Major TV advertiser appeals to alt-right by cleaning up Pepe the Frog + Comey apologists make no sense

It’s bad enough that Stephen Bannon, a major figure of the racist, Nazi-loving alt-right is directing the campaign of a major political candidate. Now it appears that one of the largest advertisers on TV is working a sanitized version of a symbol of the alt-right into a much-repeated commercial. The ugliest part is…it’s Volkswagen, a German company that should be more sensitive to the nuances of racial coding and cultural symbols.

The alt-right, as most readers will already know, is a loose collection of fringe organizations, angry individuals, chatrooms and websites advocating white supremacy, white nationalism, Islamophobia, anti-feminism, homophobia, antisemitism, white male superiority and nativism. The alt-right tends to be very anti-government and pro-guns.

One unofficial symbol of the alt-right is a cartoon character named Pepe the Frog, an anthropomorphized amphibian. Originally a black-and-white line drawing, Pepe quickly transformed to deep green with brown lips. He is often depicted as a frog’s head on a human body, but often he has a frog body.

A quick perusal of the Internet will reveal Pepe’s image in a large number of frightening contexts, including:

  • With the legend “You will always be a n****r”
  • Pepe dressed as a Nazi SS officer saying “Feels good.”
  • Pepe in a KKK white hood and robe
  • Pepe with a Hitler stubby moustache saying, “Kill Jews man”
  • A collage photo of Pepe with Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, long-time racist provocateur Roger Stone and Trump’s sons.
  • Pepe covered in Nazi insignia with the number 14 over his left eyelid and 88 over his right eyelid; to alt-righters 14 is a numeric shorthand for “we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” and 88 means “Heil Hitler.”
  • Pepe wearing a Trump button and making fun of a Mexican family on the other side of a metal fence.

These and many other posters incorporating Pepe explain why the Anti-Defamation League has designated Pepe as a symbol of hate. Pepe’s creator has also vehemently condemned the racist and nativist uses to which the icon has been put.

But Volkswagen evidently didn’t get the memo, or is quietly trying to appeal to alt-righters.

The narrative of the TV ad for the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, a four-wheel station wagon, plays out wordlessly, first to ambient sound and then to Eddie Rabbit’s “Driving My Life Away”: A millennial male with the requisite very short beard is gazing at a frog in a terrarium in his work cube. His boss knocks on the glass wall of the cube and gives him a “get that frog out of here” gesture. In the next shot, our hero is driving his Golf Alltrack out of a parking structure and into the street, onto the highway and into a woodsy road to a pond in the middle of a forest. We see the frog in a pond looking tearfully at the car. The final shots are of the guy driving the VW with the frog on the dash looking as happy as a clam, or perhaps a pollywog.  “Oooh, I’m drivin’ my life a way, looking for a better….” Fadeout.

The frog looks completely like a frog in form, but it has the emotional life and expressiveness of a human, just like Pepe. He is attracted to doing something that makes young men feel good, just like Pepe (although in the case of Pepe, some of those things are socially unacceptable outside a small circle of white male supremacists). The frog hangs out with young white men, just like Pepe does. He has the same evocative eyes as Pepe does.

Don’t you think it’s a little more than coincidental that Volkswagen comes out with a commercial targeted at rural-loving (and therefore probably white) young men using an anthropomorphized frog who interacts with humans round the same time that an anthropomorphized frog who interacts with humans becomes a symbol of a political movement filled with rural-loving young white men? There were certainly a number of other terrarium animals with which the commercial’s cool dude could have bonded over the same love of driving a VW: newt, turtle, snake or a gerbil. It could have been a bird, which would have underscored the motif of speed and freedom.

But Volkswagen selected a frog that will remind some of Pepe. Especially those who know and love Pepe because he’s the same kind of, n-hating, immigrant bashing good-old boy that they are.

Marketing departments do a tremendous amount of work analyzing key branding elements, such as color, spokesperson and certainly an animal that’s going to act human. I’m sure focus groups with their target market loved the frog. I’m equally sure that someone did a thorough Internet search. When I searched for “frog” in Google, Pepe did not come up in the first five pages of results, but when I searched for “frog symbol,” Pepe as an alt-right icon comes up on the first page. Moreover, it is incredulous to think that of all the dozens of people to work on the ad—marketing managers, product managers, writers, directors, market researchers, advertising placement specialists, et. al.—none had read any of the hundreds of stories in the news media about Pepe the alt-right Frog, especially when it became an issue in the Trump campaign.

We might be able to give Volkswagen the benefit of the doubt and say its staff didn’t do their homework, but that doesn’t explain why it didn’t pull the ad as soon as the mainstream media began covering Pepe.

I’m fairly certain that Volkswagen goes out of its way not to appeal to Nazi-lovers in its home market. Why would do so in the United States? Answer is…money.

Changing the topic to the election campaign that I promised myself I would not cover again until November 9…

Those who sympathize with FBI Director Comey after he sent his weaseled letter about potentially finding more Hillary emails assert that the life-long Republican Comey would have risked being accused of a cover-up if he waited until after the election and something important turned out to be on the Weiner computer.

What these Comey supporters are really saying is that the Director was right to put his own job above the fairness of the political process. Comey must have known the mainstream and right-wing news media would pick up this large, juicy shank of veal like a pack of dogs that haven’t seen a bone in months. The only conclusion if you follow the line of the apologists is that he preferred to definitely affect the election as opposed to being accused of possible doing it after the fact.

Consider, too, the low likelihood that any of these emails will make a difference in the original conclusion: all information suggests that they’re probably duplicates of what we have already seen. Based on this low likelihood of relevancy, all Comey had to do was write a CYA memo to Attorney General Loretta Lynch saying he agreed with her recommendation to follow standard operating procedure and wait until the  emails had been examined to make an announcement.

My conclusion: Comey is either a senseless puppet of the Republicans or an active participant in the second attempt to use dirty tricks to sway this election (the first being by the Russian government).

If Trump should win, it would mean that every Republican president since Reagan except for Bush I would have been elected because of dirty tricks: Nixon, by making a deal with South Vietnam to block peace negotiations; Reagan with his deal to have Iran not send home the hostages before the elections; Bush II’s brother’s nefarious voter suppression and miscounting in Florida that won the 2000 election. And now this incredibly well-timed but probably baseless smear of Hillary by the Republican Director of the FBI.

GOP gives voters who want to break DC deadlock one choice only: Vote straight line Democratic

Official Republican policy over the past eight years has been to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama, and it looks as if the GOP is prepared to follow the same strategy in a Hillary Clinton administration.

The examples of the Obama delegitimacy campaign are many: The dozens of attempts to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; the Trump-led campaign to suggest Obama was not born in the United States; the outrageous letter GOP senators sent directly to Iranian leaders; the arrangement of a speech by a foreign head of government without White House participation; the historic refusal even to consider the President’s Supreme Court nominee; and the shutting down of the government in 2013, which cost the United States about $24 billion.

We can see the development of the same obstreperous approach even before all votes are cast: Let’s start with the crazy Trump assertion that the Clinton campaign is somehow colluding with the news media and state election officials (who nationwide are overwhelmingly Republican) to rig the election. To be sure, Trump’s major reasons for making this absurd claim are to justify his loss to his large but extremely fragile ego, to continue his code-word campaign against minorities, and to distract the media and public from the Republican’s long-term campaign to suppress the votes of minorities and the young. But one ramification of his mendacious screeds about election rigging is to delegitimize the election, and by implication, Hillary’s presidency. Recent stories in the news media suggest that many are falling for Trump’s accusations.

But Trump is not alone in planting seeds of doubt about the legitimacy of a Hillary presidency. More than 50 House Republicans have urged the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether Clinton Foundation donors had unusual access to Hillary Clinton while she served as Secretary of State. GOP Congressperson Jason Chavetz, who recently became the poster boy for flip-flopping because of his off-again, on-again support of Trumpty-Dumpty, promises an investigation of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State lasting two years if he maintains his position as chair of the House Oversight Committee. Tom Filton, current president of the ultra-right Judicial Watch, has coined the expression “preemptive impeachment” to describe his plans for a Republican Congress.

It’s not just a GOP-dominated House of Representatives that will try to delegitimize Hillary’s presidency. GOP Senators Ted Cruz, John McCain and Pat Toomey have all explicitly promised to block any and all Supreme Court nominations that Hillary might make. With three justices over the age of 75, we could be down to five Supreme Court if the Republicans make good on this threat.

To whom will pledging to obstruct the operation of government for another four years appeal? Those who think banning all abortions is the most important issue. Ultra-rich folk who are so selfish that they want to minimize their taxes, even if it means destroying public education and letting our roads and bridges continue to crumble. Large industrial concerns that will suffer if we get serious about fighting global warming and don’t care that the pursuit of clean energy and environmentally friendly business practices will give the economy a large boost. Then there are the racists and those who in their hearts think that women are inferior. Sounds like a rather large basket of deplorables to me.

But they do not represent a majority of Americans, and they don’t even represent all of the Republican Party. A majority of Americans understand that man-made global warming (I hate the euphemistic “climate change”) is happening. Most want to raise the minimum wage, make college more affordable and invest more in our decaying infrastructure. Most Americans, especially among the young, believe in an open, pluralistic society.

Perhaps most significantly, most Americans are tired of Washington’s gridlock and the endless political sniping that has dominated 16 or the last 24 years of American government, that is, the years when Democrats held the White House. Because of news media conflation, many Americans have faulted both sides of the aisle for this ugly political bickering, but the unfolding of the 2016 election cycle has made it obvious that in fact, the Republicans and the Republicans alone are responsible for gridlock by their failure to accept the results of elections.

There is only one way to give Hillary Clinton a chance to fulfill the vision for which an unprecedented landside of Americans will likely vote on November 8. The American people must also give Democrats a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. With a majority of both houses, Hillary can get a lot accomplished from the most progressive platform in American history by a major party. She can make college affordable, raise the minimum wage, invest in infrastructure, alternative fuels and public education and even raise taxes on the ultra-wealthy. Without a majority on both houses, her presidency will face the constant stonewalling of Republicans and her administration is forced will be forced to wallow in investigation after investigation.

That’s why in this election, everyone who wants to end governmental gridlock—Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians and Greens—must vote a straight-line Democratic ticket, at least for national and state-wide offices. Only racists, the ultra-wealthy and anti-woman extremists have anything to gain from a divided government. Moreover, a historic defeat may enable sensible, unhypocritical Republicans who believe in abiding by election results, such as Jeff Flake, Evan McMillan, John Kasich and Meg Whitman, to take control of the Republican Party.

First order of business for President Clinton: Shoot down automated weapons & nuclear weapons modernization

One of the first decisions Hillary Clinton will face as president is whether to continue funding development of automated weapons, which are weapons that think on their own, selecting targets and firing their payload without the intervention of humans once they have programmed the mission into the weapon. Kind of like the Terminator of movie fame, although defense officials go out of their way to explicitly deny that analogy.

These weapons are as horrifying in their own right as germ, chemical and nuclear weapons, and more prone to misuse or unintentional use. We can anticipate that decision-making weapons will be as susceptible to bugs, hacking and programming errors as other sophisticated systems based on computer technologies, such as bank databases, credit card companies, government servers, clouds and the Internet. A robot could turn on us, kill the wrong target or mindlessly start slaughtering innocents.

There is also the moral issue of agency. The very thing that makes automated weapons so attractive—we can send them into battle instead of live soldiers—also underlies the essential immorality of using robots to kill other humans. It’s so easy to kill an animated figure on a screen in a video game. And then another, and then another, each of them so realistic in their detail that they could almost be human. Pretty soon you’ve knocked off hundreds of imaginary people. Not so easy, though, for most of us to pull a trigger, knowing that a bullet will rip through heart of someone standing ten feet away and end their existence. Perhaps we instinctively empathize with the victim and fear for our own lives. Or maybe most of us kill with difficulty because the taboo against killing is so strongly instilled in us, that moral sense that taking the life of another human being is wrong, sinful?

The problem with all advanced military technologies is that they turn war into a video game, and by doing so distance the possessors of the technology from their adversaries. Whether the attack is by conventional bomber, missile, drone or the decision-making robot weapons now under development, the technology turns the enemy into video images. Remote warfare dehumanizes the enemy and makes it easier to kill lots of them without giving it a thought. The bombardier doesn’t see the victims below, or if he can, they look like specks. The operator of the drone is even farther away from his intended victims. The operator of robots even more so.

Once we have robot weapons that are allowed to think and act independently, the next logical step will be to provide them with nuclear capabilities. I can only imagine the horrors that we will be able to inflict on others combining these two apocalyptic weapons, but I’m guessing that a future civilization from another planet will label the development of automated weapons with nuclear capabilities as the beginning of Earth’s final extinction event.

Moral and safety considerations aside, there is also the issue of cost. Lots of pundits like to deny it, but one of the primary reasons the United States economy thrived during the 1990s was the peace dividend we received at the end of the cold war. Just like the money that the Obama Administration proposes to spend modernizing our nuclear weapons, the funds to develop automated weapons could better be used to fund public education, mass transit, alternative fuel, medical research and other pressing needs.

As soon as one proposes not developing a new weapon or military technology, apologists for the military-industrial complex (a Republican president’s phraseology) always invoke the fear that other countries will develop it first, and automated weapons are no exception. The argument that we have to do it before others is fallacious because there is another way: to negotiate a treaty banning all development of these monstrous weapons of mass destruction. The central factor in what I believe will be an easy international agreement to reach is the asymmetry in resources that favors the United States. Only China could keep up with us in spending if we decided to make a major “moonshot” push to develop Terminator-like weaponry. But China faces tremendous environmental and developmental problems. The Chinese also seem usually to prefer to compete economically and culturally, and would likely welcome a treaty banning automated weapons.

In the course of a little over one hundred years, humans have developed four apocalyptic weapons of mass destruction: germ warfare, chemical warfare, nuclear warfare and now automated weapons. Thankfully, we have had the will to outlaw two of these terrible scourges. Let’s hope that Hillary makes it three out of four by vetoing the further development of robotized weapons, and then starts working on ending nuclear weapons.

Of course, I’m assuming Hillary wins. When it comes to weapons of mass destruction, any other outcome to the 2016 election would be a deadly disaster.

Unlike everyone at the Al Smith dinner, CNN doesn’t know difference between roast humor and inept insults

It’s interesting how the various news media approach the task of holding up Donald Trump as if he were a boxer who the other fighter has to keep standing for two more rounds to complete the fix.

Setting a low bar for Trump, quoting Trump in stories on news developments without mentioning Hillary’s view, creating a double standard for Hillary, blaming her for mistakes also committed by her peers, ignoring the harmless contents of her emails, covering his rallies but not hers, not calling him on obvious lies—these are some of the many ways the mainstream news media has subtly helped the Republican candidate since the race began. One of the most frequently utilized techniques has been conflation, which in the 2016 presidential election consists of equating a minor fault of Hillary’s to a massive history of bad behavior by Trumpty-Dumpty.

CNN provided a seminal example of conflation in its coverage of the annual Al Smith Dinner, which supports charitable work by the New York Catholic Diocese and is typically attended by all the New York City movers and shakers. It’s a tradition to invite both presidential candidates to the dinner to give funny speeches that mildly roast themselves and their opponent.

This year, Donald Trump spoke first and he was heavily booed throughout the speech, and for good reason. After starting with a few excellent zingers, his remarks quickly devolved into insults, lies and accusations, none of which approached wit, satire or any other kind of humor.  His one success at self-deprecation really was a joke about his wife. Another time, his joke was to compare himself to Christ. You could see the uncomfortably ashen faces of the people sitting near the podium, aghast at Trump’s ugly transgressions against a convivial tradition.

By contrast, the audience loved what Hillary had to say. As everyone who watched on TV saw, she peppered her remarks with a number of self-deprecating jokes. She seemed to enjoy making fun of herself, the image the public has of her and even the false image of her created by lies that Republicans have spread about her for years. When she turned to Trump, her cracks were the essence of roast humor—always funny, and always hitting their mark, jokes that cut deep in the truth they revealed, but that always stayed on the side of humor. She delivered them with a good-natured warmth that made me think that she took time out from debate preparation to study the master of the roast, Dean Martin.

The audience loved it, applauding frequently. Some of the applause was at the humor, but sometimes it was because they agreed with the truth behind the humor. Her best moment was when she talked about the debates. “Sharing a stage with Donald Trump is like, well, nothing really comes to mind. Donald wanted me drug tested before last night’s debate. I am so flattered that Donald thought I used some sort of performance enhancer. Now, actually, I did. It’s called preparation.” After hearty laughter from the audience, Clinton did what every great comedian does: go for a topper. She said, “And looking back, I’ve had to listen to Donald for three full debates, and he says I don’t have any stamina!” The audience roared.

How surprised was I then to wake up to CNN equating the performances at the dinner by the two candidates. “They struggled to disguise the anger, bitterness and sheer open dislike that has pulsed through their recriminatory White House race, perhaps not surprisingly since he has threatened to throw her in jail and she says he’s a threat to the republic.”  CNN hits the daily double with this sentence, two conflations in one: 1) The conflation of Clinton’s good-natured ribbing which the audience ate up like grandma’s cannoli with Trump’s boorish ill-humor that the audience widely booed. 2) The conflation of Trump’s false and unsubstantiated accusations against a woman who has withstood decades of investigations with Hillary’s legitimate concern about Trump’s refusal to say he’ll agree to the election results, a concern also voiced by virtually the entire mainstream news media and many if not most Republicans. The CNN coverage ignores the applause and minimizes the humor that distinguished Hillary’s appropriate remarks with Trump’s transgressions.

I understand the craven Jimmy Fallon sucking up to a former star of the network that writes his paychecks, but what does CNN have to gain by its inaccurate portrayal of what happened? What does it gain from ignoring what was obvious to all? That we cannot compare Donald Trump’s boorishness in any way with anyone else who has run for president, at least since World War I. My guess is that CNN’s editorial board is still hell bent in denying Hillary the landslide that will produce Democratic majorities in the Senate, and maybe even the House.

Most of the other mainstream media outlets, like NBC, the New York Times and National Public Radio focused their coverage much more on the boos given to Trump’s mean-spirited remarks than on the applause and laughs Hillary got. In this regard, their approach resembled how they portrayed the debates and the commander-in-chief forum. In all instances, they focused on Trump’s bad performance, mentioning that he fell for many traps Hillary set for him, but often forget to note that Hillary was superb in her own right.

Hillary and Trumpty-Dumpty have now gone mano a mano five times, and all five times Hillary has defeated her adversary with ease, all after defeating the far more competent and visionary Bernie Sanders. If it weren’t Hillary Clinton, if she weren’t a woman, if the mainstream news media didn’t list Republican, maybe they would realize that we are seeing the political equivalent of the 1998 Yankees or American Pharoah’s run to horse racing’s Triple Crown.

3rd debate score: cool Clinton wins, Wallace wins, Trump stumbles, sniffs & commits sedition

Newscasters and commentators who analyze the candidates’ performance and the public’s reaction immediately after presidential debates typically endeavor to express a unique point of view that gives a special insight to what just occurred. Each pundit wants to shine with something different or surprising to build her-his recognition and brand.

Not after the third debate, though.

For the first five minutes, flipping between the various news programs, one topic and one topic alone under discussion: Donald Trump’s explicit refusal to recognize the results of the election in advance. Never before in the history of the United States has a major party candidate been unwilling to endorse the voting and Electoral College totals. It shocked many. Some Republican analysts said it disqualified him from consideration as our next president. Everyone understood that Trump was undermining a basic principle of American democracy, a two century compact between the people and government: the peaceful transfer of power from one regime to the next. Technically, Trump was probably committing sedition, which Merriam-Webster’s defines as “conduct consisting of speaking, writing, or acting against an established government or seeking to overthrow it by unlawful means; resistance to lawful authority; conduct tending to treason but without an overt act.”

Wallace gave Trump a chance to change his mind, but the Donald dug in, eschewing reality in favor of his fantasy world in which the only way he ever loses is when he is cheated.

Speaking of Wallace, he did a fine job, certainly the best of any moderator this election cycle. He kept the candidates to the issues and kept them talking on point. He made sure both sides got their say and kept order between the two candidates. Although he said he would not fact check, he did correct Trump a time or two. He kept the audience under control. The only disruption I heard was a loud rumble of laughter and sniggers when Trumpty-Dumpty said “Nobody has more respect for women than me.”

After the debate, Trump surrogates tried to compare what Trumpty-Dumpty said to Al Gore not conceding until a month after the 2000 election. To their credit, every reporter and pundit understood that refusing to agree to the results because the election could be rigged weeks before the voting is far different from Gore waiting until the results in Florida had been confirmed, or in the case of the 2000 election, mandated by the Supreme Court. Once the Supreme Court ruled, Gore wasted no time in endorsing the election returns, even though it meant he lost despite a significant edge in the popular voting. And Gore never said the election was rigged or threatened not to abide by the vote in the Electoral College.

By the time Trump made his seditious statement not once but twice, he had already lost the debate on merit. As in the first two debates, he interrupted, he fidgeted with his mic, he tried to shout Hillary down and he lost control and got angry. The longer the debate went, the more incoherent his remarks became and the louder his constant sniffing became.  He resorted to insults, the worst of which was when he muttered, “Such a nasty woman.”

And Trump lied and lied and lied. He lied about the impact of illegal immigration. He lied about the relative strength of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenal. He lied about what occurs in late-term abortion. He lied about the situation in Syria. He lied about the State Department losing $6 billion. He made unfounded accusations against his opponent. The fact-checkers found many of his statements false, while confirming that Hillary has been the most truthful candidate of this election cycle.

When the history of the 2016 election is written, I’m fairly certain historians will focus on the Trump phenomenon, his insults of other candidates, his dust-up with a Gold Star family, his infamous tape in which he admits to sexually assaulting women and his refusal to pledge to honor election results. Many will forget how masterful Hillary has been in these debates. Hillary showed why she has never lost a presidential debate in her life—tied a time or two, but never lost.  Unlike the rambling Trumpty-Dumpty, Hillary spoke with extreme efficiency and precision. Her typical answer consisted of several parts: her stand, the facts to back the stand, why her opponent’s stand was inferior and a dig at Trump. Her formula: present the facts presidentially, then bait your opponent.  Trump didn’t always take the bait, but even when he didn’t, you could see him fuming and fidgeting. Clinton, by contrast, laughed off Trump’s insults and accusations. She kept her poise while successfully goading her opponent to lose his. She also had her share of clever moments, my favorite of which was when she contrasted what she was doing in each of the past four decades to what Trump was doing; e.g., in the ‘70s she worked on behalf of poor children, while Trump was being sued for discrimination in rental practices.

But most of all, Hillary was cool and Americans like their presidents cool.

By cool, I mean her demeanor and temperament, not her sense of style or her social position in high school (which is what Maureen Dowd would mean). Americans tend to select as president the candidate who seems most comfortable with her-his body and in her-his surroundings. They like the candidate who stays in control, as long as that control comes easily and is not the product of a visible internal struggle. They like smiles over frowns, friendly over angry. Cool over hot.

Eisenhower was cooler than Stevenson in temperament and demeanor. Kennedy was cooler than Nixon. Reagan was cooler than Carter. Bush I was cooler than Dukakis, but no one was ever as cool as Bill Clinton. Certainly not Bob Dole. Bush II was cooler than both Gore and Kerry. Obama was cooler than McCain and Romney.

And the calm and studied Hillary is a lot cooler than the strident and fumbling Donald Trump.

Condemn Cosby but not Trump & you’re racist & New Yorker’s Lepore snidely denigrates Hillary for being smart

The closing month of the 2016 presidential campaign is a tragedy playing out as farce—only unlike Karl Marx’s declaration about history repeating itself “first as tragedy, second as farce”—it’s the first time this degrading drama has occurred.

I’m referring to the Donald Trump sexual predator scandal for which we have now seen the dropping of the second, third, fourth and fifth of what may be a series of shoes extensive enough to accessorize a centipede.

It’s never happened before and it’s a farce. But as in Marx’s cycle, this farce takes the structure of Greek tragedy. There is the protagonist with hubris. We see rising action and falling action. The chorus is enormous, comprising the news media. And perhaps most significantly, we—the audience—knew what was going to happen as soon as Trump issued his short and whimpering denial that he never did to women what he said he did on tape.

The other shoes dropping is an event that we expect to occur as the natural result or progression of another event that just occurred. When a big company buys your employer, a massive layoff is the “other shoe dropping.” When the media reveals a celebrity has had an affair, his wife filing for divorce is the other shoe dropping.

Need another example? How about Trumpty-Dumpty, who is running to be America’s sexual predator in chief? (He would also like to be its racist, misogynist and nativist in chief as well!).

First came the videotape in which Trumpty-Dumpy bragged about actions that all but Trump factotums and core fans consider to be sexual predation. Second came Trumps’ denial that he actual grabbed women’s genitals without consent or stalked them into corners.

From the moment of that denial, the entire world—and especially the news media—have been expecting the other shoe to drop.

And drop it has. Again and again and again and again.

Almost overnight, four women have come forth to describe various types of sexually predatory actions Trump committed against them—walking in on women nude, putting his hand up dresses, squeezing behinds, forcibly kissing.

And we’re just getting started. There may turn out to be a mall full of shoes in Trump’s sexual predator closet. I don’t know what the line in Las Vegas is, but I’m betting Trump’s final count will exceed that of Bill Cosby.

Thanks to Trumpty-Dumpty, we now have a quick test for racism: If you condemn Bill Cosby on the existing evidence but do not condemn Donald Trump on the existing evidence, you, sir or madam, are a racist!

Speaking of assault, I’ve had an epiphany about the 25-year assault the mainstream news media has made on the character of Hillary Clinton, presenting her as inaccessible, manipulative, lacking empathy, ethically challenged and unable to connect with people. Her performances in debates, in front of committees, in interviews, at town hall meetings and working with others virtually always belie this depiction, but the media persists.

I already knew that many don’t like her because her spouse is Bill Clinton and that others have always applied a double standard to her because she’s a woman.

But reading one word in Jill Lepore’s pedestrian essay on the general topic of presidential debates in a recent New Yorker gave me a sudden jolt of recognition: One of the decades-old themes in mass culture is to denigrate intellectual achievement and “book smarts” and no one represents intelligence more than Hillary Clinton in today’s political arena (although Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama and a few others come close). Lepore clearly composed her piece before the first debate occurred.

I’ve written often about the undercutting of intellectual achievement in the mass media since the end of World War II; for a few examples, see blog entries of March 12, 2015; February 3, 2015; January 22, 2014; October 27, 2013; and January 27, 2013. Saying math is hard or that learning is not fun, touting celebrities who didn’t finish college, belittling education, calling devotees of serious theatre snobs, assuming beach reading has to be escapist, equating genius with madness—the barrage of subtle digs at intellectual achievement in the news media proceeds on a daily basis.

In presidential campaigns, when “smarts” has been an issue, the mass media has always influenced the public to prefer the candidate seen as “less smart.” Examples include the 1952 and 1956 election in which both Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower were both educated and studied men, but the media primarily depicted Ike as a “nice guy war hero” and Stevenson as an intellectual (and “smarter”) and subtly marked him down for it. Then there was smart Jimmy Carter versus dumb Ronald Reagan in 1980 and smart Al Gore versus dumb George W. Bush in 2000. In both these elections, the media used all the derogatory ways we have to say “smart” to describe the losing candidates, while extolling the people skills of the winning candidates.

My epiphany came when reading Lepore’s gratuitous characterization of Hillary in a description of what she expects in the debate in which Lepore’s tone reflects a snarky world-wear criticism: “Hillary Clinton will be there, overprepared.”

Overprepared? That means she hit the books too hard and studied too much. But is there any such thing? Let’s see… If she prepared for questions or comments that would never be asked, e.g., “What do you think of the cancellation of Hill Street Blues?” that would not be overpreparation, but stupidity. If she prepared so much that she neglected to eat or sleep and therefore performed poorly, that would be inadequate preparation, because she focused on just one aspect of what it takes to get ready. If she practiced her facts and messages to the point that she delivered them robotically, as if muttering the rosary, that would be a poor performance, perhaps suggesting, again, that the cause was not overpreparation, but poor preparation for not focusing enough on the performance aspects of debating. The more we study the possible meanings of “overpreparation,” the more we must conclude that there’s no such thing, except as a stand-in for something else.

In short, all references to “overpreparation” are nothing more than a derogatory way to refer to a good, smart student. Interestingly enough, the concept of “overpreparation” is similar to that of “overachieiving” in that the mass media sees it as a virtue in athletics, but a vice in intellectual endeavors. If you think I’m wrong, monitor the sports pages and news sections for a few months. Athletes are always praised for their hard work (especially if they are white and can be contrasted with “natural athletes” assumed to be of color).

With the current election, the news media is in a triple quandary: It usually subtly shapes coverage to help Republicans (see the Congressional 2010 election coverage for a case history) and it usually subtly puts down the candidate who is more intellectual, more educated, more studied—the egghead, as they called Stevenson. But by doing so in 2016, they risk unleashing a monster on the world.

The third part of the triple quandary. Do I even have to say it at this point? It’s sexism, which plays out less in candidate preferences and more in the strict media adherence to condoning a subtle but explicit double standard that exists throughout American society regarding men and women in the workforce.

Another Clinton debate win, not just on words but on look and gesture

When Donald Trump was hovering behind Hillary Clinton while she spoke in the second debate between the two major party candidates for president, what was he thinking? What did he want to do?

Did he want to grab her crotch? Back her into a corner and plant an open-mouth kiss on her lips?

Or tell her she’s fired?

Or did he want to scream at Hillary as loud and as long as it took to turn her into a puddle of tears.

We knew that wasn’t going to happen.

To me, he was walking the desperate wamble of a panicked narcissist temporarily out of the spotlight and searching for the camera.

After all, Trump’s craven whimper of a fallen bully punctuated his every sentence form the beginning of the debate, louder and more pronounced than last time Donald faced off against Hillary. Why can’t anyone find this guy a decent microphone? A very few speculate that Trumpty-Dumpty sniffs because he gets coked up. Others wonder if the healthiest man alive has a cold. Even dismissing it as a nervous tic damages the Trump brand, as a great negotiator is supposed to have nerves of steel. In black-and-white society movies of the 1930s and 1940s the rich would often sniff at their inferiors. Lots of possible explanations, yet I’m still convinced that Trump’s sniffs manifest the pathetic low whine of a bully who has backed down or been beaten down.

Thus, no matter how what either candidate said, Trump lost the debate in his body language, demeanor and sound.

Body language dominated Hillary’s performance, too. In the past, she won or drew every single one of her previous debates primarily with the strategy of presenting the issues and facts clearly and succinctly. In the last debate, her strategy was to throw out live bait, knowing her undisciplined opponent would take aim and shoot himself in the foot with deranged comments and overtly disgusting remarks.

This time, Hillary’s strategy was to be presidential. And there is no doubt she succeeded.  She “went high” and did not take any bait from Trump to unburden about her personal affairs. She did not interrupt, even though Trump constantly interrupted her. She spoke and walked with confidence and warmth. Her comments directed at Trump were stern without being mean or cruel. She sincerely interacted with audience members and paid attention to the requests of the moderators. By contrast, Trump never seemed to connect with anyone; he could have been talking to the clouds.

Unlike Trump, who pivoted to whatever lies he wanted to make at the given moment, Hillary answered every question directly. When Hillary attacked Trump, she did it with his own words and actions. Trump by contrast only made accusations against Hillary and did not substantiate even one of them, probably because none have any basis in fact. Her apology for using a private server was direct and an explicit statement she made a mistake. His apology—only for the remarks he made about groping women, minimized his bragging about committing sexual assaults to locker room talk.

In short, Hillary looked and acted presidential and Donald did not. And it was all in their facial expressions, movements on stage, eye contact and the tone and cadences of their voices.

Hillary won the words, too, but because Trump was able to articulate his messages on a number of topics, using his usual stew of lies, ignorance and braggadocio, he did do better than his complete meltdown in the first debate.

The avoidance of meltdown is a low bar, but because he cleared it the immediate consensus of the non-partisan media was that the debate was a tie. But Chris Matthews must have been chilling with Gary Johnson, because he said that Trump won big. How could one man be so right about the first debate and so wrong about the second?

The public was having none of the news media’s equivocation. They aren’t scoring points or grading on a curve. They want someone who looks like a president and acts like a president. That’s why Hillary won the CNN poll, the only statistically valid poll to come out so far. Her margin of victory when asked which candidate won the debate was a 57% to 34%, a very robust 23% lead! The public did notice Trump’s improvement; 63% thought he did better. But not good enough to win. And probably not good enough to sway many undecided voters.

Certainly Trump did well enough to convince him and his core supporters that he not only won, but “shlonged” Hillary. He will no doubt brag about his big win for weeks. The question is: did Trump do well enough to staunch the flow of red-blooded Republican elected officials fleeing his candidacy?

Above all else, the second debate was a painful reminder that debate moderators should have their staffs do instant fact-checking and tell the audience and viewers when a candidate has told a lie. The after-the-fact fact checkers demonstrated that in the truth department, Hillary won in another landslide. For example CNN checked 15 Trump statements and seven Hillary statements.

Trumpty-Dumpty gave false information in 11 of the 15 instances, whereas Hillary was 7-0; all seven checked statements turned out to be true. Those who will assert that checking twice as many Trump statements shows the inherent media bias against the Republican candidate didn’t watch the debate and haven’t been paying attention to the past 15 months. You can’t check the accuracy of every sentence a candidate says, so most fact-checkers limit themselves to investigating the big issues, the statements that seem wacky or the low-hanging fruit, which in this case, means the statements like Trump’s birther remarks that everyone already knows are fabrications. Since much of what Trump says is either outrageous or a known lie, it makes sense that more of his statements undergo fact-checking scrutiny. Hillary, by contrast, has come in first place in honesty every time someone has compiled the fact-checked statements of every candidate in the 2016 election.

Donald Trump and the semiotics of sexual objectification and harassment

In the immediate aftermath of the revelation of a tape showing Donald Trump expressing a demeaning, misogynistic and ultimately controlling view of women, many pundits noted that what he said was not “locker room talk,” stating that Trump’s disgusting ramble was far worse, and perhaps, too, that “locker room” talk was okay.

Let’s consider “locker room” talk as a gray area of male (and) female human behavior. Most of it tends to be aspirational—a discussion of things one would like to do or plan on doing. “Locker room” talk does involve a certain amount of objectification of women (of men when women do it), but it’s fairly harmless as long as it is not spoken to the individual being objectified and does not play out in sexist behaviors in which one person treats another as a mere object. And some talk is always off limits—as with racism, anything outwardly misogynistic belongs nowhere, not in the locker room, not in the tavern, not in man cave in front of a widescreen TV. For example, discussing the use of a rape drug.  That’s no longer “locker room talk.” It’s different and it’s disgusting.

And the overwhelming number of Americans—from radical feminists to conservative Christians who feel a woman’s place is in the home—knew immediately that what Trump said was and is different from jockish banter—and is completely disgusting.

It is nevertheless instructive to take a look at the various parts of what Trump said, beginning with context. We aren’t talking about a few buds downing suds in a bar at which single men and women gather. Trump was on the job.

Secondly, the audience was not Trump’s best bro, but a business acquaintance, a television and radio host, which means he is part of the media. This tape marks the first known instance of a public figure crudely discussing the unsolicited groping of female parts with the news media.

Now we come to the implications of what Trumpty-Dumpty actually said. It was despicable, a manifestation that he views women as objects he uses as he wants, for his sexual pleasure or to demonstrate his high status.

The comments reek with abuse and revel in the lack of consent they flaunt. Morality aside, if he had said he slept with a woman and she was married, it would have been okay from the legal standpoint because we assume consent. No one knows what goes on in a marriage—is it open?, was she an abused wife?—so most people will not pass judgment a priori on a man sleeping with a married woman, even while thinking the guy indiscrete to a fault to break the confidence and tell someone else. But what Trump said was that he kept pestering her, bothering her, cornering her. That’s always creepy, always wrong, and pretty much always illegal.

Same thing goes for his statements about groping the genitals of women without receiving prior permission to do so because he was a star. If he had said that stars get to sleep with a lot of women or a lot of women like to sleep with stars, some of us might be offended by the loose sexual mores involved, but again, there was nothing illegal because the women consented. It is the groping of a woman’s genitals without prior permission that revolts us and convinces us that Trump is a vile woman-hater.

Interestingly enough, the language is fairly mild, if revealing of Trump’s attitudes. Trump never uses the “c” word. Of course, “screwing,” “sleeping with,” “going to bed with,” “making love with” (or in Trump’s case “to”), “getting it on with”—there are numerous less offensive ways to express sexual union than “fuck.” But Trump is talking about something he—the all-powerful Donald—did to someone else—some good-looking bimbo—and what he did or wanted to do was simple brutal, one-way “fucking.” But in the casual listen without analysis, we hear “fuck” so much now in so many different contexts that it ceases to shock. After all how many people got fucked in Trump’s many bankruptcies?

And what about the guy, the mediocre Billy Bush? He seems to be going along with the flow of the conversation. Believe me, if someone said to me that stars get to grope women’s private parts, I would have said, “No they don’t, and why would they want to? A lot of women will willingly let a star touch them anywhere. All he has to do is ask nicely. So only a sick person would grope.” Bush lost his moral compass by not acknowledging what everyone instantly recognized: Trumpty-Dumpty went over the line.

The apology was unacceptable. The tone was grudging, almost defiant, which lent a hollow ring to the words. He said the statements he was caught making on tape were “not what I am,” but did not apologize for the many other misogynistic statements he has made about Megan Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Rosie O’Donnell, Alicia Machado, Hillary Clinton and other women in only the past few months. He also limited his apologies to the comments, and said nothing about the actions that the comments indicated he had committed. He implied without stating it is that all he did was talk about it, that he didn’t really harass the married woman or slide his hand up some young lady’s skirt uninvited. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt, which I don’t, what kind of a blow-hard is proud of sexually assaulting women?

He made this very limited, very stiff apology worse by what he said next. Turning the subject from the apology to the election issues was in extremely poor taste, and then to go after Bill Clinton for his affairs negated any positive intent or outcome from his contrition.

Trump essentially said, “I’m bad, but Bill’s worse and Hillary’s as bad as Bill.”

But that’s not what people want to hear in an apology. They want to hear, “I’m bad and I’m sorry about it. Here is what I’m going to do to fix it.” They don’t want you talk about the other person’s transgressions, just to deal with your own.

Trump mentioned no plan of rehabilitation. He is not enlisting in a sensitivity training course. He is not contributing a few million to fund public education programs that train men and women not to condone rape and domestic violence. He has not agreed to become a spokesperson or speak at events about what a reformed sinner looks like.

No, Trump thinks that a simple “I’m sorry” will suffice to be forgiven and get the votes of American women and men.

But it won’t work. There was too much offensive about the comments and too much offensive about the apology.

Why was Al Gore a dork when he grimaced in 2000, but not Pence in 2016? Call it the Trump double standard

The CNN poll immediately following the debate between vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence revealed how the news media’s insistence on covering personalities has distorted the electorate, or at least those who watched the debate. Viewers rated Kaine ahead on knowledge of the issues and helpfulness to his running mate, but rated Pence ahead on likeability. And who did the viewers say won the overall debate? Pence.

I agree that Pence was more likeable than Kaine that evening, who has too much of a Teddy bear face to be a credible attack dog. But what wasn’t likeable were Pence’s views or his tendency to duck tough questions about his running mate. Pence frequently denied that Trumpty-Dumpty had said things that all the journalists and much of the country have seen or heard him say. When asked about other aspects of the Trump program, Pence refused to answer the question. Regarding Russia, he essentially threw the Donald under the bus. It was a YUGE bus.

The viewers saw Pence’s prevarications and then relived them when journalists and pundits described Pence’s treatment of his running mate. That’s one reason that it wasn’t a landslide for Pence, or even a clear victory. The results were close on all questions in the CNN poll. The dominant narrative in the mainstream media was that Pence won the VP debate, but that he won it for himself, not for the top of his ticket.  But it was close. Almost as many non-surrogate journalists and pundits preferred Kaine as proclaimed Pence the winner.  In short, Pence eked out a narrow victory over Kaine.

Likeability matters, especially for Republicans. Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush II were all elected because of their likeability, and Bush I won because he made his opponent so dislikeable.  Note that outside of the military, Eisenhower didn’t know much, and both Reagan and Bush II knew very little, but that didn’t stop them because they were so darn nice and friendly.

Which brings us to the matter of facial grimaces, an affect that often mars one’s appearance or makes one’s demeanor less appealing. Pence reacted frequently to Kaine’s statements with a grimace or a smirk or sometimes a smirky grimace. No one seems to have noticed it the way they did Trump’s whimpers of a whipped bully in the first debate between the presidential candidates. No pundit discussed Pence’s facial distortions as a negative characteristic.

Yet if you watch tapes of the 2000 presidential debate, you see Al Gore make virtually the same facial expressions. Virtually all commenters said that Gore’s sighs and smirks were off-putting. The polls and pundits agreed that George W. Bush won that debate, even though he had trouble mouthing his basic messages and Gore displayed a scope of knowledge that was truly extraordinary. The journalists, led by Maureen Dowd, called Gore supercilious and smug, whereas Bush came off as a cool dude with whom it would be great to down a few. Gore’s facial expressions became part of the broader narrative of the election. The cool guy versus the awkward wonk.

When I compare old videos of Gore to Pence’s performance against Kaine, I can see little difference between the facial expressions. The same mild exasperation. The same demeaning half smile. The only difference I see is the context: Gore was scoffing at the whoppers and misinformation that Georgie was spouting, whereas Pence was scoffing at Kaine’s truthful statements. Are we to conclude that it’s all right to smirk at comments in a debate, as long as you are smirking at the truth? Can facial expressions only undercut the truth and not be used when someone is lying or portraying obvious ignorance?

Here is where the interplay of the mass media and the public becomes complicated. Both the media and the viewers thought Bush and Pence won their respective debates. Statistically valid surveys both times suggested viewers preferred the Republicans even before they experienced the onslaught of hyperventilated media nonsense.

Remember, though, that virtually every viewer has undergone indoctrination by the news media from their first moments of consciousness. The mainstream news media always has a bias to support Republicans, and has tended to skew right on many social issues and most economic and foreign policy issues except during the later stages of the Vietnam War.  More significantly, the mainstream news media pushes celebrity culture to the forefront and has gradually infected election coverage with celebrity issues: personalities, insults, personal animuses, who said what to whom, lifestyles, personal scandals, verbal or physical faux pas and, front and center, likeability. The media tells us time and time again to value likeability above substance. Think of the pejorative nature of the language used to describe issues-oriented candidates: wonks, nerds.

Likeability or the lack thereof has become one of the major issues of the campaign. The news media has created one of the greatest false comparisons in the history of human rhetoric: the likeability levels of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. All the polls show both candidates at historically low levels of likeability for presidential candidates. Substantial numbers of voters for both candidates say they are holding their noses and voting against the other candidate.

So where’s the false comparison? It has to do with the reasons for Hillary’s lack of likeability: they are all false. When she was Secretary of State, she was perhaps the most well-liked person in the country, and certainly in the world. She was well-liked as a Senator. What changed the perceptions of many Americans was the constant barrage in the mass media of phony and trumped-up scandals like Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and her emails, and the constant harping of Republicans depicting her as a she-devil of deception and corruption. Maureen Dowd and other pundits who prefer personality profiles to issues analysis fed a false description of Hillary as cold, distant, vindictive and uncaring. Pundits would say these things and write them, but like the so-called scandals in her emails and the foundation, no one could ever give an example. In many cases, Hillary was blamed for things that her peers also did, even after she admitted a mistake and others did not. Sexism entered into the equation, too, as society tends to find fault in women for traits such as aggressiveness and tenaciousness that they find admirable in men.

Thus, as far as likeability goes, the race is between someone who is truly despicable and someone who the media has depicted as unlikeable.

The 2000 election shows the negative ramifications of voting on likeability, and some, including this writer, would say the 1980 election demonstrated it as well.  The country would be on safer ground if we forget about likeability and judged the candidates on some real criteria, such as stand on issues, details in programs, knowledge of the facts, past experience, honesty of statements and vision for the future.

A day in the life of the 2016 campaign: I read the news today, Oy Veh!

Contemplating a day in the life of the current American presidential campaign is enough to make a sane person want to blow “his mind out in a car.” You know, the race between a “lucky man who [never] made the grade” and an experienced, intelligent woman with enough great ideas to fill all the “holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.”

All references to the Beatles aside, the most recent 24 hour slice of insanity is a reminder that we all should refrain from using the expression “a new low” until after November 8th.

Let’s start with Donald Trump who after he “dragged a comb across” his head, made the completely unsubstantiated accusation that Hillary Clinton has fooled around on President Bill. First of all, there is absolutely no proof, not a shred of evidence, not a soupcon of rumor that Hillary has ever been anything but a completely faithful wife to her husband. Beyond that is the deeper question of why it should matter. And why should it? We know that Presidents F. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, G.W. Bush and Clinton all had affairs, and that Trump himself had affairs during both his first two marriages. Why is it anyone’s business? How does it make a candidate less fit for office?

Perhaps the answer came from Rudy Guiliani, who on the very same day that Trumpty-Dumpty tried to paint an A on Hillary’s forehead stated explicitly that being a woman was a flaw for a president. His exact words: Don’t you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman, and the only thing she’s ever produced is a lot of work for the FBI checking out her emails.”  Note that Rudy, another man who cavorted publicly with a woman other than his wife, did not say “a woman who did such and such.” No, he stopped the complete thought expressed in an independent clause with the word “woman.” His statement, when parsed of its grammatical excrescences, reduces to “Don’t you think a man is a lot better for the United States than a woman.” It was so shocking an example of the misogyny animating much of the Trump campaign and the GOP agenda that, “Well, I just had to laugh.”

But wait, it gets worse. I thought “I went into a dream” because Donald Trump could not have possibly have said to a group of veterans that soldiers and vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are themselves to blame for a lack of character.  But it wasn’t a dream. Humpty-Dumpty’s exact words: “When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat — and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it,” Most commentators have focused on his heartless statement that “a lot of people can’t handle it.” Perhaps what’s worse is his clueless patronizing of his audience by assuming that all of them can “handle it.” Statistically speaking, the only way to make sure that a room full of vets contain no one suffering from PSTD is to set that as the criteria for entry. And even then, I’m certain that a sufferer would slip in because so many veterans find it hard to admit they need help for the nightmares, rage, depression and behavior disorders plaguing them. It was another instance of Trump talking to one group of people about “those other people” not like us. He paints an insulting and overly dire picture of the current status of African-Americans and claims a nonexistent threat of terrorism posed by immigrants in front of lily white groups. But this time it backfired. At a gathering of veterans, he almost assuredly insulted and shamed many of those present and made that “crowd of people turn away.”

Finally was the news that the New York State attorney general issued an order preventing the Trump Foundation from soliciting funds in the state, the latest shoe to drop in the continuing scandal of a foundation that has done little but illegally use OPM (other people’s money) to solve Trump’s legal problems or buy him expensive geegaws.

Another major Trump scandal—his taking a tax write-off of nearly a billion dollars in 1995—continued to play out, with Trump surrogates claiming that the fact he lost all that money and then used it against future earnings was sheer genius. None point out that Trump’s high living on the corporate nickel contributed to the great losses declared not only by him, but by the many vendors and investors who took a bath in his major bankruptcies. At least Hillary has the savvy to know, and point out, that Trump’s losses came primarily in an industry—gambling—which at the time was minting money for everyone else.

The most absurd moment of this decidedly looking-glass day was when Neil Cavuto, a Fox News business guru and anchor needed an expert to help him discuss the significance of Trump’s tax losses. Unable to find a reputable economist or tax expert willing to praise Trump for his genius, Neil engaged in batting Trump messages back and forth with a has-been, never-was actor with no business or academic creds named Scott Baio.

As a left-winger and ardent Hillary supporter, I should be overjoyed that the Trump campaign has perfected the knack of digging itself into a hole about four thousand times larger than Albert Hall.

But then….

I read the news today.

Oy Veh.

The mainstream news media continue to try to shore up Trump’s campaign in many subtle ways. Take National Public Radio, which first interviewed an ardent Trump supporter and then interviewed a reluctant Clinton supporter. In other words, NPR chose to highlight the false narrative about the two campaigns that the mainstream news media created months ago out of pure phlogiston. There is plenty of enthusiasm about Hillary out there—about her programs, about her experience, and most certainly about the fact that she is the first woman major party nominee. Her party’s leaders are unified as virtually never before. Money is pouring in from small and large donors. Her rallies are as boisterous as Trump’s, although far from as rowdy.  But the news media ignores all the evidence of Hillary-mania in favor of a false narrative that because it has been repeated so often has become the central story of her campaign.

Meanwhile, the New York Times, whose editorials claim to deplore the deplorable Trumpty-Dumpty, continue to provide subtle support to him in the news pages. Once again, Trump stories dominated: Five stories about the Donald and only one about Hillary. While it’s true that several of the stories were negative, the Times still managed to help him in three ways:

  1. It dedicated an entire story to Trump’s vow to bolster U.S. cybersecurity defenses, mostly his typical bloviating about the problem and he will solve it, without going into many details, unless you consider creating a task force and asking for recommendations a plan. This article says nothing about Hillary’s plans, but it does mention Trump’s painful comments about PTSD sufferers deep into the story where almost no one would see it. Why didn’t the comments get the headline or their own story?
  2. The headline of the one Hillary story focuses on her reaction to the release of three pages from Trump’s 1995 tax returns. This one Hillary story could have just as easily featured her renewed call yesterday to foster greater economic equality by raising the minimum wage, bolstering labor unions and offering tax incentives to companies that share profits with employees. The headline could also have touted Hillary’s most recent endorser, LeBron James. But instead of presenting a candidate with views and plans, the Times turned Hillary into another bit player commenting on the foibles of the tragically comic white male protagonist, Donald Trump.
  3. The Times front page story analyzing how detrimental to the economy it would be to unravel the North American Free Trade Agreement references Trump’s opinions on the issue and not Hillary’s. Anyone paying attention already knows that Hillary knows everything there is to know about NAFTA and its impact and Trump is badly misinformed except when he’s telling pants-on-fire lies. President Obama’s views are also noted in the article, so in a real sense, the Times is equating Trump with Obama. It couldn’t be because they are both presidential, because Trump’s not. Nor is Donald the leader of his party. That’s Paul Ryan. Maybe it’s because both Trump and our President are men? Subtle sexism or conflation of Trump with Obama?—whatever the reason, the result raises Trumpty-Dumpty’s prestige and lowers Hillary’s.

I wish I could say it was a dream or “I saw a film today,” but it’s the reality of the 2016 election campaign.

No wonder that, like more and more people, I find myself staring wide-eyed at the television, radio, newspaper, tablet or monitor and screaming “I’d love to turn you off.”