Millenials mild about Clinton should be terrified of Trump

By Robert Mann

I know you and your fellow millennials were wild about Sen. Bernie Sanders and many are now excited by Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. As for Hillary Clinton, you think she’s shady and represents the past as much as Donald Trump represents bigotry and greed. You’re not looking to settle but be inspired. You want a candidate whose argument is better than, “I’m not Donald Trump.”

During the primaries, Sanders spoke directly to you and your friends with passion and sincerity we’ve rarely seen from Clinton. Johnson also has a down-to-earth sincerity, although I am immune to his charms and worried about his stunning ignorance about Aleppo, the epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Whatever the case, here’s some bad news: You thought your time to save the world would wait until you turned 30. You thought you had more years to sew your political wild oats. You thought you could afford to vote for Johnson or even stay home.

Well, sorry, but your reckless political youth was short-lived. You see, your elders are about to drive this country into the abyss by voting for Donald Trump. Like it or not, your generation, along with black and Latino voters, is all that stands in the way of a Trump presidency.

I confess my generation has made a mess. We’ve jeopardized your economic future by ignoring Social Security reform. We let the big banks nearly crash our economy. We’ve done nothing about climate change.

Most of my white contemporaries want Trump to pick the next two or three Supreme Court justices. And they want the court to stop same-sex marriages and end the expansion of voting and reproductive rights.

Many in my generation hope Trump will move quickly to repeal Obamacare and pass massive new tax cuts for the rich. Whites over 50 will cheer as he yanks the United States from international climate change agreements. They won’t protest as the big banks grow bigger, the special interests grab more power and we wait another decade to make college more affordable.

I know what you’re thinking: “Don’t send me on a guilt trip for your generation’s appalling tolerance of a racist and misogynist.” OK, good point.

I understand your disgust with millions of older white people who are eager to hum “Hail to the Chief” to the orange bigot. But here’s the deal: I know how much you want to make the world a better place. You have a hopeful, expansive and optimistic vision for this country that many of my contemporaries lack.

I know you want to tackle poverty, disease and ignorance. I know well your enthusiasm for racial and ethnic diversity and environmental justice. I know you wish to see your country expand civil and human rights for women, minorities, gay people, lesbians and transgender people.

Well, Nov. 8 is the day you can stop the man who would halt or reverse the march of economic and social progress that you and I want.

Continue reading this column on NOLA.com at this link

Donald Trump and the cowardice of Louisiana Republican leaders

By Robert Mann

There will come a time, probably after the Nov. 8 presidential election, when prominent Louisiana Republicans will express their disgust with the GOP’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

People like U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves and most of the Republicans running for Sen. David Vitter’s Senate seat (except for David Duke) will tell us how much they hated Trump’s repulsive, bigoted rhetoric.

They will acknowledge that their party blew any chance to defeat Hillary Clinton by refusing to nominate someone rational, sane and non-racist, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. They’ll confess how much they agonized over the amateurish race that Trump ran.

All of this and more will likely come spilling out in tortured admissions from these “leaders” and others – all of it after the election is over.

Every week – sometimes every day – a leading Republican denounces Trump. On Monday, it was Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and 50 prominent military and national security experts.

Some Republicans have opposed Trump from the beginning. Others, like Collins, are bailing out near the end. Some, like House Speaker Paul Ryan and senators John McCain and Marco Rubio, appear to be along for the duration, despite early reservations about Trump.

Collins joined a handful of Republican senators who have said for months that they won’t vote for Trump. Dozens of top GOP officials and strategists, including Stuart Stevens, a senior Mitt Romney advisor from the 2012 campaign, have condemned him.

Romney has opposed Trump for months. Former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush remain on the sidelines, neither endorsing nor condemning Trump.

As the polls continue to suggest that the Trump ship is going down, more Republicans will continue to jump overboard – or tell us they were never on the ship in the first place.

One day very soon, denouncing Trump will no longer be an act of courage or conscience.

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Does Hillary Clinton need an extreme personality makeover?

Not long after I became press secretary for U.S. Sen. Russell Long in 1985, one of his old friends, former U.S. Rep. Joe D. Waggonner, gave me some advice. “Russell is 66,” the retired Shreveport-area congressman reminded me. “Don’t try to change him. He is what he is. Work with what you got.”

That was wise counsel. Waggonner knew that a cocky, 26-year-old former political writer might think he knew more about press relations than a man who had served in the Senate since 1948. Indeed, I sometimes thought I could teach the old dog new tricks. What I quickly learned was that Waggonner was right. I might nibble around the edges, but it was no use trying to turn Long into something he was not. His personality was set. During 36 years in Congress, he had managed nicely without the benefit of my sterling counsel.

My conversation with Waggonner came to mind this week as Hillary Clinton’s troubles with Donald Trump continued making news. If you believe the polls, the race between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees is a toss-up. Some Clinton supporters – and others simply terrified of a Trump presidency – are offering advice for turning around her campaign.

There is no question she could perform better. For evidence, look no further than her continuing struggles with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won’t win the nomination, but continues to highlight her personal and political shortcomings.

Then, there’s the criticism that Clinton simply isn’t “authentic” enough. In December 2014, I was among those who critiqued her as “wooden in manner and instinctively cautious and guarded. I’m not sure who she inspires, but it’s not me.” I’m not the first or last to note this obvious fact.

Others criticize Clinton because she is not lighthearted. “Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun?” New York Times columnist David Brooks asked recently. “We know what Obama does for fun – golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.

“But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms,” Brooks added. In other words, she is one dimensional, “industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful.”

Others are brutally specific. In Mother Jones magazine, writer Kevin Drum criticized the quality of Clinton’s voice, an attack Trump has also leveled. Drum quoted a friend, with whom he agreed: “Listen, I like Hillary a lot but she has got to stop this shouting bull—-. It comes across as insincere and phony.” Drum added: “The shouting is part of it but the other part (in victory speeches and ordinary stump speeches) is that she never has anything remotely interesting to say.”

Even some Clinton staffers have worried to reporters about their candidate’s personality challenges. The New York Times reported in April 2015 that Clinton had hired a former aide to First Lady Michelle Obama to oversee an image rehab. As reporter Amy Chozick noted, “Mrs. Clinton must try to show voters a self-effacing, warm and funny side that her friends say reflects who she really is. In short, she must counteract an impression that she is just ‘likeable enough,’ as Obama famously quipped in 2008.

You get the idea: The received wisdom among pundits and political experts is that Clinton needs an extreme personality makeover.

Perhaps, but there are profound problems with such advice.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Why we need the Iowa caucuses

 

IMG_2372.jpg
NJ Gov. Chris Christie at Mickey’s Irish Pub in Des Moines

By Robert Mann

DES MOINES, Iowa — Last Monday morning at Inspired Grounds Café in West Des Moines, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio insulted 20 LSU students. Our group was among the audience of locals stuffed into the coffee shop’s back room to witness a rare visit to Iowa by the GOP presidential candidate.

Following the event, and after coming to Iowa for the last three caucuses, I’ve surrendered. I’m sold on the value of this quadrennial political circus. I finally understand why Iowa and its voters are so useful to the presidential election process.

That’s because you might never appreciate Kasich’s boorish personality by attending a large rally or by watching one of his TV commercials. To fully apprehend the prickly, inept nature of his campaign, one must see him in close quarters.

In this instance, early in his remarks, Kasich directly addressed my students. Did he applaud them for relinquishing their winter break to trek to frigid Iowa to watch democracy in action? Did he look upon them as the promising, hopeful future they represent?

No, he did not. Instead, Kasich met these earnest young people — most of them women — and viewed them only as potential drug addicts. “Don’t do drugs,” he said inexplicably, as he launched into a stern, bizarre, 90-second diatribe about the evils of drug use. What does it say about a potential president who regards college students as people on the cusp of heroin addiction?

Just when I thought Kasich could not slight these young people anymore, he berated them for failing to understand the Islamic State threat — merely because they did not offer the answer he wanted to what they regarded as a rhetorical question.

“Do you understand what they [Islamic State] think about you going to college?” Kasich asked. When the “right” answer was not immediately forthcoming, Kasich pounced. “I’m astounded that these young people here did not understand what the ISIS threat meant. I’m shocked. I mean, are you kidding me?”

In the end, no one was permanently scarred by Kasich’s mansplaining, although I doubt he won a single supporter among our group.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

 

The modern press conference is a farce: What the Trump-Ramos dust-up says about U.S. journalism

By Robert Mann

When I heard that Donald Trump had booted Univision’s Jorge Ramos from a press conference on Tuesday in Dubuque, Iowa, I couldn’t wait to watch the indignant response of the other journalists in the room.

That’s because I was ejected from a press conference many years ago in Louisiana, where I was political writer for the Shreveport Journal. A quirky, minor candidate for the U.S. Senate – Larry “Boogaloo” Cooper – took offense at my questions. He angrily ordered me to leave the room. I got up and left. When I reached the lobby, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the other journalists had followed me. In solidarity with a fellow reporter, they had all walked out on the petulant candidate. The press conference was over. Read more

13 reasons why Bobby Jindal won’t be the GOP nominee

Screenshot of Gov. Bobby Jindal on ABC's "This Week" on May 31, 2015.
Screenshot of Gov. Bobby Jindal on ABC’s “This Week” on May 31, 2015.
By Robert Mann

Month after month, week after week, Gov. Bobby Jindal labors to make himself relevant to the 2016 presidential election. Every week, Jindal make some (increasingly) desperate attempt for attention and relevance. Each week, he gives an interview to a national media organization. He’s forever issuing statements attacking Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul — and even former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee. At least once a month, it seems, he pops up on one of the Sunday morning news shows. He stalks the GOP candidate circuit from Iowa to New Hampshire to Washington to Disney World. He’s written an op-ed in almost every newspaper in the United States.

On the rare occasion he makes an appearance in Louisiana, he’s done everything possible to establish himself as a champion of “religious freedom.” He signed an executive order to give license to businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. He’s even championed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would outlaw same-sex marriage.

Despite having made a wreck of the state’s budget (including structural deficits for years), he’s also sold his soul to Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Although he has approved more than $700 million in tax increases (using a phony offset scheme he and Norquist devised), Jindal desperately wants GOP voters in Iowa and New Hampshire to see him as the candidate most violently against tax increases.

In other words, Jindal has done everything possible to position himself for a serious run at the White House.

And yet.

After all that effort, Jindal is mired at 1 percent in most national polls of GOP voters. In one recent survey, he was dead last, in 16th place, at 0 percent. In some cases, he’s not even included the polls.

By the standards set at Fox News and CNN, it does not appear that Jindal will make the cut for the early televised debates. The networks may relegate him to the TV equivalent of the children’s table, where he would spar with other also-rans like Donald Trump, Cary Fiorina and George Pataki.

Jindal must be asking himself every night: “What’s wrong? Why aren’t my efforts paying off? Why is my campaign stuck like Gorilla Glue at 1 percent?”

Well, here are at least 13 reasons that come to my mind. I would invite you to add your own reasons in the comments sections below.

1. He’s like a pudding with no theme. Despite having tried to stake out the “religious freedom” issue, it doesn’t appear that most GOP voters know much about Jindal and his fierce fight for their freedoms. They don’t appear to associate him with any major issue, policy achievement or ideology. Sen. Rand Paul is the Libertarian. Sen. Ted Cruz is the tea party favorite. Gov. Scott Walker is the guy who battled the unions. Sen. Marcio Rubio is Cuban and might attract more Latinos to the GOP. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee was a Baptist preacher and is known for his ability to relate to the Christian right. Former Gov. Jeb Bush has the last name “Bush.” What, exactly, is Jindal known for, unless it’s a bad habit of latching onto the issue of the week with the most extreme and ridiculous position possible?

2. He’s governor of Louisiana. Jindal has said that the voters should be looking to elect a governor because governors have executive experience. The problem is that he’s governor of Louisiana, a state not exactly known for its success or innovation in many policy areas, unless you admire us for having some of the nation’s worst crime and poverty, as well as the country’s highest incarceration rate. Under Jindal’s rule, the state’s budget has also been in a constant state of turmoil.  As for its economy, the Louisiana has the nation’s sixth-highest unemployment rate. 

3. He’s not a natural politician/campaigner. Jindal too often comes off as robotic, cold and humorless. In person, I’m sure he’s a decent guy who’s fun to be around (I’m not really sure of that, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this.) The guy is certainly not a natural politician. He’s not the worst, but to climb to the top of the heap in a presidential primary race, he must ramp up his game considerably. The bad news is this not a quality that most politicians can change about themselves in a month or two. You are generally a natural campaigner who connects with audiences, or you are not.

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With bizarre attack on Lincoln Chafee, Bobby Jindal has become Joaquin Phoenix.

Screenshot of Joaquin Phoenix on "The Late Show with David Letterman" in September 2010.
Screenshot of Joaquin Phoenix on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in September 2010.

By Robert Mann

Remember in 2009 when the actor Joaquin Phoenix began exhibiting bizarre behavior? He grew a wild beard, announced that he had left acting and said he was adopting a new career – as a rap artist. As one entertainment magazine speculated at the time:

The grumbly actor announced back in November that he was done with the acting game. He wanted to pursue a music career. Everyone assumed (or at least I did) that it would be some sort of Dogstar or Bacon Brothers-esque bar rock. But no . . . it was rap. Slurry, awful, heavily-bearded rap. And to add to the bizarroness of the whole thing, Phoenix’s brother-in-law, actor Casey Affleck, was following him around with a video camera, getting footage for some sort of “documentary.”

But now two people are telling E Dubs that it’s all an Andy Kaufman-ish bugaboo. One anonymous source tells them: “[Phoenix] said, ‘It’s a put-on. I’m going to pretend to have a meltdown and change careers, and Casey is going to film it.” 

At the time, most entertainment journalists were perplexed by Phoenix’s behavior. Was it real? Was he really pursuing a music career? Or were we all being punked? Was it all a massive joke at our expense?

Phoenix’s weirdness finally peaked during a bizarre appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in September 2010.

Turns out, he was just joking. But for a while, many of us thought the act was for real.

Which brings me to the subject of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy for president on June 24.

On Thursday, it finally occurred to me: Jindal is the political equivalent of Joaquin Phoenix!

How else to explain his bizarre behavior over recent months? There was Jindal’s strange trip to Europe, including his odd appearance in London where he declared the existence of Muslim-dominated “no-go zones” that no one in Europe knew about and the locations of which Jindal refused to specify.

Before that, there was his strange embrace of West Monroe’s duck people, especially Phil Robertson, who almost cost the A&E show “Duck Dynasty” its future after his homophobic remarks were published in the winter of 2013.

Jindal rushed to Robertson’s defense with a strange misunderstanding of the First Amendment, seeming to suggest that private corporations did not have the right to reprimand or fire their employees for their offensive public comments.

Then, just last month, Jindal went even further into the deep end with an executive order giving businesses and government officials – even local officials – license to discriminate against gay couples. Bizarrely, Jindal said he did so in defense of “religious liberty.”

Then there’s Jindal’s strange man crush of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. At Norquist’s behest, Jindal has threatened to veto the entire state budget if the Legislature doesn’t pass a fraudulent college tax credit just so he can claim that the tax increases he signs are not actually tax increases.

Which, of course, they are.

Jindal and his aides urge passage of the farcical SAVE tax credit bill with a straight face

Until Thursday, however, I generally took Jindal’s candidacy at face value. I assumed he was really running for president – or at least for vice president or a cabinet position.  Read more

The concession speech Jindal won’t give, but which could salvage his legacy

Screen shot of Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking to the American Enterprise Institute in October 2014.
Screen shot of Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking to the American Enterprise Institute in October 2014.

By Robert Mann

Here’s how Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign will probably end: he will finish sixth or seventh in the Iowa caucuses about this time next year. Almost broke, he will forgo the New Hampshire primary (that state allows crossover voting, so he stands little chance there).

He will then limp into South Carolina. There, his dreams for the White House will meet their humiliating end. He will be crushed again. After a day or two, he will hold a press conference in Tallahassee (or Madison) in which he will throw his support and his zero delegates to Jeb Bush (or Scott Walker).

Jindal’s reputation, already in shreds in Louisiana because of his disastrous handling of the state’s finances, will sink to its lowest level. He’ll be out of office by then, so it won’t make much difference to voters who are celebrating the end of his wretched tenure. David Vitter or Jay Dardenne will be governor by then, working furiously to clean up the stinking fiscal mess that Jindal left behind.

The narrative about Jindal will be about what it is now, only almost every person in the state will ascribe to it: in hapless pursuit of the presidency, Jindal ignored Louisiana’s problems because the solutions to those problems conflicted with his national ambitions.

Jindal refused to lead and he allowed the state to go under. When the state needed him most, during the 2015 legislative session, he was never around. On rare occasions he appeared in Baton Rouge, his presence was a hindrance. He did nothing to help the state. Every Machiavellian move was made with Iowa and South Carolina in mind.

People will say that Jindal left Louisiana far worse than he found it. Many will say – and some of them will be prominent Republicans – that Jindal was the worst governor in Louisiana history.

The overriding narrative will be that Bobby Jindal sacrificed Louisiana on the altar of his presidential ambitions.

By March or April of 2016, Jindal will be back in Baton Rouge, living in temporary housing and sulking – trying to figure out what to do next with his life and career.

His political Svengali, Timmy Teepell – who is today telling him he has a real chance to win the GOP nomination – will be busy counting all the money he made off Jindal’s embarrassing, quixotic quest for the White House. (Smiling, Teepell will think to himself: “Dang, I was right. You can make a lot of money off a losing presidential campaign.”)

That’s one way Jindal’s presidential campaign can end – and it’s the most likely outcome.

But, there is another way Jindal could give up his presidential hopes.

This way would give him a chance to salvage something of his reputation and, more important, it might do some good for his state.

Jindal won’t take this route, of course, but if he did, it would transform his political stock, in Louisiana and beyond. While it wouldn’t earn him the presidential nomination, it could repair what’s left of his reputation in Louisiana and it might even make him a viable candidate for a cabinet post, if Bush or Walker should defeat Hillary Clinton in November 2016.

The scenario that Jindal will never choose would involve Jindal delivering a speech in the next week or two in the press conference room on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. During that press conference, Jindal would say something like this:

It’s no secret that I’ve wanted to be president and that I thought I had the qualifications for that difficult job.

Our country desperately needs a president who is willing to take on radical Islam, defeat it and send its murderous adherents straight to hell.

Our country needs a president who knows how to spark an economic rebirth in this country for the beleaguered middle-class.

Our country needs a president who can enact a responsible and effective health care plan.  Read more

If Bobby Jindal runs for president, does he have a prayer?

By Robert Mann

Gov. Bobby Jindal says he is praying about running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. While it’s certainly possible Jindal wants heavenly guidance, color me skeptical. From all appearances, Jindal’s fervent prayers have always been more along the lines of “please let me win” than “should I run?”

Anyone with even a passing interest in the Louisiana governor will note that if Jindal has been praying for guidance, it’s been at 35,000 feet on his way to Iowa. Perhaps Jindal is using Delta to launch his supplications into heaven.

Whatever the case, Jindal will soon announce God’s will for his life. However, the real question when it comes to Jindal’s unmistakable White House ambitions is, does he even have a prayer?

Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s close adviser and former chief of staff, argues that his boss can win the nomination. “He’s an undervalued stock,” Teepell told the Washington Examiner in October, arguing that Washington pundits have devalued Jindal because of his disastrous nationally televised speech in response to President Obama’s first address to Congress in 2009. “Fortunately,” Teepell observed, “DC pundits don’t get to decide elections.”

Teepell has a point. Voters make those decisions. Unfortunately for Jindal, voters are as underwhelmed by him as are Washington pundits. At home, Jindal’s 33 percent approval rating ranks him among the least popular governors in the nation. That’s not exactly a launching pad for a successful White House campaign.

Jindal and Teepell no doubt are praying that the issues that have hobbled Jindal in Louisiana — including bungling the state’s budget and his ineptitude on health care and higher education — won’t matter much to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

So far, however, Republican voters in those early primary states haven’t acknowledged Jindal’s enormous talents. In national surveys of GOP voters, Jindal is the perennial cellar dweller.

In the Real Clear Politics national average of polls, Jindal now sits dead last at 2.8 percent, well behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (14.3 percent), Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (11.2 percent), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (10.8 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (10.8 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (9.7 percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (6.6 percent) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (5.8 percent).

Jindal doesn’t fare any better in the individual state surveys. He’s at an average of 2.3 percent in Iowa, 3.3 percent in New Hampshire, and 1 percent in Florida.

Jindal surely has persuaded himself that he might eventually catch on in Iowa and New Hampshire. I can imagine he believes that a good debate performance, some inspired television advertising and gaffes or scandals that sink one or more of the frontrunners might just propel him into frontrunner status.

It’s a nice thought and a dream that inspires many an underdog. There’s only one problem with this scenario: No one has ever surged from the back of the pack to capture the nomination in the history of Republican presidential primaries.

Continue reading at NOLA.com at this link.

News Flash: No matter who wins, America will survive. No Zombie Apocalypse

Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No matter who wins Tuesday’s presidential election, millions will wallow in deep despair on Wednesday morning.

I don’t mean the kind of despondency that pervaded Baton Rouge on Sunday morning after LSU’s crushing, last-minute loss to Alabama.

I’m talking about apocalyptic hopelessness, a variety born of complete, unabashed acceptance of the super-heated campaign rhetoric that insists that the other guy isn’t just wrong on policy; his agenda is evil and the candidate, himself, depraved.

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