Is It Time to Panic Yet?

Uh oh. A couple of days ago Sam Wang said Hillary Clinton still had a 90 percent chance of winning. Today he says it's either 77 percent or 86 percent, depending on whether you're a Bayesian or a Driftian. "For Democrats, it is a good thing that the election is not today," he says ominously.

I still wouldn't panic over this, but your mileage may vary. If you're the panicky sort, now's your chance.

Bernie Sanders Update

Was I too hard on Bernie Sanders yesterday? Maybe! I mentioned that although he hadn't done much for Hillary Clinton, he seemed to have plenty of time to campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in her primary race. However, a reader who lives in her district says Bernie didn't actually do anything:

Sanders was a total no-show, who spent his time between the conventions and now doing nothing as far as anyone can tell.  One visit here might have been enough to swing the election, actually calling around would have helped. So don't give Sanders even the credit of doing more than saying he was endorsing Canova and then checking out.

OK. Maybe Sanders didn't really care all that much about DSW. And anyway, as of today he's finally campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Eric Levitz reports:

At present, the Democratic nominee is struggling to win over the septuagenarian senator’s strongest demographic: Recent polls have shown more than 30 percent of millennial voters defecting to third-party candidates.

In a separate interview on Friday morning, Sanders implored such voters to “think hard” before casting a “protest” ballot. “Think about what the country looks like and think about whether you’re comfortable with four years of a Trump presidency,” Sanders said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “And I would suggest to those people: Let us elect Hillary Clinton as president. And the day after, let us mobilize millions of people around the progressive agenda, which, by the way, as you know, was passed in the Democratic platform.”

“This is what I know. In politics too much we look at personality....Don’t get hung up on Trump’s kids and whatever, the story of the birther issue. Stay focused on the issue of relevance to your life. I think Clinton is far and away the superior candidate.

And Sanders will be campaigning for Clinton this weekend in the uber-swing state of Ohio. I wonder if there's a live feed available? I'll be very interested to hear what he says. Will it basically be a repeat of his stump speech, focusing on TPP and income inequality and so forth, or will he really campaign for Hillary Clinton? If he does, and if he was just waiting for Labor Day to get going, then all is forgiven.

This is interesting. As I mentioned earlier, Donald Trump announced today that he would hold a press event to discuss birtherism. Cable news showed up in force, but instead of getting what they were told, they got this:

  • Trump showed up an hour late, guaranteeing lots of extra coverage.
  • He held the event at his new DC hotel and then spent several minutes telling everyone how great the hotel is. In effect, he conned the press into giving him a free, nationwide commercial for his hotel.
  • Then he spent 20 minutes introducing a bunch of military folks who were endorsing him.
  • Finally, at the very end, he gave a 10-second statement acknowledging for the first time that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Then he walked off without taking any questions.

So far, the reaction of the press corps has been scathing. It was a bait-and-switch. They got played. When will we ever learn? They are pissed.

So is this a turning point? It's one thing to acknowledge Trump is a master of TV, but it's another for him to be so blatant about manipulating the press. After all, there's a point at which reporters stop being amused by the Trump campaign and start resenting it. Maybe we got there today.

UPDATE: Breitbart News rubs it in as only Breitbart can:

Keep in mind that Trump's campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, was the head of Breitbart News until he took a leave to work for Trump. They really seem bound and determined to make sure the mainstream press knows just how badly they've been conned.

The Most Important Word in Washington Today: Lie

I understand why reporters don't like to use the word lie. It's emotionally charged. You have to be absolutely sure that you're referring to something that's flatly, factually wrong, not merely exaggerated or cherry picked. And you have to be sure that the speaker knows he's telling a lie.

Those are the rules. They aren't my rules, but that's neither here nor there. What they mean is that very few statements from politicians qualify as lies.

But this is the very reason that reporters need to start using it in this campaign. Donald Trump has basically hacked the media, using their own customs and traditions against them. He knows he can say anything he wants and will get away with it because reporters are so loath to call anything a lie.

But Donald Trump lies. He says Hillary Clinton started the birther controversy. He says Clinton has no policy on maternity leave or child care. He says we know nothing about Hillary Clinton's religion. He says that crime is at record levels. He says the "true" unemployment rate is 40 percent. He says he saw thousands of Muslims cheering on 9/11. He says he opposed the Iraq War.

These things are plain and simple lies. Sure, it's an emotionally charged word, but that's the very reason reporters need to start using it. Because even by the strict standards of mainstream journalism, this is what Donald Trump traffics in. The public needs to understand that Trump goes far beyond normal political puffery, and the only way to do this is to take a deep breath and tell the truth: Donald Trump lies. Constantly.

Good God. Donald Trump has all of cable news on tenterhooks while he makes them wait for his announcement on birtherism. Amazing.

Anyway, Trump is looking especially orange today, and naturally he starts off with a commercial for his new DC hotel. Then some endorsements from Medal of Honor recipients. I suppose he'll get to birtherism eventually. He's probably working up the energy to surround it with all his usual lies. But really, does it even matter? Josh Marshall thinks not:

Whatever Trump says today hardly matters. Birtherism is a racist smear and a lie. And yet Trump has been repeating it for literally years. As recently as last night. If someone says for years that blacks have smaller brains and are only fit for menial labor or that Jews are parasites and greedy by nature and then finally says "Okay, maybe not, I'm not gonna say that anymore", who cares? If such racist agitation is ever to be forgiven it's only with a true recantation and apology and an explanation of why that person said and did such terrible things for so long.

....Birtherism isn't just not true. It's conscious and deliberate racist agitation. Trump's been doing that for years. He's never explained or recanted or apologized or been held to any account. Whatever he says today we'll be closely watching to see how campaign surrogates, commentators and especially reporters treat what he says.

Yeah, pretty much.

UPDATE: Some guy is now telling us that Trump will take a "holistic" approach to national security. lol. So far seven or eight people have taken the stage to endorse Trump.

UPDATE 2: John Berman on CNN: "You could say that he's leveraging five years of birtherism to sell his hotel." Jake Tapper: It's a "political rickroll." The CNN folks are really upset that they've been conned by Trump again. We were told it was an event to address birtherism, instead he's pulled a bait-and-switch.

UPDATE 3: Trump, finally: "Back in 2008, Hillary Clinton started the birther controversy. I finished it. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period." That's it. What a disgusting human being.

UPDATE 4: Berman says the Hillary Clinton slur is an "untruth." John King: "We got played." Tapper: "Factually false." But they still can't bring themselves to use the word "lie."

UPDATE 5: The CNN crew seems to be genuinely disgusted at themselves for being conned yet again by Trump. Is this real? Will it affect their coverage going forward? Stay tuned!

Trump: "I Know Nothing" About Vladimir Putin

Hmmm:

Here's what Trump said about Putin: "I know nothing about him, really....I don't like him, I don't dislike him, I don't have feelings one way or the other."

Isn't that bracing? Trump knows nothing about the guy who's been running Russia for the past 16 years. Putin has invaded South Ossetia, annexed Crimea, and waged a secret war against Ukraine. He has murdered journalists, jailed dissidents, and ruined oligarchs who failed to please him. He has encouraged brutal campaigns against the LGBT community. He has crushed the independent press. He is militarily involved in Syria, often in opposition to American interests. He is one of the most important leaders in the world, and so addicted to publicity that it's hard to avoid knowing about him.

But Trump knows nothing. Nothing. How reassuring in a candidate for president of the United States.

FFS. Once again Donald Trump had a chance to say that he now believes Barack Obama was born in the US, but he refused:

In the interview, conducted late Wednesday aboard his private plane as it idled on the tarmac here, Trump suggested he is not eager to change his pitch or his positions even as he works to reach out to minority voters, many of whom are deeply offended by his long-refuted suggestion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Trump refused to say whether he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.

“I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

When asked whether his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was accurate when she said recently that he now believes Obama was born in this country, Trump responded: “It’s okay. She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”

Just to make things worse, his campaign released a statement saying that Trump does believe Obama was born in the US—even though he won't say so himself—but the entire statement was a wild farrago of lies from start to finish. Tim Murphy has the details.

I can only assume that Trump doesn't want to make a clear personal statement about this because he knows that a lot of his supporters still believe it. If he says Obama was born in the US, they might feel like he's betrayed them.

But you know this is going to come up in the first debate, which is only a little more than a week away. In front of a huge national audience, he'll either have to betray his base or else look like a crackpot to millions of potential voters. Why put yourself in a situation like that? He could have defused it pretty quietly tonight if he'd wanted to.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says I'm wrong. Donald Trump's "Penny Plan" wouldn't cut domestic spending by 25 percent. It would cut it by 29 percent.

Oh well, what's a few percentage points among friends? Either way, the question is: What is Trump going to cut? He'll never, ever tell us, of course, but I thought I could help everyone understand a bit better what we're talking about here. The big ticket items in the budget are defense and the big mandatory domestic programs (Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, SNAP, interest on the debt, etc.). That's about 88 percent of the budget. The 12 percent that's left over is domestic discretionary: the FBI, NASA, courts and prisons, and so on. This is the part that Trump wants to cut.

Roughly speaking, what Trump wants to do is slice about $150 billion out of these programs. I can't create one of those fancy tools where you get to create your own budget, but I can at least give you a sense of where this money goes. It's in the chart below (all numbers are approximate). So have at it. Cut $150 billion and create your very own Trumpian budget.

MoJo's editor-in-chief is in trouble over this tweet:

Now, you'd think that because Clara is my boss, I'm going to defend her over this. But I'm not! Not totally, anyway. Let's break down what's actually going on here.

First, Atrios is upset because he doesn't like criticism of young people. Why? Beats me. As near as I can tell, millennials don't actually attract any more abuse than any other age cohort. I'm not sure why they should be any more immune to criticism than anyone else.

Second, and more important, this poll result seems like a bit of an outlier. On average, other polls seem to show Johnson and Stein getting about a quarter of the millennial vote, not 36 percent. What's more, a lot of that is coming from Trump voters. Defecting millennials seem to be split nearly evenly between lefty Clinton defectors and center-right Trump defectors.

That said, Clinton is clearly doing worse among millennials than Obama did four years ago. But it's a very restricted group of millennials. Over at 538, Harry Enten lays out some survey data which suggests that virtually all of the defection is in the 18-24 age group. Older millennials are supporting Clinton at about the rate you'd expect.

So what's the deal with this very young age group? Here's where I part from Clara: I reserve most of my frustration for Bernie Sanders. He's the one who convinced these folks that Clinton was in the pocket of Wall Street. She gave a speech to Goldman Sachs! He's the one who convinced them she was a tool of wealthy elites. She's raising money from rich people! He's the one who convinced them she was a corporate shill. She supported the TPP! He's the one who, when he finally endorsed her, did it so grudgingly that he sounded like a guy being held hostage. He's the one who did next to nothing to get his supporters to stop booing her from the convention floor. He's the one who promised he'd campaign his heart out to defeat Donald Trump, but has done hardly anything since—despite finding plenty of time to campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz and set up an anti-TPP movement.

There's a reason that very young millennials are strongly anti-Clinton even though the same age group supported Obama energetically during his elections—and it's not because their policy views are very different. A small part of it is probably just that Clinton is 68 years old (though Sanders was older). Part of it is probably that she isn't the inspirational speaker Obama was. But most of it can be laid at the feet of Bernie Sanders. He convinced young voters that Hillary Clinton was a shifty, corrupt, lying shill who cared nothing for real progressive values—despite a literal lifetime of fighting for them. Sadly, that stuck.

Donald Trump released a fancifully-named "fact sheet" today about his economic plan. He says it's going to be great!

Trump has clearly internalized the lesson of PT Barnum: if you're going to lie, you might as well lie big. So why not say his tax plan will create 25 million jobs? Hell, why not a hundred million? Today's announcement is a shiny new tax plan that's apparently scaled back from his old tax plan, but the Tax Policy Center figures that even Trump's old plan would likely create no jobs at all because its huge deficits would outweigh the impact of its tax cuts. Even the conservative Tax Foundation, after waving some dynamic scoring pixie dust around, could only bring itself to suggest it might create 5 million jobs. (All of these numbers are over ten years.) Since the new plan is smaller, its impact would be smaller too.

As for "unbridled" economic growth, Trump's team actually means 3.5 percent growth per year for a decade. This is equally ridiculous. The TPC figured Trump's old plan would likely have no impact on growth at all. And once again: since the new tax plan is smaller, its impact will be smaller too.

But there are a few things that everyone agrees on. Both TPC and the Tax Foundation say that Trump's plan would blow up the deficit. The old plan was a $10 trillion budget buster, while the new plan apparently clocks in at about $4.4 trillion. As for who benefits, both agreed that under Trump's old plan the biggest tax reductions go to the very rich. The chart on the right is from the TPC, which figures the poor would gain about 1 percent while the top earners would gain about 21 percent. The Tax Foundation is on the same page. Even after they spray the pixie dust around, the rich still do far better than the poor. I gather that the new plan doubles the standard deduction as a way of throwing a bigger bone to the poor and middle class, but the odds are slim that this will make up for Trump's huge giveaway to the rich.

What else? Trump, of course, wants to do away with all sorts of environmental rules. In fact, those are pretty much the only rules he wants to get rid of. Except for this one:

The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food. The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures, and even what animals may roam which fields and when. It also greatly increased inspections of food “facilities,” and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill.

So that's that. Our food supply has been so trouble free lately that Trump figures we can just do away with the FDA "police" who are constantly whinging on about hygeine and storage temperature and other nonsense.

Finally, Trump introduces his "penny plan": a reduction in non-defense spending of 1 percent per year for ten years. You will be unsurprised to learn that this is a trick: it's not adjusted for inflation. Trump says that over a decade his plan will reduce domestic spending from $518 billion to $468 billion. But if you account for inflation over the next decade (I used 2 percent per year as a guess), this produces a whopping cut of 25 percent in domestic spending. I am very eager to hear which quarter of our domestic spending Trump plans to cut.

But I'm not holding my breath.

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, even if Trump did somehow cut a quarter of domestic spending, that's $130 billion. He's got about $310 billion to go if he wants his spending cuts to match his tax cuts.

POSTSCRIPT 2: I know none of this matters. It's math! Math is hard! And nobody believes that Trump is serious about all this anyway. It's just random words on a page to show that he's presidential. Still, it's what I do.