Saturday, June 04, 2016
The news media have come in for a lot of criticism in the way they’ve reported this election, which makes it exactly like every other election. But something may have changed just in the last few days. I have no idea how meaningful it will turn out to be or how long it will last.
But it’s possible that when we look back over the sweep of this most unusual campaign, we’ll mark this week as a significant turning point: the time when journalists finally figured out how to cover Donald Trump.
They didn’t do it by coming up with some new model of coverage, or putting aside what they were taught in journalism school. They’re doing it by rediscovering the fundamental values and norms that are supposed to guide their profession.
If this evolution in coverage takes hold, we can trace it to the combined effect of a few events and developments happening in a short amount of time. The first was Trump’s press conference on Tuesday, the ostensible purpose of which was to answer questions about a fundraiser he held in January to raise money for veterans’ groups. In the course of the press conference, Trump was at his petulant, abusive worst, attacking reporters in general and those in the room.
These kinds of criticisms are not new — anyone who has reported a Trump rally can tell you how Trump always tosses some insults at the press, at which point his supporters turn around and hurl their own abuse at those covering the event — but Trump seemed particularly angry and unsettled.
It happened because the Post’s David Fahrenthold and some other reporters did what journalists are supposed to do. They raised questions about Trump’s fundraiser, and when they didn’t get adequate answers, they investigated, gathered facts, and asked more questions.
It was excellent work — time-consuming, difficult, and ultimately paying dividends in public understanding. And Trump’s attack on them for doing their jobs the way those jobs are supposed to be done couldn’t have been better designed to get every other journalist to want to do the same. . . . Trump may have wanted to intimidate them, but it’s likely to have the opposite effect.
The same day as the press conference, a trove of documents from Trump University was released as part of a class-action lawsuit accusing Trump of fraud. The documents revealed allegations as to just what a scam that enterprise was . . . . questions are now being raised about an investigation the Texas Attorney General’s office undertook of Trump University, which concluded that it was cheating Texans out of large sums of money; the investigation was dropped by then-AG Greg Abbott, who later got $35,000 in contributions from Trump and is now the state’s governor.
Plenty of presidential candidates have had shady doings in their pasts, but can you think of anything that compares to Trump University? A party’s nominee allegedly running a con not just on unsuspecting victims, but on victims specifically chosen for their vulnerability and desperation?
Then you had Trump’s continued attacks on the judge presiding over that fraud case. It’s unusual enough for a presidential candidate to be publicly attacking a judge in a case he’s involved in, but what’s most appalling is the blatant bigotry at the basis of Trump’s criticisms.
Put together this series of developments coming one after together, and I suspect that many journalists are deciding that the way to cover Trump is just to do it as honestly and assiduously as possible, which would itself be something almost revolutionary. If the tone of his coverage up until now has been “Wow, is this election crazy or what!” it could become much more serious — as it completely appropriate given that we’re choosing someone to hold the most powerful position on earth.
Trump himself probably finds such treatment grossly unfair, since to him “unfair” coverage is anything that doesn’t portray him in the most glowing terms. But it is perhaps ironic that after all this time of wondering how to cover this most unusual candidate, Trump has shown the press that the best way to do it is to cover him like every candidate should be covered. That means not just planting a camera at his rallies and marveling at how nuts it all is, but doing to work to fully vet his background, correcting his lies as swiftly and surely as they can, exploring what a Trump presidency would actually mean, and generally doing their jobs without letting him intimidate them.
If they can keep doing that, they’ll bring honor to their profession — and I doubt Trump’s candidacy could survive it.
With the surrender of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) to the Trump crusade, it is fair to wonder what the Republican Party stands for.Ryan’s endorsement of Trump, which appeared in an op-ed the speaker wrotefor his hometown paper — rather than before a gaggle of reporters and newscasters with his arm draped around Trump’s shoulders — was a white flag from the establishment opposition.In other words, he caved, as most everyone knew he would after a respectable period of resistance.
The party has to stand united, after all. Because, as the Geico guy would remind us, that’s what they do.
Next likely to fall will be evangelical Christian leaders, who are scheduled to meet with Trump on June 21. The expectation is that Trump will promise to pick conservative Supreme Court justices who would restore the nation’s social order to a pre-Roe v. Wade, pre-gay-rights version.
If the purportedly devout can accept the ungodly Trump as the nation’s leader, then there really is nothing sacred. But, by God, he’s better than Hillary Clinton, clamors the crowd.
To Trump’s supporters, a billionaire with no governing experience, questionable business practices and secret tax returns would be vastly better than Clinton on no substantive basis whatsoever. Most compelling of all is the belief that Trump would nominate conservative justices.
There’s no knowing whom Trump would nominate, notwithstanding the list of 11 judges he released last month, indicating the sorts of jurists he’d select. The list was merely a “guide” Trump said he would use in making his selections.
In other words, what you see may not be what you get.
This applies as well to Trump, about whose policies we still know next to nothing. What we do know is that Trump is a chameleon who changes his positions with the same conviction he takes to the wedding chapel.
Millions of others, contrarily, can’t ignore Trump’s tendency to be crude, rude and impetuous, not to mention disingenuous, contentious, simplistic — “I hate [nuclear] proliferation!” — and irresponsibly ignorant. And yet party leaders against their better instincts have circled the wagons around a movie character, not Chauncey Gardiner in “Being There,” as I once suggested, but Tom Hanks’s character in “Big.”
As you’ll recall, Hanks acts the part of a boy, who, having been granted his wish to be all grown up, suddenly inhabits the body of an adult. But still a child, he behaves as one. Fortunately, the worst thing Hanks’s character does is to behave so adorably that a grown woman falls for him.
Now imagine that the boy hadn’t been a sweet child but was a spoiled brat and a bully. What sort of child-inhabited man might Hanks have been then? Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s tantrum-throwing nuke-slinger, comes to mind.
So does Trump, not that I’m comparing the two, but you get the gist. Of all the carefully examined flaws in Trump’s persona, the most concerning and potentially dangerous is his immaturity.
Like a child used to getting his way, he shouts, pokes, bullies, berates, pouts and parades. And thanks to him, the GOP’s big tent has become a tough-kid’s idea of a party — peopled with hot dames, swindlers, gamblers, bosses, bouncers and thugs — and some, I assume, are good people.
At least now, Ronald Reagan can finally get some rest. The Republican Party has left him.
|Witch hunt leader, GOP Rep. Try Gowdy|
If things had gone his way, [GOP Representative Trey] Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, would have found a way to torpedo Mrs. Clinton’s presidential ambitions. After all, Republican lawmakers have admitted that this is precisely what they set out to do.
But things have not gone well for Mr. Gowdy, who has run the investigation with the dexterity and grace of a blindfolded toddler swinging at a piñata. Having pored over reams of documents, grilled Mrs. Clinton in an 11-hour session in October and hauled in more than 100 people for interviews, the Republicans seem to have come up with nothing.
In recent months, Republicans on the committee have pestered the Pentagon to track down potential witnesses who might have damning things to say about Washington’s response to the attack on American government facilities in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state. They include a man who identified himself as a military mechanic in an intriguing Facebook post, and “John from Iowa,” a person who claimed to be a drone operator who had called into a right-wing radio talk show.
Stephen Hedger, the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, complained to Mr. Gowdy in a letter in April about the “recent crescendo of requests.” The Pentagon, Mr. Hedger wrote, couldn’t find John from Iowa after expending “significant resources to locate anyone who might match the description of this person.”
The Benghazi committee, which was set up in May 2014, has been operational for longer than the 9/11 Commission was. It has dragged on longer than congressional investigations into the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, Watergate, the Iran-contra scandal, the 1983 bombing that killed 241 American service members in Beirut and the response to Hurricane Katrina.
The committee has spent nearly $7 million looking into an incident that had already been the subject of an independent investigation commissioned by the State Department and nine reports issued by seven other congressional committees. Those reviews faulted the federal government for failing to provide proper security for the American ambassador in Libya and three of his colleagues who were killed, but found no evidence of a cover-up or gross negligence by Mrs. Clinton.
It is argued that it is highly probable Adolf Hitler suffered from a multitude of severe psychological disorders including paranoid schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder.
Historically, this particular combination of 3 personality disorders was seen in all of history's worst tyrants (e.g., Hitler, Stalin etc.). These tyrants lust for wealth, fame and power, and callously destroy everyone that they suspect opposes them. As they gain more power, they become more grandiose, power-hungry, and paranoid. If unopposed, these tyrants initiate wars, which result in the mass slaughter of innocent civilians. The tragedy is that the public is easily seduced by these tyrant's grandiose fantasies of national "greatness", and their paranoid hatred of some scapegoated minority (e.g., Jews, Muslims, immigrants, or refugees). These tyrants know that is easier to mobilize people by teaching them hatred and paranoia, than by teaching them love and forgiveness.
They show an exaggerated sense of self-importance, insensitivity towards the feelings and needs of others, and callous exploitation of others. They alienate others with their arrogance, self-centeredness, greed, and lack of kindness. They have feelings of entitlement; they often expect to be catered to and are furious when this does not happen. They are attention-seeking and admiration seeking. Their manipulativeness, deceitfulness, and callousness is identical to the selfish, callous and remorseless use of others that is seen in psychopaths.
In 1991, Sue Carswell, a reporter for People, experienced a phenomenon familiar to her peers: calls from supposed PR guys named “John Miller” or “John Barron”, gratuitously boasting about Trump’s wealth, business success and romantic prowess. Most bizarre, all agreed, was that the caller spoke and sounded exactly like Trump himself. But this particular call was immortalized on tape.As others had, Carswell recognized the distinctive voice and accent. Distinctive, too, was the callousness and narcissism of an abysmal- and unbalanced - human being.
Trump was 44 then, and living with his future second wife Marla Maples. Nonetheless, his boastful “representative” shared for public consumption that “Trump” had “three other girlfriends”, detailing at length his alleged romance with Nicholas Sarkozy’s future wife Carla Bruni. But not all women were so lucky- for the benefit of People’s readers “Miller” described how Madonna stalked Trump at a charity ball before facing the ultimate devastation: “He’s got zero interest that night.”
But here’s the thing which takes his performance from odious to pathological - Trump wanted a larger audience for his particular brand of self - aggrandizing swill, one in the millions, and was willing to assume a false identity to get it. It didn’t matter if he was lying; he didn’t care who got hurt. All that counted is what he needed in the moment.
To meet his needs, Donald Trump wants us to make him president. To meet its own needs, the media - particularly cable news - is helping him.
[T]here is nothing more “current” or important than Donald Trump’s psychological fitness to be president. All the hyperventilation of the media - parsing his “positions”, pontificating on his” strategy” and intuition- is a poisonous form of the “political correctness” he otherwise deplores, normalizing the abnormal by shoehorning him into the usual analytic boxes. And what it yields is, in great part, rubbish.
There is only one organizing principle which makes sense of his wildly oscillating utterances and behavior - the clinical definition of narcissistic personality disorder.
The Mayo Clinic describes it as “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.” This is bad enough in selecting a spouse or a friend. But when applied to a prospective president, the symptoms are disqualifying.
With Trump ever in mind, try these. An exaggerated sense of self-importance. An unwarranted belief in your own superiority. A preoccupation with fantasies of your own success, power and brilliance. A craving for constant admiration. A consuming sense of entitlement. An expectation of special favors and unquestioning compliance.
A penchant for exploiting or disparaging others. A total inability to recognize the needs of anyone else. An incapacity to see those you meet as separate human beings. An unreasoning fury at people you perceive as thwarting your wishes or desires. A tendency to act on impulse. A superficial charm deployed to disguise a gift for manipulation.
A need to always be right. A refusal to acknowledge error. An inability to tolerate criticism or critics. A compulsion to conform your ever - shifting sense of “reality” to satisfy your inner requirements . A tendency to lie so frequently and routinely that objective truth loses all meaning.
A belief that you are above the rules. An array of inconsistent statements and behaviors driven by your needs in the moment. An inability to assess the consequences of your actions in new or complex situations. In sum, a total incapacity to separate the world from your own psychodrama.
If your life’s work is building hotels and casinos, this pathology can work for you -especially if your dad has started you out with a few million dollars in chips. . . . . The annals of business are filled with such people, some of whom wind up in jail, others of whom die rich. But however puissant they become in their chosen realm, their sickness of mind and spirit cannot ruin a country. That power is reserved for presidents.
By the consensus of mental health experts, this emotional impairment has a last fatal ingredient - there is no cure. For a man like Donald Trump, life offers no lessons, no path forward save to continue as you have until, like Icarus, you fly too close to the sun.
He is afflicted with a comprehensive and profound character disorder which leaves no corner of his psyche whole. And this dictates - and explains - every aspect of his behavior.
Take his recourse to bullying and slander. “I’m a counterpuncher,” he rationalizes. “[I]’ve been responding to what they did to me.” Now we understand, Donald - your enemies made you do it.
This astoundingly graceless and unpresidential behavior is far too pointless and indiscriminate to qualify as strategy or tactics. The common thread in all this lashing out - often at those who can’t fight back - is that it has nothing to do with issues, or anything else one would expect from a normal candidate. It is another symptom of Trump’s pathology - the visceral reflex to humiliate and degrade anyone who displeases him, no matter the context or situation.
Opposition of any kind enrages him. He incites reprisals against protesters. He threatened violence in Cleveland as payback for the GOP’s “unfairness.” He fuels anger against Hispanics, Muslims, and other minorities whom he perceives as inimical. And never - not once - does he take any responsibility for stirring these toxic pots. For one of the symptoms of his disability is an absence of conscience or accountability.
Which brings us to a central problem of Trump’s warped psychology - he believes that filling the presidency requires nothing but the wonder of himself. This gives the lie to GOP’s most craven rationalization of its own capitulation: that a suddenly docile Trump will, as president, defer to a cadre of wise and experienced advisors drawn from the party establishment.
This is pernicious nonsense. Consistent with his character disorder, Trump proudly insists that his chief advisor is himself. Even were he so inclined, in order to learn from others he must know enough to discern good advice from bad. But such is his pathology that he feels no need to learn much of anything from anyone. And so, from the beginning, he has plunged us down the bottomless rabbit hole of his intellectual emptiness.
His ignorance and grandiosity form a lethal compound. He disowns NATO, unaware that he is playing into Putin’s hands; blithely proposes nuclear proliferation in Asia; muses aloud about using nuclear weapons; and imagines negotiating one-on-one with North Korea’s psychotic leader. He proposes a trade war potentially ruinous to the world economy. He abets ISIS and Al Qaeda by scapegoating all Muslims at home and abroad. Oblivious to the appalled reaction around the globe, he promises to compel the respect of world leaders through “ the aura of personality.”
His equally spurious domestic “proposals”, such as they may be, reflect nothing but the unreality of his own self-concept. His tax plan is absurd on its face. His astonishing proposal to trash America’s credit by defaulting on our debt reveals an inability to differentiate between running a casino and a country. His posturing for the NRA is as dangerous as it is dishonest.
One can forecast the inevitable day to day damage to our country - the lashings out, the abuses of power, the mercurial and confidence- destroying lies and changes of mind, the havoc his distorted lens would wreak upon our institutions and our spirit. But most dangerous of all is the collision between a volatile world, a leader unable to perceive external reality, and the often unbearable pressures of the presidency. That Trump’s judgement would crack time and again is certain - the only question is how dangerous the moment.
So how have we fallen prey to a man who, by the damning evidence of his own behavior, is psychologically unfit to be president? When did boasting top coherence; mindless posturing become strength; a talent for ridicule supplant experience or judgement; a gift for scapegoating surpass wisdom or generosity? Why must we even contemplate someone with this stunted inner landscape as the world’s most powerful man?
[T]wo institutions deserve special condemnation.
First, the Republican Party. For too long it fed the GOP’s middle and working class base easy scapegoats - Washington, minorities - while the Paul Ryans of the party contravened its voters’ interests: pushing free trade, reduced entitlements, and tax cuts for the rich. Trump is what happened to the party when its electorate spat this pablum out. . . . . Even more contemptible is the party’s embrace of Trump. For we have reached, as David Brooks wrote, the GOP’s “McCarthy moment” - a turning point when concern for country should override grubby pragmatism.
But, with honorable exceptions, the broadcast media has been even more shameful and complicit. Worst of all is cable news -in pursuit of revenue and ratings, they have given Trump $3 billion in free advertising, feeding his candidacy - and his ego - by spreading the mythology of his imperviousness and power. . . . . Wallowing in self interest, they have shrunk from saying what must be said: that Trump is unfit for higher office.
The Republican Party is beyond redemption. The media have five months left. Let them use it well.
Friday, June 03, 2016
Donald J. Trump’s blustery attacks on the press, complaints about the judicial system and bold claims of presidential power collectively sketch out a constitutional worldview that shows contempt for the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the rule of law, legal experts across the political spectrum say.Even as much of the Republican political establishment lines up behind its presumptive nominee, many conservative and libertarian legal scholars warn that electing Mr. Trump is a recipe for a constitutional crisis.
“Who knows what Donald Trump with a pen and phone would do?” asked Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer with the libertarian Cato Institute.
With five months to go before Election Day, Mr. Trump has already said he would “loosen” libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations. He has threatened to sic federal regulators on his critics. He has encouraged rough treatment of demonstrators.
And, in what was a tipping point for some, he attacked Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the Federal District Court in San Diego, who is overseeing two class actions against Trump University.
Mr. Trump accused the judge of bias, falsely said he was Mexican and seemed to issue a threat.
David Post, a retired law professor who now writes for the Volokh Conspiracy, a conservative-leaning law blog, said those comments had crossed a line.
“This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary,” Mr. Post said. “You can criticize the judicial system, you can criticize individual cases, you can criticize individual judges. But the president has to be clear that the law is the law and that he enforces the law. That is his constitutional obligation.”
“You would like a president with some idea about constitutional limits on presidential powers, on congressional powers, on federal powers,” Professor Barnett said, “and I doubt he [Trump] has any awareness of such limits.”
Republican officials have criticized Mr. Obama for what they have called his unconstitutional expansion of executive power. But some legal scholars who share that view say the problem under a President Trump would be worse.
“I don’t think he cares about separation of powers at all,” said Richard Epstein, a fellow at the Hoover Institution who also teaches at New York University and the University of Chicago. . . . I think Trump doesn’t even think there’s an issue to worry about. He just simply says whatever I want to do I will do.”
Mr. Post said there was a difference between Mr. Obama’s view of executive power and that of Mr. Trump. “Whatever you think of Obama’s position on immigration, he is willing to submit to the courts,” he said. “There is no suggestion that he will disobey if the courts rule against him.”
Several law professors said they were less sure about Mr. Trump, citing the actions of another populist, President Andrew Jackson, who refused to enforce an 1832 Supreme Court decision arising from a clash between Georgia and the Cherokee Nation.
“I can easily see a situation in which he would take the Andrew Jackson line,” Professor Epstein said, referring to a probably apocryphal comment attributed to Jackson about Chief Justice John Marshall: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”
Other legal scholars said they were worried about Mr. Trump’s commitment to the First Amendment. He has taken particular aim at The Washington Post and its owner, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
“He owns Amazon,” Mr. Trump said in February. “He wants political influence so Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”
Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, Mr. Trump’s comments betrayed a troubling disregard for free expression.
“There are very few serious constitutional thinkers who believe public figures should be able to use libel as indiscriminately as Trump seems to think they should,” Professor Somin said. “He poses a serious threat to the press and the First Amendment.”
Many of Mr. Trump’s statements about legal issues were extemporaneous and resist conventional legal analysis. Some seemed to betray ignorance of fundamental legal concepts . . .
Hillary Clinton threw a barrage of stinging one-liners at Donald Trump on Thursday. But at the heart of her speech was one powerful question for voters: “Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?”
In an address that slammed Trump on everything from what Clinton called his bigotry toward Muslims and Mexicans to his talk of torturing terrorists and executing their family members, nothing was so grave as Clinton's implication that a Trump presidency might end the 70-year global taboo against the use of nuclear weapons.
“This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes,” Clinton said. “It’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.”
At a time when Clinton is road-testing lines of attack against the businessman who sometimes seems immune to traditional political rhetoric, Democrats say the nuclear issue could be especially potent, touching on some of the deepest fears voters have about their own security.
Clinton is not the first to raise the question, however, and it remains to be seen whether she will succeed where Trump’s GOP rivals failed.
In Clinton’s telling, Trump isn't just temperamental and prone to impulsive fights—he's dangerously cavalier about nuclear weapons and their potential for death and destruction on a mind-warping scale.
"This is a man who said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia," Clinton said.
Clinton also recalled Trump’s quip about a potential conflict between Japan and North Korea: “If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.” “I wonder if he even realized he’s talking about nuclear war,” she marveled.
Clinton also reminded listeners that Trump “refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties.”
[T]he nuclear question is still among the simplest and most powerful ways to focus voter attention on a candidate’s fitness to be president.
There is some evidence to suggest that Clinton already has the better part of the argument. When Fox News asked voters in mid-May whom they trust more with “decisions about nuclear weapons,” the former first lady and secretary of state came out ahead of Trump by 11 points, 49-38.
Clinton is hardly the first to fret in public about Trump's potential proximity to the nuclear "football," the briefcase carried by a military aide who travels with the president containing communications equipment that allows him to authorize a nuclear launch. Marco Rubio warned against handing “the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual.” Jeb Bush said that he had “grave doubts” about entrusting Trump with America's atomic arsenal. And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal fretted against entrusting "such a hothead with the nuclear codes."
That fear has dogged Republicans for decades.
Thursday, June 02, 2016
AS DONALD Trump was building a campaign on lies, bigotry, insults, fear mongering and unreason, a few Republican leaders of apparent principle offered some resistance. Foremost among them was House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). In March, Mr. Ryan insisted that “all of us as leaders can hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity and decency” and that “we shouldn’t accept ugliness as the norm.”
On Thursday Mr. Ryan capitulated to ugliness. It was a sad day for the speaker, for his party and for all Americans who hoped that some Republican leaders would have the fortitude to put principle over partisanship, job security or the forlorn fantasy that Mr. Trump will advance a traditional GOP agenda.
[T]he speaker said that conversations with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee have reassured him. Mr. Trump will help turn House GOP ideas into law, Mr. Ryan said, in a way that a President Hillary Clinton would not.
This is fanciful, as Mr. Ryan must understand. Judging by his wild swings of position over the years, Mr. Trump does not believe in much of anything. The convictions that he does hold — against free trade and U.S. leadership abroad, for dividing the nation by religion and ethnicity — are antithetical to the principles Mr. Ryan has said guide him.
Having secured the nomination without Mr. Ryan’s help, a President Trump certainly would not feel bound by any assurances that Mr. Ryan believes he has heard from the candidate.
Now Mr. Ryan has endorsed a man whose “solutions” include banning Muslims from entering the country, who casts aspersions on judges because of their ethnicity, who mocks people with disabilities, who lies repeatedly, who would muzzle the free press. Each one of these is disqualifying — particularly for anyone who believes in conducting the nation’s politics in a constructive, reasonable manner or who claims to have the long-term interests of the nation, rather than a short-term win at the ballot box or in Congress, in mind.
[S]ome insisted that the speaker had little choice. This is false. “My dad used to say, ‘If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem,’ ” Mr. Ryan said in March. When he has a comparable conversation with his children, how will Mr. Ryan explain the decision he made in this campaign?
|My hand after the initial surgery|
[T]the rationale behind this refusal [of the media to do its job] is simple self-interest on the part of journalists who know that they can “ask any question about Trump, Trumpism or anti-Trumpism except the existential ones, because the existential ones could lead him to stop calling in to [their] morning show and providing [them] with [their] highest-rated hour for free.”
After outlining the absurd inability of the press to question Trump when he blatantly and repeatedly contradicts himself on the record, he relented in his criticism somewhat, acknowledging that it’s difficult to “examine what’s going on inside of a man who could first pretend to be his own media spokesman, then boast about his own sexual conquests in the third person, then admit the deception to a reporter, then again admit it on the legal record, then deny it on national television, then when pressed about it by The Washington Post simply hang up the phone.”
With their own jobs hanging in the balance, who in the American media of 2016 could invoke not the politics of reproductive rights but question if there’s something far more than inconsistency involved when a candidate says he believes women who have abortions should be in some way punished, then weeks later insists he meant they should punish themselves? Or in that environment, who can ask not about religious intolerance but instead what is amiss with the thought process of a candidate whose campaign pivoted from the fringes to a hateful lane in the mainstream the day he insisted Muslims be banned from entering this country, yet who could manage to later seriously claim all that was “just a suggestion”…
|The Lawn at UVA|
Lawyers representing a University of Virginia student at the center of a debunked gang-rape allegation have acknowledged in court papers that the student has ties to a fake persona she once named as the ringleader of the alleged attack.
Filed in federal court Tuesday, the papers are part of an ongoing lawsuit a U-Va. associate dean filed against Rolling Stone magazine, arguing that the magazine published a defamatory account of how the Charlottesville school handles sexual assaults. The legal team representing “Jackie” acknowledged that they had recently accessed a Yahoo e-mail account for “Haven Monahan,” who the U-Va. student alleged had taken her on a date before leading her into a brutal gang rape in September 2012.
Lawyers representing U-Va. associate dean Nicole Eramo have described Monahan as a fictitious U-Va. junior created by Jackie to lure the romantic interest of another student, a practice known as “catfishing.”
Eramo’s lawyer, Libby Locke, told The Washington Post that the filing shows that “they admit accessing it, which means Jackie is Haven, a point they’ve refused to answer all along.”
Eramo’s legal team filed the $10 million defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone in response to a sensational account of Jackie’s alleged sexual assault detailed in a lengthy expose published by the magazine in November 2014. An investigation by The Post eventually showed significant inconsistencies in the Rolling Stone account, and the Charlottesville Police Department and a Columbia University inquiry could not substantiate the allegations; the magazine subsequently retracted the story.
Eramo then sued Rolling Stone claiming that the account protrayed Eramo as callous and indifferent to Jackie’s gang rape allegations.
Eramo’s lawyers assert that the new evidence finally proves that Jackie created Monahan and his e-mail account as part of an elaborate ruse to lure another U-Va. student into a romantic relationship. In a series of text messages, Jackie wrote to friends at U-Va. that Monahan was a junior in her chemistry class who had invited her on a date. Then one night in September of her freshman year she alleged that Monahan and a group of men sexually assaulted her after the date.
Donald Trump claims a net worth of more than $10 billion and an income of $557 million. But he appears to get there only by overvaluing properties and ignoring his expenses.
POLITICO spoke with more than a dozen financial experts and Trump’s fellow multimillionaires about the presumptive Republican nominee’s latest financial statement. Their conclusion: The real estate magnate’s bottom line — what he actually puts in his own pocket — could be much lower than he suggests. Some financial analysts said this, and a very low tax rate, is why Trump won’t release his tax returns.
“I know Donald; I’ve known him a long time, and it gets under his skin if you start writing about the reasons he won’t disclose his returns,” said one prominent hedge fund manager who declined to be identified by name so as not to draw Trump’s ire. “You would see that he doesn’t have the money that he claims to have and he’s not paying much of anything in taxes.”
Trump is certainly wealthy. But in a campaign where the New Yorker has portrayed himself as the biggest, the richest, the classiest and the best at everything, disclosing that he is less rich than he lets on could be damaging. And it is a line of attack Democrats are already using and hope to pound away on until November.
The case against Trump’s accounting of his wealth: His businesses apparently generate a lot of revenue but may not put much cash in his pocket; he assigns himself a net worth that is impossible to verify and may be based in part on fantasy; and he is selling assets and increasing debt in ways that suggest a man scrambling for ready cash.
In response to a list of questions for this story, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks emailed: “The report speaks for itself.” If it does, the 104-page report — which Trump filed with the Federal Election Commission on May 17 — does not speak clearly.
The financial disclosure form showed Trump adding fresh debt of at least $50 million, though a campaign news release said Trump is using increased revenue to reduce his debt, which is now at least $315 million and possibly more than $500 million. The disclosure also suggests that Trump sold fund assets to raise as much as $7 million in cash and individual securities to raise up to $9 million more.
The apparent increase in debt and securities sales raises questions about the amount of cash Trump has on hand.
“If he is swimming in so much cash for all his holdings, why is he selling this stuff to raise cash?” asked another ultra-high-net-worth individual who also reviewed the filings and declined to be identified by name to avoid Trump’s wrath.
Trump’s tax returns could clarify a great deal about his actual income. But Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, said in an interview with The Huffington Post last week that he would be “surprised” if Trump ever releases the returns, which is not required but which every major presidential candidate has done since 1976.
Trump attributes the refusal to ongoing audits. But there is no prohibition on individuals releasing returns under scrutiny by the IRS. The refusal has led to rampant speculation among Wall Street executives who have done deals with Trump that his returns would show surprisingly low income.
There is no dispute that Trump owns many valuable properties that contribute to a high net worth. But there is a great deal of dispute about how high that worth actually is. The financial disclosure form lists assets worth at least $1.5 billion, but the ranges included are far too wide for an observer to determine anything close to a precise figure.
“Trump has a tendency to value his brand at a very high amount, but these are usually intangible valuations just pulled out of thin air,” said Steve Stanganelli, a certified financial planner at Clear View Wealth Advisors. “And he appears to be reporting gross revenue. There is a huge difference between that and net income. What really matters is what you put in the bank.”
A big chunk of Trump’s net worth figure comes from high valuations he bestows on his golf course properties. Trump values nine of his golf properties at “over $50 million” for a total of at least $450 million. He values at least four more at up to $25 million and a fifth at up to $50 million. But golf course valuation experts say there is nothing in the report to support these lofty figures.
But if anything could damage the Trump brand, some analysts say, it would be persistent revelations about his business record and personal riches. “By any stretch, Trump is rich. But the perception now is that he is richer and huger and better than everyone,” said Stanganelli. “What happens if that perception changes?”