The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: Why are we still talking about Hillary Clinton?

with Reis Thebault

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At a rally in Georgetown, Tex., on Oct. 23, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said his opponent, Beto O'Rourke, can share "a double-occupancy cell" with Hillary Clinton. (Video: Ted Cruz)

At the White House

WHY ARE TRUMP AND THE GOP STILL SO OBSESSED WITH HILLARY CLINTON? When President Trump *didn’t* mention the former first lady's name Wednesday night during a Wisconsin rally, it was, strangely enough, newsworthy. Almost two years after her bitter loss to Trump, Clinton has achieved near immortality in the political arena as Trump and the GOP’s default foil.  

The potential problem with that became dangerously clear this week after a mailed pipe bomb was sent to Clinton, along with other leading Democratic figures.

Even in the world of Trump bogeymen, “Crooked Hillary” holds special distinction. It's not just campaign rhetoric, either. As president, Trump has repeatedly urged supporters to send the ex-secretary of state to prison because of her private email server and prodded his own attorney general to investigate her deleted emails.

  • “Lock her up”: Mere mention of HRC's name still sparks the angry GOP rally cry.
  • Record: The Atlanta Journal Constitution showed Trump mentioned Clinton 28 times on his Twitter feed in August, the most in one month since October 2016 when he tweeted about HRC 123 times.
  • Starring role: According to Politico, TV ads casting Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as “villains” aired over 34,000 times in the span of 30 days this fall. 
  • Problematic: The day before federal authorities intercepted the mailed bomb, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joked that his Democratic rival, Beto O’Rourke, could share a prison cell with Clinton.  

Trump's obsession with Clinton shows no signs of abating. And it may get worse as Hillary and Bill Clinton embark on a 13-city speaking tour to reflect on history, the future and the 2016 election. 

“Hillary and Zombies will haunt us for decades to come,” a former Trump campaign official told Power Up.

The question is: why can't Trump beat up on someone else?

  • The L word: “On a Trumpian level, she lost and has lost multiple times,” a Democratic consultant told us. “While to rational people, she is one of the most successful people in public life, most GOP supporters see her as a loser.”
  • History: “The party who is not in the White House always languishes a bit without a clearly defined leader until they have a presidential nominee to rally behind,” a former Trump White House staffer said. “So I don’t necessarily think Democrats are in an unusual position here.”
  • Popular vote: Trump insists that he lost the popular vote to Clinton because millions of illegal voters supported her. (There's no evidence of that)

This is in the GOP’s DNA, Philippe Reines, a former senior Clinton aide told Power Up. “The only thing weird is that they are still talking about Hillary,” he said. It's “not weird that they are continuing their pattern of imprinting on Democrats very negative narratives that have worked more than they have not.”

  • Deja vu: Reines said that we're starting to see echoes of the same kind of attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another prominent Democratic woman with presidential ambitions.  “It’s going to take some time to start a new chant,” he quipped.

The fascination with the former first lady and first female Democratic presidential nominee reflects the absence of prominent Democratic leaders right now.

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: “No one has risen to fill that void at the top of the Democratic Party,” the former Trump White House staffer said. “So on the right, for casual followers of politics, [Clinton is] still the most readily identifiable villain.”

Shot: A wave of women is running for office in the midterms (check out The Post's cool graphic on the subject) and the vast majority of them are Democrats, with 56 Democratic women either favored to win or in competitive races compared to 12 female Republicans. 

Chaser: ‘She Always Finds a Way To Insert Herself Into The Conversation,’ Says Man via The Onion


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President Trump's misleading claims about the caravan of migrants headed toward the U.S. is a mirror image of his 2016 campaign tactics. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

At the Pentagon

‘NATIONAL EMERGENCY’The Post's Dan Lamothe and David Nakamura reported last night that Trump is considering “banning” migrants from Central America at the southern border, and denying their right to ask for asylum if they reach U.S. soil. The brash move would be the latest escalation in Trump's apparent effort to stoke fear and boost midterm turnout as a caravan of Central American migrants makes its way here.

The news came after the Pentagon said it plans to deploy as many as 1,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border as the caravan gets closer to the border. Trump has said the caravan represents a “national emergency” and pledged “they will be stopped.” 

  • Troops? For what?: The forces will include “engineers to help with the construction of tents and fencing, doctors for medical support, and potentially some personnel to operate drones along the border,” the New York Times reported.
  • No 'trigger pullers': U.S. officials compared the move to active-duty troops assisting in hurricane relief efforts and said the additional forces wouldn’t include any “trigger pullers.”
  • 'Fleeing different disasters': The Post's Latin America correspondent, Kevin Sieff, wrote of the marchers, “They spoke in different accents, fleeing different disasters: joblessness in parts of Honduras, a mounting political crisis in Nicaragua, cities in Guatemala where they were sure their children would languish as they had.” 
President Trump and Vice President Pence have a lot to say about the caravan of migrants heading toward the southern border. But little is grounded in facts. (Video: Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

Kevin emailed us yesterday to explain  some of the myths and misconceptions about the caravan, those walking in it and its origins. Here's Kevin: 

  • Who supports the caravan?: "Some Republicans have suggested it might be [liberal donor] George Soros. [Vice President] Pence said it could be the Venezuelans. Trump said Democrats were, at the very least, encouraging them. But each evening, as the thousands of migrants arrive in small Mexican towns, they are served water and dinner by local residents. Each morning, when they wake up after sleeping outside on concrete, those same residents serve them tortillas, eggs and vegetables.
  • The reality: "When I spent the morning with the caravan in the city of Huixtla, I watched an older woman offer an entire wardrobe of clothes to any migrant who needed an extra shirt or pair of pants. When the caravan arrived in the town of Pijijiapan on Thursday, reporter Maya Averbuch photographed a list of what the residents provided: '14 tubs of mayonnaise, 28 liters of cream, 170 kilos of ham, 10 kilos of salt, 28 packages of napkins. Also, 7,000 eggs,' she wrote in a tweet.
  • Everyday Mexicans: "While the Trump administration has railed against the Mexican government for enabling the caravan’s passage, it doesn’t take much digging to identify who is providing the humanitarian support: concerned Mexican citizens."

Related read: The Post’s Nick Miroff has an important story on the soaring number of asylum claims that are buckling the U.S. immigration system.

On The Hill

A WHOLE NEW WORLD: Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) — the likely next chair of the House Oversight Committee if Democrats retake the majority next month — would pursue a “bifurcated approach” to oversight. He plans to shine a light on “waste, fraud and abuse” in the Trump administration, while also focusing on everyday issues facing Americans, Hill sources said. Don't forget Cummings would have subpoena power.

 Democrats are “reviewing letters they have sent to the administration that have gone ignored,” per our colleague Seung Min Kim. Here are just some of the things they could investigate if they are in power come January: 

  • Security clearances: Democrats could ask questions about how the White House vets individuals with access to the country's top secrets. Remember Rob Porter?
  • Conflicts of interest: They may closely examine Trump's business entanglements with the Trump Organization and potential conflicts of interest due to the Constitution's emoluments clause.
  • Tax returns: Democrats could use an obscure part of the tax code that could help them demand the long-sought documents.
  • Swamp creatures: They could resurrect multiple ethics scandals involving senior Trump administration officials, including, for example, why former EPA Chief Scott Pruitt was able to keep his job for so long.
  • On the border: They're likely to ask pointed questions about Trump's immigration and child separation policies
  • Health care: They are set to take a hard look at the administration's efforts to roll back Obamacare.
  • Voter suppression: They're already examining allegations that conservative groups sought to tamp down the vote in the midterms

Other issues on the table:

  • China is listening: Trump's personal cellphone use, per The Post's James Hohmann.
  • Kavanaugh: Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the  FBI had overseen a “whitewashed” investigation into allegations of sexual assault against the now Supreme Court Justice.
  • Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi's death: 50 House Democrats and Republicans sent a letter to the director of national intelligence asking what the United States knew about Saudi Arabia's plan to target Khashoggi.
  • Stormy: Democrats could ask who directed Michael Cohen to violate election laws.

In the Media

  1. Caitlyn Jenner on Trump and LGBTQ issuesI thought Trump would help trans people. I was wrong by Caitlyn Jenner via The Post
  2. What to read to get ready for fall fashionAn American campaign tee is trendy in Asia. Its popularity has nothing to do with the US by W. David Marx via Vox
  3. What to do to feel old: Time Traveler via Merriam-Webster
  4. What to listen to if you want to feel young again: The official Mid90s playlist by Jonah Hill via Spotify
  5. Weekend jams: Cautious Clay's Tiny Desk Concert via NPR
  6. What everyone should read: Why was MBS so afraid of Jamal Khashoggi by David Ignatius via The Post