Teump vs. the First Amendment

I suppose we should not be surprised that private citizen Donald Trump, famous for suing or threatening to sue those who wrote things he didn’t like about himself, shows as much disrespect for the First Amendment as president.

Last week Trump threatened to pull the broadcast lucense of NBC, something presidents would have no authority to do even if network licenses existed. (Neither networks nor cable channels have licenses. Radio and TV stations, some of the latter of which are owned by the networks, are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, over which the president has no authority except to appoint commissioners.)

Trump’s fans defend his off-the-wall statements by claiming that Trump has a right to say such things under the First Amendment.

Eric Boehm suggests otherwise:

One of the truly great things about the First Amendment is that it applies to everyone. Well, almost everyone.

With very few exceptions, the free speech protections enshrined in the U.S. Constitution give Americans the right to say pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want. And the courts have carefully protected that right for a long time—even that silly thing about not being allowed to shout fire in a crowded theater was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court—guided by the wisdom that free speech is vital for a vibrant, democratic, pluralist society to function.

You can talk, yell, tweet, post, and publish pretty much anything you want. You can even say that you want to stop other people from having free speech rights—which would be a bad thing to do, but hey, man, free speech!

Unless, of course, you happen to be the President of the United States, or another public official. Then the First Amendment works a little bit differently.

This is important because the current occupant of the White House, a certain Donald Trump, is in the midst of a slap-fight with NBC over what the president views as “fake news” about his administration. Twice on Wednesday, Trump tweeted that “network news” could have licenses revoked over reporting “distorted” and “partisan” information.

Reason’s Matt Welch has already covered the reasons why Trump is very wrong about this—in fact, Trump’s own FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, gave a speech last month where he sounded the warning that “free speech in practice seems to be under siege in this country.”

But, somewhat ironically, Trump’s attacks on the First Amendment may themselves be a violation of the First Amendment. And not in the philosophical sense—they are that too, of course—but in the very real sense of actual law regarding the First Amendment.

As Trever Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Association, writes in the Columbia Journalism Review today, Trump doesn’t even need to act on his threats against NBC to be violating the constitution. “There’s a compelling argument Trump is in violation of Constitution right now—after he crossed the line from criticism of protected speech to openly threatening government action,” Timm writes.

Timm cites quite a bit of case law to support his claim. Perhaps the most important bit comes from Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the Seventh Circuit ruling in BackPage LLC v. Thomas Dart, Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois. In that case, law enforcement officials were trying to threaten credit card companies, processors, financial institutions, or other third parties with sanctions intended to ban credit card or other financial services from being provided to Backpage.com (here’s Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s take on the case and ruling). Dart wasn’t taking direct legal action against Visa and Mastercard, but he did send threatening letters to their offices, pressuring them to cut off services with Backpage.com.

That’s not something government officials are allowed to do, said Posner, citing earlier case law on the matter.

“A public official who tries to shut down an avenue of expression of ideas and opinions through ‘actual or threatened imposition of government power or sanction’ is violating the First Amendment,” the judge wrote.

As Timm points out, some Trump defenders—including Vice President Mike Pence—have said that Trump is merely exercising his own First Amendment rights to say what he wants to say about NBC and the media in general. But are threats to use government force part of the First Amendment? Posner suggests otherwise:

“A government entity, including therefore the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, is entitled to say what it wants to say—but only within limits. It is not permitted to employ threats to squelch the free speech of private citizens. “[A] government’s ability to express itself is [not] without restriction. … [T]he Free Speech Clause itself may constrain the government’s speech.”

This makes sense. Like the other rights protected by the Constitution, the right to free speech is a right that resides with the people, not the state. Enumerating those rights, as the Founders well knew, was important to protect them from infringement by the state. The government does not have the same right to free speech because that speech can always be backed up with coercive force. Allowing government officials to make threats like the ones made by Trump or Dart would strip away free speech from their respective targets who would have to live in fear of government action.

And it doesn’t matter that Trump does not have direct authority to revoke NBC’s license. As Timm points out, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that public officials free speech can be curtailed when it “attempts to coerce,” rather than attempting to convince. There is little doubt that Trump’s tweets—and, don’t forget, those tweets count as official statements from the White House—are a form of coercion.

Trump is no longer a private citizen. As the head of Trump, Inc., he could threaten to revoke NBC’s licenses as many times as he wanted. Someday, when he returns to being a private citizen, he can do that too.

As long as he sits in the Oval Office, though, Trump’s free speech rights are necessarily curtailed.

Presidents and other elected officials (and members of the Armed Services) swear to, in the words of the presidential oath of office, “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Presidents and other politicians must respect your First Amendment rights; you are not required respect theirs.

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A morning without Joy, a night with football

This time of year is when I start to make multiple electronic media appearances on the same day.

My radio Friday begins at 8 a.m. when I am on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network for its Week in Review segment. I will be either the third or the fourth person to appear with the new morning host, Kate Archer Kent, who took over following Joy Cardin’s retirement Sept. 29.

As I’ve said for almost a decade (I started appearing on WPR, believe it or don’t, in 2008), whoever is hosting the morning show and all the other Ideas Network programming (including my favorite, Old Time Radio Drama Saturdays and Sundays from 8 to 11 p.m.) can be heard on WLBL (930 AM) in Auburndale, WHID (88.1 FM) in Green Bay, WHWC (88.3 FM) in Menomonie, WRFW (88.7 FM) in River Falls, WEPS (88.9 FM) in Elgin, Ill., WHAA (89.1 FM) in Adams, WHBM (90.3 FM) in Park Falls, WHLA (90.3 FM) in La Crosse, WRST (90.3 FM) in Oshkosh, WHAD (90.7 FM) in Delafield, W215AQ (90.9 FM) in Middleton, KUWS (91.3 FM) in Superior, WHHI (91.3 FM) in Highland, WSHS (91.7 FM) in Sheboygan, WHDI (91.9 FM) in Sister Bay, WLBL (91.9 FM) in Wausau, W275AF (102.9 FM) in Ashland, W300BM (107.9 FM) in Madison, and of course online at www.wpr.org.

Since as you know I always seem to appear around holidays, this appearance, besides being Friday the 13th …

… is on International Skeptics Day (and it’s always important to be skeptical where politics is concerned), National Egg Day, and my brother’s birthday, one day before Be Bald and Free Day and National Dessert Day, and two days before Mrs. Presteblog’s birthday.

Less than 12 hours later I will be announcing my last high school football game of the regular season — River Ridge (the former Bloomington/West Grant co-op until the two school districts merged) at Benton/Scales Mound, the nation’s first two-state co-op team (whose first game I did earlier this season), at X107-1.com. River Ridge must win to clinch a playoff berth, which makes it worthwhile listening for that reason alone.

 

Dumocrats and 2018

James Freeman provides this humor to start your week:

Leftist Jonathan Chait reports in New York magazine that he’s under rhetorical attack from other leftists. It seems that Mr. Chait has made some of his ideological comrades angry by admitting that the evidence does not exist to call President Trump a white supremacist.

Mr. Chait is being lampooned as some kind of squishy moderate. This has sparked a larger debate about how radical the Democratic Party should be and whether it has already moved well to the left of Barack Obama. Unlike Mr. Chait, many readers of this column probably don’t consider the nation’s 44th President to be a man of the “center-left.” But as Democratic Party leaders continue to lurch toward Bernie Sanders’ brand of Marxism, they are clearly making Mr. Obama appear more moderate.

The question is whether Democratic voters as well as independents who tend to vote Democratic are all coming along for the ride leftward. According to Mr. Chait:

Political activists and writers can get the impression that the Democratic Party is riven by conflict between leftists and liberals. But social media is deeply unrepresentative. On Twitter, which is swarming with communists and Nazis, every day feels like the 1932 German federal elections. The massively elevated concentration of political extremists of all varieties creates a deeply misleading portrait of the public. (This is why libertarians have managed to portray themselves as a significant proportion of the electorate, when practically speaking, they don’t exist.)

The actual Democratic Party is not divided between liberals and leftists. It’s divided between liberals and … moderates and conservatives.

Mr. Chait then marshals a variety of polling data to show that most of the party’s voters don’t consider themselves leftist or even liberal. For example, he notes Pew Research data showing that in 2016, a full 36% of Democratic voters described themselves as moderate, and another 15% called themselves conservative.

Of course such survey results can be misleading because political or philosophical labels mean different things to different people. For example, observing so many potential candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination endorsing Mr. Sanders’ single-payer health plan, Mr. Obama might also be calling himself a moderate.

But it is striking, given that Mr. Sanders won 22 states and nearly 1900 delegates in the 2016 Democratic primary campaign, that even among Democratic voters almost nobody will cop to being “far left” and just 16% call themselves “very liberal.”

So why did so many voters in 2016 want to “feel the Bern”? Here’s Mr. Chait’s theory:

The best explanation for Sanders’s ability to garner a large minority of the vote is that he benefited from a news environment that portrayed Hillary Clinton as scandal-plagued. Sanders capitalized on a long-standing progressive good-government sentiment, which has attached itself over many decades to otherwise disparate figures, like Adlai Stevenson, Gene McCarthy, Jimmy Carter, Jerry Brown, Howard Dean, and of course, Barack Obama.

It’s sweet of Mr. Chait to say that Mrs. Clinton was merely portrayed as scandal-plagued. But this column thinks he has helped to answer the big question. What happened to the Democratic Party in 2016 was that many primary voters were so unwilling to trust Mrs. Clinton and so eager for a vehicle to express their feelings that they may not have ever gotten around to the question of whether they actually wanted to live under a Sandernista regime. Yet Democrats are acting as if Mr. Sanders received a policy mandate in 2016 even while losing in the semifinals.

According to Mr. Chait:

The hard left views Obama as a neoliberal sellout. (Sanders himself has had more restrained criticisms of Obama, whom he has depicted as largely a disappointment, and now mostly avoids discussing him.) But Obama’s popularity makes him an inconvenient figure for left-wing triumphalism to reckon with. It is common to read Sandernistas describing the Democratic electorate as if Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were the only two choices available. They may discover, in 2020 and beyond, that the 44th president and his public philosophy remain very much alive.

This column thinks that the Obama era absolutely counts as a left-wing triumph, but also that Mr. Chait is on to something here. When Democrats try to understand what happened after the 2020 elections, they may conclude that they overestimated the political appeal of socialism.

Why the Right “lost its mind”

From my few years of experience in public relations and marketing, I can say that promoting a person’s work is easier if that person can promote it himself or herself.

Charlie Sykes, fresh off the unlikely forum of Wisconsin Public Radio Thursday (to which you can listen here), now is the cover subject of Newsweek, for which he wrote:

For a quarter of a century, I was a major part of the conservative movement. But like many on the right, in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory I had to ask some uncomfortable questions. The 2016 presidential campaign was a brutal, disillusioning slog, and there came a moment when I realized that conservatives had created an alternate reality bubble—one that I had helped shape.

During the 2016 election, conservatives turned on the principles that had once animated them. Somehow a movement based on real ideas—such as economic freedom and limited government—had devolved into a tribe that valued neither principle nor truth; luminaries such as Edmund Burke and William F. Buckley Jr. had been replaced by media clowns such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. Icons such as Ronald Reagan—with his optimism and geniality—had been supplanted by the dark, erratic narcissism of Donald Trump. Gradualism, expertise and prudence—the values that once were taken for granted among conservatives—were replaced by polls and ratings spikes, as the right allowed liberal overreach in the Obama era to blind them to the crackpots and bigots in their midst.

Some have argued that the election was a binary choice, that Hillary Clinton had to be defeated by any means. I share many of their concerns about Clinton, but the price was ruinous. The right’s electoral victory has not wiped away its sins. It has magnified them, and the problems that were exposed during the 2016 campaign haven’t disappeared. Success does not necessarily imply virtue or sanity. Kings can be both mad and bad, and the courtiers are usually loath to point out the obvious—just look at Caligula or Kim Jong Un.

Today, with Trump in office, the problems of the right are the problems of all Americans. And the worst part of it is that we—conservatives—did this to ourselves.

Donald Trump is the president we deserve.

Sykes’ book, out Oct. 3, is called How the Right Lost Its Mind. (Kudos to Sykes for using “its” instead of the more commonly used, but grammatically incorrect, “their.”) Based on listening to Sykes Thursday, I think I can answer the question that follows up from Sykes’ thesis, hence the headline (with British-style scare quotes that aren’t direct quotes).

And I can do that in two words: Political power.

One thing I’ve concluded from observing politics is that Americans believe the president’s party is in charge, regardless of which party is in charge in Congress, and whoever is in charge in Congress. Despite having a Republican House of Representatives for six years and a completely Republican Congress for the last two years, ask most disaffected voters before the 2016 election, and they would have blamed whatever they found blameworthy on Democrats and specifically Barack Obama, and for good reason.

Remember what candidate Obama said in 2008, as reported by the Huffington Post?

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The Washington Post tried to label that keen political analysis. The so-called “bitter clingers” saw that as pity, elitism and snobbery. And Obama proved their point right with eight years of ripping on Republicans, conservatives and those “bitter clingers” every chance he got. Never in this nation’s history have we had a president who hated millions and millions of Americans, until Barack Obama arrogantly strolled into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.

Ironically given what happened later, Obama’s 2008 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, also called that arrogant elitism. Eight years later, instead of channeling her supposed husband’s “I feel your pain” perspective from the 1992 presidential race, though, Hillary started to commit presidential campaign suicide when she said, as quoted by Time:

We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?

[Laughter/applause]

The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now how 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

When your political opponents take your pejorative “Deplorables” label and proudly affix it to themselves, you screwed up. Everything Hillary said after those nine sentences disappeared into the ether, as condescending as they were. As I have written here before, every excerpt from What Happened proves that under no circumstances, regardless of, well, almost anything Donald Trump does as president, should Hillary Clinton ever be president. That may be a disagreement point between Sykes and myself, even though I didn’t vote for Trump.

The state of politics today is the direct and predictable result of government and politics having too large a role in our lives at every level, and because government isn’t getting smaller, politics is getting worse. Politics, remember, is a zero-sum game — one side wins, which means the other side loses.

Sykes described what he called the Faustian bargain of evangelicals voting for thrice-married Trump over sham-married Hillary because Trump might appoint an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice. And he did, Neil Gorsuch. If you are ardently opposed to abortion because you believe life begins at conception, every single abortion that takes place is a murder, and therefore anything that can legally be done to stop abortion is justifiable.

For those who think (opposite political side from yourself) has lost its mind, there’s one and only one way to fix that: Take power away from government at every level. That means slashing the administrative code and statute books, cutting government employment, eliminating pay and benefits for legislators, and whatever else is required to get government out of our lives. Nothing else will change the deplorable state of politics today. Nothing.

 

Irony Inc.

James Wigderson has some fun at a former daily newspaper’s expense:

“Profit? Fiscal year? Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Beware, my dear Zilkov. The virus of capitalism is highly infectious. Soon you’ll be lending money out at interest!” – Dr. Yen Lo, The Manchurian Candidate

The Capital Times was founded because the Wisconsin State Journal wasn’t left-leaning enough. Yes, wee know, that’s hard to picture, but that’s The Capital Times story and they’re sticking with it.

The newspaper was born in 1917 after the business manager of the Wisconsin State Journal, William T. Evjue, resigned over the paper’s increasingly strident attacks against U.S. Sen. Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette to create The Capital Times. As governor, later a senator and the founder of Wisconsin’s progressive movement, La Follette established a reputation as a champion of the underprivileged and an opponent of powerful business interests, but he came under attack like never before for his opposition to U.S. involvement in World War I.

Of course, The Capital Times supported the war anyway, as they remind us, but they were the good progressive newspaper. Just ask, Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel,  wrote in his “Plain Talk” column in June:

As the founder of this paper, William T. Evjue, would often lament in his column years ago, “The trend toward the concentration of financial, economic, political and military power continues. Are we headed for a dictatorship of wealth?”

If Mr. Evjue only knew what’s going on today.

As readers of The Capital Times, we often ask the same question, “If Mr. Evjue only knew…”

We had some fun recently perusing The Capital Times’ 2015 IRS 990 form for the Evjue Charitable Trust. We were shocked, shocked to find capitalism going on there.

And we mean capitalism, starting with the granddaddy of them all, JP Morgan Chase & Co., founded by the great robber baron himself, JP Morgan. Old Evjue and Fighting Bob must be spinning in their graves faster than a high-speed Dremel Rotary Tool.

That was hardly the only investment that made us chuckle. The Capital Times may have been against war profiteers during World War I, but they’re investors in Halliburton, General Electric, and Raytheon now. And they love Big Oil, investing in Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. They’re even invested in Phillip Morris and McDonalds for some healthy cash.

And for a relaxing Cap Times, they make it Suntory time.

There are also investments in drug companies, Amazon, Facebook, AT&T, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart Stores, and even Union Pacific Corp. You know, all those small mom & pop companies struggling to make their way in a brutal capitalist society.

Our favorite investment is in Tiffany & Co. Nothing says progressive values like being the Tiffany news company in Madison.

Associate Editor John Nichols recently wrote a column saying how socialists are free to be socialists again. The proof was the popularity of Senator Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign.

“His presidential candidacy confirmed the appeal of such a politics in a 21st century that has been characterized by rampant inequality and the corrupt excesses of crony capitalism,” Nichols wrote, in a publication fueled by wealth inequality and the corrupt excesses of crony capitalism.

The Madison Capital Times, one of the loudest voices of liberalism in the country, sounds a little different these days.

Struck by mechanical and editorial employees five weeks ago, the Capital Times stunned this liberal-oriented community by bodly advertising for reporters and editors to replace its striking employees and welcoming back into is newsroom strikers who broke from the picket lines to return to work.

This is the newspaper that in its 60 years of existence has been a colorful and aggressive foe of conservatism, governmental corruption and pettiness and individuals such as Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

This is the newspaper that led numerous fights for civil rights, including a wrenching battle for an open housing ordinance in Madison, that strongly advanced the progressivism of Sen. Robert M. LaFollette and that vigorously opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, well before that position became popular.

This, embarrassed liberals in Madison have noted, is the newspaper that has staunchly lined up with union leaders to lift workers into better living and working conditions.

“It is a great disappointment to see our own newspaper not offering protection, as it has done so often in the past, but actually collaborating in abuses against workers who built the Capital Times up to what it is,” said Ron McCrea, a striking copy reader and vice president of the Madison Newspaper Guild.

Ironically, the strike was not originally aimed at the Capital Times’ management. The strike began when, on Oct. 1, a union representing editorial employees struck the Wisconsin State Journal, the city’s morning paper, and the International Typographical Union struck Madison Newspaper, Inc., which owns the Capital Times and also owns the plant that prints both papers under a joint operating agreement.

Capital Times guild members, along with pressmen and mailers, walked out in sympathy.

However, about 60 per cent of the State Journal Association, the guild’s equivalent at that paper, have gone back to work, and the morning paper is now operating with most of its staff back on the job. And the printing plant is sufficiently automated to get along without the ITU.

But with the strike still nominally on, most of the Capital Times workers remain out.

The future of the Capital Times had been in question even before the strike.

The afternoon paper’s circulation has declined to about 39,000 from a peak of about 50,000 a generation ago. The State Journal, by contrast, circulates about 79,000 daily and 126,000 on Sunday, and management says the Sunday figure is up 4,000 from a year ago. In addition, the Capital Times has sold its radio station and entered the joint operating agreement under which its parents prints the State Journal.

Thus, to some, the Capital Times’ stance is no surprise.

“The problem is, basically simple: regardless of editorial orientation or ideology, if you get into a problem of [newspaper] economizing, the ideology is likely to make a marginal difference,” says one veteran labor economist in Madison.

In a lengthy, biting reflection on the strike printed last week, executive editor Elliott Maraniss said McCrea and his fellow strikers should stop invoking the heritage and traditions of the Times and build their own.

He speculated that the strikers had a death wish, either for the paper or the union, and used as an analogy a person who commits suicide because he or she fears murder.

At the same time the liberal Madison community does not appear overly concerned about the strike and its impact on the future of the paper. Miles Capital Times editor and publisher, expressed surprise that there has been so little mail decrying the possible fatal impact of the strike on the paper.

There is little solid evidence that circulation has dropped off substantially – spokesmen for the two papers say it is less than 1 per cent – and there is no noticeable drop in advertising.

One reason, according to some observers, is that the paper has lost some of its feistiness in recent years.

The liberal community was outraged last year, for example, at the papers tactics in helping to defeat a popular Democratic state representative who was speaker of the state assembly.

Following that, the paper switched positions on Archie Simonson, the judge who was recalled after his statements on the bench linking rape to sexual permissiveness and provocative women’s clothing. The paper first attacked him editorially, then expressed sympathetic concern for his right to make such statements.

Mayor Paul Soglin, a product of the campus radical movement, became a villain to the paper when he leaked his 1978 budget proposal to the Madison Press Connection, a weekly being produced by the strikers, and said he would not grant interviews to reporters who replaced them.The general softening of the liberal tone perhaps has been inevitable, said a University of Wisconsin professor who has watched Madison, politcal and social changes for years. he noted that the heroes and adversaries in past Capital Times news and editorial columns have gone and it is getting more difficult for the paper to identify their successors.To replace those past causes and personalities in order to hold its traditional readers, the professor said, the Capital Times apparently felt it had to appeal to the liberal and radical causes of a younger generation.Because of that, he suggested, the newspaper bean hiring from a generation of reporters arising from the campus unrest of the late 1960s. For the most part, he noted, they were hired from strongly left-leaning college newspapers and the underground press.

This also has brought, in the view of a Madison labor expert, a clash between reporters and management. He notes that union members perceive management as being ideologically akin to them and thus “soft” bargainers during labor negotiations.

Readers unfamiliar with the Madison media scene will note that The Capital Times is described as a daily newspaper in the Post story. That was then, this is, well, later then, as Isthmus reported:

“It’s been no fun dying on the vine,” says Ron McCrea, senior news editor of The Capital Times.

McCrea, 65, knows something about dying. He presided over the death of the strike paper known as the Madison Press Connection in 1980 and then went to work for the Washington Star, which abruptly shut down in 1981 after 128 years. …

Buoyant wouldn’t be the right word, but he was definitely upbeat about the paper’s announcement that it will cease publication as a daily on April 26 and shift to onilne publication and two weekly print editions (one news, one arts) to be distributed free in the Madison area.

“We took practically every step imaginable to sell the paper [to new readers] in the last few years, and it didn’t work,’ he says. The Capital Times, which approached 50,000 circulation in its heyday, has dropped to less than 17,000 and had become, in practical terms, a boutique journalistic product sustained by its very profitable half-ownership of the Capital Newspapers publishing conglomerate.

Things were getting so bad, McCrea says, that sources were becoming reluctant to give story tips to Cap Times reporters because the paper’s readership was so small and the larger papers might ignore its scoops.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the experience of talking to people about a great story we’ve had, and nobody has a clue that we published it,” he says.

Perhaps the low point was the paper’s failed attempt to woo new subscribers in Madison’s “blue” neighborhoods on the near-west and near-east sides.

The mass home delivery of free papers produced precious few subscriptions, despite these being strongholds of John Kerry and Ralph Nader voters who presumably share The Capital Times‘ liberal philosophy.

“We thought this would be a rich target for us to fill out our circulation, but people just weren’t buying,” he says. “Some people even complained that we were littering! They asked that we take the papers away.”

McCrea’s conclusion: “You can only do so much before you finally have to face reality.”

Reality is online publishing and those two weekly editions. The move will save Capital Newspapers a ton in newsprint costs and result in perhaps 15 of the paper’s 60 newsroom positions being eliminated, in addition to other job cuts in production and delivery.

“I do feel upbeat because I’ve been there when they’ve simply folded the paper and told people to go home,” he says. “This is war by other means. Online is clearly the future of journalism.”

McCrea says the paper is being “very, very humane” in handling the job cuts by offering a buyout package that includes from ten to 52 weeks of salary, depending on longevity, some health-insurance coverage and other benefits.

With a few exceptions, all employees will have to apply for newly posted jobs by Feb. 18, McCrea says. The new staff will be announced on March 10. Those who aren’t hired will receive the same severance package as the staffers who accepted the buyout.

McCrea’s endorsement of the impending changes carries weight, given his long history at The Capital Times. He was a strike leader in 1977, when five unions at what was then called Madison Newspapers Inc. walked out when management unilaterally introduced new printing technology in a particularly brutal fashion.

“Madison Newspapers laid off half off its printers in one blow, [regardless] of seniority, with women and the disabled first,” he recalls “Those who returned to work the next day were told that their pay was being cut by a third. They were just bleeding in total despair.”

The striking unions failed to shut down the two dailies, which doomed the strike from the beginning. McCrea became editor of the strike paper, the Madison Press Connection, whichnever rose higher than 12,000 in circulation and folded in 1980 after employees went payless for five months.

The strike formally ended in 1982 when the last two unions finally gave up. All five unions were decertified, though the strikers had the satisfaction of collecting $1.5 million from MNI as part of their settlements. The two papers remain union-free to this day.

McCrea went to work as press secretary for the newly elected Gov. Tony Earl in 1982, but when Earl lost his re-election bid in 1986, McCrea found himself unemployable in Madison. He left town to work at the New York edition of Newsday (since shuttered as well) before he made his peace with the Cap Times and returned to the paper in 1995.

There was no clearer sign than McCrea’s return that the extraordinary animosity of the strike had finally passed.

But the damage had been done. The strike had put the proudly progressive Capital Times on the same side with the then bluntly anti-union Lee Enterprises, which owns the other half of the publishing company. McCrea admits the strike cost the Cap Times readers it never regained.

The decision to cease daily publication was tightly compartmentalized within top management. The staff was kept in the dark until the announcement, and even senior news editor McCrea didn’t know it was coming. He says he had no role in drawing up the job descriptions for the new online paper and its weekly news and arts editions. …

A third-generation newsman, McCrea has the proverbial news ink in his veins. “I don’t have the warmth of feeling for Web readers that I do for newspaper readers,” he admits. “I tend to think that newspaper readers bring more worldliness and wider life experiences to their reading.”

The Cap Times has announced that the two weekly print editions, each with an expected circulation of 80,000, will be distributed free. Is the company’s goal to target Isthmus audience and advertisers?

McCrea says his bosses deny this. “We all love Isthmus,” he says. “We did focus groups a couple of years ago, when we were looking to refashion The Capital Times one more time. In the focus groups, everybody just loved Isthmus. Everything they wanted was already in Isthmus. We came away feeling a little dispirited.”

That doesn’t put such questions to rest. In the compartmentalized world of Capital Newspapers, advertising strategy wouldn’t be shared with editorial staffers like McCrea.

Yeah, well, every media outlet competes with every other media outlet for advertising and for eyeballs. That too is economic reality.

So is this: The aforementioned Madison Press Connection, according to the always-accurate (and never biased!) Wikipedia: …
… evolved from a strike paper to one of the few cooperatively organized and owned daily newspapers ever to exist in the United States. … The staff was initially made up entirely of striking employees of MNI, with the exception of cartoonist Pete Wagner, whose controversial work spurred his firing within two weeks of being hired, but who was rehired when the staff voted to keep him in spite of numerous cancellations by irate readers. Wagner left the paper after ten months and was later replaced by Mike Konopacki, who specialized in labor-related cartoons. The Press Connections cooperative structure was credited as the reason for numerous journalistic risks that corporate media avoided, including the publication in 1979 of an article purporting to provide the “secrets” of building an H-bomb.
… but, requoting from the Isthmus story …
… never rose higher than 12,000 in circulation and folded in 1980 after employees went payless for five months.
All of this, of course, is a demonstration that economic reality trumps (!) high-minded ideas about cooperative leadership, social justice, socially responsible investing, etc. The Press Connection died, and The Capital Times eliminated four of its editions, because as with any enterprise, for-profit or non-profit, if more money goes out than comes in, it’s not long for this world. As Margaret Thatcher was fond of saying, the facts of life are fundamentally conservative.

This morning’s reading and homily

James Wigderson:

It’s interesting to watch how so many on the left, advocates of a “complete separation of church and state,” applaud wildly whenever House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Catholicism is questioned. It was questioned again by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Erica Jordan at the CNN “Town Hall Meeting” in August.

George Weigel, writing for First Things, says Ryan’s position on the Church’s social doctrine deserves more than a “gotcha” moment.

Speaker Ryan is a longstanding advocate of decentralizing and (as he puts it) “customizing” social welfare programs. That means abandoning one-size-fits-all attempts to address poverty and looking to the states, where a lot of the creativity in American government resides these days, for approaches that actually empower the poor, because they treat poor people as men and women with potential to be unleashed, not simply as clients to be maintained. Proposals to decentralize social welfare programs and give the states the funds necessary to conduct all sorts of customized efforts to empower the poor—crafted so that each “fits” the vast array of distinct circumstances we find in impoverished America—strike me as a sensible application of the social doctrine’s principle of subsidiarity. That principle, first articulated by Pope Pius XI in 1931, teaches us to leave decision-making at the lowest possible level in society, closest to those most directly affected by the policy in question. Paul Ryan thinks Washington doesn’t have to decide everything; Pius XI would have agreed.

The fact that poverty remains a serious problem in the United States after the federal government has spent $22 trillion dollars on social welfare programs over the past fifty years should have taught us all something about the complex problems of empowering the poor. No one with any sense or experience imagines that he or she has the silver-bullet answer to poverty in all its social, cultural, economic, and political dimensions; I know my friend Speaker Ryan doesn’t think he does. But unlike those who insist on measuring an official’s or a party’s commitment to the poor by inputs rather than outcomes (an approach that tends to instrumentalize the poor and render social welfare policy a cash transaction rather than a human encounter), Paul Ryan and reform conservatives like him are willing to face the fact that there is no direct correlation between magnitude-of-dollar-inputs and success-of-human-outcomes when it comes to anti-poverty programs. Inner-city Catholic schools (the Church in America’s most effective social welfare program) demonstrate that time and again: They spend less than the government schools, and their students learn much more—and not just in quantifiable, standardized-testing terms.

Weigel concludes,

Paul Ryan is no more the reincarnation of Simon Legree than Sister Erica Jordan and her fellow Sinsinawa Dominicans are the reincarnation of Ingrid Bergman/Sister Mary Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary’s. Keeping that in mind would help foster the thoughtful debate that the Speaker, and the country, would welcome.

To be fair, Ingrid Bergman was hardly Sister Mary Benedict, too.

The nuns of Sinsinawa are known for their wonderful bakery which you can order online. We strongly recommend the Sin-a Mound and serving it with coffee. Yes, it’s terribly decadent and lives up to the name.

We also suggest a visit to their beautiful chapel in Sinsinawa, WI. In such a beautiful location in southwestern Wisconsin, we hope the nuns take a prayerful moment to reflect on the role of the Catholic Church in society. In that moment, perhaps they’ll remember which political party is hostile to everything they believe, including: the importance of human life at conception, the mission of Wisconsin’s Catholic schools, the defense of marriage, and even the protection of an individual’s right to practice the Catholic faith against the power of a coercive state.

In that moment of prayer, perhaps they’ll remember that Ryan is not an enemy, and that the Catholic Church is about more than how much is spent on any government program.

(The Sinsinawa cinnamon bread is to die for, by the way, particularly if you make a fried egg sandwich with that bread and your favorite breakfast meat.)

A previous employer of mine (the best employer I’ve had) was run by an order of nuns. Some of the faculty were big fans of Catholic social teaching more so than the church’s positions on, as previously listed, abortion and marriage, and other issues on which the church can be said to be socially conservative. Since I’m not Catholic (and have become a target of some Catholics, as you know), I have to say it’s up to their church as to who they define as Catholic. But it seems to me the Sinsinawa sisters and Ryan should have more in common than not. As a Christian, as I’ve written here before, all the

As a Christian, as I’ve written here before, it seems clear to me all the Christian responsibilities Jesus Christ laid out in the four Gospels are not governmental responsibilities, not societal responsibilities, not even church responsibilities, but individual responsibilities.

“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together … mass hysteria!”

As recently as a couple of years ago, the next paragraph, from the (soon-to-be-defunct-because-she’s-retiring-at-the-end-of-September) Joy Cardin Show Facebook page, would not have been possible:

Why did conservatives support Donald Trump in the 2016 Election? Why don’t more conservatives reject his most controversial rhetoric today? What role did conservative media have in electing Trump? We’ll ask former WTMJ talk show host and author Charlie Sykes on Thursday from 8-9am. What questions do you have for him?
I posed this to someone with whom I’ve been on WPR before suggesting that this might be a sign of the end times (more on that in this space tomorrow), and he replied:
I doubt that. WPR has had YOU on and lived to tell.
I will have to listen at 8 a.m. As far as I know I might be the only, or at least the first, person on the planet who appeared on both “Sunday Insight with Charlie Sykes” …
The graphic appeared on a show after Marketplace Magazine ceased to exist. Oops.

Either because of sticking me at the end or because I was wearing lighter clothing than the others, this photo looks like a bad Photoshop job, where a larger photo of me was grafted to the photo of the other four.
Upon seeing me dressed like this frequent panelist Mikel Holt said that I had “dressed black.” No reason to take offense, though I wasn’t sure what of my clothing choices (olive?) fit his description.
I got the tie because of WFRV-TV anchor Tom Zalaski. I saw it and liked it, and sent an email to channel 5 asking where he got the tie. He called back, and I bought the tie.
This is actually my favorite Charlie Sykes photo. I had to take the boys with me for one show, and they watched off stage, then got to sit on the channel 4 news set.
… and Cardin’s show. (As well as the late Wisconsin Public Television show “WeekEnd,” which concluded with a pundit panel, on which I was the non-liberal non-Madisonian.) That’s unfortunate because increasingly liberals and conservatives listen only to views like their own, and don’t take on their ideological opponents, who might force them to question their own views.
Sykes, who during his varied print and broadcast career wrote a column for Isthmus, was recently profiled in Isthmus:

“Charlie ought to be going out in a wave of glory.”

So wrote fellow conservative Milwaukee radio host Mark Belling on the occasion of Charlie Sykes’ retirement from the airwaves last December. Belling noted that, as of Sykes’ final radio show, Republicans were about to take full control of both the federal and state governments for the first time since the 1950s. That fact should have made this moment the pinnacle of Sykes’ 23-year radio career.

Sykes’ final week of broadcasts on WTMJ-AM included tributes from virtually every Republican political star in Wisconsin. Ron Johnson jokingly blamed Sykes for his ascent to the U.S. Senate. And Gov. Scott Walker gushed, “You have had a tremendous impact … on the conservative movement, not just here in Milwaukee, but across the state.”

Despite the glorious send-off, the 62-year-old Sykes’ political identity was in a state of upheaval. Significant swaths of the once-cohesive Wisconsin conservative juggernaut, a group that he had both led and served for decades, were now ignoring him or, even, actively shunning him.

A bomb named Donald Trump had detonated within the GOP. And Sykes, who had believed for years that Trump would be an absolutely unacceptable leader of his party, was among its casualties.

The ideological and professional stability Sykes enjoyed through his decades on the air were a contrast to his peripatetic earlier life as a student and journalist. Before radio, he had bounced back and forth between liberalism and conservatism, and from publication to publication, working as a reporter, editor and columnist.

No one could have convinced me two years ago that, come 2017, Charlie Sykes and I would be on the same wavelength. But Donald Trump has left me politically homeless, too.

While I was not one of his listeners, Sykes loomed large within the Republican Party of Wisconsin, of which I was an active, but often malcontented, member. My fellow libertarian-leaning activists and I regarded him as an establishment shill, dedicated to the promotion and protection of an ossified party power structure. Belling’s overall assessment of Sykes’ career is positive, but he observes that Sykes “often seemed like a cheerleader rather than a commentator.”

If Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus and Ron Johnson were the party capos, then Sykes was their muscle. “If you went against the grain,” recalls longtime Sykes adversary Michael Murphy of the Republican Liberty Caucus, “Charlie would call you out.”

I also assumed Sykes was, stylistically, a local version of Rush Limbaugh, his shtick exploiting the darker corners of his listeners’ psyches. Though presumptuous, my distant read of Sykes was not entirely off base. Sykes himself has spent a good deal of time lately reassessing his radio career, and acknowledging mistakes he made.

In early October, Sykes’ ninth book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, will be published by St. Martin’s Press. The book chronicles the bizarre transformation the conservative movement has undergone since Donald Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015. But it’s also a personal story. The conservative movement has been so central to Sykes’ life, and he so central to it, that the book could hardly not be personal.

While Sykes has come a long way toward making sense of what happened, he is still somewhat bewildered by Trump’s decisive capture of the movement. From Sykes’ perspective, it was a hostile takeover, constituting a “repudiation of the conservative mind.” As Sykes writes in the book, Trump had tapped into “something disturbing that we had ignored and perhaps nurtured — a shift from an emphasis on freedom to authoritarianism and from American ‘exceptionalism’ to nativism.”

When I met with Sykes late this summer, he recalled the strong sense of loss he felt as the conservative movement slid into derangement, and the decision it forced him to make. “If I break with the movement,” he had asked himself, “have I squandered everything that I’ve spent 20 years working on?” Sykes says he understands others’ reluctance to break. “This is who you are, this is your identity, these are your friends. And if you break with them, are you repudiating a real large chunk of your own life?”

Despite the high price, “There was not a single moment when I thought, ‘maybe I should go along.’” Today, he adds, “The infrastructure that I had is completely gone.”

From a distance, Sykes’ decision might not seem so self-sacrificial. He has, since Trump’s election, had multiple op-eds published in The New York Times. He co-hosted Indivisible, a WNYC radio series that explored the early Trump administration’s impact on American life. And, most notably, he is now an official contributor on MSNBC. Would any of these opportunities with big-time media have come his way had he not so publicly and vehemently refused to board the Trump Train?

At the time of his retirement, Sykes told The Cap Times that he had decided to end his radio show over a year earlier. So throughout 2016, as he relentlessly bashed Trump, he knew that he would be scouting for new opportunities.

“Charlie looks out for Charlie,” says the Republican Liberty Caucus’ Murphy. “This latest act is just him hoping to stay relevant, and maybe even go national.” Others, like Isthmus columnist and Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy, assert that Sykes’ political beliefs have often tracked with career opportunities. The reality, Murphy wrote earlier this year, “is that Charlie Sykes has been changing his views, over and over, throughout his life, and has always been rewarded for it.”

Sykes seems dumbfounded by accusations that his steadfast opposition to Trump is driven by expediency. While people with whom he was closely associated — like Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus — moved into positions of great influence, Sykes’ uncompromising stance against Trump kept him out in the cold. “An opportunist goes with the power, not into exile.”

Sykes does appreciate the “strange new respect” he is getting from corners of the media world that used to dismiss him. But he is still quick to criticize the “liberal media,” arguing that their shabby treatment of conservatives fueled the rise of the right-wing propaganda machine. Conservative news-seekers, he writes, “were drawn to safe places, but also pushed.”

At some point, conservative talk radio hosts discovered that traditional news sources make perfect foils. So the talkers pounced, and kept pouncing, until, Sykes writes, “We had succeeded in convincing our audiences to ignore and discount any information whatsoever from the mainstream media.” He regrets that this strategy of delegitimization served to “destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information.”

Sykes devotes a substantial section of How the Right Lost Its Mind to the ascendance of “Alt-Reality” propaganda, how it nurtured “Post-Truth” politics, and its role in Trump’s electoral triumph.

It’s a chilling read. A sizable chunk of the American electorate is astonishingly susceptible to fabrications, even patently absurd ones. In Sykes telling, things got so weird during last year’s campaign that a cottage industry of fake fake news sprung up. Pranksters began fashioning reports just to test the limits of credulity. One tweeted out a contrived Clinton Foundation expense report that showed payees like ‘Sharia Law Center’ and ‘Bill Ayers,’ to see if the Twitterverse would bite. (Spoiler alert: the pranksters were unable to detect any limit to credulity.)

President Trump has, in a stroke of propaganda genius, co-opted the term “fake news,” applying it to legitimate media outlets that he considers unfriendly. In our conversation, Sykes noted that for each of his op-eds, The New York Times assigned a fact-checker. When he hears the president call the Times a “fake news joke,” he remembers the extreme rigor the paper has subjected his work to.

Toward the end of his book, Sykes urges fellow conservatives to “confront the conservative media that boosted and enabled Trumpism and created a toxic alternative reality bubble.” I asked him what non-conservatives might do to help. Because false beliefs are protected by extremely stubborn psychological barriers, Sykes thinks only “still-trusted conservative voices” have the power to stop the madness. “The right’s going to have to clean up its own house.” He laments that, as of now, “We’re not seeing a lot of that.”

I find it silly that Sykes is now being called a non-conservative for daring to criticize Trump (as did, by the way, every major conservative talk-show host in this state before the Wisconsin Republican primary, which is a major reason why Trump lost the GOP primary) and his hard-core supporters, or for appearing on public radio or TV or MSNBC. He’s been quoted frequently on this blog, and other than his non-support of Trump I challenge you to find non-conservative positions he’s taken, beyond possibly support for the taxpayer-funded Miller Park. Sykes has been one of the biggest supporters of Gov. Scott Walker from Walker’s days as Milwaukee County executive. Sykes led on-air support for Act 10. Sykes was a target at the biggest act of attempted censorship of political speech in this state, the Milwaukee County John Doe investigation. Sykes spoke at at least one county Republican Party Lincoln–Reagan Day dinner, which I know because I was there.

Regular readers know the first and foremost answer to Cardin’s question is that if the alternative choice was Hillary Clinton, virtually any Republican would have voted for Trump. (I’m not a Republican, so I didn’t.) As it turned out, a lot of independents in swing states must have voted for Trump as well, because, again, he wasn’t Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton demonstrates daily that if the November choice was Hillary or Trump, Trump was the better choice.

Having said that, it’s clear that Trump is a situational conservative, in that sense the Republicans’ answer to Bill Clinton. Trump, author of The Art of the Deal, deals with whoever (he thinks) is in charge. So he cozies up to Sen. Charles Schumer (D–New York) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D–California) on “Dreamers,” which is as Republican a thing to do as donating money to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaigns. If Republicans lose control of Congress in the 2018 election, the resemblance between Trump and Republicans will disappear.

The answer to Cardin’s second question is answered in part because Trump has done conservative things (Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, undoing Obama regulations and executive orders, Monday’s United Nations speech), and in part by one of her Facebook commenters …

Why do we continue to ask the same question, and not accept the only answer? The answer is that every single Trump supporter is some combination of ignorant, intellectually incapable, morally bankrupt and hateful. It’s simply not possible to be a decent human being and support Donald Trump.

That Madison jackass demonstrates that liberals love every kind of diversity except diversity of opinion. Every time Trump supporters get criticized for supporting Trump, particularly when they’re accused of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc. (by the definition of the accuser), they support Trump more. Liberals are either too stupid or too hate-filled to grasp that.

As for Cardin’s third question … that’s in large part what Sykes’ book is about.

It takes a village to defeat Hillary

Dov Fischer has a few things to say to say to Hillary Clinton:

You see, Madame First Lady-U.S. Senator-Secretary of State-Perpetual Whiner (hereinafter “MFLUSSSOSPW”), no one vote alone elected Donald J. Trump the 45th President of the United States. Let us take, for example, Republican presidential voters in the great state of California. Under our electoral college system, votes for president cast by Republicans in California do not count. They count even less than do illegal votes, produced with forged drivers’ licenses, in New Hampshire. Nonetheless, California Republicans begrudgingly accept that their votes do not count because they respect the agreed-upon rules of the game, rules dating back more than 225 years. (U.S. Const. Art. II.) Under the rules of the Electoral College, the only way that a Republican presidential candidate will garner California’s electors in this era is if the other 48 states (Massachusetts does not count) vote Republican. It will take that kind of unilateral nationwide landslide for a Republican to win a majority of California’s voters in a Presidential contest. Therefore, California circa 2016 does not matter for a contemporary Republican Presidential candidate. He or she will win with current-day California only if he or she wins without it.

Alas, this reality also means that Republican presidential candidates will not expend preciously limited resources of time and money to beef-up their California votes for a November general election. It would be pointless, almost as pointless as a California Republican driving to a voting booth on Presidential election day, even if lured by a promise of free disposable plastic grocery bags. For the California Republican voter, the rhetorical question on election day has been asked eloquently once before in the presence of a United States Senate panel investigating the Benghazi disaster: What difference does it make?

So, with California explained, [w]hat exactly [h]appened? Well, it turns out that, beyond California, it took a village to elect Donald Trump President of the United States. A village comprised of the Deep South and the American heartland and a corridor running northward from Florida through Georgia and North Carolina, all the way up to Ohio. And The Village also branched east and west up north, through the Midwestern Rust Belt from Wisconsin to Michigan to Pennsylvania. It took a village.

Many wise observers of all political stripes perceived that Trump had no chance. He entered the race as an amateur. Coarse in language, brutally vicious in personal attack, impolitic beyond words, cartoonish in ways stemming from the hairstyle to the pigmentation. This guy is going to beat Senator Rubio by calling him “Little Marco”? Or defeat Sen. Cruz by mocking his magnificent wife — every public person has had photos snapped at inopportune moments — and intimating that Cruz’s dignified father somehow was associated with the murder of our 35th President? Ouch.

But the main reason that so many thought that MFLUSSSOSPW would defeat Donald Trump is that the electoral college seemed loaded for the Democrats from the get-go, as it has been for many recent years. It is they who begin each Presidential race with California (55 votes), New York (29), Illinois (20), Massachusetts (11), Washington (12), and New Jersey (14) locked up. Add after-thoughts like Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), and Vermont (3), and the Democrats begin the race with 172 electoral votes. The winning candidate needs 270 of the 538 total electors to win, so the race begins with the Democrat needing to secure only 98 of the remaining 366 to hit payday. Even if one concedes that Texas and smaller conservative states like Alabama, Mississippi, Idaho, and Montana are predetermined for the Republicans, the odds for a Democrat to win the electoral college from the remaining pot of states that legitimately remain “in play” remain overwhelming. Republicans mope with fellow conservatives over those odds every four years, viewing each approaching Presidential contest glumly. For those looking beyond the forthcoming bi-elections with 20/20 vision, it still seems unfair.

But those have been the rules for 228 years, and conservatives honor the rules. That is what conservatives do. The game starts with ground rules, and that defines how to proceed, fair and square. A hockey stick may not curve more than half an inch; if it does, any goal scored with it will be disallowed. A baseball bat may not have pine tar on it more than eighteen inches from its bottom. Rule 1.10(c). If it does, any home run hit with it may be disallowed. And it presently takes 270 electors to be chosen president of the United States.

So [w]hat [h]appened?

You, MFLUSSSOSPW, had been in public life post-Arkansas for 24 years. During that quarter century, we got to know your public persona. You truly may be a wonderful person to know privately. You may be someone who giggles softly, ruminates wisely, loves, shares, cares, devotes. But the public MFLUSSSOSPW that we of The Village cannot help but know — even without trying — is someone who is brazenly dishonest, cruel and hurtful, nasty, self-obsessed, manipulative and cunning (in the worst sense of that gerund), and someone narcissistic driven by a sincere tunnel belief, reinforced by decades of echo-chamber sycophancy, that she “deserves it” — whatever it is that she seeks at the moment — because, well, because she deserves it.

The Village does not trust you. If it had been only about The Server, you might have gotten a pass. But there had been cattle futures. Whitewater. The White House travel office. Filegate. That thing about having faced sniper fire when landing in Bosnia, even though the line of sweet little girls holding little flowers to greet you at that airport seemed impervious to Slobodan Milosevic’s perilous projectiles. That other thing about your Christian name having been conferred on you by your loving parents in honor of Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, the first confirmed climber of Mount Everest, whose achievement on May 29, 1953 came five years and seven months after you were born on October 26, 1947. The missing attorney-billing records from the Rose law firm. The Saul Alinsky bond. Sidney Blumenthal and the effort to character-assassinate Barack Obama. Your laughing over the acquittal of the child rapist you got freed. Benghazi: you telling the widows of the fallen martyrs that their loved heroes had died because of a dopey YouTube flick that no one could watch beyond three minutes, while secretly sharing with Chelsea that they actually had been murdered by Al Qaeda on the anniversary of Bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks. Those $250,000 speech honoraria for 15-minute closed-door shmoozes with Wall Street investors and Clinton donors. And stealing furniture from the White House. (C’mon, MFLUSSSOSPW: stealing furniture from the White House?)

The Village also remembered your role as a sexual predator’s full-time enabler. Maybe Gennifer Flowers had been consensual, but you publicly called her “trailer trash” and thereafter participated in hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on her. And the threats against Paula Corbin Jones. And Kathleen Willey. And Juanita Broaddrick. Sure, you told the media that you would not be like Tammy Wynette and “just stand by your man.” But, while Tammy ultimately walked out on George Jones, having stopped loving him that day, you instead shifted into battle mode. You mocked, insulted, and character-assassinated one female sexual-assault victim after another. You called Lewinsky a “nacissisic looney tune,” even though she was not the one wielding cigars.

The Village remembered. And that is why the email scandal buried you. Not because of Jim Comey. But because you had lost the public’s trust. The Village saw you as an irredeemable pathological liar. Then you started explaining that the emails you had wiped from your server — wiped like a waved dish rag, as you gesticulated to Fox’s Ed Henry — merely had been private communications about yoga classes and Chelsea’s wedding gown. The Village knew better, echoing in silent memory Ronald Reagan’s famous riposte to a more honest though equally incompetent Democrat: “There you go again!”

The problem is that, to the degree that the presidency is an encomium to be bequeathed rather than a position to be held in service to a nation, lots of other people also deserve it. Righteous people deserve it. Doctors and nurses who save lives deserve it. First responders who race into fires or face bullets amid confronting gang warfare to save innocent lives deserve it. As among politicians, John McCain also deserves it after the sacrifices he made as a war hero, absorbing torture and refusing freedom from Vietnamese incarceration without his men, and then devoting his life to national service. Mitt Romney deserves it after having lived a righteous life, not allowing his time as Governor of Massachusetts nor his status as a quarter-billionaire to divert him from personally delivering Thanksgiving dinners to the hungry nor from personally visiting people, outside of television cameras, in hospitals. Lots of people in The Village “deserve” it.

Beyond that, many of us Americans are concerned about our jobs, our national economy, taxes, our decaying infrastructure, and our porous Southern border through which illicit drugs that murder Americans permeate along with “coyotes” who smuggle undocumented human beings to their horrible deaths by suffocation, starvation, and worse. We are concerned about Iran developing nuclear weapons that can incinerate and obliterate parts of America, North Korea racing to attain the same level of criminally barbaric insanity, and Vladimir Putin outflanking freedom at every turn from the Crimea to the Ukraine to the Middle East. In other words, this is not a fun time when we blithely can hand over the Presidency to some empty-suit who imagines fancifully that his election will mark an end to the rising of the oceans (as in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean) and the healing of the planet, while one prominent magazine crowns him King Messiah, a television commentator experiences thrilling leg creep from watching him bloviate, and the character himself dances the salsa in front of a Dictator Castro while Europeans are being murdered that day by terrorists. This is not a time for someone who “deserves” the honor. It is a time for someone who potentially can do the job and can earn that trust by presenting a résumé rich with proven achievements.

During the presidential campaign, you spoke of your long public record, but your long public record condemned you. As First Lady, you inadvertently had sabotaged the Democrats’ decades-long stranglehold on the House of Representatives by leading your husband on one public policy disaster after another until the American electorate invited the then-hapless Congressional Republicans back into the majority to rein him in. HillaryCare was the straw that broke the donkey’s back, assuring the GOP a new era of House dominance beginning with Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America.” You built that. As a United States Senator, you had carpet-bagged yourself into a seat by donning a New York Yankees baseball cap, telling the starry-eyed Empire States voters that you, a child of Illinois and the wife of an Arkansas governor, always had rooted for the Bronx Bombers. Once elected, what accomplishments did you register in the upper chamber? We all remember historic legislation, even the bad enactments, by the names of the legislative greats of both parties whose visions changed America: the Carmack Amendment, the Taft-Hartley Act, the Boggs Act, the Byrd Amendment, the Mann Act, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, Sarbanes-Oxley. What did you do? You got assistance for Manhattan after 9/11? Gee, whiz! How did you ever manage to persuade the Congress to do that?

And then you recorded a record as Secretary of State. Under your Russian Reset, the Crimea fell to Putin. Ukraine came under threat from Putin, even as the United States reneged on missile-defense security promises to Poland and the Czech Republic. You let the Iranian “Green Revolution” go to waste. You wasted the promise of the “Arab Spring,” putting the house money on the wrong horse: Mohamed Morsi and the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. You screamed on the phone for an interminably long time at the Prime Minister of Israel. (Pssst! — Israel is on our side.) You staked out the position that Israel could not build homes for Jews in the heart of Jerusalem. Your husband and you somehow ended up with huge speaking fees — nearly a billion dollars worth — in Putin territory, and somehow Putin people ended up reciprocally owning tons of American uranium, approved by your State Department, suitable for destroying the free world with nuclear weapons.

And Benghazi.

In great measure, that is [w]hat [h]appened, MFLUSSSOSPW. Your public persona cultivated and crafted over a quarter century. Your résumé of actual performance. Your profound sense of entitlement. Your remarkably transparent Hansel-and-Gretel trail of lies leading from Arkansas to Wall Street to Bosnia to the Middle East to Mount Everest to Russia and back to the furniture moving truck and the bathroom where that server was stashed.

But there was more. Of course Jim Comey did not help. And yet he did. He really did let you off the hook even though any objective analysis of your violations of federal law would have required that a grand jury at least be convened to explore. Instead, the FBI director acted ultra vires, outside his area of authority, dropping the criminal matter for you. And the Attorney General met with your husband privately at that infamous Phoenix tarmac to discuss grandchildren and golf with him. (With respect, as much as grandkids and mulligans pushed the contours of credibility beyond the perimeters, no one in The Village would have believed that Bill and Loretta had been discussing yoga classes or wedding dresses.) Tellingly, Loretta Lynch’s clandestine tête-à-tête with President Bill was so politically sinister that it was the only time in your husband’s long and distinguished public career that no one in America — not a single person in The Village — entertained the suspicion that he had leveraged thirty minutes intimately alone with another woman-not-his-wife for physical hanky-panky. All knew it was substantive, not about multi-generational progeny, and not about selecting irons or woods.

And one more thing. That “basket full of deplorables” gambit. You played “Identity Politics” so brazenly, so wantonly, that you — a lifelong New York Yankees fanatic dating back presumbly to their Highlanders days — forgot something that Maury Wills, their cross-country 1960s Dodgers rival, once told the press. Wills, a remarkably successful base-stealer of historic achievement, once was asked how he managed to be so successful in stealing second base (from first base) against left-handed pitchers. (As you know from your many decades of rooting for the Yankees, MFLUSSSOSPW, the left-handed pitcher faces the runner on first base, in contradistinction to the rightie who necessarily stands on the pitcher’s mound with his back to that runner. Therefore, it typically is understood that a runner on first base is disadvantaged when seeking to “get a jump” and trying to get a head start on running to second base when the pitcher is a southpaw, a leftie, who is staring right at him.) So the reporter asked Maury Wills: “How is it that you run so freely against left-handers, given that they can stare at you carefully as they are pitching?” And Wills answered: “Because with righties, I can see only their backs, but with lefties I can stare at them carefully, too, as they are pitching.”

MFLUSSSOSPW, you diverted your campaign from a pursuit to lead our entire country as our Chief Executive. Instead, you brazenly promoted the most divisive and hurtful of Identity Politics. You publicly pursued women. While you were staring at women voters, male voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina were staring carefully at you, and they saw. You publicly pursued Latinos. Non-Latino voters in Ohio and Iowa stared carefully and saw. You pursued African-Americans. Non-African-Americans in Michigan and Wisconsin stared carefully and saw. As you shamelessly and brazenly divided the American People into narrow classes of ethnic, racial, religious, gender slices of political pie, the other slices in The Village stared carefully and saw. Like a two-year-old hiding from Mommy and staring through waffled fingers, you thought that you could see them, but they could not see you. But they stared and saw — and they flowed out to vote by the basketfuls and basketsful. You had Lady Gaga and Madonna, Lena Dunham and Katy Perry, Beyoncé and LeBron. And yet The Villagers came out in the droves that John McCain and Mitt Romney could not inspire. They came out despite Jim Comey refusing to refer charges against you. They came out because, when you lumped them all into a basketful of deplorables, they grasped that, to save the country from further tragedy and cultural rupture, it would not be enough to “leave it to the other person” to vote. That, to save the country from you, it would take the whole damn village.

And so it did.

And that’s [w]hat [h]appened.

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