Tell Us How You Really Feel, Kevin

Here are three recent takes on Donald Trump. First, Jonathan Chait:

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking....Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Here's Matt Yglesias:

What Donald Trump said at Wednesday night’s Commander-in-Chief Forum on the aircraft carrier was shocking. He specifically defended Vladimir Putin as superior to Barack Obama, suggested women serving in the military should expect to be raped, hinted at a political purge of the officer corps, blatantly lied about his own past statements on Iraq and Libya, and called on the American military to commit war crimes.

....But this isn’t a media story. It’s a Trump story. And it’s about whether we, and the American public, are willing to stay shocked. We’re used to Trump’s lying and his nonsense because we’ve been hearing it for a long time. But it’s not normal.

And finally, for the win, here is Nancy LeTourneau:

Every now and then I have a “moment.” It tends to come when I realize that the Republican Party of the United States of American has nominated a guy to lead the most powerful nation on the planet who talks like this.

When those moments hit, I literally get speechless. I subsequently see headlines that talk about how the polls are narrowing or about pundits trying to suss out what a President Trump would REALLY do on immigration and imagine that I must have fallen into some worm hole in which an alternate reality exists simply to mock us.

This can’t really be happening, can it?

LeTourneau's reaction is precisely mine. Sure, I can churn out blog posts about Trump that are alternatively snarky, shocked, analytical, etc. And God knows, millions of words have been spilled trying to explain the guy. But on the occasions when I stop to really think about this election, my mind goes sort of fugue-like. My mental state is something like this:

What the fuck is going on? Donald Trump! Donald fucking Trump! He's a jackass reality TV star. He's goddamn clueless. For fuck's sake, this can't be happening. Can it? Fucking fuck. Why isn't anyone calling it out? It's like Alice in fucking Wonderland. How can we be doing this? Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

I guess you can see why I don't generally share these moments with you—though I shouldn't really call them moments. This internal narrative is pretty much in my head every time I write a post about Trump. I just suppress it in order to get some G-rated words onto the blog.

I have a feeling Nancy and I are far from alone in feeling this way. And it's a first. I obviously haven't been a fan of any of the GOP's recent presidential candidates, but I've never felt this way before. We are well and truly down the rabbit hole.

The Long-Awaited Trump Pivot Is Here

National Review editor Rich Lowry captures my deepest fear:

There was a lot of skepticism about Trump’s latest purported pivot when he made Kellyanne Conway his campaign manager last month, but he has indeed pivoted. He is always going to be the same guy with the same idiosyncratic cluster of views — e.g., taking Iraq’s oil — but his campaign has done much more to get him in settings where he isn’t shouting, and that can only help him. Mexico City, Detroit, the Virginia Beach vets forum, his national security speech are all examples of non-rally events where he is not red-faced and yelling. The rallies have to be very alluring to Trump — gatherings of thousands of people where he can have a hell of time providing the entertainment. But they reinforce what is worst about his image for the new voters he has to try to reach.

Trump's biggest liability is that he goes on TV constantly and acts like a crazy man. That appeals to some people, but it turns off a lot more. As long as he keeps doing this, the folks who don't want a crazy man in the White House will vote for someone else.

But a lot of voters have very short memories. It's always been true that if Trump can manage to act relatively sane for a mere few weeks, that would be plenty of time for a chunk of credulous voters, pundits, and hacks to decide that he's turned over a new leaf and wouldn't be a crazy man after all. So far—knock on wood—the remarkable thing is that Trump hasn't been able to do this for even a few days, let alone a few weeks. And yet, he still could.

The biggest flashpoint in Syria right now is the city of Aleppo, where rebels and regime forces have been fighting for years and have all but destroyed the city. Whichever side eventually wins has a decent chance of going on to win the Syrian civil war. But today, when asked a question about Aleppo, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson said he didn't know what Aleppo was. Oops.

Still, it could be worse:

Gary, you're forgiven.

Here is David Lauter in the LA Times this morning:

In this election season of discontent, a lot of voters are having trouble committing. Around 1 in 5 voters nationwide report themselves as undecided or flirting with third-party candidates, with the exact share depending on the poll and how the question is asked.

That’s far higher than in the past several elections, where fewer than 1 in 10 voters were still up in the air at this point, and reflects the distaste that large numbers of voters have for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump....“I’m just lost,” Joanna Gianforcaro, 26, said on a recent afternoon as she sat with her mother at a farmers market in Doylestown, Pa., a swing area in a potentially important battleground state.

Is this really true? Barely. If you compare apples to apples by using Pollster aggregates for both 2012 and 2016, you find that as of September 8, the undecided vote is 7.5 percent this year vs. 5.2 percent in 2012. This is not really a noteworthy difference, but it drives the framing for the rest of the story. Very strange. There's more than enough stuff to write about this election without having to resort to made-up stats like this.

Donald Trump Supported the Iraq War

Free of charge, I have a question for the next big-time journalist who interviews Donald Trump. Here it is:

Mr. Trump, you clearly supported the Iraq War. We have audio tape of it! In 2002 Howard Stern asked you if you were in favor of invading Iraq, and you said, "Yeah, I guess so." And yet for the past year you've repeatedly lied about this. Why?

You're welcome.

The latest CDC figures on the uninsured are out, and they've continued their downward trend since Obamacare was passed. The uninsured rate for those under age 65 clocked in at 10.0 percent,1 compared to a projection of 11 percent from the CBO back in 2012 (this was the projection published after the Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion optional but before the exchanges were up and running). This means that Obamacare has been consistently running ahead of projections for the past two years.

The numbers were down for all races and ethnicities and for all ages except for children in poverty. The number of people with private insurance was up from 61 percent in 2013 to 66 percent in the first quarter of 2016. Coverage through the Obamacare exchanges was up from 3.3 percent last quarter to 4.0 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

So we're still making progress, due partly to Obamacare and partly to the economic recovery. But we still have a ways to go.

1The uninsured rate for all ages was 8.6 percent.

Comey: Clinton Email Case Was Open and Shut

James Comey is pissed:

FBI Director James B. Comey said in a memo to the bureau’s employees that the decision not to charge Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state was “not a cliff-hanger” and, “despite all the chest beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case.

....Comey said in the memo that he was “okay if folks have a different view of the investigation (although I struggle to see how they actually could, especially when they didn’t do the investigation), or about the wisdom of announcing it as we did (although even with hindsight I think that was the best course).” But he said he had “no patience for suggestions that we conducted ourselves as anything but what we are — honest, competent, and independent.

“Those suggesting that we are ‘political’ or part of some ‘fix’ either don’t know us, or they are full of baloney (and maybe some of both),” he wrote.

The full memo is here.

The phrase "not even wrong" is a cliche by now. It was Wolfgang's Pauli's reaction to a physics paper he had been given to read, and it basically means that something is so far off point that it's entirely meaningless. It's like asking about 2+2 and answering "blue."

This is what Donald Trump sounded like tonight at the Commander-in-Chief Forum on NBC. It's hardly even possible to fact-check him. What have you done in your life to prepare for sending men and women to war? I have great judgment. Can we afford a president who pops off all the time with stuff he later regrets? After my visit to Mexico, some guy was forced to resign. Do you really believe you know more about ISIS than the generals? Obama has reduced the generals to rubble. After you crush ISIS, how will you make sure another terrorist group doesn't come back? I'd take the oil. How would you take the oil? I would just leave some guys behind where the oil is. How would you de-escalate tensions with Russia? Did you see that China didn't put out stairs for Air Force One last week? Do you really want to be complimented by a guy like Vladimir Putin? We're losing jobs like we're a bunch of babies. What are you doing to prepare for being president? I've been endorsed by 88 admirals and generals. How much time are you spending on this? A lot.

Meanwhile, host Matt Lauer spent a full third of his time with Hillary Clinton badgering her about emails. Welcome to Campaign 2016.

Today in Trumpisms

I know how pointless this can get, but I can't help myself. Here are the greatest hits from Donald Trump's recent interview with David Muir of ABC News. First off, when he met with the president of Mexico, did they discuss paying for the wall or not?

TRUMP: It was discussed that it wouldn't be discussed.

This is followed by Trump's usual bragging about how great he is ("I've been given A pluses for the job I did in Mexico") and how fabulously presidential he looked ("Mike called me and said, 'I've never seen anybody look so presidential'").

Next up, Muir tries desperately to get Trump to explain his immigration plan. We've already established that (a) he'll build a wall and Mexico will pay for it, (b) criminals will be tossed out on Day 1, and (c) anyone who wants citizenship will have to return home and apply through normal channels. But what about all the people who remain?

MUIR: In the last 24 hours, Rudy Giuliani said that Donald Trump would "find it very difficult to throw a family that's been here in the United States for 15 years with kids who are now American citizens out of this country. That that’s not the America that Donald Trump wants." So will some of these families be allowed to stay?

TRUMP: First of all he's 100 percent right. It’s very difficult. It’s a very difficult thing to do....Once we have a secure border...we're going to take a very good, strong, hard look at the people that remained.

....MUIR: When you take a good, strong hard look, does that mean some of those 11 million undocumented immigrants will be allowed to stay?

TRUMP: It could be.

....MUIR: If they want to be a citizen, they will have to go home?

TRUMP: If they want to be a citizen, they have to go home, get on line.

....MUIR: So when those families do ultimately go home, the ones who have no record, who are here, once you get the wall and the criminals out of here, as you say. Is it self-deportation?

TRUMP: No.

MUIR: Or will you deport them?

TRUMP: No.

MURI: How does it work?

TRUMP: They will— If they want to become a citizen, they'll go out and they’ll come back in through a process, but they have to get on line.

MUIR: But what is that called? I mean, most people call it—

TRUMP: They don't call it anything

MUIR: Will they have to go—

TRUMP: They don't call it anything, OK? They don't call it anything.

We don't call it anything! Capiche? There is no word or phrase or term or anything else in the English language that describes what Trump is going to do. (Although I suspect "nothing" is a pretty fair guess.)

Next up, will Trump name anyone he's sorry about offending? As he's said repeatedly before, he won't. But:

TRUMP: And now you see what's happening with Hillary. You see what’s going on with her emails. It's a disgrace. It's a disgusting situation where she pretends like she doesn't know. I mean, she had her emails — 33,000 emails — acid washed. The most sophisticated person never heard about acid washing. Acid washing is a very expensive process and that's to really get rid of them. Really, and these emails pertain to her wedding or her yoga classes?

Acid washing? Where did he dredge that up? Anyway, what he's talking about is deleting files and then overwriting the deleted sectors so that no data is left on the hard drive. In fact, this is so common that everyone within shouting distance of an IT shop knows about it, and so expensive that there are dozens of free utilities that do it.

That's it. Muir had a full hour with Trump and Mike Pence and basically got almost nothing of interest. He spent a full half of the interview on immigration, and while I appreciate his effort to pin down what happens to the illegal immigrants who just stay put, there wasn't much point to it since Trump has made his position clear before. Ditto for everything else. Unless I missed it, I don't think Muir asked Trump a single tough question, and not a single question that we don't already know the answer to. I managed to get a few pieces of snark out of it, but that's all.

Late Morning News Roundup

I'm experimenting with letting our cats outside, but only under tight supervision. That means I've been away from the computer for the past hour, so let's check up on what's happening. The biggest news, of course, is the introduction of the fabulous new iPhone 7:

Hell yes. What could be more courageous than making everyone buy a brand new set of Apple-branded headphones? But here's what I don't get: what if you want to listen to music at the same time you're charging your phone? I guess that doesn't happen too often, but it happens sometimes. Are you just screwed?

As a former marketing person, I'm truly in awe of the Apple marketing machine. The amount of press they're getting for this event is staggering, despite the fact that the iPhone 7 hardly has any new features, and the ones it does have were mostly leaked months ago. Interestingly, though, they're making some potentially significant changes to their camera, including a feature that (we're told) produces lovely bokeh effects. Bokeh is the fuzzy, out-of-focus background you get in professional pictures, and it's the bête noire of small digital cameras, which simply can't replicate it with tiny lenses and tiny sensors. Presumably Apple is creating simulated bokeh with software, the same way I can do it in Photoshop. However, for folks who just want to take pictures and don't want to dick around with Photoshop, this is a nice feature.

Next up is Benghazi!™

What does thin mean? It means that out of 30 "new" emails, all of them have already been released except one: "a flattering note sent by a veteran U.S. diplomat following her testimony on Benghazi before a Senate panel in January 2013." Quelle horreur! I await the true story of what this means from Andy McCarthy.

Trump is in the news too:

It is traditional in politics to promise more than you can deliver. But I have to give Trump credit for realizing the he could take this much farther than any politician ever has. He understands that you flatly don't need to bother with reality at all. Just promise everything and claim that it will all be easy, a total piece of cake once the government isn't staffed by morons. The voters will eat it up and the press will shrug. Who knew?

Finally, here is Hopper in the great outdoors:

Note the fake bokeh in the background. It's a pain in the ass to even get this much in Photoshop, and real bokeh is better. If Apple can automatically produce high-quality bokeh in the camera by using the raw image data, I think we can count on every other smartphone manufacturer following suit very quickly.