James Fallows
James Fallows
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More +
  • 2016: The Year Latinos Saved America?

    Jon Ralston on Twitter

    Two of my long-time, politically well-experienced friends have been in Nevada recently, doing get-out-the-vote work. Independently, each has just sent me a note saying that their experience and observations match what the Jon “the sage of Nevada” Ralston has been reporting: Namely, a huge surge in early voting among Democrats and especially Latinos in Nevada, which bodes very negatively for Donald Trump’s prospects there and by implication elsewhere.

    From one of them:

    I'm in Las Vegas.  Been walking precincts for the last few days.   The surge in early voting (now completed) is real [as HuffPo reports]: Nevada’s Early Vote Ends With Massive Democratic Surge

    I haven’t been in Nevada so can’t compare impressions first-hand. But I can say that based on what Deb and I have seen around the country in the past few months—in Central Valley and inland southern California, in western Kansas, in rust-belt Pennsylvania and Michigan, in both Mississippi and Alabama—I’ve been preparing for the least surprising “surprise” of election day. Namely, “surprisingly” high turnout among Latino voters, which will play a “surprisingly” important part in sparing the country and the world a Donald Trump presidency, if in fact we are to be spared.

    The surprise factor depends on Latinos across the country being more deeply offended by everything about Trump’s campaign, from “they’re rapists” onward—and being more determined to show up and vote than their past often-low turnout rates might have indicated or (the surprise part) than this year’s polling may fully capture. I’m not a pollster, but all the anecdotal and reportage evidence we’ve come across supports both halves of this equation. People are really (and rightly) offended. And they are really determined to make their views known.

    (I’m prepared for a similar “surprise” in the margin from women voters but don’t know of early-voting results that yet give such indications.)

    I’ve argued for years, for instance here and here, that the long-term secret of American greatness is its ability to draw on an outsized share of the world’s talent, entrepreneurial creativity, culture, heart, and general human genius through its openness to people of many races and backgrounds. Latino Americans have long had higher-than-average rates of service and sacrifice in the U.S. military. In 2016, they may be defending American freedoms in another way.

  • Trump Time Capsule #152: The End

    Carlo Allegri / Reuters

    Five and a half months ago, as Donald Trump effectively clinched the Republican nomination, I thought it would be worth keeping track day-by-day of what the American public knew about Trump while it was deciding whether he would become its next president. Thus the Trump Time Capsule series, which began with installments #1 through #3 on May 23, and comes to an end with #152 today.

    The main idea was to chronicle what was different about Trump: Norm-changing, unprecedented statements or positions or revelations that would have stopped any previous candidate but that did not impede him.

    As I look back over these unfolding stories, I see at least 40 or 50 that would have had that campaign-ending potential in any previous year. The mocking of first John McCain and then the Captain Khan family? The “Mexican judge”? The “grab ’em by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape and subsequent complaints? The de-facto admission that he’s paid no taxes, and the trail of fraud and buncombe left by his businesses and “charities”? The refusal to provide tax information at all? The disprovable-even-as-he-said-them series of lies? The ever-more evident intrusions on his behalf by a foreign government? “She should be in jail”? “It’s all rigged folks, I tell you”? I alone?

    To put these into perspective, just think back to the comparatively pipsqueak “scandals” of a more innocent time: Whether Sarah Palin really read newspapers. Whether Barack Obama called some people “bitter.” Whether Mitt Romney thought 47 percent of the public might be freeloading. Whether Rick Perry had to leave the race because he forgot one of his talking points in a brain-freeze on stage. Whether Dan Quayle could spell “potatoe.” Whether Al Gore exaggerated his role as a founder of the internet. Whether the young George Bush had had a DUI. The chagrin these episodes caused to their victims is almost touching. The candidates’ embarrassment indicated that they believed there was a standard in public life they needed to live up to.

    ***

    This cycle’s only “scandal” that fits the pre-existing scale is the Hillary Clinton email saga, which has been ludicrously exaggerated by adversary outlets (Breitbart / Fox) and by “mainstream” media (most cable TV, too often the NYT) to the point where many voters assume that it’s on a par with, say, Donald Trump’s reckless comments about nuclear weapons or treaties or rule-of-law, his deceptions about his finances, his long record with women, his numberless provable lies.

    Hillary Clinton’s management of her email server was a mistake, which probably reflects something more general about her—just as other similar-scaled mistakes by other candidates in the past reflected more generally on them. But there is no sane argument that it has deserved even one tenth the press attention it has received this year. As Matt Yglesias points out in a new Vox item, TV coverage this cycle, in aggregate, spent more airtime on the email “scandal” than on all policy matters combined.

  • What the Renewable-Energy Economy Looks Like

    Another gigantic turbine blade is delivered in Spearville, Kansas Nicolas Pollock / The Atlantic

    At its peak, nearly one century ago in 1920, the coal-mining industry employed nearly 800,000 people in the United States. Decade by decade, as America’s population has swelled and its economy has grown, and as total coal output as also increased, employment in coal mines has steadily fallen. (The one exception was in the late 1970s, immediately after the first “oil shocks,” when the number of miners rose from about 195,000 to about 230,000. By 1985, it was back down to 170,000.)

    Presidential administrations come and go; energy and environmental policies change; but the one-way pressure of technology is such that the barely 80,000 people who now work in U.S. mines produce vastly more coal than 800,000 did a century ago. It’s no “war on coal.” It’s what has happened in the world since the dawn of the industrial age.

    But of course the plight of the coal industry, which is all too real for the people affected, comes up frequently in political and economic discussions—compared with, say, the situation of dental hygienists, of whom there are more than twice as many as coal miners. Or of bus drivers, of whom there are nearly ten times as many.

    Or, crucially, of those employed in the energy industries that come after coal: solar, wind, tidal and geothermal, and other renewable sources. Employment there is growing much faster than it’s shrinking in coal, yet somehow this is barely part of our political or state-of-America awareness. Employment in solar alone nearly doubled in just three years, from around 120,000 in 2012 to around 240,000 in 2015. That’s three times as many solar-industry employees as coal miners, but they have at best one-third the mind-share in media and politics.

    This is understandable: what’s familiar, and fading, is easier to recognize than what’s new and just taking form. But it does distort the way Americans think (and feel) about so many things, starting with the overall balance between decline and renewal in the country.

    ***

    Wind turbine display in western Kansas (Nic Pollock / The Atlantic)

    This is the set-up for the next video in The Atlantic’s election-season American Futures coverage. This one is from our familiar and favored stomping grounds of Erie, Pennsylvania; Fresno and environs in California; and Dodge City and neighboring Spearville in western Kansas.

  • A Renewable Energy Revolution in Small-Town America

    Across the country, moves towards sustainability are happening at the grassroots.

  • A Third-Party Voter Makes His Case (and I Dissent)

    The Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson. Jim Young / Reuters

    A reader in New York writes about the way he is casting his vote. He also asks a question, for which my answer is below.

    From the reader:

    As a two-time Obama voter and Obama fan, I am not at all enthusiastic about HRC and plan to vote Gary Johnson to register my unease with her. Your views on Trump are well known, but I would like to know: what do you think of HRC, not as an alternative to Trump per se—who’s obviously so much worse—but as an affirmative choice for president?

    Put another way, if you set aside the idea of influencing the outcome / blocking Trump and instead focus on voting as an act of affirmation, do you actively support HRC despite her flaws and why? Do you think we should feel good that she will be president? I have seen no evidence of her having “learned” from past ethical missteps or foreign policy misjudgments. My own views are below, and I see three main negatives in HRC.

    1. Her poor judgment and paranoid streak (see: email fiasco) are not just unappealing, but undermine her effectiveness when they blow up in her face. This pattern will continue into her presidency.
  • Update on the Eastport Saga

    A view of Eastport, with the old sardine cannery, the Tides Institute and Museum of Art, a former bank, a new restaurant, and more. (Courtesy of Tides Institute and Museum of Art)

    The Boston Globe had a story over the weekend about the never-say-die small city of Eastport, Maine. As we’ve been chronicling online for the past few years, and in this magazine story in early 2014, Eastport balances the difficulties and the opportunities of its unusual location, at the northeastern extreme of Down East Maine across a strait from Campobello Island in Canada.

    Difficulty: it is so far from anyplace else. It’s two-plus hours by car from Bangor, four-plus from Portland. Opportunity: its distant setting is so pristine and beautiful, and so close to both the tidal-power potential of the Bay of Fundy and the touristic and marine-economy potential of the sea.

  • Trump Time Capsule #151: Director Comey’s Uneven Sensitivities

    Presented with minimal elaboration, today’s installment of the “what is Director Comey thinking?” saga:

    CNBC report, on Halloween 2016

    This story is still in the “unnamed sources say...” category, though it’s by an experienced and reputable reporter, Eamon Javers. Like everything else in these chaotic final days of this unendurable campaign, its full implications are impossible to know while the news is still unfolding.

    But at face value the report underscores the depth of the bad judgment that James Comey displayed last week. It suggests that the director of the FBI knew, reflected upon, and was deterred by the possible election-distorting effects of releasing information early this month about Russian attempts to tamper with the upcoming election. Better to err on the side of not putting the FBI’s stamp on politically sensitive allegations—even though, as Javers’s source contends, Comey believed the allegations of Russian interference to be true:

    According to the [unnamed former FBI] official, Comey agreed with the conclusion the intelligence community came to: “A foreign power was trying to undermine the election. He believed it to be true, but was against putting it out before the election.” Comey’s position, this official said, was “if it is said, it shouldn’t come from the FBI, which as you’ll recall it did not.”

    That was at the beginning of October. But at the end of the month, three weeks closer to the election, he manifestly was not deterred by the implications of his announcement about the Abedin/Weiner emails. And this was even though, by all accounts, he did not know what they contained or even whether the emails  were new. (As opposed to duplicates of what the FBI had already seen.)

    The news of this is still in flux. I’m noting here just to mark its appearance more or less in real-time.

    ***

    We all have another week to get through. In theory, James Comey has seven more years in charge of the FBI.

  • Trump Time Capsule #150: James Comey and the Destruction of Norms

    James Comey, who has changed the 2016 election in a way that cannot be undone. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

    The rules in politics haven’t changed that much in recent years. What has changed is adherence to norms, in an increasingly destructive way.

    I made that case, using examples different from the ones I’m about to present here, nearly two years ago. The shift in norms is also a central part of Thomas Mann’s and Norman Ornstein’s prescient It’s Even Worse Than It Looks and Mike Lofgren’s The Party Is Over, plus of course Jonathan Rauch’s “How American Politics Went Insane,” our very widely read cover story (subscribe!) this summer.

    Today’s examples:

    —Before 2006, use of a Senate filibuster to block legislation or nominations was an occasional tool-of-the-minority, not a routine practice. Now it has become so routine and, well, normalized that a story in our leading newspaper can matter-of-factly say, “It actually takes 60 votes to bring a Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor.” Actually it takes 60 votes only if there is a filibuster, which didn’t use to be normal. Inconceivable as it now seems, three of Ronald Reagan’s nominees—Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and O’Connor—were approved unanimously. Most Democrats in the Senate disagreed with some or all of their views. Not a single Democrat voted against them.

    —Before February of this year, the universal assumption was that a sitting president’s nominations for the Supreme Court would be considered, although of course they might be voted down. But before the sun had set on the day of Antonin Scalia’s death, Mitch McConnell had made clear that the Senate would not consider any nomination from the 44th president, and since then John McCain and others have suggested that, depending on who becomes the 45th president, her nominations might not be considered either. (For historic reference you can see an official list here, showing relatively prompt consideration up-or-down of previous nominees.)

    —Before this year, the norm through the post-Watergate era was that any major-party presidential nominee would make tax-return information public, in enough time before the election for voters to consider the implications of income sources, debts, donations, and other entanglements. Donald Trump has flatly refused, and his own party’s members barely bother to mention it anymore.

    —Before this summer, sitting Supreme Court justices, no matter how evident their partisan leanings, avoided publicly taking sides in upcoming elections. Ruth Bader Ginsburg ignored that norm by saying in July how much she hoped Donald Trump did not become president. To her credit, and in contrast to these other cases, within a few days she belatedly honored the importance of this norm by apologizing for her remarks.

    ***

    The official rules didn’t change in these circumstances. The norms—that is, the expectation of what you “should” do, what you “really have to do,” what is the “right thing” to do, even if the letter of the law doesn’t spell it out—have changed. For its survival, a democracy depends on norms. That’s why the shift matters.

    And that is the context in which I think about James Comey’s plunge into electoral politics, with his announcement about whatever “new” Clinton-related email information the FBI may or may not have found.

  • Refugees, Immigrants, and the Battle Over Who Is American

    Sisters originally from Darfur, resettled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The young lady on the left was a proud member of public high school ROTC. Deborah Fallows / the Atlantic

    Deb Fallows has a new post up, about what’s actually involved in settling immigrants from Syria—or Somalia or Congo or Bhutan—in the American cities that have taken the lead in doing so. It’s based on our reporting in Sioux Falls, Burlington, Erie, Fresno, Dodge City, and elsewhere. I encourage you to read it on general principles, and for these additional reasons:

    1. More and more an axis in this campaign, and in the ongoing struggles to define what comes next for America, is a disagreement over whether America is better as a more racially and culturally diverse society, or as one that is more “traditional” homogeneous society.

    Compared with most other developed societies, Americans are more pro-diversity. That is what a major Pew global survey found this year:

    Pew Global Attitudes Survey, 2016

    But within the United States, Democrats/Clinton supporters are dramatically more comfortable with this kind of change than Republicans and Trump supporters. From another Pew survey:

    Pew Research Center, August 2016

    If you’d like to see those differences playing themselves out, I invite you to check out (warily) the comments section of Deb’s latest post, in which some people lambaste the menace of outsiders and others welcome them.

    ***

    2. Our experience around the country has been that the more people are exposed to immigrants and refugees, the less panicked they are about them. I won’t try to give you a referenced-and-linked proof of that right now, though I will give a link to this video. I will say that it’s a powerful, consistent impression—and that, for instance, you’ll hear Donald Trump get lustier cheers for “Build that wall!” in New Hampshire or Iowa than you will in Texas or California.

  • Who’s a ‘White Nationalist’? Readers Weigh In

    In northern Wisconsin recently: two deer, same species, different hues. Read on to learn what they have to do with the campaign. (Reader photo, with permission.)

    Yesterday I mentioned a social-media analysis showing that 35 percent of active Trump supporters on Twitter (versus less than one-tenth of one percent of Clinton supporters) followed prominent “white nationalist” Twitter feeds, like @DrDavidDuke.

    Now readers respond. First, what I’ll simply call a dissent, from a reader in South Carolina:

    Your article on White Nationalists is disgusting and irresponsible and does not even rise to the level of journalism.

    I am a Trump supporter and surprisingly NOT a Russian bot, a white nationalist, or an anti-Semite. I vote for Trump not because I think he’s a great politician, but because I cannot allow Hillary Clinton destroy America with her failed and deadly policies.

    I vote for Trump to keep Hillary out. Plus, it is obvious to me and many others that Trump cares deeply about America as a country—Hillary cannot say the same.

    Quit reducing patriotic Americans who cannot abide the thought of Hillary Clinton in the White House to ridiculous stereotypes. We are people who love America and do not wish to see it destroyed by her harmful policies. Disgraceful piece of work. I will no longer be reading the hate-mongering that goes on at The Atlantic.

    Noted. After the jump, a different sort of response from a successful advanced-tech entrepreneur in the industrial Midwest who sent in the photo at the top of this item.

  • Clinton Time Capsule #1: Lessons Learned?

    FBI director James Comey appearing before Congress last month. Joshua Roberts / Reuters

    This is an item I wrote last night but was too busy to look over and check this morning, so I didn’t post it. Then I was in meetings all day. I’m posting it now with a new first paragraph in the wake of today’s announcement from FBI director James Comey about “re-opening” the email investigation into Hillary Clinton. Otherwise I think the main point still stands.

    New intro: Are these extra emails that James Comey has found likely to contain a criminal or national-security bombshell that was not in the thousands of emails the FBI has already reviewed? Anything is possible, but my guess is no. Is this announcement, which is so certain to roil the news through this weekend, likely to change the fundamentals in the election and give Trump the edge? Again anything could happen, but again my guess is no.

    But apart from anything it ends up telling us about Comey, the episode does illustrate something about candidates in general, and Clintons in particular, and about the process of learning in politics. Follow along with me if you will (now back to pre-Comey version of the post):

    ***

    Bill Clinton was overall a successful and very popular president. If he had been eligible to run for a third term, he would have won. If his relations with Al Gore were such that Gore would have welcomed his campaign support (as Hillary Clinton now welcomes that of the Obamas), it would probably have made enough difference—in New Hampshire, in Tennessee, above all in Florida—to have spared the country the recount nightmare and Bush v. Gore and put Gore in office.

    I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and would have voted for him again in 2000.

    And yet, I will never understand or excuse the recklessness and indiscipline with which he put so much at risk through sexual misbehavior. He risked his presidency (which survived), his successor’s chances (which did not), his historic legacy, and of course his marriage.

    When it comes to Bill Clinton, it is possible simultaneously to think, He was very good at what he did. And to ask, Why oh why was he so reckless?

    ***

    Let’s apply this logic to Hillary Clinton:

  • White Nationalists on Twitter

    From Demographics Pro

    Vehement Trump supporters abound on Twitter. That much is obvious to anyone who has used the service. Who exactly they are, and how broad a swath of society they represent, has been harder to pin down.

    Are they largely Russian bots, as some reports have suggested? Are the angriest ones really just a handful of activists, racists, and anti-Semites, who through nonstop posting in multiple accounts exaggerate their true numbers? (Though even a very few would be enough.) Are they in any kind of coordinated activity, or mainly working as loners?

    A social-media analytics firm called Demographics Pro has released an analysis of 10,000 Trump supporters who are active on Twitter, and 10,000 Hillary Clinton supporters. It then matched those accounts with a list of 10 active, major white-nationalist Twitter accounts. (The company describes the way in which it chose and classified such sites here.)

    What were the results? They’re shown on the chart above. Of the 10,000 Clinton followers, a total of 16 followed one or more of the major white-nationalist accounts, the likes of @DrDavidDuke and so on. Of the 10,000 Trump supporters, a total of 3,549—well over one-third—followed the white nationalists.

    Following an account doesn’t necessarily make you an adherent. I follow @DrDavidDuke myself, along with several others on the list. But the disproportion here, while it doesn’t answer all questions about Trump Twitter world, suggests something about its nature.

    A similar Demographics Pro analysis, of the overlap between conspiracy-theory sites and Trump supporters, is here.

  • Trump Time Capsule #149: ‘Cancel the Election’

    John Kerry, with Bruce Springsteen at a campaign event in Ohio 12 years ago today. This was a few days before Kerry narrowly lost Ohio and thus the presidential race to George W. Bush. What Donald Trump has said about elections as this campaign nears its end is dramatically different from what other candidates including Kerry have said at comparable stages. Reuters

    Donald Trump was of course “joking” when he said yesterday in Toledo, Ohio, that “we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for?”

    In the clip below, you can see what we’ve come to recognize as a classic Trump-rally two-track message. It’s a mixture of claims that would be outrageous if taken seriously, with a half-joking affect that lets Trump suggest that he’s not being serious at all. As a result, he can have it both ways. People who want to, can take this as something Trump is really supporting. (This is a variation of, “A lot of people are saying....”) But if anyone gets huffy and calls Trump on it, he can say, “What kind of dummy are you? Of course that was a joke!”

    So, it’s a joke. But it’s a joke that connects with other non-joke Trump statements deeply at odds with the very process of democratic transfer of power. For instance, “I alone” can save us (a refrain from the convention onward). Or, “It’s rigged, folks, rigged” (of recent months). Or “I’ll keep you in suspense” (at the final debate, about accepting the vote outcome.)

    Why do all of these deserve notice? Because other nominees just do not say things like this. Really, this is new—and different, and dangerous, and worth recording as it happens to remember when this election has passed.

    ***

    Even when under pressure, even when telling themselves that the deck is unfairly stacked, other American public figures have been careful to pay public homage to the electoral process and the need to accept its outcome. Please consider these two examples:

    John McCain, 2008. Trump’s remarks were in Toledo yesterday, October 27. Eight years ago on that same date, on October 27, 2008, McCain was also in western Ohio, in Dayton—swing states are swing states. Like Trump right now, McCain was far enough behind in enough polls in enough states to know that he was likely to lose. But here is the way he talked about the election and its outcome on his October 27:

  • Annals of Renewal: MTP Podcast, Knight Competition

    The interior of America was exciting for Albert Bierstadt and the imaginative landscape painters of the 19th century. It's newly exciting, in a different way, now. ('Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains,' Albert Bierstadt, 1868, Smithsonian Institute, via Wikimedia)

    1) Meet the Press podcast. Yesterday afternoon I spoke with Chuck Todd for his podcast; the segment has gone up today, and you can find it here on Soundcloud or here from the MTP site.

    Mainly we were talking about the election, immigration, the cycles of class friction through American history, the strategic and economic implications of TPP, and so on. But near the end, Chuck (whom I know from his days as editor of Hotline, part of the Atlantic combine) asked me where I’d like to live next.

    The premise was: over the years my wife Deb and I, plus our kids when they were little, had lived in a sequence of foreign spots, reporting on what seemed interesting. What and where would be interesting next?

    I hadn’t been expecting the question and just said, without thinking, “the interior of the United States.”

    By “interior” I meant a shorthand for the places other than the handful of big coastal cities that dominate media awareness and the sense of chic: Boston to DC on the East Coast, Seattle to LA in the west, a courtesy extension to Miami and San Diego, and a smattering of others. Basically this media-mind-map creates a picture of the United States as if it were Australia, with the action all happening along the rim.

    Of course a sense of excitement about the rest of the country reflects what Deb and I have been reporting in our travels these past few years, but it actually is something I believe more strongly the more I see. If you were traveling the country wide-eyed and mainly tuned out from the national political news, you would think this is a big, interesting, diverse civilization, in the process of dealing with and beginning to solve the many ills of the era.

    Much as I wasn’t expecting the question, Chuck wasn’t expecting the answer, but we agreed and went on to some of the political and economic ramifications thereof.

  • Do Debates Matter? Maybe This Time

    The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, one year after The Atlantic’s founding, “mattered” in American history because of the ideas they advanced. (Stephen Douglas held onto his seat in the Senate; not long afterward Lincoln began his campaign for the presidency.) Is it possible that the Clinton-Trump debates of 2016, or Year 159 of The Atlantic’s history, will also matter? (Robert Marshall Root painting, via Illinois Periodicals Online)

    In my my article on this year’s presidential debates, I pointed out that these high-drama election-year rituals seem important to mere citizens and journalists. But political scientists have long claimed there’s no proof that they’ve actually changed presidential election results.

    Maybe they’ll say something different when this year’s results are in. At face value, it certainly appears that the first Clinton-Trump debate—a month ago today—marked a clear shift in Hillary Clinton’s favor and against Donald Trump.

    Below is a screenshot of the timeline for the “polls-plus” prediction of the election’s outcome, from FiveThirtyEight. I’ve added the big black arrow to mark the first debate. The thinner vertical lines to the right are the other two debates, each one of which went badly for Trump and, from this chart, seemed to reinforce Clinton’s lead.

    As a reminder: debate #2 was the town hall, in which Trump loomed up behind Clinton like a lurker, and #3 was the debate of “such a nasty woman” and “keep you in suspense” (about accepting election outcome).

    The screenshot below from the NYT’s “Who Will Be President” tracker shows something similar. Again, the black bar marks the first debate.

    ***

    For one more way to look at this question, which is less immediately obvious in graphic terms but cumulatively more convincing, please check out this recent tweet-storm by the U. Michigan economist Justin Wolfers.

  • Trump’s ‘Rosebud’: What Happened?

    "Who's that, behind me? Oh, it is you again, Mr. Trump!" The candidate with some employees at his golf course, yesterday in Florida. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

    Yesterday, in installment #148 of the time capsules, I contrasted circa-2008 videos of a (comparatively) thoughtful-sounding Donald Trump with the splenetic buffoon we see today, and asked, What happened?

    Readers offer three hypotheses.

    1) You’re fooling yourself. There’s no change. From a reader in California:

    I differ with your take on Trump’s comments about the movie. (Caveat: I have a serious problem watching film at all.) I’m not interested in cinematography, never mind Trump’s views of same. However, your statement, “For any rich person to say these things about the movie would be something,” is simply mistaken. Trump isn’t saying anything about “the movie.” He’s riffing on his own self-absorbed impressions of wealth, women, and personal relationships. He makes one bland remark about the camera’s emphasis on the extent of the table ...

    In sum, “this other Trump” is not by a stretch another Trump. He’s the same Trump, but at the time one who wasn’t running for POTUS.

    FWIW, what struck me about Trump’s “Rosebud” comments was not his assessment of Citizen Kane as a film itself but rather his allusions to the distancing effects of wealth. Through the past year, we’ve heard him say “I’m really rich!” (or used to, back in the “self-funding” days). We still hear him say “I’m so smart” and “I have the greatest temperament.” It’s a different tone in these clips.

  • Trump Time Capsule #148: ‘Rosebud,’ and Hillary

    That was then. William J. Clinton Presidential Library / Reuters

    With only 13 full days to go until the election, with many millions of early votes already cast, and with apparent trends all running against Donald Trump, it’s time to begin tapering off the Time Capsules™.

    Pro or con, everyone knows as much about this candidate as anyone could need for making a choice. The accumulating public record about Trump’s thoughts and temperament, while the country was deciding whether to make him its president, is what I’ve been trying to keep up with in this series, starting five months (!) ago.

    So with the proviso that I’m now looking for developments unusual even for Trump—not just another raft of misstatements, not “just” another charge of financial or personal misconduct, not just another illustration of the speared-fish wriggling of Republicans like Paul Ryan impaled upon their support for Trump—here is today’s video-heavy installment.

    ***

    First, an unexpected side of Trump for those who are awash in his 2016-campaign persona. In my story about debates in last month’s issue, I mentioned how brutally simple Trump’s language has been in campaign speeches, interviews, and debates. Simple words, simple sentences, simple thoughts. One surprising exception, as I mentioned back in installment #10, was Trump’s impromptu and nuanced discussion of the tragedy of Harambe, the now-famous gorilla shot to death at the Cincinnati Zoo.

    Here’s another, more extended example: Trump discussing the symbolism of “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane, in a clip by the famed Errol Morris (Fog of War etc) nearly a decade ago.

  • The Generational Difference in Optimism: A Video Look

    RJ Messenger (left), successful Erie entrepreneur, at the Radius CoWork space in downtown Erie. Nicolas Pollock / The Atlantic

    I hope you'll check out the second in the series of short films that The Atlantic’s video team has done with my wife Deb and me, as we’ve been on the move around the country during the election year. The first in the series is here, and my item describing it is here.

    Both these videos, produced by The Atlantic’s Nic Pollock, are meant to match issues that are prominent in the national campaign level with their city-by-city ramifications. This one has scenes from three cities coping with economic and social dislocations: Erie, Pennsylvania; Dodge City, Kansas; and Fresno, California.

    You can see for yourself what it shows. But for me one very powerful theme that comes through is the generational contrast we’ve encountered again and again across the country.

    It’s starkest in Erie: people in their 50s and 60s, or older, grew up expecting a steady job in a big factory. The last of those giant factories is slowly closing down—sending most of its jobs not to Mexico or China but to (gasp) Texas—and people who used to work there are mournful. People in their 20s and 30s never expected to have those jobs and are reacting differently. As you will see:

    ***

    To extend a point we’ve made nonstop through these reports since 2013 and in my cover story earlier this year, the dislocations, the polarization, the pain, and the anger of America’s Second Gilded Age are real. But what’s also real is the sense in many (of course not all) parts of the country that a response is possible, that they can be agents of their own destiny, and their community’s, rather than just objects of crushing outside forces.

  • The Resentment at the Heart of Today’s Philippine-U.S. Tensions

    Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, at left, shaking hands in Beijing last week with Chinese president Xi Jinping after striking an agreement to resolve trade and territorial disputes. Pool photo via Reuters

    Through many decades the consciousness, the cultural and immigration-pattern links, the economic relations, and most other international connections from people of the Philippines have been dominated by ties to the United States. This has good and bad ramifications, as we’ll see, but it’s been a central part of the modern Philippine experience.

    Through the past few years, the Philippines’ ties with China have become increasingly strained, largely because of China’s expanded ambitions in the neighboring seas. When an international tribunal ruled against some of China’s maritime claims this summer, the lawsuit had been brought by the Philippines.

    That is why it qualified as big news, though barely noted in the campaign-season chaos of America, that last week the firebrand Trump-counterpart Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte struck a trade-and-diplomatic deal with China. In doing so, while shaking hands with Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijing, Duterte said, “In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States.”

    As Malcolm Cook has argued at the invaluable Australian site The Interpreter, Duterte’s thumb-nosed stance toward the United States is causing some concern back home. (Of course there are much graver reasons for concern, domestic and worldwide, about his policies.) But as Trefor Moss pointed out in the WSJ this weekend, Duterte’s attitude may be an extreme version of the long-standing Philippine stance of attachment-and-resentment towards its onetime colonial master, the United States.

    This is all by way of re-introducing an Atlantic piece I did nearly 30 years ago, after traveling in the Philippines at the time when Ferdinand Marcos was deposed and Corazon Aquino become the new vessel of the country’s hopes. It was called “A Damaged Culture”; it caused a lot of reaction, both positive and very, very negative, in the Philippines in succeeding years; and I think it still has some bearing on the next stage in Filipino-American-Chinese interactions. You can see the 1987 piece here. (And here is a brief update from 2009, about a return visit in Manila with one of the heroes of my article, the eminent Filipino writer F. Sionil Jose.)

    ***

    While I’m at it, here are two other reading-list items about the Chinese part of this relationship.

  • Are America's Small Towns Really Struggling?

    A tour of three cities that are finding unique ways to mitigate the country's jobs crisis