Winners at the RNC

by John Holbo on July 20, 2016

Well, Slavoj Zizek. He’s now only the world’s second most famous Slovenian plagiarist.



F 07.20.16 at 1:37 am

“Donald Trump has told prospective donors that, if elected president, he plans to nominate former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin for U.S. Treasury Secretary.”


js. 07.20.16 at 2:06 am

I’m going with Kieran Healy’s suggestion: Guy Debord.

(Don’t ‘@’ me, as one says on Twitter.)


harry b 07.20.16 at 2:19 am

There should be a law requiring all aspirant first spouses to give exactly the same platitudinous speech as all others. It would save a lot of people a lot of time and energy. Whatever she said it wasn’t going to be original, was it?


js. 07.20.16 at 2:28 am

Or better yet, let’s not have it be a normal expectation that aspirant first spouses give speeches at these things to begin with. I realize that’s probably too sane.


harry b 07.20.16 at 3:13 am

Yep, way too sane. I’m much more pragmatic.


LFC 07.20.16 at 3:17 am

Thanks (if that’s the right word) to the joint NPR/PBS News Hr. coverage of RNC, those of us without TVs but with radios can get the RNC speeches plus the incisive (cough) analysis of … hmm, won’t go there. But will say that listening to Chris Christie’s rant tonight was revealing. Ex. of his logic: HRC once called Assad a reformer, therefore she is responsible for all deaths resulting from the Syrian civil war. He also seems to be under the misapprehension that the Cuban trade embargo has been lifted, which afaik it hasn’t.

As to the plagiarism by a speechwriter: yawn. The plagiarized sentiments were not exactly anything other than platitudinous, as harry b says.

Christie btw made Paul Ryan almost sound elevated by comparison, which in itself is quite an accomplishment. Though attention to the actual content of Ryan’s speech wd show it was quite bad too.


Alan White 07.20.16 at 4:22 am

Well Harry, at least the aspirant First Gentleman’s speech next month will be a first in lots of ways–I wonder if Hillary wins will he still be addressed as “Mr. President”, as most former President’s are? That could be confusing. . .

I’m still really worried about this election, given the shock of Brexit. I know that presidential elections bring out lots more non-WASPy types, but between the kooks that run my state, the gerrymandering across so many conservative states, the voter ID crap–I’m really worried that the Donald might not only win, but then resign ala Palin and then we have the worst of all possible worlds with Pence. The Supreme Court is certainly in the balance here, and even if the Senate is flipped (and I’m dubious), the House won’t be. And jeez if we get a unilateral crazy unbalance of powers. . . I only wish there were a good God to save us.


Alan White 07.20.16 at 4:27 am

Oh BTW–Walker barely defeated (a rather weak) dem opponent here in Cheeseheadland significantly in part because the Rethugs slammed his opponent with charges of plagiarism of her positions. Now they want similar things to just go away when it’s inconvenient. Insert your own worst imagined cursed invective against them here, attributed to me.


RNB 07.20.16 at 4:38 am

So gentlemanly of you to rush to Melania Trump’s defense. Wonder why she is getting a pass that Michelle Obama wouldn’t have gotten had she cribbed a speech by Laura Bush or Nancy Reagan.


RNB 07.20.16 at 4:46 am

No one finds it hilarious that Melania Trump claims that her parents who seem to have pimped her out to a modeling career at a young age had the same values as Michelle Obama’s parents who insisted that she take every advantage of educational opportunity. From the FLOTUS’s wiki page: “She attended Whitney Young High School,[27] Chicago’s first magnet high school, established as a selective enrollment school, where she was a classmate of Jesse Jackson’s daughter Santita.[21] The round-trip commute from the Robinsons’ South Side home to the Near West Side, where the school was located, took three hours.[28]”


kidneystones 07.20.16 at 4:59 am

@ 1 Thanks. This from the LA Times on Mnuchin’s more recent activities:

“OneWest Bank in Pasadena, born from the ashes of failed high-risk home lender IndyMac Bank, has agreed to be acquired by commercial lender CIT Group for $3.4 billion, a hugely profitable deal for the hedge-fund and private-equity investors that have owned the bank for five years…IndyMac’s collapse in July 2008 was… the costliest ever to federal bank deposit insurance funds, at $13 billion. A run on the bank triggered its takeover by the FDIC, with depositors lined up outside branches demanding their money back.

The group headed by Mnuchin outbid other potential buyers in an FDIC auction, putting up $1.55 billion in 2009 to revitalize the bank. Other investors included bank buyout expert J. Christopher Flowers, computer mogul Michael S. Dell and hedge fund operators George Soros and John Paulson. In the five years since then, regulatory filings showed the bank turned more than $3 billion in profits, enabling the investors to pull out nearly $1.86 billion in dividend payments by the end of 2013.”

Expect more stories like this to emerge.

It’s all relative, of course. HRC gets 225k a pop for her top-secret speeches to Goldman Sachs and others to the tune of millions, and we confirm today that Trump’s wife can’t write, or proof, her own speech in a second language. The horror!!


RNB 07.20.16 at 6:30 am

So instead of giving a speech full of empty husband worship ghost-written by professional Republican speech writers, Melania Trump decided to repeat Michelle Obama on what the values of good Americans are. Could it be that perhaps partially unbeknownst to herself she hates her husband who she knows to be a fraud and authentically admires Michelle Obama? Is she living in a cage that she built herself? What does the prenup look like? Is this why she is trapped? Did Donald Trump negotiate a good prenup deal for himself? Was this his art of the deal at its finest?


Lee A. Arnold 07.20.16 at 9:14 am

I imagine that the speech Melania gave was largely ghost-written. This raises three alternative possibilities:

1. The GOP speechwriters hired for the “draft” version simply culled phrases that were used in similar speeches. (This is a regular part of the “first draft” process to accumulate suggestions to be refashioned.) But Melania’s final version adopted them wholesale, because she didn’t understand that she should do a complete “rewrite” and not merely the “final polish”.

Or else, 2. The GOP speechwriters are plants by the mainstream GOP to hurt The Donald.

Or else, 3. The rightwing socio-emotional cognitive bias (a.k.a. “motivated cognition”) has grown to such an extreme degree of mental atomisation that there is no intellectual continuity from one moment to the next.

I am voting for a combination of #1 and #3.

Anyway we can now bet that the speeches given at the Democratic Convention next week, will be transcribed by the Republicans and run through pattern recognition software.

Any Democratic phraseology that is remotely similar to any prose, anywhere in the world — even translated from the Chinese (…or especially translated from the Chinese, or anyone else whom the Republicans hate) — will be endlessly trumpeted on Fox News as a harbinger of the fall of Western civilization.

Thus the U.S. Presidential election may now become a matter of choosing the candidate who Steals Less Words.

And finally! A choice which may be simple enough for most U.S. voters to understand !!


P O'Neill 07.20.16 at 9:20 am

Also, Melania is only the second most politically relevant beauty queen of the week, lagging Gretchen Carlson.


Lee A. Arnold 07.20.16 at 9:23 am

Indeed if the Democrats have any brains (I am using what grammarians call the “conditional mood”, there) they will run their own speeches NOW through pattern recognition software, before their convention. Or else, copy and paste them, sentence by sentence, into Google, to see what the web obtains.


kidneystones 07.20.16 at 9:59 am


jake the antisoshul soshulist 07.20.16 at 12:56 pm

A political speech contained the same almost word for word boilerplate platitudes as another political speech, video at 11. It is not like we could expect originality, but
the laziness is typical of the Trump campaign.


Layman 07.20.16 at 1:12 pm

The funny thing is the defense: That Melania Trump, the spouse of our nominee, just happens to share the same values as Michelle Obama, the willing partner of the secret Marxist Muslim Kenyan Obama!


LFC 07.20.16 at 2:02 pm

RNB @13
So instead of giving a speech full of empty husband worship ghost-written by professional Republican speech writers, Melania Trump decided to repeat Michelle Obama on what the values of good Americans are.

Melania did not “decide” to do this. What happened is that a probably young, inexperienced (and less than competent) speechwriter lifted the passage in question.

My sense, at the risk of sounding a standard grumpy “this young generation is no good” theme and which I can admittedly back up only with a couple of anecdotes that would take too long to recount, is that some people, and perhaps esp some in recent years (though maybe it’s always been the case), don’t understand or ‘get’ plagiarism in an instinctive way. They’ve been told not to do it but they’ve never internalized why it’s bad/wrong. And the speechwriter was no doubt on a tight deadline. Some combination of these things produced the result. Just a hunch.

I didn’t hear or read the rest of Melania T’s speech, btw. Anyway, pace RNB @9, I’m not sure who here is “rushing” to her defense. It’s true the episode is being treated w some levity, which is perhaps what upsets RNB. Not sure. No one afaict is claiming that there is an equivalence in any ‘deep’ way between Michelle Obama and Melania T., so I think RNB needn’t get so upset.


LFC 07.20.16 at 2:10 pm

Don’t know if this is k’stone’s link or not, but in a strange interview at RNC last night Don King, the boxing promoter, said, if I heard correctly, that race relations in the US are worse than they have been in the last hundred years [!!]. (Well, who needs history or such…)


LFC 07.20.16 at 2:14 pm

@ L. Arnold
we can now bet that the speeches given at the Democratic Convention next week, will be transcribed by the Republicans and run through pattern recognition software.

Yup. And every person-hour spent doing that is a person-hour not spent on something actually useful for their campaign, e.g. precinct-level organization. So it’s all good. ;)


Will S. 07.20.16 at 2:47 pm

Melania threw out the speech given to her and wrote her own.

“Inside Trump Tower, it turned out, Ms. Trump had decided she was uncomfortable with the text, and began tearing it apart, leaving a small fraction of the original.

“Her quiet plan to wrest the speech away and make it her own set in motion the most embarrassing moment of the convention: word-for-word repetition of phrases and borrowed themes from Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention eight years ago.”


harry b 07.20.16 at 3:21 pm

I think my and LFC’s comments must have been the offending ‘defences’ of Melania. Maybe js’s too. Really, we’re not defending her. Though at least she had the good judgment to plagiarize from Michelle Obama. I wouldn’t give anyone a pass for plagiarizing Nancy Reagan or Laura Bush. (But maybe Barbara Bush, that might be ok).


Lee A. Arnold 07.20.16 at 3:59 pm


LFC 07.20.16 at 4:19 pm

@Will S.
Melania threw out the speech given to her and wrote her own

That’s interesting. I had just assumed it was a speechwriter’s doing.


LFC 07.20.16 at 4:24 pm

serves me right for not reading the NYT every day (unlike RNB, who does…)


Lee A. Arnold 07.20.16 at 4:43 pm

If only what shows up in the NYTimes were always true!


Layman 07.20.16 at 6:18 pm

On the other hand, there’s story number 4:

…wherein Mrs. Trump’s speechwriter admits the cribbing from Mrs. Obama and takes the blame for it, days later. This announcement 36 hrs ago would have ended the story.

(Though I note this version still relies on the idea that Mrs. Obama is a person to be respected and emulated; odd, given the general tenor of Republican commentary about the Obamas.)


RNB 07.20.16 at 6:29 pm

So Melania Trump admires Michelle Obama who gave The Donald the best trash talking yet!
Here’s a passage:

“And I have seen what happens when ideas like these take hold. I have seen how leaders rule by intimidation, leaders who demonize and dehumanize entire groups of people often do so because they have nothing else to offer. And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished, how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.”

Would Melania be trash talking The Donald like this if the prenup would not leave her penniless in the case of divorce? Roy Cohn wrote The Donald’s first prenup.

I can’t believe the media are not all over what Melania Trump’s admiration for Michelle Obama says about what she thinks is acceptable to say about her husband.


LFC 07.20.16 at 7:56 pm

I hope you’re trying for irony here, as opposed to some kind of serious argument about emulation/admiration, which the facts of this story, as known presently, don’t support.


Yan 07.20.16 at 8:04 pm

If I had to sum up the plagiarism scandal in a few words, I’d go with: “extremely careless but not criminal.”


kidneystones 07.20.16 at 8:07 pm

Trump tramples on conventional politics to carve his own path to victory – controlling news cycles and generally beating the living crap out of naysayers in both political camps.

From ‘build’ to ‘ban’ to the current ‘we can’t trust political consultants’ blow-up; Trump has smashed right through paper barriers erected by the self-appointed gate keepers on his road to the White House.

The current ‘sampling’ non-scandal may derail the Trump train. This sort of chaos is par for the course, as the more astute have observed. Trump promised fireworks and all eyes on the RNC. I hadn’t watched any speeches until the Melania speech. But I did watch three, or four after that.

As they say in Trump’s entertainment world – there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The NeverTrump story has disappeared and the RNC political professional consultants just took two enormous hits.

Trump napalmed his campaign, again, and the whole world’s watching.

Smells like…


js. 07.20.16 at 9:07 pm

Layman @29 — Although at this point, it’s not entirely clear whether Meredith McIver isn’t or is a Canadian girlfriend.


Suzanne 07.20.16 at 9:45 pm

Layman @29: All they had to do, really, was acknowledge the plagiarism and apologize promptly to Michelle Obama and her speechwriters. It would have been a one-day story, because after all it’s just the wife’s speech we’re talking about and the media were ready to let Mrs. Trump off the hook. Instead, they bluster and offer seventeen different stories, the media keep poking around, and Melania and the campaign end up taking a hit as the plagiarism gets traced back to her.

LFC @6: And Ryan is the media’s favorite “thoughtful Republican.”

Alan White @7: Bill may have to get used to “Mr. Clinton” again. Whatever the difficulties, at least we will be spared that silly “title” “First Lady” for four years. It is true that most of the ladies in question seem to get off on it, with exceptions like Jacqueline Kennedy, who opined that “First Lady” sounded like a horse and fought a (losing) battle to be called plain Mrs. Kennedy.

I once heard the Vice-President’s wife introduced as “Second Lady Jill Biden.” That would really make me want to hit someone with my handbag.


kidneystones 07.20.16 at 10:10 pm

@ 35 the ‘media’ provides Trump with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free air-time. Forget ‘fair-coverage,’ Trump neither needs, nor wants anything but anti-Trump stories – real, or imagined. And they’re doing it now.

Conflict drives all plots and makes all the characters more compelling and attractive. I doubt any Trump supporters will be deterred from supporting a candidate who built his brand by dissing over-paid political consultants who in the end can’t be trusted or relied upon to ‘get the job done.’

Trump is already incorporating this episode into his social media narrative – and the media is helping there, too – pointing to similar cases of repeated plagiarism by the husband of the ‘victim.’

As for Ryan, his embrace of open borders is being used as cudgel against him. His chances of losing to his primary challenger are very real.


harry b 07.20.16 at 11:35 pm


maybe we should refer to him as ‘first gentleman’.

Ok, bad idea.


LFC 07.20.16 at 11:49 pm

Speaking of speeches, Donald Trump Jr’s speech last night, in terms of what it had to do politically (appeal to the base, praise his father, attack the Dems) was a pretty well-constructed piece; don’t know how much he wrote himself and how much was speechwriters. Couple of lines cd have come out of a Sanders speech, though only a couple. Arguably more effective in the audio alone, I think, than w the video, which I just watched some of, but as a piece of speech-writing it was competent. Again, I don’t know how much was speechwriters and how much was DT Jr. himself.


LFC 07.20.16 at 11:58 pm

I think the chances of Ryan not being re-elected in his district are minuscule. Incumbent congressmen of some long standing, esp if they happen to be the speaker of the House, have a lot of advantages, and while such defeats of people in the leadership do happen — I’m thinking specifically of Eric Cantor as fairly recent example — they’re rare.

Ryan wd have to do a lot more than simply not toe the Trump borders line in order to be in real danger of a primary defeat. If he got drunk one night and ran through the streets of his home town half-naked shrieking that he was being chased by a cat possessed by the devil, that might suffice to lose him the primary. Short of something like that, I’m not seeing it.


RNB 07.21.16 at 12:08 am

@38 Like to see a debate between Tony Schwartz and John Barron on Don Jr’s claim that the Trump organization prizes blue collar workers above American aristocrats and those with fancy degrees. Perhaps Jane Mayer can interview Melania Trump so we can find out what she admires and wants to emulate in Michelle Obama. Need a little clarity on what the prenup looks like too.


kidneystones 07.21.16 at 12:31 am

@ LFC 38 and 39

Thanks for both. I’ve heard Junior speak several times and agree that he can be very persuasive. There’s a focus group video up at Real Clear Politics confirming your point.

Re: Ryan. Agreed regarding the rarity. That said, it’s much more of a contest than it was even in May. Ryan has dropped 30 points in support among likely Republican voters to 43 percent. Scott Walker is campaigning on his behalf, but the mood of primary voters is decidedly against Ryan on the issues – both the temporary ban on Muslims and on the need to secure the borders. Ryan represents, as I’m sure you know, the globalist wing of the GOP closely aligned with multi-nationals and pro-amnesty. So, you’re right in general and in the particular case of Ryan. He enjoys immense support. As with Brext and UKIP, the establishment enjoys considerable advantages. HRC Inc., I’m fairly sure, never imagined losing to Sanders, but the race much, much, much more of a fight than pretty much everyone predicted.

The scales still tilt away from a Trump victory and a Ryan defeat. But both races are closer than the establishment media would have us believe. They’ve their own narrative and interests to protect.

I’ve made my call for a Trump victory in November. I think you’re probably right about Ryan. Ryan’s own voting record sets him very much against the mood and demands of the vast majority of Republican primary voters, at least.

Given that I don’t see populism disappearing anytime soon, Ryan looks wounded to me. People have yet to fully imagine what a Trump victory might look like. It will be mostly white and mostly older – just like the demographics of most western countries. It will also include LGBT Republicans and minorities in some numbers. Most important, the social conservatives/evangelicals have made peace, for the most part, with Trump on the issue of states’ rights.

The entire Trump family is a whole lot brighter than most allow. Their intelligence is, perhaps, more reptilian, but that’s a form of intelligence I frankly admire.

I suspect I’m not alone.


LFC 07.21.16 at 1:09 am

Like to see a debate between Tony Schwartz and John Barron on Don Jr’s claim that the Trump organization prizes blue collar workers above American aristocrats and those with fancy degrees.

I don’t think I know offhand w/o search-engining who Schwartz and Barron are, and — and this goes to kidneystones also — I want to make clear that I was not judging the content of the DT Jr speech from a substantive standpoint — obvs I don’t agree w what he said about policy — but rather purely from the standpoint of convention oratory.


Alan White 07.21.16 at 3:05 am

Harry–I said that upthread @7. And yes, bad idea, but probably, what they’ll call him–in lieu of the infelicitous “Mr. President”. Tradition trumps (sorry) a lot of good sense.


harry b 07.21.16 at 3:29 am

Sorry Alan, I missed that! I usually read your every comment!

Anyway, Cruz just won the convention! I’ve rarely seen a politician enjoy themselves so much — it was a marvelous speech — he held them in his hands and then kicked them in the teeth, and he loved the booing.


awy 07.21.16 at 5:44 am

guys, biggest winner is neoliberalism.

trump showed he has no skins in the policy game by offering policy decisions to his vp, and previously ryan. he’s going to license his name to people, and there may even be money involved. make no mistake, trump administration will be ultra-neoliberal on both domestic and foreign policy, with some symbolic nationalist stuff thrown in.

then of course we know hillary is a neoliberal.

so neoliberalism wins yet again.


ZM 07.21.16 at 9:17 am

In Australia we called Julia Gillard’s partner Tim Mathieson the First Bloke when she was Prime Minister.

I saw one of the best things from the Republican Convention on Twitter: “Harmeet Dhillon, the first woman vice chair in the Republican party’s history, opened Tuesday night’s Republican National Convention by singing the invocation in Punjabi, another party first, before translating it into English. “Please give us the courage to make the right choices, to make common cause with those with whom we disagree, for the greater good of our nation,” the 47-year-old San Francisco lawyer told the delegates.”


ZM 07.21.16 at 10:44 am

The worst thing has to be the Trump adviser who said Hilary Clinton should be shot for treason. I think that has got to be illegal, you can’t have people advocating shooting politicians on the other side.


LFC 07.21.16 at 11:51 am

Presumably that adviser’s remark was meant figuratively not literally, though who knows…


kidneystones 07.21.16 at 12:07 pm

@ 44 Trump provided speaking opportunities at the RNC to defeated candidates: Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Teh Donald played this perfectly. Ted could have cemented his position as the lead candidate for 2020 simply by saying all he did and then adding some form of endorsement. Instead, Lying Ted stood on the podium and pointedly refused to honor his pledge to support the nominee, a pledge constructed to ensure Trump didn’t sabotage the GOP by running as an independent.

Cruz virtually ensured that he alone will bear the brunt of the hostility of Republican voters should Trump be defeated, effectively ending his own presidential ambitions. It’s worth recalling that Cruz and his loopy father stood on the same stage as a ‘christian’ who declared his willingness to execute all gays, a decision Cruz later described as a ‘mistake.’

I very much doubt Cruz could have beaten HRC. The RNC and GOP establishment hate Ted even more than they do Donald.

After this, Ted is toast, thank God!


kidneystones 07.21.16 at 12:38 pm

Even better, via Zero Hedge:

Update 1: RNC sources are reporting that Ted Cruz’ “speech was different than the version he gave RNC in advance.” Furthermore, officials and Cruz had to be physically separated after his speech.

Update 2. Ted Cruz was turned away from entering Sheldon Adelson’s suite in the arena after the speech (CNN)

Update 3. Chris Christie did not mince words for Ted Cruz after the Texas senator refused to endorse Donald Trump on the prime-time convention stage Wednesday night. “It was an awful, selfish speech by someone who tonight, through the words he said on that stage, showed everybody why he has richly earned the reputation that he has on Capitol Hill,” Christie said to reporters on the floor of the convention. (via Politico)

Doubtless this tale will be spun by the respective campaigns, but when you’ve lost Huckabee, Santorum, and Adelson, where exactly does Cruz expect to find support?

Cruz is an idiot – by discarding the speech he submitted to the RNC he reminded just about everyone why they don’t trust or like Cruz. Worse, the stunt compels GOP establishment leaders to do something they’ve largely avoided doing: namely rally around Trump.

* * *

Update 1: RNC sources are reporting that Ted Cruz’ “speech was different than the version he gave RNC in advance.” Furthermore, officials and Cruz had to be physically separated after his speech.

* * *


Slackboy2007 07.21.16 at 1:03 pm

Response to John Holbo’s main post:

Remember this from your last post on the subject of Žižek’s mistake:

“Everyone seems to have been too polite to take note but, upthread, I said the opposite of what I meant to say:

“David was basically asking whether I was A) making a narrow point about Zizek or B) rather shamelessly hinting that all critical theory/continental philosophy is fraud, guilty by association with Zizek. My position is B”

Just to be clear. My position is: A!

But feel free to employ a hermeneutic of suspicion. Regard the quote as a fatal, revealing, Freudian slip on my part. Everyone should have a hobby, and it’s funny when people very carefully say the opposite of what they mean.

Carry on.”

Funny, no; very obviously self-revelatory, yes. Your slip was trying to tell you something, and I’d like to suggest that it was trying to tell you that you should give Žižek another chance, and this time with a pointedly less narrow mind.

And everyone wasn’t being “too polite to take note”, they just gave you the benefit of the doubt that you meant what you said and took you on your initial word. Maybe giving others the benefit of the doubt on both their writings and their mistakes is something that you could stand to do yourself.


kidneystones 07.21.16 at 1:12 pm

And sure enough Junior chirps up via TPM

“Donald Trump Jr. seemed downright pleased that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) refused to endorse his father in a Thursday morning interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Claiming that the campaign knew that the non-endorsement was coming, Trump Jr. insisted that Cruz’s actions “galvanized everyone.” … “He did a phenomenal job bringing the party together,” Trump Jr. said. “I would like to thank him for the greatest endorsement we could receive.”

Elsewhere, Trump reportedly got a copy of Ted’s revised speech 2 hours in advance, but decided to let Ted shoot himself in the face. True, or not, the consensus seems to be that Cruz committed political suicide live at the RNC.

Rival neutralized, Trump takes the stage.


ZM 07.21.16 at 3:07 pm


“@ZM Presumably that adviser’s remark was meant figuratively not literally, though who knows…”

No, I am pretty sure he meant actually shot. He clarified afterwards and said he was in the army and in the army they put people in firing lies and shoot them for treason.

““This whole thing disgusts me,” he concluded. “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

Reached by the Boston Globe, Baldasaro stood by his comments “without a doubt”.

“When you take classified information on a server that deals with where our state department, special forces, CIA, whatever in other countries, that’s a death sentence for those people if that information gets in the hands of other countries or the terrorists,” Baldasaro said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s information for the enemy. In the military, shot, firing squad. So I stand by what I said.””


Yan 07.21.16 at 3:38 pm


Yes, it’s a disgusting comment. But if we insist on taking it literally and precisely, he’s claiming (falsely) that she has committed a particular crime (treason) and should *through legal processes* (I.e., military tribunal) suffer the legal consequences. That’s not the same as saying, “someone should assassinate x.” Part of what’s disgusting about it is that that barbarous penalty is in fact the law of our barbarous land. Beyond that it’s just purposely inflammatory dishonestly pedantic use of words, since it doesn’t technically say what it wants the audience to hear, and doesn’t really mean what it wants both its right wing and left wing audience to think it means.

Shorter: he’s trolling you.


ZM 07.21.16 at 3:56 pm

I don’t think it was trolling, I think he meant it. He said he meant it. Anyhow, it is beyond trolling calling for a Presidential candidate to be shot.

He didn’t specify in the first instance he meant by military tribunal, and since the USA has a history of political leaders being shot, I think he should be condemned for saying something like that.

I doubt it is legal for one Presidential candidate’s advisor to call for another party’s presidential candidate to be shot.

And being shot by a firing squad does not appear to be in the US law against treason, the punishment can be death or imprisonment for no less than 5 years, it says nothing about being shot by firing squad. And the federal death penalty is carried out by lethal injection not by firing squad.

I think he should be fired and cautioned by the police at the very least for inciting crime.


Suzanne 07.21.16 at 4:44 pm

@37 and 43: Or we could repurpose an old Clinton nickname. First Bubba. First Elvis. First Big Dog.

@38: Trump is now running ads on Fox News and I assume elsewhere, that make specific populist appeals, promising to bring all those good manufacturing jobs back, etc. Although a photo of a black worker features prominently, it’s plainly an appeal to what used to be called Reagan Democrats. And Trump is going even further back than Reagan to revive the Nixon “silent majority” concept.

@41: Sanders did far better than expected but Clinton still trounced him. It was not close. Leaving aside the other glaring issues confronting Trump’s campaign, it little money and no infrastructure, which will count when it’s time to get out the vote.

Which does not take away from your larger point that in this election year pretty much anything can happen, and has.


RNB 07.21.16 at 5:02 pm


Clinton has to explain why whatever Trump would do would not create high-paying jobs. Tariffs may not in fact lead to big net job losses but they would likely hurt those sectors in which wages are relatively high and which have good multiplier effects on the economy in general; restrictive immigration policies could end up leading to net job losses. Meanwhile while Trump will flail around with ineffective or counterproductive policies, better policies will not be tried. What Clinton cannot do is give the impression that she is too fearful to talk critically about a liberal world trade system and “open borders” out of political correctness. I do think Thomas Perez should be her VP, but it seems that it will be Kaine.


Yan 07.21.16 at 5:14 pm


That he meant it is precisely my point. He meant what he said, and what he said is she committed an illegal act of treason and should receive the strongest legal punishment for treason, which is execution. The point is that what he meant isn’t what I think you’re implying he meant. He meant he thinks she is a criminal and should receive the appropriate legal punishment, which is not the same as “to call for another party’s presidential candidate to be shot.”

He makes the context very clear when he talks about what is done in the military and death sentence: the context is legal. It is a very misguided call for justice. Like if I say murderous police officers should rot in jail. I’m not asking any random person on the street to lock them in their basment.

Now, as I also said, I think he wants people to misunderstand him in the way you have. He wants you to accuse him of inciting violence, so he can point out that he only called for the legally allowed punished for an asserted crime. This is common in political rhetoric, using literal or pedantic language dishonestly then falling back on it (“depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”)

I’d say he’s morally not legally responsible for inciting violence, since it can’t be against the law to believe even falsely that someone has committed a crime and saying they should receive the appropriate legal punishment. But since he likely knows and wants people to misread him, he is morally responsible for inciting violence.


ZM 07.21.16 at 5:31 pm

It is not the legally allowed punishment for treason – the punishment for treason is not being put in a firing line and shot. It is the death penalty by lethal injection, or no less than 5 years in gaol.

It is quite out of order for an advisor to one Presidential candidate calling for another Presidential candidate to be shot for treason.

It is not the actual legal penalty for treason, it is inflamatory, and the USA has a history of political leaders being shot. The secret service is investigating, I hope they give him a very strong caution at the least, and I hope he gets fired as well.


LFC 07.21.16 at 5:31 pm

I am now aware of who Tony Schwartz is (thks to a post at LGM about the New Yorker piece).


LFC 07.21.16 at 5:35 pm

@Ze K
Amanpour is one journalist. Not the ‘US establishment’.


Belle Waring 07.21.16 at 5:46 pm


Yan 07.21.16 at 6:06 pm


I’m bewildered by this quibble. The law allows the death penalty, how is the form relevant? If he had said: “I urge patriotic Americans to administer frontier justice via lethal injections to HRC,” then everything would be ok?

It’s not okay because he’s indirectly inciting violence. And he’s inciting violence because he’s floating the idea of causing death, not because of the form of killing he floats.

And his choice of firing squad is again part of the legal context: an appeal to an old fashioned brutal but law governed process. He’s saying, based on a false conservative picture of history: we ought to uphold the law and punish criminals like we use to, like the military once did, before we got wussy and started coddling criminals and traitors. It’s BS of course, but the context is clear: he calling for a procedural, not a frontier, version of supposed justice. I think only partisan obstinacy could explain failing to see that.

But then it might seem a quibble on my part, since we agree what his said is inflammatory and disgusting and morally wrong.

But I think legality is a worthy quibble, and I also think it’s good to recognize they way both wretched parties play dishonest language games.

What he said is bad enough, no need to read more into it. And it’s irresponsible enough that I agree he should be fired. I don’t agree he should be investigated as though there were a real possibility he’s an assassin. That’s petty BS. He’s a good old fashioned conservative asshole not a terrorist,


ZM 07.21.16 at 6:30 pm

I certainly did not state that Baldasaro should be investigated as if he is an assassin. You are really twisting my words, and I don’t know what your point is either.

He should be investigated because he stated Hilary Clinto should be shot for treason. You can’t have political advisors saying that another Presidential candidate should be shot.

And if he urged American to administer frontier justice and give Hilary Clinton a lethal injection that should also be investigated, although it sounds so ridiculous I doubt anyone would say anything like that.

And, no, good old American conservatives can not go around calling for Presidential candidates to be shot. America has a history of political leaders being shot, and America has a current problem of high incidents of shooting.


Layman 07.21.16 at 6:38 pm

Ze K: “In the context of the US AM talk radio, this seems to be pretty mild, actually.”

You are a connoisseur of US AM talk radio? In addition to your many other areas of expertise?

@ZM, the statement is already being investigated, as are all such statements which have the effect of threatening the life of the President or a candidate for that office.


Yan 07.21.16 at 6:55 pm

“I certainly did not state that Baldasaro should be investigated as if he is an assassin.”

The “as if he were” part of the sentence wasmy point, not intended to be attributed to you. I’m saying that if you investigate someone for saying a public figure should be shot, then you are in fact treating them as a potential assassin. Otherwise, what are you investigating? What’s the point?

Why should he be investigated? To uncover what?

When you say “You can’t have political advisors saying that another Presidential candidate should be shot” how shou we parse “you can’t”? Does that mean it should be illegal speech to accuse someone of treason or to call for the legal punishment for an accused crime?

Again, I think it’s immoral, irresponsible speech, but you’re making the line between moral and legal, between literal death threat and indirect incitement blurry. And that’s a dangerous line to blur in a country where people have been blacklisted and more recently where people have been placed on terrorist watch lists for being close to that line.


ZM 07.22.16 at 3:15 am


“I’m saying that if you investigate someone for saying a public figure should be shot, then you are in fact treating them as a potential assassin. Otherwise, what are you investigating? What’s the point? Why should he be investigated? To uncover what?”

He is already being investigated, as I wrote before, and as Layman stated above.

“When you say “You can’t have political advisors saying that another Presidential candidate should be shot” how shou we parse “you can’t”? Does that mean it should be illegal speech to accuse someone of treason or to call for the legal punishment for an accused crime?”

You can’t go around saying Presidential candidates should be shot. As an Australian I really find the numbers of American commenters arguing with me about legal loopholes quite surprising.

From Fortune: “According to Ken Paulson, who heads the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, the law about threatening the president sets a lower standard for prosecution than for ordinary threats. For instance, it does not require the person have the intent to carry out the threat or that the target of the threat know about it.”

The author of the article says that the advisor may not be punished, but I think Baldasaro should get a caution at the very least.

And also someone shouldn’t make frivolous and deliberately provocative accusations of treason for their own political ends either, which this appears to be.

I am rather dubious that Baldasaro genuinely thinks Clinton is actually guilty of treason, and if he does I expect to see him spend the next several years attempting to get her prosecuted for treason since it is such a serious crime.

And, as I have said before, the legal punishment for treason is not being shot, it is the death penalty administered by lethal injection, or a gaol sentence of no less than 5 years.

He said Clinton should be shot, he did not say he thought Clinton should be investigated for treason, tried, and when found guilty (which is extremely unlikely since I can’t see how anyone reasonable would think Clinton is guilty of treason) given a lethal injection or a sentence of no less than 5 years in gaol.

“Again, I think it’s immoral, irresponsible speech, but you’re making the line between moral and legal, between literal death threat and indirect incitement blurry. And that’s a dangerous line to blur in a country where people have been blacklisted and more recently where people have been placed on terrorist watch lists for being close to that line.”

There is already an investigation into this, I am highly dubious it is legal in America to say on radio that Presidential candidates should be shot.

I honestly do not see how a political advisor to Donald Trump calling for Hilary Clinton to be shot by firing squad — which is not the legal punishment for the crime he is accusing her of — can be connected to the McCarthy era witch hunts.

If anything Baldasaro is conducting a witch hunt against Hilary Clinton, frivolously saying she should be tried for treason, and saying she should be shot which is not even the legal punishment for treason, which is inciting violence by orchestrating a situation where some members of the public might think that Hilary Clinton is deserving of being shot.

From the NYT:

“Perhaps the most famous argument for limiting First Amendment rights was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s 1919 opinion that even the most stringent free speech protection would not cover a man who deliberately and falsely shouted “fire” in a crowded theater. For Holmes and the unanimous Supreme Court, speech whose aim is to cause violence or damage could be restricted.

Like this example, most free speech jurisprudence on incitement has involved direct exhortations to crime: calls to action by the Ku Klux Klan, or appeals to evade the draft. But recent events provide a more convoluted scenario. What about speech whose sole aim is to be so offensive as to provoke a violent reaction? When it is deliberately tailored with that end, and no other, in mind?”


derrida derider 07.22.16 at 4:22 am

“If [Ryan] got drunk one night and ran through the streets of his home town half-naked shrieking that he was being chased by a cat possessed by the devil, that might suffice to lose him the primary” – LFC@39

If Clown Trump did such a thing it would, of course, increase his support. When he starts falling behind in the campaign expect some equally bizarre stunt.


js. 07.22.16 at 3:53 pm

LFC @62 — That New Yorker piece is excellent. Highly recommend it.


Belle @64 — Right? Also, the Meredith McIver Twitter page is… kinda weird, kinda not totally real seeming. I mean, I have no doubt that there is *a* Meredith McIver who works in Trump Org. etc., but that doesn’t mean the rest of the story is necessarily true.

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