First Spouse Problems


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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154 Responses

  1. Of all the reasons to hate and fear a Trump administration, this isn’t one.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Jed Bartlett and Jack Ryan both had wives with careers, but they were doctors and that’s one area that’s likely to be pretty safe.

    Even this would be a minefield.

    There are *SO* many things that could go wrong. A doctor checks out a patient and recommends a couple of aspirin and to start going for a walk around the block after dinner. Patient gets a heart attack 3 weeks later.

    Patient too old? Fine, we’ll have Dr. Spouse work with adolescents. 15 year old patient comes in. Turns out, somehow, she’s pregnant. Suddenly, tah-dah, we have ourselves a war zone. What does the doctor recommend?

    Okay, too made-for-tv-movie? We’ll make the doctor a boring old sports medicine doctor. Primarily boring old knee injury after boring old knee injury. Scoping knees and collecting fees. Minimally invasive, get them in, get them out. Quick question: is there going to be a Secret Service guy there in the room when the doctor is asking “okay, what were you doing when this happened?” And that’s without getting into the various circuses that might attend minor sports celebrities visiting or antibiotic resistant staphylococcus.

    There are so many things that might go wrong that could have easily never happened had the first spouse merely sat in the first office and played Freecell.

    I am trying to think of a single job/career that might continue past a spouse getting elected president *AND* wouldn’t be subject to potential abuse (“We weren’t hiring you because you were married to the president. We are merely hiring you because we need someone with your background on our website’s SEO maximization team!”) and I’m coming up blank.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      It actually *was* a minefield for Dr. Bartlett that defined her character from the season 2 premiere and pretty much for the rest of the series.

      But that’s mainly because she violated a more fundamental ethical rule of having her husband as a patient. (At least I think it’s one, WillT can correct me)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        See, that’s just lazy writing. I would have killed a patient.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I don’t know if there is an ethical rule about this. A friend of mine from college had a his dad as a pediatrician. Other friend’s have had their teeth treated by their dentist parents.

        FWIW the general lawyer rule is that it is okay to represent a romantic partner as long as the sexual relationship began before the legal relationship. I know lots of lawyers who have done legal work for their spouses.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Lawyers take conflicts of interest a lot more seriously than doctors, I’m pretty sure (doctors have “informed consent” to really watch out for). Plus, doctors are supposed to
          “care” in a way that lawyers aren’t.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I agree. FLOTUS is a weird position. Is it even really a formal position in the government? If Ivanka would rather or is better suited than Melania to do whatever FLOTUS does, let her have at it.

    BUT require her what we require of all FLOTUSs, specifically the avoidance of conflicts of interests and impartiality.

    Where I’d object is if they want to create some new role with all the benefits of FLOTUS but none of the constraints. Do not normalize that.

    Also, I sorta see these as two separate but related issues and think doing so helps us avoid some weird sexism. If Melania wants to punt on FLOTUS duties, such should be her right. If POTUS then wants someone else in that role, let him choose someone independent of gender or relation.

    This does present a ripple effect w/r/t the fallout of Trump maintaining a relationship with his wife/son and the logistics of their presence in an “unsecured” city. New Yorkers are preparing for the madness that will ensue when Trump visits, including shutting down 3 major airports (and maybe 2 minor ones) for a minimum of 15 minutes when he flies in or out (which will actually ripple out nationwide).

    There is also concern about securing his son’s school building. At this point, all the major DC players send their kids to Sidwell Friends because they have the necessary infrastructure and relationship with SS for security purposes. How do you achieve that in a school situated as his son’s is?Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      I can’t imagine that the logistics for a hoity toity school in Manhattan are that much more onerous that those for a hoity toity school in NW and/or Bethesda. One of Bush(the jr)’s kids went to a public university while he was prez. (The other was in New Haven, which for a long time wasn’t one of the better parts of Connecticut)

      Still, maybe what this can do is to have a real long overdue discussion on how the Secret Service needs to rein it in.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Young kids/minors are a completely different animal. Also, Sidwell is on a large campus where Manhattan schools are not. And this isn’t to say it can’t be outfitted but it will need to be; Sidwell already is. Doing so will come at great expense and heasache for many folks.

        Trump’s family shouldn’t become prisoners of the White House. But being POTUS has costs, for him and his family. In typical Trump fashion, he wants to avoid these by outsourcing them to others.Report

        • Avatar Damon says:

          “In typical Trump fashion, he wants to avoid these by outsourcing them to others.”

          That expense has already been outsourced. Think Sidwell paid for all those costs the SS wanted? I doubt it. The SS doing it at another school is no different than the first time. I’m unaware of any requirement that pres kids go to certain schools.Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I am not especially concerned at all of the alleged nepotism of Trump’s first three kids serving in an advisory capacity, nor of Ivanka having undue influence over her father.

    It’s not the nepotism that’s the issue, though. It’s the fact that the administration keeps saying that it is going to let the kids run Trump’s businesses and those same kids keep getting invited to policy meetings with outside entities that are potential Trump clients. (And that’s not even getting into the various non-profit fraud that they’ve already been caught engaging in.)Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Well yeah. That was what I meant in the next part about cross-pollination. But that has little to do with the fact that she’s his daughter and the 1967 anti-nepotism laws being bent. That would be just as much a problem if it were his own Lucius Fox instead of his daughter.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I would argue that when we take a situation like this, frame it as an issue of mothers vs. daughters and “well yeah, but” the obvious unprecedented naked corruption and ethical breaches, we are doing exactly what Anderson warns us not to: normalizing something we should be stopping, period.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I’m boggling at the sheer number of new precedents that are established by having a businessman of this particular stature take the office.

          I mean, something as simple as whether a shoppe on the ground floor of the hotel that specializes in selling newspapers, candybars, and cigarettes can transfer their lease to another kioskman strikes me as being something that would need to be hashed out by a committee somewhere lest there be an ethics/corruption problem.

          And that’s not even getting to the *REAL* stuff up at the level of DJT’s kids. This is just something as small as the little convenience shop at the hotel!

          It’s all really complex and bothersome and it was always so much easier when the President was someone who could quit their job and sell their stock and then have no ties to anything but some blind trust that they’re assured is getting 7%.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I think we had a relatively fine norm that would have worked here: If you’re president, your business career is done.

            It’s a little more complicated here because it’s a family business, but saying you can (a) hire somebody to run it for the next 4-8 years or (b) keep your kids out of the government seems reasonable.

            The Trumps chose neither of these. Which means they chose this conflict.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I am certain that hiring someone to run it for the next 4-8 years would have done nothing to clear up problems.

              I mean, would *YOU* believe that the empty suit they hired would have been anything more than a puppet?

              *I* wouldn’t.Report

            • Avatar Mo says:

              Actually the simple solution is an IPO and blind trust. However, the negative side effect, for Trump, is that there are all sorts of disclosures associated with that.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Given the whole Trump University thing and the litany of other shady business practices that have been exposed over the past 20+ years, watching Trump companies try to open up their books enough to go public would be absolutely hilarious.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Good thing that he doesn’t have to, what with winning and all.

                Imagine the fiasco his Empire would be in if he lost??? Yikes!Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Going into the election, I predicted a very high likelihood that Trump would end up declaring personal bankruptcy before the end of his life. His empire seems to be predicated on very publicly living like a fantasy rich guy and then selling that image. That’s a very precarious way to make your money when you tend to burn bridges and your business practices for the operations you actually own/run don’t withstand close scrutiny. He has seemed to be on thin ice for some time.

                But yes, now that he’s going to be POTUS, he’ll be just fine. Even if he doesn’t use every opportunity to enrich himself (which he almost certainly will), the licensing game should hold up for the rest of his life.Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                But yes, now that he’s going to be POTUS, he’ll be just fine. Even if he doesn’t use every opportunity to enrich himself (which he almost certainly will), the licensing game should hold up for the rest of his life.

                I think that depends. If Trump ends up being the first president removed from office by impeachment, then the name ends up being close to worthless. Though maybe the Russians will provide him with a nice pension.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                I think that depends.

                I don’t. The information that has come out about Trump during the election, in addition to statements made during the election, have *already* destroyed his brand.

                But Trump had to run for president because he needs constant admiration from, and is intensely envious of, others.

                It’s the ultimate example of someone with narcissistic personality disorder completely self-destructing, and we didn’t notice because he self-destructed *into being president*, which is certainly a unique way to self-destruct.Report

          • Avatar Mo says:

            His stature? I would note that while Cheney was “only” Vice President, Halliburton is over an order of magnitude larger than the Trump Organization. The issue is that Trump doesn’t want to divest.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              But even his role at Halliburton was “only” some functionary who was immediately replaceable the second he left his chair.

              Sure, maybe he was particularly good at what he did there (he had established relationships with the muckitymucks at Arthur Anderson!) but he would have made more problems for them by taking a 3 month leave of absence than he made for them by quitting.

              There was an entire organization (a machine) around the cog where he was.

              This strikes me as different than Trump’s relationship to Trump Real Estate.

              (If your problem is with my saying “of Trump’s particular stature” because you read it as me saying “of Trump’s stature because Trump is the biggest, the best, the tallest guy who has ever held the office!”, please understand that I was focusing on his *PARTICULAR* stature rather than on his magnitude.)Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                The example of Trump Casinos and Resorts shows that it’s actually not that hard to extricate Trump from running his businesses. Granted, in that case, his bondholders forced him to.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              A zillion shares of Halliburton is something that can be divested. Trump seems to be the first wealthy President and/or VP much of whose assets are in the form of privately owned partnerships based on branding and publicity. A partnership may have valued the Trump name (and a guarantee of spending a certain amount of time each year) at $250M — but it’s completely non-liquid. Possibly it’s even worse — he may have to pay the partnership if he were to withdraw his name and time. There’s certainly been lots of speculations by business types that Trump is worth billions on paper, and has a handsome income, but that if he withdrew from the assorted partnerships he’d be in the hole.Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                But that partnership can still be taken public. That’s what he did with his casino business* and it did just as well, or poorly if you prefer, as a public company as it did as a private one. The number of public branding/publicity based companies are legion, think Subway, Burger King, hotel chains, etc. So nothing prevents him from IPOing except his ego.

                * Granted that seemed like more of a way to create a bad corp to saddle ordinary investors with the dying business.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                But it’s not just one partnership. Per the NYTime’s investigation, the so-called Trump Organization is actually a collection of ~500 LLCs in which Trump is a member (sometimes the only member, sometimes not). Many of them are worthless in any meaningful sense. Some of the memberships have been pledged as collateral for loans made to others. Some of their true value (eg, a $915M paper loss to offset profits) have already been transferred to Trump the individual.

                Sorting that all out in order to meet the transparency standards for a publicly-traded corporation whose value could be estimated for an IPO is a years-long task. With a non-zero (IMO) probability that the whole thing is worthless because the cash flow can’t sustain the debt load. One of the reasons that I think Trump didn’t plan on winning when he announced his candidacy is that he made no attempts to even begin sorting out the mess.

                I worked in the cable TV business — the wires and boxes and software side — during the Great Consolidation phase. It took years to clean up the cross-ownership and self-dealing parts of the finances in order to reduce things to a small set of very large publicly-traded companies. A huge part of the effort was arranging things so that the analysts who pegged the stock values before and after each deal were convinced that the cash flow was sufficient to service the debt.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                There’s an interesting symmetry between HRC and DJT regarding how they conduct their business as well as how their opponents view them. In terms of individual decision-making, each of them may not have ever crossed the line into explicit illegality, but they certainly push the boundaries. For example, one of the ways I used to explain to liberals why conservatives don’t like Hillary is that what she (and her fellow Dem supporting liberals) view as SOP WAI politics, her critics view as a paradigmatic example of legalized, institutionally based corruption which she personally benefits from. Same with Trump re: his business practices, with the arrows reversed: not technically illegal*, but a paradigmatic example of self-serving institutionally-based corruption.

                I don’t say that to make a judgment on one practice or person over the other as much as to note that they really are, at least in the stereotypical public’s partisan eye, mirror images of each other.

                *yet, anyway, and the likelihood that it will reduces to zero the closer we get to 1/20/17.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                With a non-zero (IMO) probability that the whole thing is worthless because the cash flow can’t sustain the debt load.

                There’s a non-zero probability he *wouldn’t be allowed* to sort it out, because he has personally guaranteed too much. Both above-board, and with some of the shadier investments.

                I keep saying Trump *can’t* be president. A lot of people don’t seem to follow what I’m saying. It is not possible for Trump to free himself from his obligations.

                One of the reasons that I think Trump didn’t plan on winning when he announced his candidacy is that he made no attempts to even begin sorting out the mess.

                He would have had to start sorting it out *before* he even ran….and probably couldn’t anyway.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                Damn, creating a huge clusterfish that cannot be unwound, then hand the mess over to the next generation, sounds like he is a perfect fit for this type of government.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                David’s point isn’t what you say: that Trump’s passing the mess on to the next generation. David’s saying that Trump’s undisentangleable COIs preclude him from attaining office.

                Formally, anyway. Substantively, the guy will take the Oath on the 20th just like everyone expects.

                Add: I admit I’m agnostic (“uncertain” is the better word here) on what COI provisions apply to the Preznit as opposed to his appointees/other gummint workers.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                Agreed, I was putting to much stock in that last sentence about ‘having it all worked out before he even ran’ and probably projecting into the future.

                Hell, this stuff will probably still be in the news on his last day in office.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Remember the PUMAs when Obama took office? They railed on him til his re-election.

                Trump will be hounded about this for atleast four years. Lotsa folks will try to make it the defining issue of his presidency!Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                David’s point isn’t what you say: that Trump’s passing the mess on to the next generation. David’s saying that Trump’s undisentangleable COIs preclude him from attaining office.

                Exactly. People do not realize this, but there are a *lot* of people we can legally elect president that cannot serve as president.

                We could elect someone currently serving a decade in a state prison, for example. They would be *president*, but they would be president inside of their prison cell.

                Or we could elect someone with serious mental retardation. Or someone who cannot read or write. Or someone *in a coma*. Ain’t no rule against it. (We might be able to 24th amendment some of those people, but they’d still be elected president.)

                But it’s actually worse than that. Legally, we can elect *anyone president we want*, including people that, uh, legally, can’t be president.

                I know that seems anti-tautological, but it’s true. As long as the *House of Representatives* doesn’t complain when the electoral votes are counted, literally anyone can take office.(1) We could elect a two-year old British-born Yorkshire terrier that’s been dead for six months, and they *would take office* if the House allowed it.

                The only thing really stopping us from *that* are *state ballot access rules* that keep ineligible people off the ballot! It’s the states stopping that, not the Federal government or the constitution.

                Well, we’ve just tripped across one of the few ways someone *cannot* serve as president we’ve never really thought about before: Having tons of entangling multi-national liabilities and assets.

                Well, *we* never thought about. The founding fathers actually did, hence the emolument clauses. But the emolument clauses, like the 35 years-old clause and the natural-born citizen clause, are not self enforcing. It is up to *Congress* to enforce them.

                In a sane Republic, we’d impeach him right now, as it has become clear he’s not going to do anything about his financial situation. Yes, *right now*, *before* he takes office. (Something people forget is possible.)

                We are not in a sane Republic.

                We are putting someone in office who *cannot function as president*. In any other Federal office, they’d have serious problems and have to keep recusing themself…but the president *cannot* recuse themself.

                1) This is why the birther movement was so absurd. *Even if* they were right *and proved it*, Obama would not be required to step down. Once he became president, he was president. End of story. The only process that can remove a president from office is impeachment and conviction.(If he contests removal. If not, the 24th also can, or he can just resign.)

                Likewise, if it was proven he was ineligible *before* the electoral college met, or even before the vote but too late to change the ballots, he *would still become president* as long as the House accepted the EC ballots.Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                My understanding is that the vast majority of those LLC have only his children as partners. Also, it’s not unheard of for a company to have stakes in LLCs and the like, it will just get priced in. The bigger issue are the personal guarantees on debt, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t be paid off with IPO funds. If Trump wanted to, he could have at least spit shined it enough to take it public, but he never gave two poops about that.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                No IPO can happen without an SEC-approved form S-1. IIRC, at a minimum that requires an independent auditor doing a balance sheet, a detailed listing of all physical assets, a pro forma annual cash flow statement for the company, a complete reveal of the share issuance plan, and a statement of potential risks the company faces. None of that happens unless he lets one of the big auditing companies crawl through the whole pile, applying GAAP all along the way. I put that in more than the “spit shine” category.Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                His companies likely already have balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements. I can’t imagine running a company of that size without that very basic diligence run, even as a public company. They may be using non-GAAP measures, but most of those can be converted to GAAP measures pretty well. I also would be surprised if he didn’t have some level of auditing done just so that he can get away with his complex tax shenanigans. If you have an organization that complex, you actually need a pretty robust support structure or your employees can embezzle to their heart’s content without you being any the wiser. Getting a full S-1 is a pretty drawn out process, but in the grand scheme of unwinding partnerships, it’s a bit time/cost consuming, but at the same time it’s pretty structured. Having worked in M&A, I’ve seen some hideous corporate structures, but the big firms are really good at being able to make heads or tails out of most of that stuff. Granted, the disclosures will likely push down the price and raise a lot of questions, but it’s not like his company is particularly unique as far as private firms go.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Yeah, not that it can’t be done, but that there are a thousand-and-one decisions that will have to be made about how to unwind things that were made complicated for perfectly good reasons. Eg, per the WSJ, he owns two planes and three helicopters, which he leases to himself, through one revocable trust and 15 different LLCs, some domestic, at least one Scottish, in combination reducing to “Donald Trump owns 100% of these aircraft”, in order to avoid or defer certain kinds of taxes. All legal, many companies do similar things. But… Does he want to keep the 757? Does he want the kids to have the smaller corporate jet? Should the private company retain any of the aircraft, or plan on the officers just renting if they need to?Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                I suppose. That just overcomplicates things. He could exit cleanly and easily if he wanted to (we know he doesn’t). If he just wanted to make a clean break, he could say, “Assets of the firm remain firm assets and anything he wants to keep can be purchased at fair market value,” and that would be that. He wants you to think that this is some sort of intractable problem, but unwindings like this happen regularly. Granted, most of them are done in acquisitions rather than IPOs, but due diligence leads to the same poring over the firms assets, liabilities and cash flows by an independent auditor. It’s not a unique problem. It’s not common, but it’s not crazy. Back when I first got a CapIQ account, I was astounded by how many subsidiaries, LLCs and the like that some pretty small companies had. It’s also pretty common in the real estate business. I would guess that a company like Vornado has over 100 subsidiaries and wholly/partially owned LLCs in their portfolio and get along fine as a publicly traded company.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                It is not an intractable problem due to complexity. Complexity can be undo, or doesn’t even have to…what matter is the assets, not the crazy corporate structure.

                It is an intractable problem because he cannot construct a viable public company out of the pieces, as it has too many liabilities and not enough asserts and, thus would have negative worth.

                Additionally, assuming I’m wrong and he can construct something positive out of his mess, many of those liabilities are *personally guaranteed* by him, or from places it would be a bit dubious for a public company to get loans from, like Russian plutocrats.

                So he would need to get new loans…and no one will loan him or his company money.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                So he would need to get new loans…and no one will loan him or his company money.

                What’s it worth to you?

                Forbes thinks he’s worth 4 Billion (he claims 10), would clean government be worth the taxpayers buying him out for that? Presumably then we spend years breaking it apart and selling it piece-meal (like the TARP).Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                So he would need to get new loans…and no one will loan him or his company money.

                I have a feeling that as of the first week in November, a lot of organizations that wouldn’t loan money to Mr. Trump have had a change of heart.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Well, it depends on their assessments.

                On the one hand, Trump has a nasty habit of not paying when he can get away with it. Does assuming the Presidency make him more or less likely to say “I’m not going to pay”? More or less likely to leave creditors holding the bag?

                Now assuming the Presidency might increase his income, so in that sense his risk may lesson in that he might actually be able to pay back loans more easily.

                But then again, his entire business practice has been to set up shell companies with other people’s money, then pocket a fee and walk away whenever it collapses. He’s spent decades starting with the assumption “I won’t pay a loss even if I have the cash to do so”.

                American banks are unlikely to change their minds, because he’s still a bad risk and the sorts of leverage they can exert over him lessened with his assumption of office. Foreign banks might feel differently.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                American banks are unlikely to change their minds, because he’s still a bad risk and the sorts of leverage they can exert over him lessened with his assumption of office.

                He’s got a gun to their heads. The banking sector is heavily regulated and what those regulations are is subject to opinion, and the opinion that matters is a guy appointed by Trump.

                These companies need the goodwill of politicians in order to exist. They’re the same people who have enriched the Clintons by dozens of millions of dollars, doing the same for Trump is a no-brainer.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Surely you don’t think these banks are above blackmail?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                I think they’re much more skilled at bribery. Ideally the pols write laws so that it’s even legal.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                These companies need the goodwill of politicians in order to exist.

                Somewhere in Goldman Sachs, a banker is laughing til he wets his pants.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I wonder if that’s the dude who had the idea to put a literal gun to Barack Obama’s head? Just to make a point, you understand.

                [You can translate this to: yes, they do goddamn need the politicians. And they’ll do goddamn anything to make sure the politicians do the “right thing”]Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                No he doesn’t, because that sort of punitive reaction is mostly in Congressional hands — the Executive either doesn’t have direct control or where it can change regulation, you’re talking a years-long process no matter how much Trump screams.

                In any case, I was speaking mostly of bribery. American banks can get into serious legal trouble doing things like patronizing Trump resorts trying to get Executive attention.

                Banks in, oh, Russia? Not so much.

                So to sum up: American banks have little to fear from Trump, and no reason to loan him money. (He’s technically not supposed to be doing business anyways). As far as they are concerned, he’s a known default risk AND doing business with him or his businesses while he’s in office runs some unpleasant risks in American law.

                It’s more hassle than it’s worth. They’re gonna get sweetheart deals from Congress or the new Secretary of Treasury, Trump can’t retaliate, Trump’s not even supposed to be doing business, doing business with him is legally iffy, AND he’s a bad risk. Why would they change their positions?

                If anything, him taking office has made them less likely to loan him money or invest in his businesses,.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                They’re gonna get sweetheart deals from… the new Secretary of Treasury, Trump can’t retaliate,

                The new SoT is Steven Mnuchin, aka Trump’s long time friend and the head of finance for his campaign. Steven’s boss will be Trump (the guy who hired him and who can fire him).

                The whole “can’t retaliate” part seems really optimistic.Report

            • Avatar Barry says:

              “His stature? I would note that while Cheney was “only” Vice President, Halliburton is over an order of magnitude larger than the Trump Organization. The issue is that Trump doesn’t want to divest.”

              And the question is how many hundreds of billions did Halliburton make due to Cheney being the Grand Vizier.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Wives vs daughters was Anderson’s framing. At least, as I read it.

          I think it’s important to be clear on what’s being criticized and what’s not. The corruption case is strong, the nepotism case is weak. Therefore, approaching it as an issue of nepotism dilutes the issue by seemingly taking a stand I can’t agree with.

          The difference between Ivanka and non-spouses of years passed isn’t that the other ones couldn’t, but that there wasn’t the business conflict. The solution is not that Melania should be First Lady, but that the business control should be divested.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            How quickly does the corruption argument evaporate when we instead start discussing the feminism argument revolving around whether the First Lady needs to be the spouse of the President!Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

              How does shouting “But feminism!” wave away the corruption of having the person controlling your family business work in your Administration?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How? By focusing the mind on something simple as opposed to something complex that requires some degree of knowledge.

                Sort of a Parkinson’s Law of Triviality thing.

                It’s difficult to have an opinion about the issues revolving around a tenant (or prospective tenant) wanting to lease space at Trump Tower. Ah, but it’s easy to have an opinion on whether the people who are screaming at Ivanka are sexist.

                On top of that, you can pretty much count on opponents of Trump overplaying their hands and turning everything up to 11, whether it be something trivial (“Reince Priebus compared Trump to Jesus in his Christmas tweet! WE NEED TO START FREAKING OUT ABOUT BLASPHEMY!”) or obvious corruption and thus getting most normies to tune the latest Outrage Of The Week out and not being able to tell the difference between there actually being a wolf and the crazy anti-Trumpers screaming “WOLF WOLF WOLF!!!” again for the fiftieth time.

                That’s how I’d see it waving it away, anyway.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Meaning, there is so much corruption in Trump’s administration, that focusing on small graft ignores the larger graft?

                We need to selectively target the Trump corruption so as not to exhaust our ammunition on trival feints and distractions?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The problem is that it’s not just focusing on the small graft.

                It’s also focusing on the differences in norms.

                One of the things I remember from 1992ish was when The Clintons changed the White House Chef from one that was European in origin to one that was American in origin.

                We went from Pierre Chambrin, a traditional French Chef, to Walter Scheib! Born in California! Oakland! How many more American Traditions will Bill Clinton just crap all over?!?!?

                Now a question:
                Was this corruption? Graft?

                Or just something to yell about Clinton messing up because, good God, his critics found something to yell about because they loved to yell more than anything in the world?

                I submit to you: If Trump’s critics communicate that they would complain about Pierre Chambrin being replaced by Walter Scheib specifically by going on to do so, then it will lessen the impact of, say, actual and for real corruption and graft.

                The great thing about “But Feminism!” as a gambit is that it is effective at turning an argument about Ivanka taking over the office of the First Lady instead of Meliana doing it into an argument about as interesting as the one involving the White House Executive Chef instead of everybody discussing something that actually matters.

                We can all scream and posture about the morality of chosing the right color of the bike shed.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                The problem is that it’s not just focusing on the small graft.

                It’s also focusing on the differences in norms.

                Let me copy something I put in a Facebook note I posted way back on Oct 20, when I thought the world made sense:

                Have you ever read The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? There’s a joke in there about something’s fundamental design flaws being completely hidden by their superficial design flaws.

                I basically feel that way about Trump. He’s personally such an asshole and has such insane policies that we’ve completely ignored actual reasons he can’t be president:

                I then went on to talk about his financial conflicts, the stuff, that is, in my mind, actually disqualifying.

                I think we should all remember this, but it applies to *much more* than him being an asshole.

                For example, who is doing First Ladies duties. That is a complete and utter distraction to anything.

                And, I must point out, there are weird sexist assumptions about the role of women and our weirdness about having spouses assume household duties and all sorts of stuff we could spend time untangling…except, uh, really important other things happening we should probably pay attention to, for example, someone just elected *Donald Trump* President.

                And people are like ‘But what does it matter what we talk about?’. Well, it matters because the media are whores, and will talk about whatever they think the people are talking about. Do not let them spend any time on this at all. Don’t even let it get a foothold.

                Everyone who cares about the *important* stuff of Donald Trump should, immediately, signal they do not care who does that job. Ivanka Trump is doing the First Lady stuff. Interesting. Anyone on the left care at all? Nope? Well, vote her a reasonable budget to do that with, she’s already got an office, and we’ll all move on.

                Cut the media off at the knees, don’t let them pay attention to this sort of pointless ‘unprecedented’ stuff…make them pay attention to the actual important stuff.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                something’s fundamental design flaws being completely hidden by their superficial design flaws

                Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

                Cut the media off at the knees, don’t let them pay attention to this sort of pointless ‘unprecedented’ stuff…make them pay attention to the actual important stuff.

                The actual important stuff is hard.

                Wouldn’t you rather talk about the right and proper person to be performing First Lady duties?

                Could be worse. There is an alternate universe in which we are arguing over whether Meliana is *REALLY* the one performing the First Lady duties or whether Ivanka is really using her as a catspaw.Report

      • That exactly the problem: he thinks of her both as a daughter and as a luscious fox. (Go ahead, ban me. It was worth it.)Report

        • Avatar rmass says:

          It would be hard to pursue a fact based ban. Even donnie has said he would date her, if she weren’t his daughter.

          And that picture of her on his lap while he sits near the sculpture of two parrots going balls deep, its enough to make you think john major is really bad at PR.Report

  5. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    Michelle Obama had put her legal career on hold at least fifteen years before Barack was elected. There was a faux outrage scandal on the right when they found out that her law license had lapsed, but that was natural for someone who was no longer working at a job that required a law license.

    In some sense that makes things easier, she was an employee of a nonprofit hospital. If she were a practicing lawyer, she could potentially have had multitudes of confidential clients, and various means to either directly or indirectly funnel money to her.Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The office of the First Lady is entirely extra-Constitutional and completely outmoded for the modern era where feminism is a thing. Women should not be expected to act as consorts to their husbands. An internet friend from years ago suggested that one way to solve this conundrum is to pass a constitutional amendment that creates an elected office of First Host. A problem with this idea is that too many Americans would treat the office of First Host as a joke.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Maybe the millenials will actually change things, but there is still very much a dynamic that a good spouse (of whatever gender, and whatever gender you are) is invaluable for the soft power aspects of getting promoted within any sizeable organization – and no where more than politics.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    Agreed, total non-issue on the merits.Report

  8. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Lurking in the background of all of this are prurient rumors and jokes about Donald and Ivanka. I avoided them because they are not the subject of serious discussion.

    I won’t look away.

    I do believe that when someone gives off a creepy enough vibe, we should trust our intuition.
    The “rumors” are not salacious stories constructed by outsiders, they are constructed of Donald Trump’s own words and actions.

    Adopting a prim posture of refusing to address it only makes me think of those families that refuse to discuss Uncle Jack and his, um peculiarities.
    Until the police come knocking.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      All we have are creepy comments from a creep who thinks saying he would hit on them is the highest compliment he can give any female. Ivanka has never alleged it and remains close to him. No allegations were made during divorce proceedings, where I would also expect it to come up if there was any there there.Report

      • Will is 100% right. And I am fishing thrilled that the next president of the United Stated is such a creep that “He’s only being a creep” counts as a defense.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        Would I be a bad person to apply the Clinton Rules as follows?

        But Will, there are questions troubling questions!

        And there are people talking about it! Lots of people!
        it must be given 30 or 40 minutes per hour of coverage where we talk about it some more!
        We must interview her friends, classmates, colleagues!
        Pundits must be interviewed endlessly with their speculation and conjecture!
        What do pedophilia experts, family law and child protective service investigators tell us to look for in cases like these?

        And still, there are questions!
        Troubling questions!


        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          At some point we’re telling Ivanka Trump that no, regardless of what she says, she did have sex with her dad and/or was in fact raped by him.

          Not going to do that with what information we presently have.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Seriously, is that where we want our side to go. Down that rabbit hole? To be like the fever swamps of the right and to degrade and bastardize our thought processes to that degree? In persuit of some short term discomforting of our opponents and their tribunes and perhaps some fleeting triumphs? I humbly submit that we do not.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            #pizzagate beckons, licking its lips

            spread the rumor
            argue with people who disagree
            maybe they’re in on it

            argue this
            argue it on television
            people who think that you shouldn’t are trying to harm the country
            it’s about the children

            it’s the only way to win in the long run
            you want to win, don’t you
            spread the rumorReport

            • Avatar North says:

              Pizzagate was an overreaction by (possibly)left wing virtue signalling mouth breathers to an issue that was fundamentally true if small and inane. It infected few to no actual organized actors on the left nor has it been particularly replicatable.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                “Pizzagate was an overreaction by (possibly)left wing virtue signalling mouth breathers …”

                Huh? It was a non-extreme example of right-wing liars. It was only out of the ordinary because some useful idiot tried too hard.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            When the demise of American democracy is written by future historians, kitten grabbing will get its own chapter.Report

          • Avatar rmass says:

            Bad ID. Answer: yes the left should go as absolutely freeking nutbar as they want. The other party has already signaled that no matter the situation, they defect. (Prisoner dilemma) so there is no longer any reward for being a fact based, logic ruled party. So, yeah lets ratfu¢k every republican position from here to the end of time.

            Real answer: no, but it does not matter the media does not need an actual democrat to BSDI so they can equate this with say, rush calling Chelsea a dog. Even saying that we should not engage in fact free stupid is enough for a misquote showing readers of the N.Y. Post how vile those democrats are.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I have no problem with going nutbar.

              I have a problem with going nutbar in a way that will make things worse.

              Stuff like the MTV News “2017 New Years Resolutions For White Guys”? Go nutbar differently than that. If stuff like that is your go-to “hey, we should go nutbar!” Plan A?

              Skip Plan A. Go straight to Plan B.

              There are ways to go nutbar that will move you and yours in a good direction. Maybe even pick up me and mine along the way. Well, mine anyway.

              But if you don’t know how to go nutbar in a way that moves the ball forward? Just play it like the proverbial grown-up and wait for the Republicans to screw things up so badly that “Generic Democrat” defeats Trump in the general. And then nominate a Generic Democrat.Report

              • Avatar rmass says:

                Nah, we no longer care about picking up you and yours, jb. Majority coalitions are dead I tell you dead. We plan on taking power the same way the republicans did, by being numerically less, but by being loud AF, and crying when someone points out that “God wills it” is not a workable governing theory in modern times. And then I shall cast open the gates, and encourage the proles eat the rich.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, I’d just like to point out that I’m not certain that we’ve seen Trump’s ceiling.

                If you’re certain you have, awesome. Go nuts.

                If I’m right, however, you’re going to find yourself explaining to the proles that you didn’t mean the rich like you, you meant the rich like those other guys.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              If you’re talking about flipping out over actual Trump moves or going whole hog to oppose GOP moves that impact actual policies I’m all for it. But if we emulate the right and flip out over everything and make up imagined things to flip out over then we’ll end up where they are intellectually, a sleepwalker gibbering in a world filled with imagined horrors.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            Seriously, is that where we want our side to go. Down that rabbit hole? To be like the fever swamps of the right and to degrade and bastardize our thought processes to that degree?

            Do you want to win elections or not?Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            Your getting very out of step with Democratic party voters. Many are just frustrated at the Republican party and their press enablers for destroying the norms that made American politics work. To them the only solution is to wage war.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


            I gotta agree with Lee below. How long is it good to keep the higher ground if we keep on losing elections because of technicalities like Trump’s victory or obvious gerrymandering and ratfucking.

            I don’t think we should go down to Pizzagate line but I think the Democratic Party needs to learn to embrace some obstinate obstruction ala Mitch McConnell. I don’t think now is the time for Schumer deal making. The deals are just going to make the base more disheartened and do more to dissemble the welfare state than save it.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              For sure but part of McConnell’s strategy was lying through his teeth to seem as reasonable as he could and trying (albeit failing) to put the blame for the lack of bipartisanship on Obama.

              We’re talking about two things here. One is the brutally cynical but politically effective political obstruction strategy the GOP employed; the other is the deranged conspiracy mongering and flat out making up offensive shit to say about their opponent that has been rotting the brains out of the right since the mid 90’s. I am of the opinion that we can have the former without taking on the latter and that we don’t want the latter.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                It was Saul Alinsky who emphasised that being effective meant reading the terrain as it was, not as we wished it to be, and responding accordingly.

                One thing conservatives have grasped that we haven’t yet, is that 99% of people are apolitical and low information.
                Not stupid, not ignorant, just not attuned to political theory and the inside baseball stuff that we here fixate on.

                So they are able to Frank Luntz test messages that are simple, intuitive, and emotive.

                We need a bit more of that. But that also requires message discipline and nuanced dealmaking can sometimes conflict with that.

                Like how critical it is that the upcoming Medicare “reform” bill not have any Dem support. It has to be a hammer-like simple message that fits in a chyron: “GOP is cutting off Grandma’s Medicare”.

                In this scenario, its actually better long term to reject a deal that would actually lessen the pain of a loss, so as to present a clear marker of who stands where.

                Short simple, clear, to combat the fog of data clutter and confusion from the other side.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Like how critical it is that the upcoming Medicare “reform” bill not have any Dem support.

                Here’s my .02:

                The proposed privatization of Medicare is extremely politically risky. Given that, the GOP must marshal its own troops into accepting the risk by supporting it unanimously. And if so – that is, if the GOP can present a unified political front lauding the merits of the Medicare Freedom Act – SOME Democrats will break ranks and vote “aye!” on the premise that riding that populist wave will place them on the right side of history. Or what’s more likely, that it’ll put ’em on the right side of getting re-elected.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I don’t know how the GOP would or could privatize Medicare through the filibuster. They’d have to do away with it and with only 52 (53 counting Pence) votes in the Senate it looks very unlikely they will do so. Not to mention it stabs Trumps supporters right in their balls. I’ll believe a Medicare or SS privatization scheme is coming when they actually move on it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Oh, I agree with your general take on things. Trump’s victory created a lot of enthusiasm amongst the various factions and power structures within the GOP, many of which are antithetical to Trump’s stated interests, some of which are purely expressions of power-derived fantasy.

                The signal will be the status of the filibuster. Personally, I think more than a few GOP Senators understand perfectly well that the filibuster protects them from their own worst excesses, so getting rid of it is a high hurdle to jump.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yeah it’d take all of 3 defectors to sink the rules change necessary to kill the filibuster. I’d be utterly astonished if they throw it out at this point; frankly I’d be surprised if they try. They need it too much as an excuse to throw at their own base.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I dunno. I think it will be heavily debated with emotions running high (as they say). But I could see it happening, eg., if the True Believers really put the screws to the moderates, using all means available. (Appeals to historic moments and Dispensations will dominate…)

                Even then, tho, I agree it’d be unlikely.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                The signal will be the status of the filibuster. Personally, I think more than a few GOP Senators understand perfectly well that the filibuster protects them from their own worst excesses, so getting rid of it is a high hurdle to jump.

                I’ve actually, in my own mind, had an argument with myself a few times that Democrats *shouldn’t* use the fillibuster to ‘protect’ Republicans.

                If Republicans *claim* to want to do something immensely destructive to themselves, but they claim the *Democrats* are stopping that from coming to a vote…I’m not at all sure a few Democrats shouldn’t say:

                You know, we are being obstructionist. Our bad. We’ll get out of the way. We won’t vote for it, we don’t support it, but we won’t filibuster it and we’ll allow *you guys* to vote on it.

                If we *know* that enough Republicans will not actually vote for what they *claim* they’re in favor for, we should certainly do this. Step out of their ways, and *make them explain to voters* why, suddenly, they are against it.

                *Let them* aim America directly towards the cliff and push down on the accelerator…and watch the *sane* Republican Congressmen, which still consist half of them, eye each other nervously and start making abortive gestures like they want to take the wheel, until they finally *do* that.

                Of course, the danger is we drive off the cliff.

                But at some point, we have to realize it’s equally dangerous to allow the Republicans to stay in power and keeping pointing fingers at the Democrats for stopping them. For one thing, those *sane* Republicans are less and less, for another thing, the Republican base is more and more divorced from reality.

                At some point, if we continue like this, we *will* find ourselves headed directly towards the cliff *without* the Democrats able to stop us. We’re *pretty damn close*, and come 2018, we might be there. Let’s make the GOP lose the game of cliff-chicken *now* instead of having two years of making the case we need less Democrats because they keep ‘obstructing’ insane ideas.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Not a bad strategy. Unfortunately, history has convinced me that the Dems don’t have the institutional knowledge, political acumen, or game theoretic decision-making skills sufficient to pull it off.

                Obama did, to some extent. But the SenDems? No way, in my view. It’d amount to a perfect plan which was (predictably!) disastrously executed.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                If the Dems voted for cloture I fear that with the media makeup we have now that’d translate into “The bill passed with bipartisan support”.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Excellent point. Given the way the media has covered Congress over the last 8-10 years, folks are likely to believe that a bill only passes with 60 votes. So any concession to less votes would constitute tacit support from the opposition for the bill proposed.

                {{Damn media….}}Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                That is where the Democrats needs to learn to *use* the media.

                Instead of just ‘voting for cloture’, have a big media circus where the Democrats are offering to let the bill move forward *in exchange for the ability to propose amendments*.

                The Democrats are willing to allow the bill up for vote if, and only if, the Republicans let them propose, say, 10 amendments. And don’t present this offer to the Republicans, present it to the *media*. In fact, leak it to the media that the Democrats *are considering* this, make it suspenseful. Will they or won’t they?

                When they finally offer this amazing deal, the Republicans, of course, are forced to agree to this, because otherwise they look like they’re deliberately scuttling the deal, and on top of it, it’s the magical bipartisanship that the media will fellate.

                So now that vote of cloture is, very explicitly, *conditional* support. The Democrats made it clear their support was conditional support. Very clear. Everyone understands that.

                And then the those amendments are voted down. (And it would be a good idea to have one that *completely undoes the bill*, just so *something* won’t pass so Democrats have something to complain about. Although, heh, maybe it will pass, wouldn’t that be weird?)

                So the Democrats then make a big deal that they failed to reach any agreement and they are now *withdrawing* any support of the bill and it is *no longer* bipartisan.

                Yes, yes, this is basically a scam, a trick, used to confuse the moronic media and the low-information voters. The agreement was ‘cloture’ in exchange of ‘amendment attempts’, not ‘our amendments pass’ in exchange for ‘our votes’. But hypothetical claiming the bill was bipartisan was *already* a trick being perpetrated on low-information voters.

                So we just make sure those low-information voters can see it *unbecoming* a bipartisan bill. It was, and then it *wasn’t*. The Democrats were on board with the bill as long as it protected people from whatever horribly stupid thing the bill will do…but they were not able to do that and they *backed off* and opposed it.

                And that’s what the extremely-shallow, low-information history books will record. When people lose their health insurance, they’re like “Well, that’s what the Democrats said would happen, and why they dropped their support of that Republican ‘reform’ bill. Damn Republicans.”

                And it gives an easy answer to a vote for that. ‘I didn’t vote for that bill, I voted for a Democratic attempt to *fix* that bill, which the Republicans didn’t let happen. I voted against the actual bill.’

                Now, the problem here is that this *supposedly* requires the Democrats to be smarter than they are…but does it? All it actually requires is *seven* Democrats (Including the leadership) to act intelligently, and everyone else to hold the line that they already need to hold. (Which is iffy, but if they fail to hold the line we’re screwed anyway.)Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Sounds good, we need to helicopter you over to Schumer’s office.

                But, let’s be real, the most likely thing to happen is that the GOP will simply pass a big ol’ deficit swelling tax cut through reconciliation then run in circles bickering and gibbering for the next two years having resolved the only item they all agree on. Maybe there’ll be some kind of infrastructure bill, depending on if the Dems elect to play along with the “Republicans as the Ice Cream Party & Democrats as the Broccoli Party” shtick in the interest of policy. I hope they don’t.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Sounds good, we need to helicopter you over to Schumer’s office.

                The sad thing is, I literally thought of that *while* I was posting it. It was that trivial to think of. If the problem is the media and Republicans will invent bipartisanship on that things no matter what, the Democrats just need to proclaim conditional bipartisanship pre-emptively, and then publicly take it back.

                I mean, seriously, that’s like *basic* public relations: To stop people from proclaiming things about you that you don’t want (True or otherwise!), *you* say some form of those things and then you *own* those things and can change them.

                But, let’s be real, the most likely thing to happen is that the GOP will simply pass a big ol’ deficit swelling tax cut through reconciliation then run in circles bickering and gibbering for the next two years having resolved the only item they all agree on.

                I don’t think they’ll be anywhere near that sane. For one thing, they’ll get trounced at the election if, the second they get power, they *stop* repealing Obamacare.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                The ACA is a more open question though even there movement in either direction is fenced in with spears. I still wouldn’t be surprised if they punt or possibly try a repeal now, replace later stunt though I don’t think that’d work because the insurance industry wouldn’t play ball.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                That is where the Democrats needs to learn to *use* the media.

                “Hey, where did all of the cameras go?”

                “Well, Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman showed up on the Capitol steps to burn a copy of the Constitution written in menstrual blood. They’re talking about how the Republicans are doing the same thing to every woman in America and that’s why the Democrats need to amend the bill and make it also cover Women’s Health.”Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                I’m not sure where this hypothetical is coming from, but I have no objection if the order is:

                1) Some sort of fake grassroots out there that *demand* the Democrats amend the Republican’s bill, thus ‘pressuring them’ into cloture as long as they are allowed to put their amendments forward.

                2) And then, oh noes, the process fails! Amendments are voted down! Democrats are enraged! Fake grassroots are enraged! Actual grassroots is mostly pretending to be enraged, because a lot of them figured out what was going on! Everyone lashes out at Republicans for denying Democratic outreach! Democrats pledge to fight bill!

                3a) Republicans lose own vote! Betrayed by RINOs defectors to Democrats! Republicans look like hypocritical idiots!

                3b) Republican win, trouncing Democrats in ‘Turn Medicare into Vouchers’. Old people riot at town hall meetings! Democrats vow to restore it if elected!

                It sure is better than:

                1) Republican vow to do destroy Medicare.

                2) Democrats stop them.

                3) People, assured that Republicans will never *actually* destroy Medicare, keep electing them.

                Mainly because, no one does this give Republicans free reign to do all the *other* crappy stuff they do, *and* constantly stir up anger towards social programs, but one day that #2 *isn’t* going to be there, jumping the process up to the previous #3….and it might as well be on *our* terms*.


                Basically, the advice is simple:

                Write. The. Goddamn. Narrative.

                You. Elected. Democratic. Morons.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s more that I suspect that the “hey, let’s raise awareness by being provocative!” contingent is better at “using” the media than the Democrats could ever dream of using it, but this provocative contingent is more likely to inspire “line in the sand: no amendment!” counter-contingents which would immediately result in at least 58 senators willing to vote to just bring the unamended bill to the floor.

                Think we can find 2 senators in the remaining 42 who will balk at being painted as being on the side of the provocateurs?

                I can easily see senator Jack Johnson (or is it John Jackson) defecting at the thought of campaign commercials showing “Senator Johnson stood with Hollywood Celebrities instead of standing with people from the great state of (mumble mumble). Vote for his opponent in 2018. He’ll stand for *YOU*. (paid for by Friends of his Opponent)

                With that said, if the Democrats had the discipline to pull off what you’re talking about, I think that it’d work. Heck, if the media were less feckless, I think it could work even if there were celebrities on the Capitol steps doing what they could to try to “help”.

                Lotta ifs.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


                I suspect you are right here. The Senate seems to have gone back to its natural rural-bias and a lot of redstate Democrats are up for reelection in 2018. They have an incentive to think going Red will help them.

                I think they are wrong in this particular case and maybe all cases but we shall see…Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                The Senate seems to have gone back to its natural rural-bias…

                If the base is paying any attention at all, this cuts both ways with respect to Medicare reform. Someone needs to pound on the rapidly-aging rural areas with “How many Medicare Advantage plans are available in your county? How many companies on sell policies in your county? No one except the government wants to sell you health insurance.”Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Jon Tester was re-elected (in a state Romney won by over ten points) by hammering Rehberg on Medicare and Social Security.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think the relevant part of MC’s comment is “if the base is paying attention”. A large and necessary part the conditional can be controlled (so to speak) by making them pay attention.

                Which isn’t about messaging or sloganeering or propaganda, but just taking the time and putting in the effort to compel them to pay attention to an issue they might not otherwise be concerned with.Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                You know who pays attention? Seniors.
                You know what words make their ears perk up? Medicare.

                To say making political hay about Medicare privatization is like shooting fish in a barrel overstates the difficulty of the matter. Part of the reason seniors vote for politicians that make noises about Medicare is because they don’t believe they’ll actually do anything about it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Re: that last sentence, totally true.

                In my view, a big part of the problem is that Dems have ceded ground to conservative cynicism, as if there was no antidote staring them right in the face, one which actually requires expending effort to make an affirmative case for the policies in question.

                Dems just suck at this.

                GOPers, on the other hand, have struck gold by adopting an anti-liberal/anti-Dem platform as their sole policy agenda. Which is incoherent from a policy pov, but brilliant politics.

                And all this occurs while Dems continue to wring their hands and wail about how bad those evil conservatives are…Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Yep. I put Montana and the Dakotas squarely in the rural rapidly-aging category. There are four (R) Senators that will be tough to convince to reduce Medicare substantially or to threaten to primary with someone who will vote for such reduction.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                It’ll help if the left eventually remembers that you shouldn’t win an argument because of FEELINGS. (and stops letting people lie on national television because of FEELINGS.)

                That and stops calling people racist for not voting for Clinton.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yes I agree with you on that and it is imperative that if the GOP tries to, for instance, privatize Medicare that the Dems should oppose it and fiercely discourage defections. That will be harder for Dems than it was for Republicans because the left has neither a captive media industry nor a rabid organized left base capable of threatening defectors with a primary challenge but they still need to try.

                Frankly I think I agree with you on the lot of what you just posted. But my point is that we can have (and probably should have) all of that political hardball without indulging the “Trump raped his daughter or implied he’d have sex with his daughter” poisonous drek and its’ similar ilk.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


                Not only is there what @chip-daniels said above, there is also the fact that a lot of people seem to think the GOP hardliners are just joshing around with their ultra-privitization plans. IIRC there was a study sometime in 2012 or so where people simply did not believe the extremism of Ryan’s proposed budget/plan.

                Of course, this is incredibly frustrating and demoralizing for Democrats/the Left but it is also the reality we need to deal with.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                This is going to be hard thing for Democratic politicians in particular and liberals in general to recognize. Much of modern liberalism’s cosmology is that every questions is ultimately a political one and being apolitical and low information is not being a good citizen. If you think that things like privilege and cultural appropriation are real and do serious harm than your not going to achieve your goals by acknowledging that most people are apolitical because it means most people are never going to care.

                Both the technocratic wing and the social justice wing of the Democratic Party are allergic to the sort of simple populism and messaging that Republicans excel at.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If you think that things like privilege and cultural appropriation are real and do serious harm than your not going to achieve your goals by acknowledging that most people are apolitical because it means most people are never going to care.

                Well, unless privilege and cultural appropriation become political topics according to the precepts that liberal cosmology demands, in which case resisting those concepts is evidence of being political and caring.

                For my own part, I’d say that liberals’ invocation of “privilege” and “cultural appropriation” as political tools are no less populist than conservative appeals to their rejection.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          This is playing Trump’s game and you’d lose by stepping into that ring. Focus on some outrageous thing Trump has said regarding sex and you’re just letting him distract you from what he’s actually doing.

          You’re not going to embarrass him, all you’re going to do is spend your own resources (money, time, outrage) uselessly.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            This is playing Trump’s game and you’d lose by stepping into that ring.

            Exactly. See: HRC’s campaign.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

              @dark-matter @stillwater

              Yeah, you both are correct.
              Its not like we get awarded points by some invisible judge for playing by fact and logic, its more that us being sane will build the political institution that we will need when it is our turn to pick up the pieces after the catastrophe 2016-2020.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Clinton Rules about pedophilia involve a nice tropical island, and as much influence peddling as possible.Report

        • Avatar Barry says:

          “Would I be a bad person to apply the Clinton Rules as follows?”

          You forgot the most important of the Clinton Rules – there is no exoneration. If an investigation with massive resources and motivations comes up with jack sh*t, that just shows how devious the Clintons are!Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        I always read those comments as self-promotion, something Trump has been known to do from time to time. He’s Donald Trump. Everything he does is the best. If he builds a casino, it’s going to be the best damn casino you’ve ever seen. If he sells steaks, they’re going to be the best steaks you’ve ever tasted. If he’s elected president, he’s going to be the best president ever. You’re going to get sick of winning, that’s how good he’ll be. And if he has a daughter, she’s going to be the most beautiful, so beautiful that even Donald Trump would date her if she wasn’t his daughter. It’s weird, but it’s entirely consistent with his longstanding policy of all self-promotion, all the time.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          It’s weird, but it’s entirely consistent with his longstanding policy of all self-promotion, all the time.

          It’s less ‘weird’ than ‘a strong indication of narcissistic personality disorder’, specifically #3…the ‘Self-perception of being unique, superior and associated with high-status people and institutions’, but yes.

          Seriously, everyone bookmark:

          At minimum, read the nine-item list. It will explain *everything* about Trump.

          And it’s worth pointing out that Trump thinks all this stuff is genetic. He is super-smart, his wife is super-hot, ergo, his daughter must be both super-smart and super-hot. (#4, ‘Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.’)

          But, anyway, people who try to operate outside the framework of ‘objectifying women’ often fail to realize that reducing them to their looks isn’t *just* for sexual purposes. Preteen girls, for example, are often objectified into looking ‘cute’ or ‘pretty’ or whatever as *their* sole trait. They are ranked on attractiveness *even if* we’re not trying to sexualize them.

          Sometimes this goes to the point that others are weirded out (Like with Trump’s comment about random young girls and how he will marry them, or about his daughter.), but this is the sort of universe that the framework ‘The only thing, or one of the most important things, that matters about women is their looks’ forces people to live in….they end up making comments about the looks of women it is extremely inappropriate for them to have sexual desire for, because ‘the looks of women’ is *basically the only way they can talk about women*.

          It is an inherent part of how successful the women are, if they are attractive or not, so you *have* to mention their looks when talking about women. Which is *also* why he talks about the looks of women he thinks are losers, and calls them ugly.

          And all ‘modern’ people are slightly weirded out and upset by this…it is okay to talk about the looks of your partner, it is even, somewhat, possibly, okay, to *praise* the looks of random women if you don’t get too sexual about them, but Trump just goes straight past any boundaries, talks about sexually-off-limits people in sexual ways, thinks it’s okay to attack the looks of random women, and ignores all societal niceties and hints that, uh, maybe a bit too far. (#7, Unwilling to empathize with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs)Report

  9. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    The First Lady’s job is to advise her husband. She herself can’t be fired. Often she’s one of her husband’s closest advisors. Except with Trump, that’s his daughter. His daughter has his brains, his wife does not. His daughter is a big time advisor, his wife is not.

    And I don’t care. I wouldn’t care if Trump wanted to have one of his sons take over that office.

    We, the American people, are best off with more voices of sanity/stability talking to Trump, not fewer. Given his daughter is one of the big ones in Trump’s life, I think that benefit far outweighs any downsides from potential conflicts of interest.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      I don’t necessarily disagree, but does Ivanka have enough of a record in public life to be confident that she’s a voice of sanity or stability? Do we just know that she’s sane and stable relative to her father?Report

      • Avatar rmass says:

        Now there’s a curve chuckie manson would love to be graded on.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        Do we just know that she’s sane and stable relative to her father?

        That seems a pretty low bar.

        What we have is a total lack of meltdowns, a lot of public poise, some jobs not under the thumb of her father, relationships with functional people, and the words of Chelsea Clinton.

        So… not perfect but way better than nothing.Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko says:

          Fair enough. I’m just trying to keep some vague sense of what “competent to run the executive branch” meant as of a year ago in my head, since the actual head of the executive branch will be doing his best to lower that bar starting in less than a month.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Not screaming at walls for hours on end seems to be a start.
            Luckily, we didn’t elect that one.

            Competent to run the executive branch as of a year ago meant “good at blackmail — hires only the best. Doesn’t often kill enemies.”Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Don, all accounts are that Ivanka is a relatively liberal person in of herself. Policy wise we know that Trump has publicly credited her with suggesting and pushing for Trump to include a government child care plank in his platform; an unambiguously liberal policy. We know she’d friends with a lot of liberal people.
            Of the various voices in Trumps head I suspect that we liberals would probably prefer that Ivanka’s be one of the louder ones.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Again, @north, Ivanka’s child care plan isn’t actually a liberal plan – it’s a warmed over Heritage-type tax credit that really helps upper middle class and rich people, but does little to help poor and working class people.


              Other than liking gay people and probably privately being OK with abortion, I’ve still seen zero evidence of Ivanka’s massive liberalism.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I’m not exactly saying she’s a card carrying socialist; she’s a rich daughter of a wealthy reality TV star so her liberalism is probably more by inclination than by passion. Probably Ivanka was like “We should do child care” and then they turned that over to whatever right wing policy nerds they could cooerce to try to sort that concept into a half way palatable to right wing opinion form they could.
                Compared to most of the GOPers that’s pretty good.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I’ll be blunt – if this child care plan was part of Paul Ryan’s Better Way or some part of Jeb Bush’s economic reform package instead of being intro’d by Ivanka Trump, supposed liberal with zero actual evidence, you wouldn’t be describing it as “an unambiguously liberal policy.”

                An actual unambiguous liberal policy would be ya’ know, Hillary Clinton’s actual policy proposal of capping child care costs.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Call me crazy, but a GOP introduced maternity leave plan has about a, oh, 10,000% better chance of passing than a Democrat proposal…

                Unfortunately, liberals have determined that Ivanka’s 6-week paid leave plan is just plain old insulting. To women, men, kids, and dogs.Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                Well it does seem a wee bit of a thing of some sort at men. Yeah there is plenty of generic fussing but still.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Dem strategist: “Let’s bring it to the floor for debate and try to include men in the coverage plan.”

                Dem Liberal: “Misogynist! Using women as a tool like that to advance men’s interests. You oughta be ashamed!”Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                What will actually happen – “Trump’s approvals rise after bipartisan maternity leave plan passes.”

                Cut to Six Months Later

                “President Trump’s Labor Department has issued rules allowing large loopholes to deny maternity leave to mothers. The Trump White House has a statement saying, “the Democrat’s are continuing to be sore losers about a plan they voted for. They’re simply unhappy that Donald Trump achieved something in 100 days they spent years attempting to pass.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Fair enough. Cynicism truly knows no bounds.Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                What, you expect the Huff Po to not have plenty of hot air packing peanuts surrounding a decent point. I didn’t even finish the article after it described the plan as just for women , excluding men. Did i miss a policy issue?

                If you read to the end of a HuffPo piece don’t blame the blood vessel in your head for bursting. Scathing satire or carefully mockery would be my choices but i wouldn’t expect that in the HP.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m thinking about this more from the pov of tactics given a policy perspective than beating each other about the head and shoulders with ideological priors.Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                I’d be all for the D’s trying to fix up a policy straight out of the 70’s. If they get a chance that would be nifty. And i would agree about the ideological purity patrols, but then again that is, afaik, the sweet spot of the HuffPo.

                And also a proposal to just give leave to women is a whack at men.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And also a proposal to just give leave to women is a whack at men.


                Add: I’m not sure what follows from that, geg. Is it that liberals aren’t interested in knocking down men a peg or two (so they need to be included in the plan) or that liberals champion men’s rights (so the need to be included in the plan) or that men will bitch and moan about how women got something for free they didn’t get (so they need to be included in the plan)?Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                I don’t have a problem with pointing that out from a tactical POV. Noting who the R’s screw is a solid move.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m thinking about this more from the pov of tactics given a policy perspective than beating each other about the head and shoulders with ideological priors.

                Why? Do you not share our ideological priors?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “Have you stopped corrupting your ideological priors yet?”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There are cycles for each party where they alternate between talking about the need for a big tent (with some exceptions for some non-negotiable issues near and dear to the heart of the speaker) and talking about the need for purity to get rid of all of these “in name only” people who care about things other than those that are near and dear to the speaker.

                It feels like these cycles are speeding up.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                It feels like these cycles are speeding up.

                Maybe. But time itself speeds up as you get older so it’s probably that.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                Unfortunately, liberals have determined that Ivanka’s 6-week paid leave plan is just plain old insulting.

                Was it Ted Kennedy who used to talk about having a chance to vote for something like Universal Health Care back in the 70’s(?) but voted against it because they could do better?

                The rarest resource in the universe is the attention of upper management.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      His daughter has his brains, his wife does not.

      Whoa, whoa. I don’t care how you feel about Donald Trump, but talking about his children that way is way out of line.Report