No Sift next week. The next new posts will appear February 24.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

– Abraham Lincoln
2nd Inaugural Address (3-4-1865)

As everybody knows, my family, our great country, and your President, have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people. They have done everything possible to destroy us, and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.

– Donald Trump
at the National Prayer Breakfast (2-6-2020)

This week’s featured post is “Let’s Talk Each Other Down“. Think of it as a counterweight to all the depressing or panic-worthy stuff in this summary.

This week everybody was talking about Iowa and New Hampshire

OK, Iowa was a mess. But there’s a reliable paper trail, so there’s good reason to believe the result. Tomorrow is the New Hampshire primary, which I am amazed to discover I have not covered at all. I have not been to a single candidate event this year, despite living just over the border in Massachusetts.

To a large extent that’s because the main thing that matters to me is electing Not Trump. I have likes and opinions, but I’m all-in for whoever gets the nomination. Anyway, here’s one comment about each major contender:

  • Biden’s fourth-place finish in Iowa was a huge disappointment, and he doesn’t look to be running well in NH either. He’s counting on his black support to get him back in the race in South Carolina. I’ll bet Kamala Harris is kicking herself for getting out, because there is no obvious inheritor of Biden’s black support if he fails.
  • Bloomberg is running such an unorthodox campaign that it’s hard to know whether his strategy is working or not. But he gets Trump’s goat better than any other candidate, and that has to count for something.
  • Buttigieg was the biggest beneficiary of Iowa. Sanders won the popular vote, but Buttigieg was the big surprise and wound up with the most delegates. His NH polls shot up afterwards, largely, I think, because his Iowa performance gave people who already like him a reason to take his candidacy seriously. (Likeability is one of those nebulous concepts that is easy to abuse and hides a bunch of prejudices. But for what it’s worth, Pete is the candidate I feel the most affection for. That doesn’t necessarily mean I plan to vote for him, though.) It’s hard to tell whether this week’s debate blunted his momentum or not.
  • Klobuchar is the tortoise in this race. She also got on the map in Iowa, and is probably the second choice of a lot of Biden’s white supporters. She’s polling near zero in South Carolina, though, so she needs to do well in New Hampshire to stay in the race.
  • Sanders got more first-round votes than any other candidate in Iowa, but his case for beating Trump didn’t do so well. The theory of how Sanders wins in November is that (even though he may lose some voters in the center) he raises turnout by inspiring a lot of new voters to come to the polls. But turnout in Iowa was not much different from 2016, and much lower than 2008, when Obama really did inspire people. He needs a win in NH, but he also needs to win the right way, with a big turnout.
  • Warren is the president I would appoint, if the Universe would grant me that power. She’s got to be disappointed in her distant third-place finish in Iowa, and recent polls have her running third in NH as well. She was briefly the front-runner last fall, but it’s hard to see where her break-out state is.

Josh Marshall makes a prediction of how Trump will smear Bernie, should he become the front-runner. He also pre-debunks the smear.

and the final impeachment trial result

The biggest surprise of the Senate vote was that Trump’s acquittal wasn’t a party-line vote, and that the lone defector was a Republican, not a Democrat. After lots of speculation that Joe Manchin or some other red-state Democrat would find a way to excuse Trump, the Democrats held firm, and Mitt Romney found his conscience.

I’ve been a bit appalled at how uncharitable many of my social media friends have been, trying to see Romney’s choice as some kind of 2024 calculation. That seems really unlikely to me. Mitt is smart enough to realize that no matter how badly Trump blows up, nobody is going to get the 2024 Republican nomination by being anti-Trump. Assuming Trump even bothers to observe the term-limit rule — I mean, the Constitution is just a piece of paper — the next Republican nominee is either a Trump successor (Pence? Ivanka? Don Jr.?) or somebody who has stayed conveniently off the national stage (like Paul Ryan or a governor).

I think Mitt is at a point in his career where he sees History staring him in the face, and doesn’t want to be remembered as Trump’s accomplice. I’m amazed that more late-in-their-careers Republicans haven’t looked at things that way. Lamar Alexander, for example, has just guaranteed that none of the things he’s proud of will be remembered. The headline of his obituary will be that he shut down the witnesses to Trump’s crimes.

Mitt’s vote has provided contrast for the cowardice of the other Republican senators. We can hope other Republicans will be emboldened to take a stand as well.

and reprisals against those involved in Trump’s impeachment

The Washington Post put President Clinton’s and President Trump’s post-acquittal speeches side-by-side. They could not be more different. Clinton was short, contrite, and tried to put conflict behind him. (“I believe any person who asks for forgiveness has to be prepared to give it.”)

Trump, by contrast, was long-winded and dishonest, and took no responsibility for the acts that started this whole national trauma.

Trump repeatedly called Democrats involved in the impeachment “evil,” “corrupt” and “vicious and mean.” He railed against the Russian investigation, former FBI director James B. Comey, and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, adding, “It was all bullshit.”

He seemed poised for revenge, and soon began to take it. Donald Jr. made the threat explicit:

Allow me a moment to thank—and this may be a bit of a surprise—Adam Schiff. Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired. Thanks, Adam!

After the show trial, the purge. Ambassador Gordon Sondland lost his job, as did Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman at the National Security Council. Somewhat stranger, Vindman’s brother Yevgeny was also fired from his job as an NSC lawyer. But that also fits the Stalinist pattern: Once you’ve been judged to be an Enemy of the People, your relatives are also suspect. That’s probably why Mitt Romney’s niece, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, has been so quick to declare her fealty to the regime.

Joshua Geltzer and Ryan Goodman comment on the Just Security blog:

Some have suggested that the outcry sparked by Friday’s reprisals was overblown. After all, any president is, on some level, entitled to surround himself at the White House and be represented overseas by those he trusts. But the question raised by Friday’s purge is: trusts to do what? And that’s where these actions raise serious concerns for American democracy: because Trump increasingly wants an executive branch that’ll serve not the United States of America but Donald J. Trump personally.

Trump was punishing key witnesses for doing precisely what the United States Congress swore them in to do: explain what they’d seen and heard.

… [E]xploitation of America’s diplomatic, military, and law enforcement mechanisms was the very usurpation of power that got Trump impeached in the first place. At the heart of the Ukraine extortion scheme was Trump and his personal lawyer’s appropriation of those mechanisms for political benefit and to the detriment of the country’s national security interests. Having survived impeachment, Trump now seeks to accelerate the redirection of America’s instruments of power into his own instruments of power.

Trump is not the only Republican engaged in post-impeachment reprisals. During the trial, Senator Rand Paul on numerous occasions named someone he claimed was the whistleblower whose complaint started the Ukraine investigation.

Friday, Tom Mueller (author of the book Crisis of Conscience about the history of whistleblowing) wrote a complaint to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, explaining how Senator Paul’s behavior violated the law.

Senator Paul’s actions constituted a retaliatory outing of a government witness—which is criminal conduct. Federal criminal law prohibits the obstruction of justice, and provides that “[w]hoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

Paul’s outing of the whistleblower occurred not just on the floor of the Senate (where it might be constitutionally protected) but also outside the Senate and on Twitter.

If Senator Paul goes unpunished, this will be the kind of weakening of the law typical of the descent towards fascism. In the late stages of fascism, criticism of the Leader is punished by the State directly. But in earlier stages, critics simply lose the protection of the laws and can be attacked by followers of the Leader without consequence. When the Brownshirts come to beat them up, the police watch and do nothing.

Speaking of brownshirts: Immediately after Romney’s guilty vote, CPAC chair Matt Schlapp disinvited him from the flagship conservative convention. Yesterday, Schlapp said “I would actually be afraid for his physical safety” if he showed up.

and the State of the Union

The State of the Union address was Tuesday. Trump stayed on script, but the script was full of lies and exaggerations.

At the end of the State of the Union address, Nancy Pelosi very decisively ripped up Trump’s speech. For some reason, this display of disrespect resounded across right-wing media, as if this were most uncivil thing to happen in months. I agree with Trae Crowder, a.k.a. the Liberal Redneck:

The level of disrespect she showed by, like, ripping up the president’s speech at the State of the Union like that — it’s nowhere near disrespectful enough. … This is the most disrespectful motherfucker on Planet Earth.

Medals of Freedom are essentially lifetime achievement awards that presidents give to people who make Americans proud. Usually that means other Americans, but sometimes a medal goes to a foreigner (Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking) who just makes us proud to be human.

Presidents have complete discretion to pick whoever they want, and for the most part they’ve done a good job. Over the years MoF awards have gone to authors like John Steinbeck and Harper Lee, artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Andrew Wyeth, musicians like Count Basie and Bob Dylan, and businessmen like Henry Ford II and IBM-founder Tom Watson. Computer-programming pioneer Grace Hopper got one, and so did photographer Ansel Adams. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel got one for being the conscience of the world.

In baseball’s Hall of Fame not everyone is Babe Ruth, and the same thing happens with Medals of Freedom. They’ve also gone to people who were famous and deserving of respect but not legendary, like actor Tom Hanks, Western-genre author Louis L’Amour, and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels. It happens. Presidents have their own idiosyncratic tastes. Some awards looked fine at the time, but shameful in retrospect, like President Bush giving one to Bill Cosby in 2002.

Well, Tuesday during the State of the Union address, President Trump awarded one to Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh has been a purveyor of hate and lies for more than 30 years. Who can forget his branding of Georgetown student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” for the unpardonable sin of defending ObamaCare’s contraception mandate?

So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.

Feel proud yet? How about when he accused Michael J. Fox of exaggerating the symptoms of his Parkinson’s Disease? Or when he made up a series of “facts” in order to falsely blame measles outbreaks on immigrant children? Or his addiction to prescription drugs, which resulted in a settlement with the State of Florida to get them to drop charges for doctor shopping?

Politifact has looked into 42 of Limbaugh’s controversial statements, and found zero of them to be entirely true. Thirty-five were rated Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire.

In short, if I were Sidney Poitier or Buzz Aldrin or some other living recipient of the Medal, I’d be looking at that award with considerably less pride than I did a week ago.

Not all of Trump’s awardees have cheapened the Medal. (I thought NBA legends Bob Cousy and Jerry West were worthy choices.) But a number of them look like deliberate attempts to debase the award: ethically challenged Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese; Arthur Laffer, creator of the discredited “Laffer Curve” theory that tax cuts increase revenue; and Miriam Adelson, wife of GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.

This is some of the hidden damage Trump is doing to America. Even if we get rid of him in November, it will take a while to recover the value of things he has desecrated.

and you also might be interested in …

David Fahrenthold has found yet another way that Trump is profiteering off the presidency: He’s making the Secret Service stay at his properties, and then overcharging them.

President Trump’s company charges the Secret Service for the rooms agents use while protecting him at his luxury properties — billing U.S. taxpayers at rates as high as $650 per night, according to federal records and people who have seen receipts. …

“If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Trump’s son Eric said in a Yahoo Finance interview last year.

Are you surprised to learn that’s a lie? However, the really scandalous part of the story is the extent to which Trump has kept the public in the dark about his self-dealing.

The Secret Service is required to tell Congress twice a year about what it spends to protect Trump at his properties. But since 2016, it has only filed two of the required six reports, according to congressional offices. The reasons, according to Secret Service officials: key personnel left and nobody picked up the job. Even in those two reports, the lines for Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago were blank.

As I said above about Rand Paul, this is how fascism starts: Not with new laws, but with refusing to enforce the old laws.

A somewhat technical but worth-reading NYT article about Instex, a device Germany, France, and Britain set up to avoid US sanctions on countries and businesses that trade with Iran. It’s not working, but the lengths the US is going to in order to keep it from working is a lesson in how hard it is to be an independent US ally these days. Either you give up sovereignty and let Trump write your foreign policy, or the full economic fury of the United States will be unleashed on you. Sooner or later, our former allies will realize they need to work with China to balance our power.

China’s National Health Commission announced the 97 people died of coronavirus yesterday, more than any previous daily total. That brought the overall Chinese death toll to 908.

and let’s close with an inside joke

In order to understand this, you need to know the stories of my people.

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  • James  On February 10, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Your frequent comments about potential descent into fascism seem striking in contrast to your “Let’s Talk Each Other Down” post.

    • weeklysift  On February 14, 2020 at 8:31 am

      The point of that post is not to minimize the threat — which is what we do if we don’t call fascism by its true name. The point is to face the threat and cope with it.

  • George Washington, Jr.  On February 10, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing the source of the Jane Sanders “scandal” and its outcome. This will clearly be a weakness for Sanders, but apparently it’s not as bad as it originally appeared (“Jane Sanders bankrupts a small liberal arts college for her own profit!”). One concern I do have with Sanders, however, is that he hasn’t faced any real criticism – not in this cycle, and definitely not in 2016 when Clinton refrained from attacking him. I’m not sure how he will respond when the Republican noise machine sets its sights on him.

    On the other hand, he has no shortage of rabid followers who won’t hesitate to respond to any attacks as viciously as Trump’s followers respond to attacks on him.

    • Guest  On February 10, 2020 at 3:38 pm

      “One concern I do have with Sanders, however, is that he hasn’t faced any real criticism – not in this cycle, and definitely not in 2016 when Clinton refrained from attacking him.”

      Yikes. This is four-Pinocchio, pants-on-fire level stuff, George.

      You’re right about the rabid followers though. Bill Maher finally came to the same conclusion, noting (paraphrasing) “at least he has an army to match Trump’s.” No other candidate comes close. Why bring a spoon to a knife fight?

      • George Washington, Jr.  On February 10, 2020 at 5:11 pm

        I don’t count as “criticism” when he’s questioned on how he will pay for his health care plan. I mean having to answer for his past praise of communist dictators and having to explain that his wife didn’t really bankrupt a college through shady real estate deals. He didn’t get that from Hillary and he’s not getting it now, although maybe Biden will start hitting him harder as the primary season progresses.

        I hope Sanders is working on some convincing responses, because this is the kind of thing Trump will hammer him with, that can have an effect on low-information voters. But fine, go ahead and dismiss this; if it doesn’t matter to you, I’m sure it won’t matter to anyone else.

      • Guest  On February 11, 2020 at 10:29 am

        You hope Sanders is working on convincing responses? How about winning Iowa by 6K+ votes as a response?

        Maybe I’d dismiss your off-base points, but I’d not dismiss you, George. If you want to pop your Bernie bubble but don’t want partisan sources, check out Wikipedia, they have a whole entry on Media coverage of Bernie Sanders, yes, covering 2016 and 2020. Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to miss a chance to kick Bernie or his supporters in the teeth. Chris Matthews suggested Bernie would cheer his execution in Central Park while Chuck Todd compared Sanders’ ethnically diverse progressive grassroots movement to Brownshirts. And that’s the supposed liberal media. For every breathless Klobachar endorsement or Buttigieg-affectionate take there are handfuls of Frum and Chait style op-ed hit pieces against Bernie. Even CNN debate moderators get in on the action. And yet, for all that, Bernie moved up in the polls and handily won the popular vote in Iowa. Might I suggest you are mistaking resilience for a lack of attacks?

        And let’s put your last point in context. Does anyone think Trump would only attack Bernie if he wins the nomination, but not others? Even setting aside all his gaffes, Joe gifted Trump the perfect cudgel with the whole Hunter Biden Ukrainian nepotism angle. We’ve already seen Warren not only hurt from from Trump hit jobs but fumble the response such that she further alienates even more people. To underline Warren’s vulnerability, in the 2018 blue wave she was one of only 3 sitting democrat senators who under-performed Clinton, notably struggling in the very Obama-Trump counties we’d need to win back in 2020. For Buttigieg, see Dale’s spot-on analysis below. Compared with all this, some 30 year old comments admiring accessible healthcare and public transportation and a non-story about his wife’s work seem the flimsiest of the bunch.

        Did you see the private Trump recordings released recently that revealed that he is the most afraid of Sanders? It’s for good reason, for example, did you know Bernie polls within the margin of error against Trump…in Texas! It’s an immense long-shot, but could you imagine flipping Texas? Or rather, could you imagine after losing the White House in 2016, to then turn your nose at the democratic front-runner, with a committed, diverse, working-class movement, who would put even Texas in play? Going with anybody but Bernie is playing right into Trump’s hands and risks another Electoral College disaster, and Trump knows it.

      • weeklysift  On February 14, 2020 at 7:23 pm

        I think I know what GW Jr. is getting at. Bernie has never had to face a Benghazi or a Burisma. It’s one thing to look at Bernie’s life and say, “What could he be criticized for?” It’s another to think “What if somebody makes up complete bullshit about him? And sticks with it for months and months?”

        Nobody is so virtuous that people can’t lie about them.

      • Guest  On February 17, 2020 at 10:06 am

        “What if somebody makes up complete bullshit about him? And sticks with it for months and months?”

        No need to imagine, Doug, I can think of a couple things off the top of my head. The Bernie Bro sexism bullshit and the communism bullshit, from Hillary Clinton to Warren and Chris Matthews, opponents have been ringings those bullshit bells for years but lo and behold he’s the front-runner anyhow. I don’t think George is being disingenuous, again, I just think he’s confusing resilience for a lack of criticism.

        I wonder if he holds the same concern with other candidates. I know I do. Compared with Bernie, Pete and Amy have received red-carpet white-glove treatment from the big legacy media outlets and pundit set. Can they protect and grow their support under steady, coordinated Republican smear campaigns? I don’t think we can answer that beyond speculation, a scary prospect. Biden and Warren falling does nothing to bolster their cases, but at least they properly slogged through the primary process to date, unlike Bloomberg, another largely untested candidate, who thinks being a billionaire means he can skip such formalities (looks like he’s right so far, another scary prospect). So if we take George’s concern seriously and apply it to the field, I don’t see anyone holding up better than Bernie. And to be fair to George, the last line in his OP above seems to indicate that, despite his concern, he does get this at some level.

      • George Washington, Jr.  On February 17, 2020 at 7:20 pm

        Absolutely. None of the candidates have received criticism even a fraction of what Clinton had to put up with. Part of the reason for this is because none of them want to alienate their opponents’ supporters, in the hope of picking them up if the others drop out. This was why the other Republicans treated Trump with kid gloves in 2016.

        Bloomberg’s strategy may be the best counter to the eventual attacks he will receive from Trump if he’s the nominee. He’s saturating the airwaves with the story he wants to tell, so the accounts of his racism and misogyny are being overwhelmed in the general noise. So when Trump brings them up later on, they’ll not only be old news, but dismissed as nothing more than partisan spin.

      • Guest  On February 18, 2020 at 5:01 pm

        Thanks, George. Glad you spotted some of the parallels to the Republican 2016 primary…they are fascinating, and potentially bode well for Sanders. Worth keeping an eye on for further discussion.

        Not following you on rating Bloomberg’s strategy as best, though. Money gets you a seat at nearly any table in this country, sure, but recall that Clinton massively outspent Trump in vain. The racism and misogyny, as well as the likenesses to Clinton (republican in a former life, Iraq war hawk, tough on “crime” etc) are things that the left base will not forget, airwave saturation or not. The internet is, perhaps, somewhat immune to that game, fact checking is easier, your grassroots support will come to your aid, etc. Also, Trump can sing the same tune on such an opponent that may cut through the astro-turf advertising saturation, regardless of whether it’s “old news” or not. I don’t think Bloomberg is a safe harbor at all.

      • George Washington, Jr.  On February 18, 2020 at 9:42 pm

        I hate to say this, but being a male, Bloomberg will be able to get away with attacking Trump far more viciously than Clinton or any other female candidate would be able to. Also, you can’t compare the money Clinton spent in 2016 with what Bloomberg is spending now. Clinton spent the campaign essentially in a reactive mode, defending herself against Trump’s attacks. Bloomberg in contrast is advertising to define himself for many people who may not be entirely aware of who he is. By the time Trump gets around to calling him a “racist,” for example, many black voters will have seen him in countless ads, being endorsed by black leaders, so they’ll dismiss Trump’s claims as partisan nonsense. Same with the claims of sexism or even Bloomberg’s past as a Republican.

        Most Americans are not even close to being as aware of this race as you and I are. I can’t forget a conversation I had with a young lady from rural Georgia. I mentioned Pete Buttigieg, and she said she’d never heard of him, because where she lived “all the ads are for Bloomberg.”

        Bloomberg’s other advantage is that since he’s self-funded, the DNC will be able to focus on congressional races. The RNC may have to choose between protecting the Senate or protecting Trump, and I have a feeling they’ll choose the former.

        Also, Bloomberg is probably willing to fight dirty. Imagine if he offers to pay off Ivana Trump’s NDA and cover her legal fees in return for her going public with what she knows. I’m not sure Trump’s Evangelical base will be so eager to support him if half a dozen women come forward and claim that Trump forced them to have abortions. Imagine Trump having to defend his past business ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard the way Hillary had to defend her emails.

  • SamuraiArtGuy  On February 10, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    “J-lo, her arms wide…” It was all I could do to not spurt coffee across my pricey Apple Cinema Display. Thank you for that. It’s been a discouraging week.

  • Francie Gass  On February 10, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    What about Deval Patrick? Why is the media so quiet about him? I’m surprised you didn’t mention him as taking up where Biden is failing. Do you see any hope for him?

    • George Washington, Jr.  On February 11, 2020 at 7:24 am

      Patrick isn’t getting any traction with voters. Neither did Wayne Messam.

  • Dale Moses  On February 10, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Pete is… not a good candidate.

    He is slimey and lies. Legitimately lies. He has been involved in a number of dishonest ventures which would not he disqualifying if he owned up to them and promosed to do better. But he has not done that.

    Two that stick out deal with his time at McKinesy. One had him participate in a corporate downsizing at blue cross/blue shield. And the other probably had him participate in price fixing in canadian grocery stores. The second is hard to pin down specifically (he denies but also doesnt explain what it was that he did if it wasnt help with the price fixing. But the second he just lies about. There is video of him discussing his work aiding the downsizing specifically but when asked about it on the campaign trail he says “it happened after i left”. I can see being OK with him if he owned up to it. Or even left because he felt he could not do that anymore. But his deflections do not give me that impression. It gives me the impression that he is OK with what he did he just doesnt want others to know, because he knows his audience is not OK with it.

    If we add up his problems with not doing the right thing for minority police officers when he was Mayor and not understanding BLM(at the very least. He does appear to have used “all lives matter” in a way consistent with the problems you pointed out about the phrase). Then we should see he isnt an ideal candidate and learning about him should push you away.

    Plus can you imagine him getting attacked by Trump? He will be as weak and ineffectual at fighting back as he looks now when trying to dodge questions. My choice is Warren but Bernie is the best in this area. The proper response to attacks by the right is “fuck you” and not anything else. It doesnt matter if the attack is legitimate or not because pressuring Trumps base requires you to make Trump look weak. His base doesnt care about the truth. And independents dont really either. Theyre not going to see much besides the he said/she said or the first line of an article and if they do they probably arent going to remember it.

    Anyway i think youn should promote warren for the spot. Its the primary and its still time for us to vote for our unicorns.

    • Guest  On February 10, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      100% agree with your Pete analysis, Dale, and if anything you held back punches. Pete’s campaign unilaterally shut down the “gold standard” Iowa poll just before the election (which presumably showed Bernie with a strong popular vote lead), Pete’s campaign had funding ties to the Shadow app and its creation per the Guardian, Bernie delegates mysteriously getting distributed to other candidates, etc. Could there be innocent explanations for each of these points? I guess so, but that’s an awful lot of smoke and as you point out, it wouldn’t be out of place given his experience.

      Conventional wisdom is that we don’t need to worry about how bad a match-up Pete is against Trump because his support will fall off a cliff once South Carolina and Super Tuesday come due to his inability to connect with minority voters. Iowa, being conservative, Midwest, and overwhelmingly white, was something of a best-case for Pete and he lost the popular vote to Bernie (shades of Trump/Clinton for all you irony fans). Not great.

      Re Warren, I do hope she does well as she’s my #2 pick, but it’s getting late early not just for her campaign but everyone polling below her. Unless you think Bloomberg can buy the nomination…

      • Dale Moses  On February 11, 2020 at 12:23 am

        The shadow stuff is just because political companies do business with campaigns. There really is no there there. Plus if they wanted to do shady stuff with the app they wouldnt have absolutely fucked it up.

        Iowa makes sense as a “caucuses are insane and the extra reporting made things more difficult”

      • George Washington, Jr.  On February 11, 2020 at 7:18 am

        Here’s an analysis of what went wrong from

        There were a number of mistakes made, most of them entirely predictable (including by us). To wit:

        Improper Vetting: By all indications, the software being used on Monday was not subjected to much testing or critical analysis. One big misstep (which we specifically pointed out) was that the app (and the code for the app) were not publicly released. This sort of “security through obscurity” never actually makes things more secure. On the other hand, if you publicly release your software, experts will often put it to the test and share their feedback free of charge.

        KISS: There is a philosophy in hardware/software design known as minimalism (sometimes expressed colloquially as “Keep it simple, stupid”). Complexities should be introduced only if absolutely necessary, and if justified by their benefits. The system the Iowans tried to use, by contrast, was complicated…for the sake of being complicated? Results had to be reported in two different ways, and were handled by both a human and a computer recipient. The app being used apparently had a tricky, not-terribly-intuitive interface. Bad ideas.

        Improper Training: The Iowa Democratic Party should have made sure that every precinct captain downloaded the app well in advance of the caucuses, and that each of them knew how to use it. This actually shouldn’t have been all that hard to achieve; they could have just instructed everyone to submit a report of, say, 10 delegates for Mickey Mouse a week before the caucus. Anyone who passed the test could reasonably be considered vetted, and anyone who didn’t, the party would have a week to figure out why. This, of course, did not happen.

        Too far, too fast: In a pretty clear attempt to stay ahead of the curve, and to protect their special status, the Iowans made a lot of changes to the process all at once. Not only the app and the technical stuff, but also collecting two different raw vote totals per precinct (in addition to delegate totals). It was too many complicated tweaks to implement simultaneously. On Tuesday, there were pictures all over the Internet of folks trying to make sense of their delegate “worksheets”: The sheet has at least six sections, at least 40 blanks to be filled in, and several different sets of instructions. There are over 1,700 precincts in Iowa. Did the pooh-bahs really think that 1,700 different people, all of them volunteers, would be able to figure out a form that looks more complicated than a tax return?

        No Surge Protection: No, we don’t mean a power strip that protects your computer if the electricity suddenly kicks up. That said, the basic concept is similar. Whenever crunch-time is imminent, it is important to add additional staff, phone capacity, server capacity, bandwidth, etc. as appropriate. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Somehow, the Iowans did not do this. In particular, there was nowhere near enough staff nor were there enough phones to handle the surge that happened once people realized they did not know how to use the app. Many precinct captains remained on hold for hours before giving up and going to bed.

        Again, it is possible that there were bad guys who did bad things, and that we’ll eventually learn of that. However, Occam’s Razor favors the simpler answer: The Iowans just screwed up.

  • ccyager  On February 10, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    Darmok and Gelard at Pelagra…..

    • George Washington, Jr.  On February 11, 2020 at 7:26 am

      It’s “Tanagra.” Pellagra is a condition caused by niacin deficiency.

      • ccyager  On February 17, 2020 at 6:52 pm

        I know, George Washington, Jr. You can’t imagine my mortification seconds after I clicked send and realized that I’d started with Pel instead of Ten! And I wasn’t thinking of the disease, btw, that was you. Have a heart!

  • Anonymous  On February 10, 2020 at 11:06 pm

    “I think Mitt is at a point in his career where he sees History staring him in the face, and doesn’t want to be remembered as Trump’s accomplice”

    Personally, I believe him when he says that his faith is an important part of who he is, and an oath before God means something to him. It’s about God, not history.

  • janinmi  On February 12, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    I’m still waiting for someone to notice Mark Charles. “Who’s that?” you may ask. Go forth and search, friend.

    • George Washington, Jr.  On February 12, 2020 at 9:23 pm

      There are over 200 people running for president as Democrats (including Rocky de la Fuente, who is also running as a Republican). I wouldn’t even know where to begin to count everyone who’s running as an independent. If Mr. Charles wants anyone to notice him, he’s going to need more than just an interesting platform. He’s going to need a robust fund-raising network to pay for advertising, travel, and staff.

      Running for president as an independent candidate is an exercise in self-gratification. Mr. Charles says he’s not a Democrat – fantastic. But even assuming he’s elected president, he won’t have a single ally in Congress and won’t get a single law passed. Instead of starting at the top, he should be running for Congress, or his state legislature, or his local school board, or working to get like-minded people elected to those offices.

      Political change is effected from the bottom up, not the top down. This is the same problem Bernie Sanders is going to have if he wins – there just aren’t enough progressives to pass his most ambitious programs. Mr. Charles will be even more limited.

      Don’t take this as a critique of his platform. He sounds like someone I would agree with in many areas. I just don’t want to throw away my vote when I could support someone else I agree with who has a chance not only of winning, but enacting change through the existing system.

  • J  On February 12, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    Please also don’t forget that Limbaugh was busted in 2006 coming back from the Dominican Republic (a place notorious for trafficking women and children) with Viagra that didn’t belong to him.

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