Donald Trump has proposed a trillion-dollar infrastructure spending program, and conservative voters seem to have no problem with this. Conservative elites purport to be puzzled. Why did tea partiers go nuts over Obama's stimulus, but seem fine with Trump's? That is indeed a chin scratcher, isn't it? Jonathan Chait wastes some gray cells pondering this:

The entire Republican Party treated Obama’s stimulus as a threat to the Republic, yet has said nothing as Trump has embraced a proposal with equally objectionable features....Unlike the conservatives baffled at the voters’ acceptance of their nominee’s heresies, I do have an explanation.

....Conservatives did not believe that fiscal stimulus can’t help a depressed economy until Obama took office. When the economy showed signs of sputtering in early 2008, Congress passed a fiscal stimulus by overwhelming margins....With the economy in utter collapse a year later, the economic case for stimulus had grown exponentially stronger — in fact, if there was only one time over the last three-quarters of a century when a Keynesian remedy was needed, early 2009 was it. But at this moment, Republican support for Keynesianism collapsed. Likewise, Mitt Romney ran for president in 2008 advocating what became Obamacare — regulated exchanges with subsidies and an individual mandate — and faced hardly any blowback from his base. John McCain ran as an advocate of cap and trade. But once Obama embraced those ideas, the entire party, including Romney and McCain, turned against them.

....The truth is that the freaked-out Republicans in America, watching Fox News in their Barcaloungers, were not animated by newfound appreciation for Rand and Hayek. As careful studies of the tea-party movement revealed, what animated Republican voters was a fear of cultural change. Their anti-statism was confined to programs that seemed to benefit people other than themselves. Racial resentment and ethnocentrism, not passion for limited government, drove the conservative base.

Actually, I'd give the tea party a break on the racial resentment front here. I don't doubt that was a factor, but the truth is that Republican support for deficit hawkery follows a pretty simple pattern: they don't care about it when a Republican is president, but it becomes their #1 issue whenever a Democrat is president. It's basically just an excuse to oppose liberal spending priorities, and not much more. Their actual dedication to balanced budgets has been pretty close to zero ever since the late 70s.

Their conversion in 2009 was, perhaps, a bit more amusing than usual, though. Instead of just making the switch, tea partiers declared, with heavy hearts, that George W. Bush had been a heretic on the deficit, but they had only just figured this out on January 20, 2009. So Obama had to pay the price. Unfortunate, perhaps, but what can you do?

Donald Trump Roundup For Wednesday Evening

I had to take a quick trip to Procyon 5 this afternoon and my ansible broke down. So I'm out of touch. What's been going on? I see that Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson has admitted that Obama wasn't responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan in 2004:

Given the opportunity to apologize the next morning on the same network, Pierson said grudgingly, “apologize for the timeline,” before launching into another full-throated defense of Trump.

Now we're talking! Maybe this means the Trump team is finally making its long-awaited pivot to a more restrained general election posture. What do you think about that, Joe Scarborough?

During a conversation with former CIA director Michael Hayden, Scarborough said a “foreign policy expert on the international level” advised Trump several months ago and the Republican nominee for president asked questions about nuclear weapons that might terrify you.

“Three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. At one point, ‘If we have them, why can’t we use them?’,” Scarborough said that Trump had inquired. “Three times in an hour briefing, ‘Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?’”

That's...not so good. But it was "several months ago." Let's not hold it against Trump. How are other Republicans reacting to all this?

Oh dear. Well, at least Trump still has Newt Gingrich. I mean, the guy defended Trump even when he said he might not defend a NATO ally against a Russian attack. That's a true friend. What do you have to say, Newt?

"Trump is helping [Hillary Clinton] to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is....Anybody who is horrified by Hillary should hope that Trump will take a deep breath and learn some new skills,” he said. “He cannot win the presidency operating the way he is now. She can’t be bad enough to elect him if he’s determined to make this many mistakes.

Anyone else want to weigh in?

Ed Rollins, a co-chairman of a super PAC backing Donald Trump, thinks that Trump is watching too much TV, and that he needs something akin to horse blinders, because he gets too caught up in attacking his opponents.

“I think one of Donald Trump’s singular difficulties with this campaign is that he sits and watches TV all day long and feels he has to react to every single thing that’s said against him,” Rollins said today on Kilmeade and Friends when asked how he thought Trump was handling criticism leveled at him by Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a slain Muslim American soldier.

This all prompted a lot of chatter about "interventions" earlier today. Supposedly a team of Gingrich, Reince Priebus, and Rudy Giuliani was going to make a pilgrimage to Trump Tower and beg Trump to clean up his act. (Chris Christie wasn't on the team because he's still nursing a grudge over not being chosen for vice president.) But that never materialized. For now, the operative strategy remains, "Let Trump be Trump."

In the meantime, the Daily Beast reports that the Trump campaign really did intervene to soften the Republican Party platform on the subject of Ukraine:

Top Trump aide Paul Manafort swore that the campaign had nothing to do with a radical change in the official Republican Party position on Ukraine. He was lying.

Manafort said on NBC’s Meet the Press this past weekend that the change in language on Ukraine “absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign.” But this account is contradicted by four sources in the room, both for and against the language.

....Meanwhile, records for the meeting seem to have disappeared. A co-chair for the national security platform subcommittee told The Daily Beast that the minutes for the meeting have been discarded. The Republican National Committee had no comment when asked whether this was standard procedure for all the subcommittees.

Funny thing. Trump used to be pretty hawkish about Ukraine, as you'd expect. But that changed a few months ago. Why?

While the reason for his shift is not clear, Trump's more conciliatory words — which contradict his own party's official platform — follow his recent association with several people sympathetic to Russian influence in Ukraine. They include his campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has worked for Ukraine's deposed pro-Russian president, his foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and the former secretary of state and national security adviser Henry Kissinger.

So Manafort not only lied about this, but he was probably the guy directly responsible for softening the Ukraine plank in the first place. But what about this Carter Page guy? What's he all about?

“Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption, and regime change,” Page said last month during a commencement speech at a Moscow economics graduate school.

....Page also suggested the United States should ease economic sanctions imposed on Russia following its 2014 incursion into Ukraine and Crimea, which was condemned in an overwhelming vote in the United Nations. In exchange for sanctions relief, Page said, American companies might be invited to partner with Russian firms to exploit Russia’s oil and gas fields.

Page has close ties to Gazprom, so I suppose he's pretty annoyed with the US sanctions on Russian oil and gas. And we all know how loyal Trump is to his friends, so he probably figures he should help out a pal by easing up on Russia. Plus Putin is a helluva guy anyway, amirite?

On another subject, I've gotten several questions about why I'm not doing a Hillary Clinton roundup each day. It's because she's not doing much. As near as I can tell, she's decided that if her opponent wants to douse himself in gasoline and light himself on fire, she should lie low and give him as much air time as he wants. You see, contrary to popular opinion, it turns out that all press is not good press. Just ask Charlie Sheen.

In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama blasted the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision. It would, he said, open the floodgates for special interests to spend vast amount on our elections, "including foreign corporations." Justice Samuel Alito was outraged, mouthing "not true" while Obama spoke.

By chance, I was chatting about Citizens United and Alito last night. This morning, the Intercept has this:

A corporation owned by a Chinese couple made a major donation to Jeb Bush’s Super PAC Right to Rise USA — and it did so after receiving detailed advice from Charlie Spies, arguably the most important Republican campaign finance lawyer in American politics.

....Spies presented his advice in a memo, obtained by The Intercept, which he prepared for Right to Rise USA, where he served as treasurer and general counsel. “We conclude,” he wrote, “that a domestic subsidiary corporation may now directly contribute to a Super PAC in connection with a federal election.

For campaign finance experts, Spies’s roadmap provides compelling evidence of a phenomenon many already suspected was well-entrenched. “Spies’s memo is an explicit how-to guide for foreign nationals to get money into U.S. elections through U.S.-based corporations that they own,” said Paul S. Ryan, deputy director of the campaign finance watchdog organization Campaign Legal Center. “It shows that although Obama was attacked in public for misleading Americans about Citizens United, in private people like Spies and others like him seemingly realized that Obama was right and set to work making his prediction a reality.”

There are still some hoops that rich foreigners have to jump through before they can donate to their favored candidate, but they're not too onerous for anyone who's serious. And as the authors note, money is fungible. Even if it technically comes out of the earnings of the US subsidiary, in the end it comes out of the pockets of its Chinese owners. Welcome to the brave new world the Supreme Court has given us.

The Sad But Lucrative End of Jet.com

This is from the Wall Street Journal:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is in talks to buy online discount retailer Jet.com Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in what would mark a disappointing end for one of the most ambitious challengers to Amazon.com Inc.

....It isn’t clear how much Wal-Mart would pay, but a person familiar with the matter said Jet could be valued at up to $3 billion in private markets. Jet, barely a year old, has drawn more than $500 million in capital from the likes of venture firms New Enterprise Associates and Accel Partners.

Let me get this straight. Jet is one year old. Venture funds have invested "more than" $500 million (actually around $800 million). They will sell themselves to Walmart for about $3 billion. And this is a "disappointing end."

I get it: they wanted to take over the world and they didn't. That's disappointing. At the same time, it appears that investors are going to quadruple their money in 12 months, give or take. And the founders are going to do even better. If they own, say, 20 percent of the company, they'll walk away with $600 million for a year's work.

Can I please sign up for a slice of this disappointment?

Mark Manson agrees that by all objective measures, the country is in pretty good shape these days. So is the rest of the world. And yet:

Like you, like seemingly everybody, I have also felt as though the world is spinning out of control and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m exhausted from all the stories of shootings and attacks and bombs and the constant stream of awful stuff that is happening out there. I, too, feel desensitized and dejected from the seemingly constant carnage raging across the planet. And because this feeling is new and unique to me, my first assumption is that the world must be more fucked than it’s ever been before. After all, I never felt this way 10 years ago or 20 years ago. So things must be worse, right?

This is via Tyler Cowen, who says Manson's explanation for this feeling is "not my view." However, it is my view. Or at least partly my view, anyway. Manson concludes that things aren't worse, but we're now so overexposed to the worst parts of society that it's hard to believe it:

Cameras, the internet, and most importantly, social media. This is what’s new....In the attention economy, people are rewarded for extremism. They are rewarded for indulging their worst biases and stoking other people’s worst fears. They are rewarded for portraying the world as a place that is burning to the ground, whether it’s because of gay marriage, or police violence, or Islamic terrorism, or low interest rates. The internet has generated a platform where apocalyptic beliefs are celebrated and spread, and moderation and reason is something that becomes too arduous and boring to stand.

And this constant awareness of every fault and flaw of our humanity, combined with an inundation of doomsayers and narcissistic nihilists commanding our attention space, is what is causing this constant feeling of a chaotic and insecure world that doesn’t actually exist.

....Outrageous news and information spread faster and further than any other form of information, dominating our daily attention. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, we become aware of some of the grossest injustices in our society as soon as they happen. On the other hand, all we hear about are the grossest injustices in our society as soon as they happen.

....This is our brave new world. When all information is freely available at the click of a mouse, our attention naturally nosedives in the sickest and most grotesque we can find....When we are exposed to police, we only see the worst 0.1% of police. When we are exposed to poor African Americans, we’re only exposed to the worst 0.1% of poor African Americans. When we’re exposed to Muslim immigrants, we only hear about the worst 0.1% of Muslim immigrants.

I think there's a lot to this. I doubt that police killings of unarmed black men has gone up. In fact, it's probably gone down. But now we know about it whenever it happens. Politics has always been divisive, but in the past we didn't have full-color cable channels dedicated 24/7 to rubbing our noses in it. Minor outrages happened in communities all over the country, and most of them we never heard of. But in today's outrage-driven social media, every ignorant school board decision, every college kid who sends a dumb tweet, every city council member who emails a racist photo of President Obama—all of them become national news. This doesn't mean that school boards, college kids, and city council members are any worse than ever. It's just that we're more exposed to it now.

This is hardly an all-embracing explanation of why we feel so chaotic and insecure. In fact, my guess is that the main explanation is that we don't really feel more chaotic and insecure. We've just forgotten about how we felt in the past. Still, there's something to this, and I agree that simple exposure to things that were formerly ignored has made the world seem worse. This is especially the case when interest groups insist on gathering up all these minor outrages on a weekly or monthly basis and blasting them out to their members. It's how gun owners can think that gun rights are under assault and foodies can think that everything we put into our bodies is poisonous. Neither is true, but if you're force fed a diet of small outrages constantly, it's hard to disagree.

So what's the answer? I don't know, and it's hardly unique to social media. I've long been convinced, for example, that local news is responsible for our often absurd fear of crime. It's been dropping steadily for 20 years, but it still leads the local news nearly every day. How would anyone know that America is safer than it's ever been?

My hope is that, like everything, we'll eventually get bored with outrage. Or at least with the social media version of outrage. It's a wan hope, perhaps, but in the meantime you can always read my blog.

I showed great self-restraint yesterday by not posting the latest poll numbers, but today is Wednesday, which is officially the middle of the week. So here's the latest from Pollster, based entirely on post-convention polls:

Hillary Clinton's convention bounce will almost certainly fade a bit by next week, but even if it does she'll remain 4 to 5 points ahead of Trump. This is roughly the same as her lead before the conventions, which suggests that this year's four-day infomercials probably had no net effect at all.

It's going to be hard to tell, though. If Hillary's bounce persists, will it be because of a better convention, or because Trump appears to be melting down before our eyes this week? So many questions…

Donald Trump Roundup For Tuesday Evening

I just got back from dinner. I wonder if there's any breaking Donald Trump news? Well, now, let's just—oh my:

Jesus Christ. The Trumpsters are still going after the Khans? Does anyone else have anything to say about the death of Captain Khan in Iraq?

“It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagement that probably cost his life,” spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said in an interview Tuesday with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. Khan died during the presidency of George W. Bush, while Obama was a state senator in Illinois.

Did any other other Trump surrogates melt down today? How about that Corey guy that CNN hired, the one who assaulted a reporter. Has he said any—oh God, no. Not that:

And how about Trump himself? How did he do in his Washington Post interview today? It sounds like he was a little distracted:

[Trump looks at a nearby television, which was tuned to Fox News.]

[Trump looks up at the television]

[Trump watches himself on TV]

[Looks at the television again] Look at this. It’s all Trump all day long.

[Trump looks at the TV.]

That's our Donald. Aside from checking himself out on TV, though, he also made time to tell the world that he wouldn't endorse Paul Ryan, John McCain, or Kelly Ayotte in their primary races. What do other Republicans think about this? How about you, Reince Priebus? You're the head of the Republican National Committee. Any thoughts about Trump declining to support the Republican Speaker of the House?

Anyone else?

Meg Whitman joins chorus of Republicans supporting Hillary Clinton

Meg Whitman, the Hewlett-Packard chief executive who ran unsuccessfully for governor of California in 2010, will back Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, joining other prominent Republicans troubled by Donald Trump's candidacy.

....Sally Bradshaw, an influential GOP strategist in Florida who advised former Gov. Jeb Bush during his primary campaign, announced Monday that she would leave the party. A day later, Maria Comella, a top former advisor to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also called Trump a demagogue and signaled her support for Clinton.

And that's a wrap for Tuesday. See you in the morning.

Donald Trump Is Now Attacking His Own Party

The latest from Trumpville:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is refusing to back House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in his upcoming primary election, saying in an interview Tuesday that he is "not quite there yet" in endorsing his party's top-ranking elected official.

Trump also said he was not supporting Sen. John McCain in his primary in Arizona, and he singled out Sen. Kelly Ayotte as a weak and disloyal leader in New Hampshire, a state whose presidential primary Trump won handily.

I get tired of trying to figure out new ways of expressing bewilderment/confusion/amazement/etc. at the latest outburst from Donald Trump. You probably get tired of reading it. But seriously: WTF is this all about?

In one sense, it's just normal Trump. His MO is simple: If you attack me, I attack you. Period. Ryan, McCain, and Ayotte all condemned Trump's attacks on Khizr Khan, so now he's paying them back.

At the same time, this is so plainly self-defeating that it's bizarrely suicidal behavior even for Trump.1 He's way behind in the polls and sure can't afford to piss off his own party members. So what's going on? Here's one possibility: There's been an undercurrent of speculation recently that Trump has come to realize he's going to lose, so now he's setting things up to give himself an excuse. The establishment was against me. The voting was rigged. The media hated me. The debates were scheduled badly. The sun was in my eyes.

I didn't buy this when I first heard it, and I'm not sure I do now. But…I have to admit that it's beginning to sound more plausible all the time. If Trump loses, it's going to be a very big, very public loss, and he's not used to that kind of humiliation. He's used to being able to tap dance around his losses and pretend they don't exist—something he can get away with thanks to his ease with telling lies and the fact that his company is privately owned. But in an election, everything is out in the open. If he loses, he'll need some very public excuses for what happened. So maybe he really has given up and is now just creating a paper trail he can use to defend his likely big loss. Who knows? Maybe it's not even something he's doing consciously. Maybe it's just raw animal cunning at work.

1"Even for Trump" is now so commonly used that it needs an abbreviation. EFT is the obvious choice. Any other ideas?

Here's the latest grim news from Britain. GfK's consumer confidence index dropped by 11 points after the Brexit vote. According to GfK, this is the "sharpest month-by-month drop for more than 26 years."

And that's not all. In July, the Personal Financial Situation index dropped 7 points. The General Economic Situation index dropped 12 points. And the Major Purchase Index dropped 11 points. The likelihood of a major recession is now very high, and the worst victims are going to be the very people who were demagogued into voting Yes.

Brexit is going to go down in history as one of the dumbest own-goals ever.  It's unlikely to deliver on any of the promises of the EU-hating crowd, but it will almost certainly damage the British economy and hurt Britain's working class badly. Donald Trump fans, please take note. Just because someone is loud and politically incorrect doesn't mean he really has your best interests at heart.

The very first magazine article I ever wrote was on the topic of October Surprises. "The political chattering class and official Washington alike seem unable to resist speculating about October Surprises every four years," I wrote. Sadly, you never read those words because the article ended up getting spiked.

Still, ever since then I've looked forward to the beginning of October Surprise season, which usually kicks off in August. And right on schedule, Politico obliges me:

Get Ready for Obama’s ‘October Surprise’ in Iraq

The American public could be treated to a major U.S.-led military victory in Iraq this fall, just as voters are deciding who will be the nation’s next president—but U.S. military officials insist the timing of the operation has nothing to do with politics.

Iraqi and Kurdish military and paramilitary units are preparing for a push on Mosul, the Islamic State-held city that is now in the cross hairs of the U.S.-led coalition battling the terrorist group across the Middle East. “The idea is to isolate Mosul, cut it off, kill it,” a senior U.S. Central Command officer told me.

....The ambitious plans for Mosul and Raqqa reflect a shift in tactics and deeper U.S. involvement that has not been fully reported in the U.S. media—or talked about in the presidential campaign. Most recently, Centcom has gained White House permission to deploy U.S. advisers with Iraqi units at the battalion level....The U.S. has been quick to flow advisers (an initial tranche of some 200 in all) into al-Qayyarah air base....Washington has also boldly stepped up its support of the Peshmerga, the veteran military units of the Kurdistan Regional Government who will lead the assault on Mosul from the north, despite the risk of upsetting the delicate regional politics.

A big victory over ISIS would indeed be a nice bump for Hillary Clinton, showing that the administration's slow-but-steady approach to destroying ISIS is bearing fruit. Of course, if it works, Donald Trump will no doubt take credit.

In any case, the rest of the Politico piece is actually kind of interesting, so it's worth reading. The big problem in Iraq has always been (a) the weakness of government forces and (b) the endless distrust between Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. For now, it looks like the US has brokered a fragile detente that will allow all three to work together to retake Mosul and Raqqa. But how long will this hold together? Maybe we'll find out in October.