Welcome to the ninth issue of The Outsider Perspective, brought to you by The Beltway Outsiders.
This week is the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ohio and Pennsylvania are large bellwether states for the Presidential race each year. Republicans have tried to win Pennsylvania repeatedly with failed attempts over the last few cycles. Democrats holding the convention in Philly holds holds as much significance as Republicans holding their convention in Ohio. But the interesting note about Pennsylvania is that the entire state could be decided by 10 counties. I doubt either Clinton or Trump is capable of winning the election without taking Pennsylvania, so the race there will be crucial to watch.
This week I’ll be covering Trump’s comments about Russia hacking Clinton, the belief among Democrats that they can’t lose, and ended on the problem of fear in the 2016 election. The quick slants and must reads follow the analysis for those that prefer to jump straight to them.
1. Trump did not tell Russia to hack Clinton’s emails.
In case you lived under a rock for the past week, Donald Trump came out and attacked Clinton over her emails again. This time suggesting that if anyone had them, they should release them for everyone to see. He suggested that Russia may be one of those parties. He doubled down on Twitter saying:
“If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”
The media went wild and said he was asking for Russia to hack Clinton’s server.
This is wrong for two reasons. The first being that it’s largely impossible for the Russians to hack Clinton now because the servers are in FBI custody. Which makes this main claim is pure hyperbole on the part of the press. Second, Trump’s statements assume the Russians already HAVE the emails. On this point: Trump is likely right.
As I wrote at the time of FBI Director Comey’s statement, he said while there was “no direct evidence” of Clinton’s server being hacked, the assumption was that her server’s had been compromised. This is an easy assumption. Clinton’s server lacked the basic security features of an average Gmail account. Getting past security wasn’t the issue. It’s just a matter of whodunit.
Countries you can assume right now that have Clinton’s server data with a high degree of certainty: Russia, Israel, Germany, China, Iran, and North Korea (in decreasing degree of certainty). The only way you get “Trump asked them to hack the server” is if you presume those countries HAVE NOT already hacked Clinton. If you presume that, you’re naive. Clinton’s server was hacked, compromised, and she gave up national security intelligence to anyone willing to try and take it.
The same Clinton defenders saying “no direct evidence” of her being hacked are also the ones who are aghast at Trump’s statement. There is no moral high ground here. Trump’s wrong for suggesting foreign powers sway an election and Clinton is wrong for her mishandling of national security documents. The main thing Trump’s statement should underline: Clinton’s treatment of classified intelligence and cybersecurity should disqualify her from office. Cyber terrorism and cyber threats are the number one security threat facing America today. The threats grow every day. Clinton doesn’t even know how to operate a desktop computer. This is a problem if you’re claiming to keep America secure in the coming years.
None of this washes conflict of interest off of Trump regarding Russia, as I covered throughly last week. That evidence still exists. It is strong. And it is not in America’s interest to elect someone, whether Trump or Clinton, with serious conflicts of interest.
None of this takes away the issue that Trump is gleefully asking a geopolitical enemy of the US to try and sway an election. That’s also highly disturbing. The Russians are not our allies. Pretending otherwise or cozying up to Putin is not a strategy in America’s best interest. Trump is not innocent. But he did not ask the Russians to hack Clinton. That already happened.
2. Democrats seem to be under the belief that they can’t lose…
Ben Domenech, founder and editor of The Federalist, wrote a great piece this week: “Do the Democrats realize they could lose?”
What the Democratic Party needed to do in Philadelphia was simple: they needed to depict themselves as being at the center of the American political scene. They could do this by highlighting the big tent aspects of their party, focusing on economic issues, and going hard against Donald Trump in all the aspects of his oddities – with a running critique of his past failures related by those damaged by his schemes, depicting him as a draft dodging conspiracy theorist dripping with cronyism and surrounded by Putin allies. They could cement themselves as the American Tory Party and highlight all the ways Donald Trump is a risky choice in an unstable world. It should be easy as pie.
But that’s not what they’re doing.
He goes on to describe how the convention is hitting on all the points that don’t matter this election. I’d agree with him on this point. Democrats are engaged in the practice of virtue signaling: appealing to those who hold the same politically correct beliefs as themselves. Trying to ensure they’re on the “right side” of the shame culture. This is arrogant and blind to reality.
Arrogance and pride blinded the GOP to Trump in the primaries. It’s doing the same to the Democrats. The GOP believed it was unassailable. Democrats believe the same. Conservatives believed they controlled the party, they were wrong. They believed that the party infrastructure would stand on principle. They were wrong. The Democrats are no different on this point, which is why we’re learning so much about the corrupt inner workings of the Democratic Party through the Wikileaks releases. The same flaws that allowed Trump to take over the Republican Party are the same flaws that could doom the Democratic Party to losing.
This isn’t to say Trump is a lock to win. He’s not. But the recipe that others and myself have written about that could elect him is coming together right now. Sean Trende put it best: this is effectively a generic Republican vs a generic Democrat election. Not in a philosophical sense, but in a general sense. Each candidate’s unfavorables are already so low, the odds of them losing more ground over negative stories is past us. So what does that mean? It means campaign fundamentals and the current headwinds of the election favor Republicans. We knew that coming into this year. Those points are still true. This doesn’t guarantee a win, but it does tilt the playing field in favor of Trump.
The largest domino in favor of Trump: terrorism. Foreign policy is rarely a major factor in an election. But since June, we’ve been averaging an ISIS attack once every 84 hours. If that keeps up, Trump’s campaign will get a boost from it. Democrats have no answer to ISIS or terrorism. The Obama administration’s attitude and policy towards ISIS is an objective failure. Foreign policy has been the Achilles heel for Democrats since Jimmy Carter (progressives evicted the foreign policy Hawks from the Democratic Party long ago. JFK and RFK would be considered conservative by modern standards on foreign policy. Case in point: Modern Democrats currently defend missile defense standards that Reagan put into place in the 1980’s. In the 80’s they blasted such technology as useless “Star Wars” tech). Clinton’s stance’s on foreign policy are not major deviations from the Obama doctrines.
There’s still a lot of ground to cover. But I have little faith in Clinton’s campaign right now. There’s a reason she hasn’t held a press conference since before the primaries. She’s a weak speaker and candidate who risks a major implosion. The problem for Hillary: if she doesn’t start working the kinks out now, the mistakes will only amplify themselves the closer we get to Election Day. Frankly, at the rate this election is going, I’d expect a major Clinton implosion in front of the press. She already had a mild one with 60 minutes earlier this week. Given her campaign’s fear of them moving forward, Clinton’s lack of practice could severely hamper her election chances (and don’t take any of this as me supporting her campaign. I don’t. This is me analyzing her campaign as objectively as I can… which is admittedly hard). Trump is going to be Trump. There will be bad stories, good stories, and abysmal stories. He will remain. Clinton has a tightrope.
All of those things said, the last night of the Democratic convention featured a full-featured patriotic display. You could slide it in with any convention the Republicans ran from 2002 – 2014. Which is remarkable. The 2016 RNC ran a convention praising Trump. The DNC ran a convention that veered from the Bernie side to the party to a RNC patriotic display. And the Libertarian in the race isn’t really a libertarian. Conventional wisdom would say Clinton gets a boost in the polls from this night. Does it happen? I don’t know. It’s 2016. Anything can and will happen.
3. A word on fear
One of the themes of 2016 has been an unrelenting focus on fear. Whether it’s fear of terrorism, the economy sinking, wages collapsing, or violence in the streets. This even includes Evangelical voters in their meetings with Trump. The push is fear. Fear of Clinton. Fear of Trump. Fear of the Government. Fear of immigrants. Fear of globalism. Fear of everything.
I would say this in response. For the Christian, and more specifically, the American Christian, fear is not supposed to be part of out DNA. We have never made our major decisions based on overt fear of something or someone. We stand up to that challenge and fight it. When FDR told us the only we have to fear is, fear itself, we took that to heart. I say this because far too many people in my social media feeds go on there every day and either write fear or read it. They enter with no hope. They leave with no hope. They look to the future with no hope. This is not who we are as a people.
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. – Abraham Lincoln
There is nothing to fear in either a Trump or Clinton Presidency. A great many things can go wrong with either person. But fear is not one of them. Fear is a choice. We’ve overcome serious wars and social upheavals in the past. We can do so again. We can survive the candidates running for President. Some may call this being in a stage of grief where one is resigned to fate. I’d disagree. It’s a continual fight. This is merely another round. We can choose to go into those rounds with or without fear.
I choose without.
Quick Slants and Must Reads
Election 2016 – DNC Week
Other news this week
What I’m Reading
Tony Schwartz ghostwrote “The Art of the Deal” for Donald Trump back in 1987 that helped make Trump the star he is today. In an interview with the New Yorker, he talks about Trump, his regrets with the book, and light he can shed on Trump today.
What I’m watching
“A Time for Choosing,” 10/27/1964, by Ronald Reagan.
Considered one of the greatest speeches by Reagan, this 1964 speech laid out why Reagan supported Goldwater in the campaign. Reagan understood at the time that Goldwater was likely to lose the campaign. But what mattered was standing for principle. His stand here helped vault him into the White House in 1980.