Denials as Trump train wreck continues

When quotes from ‘White House sources’ were published in advance of the public release of from Bob Woodward’s book on Donald Trump there were some denials from those claimed to have said to have provided quotes (Woodward claims to have recordings of all his sources).

Following the New York Times publishing of an anonymous op-ed by a ‘senior White House official’ – see The White House ‘resistance’ and what the hell is happening – there have been a number of inevitable public denials from senior White House officials.

New York Times: It Wasn’t Me: Pence, Pompeo, Mattis and Mnuchin Deny Writing Anonymous Op-Ed

A day after a senior administration official described President Trump as amoral, impetuous, petty and ineffective in an anonymous essay, the denials from the upper echelon of the administration started to roll in.

The mystery writer is not Vice President Mike Pence, a spokesman said Thursday. “Our office is above such amateur acts,” the vice president’s spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said

“It is not mine,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said.

“Patently false,” said Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, responding to rumors that he or his principal deputy wrote the piece. “We did not.”

Press officers for the secretaries of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development also issued denials on behalf of their bosses.

They will feel bound by principles of journalism to publish these denials, but a few at the NY Times knows who it is.

The author, whose identity is known to The Times editorial page but was not shared with the reporters who cover the White House, describes him or herself as one of many senior officials in the Trump administration who are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Predictably Trump has tweeted on it.

Typical bluster and attempted diversion by attacking NYT, but he has attacked the media so many times because he hasn’t liked what they say about him it comes across as wailing wolf, again.

Bloomberg: Pence’s Office Says He Didn’t Write the Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed

Mike Pence’s office said the vice president wasn’t the author of an anonymous New York Times op-ed claiming key administration officials were secretly working against President Donald Trump, calling the article false and “gutless,” as Trump demanded the paper reveal the writer’s identity.

The denial by Pence came as other Republicans, notably Trump’s Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Senator Marco Rubio, came to the president’s defence and said the writer should have resigned before making the accusations.

Fair call – if Trump is as bad as the editorial writer suggests (and Bob Woodward’s book suggests) then it should be untenable for them to work there.

However given the attack they would have faced from Trump and others it is perhaps justifiable to keep their identity out of it in the short term. It seems inevitable their identity will become known anyway, probably soon.

“America has one duly elected president. Anybody serving at his pleasure should do so faithfully,” Rubio said in a Twitter posting. “When they feel they no longer can, they should resign & speak in their own name so the country can evaluate their insights with a full understanding of where they are coming from.”

On Wednesday evening, before demanding that the Times unmask the writer, Trump tweeted one word: “TREASON?”

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” he said in tweet early Thursday. “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

That is playing to the conspiracy theory crowd, but it is unlikely to convince others that he is of sound mind.

And in other news yesterday: Kim Kardashian West visits White House to discuss clemency reform

Does she qualify as a senior White House official?

One thing is indisputable – something highly unusual is going on with Trump’s presidency. If Woodward’s book  and the op-ed are coincidental it suggests major problems, and if they were coordinated it also suggests major problems.

More on US school shootings

Following yesterday’s post: Florida school shooting

(PartisanZ):

Open letter from shooting victim’s aunt: ‘We don’t want your prayers” – NZHerald …

Powerful stuff … “My friends and fellow citizens, your guns are not protecting you. Your guns are killing our kids … Why is your hunting hobby more important than my niece’s life? Don’t you see that your “second amendment” rights have been twisted and distorted beyond any rational interpretation? Why should my niece have been sacrificed at the altar of your “freedoms?”

Why don’t you trust our police to protect us from crime? Don’t you realise that mental illness has been and always will be a part of the human condition and that weapons of war should not be available to those among us who dream of mayhem and death? Don’t you see the blood on all of our hands?” – Abbie Youkilis MD

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11996270

Gezza: (Relevant to a comment I posted yesterday about screwed up competitive US mass shooters who want to beat someone else’s record.)

16 February 2018 – Washington State
https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/101526089/wouldbe-gunmans-plan-to-carry-out-a-school-shooting-foiled-by-his-grandmother

“A US student has been arrested after his grandmother reported his plans to attack a high school to police. The decision about where to shoot and kill was based on the flip of a coin.

During a search at the house, authorities said that investigators seized a rifle that had been hidden in a guitar case, as well as military-style inert grenades. “This was a student that nobody would have suspected,” Mukilteo School District spokesperson Andrew Muntz told Fox affiliate KCPQ following the news.

O’Connor is being held on charges of attempted murder in the first degree, robbery and assault on an officer, according to online booking records.

Police said in a statement on Wednesday (Thursday NZT) that dispatchers received a call early Tuesday morning (Wednesday NZT) from a grandmother who said she believed her teenage grandson had plans to launch an attack on his school. She told police she had read about the plans in his journal.

In his writings, according to the probable cause documents, O’Connor said he was preparing for a school shooting, boasting, “My aim has gotten much more accurate.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot,” he added, according to the court records. “I need to make this shooting/bombing at Kamiak infamous. I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need to make this count.

“I’ve been reviewing many mass shootings/bombings [and attempted bombings] I’m learning from past shooters/bombers mistakes, so I don’t make the same ones.”

The journal then mentions the coin flip between Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Washington, and nearby ACES Alternative High School, according to the court records.

Officers met with O’Connor’s grandmother and were “alarmed at the statements and detailed plans to shoot students and use homemade explosive devices,” according to the statement from police.

Officers alerted administrators at ACES Alternative High School on Tuesday and had O’Connor pulled from class, according to the court records. The records state that officers found marijuana and a knife in his possession and took him into custody.

The incident unfolded just miles from Marysville, Washington where another teenager opened fire in 2014 at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Jaylen Fryberg lured students around a lunch table and then gunned them down, killing four before killing himself, police said.”

The politician problem (not just Trump) in Don’t look to Trump for leadership after the Florida school shooting

This is no time to talk politics, we’re told by gun-loving conservatives.

This is a time for prayers, we’re told by Donald Trump.

“There really are no words,” we’re told by the local sheriff.

So it’s OK, everyone. We can get back to the latest blather about tax cuts for corporations or billions for a border wall. Those are the things that politics, and presidents, and words, can handle.

But if we can’t talk about saving the lives of our children, if our politics can’t keep our schools safe, if we can’t talk about the mass murder of innocence, then what on earth are we talking about? What’s the point of any politician if they can’t do this one simple thing: protect our youngest citizens?

If this was the eighth terrorist attack of 2018, don’t you think every member of Congress – not just Democrats – would bleat on about taking urgent action?

If Isis-inspired gunmen had just mown down 17 high school students in their classrooms, how long would it take before our president spoke in front of the nation’s TV cameras?

If an ISIS inspired gunman (it’s almost always men) had just mown down one child at school it would have got more urgent attention. But red-white-blue on red-white-blue is far more politically awkward when one of the biggest, most generous (financially) lobby groups is the National Riflemens’ Association.

Instead, we’ll have to settle for a tweet. Because when we need leadership the most, there’s no point in raising your hopes with the man who watches Fox News all day inside the White House.

It’s so heartwarming to hear this from the man who promised to end “this American carnage” in his inaugural address. Of course, at the time he was talking about gang murders, just as he did in his State of the Union address last month.

He must have forgotten to mention school shootings with assault weapons, like the AR-15 used at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. It was the same assault weapon used at the Sutherland Springs church in Texas in November. It was the same assault weapon used in the Las Vegas massacre the month before that.

It’s as if no politician could talk about protecting airplane cockpits after 9/11 because all we could was pray and send our condolences.

There have been many attempts to tackle assault weapons like the AR-15. When Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, tried to do that in 2013, one month after the Sandy Hook school massacre, there were 60 no votes that killed the effort, including those of 15 Democrats.

Among those no votes was one Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, who told Fox News on Wednesday that now wasn’t the time to talk about gun control. “I think you can always have that debate,” he said. “But if you’re gonna have that debate about this particular incident you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it.”

Senator Rubio: save yourself the trouble. You don’t need to know the facts because the last time you heard the facts, you voted against regulating the very gun that massacred all those schoolchildren at Sandy Hook. It’s so funny how you need to be 100% sure about the impact of gun control laws when you are prepared to throw any amount of legislation and spending at the far less deadly terrorist threat to the United States.

Enough is enough is enough. If you care about our children, do something to protect them. If you want a politician who talks about our greatest threats, vote for someone who isn’t terrified of the National Rifle Association.

And if you want to make America great again, make our schools safe again.

A focus on mental health may be appropriate, if it includes the mental state of those politicians who refuse to consider that the US gun laws are hopeless and contribute significantly to one of the most dangerous problems in the US.

 

US primaries

Results will emerge through the afternoon and evening from the important primaries in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri today.

If Marco Rubio fails in his home state of Florida that is surely the end of his bid.

BBC: US election 2016: Ohio and Florida hold key primaries

Polls have opened in Ohio and Florida – both deemed key states – as well as in North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is hoping to fend off her resurgent challenger, Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile Donald Trump will aim to edge out his rivals in the Republican race.

The New York real estate mogul is the favourite to win his party’s nomination but has run into fierce opposition from within the Republican establishment, as well as facing condemnation from the Democrats.

Today probably won’t cement Trump into the Republican candidacy, but it will be another big step on a rocky path.

It should be a good indicator where the Democrat battle is headed.

Trumped up violence

Donald Trump has successfully tapped into widespread anger at the political establishment in the US.

But he has also wound up the anger levels, and that is breaking out into violence. Trump has appeared to have encouraged violence.

A supporter punched a protester last week, and it’s being reported that Trump is going to help fund the attacker’s legal defence – Trump looking into paying legal fees for man who allegedly sucker-punched protester.

Trump’s campaign may now be reaping what he has sowed. Can he put out the flames? Or is he happy to keeping pouring petrol on his fiery campaign?

Washington Post: Trump has lit a fire. Can it be contained?

An already ugly presidential campaign has descended to a new level — one where the question is no longer whether Donald Trump can be stopped on his march to the Republican presidential nomination, but whether it is possible to contain what he has unleashed across the country.

Violence at Trump’s rallies has escalated sharply, and the reality-show quality of his campaign has taken a more ominous turn in the past few days.

The racially tinged anger that has both fueled Trump’s political rise and stoked the opposition to it has turned into a force unto itself.

But Trump should not be viewed in isolation or as the product of a single election, President Obama said Saturday at a fundraiser in Dallas.

Obama said those who “feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people, and people who aren’t like ‘us,’ and say that the reason that America is in decline is because of ‘those’ people. That didn’t just happen last week. That narrative has been promoted now for years.”

This year’s presidential campaign, however, seems to have fallen into a bottomless spiral.

Trump’s Republican opponents are starting to speak up about the violence.

“I think it is also true that any campaign, responsibility begins and ends at the top,” Cruz said.

“Look at the rhetoric of the front-runner in the presidential campaign,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Saturday. “This is a man who at rallies has told his supporters to basically beat up the people who are in the crowd and he’ll pay their legal fees. Someone who’s basically encouraged the people in the audience to rough up anyone who stands up and says something he doesn’t like.

Trump blames others.

“My people are nice,” Trump said at his rally in Dayton. “Thousands and thousands of people, they caused no problem. They were taunted, they were harassed by these other people. These other people, by the way, some represent Bernie, our communist. . . . He should really get up and say to his people: ‘Stop. Stop.’ ”

No sign of Trump saying “Stop”.

Blaming others for what you yourself are doing is an old political strategy, but it may be difficult for Trump to look credible beyond his baying crowds.

Sanders retorted in a statement issued by his campaign: “As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar. Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests.”

“What caused the protests at Trump’s rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama,” Sanders added, referring to Trump’s false assertions that Obama was born in Africa and was therefore disqualified to be president.

Trump has sowed, he had benefited from raising anger levels, but can he manage the reaping? Or will it grow more out of control?

Political morals in the US have gone from low to plummet.

GOP heading for crisis?

The Republican primary took a major lurch yesterday, with the party looking in disarray due to to increasing support of Donald Trump.

First the Republican presidential candidate from 2012, Mitt Romney, launched a blistering attack on Trump, and Trump attacked back.

Then Fox news ran a two hour candidate debate that did little but highlight dysfunction in the party.

Washington Post had a few critical articles on it.

Ferocious sparring as Trump goes on the defensive
Hours after Mitt Romney delivered a point-by-point indictment of Donald Trump, the billionaire’s three rivals took up similar attacks at a debate in which the ferocious sparring and name-calling revolved almost entirely around the front-runner.

Fox News moderator schools Trump on Trump U., and his contradictions
Megyn Kelly leaves the GOP front-runner sputtering to defend himself at debate.

For the Republicans, a not so grand old party
The 11th debate of the Republican campaign tested the patience of viewers. It was tedious and repetitious. No new information was imparted, no truly new arguments advanced. Even the insults were tiresome.

One clear loser in Thursday’s debate: the Grand Old Party
It’s highly questionable whether anyone emerged as the winner in Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in Detroit, though the candidates’ spinmeisters would all quibble with that. There was one clear loser: the Grand Old Party.

And Chris Cillizza picks Winners and losers from the 11th Republican presidential debate

Winners

* Ted Cruz: The Texas senator picked a nice moment to have his best debate of the primary season…Cruz also benefited from the fact that Trump and Marco Rubio went after each other hammer and tongs for the first hour of the debate, a brawl that allowed him to look like he was above the fray and magnanimous.

* John Kasich: The narrowing of the presidential field quite clearly helped the Ohio governor on Thursday night. Sure, it often felt as if he was participating in an entirely different debate than the other three candidates. But, when he got a chance to talk, Kasich’s uplifting and positive message made for a welcome relief from the name-calling, interrupting and general rudeness that dominated most of the conversation on stage in Detroit.  Did he do enough to boost him into the top tier? No. But that simply isn’t possible for Kasich, given the delegate math. Still, he deserves credit for putting his best foot forward.

Best doesn’t seem to equal results in this contest.

Losers

* Donald Trump: Trump totally dominated the debate in terms of speaking time and the broader conversation. There were times where it felt more like an interview with Trump than a debate with three candidates not named Trump on stage. As is usually the case with Trump in a debate setting, the more he talks, the less positive the outcome is for him.

From a more substantive perspective, Trump took real body blows — especially from Cruz — regarding Trump University and the comments he made in an off-the-record session with the New York Times. Trump, as he has in nearly every debate, showed a wafer-thin understanding of policy and, when pressed about that lack of knowledge, reverted to name-calling.

His behaviour, and lack of solid policies (and a few frightening policy ideas), hasn’t hurt him yet but it may make it hard to get over the primary line let alone into the presidency.

* Marco Rubio: The Florida senator seemed to have resigned himself to a kamikaze mission against Trump during this debate. He jabbed at and with Trump over and over again in the debate’s first 60 minutes, turning every question — and answer — into an attack on Trump. It hurt Trump but hurt Rubio, too, as he struggled to get back to his more positive “new American century” message.

It’s hard to see how this debate changes the dynamic set in place on Tuesday night: Trump as the favorite, Cruz with the next best chance of being the nominee, Rubio as Trump spoiler.

Has Rubio deliberately set himself as the Trump killer knowing it rules him out of contention, taking one for the GOP team?

* The Republican Party: The first hour of the debate was an absolute disaster for Republicans hoping to rebrand their party heading into the 2016 general election. It looked more like a high school cafeteria food fight than an even semi-serious conversation about issues.

There’s another loser that Cillizza didn’t mention – US democracy.

The beacon of hope on the fool is looking more and more like the fools on the hill.

 

Super Tuesday in the US

It’s still yesterday in the US, and one of the most important days in the presidential primaries.

In the United States, Super Tuesday, in general, refers informally to one or more Tuesdays early in a United States presidential primary season when the greatest number of states hold primary elections.  In 2016, Super Tuesday is on March 1.

More delegates to United States presidential nominating conventions can be won on Super Tuesday than on any other single day of the primary calendar. Candidates seeking the presidency traditionally must do well on this day to secure their party’s nomination.

Since Super Tuesday primaries are typically held in a large number of states from geographically and socially diverse regions of the country, Super Tuesday typically represents a presidential candidate’s first test of national electability. Convincing wins in Super Tuesday primaries have usually propelled candidates to their party’s nomination.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Tuesday

New Zealand Time the results will come in this afternoon and this evening.

According to FiveThirtyEight predictions Clinton is likely to strengthen her position substantially over Bernie Sanders.

Super Guide to Super Tuesday – Democrats

Polling average:

  • Clinton 69.5%
  • Sanders 24.5%

Donald Trump is leading in 10 of eleven states so could also get a strong grip on the Republican primary.

Super Guide to Super Tuesday – Republicans

Polling Average:

  • Trump 39.4%
  • Rubio 19.6%
  • Cruz 15.1%
  • Carson 9.9%
  • Kasich 5.5%

The real crunch will be when it’s down to Trump versus the survivor of the rest.

Cruz looks too fundie right to appeal to a lot of people.

Rubio has resorted to cringe campaigning to try and out-trump Trump, which could  backfire on him.

Both Cruz and Rubio are reported to have raised over $300 million for their campaigns. That’s nuts. Just imagine how many flags you could change with that sort of money.

Clinton crushes Sanders in South Carolina

Hillary Clinton had a resounding win over Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary:

  • Clinton 73.5%
  • Sanders 26%

She has beaten Sanders in three of the four primaries so far

Washington Post: Hillary Clinton easily defeats Bernie Sanders in South Carolina primary

Hillary Clinton easily defeated rival Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary here Saturday, the first broad test of whether the strong challenge from Clinton’s political left has eroded crucial support among African American voters.

With victory in South Carolina, Clinton can claim a powerful advantage among black voters who could determine the outcome in a half-dozen Southern states that vote next.

For Clinton, this was the first comfortable victory of a Democratic primary season that just a year ago was supposed to be comfortable from end to end, with Clinton waltzing through as a front-runner.

The victory in South Carolina will give Clinton momentum as the contest heads toward Super Tuesday, where she and Sanders will compete in 11 states.

Super Tuesday will also be important for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to try and dent the Donald Trump momentum. Rubio has been more aggressive in attacking Trump but whether that will be effective or not is yet to be seen.

 

Trump bursts through the pundit ceiling

It’s been common to see claims that Donald Trumps popularity was probably limited to somewhere in the thirties, and that as opponents dropped out the combined not-Trump vote for the survivor will float  past his ceiling.

The Nevada result has blown that theory out of the water, if early poll results are an indicator of what the the final result might be.

  • Trump 46.6%
  • Rubio 23.8%
  • Cruz 19.9%
  • Carson 5.5%
  • Kasich 3.8%

Trump is already being called the winner.

Even if Carson and Kasich drop out if anything like this flows through to other results it may not be close until it’s a two horse race.

That’s twice in a row Rubio has pipped Cruz.

Washington Post reports: In Nevada caucuses, Trump gets a third straight win

Donald Trump convincingly won the Nevada presidential caucuses here Tuesday evening, the Associated Press projected, accelerating his march to the Republican nomination as his top two rivals fell short here despite aggressive campaigning in the closing days.

An angry electorate hungry for a political outsider in the White House handed Trump his third straight win in the GOP primary race as the billionaire mogul used visceral rhetoric to tap into anxieties about the economy, terrorism and illegal immigration.

An ‘angry’ electorate strongly supports a Washington outsider.

Early entrance polling reported by CBS News showed that nearly 6 in 10 caucus-goers said they were angry at the federal government, and a similar percentage wanted the next president to be a political outsider.

It may be a bizarre circus but it’s a fascinating one.

UPDATE: The numbers moved around a bit as the count came in but here are the finals results:

  • Trump 45.9%
  • Rubio 23.9%
  • Cruz 21.4%
  • Carson 4.8%
  • Kasich 3.6%

That’s a convincing win for Trump, but it’s just one state.

Trump in South Carolina

It looks like Donald Trump looks like will win the Republican primary in South Carolina.

With two thirds of the votes reported:

  • Trump 33.2%
  • Rubio 22.2%
  • Cruz 21.7%
  • Kasich 8.0%
  • Bush 8.0%
  • Carson 6.9%

Interesting to see Rubio and Cruz fairly level, Rubio has recovered since New Hampshire – he needed to.

The big question from now is if/when Carson and Bush pull out, and Kasich (I don’t think he was ever expected to get very far), how much of their support will go to Trump and where the not-Trump vote will go.

UPDATE: this was expected:

Jeb Bush is about to suspend his campaign for president, according to @PrestonCNN.

But:

Kasich: “That’s where we’re going to go, all the way to the nomination in Cleveland, Ohio, and I’m going to take you with me.”

Where might Bush votes go? (It will vary state to state).

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/who-gains-the-most-when-the-gop-field-shrinks

Depending on where the large ‘don’t know’ might go that’s a slight advantage to Rubio, notably over Cruz, albeit out of quite a small pool.

Iowa caucus results

It turns out that Donald Trump was flattered by the polls leading into the Republican Iowa caucus. He has been beaten by Ted Cruz by 3.3%, and Marco Rubio was just 1.2% behind him.

  • Cruz 27.7%
  • Trump 24.3%
  • Rubio 23.1%
  • Other 24.9%

It’s early days and a lot will depend on where the votes for those who drop out go. Relatively unheralded, Rubio could be a serious contender. Trump may have trouble picking up support.

And Hillary Clinton edged out Bernie Sanders in the Democratic caucus.

  • Clinton 50.1%
  • Sanders 49.4%

This gives Clinton the early advantage but again, this is just one state.

UPDATE:  Big turnout and Trump surprised it didn’t benefit him, and big money politics – $2.5m spent by one group solely to attack Trump.

Packed Caucuses Were Supposed to Benefit Donald Trump, but May Have Hurt Him Instead

DES MOINES — One of the biggest surprises of the night in Iowa was the large turnout on the Republican side, which many pundits had predicted would benefit Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump’s team believed this, too, and was talking about the packed caucus sites around the state before the votes were cast.

But that was not how things went, raising the prospect that some of the voters who turned out were interested in stopping Mr. Trump, instead of propelling him to victory. What also became clear was that Mr. Trump was not immune to negative political ads, despite a pervasive concern among Republican operatives that he would retaliate if they aired them.

Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign, along with a “super PAC” supporting him, Keep the Promise I, aired cutting ads raising questions about Mr. Trump’s character and trustworthiness. So did a newly founded group called Our Principles PAC, whose sole goal was to stop Mr. Trump.

That group spent $2.5 million in 10 days on ads against Mr. Trump.