The Phony Campaign

2023-02-05 Update

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Do today's youngsters get Holden Caulfield references? Or do they sail over their heads? Maybe I should ask ChatGPT.

Anyway: no changes to our candidate lineup this week, although if you click over to the Election Betting Odds site, you'll notice that the betting markets give Michelle Obama has (as I type) a 1.9% chance of being our next Prez, which is dangerously close to our inclusion threshold of 2%. She might show up at some point!

If you are particularly keen-eyed, you might notice that our displayed probabilities don't add up to 100%. Not even close. There's dark matter at EBO: a hefty 14.2% probability for "Other".

We report, you decide:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 23.3% +0.1% 4,690,000 -70,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.0% -0.1% 1,330,000 -130,000
Donald Trump 17.7% +0.7% 1,010,000 +71,000
Joe Biden 23.6% +0.5% 358,000 -24,000
Nikki Haley 3.9% +0.6% 102,000 -1,028,000
Kamala Harris 3.8% -0.3% 89,700 -5,700
Gavin Newsom 3.5% -0.4% 36,800 -4,900

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

On to the deets:

  • A tweeter reveals that the latest AI fad, ChatGPT, is less than authentic in dealing with Team Orange Man:

    This isn't hard, ChatGPT:

    Oh my, Donald Trump!
    When you're on the campaign stump,
    My little heart goes thump, thump, thump;
    My throat obtains a massive lump.
    Now I don't want to be a grump,
    But I miss your prices at the pump.
    Joe Biden is a hapless schlump.
    It's him and Harris who we should dump.
    I hope your polls get a big ol' bump.

  • James Freeman notes Joe's meandering and nonsensical rhetoric, including this gem: ‘I will veto everything they send me.’

    That headline comes from President Joe Biden’s Thursday speech to a group of union activists and Democratic politicians in Springfield, Va. After refusing even to negotiate spending reforms with House Republicans to secure an increase in the federal debt limit, Mr. Biden is now promising not to agree with them on any legislation at all. At first blush the idea may sound intriguing to those who favor small government. But this Biden promise is sure to be broken once someone explains to the President that his beloved spending bills—and all other kinds of bills—have to pass both houses of Congress before becoming law. Perhaps the White House will be issuing a correction, as it did for another part of the Thursday speech.

    I'm sure there are multiple White House staffers who sit at their keyboards, monitoring Biden's public statements, templates at the ready to explain what Joe really meant by that.

  • A video clip from the Remarks by President Biden Marking the 30th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act has been making the rounds, focusing on this bit:

    But here’s what matters. More than half the women in my Cabinet — more than — more than half the people in my Cabinet, more than half of the women on the — in my administration are women. You think, “Well, God, that’s across the board.”

    Sometimes you'll see this shortened to "More than half of the women in my administration are women." The transcript is bad enough, but it doesn't fully convey Biden's fumbling to express a coherent thought.

    But we can pull out a (sort of) sensible claim: that more than half of the people in Biden Cabinet identify as female. But, as Bill Clinton might say, that depends on what the meaning of "Cabinet" is. And what the meaning of "half" is.

    If we restrict ourselves to the veep and 15 executive department heads in the official order of succession to the presidency, only six are women: Kamala, Yellen, Haaland, Raimondo, Fudge, Granholm. That's 37.5 percent. Which, outside of Biden's brain, is not "more than half".

    But there are also "cabinet-level officials". There are currently nine of 'em, and the girls outnumber the guys there, 7-2.

    So, counting them, it's a 13-11 edge for the chicks. So, Biden made a defensible claim, but you really have to be generous.

  • A consistent high scorer on the phony scale, and also a male member of the Cabinet gets commented on in a recent National Review (paywalled print edition) blurb.

    If Pete Buttigieg thought he could hide out in the Department of Transportation, he has had a rude awakening. Mayor Pete, having never run anything larger than the country’s 310th-largest city (and Indiana’s fourth-largest), was given a minor cabinet post in a field where he had no experience and then promptly disappeared for two months of paternity leave. This was the wrong job for a dilettante who would rather talk culture war than attend to his department’s duties. The Biden administration asked him to help lead a task force to address the post-Covid global supply-chain crisis in 2021. It failed to break logjams at ports and stave off the inflationary effects of constricted supply, and Buttigieg’s absence was conspicuous. In 2022, when a national freight-rail strike loomed, the administration called on Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh — who had at least run a major city — rather than Buttigieg. And when the Federal Aviation Administration’s creaky, outdated Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system failed in January, resulting in the FAA’s grounding of all U.S. flights for the first time since the 9/11 attacks, Buttigieg was yet again out to lunch. There had been many warnings that the NOTAM system needed an upgrade, but the only major change to it that Buttigieg had overseen was to rename NOTAM in December 2021 from its original name, “Notice to Airmen,” deemed insufficiently gender-inclusive. Buttigieg’s planned trip to the presidency should be indefinitely delayed.

    The NR editors go on in the next item to wonder why the Feds are in control of air traffic in the first place. Other nations we think of as socialist-leaning, like Canada, have privatized.

  • Nick Catoggio has a long and interesting look at how the GOP race might play out over the coming months: The Only Way Out Is Through.

    An electorate as degraded as the GOP’s won’t abandon Trump for a more reasonable candidate. It might abandon him for a less reasonable one.

    That’s what Ron DeSantis’ courtship of anti-vaxxers is all about, of course.

    You almost certainly can’t beat Trump in a Republican primary by running to his left. But what if you run to his right?

    What makes DeSantis formidable is that he’s more populist than Trump in some respects but also more electable, which seems impossible at first blush. You can’t out-populist Trump, and even if you can, you’ll end up so far out on the right-wing fringe that you’ll be poisonous in a general election.

    In theory. But somehow DeSantis has managed to do it. There’s no doubting his electability after a 19-point win in Florida in November, which explains why Democrats are already weighing in on Trump’s side in his squabbles with the governor. Yet there’s also no doubt that he’s more closely aligned with the base’s vaccine skepticism than Trump is.

    It's all about the perceptions, baby.

  • David Strom is apparently taking on Nick's old Trump-skeptical role at Hot Air: Trump's line of attack on DeSantis is uncharacteristically stupid.

    Donald Trump is not stupid.

    His opponents have always underestimated him because of the colloquial way he talks–sounding vastly different than most people in the highly educated class. Not sounding educated, they assume he isn’t and by extension isn’t smart.

    But in recent weeks Trump has been acting as if he is stupid, and I have to say I am surprised.

    Trump has been attacking Ron DeSantis on the COVID lockdown issue, arguing that the governor’s reputation as a freedom fighter is unearned. Trump even implies that DeSantis was something of a COVID fascist, while Trump himself was fighting to reopen the American economy.

    Yeah, he's stupid all right. Stupid like a fox!

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:38 AM EDT

The Last Detective

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Another book down on the "Reread Robert Crais" project. This one, from 2003, returned to his primary characters, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, after a two-book, four-year hiatus. Readers who come to the series for Elvis's wisecracks might be disappointed, because he's deadly serious here, all the way through.

Elvis's relationship with his true love, Lucy Chenier, is threatened when her 10-year-old son, Ben, is kidnapped while playing in Elvis's backyard. From under Elvis's nose, nearly literally. It soon becomes apparent that Ben's been abducted by some extremely dangerous professionals who claim to be seeking revenge on Elvis for an ill-fated Army operation long ago in Vietnam. Lucy's rich ex-husband, Richard, shows up, blaming the snatch on Elvis's (admitted) past history of battling murderous and psychotic villains.

The bad guys have covered their tracks well, but you don't want to go up against an Elvis obsessed with thwarting you. Not to mention Joe PIke, who's physically damaged from the previous book, but still remains an unstoppable force of nature. Things move fast, and violently. Pages keep turning…

We also get to relive some harrowing episodes from Elvis's past; his Vietnam tour was no picnic, neither was his young life with a reality-challenged mother.

Foul-mouthed Carol Starkey, Crais's heroine from Demolition Angel, has a major role here; she seems to have cut down on the gin, while increasing her intake of cigarettes and antacids. She develops a grudging respect for Elvis's detecting skills, and could she be getting kind of googly-eyed by the end? Yes.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:38 AM EDT