Brooks and Krugman

Oh, fergawdsake…  Bobo used the word “fogeyish” to describe Clinton’s campaign.  As we all know Bobo is a member in EXCELLENT standing of the Old Fogey’s Club, where he regularly dismays his poor dog Moral Hazard.  (Thanks, Charlie Pierce!)  Bobo has extruded an extraordinary pile of turds called “The Clinton Calendar” in which he opines that Clintonworld lives in one century and the rest of us in another.  In this pile of turds he also informs us that the Republicans are running on “big ideas.”  As usual, “gemli” from Boston will have something to say about this.  Prof. Krugman, in “The Lying Game,” says in covering the presidential debates, and the campaign, the press needs to stand up for the truth amid Donald Trump’s fairy tales.  [snort] [guffaw]  This is why I call Krugman the Voice Crying in the Wilderness.  Brace yourself, Maggie, here’s Bobo:

Hillary Clinton made a very pertinent comment this week: “‘Why aren’t I 50 points ahead?’ you might ask.”

Indeed we might!

Clinton is running against a man whose approval ratings are under 40 percent and his disapproval rating is the highest of any candidate in American history. Only 38 percent of Americans think Donald Trump is even qualified to be president, according to a Quinnipiac survey.

Trump has practically no campaign to speak of while Clinton has a very professional one. Clinton is swamping Trump on the airwaves. Estimates vary by source, but according to Advertising Age, $145 million has been spent on pro-Clinton TV and radio ads while only $4 million has been spent on pro-Trump ads.

Meanwhile, the Trump scandals blow through like hurricanes in the tropics at peak season. Thanks to reporting by The Washington Post, we’ve learned that the Trump Foundation makes Trump University look like a model of moral rectitude. Donations Trump raised through that foundation went to pay his company’s legal bills and to buy two portraits of himself.

Every week he manages to stain his character a deeper shade of black. Trump has filled the culture with lies for the past many decades, but all those lies must bow down in reverence before the epic, galactic, gravity-reversing lies he just told about the birther nonsense.

And still he is within two or three points of Clinton nationally and leading in a bunch of the key swing states. In Ohio by five. In Iowa by six. In Florida by one. When you look at the secondary questions in the polls, Trump is doing miserably, but in the top-line “Who are you going to vote for?” question, he’s doing decently.

What is going on here?

Tyler Cowen recently gathered some of the more interesting theories on his blog Marginal Revolution: America is not ready for a woman president. The Democrats have a lot of policy proposals, but the Republicans are running on big ideas. A more diverse country is a more fractious and polarized country, and over the past few weeks white Republicans have been coming home to their candidate.

I see some truth in those theories, especially the last one. But my single explanation would be this: Clintonworld is a semi-closed system that operates according to its own calendar. Donald Trump is egregious, but at least he’s living in the 21st century, as was Bernie Sanders. Clintonworld operates according to its own time-space continuum that is slightly akilter from our own.

In the 21st century, politics operates around a different axis. It’s not left/right, big government/small government. It’s openness and dynamism versus closedness and security. It’s between those who see opportunity and excitement in the emerging globalized, multiethnic meritocracy against those who see their lives and communities threatened by it.

In the 21st century, the parties are amassing different coalitions. People are dividing along human capital lines, with the college educated flocking to the Democrats and the non-college educated whites flocking to the G.O.P. Democrats do great in America’s 100 most crowded counties, but they struggle in the 3,000 less crowded ones.

Clintonworld is a decades-old interlocking network of donors and friends that hasn’t quite caught up to these fundamental shifts. That’s because Clintonworld, in the Hillary iteration, is often defensive, distrusting and oriented around avoiding errors. In each of her national campaigns, Clinton has run against in-touch-with-the-times men who were more charismatic and generated more passion than she did. She’s always been the duller, unfashionable foil.

Her donor base and fund-raising style is out of another era. Obama and Sanders tapped into the energized populist base, but Clinton has Barbra Streisand, Cher and a cast of Wall Street plutocrats. Her campaign proposals sidestep the cutting issues that have driven Trump, Sanders, Brexit and the other key movements of modern politics. Her ideas for reducing poverty are fine, but they are circa Ed Muskie: more public works jobs, housing tax credits, more money for Head Start.

Her out-of-time style costs her big with millennials. If she loses this election it will be because younger voters just don’t relate to her and flock to Gary Johnson instead. It also leads to a weird imbalance in the national debate.

We have an emerging global system, with relatively open trade, immigration, multilateral institutions and ethnic diversity. The critics of that system are screaming at full roar. The champions of that system — and Hillary Clinton is naturally one — are off in another world.

There is a strong case to be made for an open world order, and a huge majority coalition to be built in support of it. But she is disengaged.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think she’ll eke out a win. I just hope her administration is less fogyish than her campaign.

I can’t wait until Driftglass sinks his teeth into this.  Until then, here’s what “gemli” had to say:

“We keep hearing pundits make this argument, and it’s becoming tiresome. Americans are in a candy store. There aren’t many choices. We can pick a boring, somewhat gummy and old-fashioned Clinton Chew, or a new confection that’s made of radioactive medical waste, hair and resentment. Nearly half of Americans are going for the Trump Lump. When asked why, they say they like the orange glow and the odd smell.

This election isn’t about dowdy ideas, or policy differences or polarization. It’s about a country that has lost its collective mind. Hillary Clinton isn’t perfect, but Trump is broken and leaking. She’s secretive, which is a turn-off. He makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t have a clue and has no intention of getting one. We find that refreshing. She’s disengaged. His gears don’t mesh.

Conservatives have been telling the big lie for so long that many of us don’t know what the truth is anymore. Obama is the anti-Christ. Medical care for all is an abomination. The filthy rich are looking out for the poor. Women are weak, gays are disgusting and education is overrated. Bibles are the best, because, like, uh, God and what-not.

So let’s build a big ol’ wall. We’ll double down on burning coal and fracking the earth’s crust to bits. Let’s ignore climate change. Heck, I’m bettin’ that the rising sea levels will put out the forest fires! It’s a win-win!

And gimme another Trump Lump, please.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman, crying in the wilderness:

Here’s what we can be fairly sure will happen in Monday’s presidential debate: Donald Trump will lie repeatedly and grotesquely, on a variety of subjects. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton might say a couple of untrue things. Or she might not.

Here’s what we don’t know: Will the moderators step in when Mr. Trump delivers one of his well-known, often reiterated falsehoods? If he claims, yet again, to have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning — which he didn’t — will he be called on it? If he claims to have renounced birtherism years ago, will the moderators note that he was still at it just a few months ago? (In fact, he already seems to be walking back his admission last week that President Obama was indeed born in America.) If he says one more time that America is the world’s most highly taxed country — which it isn’t — will anyone other than Mrs. Clinton say that it isn’t? And will media coverage after the debate convey the asymmetry of what went down?

You might ask how I can be sure that one candidate will be so much more dishonest than the other. The answer is that at this point we have long track records for both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton; thanks to nonpartisan fact-checking operations like PolitiFact, we can even quantify the difference.

PolitiFact has examined 258 Trump statements and 255 Clinton statements and classified them on a scale ranging from “True” to “Pants on Fire.” One might quibble with some of the judgments, but they’re overwhelmingly in the ballpark. And they show two candidates living in different moral universes when it comes to truth-telling. Mr. Trump had 48 Pants on Fire ratings, Mrs. Clinton just six; the G.O.P. nominee had 89 False ratings, the Democrat 27.

Unless one candidate has a nervous breakdown or a religious conversion in the next few days, the debate will follow similar lines. So how should it be reported?

Let’s take it as a given that one can’t report at length on every questionable statement a candidate makes — time, space and the attention of readers and viewers are all limited. What I suggest is that reporters and news organizations treat time and attention span as a sort of capital budget that must be allocated across coverage.

What businesses do when they must allocate capital is to establish a “hurdle rate,” a minimum rate of return a project must offer if it is to be undertaken. In terms of reporting falsehoods, this would amount to devoting on-air time or column inches to statements whose dishonesty rises above a certain level of outrageousness — say, outright falsity with no redeeming grain of truth. In terms of PolitiFact’s ratings, this might correspond to statements that are False or Pants on Fire.

And if the debate looks anything like the campaign so far, we know what that will mean: a news analysis that devotes at least five times as much space to Mr. Trump’s falsehoods as to Mrs. Clinton’s.

If your reaction is, “Oh, they can’t do that — it would look like partisan bias,” you have just demonstrated the huge problem with news coverage during this election. For I am not calling on the news media to take a side; I’m just calling on it to report what is actually happening, without regard for party. In fact, any reporting that doesn’t accurately reflect the huge honesty gap between the candidates amounts to misleading readers, giving them a distorted picture that favors the biggest liar.

Yet there are, of course, intense pressures on the news media to engage in that distortion. Point out a Trump lie and you will get some pretty amazing mail — and if we set aside the attacks on your race or ethnic group, accusations that you are a traitor, etc., most of it will declare that you are being a bad journalist because you don’t criticize both candidates equally.

One all-too-common response to such attacks involves abdicating responsibility for fact-checking entirely, and replacing it with theater criticism: Never mind whether what the candidate said is true or false, how did it play? How did he or she “come across”? What were the “optics”?

But theater criticism is the job of theater critics; news reporting should tell the public what really happened, not be devoted to speculation about how other people might react to what happened.

Now, what will I say if Mr. Trump lies less than I predict and Mrs. Clinton more? That’s easy: Tell it like it is. But don’t grade on a curve. If Mr. Trump lies only three times as much as Mrs. Clinton, the main story should still be that he lied a lot more than she did, not that he wasn’t quite as bad as expected.

Again, I’m not calling on the news media to take sides; journalists should simply do their job, which is to report the facts. It may not be easy — but doing the right thing rarely is.

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