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July 23 2016 5:43 PM

Clinton-Kaine Debut Was Notable for Being What the RNC Was Not—Optimistic and Orderly

The Clinton-Kaine ticket officially went live on Saturday afternoon in Florida with the campaign’s formal introduction of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as Clinton’s choice for VP. The event was largely an exercise in political stagecraft, but coming on the heels of the Republican convention, the appearance of order was noticeable, if only because of its stark contrast to the aura of chaos that accompanies Donald Trump. Clinton teed up Kaine as an opener and then got out of the way. Something Trump struggled doing during his rollout of Mike Pence as his running mate.

For his part, Kaine did what he needed to do in his first appearance on the 2016 campaign trail. As expected, his remarks were heavy on bio and while there was some Trump-bashing red meat, Kaine’s entire speech was most notable for its sunny tone. The southern senator’s conversational style on the stump isn’t going to whip even the most excitable Democrat into a frothy fervor, but his earnest demeanor and unforced plainspokenness radiate a sort of Dad-positivism.

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There are obviously many factors that go into selecting a VP—from electoral math to politics—but if vice presidents are largely cosmetic additions to the ticket, Kaine’s biggest impact on the race may end being how effectively he is able to act as a mood booster. The Republican Party is noticeably in an anti mood at the moment, particularly at the top of the ticket, and Team Clinton is clearly betting that will fatigue voters by November.

July 23 2016 1:32 PM

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Suicide Bombing Attack Killing Dozens in Kabul

ISIS has claimed responsibility for two explosions at a peaceful demonstration in Afghanistan Saturday that killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds more. The Afghan government said at least 80 people were killed and 231 injured by a pair of suicide bombers who detonated explosives in the middle of a march by Afghanistan's minority Hazara community in Kabul. The Hazaras are largely Shiite Muslim and considered apostates by ISIS.

Thousands of Hazara, the country’s third-largest minority community, were in the capital to put pressure on the Afghan government to route a planned electricity transmission line through Hazara communities in central Afghanistan. “Graphic television footage from the site of the attack showed many dead bodies lying on the bloodied road,” Reuters reports. “The attack succeeded despite tight security which saw much of the city center sealed off with stacks of shipping containers and other obstacles and helicopters patrolling overhead.”

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“Afghan security officials said that while Kabul remained under constant insurgent threat, they had no prior intelligence on a particular threat to the protest,” the New York Times reports. “Saturday’s attack puts further pressure on President Ashraf Ghani’s struggling government.” The Taliban publicly condemned the attack.

July 23 2016 12:27 PM

German Officials Say Munich Attack Was a “Classic Shooting Rampage;” Rule Out Terror Links

German police have labeled the deadly attack in Munich Friday a “classic shooting rampage,” but have all but ruled out terrorism links as motivation for the shooting spree outside the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum shopping mall. The 18-year-old German shooter of Iranian descent killed nine people, most of them teenagers, and injured 27 others before taking his own life. He was found dead with 300 bullets in his backpack along with a pistol.

The teenage gunman was indentified as Ali Sonboly and appeared to suffer from mental health issues, according to German authorities. The attack was premeditated, as the young man sent Facebook messages from a young woman’s account attempting to lure people to McDonald’s Friday afternoon. At around 6 p.m. Sonboly opened fire at the fast-food restaurant.

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During a search of Sonboly’s room, police found a book about school shootings called Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. The shooting took place five years to the day of Anders Breivik mass shooting in Norway. Also, according to ABC News, “the shopping mall where the shooting took place is located in what was the Olympic Village for the 1972 Munich Olympics, during which 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed along with a German policeman.” Police say Sonboly had undergone psychiatric treatment in the past; classmates told the Guardian Sonboly was bullied in school.

The shooting played out over more than three terrifying hours in the Bavarian city; the city’s public transport system was shut down as police tried to identify the attacker. Sonboly’s body was found around 9:30 p.m. The country was already on high alert after an axe attack on a train earlier this week.

July 22 2016 8:15 PM

It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Picks Tim Kaine as Running Mate

The pick is in: Hillary Clinton has selected Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate.

The Clinton camp had teased the announcement all day—promising supporters they’d learn the news via text message or social media—but in the end, they ultimately leaked the news to major media outlets moments before making it official on Twitter.

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Timing aside, the pick was the opposite of a surprise. Kaine, a former governor, had long been considered to be at the top of Clinton’s wish list, and while a few other bolder names popped up this year—Elizabeth Warren chief among them—he was always the favorite to win the job. It also didn’t hurt that the last previous Democratic presidents effectively served as Kaine’s job references.

Kaine's selection was being hailed as a safe, do-no-harm pick by the Beltway set even before it became official, and in many ways it is, since Kaine plugs so neatly into Clinton's existing steady-hand pitch to voters. He sits on the Senate’s Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, giving him the national security experience and foreign policy chops that Clinton already has but has suggested she wants more of on the ticket. His time in the Virginia governor’s mansion—and, to a much lesser degree, as mayor of Richmond—gives him the executive experience that will allow Democrats to argue that he’d be able to step in and lead the country if it ever came down to it. And—let’s be frank—he’s also an older white dude, which won’t add to the already historic nature of a female-led ticket but simultaneously won’t risk further upsetting the not-insignificant slice of American voters who are terrible.

Added bonuses for Democrats: Kaine’s selection won’t hurt their chances of retaking the Senate this fall. If Clinton wins in November, Kaine’s successor in the chamber will be chosen by the state’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe. The same couldn’t be said for Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, or Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, all of whom would have had their vacated seats filled by a designee of a GOP governor. And at 58, Kaine is still young enough where his age theoretically wouldn’t be an issue in 2024.

He also speaks Spanish fluently, a skill that will come in handy as Democrats attempt to win over Hispanics (though his fellow short-listers Labor Secretary Tom Perez and HUD Secretary Julian Castro would have offered more in the way of appeal on that front). Furthermore, a VP debate between Kaine and Trump's pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, will feel about as far away from must-see-TV as possible for many voters, which should allow the Clinton camp to keep the focus where they want it: on Trump.

Who won’t like the pick? Bernie Sanders fans and other like-minded progressives! Kaine is a Clinton-style centrist who served as the head of the Democratic National Committee, aka the very "establishment" that many Sanders supporters believe rigged this year’s primary in Hillary’s favor. They also won’t be thrilled to learn about Kaine’s relative friendliness toward Wall Street and his unabashed love of free trade. Even before the pick was official, some on the left were already voicing their frustration. “Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick will be seen by many as a proxy for how she will govern—boldly, or cautiously?” Stephanie Taylor, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told the New York Times, leaving little doubt which of those two words she'd associate with the selection of Kaine. The Virginia Democrat's views on abortion could also be a touchy subject for some on the left. He’s generally pro-choice but, as an observant Catholic, he’s personally opposed to abortion, leaving him behind the liberal trend line on that issue.

By selecting Kaine, Clinton is banking on the fact that, faced with the prospect of a President Trump, progressives will have no other choice but to vote for her this fall. Instead, this pick can be seen as a play for moderates and Republican-leaning voters who remain skeptical—or flat out terrified—of Trump, but might have been turned off by seeing a fiery progressive (and woman) like Warren as Clinton’s No. 2.

Still: History suggests that running mate selections have, at most, a limited impact on the election’s ultimate outcome, so it would be a mistake to make too much of how Kaine will influence the race. Presidential elections are decided at the top of the ticket, and it’s hard to imagine there are a whole lot of voters out there who remain on the fence about the two most disliked presidential candidates in modern history but will instead somehow make up their minds after meeting Tim Kaine, a man who wears the word “boring” as a badge of honor.

July 22 2016 4:54 PM

This Week’s Conservative Pundit Tracker: Resigned to Trump Edition

Each week we’re publishing a new chart showing where our group of 25 right-wing pundits stand on the question of Trump, and you’ll be able to look back at past weeks to see if minds are changing. Our categories are “Voting Trump,” “Voting Clinton,” “Not Voting,” “Someone Else,” and “Inscrutable.” Someone else means either a third party candidate or a write-in. Inscrutable includes pundits who have voiced opposition to both Trump and Clinton, but are otherwise undecided, and those who are sharply critical of Trump but haven’t stated a preferred alternative. Click on a pundit’s head to see what he or she has said about the election this week. (If someone doesn’t write or speak or tweet—crazy, but possible—in a given week, we’ll assume they are “thinking…” Also: We are scouring the internet obsessively, but it’s a big place and it’s possible someone will say something that we miss. We are confident you’ll let us know in comments if so!)

Will the Inscrutables pull it together come November? Will anyone else jump on the Hillary train? Will more pundits coalesce around a third-party candidate? Or will everyone eventually fall into line for Trump between now and Election Day? Keep an eye on this weekly tracker to find out.

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The Republican National Convention kicked off, and then proceeded to not burn down the party in Cleveland this week. On Monday, a last-ditch attempt to give voice to the anti-Trump faction of the GOP created a modicum of chaos until Rep. Steve Womack pretended that an extremely close voice vote to accept the convention rules was not close at all.

On Wednesday, Ted Cruz’s spirited non-endorsement of Donald Trump—“Don’t stay home in November; stand and speak and vote your conscience”—offered one last bright spot for disaffected conservatives and completely overshadowed a boring speech by VP pick Mike Pence.

But other than that, the convention was the slightly messy, totally brassy, substance-free coronation that you would expect when a party nominates a gauche reality-show billionaire for the presidency.

In a break from tradition, Trump appeared every night—either in person or via video. As America wondered how he would top his rock-star entrance from Monday, he walked onto the stage Thursday to accept the nomination and talked for more than an hour, delivering a pessimistic, fearmongering, bleak picture of the country he purportedly wants to lead.

Our conservative pundits, not surprisingly, had mixed emotions throughout the week. Max Boot spoke eloquently on behalf of the Never Trump-ers.

But Trump supporter Hugh Hewitt noted, probably correctly, that Trump reached his intended audience with his speech.

More than anything else, the convention showed that despite some dissent the GOP is, for now at least, Donald Trump’s party. Our pro-Trump pundits see him as the less-bad alternative to Hillary. And our anti-Trump pundits are grudgingly acknowledging the reality of Trump without demonstrating any willingness to endorse him yet. So, no movement this week.

Now, on to the tracker.

July 22 2016 4:10 PM

The Friday Slatest Newsletter

Today’s biggest stories:

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Have a good weekend out there.

July 22 2016 3:46 PM

Donald Trump’s Platform Is a Real-Life Version of the Underpants Gnome Plan

You may have heard of the underpants gnome business plan, but even if you haven't, you've probably at some point seen an allusion to it on the internet. It was originally laid out in a South Park episode involving gnomes who have a plan. Here's the plan:

1. Collect underpants

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2. ?

3. Profit

Do you get the joke? The joke is that this isn't really a plan and that there is no possible second step that could make the practice of stealing used underwear into a profitable one.

Similar logic is at work in the proposals Donald Trump outlined in his Thursday speech and a Wednesday interview with the New York Times.

Abandon our "horrible trade agreements." (Trump will try to renegotiate "individual deals" with all the countries in the world, but he says he's ready to "walk away if we don’t get the deal that we want.")

Abandon our commitment to defend Europe from a Russian invasion if Trump decides the countries therein aren't paying us enough.

"Build a great border wall" to cut the U.S. off from Mexico. You might have heard about this one.

Trump concluded, in his speech, that "trillions of dollars will start flowing into our country" when his policies are enacted.

Into our country. Indeed, if there's one thing international investors are looking for, it's an opportunity to pour capital into a country that's hostile to the idea of imports and exports, views other countries through a lens of aggressive military paranoia, and is literally cut off from the rest of the world by a giant wall. It's why places like Myanmar and North Korea are such notorious economic success stories.

The underpants plan, frankly, was better.

July 22 2016 3:18 PM

Leaked Email Indicates DNC Wanted Bernie Sanders Interrogated About His Faith

On Friday, WikiLeaks published 20,000 internal emails taken from the Democratic National Committee. The one getting perhaps the most attention was a message from DNC CFO Brad Marshall, in which he appears to be looking to find someone to ask presidential candidate Bernie Sanders whether or not he believed in God. (Marshall denied that the email was in reference to Sanders.)

Here’s the relevant email:

From: MARSHALL@dnc.org
To: MirandaL@dnc.org, PaustenbachM@dnc.org, DaceyA@dnc.org
Date: 2016-05-05 03:31
Subject: No shit
It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.
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The message was sent to DNC communications director Luis Miranda, CEO Amy Dacey, and deputy communications director Mark Paustenbach. Dacey responded to the email with a one-word reply: “AMEN.”

Marshall told the Intercept’s Sam Biddle, “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.”

The email came ahead of the May 10 Democratic primaries in West Virginia and Kentucky when Clinton had all but sewed up the nomination and Sanders was continuing to fight on. Sanders ultimately lost Kentucky and won West Virginia.

Sanders has said this about his Jewish heritage: “I'm very proud of being Jewish. And that's an essential part of who I am as a human being.”

But he downplayed what that Jewish heritage meant on the campaign trail, as the New York Times noted in a February article. As the Times also reported, Sanders had declined to say whether he believed in God or not when directly asked:

In October, Mr. Sanders was asked on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” whether he believed in God.
“What my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together and it’s not a good thing to believe that as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people,” he responded. “This is not Judaism. This is what Pope Francis is talking about, that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more money.”

If the DNC wanted to draw Sanders' beliefs out in order to hurt his campaign and help Hillary Clinton's, it would be the clearest example yet that the supposedly neutral group was not at all.

July 22 2016 2:39 PM

Deaths Reported in Active Shooter Attack on Munich Mall

"Several" individuals have been killed by gunfire in an apparent terror attack at a shopping mall in Munich, a CNN affiliate is reporting. The Guardian, citing local media reports, says at least three people have died. Few other details are available, and police have not yet been able to apprehend or kill the shooter or shooters.

Earlier this week ISIS claimed responsibility for an ax attack aboard a German train that seriously injured four people.

July 22 2016 2:32 PM

Ben Carson, in Line at the Airport: The Liberal Media Made It Sound as If I’d Called Hillary a Devil-Worshipper

CLEVELAND—Right now, thousands of giddy Republicans and bedraggled journalists are making their way out of town. A little while ago, I found myself in the TSA security line behind Ben Carson, where I had the chance to ask him the question that’s been on my mind since his speech on Tuesday, when he said, apropos of Hillary Clinton, “Are we willing to elect as president somebody who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?” I wanted to know: What is the connection between Clinton and the devil?

Carson thought this was an unfair question. He had merely said that Clinton was influenced by someone, Saul Alinsky, who praised Lucifer. (In an epigraph to his 1971 book Rules for Radicals, Alinsky described Lucifer as “the first radical known to man.”) The liberal media, Carson said, had twisted it to suggest that he’d called Clinton a devil-worshipper. But why, I asked, did he bring up Lucifer at all? Yes, Clinton wrote her senior thesis at Wellesley about Alinsky. But what’s the significance of a 45-year-old dedication on a book by someone Clinton admired in college? “If she admires somebody like that, that should tell you a lot,” he said. “My hope is that people will look up Saul Alinsky and read his book so that they know for themselves and don’t have to have somebody give them propaganda.”

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What, I asked Carson, makes him think Clinton’s been influenced by the famed left-wing organizer since graduation? “Read the book. You’ll see exactly what I’m talking about,” he said. In what sense? “I’m not going to tell you. You’re going to have to read it yourself. That’s my whole plan. I want people to read for themselves. That’s part of our problem. We’re so ignorant, we have no idea what’s going on.” You could take that last line as an expression of self-awareness, but I don’t think he meant it that way.

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