Archive

September 17th, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s Sick Days

    Before we delve any further into the coughs heard round the world and the swoon that changed history, some perspective:

    Running for president isn’t hard. It’s brutal. The oddity isn’t that one of the candidates would succumb to illness and be forced off the trail for a few days. The oddity is that all of the candidates don’t drop like flies.

    What we ask of them is less preparation than mortification, physical as well as psychological. Between formal speeches and informal rallies and briefings and fundraisers and long flights and short bus rides and coffee-shop huddles and state-fairground scrums, they endure 20-hour days in which they cram in twice that many hours of work. They’re miracles of perseverance, so much so that a certain 68-year-old Democratic nominee can get a pneumonia diagnosis and deliver a big (if cloddishly rendered) speech at a fundraiser that same night.

    Their stamina isn’t at issue, just their sanity.

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Five things the presidential debate moderators must do

    Whatever you may think of Donald Trump's politics, fitness for office and character, you have to admit he's a genius communicator, especially on television.

    That's why it comes as no surprise that he floated the idea Monday that the three scheduled presidential debates feature no interference in the form of a moderator who might inhibit his penchant for fact-challenged showmanship.

    Here's how the Republican nominee put it in a CNBC interview: "Let Hillary and I sit there and just debate, because I think the system is being rigged so it's going to be a very unfair debate."

    Trump said he fears that the widespread criticism of Matt Lauer, who moderated NBC's recent "Commander in Chief Forum," means that debate moderators will come out loaded for bear. Lauer was thoroughly pummeled - especially for letting Trump go unchallenged when he said he opposed the war in Iraq from the start, which is false.

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First Amendment may protect shady sex ads, too

    A Senate panel has called the online advertising site Backpage.com a clearinghouse for sex trafficking in minors, and has subpoenaed its policies and records. The company says it's a canary in the coal mine for government intrusion into the editorial decisions of journalists -- and has asked the Supreme Court to block the subpoena. Chief Justice John Roberts has stayed the subpoena to read briefs from the opposing parties. When he digs into the details, he may find that both sides are at least partly right.

    The case began as an inquiry into Internet-driven sex trafficking of minors conducted by the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican (Claire McCaskill of Missouri is the ranking Democrat). The committee suspects that Backpage's online classified service is used as a vehicle for such trafficking. It issued a broad subpoena to the company, which it subsequently narrowed and directed to Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer.

    The particular focus of the inquiry is now whether and how Backpage may have edited or filtered certain ads to hide the fact that were being used for trafficking minors.

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Donald Trump’s Putin Crush

    When it comes to rebutting Donald Trump’s idiotic observation that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader — “far more than our president has been a leader” — it is hard to top the assessment of Russian-born Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, which The Times’ Andrew Higgins quoted in his story from Moscow: “Vladimir Putin is a strong leader in the same way that arsenic is a strong drink. Praising a brutal KGB dictator, especially as preferable to a democratically elected U.S. president, whether you like Obama or hate him, is despicable and dangerous.”

    Indeed, Kasparov’s point cuts to the core of what is so scary about a Trump presidency: Trump is what The Economist has called “the leading exponent of ‘post-truth’ politics — a reliance on assertions that ‘feel true’ but have no basis in fact,” and, sadly, “his brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.” When politics becomes “like pro-wrestling,” society pays a huge cost, The Economist added, because any complex explanation of any problem is dismissed as experts just trying “to bamboozle everyone else.”

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September 16th

Thugs and Kisses

    First of all, let’s get this straight: The Russian Federation of 2016 is not the Soviet Union of 1986. True, it covers most of the same territory and is run by some of the same thugs. But the Marxist ideology is gone, and so is the superpower status. We’re talking about a more or less ordinary corrupt petrostate here, although admittedly a big one that happens to have nukes.

    I mention all of this because Donald Trump’s effusive praise for Vladimir Putin — which actually reflects a fairly common sentiment on the right — seems to have confused some people.

    On one side, some express puzzlement over the spectacle of right-wingers — the kind of people who used to yell “America, love it or leave it!” — praising a Russian regime. On the other side, a few people on the left are anti-anti-Putinists, denouncing criticism of Trump’s Putin-love as “red-baiting.” But today’s Russia isn’t communist, or even leftist; it’s just an authoritarian state, with a cult of personality around its strongman, that showers benefits on an immensely wealthy oligarchy while brutally suppressing opposition and criticism.

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Don't compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. It belittles Hitler.

    Before their recent meeting -- and I suspect a few times after -- Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. He wasn't the first to do so, even in his own country. Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, has also compared Trump to Hitler. Cher has compared Trump to Hitler. Abraham Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has compared Trump to Hitler (although in fairness, that's kind of his whole brand). Even Glenn Beck compared Trump to Hitler. We'll no doubt hear it again many times before this election is over, and, to be honest, it's a comparison that bothers me for two reasons.

    I am a Jew -- a New York Writer Liberal Jew, the scariest Jew of all -- and from a very young age, I was taught about an unimaginable horror called the Holocaust and about an evil man named Adolf Hitler. The elderly man who sat beside me every Saturday morning in synagogue was a Holocaust survivor, as was his wife. And so the first reason the comparison of Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler bothers me is not because it belittles the deaths of millions of innocents, but because, frankly, it belittles Adolf Hitler.

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Case for affirmative action in contracting is thin

    Affirmative action in government contracting is alive -- barely. Last week, a federal appeals court upheld a Small Business Administration program that gives advantages to people who have suffered racial discrimination, reasoning that the law as written doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, because anyone can be the target of racial bias. The decision, which is based on paper-thin legal logic, is an attempt to keep remediation-based affirmative action from disappearing altogether. It may be too little, too late.

    The program, known as 8(a) after the section of the Small Business Act in which it appears, gives a preference in government contracting to small businesses owned by "socially and economically disadvantaged" individuals. The law defines the socially disadvantaged as people "who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities."

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This election's faith-based candidate

    This is the inversion election, a contest in which so many of our familiar mental categories have been turned upside down.

     This year, it's the Republican presidential candidate who says the United States isn't great anymore and the Democrat who insists it is. The Republican says that the former KGB agent now presiding over Russia is a better leader than the president of the United States. The Democrat condemns him for it.

    But last week reminded us that there is another role reversal in this election. There is one candidate who is authentically religious, who has thought seriously about what the Scriptures teach, and whose own view of the world was changed radically by her engagement with faith. Her name is Hillary Clinton.

    Yes, I flinched when I typed that word "authentically." How can we know whose faith is authentic or truly understand someone else's relationship to God? It's hard enough for most of us to come to terms honestly with our own relationship to the Almighty.

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The pervasive paranoia of Hillary Clinton strikes again

    "Trust us."

    That's the message from Hillary Clinton's campaign in the wake of a medical incident on Sunday in which the former Secretary of State appeared wobbly, at best, as she left a Sept. 11 memorial service early.

    Clinton got overheated and dehydrated at the event because she is battling pneumonia, according to her doctor. "Secretary Clinton has been experiencing a cough related to allergies," said Clinton's doctor Lisa R. Bardack in a statement. "On Friday, during a follow-up evaluation of her prolonged cough, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule. While at this morning's event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely."

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The American people agree with Clinton: Trump is a bigot. This new poll confirms it

    Monday morning on Fox News, Donald Trump addressed the two biggest stories of the weekend: He mostly laid low on the news that Hillary Clinton has been diagnosed with pneumonia, saying he hopes she "gets well," while also tearing into Clinton's suggestion that half of his voters are bigoted or chauvinistic "deplorables." These two things are related: The Washington Post reports that Trump advisers want him to go easy on Clinton's health, because they want the focus this week to be on her "deplorables" remark.

    And so, on Fox, Trump had this to say about Clinton's "deplorables" comment: "I think it's the single biggest mistake of the political season."

    But the new Post/ABC News poll released over the weekend raises questions about whether Clinton's remarks were really a political mistake. If Clinton's goal was to force a public discussion of Trump's bigotry and chauvinism, well, the Post poll finds that a large majority of Americans agree with her that Trump is biased against women and minorities, including among the voter groups that Trump needs to improve among in order to win.

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