Archive

May 28th, 2016

How Sanders and Clinton could heal their rift

    The acrimony between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, inflamed in recent weeks, is likely to be resolved with a series of compromises that will bring relative unity in the weeks after next month's final primaries.

    Limited conversations between supporters of the two candidates have been productive and both sides are guardedly optimistic, despite the sharp barbs the campaigns exchanged in recent weeks. With Clinton almost certain to be the Democratic nominee and polls showing her in a tight race with the presumptive Republican candidate, Donald Trump, Democrats are worried that internal friction could weaken the party in the general election.

    "It's going to take a conscious effort for the winning candidate to be gracious and the opposing candidate to see the larger goal," says Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, D, a Sanders supporter. Although Merkley hasn't had any conversations with the Clinton forces, he expressed confidence that "the road is being paved" for a rapprochement.

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For Obama, human rights begin at home

    First Cuba, now Vietnam.

    President Barack Obama drew the U.S. closer to Vietnam this week, traveling to Hanoi and lifting a decades-long U.S. ban on military sales to the communist regime and strategically located former foe. Human-rights advocates were not inspired.

    "Vietnam has demonstrated itself that it doesn't deserve the closer ties the U.S. is offering," said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, to the Washington Post. In an open letter to Obama, Human Rights Watch called Vietnam a "police state" that is "among the most repressive" governments in the world.

    Obama's landmark visit to Cuba in March produced similar consternation over the Castro regime's long history of oppression while also providing eager conservatives with an opportunity, not to be missed, to use the words "Obama" and "Che" in the same sentence.

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Yes, there actually are people who believe the Clintons killed Vince Foster

    The latest thing Donald Trump is talking about not talking about is the 1993 death of White House attorney Vince Foster, which was ruled a suicide by multiple investigations but which "people" -- according to Trump -- believe was a murder orchestrated by the Clintons. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told The Washington Post's Jose DelReal and Robert Costa that Foster's death was "very fishy."

    "I don't bring it up because I don't know enough to really discuss it," Trump said while bringing it up. "I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don't do that because I don't think it's fair."

    Riiight. Trump isn't talking about Vince Foster. He's just casually mentioning that a bunch of other people think his likely general election opponent and her husband had a guy killed. That's all.

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Why law didn't punish villains in financial crisis

    Historians of the future will want to know why almost no one went to jail in connection with the collapse of mortgage-backed securities that triggered the 2007-8 financial crisis. Monday's appeals court decision reversing a $1.2 billion fraud judgment against Bank of America will be an important part of the answer. To put it bluntly, the law failed -- because the law as it existed didn't properly anticipate or cover the events that occurred.

    The decision, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was the result of an appeal by Bank of America from a judgment by federal district court Judge Jed Rakoff, the most outspoken judicial critic of how the legal system responded to the crisis.

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What you need to know about the next recession (starring Donald Trump)

    How should we respond to the next recession? That was the topic of an event held by the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, where I spoke Monday in Washington with White House budget director Sean Donovan. I argued a number of points that address current concerns.

    First, I argued that the possible election of "Demagogue Donald" dwarfs congressional dysfunction as a threat to American prosperity. Beyond lunatic and incoherent budget and trade policies, Donald Trump would for the first time make political risk of the kind usually discussed in the context of Argentina, China or Russia relevant to the United States. How else to interpret threats to renegotiate debt, prosecute insubordinate publications and rip up treaties? Creeping fascism as an issue dwarfs macroeconomic policy!

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Trumping on Eggshells

    I recently asked a good friend where her boss stood on Donald Trump.

    This wasn’t an idle question. Her boss gives big money to Republican candidates. He’s both power broker and weather vane. And she talks politics with him all the time.

    But she has no idea about him and Trump. She hasn’t inquired, because she doesn’t want to know. She’s fond of her boss. She respects him. But what if he’s made peace with a candidate who called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, mocked a disabled journalist, belittled John McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war, praised Vladimir Putin’s thuggish leadership style, complimented the Chinese government on its brutal handling of the uprising in Tiananmen Square, made misogynistic remarks galore and boasted during a debate about the size of his penis?

    She can’t go there.

    I understand.

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What tax tricks doesn't Trump want us to see?

    A generation after Ronald Reagan denounced the "welfare queen," the Grand Old Party is evidently on the verge of nominating its first welfare king.

    Four years ago last week, the party's 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, famously wrote off the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes. Romney, secretly recorded at a fundraiser, said the 47 percent "who are dependent upon government" won't vote for him because "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

    Now, just one presidential cycle later, Republicans have settled on a presumptive nominee who is himself among the 47 percent of non-taxpayers. Trump has been refusing to release his tax returns, and we have a pretty good idea why: He has been feeding at the public trough.

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Trump's Republican coalition of the unwilling

    Oh, how the mighty are falling in line, if not in love. The most stalwart Donald Trump deniers among establishment Republicans are clambering to get on board. Support is a depreciating asset: Wait until the train leaves the station at the Cleveland convention and you'll get little for swallowing your pride, abandoning your conscience and stifling your fears.

    A corollary of that is that the higher-placed the opponent, the more valuable the capitulation. That's why South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham getting with the program over the weekend is so important. It's part of bringing a divided party back together. Without that, it is hard to win. What should worry Hillary Clinton are new polls showing that Trump is within three points of her. More worrying for her is the speed at which the Republicans are coming together: In an NBC-WSJ poll, Trump is winning among Republicans over Clinton 86 percent to 6 percent, up from 72 percent to 13 percent a month ago.

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Trump would crush winners of the U.S. economy

    Donald Trump says it all the time: "We don't win anymore." If you got all your economic news from the presumed Republican nominee, you'd think U.S. businesses hadn't added any new jobs or accomplished anything worthwhile since sometime in the Johnson administration. Americans nowadays, he keeps suggesting, are total losers.

    While Trump's rhetoric denigrates the achievements of U.S. companies and their millions of employees, his specific proposals are worse. They reveal a vision of the good economy as static, uninnovative and controlled from the White House. President Trump's America is, despite the rhetoric, an economy with no place for winners.

    Start with the candidate's pettiest proposal: his not-so-veiled threat to unleash antitrust regulators against Amazon to punish CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, for the newspaper's negative coverage of his campaign. To serve his personal agenda, Trump would rewrite U.S. antitrust doctrine. Forget protecting consumers from cartels; he would instead protect businesses from competition. And he would side with foreign governments against an American winner.

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May 27th

Donald Trump and other crises of democracy

    David Runciman is professor of politics at Cambridge University. His books include "The Confidence Trap," a brief, lively history of crises faced by democratic nations, and how those nations handled the challenges. The rise of Donald Trump, and continuing turmoil throughout Europe, have raised anew questions about democracy's vulnerabilities and resilience. Over the course of several days in late April and early May, I interviewed Runciman, via e-mail, about the current perils.

    Wilkinson: The democratic "confidence trap" that you describe is more an attitude than a philosophy, a prevailing sense of, "Oh well, this particular problem looks quite serious but we always muddle through, so why panic?"

    We only have two real political parties in the U.S., and one is about to nominate Donald Trump for president. Is this a confidence trap -- a case of Republican voters assuming that democracy can bear more strain than it can reasonably be expected to carry?

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