Paul Waldman

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  • Wash. Post’s Paul Waldman To Media: “Can We Please Not Grade Trump On A Curve?”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman called on members of the media to avoid judging Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “on a curve” when he delivers his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, asserting “simply reading a speech off a teleprompter is not in and of itself a praiseworthy accomplishment.”

    During Trump’s presidential campaign, media have repeatedly hyped Trump as a more “serious-sounding candidate” and problematically lauded imaginary campaign “pivots” after Trump has delivered pre-prepared speeches in a subdued tone or abstained from personally attacking his opponents. This pattern not only whitewashes Trump’s usual racist, sexist, and conspiratorial rhetoric, but also praises him for mastering “campaign 101.”

    Waldman beseeched media not to praise Trump for “getting all the way through” a single speech “without doing anything shocking or offensive” and treating the presidential candidate “as though he were an eight-year-old giving his first clarinet recital.” In the July 21 article, Waldman asserted that a speech absent of vulgarity and attacks is “the bare minimum we should expect from any functioning adult, much less someone seeking to become the most powerful person on Planet Earth,” and said “As we judge Trump’s speech …it’s equally important to note how everything he has done in this campaign contradicts that picture.”  From the article:

    I beseech everyone, particularly my colleagues in the media: Can we please not grade Trump on a curve?

    If there’s something he does or says that’s worthy of praise — a truly compelling new argument for his candidacy, a rhetorical flourish that brings a tear to the eye of every viewer, a newfound eloquence — then by all means give it the tribute it deserves. But let’s not forget that simply reading a speech off a teleprompter is not in and of itself a praiseworthy accomplishment.

    It’s a little hard to know what in particular to expect from Trump’s address, because unlike many presidential candidates, he didn’t have a standard stump speech that he delivered with only minor variations time and again on the campaign trail. Instead, Trump would get up before crowds and free-associate, rambling on about whatever popped into his mind, though a big chunk of every speech was taken up with reciting his terrific poll numbers and his fantastic results in previous primaries, lest anyone forget how great he was doing and how much everyone loved him. While there were often exciting moments — telling supporters to beat up a protester, mocking a disabled reporter, tossing out his latest bit of xenophobic fear-mongering — those covering the events regularly reported how boring the speeches were; at about the 45-minute mark, attendees who had waited on line for hours to get in often started drifting away.

    In part because his events generally showcase a bizarre combination of tedium and brownshirt rally, on the few occasions where Trump has delivered a prepared speech, pundits acted as though he were an eight-year-old giving his first clarinet recital. It barely mattered what it actually contained; he was lauded for getting all the way through it without doing anything shocking or offensive. Look at how “disciplined” he’s become! He stuck to the script! There were no insults thrown at minority groups! This new Trump really looks presidential!

    Given that history, I suspect that we’ll hear a similar reaction to tonight’s speech. So yes, we know that unless there’s a technical glitch or he faints dead away in the midst of it all, there will be words projected on a teleprompter, and Trump will speak those words out loud. They will be words written by other people and refined through multiple drafts, and as a consequence are likely to have at least some of the logical coherence and policy substance of which Trump is utterly incapable when speaking on his own. If his aides are successful in the begging and pleading they’re no doubt subjecting him to today, there will be few if any ad-libs. There won’t be any swearing, or surprise lines tossing out decades of American policy, or vulgar new attacks on a group of voters he has somehow not gotten around to offending yet.

    All that is the bare minimum we should expect from any functioning adult, much less someone seeking to become the most powerful person on Planet Earth. So if that’s all we get from Trump’s speech, can we agree that it isn’t enough to deserve hosannas of celebration?
     

  • Washington Post’s Waldman Explains How Donald Trump And Conservatives Spread Misinformation About The US Economy

    Paul Waldman: Between Republicans And Democrats’ Visions Of The Economy, "Only One Is Based In Reality"

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman described how GOP front-runner Donald Trump and conservatives are spreading misinformation about the economy to downplay economic success made during the Obama administration. Trump’s misinformation has been fueled and perpetuated by right-wing media outlets like Fox News.

    In an April 28 op-ed, Washington Post opinion blogger, Paul Waldman explained how Republicans are misleading about the health of the economy while dishonestly ignoring positive economic trends. Waldman specifically highlighted Donald Trump’s misinformation and how it drastically contrasted with reality:

    Here’s Donald Trump’s economic story:

    The economy is an absolute nightmare. Americans are living in such misery that they’re practically eating their own shoes in order to survive. If we cut taxes on the wealthy, reduce regulations on corporations, renegotiate trade agreements, and deport all illegal immigrants, then our economy will be spectacular and working people will experience American greatness again.

    [...]

    Trump’s story is the same one other Republicans tell, with the addition of the idea that “bad deals” on trade have had a crippling effect on the country. For the moment we’ll put aside the merits of Trump’s claim that imposing enormous tariffs on Chinese goods will cause all those jobs sewing clothing and assembling electronics to come pouring into the United States, but the political question around Trump’s story is whether people will believe his over-the-top description of both what’s happening now and the transformation he will be able to produce.

    […]

    Today, the objective reality is a lot closer to the way Democrats describe it, in large part because they aren’t offering an extreme version of their truth. If Obama and Clinton were more rhetorically similar to Donald Trump, they’d be saying that this is the greatest economy in the history of human civilization, everybody has a terrific job, and there’s so much prosperity that the only question any American has is whether to spend their money on everything they could ever want or just roll around in it like Scrooge McDuck.

    But they aren’t saying that. Instead, they’re attempting the tricky balancing act of emphasizing the progress Obama has made while acknowledging the long-term weaknesses in the economy. Both of those things are real. Since the bottom of the Great Recession early in Obama’s first term, the economy has added 14 million jobs, and unemployment is now at 5 percent. On the other hand, income growth has been concentrated at the top and Americans still feel uncertain about their economic futures.

    Donald Trump has chosen to pretend that the good things about the American economy don’t exist, and weave a laughable fantasy about what his policies will produce (“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created”).

    Trump’s misinformation echoes right-wing media, who often stoke fears and downplay positive changes in the U.S. economy.

  • How The 'Liberal Media' Keep Blaming Obama for Republican Behavior, Continued

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The problem with so much of the Beltway media's ongoing commentary regarding the sequestration showdown between Republicans and President Obama is that it reflects the central failing of the press throughout Obama's presidency: It blames the president for the GOP's ingrained, signature obstinacy.

    Earlier this week, I noted that the bulk of the commentary class was berating Obama for failing to "lead" on the budget issue. They faulted him for not fashioning a deal despite the fact that Republicans made it plain they did not want to make a deal, which wasn't surprising since they've been emphatically saying no to Obama for nearly 50 months. Nonetheless, Obama's to blame because he failed to change the GOP's ways.

    As an update, it's now worth noting that the media's blame-Obama approach is additionally misguided because we're learning more and more Republican members of Congress don't understand, or haven't bothered to find out, what the president is offering in terms of his deficit reduction plan. So not only does the press fault Obama for Republicans' (obstructionist) behavior, it also penalizes him for the fact that Republicans don't know what the White House proposed to avoid sequestration.

    That doesn't seem fair.  

    Here's what NBC News' Chuck Todd reported on the president's dinner with Republican senators Wednesday night [emphasis added]:

    In fact, one senator told us that he learned, for the first time, the actual cuts that the president has put on the table. Leadership hadn't shared that list with them before.

    As bloggers noted, Republicans need not rely on party leaders to inform them about Obama's proposed cuts. They're posted on the Internet and have been widely written about.

    But the Republicans' astonishing lack of knowledge about Obama's detailed deficit reduction proposal, the same proposal they've rejected, appears to be widespread. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein reported that at an off-the-record session with Republican lawmakers, one Congressman didn't know about a key cost-cutting concession Obama had made regarding Social Security benefits.

    From Paul Waldman, writing at The American Prospect:

    The Republican position is that this negotiation is of vital importance to the future of the country, indeed, so important that they may be willing to shut the government down and let the full faith and credit of the United States be destroyed if they don't get what they want; but they also can't be bothered to understand what it is the other side wants.

    But remember, Beltway pundits agree: The partisan impasse that led to sequestration was Obama's fault.