Donald Trump Crushed Ted Cruz Yet Again

The #NeverTrump folks just tried get a roll call vote on a set of rules changes, but they failed. Nine state delegations were in favor, but after a massive campaign of arm twisting and begging, three of them withdrew. That left only six, but seven were needed to force the vote.

Victory for Trump! Victory for Reince Priebus! We may now all pretend that the Republican Party is happily unified behind their standard bearer. Whew.

And what were the rules changes about? Apparently it was an effort to (a) unbind the delegates so they could vote for whoever they wanted, and (b) change the rules for 2020 to encourage closed primaries. This latter change would have benefited Ted Cruz—but only if you assume that Trump will lose to Hillary Clinton this year and 2020 will even have a primary race. Which apparently Cruz believes. But it's not exactly the message the RNC wants to beam out to millions of viewers, is it?

And now back to our regularly scheduled nobodies who are speaking in the afternoon session. You'll have to wait until this evening for any of the big names to appear. For example, Scott Baio, Rudy Giuliani, and Melania Trump. Bring 'em on!

UPDATE: Hmmm. I was wrong about the 2020 stuff. I guess the anti-Trump folks are hoping to get a vote on that later.

Tony Schwartz is the author of The Art of the Deal. That is to say, he's the guy who wrote the actual words that were then packaged as a Donald Trump book. He was paid well for this work: he got half the advance and continues to get half the royalties. Here's how that particular deal went down:

“If I were you,” Schwartz recalls telling [Trump], “I’d write a book called ‘The Art of the Deal.’ That’s something people would be interested in.”

“You’re right,” Trump agreed. “Do you want to write it?”

Schwartz thought it over for several weeks....Being a ghostwriter was hackwork. In the end, though, Schwartz had his price. He told Trump that if he would give him half the advance and half the book’s royalties he’d take the job.

Such terms are unusually generous for a ghostwriter. Trump, despite having a reputation as a tough negotiator, agreed on the spot.

This is pretty typical Trump. As near as I can tell, he's actually a lousy negotiator. There are exceptions here and there, but he routinely overpays for properties he wants and routinely ends up in litigation with the people he does deals with. That's not the sign of a great negotiator. It's the sign of someone who can't get the deal right the first time—and then goes to court in hopes that his partners will cave in because it's just not worth the money to fight him. This is also why Trump has a hard time getting loans these days and doesn't do many deals outside of licensing and branding.

But onward. It turns out that Schwartz never liked Trump much, and these days feels guilty for his part in selling him to the American public. He told his story to the New Yorker's Jane Mayer:

Schwartz thought that “The Art of the Deal” would be an easy project....For research, he planned to interview Trump on a series of Saturday mornings.... But the discussion was soon hobbled by what Schwartz regards as one of Trump’s most essential characteristics: “He has no attention span.”

....“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it.1 And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

....[So] he came up with another plan. He would propose eavesdropping on Trump’s life by following him around on the job and, more important, by listening in on his office phone calls....There was not a single call that Trump deemed too private for Schwartz to hear. “He loved the attention,” Schwartz recalls. “If he could have had three hundred thousand people listening in, he would have been even happier.”

This year, Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. “There isn’t,” Schwartz insists. “There is no private Trump.”

....He then tried to amplify the material he got from Trump by calling others involved in the deals. But their accounts often directly conflicted with Trump’s. “Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”...Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

....Rhetorically, Schwartz’s aim in “The Art of the Deal” was to present Trump as the hero of every chapter, but, after looking into some of his supposedly brilliant deals, Schwartz concluded that there were cases in which there was no way to make Trump look good. So he sidestepped unflattering incidents and details. “I didn’t consider it my job to investigate,” he says.

....As far as Schwartz could tell, Trump spent very little time with his family and had no close friends....“He’d like people when they were helpful, and turn on them when they weren’t. It wasn’t personal. He’s a transactional man—it was all about what you could do for him.”

Just the kind of guy you want in the Oval Office: a serial liar with no attention span who doesn't care about other people and has no interests other than his own self-glorification. Oh, and he's a mediocre dealmaker too. Sounds perfect.

1Maybe Schwartz just needs to be reading the right people?

Raw Data: The US Trade Deficit ex China ex Oil

This is apropos of nothing in particular. I was just curious what our trade deficit looked like without China and without oil. Answer: it's pretty much zero. I don't know if this really means much, but if I was curious, I figured other people might be curious too.

As I mentioned last night, Hillary Clinton really is significantly ahead of Donald Trump in the national polls. She's ahead by about four points, and that's a pretty normal winning margin in a presidential election with no incumbent running. In the New York Times, Nate Cohn says the same thing but with a lovely little graphic to make his point:

Her lead is smaller than it was last month....But she retains an advantage — perhaps by 4 percentage points nationwide, and a similar margin in the battleground states that are likely to award the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. This straightforward story can get lost in the headlines, which tend to give the most attention to the most surprising results — whether it’s a predicted Clinton landslide or a narrow lead for Mr. Trump in key states.

The truth is probably somewhere between those extremes. Pollsters aren’t joking about the “margin of error”: the inevitable random variance in polls that exists simply by chance. If Mrs. Clinton leads by 4 points, you should expect polls that show her with a big lead or locked in a tight race, with others clustered around the average. That’s more or less what we saw this past week.

As Cohn says, individual polls are likely to fall on a bell curve. I've recreated his chart below, with actual recent polls in blue. As you can see, it's all perfectly normal (pun intended).

Too Many Guns in Cleveland

The Republican convention starts today, and Cleveland police are unhappy about Ohio's open-carry law:

In light of the shooting and death of three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association asked for an emergency suspension of the state’s open-carry law for the duration of the Republican National Convention.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. [John] Kasich requesting assistance from him,” union president Stephen Loomis told CNN. “He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point.” Kasich denied the union’s request.

Unfortunately, everyone else does have to worry if it's constitutional. Perhaps Loomis should suggest that the Ohio legislature simply end the state's open-carry law entirely. If it's a bad idea when the Republican convention is in town, perhaps it's a bad idea a lot of other times too?

A few days ago I was griping about armchair generals who demand that we get "serious" about ISIS but don't have the guts to endorse the one thing that would truly do that: lots of American ground troops in Iraq and Syria. Tonight on 60 Minutes we got to watch Donald Trump peddle this flimflam:

This is pathetic. Trump acts like he's back in the Celebrity Apprentice boardroom playacting a tough guy for the cameras. He declares that he will get "unbelievable intelligence"; he will "get rid of ISIS big league"; and he will "wipe them out." But when Lesley Stahl repeatedly asks him about ground troops, he repeatedly says this isn't in the cards. Maybe NATO will do it. Maybe other Arab countries will do it. Maybe troops will magically appear from a genie's bottle. Even though Trump claims that we're at war and President Obama is too weak and stupid to get it, in the end he basically endorses what Obama is doing right now. Like all the other armchair generals, he doesn't have the backbone to risk taking an unpopular stand, even if it's the only thing that would actually make a significant difference.

And when he's done with this empty blather, what does Mike Pence say? "This is the kind of leadership America needs." Heaven help us.

I get asked frequently whether I'm worried about this election. Of course I am. It's a blot on our country that a man like Donald Trump has even won a major-party nomination, and it's possible he could even win the presidency. Who wouldn't be worried about that?

But am I especially worried because the national polls are within four or five points and sometimes even moving in Trump's direction? Nope. This is an election with no incumbent running. There have been six of these in the postwar era, and the average margin of victory is about 4 percentage points. That's just the way they go, and we shouldn't be surprised that this one is running about the same. The fact that Trump is even closer in some polls is also entirely normal. If he's truly four points behind, you'd expect a range of about 0-8 percentage points in different polls. And the fact that he's sometimes closer and sometimes farther behind is also normal. External events will affect these things. Put this all together, and you'd expect individual polls to range anywhere from Trump ahead by two points to behind by ten points.

And that's pretty much what we're seeing right now. Trump could win, and that's hardly cause for cheer. But he's been steadily behind Hillary Clinton by 4-6 points for the past month, and the fact that individual polls sometimes show the race closer is nothing to get extra jittery about. Ordinary jitters are quite enough.

Is Brexit Delayed Brexit Denied?

Hmmm....

Theresa May has indicated that Brexit could be delayed as she said she will not trigger the formal process for leaving the EU until there is an agreed “UK approach” backed by Scotland.

The Prime Minister on Friday travelled to Scotland to meet Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, and discuss plans for Britain’s Brexit negotiation....Ms Sturgeon has promised to explore every option to keep Scotland in the EU, and has repeatedly warned that if that is not possible as part of the UK, it is “highly likely” to lead to a second independence vote.

This sounds an awful lot like a way to ensure that Brexit never happens. Or am I missing something?

Did you miss Donald Trump's speech "announcing" Mike Pence as his running mate? No worries. The Twitter version is always more fun anyway:

UPDATE: Here's the whole thing in all its glory:

Friday Kitten Blogging - 15 July 2016

A friend of mine was visiting this week and got a new kitten while he was here. Why? Because the breeder happened to be nearby, so it was more convenient than making a special trip later just to pick her up. As a result, our house endured a kitten invasion for several days. She has no name yet, but she's a calico Siberian with all the exuberance of kittenhood—which means that most of the time she looked about like this:

However, she occasionally slowed down enough for my camera's shutter to catch a better view:

Isn't she adorable? Unfortunately, that view was not shared by everybody. We mostly kept her isolated in her own room, but we took her out to play periodically and occasionally she squirmed away, as kittens will. Here's her first—and only—meeting with Hilbert:

Poor Hilbert. He lasted about five seconds under her gimlet eye. Then he turned tail and ran under the bed. Courage is not his strong point.

Anyway, she's a tiny fluffball who is going to grow up into a great big fluffball. That's the way of Siberians. And I have a note for scientists: she currently weighs nothing. I suspect that her fur has antigrav properties, which someone should probably look into. Could be useful.