Sunday, October 2, 2016

Clinton An Easy Target But Trump Prefers Shooting His Own Toes! Obama Funds Iran And Believes That Is The Road To Peace.

Just another view of The Iran Deal (See 1 below.)


Obama funds that which he tells us he is against. (See 1a below.)

Israel's thinking regarding Iran and their nuclear ambitions. (See 1b below.)
Graphic and simple math. Bringing it home. (See 2 below.)
Now for some negative Trump articles to give balance.  From NBC News, Washington Post and New York Post. You decide.

As for myself, I have no idea why Trump undercuts himself and snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.  Hillary should be an easy target but Trump seems to prefer shooting his own toes.

It obviously takes extraordinary talent to miss a target as big as Hillary. (See 3, 3a and 3b below.)

but then:

One year later, the Israeli national security establishment continues to debate the Iran deal’s merits. Although the debate no longer garners headlines ...

1)How the Iran Deal Aids Hezbollah, Imperils Israel
TEL AVIV -- In April, Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) entered into with the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2015 was “pragmatic and minimalist.”

“The aim,” Rice said, “was very simply to make a dangerous country substantially less dangerous.”
One year later, the Israeli national security establishment continues to debate the Iran deal’s merits. Although the debate no longer garners headlines, behind the scenes experts are divided over the reliability of the deal’s oversight mechanisms and whether, even if Iran were to scrupulously honor its obligations, the JCPOA would place the Shiite theocracy intolerably close to the production of nuclear weapons.

One aspect of the agreement, however, is subject to little dispute in Israel. By decoupling negotiations over its nuclear program from Iran’s funding of terrorism and export of Islamic revolution, most here concur, the agreement has fortified Iran’s short-term capacity to destabilize the region. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was not comprehensive.

Although President Obama regularly maintained that the only serious choice the United States confronted was between war with Iran and the deal struck by his team, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued for a third option.

A better deal, Netanyahu insisted in his controversial March 2015 address to Congress, would have forced Iran to make much deeper cuts in its nuclear infrastructure. It would have required Iran to cease its threats to annihilate Israel. And it would have compelled Iran to end its aggression throughout the Middle East—at the moment Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is backing Islamists in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip.

Of special concern to Israel is that under the cover of the JCPOA, Iran has continued to arm Hezbollah—Shiite Islamist militants headquartered in the south of Lebanon who constitute Israel’s largest conventional threat.

Since the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah has increased tenfold its massive arsenal of rockets and missiles targeting Israel. This Iranian proxy now possesses more than 100,000 short-range rockets, some with advanced guidance systems recently shipped from Iran, and thousands of precision missiles that can strike all of Israel’s major cities and inflict significant damage on Israeli military bases. Hezbollah also boasts a considerable supply of anti-aircraft, anti-ship, and anti-tank missiles.
By basing its rockets and missiles in towns and villages throughout southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has ensured that effective Israel defensive measures will result in thousands of Lebanese civilian casualties and appalling damage to civilian infrastructure. “Both legally and morally,” notes international laws of war scholar Geoff Corn, “the cause of these tragic consequences will lie solely at the feet of Hezbollah.” Nevertheless, if recent history is a guide, the international community will absolve Hezbollah of guilt while heaping blame on Israel for the likely carnage in Lebanon.

So what is Hezbollah waiting for? Why hasn’t it already attacked Israel? Eran Lerman, who stepped down last year as deputy national security adviser to Netanyahu, told me that multiple factors are restraining Hezbollah—at least for now.

First, the high cost Hezbollah paid 10 years ago in the Second Lebanon War established “straightforward deterrence.” Although much of the media portrayed the 34-day military conflict as a draw (and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hailed it as a “divine victory”), Hezbollah sustained heavy casualties and saw its rocket and missile arsenal severely degraded. A measure of the price Hezbollah paid is the quiet that has prevailed on Israel’s northern border for the last decade.
Second, Iran exercises “a derivative deterrence” over Hezbollah, according to Lerman, who is a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University and teaches at Shalem College in Jerusalem. Iran considers the Islamist militant group’s fearsome stock of rockets and missiles as essential to its ability to deter an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. To deter Israel, Iran must rein in Hezbollah.

Third, Hezbollah is also derivatively deterred by the Syrian civil war. While thousands of Hezbollah combatants in Syria have gained invaluable battlefield experience with sophisticated weapons systems, Hezbollah has also incurred serious losses in the Syrian killing fields. The organization’s leaders know that their Sunni adversaries would leap at the opportunity to wipe out a Hezbollah fighting force weakened by war with Israel and, in the process, would exact brutal revenge on a thoroughly exposed Shiite civilian population in southern Lebanon.

These multiple levels of deterrence fall far short of ensuring that ordinary misunderstanding and miscalculation, Hezbollah’s Islamist fanaticism, and the tumult spread throughout the Gulf and the Levant by fighters loyal to Iran will not in the near term trigger an unintended, ruinous full-scale war between Israel and Hezbollah.

The unfolding of events seems to have vindicated Netanyahu’s warning that Obama’s top foreign policy priority would exacerbate regional instability. Because America’s Sunni Arab allies largely agree with Netanyahu’s assessment, the deal has also diminished American prestige in the Middle East.

This was a foreseeable consequence of Obama’s unconventional version of balance-of-power politics: Instead of strengthening American allies—Israel and friendly Arab states—to restrain a tenacious adversary, the president devoted enormous effort to striking an agreement with Iran that strengthened Washington’s principal regional adversary at the expense of America’s local allies. In the effort to strike a “pragmatic and minimalist” deal, the administration has, contrary to Susan Rice’s assertion, made Iran—in the short run, at least—more dangerous.

Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His writings are posted at and he can be followed on Twitter @BerkowitzPeter.


The U.S. Is Helping Iran Fund Chaos in the Middle East


Would the White House knowingly transfer tens of billions of dollars to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah in Lebanon to finance the slaughter of Syrians or the next war against Israel? In theory, the Iran nuclear deal wasn’t supposed to fuel Iran’s imperialism and its ardent anti-Semitism. And yet President Barack Obama appears to have done exactly what he and Secretary of State John Kerry promised not to do: They are directly financing the Syrian horror show and terrorists on America’s watch lists.
During the nuclear negotiations and since reaching the agreement with Iran, the administration has strenuously rejected congressional concerns that sanctions relief would fund the mullahs’ malign activities. CIA Director John Brennan said again this July that Iran has used much of the sanctions relief for development projects: “The money, the revenue that’s flowing into Iran is being used to support its currency, to provide monies to the departments and agencies, build up its infrastructure.”
The administration’s assurances are undercut by Iran’s own behavior since July 2015. Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said that Iran has become “more aggressive in the days since the [nuclear] agreement.” The regime is keeping Bashar al-Assad afloat in Syria and actively supports Lebanese Hezbollah, which has a 150,000 rocket stockpile with only one target: Israel. Tehran has expanded its efforts to create Shiite militias in the Middle East and has continued to send aid, including weaponry, to radical Palestinian groups.
For all of these endeavors, the regime needs money — liquid, untraceable, convertible, and easy to transfer. According to the global anti-money laundering Financial Action Task Force, cross-border cash transfers are “one of the main methods used to move illicit funds … and finance terrorism.” The mullahs have been hungry for cash after American and European sanctions drastically curtailed the regime’s access to hard currency.
In three shipments in January and February, the United States transferred $1.7 billion in cash to Iran, ostensibly to settle a thirty-year military claim before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal. As the administration was finally forced to acknowledge under intense congressional and media scrutiny, the first installment of $400 million was part of a “tightly scripted exchange timed to the release of American hostages.” In rejecting congressional accusations that he had authorized a ransom payment, Obama justified the transfer by citing the severity of remaining sanctions. “The reason that we had to give them cash,” Obama argued, “is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions … we could not wire the money.”
The president, however, is wrong: U.S. regulations permit all transactions between the American and Iranian financial systems related to Tribunal settlements. Moreover, Washington wired payments to Iran in July 2015 and again in April 2016, further disproving the president’s statement.
It is certainly possible that banks were unwilling to wire the $1.7 billion no matter what guarantees they got from the administration. Banks have a healthy fear of sanctions and their penalties. If so, it raises a troubling question: How did Tehran receive the billions of dollars in sanctions relief released under both the interim and final nuclear agreements?
During the nuclear negotiations, the clerical regime received access to about $700 million per month, totaling $11.9 billion between January 2014 and July 2015, from its restricted, foreign oil escrow accounts. If no mechanism existed to transfer the Tribunal funds through the formal financial system, what mechanism was used to transfer the $11.9 billion? A senior official admitted that “some” of this money was sent in cash, and that “we had to find all these strange ways of delivering the monthly allotment.” Did these “strange ways” include the transfer of gold or through some other financial mechanism, and how much was transferred in cash? The administration is not saying.
And it doesn’t end there. In July 2016, U.S. officials estimated that Iran had repatriated “less than $20 billion” from previously frozen, overseas assets of $100 to $125 billion released as part of the final nuclear accord. Were these funds repatriated in cash and gold? Was this in addition to the $11.9 billion? The administration is silent.
If the White House could only authorize sanctions relief in the form of cash, that could amount to, including the Tribunal payment, $33.6 billion. Even a portion of that in cash would be an astounding amount of money.
Alternatively, if this money went through the formal financial system, the administration is not being truthful about why it had to send the $1.7 billion in cash. If formal channels were used for the other $31.9 billion, why not wire transfer the Tribunal money to an official Iranian account at a European central bank, where Tehran could access the funds to pay for current European imports or other legitimate economic needs? With financial controls to minimize the risks of money laundering and terror financing, these formal channels would be more difficult for the Revolutionary Guard to subvert.
In recent testimony, a State Department official claimed that the $1.7 billion cash payment was necessary because Iran needed cash to address its “critical economic needs.” The Iranian parliament, however, already allocated the $1.7 billion to its Revolutionary Guard-dominated defense budget, which nearly doubled this year. Calling the allocation “troubling,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford noted that the more money Iran’s military has, “the more effective they’ll be in spreading malign influence.”
The State Department official also said that only a cash payment, not a seconds-long electronic transfer, would meet Iran’s immediate need. However, in February 2014, the Bank of Japan reportedly wired $550 million to an Iranian central bank account at a Swiss bank as part of the interim-deal relief. Why couldn’t the administration use this formal financial channel?
But perhaps Brennan is correct: U.S. intelligence on Iranian money flows is so good that the United States know that the funds were used for economic development. If so, intelligence capabilities have improved dramatically: It took the U.S. government about eight years to account for a missing $6.6 billion in banknotes sent to Iraq between 2003 and 2004 for American soldiers, spies, and diplomats to buy influence and reward good behavior. Is the U.S. government better at tracking how Iran spends its cash than our own fellow Americans?
Pallets of cash to close a thirty-year military sales dispute, arriving with the release of U.S. hostages. Refusals to answer congressional questions about billions in cash going to the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Implausible claims that Iran is using this money for domestic concerns.
The White House refuses to acknowledge the obvious: The nuclear deal has already led the United States to fund terrorists, sectarian warfare, and chaos in the Middle East.

Implications of an Israeli Attack on Iran

Would Israel risk losing American support and perform a preemptive strike on
Iran's nuclear sites? Dr. Ehud Eilam discusses Israel's strategy to thwart
the Iranian nuclear threat
Ehud Eilam |

On September 22, 2016, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in
the UN that Israel would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. If Iran
beaches the nuclear agreement, the one from July 2015, Israel might attack
Iran’s nuclear sites before Iran produces a nuclear weapon. As a result, a
war might break out between the two countries, and then the United States
might not lend Israel full support, a matter the Jewish state would have to
consider in advance.

Nonetheless, it is possible that the Israeli government could conclude it
must take military action, despite the risk of losing American assistance,
albeit temporarily. Israel might assume it could initially manage alone,
banking on a later improvement of its relations with the United States, as
indeed happened after past crises between the two states.

Iran has been assimilating the S-300, an advanced antiaircraft missile.
Defeating it would require the Israeli Air Force (IAF) to train accordingly
and to update its equipment. The IAF has already conducted exercises
relating to this weapon system, in Greece. Russia has argued that the S-300
is a defensive system that wouldn't put Israel at risk. Yet as Russia knows
very well – particularly following lessons from wars in the Middle East –
antiaircraft batteries can be used for offensive purposes.

The most famous example was the 1973 showdown, when Soviet antiaircraft
missiles, in both the Golan Heights and Sinai, protected Arab ground forces
when they attacked the Israeli lines. If Iran were to acquire a nuclear
bomb, for example, the S-300 would pose a problem for Israel in any
preemptive strike or retribution against Iran.

Some of Iran’s nuclear sites are heavily protected by natural or artificial
fortifications. In contrast to the American armed forces, it is unlikely
that Israel’s military could inflict heavy damage to Iran’s nuclear
infrastructure. Israel would also be seen by many as the aggressor, although
it is Iran that is planning to produce a nuclear weapon and is threatening
to destroy Israel.

Thus, Israel’s goal would be to point out the danger the Middle East faces
because of Iran’s nuclear project. The international community might
intervene, in order to avoid a future war between Israel and Iran, which
would be far more destructive if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons.
Israel might, therefore, hope that as a result of its strike, Iran would
come under substantial pressure to dismantle most of its nuclear

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has had to prepare for a future war by
improving its active and passive defense. This factor would play a key role
since Iran’s retribution would be based on several hundred missiles that
could hit Israel. Iran could also initiate terror attacks against Israeli or
Jewish targets around the world. It is possible, however, that Iran would
restrain itself to avoid becoming entangled in a war when the timing was
wrong for it. Iran faces other challenges, both internal and external, such
as fighting the Islamic State. It thus might choose to postpone any
confrontation with Israel, while focusing on rebuilding its nuclear
infrastructure following the potential Israeli raid. There is a risk,
however, for Iran that Israel would attack again.


This article is based on Ehud Eilam’s article: “Israel in the Face of
Evolving Security Challenges,” the Middle East Review of International
Affairs, Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer 2015 
2)Lesson # 1:
* U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
* Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
* New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
* National debt: $19,471,000,000,000
* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000
Let's now remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget:
* Annual family income: $21,700
* Money the family spent: $38,200
* New debt on the credit card: $16,500
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $194,710
* Total budget cuts so far: $38.50
Get It ?????

OK now Lesson # 2:
Here's another way to look at the Debt Ceiling:
Let's say, You come home from work and find there has been a sewer backup in your neighborhood, and your home has sewage all the way up to your ceilings.
What do you think you should do?
Raise the ceilings or pump out the sewage?
Your choice is coming in November....

Analysis: Trump May Have Had the Worst Week in Presidential Campaign History

October didn't wait 24 hours before delivering a surprise. It came in an envelope delivered to the New York Times containing portions of Donald Trump's tax returns, which he has been refusing to release.
Political attacks are only really damaging when they confirm an already existing narrative. Mike Dukakis was seen as too weak to be commander-in-chief when he rode in a tank with an oversized helmet, Dan Quayle was thought to be slow-witted when he misspelled "potato," and Mitt Romney was painted as a cartoon Monopoly Man before the "47 percent" tape dropped.
In what must rank among the worst weeks of any recent presidential campaign, Donald Trump managed to play into almost every one of Democrats' talking points about him.
The New York Times story alone, which both reported that Trump declared he had lost a staggering $916 million in 1995 tax forms, and that experts believe that loss could have allowed him to pay no federal income taxes for up to 18 years, fed into three lines of attack that Hillary Clinton had used to needle him in Monday's debate.
One: That his refusal to release his taxes suggested he was concealing something important. Two: That his returns might show his business acumen was overstated. Three: That he paid little or no taxes despite his vast wealth.
And it lent credence to her larger argument that Trump is a heartless scrooge who left a trail of financial destruction on his path to wealth, and who according to the Times even refused to check off a box on his tax form to donate to a veterans' memorial fund.
As if that wasn't enough, Trump has a long history of both bragging about his efforts to avoid paying taxes while shaming others for paying too little.
But Trump didn't need an outside story to damage his campaign. He was busy having a live meltdown onstage in Pennsylvania at the very moment the news dropped Saturday night. Already behaving erratically since his debate on Monday, Trump imitated Clinton's pneumonia-induced collapse from last month and fired off the most grotesque, personal, and fact-free attack at the nominee yet.
"Hillary Clinton's only loyalty is to her financial contributors and to herself," Trump said of the first female major party nominee. "I don't even think she's loyal to Bill, you wanna know the truth. And really folks really, why should she be, right? Why should she be?"

The combination of a multiple damaging stories, all made dramatically worse by the candidate's impulsive response, may be without precedent. It's as if Dukakis were photographed riding in the tank, saw the mocking news coverage, then climbed back into the tank and drove cross-country with Willie Horton riding shotgun as his own staff begged him to pull over.
One week ago, Trump's campaign was at its high point. He had surged to a tie or even a lead in national polls as well as key battleground states, prompting a round of panic in Democratic circles. Clinton supporters feared he would beat low expectations in Monday's debate before a record-setting audience simply by avoiding any obvious errors, giving him further momentum.
On the eve of the debate, Trump for the first time surpassed the 50% threshold on Nate Silver's prediction model. Democrats anxiously refreshed the website as many began to take seriously for the first time the possibility Trump could win.
Clinton's post-convention high started to look more like an anomaly caused by Trump's last self-sabotage — his prolonged fight with a Gold Star family — rather than the race's natural equilibrium. With Trump appearing more disciplined, the two looked set for a tight race through Election Day.
But the debate ended up being a rout with Clinton the clear winner after Trump managed to tunnel underneath the rock-bottom expectations set for him.
With under six weeks to go before Election Day, polls had yet to fully digest the impact of the debate before Trump was buried by basket after basket of deplorable headlines.
Almost every day, Trump did something that would send a typical presidential campaign into a tailspin.
The most dramatic self-inflicted wounds concerned his response to Clinton's accusation in the debate that he humiliated a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, for gaining weight.

On Tuesday, Trump called into Fox News to essentially repeat the behavior Clinton had raised: He said Machado "gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem."
On Wednesday, Trump went back on Fox to tell Bill O'Reilly that Machado should thank him for demanding she lose a few pounds: "I saved her job," he said.
On Thursday, Trump's own campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told "The View" that she had personally reprimanded him for his language regarding women, even as she defended him over the Machado story. Even some of Trump's surrogates seemed unwilling to defend his comments last week and the campaign asked them to pivot to attacks on Bill Clinton's sex scandals instead.
"You know it's going to be so much better when he begins to focus on the real issues," Ben Carson, who has been of Trump's most loyal defenders, told MSNBC.
Then came Friday, where Trump issued a series of rage-filled tweets against Machado in the wee hours of the morning, in which he calls on his 12 million followers to "check out [a] sex tape" of the former Miss Universe winner.
The sex tape of Machado did not appear to exist. But Buzzfeed that day found a pornographic video by Playboy featuring a brief cameo by Trump in which he poured champagne on a limo with a gaggle of models.
But even setting aside the vulgarity of the tweets, Trump's vengeful response affirmed — almost to the point of parody — Clinton's core charge that he was temperamentally unfit to manage the world's most powerful military.
"You can't tweet at 3 o'clock in the morning. Period. There's no excuse. Ever. Not if you're going to be president of the United States," former Speaker Newt Gingrich, another of Trump's most prominent supporters, said on Fox News.

The Machado story has been so dominant that it overshadowed any number of stories that would be potential extinction-level events for virtually every other major party nominee in history.
There was a Newsweek expose that alleged Trump's businesses had illegal dealings in Cuba — some details of which Trump's campaign manager appeared to confirm on television. There was Trump's rambling debate answer on nuclear weapons, where he seemed to announce what would be a historic shift towards a "no first use" policy only to contradict himself in the next sentence, alarming national security experts days later.
The Washington Post continued its investigation into Trump's charitable foundation. The Post has already found compelling evidence Trump previously violated the law by using the foundation to settle lawsuits against his private businesses.
All the while, an array of old comments by Trump about women over the years, from ogling and hiring a teenage waitress to promising his then-17 year old daughter he wouldn't date anyone younger than her, resurfaced in various outlets. As did a lawsuit alleging he demanded unattractive women working at one of his golf resorts be fired and replaced with prettier women.
USA Today, the country's widest circulation newspaper, broke with its 34-year policy of neutrality in the presidential race to declare Trump "unfit for the presidency." Several historically Republican newspapers endorsed Clinton outright, along with an editorial board member at the arch-conservative Wall Street Journal, Dorothy Rabinowitz.
Meanwhile, Forbes downgraded Trump's net worth by $800 million dollars.
In short, Trump was arguably having the worst week in campaign history already. Then Saturday happened.
The good news for Trump is that there may be too many distinct negative stories surrounding his campaign for the average voter to fully process or a nightly news show to recap in depth. The expectations for his second debate, already minimal, are now on the ocean floor. But that's little consolation. At the exact moment Trump needed to be his best, with the most people watching and the stakes at their highest, he choked like never before.
If he loses in November, it's hard to imagine this week won't be seen as a turning point.

3a) If Trump thinks debate prep is for chumps, his advisers can’t save him from himself

Donald Trump has one week to prepare for his next debate with Hillary Clinton. It is a critical event for him. Yet everything he’s done before and after the first debate sends a loud, clear message: He seems to think debate prep is for chumps.
A candidate charged with lacking discipline just spent the week providing evidence for the prosecution. His Friday morning tweet storm — beginning at 3:20 a.m. with a rant about unnamed sources and resuming just after 5 a.m., with a series of tweets that expanded his sexist attacks on a Latina former Miss Universe — punctuated a days-long spiral that has put at greater risk his hopes of winning the election.
To see some of his allies in the hours after Monday’s debate at Hofstra University was to recognize how let down they were with his performance. They could see the missed opportunities and knew that his problem wasn’t whether his advisers had tried to prepare him. It was his inability to follow the advice. They saw him fall into traps set for him by a Clinton campaign that has been studying his weaknesses for months.
No matter what his advisers try to do ahead of next Sunday’s town-hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, his performance is utterly unpredictable. Those advisers can run him through mock debates and put him through murder-board, rapid-fire exercises. They can give him a dozen good ways to try to attack Clinton. They can prepare binders of background information, game out answers and give him as many flashcards to study as they can.
In other words, they can give him the best information and game plan in the world. But based on the first debate, they cannot trust him to execute. Trump’s weakness is his capacity to forget in the heat of battle the advice he’s been given. Clinton seemingly can knock him off stride with the flick of a phrase.

After the 90-plus minutes at Hofstra, a wiser candidate and a smarter campaign would have shrugged and admitted the obvious, that he had a bad night. A more experienced candidate, one with some humility, would have promised to do better and moved on. He might even have made a joke about it. Rick Perry at least had the wherewithal to own up to his embarrassing “oops” moment — forgetting the name of a federal agency he wanted to eliminate — with a wisecrack.
When President Obama lost the first debate of 2012 to Mitt Romney, he didn’t immediately realize how badly he had done — or how harsh the judgments were about his performance. In the hours afterward, one after another of his advisers told him that it wasn’t that his critics were bashing him unfairly, it was that his performance had fallen short.
His advisers began with gentle descriptions, which became more blunt. Obama didn’t fully understand what had gone wrong until he watched a video of the debate a few days later. “I get it,” he told campaign manager David Plouffe. He vowed to win the final two debates.
Trump has done the opposite, rejecting post-debate polls and the assessment even of many Republicans that he lost the debate during the final 60 minutes. Instead, he’s grasped onto unscientific Internet surveys that portray him the winner. When Jason Miller, the campaign’s senior communications adviser, appeared Thursday on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” and cited several online polls that are subjected to no statistical rigor, an exasperated Chuck Todd, the host, said the campaign was “creating a reality that does not exist.”
This is an alternative reality created by Trump for Trump. My Post colleagues Phil Rucker and Bob Costa and I got an insight into this personality trait when we interviewed him almost a year ago at his office in Trump Tower overlooking New York’s Central Park. Trump was riding high at the time, leading the polls for the Republican nomination and feeling buoyant.
The discussion turned to the debates. He had done well in the first Republican debate in Cleveland but less well in the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
At one point, he reached across his big desk, which was piled with magazines featuring him on the cover, and handed us several sheets of paper with the results of several online polls, all of which declared him the winner of both debates. It was immediately clear to him that we found his evidence unconvincing.
“Why don’t people trust online polls?” he asked. We told him that online polls are “not scientific.” For a quick second, he seemed to accept that criticism as valid. “Okay,” he said. But then he pivoted back to his own view of things. He wanted to believe, and so he would. “It must mean something, right?” he said of the online polls.
For Republicans who have bought into his candidacy, this is the candidate they must live with as they plot out strategy for two more Clinton-Trump debates, plus Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., and then the last weeks before Election Day.
Vice-presidential debates are sometimes memorable but rarely consequential. Tuesday’s encounter between Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia might end as unmemorable and inconsequential. Perhaps.
The two principals in the presidential campaign so overwhelm everything else that it’s hard to imagine Kaine and Pence breaking through. In another way, however, their encounter could be a helpful distillation of the choice for voters, absent the theatrics and outsize personalities of the two presidential nominees.
The debate will provide Pence an opportunity to prosecute the case against Clinton that Trump failed to do consistently at Hofstra. Kaine can use it to reinforce Clinton’s argument that Trump is unfit, while trying to force Pence to embrace everything the GOP nominee has said and done, which could squeeze Pence between loyalty and future ambition.
These must be trying days for those in Trump’s campaign. They can craft a broad message about change vs. status quo and about the Clintons as the embodiment of the kind of cozy insider environment of Washington that so many Americans dislike.
Republicans can try to build a superstructure around the candidate. His advisers can give him scripts and a teleprompter. They can pump emails raising questions about Clinton’s emails, the Clinton Foundation and its benefactors, and Clinton’s foreign policy record. The Republican National Committee can organize an effective ground operation.
In the end, they are all hostage to a candidate who can undo all their good work with one middle-of-the-night tweet, a candidate who has the capacity to turn a brief sideshow into a debilitating, days-long story, who cannot resist dwelling on petty grievances and who, when it mattered most, did not rise to the moment.


Trump has a winning message but he’s failing to deliver

In less than four months, a new president will take the oath and swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Among potential supporters gobsmacked by Trump’s latest screwball turn, some believe it proves he doesn’t want to win the White House. Their theory holds that the possibility of victory must terrify him, so he is intentionally making himself unelectable.


As evidence, they point to his habit of self-destructing just when things look best. Then as now, Trump pushed the race to almost even before taking a detour to wage a fight that made no sense.
In late July, after his stunning run to the nomination and after a solid convention, Trump had nearly tied Hillary Clinton in the polls.
Then he launched a Twitter fight with the Khans, a Gold Star, Muslim family. It’s true the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, were invited to the Democratic convention precisely to attack Trump. It’s also true their criticism was amplified by a left-wing media that did not show the same sympathy for the pain of another Gold Star mother, Patricia Smith, who blamed Clinton for her son’s death at Benghazi.
But the Khan story would have gone away if Trump had let it. He couldn’t and wouldn’t, trading Twitter barbs with the parents for days and foolishly escalating the stakes in interviews.
In fact, it was a political trap. He didn’t just take the bait, he swallowed it, hook, line and sinker, then asked for more.
Voters were turned off, and a Fox News poll found that 69 percent of respondents familiar with Trump’s fight with the Khans said he was “out of bounds,” including 41 percent of Republicans.
In a flash, Clinton opened a big lead nationally and was ahead in all 11 battleground states followed by Politico. After one estimate that she might win 400 electoral votes, I wrote that Trump faced “a crushing landslide that would turn his name into a political punchline and make his brand synonymous with loser.”
In fact, he already was starting the long climb back. He had shaken up his team, started reading serious policy speeches from a teleprompter and was punching up at Clinton instead of punching down at bereft parents.
It took six weeks of message and personal discipline, and by last week’s debate, the race was a dead heat. Trump had momentum and was on course to win 261 electoral votes by one count, just nine short of victory. In the most dramatic development, Clinton looked to be conceding Ohio.
Then Bad Trump, like a monster from the “vasty deep,” suddenly surfaced. His target this time was Alicia Machado, the 1996 winner of the Miss Universe pageant. Back then, Trump called her “Miss Piggy” and “an eating machine” after she gained weight.
But it was Clinton, reprising her role with the Khans, who had baited the hook. Using her opposition-research book, she cited Machado near the end of the debate as an example of Trump’s derogatory comments to and about women.
And once again, Trump lunged for the lure and began a self-defeating insult war. Apparently sleepless with wounded pride, his middle-of-the-night tweets accused Machado of having a “terrible” past, of being a “con,” of being “disgusting” and having a “sex tape.”
Compounding a debate performance where Trump missed golden opportunities, his bizarre behavior exacted a price. The first polls show he is back on a road to defeat, and the damage is likely just beginning. He’ll keep core supporters, but he’s making it very hard for undecided voters to back him.
Clinton isn’t saying much, in keeping with the maxim to step aside when your opponent is committing political suicide.
Some call her lucky, but her luck is the kind the late baseball executive Branch Rickey described as the “residue of design.” The way Clinton and her team used the Khans and Machado amounts to a clinic on how to exploit an opponent’s weakness.
It might be the only way she could win. Burdened by scandals, branded a liar, suffering a charisma deficit and hobbled by health issues, she is making Trump an unacceptable alternative.
Still, she couldn’t do it without his help. Although he has the change message that best matches the moment, he is beating himself.
Previous predictions of his demise were wrong, but time is running short for another comeback. Besides, if the armchair shrinks are correct that he fears victory, Trump would always find a way to secure defeat.
Then again, a deep dive into his psyche may not be necessary. His behavior could be proof that Clinton and the NeverTrumpers were right all along — that he’s not temperamentally fit to be president.
Whatever the reason for his conduct, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end.


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