Donald Trump Is a Pig

So it turns out that Donald Trump's big attack that he delicately held back on last night was...Bill Clinton's affairs. Devastating! That bit of non-news would have turned things around, I'm sure. So why did he change his mind? "I didn't feel comfortable doing it with Chelsea in the room," he said this morning.  What a sensitive guy.

In related news, Hillary Clinton really got under Trump's skin last night. "He loves beauty contests," she said, "supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman 'Miss Piggy.' Then he called her 'Miss Housekeeping,' because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name."

"Where did you find this? Where did you find this?" Trump demanded. Today he couldn't stop himself from attacking back:

During an interview on Fox News on Tuesday morning, Trump brought up Machado on his own and launched into an attack on her credibility, saying that she had "attitude" and was a "real problem" for Miss Universe officials. "She was the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible," Trump said. "... She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem."

What a pig.

I'm always careful to turn off the TV as soon as a debate is over so that I can form my opinions before I hear what anyone else is saying. However, I've now had a chance to check in at a few places, and it looks like just about everyone thinks Hillary Clinton won the debate decisively. Public Policy Polling says Clinton won their instant poll by 51-40 percent—and won young voters by 63-24 percent. CNN says their poll gave it to Clinton 62-27 percent. I was pretty bullish on Clinton's performance, but that's even higher than I would have thought.

Naturally, Trump's response is to tweet that he did great in all the debate polls "except for @CNN – which I don't watch." I presume that, as usual, he's talking about the Drudge online poll. You will be unsurprised to learn that the readers of the Drudge Report do indeed think Trump won. Unfortunately for Trump, no one else did.

Trump's usual response to any kind of humiliating loss is to go on the offensive and try to blanket the airwaves with something even more outrageous than he's ever said before. So Tuesday should be a fun day. I have a feeling Kellyanne Conway may have a rough time cleaning up after her unruly man-child tomorrow.

Debate Wrap-Up: I guess the only thing anyone cares about is who won. I'd give it to Hillary Clinton pretty easily. She handled her facts well, she spoke well, she didn't get baited, she laughed at some of Trump's more ridiculous statements, and she attacked him pretty effectively. "Just listen to what you heard," she said when Trump tried to pretend that he did everyone a favor by forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate. I suspect that even Republicans in the audience laughed at that.

Trump, by contrast, was like a manic version of his usual manic self. He spoke too fast, he got practically red faced at times, he repeated the most obvious lies, and he could barely keep a coherent though together for more than a few seconds before wandering off to something else.

But then again, what do I know? Basically, Clinton acted like Clinton and Trump acted like Trump. If you like either one of them, you probably liked what you saw on the screen. And to Trump's credit, he got his talking points across. Law and order. Politicians like Hillary are all talk, no action. Foreigners are stealing our jobs. I'm going to destroy ISIS big league.

But Trump's howlers were just too numerous. He's the son of a millionaire but said he started out with a "very small" amount of money. He claimed yet again that he absolutely opposed the war in Iraq—just ask Sean Hannity. He claimed he never said Clinton didn't look presidential. He insisted that NATO started a terror division because of him. He denied ever saying that climate change was a hoax. The lies just tumbled out. Hillary's people were responsible for birtherism, and he's the guy who put an end to it. The IRS deliberately targets him, and only him, for audits. He never said he didn't care if Japan built nukes. And then there was his bizarre riff about his pride over opening a club that doesn't discriminate against African Americans. WTF?

Trump got called on all this, of course, and his strategy was simple: just deny everything. "Wrong," he said repeatedly, talking obnoxiously over Clinton. Then, against all expectations, Lester Holt fact-checked Trump twice, but Trump just raised his voice and rode roughshod over him. Does this kind of simpleminded braying work? It all seemed like pretty obvious charlatanism to me, but maybe not to everyone else. Maybe they came away thinking that Trump says one thing and Clinton says another, and who knows, really?

I have a little more faith in the American public than that, though. I think Trump did poorly, both in what he said and how he said it. He was manic about proving that he was the alpha male in the room, but I think he took it at least three or four notches too far. It was not a winning night for him.

A complete transcript of the debate is here.


Liveblogging is so quaint, isn't it? Not like all this newfangled Twitter and Snapchat nonsense that the kids are into these days. But I haven't fully mastered the art of communicating in emojis or 140-character chunks, so Grampa Drum will keep on kicking it old school.

The biggest buzz around this debate is the question of whether moderators should fact-check the candidates. This is an oddly misplaced issue. Debate moderators rarely perform fact checking, and I doubt that Lester Holt will do it tonight. What the good ones do is follow up. So you'll get something like this: "But Mr. Trump, when the war was being debated in Congress, you said you supported it. I can play the tape if you'd like. Why do you keep saying you opposed it?" Or: "But Secretary Clinton, you supported TPP for years. What suddenly made you change your mind earlier this year?"

This is fact-checking in a manner of speaking, but it's not the moderator acting as judge. It's just the moderator demanding that candidates answer questions without evasion, which is very much a moderator's job. We'll see how well Holt carries it out tonight.

And now, on with the debate.

10:38 - And that's a wrap.

10:36 - Trump: "I was going to say something very rough about Hillary...but I decided not to. It wouldn't have been right." Uh huh.

10:34 - Holt: "You said Clinton doesn't have a presidential look." Trump: "No, I said she doesn't have the stamina." Holt: "The exact statement was..." Trump: "I'm answering the question." He won't allow Holt to correct him.

10:27 - Holt: "Do you support the current US policy on nuclear weapons?" Trump probably has no idea what our current policy is. But he does say that he wouldn't support a first strike.

10:24 - Trump said earlier that Iran was about to collapse before we bailed them out with a treaty. Clinton says they were weeks away from having the material for an atomic bomb. Obama stopped that "without firing a shot."

10:22 - Trump on Clinton: "I have a much better temperament than she does." Laughter.

10:20 - Trump insists that he opposed the war in Iraq. Lester Holt: "The record shows otherwise." Fact checking! Now Trump is going ballistic.

10:18 - Trump says that NATO opened a terror division "largely because" of his criticisms. His egotism is beyond belief.

10:15 - Clinton: Trump supported invasion of Iraq. Trump: "Wrong. Wrong." I'm guessing this subject might come up again.

10:12 - Clinton on ISIS: "I think there are a number of issues we should be addressing." I get that she's the policy wonk, but I really think she'd do better if she didn't literally telegraph that a laundry list is forthcoming.

10:09 - Trump says he's been endorsed by ICE. I wonder how many viewers misheard that as ISIS?

10:04 - Trump is saying he got "great credit" for opening a club in Palm Beach that doesn't discriminate against African Americans. Holy shit. If that's the bar we're using, I have a long, long list of things that make me into the second coming of Martin Luther King. Just yesterday, I went the entire day without running over any black people!

10:02 - Clinton: "Just listen to what you heard." Laughter. Now Clinton is straight up accusing Trump of racism.

10:01 - Trump flatly won't say what changed his mind. Then he says he did everyone a favor by forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate.

9:59 - Birtherism! "What took you so long to admit Obama was born in the US?" Trump is blaming it all on Sidney Blumenthal.

9:55 - Clinton now talking about implicit bias. I doubt that many viewers will really get this. Trump's response: You invented the word "super-predator."

9:54 - Clinton says there are too many "military style guns" on the streets.

9:52 - Clinton says stop-and-frisk didn't work. Trump smirks. But she's probably right.

9:49 - So far, nothing from Trump that's really about improving race relations. "There are bad things going on."

9:47 - Trump wants Law. And. Order.

9:45 - Now we're onto race. Clinton wants police reform and taking guns away from "people who shouldn't have them."

9:43 - Jesus. Trump is just all over the place. Clinton isn't blowing anyone away, but she's making sharp points and mocking Trump effectively. Trump's answer is to mock policy as "just words."

9:42 - Clinton says Trump has declared bankruptcy six times. Trump: "We used certain laws that were there."

9:40 - Trump's main theme is that the country is in terrible shape and it's all the fault of politicians like Clinton.

9:38 - Trump says he hardly owes anything to anyone. He is "under-leveraged."

9:35 - Clinton says Trump won't release his taxes because he's probably concealing something "horrible." "There's something he's hiding." "Who does he owe money to?"

9:33 - Trump is implying that the IRS has deliberately targeted him for audits.

9:32 - Now Trump is telling us that he made $694 million last year.

9:31 - Trump is shaking his head and rolling his eyes at everything Clinton says. Now it's his turn. The country is in a bubble. The economy is about to collapse thanks to people like Clinton. Blah blah blah.

9:27 - Is Trump on speed? He's talking a mile a minute and only barely making sense.

9:26 - Now Trump is yelling about Clinton having fought ISIS for 30 years. Huh?

9:25 - Trump: "She's going to raise taxes, I'm going to lower taxes, end of story."

9:23 - Trump: "You changed your view on TPP after you heard what I said about it." Clinton: "Donald, I know you live in your own reality...." Trump is interrupting constantly now and practically shouting.

9:21 - Now Trump is getting red-faced. "NAFTA is the worst trade deal ever approved anywhere."

9:16 - Clinton: Donald thinks climate change is a hoax. Trump, interrupting: "I never said that. I never said that." He did, of course.

9:13 - Trump: My father gave me a "very small" amount of money when I started out. Then he follows with a completely wrong riff on VATs in other countries. Then he makes a show of calling Clinton "Secretary Clinton." "Is that all right? I want you to be happy."

9:10 - Trump refers to Clinton as "Hillary." Clinton refers to Trump as "Donald." So friendly!

9:09 - Clinton: minimum wage, family leave, more manufacturing, etc. Trump: other countries are stealing our jobs.

9:05 - And we're off. First question: Why are you the best choice to create jobs for the American people?

8:57 - Surfing around the channels, the hot topic is whether or not Hillary Clinton will kneel during the national anthem. No, wait. That's not right. The real topic seems to be whether Donald Trump can simulate a grown-up for a full hour and a half. Also whether Hillary Clinton is too serious about this whole presidency thing. I'm not joking.

8:55 - Tonight's debate will be 90 minutes without a break. Is that normal? I don't really care about the candidates, but I could use a bathroom break once in a while. Not to mention a blather break.

Charitygate Becomes Even Murkier Today

One of the oddities of the whole Trump Foundation scandal is the fact that at least a few of the donations to the foundation were actually fees owed to Trump personally. Comedy Central, for example, gave the foundation $400,000 in lieu of paying Trump for a televised roast he attended. The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold is on top of this, of course, and asked one of Trump's campaign advisors about it:

“He’s never directed fees to the foundation,” said Boris Epshteyn, a senior adviser to Trump, who responded on the campaign’s behalf in a phone interview on Saturday. Epshteyn said that what Trump did was provide a service, renounce any fees, and then merely suggest that the other party make a donation to a charity of their choosing.

I swear I don't know whether to laugh or pound the keyboard at stuff like this. Epshteyn sounds like the godfather here. Trump merely "suggested" that folks donate to some charity somewhere, and it all just happened to end up at Trump's charity.

Legally, the issue here is that if the money is owed to Trump, he has to pay taxes on it. If it goes straight to his foundation, he doesn't. And apparently one of Eric Trump's assistants pretty much admitted this is what happened:

Last week, an employee of the Trump Organization, the candidate’s private company, offered an explanation. “A lot of times Mr. Trump will give a speech somewhere or he’ll raise money in some way and he asks that entity, instead of cutting a personal check to him, cut it to his charity,” said Lynne Patton, an assistant to Trump’s son Eric, who is also an officer of the Eric Trump Foundation. “That’s money that otherwise would’ve been in his personal account, right?”

Trump aides threw Patton under the bus ("she wouldn’t know or understand") and then offered a more convoluted version of the excuse that Trump never told anyone which charity to give his fees to. Legally, that meant Trump didn't owe any taxes on the money. And then, by an enormous coincidence, the donors just happened to choose the Trump Foundation:

Trump, Epshteyn said...had not exercised control over where his money went. Indeed, Epshteyn said, when Trump helped someone, he never asked specifically for a gift to the Donald J. Trump Foundation — but rather suggested a gift to some charity, somewhere.

But sometimes, Epshteyn said, a gift arrived at the Trump Foundation. “He’s Donald J. Trump,” Epshteyn said, explaining why donors had chosen this particular charity.

....So which of the Trump Foundation’s donations came in this way? Epshteyn could not cite a specific example. He then challenged The Post to find an example that proved him wrong.

The Post asked about the 2011 gift from Comedy Central....Epshteyn conceded that Trump had, indeed, controlled where this money went. It was his income. And, Epshteyn said, he paid taxes on it.

Could he provide proof of that tax payment?

“Absolutely not,” Epshteyn said.

No one sentient can possibly believe this nonsense. It's obvious that Trump has long treated his foundation as a sort of personal slush fund, a handy way to have a bit of tax-free cash around to hand out like walking-around money. How is it possible that Fahrenthold is still the only reporter around who seems interested in this?

What Is Donald Trump Hiding in His Taxes?

Donald Trump refuses to release his tax returns, as every presidential candidate has done for decades. The excuse varies. Lately he's claimed that he's being audited, so he can't release them. But he's also said the audit wouldn't hold him back if Hillary Clinton released all her emails, so that excuse seems a little thin. When pressed, Trump adds that no one but a few media losers are interested in his taxes. More recently, though, Donald Trump Jr. has said the real reason is simpler: not only are people interested in Trump's taxes, but they're too interested. Releasing his tax returns would "detract" from his father's message.

Whatevs. But let's suppose that Trump really does have some good reasons for being wary of releasing his entire 10,000-page tax return. Over at Emptywheel, tax attorney Bob Lord asks some obvious questions:

First, what tax years are under audit? Does it go back beyond 2012? If not, can the 2011 return be released?

....Second, why haven’t the audit notices been released?...There’s nothing so sensitive in such a generic notice that it could not be made public. At this point, Trump has not even offered up this most basic evidence that he is really even under audit. Why hasn’t proof been demanded?

....Third, for the tax returns that are under audit, why can’t the first two pages be released? After all, those first two pages simultaneously contain the information most relevant to the public about a presidential candidate and contain no information that reveals the issues under audit.

There's more at the link, including Lord's belief that Trump might genuinely have some decent reasons for not wanting to make his entire return public. But at the very least, Trump could release the first couple of pages of his 1040, plus the summary page of Schedule A, for the past decade or so. This would tell us his business income, real estate income, capital gains, total income, charitable contributions, etc. Does he really have any plausibly good reason for not releasing this much, other than the fact that it might be personally embarrassing because it would show that he's been lying about how much he's worth and how much he gives to charity?

Bob Somerby reminds us today about the power of post-debate spin from the media. The teachable moment is October 3, 2000, the first debate between Al Gore and George Bush. Here's a real-time reaction from Time's Matt Cooper:

Bush looks slightly awkward to me. He's flubbed a couple of lines....Gore, although looking like he's made out of rawhide, is doing pretty well. His answers are more cogent....Bush just not getting off the lines he needs.....W. keeps sniffing during the off moments. It's weird.

....Here in the last 15 minutes of the debate, I'm stuck by the different confidence levels of the two guys. Bush, who can be commanding on the stump, seems faltering, hesitant. Gore is brimming with confidence....The other thing that strikes me is the way that Gore has beat up the guy without seeming to be too mean.....I'm writing this in the closing the moments of the debate. My guess is that post-debate polls will show Gore winning the debate 55-45. Bush needs to really study up before the next one.

Wow. Gore kicked ass! Bush kept sniffing! He also seemed a little lost—a fairly common real-time assessment. As it turns out, Cooper's prediction was pretty close: Gallup's overnight poll had Gore winning by 48-41 percent and others gave him an even bigger margin. So why is Gore widely remembered as the big loser in that debate? Here is Alfredo Lanier of the Chicago Tribune a couple of weeks after the debate:

Polls scored both candidates just about even, but that shifted after media analysts picked over the inconsistencies in some of Gore's statements—and nitpicked about his annoying huffing, puffing and eye-rolling while Bush spoke.

Huffing, puffing, and eye-rolling? You mean sighing, don't you? Here is CNN recapping what happened years after the fact:

Focus groups right after Al Gore and George W. Bush debated seemed to give a slight edge to Gore because he was more articulate, he had better answers, but once the television cameras caught that sighing, that constant look on his face where he seemed annoyed by the whole idea of having to be there with Bush, it seemed to underscore, as somebody said, as a teacher's pet who knew all the answers but was annoying and irritating. And they kept playing it over and over again and it became parodies on the comedy shows and late night TV. Then people began to project onto Gore a personality trait of just annoyance and irritation of people in general and it became devastating for him to live that down.

Among people who actually watched the debate, Gore seemed fine. He knew his stuff, he attacked without seeming mean, and no one seemed to notice any sighing. But then the analysts put together a mix tape of every one of Gore's sighs, and it was game over. Gore was a laughingstock.

Overnight polls are hardly infallible. But there's not much question that the media reaction in the two or three days after a debate can make a big difference. Gore won the first debate in 2000, but only for a few hours. He lost it in the following week.

I'm always intrigued by polls that produce truly inexplicable results, and today we get one from Pew. They asked Trump supporters how they'd feel if Trump won. Most would be happy, but 11 percent would be disappointed or even angry. Among Clinton supporters, 7 percent would be disappointed if she won.

Now, when you get out to the end of the homo sapiens bell curve, there's no telling what you're dealing with. These folks might not be the sharpest pencils in the box. Still, I wonder what they're thinking? That they're just congenitally disappointed and will stay that way no matter who wins? That they're supporting a candidate they don't like? They they didn't really understand the question? What's the deal here?

Over at the Corner, Patrick Brennan suggests that political journalists are lousy at fact checking, and debate moderators shouldn't try to do it in real time. There's a case to be made for this, but he sure picks a weird example:

Liberal Twitter was all a-huff about how the [debate] commissioner cites the unemployment rate as an area where the facts are up for debate — har har, they say, you know there literally is an official unemployment rate the government publishes, right?

Except anyone smart saying this is being remarkably coy: People of good faith and serious economic training debate about whether the “official” unemployment rate is a good representation of the unemployment rate all the time!

How absurd is it to complain about the commissioner’s statement here? Say Trump says something along the lines of “the real unemployment rate is much higher than the government tells you.”

This might well be true — although it all depends on what you mean by the real unemployment rate....The people braying for fact-checking in debates are thus asking for moderators to attempt, in real time, to adjudicate disputes that divide Ph.D. economists and of course, a whole range of other such disputes on which the respective experts — trade economists, classification experts, presidential historians, whatever — often don’t agree.

Brennan suggests this is all a high-minded argument about U3 vs. U6 and the declining labor force participation rate and so forth. Silly liberals! Who are they to say that the unemployment rate is a clear fact when even professional economists argue about it?

And, sure, fair point—if this is what Trump was talking about. He's not. He's said on multiple occasions that the unemployment rate is "really" 42 percent or 21 percent or 35 percent. The headline figure from the BLS (currently 4.9 percent) is a "hoax" and a "conspiracy." In fact, it's "one of the biggest hoaxes in politics." This is presumably because Donald Trump doesn't waste his time with anything other than the very best hoaxes.

This is not an academic argument about what unemployment "really" is. It's idiocy. It's a lie. It's a shameless extension of Trump's juvenile populism, and Brennan knows it. If he thinks debate moderators shouldn't even push back on something this rank, he's showing a contempt for the truth every bit as casual as Trump's.

The Lead-Crime Era Is Now Firmly Behind Us

The FBI reported today that the murder rate in the US was up 11 percent in 2015. That's a pretty big jump, and I don't want to minimize it. Before we panic too much, however, it's worth noting that the overall violent crime rate was up only 3 percent. The absolute number of murders is fairly small, which means that it tends to be more volatile than the overall violent crime rate.

If you're wondering how I'll make a connection to lead, here it is: this is probably a sign that we're now firmly in a post-lead crime era. Thanks to the ban on leaded gasoline, the number of teenagers born in a high-lead environment has been falling for 20 years, and that's produced a steady decline in the violent crime rate. But by now, pretty much everyone under the age of 30 has grown up in the unleaded gasoline era, and we've made only modest progress in reducing lead further.

What this means is that lead abatement has run its course. From now on, unless we do something about the remaining lead in soil and paint, crime rates will reflect other factors: drugs, guns, poverty, race, policing, etc. Unleaded gasoline has done what it could, and now the rest is up to us.

POSTSCRIPT: It's worth noting that this applies mostly to North America and Europe. In much of Asia, South America, and the Middle East, leaded gasoline held on a lot longer. In those places, we likely have another 10-20 years of declining crime rates thanks to a reduction in the number of kids who grow up with lead poisoning.

A couple of days ago, NYU law professor Lily Batchelder released a paper that takes a close look at the details of Donald Trump's tax plan. She concludes that several million middle-class families will pay more under Trump's plan than they do now. Jim Tankersley reports the Trump campaign's response:

The Trump campaign called the findings "pure fiction," contending the analysis neglects a crucial benefit for low-income taxpayers....Most importantly, Miller said Trump will instruct the committees writing his plan into law to make sure that it does not raise taxes on any low- or middle-income earners. "In sending our proposal to the tax-writing committees we will include instructions to ensure all low and middle income households are protected," Miller said.

This is obviously spin, but the funny thing is that it's true. The details that Batchelder analyzed really won't matter much once Trump's proposal gets fed into the congressional sausage machine. Rather, his tax plan is essentially a statement of values. It tells the voting public what he believes in.

And that's the problem. If Trump truly cared about the middle class, he and his team would have taken a very close look at the details to make sure his plan benefited the entire middle class. Obviously they didn't. They treated it like a throwaway that Congress would iron out later.

Conversely, does anyone doubt that they were very careful indeed about vetting the effect of his plan on the rich? There's surely not a single person in the top 1 percent who will accidentally end up paying higher taxes under Trump's plan. Why? Because Trump cares about rich people. They're winners.1 Struggling families and single mothers are losers. Why sweat the details for the likes of them?

1Also because his plan is so overwhelmingly favorable for rich people that it's basically impossible for small details to wipe out their average gain.