On the morning of the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, no less a soothsayer than Nate Silver believes this election is a dead heat. His FiveThirtyEight forecasting blog gives Clinton about a 52 percent chance to win the presidency, compared to Trump’s forty-eight. Let us pause here for a moment and consider how crazy that is. Trump has no experience in elected office, spent most of his time in the public eye as a punchline, and launched his campaign with a flurry of gaffes and lies that has become a blizzard since. A rational electorate should not like him. But he is running against a candidate who embodies the Democratic Party, and that brand is in danger of becoming toxic.
When former Navy SEAL and then-state senator Ryan Zinke ran for Montana’s sole congressional seat in 2014, he did not embrace debates. Under pressure from his opponents and a dozen local newspapers, he grudgingly participated in three, and he briefly pulled out of the last one. But that was a different election. Now Rep. Zinke is an incumbent. His Democratic opponent, Denise Juneau, challenged him to six debates in a May press release. The Zinke campaign was silent for a month, and we opinion-havers of Montana settled in for a reprise of the commander’s earlier reticence. But last week, just hours after Juneau issued a second press release noting his silence, he agreed to five.
Five! It pretty much doubles last year’s total of two and a half. It’s unclear exactly why Zinke’s attitude toward debates has changed, but in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, we’ve got some ideas. For one thing, he’s got a maniac at the top of his ticket. It’s going to take some nuanced messaging to convince voters that Zinke’s tough foreign policy and outsider image are different from Trump’s mindless aggression and general ignorance. Also, Commander Zinke’s “I’m a soldier, not a politician” theme gets less powerful with each incumbency. Now is a good time to add depth to his political image, and I’m glad he’s seized this opportunity. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.
The most striking feature of the Republican debate last week was the candidates’ hostility to CNBC. In the course of not answering a question about the debt ceiling, Ted Cruz won cheers by saying no one trusted the media. The same audience booed Carl Quintanilla when he followed up on a question about Ben Carson’s involvement with the sketchy supplement company Mannatech, causing Carson to remark smugly, “they know.” The candidates were so upset about CNBC’s perceived hostility that they met Sunday to demand more control over future debates. Nearly all of them were mad at cosmic imp and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus. The RNC had organized the debates so far, but according to one anonymous campaign manager, “Major question is if the RNC should be involved at all.” It would appear that the conservative Republican candidates of 2016 have lost faith in an institution.
Making a popping sound as he displaces the air, RNC chairman and extradimensional potentate Reince Priebus had demanded that CNN and NBC Entertainment halt production on planned features about Hillary Clinton. And if they do not? One week from today, Priebus will “seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.” In other words, CNN and NBC drop their respective Hillary projects or they don’t get to carry the Republican debates. And like that, before you could say Subeirp Ecnier, he disappeared.
The picture above will be forever known as the Alleged Stingray Photobomb, and sadly it is posed. I should have known; something that beautiful doesn’t just happen, at least not to the likes of us. With the internet, as with all things, you’ll be happier if you lower your expectations. Today is Friday, and I’ll probably string together a half-assed narrative from uninteresting links before I show up late to yoga and fart. See how that works? If I can keep that idea firmly implanted in my head, anything short of disaster will feel like a pleasant surprise. The events you anticipate do not exist. There is only the world that happened, and now it is gone. Won’t you wish it a disappointed farewell with me?