Archive

October 14th, 2016

Predators In Arms

    As many people are pointing out, Republicans now trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump need to explain why The Tape was a breaking point, when so many previous incidents weren’t. On Saturday, explaining why he was withdrawing his endorsement, Sen. John McCain of Arizona cited “comments on prisoners of war, the Khan Gold Star family, Judge Curiel and earlier inappropriate comments about women” — and that leaves out Mexicans as rapists, calls for a Muslim ban, and much more. So, McCain, what took you so long?

    One excuse we’re now hearing is that the new revelations are qualitatively different — that disrespect for women is one thing, but boasting about sexual assault brings it to another level. It’s a weak defense, since Trump has in effect been promising violence against minorities all along. His insistence last week that the Central Park Five, who were exonerated by DNA evidence, were guilty and should have been executed was even worse than The Tape, but drew hardly any denunciations from his party.

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Is personal privacy at odds with literary fame?

    The apparent unmasking of pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante feels like an occasion not for outrage so much as for sadness, and regret at the vanishing space allotted to personal privacy in an age insatiable for celebrity tidbits and fueled by omnipresent technology.

    Into this intrusive new world comes Ferrante, who has written a compelling and -- perhaps more energizing to those determined to expose her -- spectacularly successful quartet of novels, set in Naples and recounting the lifelong friendship of two women.

    Ferrante's true identity as literary translator Anita Raja was revealed, if the report by Italian investigative journalist Claudio Gatti is correct, the old-school shoe-leather way, with leaks of her publisher's financial records and digging into real estate documents. Yet the author's unavailing plea for anonymity is best understood in the context of the modern world she inhabits, and her effort, ultimately unsuccessful, to resist the invasive force of celebrity culture.

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Donald Trump can't accuse the Clintons without exposing himself

    After Donald Trump didn't bring up Bill Clinton's sexual conduct at the first 2016 presidential debate, his son, Eric Trump, said his father's decision showed "courage" and meant that he "took the high road." But after The Washington Post published a tape that showed Trump reveling in his sexual assaults on women, the low road is the only one left.

    In both a written statement a half-hearted apology video, released after midnight on Friday, Trump pivoted quickly to Bill Clinton's alleged behavior, and he has since retweeted Juanita Broaddrick, who has said that Clinton raped her in 1978. Once, the prospect of Trump trying to tar his opponent with her husband's behavior was shocking. Now, the real shock would be if Trump doesn't raise the specter of Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton's defense of her husband, at Sunday night's town-hall-style debate.

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October 12th

Trump's implosion leaves potential Republican 2020 contenders in a bind

    The release of a hot-mic tape in which Donald Trump is featured saying lewd and sexually suggestive things about women looks to be a catastrophic moment for the presidential nominee, who is already struggling to stay on message in the final month of the campaign.

    Dozens of Republican elected officials - including prominent senators such as John McCain (Ariz.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) - have disavowed Trump since news of the tape was broken by The Washington Post on Friday afternoon. Strategists for Republicans trying to keep the party's majorities in the House and the Senate are apoplectic about what Trump's seeming collapse means for their chances and what, if anything, can be done to salvage things.

    Lost amid all of that scrambling is what Trump's demise will mean for those Republican candidates who are positioning themselves to run for president in 2020. Although that jockeying has been an almost entirely out-of-sight effort to date, the size and scope of Trump's problems may force these 2020 aspirants to actively grapple with their position vis-a-vis the Republican nominee sooner rather than later.

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October 11th

Donald Goes to the Dogs

    “When a man knows he is to be hanged,” Samuel Johnson once said, “it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

    Unless, of course, that man is Donald Trump.

    Out of the nine presidential campaigns I’ve covered, I’ve never seen anything as absurd as the motley crew of Trump advisers agonizing over how to delicately, in soothing tones, tiptoe up to the proudly uninformed megalomaniac and broach the topic of more rigorous debate prep. Or, even more hilariously, trick him into practicing for the second contest so he doesn’t repeat his oblivious shame spiral.

    In a country roiling with fears about terrorism, race relations and economic inequality, Trump managed to get fixated on the fact that a former Miss Universe gained a few pounds — and to gnaw on that issue for a week after leaving Hofstra, while mainlining bacon cheeseburgers. And this weekend, Trump was ensnared in another sensational story about the lascivious way he talks about women.

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This is the last spastic breath from the Religious Right before its overdue death

    I don't need to tell you about the latest revelation of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's views and behavior toward women. I won't tell you these comments, because they're not appropriate for any ages.

    But I will tell you that the American evangelical movement and Religious Right won't be the same after the 2016 presidential election.

    This week I traveled to Nashville to speak with Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The largest Protestant denomination in the United States has elected him to represent their values in Washington and guide 15 million Southern Baptists in how to bring their faith to bear on public life.

    I asked him what percentage of Southern Baptists he thinks will vote for Trump. He answered 80 percent. Yet Moore has become the most vocal evangelical critic of Trump. What gives?

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The next president deserves a team of rivals

    No one knows what President Barack Obama wants to do when his term expires, but in the unlikely event that he wants a gig in a would-be Clinton administration, some say he need not apply. It's not the election's outcome that is the potential hurdle. The ex- president's poor job prospects are due to a burgeoning effort to reject potential Hillary Clinton appointees based on their previous employers, or on views they've held that deviate from progressive economic orthodoxy.

    The project falls under the umbrella of "personnel is policy" - the notion that whom you hire determines the priorities of the White House. A coalition of progressive organizations, including Daily Kos and Democracy for America, are spearheading this effort with a laudable policy goal: to keep special interests away from the next president's agenda. But the standard they would impose is so unduly restrictive that even Obama would fail the test.

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My 'implicit bias' against black people

    In case you missed the vice presidential debate -- and who didn't? -- the most memorable moment in my view came when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence sounded shocked, shocked, at the very idea that a black police officer could be biased against black people.

    I've got news for you, governor. A lot of black people don't like black people all that much.

    I know. I'm one of them.

    I don't dislike all black people. Most of us are fine, once you get to know us.

    When people tell me they are surprised to hear that I don't like black people, I remind them of how little black people were exposed until recent decades of positive images of themselves in media and elsewhere.

    I think my condition began at age four. My parents broke the news that I could not go to the amusement park near our southern Ohio home because it did not admit "colored people."

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Look for Obama to assume a central campaign role

    As the presidential campaign heads into its final month, President Obama will be on the trail in behalf of his first-term secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. But in a real sense he also will be stumping for his own legacy.

    A political cliché holds that presidential campaigns are, or should be, about the future. But Obama's nearly eight years in the White House in a significant way provide a framework for Clinton's aspirations, she having been a principal in carrying out his foreign policy agenda.

    On the domestic side as well, she has been a consistent supporter, having embraced his controversial Affordable Care Act, popularly and often unpopularly called Obamacare, a forerunner of which she was a principal if failed architect.

    In what is repeatedly peddled by the Republicans as "a change election" in which angry voters are demanding a new direction under outsider Donald Trump, the implication is that Obama has been a loser and that a Hillary Clinton presidency would bring more of the same.

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Clinton's turnout machine could prove decisive

    The final days of U.S. elections are typically devoted to huge drives by each side to produce voters on Election Day. That's true this year, but with important caveats: the efforts are far more sophisticated and more than one-third of the electorate, or more than 40 million voters, will have voted by the time the polls open Nov. 8.

    Registration and early voting trends may provide as many clues as polls and messaging. They indicate an advantage for Hillary Clinton.

    This advantage will turn into an avalanche if Trump can't recover from his latest self-induced crisis: an 11 year-old video in which he can be heard boasting of his sexual prowess and making graphic and vulgar remarks about women.

    Early voting is closely tracked by the U.S. Election Project, directed by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist. He estimates that 34 percent of the electorate will vote before Nov. 8, up a little from four years ago.

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