Today’s Trump Apocalypse Watch: NATO No He Didn’t! (Sorry.)
The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die
The two most high-profile events of RNC Day 3 were:
- Ted Cruz (melo)dramatically refusing to endorse Trump even while delegates got really really mad at him, and
- The New York Times publishing a Trump interview in which Trump suggested that he might not defend the Baltic NATO countries from a Russian invasion as president if he decides they haven't been paying us enough.
Reasonable people may differ on whether the Cruz fiasco will cost Trump anything in the polls, but the NATO statement seems like a pretty bad unforced error, and one that ties in with the increasingly plausible notion that Trump, as president, would be a Putin stooge. Maybe there's been an isolationist paradigm shift in American politics that the rest of us haven't caught on to yet, but until proven otherwise I'm assuming that "being weaker than Russia" isn't a winning electoral position and keeping our danger level low.
The Most Peculiar Speakers From Day 4 of the Republican Convention
The fourth and final day of the Republican National Convention features yet another strange assortment of speakers. Here are the most peculiar and noteworthy of the bunch:
Thomas Barrack, billionaire financial investor. Barrack is a longtime Donald Trump associate and was an early Trump endorser, who as of last month had raised $32 million for a pro-Trump super PAC. He owns the Neverland Ranch.
Brock Mealer, motivational speaker. After a 2007 car wreck on Christmas Eve that killed his father and his brother’s girlfriend, Mealer suffered a spinal cord injury and was told he had a 99 percent chance of never walking again. Within two years of physical therapy, he was walking with a full leg brace and a walker. After training for a period with the University of Michigan football team, he was able to walk with two canes and led the team out onto the field before a game. Five years after his injury, he was able to walk down the aisle at his wedding without the canes. Of the time Trump seemed to mock a disabled New York Times reporter, Mealer said this: “I can just really see where things can be misinterpreted. Each candidate has their moments of fault for whatever reason.”
Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal. While a Silicon Valley avatar and a gay man—two constituencies not normally considered to be major parts of the Republican tent—would seem like a strange person to give a prime-time speech on the final night of the GOP convention, this makes some sense. First off, Thiel has written critically about democracy and the “the unthinking demos,” which gives a man of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies an obvious appeal. “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron,” Thiel wrote in a 2009 essay about his libertarianism. “In the face of these realities, one would despair if one limited one’s horizon to the world of politics.” Bloomberg News reported that, “Thiel will be the first speaker to publicly acknowledge his or her homosexuality at a Republican convention.” He once called Trump “sort of symptomatic of everything that is wrong with New York City.”
Donald Trump, businessman and politician. According to his Wikipedia entry, Trump “is an American businessman, television personality, author, politician, and the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election.” His official Republican convention bio notes that he has worked for many years in real estate, hosted “NBC’s Emmy-nominated reality show, The Apprentice,” and “authored more than 15 books, including the well-known business classic, The Art of the Deal.” He has never held elected office before and has a propensity for making outlandish statements, which made his nomination a bit of a surprise. Trump has appeared in a number of TV shows and films over the years, including The Jeffersons, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, The Nanny, Spin City, and Sex and the City. Trump’s hobbies have included golf, wrestling, and his beloved Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants, which he owned at least in part between 1996 and 2015. He is an inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame (class of 2013). His net worth is unknown.
Trump’s Family Really Has a Long History of Giving Money to, Praising, and Endorsing Democrats
The part of Melania Trump speechwriter Meredith McIver's statement that got the most attention Wednesday was, not surprisingly, the part where McIver admitted to having copied some of Melania's RNC speech from Michelle Obama. But in the course of explaining this, McIver noted something else that's interesting, writing that "a person [Melania] has always liked is Michelle Obama." Melania Trump's husband, of course, has said that Michelle Obama's husband is the "worst president ever" and may be a jihadist double agent who wants Americans murdered. Perhaps they agree to disagree when it comes to the Obama family.
Melania's apparent admiration for Michelle Obama isn't the only indication that some members of Trump's family view both the current president and the current Democratic nominee favorably. (Trump, of course, has his own history of being friendly with Democrats.) Per OpenSecrets.org, the following members of Trump's immediate family have donated the following amounts to Hillary Clinton and PACs associated with her:
- Melania Trump: $6,100
- Donald Trump Jr.: $6,100
- Ivanka Trump: $4,400
- Jared Kushner (Ivanka Trump's husband): $10,000
While those four individuals have also given to Republican figures, that's a total of $26,600 for Hillary, given as late as 2007. There's also the matter of the newspaper Jared Kushner owns, the New York Observer, having endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 over John McCain, praising the then-Illinois senator's commitment to "the power of ideas, ethics and decency." Former Observer staffers I spoke to did not recall Kushner pushing specifically for the endorsement, but as the paper's owner he had final say over what it published. Kushner also has his own long history of Democratic giving, in addition to the Hillary donation noted above, to figures such as senators and former senators Cory Booker, Joe Lieberman, Chuck Schumer, Jon Corzine, and Bob Menendez. (Kushner is even listed as having given $1,000 to then–New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg in 1992, when he would have been 11 years old.) The Observer's endorsements have since tilted right—it went for Mitt Romney in 2012 and this year was a no-brainer—but Kushner gave $20,000 to two Democratic groups as recently as 2014.
As it happens, Meredith McIver is herself a registered Democrat, as are two lawyers (Alan Garten and Michael Cohen) who often act as Trump spokesmen. In admiring a major Democratic figure, it would seem, Melania Trump has a lot of company in Donald Trump's inner circle.
Cops Came to the Republican National Convention From All Across the Country
CLEVELAND—A total of 5,500 police officers were brought in from all across the country to protect the constituents and participants of the Republican National Convention. A California Highway Patrol officer told Slate's Seth Stevenson that his team was 300 strong here. A Kansas highway cop said he was one of 26. The Indiana State Police and the Florida Highway Patrol were both rolling more than 100 deep.
Cops of every stripe, from every corner of the country, have come because—in a common refrain—"Cleveland asked to help out." Below is a quick selection of some of the states and cities represented on the thin blue line.
A Love Supreme
I first ran into Mr. Supreme--a perennial presidential candidate, absurdist performance artist, and wearer of a rubber boot on his head--back in May, in Orlando, when he took the Libertarian Party's convention by storm.
Here Are Some Things That Happened on Day 3 of the Republican Convention
A lot has happened at Donald Trump’s Republican National Convention. Day 3 was no exception. Here are some of the things that happened in Cleveland on Wednesday.
- After more than a day of denying it, the campaign acknowledged that the candidate’s wife had plagiarized a convention speech by the current first lady.
- A longtime ghostwriter for the candidate took the blame for his wife’s plagiarism, which resulted in a conspiracy theory that the campaign invented said ghostwriter.
- This merchandise was sold.
- Once again, the crowd broke into numerous chants of “Lock her up!” in reference to the other political party’s candidate for president.
- A state attorney general who declined to investigate the candidate’s alleged scam university after soliciting and receiving a donation from him said, "Lock her up, I love that," during one of these chants.
- The candidate’s son denied a report he had offered a former rival the vice presidency along with all the powers of the presidency, saying, “What am I, a meathead?”
- This policeman filmed these demonstrators.
- A multilevel marketer who hocks nutraceutical products that claim to combat cancer gave an often incoherent speech about being a small-business owner.
- A former speaker of the House said that no one cares about Melania Trump’s plagiarism because “she’s stunningly attractive.”
- During his speech, that same former speaker of the House “mentioned eight specific previous terror attacks and one hypothetical future attack in which 300,000 people die in a nuclear explosion.”
- A retired NASA astronaut and the first women to command a space shuttle skipped over a line in her prepared speech endorsing the candidate.
- A popular conservative radio host ended her speech with a gesture that looked like a Nazi salute in the direction of a photo of the candidate—whose campaign has reinvigorated the white supremacist movement—giving a similar gesture.
- The candidate’s chief rival took the stage in a prime-time speaking slot and suggested Americans “vote your conscience” rather than endorsing the candidate, resulting in a hail of lusty boos and chants of “endorse Trump!”
- The candidate’s team reportedly whipped up the boos.
- The candidate dramatically entered the arena as his rival was speaking.
- The wife of the candidate’s chief rival was reportedly berated and nearly physically assaulted as she was escorted out by security.
- One of the candidate’s chief surrogates ripped the rival as a man without integrity who had given an “awful, selfish,” and “cute” speech.
- The candidate said he knew in advance there would be no endorsement and let him speak anyway because it was “No big deal!”
- The candidate, a relative moderate on LGBTQ issues within his party, pantomimed an air kiss on the cheek at his running mate, an active opponent of LGBTQ rights.
Better Know an RNC White Supremacist: Matt Forney
Your occasional guide to the neo-fascists and white supremacists who have come to Cleveland to celebrate the ascension of Donald Trump.
CLEVELAND—This is far-right journalist and internet personality Matt Forney, whose work sits at the intersection of racism and men’s rights activism. “Let’s just be honest: everyone hates blacks,” he wrote last year, arguing that “whites are rapidly getting fed up with what is basically a hostile, parasitic population in their midst.” He is the author of essays including “Why Fat Girls Don’t Deserve to Be Loved” and “How to Beat Your Girlfriend or Wife and Get Away With It.” He is not married.
Forney balks at the term “white supremacist,” preferring “racial realist.” He says he’s been gratified by the way the Donald Trump campaign has made his views less taboo. “A year ago, the presumed GOP front-runner was Jeb Bush, who is married to a Mexican and who was in favor of more illegal immigration. The GOP was prepared to concede that issue to the Democrats. Now we have the entire GOP electorate and a lot of Republicans galvanized against illegal immigration. We have Republican politicians talking about punishing sanctuary cities. That’s just one example. People feel more free to speak their minds. Trump has moved the Overton window right.”
Ted Cruz Says He Won’t Be Trump’s “Servile Puppy Dog”
Ted Cruz, who drew the ire of the RNC crowd when he refused to endorse Donald Trump on Wednesday night, explained this morning that his decision was indeed personal.
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” the Texas senator said at his home state’s delegation breakfast in Cleveland on Thursday. “And that pledge [to support the GOP nominee] was not a blanket commitment that if you [attack] Heidi I'm going to nonetheless go like a servile puppy dog and say, thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.”
A refresher for those who need it: Cruz spent the early days of the GOP primary running in the slipstream of Donald Trump’s bluster before ultimately breaking with the longtime polling leader shortly before the actual nominating contests began. Things would get particularly nasty between the two before the race was over. Trump, among other things, insulted the physical appearance of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and suggested that Cruz’s father, Rafael, may have been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Cruz’s non-endorsement is the top story coming out of the convention’s third night, which would traditionally would be dominated by coverage of the vice presidential nominee’s prime-time address. (Sorry, Mike Pence!) Regardless of Cruz’s personal motivations, it was clear that the Texas senator and, yes, 2020 GOP hopeful is also playing the long game right now. As Reihan Salam explains in Slate, Cruz's RNC decision was a rather brilliant career move.
Cruz, who urged Republicans to vote their “conscience” on Wednesday, refused on Thursday to say who he will cast a ballot for in November, though he did rule out the idea of voting for the Democratic nominee. “As I told you last night the standard I intend to apply is, which candidate I trust to defend our freedom, be faithful to the Constitution,” Cruz said, before adding: “But I can tell you I'm not voting for Hillary.”
I Asked GOP Conventioneers About Roger Ailes. They Were Fair, Balanced.
CLEVELAND—“I think it’s more surprising that Roger Ailes is leaving Fox than that Donald Trump is the GOP nominee,” said Republican political strategist Mark McKinnon as he stood on the convention floor at the Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday morning.
McKinnon was there to film an episode of The Circus, his Showtime series about the 2016 election cycle. McKinnon’s co-star on the show, Bloomberg Politics’ John Heilemann, stood nearby, and I asked him whether he thought Fox’s headline talent—hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity—would abandon the network out of solidarity with Ailes. Heilemann thought not and, by way of explanation, rubbed the fingers of one hand together in the universal signal for “moolah.”
Outside the arena, pizza mogul and former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain wasn’t ready to give in. “You’re asking questions, but we don’t have the facts yet,” Cain said when I asked him whether he had any reaction to the Ailes news. Affirming that Ailes was a friend of his, he reiterated, “Let’s wait for the facts.”
Earlier this month, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes, alleging that the Fox News chairman is a serial sexual harasser who among other things told her, during a meeting last fall, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.” Since the suit was filed, more women have come forward with their own allegations of sexual harassment, and the network’s biggest star, Megyn Kelly, has reportedly told investigators that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances toward her a decade ago. Ailes is now negotiating the terms of his ouster.
There is no more awkward time for a politico to fall from grace than during a party convention. Just ask Dick Morris. In 1996, Morris—then President Clinton’s chief campaign adviser—resigned during the Democratic Party’s convention in Chicago, amid reports that he’d cheated on his wife with a sex worker. Morris created a doozy of a distraction on the day his boss was to deliver the capstone convention speech.
But Ailes means exponentially more to the Republican Party than Morris ever meant to Democrats. I decided to gauge how Ailes’ ouster was going over in the hallways and plazas of the RNC.
Some attendees weren’t aware of the matter. Some declined to comment—including former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. “I have no reaction,” said Lewandowski, when I buttonholed him on the arena concourse. “I don’t know him.”
Some folks quickly declared that, if Ailes did what he’s accused of, he should be fired. “If it's true he should be out,” said one woman. “In the 21st century those things can't happen,” said one man.
But others were reluctant to judge Ailes’ behavior.
“I know he has girls, or women, that work at Fox charging him with sexual harassment,” said a bearded man in a cowboy hat, standing in an outdoor area within the security perimeter that’s been dubbed Freedom Plaza. “I don’t know the details. Maybe he was just complimenting how they look that day and they took it as something else. In Texas, we treat women with respect, and we're coming to a place where maybe they don’t like that, but they can let us know instead of trying to be litigious. We're not litigious in Texas. … Say I was her husband, and my wife tells me Roger Ailes said those things. I'm going to go to her work and I'll take care of it myself.”
“There’s more serious things happening in our country,” said a female Kansas delegate. “There’s Muslims coming here to try to kill us. I don’t need to know about someone’s sex life. Sometimes a man sees a woman and he just says things.”
Ailes has been brought low at the very moment his ideological legacy is being secured here in Cleveland. The Republican Party over which he long held sway is nominating for the presidency the embodiment of all that dyspeptic white grievance Ailes put on television. “Fox’s populist style didn’t look that much like the populism of the Goldwaterites or the religious right,” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote on Wednesday. “But it did clearly resemble, and prepare the way for, the authoritarian and very New York populism of Donald Trump.”
How integral to the GOP was Ailes? Asked about the Ailes situation, one man in Cleveland replied, "We can't comment about that, we're working with the convention."
"But Roger Ailes is at Fox News,” the man was reminded, “not the RNC."
"They're the same thing," the man replied.
RNC Speaker Ends Speech With What Seems Like Nazi Salute to Giant Image of Trump
Above: A wider-angle photo of right-wing radio host and writer Laura Ingraham ending her Wednesday night Republican National Convention speech with a flat-hand, palm-down gesture that, it must be said (especially given the giant image of Donald Trump next to her), resembles the “Heil Hitler” Nazi salute.
Here it is at full speed:
Ingraham followed up the gesture by publicly thanking far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders on Twitter for his praise of her remarks.
Update, 11:30 a.m.: Ingraham has tweeted about this mini-controversy in a way that seems to imply any resemblance between her gesture and the ol' Nazi salute was merely coincidental.