Why the Trump Bump?

So Donald Trump is surging in the polls, despite the near-universal scorn of the party establishment, the media, and most conservative leaders. Everyone hates The Donald, it seems, except, you know, actual voters. More than a few of our loyal commenters here have pushed back against our criticisms of Trump.

The real surprise would be if Trump hadn’t surged in the polls. Americans of all parties, but especially conservatives and populists of what is sometimes called the “angry middle,” almost invariably take for the outspoken outsider—not just a governor or some non-Washington person running as an “outsider,” which almost all successful presidential candidates have done now for nearly 50 years. (Which is another reason why Hillary can’t win—she’s too much of a Washington/Establishment insider.)  We like their candor, flamboyance, and the novelty of a non-politician running for office. It’s one of the time-honored tropes of modern American politics.

In 1992, it was Ross Perot, who briefly led in the polls until he unleashed his crazy. (And he still got almost 20 percent of the vote.) John Anderson played this role a bit in 1980 from the center-left.  There were boomlets back in the 1980s for Lee Iacocca, then coming off the Chrysler turnaround that conveniently featured lots of TV ads featuring . . . Lee Iacocca! He flirted with the idea and I think commissioned some polls. Michael Bloomberg has thought about it, and might yet run as an independent or even a Democrat if Hillary implodes sooner rather than later. Last time in the Republican contest it was Herman Cain who dazzled for a while before fading. It looked like Ben Carson’s turn this time, except he’s got very credible competition for that slot from Carly Fiorina (who continues to impress, let me hasten to add), and now Trump.

But notice something: a genuine, non-politician outsider has never won the presidency. Never happens. The closest you can come is Herbert Hoover, but he’d been secretary of commerce for eight years. It’s not going to happen this time either, though I think Fiorina as a running mate is a real possibility. We like these flamboyant, novelty candidates for the respite they provide from the dreary regularity of the known field, but they never stick.

There are reasons for this. At the end of the day most voters actually prefer blandness to candor, or at the very least candor and outspokenness eventually costs you more votes than it gains, as the accumulation of mistakes and controversies take their toll.  This is not to say that a person of strong views can’t get elected; they merely need to have considerable political skill to be successful at it. See: Ronald Reagan. Does anyone discern Trump’s latent Reaganesque political skill? Me neither.

Maybe Trump serves a useful purpose in creating some more space for the other candidates to take some chances. A Trump card indeed. But don’t bet the house on him.

What Obama Could Learn from the EU

What do the Greek crisis and the arms negotiations in Iran have in common? We keep extending the deadline and talking further in deference to the crazy people causing the problem. Only in the case of Greece, the EU has finally reached a point of “No” and meaning it, stopping the socialist centrifuge reducing the Greek economy to its constitutent parts.

But the Obama foreign policy titans continue to extend the deadline for a deal with Iran, while its nuclear centrifuges keep spinning furiously. Obama needs to learn to say “No” to the Iranians and walk away. The Iranians correctly sense that Obama can’t or won’t do this, and as such enjoy maximum negotiating leverage. I’m sure by now they’re offering to throw in a nice rug for John Kerry’s yacht.

It’s an amazing day when the European Union shows more resolve and spine than the U.S. government, but by now we should expect it from Obama.  Of course, the EU is dealing with someone who appears to be certifiably crazy (or angling for a cabinet appointment in a Bernie Sanders Administration), as this Reuters report makes clear:

A defiant Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged Greeks on Wednesday to reject an international bailout deal, wrecking any prospect of repairing broken relations with EU partners before a referendum on Sunday that may decide Greece’s future in Europe.

Less than 24 hours after he wrote a conciliatory letter to creditors asking for a new bailout that would accept many of their terms, Tsipras abruptly switched back into combative mode in a television address.

Greece was being “blackmailed”, he said, quashing talk that he might delay the vote, call it off or urge Greeks to vote yes.

The remarks added to the frantic and at times surreal atmosphere of recent days in which acrimonious messages from the leftist government have alternated with late-night offers of concessions to restart negotiations.

“Surreal atmosphere”? That would go double for the U.S.—Iran talks, too.

Men not at work

The new unemployment rate announced this morning was 5.3 percent, down from 5.5 percent last month. The AP story is here; the Bloomberg story is here. The economy is said to have added 223,000 jobs last month, but the decline in the unemployment rate is, as usual deceiving. The decline in the unemployment rate reflects the continuing decline in the labor participation rate: “The participation rate, which indicates the share of the working-age people in the labor force, [fell] to 62.6 percent, the lowest since October 1977, from 62.9 percent” (Bloomberg). “The result is that the proportion of Americans working or looking for work fell to a 38-year low” (AP). Thirty-eight years takes us back to 1977, the unhappy dawn of the Age of Carter.

Via Geoffrey Norman/Weekly Standard.

The Sharpton angle

Suppose they put together an MSNBC panel to comment on the political scene and Al Sharpton didn’t come? I’m guessing that the panel’s average IQ wouldn’t be affected, but the entertainment value would decline precipitously. On the Morning Joe panel featuring Sharpton this morning (video below), Bernie Sanders was the topic of discussion. Sharpton noted Sanders’s “popularism.” And he wasn’t even trying to read off a Teleprompter!

I can mock him all I want — the mockery would never be enough; he is an utterly contemptible figure — but after a brief audio interruption, Sharpton likens Sanders to Gene McCarthy, precisely as I did this morning. I’m filing this under “Laughter Is the Best Medicine” and trying to shake it off.

Via David Rutz/Washington Free Beacon.

New books, dead authors

Pending the arrival of Ammo Grrrll tomorrow, I need laugh now more than ever, and I do not think I’m alone. In the run-up to July 4, moreover, we have the time for it. Joe Queenan provides the opportunity for more than one laugh in his Wall Street Journal Review column “New books, dead authors” (accessible here via Google) of this past weekend. Queenan observes that Tom Clancy and other megaselling authors continue their careers posthumously with a little help from their publisher’s friends. Queenan cranks up as follows:

Tom Clancy is back with a new thriller, officially titled “Tom Clancy Under Fire.” This is a remarkable achievement, given that he died almost two years ago. Actually, as the cover of the book indicates, in print about one-quarter the size of the words “TOM CLANCY,” Tom Clancy’s “Tom Clancy Under Fire” was written by Grant Blackwood.

Queenan’s creative juices begin to flow:

What puzzles me, though, is why the perpetuation of a powerful literary franchise should only apply to writers who died relatively recently. And why does it only apply to beach reading? Why can’t publishers be a bit more imaginative and delve into the annals of history to produce new books that appear under the names of titans who have gone to meet their maker? Who wouldn’t welcome an offering such as this:

#1 BEST-SELLING AUTHOR
FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY
A FYODOR KARAMAZOV JR. NOVEL
MORE CRIME, MORE PUNISHMENT

By Grant Blackwood

You can imagine the crowds lining up to buy:

#1 BEST-SELLING AUTHOR JANE AUSTEN
A LIZZIE BENNET NOVEL
NO PRIDE, NO PREJUDICE

By Andrew Neiderman

And why not combine franchises?

#1 BEST-SELLING AUTHOR DR. SEUSS
A JASON BOURNE NOVEL
THE CAT IN THE HAT ULTIMATUM

By Eric Van Lustbader

Great books revolve around great characters, not great prose, so any reasonably competent hired gun can be brought in to produce a competent work by a titan of the past:

THE HOUND OF THE BOVARIES: A GUSTAVE FLAUBERT NOVEL by Mark Greaney

Moreover, in an effort to spur interest in the classics, publishers might consider these offerings:

TOM CLANCY’S DANTE’S INFERNO by Grant Blackwood

TOM CLANCY’S THE ILIAD by Mark Greaney

TOM CLANCY’S THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD by Grant Blackwood and Mark Greaney.

“After that,” of course, “the boys can tackle Shakespeare.”

Biden’s moment

The postulate that nature abhors a vacuum seems to apply in politics as elsewhere. There is a vacuum in the Democratic field of candidates for president. Like Gene McCarthy in 1968, Bernie Sanders is in the process of demonstrating the existence of the vacuum. Again, like McCarthy in 1968, there his utility ends. Sanders would not be a viable Democratic candidate for president.

The vacuum is the space for a plausible alternative to Madam Hillary. Such a candidate would have to be liberal and able to recite the regnant shibboleths with conviction, of course, but he would also have to be likable and honest in his own way in order to distinguish himself from Madam Hillary. This candidate would instantly slow and have a good chance of interrupting the Clinton death march to the Democratic nomination, which seems to be enacting a variant of what Leo Strauss called the joyless quest for joy. In this case it is the joyless quest for power.

Will Joe Biden fill the space created by Hillary’s candidacy? That is the question that Ed Rogers asks online at the Washington Post. He observes:

In a lot of ways, Biden would be the true anti-Hillary. He is completely uninhibited, he is impossible to script — which makes him seem authentic — and he has a human appeal that everyone can relate to. Clinton, on the other hand, is running a surreal campaign that avoids crowds, media and spontaneity of any kind. She is protecting her lead in the most standard, unimaginative way possible. Compared with Clinton’s robotic, stiff approach, could having a reputation for occasionally saying the wrong thing and hugging too much work to Biden’s advantage in an era where voters want the real thing?

S.A. Miller reports at the Washington Times that “Biden’s team is putting out the word that he is leaning in favor of joining the presidential race next month, according to a prominent Democratic fundraiser.” Miller quotes Jon Cooper, described as a top bundler for Obama’s 2012 campaign who has been testing the waters with fellow bundlers for a Biden run: “They have given increasingly strong signals that Biden is going to throw his hat in the ring[.]” Miller adds this quote from Cooper: “I’m as confident as I can be that he will be entering the race,” he said.

Biden, let it be noted, is 72. Because Barack Obama ended the careers of so many younger Democrat officeholders only the geriatric contingent like Biden are plausible alternatives to Madam Hillary. We know Biden is possessed by the ambition to be president. He would be a fool not to challenge Madam Hillary. He’s not the brightest bulb in the room, but he’s no fool.

Miller’s Washington Times story is accessible here. Warning: Do not click on the link if you are not prepared for the assault that accessing the Times site invites. Jennifer Rubin offers some helpful thoughts in favor of a Biden candidacy here.

FOOTNOTE: I am struggling with the aftereffects of some medication I had to take yesterday. Thanks to the readers who wrote in this morning with corrections to my proofreading and syntactical errors in this post.

Goodnight Vienna (2)

As we continue the dance of death in Vienna to the new deadline of July 7, Omri Ceren (on Twitter @ceronomri) writes in two emails combined below regarding news of the latest evidence of Iran’s cheating under the current JPOA of November 2013. Omni writes:

Remember how we got here. The interim deal was supposed to “freeze” Iran’s nuclear program, but the Iranians demanded to keep enriching uranium gas, so the Americans came up with a technical quick-fix: yes, the Iranians would get to keep enriching gas, but they would commit to turning all newly enriched gas into an oxide powder temporarily unsuitable for further enrichment. They would have to meet that obligation at the end of every sic-month interim deal period.

When the JPOA was extended last summer Secretary of State Kerry was clear about the commitment: “Iran has committed to take further nuclear-related steps… includ[ing] a continued cap on the amount of 5 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride and a commitment to convert any material over that amount into oxide.”

By last month it had become mathematically impossible for the Iranians to meet their oxidation requirement by the June 30 deadline. The Obama administration responded by aggressively gaslighting reporters and lawmakers: it told them to ignore the math and that administration scientists were confident that the Iranians would meet the deadline. Yesterday the IAEA confirmed that – of course – the Iranians missed the deadline. So the administration responded by declaring that… the violation didn’t count, and that it was OK with the noncompliance.

You can expect Congressional lawmakers, think tankers, and journalists to make the obvious point: the Obama administration is so desperate to preserve negotiations with Iran that they’re already spinning away Iranian cheating. They’re doing so even before a final deal has been inked, when they can still walk away. Once they go all-in on a final deal, the incentive will only rise.

Yesterday the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published a one-pager on exactly this. The full version is pasted below, and describes what the Iranians probably did instead of meeting their obligation (they probably left the uranium in an intermediary, more-easily-reversible form between gas and the oxide they were supposed to produce). But the final two paragraphs are about what it means for a final deal that the U.S. is already ignoring Iranian violations:

When it became clear that Iran could not meet its commitment to convert the LEU into uranium dioxide, the United States revised its criteria for Iran meeting its obligations… The choosing of a weaker condition that must be met is not a good precedent for interpreting more important provisions in a final deal. This case poses several other potential problems about the enforcement of a final deal with Iran. The United States accepted an unproven technical method for converting the LEU. Is it doing so now in a final deal? Are the technical methods in the final deal reliable?… The U.S. government handling of the case of the newly produced LEU under the JPA leads to legitimate doubts about how well that major endeavor will go.

The kicker at the bottom of this Reuters article is sort of striking: “The IAEA did not have an immediate response to a query about its report.” There’s simply not much to say The IAEA confirmed that the Iranians are in violation of a black-letter requirement in the interim JPOA deal to transform their enriched gas into oxide. The administration is declaring that the cheating doesn’t matter.

This controversy is playing out as if it were intentionally scripted to delegitimize the administration’s credibility on enforcing a deal with Iran:

– analysts warned the Obama administration that Iran was cheating;
– the administration responded by publicly attacking the analysts and defending the Iranians, and for good measure declared on the basis of secret analysis that the Iranians would not cheat;
– the Iranians went ahead and cheated; and
– the administration declared that the cheating was OK.

There’s a more subtle level to this story, which is that the Obama administration is trying to play games with legal distinctions between IAEA assessments and P5+1 compliance. But the debate is unlikely to reach that level because the surface scandal – that the Iranians violated the JPOA and the White House worked to spin the cheating away – is so blatant.