream. But then, in his in group, it’s not even about that. They maybe don’t care about that. It’s Trump is the hero. He’s right. He’s making fun of the guy  who the group is making fun of. He’s not areal person anyway. He’s the enemy. So we just make fun of him.”

It sounds like junior high.

But, Mercieca said, “It’s sophisticated as a strategy.”

“I would love to see his college transcript and see if he took a rhetoric class,” she said.

“It’s too consistent over the course of a year to be accidental.”


The failing New York Times.

JM: It’s associative logic. You wouldn’t want to mention the New York Times without also associating it with something negative about it. Otherwise you’re just do PR for them so it has to be failing New York Times.

Also it’s an ad hominem attack. Instead of dealing with whatever allegations or news reports are in the New York Times you instead distract the audience away from those allegation by attacking the business itself. They  are distraction techniques. Instead of looking at what we’re supposed to look at, look over here.


JM: So, don’t deal with the questions raised by the Hamilton cast, don’t deal with that issue. Instead, they’re overrated.

It’s like magic, sleight of hand. legerdemain.





There were the nicknames.

JM: If you’re trying to introduce your candidate to the American electorate and they don’t know much about Ted Cruz, you have  a certain  story you’re trying to tell, and if your opponent is consistently branding you as Lyin’ Ted,  that has as much chance to stick as your branding attempt. He was smart to do it.

Usually you don’t find a lot of mentioning your opponent by political candidates because it helps them, (the opponent). But, if you do, you’re going to call them Crooked Hillary, you’re going to call them Lyin’ Ted, you’re going to call them Little Marco, Low Energy Jeb.

Why Crooked Hillary?

JM: The through line for the campaign was corruption, leading to `drain the swamp.’ The media is corrupt. Politicians are corrupt. Hillary Clinton was the best example of corruption so she was Crooked Hillary. She represents the full swamp.

Looking back, it all makes so much sense.






From a piece in Fusion in June.

“This is the problem when you have a rich billionaire, a fractured media, a polarized electorate, and a weak party system,” said Jennifer Mercieca, an associate professor of communications at Texas A&M University and a historian of American political rhetoric. “Conditions are ripe for demagoguery.”


“Right now it seems there is no one more powerful than Donald Trump in a position to stop him or call him out and hold him accountable for what he does,” she explained. “No one—not the party, not the media, not the people. I mean, the Pope tried to call him out and it didn’t work. I say that and I’m laughing, but it’s a nervous laugh.”





The path for Trump was cleared, Mercieca said, by “the way that the nation doesn’t share truth or fact, the way that information circulates and rumor circulates without even passably being checked. That allows for an insulated truth community, and if that insulated truth community has its own version of reality that’s separate from a different one, then it’s insulated, there is not way to interact with it.

“And so that allows for someone like Trump, who tells his story over and over again in a way that resonates with them, in a way that  can’t be contradicted from the outside. The fractured media community allows for that.”




JM: The polarized electorate furthers that division. If you have distrust between parties, where they are not sharing values and they also are not sharing facts and truth and media sources. Which is why it was so crucial that he kept going after the media, over and over throughout the summer and the fall, and now, because it re-enforces the idea that, `our truth community is right and your truth community is the problem.’

Also culpable, Mercieca said, was “the weak party system. They tried, at least initially, to control him,” but Trump used his ability to dominate the news cycle every day, and his personal resources, to stay in the rac and, ultimatley, to prevail.

Mercieca it was a perfect match of man and moment.

I think it was only Donald Trump and it was only in this moment. Ted Cruz couldn’t do it this year. Donald Trump couldn’t have done it ten years ago.

Trump was also derided for his reliance on mass rallies, which seemed a quaint throwback to an older style of politics.

JM: It was a way of creating a safe space. You always saw these stories of people saying, “I feel free when I’m at one of these rallies. No political correctness. I can say what I want. This is freedom. This is America.”

It was brilliant.

What is a demagogue?

JM: It translates to leader of the people so there is no reason why a leader of the people has to be a misleader of the people. it’s not a negative thing necessarily. So if  you go back to histories of ancient Greece, one way to think about a demagogue is – and this was George Grote, who wrote a multi-volume history of ancient Greece – his version of a demagogue is that they were what was best about democracy, that they were upholding democracy and democratic values and defending it from the oligarchs who were always trying to overthrow it.

For him the demagogues were heroes. But others, like Plato and Thucydides and Aeschylus and Aristophanes, they didn’t like democracy and in fact some of them were oligarchs and they didn’t like rhetoric, they were philosophers. Our understanding of the term is loaded and it is filtered through those who hated democracy the most – Plato and friends.

The one thing that distinguishes demagogues from other leaders of the people – because we would want someone to emerge from the people to lead them – is being held accountable. A real political  leader would allow  for themselves to be held accountable for their actions. They would promote transparency and accountability, stand for questions from reporters. They would allow themselves to be interrogated and questioned. They wouldn’t have anything to hide.

Whereas a demagogue, even in ancient Athens, would be a person who proposed a policy but then wasn’t in charge of implementing  that policy, so could never be held accountable for it.

Trump’s credo, Mercieca said, was, ““I won’t be accountable,’ which, by the way, is the last thing you’d want in a leader. But that’s what he ran on. He ran on the fact that he was going to be an unaccountable leader and that we should give him the power to make America great again.”

“Anytime anyone tried hold him accountable – the Pope the New York Times, the Republican Party – it didn’t matter. Anytime anyone tried to hold him accountable, he said, “Don’t listen to them. I know how to make America great again. I got great ideas, the best ideas, I’m really smart.'”



JM: With Ronald Reagan it was, “Let’s make America great again.” Let us, let you and I – make America great again. Trump took the `us’ out. With Trump it’s Make America Great Again. “I’m going to be the greatest jobs president God ever created.”

Here are some of Trump’s demagogic rhetorical techniques.




Argument Ad Baculum.

Menace, threats of force, were a feature of Trump’s rhetoric -“when people come after me they go down the tubes” – especially at his mass rallies, which often featured the almost ritualistic expulsion of protesters.

Sometimes, it went beyond that.

From the New York Times in early August.

Repeating his contention that Mrs. Clinton wanted to abolish the right to bear arms, Mr. Trump warned at a rally here that it would be “a horrible day” if Mrs. Clinton were elected and got to appoint a tiebreaking Supreme Court justice.

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”Oblique as it was, Mr. Trump’s remark quickly elicited a wave of condemnation from Democrats, gun control advocates and others, who accused him of suggesting violence against Mrs. Clinton or liberal jurists.

Argument Ad Hominem

Trump is the master of the ad hominem attacks.

From Mercieca’s piece in The Conversation:

When opponents question his ideas or stances, he’ll employ ad hominem attacks – or criticisms of the person, rather than the argument (dismissing his detractors as “dummies,” “weak” or “boring”). Perhaps most famously, he derided Carly Fiorina’s appearance when she started to go up in the polls after the first Republican debate (“Look at that face!” he cried. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”).




Argument Ad Populum:

JM: The crowd is wise. The experts are fools.

From The Conversation.

He often uses ad populum arguments, which are appeals to the wisdom of the crowd (“polls show,” “we’re winning everywhere”).

From First Reading when Trump came to Austin at the end of August.

Good day Austin:

You gotta be flattered.

Ostensibly, Donald Trump came to Austin Tuesday to raise money and hold a rally.

But, it turns out, he really came to Austin to figure out what he really thinks about the thing we thought  he cared most deeply about – the deportation of some 11 or 12 million immigrants without legal status.

“I mean, I don’t know. You tell me,” Trump told a packed house of rabid supporters – and a few ringers – at the Moody Theater for a taping of Sean Hannity’s show on Fox Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s like a poll. There’s thousands of people in this room.”

(And of course, the obligatory self-congratulation: “This place is packed. Does everybody get this kind of a crowd?”)

And so, Trump asked the Moody audience to determine what his policy on deportation should be and, lo and behold, they seemed to agree that their hero should adopt the position previously articulated by the likes of Jeb Bush and John Kasich.

Except, of course, Trump, reality TV star that he is, knew how to manipulate his audience to get the results he wanted.


JM: He treats people as objects when he doesn’t respect them or they criticize him. They are enemy objects. He always uses `that’ instead of `who.’ He treats women as objects. He treats the Khan family as objects.





JM: My favorite example:

From the New York Times piece in December.

“All of ’em are weak, they’re just weak,” Mr. Trump said in New Hampshire on Tuesday of his fellow candidates. “I think they’re weak, generally, you want to know the truth. But I won’t say that, because I don’t want to get myself, I don’t want to have any controversies. So I refuse to say that they’re weak generally, O.K.? Some of them are fine people. But they are weak.”

JM: I like that example because he runs you through the thought process, he actually says out loud the whole  paralipsis. `I’m gonna say it, I’m not gonna say it because I don’t want to get in trouble. Here I am saying it but I’m not actually saying it because I don’t want to get into any controversy.’

American exceptionalism:

JM: He personifies American exceptionalism. He can make America great again. He has the best words. That gives his audience, the in group, this hopeful, ambiguous goal.

(Trump coloring book.)
(Trump coloring book.)

Stepping back to take a more meta look, Mercieca thinks Trump smashes the liberal idyll about he course of American history.

JM: We’ve had this liberal, progressive version of history that  says, you know, the status quo is fine, the Constitution is good, let’s make managerial small changes and we’re going to see progress unfold through history

However, Mercieca said that America was founded on the foreboding that “democracy will always decay, democracy will always turn into tyranny,” and that patriotic citizenship demanded a continuous critique of government, protecting against “the natural corruption of government.”

But, Mercieca said, “the language of critique wanes over the course of the 19th Century,” and the 20th Century turns to the “language of progress.”

“I think we’ve been lulled into this false sense of security from the liberal/progressive notion of the 20th Century that things are always going to get better, they’re not going to get worse and no one election really matter that much because things are going to unfold to a better life for everyone in the long run.”

“We believe that our presidents out to be heroes,” Mercieca said.


Trump has certainly presented himself as the hero.

And, raised expectations.

JM: Trump has give us some pretty specific agenda items that he’s going to make happen. if he doesn’t build a giant, great big beautiful wall in the next couple of months here then I think he’s got this expectation that is unfulfillable. If he doesn’t repeal Obamacare, if he doesn’t bring back American jobs and everybody does not have a great factory job in the next few months, I don’t know how much time people are going to give him.

He set pretty high expectations  that he can do all these things. Maybe people don’t think he can, actually. Maybe people are actually thinking, `We know the Democrats, or Hillary Clinton tried everything else, let’s give this guy a chance.’  Or maybe they take him more literally. `I want to see that wall built and see that new job.'”

He’s been wily and surprised me all the way through. Maybe he’ll find a way to misdirect or redirect our attention.

He must have a game plan.”

And if he doesn’t?

Mercieca said the media are supposed to play the watchdog role that was seen as the responsibility of patriotic citizens at the founding of the Republic

“They want to hold people accountable,” she said. But with Trump, “He’s not going to let that happen.

She recalls this modest pre-eletion proposal in the Federalist:

The GOP Needs To Elect Trump, Then Impeach Him
October 25, 2016 By Jonathan Ashbach

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the only two viable presidential candidates. Both are disastrous. Third-party candidates are a joke, electorally. Supporting them accomplishes nothing beyond weakening the candidate one would otherwise have supported from the two major parties.

The Utah scheme, if successful, would only pull support from Trump, leaving Clinton likely to win an even more impressive margin of victory in the Electoral College. Even on simple policy grounds, most conservatives would be unhappy with the two leading third-party candidates. Conservatives are left with no good options.

Or are we? There is a way out of this mess. It is a desperate plan, but desperate times, desperate measures: Elect-and-Impeach. Elect the ticket. Impeach Trump.

The Republican Party does have an attractive candidate on its ticket. Socially conservative. Economically conservative. Conservative on national defense. Morally and religiously impeccable. The trouble is, that man is the Republican candidate for vice president, Mike Pence.

But if Trump were impeached immediately after he took office, the Republican candidate for vice president would become president in his place. Further, if Republicans take the lead in removing Trump from office, the party might regain some of its lost credibility in parts of the electorate that it is anxious to attract.

Yes, We Can

There is nothing impossible about this strategy. That Republican leaders are strongly at odds with their party’s candidate is no secret. If enough of them are willing to cross the aisle and join forces with their Democratic colleagues, impeachment is a perfectly plausible outcome.

That made Mercieca laugh.

“What makes you think he’s going to stand for being impeached?”

But how would he, how could he, resist it?

JM: I don’t know. I don’t know. He has not allowed anybody to hold him accountable  yet. He has prevented every single institution from holding him accountable.



By the time The Rhetorical Brilliance of Donald Trump, Demagogue for President is published, probably next fall, we will know much more about whether the skills that got Trump to the White House are serving him and the nation well as its occupant.

Here’s a TED talk Mercieca gave in June at Brinn College in Bryan.

`That’s what freedom sounds like.’ On protest, from Broadway to the Texas Capitol, in the age of Trump



Protest and counter-protest at the Texas Capitol on Saturday

Good Monday Austin:

One of perks of being the vice president-elect is you can score tickets to Hamilton. Like President Obama cutting the line at Franklin Barbecue.

One of the costs of being Donald Trump’s vice president-elect, is you collect some boos when you take your seat and get lectured from the stage when the performance is over

Pence, on Fox News Sunday, took the experience admirably, graciously in stride.

Pence was on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: Finally, I’ve got about a minute left. I got to ask you about the subject everybody is talking about today. You know what it is. And that is the fact that you went to see the Broadway musical “Hamilton” on Friday night.

And afterwards, the cast addressed you as you were walking out of the theater about their concerns as to whether Mr. Trump will protect diversity in our nation. Here he is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.


WALLACE: Now, Saturday morning, Mr. Trump tweeted this, “The cast of ‘Hamilton’ was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize.” And he tweeted about it again at 6:23 this morning.

Governor, what did you think of the cast’s comments, and did you consider it rude?

PENCE: Well, first off, my daughter and I and her cousins really enjoyed the show. “Hamilton” is just an incredible production, incredibly talented people. And it was a real joy to be there.

You know, when we arrived, we heard — we heard a few boos, we heard some cheers. And I nudged my kids and reminded them that’s what freedom sounds like.

And — but at the end, you know, I did hear what was said from the stage, and I can tell you, I wasn’t offended by what was said. I’ll leave to others whether that was the appropriate venue to say it.

But I do want to say that the basic element, the center of that message is one that I want to address. That is, I know this is a very disappointing time for people that did not see their candidate win in this national election. I know this is a very anxious time for some people.

And I just want to reassure people that what President-elect Donald Trump said on election night, he absolutely meant from the bottom of his heart. He is preparing to be the president of all of the people of the United States of America.

And to watch him bringing together people of diverse views, bringing together people that differed with him strongly, seeing him talk to leaders around the world, I just want to — I just want to reassure every American that in the days ahead, I’m very confident that they’re going to see — that they’re going to see President-elect Donald Trump be a president for all of the people, and we embrace that principle and we’re going to work hard to make that principle every day that we serve.

WALLACE: And just to button Hamilton-gate up, do you want or expect an apology?

PENCE: Well, as I said, I would just — I would leave that to others, whether that was the appropriate venue for that. But, you know, I will tell you, Chris, if you haven’t seen the show, go to see it. It is a great, great show.

You know, I’m a real history buff. So I — my daughter and I and her cousins really enjoyed it.

WALLACE: Well, I’ve seen it too. We can say Pence and Wallace, two thumbs up.

Governor Pence, we want to thank you. Thank you for joining us. Always good to talk with you, sir.

PENCE: Thank you

That was in marked contrast to the president-elect’s reaction, which began with this now-deleted tweet.



Then these undeleted tweets.


A “safe and special place?”

What kind of bubble does Trump live in?

Does he think the whole world is the Brown University campus?

And he, uniquely, has a safe place right there in Manhattan, a short walk from Broadway.

Not just Trump Tower, but, you may recall, all of Fifth Avenue, New York’s Main Street.

Trump: “I could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot SOMEBODY and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Indeed, if Trump wants to demonstrate – or test – his continued popularity, he ought to, with a little Aaron Burr bravado, periodically test that assertion, and just go and shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and see what happens.

But, back to Broadway.

Classic Trump.

Normally, he would throw in that Hamilton is a big flop and losing money but that’s too obviously untrue, so instead he uses his favorite information source – I hear –  to say it’s highly overrated – apparently by virtually everyone who sees it (I haven’t), including Mike Pence.

The future First Tweeter then took a break to comment on what else he’s up to.


And then,  the critic returns.

Perhaps the humor of The Bubble was too subtle.

So, while Pence emerged as classy and wise, Trump burnished his reputation as emotionally seven-years-old.




Amid the Hamilton tweets, there was also these:


For some, this was the real diversionary motivation behind the Hamilton tweets.


















From,  The Hamilton-Pence Incident Was More Than Just a Distraction By

Over the weekend, “Hamilton is a distraction” became, for a surprisingly diverse group of commenters across the board, a common refrain. According to their argument, every moment spent paying attention to this silly theater kerfuffle was a moment in which we were not looking at the $25 million Trump University settlement, or at Trump’s national-security appointments, or at the unprecedented blurring of lines between his private business interests and his new temp gig as a public servant. Some journalists manifested a growing strain of Trumpanoia in which anyone who comments on anything Trump does or says on Twitter is playing right into his diabolical master plan (“Stop Being Trump’s Twitter Fool,” the veteran writer Jack Shafer warned on Politico). Not to mention all the variations of “This is why they hate us,” and “This is why we lost” proffered by people who remain determined to embrace a narrative that the election was “real” America’s calculated repudiation of diversity-based cultural elitism and of people who make mean jokes. Just days before the incident, the conservative historian Niall Ferguson wrote a Boston Globe op-ed clickbaitingly headlined, “Was the election a vote against ‘Hamilton’?”

That kind of anti-elite symbol-making, in which Hamilton represents a trinket of the smugly out-of-touch (it’s great, it’s ours, you can’t get in, and you wouldn’t like it anyway), obviously freights the show with baggage it doesn’t deserve. No, it didn’t get Trump elected. But the flare up is a bigger deal than those who are labeling it nothing more than a damaging diversion would like to believe. Little incidents can come packed with big meaning. The Hamilton episode touched on LGBTQ issues, which were shamefully underdiscussed during the campaign and remain so now. It touched on immigration; on race; on the impact and value of protest speech; on the president-elect’s temperament; on his demands for opponents to capitulate; on his disdain for First Amendment freedoms (his quartet of Hamilton tweets was consistent with his post-election attacks on public protestors and on the New York Times); and on the worries of several large populations that the Trump administration will demonize them and make them less safe. Those who consider themselves progressives — but view all discussion as a zero-sum game in which attention to one story means lack of attention to another — might do well to think harder before brushing this off as trivial because the gateway is showbiz, or because a different story is on their minds, or because they want their conversation to be the conversation.

As for showbiz itself, what was exposed on Friday night at Hamilton was the dawning of the age of anxiety. Hollywood doesn’t know what to do right now; neither does Broadway. What should oppositional entertainment be in the age of Trump — especially in a country where half the population seems to instantly discredit anything that comes from New York or Los Angeles? Is the job to buck up the left, to reach out to the right, to depict an America that’s routinely ignored by Trump, to depict an America that’s routinely ignored by the makers of entertainment, or all of the above?

Anger, fear, and sadness can, no doubt, inspire a lot of great creative work. But planning popular art as a sweaty reaction to electoral defeat is a surefire way to create something bad. One can embrace politically conscious pop culture and still realize that while it’s very good at some things — gradually expanding people’s vision of the world, slowly normalizing the misunderstood or marginal — it is not direct activism, no matter how performatively satisfying it can feel, no matter how viral it can go. Activism is activism; pop culture is the drip-drip-drip of water regrooving a rock so gradually that you’ll never pinpoint the moment the landscape changed. A hashtag is just the grate through which the water drips.

Which doesn’t mean artists shouldn’t try. In the first of his anti-Hamilton tweets, Trump (who is said to like musicals and apparently saw Evita six times, a heterosexual world record) surprised people by using language that many on the right detest and routinely mock. “The Theater,” he wrote, apparently sanctifying it with a capital letter, “must always be a safe and special place.” Ha ha, he almost said safe space! However, he’s right. What he doesn’t understand is that anybody who walks through the doors of a theater should be prepared to have preconceptions challenged, beliefs questioned, certitudes shaken, ideas adjusted, worldviews broadened, and perspectives shifted. People who consider that a threat to their safety should probably stay away from theater and the rest of popular culture altogether. For the rest of us, that’s not only safe, it’s essential.

You can do two things if you’re on a stage: Show or tell. There are those who feel Hamilton should have stuck with the first; instead, the cast and production team chose, for one night, to do both. While this is going to be a very long and ugly fight, I’d award them a narrow victory-by-decision in Culture Wars, Round One. They saw an extraordinary circumstance looming before them, they stood up, they represented themselves and others with firmness and dignity, and they sparked plenty of meaningful, non-distracting dialogue by doing so. Chances to speak truth directly to power, even when power turns its back and starts walking up the aisle, may be rarer than we would wish in the next four years. When the opportunity comes along, there’s much to be said for not throwing away your shot.


And, a counter-take from Springsteen and the Soprano’s Stevie Van Zandt.








Which brings us to Saturday’s scene at the Capitol.




From the Statesman:


Eight people were arrested and riot police were summoned to the Texas Capitol on Saturday as members of a White Lives Matter group, some of them armed, faced off against a variety of opponents.

(Ken Reed and other White Lives Matter proponents held a rally in front of the Texas State Capitol on Saturday. Photo by. Dave Creaney)
(Ken Reed and other White Lives Matter proponents held a rally in front of the Texas State Capitol on Saturday. Photo by. Dave Creaney)

About 20 White Lives Matter protesters came around midday to protest hate crime laws that they say favor minorities. “Equal justice under law” was on a sign held up by one man, who dressed all in black with what appeared to be a Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifle slung on his shoulder.

(Members of Houston-based White Lives Matter march in a demonstration escorted by Texas State Troopers. James Gregg.)

The protesters were shouted down by what a Texas Department of Public Safety officer said were 300 to 400 counter protesters, who yelled “Nazi scum” and other insults.

Riot police were summoned, with about 60 state troopers on the scene and a state Department of Public Safety helicopter buzzing overhead. Horse-mounted officers from DPS and the Austin Police Department were also involved.

(Photo by James Gregg)
(Photo by James Gregg)

The incident at the Capitol seemed to be yet another convulsion fueled by divisions, many of them about race, that have deepened across the U.S. since the presidential election nearly two weeks ago.

DPS officials said eight people were arrested — including two on the Capitol grounds — on misdemeanor charges that included assault, interference with public duty, disorderly conduct and evading arrest.

The counter protesters were organized, at least in part, by Smash Fascism Austin.

The goal, the Smash Fascism group had posted on Facebook, was to “turn out in overwhelming numbers, drown out their message of hate, and show them the people of Austin will not stand for fascists organizing on our streets.”

This too is what freedom sounds like. And, if you don’t like the obscene sounds of freedom, do not click play.


The clash of protestors and counter-protestors came on a glorious fall day right next to, and just after, the dedication of a magnificent Texas African-American History Memorial on the South Lawn of the Capitol.

(Photo by David Creaney)
(Photo by David Creaney)

The spirit of the dedication was uplifting.

And, while I usually find demonstrations of almost any kind of uplifting, because of what it says about America, Saturday’s scene was also a little dispiriting, and not just because, or even mostly because of the White Lives Matter demonstrators at its center.



(Dave Creaney)
(Dave Creaney)

What bothered me was that the anger of at least a significant number of those anti-fascist counter-protesters was disconnected from a sense of higher purpose or any kind of transcendent spirit and seemed all about a hatred of the little band of Nazis they vastly outnumbered and surrounded, and who, it seemed from some of the counter-protesters’ chants and signs and comments, they did not believe were owed or deserved the free speech rights of all Americans.’

Maybe it was simply an understandable, cathartic release under the current circumstance, but, in defense of diversity and tolerance, there seemed to be coursing through the crowd a totalitarian spirit.



(James Gregg)
(Photo by James Gregg)


Early in the afternoon, when the scene was still raging, a couple of the White Lives Matter protesters exited the confrontation heading to their car parked a couple of blocks away on East 11th Street. They were followed by about a dozen of the counter-protesters chanting at them. As the WLM’s got into their car, one of the counter-protesters kicked the car. As the car drove away, one shouted after it,: “Go home and molest your children.” Another shouted, “I hope you get in a crash and die.”

As the police began to try maneuver to extricate the remaining White Lives Matters protesters from the scene, a chant from some of the counter-protesters rose up, “Cops and Klan go hand in hand.”

Another chant suggested the cops could not keep them safe.

Department of Public Safety Director, Steven McCraw, watched events unfold from the perimeter of the scene. “We’re here to protect the protesters, the counter-protesters and the counter-counter-protesters.”

An Austin men walked up and down the line of troopers, telling the black and Hispanic officers that they should not compromise their morality to do their job. But they were there to make sure nobody got hurt. Would they have served a higher moral purpose by turning the Nazis over to the crowd and say, “Have at them,” or watch as a firefight ensued between armed belligerents?

I don’t get it.


(A group who refused to identify themselves stands near a White Lives Matter demonstration armed with loaded rifles across the street from the state Capitol. Hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters demonstrated downtown in a tense standoff and multiple arrests were made. JAMES GREGG)
(A group who refused to identify themselves stands near a White Lives Matter demonstration armed with loaded rifles across the street from the state Capitol. Hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters demonstrated downtown in a tense standoff and multiple arrests were made. JAMES GREGG)


A masked counter-protestor shouted at a Statesman reporter who had spoken with Ken Reed: “F*** you for interviewing a Nazi.”

The idea of a masked person berating a reporter not to talk to one of a small number of people -no matter how loathsome their ideology – encircled by a far larger crowd screaming at them, seemed more fascist than anti-fascist in its sensibility.




The black freedom struggle was built on heroic non-violent resistance, on Martin Luther King’s belief in radical love and the Beloved Community.

And a certain actual tolerance and humility.

And even, perhaps, a little sense of irony.





Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Donald Trump’s team of (serially humiliated) rivals

(Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walks from Trump Tower, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walks from Trump Tower, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


Good Friday Austin:

Donald Trump’s team of rivals?

Not so much. Not so far.

Donald Trump’s serial humiliation of his former rivals, more likely.

And, the genius of this is that Trump is getting huge credit for growth and magnanimity for considering his severest critics as members of his administration, without actually, so far, giving them anything.

This morning it was announced that President-elect Donald Trump has chosen U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and not Ted Cruz of Texas to be his attorney general.



Cornyn’s swift tweeting of the news suggests that our senior senator has a bit of the reporter’s delight in being the first to spread some big news.

Also, that he raced trough the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – in coping with his home state colleague being denied, moving  straight to a sixth stage – giddy delight.

Trump naming Cruz attorney general would have been a bold and daring stroke – and completely crazy. Like giving Cruz a prime speaking role at the Republican National Convention.

Cruz has as clear and consistent philosophy as any man in politics. Trump does not.

There are a panoply of issues that are of central, live-or-die, importance to Cruz – gender identity and bathrooms, same-sex marriage, abortion – that Trump either doesn’t really care about or has a live-and-let-live attitude about – issues that Cruz would, as attorney general, be the point man on for his administration.

Just watch this Cruz ad.

Were Cruz to be Trump’s attorney general, it is only a question of whether it would be a matter of weeks or months before stories would start appearing about Cruz’s fierce and independent Justice Department, and raising provocative questions about who is  calling the shots –  Cruz or Trump – and who is the real power in Washington, and did Trump miscalculate by elevating Cruz to a place where he could potentially challenge him for renomination, all culminating in Trump firing Cruz and saying he never should have trusted Lyin’ Ted.

Instead, Trump gets credit for having even considered Cruz, and gets what he really wanted – the supplication of Ted Cruz, in his comments to the press about how he wants to serve the Trump administration, and in his coming to Trump Tower in a ritual of obeisance.


Sessions is the un-Cruz. He was the first senator and the first Republican officeholder of any real rank to back Trump, an endorsement that was, at the time, a body blow to Cruz who had much coveted Sessions’ backing as the arbiter of right-wing purity on immigration.

And, Sessions simply doesn’t call attention to himself. When he enters a room, people crane their necks to see if anyone more interesting is coming in behind him.

Here is Cruz’s comment on Sessions’ nomination.

Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general is great news for all of us who revere the Constitution and the rule of law. I have been honored to work with Sen. Sessions on many of our nation’s most important issues over the last four years. Sen. Sessions has had an extraordinary career in government and law enforcement. He has been an exemplary senator for the state of Alabama, and I am confident that he will be an exceptional United States attorney general.

 Of course, for Texas reporters, this outcome is much to be mourned.

If Cruz had been named attorney general, Gov. Abbott could have sent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to Washington as Cruz’s successor until the 2018 election, where he would have quickly emerged as Trump’s de facto Senate whip (as opposed to Cornyn, the actual Senate whip), and his departure, or imminent departure, in the midst of  the Texas legislative session would have set off a once-in-a-lifetime feeding frenzy that would have been a thing to behold.

In the meantime, Cruz and the other Trump Tower supplicants have to hope that the president-elect doesn’t  have  a hidden-camera taping system.

Trump: “Ted, come sit down next to me. I ordered us taco bowls. I love them. Let’s eat. Smile.”



Now comes Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, who while he didn’t run against Trump was quite as scathing as Cruz in his denunciation of every aspect of Trump’s personal and political being, and, unlike Cruz, refused to endorse or vote for him.

From ABC News:

President-elect Donald Trump will be meeting this weekend with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to sources on Trump’s transition team who also said that the 2012 GOP presidential nominee is under consideration for a top cabinet position within his incoming administration.

Sources told ABC News that Romney is under consideration for secretary of state.

One senior level source directly involved in the transition efforts told ABC News the meeting is also about “mending fences.”

Romney did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

The two have had a remarkably contentious relationship. During the campaign, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate not only withheld an endorsement but delivered an impassioned and personal argument against Trump as the party’s nominee. Romney slammed Trump as a “phony, a fraud” and accused him of “playing the American public for suckers.”

“Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics,” Romney said of Trump at the University of Utah in March.

Romney also criticized Trump’s business record and economic policies during his address.

Trump’s assessment of Romney was no kinder.

“Mitt Romney was a failed candidate — should have beaten Barack Obama easily,” Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” on the same day Romney delivered his speech.

“He was a terrible candidate. He choked,” Trump said during a news conference at West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 5.

“If he would have devoted the same energy and time to winning the presidency four years ago, as he is now on trying to destroy our party and the unity of our party, he would have won that election and we wouldn’t have had the problems that we have right now,” Trump argued.

Once Trump was named the president-elect, however, Trump tweeted that Romney had called to congratulate him.

The Trump Transition Team announced this morning that Romney would be meeting Saturday with the president-elect at Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster, in New Jersey, where the transition meetings are being held this weekend.

Trump naming Romney secretary of state would reassure everyone who despises Trump, but it would suggest that Trump’s foreign policy was entirely up in the air, and might require Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign chairman and choice to be his chief strategist, to quit in protest.

On this morning’s Presidential Transition Team conference call, spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump was meeting  with Romney for the same reason he met with Henry Kissinger on Thursday.

It was jut an opportunity to get  to hear some really good ideas and thoughts on the geopolitical situation as it stands now. The conversation with Mitt Romney is just that, an opportunity to hear his ideas and his thoughts. But I think the broader point really gets back to this idea of who Mr. Trump is and the kind of president he is going to be. He wants to be inclusive and ensure that we have the best and brightest and the highest caliber of people providing their input and serving this nation and that’s all it really comes down to.

Right. That’s it.

And, if somehow Romney emerges as Trump’s secretary of state, I believe it will turn out to be some kind of Cyborg Romney and that eventually, the real Mitt Romney, stripped down to his Mormon underwear, with a beard down to his knees, will be found locked in a chamber in Trump Tower.

My advice to Romney when he meets with Trump is to resist at all costs if Trump says, “Hey Mitt. Let’s have some fun. How about come cos play. I’ll be the sovereign and you can be the knight.”








And then there is Rick Perry.

My story yesterday:

Is President-elect Donald Trump considering naming Rick Perry as secretary of energy in his administration?

According to a report Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, the answer is yes.

But, as the Journal noted, the Energy Department is one of three that Rick Perry, during his first ill-fated run for the White House, wanted to eliminate. And it was Perry’s inability to remember that, that led to the most humiliating moment of his political career, and one of the most famous campaign gaffes in American political history.

It was at a Republican presidential debate in November 2011, that Perry, then a formidable candidate for his party’s nomination, said, “It’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: commerce, education, and the uh … what’s the third one, there? Let’s see. The third one. I can’t … Oops.”

“Call me a cynic,” wrote Susan Wright, at RedState, but to her, the Perry mention for Energy, “looks to be a bit of trolling.”

As unlikely as that might seem, on his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live after Trump’s victory, host Dave Chappelle said, “America’s done it, we’ve actually elected an internet troll as president.”

Perry, in his second presidential campaign, was among Trump’s most vociferous critics, describing Trump in July 2015 as a “cancer on conservatism” and a “barking carnival act” who was “appealing to the worst instincts in the human condition.”

But once Trump triumphed over Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who Perry backed after he got out of the race, the former Texas governor endorsed Trump with unbridled enthusiasm, campaigning for Trump and advertising his willingness to serve in his administration, though he was most often mentioned as a potential secretary of veterans affairs.

On Nov. 9 Perry tweeted, “Just got a call to #makeamericagreatagain Saddle up & ride, bro!!,” and an Instagram image of Perry being handed a pay phone by Marcus Luttrell, the former Navy SEAL, for whom Perry has emerged as a kind of father figure. Perry’s role at the Republican National Convention was to introduce Luttrell, who spoke in favor of Trump.




If Trump is really going to put Rick Perry in his Cabinet, fine.

But, if he is pranking him, that’s just wrong.

Perry would be the most enthusiastic Trumper the next president could want.

He has already proved his allegiance to Trump and the lessons of Trump, appearing on reality TV with great gusto to demonstrate that he understands that being the longest-serving governor of the second-largest state is simply not enough.

Please, President-elect Trump. Stop.



A week after (now deleted) tweet to Trump to `Go F*** himself,’ Matt Mackowiak wins Travis County GOP post

Good Wednesday Austin.



Matt Mackowiak was elected vice chairman of the Travis County Republican Party Tuesday night, precisely one week since he tweeted at Donald Trump, “Go f**k yourself. You just conceded the most winnable election in 50 years against the least popular Dem nom ever.”

And that,”the lede of your NYT obituary will be that you are a loser, losing the most unlosable election in modern American history.”

And that, “You win particular credit for running the most inept, unserious presidential campaign in a century. Staffed by clowns, wasting money.”

And that, “Your natural instinct will be to lash out at everyone. You own this defeat. It’s yours. You earned it. No one else. Process that.”

It was all part of an epic tweet storm – which he deleted and apologized for, but the content of which was preserved by Fortune – from the Austin political consultant and regular contributor to the Statesman opinion pages as the polls were about to close in Texas last Tuesday.

Mackowiak had just pored over exit polls showing that Trump was going down to an ignominious defeat nationally. Then there were the early vote totals for Travis County that suggested that Trump was dragging down with him local Republican candidates, like Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman, candidates on whose behalf Mackowiak had toiled.

But, as the night wore on, and it became apparent that Trump was headed not to a humiliating demise but to perhaps the most stunningly surprising electoral triumph in American political history, those tweets curdled.

Expungement was in order.

And recalibration.





In fairness, virtually every pundit, politico and journalist consistently underestimated Trump’s prospects right up until the moment of his triumph.

Mackowiak is not the first or most prominent Texan to have savaged Trump, only to have second thoughts.

There was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on May 3, the day of his Indiana primary loss to Trump that ended Cruz’s presidential candidacy.

Watch as he eviscerates Trump in the most thorough and personal ways possible.

No way to BleachBit that. Right?

Except that yesterday Cruz was at Trump Tower amid reports that he is being considered as Trump’s attorney general, which is an even bigger job than executive vice chairman of the Travis County GOP.

Lyin’ Ted!

Before Cruz, there was Rick Perry, describing Trump as a “barking carnival act” and “cancer on conservatism.”

That was then.

Now, apparently, the Trump Transition Team has found – or perhaps is still looking for – the number of the pay phone closest to Perry to issue a call to duty, to which Perry is eager to reply.




And, for further context, Mackowiak is a prodigious  tweeter.




This was not his first anti-Trump tweet storm.



And …






Mackowiak had also warned that the elevation of Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon to chair the Trump campaign presaged  disaster (just as many are now predicting that Trump’s elevation of Bannon to be his chief strategist in the White House presages disaster.)





As the Trump campaign hurtled to what promised to be a very bad end, Mackowiak early voted for Evan  McMullin, the #NeverTrump write-in candidate for president, a choice that might have looked both principled and smart if things had gone as expected.



A week after the momentous election, Mackowiak was one of three candidates last night for executive vice president of the Travis County Republican Party at a meeting of the party’s executive committee – the 111 current precinct chairs and the party’s chairman, James Dickey, who had expressed his preference for Mackowiak.

In his remarks, Mackowiak apologized for last week’s anti-Trump tweet storm. He brought with him a plan for building the party.matt6

He also brought with him a stack of his anti-Hillary tweets.








He won half the vote on the first ballot – 36 votes to 22 for T.J. Scott and 14 for Bette Pritchett.

On the second ballot, Mackowiak defeated Scott, 44 to 28.

Scott, who had seen the handwriting on the wall, had earlier told his supporters among the  72 precinct chairs in attendance, that if he didn’t win, “I don’t want you to protest or riot.”

The vote followed a discussion of whether the party still really needed an executive vice president, a strengthened position that was created earlier in the year to wrest as much power from the chairman as possible after Robert Morrow defeated Dickey for party chair in the March primary.

Morrow relinquished the chair after launching a write-in presidential bid in August.

Dickey, with Mackowiak’s backing, was restored to the party’s chairmanship in September, defeating Austin Republican consultant Brendan Steinhauser, after Dickey pledged his support for Trump, which Steinhauser said he could not do.

“I’m going to work my way from the bottom of the ballot on up, and I’m certainly not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I can’t tell you I am going to vote for Donald Trump,” Steinhauser said to some audible gasps.

But Dickey — who had a signed a letter to other Texas delegates prior to the Republican National Convention warning that if Trump won, down-ballot candidates would either have to become “full-time Trump apologists” or “risk being called disloyal” — said a party chairman has to support Trump.

“We face the real possibility of a landslide Clinton victory.”


(Awaiting the vote.)


After his election, Mackowiak offered his thanks and donned a Trump hat for a full ten seconds.

Meanwhile, Robert Morrow remains a presence on the local political scene – here he is on Election Day – though he is no longer the Travis Couny Republican Party’s problem.


(Robert Morrow, a write-in candidate for the President of the United States, campaigns outside a polling location at the University Co-op on Tuesday November 8, 2016. JAY JANNER))
(Robert Morrow, a write-in candidate for the President of the United States, campaigns outside a polling location at the University Co-op on Tuesday November 8, 2016. JAY JANNER))



Post-election blues: On deporting liberals and searching for defecting electors





Good Tuesday Austin:

I suspect that if Donald Trump had his druthers, he would have preferred to have won the popular vote and Hillary Clinton the electoral vote rather than the other way around. That way, he could have had the satisfaction of being able to boast that he was ultimately more popular, and carry forward the banner of the aggrieved victim of a “rigged system,” and his enhanced brand, without suffering the burden of actually having to serve as president, which, if you’re not into it, is really, in every respect, a drag.

In any case, Donald Trump is on record, as recently as Sunday night, as preferring the popular vote to the Electoral College as a method for choosing a president.

From Vox:

In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday, Trump said that he would “rather see” the presidential race’s outcome determined by a simple popular vote.

For background, on election night 2012 — when Mitt Romney had lost in electoral votes but still briefly led Obama in the popular vote total because California hadn’t come in yet — Trump sent a furious series of (later deleted) tweets denouncing the Electoral College and calling for a “revolution.”

Naturally, CBS’s Lesley Stahl asked the president-elect about this during an interview that aired Sunday, now that he’s the beneficiary of our country’s anachronistic system. “You tweeted once that the Electoral College is a disaster for democracy,” she said. “Do you still think it’s rigged?”

Trump dodged at first, saying, “Look, I won with the Electoral College,” and adding that “some of the system” is rigged. But when pressed, he later offered this:

I’m not going to change my mind just because I won. But I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win.

There’s a reason for doing this because it brings all the states into play. Electoral College, and there’s something very good about that. But this is a different system. But I respect it. I do respect the system.


By this morning, Trump tweeted that he was now happily reconciled to the Electoral College.

That said (or tweeted). it is not too late. The Electoral College does not meet until Dec. 19 to actually choose the next president. All that would be required to elect Clinton instead of Trump would be an historic, but perfectly legal and Constitutional, number of so-called faithless electors.

From Fair Vote:

“Faithless Electors” are members of the Electoral College who, for whatever reason, do not vote for their party’s designated candidate.

Since the founding of the Electoral College, there have been 157 faithless electors. 71 of these votes were changed because the original candidate died before the day on which the Electoral College cast its votes. Three of the votes were not cast at all as three electors chose to abstain from casting their electoral vote for any candidate. The other 82 electoral votes were changed on the personal initiative of the elector.

Sometimes electors change their votes in large groups, such as when 23 Virginia electors acted together in 1836. Many times, however, these electors stood alone in their decisions. As of the 2004 election, no elector has changed the outcome of an election by voting against his or her party’s designated candidate.

Despite these 157 faithless votes, and a Supreme Court ruling allowing states to empower political parties to require formal pledges from presidential electors (Ray v. Blair, 343 US 214), 21 states still do not require their members of the Electoral College to vote for their party’s designated candidate.

There are 29 states (plus the District of Columbia) that require faithfulness issue a small variety of rarely enforced punishments for faithless electors, including fines and misdemeanors

Here is a very nice explainer on how the Electoral College works:

Of the 21 states that permit electors to votes their conscience, 15 went for Trump, plenty enough to deny him the presidency if a majority of the electors in those states switched their votes from Trump to Clinton.




Enter Hannah Moskowitz, a 25-year-old prolific author of young adult fiction from Rockville, Maryland, in suburban D.C., who is one of an uncertain number of Clinton supporters who, in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s election, sent emails to Republican electors in those 15 states imploring them not to vote for Donald Trump on December 19.


Here is the email that Moskowitz sent, in this case to Texas elector John Harper of Rockwall County.

Subject: A plea to listen to your country

Dear Mr. Harper,

I know that you probably never dreamed of casting an electoral vote that went against the announced choice of your state. But I also know that you probably never imagined that a candidate as uniquely unfit to be president would have secured the electoral vote. 

You know as well as I do that he didn’t win the popular vote. That more people in this country voted for someone who is arguably the most qualified person to ever run for our highest position of power. Most people want her. And you, as a person who understands politics and knows what’s at stake, have the power and the responsibility to try to stop the man who’s perpetuating the acts of violence that we’re already seeing across the country, three days after he was elected.

I don’t need to tell you about how many voters were turned away in Michigan. I don’t need to tell you how many ballots haven’t yet been counted. 

I don’t need to tell you the horrendous things Trump has said about women, minorities, veterans, immigrants, disabled people, foreigners.

You know. You know what’s right. You know what you need to do.



Hannah Moskowitz

And here is John Harper’s reply.

Yes, I am a Presidential Elector for the State of Texas.

You must not know much about Texas citizens.  Why else would you foolishly suggest that I cast my Electoral College vote for Hillary Clinton, a despicable individual?

I have copied my response to your foolish and unsolicited email to the District Director of the Texas Federation of Republican Women in hopes that she can bring legal action against you and your ilk.

Deplorably yours…

John E. Harper, Ed.D.

Moskowitz told me that Harper was the only elector to reply to her entreaty to dump Trump.

“I wasn’t expecting him to reply, “Oh my God, you changed my mind, I’m going to vote for Hillary,'” said Moskowitz, who wrote the electors more as post-traumatic therapy than with any expectation of success.

“I wanted to be one of voices of thousands of people who were emailing the electors in the hopes we might change somebody’s mind. Did I think we’re going to change anybody’s mind? No. But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything that I could.”

Of Harper,  Moskowitz said, “I was expecting him to not answer me. I was expecting he’d get inundated with emails and then vote for Trump, or maybe there was a snowball’s chance in he’d get inundated with emails and change his mind ,but not because of my email.”

Moskowitz’s effort was more about trying to channel her distress into some kind of activism to work her way out of the current conundrum:”I don’t think we can do anything, but I also think we all owe each other everything we can do to try to do something.”

But, she also expected, “silence or respectful discourse from the electors.

She was taken aback by Harper’s reply with its threat to  bring legal action against you and your ilk, and his signing off deplorably yours. She took that to be an acknowledgement of an alt-right identity. But it could also be simply a defiant, back-at-you embrace of Clinton’s assigning half of Trump supporters to a basket of deplorables, an estimate that she apologized for, saying it was over-broad.







Here was how Alexander Kim of Fort Worth, another Texas elector, responded to an email from someone other than Moskowitz urging him to switch his vote.


And here is a response from South Carolina elector, Bill Conley, to a similar appeal.




I called Harper, a former mayor of Rowlett. After I explained why I was calling, he was no longer on the line. I called back, and left a message, but I have not heard a reply.

In his email to Moskowitz, Harper said he was copying the district director of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, in the hopes that she could bring legal action against Moskowitz.

Another Clintonite who emailed Harper, also received this response from Harper’s wife, Debra, who has been active with the TFRW.


It is worth repeating here that no laws are being broken here.

From Larry P. Arnn, a leading American conservative scholar and the president of Hillsdale College, writing yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. defending the Electoral College as the appropriate method for choosing presidents.

The chosen electors are bound by custom everywhere and by law in many states to support the presidential candidate who won their state’s popular vote. If they fail to vote this way, they will be “faithless electors.” This has happened but rarely in the history of the presidency.

Everything about this process is as the Constitution directs, with the exception of the last bit. Nothing in the founding document requires electors to support the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state. In America’s early years many states did not even conduct popular presidential elections.

Instead electors were picked by state legislatures or by governors. The Framers had the idea that the electors, in choosing a president, would vote their consciences after deep discussion—and sometimes this happened. Often, however, electors were selected because they had declared support for a particular candidate.

As the practice of holding a popular vote spread, it was natural that the electors would follow those results. Still, the Electoral College continues to recognize that Americans vote by state—in the same way that they elect the Senate and the House, and the same way that they voted those many years ago to ratify the Constitution

As for Soros, the billionaire investor and leading funder of Democratic and liberal causes, this from Kenneth P. Vogel in Politico yesterday

George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.

The conference, which kicked off Sunday night at Washington’s pricey Mandarin Oriental hotel, is sponsored by the influential Democracy Alliance donor club, and will include appearances by leaders of most leading unions and liberal groups, as well as darlings of the left such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Keith Ellison, according to an agenda and other documents obtained by POLITICO.

Soros also had a cameo in Trump’s final, anti-globalist ad of the campaign.

Mike Joyce, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas,  said he had heard from a number of electors distressed about the incoming from Moskowitz’s ilk.

In the meantime, his boss, Tom Mechler, sent this fundraising appeal out Monday – subject line, Deport a liberal.





This election, there was no shortage of liberal celebrities and politicos proudly announcing their intention to move to Canada if Donald Trump were elected.

Well, Donald Trump is our President-elect, and if Whoopi Goldberg, Lena Dunham, Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, and Rosie O’Donnell (just to name a few) no longer wish to live within the confines of our American Democracy, let’s help send them packing!

Regardless of whether your party wins or loses an election, we all enjoy the privilege of calling ourselves Americans, who are granted inalienable rights by the democratic institution these liberals are refusing to live under.

This country has more than enough liberal constituents, so to those who want to leave the country, let’s give them the boot and say good riddance!

Thank you and God Bless Texas!

Tom Mechler
Chairman, Republican Party of Texas

I asked Joyce how the Republican Party would deliver the money raised to the deportees and he said that, actually, any money raised would stay in Texas in the state party’s coffers.

Moskowitz said she cast her first presidential vote for Obama.”

“It was fantastic. This year, I was not as excited to vote for Hillary as I was for Obama, but she is a fantastic politician and would have made an incredible president. So the fact that she lost to the least qualified person to ever make it to the general election is a slap in the face.”

She attributed the outcome to, “People who voted against their better interests.”

Moskowitz, who describes herself as “loudly and proudly Jewish,” said the outpouring of anti-Semitic sentiment in  the aftermath of Trump’s election has been unsettling.

It’s what people who don’t like what she is doing fix on, she said.

“They don’t seem to care that I’m queer at all. That seems to be fine with everybody as long as you’re not Jewish.”

She said that the fact that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is married to a Jewish man and converted to Judaism, is irrelevant.

“I don’t care if Trump loves Jews. His followers hate Jews and don’t mind saying it.”

“And then he appointed (Stephen) Bannon,” she said of Trump’s naming the former head of Brietbart News and chairman of his campaign as his chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House. Some Jewish groups have said Bannon is no friend of the faith.

But, putting aside the fact that it’s not going to happen, wouldn’t a hypothetically successful effort to deny Trump an Electoral College victory be seen as illegitimate and lead to violence.

“I was one of those people who assumed that Hillary was going to win, so what I was worried about was the violence afterward,” Moskowitz said. “So, if the electors switched to Hillary, I wold be extremely worried about violence, but I think over the four years of the Trump presidency,  there would be more damage.”

Moskowitz struck what has emerged as the fundamental question for those upset and offended by Trump’s election in the week since Election Day: To accept the outcome and move on, or deny its moral legitimacy.

To normalize, nor not to normalize.

“I think what is happening now is something that has not happened before in America. We’ve never had a president like this and we’ve never had a president when we didn’t know what he was going to do. and I think it’s been a very long time since the level of hate that his supporters have been throwing out in the world has been legitimized.”

“I don’t think that anyone could have dreamed that this would be our president after the first black president. I certainly didn’t. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have predicted that there would be this kind of backlash.”

I asked Moskowitz about the opening of Saturday Night Live this past Saturday in which Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, played a mournful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, ending with McKinnon talking to the camera, “I’m not giving up and neither should you.”

“Kate McKinnon doing Hallelujah was shattering. That was beautiful,” Moskowitz said. “I have a lot of feelings about that and they are very sad and very positive feelings. I think that was a very good choice for them. I think it tapped into what a lot of us were feeling. And I think it sets SNL apart from a lot of other mainstream media out there telling us to give him a chance. You know Oprah’s out there saying, `I’m going to give him a fresh start.’ And I’m, `No, we’re not going to pretend this is OK. Like John Oliver is telling us, `Don’t pretend this is OK..”

But, I asked, what is John Harper, and all those Americans who voted for Trump, supposed to make of SNL mourning Clinton’s loss like it’s a national tragedy? (Along the same lines, Prairie Home Companion host Chris Thile opened the post-election show with a virtual group hug for his freaked-out listenership.)

“But they got their president,” Moskowitz said, “and all this liberal media they’re complaining about is acquiescing to him.”

“This is not normal and we’ve got to not let this become normal,” she said of Trump.

And, of Harper’s response to her,  Moskowitz said, “People are like, `He’s from Texas, what do you expect?'”

But, she said, lots of Texans voted for Clinton, and “I’m not going to normalize speaking to someone this way. I’m going to continue to expect better from people.”

The most eloquent rejoinder to Moskowitz and the many millions of Americans who feel the way she does, came from President Obama at his press conference Monday.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You said more than once that you do not believe that Donald Trump would ever be elected President, and that you thought he was unfit for the office.  Now that you’ve spent time with him, sitting down and talking to him for an hour and a half in the Oval Office, do you now think that President-elect Trump is qualified to be President?

     And if I can do a compound question, the other one is you mentioned staffing and tone.  What do you say to those Americans who may not doubt that there will be a peaceful transition but that are concerned about some of the policies and sentiments that were expressed by President-elect Trump himself or his supporters that may seem hostile to minorities and others? Specifically, I’m talking about the announcement that Steve Bannon, who is a proponent of the so-called alt-right movement, what many call the white nationalist movement, is going to have a prominent role in the White House under President Trump as his chief strategist and senior advisor.  What message does that send to the country, to the world?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Athena, without copping out, I think it’s fair to say that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on every appointment that the President-elect starts making if I want to be consistent with the notion that we’re going to try to facilitate a smooth transition.

Look, the people have spoken.  Donald Trump will be the next President, the 45th President of the United States.  And it will be up to him to set up a team that he thinks will serve him well and reflect his policies.  And those who didn’t vote for him have to recognize that that’s how democracy works.  That’s how this system operates.

     When I won, there were a number of people who didn’t like me and didn’t like what I stood for.  And I think that whenever you’ve got an incoming President of the other side, particularly in a bitter election like this, it takes a while for people to reconcile themselves with that new reality.  Hopefully it’s a reminder that elections matter and voting counts.  And so I don’t know how many times we have to relearn this lesson, because we ended up having 43 percent of the country not voting who were eligible to vote.  But it makes a difference.

     So given that President-elect Trump is now trying to balance what he said in the campaign and the commitments he made to his supporters with working with those who disagreed with him, and members of Congress, and reaching out to constituencies that didn’t vote for him, I think it’s important for us to let him make his decisions.  And I think the American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see, and whether these are the kinds of policies and this is the direction that they want to see the country go in.

     And my role is to make sure that when I hand off this White House that it is in the best possible shape and that I’ve been as helpful as I can to him in going forward and building on the progress that we’ve made.

    And my advice, as I said, to the President-elect when we had our discussions was that campaigning is different from governing.  I think he recognizes that.  I think he’s sincere in wanting to be a successful President and moving this country forward.  And I don’t think any President ever comes in saying to themselves, I want to figure out how to make people angry or alienate half the country.  I think he’s going to try as best he can to make sure that he delivers, not only for the people who voted for him, but for the people at large.  And the good thing is, is that there are going to be elections coming up, so there’s a built-in incentive for him to try to do that.

     But it’s only been six days.  And I think it will be important for him to have the room to staff up, to figure out what his priorities are, to be able to distinguish between what he was campaigning on and what is practical, what he can actually achieve.  There are certain things that make for good sound bites but don’t translate into good policy.  And that’s something that he and his team, I think, will wrestle with, in the same way that every President wrestles with.

     I did say to him, as I’ve said publicly, that because of the nature of the campaigns, and the bitterness and ferocity of the campaigns, that it’s really important to try to send some signals of unity, and to reach out to minority groups or women or others that were concerned about the tenor of the campaign.  And I think that’s something that he will want to do.  But this is all happening real fast.  He’s got commitments to supporters that helped to get him here, and he’s going to have to balance those.  And over the coming weeks and months and years, my hope is, is that those impulses ultimately win out.  But it’s a little too early to start making judgments on that.

     Q    And your view of his qualifications.  Has that changed after meeting with him?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think that he successfully mobilized a big chunk of the country to vote for him, and he’s going to win — he has won.  He’s going to be the next President.  And regardless of what experience or assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up.  And those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don’t match up with reality he will find shaken up pretty quick, because reality has a way of asserting itself.

And some of his gifts that obviously allowed him to execute one of the biggest political upsets in history — those are ones that hopefully he will put to good use on behalf of all the American people.

And then, this advice to Democrats.

I believe that we have better ideas.  But I also believe that good ideas don’t matter if people don’t hear them.  And one of the issues that Democrats have to be clear on is that, given population distribution across the country, we have to compete everywhere.  We have to show up everywhere.  We have to work at a grassroots level — something that’s been a running thread in my career.

  I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa, it was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW hall.  And there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points.  There are some counties maybe I won that people didn’t expect because people had a chance to see you and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for.

And the challenge for a national party is how do you dig in there and create those kinds of structures so that people have a sense of what it is that you stand for.  And that increasingly is difficult to do just through a national press story.  It’s increasingly difficult to do because of the splintering of the press.

And so I think the discussions that have been taking place about how do you build more grassroots organizing, how do you build up state parties and local parties and school board elections you’re paying attention to, and state rep races and city council races — that all I think will contribute to stronger outcomes in the future.

And I’m optimistic that will happen.  For Democrats who are feeling completely discouraged, I’ve been trying to remind them everybody remembers my Boston speech in 2004; they may not remember me showing up here in 2005 when John Kerry had lost a close election, Tom Daschle, the leader of the Senate, had been beaten in an upset.  Ken Salazar and I were the only two Democrats that won nationally.  Republicans controlled the Senate and the House.  And two years later, Democrats were winning back Congress, and four years later, I was President of the United States.

Things change pretty rapidly.  But they don’t change inevitably.  They change because you work for it.  Nobody said democracy was supposed to be easy.  This is hard.  And in a big country like this, it probably should be hard.



Donald Trump thanks Alex Jones: `I just called the King of Saudi Arabia, Queen of England, now I’m moving on to you.’


Good Monday Austin:

On Friday, President-elect Donald Trump placed a thank you call to Austin, to Alex Jones.

Here’s a little of what Jones had to say:

“Ladies and gentlemen. I’m here in Austin, Texas, at the highest point, Mount Bonnell. And I was already on my way over here to shoot a report on the state of this Republic, when I got a call from President Donald Trump as I was arriving here. I talked to him like 15 minutes ago. I’m not going to get into the private conversation we had, even though he didn’t say it was private.

But I just want to relay to you that he appreciates what American patriots of every race, color or creed have done to restore this Republic from the multinational corporations that have totally hijacked this country, and it’s already coming out, it’s in the WikiLeaks, we have literally, in 21st Century warfare, been captured by foreign governments and corporations, using weaponized media to brainwash large portions of the public to believe that sovereignty was some kind of horrible great evil.

But just like we defeated the Nazis in World War II, but just like the Communists finally fell in 1989 and 1990 in Russia, we are winning, ladies and gentlemen. This is a momentous day, very, very exciting. I said,  “Listen, I don’t want to talk too long, I know you’re very, very busy.’ Yeah,’ he said, “You’re Number 61 I’m calling. I just called the King of Saudi Arabia, you know, the Queen of England, you name it, and now I’m moving on to you. And that’s because you’re listeners, we know, are the largest group of people in America that are  awake.’ And I said,`thank you very much. We’ll be talking in the next couple of weeks,’ and some other conversation happened. But that’s private.

“This is all about dominating, rubbing the nose of the mainstream media’s face,” jones said.

Jones said Trump promised he would appear on his show soon to directly address his audience.

“He said, `I’ll be on in the next few weeks to thank them.'” Jones said.

If you are surprised that President-elect Donald Trump made a thank-you call to Alex Jones, you should not be.

Last month I wrote about how Alex Jones emerged as the voice in Donald Trump’s head.

And, on election night, sitting alongside Alex Jones through the long night’s coverage was none other than Roger Stone, who had as much to do with Donald Trump now being the president-elect as an individual in the country, and who linked up Trump and Jones.

Watching Stone and Jones watch, in real-time, the unfolding of Trump’s stunning triumph, was something to behold.









Jones’s gut remains unsettled – his post-election euphoria leavened with dread.




Here from the close of Jones’s Sunday broadcast.

“God works in mysterious way,” said Jones, estimating that “60 to 70 million, we’re not even sure, people that have tuned in the last week just to our platforms.”

This is world-changing and the system knows that, that’s why they’re to foment this garbage race war because that’s all the elite can do is to try to divide and conquer us.

We were told there was no way that he could ever win the nomination and then they stole the nomination from Sanders, but then Trump fought for it and so they had to back off , and then there was clear evidence of election fraud all over the country, the top election experts in the world, Democratic and nonpartisan concur with my analysis that there was election fraud all over the country against Trump, massive evidence of  fraud, but still it was such a tsunami wave as Bev  Harris (founder of Black Box Voting) and others said, trump said, `You can’t cheat a landslide.’

The American people came, out record numbers of black Americans of Hispanic American voted for Trump, but the media tries to make it racial and call it a whitelash to make it that anyone who stands up for sovereignty and lower taxes is a racist. But the good news is prosperity isn’t racist and folks across the world, not just here in the United States, see through the economics, understand that the American engine of liberty was so productive it was out-producing the entire world by the early 1950s.


If he leaves any of those people in there and their whole network, it will be impossible for him to get anything done. They are just going to sit there and wait to assassinate him. Just sit there and wait until he’s got his back turned and they’ve tricked him enough and put some of their operatives into the White House and go full steam on with their program.


Today, I was on the radio and I said, `He must go after Hillary Clinton.” Look she’s committed all these crimes, it’s in all the emails. The intelligence community  leaked all of this material, because globalists are planning to actually dismantle this country and end prosperity. 

It’s  totally criminal. It must be exposed. It must be ferreted out. We must (make sure)  her staffers get indicted. They are on the emails committing crimes, cover-ups, you name it, pay for play.

We have to see Hilly Clinton indicted. We have to see Bill Clinton ((indicted) for Haiti. We have to see Chelsea Clinton get in trouble, because they are not above the law, they are not not new royalty and its’ been a long long time, since the Nixon era of 1974, that we have seen any justice for these high level officials who act like imperial gods and think they’re invincible, because we’ve been treating them like they’re Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and if Hillary wasn’t such a demon and if these globalist weren’t so out of control, if we were just kicking some syndicate out. then I’d say, let them go …  let them leave.

They’re never going to do that.  They keep reorganizing and coming in. they we going to shut down the free press this year. They were saying,  Alex Jones and the Drudge Report don’t’ have a right to exist. We’re going to come after them. They have already handed the internet over to the UN.

There is so much to reverse that we have to take this momentum and remove the corporate operatives who admit that they have infiltrated and basically taken over our country, so I predict, to make America great again, we must take America back.

Trump has taken the White House. Phase One. Its’ frankly 70 percent of the battle.

Jones said Trump needs to quickly clean house in Congress as well, to tell both parties that “I want the leadership gone … you’ve got to go.”

“We need people who want to make America great, not the people who have stabbed me in the back, not people who have lied, not people who say I’m unfit to be president and half the country are deplorables.  We need to see a sign that you’ve witnessed the referendum that’s just happened.”


And one other thing that Donald Trump has to do. Donald Trump has to dance with those that brung him.

I don’t want to go to the inauguration. I’ll send crew to cover it. I don’t want to be on red carpets or in Hollywood. Don’t really care about.

I’m saying you have to dance with the policies in the Americana idea that brought you. We don’t need to see Trump all over the mainstream TV, like Obama did,  fawning with them and going on entertainment shows   and being America’s friends.

We need somebody to be a leader, to save this historic Republic, and I know Donald Trump clearly intends  to do that, but people are saying to me, Oh my gosh, will Donald Trump be on your show?’ or, “Does Donald Trump call you?’ or, “Do you get to go the White house and have dinner?’

I don’t want to go to the White House and eat dinner with a bunch of weirdo ambassadors and strange people . I want to change the woorld here with the people of the grassroots and we’ve just won it. I want to take back and make just not our country but the world great again

So this is not about me wanting to get into the power structure, my supporting the right candidate or asking for some job or getting some corporate sponsorships. I’ve built my own system, we do things our way. We innovated and are bigger than the media establishment by ourselves, and we’re just getting up on our legs right now

InfoWars is changing the world. You’ve changed the world and this whole process is about understanding we’re the underdog, we’re coming from behind, like in 1776, against the greatest army the world had ever defeated, the British Empire, you’ve got all these politicos around Trump and they are going to tell him to go along with the system.

Go with what made you great. Go with what made you a maverick against this whole system – destroy the entire political operation , without spending more, you know, on their big networks.

You changed the world, so I know you understand how critical it is to take that to the next level and I have faith Trump will do it. He had had the instinct and the spirit to do something I have just not sen in my life in someone running for office. He is a maverick, the consummate maverick, and if succeeds in this next phase of it, in the dictionary next to the word maverick there is gong to be a picture of Donald Trump.

All of you that went against the grain.  I am not patting you on the head. You are just as important as I am or as Matt Drudge, or as Donald Trump. You are the people  who got ridiculed and spit in the face and had people attacking you for wearing Trump shirts.

You’re the people that marched and took action and supported us, so we could put airplanes up across the nation saying,  Hillary for Prison. You’rethe ones that, across the board, are defending the Second Amendment and supporting sovereignty and promoting basic freedoms. You’re the oxygen that runs this whole thing. You are the wind in the sails. You are the most important. You are not behind InfoWars. You are the heart of InfoWars.

You are the resistance. you are the answer and so, no matter what happens with Trump, as I said, whether they steal it from him or not, and I thought he was going to win because I had the poll numbers and talked to  folks on the ground. We won because we exposed the globalists. We promoted populism. He opposed the insider deals and they tried to steal it.

Now he wins an electoral landslide and they’re  up there panicking and squirming and weaseling now, they’re `ready to work with Trump now.’

No. You cannot trust people with a history of committing crimes against the Republic. They must be prosecuted because they well newer stop their criminal activities until they have e been brought to justice, and it must be done folks.

People ask, `Why didn’t you go to the Trump rally when it was here I Austin even though I was invited.’ And I said, `I sent my crew and we were there,’ but I said, `When about third of the audience of 20,000 were wearing our T-shirts,  and when our reporters got mobbed, we were the rally.’ Do you understand that?

We created the movement and the launchpad, so there’d be a system against the globalists. I said our best chance would be a libertarian bipartisan tea party movement taking over the Republican Party . We analyzed it. We looked at it from very angle. I originally came up with the battle stratagem myself and openly pushed it with member of Congress, saying, look for a candidate.

I had no idea behind the scenes, generals and other people had picked up on the plan , and that Declaration of  Independence Part 2 that Drudge posted, that went viral, was a small part of generating the idea of Donald Trump being drafted .

But Trump knows from day one, when people were trying to draft him for president, they did so because they knew he was a good person and they knew there was giant liberty movement in the United States growing exponentially, and that military and police were particularly dialed into it.

So, I’ll give you some of the back history here as well, just so pee understand. We don’t need to be told how great we are. We don’t need to be patted n the head. We don’t need to be brought  into the inside of the system, because the whole scared system is telling Trump, `Keep us out,’

I wouldn’t  go be part of the inside if they invited me in. We’re building the new system here. That’s what America was all about. Leave Europe. Leave the oppressive areas. Come here  and set up something new  … and when it gets corrupted, move further out. Here we are on the frontier building the new America, building the new Atlantis in Central Texas, not in the old crumbling demonic pedophillac demon pit of DC or LA  or New York.

We’re in the new country and it’s a spirit and an idea and we’re animating the concept of liberty. We’re animating the sleeping giant. We are the sleeping giant.

So what to make of Trump’s relationship with Jones.

Since the day Trump entered the race, I have wrestled with how to read what he is actually up to.

On June 17, 2015, the day after Donald Trump announced for president, First Reading began as follows

First there was Andy Kaufman, wrestling women.

Andy Kaufman wrestles women.

Then there was Joaquin Phoenix, pretending to abandon acting for hip hop.


Joaquin Phoenix. "I'm Still Here"


Now comes Donald Trump, announcing yesterday that he is running for president.


"This is beyond anybody's expectations."

As with Kaufman and Phoenix, it is impossible, as it is happening, to know for sure whether what he is doing is for real or performance art.

That’s the whole point. That’s central to the art form.

Indeed, we may not know until well into his second term as president whether Trump is putting us on.

But the performance is so broad, so over-the-top, that one has to assume Trump is winking at us all, that we all are, in essence, in on the joke.

By December, I had come to view Trump, a member of professional wrestling Hall of Fame, as essentially a kayfabe (the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature of any kind) candidate for president.

In a December First Reading –  From WrestleMania to the White House, is Donald Trump the kayfabe candidate for president? –  I wrote:

I find Trump’s wrestling background reassuring, and I think it helps explain why I don’t find Trump and his candidacy as menacing as I otherwise might. Stripped of this context, Trump would otherwise appear to be a truly dangerous demagogue.

At the end of May, after the nomination was effectively clinched, I revisited the question in a First Reading, On Donald Trump, kayfabe fascist: `The wink is what tells you he probably isn’t Hitler’


The Great Dictator

The New York Times had just run a Page One story by Peter Baker: Rise of Donald Trump Tracks Growing Debate Over Global Fascism

“This could be one of those moments that’s quite dangerous and we’ll look back and wonder why we treated it as ho-hum at a time when we could have stopped it,” said Robert Kagan, a scholar at the Brookings Institution known for hawkish internationalism.

Mr. Kagan sounded the alarm this month with a Washington Post op-ed article, “This Is How Fascism Comes to America,” that gained wide attention. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from conservative Republicans,” he said. “There are a lot of people who agree with this.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 10.09.07 AM


I wrote:

That the question of whether Donald Trump is a fascist/proto-fascist/quasi-fascist is on the front page of the New York Times on Memorial Day Weekend seven weeks before he is to claim the Republican nomination for president of the United States, is sobering, startling, and raises difficult questions for reporters.

Per Kagan’s warning, I would hate to spend my last days in a labor camp – or perhaps a downscale Trump Last Resort Re-Education Hotel and Casino – ruing my “ho hum” response to the threat he posed to American democracy.

From the Kagan piece:

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

I cited an Andrew Sullivan piece in New York Magazine, in which he characterized the election of Trump as  an extinction-level event.

But  I also cited a blog item by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, who was sure from the start that Trump would win in an electoral landslide.

He wrote this on March 15:

Donald Trump is a con man. He’s also a fraud, a liar, a snake-oil salesman, and a carnival barker. Clearly he is running a scam on the country. 

Trump calls himself a “deal-maker.” 

I call Trump a Master Persuader.

It’s all the same thing. Trump says and does whatever he needs to do in order to get the results he wants. And apparently he does it well. Given the facts, you can either see Trump as highly skilled or morally flawed. Maybe both. I suppose it depends which side you are on.

Last autumn, when Trump was looking like a serious contender, I told you he would change more than politics. I said Trump would change how you see the human condition. I couldn’t say more about that until it played out. You needed some more evidence before I could make that case. Now you have it.


We all understand that a president has to be the leader of dumb people as well as smart people – and there are far more dumb people. So how does one kind of message get through to two totally different types of voters? Trump’s solution, so far, is to influence the dumb people via emotion while winking to the smart people so we know he is smart and not crazy. The wink is what tells you he probably isn’t Hitler. The wink says he is doing what he needs to do to get elected.

I saw the wink sooner than most of you because I study persuasion. So none of his crazy behavior looked crazy to me. It looked skillful to the extreme. So skillful, in fact, that he got to the point where he can literally say any damned thing and his supporters don’t care how true it is. They care that he is on their side and doing whatever it takes to tear down the money-puppets in Washington.

If you don’t see Trump’s wink, you can be forgiven for thinking he is Hitler. He probably knew the risks. Reagan had the same experience. Trump is following the Reagan game plan so he had to expect what is happening now.’

I ultimately thought Adams was more right than Sullivan, writing:

I suppose, there could come a moment when Trump breaks kayfabe, when the wink is gone. But, I think America would recoil, and that the system would hold.

But, now that he is the president-elect, it is time for another gut check, and, in that context, I thought this piece over the weekend from  Jared Taylor, at the white nationalist American Renaissance site,  Trump: the Media’s Frankenstein Monster, was instructive.

The monster they created is running amok. These two things happened the day after Donald Trump won the election:

First, a Washington Post reporter named Peter Holley called the American Renaissance office to ask–in dead seriousness–whether anyone from the Trump team had called us for policy advice. Second, Gloria Gonzalez-Garcia, a Mexican-American explained to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram what a Trump victory meant: “We were getting the message, ‘If you are not white, you don’t belong here.’ ”

So what’s the connection? Let’s start with the Post’s Mr. Holley. He is a professional newsman who attended Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. He calls himself an “experienced reporter with a talent for uncovering compelling stories that other people overlook.” It’s his job to find out and report what is going on–and he seriously thought the victorious Trump team would check in with me for instructions.

He’s not alone. The same day, a journalist from the biggest newspaper in Latin America–Folha de S. Paulo–wanted to know if I had telephoned my friend Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory. I told her I have never met him and don’t have his number.

What we have here is a stupefying delusion: that Donald Trump is a secret “white supremacist,” who dances to the tune of the Alt-Right. This delusion has two sources: ignorance and maliciousness. People like Peter Holley are so deeply marinated in liberal ignorance that they can’t tell the difference between American nationalism and racial nationalism–between the desire to put American interests first and white racial consciousness.

As I have explained elsewhere, the maliciousness involved looking for racial dissidents who supported Donald Trump and then arguing that since “racists” backed him, Trump must be a “racist,” too. When Mr. Trump didn’t denounce David Duke and “white supremacy” fiercely enough to suit them, they claimed this was proof he is a secret sympathizer. They were wrong. He just doesn’t like being pushed around by journalists who hate him.

The pro-Hillary media therefore created a Frankenstein monster–an imaginary Donald Trump who secretly wants to make America white again. They called him a bigot, a xenophobe, a fascist, a threat to democracy and, of course, the new Hitler. They hoped this would frighten enough voters into the Hillary camp to stop Mr. Trump, but it didn’t work. And now they are stuck with a Frankenstein president-elect who, they are convinced, comes running to me for policy tips.

Yesterday, Senator Harry Reid issued an idiotic press release that included these lines:

White nationalists, Vladimir Putin and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear–especially African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans and Asian Americans.

And this is why Gloria in Fort Worth–a US citizen–thinks the real Trump message is that non-whites don’t belong in America. She’s been terrified by Frankenstein stories.

And she’s hardly alone.

Jason Perez, a university student in Hawaii, writes that “the next four years will be a living nightmare for all Hispanic Americans.” Mercedes Rosales, a high school senior in Homestead, Florida, says Mr. Trump “just wants to get rid of Mexicans, or Latinos.” Maria Perez, also of Homestead, says, “Because of the example of Donald Trump . . . now they can look at you and see you are an immigrant and kill you.” Mary Rabago, a Hispanic journalist living in Arizona, explains the election results: “Hate won.”

The Muslim reaction is just as nutty. Asaad Alabdulaziz, an Iraqi who recently became a US citizen, asks, “Do I have to go back?” Sahar Aziz, a professor at the Texas A&M University, says that “the general mood I am seeing among Muslims is concern that a Trump presidency will be open season on them.”

No one–not once in the campaign–ever talked about deporting law-abiding legal residents. So where did people get these deranged ideas? Obviously, from media caricatures. Hispanics are no doubt getting lurid stuff from the Spanish-language press as well. Telesur, a consortium based in Venezuela, reports that under a Trump presidency, “the rights of black and brown people, immigrants and women will suffer serious setbacks.”

People like Peter Holley–who created the caricature and believe in it–are on such hair-trigger alert for “racism” that they can’t conceive of a non-racial American nationalism that expresses itself in the ideas that helped Donald Trump win: Illegal immigrants should be kept out. Illegals who are here should go home. There should be no sanctuary cities. Birth-right citizenship is crazy. Muslims are potentially troublesome. Legal immigration should be cut.

There is nothing inherently racial about any of these ideas, and they appeal to millions of Americans who don’t think in racial terms. But current dogma demands that we thrill to the idea that every brown-skinned newcomer–whether he has a job or even speaks English–is a precious addition to our “greatest strength,” which is diversity. Anyone who supports policies that have the effect of slowing the march of diversity is a “racist,” and might as well be a dedicated AmRen reader or even a member of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s why Peter Holley thinks Donald Trump wants my advice.

The notion that Mr. Trump will hurt blacks is especially wrong, but it follows the usual sloppy liberal thinking: If you want to send home illegals it can only be because you hate Hispanics, which means you hate blacks, women, homosexuals, and Jews. Donald Trump wanted Confederate flags taken down in the South, is “fine” with affirmative action, and he blasted Justice Antonin Scalia’s critique of race preferences in universities. Only the most fevered imagination could have prompted the Salon headline: “I Am a Gay Jew in Trump’s America. And I Am Afraid for My Life.” Mr. Trump’s close professional and family connections to Jews are well known.

It is the widely circulated fantasies about Donald-Trump-the-racist that explain why Mexican-Americans and Muslims who are US citizens are reportedly crying themselves to sleep at night, and why there are violent anti-Trump demonstrations all over the country. Just as reckless anti-police reporting paved the way for the murders of policemen, frothing press coverage of Donald Trump has sent thousands of ignoramuses into the streets to smash store windows and attack cops.

The papers are now full of breathless reports of Trump supporters calling blacks “ni**er” and tearing hijabs off Muslim women. Some of these attacks were faked, but some are probably real. What do they reflect? What Donald Trump wants or what the Frankenstein wants? If loutish whites are telling Hispanics “we’ll deport you,” who gave them the idea that a modern-day Hitler is about to move into the White House?

The Trump-is-a-racist idea is so firmly planted in the minds of Hillary supporters that nothing can dislodge it. But they don’t even understand what they, themselves, mean by it.

Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones called me after the election to talk about the Alt-Right. I explained to him how the media have painted a dishonest picture of Donald Trump, and he conceded that he was beginning to realize that using his favorite word–“racist”–to describe the president elect and people like me might be a mistake. I congratulated him on this intellectual breakthrough, and then asked what Donald Trump has ever said or done that was “racist.”

“Oh, there are so many, I don’t know where to begin.”

“Then just tell me one.”

There was a brief silence. “He retweeted an image of himself as Pepe the frog.”

“What? Is that the best you can do? You’re really straining.”

“Yes, I guess I’m straining.”

Mr. Harkinson later brought up Mr. Trump’s suggestion that Judge Gonazlo Curiel’s Mexican ancestry meant he could not try the Trump University case fairly. I pointed out that Judge Curiel is a member of La Raza [the race] Lawyers, which gave Mr. Trump grounds to doubt his impartiality. “Besides,” I said, “if a white police officer is in an altercation with a black criminal and ends up shooting him, you’d be the first to say the officer was biased on account of his race.”

“Not the first.”

“Then the second.”

Today, an Alt-Right Donald Trump is mostly a hysterical leftist fantasy. However, America is changing and Donald Trump could change, too. A firmly established Trump administration may see the wisdom of our views, and that day could come quickly.

For now, if members of that priestly class known as journalists call someone a “racist” that’s what he is. And once you’re a “racist,” you might as well be a sexist, xenophobe, anti-Semite, homophobe, and who knows what else. This is what we get when reporters slant the news and then believe what they read in the papers. And the media can’t understand why no one trusts them anymore.

But the lefties better be careful: All their shouting about “racism” didn’t tilt the election to Hillary. And the more they shout, the more they may tilt Donald Trump our way.

I spoke with Jared Taylor yesterday.

“That’s what they all want to publish that’s what they all sort of fantasize, this feverish fantasy about me being a potentially integral part of the Trump administration,” he said. “That’s nuts. That’s just nuts.”

He was surprised that Trump had called Alex Jones, but, he said of Jones, “He’s in a different kind of `out in the bleachers.’ He’s in a different set of bleaches than myself.”

Taylor said:

My sense of Alex Jones is a guy who has danced around a whole lot of different questions, but he certainly never made race questions being a central part of what he talk s about. I don’t think I’ve heard him say, “White people, what’s wrong with wanting to remain a majority in the United States.  He doesn’t talk about race and IQ. He doesn’t talk about white people standing up for heir own interests. Those things he doesn’t talk about. Those points are sort of the dividing line between semi-respectable – I don’t know what to call them, semi-respectable – and the presumably off-limits right.”

But, Taylor said he thought the prominent role by Steve Bannon, who was named Sunday to be Trump’s chief strategist, was significant.

He is not alone.





Did someone say Manufacturing Consent?


I’ll close with an inspirational bit of reporting from Ben Wear from last night’s anti-Trump protest in Austin.


9:45 p.m. update: At least three people have been arrested following a skirmish at an anti-Donald Trump rally Sunday night in downtown Austin.

A brief skirmish broke out when protesters took and tore up two signs being held by Joseph Weidknecht, a construction worker and supporter of Trump. At least two protesters, who had also knocked off and kept Weidknecht’s “Make America Great Again” gimme cap, had to be chased down by police at 11st Street and Congress Avenue while about 150 protesters looked on.


(Joseph Weidknecht, a construction worker and Donald Trump supporter, shown here at the march’s beginning, was later surrounded by anti-Trump protestors and a melee ensued. Amina Ambeen, who voted for Hillary Clinton, tried to step into between Weidknecht and the anti-Trump protestors during the pushing and shoving.)
(Joseph Weidknecht, a construction worker and Donald Trump supporter, shown here at the march’s beginning, was later surrounded by anti-Trump protestors and a melee ensued. Amina Ambeen, who voted for Hillary Clinton, tried to step into between Weidknecht and the anti-Trump protestors during the pushing and shoving.)

Amina Ambeen, a Muslim woman who said she voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton, tried to shield Weidknecht during the pushing and shoving. They hugged one another when calm was restored.

“I do not stand for what he stands for,” a trembling Ambeen, 19, said of Weidknecht minutes after the incident. Amdeen said she was born in Baghdad but moved to Austin when she was 10, and is now an American citizen. “But I know his fears and concerns are valid. I love this country so much, and I don’t like what I see coming. We are not being civil to each other.”

Weidknecht, surrounded at that point by other anti-Trump protesters who were apologizing for what had happened, called Amdeen “the hero of this night.”

You can’t spell Amdeen without A-M-E-N.





“If the Lord takes me home tomorrow, I’ve been blessed.” Dan Patrick talks about Trump’s victory.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick arrives at a Donald Trump rally at the Travis County Exposition Center Tuesday August 23, 2016. (Jay Janner)
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick arrives at a Donald Trump rally at the Travis County Exposition Center Tuesday August 23, 2016. (Jay Janner)


Good morning Austin.

Moments after Donald Trump finished his victory speech early this morning, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chaired the Trump campaign in Texas, called.

We talked for 25 minutes.

Here is the exchange.

DP: Maybe I should interview you.

FR:  Yes. I’ll be the proxy for everybody else in America, the mainstream media, every pollster, the entire field of political consulting, what else?

DP: This is the most historic presidential election in the history of this nation and, while I never really doubted he would win, it’s still hard for even me to believe and I always believed.

FR: It didn’t even seem that the Trump campaign earlier in the day thought this would happen.

DP: I think they actually realized today as they looked at the exit polls and their internal polling that this could actually happen. And I’ve spent enough time with Trump now that the Trump you saw tonight in his acceptance speech I believe, is the real Trump and that is someone who, I tell people all the time – you know people say, what’s Trump like? I say he’s soft-spoken, he’s gracious, he’s kind, he loves people, he loves this country , and there was the other Trump who was the campaign Trump , who had to be bigger than life to win the election.

But the person you saw tonight in the acceptance speech is the Trump that I’ve been around all summer and the Trump when you’re on a plane with someone, as I did a few times with him when there’s no one around except just staff and a handful of people. You get to see the real guy, or when you’re standing backstage catching your breath for a moment you see the real guy. When you see him walk through the back entrance of a hotel and going through the kitchen, and stop to shake every hand and take a picture with everyone, including some people who may not be eligible to vote, when you see him work the motorcade line of all the police officers and take pictures and shake every hand.

I told him the last time we were together, several weeks (ago), we were flying from San Antonio to Dallas and it would be the last event that we would do, and at the end of events, he always mobbed for photographs and signatures. so I knew we wouldn’t have a chance to say goodby and I said to him – I kind of lagged behind so I would be the last guy on the plane with him, because I wanted a moment – I said, “Donald, millions of people are praying for you.” And he looked at me and said, “I know it,” and he said it in a way like, I feel it.

I also said to him, “I have an original signature of every president in the history of this country hanging in my office and I believe I am going to be hanging yours up next,” and he just smiled and then we went ahead and did the event.

He’s overwhelmed by the graciousness of the people. By the trust they have in him. I think he is overwhelmed by the moment and I think he’s humbled by this and I think it was clear tonight.

FR: Did you spend time with him outside of Texas.

DP:  No. Just on the four trips to Texas.

I’ve gotten to know Don Jr. very well. He and I communicate two or three times a week. In fact, I had Don do a tele-town hall call on Halloween night and he did it and so I’ve worked very closely with him and I’ve got to know Don Jr. very well.

FR: What do you think happened?

DP: You know the reason said I believed he was going to win – I was on Fox Friday and kind of listed all the states that he won tonight – because he understood the soul of America. He got it and Hillary Clinton was just clueless about where real America really was.

And I realize it was a close election, in terms of popular vote , but there is a grand canyon worth of difference between what she stood for and what he stood for and my faith is restored in America. My faith is restored in the voters who have reclaimed this country for themselves, and we were adrift, wages are stagnant, jobs are scarce, the military has been decimated, terrorists are at our doorstep, borders are open, trade deals have been unfair, education, inner-city parents and children deserved school choice, all these things that I knew in my heart, in my soul, that those message resonated with people, and so that’s why I believed he could win.

What I didn’t know was could they raise the money, could they build the organization in 90 days because remember, he had never raised any money or built an organization until he wrapped up the nomination in late June, so to catch up with the Clinton juggernaut of money and volunteers and paid staff in 90 days was another part of that incredible story.

And I think, I just sent a text to Reince Priebus and I congratulated him because he had to step up and help the campaign in a way that the party wouldn’t normally do because Trump was a different type of campaign, and I think Reince Priebus played a key part because they really put the ground game together nationally for them.

FR: But wasn’t it really about Trump’s direct communication with voters.

DT: Absolutely, I said to a lot of people last week, I really believe, I think I said it publicly as well to many people at different meetings, in speeches, I said, on election night, MSNBC and CNN and the left, the Democrats, are going sit around and say, “what the heck just happened,” because they really are out of touch with mainstream America, and (the Trump campaign) decided to take on the Washington establishment, the media establishment, and they rose up and let me tell you what it was a mighty struggle. You look at all these states – Florida and Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, it took a Herculean effort to overcome the Clinton machine, and the people rose to the occasion because they believe in, as he says, the movement, they believe in the issues and they were looking for hope and he gave it to them.

FR: Trump did better than previous Republicans like Romney, but he didn’t do as well as Romney in Texas. Why not?

DP: I had said all along that I thought he would win Texas by 8 to 12 points, and it looks like the number is going to end up being somewhere between 9 and 10 with the final vote count, so it’s about where I thought, for a couple of reasons.

Maybe 20 percent of the Republican vote, the establishment, more moderate wing of the party, who may have not turned out. When Romney was on the ticket, and McCain, the conservatives turned out for those candidates even thought it wasn’t their first choice, but some of the moderates unfortunately stayed home. So that impacted probably two or three points of the victory that would have gotten him. I think Romney won by 16 and McCain won by 12.

I believe, secondly, the Trump campaign, except for doing a couple of rallies here and fund-raising, they didn’t put a massive effort into here, which they shouldn’t have. They had to focus on other states, so if he had come here and made a big push he would have been in the teens, but I’m very pleased as chair of the campaign in Texas for Trump, I’m very pleased with the outcome.

The Democrats, we’ve seen, again and again, a lot of brash talk in ’14 in Abbott’s and my race. We heard it here, and the brash talk never materialized. We are a crimson red Republican state. We do have battleground areas. It was a tough night down ballot in Houston. Trump did not do as well in Houston and Dallas and in Travis County, but he cleaned up everywhere else, and he will build upon that because he will spending a lot of time in Texas. He will be spending time here.

FR: Why?

DT: First of all, he loves it. It will be a great place for him to come campaign and raise money

Secondly, the border is going be a big part of his presidency so he will be spending time here.

He’s made a lot of great friends here, from the Christian community to the donor community and his son comes here and hunts a lot ,so they have a great affinity for Texas . So I think you will see President Trump here from time to time, but the focus is on the border.

Think about it.

We now have a president in the White House who is a good friend of Texas. I think Texas raised more money for him than any other state and so we also sent out 1000 volunteers on his behalf. Part of my job as chairman was to help organize the Mighty Texas Trump Strike Force. ask force. And I give all credit to the volunteers, Toni Anne Dashiell, Rhonda Lacy, Rick Potter, they were the big drives, so I don’t want to take credit for that. But I promised Trump and Don Jr. about six weeks ago that we’d muster a big army and we sent a thousand people to all of these battleground states. We had people. And so I know they are appreciative of that.

But we now have a good friend in the White House again, a formidable protector of the Second Amendment. He will protect the oil and gas industry and support it. What a refreshing change that is. He will get the federal government off of our backs. Just the amount of time and money and energy we spent it the last eight years having to sue and fight the Obama administration, the Justice Department and the EPA. I think Abbott said he sued Obama 31 times. Paxton probably already sued him a dozen times or more. Just knowing that that’s off of our backs.

FR: But can Texas Republican politicians adapt to not suing the federal government?

DP: Let me tell you something. I was one of the authors of photo voter ID. We are going to take that up and pass it again. What we passed the last time should have passed constitutional muster, but the Obama Justice Department threw it out.

Let me tell you something, knowing that we are going to have a conservative on the Supreme Court and he will appoint conservative judges moving forward, and all of these liberal judges that Obama appointed, if they go too far they will be overturned by a conservative Supreme Court. That means that we with confidence in the Texas Legislature can pass strong conservative legislation that is not going to be thrown out by the courts. That is such freedom because you know, when you put in so much time and so much work – I think photo voter ID, I think we debated on the floor 27 or 28 hours – and it was a good bill, and for that to be thrown out was just wrong.

So that is just a great relief, knowing we will have a partner on health care, that we’re going to get rid of Obamacare, repeal and replace it, whatever they do will be far better than what we have. We don’t have to worry about are we going to get various waivers and help from different agencies in Washington. I mean all the states are going to feel that way.

We picked up two more governors now nationally, so I think it’s 34, check the math , 34 or 35 governors. We have 35 lieutenant governors. The vast majority of states are now Republican, all those states are now actually going to be able to have someone on their side instead of against them.

But there’s no question that Obama put a target on our back and Hillary would have done it more than any other state because we were a thorn in their side. We kept them from controlling the country, because the electoral votes of Texas together with California, would make it impossible for a Republican to win. That’s why they came after Abbot and I in ’14. That’s why they came so hard this time and they’ll come back in ’18. But it’s a totally different world. It’s a good day

FR: Will there be some Texas going to Washington?

DP: It won’t be me. I don’t know that I would asked, but if I were asked I would politely and respectfully turn it down because I love being lieutenant governor and it is the best job in state politics in the country, so I’m not going anywhere.

And I‘ve talked to some people in their transition team already. They are going to need thousands of people, thousands of people, and like other presidential candidates in the past, who knew governors, or knew members of the Legislature or congressmen and senators and lieutenant governors or attorney generals or whoever it would be. He doesn’t have those same relationships with the states, so he’s going to be having to fill –he’s not going to replace everyone on Day One, but basically, you don’t want the Obama appointees, everything from US attorneys to the Cabinet heads to the undersecretaries to the ambassadors. You want to wipe that slate clean. You don’t want the Obama mentality and ideology being pat of your presidency. But that will take him a while, take him a while to find those folks.

I intend to do all I can, I assure you, I’ve already recommended some people, and I will continue to recommend people. We should be well represented in the energy sector. I’m sure they will be .I don’t know that the secretary of energy will be from Texas but we’ll have a seat at the table, which we clearly did not have with Obama. Education, border security , all of these issue. I intend to talk and to see that Texas has a big role in all of that, but I’m staying here. I’m running for lieutenant governor in 2018, that’s what my goal is.

FR: Might Rick Perry have a place in the Trump administration?

DP: I think he could. Hes been out there working hard, in fact we had an event in July in Houston and Gov. Perry and I were on the plane with Trump, and we came to Houston, we were in San Antonio and came to Houston, and (Trump) was kind enough to introduce me and he also introduced Gov. Perry and said, “I’d like to take this guy to Washington with me.” I think those were his words. So we’ll see.

FR: Do you think there is still any bad blood between Sen. Cruz and Trump?

DP: No, no. I think Ted is positioned very well, and I think Trump, I know personally, Trump was appreciative of Ted stepping up in September. It was a big deal and so they’ll work together fine.

I look at someone like Mike McCaul, and I know there’s been some discussion about maybe he’s going to challenge Ted. I think Michael McCaul could well be the next Homeland Security director or attorney general. When you talk about people having a role in the administration. I think McCaul, who has done a great job as chairman of Homeland Security and has the background of working for the former attorney general, you know, I think he could have a role very easily.

I think a lot of Texans could have an opportunity, but I’m staying put. The only reason I wanted to help  – I was honored that he handpicked me to do this job as chair –  I just wanted him to win, I didn’t want anything in return expect wanting him to win, and I feel like we have an ally in the White House and that’s good.

FR: One last question. Your voice sounds a little different. Is this really Dan Patrick.

DP: Yes it is. I’ve had a cold for a while. I think I’m talked out

FR: Do you know when you will next to the president-elect.

DP: I have no idea. He’s going to be busy with so much to do I wouldn’t expect him to call and I’m sure not going to bother him. I assure you, he’s got a lot to do to get ready to be president.

I intend to go to inauguration. I’ll communicate through Don Jr. how I normally do.  I don’t’ presume to contact the president-elect unless its’ something to do with Texas. But we’ll work through, as he builds his staff out, we’ll work with his staff on the needs of Texas. I’ve already sent a note off to the family.  He doesn’t need to call Dan Patrick or anybody. He just needs to get work.

FR: Is it Don Jr. who hunts in Texas.

DP: Yes. Don Jr. has been here quite a bit. They’ve talked about how they’re members of the NRA. Don Jr., from the people I know in Texas who have hunted with him, one of Don Jr’s. very, very best friends, a roommate in college is a Texan, and I’ve been told that Don Jr. is as good a marksman as anyone who’s not a  professional, so he loves to hunt. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on hunting trip in Texas in the near future.

FR: Are you doing anything tomorrow.

DP: We’re just available for the media.

As it comes.

What a great day, I feel very relaxed about the future for my four grandchildren and my children. You know I’m good. If the Lord takes  me home tomorrow, I’ve been blessed. I was really worried about the  future under Hillary, just because of her policies and so I feel like we really have a shot to make America great again.

C U this Tuesday: A Texas fringe festival guide to the 2016 election



Good morning Austin:

I wrote a story in Sunday’s paper on the mark Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will leave on the Texas Republican Party in which I quoted a question posed by Sylvia Manzano, a principal, based in Houston, with the national research firm Latino Decisions:

Who is the fringe of the Republican Party going forward? Is Joe Straus the fringe of the Republican Party in Texas or is Sid Miller the fringe of the Republican Party in Texas?

This is a good question.

It does seem that Trump’s campaign might be doing something to bollix the usual fringe continuum.


On Thursday U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and heretofore establishment Republican, who is considering challenging tea party idol Sen. Ted Cruz’s renomination in 2018 in part because Cruz was slow to back Trump after losing to him in the primaries, characterized Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for her State Department emails, which on Wednesday he called an impeachable offense, as an act of treason, even as Cruz, who, if Trump loses, is likely to run again for president in 2020, was campaigning for Trump in Iowa and Michigan.



On Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chairs the Trump campaign in Texas (and, before that, Cruz’s presidential campaign in Texas), issued a news release blasting some in the Texas press corps for having “seized on the most recent social media outrage generated by Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller” — who in recent days has crowed that he is Trump’s most beloved champion in Texas — to wrongly suggest that Miller’s tweeted reference to Hillary Clinton with the most offensive profanity that can be applied to a woman, might hurt Trump with Texas women. In the release, Patrick did not mention Sid Miller’s defense that the offensive tweet was the result of an underling’s inadvertent cut-and-paste error, and that he deeply regretted it and quickly took it down.

Meanwhile, if, as is likely, Donald Trump wins in Texas, and if, as is possible if not so likely, he become president, it is no longer quite right to describe his ideas as fringe, even if many of them were manufactured in Alex Jones’s fringe idea factory in Austin ,as I recently wrote (Alex Jones: The Voice in Donald Trump’s head.)




From an excellent new story in Spin by Andy Cush: The Invisible Empire of Alex Jones: How the Donald Trump campaign turned America’s greatest conspiracy theorist into a household name

Alex Jones is a proud paranoiac, one whom might be expected to sympathize with McKenna’s message of worldwide alienation and planetary crisis. But the radio host, as he often does, sensed something even deeper afoot. He explained that a sense of futility encouraged by the 2012 theories might keep downtrodden people from standing up to their oppressors. “That is what the 2012 hoax is all about,” he said. “An artificial superstition to make people turn over control of their lives to the globalist technocrats.” To America’s greatest conspiracy theorist, even a conspiracy theory can start to look like evidence of a conspiracy.

Jones is a virtuosic orator and TV personality, more engaging to watch than just about anyone else on the airwaves, regardless of whether you believe what’s coming out of his mouth. He likes to boast that he doesn’t use scripts or teleprompters on his daily radio show and video webcast, but he needn’t advertise the fact any more than Ornette Coleman should have briefed listeners that he wasn’t playing his interstellar sax explorations from sheet music. Jones has an improviser’s natural sense of rhythm: Sometimes, he is a boulder tumbling downhill, picking up speed and debris as he crescendos toward angry and invigorating catharsis; other times, he’s a feather in the wind, fluttering down, then up, letting a thought hang in the air for one suspenseful moment before plunging in a different direction entirely. He is a lifelong Texan, and his drawl sounds like it is emanating from a throat filled with dust and syrup.

Today, thanks largely to the surprise success of Donald Trump’s undeniably Jonesian U.S. presidential campaign, Alex Jones is a bona fide force in mainstream American politics. His radio show is syndicated from his Austin, Texas, studio to 160 stations nationwide, and it reaches many more listeners over the internet. According to the web analytics company Quantcast, his website InfoWars reaches about 7.5 million unique readers per month, with 6.5 million of the site’s visitors based in the United States. Those numbers aren’t far behind Quantcast’s statistics for the long-running liberal publication Salon, which counts 9.1 million global and 7 million U.S. unique monthly visitors. (That probably says as much about Salon’s declining influence as it does about InfoWars’s grasp on the American psyche, but still.)


In 2016, Alex Jones has recruited the Republican nominee to join him in shouting out the basest fears of a nation where lunatics and police kill our countrymen in the streets, where suburban mothers fret over genetically modified baby food, where white supremacist poets post their lurid fantasias to Facebook Live, and where immigrants and refugees are pleading at our doorstep. Among the many twists in the most bizarre presidential campaign in recent history, few developments have felt more surreal than Alex Jones rising to become one of the philosopher chiefs behind a presidential candidate.

And, so, in the year of Trump, or maybe the age of Trump, it is a fair question whether Alex Jones can still lay claim to being the king of the fringe, or whether Joe Straus he must pass the tin foil hat of outsider thinking to Joe Straus.

Of course, in the age of clicks, there is only way to settle this, with an meaningless on-line poll.

If you’re not sure how to vote, read further in this first annual fringe festival guide to Texas politics.



1. One Dares Call it Treason.


Let’s imagine. It’s Monday, January 23, Hillary Clinton’s first day at work since her sparsely attended presidential inauguration the Friday before. President Clinton is rubbing her temples as Chief of Staff John Podesta enters the Oval Office.

JP: Whatsamatta boss?

HRC: I’ve got this dreadful headache. It’s all that hammering outside. What are they doing? Still taking down the reviewing stand from the Inaugural Parade?

JP: Ummm. No. That was down within an hour of the parade ending. This is something they’re building. It’s a, well ,it’s a gallows. In case you’re found guilty of treason – you know, the e-mails – and sentenced to death by hanging. They want to have the gallows ready.

HRC: What? They don’t hang people any more, do they?

JP: Well, actually the Constitution leaves the punishment for treason to Congress and, well,, H.R. 1 – McCaul-Gohmert – calls for death by hanging, in a gallows to be constructed in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, and the Trump Foundation agreed to buy Lafayette Park and fund private construction of a “big, beautiful gallows,” so it could be done ahead of schedule and under budget.

HRC: Oh. I see. You know, one thing I don’t get. Yeah, sure Gohmert. But what’s up with McCaul?

Good question.

From Conservative Review:

McCaul has proven himself to be a moderate member of the House GOP Caucus. On his congressional website, McCaul notes his opposition to several troublesome spending mechanisms in 2008-2010. ( Since that time, however, and as McCaul has gained the ever-growing praise of House leadership, his voting record has become more moderate. From supporting increases to the debt ceiling to higher federal budgets, McCaul has supported many of the GOP establishment’s priorities. These include the 2012 and 2014 reauthorization of the crony Export-Import Bank and votes in favor of bloated farm, highway, and hurricane relief bills. McCaul also voted for the omnibus spending bill in December 2014 that fully funded President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty order.

His moderate voting record has continued into the 114th Congress when McCaul voted for a Medicare SGR “fix” that was actually a carefully crafted bill projected to add $500 billion to the federal deficit in coming decades. McCaul also supported Rep. John Boehner’s reelection bid for House Speaker and once again voted to fund President Obama’s amnesty action.

Here was McCaul on FOX on impeachment last Wednesday.

From Fox News Insider:

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) said on America’s Newsroom that Hillary Clinton could face impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives if she is elected president. 

Speaking to Bill Hemmer today, McCaul said that Huma Abedin’s emails – which were found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop in a separate investigation of the disgraced former congressman – represents “new evidence …. that could be quite damaging.”

He said the reopened investigation will keep going beyond Election Day into a potential Clinton presidency.

“[If] the investigation goes forward and it looks like an indictment is pending, at that point in time under the Constitution, the House of Representatives would engage in an impeachment trial. It would go to the Senate and impeachment proceedings and removal would take place,” he said.

Hemmer asked whether McCaul really wanted to use “the I-word” right before the presidential election. McCaul, a former prosecutor and currently the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, pointed out newly-released WikiLeaks emails showing John Podesta emailed Clinton aide Cheryl Mills to say “we are going to have to dump all those emails.”

“That’s getting a little closer to intent,” said McCaul, adding that it would be a “smoking gun” if the FBI finds a new email in which classified information was knowingly sent.

McCaul said there is already “ample evidence” to take this case before a grand jury. He said there should have been a grand jury from the start to remove politics from the equation.

Yes, by all means, let’s  start to remove politics from the equation.

Very good. Problem is, impeachment just doesn’t have the sting it used to.

Every President Clinton gets impeached, and the last time it happened, that President Clinton’s poll numbers went up.

Anyway, what Republican isn’t for impeachment? (It’s an essential companion to the Ted Cruz et al. plan to deny a vote to any Clinton Supreme Court nominee. Remember, the poll allows for write-ins.)

So, a day later, McCaul was back on Fox, this time on Fox & Friends, upping the ante.

From the Statesman:

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said Thursday morning that Hillary Clinton had committed treason, following a Fox News report that the Democratic presidential nominee’s private e-mail server had been sidhacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies, citing unnamed FBI sources.

The charge follows heated rhetoric from McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, a day earlier, when he said on Fox News that Clinton could be impeached if elected president over her use of the email server.

On Thursday, McCaul said on “Fox & Friends” that FBI Director James Comey had previously told McCaul that, “it’s very likely that foreign adversary nations got into her private server.”

“This is why you have security protocols: To protect classified information,” McCaul said. “She exposed it to our enemies and now, Steve, our adversaries have this very sensitive information that not only jeopardizes her and national security at home, but the men and women serving overseas. This is in my opinion, quite frankly, it’s treason.”

Fox & Friends is where Donald Trump, on the day of the Indiana primary, the day he finished off Ted Cruz, wondered why the media was ignoring reports in his trusted news source – the National Enquirer – suggesting that Cruz’s father was thick as thieves with Lee Harvey Oswald ahead of the Kennedy.s assassination.

The Fox & Friends news team took it on the chin at the time for not pushing  back against Trump’s assertion, and the hosts, performed true to form in reaction to McCaul’s bombshell claim.

“Wow,” said host Anisely Earhardt.

“That’s an extraordinary sound bit right there,” observed co-host Steve Doocy.

Here is what the U.S Constitution has to say on treason.

Article III

Section 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Hmmm. Must have been the RINOs and squishes at the Constitutional Convention who wrote that mamby-pamby punishment section.

Here, from Blackstone (Blackstone, Wm., Knight. Chase, George, ed. Chase’s Blackstone Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. New York: Baker, Voorhis & Co., 1936, pp892-3.)  is how our British forefathers dealt with those who committed treason:

  1. That the offender be drawn to the gallows, and not be carried or walk: though usually (by connivance length ripened by humanity into law) a sledge or hurdle is allowed, to preserve the offender from the extreme torment of being dragged on the ground or pavement
  2. That he be hanged by the neck and then cut down alive
  3. That his entrails be taken out and burned, while he is yet alive
  4. That his head be cut off
  5. That his body be divided in four parts
  6. That his head and quarters be at the king’s disposal.

And yes, in that benighted age, women were treated differently than men.

For as the decency due to the sex forbids the exposing and publicly mangling their bodies, their sentence (which it to the full as terrible to sensation as the other) is to be drawn to the gallows, and there to be burned alive.

Well, in the meantime, as of yesterday, FBI Director Comey is apparently now cool with Clinton’s treason.

Which leaves McCaul I don’t know where.

I thought of McCaul at a very interesting Saturday session at the Texas Book Festival in which UT’s Paul Stekler interviewed Josh King (Off Script), former presidential events production director at the White House, and Mary Beth Rogers (Turning Texas Blue), the last person to run a successful campaign to put a Democrat, Ann Richards, in the Texas governor’s office.

Stekler asked King to recount how Michael Dukakis ended  up, of his own volition, in a tank, his head sticking wearing a helmet with his name on it, which became the fodder for a devastating negative attack ad.

Here was Josh King’s illuminating answer.






It looked to me that McCaul claiming Hillary Clinton had committed treason, was Dukakis in the tank.

2. Sid Miller.


Miller’s got plenty of attention in the last week. His fringe credential hardly need further mention or embellishment.

But, like Alex Jones, how fringe can you be when Donald Trump is giving you repeated shout-outs on the campaign trail in the crucial final days.

From the Statesman:

Four days after tweeting out a vulgarity aimed at Hillary Clinton, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller received a shoutout Saturday from Donald Trump.

Trump mentioned Miller and his trademark cowboy hat by name during a rally Saturday in Tampa, Fla., as he rebutted polls showing that presidential vote in Republican-leaning Texas will be tighter than years past

“They kept saying, ‘The great state of Texas is in play,’ ” Trump said, adding that he couldn’t believe those reports because the crowds at his Texas rallies had been so large. One line to get into his event “literally, it went miles.”

“I don’t want to lose Texas,” Trump said. “One little problem: We’re killing them in Texas.”

As further evidence, he cited Miller, who serves as an agriculture policy adviser to the Trump campaign and who said the vulgarity against Clinton posted on his Twitter account was the result of an aide’s mistake.

“A guy gets on two days ago, a man named Sid Miller,” Trump said. “Don’t really know him. Wearing a big, beautiful, white cowboy hat. In fact, I want to find out where he got it. It’s pretty nice.

“And he said, ‘You know, you folks are getting it all wrong. These lines are four, five, six blocks long. We’ve never had anything like this in Texas. And let me tell you all those folks, they’re all voting Trump; they’re not voting for anyone else.’ We’re doing great in Texas.”

Here’s video of Trump’s Tampa speech. His comments on Texas and Sid Miller start at the 9:45 mark:


But, one interested observer was not as enthralled with Miller as Trump was, and that would be the guy who by all rights is Trump’s main man in Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

From a press release Friday from Patrick that was ostensibly chiding the Texas media, but was really a rather remarkable censure of Miller as off the reservation and unhelpfully fringy.

From Patrick’s release:

It is no secret that the main stream media, including most of the press in Texas, are backing the Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton.  So it was no surprise this week that some in local press corps seized on most recent social media outrage generated by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.  As we said earlier this week, using such offensive is intolerable and there is absolutely no excuse for it. 

But the press was wrong to suggest that this incident would impact the way women in Texas will vote in the presidential race.  I have been campaigning across this state for almost a year, first as the Texas Chair for Ted Cruz for President campaign and now as the Texas Chair for Donald Trump and I can tell you that Texas women are solidly behind the Republican ticket, from the White House to the Court House.  Even before all the facts about the pay to play, violations of classified material and basic dishonesty came out against Clinton, Texas women were never going to support a pro-abortion, anti-gun, tax and spend liberal who will pack the Supreme Court with people who want to take away our freedom of speech and expand abortion.

Note here, that Patrick is not really buying Miller’s explanation that the tweet was an innocent mistake, describing  the most recent social media outrage generated by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, as intolerable and inexcusable.

This is a lot stronger than Gov. Abbott’s admonition to Miller – “The language is reprehensible and is an embarrassment. No true Texas gentleman would ever talk this way” – which made it sound like this was really more a breach of the Texas Code of Chivalry than anything more serious.

But as I wrote last week on First ReadingSid Miller and the C-word: On the cowboy commissioner’s posse in the alt-right manosphere – and in a subsequent story Sid Miller finds fringe friendships in Trump’s alt-right Twitterverse – a single errant tweet is not what this is all about. It’s what it reveals about Miller and his intellectual running buddies in the alt-right realm of Trump World.

Without rehashing it all – and you have to read this stuff to believe it – for these folks, the Trump who was revealed on the Access Hollywood tape was the Trump they admire, and the women who subsequently came forward to say that Trump assaulted them, were, in fact, witnesses to what they consider his strength of character.


From San Antonio Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff wrote on Friday:

Miller is also a fan of Mike Cernovich, another alt-right icon and aggrieved male whose bone-deep wounds are salved only by grinding women to submissive dust.

A typical post on his blog, Danger & Play, purports to tell us what women want: “There are tens of millions of good — which is to say, neutered — guys in America, and yet the best women consistently end up with dominant, strong, violent men.

“The question isn’t whether women want to be dominated,” Cernovich continued. “The question is whether you are man enough to dominate them. … Women want to feel real desire. They want a man who grabs them and makes them feel small, vulnerable, and feminine.”

Is it any wonder the alt-right worships Trump, the most infamous woman-grabber in politics?


3. Alex Jones.



Alex Jones’s fringe bona fides are apparent.

So I will simply bring you up to date.

Alex Jones special edition of his show on Saturday:

Hands down this is the most important broadcast of my life. This is the Fifth of November, two thousand sixteen.

Watch and listen. If you dare.

And, from Jones’s lips to everyone within the sound of Drudge’s ears.




From the New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb on The Death of American Exceptionalism.

Trump is partly a product of forces that the G.O.P. created by pandering to a base whose dilated pupils the Party mistook for gullibility, not abject, irrational fear that would send those voters scurrying to the nearest authoritarian savior they could find. The error was in thinking that this populace, mainlining Glenn Beck and Alex Jones theories and pondering how the Minutemen would have fought Sharia law, could be controlled. (For evidence to the contrary, the Party needed look no further than the premature political demise of Eric Cantor.) The old adage warns that one should beware of puppets that begin pulling their own.

In this light, Trump represents a kind of return to the old-time religion, a fundamentalism that rejects the effete nature of dog-whistle politics the way the religious right defined itself by rejecting the watery tenets of liberal Christianity. Implicit within dog-whistling is enough respect for democratic norms and those outside one’s base to speak to that base in terms that the mass populace can’t readily decipher. Here, plausible deniability is at least a recognition that there are people with interests different from one’s own and that their influence, if not their interests or humanity, warrants a certain degree of respect. Trump is doing the opposite of this. He is an exhorter in a midsummer tent revival: direct, literal, and speaking at a decibel that makes it impossible to misunderstand his intentions. The end result of Trump’s evangelism is that a xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, serially mendacious narcissist is poised to pull in somewhere north of fifty million votes in the midst of the most bitterly contentious election in modern American history. The easy analysis holds that Trump’s jihad against decency has wrecked the Republican Party, but the damage is far more extensive than this.

From Edward Isaac-Dovere at  Politico on Oct. 13.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — President Barack Obama on Thursday night tore into Republican leaders for “riding this tiger” of what he repeatedly called “crazy” hoaxes and conspiracies that created the conditions for Donald Trump to become their presidential nominee—and blasted anyone now trying to distance themselves out of what he derided as political expediency.

No one who stands by Trump this year, Obama said, can claim to be serious about family values or foreign policy. And nobody can claim higher ground than Trump if they spent the last eight years pursuing an agenda he said was pure opposition, embracing a right-wing media that regularly trafficked in conspiracy theories and accepting personal attacks on him from their base.

They stood by while this happened, and Donald Trump as he’s prone to do, he didn’t build the building himself — he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it,” Obama said.


Clearly veering off-script, Obama turned to the example of proud Obama antagonist Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whom he didn’t name, but noted had ordered the state National Guard to observe the 2015 Operation Jade Helm military exercises after right-wing media exploded with conspiracy theories about how it was actually secret prep for an Obama led junta. Abbott, Obama said, had said he didn’t know if the talk was true.
“What do you mean, you don’t know? What does that mean?” Obama said, leaning on the podium, his voice rising in anger. “They took it seriously. This is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again.”
4. Joe Straus.
He is the control in this poll. Preternaturally calm.
But, if you’d like to know more from those who would like to exile him to the fringes of Texas politics, see Empower Texans.