Friday Talking Points -- Trump Unshackled

Donald Trump has a new answer for why he's about to lose in a landslide. It's all a vast left-wing conspiracy. No, really.
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GREENSBORO, N.C - OCTOBER 14: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event on October 14, 2016 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Trump claimed journalists are actually lobbyists and the recent accusations against him were generated by the media. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
GREENSBORO, N.C - OCTOBER 14: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event on October 14, 2016 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Trump claimed journalists are actually lobbyists and the recent accusations against him were generated by the media. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has a new answer for why he's about to lose in a landslide. It's all a vast left-wing conspiracy. No, really. Well, he didn't actually use that term, but he did indeed go full-on conspiracy theorist at a recent rally. He blamed the Obamas, the Clintons, the world banking cabal (no dog-whistles there, right?), corporations, and anyone else he could think of. In other words, we seriously doubt Donald Trump is going to give a polite and respectful concession speech on Election Night. This is Trump, unshackled (to use his own term). Trump unchained. Trump off the leash. And it ain't pretty.

This entire election has already been a rollercoaster of historic proportions. Each and every time you think: "Well, it certainly can't get much worse," it does. Over and over again. And (a frightening thought if ever there was one) we still have over three weeks to go.

Last week was a textbook example of why political observers always say "a week is an eternity in politics." As was the week before it, come to think. And the week before that. Donald Trump simply crams so much bizarreness into such a short stretch of time, that it is now hard to remember a time before what is now being called "pussygate" had happened. Remember those quaint days of yore when the biggest news was Trump hadn't paid any federal income taxes for two decades? Seems like months ago, now. Remember when Trump was on the offensive against Bill Clinton's sexual past? That was only a week ago, when he tried to seat four Clinton accusers in his family box at the town hall debate.

The most delicious irony of the past week came from Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. Last week, she tweeted a link to a Hillary Clinton quote: "Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported." Conway even highlighted the word "every" in her own tweet, to drive the point home. This week, she's been fully occupied by explaining that every single one of the women who are now accusing Trump of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault -- and this list is now growing by the day -- are all liars. "Every" last one of them. The phrase "hoist on her own petard" doesn't even begin to describe her flailings.

The second-most delicious bit of tasty, tasty irony was seeing Gayle King on the CBS morning show, asking Conway about Melania Trump's fashion choice for the outfit she wore to the debate, which (you just can't make this stuff up, folks) is properly called a "pussy-bow blouse." Hoo boy.

There's been so much Trump news this week that we're going to have to just run it down without a whole lot of commentary. The week started off last Friday (our weeks are measured Friday-to-Friday, of course) with the Washington Post bombshell release of the Billy Bush Access Hollywood tape. Next up was the second presidential debate, which most news commenters reported using either the word "brutal" or the phrase "scorched Earth." And we've still got one debate to go, next week.

Then Paul Ryan told his House caucus that it was, essentially, every Republican for themselves. He was essentially conceding that Hillary Clinton will be our next president, and that all GOP House members should now concentrate on winning their own races rather than get dragged down by Trump. This came in the midst of an exodus of Republicans jumping off the Trump train, hoping that they'd made the leap before the train headed over the cliff. USA Today tallied this tsunami of "dump Trump-ers" and came up with a whopping one-in-four GOP governors and members of Congress who are refusing to support their own party's presidential nominee. This is unprecedented, folks.

Stunningly, this was followed by a handful of Republicans flip-flopping back to supporting Trump, after hearing from their own pro-Trump constituents. When the history of this election is written, they will surely be grouped under the heading "Profiles in Cowardice."

Team Trump tried to go on the offense again, but wound up being just downright offensive, with a new ad on Hillary Clinton's health that is so sleazy it makes you want to wash your eyeballs after viewing it. Yeah, that's the way to get women voters back!

This was about the point when women started publicly accusing Trump of sexual misconduct, all of whom have stated that what drove them to go public was Trump's flat-out statement during the debate (when asked about the Billy Bush tape) that it was "just words" and he had never actually done anything like what he was caught bragging about. Trump has called them all liars, and is now actually making the argument that he would never have forced himself on any of these women because (are you sitting down?) they simply weren't hot enough to merit his attention. Headlines like "Trump Isn't Just A Pig. He's A Predator" began appearing to describe the ongoing meltdown. Time magazine updated their "Trump meltdown" cover, but The Economist probably had the best cover of the week, with a profile of Trump's face as the Republican elephant's ass.

Maine Governor Paul LePage keeps trying to compete with Trump's craziness (since LePage prides himself on being the craziest Republican around, of course), and came up with the following gem:

Sometimes, I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we've had eight years of a president, he's an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress and every single day, we're slipping into anarchy.

Got that? Obama's an autocrat, and that's bad, so we've got to elect our kind of autocrat in order to make everything better. But LePage just doesn't raise the eyebrows all that much these days, since he's got Trump himself to compete with.

Meanwhile, down at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, the students are protesting -- in a school not generally known for student protest (to put it mildly). Who are they protesting? Their university's own president, Falwell's son. Here's what they had to say:

Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe, and does not have our support. We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school.

Falwell Jr. shot back, completely incoherently:

I am proud of these few students for speaking their minds but I'm afraid the statement is incoherent and false. I am not "touring the country" or associating Liberty University with any candidate. I am only fulfilling my obligation as a citizen to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis. This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others but they are young and still learning.

Yeah, Jesus said not to judge lest ye be judged! So please don't interrupt me judging the heck out of Hillary Clinton -- because that is not "judging," but rather "expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis." BIG difference... NOT. On top of that, he's completely misunderstanding the whole render-unto-Caesar thing, which was actually about paying taxes you didn't like.

Nate Silver sent a shiver of excitement through Trump World this week, by pointing out that there is a stark gender divide in the election. Silver published two electoral maps, showing that if only women voted, Hillary Clinton would win with one of the biggest landslides in American history, capturing 458 Electoral College votes, to Trump's 80. But if only men's votes were counted, Trump would win 350 to Clinton's 188. This was cause for celebration for one of Trump's offspring, who tweeted the men-only map as if it were an actual reflection of current polls of all voters. Whoops! On Twitter, the hashtag #RepealThe19th appeared, because the obvious answer to Trump's problem with women voters is just to not let them vote (the 19th Amendment, passed almost a century ago, gave women the right to vote). Again: how's that outreach to women voters going, Republicans?

By the end of the week, big Republican donors were rumored to be pressuring the Republican National Committee to just cut Trump loose for good, and spend all their money on salvaging what they could in the House and Senate. Former George W. Bush speechwriter (turned Republican pundit) Michael Gerson even rang the death knell of the Republican Party in an extraordinary article that concluded:

This much is clear: Republican leaders offered no effective resistance to the ideological and political demolition of their party. Which may, in the worst case, give George W. Bush the distinction of being the final Republican president.

In the state-by-state horserace, Trump's supposed "path to victory" has almost completely disappeared. Want to get under a Republican voter's skin? Just point out the following: "Hey, remember back when Trump was saying he was going to win in places like New York, Connecticut, and Oregon? Those were the days... now he'll be lucky if he even wins Georgia, Texas, or Utah!" That's right -- a poll from Utah just showed Trump and Clinton tied. A poll from Texas showed Clinton within striking distance of Trump. Among all this cheery news, Team Trump has decided to concede Virginia, and pulled staff and money out of the state. If Hillary Clinton wins Texas, she's almost certain to beat Barack Obama's 2008 landslide numbers, since Texas has the second-largest total in the Electoral College (38 votes, second only to California's 55).

Let's see, what else? A bunch of people who used to -- literally -- have their fingers on the nuclear launch button (the "missileers" who sit in the silos waiting for the order to launch) wrote a letter stating in no uncertain terms that Donald Trump's finger should never be within reach of the nuclear button. Which isn't all that surprising, really, given the hordes of others who have said exactly the same thing.

All of that happened in one week's time. And Trump is now increasingly resembling a wounded animal, whom everyone knows are the most dangerous, because with nothing left to lose they can viciously lash out in their death throes.

And we've got over three weeks to go. Think we've hit bottom? Doubtful. Things can always go lower, folks. Next week will be the final debate, and it will likely be one for the ages.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, was surprised by Barack Obama unexpectedly entering the Oval Office. Her response? "Oh, hi Barack -- hey can you help me by holding up this tape measure? I want to get the window size right for the drapes I'm ordering."

We certainly look forward to seeing this week's Saturday Night Live, that's for sure.

When we attended this year's Democratic National Convention, we rated all the speeches given -- on a purely subjective scale -- on how effective and heartfelt we felt all the speeches were. Vice President Joe Biden gave the best speech we've ever seen him give, and we immediately wrote an article begging Team Clinton to send him out on the campaign trail as a surrogate to trail Trump around the country. Biden's speech was that good.

But we had to rank one speech -- out of the entire four nights -- above Biden's speech. Because First Lady Michelle Obama gave a downright extraordinary speech that no other speaker managed to top. We judged it the best of the whole convention -- better than Hillary Clinton's speech, better than Bill Clinton's speech, and better than Barack Obama's speech.

Which is why we're not too surprised to be awarding Michelle Obama this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Obama was out on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton in Manchester, New Hampshire, and she delivered the most authentic and heartfelt repudiation of Donald Trump's attitude towards (and remarks about, and actions towards) women that has yet been heard.

Obama reportedly had a lot to do with crafting this speech, which is obvious when you watch it. At times, she struggles to contain her emotions. She apparently was adamant about not just giving a standard "vote for Hillary" speech, but instead wanted to share her very personal thoughts about the disastrous week Trump has been having.

She started by noting that earlier in the week she had helped celebrate "International Day of the Girl" at the White House. She then, without once mentioning him by name, ripped into Donald Trump:

And now, here I am, out on the campaign trail in an election where we have consistently been hearing hurtful, hateful language about women -- language that has been painful for so many of us, not just as women, but as parents trying to protect our children and raise them to be caring, respectful adults, and as citizens who think that our nation's leaders should meet basic standards of human decency.

The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for President of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

And I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted. So while I'd love nothing more than to pretend like this isn't happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream.

This is not something that we can ignore. It's not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a "lewd conversation." This wasn't just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.

The entire speech is worth reading (or, even better, watching on video). Michelle Obama is one of the most-respected people in politics today, and her outrage was palpable and very personal. She certainly minced no words in denouncing Trump's so-called locker-room banter:

This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn't matter what party you belong to -- Democrat, Republican, independent -- no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.

Review after review after review reached the same conclusion: Michelle Obama just gave one of the most powerful speeches of this entire election cycle. She deserves our thanks for doing so, and she has more than earned this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week for giving such a heartfelt speech and for standing up for women, for decency, and against Donald Trump and his antediluvian attitudes towards women.

[Congratulate First Lady Michelle Obama via her official White House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

Julian Assange has been busily trying his best to torpedo Hillary Clinton's chances of becoming president, by leaking (on a daily basis) thousands of emails purportedly hacked from Hillary Clinton's campaign team. The likelihood that Russian hackers were the source of this information is high, and none of these leaked emails have been verified in any way.

Assange must be spitting nails, though, because nobody's paying the slightest bit of attention. None of what has been revealed is any sort of smoking gun, which likely means he doesn't have anything worse than what he's already WikiLeaked. The leaked emails are swimming against a very powerful tide -- that of Donald Trump's absolute meltdown into misogyny.

Even so, there have been embarrassing tidbits released, which is why we're giving the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Podesta's emails (if accurate) are little more than how political insiders and consultants actually talk, behind closed doors. Opposition research is performed, Clinton's weaknesses are discussed in detail, and mildly offensive language is used, at times. Nothing really shocking about any of it, but then the public rarely sees such a peek behind the political curtain.

If Trump hadn't been doing his impression of the Hindenburg this week, then maybe some of this might have captured the public's attention. However, given the scandalous competition, it barely even registered. Trump's woes are just so much more entertaining, after all.

So John Podesta will likely survive the leaks, but he certainly didn't have a very happy week this week. Which makes him the obvious candidate for our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[John Podesta is running a political campaign right now, and our blanket policy is not to provide candidate website contact information, sorry.]

Volume 412 (10/14/16)

While we did award the prestigious MIDOTW award to Michelle Obama for her powerful speech this week, we also have to take note of a speech given by her husband in Columbus, Ohio. Because while Michelle's speech is certainly worth reading (or watching) and is one of the most heartfelt political speeches we've ever heard, Barack's speech was more appropriate to excerpt today as an extended talking point.

Barack Obama has always been at his best giving political speeches out on the campaign trail. So it's no surprise he's been particularly good at it in support of Hillary Clinton this year. But yesterday's Columbus speech -- which many are already calling his "Swamp Of Crazy" speech -- not only tore into Donald Trump's obvious unfitness for the job, but also widely condemned the entire Republican Party for opportunistically fanning the flames of crazy for his entire term in office. Obama is bluntly placing all the blame for Trump squarely at the feet of Republicans who have benefited from the craziness without ever expecting it to come back to bite them. It is the most scathing takedown we've heard this entire election season, and that includes the Democratic National Convention speeches.

Two technical notes are necessary, for context, before we get to the extended speech excerpt from Barack Obama. The first is that he was speaking in Ohio, in support not only of Hillary Clinton, but also in support of Ted Strickland, the Democrat running for U.S. Senate there. Obama, at one point, slams Strickland's opponent, Rob Portman. The second note is an editorial one -- we've removed what we felt were the extraneous "(Applause.)" and "(Laughter.)" notations from the transcript, although we left in the ones we felt were necessary to provide context for Obama's phrasing and rhythm. The full speech transcript (with all of the notations intact) can be read at Time magazine's website.

President Barack Obama, speaking in Columbus, Ohio

Look, we know that most Republicans don't think the way Donald Trump does. Even in a banquet like this, full of hard-core Democrats. We have Republican friends, we've got Republican neighbors -- at the Little League game, soccer game. At the parent-teachers conference, we meet them. Some great people. We don't even think that most Republican politicians actually really believe that Donald Trump is qualified to be President. I know because they -- I talk to them. (Laughter.) They're all like, "Man, this is really bad." (Laughter.) "We're just trying to get through this." (Laughter.)

But so the problem is not that all Republicans think the way this guy does. The problem is, is that they've been riding this tiger for a long time. They've been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years -- primarily for political expedience. So if Trump was running around saying I wasn't born here, they were okay with that as long as it helped them with votes. If some of these folks on talk radio started talking about how I was the anti-Christ, you know, it's just politics. (Laughter.) You think I'm joking. (Laughter.)

If somebody completely denies climate change, or is filled up with all kinds of conspiracy theories about how me and Hillary started ISIL, or that we were plotting to declare martial law and take away everybody's guns.

We did a military exercise -- the Pentagon does these periodically in Texas, and suddenly all the folks in Texas were all like, "They're going to take over right now!" (Laughter.) I'm serious. And then the senator down there said, "Yeah, we better look into that." (Laughter.) And the governor says, "Well, I don't know." What do you mean you don't know? (Laughter.) What does that mean? (Applause.) Really? You think that like the entire Pentagon said: "Oh, really, you want to declare martial law and take over Texas? Let's do it under the guise of routine training missions" (Laughter.) -- and everybody is going to be -- but they took it seriously.

This is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again. Look, I -- and there's sort of a spectrum, right -- it's a whole kind of ecosystem. And look, if I watched Fox News I wouldn't vote for me. (Laughter.) I understand. If I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, I'd say, "Man, that's terrible." (Laughter.) Fortunately, I have more diverse sources of information.

And I want to make a serious point here -- because I'm really not exaggerating. Everything I'm saying are actual things that have been said and that people -- a fairly sizable number of people in the Republican primaries believe. And the people who knew better didn't say anything. They didn't say, "Well, you know what, I disagree with his economic policies, but that goes too far." They didn't say, "Well, I'm not sure if his foreign policy is the right one for America, but we can't allow our politics to descend into the gutter."

People like Ted [Strickland]'s opponent -- they stood by while this happened. And Donald Trump, as he's prone to do, he didn't build the building himself, but he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it.

And that's what's happened in their party. All that bile, all the exaggeration, all the stuff that was not grounded in fact just kind of bubbled up, started surfacing. They know better, a lot of these folks who ran, and they didn't say anything. And so they don't get credit for, at the very last minute, when finally the guy that they nominated and they endorsed and they supported is caught on tape saying things that no decent person would even think, much less say, much less brag about, much less laugh about or joke about, much less act on -- you can't wait until that finally happens and then say, "Oh, that's too much, that's enough." And think that somehow you are showing any kind of leadership and deserve to be elected to the United States Senate.

You don't get points for that. In fact, I'm more forgiving of the people who actually believe it than the people who know better and stood silently by, out of political expediency, because it was politically convenient.

And if your only organizing principle has been to block progress and block what we've tried to do to help the American people every step of the way, so you're not even consistent anymore -- you claim the mantle of the party of family values, and this is the guy you nominate? And stand by, and endorse, and campaign with until, finally, at the 11th hour you withdraw your nomination? You don't get credit for that.

You're the party that is tough on foreign policy and opposes Russia -- and then you nominate this guy, whose role model is Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB? I'm sorry, what happened? (Laughter.) It's disappointing. It really is. Because, yes, I'm a Democrat, but I'm an American first. (Applause.) And I actually believe in a strong two-party system. And I think that the marketplace of ideas should have a reasonable, common-sense Republican Party debating a reasonable, common-sense Democratic Party. But that is not what we have right now.

Chris Weigant blogs at:

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