The number of pro-Putin positions that Donald Trump has taken has assumed quite remarkable proportions. He:

  1. Wants to reduce America's commitment to NATO and reorient its activities to the Middle East. This is perhaps Vladmir Putin's greatest foreign policy desire.
  2. Says America has no moral standing to complain about human and civil rights violations.
  3. Welcomed Russia's incursion into Syria.
  4. Considers Putin a great leader.
  5. Would consider eliminating sanctions against Russia and recognizing their annexation of Crimea.
  6. Wants to weaken American ties to its allies by insisting that he will walk away from them unless they pay us more for our military protection.
  7. Never mentions Russia in his otherwise endless litany of countries that are taking advantage of us.
  8. Opposes sending arms to Ukraine.
  9. Is pro-Brexit.
  10. Isn't sure he would defend the Baltics if Russia attacked them.

Have I missed anything? I probably have. It's hard to keep track.

Most of these are defensible positions on their own. I don't support sending arms to Ukraine, for example. Plenty of conservatives are pro-Brexit. And plenty of lefties would like to see us reduce our military footprint worldwide.

But even if you personally agree with an item or three on this list, the whole thing adds up to something unprecedented for an American candidate for president. Donald Trump considers America at odds with virtually the entire world. He's based his entire campaign on this. At various times he's mentioned China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, and the entire Pacific Rim. But never Russia. On the contrary, his list of positions toward Russia is basically Vladimir Putin's dream foreign policy. For a guy suffering under crippling sanctions, a tanking economy, low oil prices, and a demographic time bomb, Donald Trump is offering him everything he could possibly want. And what does Trump want in return? For Russia—and only for Russia—he wants nothing.

As much as I loathe Putin, I'm not among those who now think Mitt Romney was right when he listed Russia as our #1 geopolitical threat. Conservative fearmongering on the subject leaves me cold. Nonetheless, this list is not a coincidence. There's something behind the scenes guiding it. But what?

Donald Trump reaches out to his buddy Vladimir Putin for help:

Just another day in Trumpland.

A trio of researchers set out to measure the support for ISIS in five Arab states:

The findings were stark: not many Arabs sympathize with the Islamic State. The percent agreeing with the Islamic State’s goals range from 0.4 percent in Jordan to 6.4 percent in the Palestinian territories. The percent agreeing with the Islamic State’s use of violence range from 0.4 percent in Morocco to 5.4 percent in the Palestinian territories. The percent agreeing that the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with Islam range from 1.0 percent in Jordan to 8.9 percent n the Palestinian territories.

That's surprisingly—and gratifyingly—low. Good news.

Does Russian Money Keep Donald Trump Afloat?

The president speaks:

Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin might prefer Republican nominee Donald Trump over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, because the business magnate has “repeatedly expressed admiration” for the Russian leader in the past.

“I am basing this on what Mr. Trump himself has said,” the president said. “And I think that — Trump's gotten pretty favorable coverage — back in Russia.”

The president’s comments add considerable heft to mounting evidence that Russian hackers were behind the DNC hack. Obama said that the FBI is still investigating the origin of the hack, but he acknowledged that “experts have attributed this to the Russians.”

It's one thing when a campaign manager or some campaign surrogates say that Vladimir Putin is working to help elect Trump. It's quite another when the president says it. That automatically makes it news. And Trump himself is making things worse. Asked by Newsweek, "Do you, or any of your business units have outstanding loans with Russian banks or individuals?” his spox said "Mr. Trump does not have any business dealings in/with Russia." Then Trump tweeted this:

The evasiveness of this answer is pretty obvious. Nobody cares all that much if Trump has business in Russia, they care whether Russian money funds his business here—which might explain why he's so friendly to Russian interests. He has very carefully avoided answering that question. That's a bad sign since he would normally just lie about it. He must know that evidence of his reliance on Russian money is out there.

Trump's tax returns would tell us the answer, of course, but Trump has declined to release them, unlike every other presidential candidate of the past few decades. Maybe now we know why.

On Sunday, Chuck Todd asked Donald Trump about former KKK grand wizard and famous white nationalist David Duke:

"Depending on who the Democrat is" doesn't seem like a very strong repudiation of Duke, does it? Apparently Trump is still playing footsie with the racists. On Tuesday, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman asked about Trump's reply to Todd:

And here is longtime Republican policy wonk Avik Roy:

“Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,” Roy says. “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.

....He expands on this idea: “It’s a common observation on the left, but it’s an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn’t true — which is that conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”

Trump’s politics of aggrieved white nationalism — labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists — succeeded because the party’s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights. “[Trump] tapped into something that was latent in the Republican Party and conservative movement — but a lot of people in the conservative movement didn’t notice,” Roy concludes, glumly.

The problem for Republicans is simple to describe: it's not that their leaders are racist, but that they've long tolerated racism in their ranks. They know this perfectly well, and they know that they have to broaden their appeal beyond just whites. But they're stuck. If they do that—say, by supporting comprehensive immigration reform or easing up on opposition to affirmative action—their white base goes ballistic. In the end, they never make the base-broadening moves that they all know they have to make eventually.

For Democrats, the problem is the mirror image. Bashing Donald Trump and his supporters for their white nationalism helps with their base, but it's the worst possible way to attract working-class whites who might be attracted to traditional Democratic economic messages. Once you say the word "racism," the conversation is over. Potentially persuadable voters won't hear another word you say.

As long as this remains the case, Democrats will routinely win the presidency because their non-white base is growing every year. But Republicans will routinely win the House—and sometimes the Senate—because way more than half of all congressional districts are majority white. Result: endless gridlock.

I wish I knew the answer.

Here's a fascinating comparison of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections via Stuart Stevens. I'm not sure what the source is—someone's PowerPoint presentation, perhaps—but I assume the data was transcribed correctly. Here it is:

This is based on one poll, and it's pre-convention. Still, it sure explodes a lot of myths about Donald Trump. He's doing worse among white men than Mitt Romney and much worse among white women. He's doing slightly better among the middle-aged, but far worse among the elderly. And he's doing better among blacks.

On the non-surprising front, he's doing far worse among Latinos. Obama won them by 44 percent, while Clinton is winning them by 62 points. I wonder why?

This doesn't show how Trump is doing specifically among blue-collar white men (those with no more than a high school diploma), but I wonder if he's really as popular among this demographic as everyone thinks? Or, in the end, is he just going to perform in a pretty standard Republican way, but just a bit worse?

We Need Smarter Bears

Over at John Cole's place, everyone is watching the Katmai Park live bearcam. So I watched too, and it's clear that Katmai Park needs a smarter breed of bear. I watched for a few minutes, and during that time I saw a couple of dozen salmon leap up the falls in the foreground while the adorable young bear just stood around in one spot oblivious to the fact that all the fish were elsewhere, laughing at him. I feel certain this is a metaphor for something, but I can't quite think of what. Help me out.

UPDATE: Victory! (For the bear, anyway. Not so much for the salmon. But I'm rooting for my fellow mammal.) This must be a metaphor for yet something else. Perhaps that bears know more about being bears than I do? It may have taken a while to snatch breakfast from the jaws of defalls, but then again, what does a bear have besides time? It's not as if he needs to finish up fast so he can get back to Judge Judy.

Democrats Are Running an ISIS-Free Convention

Jim Geraghty reviews the Democratic convention:

In the past eleven days, we’ve seen five terrorist attacks in Europe: a truck attack in Nice, a suicide bomber in Ansbach, an attack with an axe on a train in Wuerzburg, a machete attack in Reutlingen, and a priest’s throat slit in Rouen, France.

Not one speaker addressed ISIS or Islamist terrorism last night. Democrats formulate their governing plans in a happier, peaceful, imaginary world.

It is a little odd. Obviously Democrats aren't going to go down the apocalyptic path that Republicans did, but destroying ISIS really would make the world a better place. You'd think someone might mention this. And yet, when Scott Pelley asked Hillary Clinton on Sunday what she most wanted to accomplish as president, she said this:

Well, I care most about getting the economy working for everybody.... rebuilding the ladders of opportunity....education....health care....race and discrimination....immigration reform....gun safety.

During this whole laundry list, I was talking to the TV: "Say ISIS. Say ISIS. Say ISIS." But she never did. And to my surprise, nobody commented on this the next day, not even conservatives (at least, none of the ones I read). Eventually, though, it's going to become a little too obvious if no speaker ever says anything about it. Maybe Bill Clinton will mention it tonight. Or one of the military folks on Wednesday or Thursday. Somebody should.

Party Unity Finally Comes to the Democrats

This is annoying. I feel like I ought to have something to say about tonight's festivities, but I don't, really. The A-listers (Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders) all gave good speeches. Bernie held nothing back, giving a full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton that showed him in his best light. Earlier in the day there had been some booing when Hillary's name was mentioned, but it seemed to die out as the night wore on, and in the prime time hour that was all most people saw, it was pretty much all sweetness and light. If the object was to show off a united Democratic Party to the nation, I'd say that Team Hillary did it.

On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump was doing his usual: doubling down on whatever he's been criticized about recently. In this case it was NATO: "We have to walk," Trump said. "Within two days they're calling back!...They will pay us if the right person asks. That’s the way it works, folks." Republicans were almost universally appalled. During the Democratic speeches, Trump spent his time tweeting out his usual juvenile zingers. There's no point in highlighting them, though. It was just the workaday Trumpiness that I suspect even his fans are starting to get bored of by now.

And...that's about it. Party unity proceeds apace among Democrats, while puerile insults continue apace in Trumpland. Tune in again tomorrow.

Speaking of Republicans and Hillary Derangement Syndrome....

Jonah Goldberg writes today that the conventional wisdom about the DNC email leak is that Russia engineered it in order to help Donald Trump, its preferred candidate:

But there’s another theory with wide currency out there. It’s most articulate and forceful subscriber is Hugh Hewitt. Because Hillary’s private server was almost certainly hacked by the Russians, we should assume that they know literally everything Hillary has sent or received over it. Most intelligence and cyber security types seem to agree. Hence, Hugh argues, Hillary is “compromised.” They have leverage over her.

So far, I’m pretty much with Hugh. But here’s what I don’t get. If the Russians have so much leverage over Clinton, why don’t they want her to be president? This morning, Hugh dangled a theory that the Russians were yanking her leash by showing they have the goods on her. They saved the server emails for later (or for blackmail), but released the DNC emails to brush her back, or something.

This is lunacy. For starters, keep in mind that there's no actual evidence that anyone hacked into Hillary's private server. Second, even if the Russians did hack her server, they only "have something" on Hillary if she actually did something. Both Hewitt and Goldberg seem to think it's so obvious that Hillary is up to her armpits in corruption that they don't even have to make an argument for this. Of course she's concealing mountains of double dealing on her server. And the Russians are keeping all this secret so they have leverage over President Hillary when the time comes.

This is, of course, nuts. It's nuts to so blithely assume Hillary's corruption. It's nuts to think the Russians would keep their intel secret instead of simply releasing what they have and ruining her chances of winning. It's nuts to think that Hillary would even run for president if she knew she had some kind of huge bombshell that was likely to blow up on her.

It would be one thing if this came out of the fever swamps. And I know my readers will all tell me that Hewitt and Goldberg are part of the fever swamp. But they're not. Whatever else you think of him, Goldberg isn't even all that extreme in his conservatism. Hewitt is, but he's also a smart guy who's relatively restrained by radio jock standards. They're both pretty mainstream conservatives.

But one of them is willing to make up a completely batshit argument, while the other says he's "with Hugh" and is only willing to concede that he doesn't think his case "is quite as compelling as he makes it sound." If these guys are wondering how Donald Trump captured their party, all they have to do is look in the mirror.