Shattered-freude

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign has become predictably popular inside the Beltway. But in a piece over at Medium, I argue that it isn’t for the right reasons.

Campaign 2016 taught plenty of lessons to those who were willing to listen. The major news media could have learned that their reporting was rightfully distrusted. Democrats could have learned that talking about opponents in caustic, derogatory terms assigned more passion to politics than most people feel. Republicans could have learned that playing to the base means more than simply checking ideological boxes.

The Medium piece picks on Republicans with a shallow treatment of Shattered – at least, those reading it to relive the upset of election night, watching Hillary Clinton play Charlie Brown as America yanks the football away. They aren’t the only ones who watched a historic upset but failed to learn anything.

Obama doesn’t have to go to Nancy Reagan’s funeral, but I wish he would

Vice Presidents are supposed to be U.S. Government’s designated funeral attendee. There’s no reason President Obama should feel obligated spend his time there. The demands that he drop everything to pay respects to Nancy Reagan, and before that Justice Antonin Scalia, are shrill and senseless. They delegitimize the numerous valid criticisms of the President.

With all that said, don’t you wish he had gone?

After winning the 2008 campaign with soaring rhetoric of ushering in a new era of cooperation in Washington, Obama promptly reminded Congressional Republicans, “I won” when they expressed concern over his policies. His reelection was far from a rousing national endorsement; his campaign’s groundbreaking GOTV efforts squeezed every ounce of support from an electorate with mixed feelings.

This is the current President, but it could just as easily have been our former President. The left despised George W. Bush just as the right despises Obama, and W similarly squeaked through a close reelection relying on base voters. The man who claimed he was “a uniter, not a divider” saw a more fractured Washington in his rear view mirror when he left office than the one he had found eight years prior.

It adds up to 16 years of acidic national politics, and the choices for 2016 don’t appear likely to end the cycle.

With his days in the White House slipping into history, a warm gesture by the President to the other side would offer some glimpse of the idealistic young Senator we got to know in 2008 – and, perhaps, bandage some of the wounds. Scalia was beloved by thinking conservatives; Reagan was the First Lady to the man who, as more time passes, may prove to be the last pinnacle of post-World War II Republican Party success. Showing up at these funerals would have symbolized more than condolences; it would clearly tell the other side, “Hey, nothing personal and no hard feelings.” President Obama probably didn’t understand the significance of these two figures to his opponents across the aisle; otherwise he might have rethought his schedule.

(From a calculating, partisan perspective, it would also give the digital cheerleaders and opinion leaders within his base some motivation. “Look how magnanimous our Dear Leader is,” they could crow on Twitter.)

With eight years of sins on his record and almost two decades of political acrimony as a backdrop, surely these overtures would be rejected by some and ignored by still more. That doesn’t make them any less right. Eight years later, it would be nice for the President to go the extra mile and stand up for real change – especially because he doesn’t have to.

Does Clinton run anything by anyone?

The other morning, news outlets carried the clip of Hillary Clinton doing her impression of a lie-detecting dog, barking from a stage in Reno.

This is the predictable result:

This is an obvious response. So glaringly obvious, it’s incredible that Clinton ran her little Lassie impression by any one of the people she pays to help her seem more relatable. If she had, surely that person would have told her to skip the canine theatrics.

One can only imagine the poor, cringing communications staffers, watching from backstage, as Clinton diverged from the script and ventured into animal kingdom. It shows not only a lack of discipline, but a lack of self-awareness. It’s why Clinton is losing her grip on the Democratic nomination (again) and why she shouldn’t beat any Republican who isn’t named Trump in November.

Cruz missed an opportunity with “porn star commercial”

Ted Cruz had pretty good, biting commercial knocking his GOP rivals in the week before the South Carolina primary. Then the Daily Caller noticed one of the actresses in the spot had done some films that were, uh, not exactly family friendly.

The Cruz crew have since pulled the ad off the airwaves and released a statement on how such a thing could have happened. A campaign spokesperson blamed a casting company for not properly vetting actress Amy Lindsay, and said the campaign wouldn’t have let her be in the commercial if it had known about her late-night Cinemax past.

What a mistake.

The ad in question is pretty good. It sets the framework for Cruz to draw contrasts with both Marco Rubio and Donald Trump as the “true” conservative in the race:

Pulling the ad represents a misstep for a Cruz campaign which has been smart and overperformed expectations so far. The error isn’t just in pulling a quality ad off the air, but in possibly missing out on a valuable surrogate or at least a nice message:

Prior to the Cruz campaign pulling the ad, Lindsay told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview on Thursday that she’s a Christian conservative and a Republican. While she emphasized that she did not do hardcore porn and that she also appeared in non-erotic films, Lindsay said she thinks it is “cool” that an actor who has appeared in softcore porn could also appear in Cruz’s ad.

“In a cool way, then hey, then it’s not just some old, white Christian bigot that people want to say, ‘It could be, maybe, a cool kind of open-minded woman like me,’” she said of people supporting Cruz.

Since the ad came down, Lindsay has said she is still deciding where to direct her vote, wavering between Cruz and Trump. That’s a shame.

Cruz’s core audience is largely Christian social conservatives, so you can see why the campaign wants to distance itself from the situation. But in doing so, they are undermining their own message. The ad tells us that, no matter your past, there’s a place for you in the Cruz campaign. (This is also a major theme of Christian teaching.) The campaign’s subsequent statements and actions suggest the opposite.

It seems like some legwork from the campaign could have told them that Lindsay wasn’t necessarily a liability, and in fact identified as a potential Cruz supporter. Now, she’s been very publicly rejected and has every reason to keep this story in the news for as long as the reporters call her.

Post-South Carolina, there figure to be a number of Republican voters looking for a new horse to back, so it’s a good time to lay the groundwork for a message of inclusion. This situation offered the Cruz crew a chance to show their arms are open. Did they ever whiff.

Hillary ALMOST nails the anti-Trump message

Donald Trump had barely finished his call for a ban on Muslim travel to the U.S. when Clinton and Co. fired back. Naturally, because it’s Hillary Clinton, it came through a fundraising email pimping her new “Love trumps hate” bumper sticker over Huma Abedin’s signature. And in equally typical Hillary Clinton fashion, her message was almost off.

It started off promisingly enough:

Last night, when I heard Donald Trump’s hateful comments about banning Muslims like me from entering the United States, I was shocked, offended and angry. But after I saw the flood of responses from this team — and across the country — saying that Trump’s comments were absolutely unacceptable, I was overwhelmed with a different emotion:

Love.

That’s actually a pretty cool, positive response. Not only does it make the point that Trump was wrong, it changes the “hero” in the story. When Candidate A condemns Candidate B, A is trying to look like the hero sticking up for the little guy. Such self-aggrandizing rhetoric can ring hollow.

By referencing the public response, Abedin and Team Clinton share the spotlight with the person reading the email – and who doesn’t like getting a little shine, right?

It also marginalizes Trump, disconnecting his inflammatory rhetoric from the rank-and-file voters. For a candidate who referred to political opponents as her enemies, this is an important distinction. But the next paragraph blows up that concept:

Let’s show Donald Trump and his supporters that we won’t be torn apart by his hateful rhetoric.

It’s bad politics to blame Trump “supporters” for the ills of America, no matter which party you’re in. Its logical end is a misstep like Mitt Romney’s “47%” comments – essentially giving voice to the campaign’s plan to divide the electorate and work on getting their own supporters out to the polls. That may reflect a strategic reality, but it doesn’t mean a campaign has to say it publicly.

Could Obama win another term?

That was the big question in this week’s post at Communities Digital News. The answer (spoiler alert): You bet he could. President Obama is possibly the best campaigner the Oval Office has seen, and he certainly has more tools to help him than any of his predecessors.

An under-the-radar element of this discussion is that it sprang from a comment Obama made speaking in Africa, where he told a group of African diplomats to move away from governmental systems which allow someone to declare himself “President for Life.” He’s right, of course, but the comment had a hint of first-world arrogance. (Imagine the optics of a white American President saying the same thing.) It’s a good thing he said it, though, and that he escaped criticism for doing so.

A new frontier for pro-life politicians

This week’s post over at Communities Digital News is about some recent polling that shows that many Americans have views on abortion that aren’t as easily categorized as many politicos think. This is likely true of other issues as well. Some things simply transcend politics, so the fight needs to be in a non-political arena. Legislation and policy is certainly important, but not all-inclusive.

Most policy is made by politicians who understand the electoral implications of being for or against something. For example, many conservative politicians wouldn’t have supported a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy; now you couldn’t win a Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in most states, let alone President, if you oppose such a ban.

Through crisis pregnancy centers and post-abortive counselling organizations, the broader pro-life movement handles the non-policy side of the debate well. Political organizations who want to move public opinion on the abortion issue should embrace this.

That may be non-traditional for politics, but it’s ultimately how opinions change.