Category Archives: Leslie Loftis

Leslie Loftis’s America Watch: The Left’s last anti-Trump throw is a fashionista strop

Sophie Theallet, a fashion designer who has dressed the current First Lady, Michelle Obama, tweeted an open letter to other fashion designers calling on them all to refuse to dress incoming First Lady Melania Trump. Whether the letter is in earnest or a brand publicity stunt now that the First Lady she has dressed is moving off of the main stage, it is not likely to have the effect Ms Theallet expects it to have.

For one, as we learned earlier this month, the public shaming technique the Left has relied upon for decades to control public behaviour is not as powerful as assumed. It relied upon an appearance of certainty about what people believe that shattered sometime on the night of November 8th. She might intend to shame all those others she thinks are not her customers only to find that she shamed a good portion of them. (Lands’ End can tell her how badly that can go in the clothing business. And the Broadway cast of Hamilton can learn along with her.)

In this specific case, the Trump women probably do not want and certainly do not need to be patronised by the fashion consultants who dressed Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama’s daily fashion sense was one of those things the media reported without critical examination because they wanted it to be true. They wanted another Camelot with fashionable Jackie Kennedy, so they simply declared one even though Michelle Obama’s time as First Lady was riddled with fashion misses from blithely wearing couture to soup kitchens or impoverished countries to donning fabrics better suited to upholstery. (Worse, she attempted some of this while visiting London and meeting with the Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron, each of whom was far better at the fashionable politics game.) With some notable evening dress exceptions, her reputed fashion sense was higher than her actual fashion sense.

Based upon Melania’s fashion trolling record alone, she does not seem to require advice from others about what to wear. Even if she did, all she would need to do is find some new designers looking for a break. This should not prove difficult as her step-daughter is already in the business and there is pent up and growing demand for “real” fashion.

Just this summer a flurry of fashion articles discussing sizing manipulations and age assumptions prompted conversations about what is “real.” Is curvy real or merely a reaction to photoshopping models to be super skinny? Is using trans women as models thereby setting a structural standard that is biologically masculine? What is feminine? What is wearable?

Curvy or skinny, young or old, right now, everyday women don’t see fashion as wearable, affordable, or feminine in any sort of practical way. They are coming to the realisation that fashion industry is engaging in fashion gaslighting to preserve their preferred standards.

It is into this fashion moment that a current designer calls for a boycott dressing the populist President-elect’s wife.

Go ahead.

The Trump women will find some aspiring designers, help them develop affordable, wearable, and beautiful clothing, and then give them a PR boost by wearing it. This could be the fashion revolution that American women have been waiting for and the best thing that has happened to the American fashion industry in decades.


Leslie Loftis’s American Watch: Prepare for another Clinton presidency

Hillary Clinton finally clinched the required delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, a feat that Donald Trump managed for the Republicans over a month ago. (If that sounds like a boast, it isn’t. It is a statement of the revulsion that Clinton inspires.)

My wild card scenario, or fervent wish, from last week that the delegates take their responsibility seriously and vote their own minds still holds. Only respect for the rules stands between us and the delegates providing better options than the charlatan or the criminal that the two established partied foisted upon us.

But assuming that the compulsion to follow the rules remains now that everyone is presumed and, therefore, predictions can return to normal expectation patterns, the race looks different today.

Clinton has secured the Democratic nomination, and Bernie Sanders’s supporters and any stray #NeverHillary voters on the left will enter their final stages of mourning. They will quickly arrive at acceptance. As that happens, the small poll leads Trump enjoys at the moment will likely dissolve.

Consolidation will do part of the job, and the full, negative, media attention on Trump will do the rest. Plus, Clinton has finally hit upon an argument against Trump that she can make stick, one for which his offence-is-the-best-defence style won’t work.

Dispatching the GOP will prove much easier. It will become the party of sexist, egoistical, lying, hypocritical, bigots that the popular people always told us it was.

The pressure against an indictment of Clinton for her security breaches will grow, as will the pressure for Obama to issue a pardon for her. If he does pardon her, he will tell the American public that we all must move on for the good of the country.

Thus, we shall prepare for another Clinton presidency.

What cracks me up — in both the humor and pressure senses of the expression—is how leading Republicans are still behind the knowledge curve. Peggy Noonan summed the problem up, as she tends to do, with the question, “The voters have rebuked professional Republicans and conservatives. What’s next for the GOP?”

What’s next? There is no next. The Republican party as we know it is dead. All of the questions about what party leaders should do now — they answered those questions months ago. The fact that few Republican pundits voiced the questions didn’t matter.  Just as truth does not require belief, the silent questions got answered.

We now know who puts personal power and party before country. It is a longer list than we thought — and that is saying something — but now we know.

All the decisions and deals the GOP powers that be offer — from having Trump commit to a list of judges from The Heritage Foundation if he wanted party support to offering to be the Vice President to conjure up an air of reason and decorum and make the ticket palatable to the American electorate — those deals assume that the party players still have credibility. They don’t.

The introspection Noonan calls for — that was an insight for last summer. Now it is evidence for that the DC/NYC bubble is as opaque as it is soundproof.

Attempts at introspection don’t fare much better. To take one example, if Reagan Democrats of the 1980s never fully evolved to Republican principles it is because Republicans didn’t lead them to Republican principles.

Republicans of the George H W Bush era and beyond governed as Democrats-lite, always seeking the winning blend of social and economic issues for DC to dictate. This was foolish for two reasons: one, Democrats will always be better at that game because the hand-out policies they favour fail in the long term. It takes time for the government to run out of other people’s money. Time makes people forget.

Two, Republicans talked about one set of principles but acted on another. We got sick of the shysters’ shell game.

Geek that I am, I keep hearing Merlin’s proclamation to Uther Pendragon from Excalibur, “You betrayed the Duke, you stole his wife, you took his castle, now no-one trusts you.” Our Republican leaders of the last few decades did not lead. And now, no one trusts them.

The GOP is now the party of Trump, which is nothing like the party of Jefferson or Lincoln — neither by statesmanship nor by principles.

What the convention delegates choose to do might save the name. A new party will either emerge from within by delegates voting their conscience or a new one will form in the exodus.

But by all scenarios, the Grand Old Party as we knew it is finished.

(Image: Gage Skidmore)

Leslie Loftis’s America Watch: Peak chaos could yet derail the presidential front-runners

As this presidential election continues to defy all the known rules, Hillary Clinton appears set to lose to the Republican presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, in November.

It is not that Trump is a great candidate with principles. He isn’t. Nor is it that party-before-country Republicans have rallied to him out of misguided duty. They have damaged their own reputations.

Trump’s chances have never looked better because Clinton still has not clinched her party’s nomination against a white-haired socialist man and has proven a weaker candidate than any of us on the Right imagined.

She has a women problem, partly for her reliance on identity politics and partly because of her history “for” women. It is a generational issue, for which Trump attacks her without regard to the media’s shame tactics on his hypocrisy. The look away and speak-not-of-it tactic the media used in the past to save the Clintons will not suffice this time.

Mix in Clinton’s lack of political skill and a lingering scandal at the end of a long line of scandals, and Trump polls well. I doubt this will hold, but whenever I worry that I’m underestimating Clinton’s campaign, I find I could’ve aimed lower.  The race is hers to lose and she has accepted the challenge.

Enter the independent, stage right

Typical of this year, as soon as the race seemed to settle into something resembling normal, an independent emerged. Attorney and writer David French has geared up for an independent spoiler run. I have read his work for a while and am intrigued because of his resume on constitutional conservatism. But I won’t be able to vote for him.

Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and instigator of the #FrenchRevolution, is correct that many voters are so appalled by the presumptive choices that they will seek out another option. Thus, someone with low name recognition could run a viable campaign — or could have if the backers had done this searching a few months ago, as some wiser heads suggested.

Many of the independent run deadlines have passed, most notably Texas’s. Texas voters would be open to an independent and we bring one of the largest electoral college vote hauls.  Without Texas, an independent run is just a protest vote.

Furthermore, I have to marvel at the lessons still unlearned. After all that has passed this anti-establishment cycle, the “And Introducing” billing for the hero independent runner is a Harvard lawyer who writes for National Review and is fronted by the editor of the Weekly Standard. Those are the first bits of information that the seeking voters will find. They are bugs, not features.

(It is the mirror image of the Libertarian Party convention. With Clinton and Trump’s unfavorables, they had potential for influence and even a longshot at winning. Yet, instead of assessing the race and nominating someone the electorate seeks, the convention gave us a candidate striptease and nominated Gary Johnson again.)

New York/DC bubble dwellers still do not understand that Trump resonated this year because he appeared as “an engine of chaos” to break up the cartel that the Republican party had become — the one that wasn’t listening to a thing they said. Running a Harvard attorney (French) only proves their point, again.

Have we reached peak chaos?

Trump has proven to be the engine of chaos, but the thing we forget about chaos is its disregard for all rules. The campaigns aren’t following the rules. The electorate isn’t following the rules. So what if the convention delegates don’t either?

The Democratic super delegates are party insiders held together by party cum personal interests. They rallied to the inevitable Clinton only to see her struggle against Sanders and poll poorly against Trump. If a few of them start publicly to doubt her coronation, then they could all bolt quickly and declare themselves free agents for the Democratic Convention. They don’t want Sanders either, so they might try a Democratic French-Kristol revolution.

The Republican delegates are bound by what exactly? The primaries don’t choose a candidate. They choose delegates. Party rules direct the delegates how to vote in the first rounds, but how does the party enforce those rules? What, beyond desire to follow the rules, binds those delegate votes?

Usually following the rules is a good enough reason in itself. But the United States was founded on the premise that at times it is our right, our duty, to change the rules.

Neither option is likely, but what has “likely” stopped this election season? Either convention could catch the Spirit of ’76 with delegates reverting to the old ways of voting their own own minds. If one side does it, the other side is more likely to do it. Chaos indulges tipping points.

Leslie Loftis’s America Watch: How Obama’s White House manipulates the media

In early 2015, President Obama joined the other permanent UN Security Council members plus the European Union to thrash out a nuclear deal with Iran. The deal was ill-advised and has such an iffy ratification history among all participants, that USNews quipped that it seemed President Obama made the deal with himself.

To sell the sour deal in the US, President Obama relied on the White House storyteller. According to the New York Times MagazineObama hired a novelist as his foreign policy guru. Ben Rhodes, the storyteller, did as bid and whipped up an origin story for the Iran deal.

That is quite an interesting story in itself, which is why the NYTMag published David Samuel’s feature piece on Rhodes. But the fact that the US President had a fabulist running his foreign policy comms didn’t make the story infamous. A name drop did.

Rhodes described to Samuels how the White House staff used social media to advocate for the Iran deal, and Samuels spoke with the woman who ran the social media rapid response: [emphasis mine]

As she explained how the process worked, I was struck by how naïve the assumption of a “state of nature” must seem in an information environment that is mediated less and less by experienced editors and reporters with any real prior knowledge of the subjects they write about. “People construct their own sense of source and credibility now,” she said. “They elect who they’re going to believe.”

Then came the offending passage:

For those in need of more traditional-seeming forms of validation, handpicked Beltway insiders like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Laura Rozen of Al-Monitor helped retail the administration’s narrative.

Goldberg, and other journalists, took issue with this statement of favour. Goldberg wrote a defence of himself in The Atlantic a few days later.

I have no reason to doubt its factual accuracy. That is probably how the Goldberg and Rhodes conversations went and how Goldberg arrived at his conclusions. I found it a little odd that Goldberg brought a story about his wife into it, but then I realised that underscores how much Goldberg’s does not want to connect the dots: Rhodes is not impuning Goldberg’s honesty, but his critical thinking skills.

Rhodes fed the story to Goldberg because he could rely on a lack of critical examination, which is essential when you are weaving a story to cover real events. You want to find someone who wants to believe you so much that they don’t challenge their own assumptions.

Or harsher, Rhodes used Goldberg as a useful idiot. That’s why he handpicked him for persuading those in need of more traditional-seeming forms of validation. Goldberg is a reporter at a respected magazine. For a certain type of culturati, social media will not do. They need a respected reporter from a legacy source to stamp APPROVED on a story. Rhodes found his rubber stamp.

Frankly, journalism today is full of rubber stamp reporters. Rhodes knows that is how he is able to sell the stories his way. Samuels mentions the news shift to social media that we witness each day, and then quotes Rhodes:

“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

I’ve heard the same know-nothing complaint made about policy advisors in DC and I’ve experienced it in US journalism. Ability to write seems to replace rather than augment considerations of knowledge or expertise. This is one of the reasons I still prefer British papers outside of local news. The know-nothing problem has not fully migrated across the Atlantic yet.

Research could solve some of this problem, but in the first-to-post race that has become US news, who has time for that?

In an email discussion not long ago, an editor advised the group I represented to reorganise our research presentation. In modern web magazines, writers have no time to do research, he said. If we wanted a topic to get coverage, then we should spoon feed our studies to the writers.

I respect the practical point to make the good information easy to find and understand. But, once upon a time, the value in education was learning how to tell when someone was talking rot or not. I gather that they no longer teach those skills in journalism school.

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Leslie Loftis: Issue-free Trump has won over America’s angry evangelicans

My last dispatch from America ended with a question for the GOP powerbrokers: what’s it gonna be, a principled conservative who admittedly will shrink the belts of the lobbyists et al, or screw the base and the country to preserve their power?

They answered in the latter.

Despite dismal polling and not even placing in the first two votes, the Bush campaign, the brain child of the establishment, backed by 100 million bucks and seasoned political know how, stayed in South Carolina and soaked up about 8 per cent of the vote in a three-way tie for last.

Rumours leaked out the day before the vote that the staff would not be paid after Saturday. He knew the end was coming yet he stayed in until the returns started coming in. That is simply unconscionable for a seasoned political team that claims it cares about America. They should have done as the other governors, Perry, Walker, and Jindal did; exit and allow the field to consolidate.

Kasich and Carson, the other losing campaigns that still have money, remain. Carson’s consultants are misleading him and his naive supporters for their paycheck.

Kasich, the last establishment candidate standing, has at least a theoretical chance at becoming the rising moderate for the party elite thanks to his New Hampshire showing. Although after he couldn’t convince Bush to go out before South Carolina, he should’ve left. He’s staying in for the long shot scenario in which Rubio and Cruz will beat each other up – plausible – and he will be left to best Trump – laughable. This is not a year of establishment popularity on either side of the aisle.

If for simplicity’s sake, we combine their three zombie campaigns and divide them between Cruz and Rubio – Trump is not a popular second choice – then we have a tight three-way race. And if the zombie block didn’t split evenly, then we’d be hearing how this is Cruz or Rubio’s race to lose. But the zombies remain, giving Trump all the room he needs to manoeuvre.

A Trump v. Clinton matchup is still not a sure thing, it is now just the way to bet.

Trump’s chances of securing the Republican nomination are still less than Clinton’s chances of securing the Democratic nomination. For anyone interested in detailed analysis of how the party delegates work, start with RealClearPolitics. The short version: the individual state parties determine if their delegates are proportional or winner take all and if they are free to vote their own preferences at the national conventions and under what circumstances. For all of the sensational coverage, Trump has only secured about 6 per cent of the Republican delegates he needs to win. By contrast, Clinton has 21 per cent of the delegates she needs to win. (The Democrats have a Super Delegate system and the Clinton machine locked up the vast majority of those.)

So what about Cruz and Rubio? Why aren’t the two Tea Party senators, two experienced and credible populists, doing better against the wild populist?

If you recall from earlier articles, Bush and Christie beat up Rubio in a vain effort to bolster their own campaigns. What stuck was Rubio’s willingness – or weakness – for the DC game. After Bush I, Dole, Bush II, McCain, and Romney the base will not accept another happy-warrior, Washington DC player. They want DC curbed, not coaxed.  Bush III and Christie crippled Rubio’s campaign and got nothing for it.

Cruz, the more disciplined conservative, rose to beat Trump while Bush and Christie kneecapped Rubio. This would be a Trump vs Cruz race now but for two issues in the Cruz camp. First, his communications director went rogue and doctored some photographs to illustrate some of Cruz’s political arguments. Cruz promptly fired him, but the photoshops hurt his credibility.

Second, everyone, including the Cruz camp, has misjudged the evangelical voters’ motivation.

Evangelical voters are those outward Christians that everyone else finds so strange about America. Few outsiders get them, and with our infamous culture wars like abortion and gay marriage, most outsiders assume that these voters are issue voters. Since Trump is not with them on the issues, they won’t vote for Trump.

The connection between religion and politics in America is more fundamental than issues. The American political system is the secular parallel to Protestantism. The road to “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…” starts with the crucifixion, and the 95 Theses. These milestones in individual responsibility get lifted out of religious thought in the Enlightenment and eventually become the popular sovereignty of the US Constitution.

But US Christianity has changed. For decades our churches have been filled with the Prosperity Gospel. It tells people that if they pray hard enough, the right Way – if they have enough faith – then God will do for them. They will have rich and prosperous lives of good health and peace. It’s a horrible theology, one that leaves people to despair when they pray and act just as they were told but still don’t get what they expect.

This is the evangelical voter today. They’ve done everything they were supposed to do for Uncle Sam. They were the good patriots, working hard, raising families. Yet life isn’t going their way. From terrorism to taxes, jobs, budgets, public safety, insurance, family law, mortgages, small business regulation – all of it goes wrong. They reached despair. They feel forsaken.

Trump’s principles don’t hurt his vote percentages because they aren’t looking for principles. They’ve lost hope in principles. They are looking for the strongman. If we must have a government that quashes people, then they’d like one that quashes the other guy.

Some observers noted this strongman theory for general Trump supporters, but I don’t think anyone expected it among the evangelical voters. Christians are issues voters. Everyone knows that.

And that has been the one thing that has remained reliable and true this election cycle: the media and elites know precious little about the emotional lives of Christians.


(Image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

Leslie Loftis: Only Ted Cruz can beat Hillary

It’s gut check time for the GOP establishment. Will they really sacrifice principled leadership for the country to save their own insider income streams?

The rally to someone besides the Trump or Cruz window just closed. Christie’s attacks on Rubio in the latest debate and Bush’s sustained campaign against him in recent weeks worked. Rubio crashed to fifth with no complimentary bump for Christie or Bush. All three are done, even if only Christie recognizes it. Kasich had a great night, but he has no money and no ground game beyond last night. He can’t capitalise on last night’s win. Even if everyone else but Trump and Cruz got out and rallied all their money and staff to Kasich, he doesn’t have enough time or political charisma to pull off that kind of comeback. As we say in American football, that is a Hail Mary play, a long pass thrown to the goal hoping that the receiver can get there to catch it.

Only Cruz can knock out Trump at this point. He’s got the numbers, the money, the strategy, and a record of doing it. But he’s having to fight on too many fronts.

South Carolina votes in a month. Trump is up in South Carolina mostly due to the immigration issue and everyone but Team Cruz’s habit of insulting Trump’s base more than arguing with Trump’s fickle and vague principles. But while Cruz is addressing Trump on the merits he is also having to fight the media, the establishment, and the rest of the field. Trump only has to fend off Cruz. Cruz has enough political chess savvy enough to pull that off, but it will not be easy. Only if the rest of the field stopped sucking money and media away from Cruz, he could concentrate on persuading voters on the principles and quickly secure the nomination.

But hubris, vengeance, and power preservation are in the way. The GOP doesn’t seem to want principled leadership. It wants power.

The socially acceptable reason for not wanting Cruz as the nominee—elites don’t want to admit to themselves or to others that their real objection is preserving their own political clout—is his chances of winning the general election in November. They are low. But that’s irrelevant now because Trump’s chance of winning is even lower.

Current polling shows Trump or Cruz losing to Clinton. Despite Tuesday night, she will be the Democratic nominee. She will just be a battered and much more vulnerable one than anyone anticipated even a few months ago. There is no one her camp wants more than Trump. Truly, he is her easiest win, and she will need an easy opponent after the weaknesses exposed in her path to the nomination.

Trump’s general election weakness doesn’t change with wildcards Sanders or Biden, either. Trump is the Republicans’ worst general election option. Rubio, the one with the best shot by the current poll numbers, is unsalvageable.

Cruz has proven the only long-term strategic campaigner in the field and has a record of turning early poll numbers. He could pull the general off.

So the question for the GOP elites today: what’s it gonna be, a principled conservative who admittedly will shrink the belts of the lobbyists et al, or screw the base and the country to preserve their power?


(Image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

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