Donald Trump going to Mexico could have had a certain "Nixon goes to China" flavor about it, and he actually was getting some good reviews for crossing the very low bar of "not totally embarrassing himself or his country" -- at least for the first few hours. Then he went to Phoenix, and Mr. Hyde came back out.
Trump gave what was billed as a major speech on immigration, which turned out to be exactly what he'd been saying all along on the subject. The big difference? It was in (gasp!) a numbered list read off a TelePrompTer. As for the policies, there wasn't much difference at all from what he's been saying throughout the campaign so far.
Deportation force? Check! [Trump called it a "deportation task force" which was about the only real change.] Big, beautiful wall? Check! [It will now have magic tunnel sensors!] Mexico pays for the wall? Yep! ["They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for it."] Deportation for all? Oh, you bet! [Only change seems to be that some will have to wait a little longer to be deported.] Dreamer kids? Deport 'em all! Two million "criminal aliens" deported in the first hour he's in office? Count on it! Softening? Pivot? Nope! [Fooled ya again, suckers!]
No word on whether Trump enjoyed a taco bowl at any point during his big Mexico/immigration day. The fallout from his hardliner speech in Phoenix was swift, as several of the "Latino advisors" Trump had recently met with quit the effort in disgust and publicly renounced their support for Trump's campaign. So, it looks like that whole minority outreach thing is going swimmingly, folks!
Tomorrow, Trump is apparently planning the same sort of minority outreach to African-Americans. That should be interesting, to put it mildly.
If it even happens, that is. The negotiations for this visit have been pretty convoluted, so far. Ben Carson was apparently the instigator of this trip, designed to introduce Donald Trump to some actual African-Americans in Detroit (where Carson grew up). Not a bad idea, on the face of it. But the Trump campaign is about as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs about what could happen.
At first, Trump was supposed to address the congregation at a Great Faith Ministries International service. This was then changed to just an interview with the pastor, held in private, to be broadcast publicly a week later. Just to be certain there wouldn't be any surprises, the Trump campaign demanded all questions be submitted in advance, in writing. Then Team Trump carefully wrote out answers for Trump to parrot back. No word on whether a TelePrompTer would be allowed, or if Trump would be allowed to just read from prepared notes. And the icing on the cake: Trump's campaign would be allowed to edit the interview after it happened, "so that the final version reflected the campaign's wishes." You can see what we mean about that cat nervously eying all the rocking chairs, right?
The New York Times helpfully provided excerpts from the prepared answers Trump was supposed to read. Most of it is commonplace progressive-bashing Republican boilerplate, with faint overtones of racial condescension: "If you want a better America, you must break from the historical hold that Democrats have had on people of color and move to options that allow you to achieve your potential." The most amusing part of the script was the answer Trump's handlers prepared for the first question: "Are you a Christian and do you believe the Bible is an inspired word of God?"
As I went through my life, things got busy with business, but my family kept me grounded to the truth and the word of God. I treasure my relationship with my family, and through them, I have a strong faith enriched by an ever-wonderful God.
Translation: "My family's religious! Didn't you see my wonderful kids at the convention? All their religious faith has got to have rubbed off on me a little bit, right?" You've got to love that last term: "an ever-wonderful God," which was obviously included in a pathetic attempt to make all of this sound like something Trump would spontaneously say. Now that the prepared script has been leaked, it will be interesting to see how far Trump actually strays from the words he's been told to say, that's for sure.
Trump's campaign did go into some frenetic damage control after the New York Times exposed all their careful preparation. They now say they will refrain from editing the interview themselves (awfully big of them, don't you think?). They also have promised that Trump will actually speak to more than just one person, and "would indeed address the congregation for a few minutes and would spend a half-hour casually speaking with church members individually." So it looks like there will still be plenty of room for a few monstrous gaffes after all....
At the very least, though, Donald Trump is putting himself out there. Hillary Clinton seems to have largely disappeared in the meantime, which has coincided with a noticeable drop in the polls for her. She's still beating Trump, mind you, just by a thinner margin. But the trendline should be worrisome for Democrats. Hillary has slipped a point or two from the bounce she got after the Democratic National Convention, but is still in relatively healthy shape. Donald Trump hasn't really benefited much from this slip, as most of the restless voters have moved instead to third-party candidates. This is also a worrisome trend, since up until now the Libertarian and Green candidates seem to have drained votes from both major candidates in equal proportion. Hillary Clinton is doing a much better job than Trump of running ads and setting up her ground game, but it is time for her to stop appearing only in front of well-heeled donors and return to campaigning in earnest. Especially after the F.B.I. released another document dump on the subject of her email server today.
In other amusing news from the Republican campaign trail (down-ballot), John McCain and Marco Rubio handily won their respective GOP primaries this Tuesday. McCain wasted no time in running very quickly away from Donald Trump afterwards, releasing a web video where he warns of the dangers of the upcoming Hillary Clinton presidency.
It was revealed this week that Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, also running for re-election, would cut his own children off from receiving their inheritance if they committed more than one felony, or had (or sired) more than one child out of wedlock. Nothing like family values, eh? I mean, it's not like Republicans are usually big fans of providing incentives for family members to get abortions or anything, right?
What else... Sarah Palin did a face-plant it on a rock-running trail, causing herself a head injury. From what she posted afterwards, it's really kind of hard to tell the difference between Palin ranting with a concussion and all of Palin's previous mangling of the English language. Oh, and Iowa Republicans running for Senate all seem to be using exactly the same kids in all their campaign ads. That should be interesting, when their television ads run right after each other!
And finally, we conclude this introductory section with a plug for an election information site that caught our eye. It's called "ProCon" and it lists in detail all the candidates' positions on all kinds of specific issues. Complete with quotes and history, it is a valuable resource to compare all the presidential candidates (even some from primary season who didn't make the cut) on whatever issue matters most to you. So check it out!
Three Democrats were mildly impressive this week: Debbie Wasserman Schultz won the primary for her House seat, Joe Biden compassionately dealt with a heckler at a campaign speech, and Hillary Clinton actually reacted quickly to a news story and introduced a new policy idea to combat rampant greed and price-gouging among drug companies with monopolies on common medications. That last one, in particular, is worth at least an Honorable Mention because it showed leadership and showed Team Clinton could react quicker than they usually do to a big news story. Is her plan workable? Hard to tell, but it's notable for being just about the only plan out there to directly attack companies who jack up the price of medication by hundreds of percent just because they can.
But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to President Obama, for setting a record that will forever be part of his legacy. Last week, Obama commuted the sentences of 111 offenders, some of them serving life in prison for heinous crimes such as selling LSD at a Grateful Dead show. Obama is using the power of the pen to bring relief to people who were sentenced at the height of the "mandatory minimum" Drug War craze -- people who would get far less punishment for the same crimes today.
Obama's total for August alone was 325 commutations -- the most of any U.S. president in a single month, ever. His overall record is equally impressive, now standing at 673 commutations, which is more than the previous 10 presidents combined.
With Obama entering his final months in office, we can probably expect to see hundreds more federal prisoners obtain either commutations of their sentences or outright pardons. This is normal for the end of any president's term, in fact (although Obama's numbers are a lot higher).
Now, even 673 commutations is nowhere near enough. Tens of thousands of people were sentenced under Draconian drug laws in the 1990s and 2000s who should also have a chance to be freed or fully pardoned. But Obama has made great strides towards dismantling the worst excesses of the era, as the Drug War slowly winds down after roughly a century of political exploitation.
For doing what he can -- more than any previous president in a single month, in fact -- President Obama has certainly earned another Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.
[Congratulate President Barack Obama via the White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
To use a baseball metaphor, Anthony Weiner just got his third strike and is now out -- of his marriage.
Yes, our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is none other than "Carlos Danger" himself, Anthony "Let Me Show You My" Weiner.
Weiner's first foray into getting publicly caught sexting pictures of his... um... last name, to women he was not actually married to, cost him his House seat. His second public humiliation for doing exactly the same stupid thing cost him any slim chance he might have had at becoming mayor of New York City.
His third boneheaded sexting adventure is already proving to be the costliest one for Weiner yet, as it has already cost him his marriage (to Hillary Clinton's closest advisor), and put him under investigation from the local child welfare agency. This was because he actually (shudder) sent one of his sexts to yet another woman who was not actually his wife, which included his young son on the bed with him.
That's really about all that needs to be said about that. Hopefully, three strikes means he will forever be out of the public eye, and we'll never have to give him another MDDOTW award ever again. Hopefully, at any rate.
For being a serial peter-tweeter, Anthony Weiner is easily (we were going to say "hands down" but then we reconsidered that imagery) this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Three strikes, you're out... as Carlos Danger rides sadly off into the sunset.
[Anthony Weiner is actually a private citizen, and our blanket policy is not to provide contact information for such persons.]
Volume 406 (9/2/16)
Today's talking points have a theme. The theme is: "When reaching out to minority voters, it's best if you don't then smack them in the face." Three of these come straight from prominent Latinos who previously (right up until he gave his Phoenix speech) supported Donald Trump. The first two deal with Trump's much-ballyhooed African-American outreach. As always, enjoy and use these talking points responsibly (heh).
Not funny at all
It is 2016, but apparently some people's sense of humor is stuck in about the 1950s, it seems.
"I see the Trump campaign's outreach to minority voters is going about as well as anyone really should have expected. While much attention was paid to Trump's speech about immigration, Team Trump was also out there trying to woo the African-American vote. By tweeting a cartoon depicting Hillary Clinton in blackface. No really -- that's their idea of what constitutes acceptable humor in this day and age. And I guess that's their idea of how to reach out to minority voters, too. Seems more like a smack in the face than any definition of 'outreach' I've seen."
What is Trump scared of?
This one is just too, too funny.
"Donald Trump is heading to the wilderness known as 'Detroit,' but don't worry, he'll have Ben Carson there to explain stuff to him. Trump will also grant an interview to a second actual African-American, a pastor at a church there. But it seems Team Trump is absolutely terrified by the prospect. First they decided that Trump wouldn't actually be speaking to the congregation. Then they demanded that all the questions be submitted in advance. The original plan was also that 'aides would... edit the taped interview so that the final version reflected the campaign's wishes.' Even that wasn't enough cotton padding, they also decided to write out Trump's answers in advance, in the hopes that he wouldn't say something outrageous. When this all was exposed by the media, Trump's campaign quickly backtracked and said they wouldn't actually be editing the interview themselves, and that Trump will speak for 'at least 10 minutes' to the congregation. Gee, I wonder why they're worried? Donald Trump speaking in front of the biggest African-American audience he's ever faced, about his supposed deep religious feelings? What could possibly go wrong?"
Trump apparently has his own convenient place to shop for new wives. No surprise, really.
"Donald Trump, among his other business enterprises, runs Trump Model Management, an agency for foreign models to work through in New York. But to listen to actual models who used to work for Trump's agency, the place was nothing more than a multi-layered scam. The biggest revelation was, according to more than one model, that Trump was 'bringing in all of these girls from all over the world and they're working illegally.' No work permits were ever even applied for, and the models were told precisely how to lie to immigration agents when entering the country. I guess it's not all that surprising that Trump would completely ignore immigration law to his own profit, since we're still waiting to find out exactly how his current wife entered the country. What she described, in fact, was precisely what a model in New York would have to do to fool the immigration folks by working here on a tourist visa, stating: 'Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa.' Trump promised there'd be a press conference to explain Melania's immigration history, but I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for that to happen. If Trump were truly serious about cracking down on employers for immigration violations, he'd have to start with his own company, and what are the chances of that happening?"
A big fight
These next three are all from prominent Latinos who used to support Trump but now can't anymore (from two separate articles about Latinos fleeing the Trump campaign). The first is from "leading Latino conservative" and "prominent surrogate for Trump" Alfonso Aguilar, on hoping for a Trump pivot, and on why he can no longer support Trump:
Last week, you could tell, there was the real possibility of a pivot. I think there was a big fight within the campaign, and I think the restrictionist forces won.
No time for being scammed
The next two are from former members of Trump's "National Hispanic Advisory Council" who can no longer live with supporting Trump (there are others who have fled the council, it's worth mentioning, but due to space limitations we're only going to quote two of them). The first is from Ramiro Pena, a pastor at Waco's Christ the King Church.
I am so sorry but I believe Mr. Trump lost the election tonight. The "National Hispanic Advisory Council" seems to be simply for optics and I do not have the time or energy for a scam.
Coming soon -- Trump TV?
Texas lawyer Jacob Monty was telling anyone who would listen what his reaction to the speech was, as he also exited Trump's Latino outreach council.
The speech was just an utter disappointment. We were out there defending him. And then to be just lied to like that -- it doesn't feel good. It's not okay.
. . .
Maybe this is part of a media play where he wants to create a media empire that will focus on the millions of nativists that believe that the country needs to control immigration. And if that's his play, it will be good and he'll have millions of followers. But he won't win the presidency.
This last one comes from David Kochel, former campaign strategist for Jeb Bush, on the subject of who exactly Trump's speech was supposed to impress.
It has to be [the Trump campaign's] calculation that they can drive up turnout in white working-class areas of battleground states to dizzying heights. Otherwise this move makes no sense 69 days from the election. The "softening" of Trump's immigration policy died tragically on Wednesday night in Phoenix. Foul play is suspected.
Chris Weigant blogs at:
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Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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