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Postmortem: Parsing Policy Platforms and Personalities

One of the things that struck me about last night’s Presidential debate was that for all of the conflict, there was very little policy disagreement, save perhaps on income taxes. And a great many things that were discussed were simply not policy issues at all; by my count, only a minority of time was spent on policy at all. Really, it was about tone, personality, the perception of competence, and rhetorical initiative.

Here’s how I see what the candidates had to say about what they would do with the government in the future. At least, here’s what I glean from such substance as can be found within the debate transcript:

Issue

Trump

Clinton

Job Growth I will prevent jobs from being moved to other nations.1 I will prevent China from manipulating its currency.2 I will reform or withdraw from trade agreements such as NAFTA; eliminate the carried interest provision; cut corporate taxes from 35% to 15%; offer a child care tax benefit; and I will reduce governmental regulations.3 All of this will create massive economic growth and thus plenty of jobs. I will oversee government upgrades to infrastructure, and encourage corporate profit-sharing.4 We must raise the national minimum wage, and encourage advanced manufacturing, innovation, technology, clean and renewable energy, and small business.5. There should be paid family leave; earned sick days; a child care tax benefit; and debt-free college. We can pay for all this with increased taxes on the wealthy6 and corporations.
Tax returns, personal finances, and e-mails I won’t release my tax returns because my lawyers have advised me not to do so during an audit, but I will act against their advice and release them if Clinton releases the 33,000 e-mails she deleted.7 My income last year was $694,000,000 and I get audited almost every year. I used the laws of the country to my companies’ advantage. I made a mistake using a private e-mail. He isn’t releasing his tax returns because of some combination of a) he doesn’t make as much money as he claims, b) he doesn’t give as much to charity as he claims, c) he doesn’t want us knowing who he’s doing business with, and d) he really doesn’t want us to see that he hasn’t been paying his fair share of taxes. Don’t believe him when he says he’s a really good businessman.
Race relations (which led into crime) Restore law and order, reduce violent crime. Have more police. Improve relationship between communities and police. Reinstate stop and frisk. Take the guns away from criminals who shouldn’t have them.8 No fly, no buy. Also, I built a luxury club in Palm Beach that was the first club there to not practice racial discrimination. And I didn’t admit fault when I settled that 1973 case against my companies for race discrimination. Restore trust between communities and police. Improve training for police to minimize use of force. Criminal justice reform. Get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.9 Address systemic racism baked into the justice system. Discourage states from using for-profit prisons. No fly, no buy.
Birtherism Sidney Blumenthal and Patti Doyle did it first, when Clinton ran in the primary against Obama in 2008. I just pressed the issue because a lot of people were asking questions and not getting answers and when I got the birth certificate released I laid off.10 Barack Obama has been a U.S. citizen all his life, and the accusations to the contrary are racist.
National security We need to do a better job at cybersecurity.11 We need to get our NATO partners to pay more money into the alliance, as well as our allies in the Pacific like Japan. NATO needs to change its focus to address terrorism more than it does now; I applaud its recent announcement that it would start to do so. We must “knock the hell out of ISIS.” We must recognize and respond to, and actively defend against, state-sponsored cyberespionage.12 We can partner with tech companies to reduce the ability of groups like ISIS to radicalize Muslim youth. We must intensify air strikes against ISIS, eliminate their leadership, and end its claim to the Caliphate. We need an “intelligence surge,” and we need to adopt policies that encourage taking terror suspects alive to get information from them. We should encourage NATO to step up activity against terrorism and not insult Muslim majority nations that could otherwise be encourage to work with us rather than against us.
Temperament, Presidential look, and stamina I have a much better temperament than she has. I have not run negative ads against her; she’s run negative ads against me13 and look, we’re still tied in the polls anyway even though I’ve spent practically nothing on this campaign. I would not order a nuclear first strike. I would have reached a better deal with Iran. She should not be publishing her plan to defeat ISIS. Business has trained me to be a better negotiator than she is, and she doesn’t have the stamina to negotiate the way negotiations need to be done. While Secretary Clinton has experience, it’s been bad experience and we don’t need four more years of those kinds of experiences. Many of those outrageous quotes she’s trying to pin on me about women were aimed specifically at Rosie O’Donnell, who deserved what I said about her. And I was going to say some very rough things about the Clinton family14 but I’m not going to because that would be inappropriate and not nice. If she wins, I will absolutely support her. He would have ordered a military strike against Iranian sailors who were taunting American sailors, and started a shooting war with Iran. He doesn’t seem to care much if other nations have nuclear weapons, or even if they use them against each other. I will honor our mutual defense treaties with South Korea and Japan. “As soon as [Mr. Trump] travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.” Instead, he “has called women pigs, slobs and dogs, and … said pregnancy is ‘an inconvenience to employers’.” I will certainly support the outcome of this election.

What’s amazing to me is that there were so few promises and proposals about policy, about what either candidate would actually do if elected to the Presidency. Perhaps more amazingly, of the policy proposals that were at least referred to, there is substantial agreement:

  • Both candidates favor some form of child care tax benefit. The magnitude of the benefit may differ, but like the mutually-agreed upon prescription drug benefit issue from the 2004 election, both parties’ candidates agree, at least in broad strokes, that this is necessary.
  • Both candidates favor some way of improving relations between police and the communities they serve, and the vision for how that would happen seems to be similar in both of their minds: a shift to community-based policing. The flavor is a bit different, with Trump putting greater emphasis on the “law and order” side of it (e.g., “broken windows” for those familiar with that concept) and Clinton putting greater emphasis on training for police, but they’re both clearly pointed in the same direction. And I should add, there is not much the federal government can directly do here anyway: as a practical matter, this policy takes the form of strings on block grants to the States.
  • Both candidates favor increased restrictions on gun ownership, to get guns out of the hands of unspecified people. Both candidates support the “no fly, no buy” initiative.
  • Both candidates will direct increased emphasis to government-provided cybersecurity.15
  • Both candidates favor steering NATO towards anti-terrorism military activity, which means NATO becomes active in projecting its force into the Middle East.16
  • And, I like that the moderator chose to end the debate with this question, both candidates put themselves on record as supporting the outcome of the election even if they lose. This would have been an unstated assumption in other elections, but this year some careless remarks on the campaign trail have probably necessitated the overt affirmation of this bedrock principle of our democracy.

As far as I can tell, about the only significant prospective policy differences the candidates fleshed out last night was on taxes for the wealthy: Trump wants to lower them, Clinton wants to raise them. Maybe Trump signaled a demand for greater financial contribution to mutual defense efforts from our allies. The candidates are even in rough agreement about how to deal with ISIS: better cybersecurity to curtail recruitment and radicalization, and overt military activity to support selected Syrian factions and the Iraqi army in the field.

There were some disagreements about the wisdom of now-past policies, like NAFTA and the Iranian nuclear agreement, but really all of the significant clashes were not about policy. They were about issues personal to Donald Trump. Does he actually pay taxes? Does he make as much money as he claims? Is he really respectful of minorities and women? For how long and with how much energy did he push birtherism?

The fact that so much of the debate wound up focused on those issues seemed to put Trump on the defensive most of the time, and for that reason I’m calling Clinton the winner.17

Not discussed, pretty much at all and certainly not in any meaningful way: immigration, foreign policy in the Pacific Rim, the Supreme Court, monetary policy, national debt, education, the war on drugs, religion, abortion or any other sex-related issue.

So in terms of what will actually happen with our laws, our policies, and our government for the next four years, the only real differences we saw were with respect to taxes for the income brackets higher than nearly anyone reading this post will ever have to be personally concerned with, and some generalized issues about who is the better sort of person to do the job at all.

Hmm. I’m gonna have to ruminate on this idea: maybe that last sentence is not only a declarative statement of how things are, but it’s also exactly congruent with how things ought to be, given that no one can reliably predict what the problems of the future will turn out to be.Notes:

  1. Presumably through trade agreement renegotiation and tax reform, though this was not explicated. []
  2. Presumably through some sort of international judicial action, though this was not explicated. []
  3. Unspecified as to which industries or which regulations would be affected. []
  4. Presumably through tax reform, though this was not explicated. []
  5. Again, presumably through tax reform, though this was not explicated. []
  6. Presumably a new surtax on the top 1% of income earners, though this was not explicated. []
  7. I’m really unclear on how she’s supposed to “release” e-mails that by definition have been deleted. []
  8. How these people should be identified and distinguished from people who can be trusted with guns was not explicated. []
  9. How these people should be identified and distinguished from people who can be trusted with guns was not explicated. []
  10. Near as I can tell, both of these claims are demonstrably untrue. []
  11. How this is to be done was not explicated. []
  12. How this is to be done was not explicated. []
  13. He neglected to add that most of the ads include substantial excerpts of Trump speeches. []
  14. Presumably about Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs, though this was not explicated. []
  15. Whether this will be called “corporate welfare” in future election cycles remains to be seen; both candidates made clear that protecting the intellectual property of U.S. corporations and not just the government would be within the portfolio of the expanded cybersecurity initiatives. []
  16. And thus away from its foundational mission of keeping the expansion of Russian influence into Europe in check. []
  17. Recall the moment just after Trump claimed to have the better temperament. All Clinton had to say was, “Whew. OK.” with an incredulous look on her face. The audience laughed long and hard. It was at this moment I realized that Trump was losing, and it wasn’t just me. []

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156 thoughts on “Postmortem: Parsing Policy Platforms and Personalities

  1. No one can reliably predict what the problems of the future will be.
    But the problems of the present are real, and currently being kept under wraps.
    Recession will occur after Madame Clinton becomes president, and not before.
    If the powers that be have their way, of course.

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  2. This is going to be hard for liberals to hear, but policy-wise a President Trump is preferable to a President Cruz. There’s a lot of conservative read meat that we didn’t hear about tonight because Trump isn’t interested or does not know how to talk about it: transgender bathrooms, abortion, religious liberty, government should be run like a household, balanced budget amendment, constitutional protections on traditional marriage, obamacare (and similar programs) are fascism, looser gun laws, etc. It took one man one election to wipe these so-called wedge issues entirely off the table. That’s something.

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    • I think this is a mistake. Trump might not want to talk about these things but he is probably more than willing to delegate the culture war stuff to whatever Pence and/or the Breitbart crew want.

      I disagree with Cruz on pretty much everything and you are right that he is a holy war culture crusader and a true believer in the culture war but at the same time, I can’t see Cruz ever wanting to hire people from Breitbart as his campaign manager or staff. Could you see Cruz hiring Steve “Feminism is a conspiracy from Bull Dykes at Seven Sisters schools” Banon? I cannot. Now maybe this is a distinction without a difference though.

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      • I think it’s a big deal simply that these conversations aren’t happening. It’s really important to note that Cruz’s last-ditch attempt at gridlocking the primary was to go 100% behind the transgender bathroom wars, and Trump basically said “I don’t care about that stuff”. And won! It is a big deal that LGBT folks don’t have to get up every morning to a presidential nominee that equates them with pedophiles and rapists, and we have Trump to thank for that.

        Same goes for the balanced budget conversation. Most of the GOP has coalesced around someone who openly doesn’t give a shit about budgets, and who is proposing all sorts of expensive social spending that would ordinarily be considered fascist. That’s a huge ideological commitment that the party has made, and it will box them in in the near future. It’s not useful for them now, but look for Democrats to start saying “Even the GOP nominee supported childcare subsidies”.

        In terms of implementation, I think a candidate that says less about issue X in the election is less committed to issue X once elected. But I agree with you that Trump is a special case and will probably hand over the implementation to the establishment (the only reason I imagine Paul Ryan got in line). That said, a Republican president who is lazy and uninterested in policy is still much better for liberals than a Republican president who is committed to leaving his mark.

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        • I agree. I’m always skeptical of events that prove my theories, but I don’t see any analysis of Trumps ascendency other than that Republican voters care more about dissing liberals than about any of the policies conservative politicians talk about.

          Trump was probably the “worst” (in the sense of least dogmatically conservative) candidate on tax cuts, abortion, gender equality, militarism, among others. But he sure does fling insults at liberals.

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          • That or what cultural divide exists is not truly between secular, libertine, egalitarian liberals and religious, restrictive, and complementarian conservatives. It looks to me like we’ve reached broad consensus on these issues. A real cultural divide does remain, roughly between rural and urban people (as before), but I’m not sure where precisely the splits are.

            Edit:

            The consensus is among the population broadly, but is not yet fully reflected in the group that dominates our politics.

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          • I’m always skeptical of events that prove my theories, but I don’t see any analysis of Trumps ascendency other than that Republican voters care more about dissing liberals than about any of the policies conservative politicians talk about.

            The majority of Republican voters need an enemy to hate, and the belief that their elected officials are doing exactly that. And that is basically the *entirety* of their political thought. Seriously. That’s it. Yes, we used to think it was more, but that’s it, apparently.

            For a while this enemy was ‘liberals’ with the justification that liberals had *bad policies*, but they appear to have somewhat smoothly transitioned to random conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, (And a bunch of immigrant hate) and have totally forgotten how they hated all those policies. (The House, hilariously, seems to think people still hate Obamacare.)

            And I don’t think they’ve noticed how much ground they’ve ceded. As I’ve mentioned before, the Republicans seem to always forget the fact that there are always *new voters*. And right now, we’re getting a lot of new voters that, even if they go for Trump, are going for him *because* of his supposed position on child care, or at least using that to *justify* why they like him…and pretend reasons become *real* reasons, over time.

            So when, in 2020, presidential candidate Ted Cruz talks about cutting President Clinton’s child care initiative, or something, that voter will be like ‘Wait, no, that’s a good thing, my brain decided it was a good thing to justify voting for Trump, so how can I vote for Cruz if he wants to remove it?’

            Trump was probably the “worst” (in the sense of least dogmatically conservative) candidate on tax cuts, abortion, gender equality, militarism, among others.

            The real joke is that the supposed billionaire doesn’t care about lowering taxes…probably because *he* is well aware how little in taxes he pays.

            This is, in an odd backwards way, somewhat selfish of him…the super-rich are all in a little club to purchase as many legislators (Republican *and* Democrat) as they can, sorta pooling their money together to keep ‘lower income taxes on the rich’ as something that is constantly harped one…and Donald Trump isn’t playing along. But I suspect it’s less for any sort of *principled* reason, and merely the fact he doesn’t see the point in doing anything when taxes are already so low for *himself*. I.e., IGMFY, but aimed at *other rich people*…why does *he* care if *they* pay more taxes?

            Same with everything else. You go back in time to three years ago, and Trump’s policies would *exactly* align with ‘What if to the benefit of Donald Trump?’ and, if there was a tie, he’d probably just sorta default to the ‘New York values’ everyone seems to think is a thing.

            And every minute since then has been him trying to figure out what to say to Republicans, which has been somewhat hilarious and pathetic, because Trump is used to standing in front of a small group of people and saying whatever makes that specific group happy, and then moving on to the next group and saying something else.

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            • I mostly agree with most of this, with this caveat:

              There are some actual conservatives out there in the world. Not just anti-liberals, but really truly people who have intellectual, reasoned policy preferences that are at odds with the bulk of the constellation of proposals advanced by people within the mainstream Democratic party (and points further left along the political spectrum).

              Some of these people are even young.

              So yes, there are plenty of people who behave politically the way they do out of tribalism and I suspect that you’re right to imply that this is, in fact, a substantial factor in how Trump has gained support. The political equivalent of what Jerry Seinfeld calls “rooting for laundry.” (BSDI.)

              But just beware of making the leap from that recognition to “Deep down, everyone is actually a liberal,” or “If you can somehow get past the tribal identification, we all actually agree on liberal policies.” Deep down, people really actually do disagree with each other.

              For example: “The House, hilariously, seems to think people still hate Obamacare.” There are, seriously, people who do hate Obamacare. There are people who were open to liking Obamacare but had a bad experience with it and now dislike it. There are people who really genuinely think that the government ought to keep its fishing nose out of this area of life or that it’s an overreach beyond what the Constitution sets forth as the proper scope of the Federal government even if it’s a good idea. There are people who think that Obamacare is well-intentioned but doomed to ultimately inflate the real cost of both health care and health insurance, and have intellectually-respectable-enough justifications for that theory. People soberly believe these things and act accordingly (and generally not hatefully) in politically opposition to Obamacare.

              That’s above and beyond the types who offer not-particularly-intellectual “Government screws up everything it does” grousing. And it’s well above and beyond the people who dislike Obamacare as long as you call it “Obamacare”, but basically like or are at least indifferent to the idea of governmentally-subsidized, easy-to-purchase, no-pre-existing-condition-disqualification medical insurance. These folks are often louder than their more thoughtful counterparts.

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              • There are some actual conservatives out there in the world. Not just anti-liberals, but really truly people who have intellectual, reasoned policy preferences that are at odds with the bulk of the constellation of proposals advanced by people within the mainstream Democratic party (and points further left along the political spectrum).

                Well, sure, there are people who believe all sorts of things.

                I think at this point, however, there are possibly less ‘actual conservatives’ than, for example, actual literal Nazi supporters.

                There are people who were open to liking Obamacare but had a bad experience with it and now dislike it. There are people who really genuinely think that the government ought to keep its fishing nose out of this area of life or that it’s an overreach beyond what the Constitution sets forth as the proper scope of the Federal government even if it’s a good idea. There are people who think that Obamacare is well-intentioned but doomed to ultimately inflate the real cost of both health care and health insurance, and have intellectually-respectable-enough justifications for that theory.

                …and all those people can fit inside a single football stadium.

                As I’ve said before, the actual support for all political parties is almost entirely shallow. People barely know anything about their party and what its goals are supposed to be or anything.

                The intellectuals on the right *and* on the left make up a tiny, tiny faction of the support, then there’s our level, let’s be charitable and call it a million people total, where a bunch of people who think they know things try to talk about them semi-objectively…and most everyone else just sorta have a vague idea of why they like their party, and will reflexively defend it and go along with it, unless it does something that upsets then, then they probably won’t vote for a bit, and maybe switch.

                Again, true for both parties. Which is why almost all politics in the this country is trying to make people upset about things.

                But it’s become increasingly clear that the vast majority of Democrats like their party ‘because it’s trying to help people’, however vague that is as a governing policy, whereas the vast majority of Republicans appear to like their party ‘because certain people need to be taken down a peg or two’, however *awful* that is as a governing policy.

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        • I am still skeptical. Trump seems to think that the best way to reach out to the Black community is to continueously neg on the black community and say how horrible things are and that the community has “nothing to lose.” He has been endorsed by the FOP and other right-wing police organizations because of opposition to BLM (or perceived opposition). He has defended “stop and frisk” in front communities whose constitutional (and physical lives) were violated by stop and frisk policies.

          In terms of abortion:

          http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/09/donald-trumps-new-anti-abortion-letter-should-terrify-you.html

          My theory is that this remains largely unspoken because everyone knows where the parties stand.

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    • I, at least for purposes of this discussion, fall in the “liberal” camp, and I have been saying this all along. It was pretty obvious in the primaries that Trump disagreed with the standard party line in some significant respects, and when he did so, his position usually was better.

      That being said, implementation is everything. A Trump presidency would be run by the people around him, as they take turns dangling bright shiny objects in front of him to keep him entertained. Who would these people be? Many of them would be family and/or sycophant cronies, who would likely be open to the highest bidder. But in practice the party establishment would have their place at the table. They wouldn’t get everything they wanted, but they would get enough. The lodestar of the Republican Party establishment for going on four decades now has been tax cuts for rich people. I would expect Trump to be personally sympathetic to the plight of the rich.

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    • Shit on a brick. We’ve got a racewar on your hands, and you’re concerned about “wedge issues”???
      The mother of all fucking “wedge issues” is crawling out of the gutter from whence it came, and you’re talking about all the wedge issues we ain’t got told about?

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    • Not sure why that’s hard to hear. It’s the one silver-lining.

      Cruz/Walker/Kasich/etc. firmly believe and would fight to implement all kinds of crazy policies. Trump doesn’t firmly believe in anything other than his own profits and self-aggrandizement.

      The problem is that presidents need to do much more than not care about bad policies to succeed, and there’s no evidence that Trump would. Moreover, Pence is every bit as bad as anyone else on the desire to implement shitty policies. Are you comfortable that he wasn’t offered the de facto president role Kasich rejected.

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    • I think at least the latter of the options you mention is true – he doesn’t know how to talk about those things. Specifically, his dogwhistle is broken.

      The fact that he was able to say anything about race relations without openly using a racial slur was remarkable.

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      • On race relations, Trump missed a great opportunity. In a nutshell, he criticized Hillary for promoting the exact same inner city policies that haven’t worked and are responsible for the current race-related state of play, and then – without skipping a beat to talk about criminal justice reform or etc – he advocated ramping up racial profiling, one of the failed policies that’s led to the current state of play.

        It was strange to watch a politician set the table so nicely and fail to deliver so completely.

        {{Well, he DID say that if the US would lower its corporate tax rate lots of cash sequestered in foreign countries would be invested in the inner city. Which made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Pizza man!!}}

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        • You seem to think Trump has policies. Or ideas. He doesn’t. He’s a salesman, a specific sort.

          Most sales guys? They work on commission. You don’t buy, they don’t get paid. You return it or back out? They have to pay that commission back. So they’re gonna be on your side, tell you the product is what you want and be fuzzy on the details if they can — but they have to get what you want right enough and actually deliver something you’ll accept if they want to get paid.

          Trump doesn’t, that’s not how he’s ever worked. He can promise the moon, because by the time someone has to deliver the moon he’s made his money and is gone. So he’s never sweated the details.

          His policies are the same way. They’re all the best policies, but he won’t go into details. Details offer points of disagreement, makes people walk out on the deal. Vague terms and echoing your feelings? That makes you think you’re getting a good deal. He’s angry/sad/happy like you!

          So inner city problems? “Law and order!” because who hates law and order? “Taking guns from the bad guys” because who wants the bad guys to have guns?

          How you do those things, the actual policies? That’s never been his schtick. Those are handled by the guys left holding the bag after he’s cashed out.

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            • Scoring, in that context, would require having some basic policies and not slogans. It wouldn’t have to be much, but it’d have to be something.

              Instead he had slogans and cliches, the sorts of things that evoke solutions in other people’s heads.

              Which works at a rally, but not a debate. Especially when contrasted by someone selling details.

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              • As I just wrote to , for purposes of this thread, I’m not looking too closely at the “how” so much as the “what.” A “policy” here is closely akin to a campaign promise — an articulated expression of what the candidate would attempt to do with the government, if elected.

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                • Well, there’s “what” and then there’s “what”. Sticking to my primary area of interest, Clinton said the the US should be a green energy powerhouse, and stopped there. Looking at her policy site, there are more details. The first thing on the list is within ten years generating enough renewable electricity to power all of the nation’s homes. In round figures, that’s about one-third of total generation.

                  This goal is not in the same category as an Apollo or a wall across the border with Mexico. In addition to the enormous construction budget implied is that major changes will be needed in how we operate the privately owned and largely state-regulated grid. Fundamental federal policy towards the grid going back 25 or more years will have to be substantially changed (I’ll stop short of saying reversed, but in some details that’s what it will take). Absent saying something about “how”, it’s a completely empty statement.

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                  • I agree with you that the devil s in the details, but….

                    1. Had Hillary posted a detailed How in her webpage, it would have been mostly incomprehensible to even the majority of the OT commentariat not posting as Michael Cain or J_A. It would have been called the most extreme example of Hillary’s wonkyness and Exhibit A of her inability to speak to the voters, plus….

                    2- I can think, and I’m sure you can too, or several alternatives to imp,event the regulatory changes needed. It won’t be easy, but there are several paths available to the Oresident, if the country decides it’s good policy, whereas….

                    3- Most of the Whats that Trump has announced don’t seem to have any realistic How (*). His tax Plan? Absolutely impossible? Rounding up 11 million people distributed all over the country? Renegotiate NAFTA? Take Iraq’s oil? I can’t imagine how to start.

                    Yes, I’d like detailed plantations about the How, but I won’t get them, because energy regulatory regimes nerds are not a big voting constituency. I’ll be satisfied with a reasonable What

                    (*) Many lack even a What. What does being tough to China mean?

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          • Trump doesn’t, that’s not how he’s ever worked.

            Seriously, all people have to know is the phrase ‘real estate developer’.

            The entire premise of that job is ‘Find someone with an idea for a building, convince rich people to build it, skim X% off the top, also take a cut of the profits if there are any, but if not, whatever’.

            And it’s not so much that Trump makes his money that way, in fact, I’m not even sure what percentage he makes that way (He also just *owns* some properties, like Mar-a-Lago, and also makes a good deal of money via licensing and just being famous), but the fact he *self-describes* himself as one of those things, a job title that literally means ‘professional middleman con-artist’, the guy who somehow takes a cut of the money despite doing and risking *nothing*.

            And, to be clear, there are plenty of legitimate business people that are, technically, ‘real estate developers’, but they do things like actually own the resulting business and whatnot, and are more likely to call themselves business owners or property owners or landlords or something.

            Or they’re in the other end, and design and build and sell buildings, at which point they say they’re in construction.

            Calling yourself a ‘real estate developer’ means you think the important part is…coming up with the idea for something, convincing the people with money it’s a good idea, and getting paid a cut for that! (Which also isn’t automatically a ‘con’…I mean, there *are* real estate developers who come up with good ideas that are profitable for the actual investors. Trump…is not one of those people. And those people *eventually* get rich enough that they can using their own money and end up owning a successful business, and move out of ‘real estate developer’ classification.)

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  3. Both candidates favor some way of improving relations between police and the communities they serve, and the vision for how that would happen seems to be similar in both of their minds: a shift to community-based policing. The flavor is a bit different, with Trump putting greater emphasis on the “law and order” side of it (e.g., “broken windows” for those familiar with that concept) and Clinton putting greater emphasis on training for police, but they’re both clearly pointed in the same direction. And I should add, there is not much the federal government can directly do here anyway: as a practical matter, this policy takes the form of strings on block grants to the States.

    I disagree. The DOJ can do a lot in terms of lawsuits against police officers and departments for violating civil and constitutional rights and getting consent decrees and oversight until improvement. I suspect that a Clinton DOJ is much more likely to do this than a Trump DOJ. I find it disturbing that Trump would double down on a police tactic which has come under doubt about its effectiveness and was also ruled unconstitutional.

    I think the first debates are usually about showing whether someone has Presidential character and temperament more than anything else. HRC was able to get under Trump’s skin and show him to be a bully and like many bullies, very thin-skinned and defensive.

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  4. Also, I don’t see your law & order equivalence at all. “Reinstate stop and frisk” vs. “criminal justice / systemic racism reform” seem about as opposite as can be.

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    • Here’s the extracts I considered:

      CLINTON: And we’ve got to do several things at the same time. We have to restore trust between communities and the police. We have to work to make sure that our police are using the best training, the best techniques, that they’re well prepared to use force only when necessary. Everyone should be respected by the law, and everyone should respect the law.

      and

      TRUMP: You need more police. You need a better community, you know, relation. You don’t have good community relations in Chicago. It’s terrible. I have property there. It’s terrible what’s going on in Chicago. But when you look — and Chicago’s not the only — you go to Ferguson, you go to so many different places. You need better relationships. I agree with Secretary Clinton on this. You need better relationships between the communities and the police, because in some cases, it’s not good. But you look at Dallas, where the relationships were really studied, the relationships were really a beautiful thing, and then five police officers were killed one night very violently. So there’s some bad things going on. Some really bad things.

      Now, Trump offers up heapin’ servings of well-mixed word salad throughout the transcript, but especially the highlighted portions of his quote indicate not just passing support for the notion of community-based policing, as does the reference to the Dallas PD which has used this technique to great effect in the past half dozen years or so.

      One might argue — and I think one would mostly prevail in this argument — that an emphasis on “law and order” and reinstatement of “stop and frisk” are fundamentally incompatible with the notion of community-based policing and criminal justice reform. That’s a reflection of the fact that Trump is fundamentally incoherent on most policies. That said, he did overtly agree with Clinton on the desirability of community-based policing and the importance of improved relationships between the police and the communities that they serve.

      Trump was silent on the issue of systemic and implicit racism. I’ll not infer agreement into that silence, as I’m not confident at all that he even understands what those concepts are and even if he does, he probably feels a political need to coddle a segment of his Republican supporters who like to agitate themselves by saying “Hey! She just called us all racists!” so they can continue to have fun calling themselves “deplorables,” even though that’s not really what the idea of implicit racism is.

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      • I wholeheartedly disagree with this take.

        Trump wants stop/frisk everywhere, disputes the fact that it was found unconstitutional (as applied in NYC), and argues that it prevents violence (which is belied by the fact that crime dropped when it stopped in NYC).

        Clinton disagrees with all of that.

        And, when Trump mentioned the Dallas PD, it was in the sense of futility (he said Dallas had great community relations–a true fact, shockingly–but still had officers killed).

        I think you’re doing a lot of excising/creative reading to call these similar positions.

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      • Maybe it’s my priors, but when I hear Trump say that we need better community-police relationships I think he means the community needs to be more obedient. And when I hear him say “But you look at Dallas, where the relationships were really studied, the relationships were really a beautiful thing, and then five police officers were killed one night very violently” I think he means that the reform in Dallas didn’t solve the root issue, which will be solved by tougher policing and more obedience from the community. My priors are coming from statements by the Fraternal Order of Police leader saying that Trump was on board with cleaning up the communities and not reforming police *which do not need to be reformed*.

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        • Maybe it’s my priors, but when I hear Trump say that we need better community-police relationships I think he means the community needs to be more obedient.

          FWIW, I agree. I hear that too. And, at least wrt Chicago, he has a point. Where he loses me is that the primary issue wrt cop/community/race relations isn’t that some citizens are engaging in criminal activity, it’s that the citizens in question very explicitly don’t trust the cops. Cracking down on their “disobedience” even more, or going after it harder, isn’t gonna do a damn thing to resolve that issue.

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          • let’s be honest. The voters he’s after? They don’t live in Chicago (at least not those parts), and they’re not going to be ‘cracked down on’ by police.

            #BlackVotersDon’tMatter when you’re in the single digits with them.

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  5. I think you are overlooking some important specifics. Like in Race Relations, of course both say they want things to be better but the actual polices are far more different then you state. Trumps stop and frisk is highly unpopular in the communities where it has been implemented and made relations worse. Clinton wants more training, which the feds can pay for through grants, is for crim justice reform due to pressure by AfAm’s in congress and groups like BLM and she has far more support among POC’s. Those are significant differences. Of course no fly no buy is stupid.

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      • Child Care Tax Benefit and No Fly, No Buy are the two you specifically mentioned above.

        Trizzlor’s “red meat” comment above touches on a bunch of others.

        There are a lot of things that used to be X vs. Y.

        Trump vs. Clinto is Xsub1 vs. Xsub2 on a lot (a *LOT* a lot) of topics that we used to have very, very, very acrimonious fights about.

        I mean, have we seen much worrying this election about Abortion Rights being sent back to the stone age? I haven’t.

        This election is Akinless.

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  6. “Not discussed, pretty much at all and certainly not in any meaningful way: immigration, foreign policy in the Pacific Rim, the Supreme Court, monetary policy, national debt, education, the war on drugs, religion, abortion or any other sex-related issue.”

    And guns I assume. (didn’t watch the “debate”). That might have been interesting as HRC is on record as wanting to clamp down.

    Scott Adams has another interesting take.
    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/151007796236/i-score-the-first-debate

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    • Guns were discussed, in both the no-fly/no-buy sense (which they agreed on but is dumb) and Clinton’s proposal to ban military like guns (which I know won’t persuade across the aisle, and will instead be seen as evidence she doesn’t know anything about guns).

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    • Also, god I hope Adams is wrong. That’s nothing at all like the debate I saw. Trump to me looked juvenile (“Not!”), dishonest, dangerous (“they were taunting us”), and completely uninformed (I’m not sure he knows what “first use” even means).

      But then, Adams was certainly right about Trump’s rise in the GOP debates.

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      • Everyone who talks about Adams needs to keep in mind that he made the same exact predictions about Herman Cain:

        Prior to five women accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment, I predicted he would become the Republican nominee. After the accusations, most pundits expect Cain to go down in flames. I’m going to double down and reaffirm my prediction that Cain will win the Republican nomination.

        So let that analysis wash over you every time you read Adams predictions.

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    • Scott Adams’ take is interesting because his worldview is (still, yet) non-falsifiable.

      If Trump trounced Hillary and she coughed herself into a stupor, he’d argue that Trump won.
      If Trump ran rings around Hillary and hammered jobs and trade and ISIS and did so effectively, he’d argue that Trump won.
      If Trump and Hillary argued back and forth in a perfect tennis match of a debate that would get even CNN to say “eh, it was a tie”, he’d argue that Trump won.
      If Trump got a technical loss of the debate on points, he’d argue that Trump won.
      If Trump walked away from the debate floor in a huff, he’d arguably argue that Trump won.

      He did the penultimate one.

      Within the bands of things that were reasonably possible, there is literally *NO* outcome that would have inspired a “Whelp, that was unequivocally bad for Trump” post.

      Which makes a “Hey! 3-dimensional chess win!” post less persuasive.

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        • YEAH! I heard Trump sniff on the radio and I remember thinking that I wanted to see what they looked like because it sure sounded like Trump had one hell of a cold.

          Now, of course, I know that everybody’s talking about cocaine but, at the time, I thought “is this going to be another Nixon/Kennedy?” for a second before settling into, as Thoreau so beautifully put it:

          she didn’t roll a natural 20 and Trump didn’t roll a natural 1

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    • Adams:

      Clinton won the debate last night. And while she was doing it, Trump won the election. He had one thing to accomplish – being less scary – and he did it.

      No, I just plain disagree with this. Trump was a) incoherent, b) visibly struggling to control his emotions, c) rude and mean, d) smarmy about not paying taxes and bankrupting his own companies, e) preoccupied with petty irrelevancies like Rosie O’Donnell and most of all f) unprepared. “Unprepared” is “scary” when we’re talking about a President, and all the more so when that gets alloyed with “rude and mean.”

      He walks out of that debate looking less like a man I’d trust with the Presidency than I trusted him before. (Which, in my case, means I went from thinking “He’s a very bad choice” to “He’s a VERY bad choice.”) He is farther away from winning the election today than he was twenty-four hours ago.

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  7. I also disagree about your trade analysis. Trump made clear these are going-forward issues. He wants to blow up every international trade deal and “renegotiate them” to make them tremendous. (based, of course, on his complete inability to understand how trade works–e.g., Mexico’s VAT is applied to both imported and domestic products and is therefore not a tarriff, Mexico’s imports are also subject to sales tax here, and his claims about Mexican factory superiority is nonsense)

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    • In the larger scheme of things, I think you’re right. But at no time during the debate did I hear Trump say, nor does the transcript reveal that he said, he intended to re-negotiate NAFTA, DDA, etc. I did indicate, in footnote no. 1, that he implied he would put currently-settled trade agreements back on the bargaining table both domestically and internationally.

      Which sounds pretty much like a recipe for disaster to me, but at that point my vote counts the same as anyone else’s.

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      • Trump has no “policy” whatsoever, if by policy you mean a firmly held set of ideas informed by a larger worldview.

        He rose to power by tapping into grievance and emasculated rage, not “policy”. For policy he has a wimpy guy named McFly do his homework, and thumps him on the head when he needs an answer.

        This is why he can be alternately in favor of and opposed to, nearly any policy or idea three times within a single sentence.

        Because so long as he is mainlining that white hot rage, his supporters are in ecstasy.

        The only “policy” that they hold is “White Men Rule”.

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        • FTR, I mentally defined policy as “an expression of what the candidate intends to do with the government if given power,” excluding the notion that this intent was somehow informed by a particular worldview, and permitting that the candidate (if elected) might attempt to actually implement the policy, but fail for some reason.

          Of course, YMMV. I’ve found the notion of Trump as western European style nationalist to fit pretty well to both his tone and the policies that he’s articulated with consistency (reduce immigration, rigid law enforcement, protectionism both economic and cultural).

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    • Well, I agree that his reference to VAT was meant to convey he was going to do something about it, either though trade renegotiation or tax reform. (Though the easiest tax reform would be to shift to a VAT)

      I disagree that there is no problem. Mexico set a lower VAT on its Northern border to encourage companies to relocate(*), and when companies export goods from Mexico to the U.S. they get a rebate of VAT taxes paid in production of the good. When U.S. companies exports goods to Mexico, they pay a full VAT. Many multinationals set up joint operations on both sides of the Rio Grande as a tax maximization strategy against both countries tax systems. This is the Texas miracle.

      (*) The VAT border differential I believe started in the early 90s and lapsed a couple of years ago, so this particular aspect is not a current issue.

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      • I’m not following this at all.

        We have a sales tax, that is charged to goods sold in the US whether manufactured in the US or Mexico. We allow US purchases by Mexicans to be tax-free (the “duty free” section of every airport, for example). Mexico has a VAT that is charged to goods made in, or entering, the country. It (apparently) rebates that tax on goods made in Mexico but exported to the US (where they will be assessed a sales tax instead).

        I can see how there could be minor arbitrage because the countries have different regimes (one product might have a low-value add but high sales price, another the revers), but that’s completely different from asserting that Mexico is getting away with protective tariffs (which was Donald’s lie).

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        • An American company selling widgets in Mexico will pays corporate taxes in the U.S. and a VAT in Mexico. Relocating a plant to Mexico means the corporation will pay a VAT. For about 20 years, the VAT was reduced on Mexico’s border region to give incentives to relocate from the U.S. The more subtle forms employed by the biggest companies are to have the primary work performed in Mexico and shipped to the U.S. for assembly, in order to take advantage of the different tax treatments for income versus sales.

          Trump did not use the word tariff last night, he said “incentives.”

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          • For example, in the early 90s, Caterpillar opened an engine plant in Northern Mexico to manufacture engine blocks. The product was trucked to an Illinois engine plant where initially they had a 99% defective rate, and those were melted down and the scrap trucked back to Mexico. When the defect rate was down to something like 75%, the company moved the Illinois engine plant to Texas where the process continued. The Illinois engine plant sits idle in state of the art condition, except for the engineering and clerical support staff work at the site in an expanded wing, with IIRC 7,000 employed.

            There are not three engine plant sites because of some superior manufacturing technique, this is a company seeking to gain from public policy inefficiency. And there are a few ways this might go, and possibly the most likely is that the American plants eventually close and move to Mexico, including the 7,000 professional and white collar jobs. Production engineering ultimately follows production. Everything could be moved back to Illinois, or stay the same or move to Texas. Relocation is not the obstacle it once was.

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            • Ok, but is that because NAFTA allows Mexico to institute unfair protections for its businesses (and is therefore a defective agreement) because they tax US imports at 16% and don’t pay taxes on their exports to the US? Or is it that they’re engaged in policy arbitrage at the margins because sales tax and the VAT are different and therefore occasionally game-able? Or is it that Mexican labor is cheaper-enough to outweigh the transit / failure costs?

              Because the first of those was Trump’s claim.

              Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We’re on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there’s a tax. When they sell in — automatic, 16 percent, approximately. When they sell into us, there’s no tax. It’s a defective agreement. It’s been defective for a long time, many years, but the politicians haven’t done anything about it.

              And that’s not true.

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              • NAFTA could have been negotiated to equalize tax disparities btw/ taxation of income and VAT. It could have been negotiated to preclude Mexico from establishing special taxation districts on its borders.

                As to labor costs, etc. CAT’s model was described to me by one of its retired tax accountants, who said you cannot understand the reasons for this arrangement without understanding the tax implications.

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                • A 1% tax advantage in X or Y scheme might represent thems of millions a year in a large corporation like CAT. That’s tax optimization at the margins.

                  That doesn’t mean that from a general point of view, there’s any significant tax differential impact for the US or Mexican consumer buying a product manufactured in Mexico or the USA.

                  In both cases, the Mexican customer had to pay the same VAT no matter the country of manufacturing; the American customer gets a product that has no VAT impact (Mexican VAT is refunded upon export; no VAT in the USA), but has a sales tax collected at the point of sale. In both cases the manufacturer pays a similar income tax rate, no matter what country they are in.

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                • You have to see that we’ve now pivoted 180 degrees from the claim that NAFTA allowed Mexico to protect its manufacturing to a claim that NAFTA’s neutrality is unfair because the US and Mexico have different consumption-tax regimes and a call for actual protectionist policies.

                  Here’s a question: if the US cut corporate income tax rates to 15% from 35%, would you want NAFTA to enforce a 20% tariff on US exports?

                  (also, too: enter Krugman)

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          • You have the strange idea that companies in Mexico, or other places, don’t pay corporate income taxes, or that the rates are very low.

            In the particular case of Mexico, the corporate income taxes are 30%. Not a big difference, given that the amount of allowable deductions is lower.

            So let me correct the above for you:

            “An American company selling widgets in Mexico will pays corporate taxes in the U.S. and a VAT in Mexico. Relocating a plant to Mexico means the corporation will pay a VAT AND A 30% CORPORATE INCOME TAX IN MEXICO”

            (Apologies, I’m not shouting, I just don’t know how to differentiate my text (capital letters) from ‘s

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        • Plus, exported goods are not subject to sales taxes, so essentially both regimes are similar in the sense of:

          1. US manufacturers don’t have to pay sales taxes on their raw materials. Mexicans do pay VAT on those but get a refund at the end of the process, so the exported goods have been manufactured free of taxes and are in an equivalent position at the border

          2. The US slaps a sales tax on the imported goods and Mexico slaps VAT. Both compete similarly with the domestic counterparts.

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    • Uh yeah. Trump lost the debate, and then called in the morning shows to lose some more of the topics he didn’t get a change to lose the night before.

      The clip from Fox & Friends where they ask him “Hillary tried to get under your skin, did that work?” and he says “Yeah, I guess it worked. Like when she brought up that fat Miss America contestant who really was, really very fat” – was another “Is he *trying* to lose this” moment. I guess he could have actually asked the hosts to show Hillary’s attack ad.

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      • Yes, he’s trying to lose it. Even if he might could win.
        Winning’s the sucker’s bet, and it’s stupid even for Hillary (surprisingly enough. wouldn’t have said that a month ago).

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      • Remember Trump’s razor, the stupidest but still-logical answer is probably the correct one.

        The stupidest but most logical answer is that Trump honestly has no idea why his various insults and bullying behavior would be off putting. He probably learned enough of it from his dad. He is an early boomer and grew up in the world that could remember “Mad Men” and the first-wave feminists, and he has always surrounded himself with yes men and women who either sincerely laugh at his boorish behavior or feel compelled to in order to keep their jobs.

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    • Trump didn’t even deny attacking Alicia Machado when Clinton brought her up. He just asked Clinton three times how did she find out about that. Like Chait said, this is kid movie villain behavior done in real life.

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      • Like Chait said, this is kid movie villain behavior done in real life.

        A real movie villain would follow up ‘How did you find out about this!’ with ‘And have you told anyone else?’ while slowly reaching into his pocket for a gun.

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          • …slowly reaching forward to pull the lever that opens the trapdoor, so the other person slides down into a cage in the dungeon?

            Or maybe it’s headed towards a comedy, in the style of Clue (Trump is presumably Colonel Mustard):

            Clinton: And he called Alicia Machado Ms. Piggy.
            Trump: Who told you that?
            Clinton: Mrs White
            Trump: Ha! Mrs White wasn’t there when I called that woman Ms. Piggy!

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  8. Assuming for the sake of argument that there are close similarities between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s platforms on certain issues, Trump is still likely to govern the way his Republican Congress wants to for many reasons. He has an incredibly lazy streak and tends to delegate a lot and even if he had more will would need to convince a Republican Congress to go along. They might listen to Trump more than Clinton but not that much.

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  9. Corey Robin had an interesting but depressing take on Trump and taxes at Crooked Timber:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2016/09/27/donald-trump-the-michael-dukakis-of-the-republican-party/#more-40614

    Now for the pundit class, Trump admitting, implicitly, that he never paid income taxes is the kind of bombshell that puts him forever out of the running of respectability (if he wasn’t out of that running already). Not paying your taxes is a no-no, a failure of civic duty, a sign of his diremption from the little people he claims to represent.

    I’m of two minds on this question.

    On the one hand, I can see how it might seem to the average voter like Trump is just one more rich guy who gets away with murder.

    On the other hand, there’s a not so small current in American politics that would hear that, that Trump didn’t pay his taxes, and think, with him, that he was indeed smart for having outsmarted the system. And would want to align themselves with him as a result. In the hope that they too could learn these tricks some day or that they too could one day be rich enough not to pay their taxes.

    This is a nation of conmen (and women), as everyone from Melville to Mamet has understood. A nation that dreams of, and longs for, the quick buck. The more crooked the path, the more glorious the payoff.

    If there was any one point last night where I thought to myself, Trump is connecting with the voters, it was this.

    In my darker moments, I wonder if this right and goody-goody two shoes liberals like me are just doomed to never get it. Bill Clinton was able to do the “play by the rules thing” very well during his initial Presidential election, perhaps this was HRC’s attempt to do the same. But I wonder as part of the “real American” sneers against urban middle-class liberals whether part of it is that they like Trump for how he plays and cons the system. What bourgeois-liberals see as signs of dishonesty, untrustworthiness, and charlatanism, a good chunk of America might see as pointers and inspirations.

    On a certain level, I think liberals are starting to realize that they are good at school and pitching policies at those who are good at school is a non-winner in the long term. But we have trouble getting why someone so tacky like Donald Trump appeals to many because of our beliefs in an old-fashioned work-ethic and that we tend to be income wealthy in ways that requires lots of schooling.

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    • I usually agree with Corey Robin, but I don’t share his pessimism here.
      I have said before how amazed I am at the seething hatred of the “elites” I am hearing from the right, and I don’t believe it is new.

      I think it was tolerable for them while there were still good times, when they could still imagine that only Those People were being hurt by NAFTA and global trade.
      But now that the chickens are coming home to roost, I think the populism is real, and “I don’t pay taxes” is going to stick in a lot of throats.

      YMMV.

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    • I think that quite a lot of people out there are feeling that “the system” has started to betray them. In our iterated prisoners’ dilemma game, “the system” has been defecting against them.

      Someone defects back?
      “Good”, it’s easy to think. I mean, *I* am not defecting, right? That guy is. He defected against the system that is screwing me good and hard.

      If you want to argue that this guy shouldn’t feel like the system is screwing him, okay. I’ll ask you to dig this next sentence:

      There are a lot of people out there who are acting in a particular way and I just want to sit these people down and explain to them that they shouldn’t feel the way that they feel.

      How do you feel about that sentence?
      Does it depend on who is saying it? About whom they’re saying it?

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    • Going to sign with Chip on this one. Yes, many Americans are enamored with getting rich fast and pulling off cons but many more Americans believe in good honest work and basic civic duty. For most of the income tax’s history, it was something that Americans were proud to pay. There is a lot of media about the patriotism of paying taxes. It took decades of rightists revolt to get rid of this.

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      • For most of the income tax’s history, it was something that Americans were proud to pay.

        Not really. When it was instituted folks didn’t want to pay at all, and didn’t. During WWII the propaganda machine really picked up and identified paying taxes with a form of patriotism (Disney, for example, made propaganda films). After that the concept sunk in and it was viewed as a civic duty, and tax&spend liberals road that wave thru the 60s and 70s until Reagan, and then there was Rush, and so on. It’s a mixed bag, I think.

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          • This is true, historically — but not especially relevant to contemporary political decisions. For nearly every voter alive today, income tax has been something they have lived with and paid their entire lives, and the principal source of revenue for the government.

            As a matter of what’s reasonably foreseeable for the future, the income tax in something resembling its current (progressively structured, with a complex system of deductions to incentivize individual economic behavior) form is very like how the government will get most of its funding for the rest of all of our lives.

            There is nothing illegal about using the system of incentives baked into the complex tax laws to reduce one’s tax burden. Indeed, a good argument can be made that this is behaving in a way the government wants to encourage people to behave. Assume that it is true that Trump has elaborately structured his financial dealings so as to absolutely eliminate any obligation to pay any tax at all. The law has been followed. The argument against this is moral and not legal: he is a free rider at that point, having not paid his fair share (whatever that is) for the benefits that he has enjoyed along with the rest of us (like roads and other infrastructure, stable currency, a reliable mail delivery system, a generally trustworthy justice system, etc.).

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                • I disagree.

                  He stands accused of essentially laundering other people’s money (including money owed to him or his companies) through the foundation. It comes in as a charitable gift to his foundation (instead of income to him or his companies) and goes out to serve his personal goals (in the same way it would had it been regular income).

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            • I think the “moral” argument is particularly relevant to a lot of people because so many of the tax avoidance tools are really only available to the very wealthy. There’s a clear incentive-based argument for one of the biggest components of this–reduced rates for capital gains–but people aren’t necessarily persuaded by that argument (hell, I’m pretty far from convinced).

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              • You do need a significant amount of income/assets for tax avoidance to “pay”. Ain’t nobody making 50k a year needing to do this. Folk that low on the income spectrum deal in cash and don’t report it or use some other form of concealment.

                Think all those tips you give servers get “reported”?

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                • My wife was a server, and she always reported hers, because servers have income insurance provided by the company and the amount of insurance is based on reported income.

                  So when the restaurant she worked at burned down, she got a larger payment than her coworkers who’d just pocketed the cash.

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  10. Hey guys remember how Trump was just the worst most rotten ever because he mentioned Gennifer Flowers? Remember how big of a deal that was?

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    • What? No, I remember there was a flap about it and it was going to be a definite school-on-Saturday moment, but then one of Kellyanne Conway or Paul Manafort put the kabosh on it because at least one of them seems to have a modicum of common sense at any given point in time, and so it didn’t happen. And as far as “reasons why I don’t like Trump” go, this would have been somewhere in the mid-900’s.

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  11. There were some disagreements about the wisdom of now-past policies, like […] the Iranian nuclear agreement

    Does that count as now-past? The next president can repudiate it, and it hasn’t been around long enough to be a difficult-to-change status quo.

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    • Clinton’s comments about that were particularly good, I thought: she supported and voted for tougher sanctions against Iran which ended up driving Iran to the negotiating table to prevent the – at the time (she claimed) – imminent development of nuclear capability. It was an example of sanctions working for a better outcome than would otherwise arise. Of course, people disagree about the state of Iran’s nuclear program prior to the sanctions, and if they are robust enough to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities and all that. But as a matter of politics, her answer was spot on. And on policy too, for that matter. {{I mean, look at N. Korea as a counterpoint.}}

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    • I take your point, but I nevertheless suspect that President Trump would find it significantly harder to actually pull the deal off the table than he gives the impression he thinks it would be. Obama was going to shut down Guantanamo Bay within his first year, remember. The Iran Deal is gonna be something like that.

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      • They President can do whatever he or she wants these days with regard to foreign policy. Gitmo is not foreign policy, paradoxically enough. To the extent that it is foreign policy, the Obama administration has already mostly emptied it out by sending people overseas to anyone who will take them.

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      • I don’t see the analogy. Closing Guantanamo was anathema to Republicans and not that popular with Obama’s own party, partly because it was so easy to demagogue as being weak on terror. Ending the Iran agreement is unanimous among Republicans, and easy to demagogue as being strong on terror.

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  12. There’s a pretty substantial difference when Trump says climate change is a hoax and Clinton aims for the country to be the “clean- energy superpower of the 21st century”. That’s a pretty stark difference.

    As is the continuity behind US nonproliferation of nuclear arms policy Clinton advances and the ideas Trump floated that would result in arms races in multiple regions of the world, including the conflict prone Middle East and potentially volatile East Asia.

    Also the perspective advanced by Trump of “take the oil” – the 19th century, mercantilist, thoroughly delegitimizing US power outlook that would essentially eviscerate US credibility in capitals around the world. It’s hard to put up a particular policy of Clinton’s against this Trump (off-the-wall) perspective, but Joseph Nye’s “smart power” comes to mind.

    Escaping the confines of the debate, and more pulling in career and campaign elements now, but that’s part of what the debate is, a component of the larger arguments both campaigns are making about the direction of America. The space of “substantial agreement” is far more narrow than described in the original post.

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  13. Trump’s personality shone through: He’s a complete narcissist, the kind who’s never wrong, so whenever he’s called on anything, he changes the subject to someone else’s faults. (Or “faults”, as the case may be.) It astounds me how people can rally around someone who’s an unrelieved asshole.

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  14. Very good analysis. I, too, am feeling a real loss in the lack of substance in this campaign. And not only one side is to blame. Though one side is more to blame for the overall nature of the campaign, the other is likewise responsible for what shortcomings of the first she chooses to highlight, how she presents and defends her own policy positions, and in general the kind of campaign she chooses to run. I don’t think either side can claim to be offering Americans a political conversation that lives up to any of the previous three presidential election seasons – at least – to be quite honest.

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    • The first debate isn’t about substance, it’s about introducing the two candidates, drawing contrasts between them, and demonstrating enough basic understanding of policies to recite the right talking points at the right time. When one candidate is running on a platform where “I ALONE CAN FIX IT”, that candidate’s character traits are necessarily going to be the focus of the debate. There’s plenty of substantive debate going on in the campaign *in venues that are appropriate for that*, see this hour-long discussion of Trump’s economic plan, for example:

      http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2016-08-09/analysis-of-donald-trumps-new-economic-plan

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    • What issue do you feel is missing here?

      If the claim is that she wasn’t sufficiently detailed in the first debate (despite making her detailed views available for all to see on her website), does it matter to you that she has also been criticized for being too wonky/policy focused (e.g. David Brooks’ whine about sixteen-point laundry lists) in the same event?

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    • I believe Clinton wants to take the easiest, surest path to beating Donald Trump, and that is to attack him personally (or get him to effectively attack himself personally), as she clearly came to the debate to do as her top priority. She is perfectly happy, I believe, staying on that as much as possible; if she didn’t have to talk about trade, she;d be great with that, if she didn’t have to talk about immigration, she’d be great with that. Rather than trying to win an election on issues, she;s satisfied to win it on the character of her opponent. This deprives us of a campaign that really hinges on issues. Sure, she provides issue positions, sure she is willing and capable to talk about issues when she must. Certain issues are good for her and she probably wants to talk about them. But if she can make the election hinge on him, she will – rather than beating him on the issues. And her emphases in the debates as well as the focus of her campaign advertising are what really determine that – not the fact that she simply has issue positions. What does she want to fight the election on? The person of Donald Trump.

      That’s a loss for all of us.

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      • I believe Clinton wants to take the easiest, surest path to beating Donald Trump, and that is to attack him personally…

        Is everyone else convinced that this is really the surest path to beating Trump? Personally, I feel it’s the riskiest play. It relies on Trump playing to type, which he may. He may also tone it down, which is kind of what he did in the debate.

        What issue do you feel is missing here?

        Here is what is missing for me: a meaningful conversation about the economy that isn’t couched in either Trump blaming immigrants and foreigners and Clinton blaming people who don’t pay enough taxes. I get that politics is always going to involve a bit of scapegoating, but this election is taking it to new heights.

        As HRC represents an essentially centrist position, it wouldn’t be hard for her to get my vote. It would take two things: a full-throated defense of free trade and globalization and a credible plan to reduce the deficit. The second is a longer conversation, but the first is fairly simple. I have some sympathy from Clinton. She is probably much more supportive of trade than she admits, but she’s been getting it from populists on both sides of the divide. That said, the trade portion of the debate was absurd. Two people having a conversation almost completely grounded in untruth just to spare the American electorate of having to come to terms that there is no going back to the golden age of American manufacturing.

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        • “That said, the trade portion of the debate was absurd. Two people having a conversation almost completely grounded in untruth just to spare the American electorate of having to come to terms that there is no going back to the golden age of American manufacturing.”

          Because the American electorate has made it abundantly clear it does not want to hear that there is no going back, no one will come out amd say it aloud.

          After all, they are both trying to get the American electorate to pick them. This is a job interview. You always say what your future boss wants to hear in a job interview

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        • Is everyone else convinced that this is really the surest path to beating Trump? Personally, I feel it’s the riskiest play. It relies on Trump playing to type, which he may. He may also tone it down, which is kind of what he did in the debate.

          I disagree: counting on Trump to revert to form, to resist handling, is a safe play. Clinton was a lawyer before she became a politician, and she possesses a skill essential to both professions: the ability to understand the personalities of others. Almost no one can pretend to be someone other than who they really are, convincingly, for a sustained and stressful period of time. Understand who your opponent actually is, and you can fashion strategies to deny them their strengths and force them to play where they are weak.

          What is Donald Trump’s personality, really? He is governed by his ravenously hungry ego. The person who needs constant and massive ego validation is among the least likely personality profiles of all to be able to sustain a different projection of personality than actual type. Disregard is intolerable to the narcissist: Trump can be relied upon to demand attention almost immediately as soon as he is denied it, the way one can predict an inexperienced SCUBA diver will panic when deprived of her regulator.

          So his strength is his ability to represent the aspirations of the have-nots. He is a poor man’s idea of what a rich man is. Skyscrapers with his name on them. Gold-plated everything. Private jets. Hot, younger, glamorous wives. All articulated in powerful sales language.

          Clinton’s play denies him this core strength: his personal wealth is irrelevant, even a handicap, when it comes to government. How ever will he avoid his conflicts of interest? You can’t blind trust a business that is so heavily tied up in the personal identity of the very person you’re trying to blind it from. We’re going to hear about that in the next debate, I’m sure.

          And it attacks him at his core weakness. Notice how she never, ever called him “Mister Trump”? It was always “Donald.” And how he made a big show out of calling her “Secretary Clinton”? Titles matter to him. They demonstrate position, hierarchy, prestige, validation. When he never got the “Mister Trump” from her, he reverted — almost surely contrary to his training and handling — to calling her “Hillary.” At which point he’s disregarding her impressive professional achievements and looking like a male chauvinist. He can only win that game by subordinating his own ego to acknowledge that she has earned higher prestige than himself.

          Which he cannot do any more than he could digest stones.

          And look at how he’s actually behaved. He lost his cool during the debate, reducing himself in the end to blathering on about how Rosie O’Donnell (!) deserved (!) what he called her (!) instead of talking about what he wants to do as President. That came at the tail end of a carefully-structured attack by Clinton on his personality. It took about twenty minutes to defeat his handling. He wants to be who he fundamentally is. He wants to take the bait and has almost no experience at all in his seventy years of life to inform him that taking the bait is going to work out badly for him.

          So I think that counting on Trump to revert to his basic personality type — and then allowing the voters to see who he really is and be appropriately repelled — is a pretty safe play.

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          • As you note, projecting something foreign to your personality is exhausting.

            Trump started flagging after about 20 minutes and reverted to type. Now that might also be a persona, but it’s one he’s used for decades. It is, if it’s a role, one he’s very practiced at and can assume with less effort.

            You could see, in the first 20 or 30 minutes, him really trying to stay focused, to act “right”, to utilize the talking points he’d had memorized. It didn’t last. Whether it was because Clinton got under his skin or because he got mentally fatigued (I suspect both of that plus the lack of crowd reaction — a salesman who is getting nothing from his client is a panicking salesman, because he can see his sale going down the drain), he reverted to type.

            And his type works well at rallies, but not on a Presidential debate stage.

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            • I also think Clinton’s team was, to some extent, trying to take his measure.

              I suspect the *next* mention of whatever the next debate’s ‘Alicia Machado’ is going to be will be closer to the start. This time she awkwardly wedged it in at the end, like she couldn’t find a place for it, or possibly like she was considering not doing it at all. (Maybe she noticed he was being reasonably sounding at the start, and didn’t really grasped he’d stopped until later.)

              Next time, I suspect…bam, it’s coming in at 45 minutes, as soon she’s sure he’s tiring. Bam, just say it, completely out of context. Yes, that could off-put some listeners…and then Trump will open his mouth and that will be forgotten.

              Because, as evidenced by the fact he kept doubling down the next day (Even with, presumably, the ability of his advisers to tell him that was a bad idea) means that if it’s brought up earlier in the debate, *Trump will keep returning to it*.

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