Election countdown: A cacophony of voices

    Clockwise from top right: Politco writer Jack Shafer (image via <a href=''>youtube</a>); President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser); former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden (Paul Morigi/Invision for AMC/AP Images); conservative analyst David Frum (The original uploader was Cardsplayer4life at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.)

    Clockwise from top right: Politco writer Jack Shafer (image via youtube); President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser); former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden (Paul Morigi/Invision for AMC/AP Images); conservative analyst David Frum (The original uploader was Cardsplayer4life at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.)

    Opinions are like derrieres. Everybody has one.

    But not all opinions are equal. Some are clearly smarter, more perceptive, and more insightful than others. For your edification, I’ve flagged a few timely examples.

    David Frum – the seasoned conservative analyst, the Bush speechwriter who coined the term “axis of evil” – announced this week that he has already voted for Hillary Clinton:

    We don’t have to analogize Donald Trump to any of the lurid tyrants of world history to recognize in him the most anti-constitutional personality ever to gain a major-party nomination for the U.S. presidencyAmerican democracy itself is much more vulnerable than anyone would have believed only 24 months ago. Incredibly, a country that – through wars and depression – so magnificently resisted the authoritarian temptations of the mid-20th century has half-yielded to a more farcical version of that same threat without any of the same excuse. The hungry and houseless Americans of the Great Depression sustained a constitutional republic. How shameful that the Americans of today – so vastly better off in so many ways, despite their undoubted problems – have done so much less well.

    I have no illusions about Hillary Clinton. I expect policies that will seem to me at best counter-productive, at worst actively harmful. America needs more private-market competition in healthcare, not less; lighter regulation of enterprise, not heavier; reduced immigration, not expanded; lower taxes, not higher. On almost every domestic issue, I stand on one side; she stands on the other. I do not imagine that she will meet me, or those who think like me, anywhere within a country mile of half-way.

    But she is a patriot. She will uphold the sovereignty and independence of the United States…Freedom-loving citizens (must) put country first, party second. Not in many decades has that vigilance been required as it is required now. Your hand may hesitate to put a mark beside the name Hillary Clinton. You’re not doing it for her. The vote you cast is for the republic and the Constitution.

    Meanwhile, Michael Hayden – Bush’s top guy at the National Security Agency and the CIA – says that Trump’s toadying fealty to Vladimir Putin imperils our national security. Why is Trump so loyal to an American adversary? Hayden suggests a reason:

    Although Trump has said, “I have zero investments in Russia,” his son Donald Jr. conceded in 2008 that “Russians make up a disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Absent more detailed data such as tax returns, who knows?

    We have really never seen anything like this. Former acting CIA director Michael Morell says that Putin has cleverly recruited Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation. I’d prefer another term drawn from the arcana of the Soviet era: polezni durak. That’s the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.

    Think about that. A Republican-appointed intelligence chief is saying that the Republican nominee is a “useful fool” of the Russians. The same party that always prided itself on being tough with the Russians. And yet nearly half the electorate doesn’t seem to know or care.

    Speaking of authoritarianism, Senate Republicans are threatening to junk their pledge to let voters determine the future of the Supreme Court. Last spring they said that if Clinton wins, she’ll have earned the right to fill the court – but now they’re walking back that democratic vow. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, a re-election candidate, offered these remarks last month, during a private meeting with NC Republicans: “If Hillary becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court.”

    At an NC rally this week, President Obama had an opinion about that:

    Some are saying they won’t appoint a ninth Supreme Court justice at all. Senator Burr, just said that if Hillary wins, he’ll do everything he can to block all Supreme Court nominations.  Now, keep in mind that the reason they said they would not have a hearing or vote for my Supreme Court nomination, bucking all of American history, was because “we thought the American people should decide the next Supreme Court justice.” Now they’re saying, well, “if (voters) don’t decide the way we want them to decide, maybe we won’t even do that.” What, only Republican presidents get to nominate judges?  Is that in the Constitution? I’ve never seen that provision.

    Nor have I. But if the Republicans, who consider themselves “strict constructionists,” manage to find such a provision, I assume they’ll let us know.

    On another topic entirely: Earlier this week, at the University of Pennsylvania, I hosted Politico media writer Jack Shafer. We talked about Donna Brazile’s abrupt separation from her paid gig at CNN. The acting Democratic party chief had been outed for working the CNN grapevine and feeding a few softball debate questions in advance to the Clinton camp. We agreed that dumping Brazile was the right move – but, more broadly, we agreed that the real scandal is CNN’s habit of paying partisans on the left and right to spout totally predictable talking points. What Shafer said:

    What would you expect a politician like Donna Brazile to do?….This illustrates, in miniature, the racket that all the paid strategists and former campaign managers and former advisers are in. They’re there to basically fill the dead air between news stories with their sort of informed but very glib and very partisan talk. You will almost never hear a Republican partisan say “you know, this Clinton idea is a great idea, and I’ll cross party lines to say it.” (Both sides) are practically Stalinist in their support of their candidate, their party – and God bless ’em, that’s what politics is…Politics isn’t about being warm and cushy, it’s about being disciplined and keeping the message going.

    All the cable channels have them, and they can fill great hours when there’s only a couple nuggets of news. The partisans are added to the news like soy extender – but the more I think about that, that’s unfair to soy. At least soy is nutricious. All partisan gab – you go, ‘tell me something that’s surprising or new or interesting.’ It’s a good start that (Brazile) has been dumped…but I think they should clean house and get rid of the rest of ’em. But they won’t do that, because then they’d have to go hire reporters, and reporters are expensive.

    Then I asked Shafer: If CNN is so willing to part with Brazile for partisan misbehavior, why does it keep paying a Trump partisan like Corey Lewandowski – who’s actually still on the Trump payroll (according to the Federal Election Commission)?

    Shafer said that CNN is a prisoner of its format. It needs Lewandowski. Since no self-respecting credentialed Republican would be caught dead spinning on TV for Donald Trump, “CNN had to go buy hacks to come speak for him.”

    Lastly, I wish to share the Tweet of the Week. The author is anonymous – he calls himself Victor Lazlo, the freedom-fighter in “Casablanca” – and the tweet is actually fact, not opinion. Just a dollop of black humor to start your weekend:

    This will always be remembered as the presidential election in which the KKK, the KGB and the FBI all supported the same candidate.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.


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