Archive

May 2nd, 2016

The Many Faces of Dennis Hastert

    For a lesson on the riddles of human nature, look no further than Dennis Hastert.

    Go back to early 1999, when he became the speaker of the House of Representatives. Revisit the reason he got that job. His Republican colleagues were sick of provocateurs, had been burned by scandal and wanted a reprieve — an antidote, even. Hastert fit the bill. In their view he wasn’t merely above reproach. He was too frumpy and flat-out boring to be acquainted with reproach.

    “Like an old shoe” was how one prominent Republican described him to a reporter at the time.

    In the closet with that old shoe were skeletons, but no one around him knew it or could have guessed which kind.

    And somehow Hastert wasn’t haunted by them, or at least had never been impeded by them. Despite a history of sexually abusing boys as a high school teacher and coach, the old shoe stepped into politics, a line of work that invites examination and raises the stakes of any revelation, ensuring the most public shaming imaginable.

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If Trump were a woman

    Regarding Donald Trump's insulting, diminishing assertion about Hillary Clinton that she is only succeeding by playing "the woman's card" and that if she "were a man, I don't think she'd get 5 percent of the vote": If Trump were a woman, he'd be lucky to do that well.

    Clinton is on the verge of becoming the first female presidential nominee and perhaps the first female president. Certainly, gender and the historic nature of her candidacy have been a boost in that quest -- maybe not as much as she might have hoped, but not the hindrance it would have been not many years ago.

    Yet to imagine the female Trump is to recognize the lingering, embedded nature of gender stereotypes, and the continuing obstacles -- the not-so-buried campaign land mines -- that face women running for office.

    To say "female Trump" is to summon the memory of Sarah Palin, the major candidate who most closely resembles Trump in their joint and stunning lack of policy knowledge. But Palin's ignorance cost her. Trump's is scarcely impeding his march to the nomination.

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Trump's attempt to rewrite NATO will backfire

    Donald Trump's foreign policy speech lays out what would be a disastrous course for the U.S. with regards to Russia and European security. On the other hand, for Europe and its eastern neighbour, the disengagement he is proposing might work out quite well -- just not in the way Trump intends.

    Trump's most specific statement -- an extremely rare occasion when he decided against extemporizing -- was a threat to U.S. allies across the Atlantic and Pacific:

    "We have spent trillions of dollars over time - on planes, missiles, ships, equipment - building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense - and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves."

    Trump proposed a summit with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and "a separate summit with our Asian allies" to discuss, among other things, "a rebalancing of financial commitments."

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Trump Plays the Man’s Card

    Republicans have often been indignant at being portrayed as waging a “war on women,” and the rhetoric sometimes was, indeed, a bit over the top. Until Donald Trump showed up.

    Trump seems to be trying a strategy of what Ted Cruz would call “carpet bombing,” insulting Carly Fiorina’s face, Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, Heidi Cruz’s looks and now Hillary Clinton’s “woman’s card.”

    This is the card that in the United States earns women just 92 cents to a male worker’s dollar, less than one-fifth of the seats in Congress, a bare 19 percent of corporate board seats, an assault every 9 seconds — and free catcalls and condescension! Frankly, I’ll stick with my MasterCard.

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Trump's new slogan has old baggage from Nazi era

    Donald Trump has given up on winning historically literate voters. Consider the theme of his major foreign policy speech Wednesday: "America first."

    This slogan is most associated with aviator Charles Lindbergh, who spent a great deal of time in the late 1930s gushing at how wonderful the Third Reich was. Before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh helped form "America First" committees that campaigned to keep the U.S. from fighting the Axis powers. Lindbergh rose to become a demagogue and accused President Franklin Roosevelt of colluding with a Jewish lobby and Britain to drag America into World War II.

    For years this phrase was toxic. Pat Buchanan has used it from time to time, but "America first" and the idea it represented -- American neutrality towards the Nazis -- has been largely banished from respectable discourse.

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Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk

    It seems odd, in this era of gender fluidity, that we are headed toward the most stark X versus Y battle since Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

    Donald Trump exudes macho, wearing his trucker hat, retweeting bimbo cracks, swearing with abandon and bragging about the size of his manhood, his crowds, his hands, his poll margins, his bank account, his skyscrapers, his steaks and his “beautiful” wall.

    He and his pallies Paul Manafort and Roger Stone seem like a latter-day Rat Pack, having a gas with tomatoes, twirls and ring-a-ding-ding. The beauty pageant impresario’s coarse comments to Howard Stern, rating women on their breasts, fading beauty and ability to take the kids off his hands, reverberate through the campaign.

    In Indiana, Trump boasted that “Iron” Mike Tyson and “all the tough guys” had endorsed him. The chair-throwing Bobby Knight backed Trump with the brass-knuckles encomium that Trump, like Harry Truman, would have the guts to drop the bomb. When his rallies become Fight Club, Trump boasts that it adds a little excitement.

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There's something missing from our drug laws: Science

    Congress and President Obama are under pressure to reschedule marijuana. While rescheduling makes sense, it doesn't solve the state/federal conflict over marijuana (de-scheduling would be better). But more important, it wouldn't fix the broken scheduling system. Ideally, marijuana reform should be part of a broader bill rewriting the Controlled Substances Act.

    The Controlled Substances Act created a five-category scheduling system for most legal and illegal drugs (although alcohol and tobacco were notably omitted). Depending on what category a drug is in, the drug is either subject to varying degrees of regulation and control (Schedules II through V) -- or completely prohibited, otherwise unregulated and left to criminals to manufacture and distribute (Schedule I). The scheduling of various drugs was decided largely by Congress and absent a scientific process -- with some strange results.

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The irony of celebrity populism

    "When you become famous," the famous political consultant James Carville once said, "being famous becomes your profession."

    It's a sign of the stunning success of Donald Trump's crossover act that we no longer even think about this campaign's most revolutionary effect on our politics: the demolition of the line between celebrity and political achievement.

     Of course, success in politics can itself breed celebrity. Carville earned his by combining his eccentric sense of humor with actual skill in helping Bill Clinton become president in 1992.

    But celebrity has never before been a sufficient qualification for the nation's highest office. Consider John McCain's signature attack on Barack Obama in 2008 in a commercial that began with the words: "He's the biggest celebrity in the world." The ad's next line captured the old war hero's disdain for his opponent and his fame: "But is he ready to lead?"

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Just The Most Qualified

    It isn't just the "woman's card" that Hillary Clinton possesses but she is the MOST QUALIFIED. Although she does hold the "woman's card" too and it should not be denigrated. It is high time that this nation had a woman President - not just any woman but one as qualified as Ms. Clinton.

    There is not one person, including those already eliminated, in the 2016 presidential campaign who could hold a candle to Hillary Clinton's qualifications. She has been preparing for this job all her life both in education and experience.

    Of course in today's political campaigns, qualifications would seem to be rather lacking, hardly a consideration at all.

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The paradox at the heart of our marijuana laws - and how to fix it

    As Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration weigh whether marijuana should be rescheduled, public faith in the drug classification system continues to erode. Debate rages between those who emphasize the strangeness of marijuana being on the highly restrictive Schedule I alongside far more harmful drugs like heroin, and those who emphasize how strange it would be to put crude plant matter on a less restrictive schedule alongside well-specified FDA-approved medications.

    Both sides have a point, a paradox stemming from a design quirk of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act: The law takes pains to recognize that medically useful, FDA-approved drugs vary in harmfulness, but does not recognize that this is equally true of drugs with no approved medical use. By throwing all these diverse drugs into the same basket, federal law both baffles the public and makes it very difficult for researchers to evaluate whether tightly restricted drugs might have medical applications.

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