The Last Debate: Donald “The Kitchen Sink” Trump vs. Hillary “Two Face” Clinton


[Image via Walt Handelsman of Newsday]

It is almost over. Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be the next president. The final debate, moderated by FOX’s own Chris Wallace, is tonight. It will be 90 minutes long. There are six topics that Wallace will cover – debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign policy, and the candidates’ fitness to be president. Each topic section is expected to get fifteen minutes. The debate is at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It airs on nearly every major network, as well as C-Span, at 6 p.m. PST. Wallace is a hard interviewer who will not pull punches for either side. It will be the final opportunity for the country to compare Clinton and Trump side by side before the election as they make their closing arguments.

Fun fact, Chris Wallace will be the first person from FOX news to moderate a general election debate. Wallace was the host of Meet the Press on NBC before moving onto FOX in 2003, and so he is the also only person that has hosted morning political talk shows for different TV networks.

Don’t look for Wallace to spend much time fact checking, however. He is on the record saying that it’s not the moderator’s place to fact check the candidates’.

The first half hour of the debate will inevitably be on the scandal and controversy that got exposed on either side of the aisle in the past weeks. The news cycle has a way of dominating the debate. A lot has happened in the past weeks, a lot uncovered, and yet a lot of questions remain. Clinton and Trump face historically unfavorable polls. People on both sides of the aisle clamor that democracy is at stake, no matter who wins. Tonight is the last chance for Trump and Clinton to try and change the way that America perceives them.

Clinton is leading the presidential race by a healthy margin at this point. In this last debate, she has everything to lose and almost nothing to gain. Clinton will need to play it safe, apologize for what she can, and try to make the argument for the country moving forward. The WikiLeaks dump brought new life to fears that many have had of Clinton, she’ll need to settle those qualms.

The emails expose a Clinton that is more Two-Face than ‘Honest Abe.’ She seems a lot cozier with Wall Street in speeches to banks than she does on the stump. Clinton also seems much more comfortable with covert action and CI work in private than she lets on in public. In public, she talks about the need for more secure borders and tougher trade deals, but in secret, she dreams about an open market with global borders. She openly talks about the importance of having two different voices for private and public life, which confirms many of the fears that the most ardent Clinton opponents have expressed for years. The emails have also exposed more questions about alleged quid pro quo, this time between the FBI and the State Department, which Clinton will have to address. As the heavy favorite, Clinton is going to spend the night on defense.

Clinton has a lot of weaknesses as a candidate. She has been around for over thirty years and represents the establishment to millions of voters. Clinton has faced attacks from both the left and right over the years, for being too progressive or too conservative, it never matters. She coined the term “the vast right wing conspiracy” and there is a baked in quality to the hatred she engenders from huge swaths of the electorate. With Wallace’s confrontational style and Trump’s last stand, watch for questions about Benghazi, the email classifications, and her foundation’s work. There is the potential for the night to be a bloodbath.

Trump, unlike Clinton, has everything to gain and nothing to lose. At this point in what Time magazine has dubbed Trump’s “Total Meltdown” of a campaign there are few supporters left for him to lose. The bar could not be lower. Trump has faced an assault of allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in the days since his 2005 tape leaked. In response to the allegations Trump has criticized the women’s looks and attacked them as liars. As the election draws nearer, his cries of rigging grow louder. Trump has dragged the Clinton accusers in front of Hillary and the country, he’s disparaged Clinton’s looks, and he’s called for her to be in prison. Trump has demonstrated no boundaries for where he will go. With his back against the wall, he is going to throw the kitchen sink at Clinton.

There is an adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” that rings true today. Clinton and Trump are the oldest candidates ever. People at their age do not change drastically; personalities and habits set by then. Clinton has always been a paradox of privacy and personal ambition; Trump has always been a billionaire blowhard. There are questions that both must answer, but neither Trump nor Clinton will be a drastically different candidate tonight than they’ve been for the past year and some.

Trump started his campaign with a strong, if divisive, message. – America has gotten into stupid wars, the economy isn’t working for American’s, immigration is out of control, and the country needs change. His campaign has since devolved into conspiracy drivel and mudslinging. His only chance to turn things around is to show humility and apologize outright for everything, which would stun people, and then to hammer down on the message that got him to the top of the GOP primary field.

Clinton has grown more comfortable as the election has gone on, but she has not changed very much in style or personality. She is going to be the same, even-keeled, boring candidate that she always is. The debate is her last opportunity to try and get people excited to vote for her, instead of against Trump. The election is hers to lose, and she knows it. It will be hard for Clinton to win the third debate because she won the first two and is the clear front-runner; the law of averages says that Trump will gain some of that ground back. But Clinton’s best shot is to admit that she isn’t perfect, acknowledge that she has not always been transparent, take the shots that come her way, and show her humanity. Clinton needs to confront her weaknesses head on and make her case for moving past the nastiness of the election and onto the reality of leadership.

If the debate does not descend into chaos after the first half hour then maybe the country will get to learn more about where each candidate stands on policy. Chris Wallace is a tough, confrontational interviewer; it would be very illuminating for the country to see him pin Clinton and Trump down on immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, and especially foreign policy. These kinds of topics would usually be front and center during a presidential election. But because of Trump ‘s disruptive campaigning style and Clinton’s historic unfavorable ratings they’ve taken a backseat. Hopefully, Wallace can keep the train on the tracks and sneak a serious policy debate into the end of the presidential election tonight.

One of the main reasons for Trump’s devoted following and unprecedented rise to the top of the Republican Party was the hard-line approach he took to immigration right from the beginning. He’s going to build a wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it, it’s as simple as that. It’s ambitious, but it’s not well articulated. Tonight is the last opportunity for Trump to finally clarify exactly how he will get the wall built and why that is the best way to deal with immigration.

Clinton will need to defend her holistic border dreams and also give a good answer for why she wants to bring in more Syrian refugees. Clinton’s immigration politics work to keep families together and give people an easier path to citizenship, something that concerns people that worry about immigrants hurting their economic prosperity. For a country where a lot of people feel uncomfortable about their future, Clinton needs to assuage people’s fears that she doesn’t care to keep America, ‘American.’

Trump claims that he will renegotiate trade deals with our allies and restructure the tax code to revitalize the economy. His tax proposals would be the biggest cuts in the modern era, economists on both sides of the aisle have criticized his plan for adding trillions to the national debt, and he doesn’t explain how he would get all these countries to renegotiate with him. There are a lot of holes in his economic strategy that he has not been made to answer for yet. Clinton, meanwhile, needs to defend Obama’s economic record and explain how she would be an improvement over the past eight years.

A lot of democrats and republicans alike thought that the Supreme Court would be one of the defining issues of the election. Especially after the GOP-led House and Senate drew an unprecedented line in the sand and refused to hold hearings after Obama nominated Judge Garland. Tonight is the last chance for both candidates to make an argument to the country for what kind of Supreme Court they would like to see. The Supreme Court is an incredibly powerful institution, and the next president will be able to make appointments that could shape policy for decades. The candidates’ should have to explain where they stand.

With Russia hacking into American political institutions and actively working to influence the election there are a lot of questions for each candidate to answer about foreign policy. Russia has been putting anti-aircraft batteries into Syria, close to the range of American fighter jets’ battling ISIS in Iraq. There is a lot of tension between the U.S and Russia, and the next president will have to tackle that while fighting terrorism abroad and at home. Trump has been a vocal supporter of Putin’s brand of leadership, and he has repeatedly voiced his admiration for the Kremlin’s work. There are a lot of serious questions that Trump’s coziness with Russia raises; tonight is the last chance to get some answers.

Clinton has an extraordinary resume in foreign policy. When it comes to international relations, she is a known quantity. During the debate, she will have to defend her record from the Iraq vote to the Benghazi attack. She will need to justify the aggressive drone program that Obama has orchestrated. And she will need to give a better answer for how she will deal with the humanitarian crisis and international tension in places like Syria. People are scared about terrorism, and Clinton needs to convince the American people tonight that she will be able to deal with ISIS and Islamic Jihad once and for all.

Tonight’s debate is the last chance to get to learn more about where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on the issues that matter to Americans. People may not like either of them, but one of them will be the next president. It would be prudent to figure out what they’ll do in office. At the end of the day personality is not what drives the government forward, the policy is. Tonight is the last opportunity to learn more about their policy – their personalities are already well established.


Stronger Together or Great Again: Two Leaders, Two Books, and Two Visions for America

In just a few weeks the citizens of the United States of America will finally pick the next President, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. This election cycle has been a brutal one, and the country will need to tend to its wounds when it’s all said and done. The rhetoric has been so negative and divisive that it has come to dominate everything about the election. People complain that the election is devoid of substance and has instead become dominated by style. Voters reminisce for the days when Politicians told it like it was, spoke the truth, and respected one another. Part of that is nostalgia for the past, politicians have never spoke of another with much cordiality, just look at how America’s founding fathers spoke about each other. But part of it is a legitimate concern on what politics has become in this day and age.

It is easy for substantive discussion by the candidates to be subsumed by the more controversial and provocative elements of a campaign. In today’s wild-west media world, information, and stories, are constantly competing with each other for attention. It is hard to focus on what one candidate says about immigration policy or the Kremlin’s interference in American elections when much more titillating stories are constantly breaking. No one wants to read a story that analyzes Clinton and Trump’s tax platforms when there is audio of Trump talking about how he sexually assaults women and there are transcripts of Clinton talking about a borderless utopian world. It’s human nature that the more scandalous stories attract the most attention.

There is a wealth of information out there, however, for both candidates’ platforms. If anyone is frustrated with the superficiality of the election then they need only to look a little past the surface and they will see how much they have been missing. Between the primary debates, the conventions, the party platform’s, the speeches, the websites, the general debates, and the candidate’s policy books there is a treasure trove of policy information on both Clinton and Trump. In order to learn more about each candidate it does require some personal impetus to actually get informed. People complain that elections are not driven by policy, but then refuse to do even an hour of leg work to actually learn something about them besides what they hear on talk radio, advertisements, and social media and so end up like the undecided voters from the Town Hall debate. Uninformed and somehow torn, but the information is out there for those who care to seek it out.

The simplest, most straightforward way to get a handle on how each candidate would try to shape the country as president is to read, in their own words, what they want to do. Hillary Clinton wrote a book called Stronger Together and Donald Trump wrote a book as well, originally titled Crippled America but later changed to Great Again. They aren’t difficult to get through, both are around 200 pages, and – especially for those people that are undecided and cannot choose either candidate – there are no reasons not to quickly read through what each candidate sees as their vision for America. Not everyone loves to read, but everyone read their assignments in school in order to pass their tests. Why is it ok, and even expected, for people to do less homework when voting for the most powerful position in the world than they do when they are in grade school for a regular assignment? There is so much to learn about the candidates in just their books.

Great Again is Donald Trump’s book. The first thing that stands out about the publication is that there is a large, glossy photo spread in the middle of the book with pictures of Trump, his family, and his towers. For a man for whom everything revolves around its adulation for him this was no surprise. The book has 17 chapters and is written largely in the narrative style, with very little specificity and an emphasis on general platitudes with an appeal for Trump’s business acumen. On the front of the book Trump makes his vision of America clear with the tagline “How to Fix Our Crippled America.” Implicit in this is the conclusion that America is crippled, that the wolves are circling the door, and that like the byzantine empire of old America stands now on the precipice of its collapse. The chapters in the book have titles that similarly reflect Trump’s dystopian view of the nation. “Winning Again,” because our country is not winning anymore. “Education: A Failing Grade,” because our schools are disasters. “Health Care Is Making Us All Sick,” because Obamacare is a disaster. “Our Infrastructure Is Crumbling,” because our roads and bridges are in disrepair. And of course, “Making America Great Again,” because America is not great anymore. This is just a sprinkling of the titles in Trump’s book Great Again but it illustrates the negative, apocalyptic view that Trump has of where the United States stands.

Trump has never been one to be bogged down with the intricate details of policy. Great Again reflects the man that wrote it. It focuses on what is wrong with the country, in Trump’s opinion, and then offers generalizations of how to fix what is wrong. Trump attacks immigration and then compares the Great Wall of China to his promise to build a wall on the southern border of the U.S, he talks about how walls work, specifically citing the Israeli construction that drastically cut down on terrorist attacks. And he promises that Mexico will pay for the wall. Trump writes,

“How [will we make Mexico pay for the wall]? We could increase the various border fees we charge. We could increase the fees on temporary visas. We could even impound remittance payments derived from illegal wages. Foreign governments could tell their embassies to start helping, otherwise they risk troubled relations with America. If necessary we could pay for the wall through a tariff or cut foreign air to Mexico or simply make it clear to the Mexican government that it is to the benefit of their very profitable – for them – relationship with the United States to pay for it.”

Essentially making the argument that America would strong-arm Mexico and all foreign embassies, aka every single country that America has diplomatic relations with, into paying for the wall. An unrealistic and nearly impossible proposition, but that is Trump’s plan to deal with immigration.

In regards to energy Trump writes, “our first priorities need to be approving the Keystone Pipeline and starting to drill everywhere oil is accessible.” And that there is no reason to push for the development of alternative forms of energy because, in Trump’s words, climate change is not cause by carbon emissions. Trump advocates for more aggressive fracking and for the deregulation of the energy industry in order to accelerate America’s energy independence. It is clear that Trump’s priorities are to drill for more oil and to deal with the environmental impact at a later point in time.

In regards to healthcare Trump promises to build “a private insurance system without artificial lines drawn between states,” where competition will keep deductibles low and lead to better costs for the consumers. Trump does not go into specifics about how he will make sure that people do not lose coverage if Obamacare is dismantled. He similarly promises that he will fix the economy by “negotiating better trade agreements with our ‘friendly’ partners,” without going into detail about how he will protect job markets that are naturally getting phased or how he will protect an economy that is increasingly service-based. Trump’s plans to deal with the epidemic of gun violence are as cavalier and surface-level as the rest. He writes that America should focus on increasing LEO presence in communities and on addressing mental health problems. However, the accessibility of firearms is not an issue that Trump recognizes, in fact, he even argues that an increased proliferation of firearms would make people safer.

Trump talks about fixing the infrastructure with a massive investment in jobs that he will fund by issuing bonds and moving funds around. As Trump writes, “The money is there – we just have to get it into place.” He is most specific when talking about his tax proposals. Trump has a four-step plan to simplify and streamline the tax code:

  • Provide tax relief. “If you are single and earning less than $25,000 or married and earning less than $50,000, you will not owe any income tax.”
  • Institute a four-bracket tax code: 0%, 10%, 20%, and 25%. And eliminate the ‘Death Tax.’
  • Grow the economy by “spur[ing] production, bring[ing] home jobs, and make[ing] it easier to invest in America.”
  • “Any business of any size will pay no more than 15 percent of their business income in taxes.”

This tax plan would disproportionally impact people at the lower rung of the economic ladder and lead to trillions of dollars of savings for people like Trump. The tax code is needlessly confusing and complicated and needs to be re-imagined, however, Trump’s proposal would be the biggest tax cuts in the modern history of America.

There are two specific quotes that stand out at the end of Great Again, for anyone that has paid any attention to Trumps campaign and the controversy that has engulfed it no context is needed.

“I don’t make promises I can’t keep. I don’t make threats without following through. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you can bully me. My business partners and employees know that my word is as good as any contract – and that better go for the other side’s word as well.”

“Everyone working in the administration [of the POTUS] should look and act professionally at all times – especially the president. The way you dress and the way you act is an important way of showing respect for the people you are representing and the people you are dealing with. Impressions matter.”

For a man that has left a trail of broken contracts and unpaid leans in his professional life, for a man that has threatened to use political power to get revenge on the media and political opponents, and for a man that has been dogged with negative character scandals these are rich words indeed.

Stronger Together immediately feels like a different book, it feels like a book about an entirely different country in an entirely different universe than the one that Trump writes about in Great Again. One thing that stands out right away between the two books is the layout and the citations. Trump doesn’t cite a single line in his book, whereas Clinton’s Stronger Together is bogged down with them. Clinton is an infamous policy wonk, and her book reflects it. Where Trump writes through a personal narrative that focuses on his own life and his experiences, Clinton writes like she is building a textbook. Each chapter is succinct and every policy section is bulleted. There is an incredible, even overwhelming, amount of specificity in Stronger Together. Whatever issue’s there are to argue over in the election, Clinton has a section on what she’d like to do as President to address it. In truth the two books are more different than night and day.

Because of how specific and how brief everything is written in Stronger Together it is difficult to compare the two as peers. There is no question that Clinton has put more thought and more preparation into the answers she has for policy questions that America must grapple with during the next four years. Trump has focused on immigration, healthcare, the economy, and the tax code. Clinton focuses on everything. Like she said at the Democratic National Convention,

“We’ll sweat the details and be specific. We care about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint. We care about how much you child’s asthma inhaler costs. We care about the interest rate you’re paying on your student loans. Because when it’s your child, your water, your bills, these aren’t details, they’re a big deal, they should be a big deal to your leaders.”

In Stronger Together Clinton is true to her words. She rolls up her sleeves and gets into the weeds.

Clinton breaks her book into four basic sections, the economy, security, domestic policy, and getting results. Each section is broken up by different chapters dealing with different aspects of that sections, and each chapter still is further divided into bulleted points of emphasis. It is an encyclopedic rendition of Clinton’s proposals.

Clinton pledges to work on the economy by making the boldest trillion-dollar investment in good-paying jobs since WW2 within her first hundred days in office. Clinton further proposes making college debt-free for all Americans, re-negotiating trade deals with allies, regulating Wall Street and taxing the wealthy more, and putting families first with healthcare and mental health. Clinton wants to transition America into the 21st century environmentally friendly energy power and regulate businesses, corporations, and the excessively wealthy in order to make the economy work for everyone. She wants to reinvest in communities that have had jobs leave, like in coal country and the factory yards in Detroit.

On security issues Clinton pledges to defeat ISIS and global terrorism, a tall order. She promises to work on our alliances and partnerships while being firm and smart with our foes. Clinton advocates for building a strong military but making sure not to forget about veterans when they go home. She argues that America needs to help shape the global rules that will keep America safe and prosperous while making sure America stays true to the values that have defined its greatness. In regards to Israel, Clinton argues, “we [cannot] refuse to give up on the goal of two states for two peoples,” but is careful to add that,

“Israel and the United States are two nations woven together, lands built by immigrants and exiles seeking to live and worship in freedom, given life by democratic principles, and sustained by the service and sacrifice of generations of patriots. And at our best, Israel and America both are seen as a ‘light unto nations’ because of those values – and ideal we must continuously strive to achieve together.”

Clinton is characteristically careful to tread lightly with issues of national security, never going all in and always hedging her bets. Whether it is troops on the ground in Syria or cooperation with Asia, Clinton is hesitant to draw another line in the sand.

Domestic policy is one area that provides the greatest breadth of difference between the GOP and DNC’s traditional platforms. Clinton argues in Stronger Together for a strong progressive approach to domestic policy that brings back memories of the Kennedy era of democratic politicians. She wants to build a safety net that lets every child live up to their full potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, by strengthening the teaching, learning, and community of public education in the United States. Clinton wants to fix the immigration system and let families stay together, she wants to roll back deportation and fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Clinton also argues for changing the criminal justice system and ending the epidemic of gun violence in America through comprehensive education and reform. She passionately advocates that it is time to tear down that wall that stands in the way of equal rights for people of color, women, and minorities of all kinds. Finally, Clinton argues that it is time to seriously address the environment and regulate the natural resources that are left. This section of the book feels personal for Clinton. She talks a lot about the people she has met while in public service throughout the years and the impact their experiences have had on her. She is very careful to demonstrate how she empathizes with the people she purports to lead.

The final section of Stronger Together is the shortest by far, but amongst the most interesting. “Working Together: Breaking Through the Gridlock to Get Results.” In it, Clinton describes how she would work to get a congress that has been historically awful to actually work with her and break through the gridlock in D.C. She has four basic strategies to accomplish that:

  • The first is to overturn Citizens United via a constitutional amendment, which Clinton will introduce within her first thirty days in office, in order to protect against the untoward influence of billionaires and special interests. Clinton also argues, “we will appoint Supreme Court justices who value people’s right to vote over billionaires’ rights to buy elections.”
  • The second is to establish a “small-donor matching system for presidential and congressional candidates that will provide multiple matching funds for small donations, increasing small donors’ role and influence and making it easier for working Americans who aren’t wealthy or well-connected to run for office.”
  • Third is to sign legislation that requires “outside groups to publicly disclose significant political spending, and promote SEC rulemaking to require publicly traded companies to disclose all political spending to their shareholders.” So that the public knows who is spending money to influence elections, and why. If congress refuses to push the legislation through Clinton vows to make it happen anyways through an executive order.
  • The final strategy is to protect the enfranchisement of people of color, poor people, and young people and get more people involved in the process of democracy.

Stronger Together is a strong policy book. Clinton is an infamous policy wonk with over thirty years of public service behind her. It is not surprising then, that her book is more traditional, more thorough, and more clearly organized. It’s not a very exciting read, but policy isn’t supposed to be exciting, it’s supposed to be specific. In that endeavor Clinton is enormously successful.

Great Again and Stronger Together are books that clearly reflect their authors. Clinton and Trump are such polar opposites, which overwhelmingly comes through when reading their books side-by-side. It would be easy to write an entire book on any one chapter of either of these works, comparing them with all of their differences would take thousands of pages. There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge. Everyone should take the opportunity to read Stronger Together and Great Again, whoever is the next president, why not have a more clear idea of what –in their own words – they stand for.

In an election year that has been defined by its negativity, there is still policy underneath the surface for those that dare to look.

Why ‘The Bone Zone’ Phenomena Illustrates the Argument Against the Town Hall Debate.

Undecided Voters.jpeg

[Image via]

At the Town Hall debate on October 9th one man stole the show. Dressed in tan khakis and an unassuming grandmotherly red sweater the portly, ordinary, and creepily mustached Kenneth Bone was about to get his fifteen minutes of fame. Near the end of the debate he asked the candidates,

“What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?”

A fair question, but a lazy, uninformed one all the same. It is ok to be an undecided voter. It’s not ok to be an uninformed, ignorant voter. Am I being too harsh? Perhaps, but choosing the most powerful person in the world is not the same as being undecided over a frozen TV dinner. There is less then a month to go until the election is over; there are no excuses anymore. If you care at all about having a say in the future of America’s great experiment with democracy, if you have any inkling of a notion to vote, and if you care at all about participating in the single most patriotic act that any citizen can engage in, then there are no excuses for not spending an hour of your time to get informed on the basic tenets of each candidates platform.

Despite the vacuous vapidity of Trump’s campaign he has managed to publish a book detailing his policy, and he has published a website that similarly outlines what plans he does actually have. Hillary Clinton, an infamous policy wonk, has similarly created a website that outlines her plans. Clinton has also written a book, “Stronger Together,” that goes into painstaking detail over her policy proposals and her plans. There is absolutely no excuse for a voter to have no idea about candidate’s plans at this point. Even Gary Johnson, who seems unable to answer even simple questions at this point and who has no realistic path to victory, has a detailed policy plan on his website.

This is not a condemnation of Kenneth Bone, but rather an indictment of the entire spectacle of the Town Hall debate format and the charade that ‘undecided’ voters are anything more than uninformed voters. People complain that elections in the U.S have become driven by personality and style rather than policy and reality. It’s a fair criticism. But take a look at some of the other questions that the slice of America’s most cherished electorate, the undecided’s, fielded at the Town Hall debate between Clinton and Trump:

  • “… Do you feel you are modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth?” –Patrice Brock
  • In regards to the 2005 tape that the WaPo leaked, Jeff, from Ohio, asked Trump to respond for saying that the campaign had changed him. “When did that happen.”
  • “What will you do to bring the cost [of the Affordable Care Act] down and make coverage better?” – Ken Karpowitz
  • “What specific tax provisions will you change to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes?” – Spencer Moss
  • “Do you believe you can be a devoted president to all the people in the United States?” – James Carter
  • “What would you prioritize as the most important aspect of selecting a Supreme Court justice?” – Beth Miller
  • “Would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another” – Karl Becker

These kinds of questions are the softballs that politicians salivate over. None of these questions challenge either candidate to respond in a serious way that engages with their policy platform. None of these questions force the candidates to disclose anything further than what a cursory Google search would reveal. These questions let people feel good and happy while the candidates ply their respective bases with general platitudes and canned responses from the stump, but they don’t teach anyone anything new about either candidate.

In this day an age, where information spreads as fast as the speed of light, there is no reason for any voter to know so little about what they are voting for. Politicians are always making their case to the elusive undecided and independent voters for why they should choose him or her. The Presidential Town Hall debate ostensibly serves to help that exact slice of the electorate make the final push to one side or the other. But these are the kinds of questions that they choose to ask. Is Karl Becker so torn between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that the most pressing question on his mind, the thing he wants to know more than anything, the question that will help him make his final decision… is “Would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?” Why do people continue to pretend that they are interested in policy when these are the kinds of questions they ask?

Beth Miller asked, “What would you prioritize as the most important aspect of selecting a Supreme Court justice?” Both candidates have released a ton of information over whom they would choose, and the criteria they would use, to choose a justice for the Supreme Court. Instead Beth Miller could have asked Trump to explain why he’s suggested nominating Steven Colloton, who has argued that it is constitutional to use police dogs to attack suspects without warning, or William Pryor, who has argued that “homosexual sodomy” should be banned and has repeatedly voted in favor of stricter Voter ID laws. Miller could have asked Clinton if she would renominate Merrick Garland, or to explain what she means when she writes in Stronger Together that she “will appoint Supreme Court Justices who value people’s right to vote over billionaires’ rights to buy elections.” Miller could have asked Clinton why she has suggested circumventing the Supreme Court entirely an introducing an amendment to overturn Citizens United instead. Instead Miller asked them to describe what they would look for in a justice. That’s not undecided it’s just uninformed.

There is only so much time to conduct what is essentially a live TV interview for the most powerful position in the world. This year there are only 270 minutes slotted for the debates. Why is a third of that time wasted by the candidates answering questions from people that appear to have just woken up and realized there was an election 30 days away. There are Journalists that have spent their lives interviewing politicians, learning about policy, and studying candidates. They should be the ones that lead the debate. Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz would have been much more illuminating interviewers to watch for those 90 minutes without the audience interjecting.

Maybe it makes for better TV, for better ratings, and for more views. But it does not make for a better debate. And it certainly does not keep the debate focused on the issues. It’s time to stop pretending that undecided voters are always informed, moderates who are seriously torn over either candidate. This Town Hall debate was a perfect illustration for what is wrong with so many people that complain about politics. People complain about the lack of policy specifics, about the superficiality of campaigns, and about the pandering that politicians engage in. But people could easily educate themselves about each candidate if they cared to put in an ounce of effort.

Kenneth Bone is a coal plant operator; he’s concerned about his job and that’s fair. He says he leans towards Trump because he is an economic conservative, but that he likes Clinton’s poise and thinks she would protect people’s civil rights better. Even if he is a single-issue voter, even if the only thing that he cares about is which candidate will protect coal power plant operators jobs the most, his question is still incredibly uninformed and even lazy. Bone could have asked the candidates how they would protect a coal industry that is being replaced by natural gas. He could have asked Clinton how she plans to fund her $30 Billion dollar coal revitalization plan and protect the industry while still turning America into a clean energy superpower, as she has described it. Bone could have asked Trump to explain how he would “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves?” Or he could have asked him how he will protect the environment and the coal industry while maintaining an aggressive fracking and drilling policy, like he advocates for in his book Great Again. Instead of doing a basic amount of research and being able to ask either candidate to specifically elucidate parts of their policy platforms Kenneth Bone spent his time on Reddit, talking about how much he admires Jennifer Lawrence’s illegally posted butt hole pictures.

America should stop venerating undecided voters. Stop pretending that people are torn over issues or that they are just so distraught by the performance and character of each candidate that they cannot pick one. These debates should be an opportunity for serious Journalists to grill the candidates. Not for lazy American voters that decided to get politically engaged that morning to get their chance at fifteen minutes of fame. There is a serious difference between Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and their platforms. There is a ton of information out there, directly from each candidate, explaining how they would try to shape policy as President of the United States. Clinton and Trump do not have nuanced differences; there is a canyon of disagreement between the two. With less then thirty days to go until the election there are no excuses for voters to be so uninformed about their choices. It’s anyone’s choice how involved they want to get with politics. No one should be ashamed for how much, or how little they know, but people that are not informed should not be given a platform to drive the presidential election vis-à-vis the Town Hall debate format.

Sexual Assault and Battery: Why Trump’s ‘Locker Room’ Banter is no Laughing Matter.

Locker Room.jpg

[Image via John Cuneo @editorial.political.cartoons]

Since audio of Trump’s comments in 2005 to Billy Bush surfaced there has been an avalanche of stories about Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct from the past. In typical Trump fashion, the scandals have broke so fast that it is difficult to keep track of everything that has been said and reported.

To recap:

  • Two Miss USA contestants have come forward to The Guardian with allegations that Trump walked in on them, on purpose, while they were naked in a changing room.
  • One woman told The Palm Beach Post that Trump groped her while at the Mar-A-Lago in Florida.
  • A CBS Entertainment Tonight Christmas Special where Trump sexualizes a young girl was circulated.
  • Two women that told the NYT that Trump either groped or kissed them against their will.
  • A People magazine reporter who says Trump forced himself on her before she interviewed him in 2005.
  • Four women told Buzzfeed that Trump walked in on them, many of whom were 15 years old, while they were changing.

Donald Trump and his campaign have refuted the allegations even as more continue to pour in. Nevertheless, Trump has admitted to bragging about sexual assault. And these allegations confirm that Trump’s 2005 comments were not an accident and that this is who he is. What Trump has not refuted he’s dismissed as “locker room” banter.

In response, athletes were quick to proclaim that they never heard language like that in their own locker rooms. I believe that professional athletes don’t regularly joke about sexual assault at work, but focusing on that distracts from the real problems that Trump’s actions have exposed.

Instead of pretending that this ‘locker room’ culture is unique to Trump, men need to acknowledge that there is a problem and then use the spotlight that Trump put on it to start to work an end it.

I grew up playing sports. I fenced, I played basketball, I ran cross-country, I ran track, I was on the wrestling team, and so I spent a lot of time in locker rooms. In college I joined a fraternity, the epitome of the all-boys club. I wish that I could say that I’ve never seen or been around the kind of language or activity that Donald Trump is now alleged, in some cases, and confirmed, in others, to be involved with. The truth is that I’ve seen it plenty. These male dominated spaces, especially when everyone is young and impressionable, are ripe breeding grounds for this kind of base, predatorily sexual attitude to foster.

In these spaces it is common to hear women objectified and reduced to only their most base sexual characteristics. Women are talked about like toys whose only purpose is to please. Men brag about what they do, or have done, to women. The sexual gratification and pleasure of men is put above the pleasure or even consent of women. Most of the time it is just bravado and boasting, most of the time no one really goes that far or says that much, and most of the time it really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Most of the time men stop doing this and grow up.

But this creates a culture that is really harmful. Rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and harassment are still widespread across the United States. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the U.S:

  • 1 in 3 women are victims of physical violence from a partner.
  • 1 in 7 women have been seriously stalked by an individual or partner.
  • 1 in 5 women have been raped.

That’s just scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential impact that Trumps so called ‘locker room’ culture has on the 300 million people in the U.S.

The President is a powerful role model. Trump has demonstrated to the nation and to the world what kind of role model he would be. His impact is already being felt in the country as the GOP nominee. The Southern Poverty Law Center surveyed 2,000 K-12 teachers and found that:

  • “More than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students – mainly immigrants, children of immigrants, and Muslims – have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.”
  • “More than half have seen an increase in uncivil political discourse.”
  • “More than one-third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment”
  • “More than 40 percent are hesitant to teach about the election”

Trumps rhetoric has already negatively impacted America’s future generations, it won’t be long until his ‘locker room’ culture does the same.

What kind of role model does the United States want for the next four years? Hillary Clinton, whom Donald Trump described as “a fighter… and [said that] she doesn’t give up.” Or Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump. Sexual assault is not a partisan issue. The choice is clear.

The Breitbart Campaign; Kamikaze Edition


[Image via Ed Hall]

“We want our country back”

At a Trump campaign event this is a slogan that is tossed around frequently. People are proud to come up to reporters and proclaim their pride in their nominee and their veracity to make America great again. They boisterously argue that they will take the country ‘back’ if Trump loses the upcoming election. When pressed to elaborate by journalists, the supporters will mischievously grin and then say, “you know, we’re all big on the second amendment here.”

In 2000 Al Gore famously lost the presidency to George Bush. Al Gore won the popular vote, but because of the Electoral College, Bush was declared the victor. The Gore campaign called for a recount in specific counties in Florida, which the republican dominated Supreme Court refused to allow. Gore graciously conceded the race, despite furious outcries on the left of partisan interference. The Democrats and Al Gore could have seriously pushed the legitimacy of the victory and in so doing thrust the U.S into nearly unprecedented arenas of political discourse. Gore respected the Democratic Institutions that make America the greatest country in the world; he demonstrated true leadership and real patriotism when he conceded to Bush.

Last Friday audio was published by the Washington Post in which Donald Trump is clearly heard talking about, and describing, his affinity for sexual assault. The tape sent the Trump campaign into a perilous nosedive that convinced over 60 GOP leaders to withdraw their endorsements of Trump. The Town Hall debate was an opportunity for Trump to cauterize his wounds, which he was able to do. But the damage was done.

Trump used the debate to unveil his new ethos, conspiracy an anger. In other words, the Bannon spearheaded Breitbart campaign. Trump hit Clinton with everything that he could; he dragged the Bill Clinton accusers in front of the media and Hillary, lurked behind her and stalked her as she walked around, yelled that she was a liar, and generally threw red meat to his base. He no longer cares about winning independent voters or women.

Post-debate and post-mass exodus of the GOP leadership, Trump cares only for revenge. Like a child at a playground, if Trump can’t have it, no one can. Trump once wrote that when people did him wrong he made sure to get them back ten times harder. He will not forget, nor forgive, the GOP leadership’s insolvent support for his campaign.

As polls unilaterally predict a massive electoral victory for Clinton and more and more damaging stories of Donald Trump’s sexual, social, and societal missteps come to light, Trump appears focused on one thing only – absolute chaos. Trump has focused on throwing red meat to his base, he’s brought up the threat that the election is rigged against him, and he’s encouraged his base to fight back. As if that were not enough, he appears entirely disinterested in party unity. In fact, Donald Trump has spent more time attacking his own party than the democrats since the debate.

It started when Trump, who bragged about his 25 million followers on social media, tweeted “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.” He then added “Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty.” He didn’t want to make other GOP leaders feel left out, so he added that “The very foul mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his primary (I gave it, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks!” In order to complete the circus he attacked the party at large, saying, “Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!” He even praised the Democrats, as they are “far more loyal to each other than the Republicans!”

With that Trump plunged the GOP into anarchy. He’s already cast doubt on whether he will accept Hillary Clinton’s potential victory in November, and he seems to be actively campaigning against his own ticket at this point. There is a very serious question that everyone should be asking. What will Trump and his supporters do if he does not win the election?

The great Democratic Institutions that America’s Democracy rests on are not infallible. Nixon resigned amidst scandal, but he just as easily could have used his immense power to silence dissent and keep himself in power. Like Gore would after him, Nixon chose to respect the Democratic Institutions that our Republic is built on and in so doing kept our great democratic experiment alive. After November 8th there is a serious question whether Trump will do the same.

Donald Trump has demonstrated an utter lack of respect for conventional wisdom, expert analysis, and precedent in politics. Trump has left a trail of destruction in his professional life of everyone that has wronged him, whether real or imagined. His campaign is filled with sycophants like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie and anti-Clinton conspirators like Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon that have made it their lives purpose to attack the Clinton name. Trump, along with his surrogates, have attacked the legitimacy of the media, the electoral process, and any politician that has dared to question Trump.

Electing Clinton is not a partisan matter anymore. Clinton is running to be President of a democratic society. Trump is running to be a dictator. It is vital that Clinton win by crushing margins in order to forego any doubt that she won fair and square. Trump is attacking his own party’s leaders; it is time for the GOP to finally divorce itself from the virus that they have allowed to infect their ranks.

Trumps supporters say that they need to take “our” country back. The truth is that “our” country needs to take back “our” democracy. Republicans and Democrats alike need to vote this November 8th and reject hate, bigotry, and anti-intellectualism. Together America can weather Trump’s October Kamikaze and reject the Breitbart brand of democracy.

Pegasus Coffee – Costa Rica


One of my favorite coffee places in Seattle is Pegasus. I go there all the time before work so I am very familiar with them. I decided to pick up some whole beans there in order to have them today at home. I’ve always had a fondness for anything Costa Rican, after spending a summer there as a teenager, and so I picked up the Costa Rican blend.

Costa Rican beans are very balanced and taste incredible. They are usually medium-roasted and they carry a ton of traditional coffee flavors. Coffee from Costa Rica is perfect to drink by itself, it is mellow and full at the same time.

I prepared the coffee by grinding the beans until they were course and then making myself a cup in a french press. The coffee is very aromatic, with subtle undertones of chocolate and hazelnuts that make it smell extremely rich.

It tastes really good, it’s smooth, and it doesn’t leave any bitterness or acidity behind. This coffee is the perfect blend to have when drinking a cup of joe ‘all natural,’ it’s flavor profile and acidity are all really balanced. For a daily driver kind of blend you can’t do better than the Pegasus Costa Rican beans.