Yesterday Hillary Clinton launched a blistering criticism of Donald Trump, and CNN began fact-checking him live on screen. (More)
“He’s temperamentally unfit”
Although she spoke in San Diego heading into next week’s California primary, Clinton’s real focus was drawing a stark contrast for the general election matchup with Donald Trump:
Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas: just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies. He’s not just unprepared, he’s temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility. This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes – because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.
She continued the derisive mockery with Trump’s statements about our allies:
It’s no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons, and said this about a war between Japan and North Korea – and I quote – “If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.”
I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war.
And she revived the 3am Phone Call narrative, with a twist:
Imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Situation Room, making life-or-death decisions on behalf of the United States. Imagine him deciding whether to send your children into battle. Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.
Do we want him making those calls – someone thin-skinned and quick to anger, who lashes out at the smallest criticism?
That is indeed a frightening prospect.
“Appealing to 70 percent of the population rather than 51 percent”
She discussed her own foreign policy views only briefly, and Sanders supporters will doubtless nitpick her positions. But as Vox’s Matthew Yglesias explains, this speech wasn’t about trying to win left-wing Democrats:
What she’s offering instead is an argument aimed at a much broader audience. It’s an argument that acknowledges, implicitly, that there are tens of millions of right-of-center Americans who’ve never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate but didn’t support Trump in the primary. Clinton is pitching an argument aimed at those people – one designed to offer little ideological or policy content in hopes of appealing to 70 percent of the population rather than 51 percent.
She downplayed her own, well-documented policy positions because she doesn’t merely want to win in November. She wants a landslide:
Pursuing the argument that Trump is simply too risky to serve as president requires Clinton to try to denude the campaign of as much ideological content as possible. Any talk from her side about the big issues and ideas in politics necessarily reminds people that for any given set of big issues and ideas, not everyone is going to agree. By contrast, pretty much anyone can be open to the basic idea that Trump is a loose cannon who doesn’t know much about foreign policy.
Some progressives fear that this kind of campaign means Clinton won’t build a mandate for progressive policy if she wins the election.
The reality, however, is that the biggest objective determinant of how a Clinton administration governs is what happens in November’s congressional elections. Clinton is aiming for a landslide, and if she can deliver one, it will set the stage for a lot of progressive policy – whether or not she talks about it on the campaign trail.
Given our constitutional structure, it’s not enough to win the White House and a one- or two-vote edge in the Senate. To govern as a true progressive – the kind Sanders supporters say they want – a Democratic president will need a House majority and at least a 60-vote margin in the Senate.
“This year, it is irresponsible to cast a ballot to punish mockery and scorn”
It’s an approach that reached even The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf:
Last week, when corresponding with a 22-year-old Donald Trump voter who saw the billionaire’s rise as an opportunity to strike a blow against political correctness, I was asked why I believe Hillary Clinton to be a preferable candidate, despite my regarding her as a corrupt, untrustworthy person with poor foreign-policy judgment, and my repeated warnings to Democrats that they’d be foolish to nominate her.
I replied that for all Hillary Clinton’s flaws, she is a known quantity who is very likely to govern much as her husband did in the 1990s – the United States under her stewardship is extremely likely to remain among the most prosperous, free places to live not just in the world today, but in all human history – so it would be imprudent to reject her for a bigoted, attention-seeking demagogue with an impulsive personality and no domestic- or foreign-policy experience. It would betray a failure to appreciate what we’ve got, I wrote, and a failure to imagine just how bad things could get.
Like Josh Barro, Friedersdorf focuses on Trump’s horrific downside risk. After quoting a long email from a Sanders supporter who says he may vote for Trump to ‘protest’ the Democratic Party establishment, Friedersdorf writes:
What I want to warn this voter and anyone indulging in the same thought process is that they’re indulging in a dangerous fantasy, one that combines extreme pessimism and extreme optimism in an extremely confounding way. On one hand, the voter would have us believe that electing Hillary and working hard to pressure her from the left to make gains in progressive priorities is pointless or doomed to failure. The system is so corrupt that it’s time to burn it down and start over.
On the other hand, he would have us believe – while we imagine the ashes – that four years or more of Donald Trump will turn out to be better than a Clinton presidency in the gains it ultimately brings progressives, despite the powerful forces arrayed against them – that unlike every other time in history when a bigoted authoritarian assumed power at a time of economic, political, and geopolitical volatility, the poor and marginalized will emerge as unexpected beneficiaries.
This year, it is irresponsible to cast a ballot to punish mockery and scorn – the motivation of bygone Sarah Palin supporters – or to withhold a symbolic reward from political operatives. This year, what hangs in the balance is a huge increase in the likelihood of civil-liberties abuses, economic catastrophes, and geopolitical chaos, presided over by a man who deliberately stokes ethnic tensions to increase his power. That’s why Hillary Clinton, a candidate I would never otherwise support, seems the clear choice.
As we discussed last week, an election is not a mere opinion poll. It is the mechanism by which we select our nation’s leaders. Whether our preferred candidates win or lose, we all have to live with an election’s outcomes. That means we have to accept responsibility for the ballots we cast.
And in a move certain to please Linda Lee, a BPI contributor who has suggested it often, yesterday CNN began fact-checking Trump live on screen:
Covering Donald Trump is great for ratings, and Trump is unusually willing to appear on cable television at basically all times, which is convenient for the cable networks. But cable news has often struggled with how to cover Trump accurately given his habit of constantly saying things that aren’t true or don’t make sense.
Today, CNN took a big step forward with this chyron:
As their screen capture image shows, the chyron read:
TRUMP: I NEVER SAID JAPAN SHOULD HAVE NUKES (HE DID)
More of that. Please.
Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson, Jim Urquhart (Reuters)
Good day and good nuts