Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
The Founders never promised campaigns would be ennobling. But when does this one reach bottom? Maybe yesterday, with the revelation of Donald Trump’s vile comments about groping women, caught on tape in 2005. Then again, maybe not. In a 90-second video released after midnight, the Republican presidential nominee curtly apologized for the remarks, then pledged to launch personal attacks against the Clintons “in the coming days,” even as support for his candidacy among party leaders appears to be teetering. And there could be more revelations to come. If you haven’t already, you will no doubt be hearing your fill about the 2005 tape soon. So suffice it to say here that the blowup renders Trump’s already-fading prospects more remote.
And with Hillary Clinton looking ever likelier to win the presidency, another major revelation yesterday deserves closer attention than the firestorm over the Trump tape allowed. Excerpts of Clinton’s paid speeches to major firms on Wall Street and beyond — the subject of heated speculation for over a year — posted online as part of a WikiLeaks hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email. The excerpts reveal a very different Clinton than the candidate who’s embraced the insurgent populist suspicion of big business on the trail.
Behind closed doors to high-paying corporate crowds, Clinton talked up her enthusiasm for free trade, endorsed partnering with Wall Street on industry reforms, and bemoaned that the political climate made it more difficult for the wealthy to serve in government. “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future,” Clinton told a Brazilian bank in 2013, two years before pressure from the left compelled her to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership she’d championed as Secretary of State. Later that year, in a speech to Goldman Sachs, she discussed the need for balance in regulating the financial industry — “too much is bad, too little is bad,” she said — and suggested striking it by working with industry leaders: “The people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.” At several points, Clinton nods toward the value of offering a public line more skeptical of business. For example, she told a Deutsche Bank audience in 2014 that those shaping financial markets have to command trust and confidence, adding, “So even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that somehow the game is rigged, that should be a problem for all of us, and we have to be willing to make that absolutely clear.” After all, In order to do the unsavory work of cutting a political deal, she said in another talk, “you need both a public and a private position.” It’s possible Clinton shaded these private remarks to appeal to audiences that paid a lot to hear them. But they nevertheless signal, as our October cover explained, her core instincts are more moderate than the rhetoric she’s adopted for this campaign.
• Republican leaders race to distance themselves from Trump
As a defiant Trump pledges to stay in the race, Republican leaders continued to scramble Saturday to put space between themselves and a presidential nominee many now view as toxic. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was due to share a stage with Trump today for the first time since endorsing him, instead disinvited the candidate from his Wisconsin rally and said in a statement he was “sickened” by Trump’s taped comments about women. A handful of Republican lawmakers from swing districts went further, rescinding endorsements and calling on Trump to drop his bid. So did Rep. Martha Roby, who hails from a heavily Republican district in Alabama. But so far, no Congressional leaders have demanded Trump step aside. Washington Post
• It’s too late to dump Trump
As a growing number of Republican officeholders rescind their Trump endorsements, some are also calling for the party to replace him atop the ticket. That’s much easier said than done. For one thing, 34,000 Republican voters have already cast ballots. And party rules make swapping out nominees exceedingly difficult. Even in down-ballot races in the past in which candidates died weeks before Election Day, the parties have sometimes struggled to replace them. Washington Post
• U.S. accuses Russia of meddling in election
The White House on Friday accused the Russian government of hacking Democratic National Committee files and others to tamper with the U.S. election process. A statement from James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security said that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” The formal accusation raises the question of whether President Obama will seek sanctions over the cyberattacks — or a more direct retaliation. New York Times
Around the Water Cooler
• Utah Republicans lead the way in abandoning Trump
Late Friday, as elected Republicans across the country struggled with how to confront the fallout from the Trump tape, those in Utah rallied rapidly around withdrawing support for his candidacy. Rep. Jason Chaffetz and former Gov. Jon Huntsman rescinded their endorsements; Sen. Mike Lee, who never endorsed Trump, called for him to step aside; and Gov. Gary Herbert declared he won’t vote for him. There’s a reason: The state is as solidly Republican as they come, but its heavily Mormon population, with their shared history of religious persecution, never warmed to a candidate who called last year for imposing religious tests on refugees. NBC
• To prep for second debate, Trump is being Trump
The “grab ’em” tape no doubt scrambles the prep work both candidates are doing before their second face-to-face meeting tomorrow night. Trump already signaled in his video statement on the firestorm that he’ll be in attack-mode. But in his case, the controversy isn’t forcing him to toss aside long hours spent over briefing books, because he hadn’t been doing that much to prepare anyway. Instead, the Republican nominee has been continuing to do things his way, privately citing unscientific online polls that showed he won the first showdown and refusing to participate in mock debate sessions to practice. One potentially key change in his method: His campaign has trimmed the number of advisers offering their input, cutting out former Fox News chief Roger Ailes and several retired military officers. Washington Post
• Evan Bayh job-hunted extensively from the Senate
The nip-and-tuck Senate race in Indiana could figure centrally into which party controls the chamber next year. So Democrats can’t be happy about the news that former Sen. Evan Bayh, the Democrat seeking to rejoin the Senate he quit after 2010, took more than four dozen meetings with prospective private-sector employers while he was finishing his last term. The AP got its hands on Bayh’s 2010 schedule, and it shows him meeting with corporate interests about possible jobs even as he voted on issues of relevance to them. The conduct doesn’t violate Senate ethics rules, which go easy on Senators looking to spin through the revolving door. But it likely won’t sit well with voters. AP
• The myth of Clinton’s millennial problem
While pollsters have talked up an apparent groundswell of millennial support for third-party candidates, a new study by a Harvard political scientist finds that in fact four of five young voters are likely to back one of the two major party candidates. That should reassure the Clinton camp, which has taken seriously the possibility that the younger demographic, by opting for Libertarian Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein, could tip the vote in Trump’s favor in some key states. The finding is backed by a new Quinnipiac poll showing since early September, support among 18-34-year-olds for Johnson and Stein has collapsed by 24 points. Clinton has been the beneficiary, with support for her among that cohort surging 17 points. Vox