November 8th, 2016

Defeating both Trump and Trumpism

    Although Donald Trump's defeat is a prerequisite to national recovery, the profound damage he has done to our nation will not be wiped away if he loses.

    And even if she wins, Hillary Clinton will still be feeling the effects of the multiyear campaign waged by Republicans in Congress to destroy her. The evidence suggests that her GOP foes will try to end her presidency prematurely by colluding with an implacably hostile conservative media and, it now seems, right-wing agents inside the FBI.

      So while I celebrate the conclusion of the most abysmal campaign of my lifetime, I fear that this will not end the division, aggression and rancid prejudice Trump has nurtured.

Obama will leave office with his honor intact

    Barack Obama enters the twilight of his presidency as a popular and respected figure, in no small part because he has run an honest and ethical administration.

    Polls show Obama earning approval ratings topping 50 percent despite deep divisions over his policies. That's higher than most postwar second-term presidents nearing the end of their time in office. Personal probity has to be a big part of the explanation.

    "From the outset of his presidency, with the appointment a White House ethics czar, avoiding ethics and influence-buying problems in his administration has been a top priority for President Obama," says Fred Wertheimer, who runs the reform group Democracy 21 and for years has been a frequent scold of Washington politicians. "He has done a remarkable job of achieving that goal."

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