Fair and Unbalanced

Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: Now we know what desperation looks like


Now we know, three weeks too late, what desperation truly looks like. Green candidate Jill Stein has somehow raised millions of dollars for a three-state presidential recount — in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that will almost certainly accomplish nothing except to falsely raise hopes among distressed Democrats while annoying the hell out of one Donald Trump.

As for Stein, it must be said that in Wisconsin and Michigan she drew more votes than Trump’s margin of victory. It’s also worth noting that Stein offers absolutely no evidence of Russian interference in the vote count but is relying instead on vague reports of corruption, which sort of reminds me of, you know, Donald Trump.

Meanwhile Clinton, who came close in all three states, needs to win all three recounts to get to the required 270 Electoral College votes. The odds against winning a recount in each state — via Nate Silver or Nate Cohn or Nates yet-to-be-named — are staggering. Clinton herself is a skeptical and reluctant recruit to the effort. As the editorialists say, we wish she had resisted. Most Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama, have.

And so when the recount ends, this is what you can expect: Trump will still have his lead in the Electoral College and a sure path to the White House.


You may have read Corey Hutchins’s excellent piece in The Independent about the four Colorado electors who gathered in Polly Baca’s house over the weekend in hopes of fueling an Electoral College revolution. You can admire the group’s sensibility — I do — without liking their chances. In fact, the chance of finding enough so-called faithless electors across the country to agree on an alternative candidate — and also finding a candidate who would go along with the scheme — is slightly less than that of Trump catching Clinton in the popular vote, where he now trails by more than 2 million.

I’ll say that again. Trump is losing the popular vote by more than 2 million votes. I keep saying it only because it has driven Trump sufficiently crazy that he is now involved in a full blown,  world-wide Twitter war, which, to this point, involves only one casualty: the truth. Of course, truth is not exactly a Trumpian strong point. A reporter for the Toronto Star who has done the hard work of recording every time Trump lies said in late October that, by his count,Trump routinely lies between 20 and 37 times a day, scaling Nixonian heights in disinformation.

But this one is an unprecedented whopper from a president-elect, in which Trump says the election he won — remember, he won — was rigged. He uses this non-explanation to explain why Clinton has, for now, a 2.3-million-and-growing vote lead. Trump can’t stand to lose even when he wins.

That’s bad enough. But for evidence, Trump apparently draws numbers from the alt-reality site Infowars, the brainchild of conspiracy theorist and Trump buddy Alex Jones, who writes that three million “illegal aliens” and four million dead people voted in 2016. If you think that sounds crazy, it’s hardly the worst of it. Jones also believes in UFOs, that 9/11 was an inside job and, maybe most tragically, that the Sandy Hook deaths were faked in order to promote the so-called gun safety agenda. Yeah, that’s the guy. If you go to his Infowars site now, you can get the real story behind the fake story of Pizzagate. It’s the kind of site where Trump, who is reluctant to sit down for daily intelligence briefings, gets his news.

In the media, meanwhile, there is much gnashing of teeth over this. How do you call out a lying liar when nearly half the people in the country voted for him to be their president, knowing full well that he has a fact problem? And, more to the point, how do you do it without further inflaming Trump’s base, many of whom believe, as he does, that the real liars are the liberal media?

A lot of media experts are calling for better reporting and less reaction from the media, meaning a willingness to judge each bizarre tweet on its own merits and not jump at every chance to show how bizarre the whole thing is. In other words, the press should show restraint, which seems backwards to me. Maybe Trump is playing the media, but he’s also playing the country, and isn’t that the media’s duty to call out? (Here’s an example: Tuesday morning, Trump randomly tweeted, apropos of nothing, that flag burning should be outlawed and that flag burners should lose their citizenship rights or go to jail for a year. What do you do with that? Put it in a box with the ravings of other lunatics, or remember that this internet troll will soon be president?)

In any case, I don’t think the press is particularly, and certainly not solely, to blame for Trump’s election, although you can make a strong argument that the Clinton email scandal was much overhyped and that cable TV news is generally a blight on the media landscape. And there’s the matter of James Comey for historians to mull over.

Still, it was Clinton’s job to change the narrative, and she was content basically to insist that it didn’t much matter what people said about her, Trump was certainly far worse. The funny thing is, it worked, except when it didn’t. She’ll probably receive 2 1/2 million more votes, which is a greater margin of, well, victory than five actual presidents received. And instead we now have Trump and his work-in-progress cabinet that should scare civil libertarians, environmentalists, minorities and most of the people who didn’t vote for Trump.

And so I understand the recount people. I have friends who have contributed money to it. It’s not a false hope, one said, but rather a glimmer of hope. And a glimmer, she said, is worth a hundred bucks.

And I especially understand the Electoral College rebels. The Electoral College is an anachronism that means the election is decided by 12-15 states, and everyone else’s vote is worthless, as we are seeing today. That’s voter corruption. It’s an anti-Democratic notion (like the one about state legislatures selecting senators) that some scholars insist it is a vestige of slavery. The point today is that without the Electoral College, every vote would count, which seems central to the democratic project, even in a democratic Republic.

We should get rid of it, and not because it got Trump elected, although that would be reason enough. We should get rid of it for the 2.3 million voters who shouldn’t have bothered voting at all.

But, sadly, we’re not getting rid of it. Too many states benefit from it. And now, after the Bush-Trump doubleheader, it has renewed partisan support. And as you long for 270 faithless electors banding together behind an alternative savior, try to imagine your reaction to a similar effort if it was your candidate who had been fairly elected.

There’s danger in this. The real truth, of course, in the era of Trumpian dystopia, is that Trump turned out to be right after all — America is now truly a dangerous place.

Photo credit: Joe Brusky, Creative Commons, Flickr 


I hate to be a downer, but even when Donald Trump does the right thing, he does the wrong thing.

We must get used to this. This is not just TrumpWorld anymore. It’s our world. And it will be  ours for at least another four years.

And so a Trump adviser goes on Morning Joe — my God, we now get our news from Joe Scarborough — to say that Trump will ignore yet another campaign promise. In this one, Trump breaks the hearts of the “lock her up” crowd by saying he won’t pursue a criminal investigation of apparently-no-longer-quite-so-crooked Hillary Clinton. It’s funny and it’s not funny when Kellyanne Conway says Trump wants to give Clinton a chance to heal (as opposed to, say, Mitt Romney, whom Trump has fully brought to heel, but that’s another story).

In America when it’s great, presidents don’t decide which people to prosecute, but it’s no surprise that this little nuance escapes Trump, who had pledged in a debate to instruct his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton — in other words, threatening, in banana republic style, to lock up his opponent.

It was wrong then. It’s wrong now. But I’m certain prospective attorney general Jeff Sessions, who was a leader in the lock-her-up camp, will happily go along.

The Sessions nomination is funny, too, in a funny/ironic kind of way. Sessions, who was turned down for a federal judgeship by a Republican Senate in 1986 for problems with his racist past, is now on the verge of being confirmed by a Republican Senate to be, among things, leader of the department that identifies and prosecutes civil rights violations. This is, of course, a travesty and a terribly wrong turn in that long arc of justice we’re always hearing about. And yet, before Sessions’ nomination even comes to a vote, Trump has already cut him off at the knees. Do white knees matter?

And there we are. The big question now for those in the anti-Trump or neverTrump camp is what to do. Poking fun at Trump’s pre-pardon pardon is one answer, but probably not the answer.

But what is?

Some Democrats hope to trap Trump by calling his bluff on Trump’s populist-inspired infrastructure gambit. Any bets on how this will work? You’ve seen Chuck Schumer lean this way, and, briefly, even Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Trump’s infrastructure plan is, of course, not populist at all and a boon for developers.  But what if Trump, the deal-maker, comes up with a compromise bill — real infrastructure that government pays for — that Democrats can accept?

Should they accept it, even if it would help Trump in the mid-terms, even if it would help him get re-elected?

Or should they refuse, on principle, to deal with a bigoted, misogynist demagogue who appoints alt-right icon Steve Bannon to be his White House adviser, who condemns the cast of “Hamilton” for the mildest form of free speech but has nothing to say of the Neo-Nazis who gathered in Washington to celebrate Trump’s victory, who seems to be conducting his private business while in discussion with world leaders, whose foundation just apparently admitted to so-called “self-dealing,” whose family involvement is making up whole new areas of conflict-of-interest law?

If the Trump critics do refuse to go along with Trump at all, how do they separate that from McConnell-style obstructionism? Yes, McConnell was obstructing your normal mainstream liberal president whereas liberals would be obstructing the most dangerous person ever elected president, but can anyone effectively make that distinction? Maybe the real danger here is in calling out Trump too soon. If Trump’s critics are seen as overreacting, the argument goes, why would anyone believe them when the time to act inevitably arrives?

Ezra Klein makes an interesting argument in Vox. Given that Clinton will probably win the popular vote by as many as 2.5 million votes — by nearly as many as Barack Obama beat Romney — and that Democrats outpolled Republicans in Senate races even though GOP will hold a likely 52-48 lead, Democrats should act not as a minority, but as the opposition party. They should remind everyone, he writes, that Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the last seven elections and therefore must be heard.

But as Trump wished he had said, winning is everything. Democrats and the neverTrumpists had 18 months to make Klein’s argument, and yet the undemocratically-inclined Trump has clearly won by the standards we’ve chosen with the undemocratically-inclined Electoral College.

And so, the next argument – actually, concern – is that the press will normalize Trump as just another, if slightly weirder, version of a president. Actually, that is a sure bet. Cable TV news is in search of one thing — and it’s not truth. We’ve already seen Trump call in the TV execs and anchors and lecture them, off the record, on being nicer. Trump mouthpieces like Drudge and the New York Post had the TV execs basically cowering.

The very next day, Trump calls off a scheduled meeting with the “failing” New York Times, saying that the Times wanted to change the terms under which they’d meet. This was apparently a lie, and when the Times called out the lie, the meeting was soon back on, and there would be on-the-record questions, in which Trump says he’s against alt-righters (even if he hires them) and that, legally, presidents can’t have conflicts of interest (which may, in fact, arguably be true).

You’d like to think that could be the start of a trend. And at least he’s meeting with some of the press. Trump, who has yet to hold a post-election news conference, decided instead to discuss his appointments and his plans for his first 100 days in a 2 1/2-minute YouTube post. Yes, really. He didn’t mention the wall. He didn’t mention immigration. He didn’t mention Obamacare. He didn’t mention a Muslim registry or whatever it would be. He didn’t mention a lot of things, like checking whether 1984 is still on your nearby library’s shelves. But, mostly, he didn’t take questions because, it seems, he doesn’t think he has to.

And then there’s this: Because we’re America, and we can’t  believe that we would elect someone quite like Trump, we’re assuming that Trump is not actually the Trump we see on TV. And so his favorables are actually starting to climb even as the Trumpian disaster begins to make itself ever more clear. It’s little wonder that no one has any idea what to do next.

Photo credit: Navin75, Creative Commons, Flickr

Littwin: Don’t worry. It’s gonna get worse.


We’re a little more than a week into the Donald Trump pre-presidency, and things are shaping up pretty much as expected. Lots of chaos. Lots of tweets. Lots of media-bashing. Lots of congratulatory phone calls to Trump from foreign leaders on, yes, apparently unsecured phone lines (and you said irony was dead).

After losing the presidency, both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, not to mention most governorships and state legislatures, Democrats are apparently at a complete loss as to how to deal with Trump. Meanwhile, most Republicans have quickly figured out what to do. They have unabashedly fallen in line, including some of those who were quite recently outspoken Trump critics.

One of the most humiliating (you’d think) examples in the non-Paul-Ryan category is the expected cave-in from our own Mike Coffman, who was last seen in full-on embrace of the guy he once said “should step aside” for the good of the country and who made campaign ads about how he didn’t much care for Trump.

According to TalkingPointsMemo, Coffman has had a change of heart. Coffman walked out of a Mike Pence-led House GOP meeting with a Make America Great Again hat in hand and saying how he was ready to work with Trump, so much so that he repeatedly used the word “excited,” as in, “I am excited about the next two years and look forward to working with the president,” Coffman told TPM. He said he was particularly “excited” about tax reform and repealing and replacing Obamacare.

And there’s this: “I’ll tell you what is so exciting is I no longer have to worry about executive orders or excesses in the rule-making process,” Coffman said. Yes, he actually said that. And here’s what I say, somewhat less excitedly: For those of you who live in the Sixth CD, you should probably begin writing your apology notes to Morgan Carroll. But more on that later.

First, and almost certainly worst, we have to discuss Trump’s selection of Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as senior White House advisor. If you’re not familiar with Breitbart News, let’s just say it generally reads like an alt-right Onion except without the laughs. Bannon’s appointment is a not-so-subtle reminder to the base that Trump was serious when he ran on a platform of fear, division, demagoguery, bigotry and whatever other like word comes to mind. And if that doesn’t do it for you, note that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — who believes, among other absurdities, that the Sandy Hook murders were faked — said he got a thank-you phone call from Trump. Yes, this is TrumpWorld. Get used to it.

Meanwhile, with the transition team in chaos, Trump is chatting up foreign leaders without getting prepped by the State Department, because winging it is certainly what great presidents do. Which leads us to his conversation with the Australian prime minister, who was apparently unable to reach Trump. To finally hook up, he got Trump’s private number from Australian golf legend and Trump pal Greg Norman. Really.

On the Democratic front, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have said they could work with Trump if he’s serious about rooting out corruption and going populist. This is a pretty bald attempt at co-opting a president who has no actual plans in mind and to attempt to get to him before Paul Ryan can send over the books-on-tape version of Atlas Shrugged. The problem for Democrats is that to work with Trump, on any level, is to work with the guy who brings Steve Bannon to the White House.

I assume you’ve been keeping up with the rumor mill on the leading candidates for cabinet secretaries. As Washington Post’s conservative voice, Jennifer Rubin, points out, most of the top spots seem reserved for under-qualified older men, sort of like Trump himself, or, more particularly, like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich.

A lot of this seems not quite real, but my advice for coping is to look for the humor — like Trump’s consideration of a climate denier for head of the EPA or of Rick Perry for Department of Energy, the same department that Perry famously couldn’t remember in the infamous “oops” debate. You’d like to think that Trump is just messing with us, but it’s more likely that he’s messing with the country.

No one has any idea what Trump will do, other than cuddle up with his iPhone at night and tweet nasty things about the New York Times, such as that the “failing” Times is losing circulation, when, in fact, it has gained 41,000 subscribers since Election Day. What we know is that Trump has met with Obama, whom he had basically called a traitor, and said how much he admired him and of his surprise at how big a job the presidency is. It reminded me of Trump’s meeting with the Mexican president when Trump failed to bring up that whole Mexico-will-pay-for-the-wall thing. Maybe he really is a classic bully. Read Megyn Kelly’s memoir, Settle for More, if you want to get really unsettled.

Or you could just be a Muslim immigrant who has to sign up for a Muslim registry, which has already been defended by a Trump surrogate as in the tradition of the Japanese internment camps in World War II. Or you could just be an undocumented immigrant living in the American shadows and not knowing when or if Trump will send in the goon squads to deport as many as 2-3 million immigrants. Or whether Trump will follow through with his threat to cut off federal funds from so-called “sanctuary cities,” like, uh, Denver.

Michael Hancock has joined other big-city mayors in promising to stand with all Denver residents. Police chiefs in Denver and Aurora have said they won’t do the work of federal immigration services. And Mike Coffman? He put out a statement, according to the Denver Post, that he has previously voted to cut off federal funds for sanctuary cites — like, yes, Aurora — and that, he said, “I will continue to do so.”

I could go on, but I don’t want to peak too soon. Remember, this is just the beginning.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr 


Here’s what I tell myself: We elected Donald Trump, but we didn’t mean to.

We didn’t vote for authoritarianism. We didn’t vote for misogyny. We didn’t vote for racism. We didn’t vote for bigotry. We didn’t vote to dismantle the safety net. We may have voted for building a wall, and we might have even believed the absurd lie that Mexico will pay for it, but we didn’t vote to separate families and we didn’t vote for people to live in fear. We didn’t vote for tax breaks for the rich. We didn’t vote to lock up our opponents. We didn’t vote to strong-arm the Constitution. We didn’t vote for the alt-right. We didn’t vote to deregulate Wall Street. We didn’t vote to rob 20 million people of their health insurance. We didn’t vote for voices of reaction and the darkness that will surely descend upon our country.

Or did we?

I tell myself, because I must, that it was all a big misunderstanding, a miscalculation, a failure to appreciate the Electoral College math. If it turns out that more than half the country actually voted for Hillary Clinton, that’s another assault on democracy. But it’s not the main one. I have to believe in the miscalculation theory because otherwise, we’re forced to believe what’s plainly before our eyes: That more than 200 years into the American project, in the land that produced Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, we suddenly decided to make America great again by electing a con man, a carnival barker, a reality-TV caricature of a reality-TV caricature to be leader of the free world.

Something else had to be at work. Yes, this was a rejection of the future, a victory for the left-behinders and the resenters who felt that no one was listening to them. Who thought that Donald Trump, the faux populist, would be their champion.

It was the election in which the Democrats’ Rust Belt “Blue Wall” came crumbling down and sufficient numbers of mainstream Republicans — the non-deplorables who aren’t American Firsters — made a Trump presidency possible. Certainly, there is some Brexit-style regret now, but it’s too late for that. We have at least four years of a Trump presidency and a Trumpian America to deal with.

Cast blame where you like. There’s more than enough for everyone. Blame Hillary Clinton as the truly flawed candidate whose most compelling message was that America would never elect Donald Trump. Blame the media for embracing the Trump circus and for failing to figure out how to fairly deal with a candidate who has so little regard for the truth. Blame blundering James Comey. Blame the email faux scandal that became the issue of an issue-free campaign and the Crooked Hillary tag line that took a life of its own. Blame all of us for thinking that the “lock her up” chants weren’t something so much darker than anything we could have foreseen. Blame a country still apparently unready to elect a female president.

The reason for surprise, for shock, is that no one like Donald Trump has ever won the presidency or come close to winning the presidency. It wasn’t just a surprise given over by Brexit-style failure of the pollsters. It was an America most of us failed to recognize, an America, as one friend wrote me, in which all the darkest elements of the American soul conspired to give us Donald Trump.

Amy Walter of the Cook Report produces these remarkable statistics on Trump from the exit polls: “Sixty percent of voters viewed him unfavorably, yet he got 15% of those voters to vote for him. Sixty-three percent of voters said they didn’t think he had the ‘temperament’ to be president, he got 20 percent of those voters to support him. Sixty percent of voters said they didn’t think he was qualified to be president and yet 18 percent gave him their vote.”

Something has happened, something dark, something frightening, and no one has any idea what comes next. Don’t trust anyone who tries to tell you he does. These are the same people — people like yours truly — who said this could never happen. Who said that the Obama years wouldn’t be so completely rejected, who will watch, in not a little distress, as the Iran deals goes away, as health care reform goes away, as America backs away from climate change, as a bullying Trump confronts his enemies with all the power of his office, as the forces of reaction now control the presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court. If you’re among those who feels it’s a rejection of you, of the educated classes, of, well, the future, you are right.

What the news tells us now is that the unashamed, unabashed birther succeeds the first black president and the world, every bit of it, has turned upside down. Markets are crumbling. The Canadian immigration website crashed. But what will history tell us? The red-blue divide was replaced by a class divide, by a white-nonwhite divide. Running on a platform of resentment, capturing what Fox News captured in the media world years ago, Trump delivered those who aren’t ready to deal with a changing America and instead chose to lean on a would-be strongman who leaves us with no idea how he’ll govern the country.

If everyone got this election wrong — and everyone did — it’s because it was impossible to imagine otherwise.

If everyone got this election wrong — and everyone did — it’s because “everyone” didn’t include all those people who voted for Donald Trump, the political “other.”

If everyone got this election wrong — and everyone did — we must now wonder what it means to those who got it wrong and those who got it right. Is there regret from Republicans who didn’t speak out, who enabled Trump, who made it OK to vote for a racist demagogue, a George Wallace with gold-plated seat belts?

If everyone got this wrong — and everyone did — it’s because no one could imagine we’d elect someone who says the National Enquirer should win a Pulitzer or who’d make Breitbart his personal propaganda sheet. On Twitter, the jokes were that Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity would be Trump’s press secretary. But they’ll be far more powerful than that.

We’ve been somewhere like this before, what Adlai Stevenson described as “the land of smash and grab and anything to win. That is Nixonland. But I say to you, that is not America.”

Nixonland wasn’t America, but it was. You can say the same things about Trumpland. And now, once again, we face a truly existential question: What in God’s name, what in America’s name, have we done?


Photo credit: William Garrett, Creative Commons, Flickr 

Mike Littwin’s “Trump Period”

A compilation of Littwin’s Trumpiest columns


Picasso had his famous “blue period.” We’ll call this Mike Littwin’s “Trump period.”

As Littwin’s diehard readers know, he has found a lot of, shall we say, inspiration in Donald Trump. The Donald and his effect on the campaign, the electorate and the nation has been the subject of Littwin’s political opinion columns for many months now. Should you have forgotten what a long, strange trip it’s been, we offer the Littwin flashback. 


The Republican Convention: Plagiarism, Lock her up, Cory Gardner’s mini-rebellion, Ted Cruz’s major rebellion and Trump’s Dystopia in America (“I Alone Can Fix It”).

RNC Day One – Nixonian rhetoric and a bit of chaos

RNC Day Two – Cory Gardner opts out of Trump’s coronation

RNC Day Three – How Ted Cruz became the most reviled person in the room

RNC Day Four – Trump is right. This is a dark and frightening time in America.


The Democratic Convention: Two Obamas, two Clintons and two Khans

DNC Day One – How, 8 years later, FLOTUS brought the house down

DNC Day Two – Billary, the love letter

DNC Day Three – An optimistic Obama warns against Trump dystopia

DNC Day Four – The acceptance speech The Donald basically wrote for Hillary


Then July turned to August, and Trump said that maybe there’s something “the Second Amendment people” could do about Hillary Clinton. Yes, he really said it. No, you’re not really shocked.

Trump went on to stun the world in September by going to Mexico to meet President Enrique Peña Nieto, but forgets to insist that Mexico pay for the wall. Or did he?

Months before Comeygate, there was what one headline writer helpfully dubbed loogie-gate, in which Clinton very publicly semi-collapses with her publicly unknown pneumonia, and suddenly Clinton’s campaign is looking sick, too. What exactly is the cure for privacy paranoia?

Before the debates and before pussygate, Nate Silver had Trump at a 41 percent chance of becoming president. (And for those keeping score, he’s now back to 35 percent chance.) This, for Littwin, was a special kind of horror.

Then things started to get even weirder…

Debate No. 1, Miss Piggy, sex tapes, 3 a.m. Trump rants and a descent into pure Trumpian madness. It was just one of many times when it seemed certain that Trump had finally imploded, but, of course, there is no end  —Trump until at least Nov. 8.

Cory Gardner, rats and Darryl Glenn (briefly) jump off what looked like a sinking Trump ship.

Remember Darryl Glenn? He was for Trump before he was against him. He was also against him before he was for him. Littwin writes that Glenn’s indecision on Trump is a perfect metaphor for the clueless Glenn campaign, nearly as good as Glenn’s pronouncement that the national GOP wasn’t giving him money because they were confident he could win without it.

Littwin is old enough to remember when Trump said at the third debate that he wouldn’t necessarily accept the election results, also known as the will of the people. It seemed fair to ask whether Trump, who has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, also a secret plan to upend democracy.

Then came Pussy-gate, vote rigging and Trump’s flailing, pre-Comey campaign, at which point, Littwin wrote, Clinton’s lead seemed safe and everyone was talking blowout.

But no. James Comey stunningly put the FBI in the middle of the campaign. It was a rare gift directly to Trump –  even nicer than the portrait his Foundation bought for him – but how did Trump treat it? In two campaign stops in Colorado, he talked more about rigged elections in boringly clean Colorado than about Crooked Hillary. Meanwhile, the poll numbers have been tightening everywhere.

Keep reading, dear readers. Something tells us Littwin’s “Trump Period” isn’t over.


Photo by DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons