Archive

November 2nd, 2016

Bill Clinton's role as First Spouse: To disappear

    How do you solve a problem like Bill Clinton?

    More precisely, how does, as is increasingly likely, President Hillary Clinton figure out what to do with First Gentleman Bill Clinton and his cargo hold of accompanying baggage?

    Bill Clinton may be an asset to his wife, but he is also a problem -- a sprawling, messy and hard-to-manage one that encompasses the twin minefields of sex and money.

    Sex first. Donald Trump's misbehavior with women is a far more important topic than Bill Clinton's, for one simple reason: Trump is on the ballot; Bill Clinton is not.

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The Chaos of College Rankings

    Willard Dix is one of the crankiest observers of the college admissions process I know; he’s also one of the smartest. He worked at Amherst, his alma mater, then advised college-bound students at a private secondary school in Chicago. He now blogs about higher education.

    I asked him on the phone the other day about the dizzying proliferation of college rankings beyond those by U.S. News & World Report, each using its own methodology and emphasizing different metrics. If a tone of voice can approximate an eye roll, his did.

    “You can slice and dice it any way you like, but this isn’t like Consumer Reports, which tests something to see if it does or doesn’t work,” he said. “The interaction between a student and an institution is not the same as the interaction between a student and a refrigerator.”

    I can’t improve on that quip. But I can explain it in terms of what rankings do and don’t reveal and how high school seniors, who are right now in the thick of figuring out where they want to apply, should approach them.

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James Comey needs to clean up his mess. Here's what we need to know.

    There is a lot of new reporting out there Saturday morning about the letter that FBI director James Comey sent to Members of Congress, notifying them about newly discovered emails that may be pertinent to the FBI's previous investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server.

    Those emails reportedly could number in the thousands and were discovered on a laptop used jointly by former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton, and were discovered in the course of an unrelated probe into Weiner's sexting.

    Unfortunately, the latest reporting is often contradictory and confusing. So here's my best effort to sift through it.

    - Comey's language is maddeningly opaque and cryptic. In his letter to lawmakers, Comey says that the new emails "appear to be pertinent" to the previous investigation into Clinton's use of a private server. He also says the FBI is now seeking to "determine whether they contain classified information," and "cannot yet assess whether the material may or may not be significant."

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James Comey fails to follow Justice Department rules yet again

    FBI Director James B. Comey's stunning announcement that he has directed investigators to begin reviewing new evidence in the Clinton email investigation was yet another troubling violation of long-standing Justice Department rules or precedent, conduct that raises serious questions about his judgment and ability to serve as the nation's chief investigative official.

    Comey's original sin came in July, when he held a high-profile news conference to announce his recommendation that the Justice Department bring no charges against Hillary Clinton. In doing so, Comey violated Justice rules about discussing ongoing cases and, as I argued at the time, made assertions that exceeded FBI authority, recklessly speculated about matters for which there was no evidence, and upended the consultative process that should exist between investigators and prosecutors.

    Comey argued that his news conference was necessary in a case of intense public interest, but as his actions in the months since have shown, the precedent he set has led only to increasingly problematic outcomes.

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Don't let FBI's email surprise swing the election

    To borrow a phrase from Vermont's favorite socialist, I too am sick and tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton's damn e-mails.

    As we all found out on Friday afternoon, the FBI is reviewing some messages involving a close Clinton aide to see if they contained classified information. The agency's director, James Comey, said so in a vague letter to congressional leaders, and it has turned the election yet again on its head.

    This is the political equivalent of crack cocaine. House Speaker Paul Ryan called on the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to suspend classified briefings to the Democratic candidate. Prominent liberal pundits are in high dudgeon, alleging that Comey is trying to throw the election to the Republicans. The Trump campaign meanwhile is elated. Its campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said that "A great day in our campaign just got even better."

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Colin Powell explains why he endorsed Hillary Clinton

    On Tuesday, the New York Times reported, Colin Powell announced at an event on Long Island that he would be voting for Hillary Clinton.

    This is news. Below, in an as-yet-not-quite-hacked email, Secretary Powell explains himself.

    OK, America. Before you say anything: I know. I know what I said. I said it.

    "Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris," I said. "Not transformational," I called her. "Greedy," I said.

    "I would rather not have to vote for her," I said.

    But that's where we are, OK? This is on you, not me.

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November 1st

Are We At The Point Of No-Return?

    Day by day more concerns seem to arise justifying fear for the fate of this nation. Perhaps it should not surprise anyone in a country that would support a man like Donald Trump as a major political party's nominee for the highest office in the world. Heretofore we seemed to have more reason for optimism than pessimism. Now too few seem to respect the great principles upon which this nation was founded leaving us with some rather horrifying acts being committed in our name.

    One of the latest transgressions comes out of Standing Rock, North Dakota. Make no mistake I tend to think that oil lines are safer than transporting oil on trains; however, that does not allow us to run rough shod over land important to people. Presumably we still have the right for peaceful demonstration but tell that to the people of Standing Rock. It is reliably reported that female demonstrators have been arrested and stripped naked for searches. One was even left naked in a cell overnight. Is this the way we treat people even if they were criminals?

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3 TVs and No Food: Growing Up Poor in America

    Here’s the kind of person whom America’s presidential candidates just don’t talk about: a sweet, grinning, endangered 13-year-old boy named Emanuel Laster.

    Emanuel has three televisions in his room, two of them gargantuan large-screen models. But there is no food in the house. As for the TVs, at least one doesn’t work, and the electricity was supposed to be cut off for nonpayment on the day I visited his house here in Pine Bluff: Emanuel’s mother deployed her pit bull terrier in the yard in hopes of deterring the utility man. (This seemed to work.)

    The home, filthy and chaotic with a broken front door, reeks of marijuana. The televisions and Emanuel’s bed add an aspirational middle-class touch, but they were bought on credit and are at risk of being repossessed. The kitchen is stacked with dirty dishes, and not much else.

    “I just go hungry,” Emanuel explained.

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Why what you say in private looks bad in public, even if it isn't

    Imagine a world where you can't feel safe speaking to those you're closest to because an invisible eavesdropper is always lurking, ready to expose your private words to public scrutiny. Actually, we already live in that world, especially if you're a public figure or talking to one, as WikiLeaks has shown by its steady release of hacked emails during the presidential campaign.

    During the primary race, it published emails of Democratic National Committee officials, and this month it has busied itself with broadcasting those of top Democrats working inside Hillary Clinton's campaign. (The most recent, exposing internal discussions of the Clinton Foundation, reveal concerns about appearances but no favors granted to donors - and that campaign Chairman John Podesta loves risotto.)

    Of a different nature was The Washington Post's release of Donald Trump's recorded conversation with Billy Bush during a 2005 taping of an "Access Hollywood" segment, but it too, was an instance of public exposure of presumed private communication.

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Who will save the GOP?

    With Donald Trump's presidential campaign now appearing to be heading over a cliff, where is there a credible figure to save the Grand Old Party?

    One unintentional function of the 2016 primary elections was the liquidation of that field of 16 alleged political stars, from Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Chris Christie to Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. All of them, also including early frontrunner Jeb Bush, were shunted to the sidelines by the Trump primary blitzkrieg.

    At least Bush went down swinging, bearing the brunt of Trump's assault as a "low energy" foil who proved to be a sacrificial lamb, shattering dreams of a Bush family dynasty along the way.

    The reigning family of the Republican Party lost any vestige of meaningful influence with the absence of both former Presidents Bush at the party national convention, and the subsequent fall campaign.

    The party's 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who survived that defeat with a modicum of dignity, also made a valiant but failed attempt to rally the GOP establishment to a stop-Trump effort.

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