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Dr. Harold Bornstein in his office. (Photo by NBC news)

Trump's doctor draws fresh scrutiny (for all the wrong reasons)

08/29/16 10:00AM

The story of Dr. Harold Bornstein, who says he's been Donald Trump's personal physician since 1980, has always been odd. Late last year for example, Team Trump released an unintentionally hilarious, four-paragraph letter from the doctor -- the only medical information we have about the Republican candidate -- asserting that Trump's "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary" and his lab tests results were "astonishingly excellent."
Bornstein added at the time, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
Things got a little weirder when we learned the physician identifies himself with the American College of Gastroenterology, which isn't exactly true. An NBC News report on Friday took the story in an even more jaw-dropping direction.
Donald Trump's personal physician said he wrote a letter declaring Trump would be the healthiest president in history in just five minutes while a limo sent by the candidate waited outside his Manhattan office. [...]
Asked how he could justify the hyperbole [about Trump becoming "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency"], Bornstein said, "I like that sentence to be quite honest with you and all the rest of them are either sick or dead."
He went on to say that the Oval Office has been occupied by presidents with dementia or tumors or even men who were "paranoid" or "psychotic."
As for the letter itself, as Bornstein explained it, Team Trump dispatched a limo to the doctor's Park Avenue office to pick up the statement at the end of the day. Bornstein threw the letter together without proofreading it. NBC News' report added, "The doctor said he would not normally use such over-the-top language in a letter for a patient but he made an exception for Trump," driven in part by a tweet the candidate had recently published, describing his medical history as "perfection."
Bornstein added, however, "In the rush, I think some of those words didn't come out exactly the way they were meant."
But wait, there's more.
In this Jan. 7, 2015 file photo, Republican Gov. Paul LePage delivers his inauguration address in Augusta, Maine. (Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

After racist incidents, Maine's Paul LePage faces calls to resign

08/29/16 09:00AM

It was quite a week for Maine Gov. Paul LePage. The Republican governor made some ugly, racially charged comments at a public event on Wednesday, which was soon followed by a threatening, expletive-laden phone message LePage left for a state legislator.
As Rachel noted on Friday's show, the governor went so far as to refer to people of color as "the enemy" during a press briefing earlier in the day.
The Portland Press Herald reported overnight that the "pressure is building" on LePage, who's facing renewed calls for his resignation.
The political pressure on Gov. Paul LePage over his recent controversial comments and threats grew over the weekend as Democratic legislative leaders suggested that Republican leadership persuade him to resign, a Senate Republican said a censure of him by the Legislature seemed appropriate, and an online petition signed by thousands of people urged him to step down.
A Democratic state legislator from Portland, meanwhile, said he will start exploring whether there is legislative support for impeachment proceedings against LePage, and a therapist and lobbyist from Hallowell is urging the public to attend a rally Tuesday in Augusta to support having the governor step aside or seek professional help.
Democratic legislative leaders sent a letter Saturday evening to Republican legislative leaders asking them to condemn LePage's crude and threatening comments to and about a state representative, and urging that they get him professional help or encourage him to step down.
The Democratic leaders' letter said LePage "appears to be unfit to hold office at this time." Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon (D) said in a separate statement, "It's clear from the governor's threats that he is not mentally or emotionally fit to hold this office. I am calling on the governor to resign, acknowledge the real problems with his behavior and take appropriate steps to get help."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Aug. 23, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)

Trump's self-congratulatory instincts do him no favors

08/29/16 08:00AM

When Donald Trump decided to call Hillary Clinton a "bigot" last week, the Republican didn't cite any evidence or examples, but rather, shared his impression about his rival's mindset.
"Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes," Trump asserted, "not as human beings."
Keep this in mind when considering what Trump said over the weekend.
Donald J. Trump took to Twitter on Saturday morning to comment on the news that a cousin of Dwyane Wade, the N.B.A. star, had been shot and killed in Chicago, linking the death to his effort to win support from African-American voters.
"Dwayne Wade's cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago," Mr. Trump wrote, misspelling Mr. Wade's given name, which was later corrected. "Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!"
Four hours later, the Republican presidential candidate extended condolences to the family.
For now, however, let's put aside Trump misspelling Wade's name and his instinct to exploit first, console later. Instead, it's worth appreciating two broader angles to a story like this.
First, when Trump accused Clinton of being a "bigot" because she sees people as "votes" and not "human beings," he was apparently projecting. Confronted with news of a senseless murder, the GOP's first instinct is to connect the bloodshed to his campaign's belated outreach to minority communities.
"African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP"? The GOP nominee is, in a rather literal sense, doing exactly what he accused Clinton of doing a few days earlier.
Second, Trump's self-congratulatory instincts really aren't doing him any favors. As we discussed a couple of months ago, one of the most striking things about Trump's perceptions of current events is his narcissistic myopia.

Friday's Mini-Report, 8.26.16

08/26/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Italy's aftershocks: "The first funerals for victims of Italy's disastrous earthquake were held Friday as rescuers continued to pick through rubble in hope of finding survivors. More than 900 aftershocks have followed Wednesday's powerful temblor, sending up clouds of dust and cracking remaining buildings in stricken towns including Amatrice, Pescara del Tronto and Accumoli."
* An underappreciated part of Obama's legacy: "President Obama will use his power to designate national monuments on Friday to create the world's largest protected marine area off the coast of Hawaii, the White House said. Obama will more than quadruple the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, to 582,578 square miles -- more than 50 times larger than the land area of the Hawaiian Islands themselves."
* For-profit schools: "The federal Department of Education imposed strict new rules on Thursday on one of the nation's largest for-profit education companies, ITT Educational Services, barring it from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid and ordering it to pay $153 million to the department within 30 days to cover student refunds if its schools close down."
* Dear Fed, don't rush: "Janet L. Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, said on Friday that she saw a stronger case for raising the Fed's benchmark interest rate, suggesting the central bank was likely to act in the coming months."
* On a related note: "U.S. economic growth was a bit more sluggish than initially thought in the second quarter as businesses aggressively ran down stocks of unsold goods, offsetting a spurt in consumer spending."
* Guantanamo: "Vice President Joseph Biden, Jr., said Thursday he still expects the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will close before the Obama administration leaves office in January. 'That is my hope and expectation,' Biden said during a press conference in Sweden."
* Renewable energy: "Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) releases a set of reports each year devoted to tracking solar prices; they've just released the latest editions. Long story short: Prices are steadily falling, more or less on schedule."
Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama

Eric Trump: Nonexistent 'holiday tree' prompted father's campaign

08/26/16 03:51PM

There's more than one reason to be concerned about Donald Trump's presidential qualifications, but one of the most troubling aspects of his campaign is what he and his team choose to believe (and not believe).
BuzzFeed highlighted an amazing exchange today in which Eric Trump, the Republican candidate's son and a leading surrogate for the GOP ticket, explained some of the motivations that led his father to run for president.
"He opens up the paper each morning and sees our nation's leaders giving a hundred billion dollars to Iran, or he opens the paper and some new school district has just eliminated the ability for its students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, or some fire department in some town is ordered by the mayor to no longer fly the American flag on the back of a fire truck," Trump told James Robison in an interview posted this week.
"Or he sees the tree on the White House lawn has been renamed 'Holiday tree' instead of 'Christmas tree,'" continued Trump. "I could go on and on for hours. Those are the very things that made my father run, and those are the very things he cares about."
It's entirely possible Eric Trump genuinely believes everything he said, but unfortunately, reality can get in the way of sincere talking points. For example, there are no school districts in the United States that prevent kids from saying the Pledge of Allegiance. He just made that up.
Similarly, the National Christmas Tree wasn't renamed. As BuzzFeed's report explained, there was some weird, right-wing chain email a few years ago that said the word "Christmas" was replaced with "Holiday" in the official name of the tree, but in reality, that never actually happened. Some conservatives made this up, the Trumps chose to believe it.
In other words, according to Eric Trump, Donald Trump is running for president at least in part because "he cares about" developments that never occurred. I don't doubt that Eric Trump "could go on and on for hours," but that's because complaining about imaginary problems is incredibly easy.
But there's more to this than just laughing at a silly mistake. The larger issue to keep in mind is that we've seen quite a bit of evidence that suggests Team Trump exists in some strange alternate universe.
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump visits McLanahan Corporation headquarters, Aug. 12, 2016, in Hollidaysburg, Pa. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Citigroup analysis: Trump victory would cause economic downturn

08/26/16 12:40PM

A couple of months ago, four economists at Moody's Analytics prepared a report intended to provide clients with useful information: the "cumulative economic benefits and costs" of Donald Trump's agenda.
The results were rather alarming: as the Wall Street Journal reported, Trump's proposals, if taken at face value, would likely produce "a prolonged recession and heavy job losses that would fall hardest on low- and middle-income workers."
As Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday, it's not the only financial-sector analysis reaching this conclusion.
The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States could lead to chaos in markets and increased policy uncertainty that tip the world into recession, according to Citigroup Inc.
"A Trump victory in particular could prolong and perhaps exacerbate policy uncertainty and deliver a shock (though perhaps short-lived) to financial markets," writes a team led by Chief Economist Willem Buiter. "Tightening financial conditions and further rises in uncertainty could trigger a significant slowdown in U.S., but also global growth."
Making matters slightly worse, the WSJ reported yesterday that the 2016 Republican nominee "garners no support from any of the White House economists who have advised U.S. presidents for the past half-century."