Not The Hardest Test

[ Posted Monday, July 20th, 2020 – 16:46 UTC ]

Watching President Donald Trump get interviewed by Chris Wallace on yesterday's Fox News Sunday was certainly instructive (and that's being as polite as I possibly can be). Not only did Trump display a staggering ignorance of the basic facts of the coronavirus pandemic crisis currently unfolding right before everyone's eyes, he also exhibited the same staggering level of ignorance on any number of subjects. Amusingly, Wallace fact-checked the president right to his face on several of these, which didn't exactly put Trump in a good light. But the most laughable thing Wallace exposed was Trump's continuing insistence that a mental acuity test he took a few years back was some sort of measure of his great intelligence. Wallace, as politely as he could manage, begged to differ: "It's not the hardest test."

Wallace is right -- it isn't. It is not an I.Q. test, it is not designed to measure intelligence in any way at all. Instead, it tests for major cognitive impairment. The test is a one-page form with several tasks for the patient to perform. One is to draw an analog clock with the hands at 11:10. Another is to identify drawings of various easily-identifiable animals (a camel, or an elephant). There are some basic memory tests as well.

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Friday Talking Points -- Is Trump Actually Trying To Lose?

[ Posted Friday, July 17th, 2020 – 17:58 UTC ]

At this point, one has to wonder: is President Donald Trump intentionally trying to commit political suicide?

This would certainly make a lot of sense, given his recent actions. Perhaps he's tired of attempting to do a job he is so obviously underqualified for, and perhaps he just wants to return to private life. To do so, Joe Biden has to win, meaning Trump has to guarantee this outcome. So he goes about actively destroying any possibility that he'll win re-election.

If Trump actually is interested in beating Biden, he's certainly going about it in the wrong way. Trump had a golden opportunity when the pandemic began, because if he had shown even a modicum of leadership and even a shred of human decency and empathy, the race would right now be a lot closer. If Trump had addressed the nation, admitted the facts, rallied people to fight the pandemic in every way possible, trusted the scientists, urged people to wear masks, developed a national plan to deal with the crisis, and repeatedly helped the nation mourn those we've lost (now at 140,000 and climbing), then Donald Trump would be seen in a radically different light right now. He wouldn't have even had to have been particularly good at any of these efforts -- he could have just mouthed the words off the TelePrompTer, and that likely would have been enough. But he is absolutely incapable of doing so, it seems.

Instead, Trump keeps choosing the worst possible course. He ignored the initial outbreak. He ignored the testing crisis. He ignored the states being crushed under the outbreak. He ignored his own scientists -- or, even worse, contradicted them and actively undermined them. And worst of all, he has almost completely ignored all the suffering and death out there.

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Trump Gets Schooled

[ Posted Thursday, July 16th, 2020 – 16:36 UTC ]

That headline is meant in an ironic way, not a literal one -- since Donald Trump literally "getting schooled" on anything would be impossible, considering his almost-complete lack of the ability to learn new things. Instead, I refer to the president deciding to pick a battle on yet another losing field for him, this time fighting to force school districts to open up in-person classes in a few weeks. Trump would like to get all America's schools back to normal. That's a goal shared by just about everyone, but the problem with Trump's approach is that it comes with a rather large disclaimer at the end: "...whether it is safe to do so or not." This is the bridge that is proving to be too far for America's mothers and fathers.

In any conflict, whether military or political, you've got to pick your battles. You've got to decide what is worth defending to the death and what is not. The problem for Trump is that his campaign (or he himself) has massively misread the issue of school reopenings with the general public.

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Good Riddance To The Washington NFL Team's Offensive Name

[ Posted Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 – 15:55 UTC ]

Today I am going to spike a football in the end zone. That's as appropriate as a sports metaphor gets, really, because I am celebrating the fact that the Washington Ethnic Slurs football team has finally decided to retire their official team name. They seem to be in some sort of discussions (variously reported as being with Native American groups, the military, or possibly someone who already owns the trademark and/or copyright) about what the new team name will be, but as of Monday they will never be called the "Washington Redskins" ever again. And that is indeed a reason for an end-zone celebration.

Way back in 2007 -- in the first column I ever wrote about sports -- I denounced the Washington Ethnic Slurs and all the other sports teams making piles of money off of exploiting imagery of Native Americans. The Washington team name was the worst offender in terms of language, but the "Chief Wahoo" caricature of the Cleveland Indians won out as the worst of the worst in all of professional sports (for obvious reasons).

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Democrats Should Push For A Presidential Powers Redefinition Amendment

[ Posted Tuesday, July 14th, 2020 – 16:30 UTC ]

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has announced that the House will soon be moving forward on a bill to rein in the presidential pardon powers, to avoid any future president being allowed to do what Donald Trump just did -- abuse this power to grant clemency for a person convicted of lying and witness tampering to protect Donald Trump. A clearer abuse of power would indeed be hard to imagine, unless it was Trump attempting to proactively pardon himself for any and all federal crimes he's ever committed. Which, at this point, isn't outside the realm of possibilities, for Trump. But while Pelosi will be making a little political hay out of the issue, she is actually aiming too low. Because what is really needed is a constitutional amendment.

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Electoral Math -- It's That Time Again...

[ Posted Monday, July 13th, 2020 – 18:58 UTC ]

Welcome to the first 2020 installment of our quadrennial series tracking the electoral math in the presidential race. We've done this three times previously, and (like pretty much everyone else in the political prediction game) failed miserably the last time around. Hey, two out of three ain't bad, right?

Sigh. As I explained a few weeks ago, polling will always have its shortcomings (especially at the state level), but it's really the only thing we've got other than collecting anecdotal evidence on our own. Which is impossible on the scale the Electoral College operates on. Flawed though it may be, state-level polling is still important to keep an eye on, which is precisely what this series intends to do.

The intent of the series is the same as it always has been: to chart the probable Electoral College vote over time. After all, this is the way we elect presidents, but for some reason the political media world loves to focus instead on national polls. As Hillary Clinton (and Al Gore before her) proved, national polling is next to meaningless, because the national popular vote is also next to meaningless. Democrats have won seven out of the last eight presidential popular votes (Bush's second term is the only popular vote the Republicans won), but it didn't stop George W. Bush or Donald Trump from winning the Electoral College.

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Friday Talking Points -- Doubling Down On The Stupid

[ Posted Friday, July 10th, 2020 – 17:02 UTC ]

The campaign to re-elect Donald Trump president has gone all-in on a remarkable strategy: they're going to double down on the stupid. Call it the greatest attempt at gaslighting ever, we suppose. The idea is to just pretend the coronavirus pandemic doesn't exist and continue to ignore any evidence to the contrary. And they actually expect this to be a big winner for them with the voters.

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Program Note

[ Posted Thursday, July 9th, 2020 – 17:51 UTC ]

Once again, I am throwing in the towel and there will be no new column today. I have no excuse for doing so, I am flat-out just taking a vacation day.

There is a silver lining in all of this for my readers, though, because I will not be taking any big summer trip this year, so there will be no week-long break in the schedule this year (as usually happens). With both Netroots Nation and the Democratic National Convention happening remotely, my summer trip plans are obviously just not going to take place at all. So while I may indeed take a few more lazy summer days off in the coming weeks, at least there won't be a big interruption in columns later this summer.

I will at least try to answer some of your recent comments later on tonight, when I start doing the nuts-and-bolts work of putting together tomorrow's Friday Talking Points column. I have also done all the data-mining and spreadsheeting necessary to start up the Electoral Math column series again next week, so you've got that to look forward to as well.

So please forgive me, but I just had to take a personal day off to smell the roses. To get some fresh comment threads going, here's a topic for everyone: "Is John Roberts truly now the crucial 'swing vote' on the Supreme Court, and what does that mean going forward?" Or maybe: "How will the New York state prosecution of Trump end, now that they're going to get to see his taxes? What has he been hiding so strenuously?" Discuss among yourselves.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Trump Sabotaging GOP Efforts To Boost Mail-In Voting

[ Posted Wednesday, July 8th, 2020 – 16:57 UTC ]

You can call it many things. Shooting one's self in the foot. Being hoist on your own petard. A European might call it an "own goal." But whatever metaphor you choose, it seems Donald Trump is actively sabotaging his own chances of re-election. Trump, in classic Trumpian style, has chosen to make a political statement about an issue that really has nothing to do with politics at all. And it's beginning to work among his most fervent followers. The only problem for Trump is that this means it is also working against his chances of re-election.

Even though both Donald Trump and Mike Pence have been casting their ballots by mail for the past few elections, Trump decided it would be a dandy idea to demonize voting by mail. But due to the overwhelming likelihood that this November's elections are going to be radically different in nature than previous elections due to the coronavirus pandemic, this means that the Republican Party is being hamstrung in its efforts to get its voters to safely vote by mail. Trump may not just be killing his own chances of being re-elected, but he may also bring a whole bunch of other Republicans down with him as well.

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Put The Confederacy Where It Belongs: In Museums

[ Posted Tuesday, July 7th, 2020 – 16:58 UTC ]

A generational change is now sweeping America. All of a sudden -- even in the Deep South -- it is no longer politically acceptable -- even for Republicans -- to defend the Confederacy. Mississippi has now become the last state to remove the Confederate battle flag from their own state flag. The Republican Senate voted to force the Pentagon to remove Confederate generals' names from their bases. Even more astonishing, perhaps, was the news that NASCAR has banned the Confederate battle flag from being displayed at their events. But what's most astonishing about all this is that there seem to be few defenders of the Confederate flag left in the political sphere (on the national level, at least). Other than President Donald Trump, that is.

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