November 8th, 2016

Is Donald Trump Putin's 'puppet'? When the shoe fits....

    Donald Trump's big PeeWee Herman moment came during a clash in his final debate with his opponent Hillary Clinton over Russia.

    The moment came during a question about one of her speeches released by WikiLeaks. Trump said Russian leader Vladimir Putin has no respect for Clinton.

    "That's because he'd rather have a puppet as president," Clinton replied sharply.

    Trump, after taking a moment to comprehend what he had just been served, fired back with all the sophistication of PeeWee the former kiddy show star:

    "No puppet," he said, trying to talk over her. "No puppet. You're the puppet. No, you're the puppet."

    It was a classic Trump move. When you're backed into a corner with virtually zero knowledge of what you're talking about, accuse your opponent of whatever happens to be their worst charge against you.

How markets will react to U.S. elections

    As Americans prepare to go to the polls after one of the most bizarre election campaigns, here are the main things that investors should keep in mind.

    Although the presidential race tightened in the last 10 days, many prognosticators and betting sites still predict that Hillary Clinton will win. If her victory is combined with down-ballot results that prolong gridlock in Congress -- the most frequently predicted outcome for the legislative-branch elections -- markets would likely react in a relatively calm and orderly fashion. Equities would remain range-bound overall, as would bonds and currencies.

    There are two market "tails" that accompany this baseline; and they would lead not just to major moves in indices, but to notable compositional changes, too.

We can probably make plans for after the election

    Thank you for inviting me to your party or event on Nov. 9. I can probably come!

    However, there is a slight chance that I might be underground in a bunker screaming and screaming where no one can hear me.

    I will probably attend, though.

    But just possibly I will be 30 feet below ground in a makeshift hovel, frantically attempting to teach myself the skills to survive in this terrible new world, building a fire using only rudimentary tools: a few sticks of kindling, a broken pair of spectacles, and a pocket copy of the Constitution. "Why isn't this working?" I will be screaming. "Where is Google when I need it? Where is anyone?" My hands will shake so much that the fire will go out again, leaving only a dark char in the middle of the Bill of Rights.

    But I look forward to seeing you, probably. I will probably bring you a copy of "The Mothers," a great new book that you should absolutely read.

Comey's damage can't be undone

    So all the over-the-top histrionics about Hillary Clinton's emails amounted, in the end, to nothing, nada, zilch. Next to the word "fiasco" in the dictionary should be a picture of FBI Director James Comey.

    Should his picture be next to the word "catastrophe" as well? Did Comey's 10th- and 11th-hour letters to Congress -- one basically screaming "red alert," followed nine days later by one saying "never mind" -- have an impact on the election? You bet they did, and the nation should be appalled. This may be the first time the FBI has so shamefully inserted itself in politics since the days of J. Edgar Hoover.

    I don't believe the damage will be enough to elect Donald Trump, who has shown himself unfit for any consequential public office, let alone the presidency. But it may have hurt Democrats' chances of taking control of the Senate.

How Democrats stopped worrying about immigration

   While the partisan gap over immigration has been a defining feature of this campaign, its origins probably aren't what you think. Yes, Donald Trump has stoked his core supporters in the Republican base into near-delirium with his talk of building a "great, great wall on our southern border." But the immigration gap between the two parties owes much more to a less-remarked shift: Democrats today are far less concerned about legal and illegal immigration than they were two decades ago.

    The Chicago Council on Global Affairs' most recent survey on public opinion and foreign policy shows just how polarized attitudes have become. Whereas two-thirds of Republicans see "large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the United States" as a "critical threat," only a quarter of Democrats feel the same way.

    When the Chicago Council began asking that question in 1998, Democrats saw large-scale immigration no differently from Republicans. After 2002, that started to change, as the percentage of Democratic respondents expressing concern has steadily declined.

Was candidate Donald Trump a boon or bust for America's cartoonists?

    The conventional wisdom, especially since July's actual political conventions, has been that the wild and controversial presidential campaign has been good for the humor business. From videos to vitriol, the thinking goes, the national satirists must be lapping it up.

    The truth, though, is that the race has often been a mixed bag, filled with both satirical red meat and low-hanging fruit.

    On Friday evening in the Ritz Carlton Georgetown in Northwest Washington, the Art Soiree exhibit "Hillary vs. Trump Cartoon Debate" will showcase works from nine of the nation's top cartoonists, including four Pulitzer Prize winners.

    Ahead of Election Day, The Post's Comic Riffs asked some of the participating cartoonists whether this high-octane election has been more boon or bust as comics fodder.

    "It has been so much fun for me," the Augusta Chronicle's Rick McKee says. "I fear I'm going to miss Trump."

You can question authority but still trust science

    The results of a new Pew Research Center poll on politics and climate change surprised even some of those who study public attitudes toward science. Forty-five percent of respondents who identified as conservative Republicans said they had little or no trust in climate scientists, compared with 6 percent of self-described liberal Democrats. Only 15 percent of conservatives said they trust climate scientists "a lot."

    This is surprising, according to Daniel Kahan, a Yale professor of law and psychology, because Americans have unparalleled confidence that scientists know what they're doing. After all, global warming and other science-related issues are complex. Most people don't have time or training to gather their own data, he said, so they have to defer to experts.

If the election goes into overtime . . . don't panic

    After all that's happened in this bizarre election, we need to brace ourselves for the chance that it might not end on election night, or even the next morning. The risk of that happening is higher than it used to be - and higher than most of us realize.

    This is not reason to panic. No one wants to relive the 2000 recount, but the good news is that we don't have to.

    Certainly, some of the reform measures adopted in the aftermath of 2000 have had the unintended but unavoidable consequence of increasing the possibility that a presidential election remains undecided for days or weeks. Yet such uncertainty would likely be a sign of the electoral system functioning as intended, not of a massive failure. In addition, an election without a clear victor after Nov. 8 need not be as disorderly or as protracted as the 2000 mess. If the 2016 presidential election goes into overtime, the game will be played on a different - and better - field from the one back then.

Have some pity for anyone forecasting this election

    When election season rolls around, Americans want the news before it happens. The journalistic innovation of poll aggregation tries to meet that demand with political forecasts, and it's become a booming business. But there's a problem.

    The credit for this business, and perhaps the blame, belongs to FiveThirtyEight, which earned its reputation by using others' polls to forecast the outcomes of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Presidential and Senate candidates send out fund-raising messages using FiveThirtyEight probabilities as carrots or sticks. Journalists use the latest FiveThirtyEight forecast to show the state of the race. In the final days of the 2012 race, up to 20 percent of the New York Times' web traffic was attributable to FiveThirtyEight (which had been acquired by the Times at that point and has since been spun off to ESPN).

Virginia for the Win: All eyes on Chesterfield County

    The lowest and most dishonest presidential campaign of the 21st century is almost over. And not a moment too soon. Who will emerge the victor on Tuesday night?

    I has long argued that no Republican can win the White House without winning Virginia. Since the nominating conventions this summer, Republican nominee Donald Trump has never led Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the polls.

    Could those numbers be wrong? Sure. Could they be missing an army of Trump voters unwilling to tell a pollster how they will vote? Maybe.

    But those are hopes, not facts. And the preference for hope over fact feels all too familiar.

    In the waning days of the 2012 campaign, Republican operatives and elected officials were telling me they had done everything they could - and done it well - to win in Virginia. They were confident, too, that George Allen, running against Tim Kaine, would reclaim the Senate seat he lost in 2006 to Jim Webb.