Here is what the chattering classes are chattering about today:

Top advisers to President-elect Donald Trump escalated their attacks on Mitt Romney on Sunday, catapulting their long-simmering frustrations onto cable news in an extraordinary public airing of grievances.

In a series of interviews on the Sunday political talk shows, Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump aide, argued firmly against tapping Romney for secretary of state...“I’m all for party unity, but I’m not sure that we have to pay for that with the secretary of state position,” Conway said in an interview with CNN. “We don’t even know if Mitt Romney voted for Donald Trump.”

....Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich...“I think there’s nothing that Mitt Romney can say that doesn’t sound phony and frankly pathetic...I think we would be enormously disappointed if he brought Mitt Romney into any position of authority.”

This is pretty remarkable. Presidential staffs always have plenty of infighting, and often that infighting becomes public via anonymous leaks. But I can't recall a transition team that literally went public in its bashing of a potential cabinet pick. So what's going on?

  1. Conway and Gingrich want to influence Trump, and they know the only real way to get his attention is via TV.
  2. This whole thing has been orchestrated by Trump as a way of publicly humiliating Romney.
  3. The Trump inner circle is truly an out-of-control freak show.

I dunno. In the meantime, Trump's cabinet-level appointees so far include a guy who created a platform for the alt-right; an ex-general with delusions of persecution; a deputy who thinks Hillary Clinton sent black helicopters after her; an attorney general who's basically opposed to all laws protecting minorities; a governor with no background for her job; a CIA director who supports more torture and more black sites; a billionaire who wants to destroy public education; and Reince Priebus.

Priebus is probably unqualified to be White House chief of staff, but that's about it. In Trump's world, that makes him a superstar.

I've written a post or two about the main reasons Hillary Clinton lost the election, and I always nod to the fact that there are other, smaller reasons too. One of these smaller reasons is that Clinton herself made mistakes, something that Harold Pollack noted a few days ago. So I asked him what he thought the campaign's three biggest miscues were. He wrote a long post about this, which you should read since it contains a lot of discussion and nuance. In normal bloggy fashion, however, I'm going to ignore all that. Instead, here are Pollack's answers, along with my comments:

Creating the email and speech problems, and being brittle and defensive about cleaning them up. No argument here. We both agree that these problems were wildly overblown by the press, but nonetheless they were problems that Clinton brought on herself. It's all part of her greatest character deficit: pushing rules to the boundaries and then being defensive and secretive about it when her actions come to light. The former is a bad habit, and the latter just makes the press even more ravenous than they'd ordinarily be. It's a toxic combination.

Final Polls on November 7

ABC/Post
NBC/WSJ
NBC/Survey Monkey
UPI/CVOTER
CBS/Times
IBD/TIPP
Fox
Monmouth
Bloomberg/Selzer

Clinton +4
Clinton +5
Clinton +7
Clinton +3
Clinton +4
Clinton +1
Clinton +4
Clinton +6
Clinton +3

Overconfidence and complacency across the political spectrum. In retrospect, this is obviously true. But even now, this hardly strikes me as a campaign problem per se. Clinton and her fellow Dems were confident because every poll showed them well ahead. I assume that all her internal polling showed the same thing. In the end, though, that polling was apparently off by about 3 points, and more than that in the famous trio of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. That's a big miss.

So what happened to the polls? Did Clinton's internal polling show her way ahead? If so, how did it fail so badly? That's what I'd like to know. I think anybody would have been overconfident if their polling showed them winning in a walk.

Signaling to older rural white voters that we didn’t want them, and indeed would leave them behind. This is hard to assess. There's no question that Democrats have steadily lost the support of the white working class over the past two decades. This is something that goes far beyond Hillary Clinton. But did the white working class leave because they thought Republicans were likely to bring their jobs back and make their lives better? That hardly seems likely, given that during this entire period Republicans have campaigned on a steady diet of corporate deregulation and tax cuts for the rich.

But if that's the case, we're back to optics and race—and Trump appealed explicitly to both. He loudly and persistently pretended to care about the white working class while offering nothing much that would actually affect them. And he was pretty plainly pro-white, which obviously appealed to at least some of them. Clinton's problem is that she isn't cynical enough to do the former and not loathsome enough to do the latter.

Could she still have done more? Of course. Politicians routinely use symbols to demonstrate respect for groups even if their platforms don't offer an awful lot of help at a concrete level. Clinton didn't do that, and it turned out to be a mistake. I can't bring myself to blame her too much for this, since it's all hindsight, but it was still a mistake—and an especially big one since she clearly failed to understand what was happening in three states that were so critical to her that they were called the "blue firewall."

Charles Krauthammer is excited that Mitt Romney and Rudy Giulani might not be the only men in the running for Secretary of State:

But I do think we should keep our eye on a third possibility....and that would be David Petraeus, who to the world represents America at its strongest and most decisive. He is the guy who saved the Iraq War, and is a man who has written and thought deeply about the new kind of warfare that we are involved in. And that, I think, would be a spectacular choice.

Krauthammer, of course, was part of the chorus claiming that Hillary Clinton had betrayed the republic as Secretary of State because she occasionally discussed the administration's drone program over unclassified email. The emails were all carefully worded; there weren't very many of them; everything in them had almost certainly been widely reported already; there's no evidence that anyone ever hacked them; and James Comey said clearly that it wasn't even a close call to determine that Clinton had done nothing illegal. Nonetheless, she had endangered the country and was obviously unfit to hold office.

But David Petraeus—that's a different story. Petraeus was head of the CIA; he got smitten by an attractive woman; he knowingly and deliberately passed along classified information to her; he tried to hide the email trail; and he was eventually convicted of mishandling classified information as part of a plea deal. For all I know, he may literally be unable to get a security clearance any longer.

But he would be a "spectacular" choice for Hillary Clinton's old job. Good God.

POSTSCRIPT: Of course, Krauthammer was also one of the conservatives who embraced the conspiracy theory that Obama used Petraeus's affair to blackmail Petraeus into giving favorable testimony on Benghazi. So who knows what really goes through that head of his.

Bernie Sanders has taken some heat recently for his remarks to a woman who said she hoped to someday become the second Latina senator and asked him for some tips about getting into politics. His reply, essentially, was that being Latina wasn't enough. She also needed to "stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry." Nancy LeTourneau was pretty critical of Sanders' answer:

It is true that in order to end racism and sexism we have to begin by giving women and people of color a seat at the table. But that accomplishes very little unless/until we listen to them and find a way to work with them in coalition. To the extent that Sanders wants to avoid doing that in order to foster division within the Democratic Party, he is merely defending white male supremacy.

I’m not suggesting that the senator’s agenda is necessarily white male supremacy.

I was listening in on a listserv conversation the other day, and someone asked how and when it became fashionable to use the term "white supremacy" as a substitute for ordinary racism. Good question. I don't know the answer, but my guess is that it started with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who began using it frequently a little while ago. Anyone have a better idea?

For what it's worth, this is a terrible fad. With the exception of actual neo-Nazis and a few others, there isn't anyone in America who's trying to promote the idea that whites are inherently superior to blacks or Latinos. Conversely, there are loads of Americans who display signs of overt racism—or unconscious bias or racial insensitivity or resentment over loss of status—in varying degrees.

This isn't just pedantic. It matters. It's bad enough that liberals toss around charges of racism with more abandon than we should, but it's far worse if we start calling every sign of racial animus—big or small, accidental or deliberate—white supremacy. I can hardly imagine a better way of proving to the non-liberal community that we're all a bunch of out-of-touch nutbars who are going to label everyone and everything we don't like as racist.

Petty theft is not the same as robbing a bank. A lewd comment is not the same as rape. A possible lack of sensitivity is not a sign of latent support for apartheid. Bernie Sanders is not a white male supremacist.

Likewise, using a faddish term is not a sign of wokeness, no matter who started it. Let's keep calling out real racism whenever we need to, but let's save "white supremacy" for the people and institutions that really deserve it.1

1For example, there's the faction of the alt-right that really is dedicated to white supremacism. You can read all about them here, here, and here.

POSTSCRIPT: I may be wrong about this, but I gather that some people use "white supremacy" because they want to avoid the R word as too antagonistic. Needless to say, this is also a bad idea. If something is racist, call it racist. If it's not, don't call it that.

Spike Lee converses with Bernie Sanders in the Guardian today:

Lee: Were you ever offered the VP position, sir?

Sanders: No. Absolutely not.

Lee: Would you have taken it?

Sanders: Er. Probably, yes. But that’s again looking through the rear-view mirror.

Huh. I don't think I've ever heard Sanders say that before. Or has he? In any case, can you imagine what the office of VP would be like after eight years of Biden and then eight years of Sanders?

More seriously, I wonder what kind of ticket that would have been? The upsides are obvious, but there are downsides too. I'm not sure what the ultimate effect would have been.

BTW, in the same interview Sanders agrees with Lee that "it would be hard to suggest that the people of this country were enthusiastic about the Clinton campaign." He's getting a lot of crap for this on social media, but come on. My issues with Sanders are on the record, but it's hard to deny that someone with unfavorables in the mid-50s didn't generate a ton of enthusiasm. This wasn't all Clinton's fault, but it is what it is.

Ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump:

As many Americans are trying to figure out what kind of president they have just elected, the people of Balmedie, a small village outside the once oil-rich city of Aberdeen, say they have a pretty good idea....They say they watched him win public support for his golf course with grand promises, then watched him break them one by one.

A promised $1.25 billion investment has shrunk to what his opponents say is at most $50 million. Six thousand jobs have dwindled to 95. Two golf courses to one. An eight-story, 450-room luxury hotel never materialized, nor did 950 time-share apartments. Instead, an existing manor house was converted into a 16-room boutique hotel. Trump International Golf Links, which opened in 2012, lost $1.36 million last year, according to public accounts....Alex Salmond, a former first minister of Scotland whose government granted Mr. Trump planning permission in 2008, overruling local officials, now concedes the point, saying, “Balmedie got 10 cents on the dollar.”

Sarah Malone, who came to Mr. Trump’s attention after winning a local beauty pageant and is now a vice president of Trump International, disputed some of the figures publicly discussed about the project, saying that Mr. Trump invested about $125 million and that the golf course now employed 150 people.

Of course Malone got her job by winning a beauty pageant. If you're a woman, this is one of the few proven ways to get Trump's attention.

On the other hand, Trump did build a wall. It was built primarily as revenge against a few folks who refused to sell him some land he wanted, but still. A wall's a wall. If the anti-immigration crowd can just figure out someone for Trump to get really mad at, they might get their wall too.

Hilbert has decided to adopt a life of the mind. In his new, more scholarly persona, he will be enriching his retirement years1 with the finest books ever written. As you can see, he has decided to start with Z and work backwards.

1Cat retirement starts at age three.

Are Republicans really going to start off the 115th Congress by mucking around with Medicare?

For nearly six years, Speaker Paul D. Ryan has championed the new approach, denounced by Democrats as “voucherizing” Medicare. Representative Tom Price of Georgia, the House Budget Committee chairman and a leading candidate to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of health and human services, has also embraced the idea, known as premium support.

....Democrats say that premium support would privatize Medicare, replacing the current government guarantee with skimpy vouchers — “coupon care for seniors.” The fear is that the healthiest seniors would choose private insurance, lured by offers of free health club memberships and other wellness programs, leaving traditional Medicare with sicker, more expensive patients and higher premiums.

....Republicans say their proposal would apply to future beneficiaries, not to those in or near retirement. But the mere possibility of big changes is causing trepidation among some older Americans.

....“I’m scared to death,” said [Charles] Drapeau, who has multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, and takes a drug that costs more than $10,000 a month. “We don’t know exactly how it will work, but just the fact that they are talking about messing with Medicare, it’s frightening to me.”

Just for the record, that drug is actually $10,500 every four weeks. So Mr. Drapeau should be 14 percent more scared to death than he already is.

But back to Medicare vouchers premium support. It's pretty plain that it would be worse for seniors than the current Medicare system. After all, if it were better, Ryan wouldn't feel like he has to exempt current Medicare recipients. But everyone currently on Medicare is keenly aware of how their benefits would be affected by Ryan's vouchers, and if they aren't, AARP will tell them in no uncertain terms. So they'll fight Ryan's cuts tooth and nail.

So why is Ryan doing this, anyway? I suppose because it's one of the few ways to open up a significant amount of budget room for his gigantic tax cuts. If you want big tax cuts, after all, you need big spending cuts too, and that means cutting big programs. Unfortunately for Ryan, there really aren't all that many big spending programs, especially once you take defense off the table. So he has little choice but to chop away at Medicare if those top marginal rates are going to come down.

And yet, why now? In one sense, I suppose doing it right at the start, when political capital is highest, makes sense. You do the hard stuff when you have the biggest majorities and everyone is eager for change. That's why Obama went after health care first. At the same time, this would be a huge, messy battle that would almost certainly be wildly unpopular. Medicare is probably even more beloved than Social Security, after all. A battle like this could easily up in an epic defeat, and wipe out whatever goodwill the new Congress has.

So it's a bit of a mystery. I don't think Ryan can win this battle unless he offers up a plan that doesn't really save much money. That's possible, of course: just take a look at the difference between Ryan 2011 and Ryan 2014. But if you don't save much money, what's the point?

I dunno. If it were me, I'd do the popular stuff first. Cut taxes, build the wall, repair some bridges, bomb the shit out of ISIS, etc. More to the point, if I were Donald Trump, that's what I'd do. Trump wants to be adored by the masses, not hated by them. Voucherizing Medicare is very definitely not the way to get there.

Happy Thanksgiving!

As always, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from our feline turkey dreamers. And a happy long weekend too.

Dana Priest tells us today about Donald Trump's new National Security Advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn:

A lot of reporters and other civilians found Mike, as everyone called him, refreshing. A plucky Irish Catholic kid from Rhode Island, he wasn’t impressed by rank. He told his junior officers to challenge him in briefings. “You’d hear them say, ‘Boss, that’s nuts,’ ” one former colleague said.

....The greatest accomplishment of Flynn’s military career was revolutionizing the way that the clandestine arm of the military, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), undertook the killing and capture of suspected terrorists and insurgents in war zones....[Stanley] McChrystal, who was appointed to run JSOC in 2003, brought Flynn in as his intelligence chief....He “boxed him in,” someone who had worked with both men told me last week, by encouraging Flynn to keep his outbursts in check and surrounding him with subordinates who would challenge the unsubstantiated theories he tended to indulge.

Sounds like a good guy who just needs a little direction. So, um, what happened?

In 2012, Flynn became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency....“He made a lot of changes,” one close observer of Flynn’s time at the D.I.A. told me. “Not in a strategic way—A to Z—but back and forth.”

Flynn also began to seek the Washington spotlight. But, without loyal junior officers at his side to vet his facts, he found even more trouble. His subordinates started a list of what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true....Flynn’s temper also flared. He berated people in front of colleagues.

....Flynn had been on the job just eighteen months when James Clapper told him he had to go....Flynn began saying that he had been fired because President Obama disagreed with his views on terrorism and wanted to hide the growth of ISIS. I haven’t found anyone yet who heard him say this while he was still in the military....As Flynn’s public comments became more and more shrill, McChrystal, Mullen, and others called Flynn to urge him to “tone it down,” a person familiar with each attempt told me. But Flynn had found a new boss, Trump, who enlisted him in the fight against the Republican and Democratic Party establishments.

Well, I guess it will all work out. Donald Trump will provide a firm hand at the—wait. What's this?

President-elect Donald Trump has received two classified intelligence briefings since his surprise election victory earlier this month....A team of intelligence analysts has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump in the two weeks since he won.

....Officials involved in the Trump transition team cautioned against assigning any significance to the briefing schedule that the president-elect has set so far, noting that he has been immersed in the work of forming his administration, and has made filling key national security posts his top priority. But others have interpreted Trump’s limited engagement with his briefing team as an additional sign of indifference from a president-elect who has no meaningful experience on national security issues.

So Trump thinks that his work schedule will lighten up after he actually becomes president? And then he'll have time to get up to speed on all the stuff he doesn't know? And rein in Flynn at the same time?

We are so screwed.