Trump’s debating problems

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Charles M Blow writes: No one with an open mind and sound reason who witnessed the sniffing, sipping, scowling, raging, interrupting display of petulance and agitation that was Donald Trump’s debate performance on Monday could possibly argue that he won that debate or that he is the kind of person to whom we should entrust the presidency.

It appears that Trump thought it wise to wing it.

Katie Pavlich wrote Monday on the conservative site Townhall, “Trump didn’t take the conventional road of preparing for the debate and skipped mock debate practice altogether.”

Pavlich quoted the senior Trump campaign adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders as saying:

“Donald Trump does what works best for him, and I think that is discussing the issues, studying the issues and frankly being himself. He’s not a poll-tested, scripted robot like Hillary Clinton. That’s a great contrast to have and one I think we are certainly excited to see tonight.”

Well, the robot won. And she did so because she had the discipline and forethought to properly prepare.

At one point during the debate, Trump said of Clinton:

“And I will tell you, you look at the inner cities — and I just left Detroit, and I just left Philadelphia, and I just — you know, you’ve seen me, I’ve been all over the place. You decided to stay home, and that’s O.K.”

But Clinton shot back:

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”

The crowd applauded.

It takes a tremendous ego and a healthy dose of hubris to believe that you can simply bluster your way through a presidential debate, but if anyone thinks that way, it’s no surprise it’s the uniquely underqualified and overblown king of bragging and whining: Donald J. Trump. [Continue reading…]

The fact that Trump chose to wing it might be interpreted as meaning that competent guidance was on offer — he simply didn’t make use of it. The picture painted by the New York Times, however, is one in which the candidate was being lots of conflicting guidance.

Mr. Trump’s debate preparation was unconventional. Aides have introduced a lectern and encouraged him to participate in mock debates, but he has not embraced them, focusing mostly on conversations and discussions with advisers.

During the primaries, the group briefing him for debates was small and closely held. By the weekend before the debate on Monday at Hofstra University, there were nearly a dozen people preparing Mr. Trump, including the retired Army generals Michael Flynn and Keith Kellogg, neither of whom has experience in presidential debates.

There were early efforts to run a more standard form of general election debate-prep camp, led by Roger Ailes, the ousted Fox News chief, at Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. But Mr. Trump found it hard to focus during those meetings, according to multiple people briefed on the process who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That left Mr. Ailes, who at the time was deeply distracted by his removal from Fox and the news media reports surrounding it, discussing his own problems as well as recounting political war stories, according to two people present for the sessions.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and a friend of Mr. Trump’s who has been traveling with him extensively, took over much of the preparation efforts by the end. But with Mr. Trump receiving so much conflicting advice in those sessions, he absorbed little of it.

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U.S. believes hackers are shielded by Russia to hide its role in cyberintrusions

The Wall Street Journal reports: U.S. officials are increasingly confident that the hacker Guccifer 2.0 is part of a network of individuals and groups kept at arm’s length by Russia to mask its involvement in cyberintrusions such as the theft of thousands of Democratic Party documents, according to people familiar with the matter.

While the hacker denies working on behalf of the Russian government, U.S. officials and independent security experts say the syndicate is one of the most striking elements of what looks like an intensifying Russian campaign to target prominent American athletes, party officials and military leaders.

A fuller picture of the operation has come into focus in the past several weeks. U.S. officials believe that at least two hacking groups with ties to the Russian government, known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, are involved in the escalating data-theft efforts, according to people briefed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of the cyberattacks.

Following successful breaches, the stolen data are apparently transferred to three different websites for publication, these people say. The websites — WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and a blog run by Guccifer 2.0 — have posted batches of stolen data at least 42 times from April to last week.

WikiLeaks has published U.S. secrets for years but has recently taken an overtly adversarial tone toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Cybersecurity experts believe that DCLeaks.com and Guccifer 2.0 often work together and have direct ties to Russian hackers. [Continue reading…]

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The White House asked Congress to keep quiet on Russian hacking

BuzzFeed reports: The White House sought to muzzle two of Congress’s top intelligence officials when they decided to publicly accuse Russia of meddling in the US election last week, sources familiar with the matter told BuzzFeed News.

In a statement released Friday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, the vice-chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees respectively, formally accused Russia of attempting to influence the US election. It was the first official, on-record confirmation from US government officials that the Kremlin is actively working to manipulate public confidence in the country’s election system.

But sources tell BuzzFeed News that the White House — which has stayed silent despite mounting pressure to call out its Moscow adversaries — tried to delay the statement’s release. The public accusation was of such concern to the administration that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was personally involved in the negotiations over releasing it, according to a congressional source.

Feinstein and Schiff, both Democrats, agreed to omit part of their original statement for security reasons, according to another congressional source. That request, which stemmed from concerns over classification, came from the CIA, a congressional source added Wednesday. [Continue reading…]

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FBI probes hacks targeting phones of Democratic Party officials

Reuters reports: The FBI is investigating suspected attempts to hack mobile phones used by Democratic Party officials as recently as the past month, four people with direct knowledge of the attack and the investigation told Reuters.

The revelation underscores the widening scope of the U.S. criminal inquiry into cyber attacks on Democratic Party organizations, including the presidential campaign of its candidate, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

U.S. officials have said they believe those attacks were orchestrated by hackers backed by the Russian government, possibly to disrupt the Nov. 8 election in which Clinton faces Republican Party candidate Donald Trump. Russia has dismissed allegations it was involved in cyber attacks on the organizations.

The more recent attempted phone hacking also appears to have been conducted by Russian-backed hackers, two people with knowledge of the situation said. [Continue reading…]

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Obama used a pseudonym in emails with Clinton, FBI documents reveal

Politico reports: President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.

The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

The 189 pages the bureau released includes interviews with some of Clinton’s closest aides, such as Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills; senior State Department officials; and even Marcel Lazar, better known as the Romanian hacker “Guccifer.”

In an April 5, 2016 interview with the FBI, Abedin was shown an email exchange between Clinton and Obama, but the longtime Clinton aide did not recognize the name of the sender.

“Once informed that the sender’s name is believed to be pseudonym used by the president, Abedin exclaimed: ‘How is this not classified?'” the report says. “Abedin then expressed her amazement at the president’s use of a pseudonym and asked if she could have a copy of the email.” [Continue reading…]

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Video: The night President Obama took on Donald Trump

 

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Ted Cruz is wrong about how free speech is censored on the Internet

Tim Berners-Lee and Daniel Weitzner writes: Sen. Ted Cruz wants to engineer a United States takeover of a key Internet organization, ICANN, in the name of protecting freedom of expression.

Cruz’s proposal is one of the key sticking points in finalizing the government spending bill necessary to avert a government shutdown on Sept. 30.

But the misguided call for the United States to exert unilateral control over ICANN does nothing to advance free speech because ICANN, in fact, has no power whatsoever over individual speech online. ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — supervises domain names on the Internet. The actual flow of traffic, and therefore speech, is up to individual network and platform operators.

There is no international law or treaty that calls the Internet into existence or forces everyone to use the same standards and technology. Rather, it is a voluntary effort of people around the world. [Continue reading…]

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A Trump campaign chair in Ohio says there was ‘no racism’ before Obama

 

The Guardian reports: Donald Trump’s campaign chair in a prominent Ohio county has claimed there was “no racism” during the 1960s and said black people who have not succeeded over the past half-century only have themselves to blame.

Kathy Miller, who is white and chair of the Republican nominee’s campaign in Mahoning County, made the remarks during a taped interview with the Guardian’s Anywhere but Washington series of election videos.

“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you,” she said. [Continue reading…]

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Hillary Clinton sits down with Zach Galifianakis for her most memorable interview yet

 

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Who are the Russian-backed hackers attacking the U.S. political system?

NBC News reports: Two teams of highly skilled hackers directed and protected by the Russian state are on the offensive.

Cybersecurity experts and intelligence officials tell NBC News the same hackers who broke into the Democratic Party’s computers, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Administration System and who are implicated in the leaks of the personal emails of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the health documents of Olympians are executing a Kremlin-backed campaign of cyber-espionage and sabotage.

Their target: Western democratic institutions and Russia’s political opponents.

“They are starting to figure out the way to apply the power they have in terms of technical capabilities into the geopolitical aspect,” Italian cyber security investigator Stefano Maccaglia told NBC News.

At a small square in Rome on a recent summer day, Maccaglia explained how he came to know most of these hackers in the early 2000s, when he was one himself. Having since crossed to the other side, Maccaglia’s job now is to investigate — sometimes for the Italian government — the Russian hackers’ cyber-attacks.

Maccaglia, who is now an advisory consultant for the network security company RSA, explained that the two teams of Russian hackers vary from trained researchers with a mathematical background to “the very funny person” skilled in computer programming languages and are turned into “gangs of cyber-mercenaries” who offer their “brilliance” to the highest bidder.

“They obviously have a very good life now,” Maccaglia said of the privileges they enjoy for their services.

Their relationship to the Russian state, he explained, is a win-win: The cyber gangsters are allowed to keep stealing — their traditional hacking work — as long as they do the bidding of Russian intelligence services.

In exchange, they receive state protection.

“They are above the law and are obviously protected,” Maccaglia said. “That’s why nobody can prosecute them. There is no way to reach them anymore.” [Continue reading…]

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The hardening of Hillary

Todd S Purdum writes: Slowly, inexorably over the years, she has grown a harder and harder shell until, like Marley’s ghost, she now wears the chain she’s forged in life, link by link and yard by yard. The effects of that armor plating are obvious. A desire for privacy has congealed into a demand for secrecy. Candor is dangerous; artifice is safe. Full disclosure is for suckers; hunkering down is the only way to win. Above all, too much honesty about yourself brings you only more grief.

It’s a lesson that’s been drummed into Clinton over and over again for the past quarter century. Reporters threw her 1969 Wellesley commencement speech — in which she said her class was “searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living — back at her as an example of self-indulgent ‘60s gobbledygook. In the 1992 campaign, when she said defended her career by saying that she “could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas,” and defended her straying husband by saying she was “not sitting here — some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” she was excoriated in many quarters (if praised in some others).

So, little by little, she gave in. And shut down. And clammed up. Even, perhaps, covered up a bit. She drafted her proposed overhaul of the nation’s health insurance system in almost complete secrecy, and paid a terrible political price. She stonewalled on inquiries into her and her husband’s business dealings, eventually all but assuring the appointment of the special prosecutor whose sprawling inquiry ultimately led to impeachment.

And now she is reluctant even to hold news conferences — on Thursday, after weeks of public pressure culminating in the health-scare imbroglio, she held one of the very few she’s had all year.

I witnessed the gradual Hardening of Hillary myself, as a reporter for The New York Times who covered the Clinton White House. On her first solo trip abroad — to South Asia in 1995 — she talked to me and other reporters traveling with her on almost every leg of the journey. But she insisted that all conversations be off the record, so it was almost impossible to reflect her curiosity and sometimes earthy sense of humor, including a long middle-of-the-night ramble about public obsession with her hair styles. When reporters told her at one point how impressive Chelsea, then 15, had been, she sighed, “Ah, yes, but now I have to take her home and put her back in purdah,” referencing the Muslim and Hindu practice of secluding women behind curtains and veils.

For all the public grind of this campaign, for all her public presence on the world stage over the past two decades, Clinton herself has increasingly spent her days in a kind of purdah, suppressing spontaneous utterances and surrounded by loyalists whose chief role is her care and feeding. She communicates only through a veil of unyielding self-protection, surrounded by a curtain of defensiveness.

So nowadays, almost no one outside Clinton’s innermost circle ever sees the tender side that loyal aides and friends insist is such a palpable part of her personality, but I can attest that it is there. When my father took his own life 20 years ago, she left me a solicitous voice mail, recommended books on suicide and months later was still asking how my family and I were coping. She shared her own grief over the suicide of her friend Vince Foster in an utterly unguarded way.

No more.

Today, Clinton is within reach of her longtime dream, becoming the first female president. But the latest polls show that she is still struggling against a GOP candidate whom even many of his fellow Republicans have described as unfit and whom most smart money says she would be trouncing if she didn’t have serious candor and credibility issues of her own. That’s the Hillary Clinton who provokes roughly 6 in 10 voters into repeatedly telling pollsters they do not see her as honest and trustworthy. The Hillary Clinton who can’t seem to get out of her own way, even when it comes to a simple story of whether she had the flu (her husband’s account) or pneumonia, and whether she was fine or not. [Continue reading…]

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Bernie Sanders: ‘This is not the time for a protest vote’

The Washington Post reports: Anyone driving into Bernie Sanders’s rally here, anyone with a radio tuned to ABC News, could hear the low-key voice of Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson. In 60-second radio spots, the former governor of New Mexico introduces himself as a pragmatist who, like most voters, resented a presidential choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“Our economic challenges will be conquered not by force, but by cooperation and mutual respect,” Johnson says in one of the ads. “For the independent majority of Americans who feel as I do, I say: Why wait one more day?”

At the rally itself, Sanders continued making the pitch he’s been honing since he returned to the campaign trail: This isn’t a year to vote third party. Mentioning Clinton’s name sparingly, Sanders told several hundred voters — many still wearing gear from the Democratic primary — that their votes could stop the election of a Republican “who thinks climate change is a hoax.”

Sanders, who was the most prominent independent in American politics even before his run, is gradually embracing a role as a third-party critic, a spoiler of the spoilers. [Continue reading…]

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