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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."

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.26.16

08/26/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* The process turned out to be a bit more dramatic than it should've been, but Donald Trump's name will appear on the presidential ballot in Minnesota, a state he's expected to lose anyway.
* The polling in Florida has been all over the place, but a new Mason-Dixon poll shows Hillary Clinton with a narrow lead over Donald Trump in the state, 44% to 42%.
* Clinton has a larger lead in Michigan according to the latest Suffolk poll, which shows her with a seven-point advantage, 44% to 37%.
* In an unusually ugly shot, Sen. John McCain's Republican primary challenger, Kelli Ward, said on MSNBC yesterday, "John McCain is falling down on the job. He has gotten weak. He has gotten old. I do want to wish him a happy birthday. He's going to be 80 on Monday, and I want to give him the best birthday present ever -- the gift of retirement." Ward added that she's a physician by trade, so she knows "what happens to the body and the mind at the end of life."
* Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told BuzzFeed that some Senate Republicans prefer Clinton over Trump, even if they won't admit it publicly. "From a Senate perspective, in a secret ballot, Hillary gets a lot of votes out of the Republican caucus. Potentially she even commands a majority of the Republican caucus in a secret ballot because people really do respect her," Whitehouse said.
* Trump seemed to offer some encouragement this week to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), whom Trump wants to see run against Sen. Ted Cruz in a Republican primary in 2018. "I've been hearing a lot about that and I don't know if he wants to do it, but boy, will he do well," Trump said of Perry.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks out at Lake Michigan during a visit to the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center in Milwaukee, Wis., Aug. 16, 2016. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Republican leaders hang Donald Trump out to dry

08/26/16 11:00AM

There's been plenty of speculation in recent weeks about the possibility of Republican Party officials cutting their losses and giving up on Donald Trump's presidential candidacy. Whether or not the chatter leads to action remains to be seen, but the possibility remains quite real.
But this discussion is focused primarily on financial resources: will the RNC, for example, continue to invest in Trump's campaign, even if the party expects him to lose, or will money be redirected to down-ballot races? There is, however, another angle to this, related to rhetorical and institutional support -- which Republicans have arguably already pulled.
Yesterday, for example, Hillary Clinton delivered a pretty brutal indictment of Trump and his role as the standard bearer for racists, xenophobes, and the extremist, paranoid fringe. It was the kind of speech that, ordinarily, Republicans would respond to by defending their party's presidential nominee. Except in this case, as NBC News' Chuck Todd noted this morning, GOP leaders said nothing.
"Hillary Clinton called the Republican nominee [Donald Trump] a racist, and all these Republicans ... not a word. No Republicans outside the campaign said, 'How dare you, Hillary Clinton, call the Republican nominee a racist.' The sound of silence among mainstream Republican elected officials yesterday is stunning."
It is, indeed. Part of the value in being in a political party is benefiting from institutional support when under fire. But instead of having Trump's back, Republicans reminded the political world again yesterday that they're content to hang the presidential hopeful out to dry.