Archive

October 16th, 2016

What Donald Trump could learn from the Jewish tradition about apologizing

    Along with so much else that we learned about Donald Trump with the release of Friday's tape - that he likes to "grab them by the p--y," that being recently married is no impediment to such grabbing, that he has no idea when a microphone is live - we learned that even when Trump tries to apologize, he gets it all wrong. "This was locker room banter," Trump said on his website, "a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course - not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended." Later in his video apology, he added, "I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize" - which might seem better, but, as we'll see, is not. If we are to salvage anything from this whole episode, it might be that it causes us to reflect on just what's wrong with this apology, and how we can get apologies right.

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Trump doubles down on his worst tendencies

    That fiercely combative second presidential debate Sunday night in St. Louis only assured that the ugliest campaign for the American presidency in history will drag on to election night next month.

    Donald Trump, scrambling to survive perhaps the most tawdry evidence ever made public against presidential nominee, chose counterattack over contrition in a bold bid to get his struggling campaign across the Nov. 8 finish line.

    He brushed off as mere "locker room talk" his revealed embrace of sexual assault against women in a much-aired 2005 video clip. Then he pivoted to make harsher allegations of sexual assault against Bill Clinton in a staged stunt, having invited the former president's accusers and placed them in the audience.

    He capped off his outrageous debate performance by warning rival Hillary Clinton that, if elected, he would instruct his attorney general to investigate her alleged email deletions, suggesting he would act on supporters' shouted demands to "lock her up!"

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The Don is four centuries too late

    This was the week the man

    Changed his mind about mass deportation.

    There will not be a total ban

    Of Muslims, only extreme filtration.

    And the week the nominee was unhorsed

    By a revelatory video that hit

    And The New York Times was forced

    To print words that were not fit.

    He was 59 and talking about his great luck

    With women who were celebrity-struck

    And how he was free to be a schmuck --

    A cartoon, a strutting squawking Donald Duck.

    A role model, but for what role?

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Solving the Riddle of the Slovenian Sphinx and the Pussy Bow

    It was a relief to see Melania Trump at the St. Louis debate.

    I was worried that the svelte Slovenian had gone into witness protection. Or that she was cloistered at a spa in the Swiss Alps.

    Melania virtually disappeared after her Republican convention mishap purloining some Michelle Obama speech chunks. And then, after the invidious 2005 videotape of her husband and Billy Bush surfaced — with the bros bantering about groping women at a time when Melania was pregnant — there was talk that she and Donald would do a Bill and Hillary “60 Minutes"-type interview where she stood by her Cheez Doodle.

    It wasn’t her style, and that idea got dropped. Melania did issue a statement calling her husband’s comments “offensive” but saying that he had her support and suggesting that everyone “focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”

    Who knew that the important issue would be a pussy bow?

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Reasonable Republicans can't save the GOP from Trump

    In the town hall debate in St. Louis on Sunday night, Hillary Clinton made an appeal to those reasonable Republicans who have been turning away from Donald Trump. Many Republicans and independents have said Trump is unqualified to serve as president, Clinton said, part of an apparently ongoing effort to reach out to Republican voters disillusioned with Trump.

    Pointing out that Trump has hardly solidified support with respectable members of his own party may be good politics, but it's a grave disservice to the American people. After all, one might be led to believe that those moderate, reasonable Republicans are unlike Trump in key ways. But the truth is that Trump didn't come from nowhere.

    Trump is the most obnoxiously bigoted candidate to run for president on a major party ticket in generations, but his actual positions and beliefs are not that far out of the Republican mainstream. Many of the defectors turning away from Trump's cause hold positions that are in effect, if not in expression, as disturbing as Trump's. And any attempt to mitigate that truth - however well-intentioned or politically calculated - is a mistake.

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October 15th

Trump has no idea what's going on in Syria

    The Trump campaign has no clear policy on how to stop the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, don't agree on the way forward. But the more important takeaway from Sunday night's presidential debate is that Trump doesn't grasp the basic facts of the situation, doesn't understand the history of the conflict and doesn't seem curious enough to figure it out.

    Monday morning, the Trump campaign was in full spin mode trying to pretend that Trump and Pence didn't openly disagree on whether or not the United States should consider using military force against the regime of Bashar al-Assad to stop the slaughter of civilians in Aleppo. On CNN's New Day, Pence accused moderator Martha Raddatz, of ABC News, of mischaracterizing his statements from his own national debate last week.

    In fact, Raddatz asked Trump repeatedly to address the same question Pence answered. Namely, what would Trump do about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and should the United States be prepared to use military force against the Assad regime to halt the bombing there? In his debate, Pence clearly stated he supported such a policy.

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Pushing back on Putin is the best way to defeat ISIS

    In the space of just one year, the West has twice made Russian President Vladimir Putin an offer too good to refuse. Or so it thought. In February 2015, under the auspices of the OSCE, negotiators in Minsk overlooked Russia's annexation of Crimea in order to reach a cease-fire agreement for the Donbas region of Ukraine. One year later, in February 2016, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sidestepped questions over Bashar al-Assad's future in return for a cessation of hostilities deal for Aleppo. In effect, the United States and its allies offered Putin Crimea and a rump Syria in return for peace. Sensing weakness, the Russian president pocketed both offers and promptly violated the agreements, most egregiously in Syria.

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October surprises can skew November results

    It'd be nice to be able to tell you how this craziest week of a crazy campaign will affect the final vote totals on Nov. 8.

    But I can't. Neither can anyone else. We'd be bluffing if we claimed we could.

    Normally, the job of political scientists like me is to caution everyone that the latest gaffe or political ad or campaign event won't matter on Election Day. This was the gist of what I wrote a week ago: I suggested that most polling swings back and forth over the last few months have probably been illusions, and that there was a good chance Hillary Clinton has had a lead of 4 to 6 percentage points throughout.

    It's what political scientist Matthew Dickinson said on Sunday in response to the "Access Hollywood" tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault: "Count me as one who thinks that Trump's 'latest' comments (made in 2005) - as reprehensible as they are - are unlikely to have nearly the impact on this race that the pundits claim."

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Low voter turnout isn't necessarily bad

    It's election season, so it's time to bemoan low voter turnout. Americans do not vote in numbers comparable to the citizens of other democracies, we're often reminded. Then the laments start: Low turnout is a sad commentary on the state of the republic. This year could be even sadder because many people don't like either of the main parties' presidential candidates.

    For sure, low turnout can be a sign of voter frustration. However, for low turnout to distort the election result, it must be that the people who do show up at the polls don't accurately represent the views of the citizenry as a whole.

    But low-turnout elections aren't necessarily unrepresentative. The key question is not how many people vote, but which ones. My current research with my Harvard colleague Louis Kaplow shows that to figure out whether an election is representative, we need to think about who decides to turn out, and why - and whether their decisions to turn out are linked to their political views.

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I was out and proud as a student. So why did my job send me back into the closet?

    I joined my high school's gay-straight alliance when I was 14 and became its co-president the following year. In college, I led the Queer Student Union, and in 2005, my full-color photo graced the front page of the local newspaper for National Coming Out Day.

    In fact, for the better part of a decade, I worked either as a student organizer or professional activist and, later, as a board member for a national LGBTQ youth nonprofit. It's no hyperbole to say that I marched around wearing rainbow flags, because on several occasions, I did just that.

    After college, being queer was practically my job. I went to work for Campus Progress (now Generation Progress), where I mentored college activists. I was very "out" at Campus Progress and talked about queerness in my day-to-day job, referencing my activist experiences when relating to students and collaborators.

    While my identity and self-understanding continued deepening and shifting over the years -- sometimes dramatically -- I was used to being out and was comfortable with it.

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