November 8th, 2016

The Trump campaign's war on reality made me question what I saw

    "I just want to make sure," my editor asked me as he closed the door to his office. "He definitely grabbed her?"

    It had to be the 50th time I'd heard this question, and each time it filled me with unspeakable anxiety.

    Yes, he grabbed her. It happened three days earlier, in the chandelier-lit ballroom of Donald Trump's golf club in Jupiter, Florida. Trump had just won the state's primary, and he was celebrating in a ballroom full of Trump-branded products: steaks, water, even a magazine.

    After the speech, Michelle Fields, a reporter for Breitbart, approached Trump with a question about affirmative action, when Corey Lewandowski, then Trump's campaign manager, took her by the arm and yanked her from the candidate.

    It happened right in front of me.

Why This Election Terrifies Me

    Tuesday nears, after such epic ugliness. “It’s almost over,” friends say. “We’ll finally be done with this.” What a lovely thought. What a naive fantasy.

    There’s no end here, just a punctuation mark, a measly comma between the rancor that has built until this point and the fury to come. And there’s no way to unsee what all of us have seen over these last 18 months, to bottle up what has been unbottled.

    Election Day will redeem and settle nothing, not this time around. No matter who declares victory, tens of millions of Americans will be convinced — truly convinced — that the outcome isn’t legitimate because untoward forces intervened. Whether balloons fall on Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, there will be bolder divisions in America than there were at the start of it all and even less faith in the country’s most important institutions.

    The person taking office will do so not on a wave of hope but amid tides of disgust, against fierce currents of resistance. Tell me how she or he moves forward. Tell me how America does.

Comey to country: The jury will disregard…

    If you have ever watched a procedural crime drama, you probably recognize the words, "the jury will disregard." It is the instruction judges give jurors to ignore inadmissible testimony after it has already been offered in open court. Of course the jury, composed of human beings, cannot forget what it has already heard - even if they try. The integrity of the proceedings have already been damaged.

    Director James Comey announced Sunday that the FBI's sweep through a fresh cache of emails related to Hillary Clinton's private server found . . . nothing big - the agency concluded once again that the Democratic nominee does not deserve to be charged with a crime.

    The news comes a little over a week after he revealed that the FBI had found the email cache - and said little else. In the intervening time, Donald Trump and other top Republicans insisted Comey had obviously found something damning.

    Headlines about the FBI reopening its probe against Clinton swirled. Leaks from within the FBI muddied the political waters further.

No one cares what economists have to say about Trump

    This week, there have been not one but two open letters by some of the most eminent economists in the U.S., urging the American public not to vote for Donald Trump. One letter, published in the Wall Street Journal, was signed by 370 economists, including eight Nobel prize winners. It slams Trump for questioning the accuracy of economic data, for attacking free trade and immigration, for getting facts wrong and for having misguided policy proposals on a variety of fronts. The second letter is by Nobel laureates only -- 19 of them. They write:

    "Donald Trump … offers an incoherent economic agenda. His reckless threats to start trade wars with several of our largest trading partners, his plan to deport millions of immigrants, his trillions of dollars of unfunded tax cuts, his casual suggestion that the United States could threaten default on its debt in order to renegotiate with our creditors as if Treasuries were a junk bond-each of these proposals could jeopardize the foundations of American prosperity and the global economy."

    This is all true. But I'm going out on a limb and make a bold prediction: Essentially no American voters will listen to these economists.

The ACA isn't in a 'death spiral' - it's undergoing a correction

    On Election Day, the health care and financial security of 20 million Americans will be at stake. That's the number of people who have gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. And news that premiums for plans under the law are set to increase by an average of 22 percent, just before voters head to the polls, has thrown another curveball into an unpredictable election.

    The increase will affect only about 3 percent of Americans who have private insurance, but that fact has done nothing to quell Republican outrage, aided by wall-to-wall news coverage. ("Obamacare" and "death spiral" appeared in headlines from the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.) But this outrage is totally divorced from any context and obscures the real choice before us.

    It's easy to forget that health insurance markets before the Affordable Care Act were much, much worse. Back then, premiums often increased by double digits, and few insurance choices were available in rural areas.

The End Is Nigh

    When historians write about this bizarre, ugly and dispiriting campaign — and oh, my, will they ever! — the epic dark saga will unfold this way: A man, filled with fear and insecurity, created a hatemongering character and followed it out the window. And a woman, filled with fear and insecurity, hunkered down and repeated bad patterns rather than reimagining herself in an open, bold way.

    When Donald Trump moved to Manhattan from Queens, drawn by the skyscrapers and models with sky-high legs, he felt he needed to invent a larger-than-life character for himself.

    Author and former ABC correspondent Lynn Sherr remembers that back in 1975, Trump had a starter apartment down the hall from her at 65th and Third, and she saw different women in cocktail dresses leaving almost every morning.

    “I think he felt it wasn’t a fancy enough place for them,” Sherr said. “That was the beginning of the gilt and marble.”

Care about religious freedom worldwide? One of the candidates would be a disaster.

    This presidential election has been fraught with fights over faith. Donald Trump's critics have accused him of dabbling in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and pandering to white Christian identity politics. Hillary Clinton and her team have been accused of anti-Catholicism and seeking to silence the conscience of anyone who disagrees with her progressive social agenda.

    Many religious voters fear what a Trump or Clinton presidency signals for their freedom of religion - and for people of faith abroad.

    Whoever wins the presidency, a religiously polarized America will continue to grapple with contentious political debates and legal battles over the role of religion.

    But what about beyond America's shores? The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, signed by President Bill Clinton, enshrined combating persecution and promoting religious freedom for all people everywhere as core U.S. foreign policy objectives. And the act lists specific responsibilities for the president.

Last Gasp Election Briefing

    OK, guys. It’s election time. You probably have a few last-minute questions. Fire away.

    I live in Florida and I am so, so, so tired of this! I can’t turn on the TV without looking at a stupid Trump or Clinton ad, and every five minutes there’s somebody at the door or on the phone asking me if I’ve voted. I’ve voted! Why can’t they leave me alone? — Overwhelmed in Orlando

    The rest of the nation appreciates what a burden this is for you swing state voters. Sort of reminds us of a high school cheerleader moaning about how traumatic it is to have to fend off a dozen invitations to the prom.

    I live in Massachusetts and I might as well be in Croatia! Nobody ever bothers to run presidential ads here, or campaign here. Nobody writes. Nobody calls. I might as well just stay home and not vote. — Alienated in Amherst

Obama thumps Trump, Romney conquers Clinton in imaginary elections

    It's often said that the only candidates who could lose to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here's one indication that it's more than a wry joke.

    The latest Bloomberg Politics national poll asked voters who they'd support in hypothetical matchups between Trump and President Barack Obama, and between Clinton and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

    The result: Obama would clobber Trump and Romney would trounce Clinton.

    Obama can't run for a third term, but if he could he'd beat Trump by 12 percentage points, 53 percent to 41 percent, according to the poll. Romney would defeat Clinton by 10 percentage points.

    The survey, conducted Friday night through Sunday, showed Clinton leading Trump by three percentage points. Obama was judged favorably by 54 percent of respondents, an approval rating that easily beat Clinton's (46 percent) or Trump's (41 percent). The president couldn't, however, match the 58-percent approval rating of his wife, Michelle.

Schools That Work

    Alanna Clark still remembers the stress of third-grade reading time. When her class read books together aloud, Alanna would often become confused. She didn’t understand how her classmates could answer the teacher’s questions about the book so quickly. As they did, Alanna was still just trying to take in the words.

    “It was frustrating, because I used to think, maybe I’m reading the wrong part,” she said. “But I wasn’t.”

    Alanna had a reading disability, and she was falling behind. Her mother repeatedly asked the school for help, without success — and then began to fear that a pattern was repeating itself. Alanna’s sister, who was 12 years older, had also struggled in school. But schools kept promoting her, until she eventually made it to community college, where, unprepared, she flunked.

    With this fear as a spur, Alanna’s mother entered her into the long-shot lotteries that allow Boston children to attend schools outside their neighborhood. Alanna won one, and today is a poised, soft-spoken 10th-grader at a charter school called Match, housed in an old auto-parts store on Commonwealth Avenue.