Oct. 22

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Trump Unleashes Twitter Tornado

Maybe "Trump Twitter Tornado" (TTT) will soon be a widely-used abbreviation, so that we can easily describe days like yesterday, when Donald Trump hits Twitter so hard that his phone risks overheating. It's almost always Saturdays that it happens; Trump has then generally escaped the confines of the White House, and is prepping for a weekend of golf and whatever else he does at Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster. It's not every Saturday, though. What triggered this week's barrage is anyone's guess. Frustration over the Niger mess? Boredom? Less supervision from Chief of Staff John Kelly? Poor stress management? Something else? Could be any or all of the above.

When Trump was a reality TV star, he only had to come up with something new and fresh once or twice a week for 15 weeks or so. Now that he's a reality TV politician, he theoretically needs to come up with something fresh four or five times a week every week. Nobody is that inventive, and so Saturday's barrage read like a greatest hits of Trump tweeting. There was braggadocio about all of his accomplishments:

I agree getting Tax Cuts approved is important (we will also get HealthCare), but perhaps no Administration has done more in its first.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017

...9 months than this Administration. Over 50 Legislation approvals, massive regulation cuts, energy freedom, pipelines, border security....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2017

...2nd Amendment, Strong Military, ISIS, historic VA improvement, Supreme Court Justice, Record Stock Market, lowest unemployment in 17 yrs!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2017

There was the mandatory anti-Clinton/re-litigating the 2016 election tweet:

Crooked Hillary Clinton spent hundreds of millions of dollars more on Presidential Election than I did. Facebook was on her side, not mine!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017

There was the standard Russiagate denial:

Officials behind the now discredited "Dossier" plead the Fifth. Justice Department and/or FBI should immediately release who paid for it.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017

And, of course, there was at least one "fake news" complaint, as well as an attack against the enemy du jour:

I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017

The current target is Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), but Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), or Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), or Megyn Kelly, or Barack Obama, or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) serves just as well, depending on the week. In other words, many of Trump's tweets these days are basically just Mad Libs. That, of course, make libs mad.

At this point, it's hardly even worth engaging with Trump's claims, since he repeats the same things over and over. The 65% of Americans who do not support Trump recognize that he is mixing in a dollop of truth (the stock market is indeed doing well, unemployment is indeed low), a lot of spin (he has signed more bills than any other president at this point, yes, but it's almost all trivial stuff like renaming post offices), and a fair amount of pure fantasy (no pipeline has been built, he's done nothing vis-a-vis the Second Amendment). The other 35% of Americans accept everything he says as gospel, as is clear from the comments section of every single article discussing his tweets.

Indeed, now that we are nearly 10 months into his presidency, and now that Trump's bag of tricks is running dry, his Tweets are more like Coca-Cola ads. Everyone knows about Coke; they advertise only to remind you of their product and to reinforce their carefully crafted image. The same is true of Trump. (Z)

Be Careful of Whom You Endorse, Mr. President

One of the most frequent moves in Donald Trump's twitter repertoire comes when he sees someone praising him on TV (most commonly on Fox News). Flattery will get you everywhere, especially with The Donald. Conservative and religious authors know the deal; go on TV and shower Trump with praise, and maybe he'll tweet about you and your book and help vault it up the bestsellers list. Mega-pastor Robert Jeffress did his part while on a media tour hawking his newest volume, and was rewarded thusly:

Great book just out, "A Place Called Heaven," by Dr. Robert Jeffress - A wonderful man!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2017

There is zero chance that Trump—who admits that he doesn't read—has so much as glanced at Jeffress's book. The entire tweet, then, was prompted by this clip, which aired minutes before the tweet was sent. In the segment, Lou Dobbs and Jeffress reached complete agreement that (1) Trump's handling of the dead soldiers in Niger was great, (2) Frederica Wilson is a wacko, and (3) The black community is screwed up.

Under the circumstances, the President's tweet is not surprising, particularly given his eagerness to make nice with evangelicals whenever possible. The down side of this approach, if one does not even bother to take a quick glance at Wikipedia, is that you could end up hitching your wagon to the wrong kind of guy. If Trump had taken two minutes to read Jeffress's entry, he might have noted some of the pastor's more...provocative positions. The self-described "servant of Jesus" is rabidly homophobic, has described gay marriages as "counterfeit," and has said that gay people are "filthy" and "prone to disease." Not surprisingly, he's also an Islamophobe, who believes that the religion promotes pedophilia. It's not bigoted for him to say this, however, because—as Jeffress explained to his congregation—he has a friend who is Muslim.

Now, the homophobia and the Islamophobia may not bother the base. There's more, though, because Jeffress does not have much use for religions other than his own. He has repeatedly described Catholicism as "Satanic" and a warped offshoot of a "Babylonian mystery religion." He believes Jews will burn in hell, and that Mormonism is a cult. And if any of these folks are looking for the Antichrist for any reason, well, they've got him, because it's Barack Obama.

Much of this won't faze Trump's base, but he did get a fair number of votes from people who are Catholic or Muslim, or who—at very least—aren't thrilled with overt anti-Semitism. Given that the religious folks were willing to overlook his lifelong history of abusing the Ten Commandments, particularly the ones about stealing, false witness, and adultery, they may also be willing to overlook his endorsement of Jeffress. Still, if there's any way that Twitter is going to get Trump in trouble with "his" voters, mistakes like this are it. But probably most will stick with him, no matter what he tweets. (Z)

Texas Democrats Liking Their Chances

"Texas" and "midterm elections" are two things that generally send Democratic officials into a fit of depression. And when it's both at the same time, it's time to start freebasing Xanax. Not this year, though, as recent developments have members of the blue team feeling great about their prospects in the Long Star state.

There are four things that are fueling Democratic optimism:

In some races, things are going to get bloody, as several strong Democratic candidates do battle with one another. Still, the enthusiasm implied by the large number of willing candidates and the large amount of money they are collecting has to make the GOP nervous. And if still-red Texas becomes a battleground state in the midterms, what is going to happen in purple states like North Carolina, Ohio, and Arizona? Still, as Yogi Berra famously pointed out, it ain't over 'till it's over. (Z)

Trump Will Release JFK Documents After All, or Maybe Not

As we noted yesterday, thousands of documents related to the JFK assassination are scheduled to be released next week. The Trump administration suggested on Friday that they might kill the release. Then, on Saturday, Donald Trump said he would make the documents public, after all. Unless, of course, law enforcement and security agencies think it's a bad idea, which, as they have made clear multiple times, they do. In other words, there's no telling what is going to happen until it the deadline arrives on Thursday. After all, the Trump administration is nothing if not flexible. (Z)

Impeach Trump, Make $20 Million

In the last week, two different Democrats have offered the tidy sum of $10 million in hopes of getting Donald Trump impeached (and, presumably, removed). The first was pornography king Larry Flynt, who is offering that sum as a reward to anyone providing information that leads to impeachment. Yesterday, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer pledged the same, though his plan is to spend the money on television advertising advocating his views on the subject.

These two offers should be taken with a giant grain of salt, since Flynt is a master self-promoter (who has used this stunt before), and Steyer is thinking about taking a shot at the California governor's mansion next year and needs some name recognition. That said, even if the two men are serious, they may want to think twice (or three times) about their plans. Beyond the fact that trading Trump for Mike Pence may not be a win for Democrats, stunts like these cheapen what is supposed to be a final line of defense against a corrupt administration. Trump may well be impeached (and removed) one of these days, and that choice may prove to be justified. But it can work only if it is the result of normal order, and allowing Congress to function as the Constitution intended. If a Trump impeachment appears, in any way, to be the product of rich liberals ponying up big bucks to achieve their goals, there will be riots in the streets. Further, every president from here on out is going to have hostile millionaires and billionaires lining up to take their shots from the day he or she takes office. (Z)

Alabama Senate Race Is Very Close. Or Isn't Close at All.

In the past three days, there have been two polls of the Senate race in Alabama. First came one from Fox News, which has the race as a dead heat: 42% of voters favor Democrat Doug Jones, 42% favor Republican Roy Moore, 3% plan to vote for someone else, and 11% are uncertain. What happened to the other 2% of voters is unclear. Yesterday, a poll from Strategy Research painted a very different picture, with Moore leading Jones by 11 points, 51% to 40%, with 9% undecided.

What's going on here? Even if we account for the margin of error (3.5% for Fox, 2.5% for Strategy Research), one of the polls would seem to be way off. Alabama is notoriously difficult to poll, due largely to anti-telemarketer laws that make it hard to call people randomly, so it could be that. However, a few additional facts suggest a different explanation:

Given these things, we are inclined to dismiss the Strategy Research poll. It's possible that their result reflects inexperience and a lack of expertise—hard to judge, since they did not share any information about their methods. It's also possible that the Moore campaign, or a supporter of the Moore campaign, commissioned the poll to generate a result like this. For what it is worth, the Democrats are using the Fox poll—and with it the general notion that Doug Jones could actually win this thing—to raise money. So, it would certainly benefit Moore to create the impression that the race isn't actually close. (Z)

Turmoil at Fox News

Given that Republicans effectively control all three branches of the federal government, not to mention the largest percentage of state-level posts the party has held since the 1930s, this should be a pretty good time to be the nation's foremost conservative news channel. However, while ratings are still good, they are trending downward. And that's not the only trouble in paradise, as the network twice made unhappy headlines this weekend.

The first story has to do with the line between journalism and advocacy, which Fox is often careless about under the best of circumstances, and tramples like a herd of raging elephants under the worst. Since Donald Trump took office, a fair number of Fox personalities (ahem, Sean Hannity) have thoroughly embraced the administration's party line, up to and including attacks on the "fake news." Chris Wallace, who is an actual journalist (very possibly the best Fox has), expressed his displeasure with this on Saturday:

I don't like them bashing the media, because oftentimes what they're bashing is stuff that we on the news side are doing. I don't think they recognize that they have a role at Fox News and we have a role at Fox News. I don't know what's in their head. I just think it's bad form.

Again, this tension has always been present at Fox News. If it's reaching the breaking point, however, it could be trouble for the network, which is already trying to figure out what its identity will be going forward, given its aging viewership and the loss of its biggest tentpole in Bill O'Reilly.

And speaking of O'Reilly, he was responsible for the other unhappy headline this weekend. On Saturday, the New York Times reported a previously-unknown sexual harassment settlement—a staggering $32 million paid to former Fox personality Lis Wiehl. But while the settlement was not known to the general public, it was known to Fox when they gave O'Reilly a $25 million annual contract extension. This news will not help Fox with the younger viewers it is trying to attract, nor with the Justice Department that is currently investigating the network, nor with British regulators who are deciding whether or not to allow Fox to acquire European satellite network Sky. This may all eventually blow over, though in a post-Harvey Weinstein world, it may not. (Z)

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