Blow and Krugman

In “The Ghosts of Old Sex Scandals” Mr. Blow points out the obvious, that if Donald Trump dwells on Bill Clinton’s misdeeds, we should remember Trump’s and other Republicans’ hypocrisy on such matters.  In “Feel the Math” Prof. Krugman takes a look at numbers and the state of politics.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

We are now being forced to relive the decades-old sex scandals of Bill Clinton, as Donald Trump tries desperately to shield and inoculate himself from well-earned charges of misogyny.

I say, if we must go there, let’s go all the way. Let’s do this dirty laundry, as Kelly Rowland, former Destiny’s Child, once crooned.

First, multiple women have accused Clinton of things ranging from sexual misconduct to rape. Paula Jones famously brought a sexual harassment case against Clinton. The case was dismissed, but on appeal, faced with the prospect of having to testify under oath, Clinton settled the case out of court.

Clinton has maintained that he had inappropriate sexual relationships with only two women: Gennifer Flowers, a model and actress, and Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.

Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his affair with Lewinsky.

Let’s just say this: Clinton was as wrong as the day is long for his affairs. There is no way around that.

But the problem was that many of the men condemning the beam in Clinton’s eye were then shown to have one in their own.

Newt Gingrich, who was so incredibly disliked that he stepped down not only from his speakership in the House of Representatives, but also from Congress altogether, later admitted cheating on his first wife (with whom he discussed divorce terms while she was in the hospital for cancer) and on his second (that cheating occurred whileGingrich led the Clinton impeachment proceedings).

Into the void created by Gingrich’s departure stepped speaker-to-be Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana.

But, as The Chicago Tribune reported at the time:

“On the eve of the House debate to impeach President Clinton for lying about sex with Monica Lewinsky, House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston told his Republican colleagues Thursday night that he had strayed from his marriage and had adulterous affairs. Only a few hours after Livingston decided to proceed with the impeachment debate despite U.S. forces being engaged in hostilities in Iraq, he admitted in a G.O.P. caucus that he had “on occasion” committed infidelity and in ‘doing so nearly cost me my marriage and family.’”

And Livingston wasn’t the only Republican moving to impeach Clinton for lying about a sexual affair who would be forced out of the shadows for his own sexual scandals.

J. Dennis Hastert, who became speaker in 1999, pleaded guilty last year to illegally structuring bank withdrawals in order to pay what prosecutors contend was hush money to a man Hastert had sexually abused as a child. Indeed, as The Times reported in April, federal prosecutors asserted that Hastert “molested at least four boys, as young as 14, when he worked as a high school wrestling coach decades ago,” before the Clinton impeachment hearings.

Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who The Times reported had raised “the specter of the Watergate era” when discussing Clinton, admitted to a journalist during the proceedings that he’d had a five-year affair with a married woman decades earlier.

Dan Burton, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee chairman, who The Washington Post described as “one of President Clinton’s most persistent and combative critics,” was forced to admit that he had a secret love child.

And, just last week, The Times reported:

“Kenneth W. Starr, the former independent counsel who delivered a report that served as the basis for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, was removed as president of Baylor University on Thursday after an investigation found the university mishandled accusations of sexual assault against football players.”

The sweep of karma and the level of hypocrisy is just staggering.

No wonder nearly two-thirds of Americans opposed Clinton’s impeachment, and he emerged from the impeachment with record-high approval ratings.

Now, Trump wants to dip into this muck again, even though he has had his own extramarital affair.

Indeed, nine days after Clinton admitted his affair with Lewinsky, Trump seemed to support him and find kinship, saying, “Paula Jones is a loser, but the fact is that she may be responsible for bringing down a president indirectly.” Trump also mused on the prospect of his own run for public office, saying, “Can you imagine how controversial that’d be? You think about him with the women. How about me with the women? Can you imagine…”

I can, actually.

Last week, when the Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was confronted on CNN with Trump’s defenses of Clinton during the sex scandals, Cohen responded that at the time Trump was simply trying to “protect a friend.” And yet, this is the same camp lambasting Hillary Clinton as an “enabler” for trying to protect a husband?

It’s all incredibly distasteful, yes, but it also doesn’t jibe. And, aside from the unshakable feeling that there is something tragically off about using a husband’s philandering as a weapon against a betrayed wife, I also doubt the public will have much stomach for these stories, just as it didn’t in the 1990s.

Dirty laundry, done.

But, of course, as we all know IOKIYAR.  As an aside, it’s rather telling that the Times isn’t allowing comments on this.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

This is my fifth presidential campaign as a New York Times columnist, so I’ve watched a lot of election coverage, and I came into this cycle prepared for the worst. Or so I thought.

But I was wrong. So far, election commentary has been even worse than I imagined it would be. It’s not just the focus on the horse race at the expense of substance; much of the horse-race coverage has been bang-your-head-on-the-desk awful, too. I know this isn’t scientific, but based on conversations I’ve had recently, many people — smart people, who read newspapers and try to keep track of events — have been given a fundamentally wrong impression of the current state of play.

And when I say a “wrong impression,” I don’t mean that I disagree with other people’s takes. I mean that people aren’t being properly informed about the basic arithmetic of the situation.

Now, I’m not a political scientist or polling expert, nor do I even try to play one on TV. But I am fairly numerate, and I assiduously follow real experts like The Times’s Nate Cohn. And they’ve taught me some basic rules that I keep seeing violated.

First, at a certain point you have to stop reporting about the race for a party’s nomination as if it’s mainly about narrative and “momentum.” That may be true at an early stage, when candidates are competing for credibility and dollars. Eventually, however, it all becomes a simple, concrete matter of delegate counts.

That’s why Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; she locked it up over a month ago with her big Mid-Atlantic wins, leaving Bernie Sanders no way to overtake her without gigantic, implausible landslides — winning two-thirds of the vote! — in states with large nonwhite populations, which have supported Mrs. Clinton by huge margins throughout the campaign.

And no, saying that the race is effectively over isn’t somehow aiding a nefarious plot to shut it down by prematurely declaring victory. Nate Silver recently summed it up: “Clinton ‘strategy’ is to persuade more ‘people’ to ‘vote’ for her, hence producing ‘majority’ of ‘delegates.’” You may think those people chose the wrong candidate, but choose her they did.

Second, polls can be really helpful at assessing the state of a race, but only if you fight the temptation to cherry-pick, to only cite polls telling the story you want to hear. Recent hyperventilating over the California primary is a classic example. Most polls show Mrs. Clinton with a solid lead, but one recent poll shows a very close race. So, has her lead “evaporated,” as some reports suggest? Probably not: Another poll, taken at the very same time, showed an 18-point lead.

What the polling experts keep telling us to do is rely on averages of polls rather than highlighting any one poll in particular. This does double duty: it prevents cherry-picking, and it also helps smooth out the random fluctuations that are an inherent part of polling, but can all too easily be mistaken for real movement. And the polling average for California has, in fact, been pretty stable, with a solid Clinton lead.

Polls can, of course, be wrong, and have been a number of times this cycle. But they’ve worked better than many people think. Most notably, Donald Trump’s rise didn’t defy the polls — on the contrary, he was solidly leading the polls by last September. Pundits who dismissed his chances were overruling what the surveys were trying to tell them.

Which brings us to the general election. Here’s what you should know, but may not be hearing clearly in the political reporting: Mrs. Clinton is clearly ahead, both in general election polls and in Electoral College projections based on state polls.

It’s true that her lead isn’t as big as it was before Mr. Trump clinched the G.O.P. nomination, largely because Republicans have consolidated around their presumptive nominee, while many Sanders supporters are still balking at saying that they’ll vote for her.

But that probably won’t last; many Clinton supporters said similar things about Barack Obama in 2008, but eventually rallied around the nominee. So unless Bernie Sanders refuses to concede and insinuates that the nomination was somehow stolen by the candidate who won more votes, Mrs. Clinton is a clear favorite to win the White House.

Now, obviously things can and will change over the course of the general election campaign. Every one of the presidential elections I’ve covered at The Times felt at some point like a nail-biter. But the current state of the race should not be a source of dispute or confusion. Barring the equivalent of a meteor strike, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; despite the reluctance of Sanders supporters to concede that reality, she’s currently ahead of Donald Trump. That’s what the math says, and anyone who says it doesn’t is misleading you.

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