Welcome to the 13th issue of The Outsider Perspective, brought to you by The Beltway Outsiders.
New on the site this week is my column on Syria and the viral picture on social media of a young boy sitting in an ambulance after surviving an airstrike on his home. You may have seen the picture. If not, I provide video of the events. And background on why pictures of dead Syrian children keeping shocking the Western conscience. As war continues to rage in Syria, pictures like this will only become more frequent.
We’re 73 days away from the US General Election as August wraps up. I wrote last week that Labor Day will be crucial for the GOP and the Trump campaign. As I’ll dig into today, the GOP is going to have a decision to make: Does it tick with Trump or cut ties and push to save the Senate and House majorities? There are no clear answers. Trump continues to lag seriously in the polls. He may have narrowed the national lead by 1-2 points, as Nate Silver of 538 has suggested, but he still lags behind Clinton in important battleground states.
This week I’m covering the various pivots of Trump, Clinton’s corruption and attempts to moderate, news on Iran and Syria, and some economic news on Obamacare and other areas. I’ve placed the quick links at the end of each topic this week for better organization.
Keeping up with Trump: The Donald pivots on his campaign and immigration
The minority outreach pivot
Trump’s first pivot was his “outreach” to minority groups, specifically blacks and hispanics. In a speech, Trump said:
“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?”
Let’s be honest here: This is not minority outreach. It’s Trump pandering to a white audience. In polls, Trump’s biggest weakness is that a large number of voters believe Trump is racist. Trump’s “outreach” is a ploy to appear less racist to skeptical white voters. It’s his way of convincing them they can vote for him with a “clean conscience” because Trump “can’t be racist if he’s trying to convince minorities to vote for him.”
NYTimes journalists had this interview on the subject:
But the unrelievedly dire picture [Trump] has painted of black America has left many black voters angry, dumbfounded or both. Interviews with roughly a dozen blacks here turned up no one who found any appeal in Mr. Trump’s remarks. More common was the suggestion that Mr. Trump was trying to appeal to whites who might support him.
“I hear him not talking to black people, but talking to white people about black people so they will think he cares about black people,” said Alexis Scott, a former publisher of The Atlanta Daily World, a black-owned newspaper. “The real thing that he’s trying to do is to try to protect some of the white vote by suggesting to them that he cares.”
Instead of appealing to black voters Trump is pushing them away. It’s another act of self-sabatoge. It’s not that Trump doesn’t have a grain of truth to his point that Democratic policies in major cities have been detrimental to minorities. That point can be proven. Trump isn’t making that point. He’s hitting them with a hammer rhetorically. Trump is refusing to meet people where they are. He’s demanding they join him when they have no reason to do so. Damage like this is hard to repair. And while Trump pretends to pivot, his staff continues to make racist remarks and claim to be preparing for a race based civil war. The GOP will have serious work ahead to repair this issue. Trump’s pivot is only digging a deeper hole.
Trump pivots on immigration
The biggest surprise of the week was Trump “softening” on immigration. First, Buzzfeed and Univision both reported that Trump was walking back his harsh comments on immigrants/immigration. Trump was scheduled to give a speech on the topic. After getting roundly mocked in the press for abruptly changing his position on immigration, Trump canceled the speech. He instead decided to talk to Sean Hannity of Fox News instead:
Trump has spoken throughout the campaign about his plans for a “deportation force,” but his campaign staff has indicated in recent days that such plans may not come to fruition exactly as previously described.
In November he mentioned a possible force to target unauthorized immigrants.
“You are going to have a deportation force, and you are going to do it humanely,” he said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Now Trump has signaled that he’s adjusting his position.
“There certainly can be a softening, because we’re not looking to hurt people,” he said during a Fox News town hall event Tuesday, Aug. 23.
“We want people — we have some great people in this country. We have some great, great people in this country. But, so, we’re going to follow the laws of this country. What people don’t realize — we have very, very strong laws,” Trump said.
His comments stand in stark contrast to one of the more controversial portions of his presidential announcement in June 2015, when he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump’s comments came the same day Ann Coulter released her new book: “In Trump We Trust.” She says Trump can do no wrong, “except if he changes his immigration policies.” She’s now threatening to cancel her book tour. Trump’s comments aren’t even original. He’s copying Jeb Bush’s plan nearly verbatim. Jeb’s campaign recirculated Jeb’s warning on Trump’s inflammatory statements over a year ago:
The tragedy of this though is that there isn’t going to be a wall built. And Mexico’s not going to pay for it. And there’s not going to be a ban on Muslims. None of that, this was all, like, an alternative universe that he created. The reality is that’s not going to happen and people are going to be deeply frustrated and the divides will grow in our country. And this extraordinary country, still the greatest country on the face of the earth, will continue to stagger instead of soar. And that’s the heartbreaking part of this is I think people are going to really feel betrayed.
The more Trump “pivots” the more nothing changes. He will betray whatever constituency, belief, or policy to get what he wants. Which is why the argument I continually see: “Vote Trump because the Supreme Court is at stake” falls flat. Trump holds no position that he can’t be pushed out of by sufficient money or manipulation. Trump betrays. That’s who he is. That’s why any pivot he makes ring hollow. Never believe a scam artist. Even on the Supreme Court.
Sean Hannity of Fox News is Trump’s version of Billy Mays
Sean Hannity is responsible for the rise of Trump more than any person out there. He’s given Trump $31 million in free media by letting Trump answer softball questions every night. Now he’s deepening that connection:
A report from The New York Times says that the Fox News host has been an informal adviser to the Trump campaign for months now by providing strategy and messaging advice to the mogul and his various staffers. Hannity didn’t seem to deny this to Times reporter Jim Gutenberg, but he did say that he’s not looking for a formal position in the event that Trump takes the White House.
“Do I talk to my friend who I’ve known for years and speak my mind? I can’t not speak my mind,” Hannity said. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”
Hannity is following in his boss Roger Ailes in helping Trump. So remember that when you’re looking for the place to start on who allowed Trump to con the country: Start with Hannity. Start with the guy who sold his viewers out to Trump for ratings and money.
The Clinton’s continue to be corrupt as ever
Pay to Play for Clinton
News broke this week from new emails out of Clinton’s private home-brew server that Clinton Foundation donors received unprecedented access to Clinton and State Department. The AP conducted an investigation of the people involved. The AP found that over half of the people donated gained access to the Clintons:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.
Liberal sites immediately set out to defend Clinton and attack the AP. In fact, it was practically predictable who defended Clinton, as the Washington Examiner noted. The most popular defense was: “Access doesn’t mean the people got what they wanted.” Which is entirely true. That’s not the point. The point is: Clinton used money as means to determine who was granted access. In other words: You have to pay some money to get a shot at action with the Clintons. Pay to play.
This isn’t a right wing attack on Clinton or the Foundation. These details were released after extensive lawsuits forcing Clinton to turn over her emails to authorities. Had these lawsuits not happened, Clinton would have never turned the emails over to the government. Journalists are now examining those emails and learning these details. As always with Clinton, there is plenty of smoke. It’s just a matter of finding the fire. Legally, nothing will happen, as I covered when the FBI let her off the hook. But it should give any person pause when pulling the voting lever. She’s lied about everthing, just as Trump. Clinton cannot be trusted.
Clinton’s Alt-Right Speech is unlikely to be accurate
Clinton is scheduled to give a speech connecting Trump the alt-right movement. This is the racist and anti-semitic group of supporters so loud for Trump. I’m not expecting historical accuracy from Clinton on this front. If you want to know the true roots of conservatism and how early conservative leaders evicted the alt-right, read the book: “The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945” by George H. Nash.
Matthew Continetti in Commentary Magazine gave an excellent summary of this back in the spring:
Buckley changed things when he founded National Review in 1955. He introduced the philosophers to the populists. He published the traditionalists, the libertarians, the Cold Warriors in the same pages. Not only did he aspire to fuse free markets with traditional values, he wanted to be taken seriously by the New York media and cultural elite. Dismissed in embarrassing fashion by Dwight Macdonald in the pages of COMMENTARY in 1956, National Review was unquestionably the tribune of an engaged, informed, and rising American conservatism by the time Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California a decade later.
Why the transformation? Part of the reason is that Buckley and his editors spent an enormous amount of time and energy during the early years of the magazine disassociating their conservatism from its atavistic and gnostic forebears. National Review is a great example of media gatekeeping theory: By exiling anti-Semites, Birchers, and anti-American reactionaries from its pages, the magazine and its editor determined which conservative arguments were legitimate and which were not. By denying a platform to quacks and haters, they broadened their potential audience.
And Buckley did more than exorcise demons. He welcomed converts. When a group of anti-Communist liberals began to drift from the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Buckley and company lowered the drawbridge and welcomed the neoconservatives to the castle. “Come on in,” National Review editorialized, “the water’s fine.”
I don’t expect Clinton to know any of this. But as a person who does know, I have to help prevent the inevitable cesspool of media reaction. The alt-right is NOT conservatism. Not even the alt-right’s own leaders would admit they’re a part of conservatism. If Clinton wants to broaden her appeal, she should appeal to conservatives as standing apart and against the alt-right. If she tries to pin the alt-right on conservatism as a whole, it will only be another chapter in Clintonian divisiveness.
The GOP is testing out whether or not it should cut ties with Trump or not
Undoubtedly you’ll see plenty of stories on how the GOP supports Trump and is putting resources behind him. Those stories are empty PR releases by the GOP top brass. The reality is this: Neither GOP donors nor activists are helping Trump. Trump is pushing those people away. And now the Republican House and Senate majorities are at stake. I argued last week that Labor Day weekend would be the point of no return for the GOP. They would have to decide then to support Trump or not.
I was right.
Republicans are actively putting in place an emergency plan to save House and Senate:
Republicans, worried about preserving their House and Senate majorities in the face of fierce headwinds, are accelerating their plans to distance themselves from Donald Trump — and may soon concede, if only implicitly, his defeat.
Party strategists are mapping out blueprints for down-ballot candidates, in TV ads and on the campaign trail, to present themselves as checks on a Hillary Clinton presidency. It’s an approach that would essentially admit a Trump loss. In interviews, nearly one dozen Republican operatives said they had begun poll-testing the idea — which one labeled a “break glass in case of emergency” strategy — to gauge how the public would react to it.
Not since Bob Dole’s abysmal performance against Bill Clinton in 1996 has the GOP faced such long odds. Super-PAC’s aren’t waiting for the RNC to make their decision. One Super-PAC has already launched a $10 million campaign to save the House and Senate. If Trump hasn’t turned his campaign around by Labor Day, the desertion will continue.
“Murphy said that Mr. Trump still wants an all-out, full-steam-ahead, top-speed effort in New York, he wants to win his home state, that nothing has changed as a result [of Manafort’s ouster] and that the resources will be made available,’’ said a source close to the Trump campaign.
“A full plan for the New York campaign — ground game, media, internet, direct mail, maybe some phone banks — is expected to be submitted to headquarters Monday or Tuesday,’’ the source said
All this while still not having operations IN ANY BATTLEGROUND STATE. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, Trump has ONE office opened up in ONE county of Florida. Nothing in any other state. Trump’s useless Colorado HQ is run by a 12 year old boy who spent his time threatening anti-Trump delegates before the convention. Trump is giving Clinton a historic free pass on the airwaves, letting her air ads without answer. Further, Trump is losing in red states. He’s behind badly enough in Georgia that Clinton has started pouring resources into the state. Not to mention states like Utah, South Carolina, and Arizona being far too close.
Meanwhile, Clinton is making a push to win over GOP donors who view Trump as a threat:
Already, Clinton’s team has won over business executive Meg Whitman, a close friend of Romney’s who was a major part of his political finance team. The Democrat has also hooked Romney finance council members David Nierenberg and Harry Sloan, the latter of whom wrote a $33,400 check for Clinton and the Democratic Party.
…“If Trump’s team had been organized, effective, or putting the party and winning above pettiness, they would have immediately worked — after he became the Republican nominee — through a list of his opponent’s supporters,” explained Republican lawyer Charlie Spies, Romney’s chief financial officer and counsel in 2008 before helping launch his super PAC in 2012. “Instead, they did not. They also made clear: Mr. Trump does not reach out to people, you’re either on board or you’re not.”
In other words: Trump is giving Clinton the airwaves, the ground game, and GOP donors. It’s hard to look at all of that and not conclude Trump was not a plant. He’s giving everything to Clinton on a silver platter.
The lone bright spots left in this election: Evan McMullin and some GOTV effort by the GOP
I do see two bright spots in the election season.
First, Evan McMullin is gaining ground. This week he’s made it on the ballot in Minnesota (ironically enough, Trump was not on the ballot in Minnesota this morning). The Better for America Party of Arkansas has also nominated McMullin to represent them on the ballot. He’s steadily gaining ground. And if you want him on your ballot, I highly recommend you sign his petition to be on the ballot. The goal for him is to make waves in Utah. If he can make a push there and get support from Romney and Jeb Bush, I think he can make an impact on the race. It’s a long shot. But it’s a better shot than Trump. I expect him to add more states to his list next week. Virginia is supposed to be among those states.
General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, spoke about McMullin in great terms in an op-ed in the Washington Times:
Voting is a responsibility of every citizen, but this may be one election where passing over the top of the ticket or refusing to confine options there to the two major parties may be more appropriate than in most. We don’t have to act like these are acceptable choices even if we believe the victory of one is inevitable.
I intend to spend more energy than usual on the Article I people — the Congress — further down on the ballot and, for the first time, to genuinely explore third party options at the top of the card. In that regard, late entrant Evan McMullin has been a refreshing breath of calm, competence and compassion in his limited media appearances to date even as he struggles to get on the ballot in more than a few states.
I’d cosign the General’s sentiments.
The second bright spot is that the GOP has seen higher rates of voters registering as Republican in a few key states:
Republicans have continued gaining ground in recent months in voter registration in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Iowa, while the late surge in Democratic registrations relative to Republican registrations that occurred in battleground states during the final months of the 2012 election had not been replicated in numbers released in early August.
Those are likely Trump voters for now. But I hope they can be changed. Not all is lost.
Iran and Syria violate the deals they cut with the Obama administration
First up, from the Small Wars Journal on Iran not abiding by its deal:
The Obama administration official in charge of monitoring Iran’s implementation of the nuclear agreement, Ambassador Stephen Mull, testified in Congress that Iran has fully complied with the agreement. Unfortunately, his testimony does not appear to be the truth.
The agreement explicitly requires that Iran acquire all nuclear related materials through a channel established for such purpose. Two official reports released by German intelligence agencies in June present explicit evidence that Iran repeatedly has violated its commitments. The German federal internal security agency (BfV), released its annual report, which states Iran’s : “illegal proliferation-sensitive procurement activities in Germany registered by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution persisted in 2015 at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level. This holds true in particular with regard to items which can be used in the field of nuclear technology.”
The German intelligence body in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, added that during 2015, Iran had made 141 attempts on purchasing nuclear and missile technologies; “Ninety” of which were attempts to “procure technology that could be used for the development of nuclear weapons and launchers.” German intelligence states that they succeeded in thwarting about 90 percent of Iran’s attempts. In 2014, Iran had made 83 similar attempts, which the BfV states indicates a major increase in Iran’s illegal activities after the nuclear agreement was reached. The German intelligence further states that these illegal procurements were usually made “by Iranian strawmen and shell companies through China, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.” The above revelations are what the German intelligence discovered. There might be many more that it did not.
In addition to not following the Iran Deal, Iran is challenging US ships in the region. The US had to fire warning shots at Iranian ships to get them to back down (video). Since taking the $400 million “ransom” payment from the US, Iran is actively looking for more hostages. The State Department had to issue a warning to travelers. To cap things off, a former Iranian military head gave an interview on how Iran would ultimately destroy Israel.
Next to Syria: The UN has confirmed something I wrote about weeks ago: Syrian President Bashar Assad has kept chemical weapons and is actively using them on his own people. He’s using chlorine gas on men, women, and children. And not just Assad is using chemical weapons. The UN report also said ISIS was using chemical weapons in the same war. US experts said it was “undeniable” Assad had used chemical weapons.
That’s two deals in shambles.
The Obama administration has painted itself in a corner where Russia is in charge of Syria. And since pushing the Iran deal, the White House has given up any leverage over the Iranian regime. In other words, absent new leadership, there isn’t a lot America can do to stop these tyrannical regimes. This should be concerning with Hamas (an Iranian funded terrorist group) firing rockets at Israel. It is not an accident Iran is flexing its muscles in the region after signing the deal with the US. The US needs new foreign policy leadership and direction in a bad way.
It’s worth comparing how George W. Bush left the US in foreign policy as compared to Barack Obama. Bush actively attempted to leave his successor in a better position. He advocated the surge and pushed Iraq into a better position. Obama cut deals that are falling apart before he leaves office. There has been little evidence the Obama White House will try to better position the US for his successor.
I’ll end the foreign policy section with some questions to think about when watching the Presidential race:
5 national security question missing from the 2016 campaign: 1) What is US policy in Asia if TPP is defeated? 2) What is the US going to do to beef up Cybersecurity concerns? 3) What is our strategy on ISIS? 4) The global slide towards anti-democracy measures. 5) What is US and world policy going to be on climate change?
We need to answer each of these questions to have a comprehensive plan for the future. I would add to these the threats of Iran and North Korea. Both could be nuclear powers in a decade if they so chose and are dangers to US allies in their region. Sanctions are proving to not be enough for these regimes. The seeds of destruction apparent in the former USSR do not seem to have sprouted in these countries. We were able to contain the Soviets and watch them implode. We need to ask why we were able to force that outcome on the Soviets, but not these nations. The US will need to do more to choke off resources to these countries to kill off the tyranny within them.
Obamacare is not healthy…
Aside from the big insurers indicating they no longer support the Obamacare marketplaces, states are now sending red flags. Tennessee is the latest state to see a squeeze:
Tennessee’s insurance regulator proclaimed the state’s Obamacare exchange “very near collapse” Tuesday, after signing off on hefty premium hikes in an extraordinary bid to keep the program afloat.
Her remarks largely overshadowing the dramatic premium increases, Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak thrust the issue of preserving competition into the spotlight at a moment when states around the country are grappling with dwindling numbers of insurers willing to sell on the exchange.
The rate approvals, while a tough decision, were necessary to ensure healthcare options in every part of Tennessee when open enrollment begins in November, said McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the only insurer to sell statewide and there was the possibility that Cigna and Humana would reduce their footprints or leave the market altogether.
The major insurers all sought premium increases in 2017 higher than an average of 40%. Those premium hikes were the minimum to keep insurance companies in the market. The competitive landscape for Obamacare is shrinking across the country. It’s only a matter of time before Obamacare collapses. And all of this was predicted by critics when the law was passed. We need a full repeal and replace.
Other economic notes
Long term unemployed people are finally seeing the job market improve:
Some 7.4 million people lost jobs between January 2013 and December 2015, including 3.2 million who were laid off from positions they had held at least three years, the Labor Department reported Thursday in its biennial survey of displaced workers. That was down from 2011 through 2013, when 9.5 million people lost jobs including 4.3 million long-tenured workers.
Among the long-tenured workers who were laid off over the past three years, about 66% were re-employed as of January 2016, while 16% were unemployed and 19% had left the workforce.
One way to decrease the problem of flu spreading in the workplace is to increase paid sick leave:
The NBER study says it is the first to look at the implementation of these regional sick pay schemes in the U.S. Using Google Flu data, the researchers said they found that when American workers gain access to paid sick leave, the general flu rate goes down by a lot. It also suggests that the absence of paid sick leave causes contagious people to go into work and infect their co-workers or customers. Noting that only 40% of people in the U.S. have flu vaccines, the paper says people working while they are sick is “one important channel through which infectious diseases spread.” However, the paper also finds that “sick pay schemes incentivize contagious employees to stay at home but also induce noncontagious employees to engage in absenteeism behavior.”
The Tanning Industry is blaming an Obamacare tax for killing over 50% of the industry:
Business owners around the country say the little-noticed 10 percent tax on tanning in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has crippled the industry, forcing the closing of nearly 10,000 of the more than 18,000 tanning salons in the U.S.
Tourism in the American South is seeing a revenue boost from travelers hailing from… The United Kingdom:
But over the past 18 months, travel agents in the U.K. have noticed a surprising surge in inquiries around trips to the Deep South—making it the third most-requested destination at travel agencies such as Audley, who curate individual itineraries for clients.
“There’s been a real spike in demand in the last 18 months for the Deep South,” Alex Bentley, Audley’s head of North America, tells Condé Nast Traveler. Some of the company’s most popular programs sends clients on self-guided drives through New Orleans to Mobile Bay, through Georgia and the Carolinas, and to explore the music scene and bourbon distilleries in Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively. “There’s great growth in that part of the country—it’s now our third most-popular region after California and New England. There’s something there that really resonates with our clients.”
What I’m reading
“Francis Schaeffer and Christian Intellectualism” by Jake Meadow at MereOrthodoxy.com
This is a great piece at Mere Orthodoxy that examines the place of Francis Schaeffer in Christian intellectualism. It responds to an article that says the pinnacle of Christian thought occurred in the 1940’s with the ascendance of writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Meadow points out that many people miss the importance of Schaeffer in the 1960’s and how profoundly he impacted the culture around him by engaging that culture. I particularly enjoyed this passage from the article:
The more fundamental critique, which must be made intellectually but only after it has been established through the building of alternative communities, will need to be made by people a bit more outside the mainstream, I think. It needs to come from the sort of people with the ability to create new communities and institutions rather than the sort of people working within the various splintered institutions we have today.
The answer to this problem brings us back to Schaeffer. Schaeffer recognized long before the rest of evangelicalism that the defining values of post-Christian America would be thoroughly materialistic and center around personal peace and affluence. His and Edith’s ministry at L’Abri recognized this splintering and refuted it, not by explaining Christianity to a social order that can be reconciled with the faith if we finesse it enough, but by modeling a radically different way of life to a society at odds with the faith on the most fundamental, basic levels. The hospitality of L’Abri, Francis’s way of talking about Christianity as comprehensive “True Truth,” the hidden art embodied by Edith’s tireless work… all these things contributed to making L’Abri a shelter of coherence in a fractured and declining world.
Social Media Post of the Week
A picture of Katie Ledecky making Bryce Harper, the star Washington Nationals baseball player, hold her Olympic medals while she threw the opening pitch.
Thanks for reading!