Archive

March 3rd, 2016

Why Donald Trump is remarkably dangerous to the Republican Party

    As it's become more and more clear that Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite to be the Republican presidential nominee, there's been considerable speculation about what he could mean for the broader GOP, particularly as the party tries to hold its Senate majority and consolidate its House margins in the 2016 election.

    The answer: Nothing good - and perhaps something very bad.

    While Trump's hard-line immigration policy (send 'em back, build a wall, make Mexico pay for it, etc.) has caused most of the hand-wringing within establishment GOP circles, the real danger for the likes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., is not in that single issue. It's in Trump's remarkable unpredictability and seeming willingness to say things for the sake of shock value, and then inexplicably stand behind them - in fiercely unapologetic always.

    Trump's performance on the Sunday talk shows is indicative of this tendency.

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What does it say about the GOP that Trump is the white supremacists' candidate?

    "Donald Trump is not a racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don't vote for a Cuban, vote for Donald Trump." This is not the first white supremacist pro-Trump robocall by a group calling itself "American National Super PAC," but it hits the same low notes as the last one. "We don't need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people," said the first call, which went out to Iowa and New Hampshire voters ahead of the presidential nominating contests in those states. The group's pre-Super Tuesday call, which has reportedly gone out in Vermont and Minnesota, says, "The white race is dying out. . . . Few schools anymore have beautiful white children as the majority." Both calls identify the person responsible for the message as a "farmer and white nationalist," and both end the same way: "Vote Trump . . . This call is not authorized by Donald Trump."

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Trump's promises don't hold up to fact-checking

    A powerful force driving Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the presidential race is the frustration of grass-roots voters that politicians in Washington haven't kept their promises.

    Democrats, though still high on President Barack Obama, are upset about an economic recovery that benefited Wall Street more than Main Street, top executives more than workers.

    The anger is more palpable among Republican voters, who ushered in big congressional majorities for the party, expecting to end Obamacare, reduce the size of government, cut taxes and bolster national security. None of it happened.

    With that track record of broken promises and with Trump emerging as the likely Republican presidential nominee, it's good to look at his prominent promises and the critiques:

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The Trump Tower of Egotistical Exaggeration and Lies

    When the presidential primaries began more than a year ago, the two leading candidates were Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats and Jeb Bush for the Republicans. It seemed at that time that there would be another Clinton–Bush race in the general election.

    That, as any voter knows, has changed drastically.

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Should FBI force Apple to hack its own phones?

    In the final Republican presidential primary debate before Super Tuesday, all five of the candidates took the FBI's side in the bureau's dispute with Apple over a terrorist's cellphone that the feds want to decrypt. But do the candidates really know what they're supporting?

    The comments they gave, crackling with applause lines, caused me to agree with my millennial son's observation, "If you want to know how iPhones work, don't turn to a politician."

    At issue is an Apple iPhone that was used by Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters.

    The FBI, which is investigating the case, has a warrant for the information on this phone, but they can't read it.

    Its data is locked and encrypted behind a password that Apple says is designed to be too complex even for Apple to crack.

    Apple has cooperated with the FBI in providing all the phone's data that was on a cloud server.

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Planet on the Ballot

    We now have a pretty good idea who will be on the ballot in November: Hillary Clinton, almost surely (after the South Carolina blowout, prediction markets give her a 96 percent probability of securing her party’s nomination), and Donald Trump, with high likelihood (currently 80 percent probability on the markets.) But even if there’s a stunning upset in what’s left of the primaries, we already know very well what will be at stake — namely, the fate of the planet.

    Why do I say this?

    Obviously, the partisan divide on environmental policy has been growing ever wider. Just eight years ago the GOP nominated John McCain, whose platform included a call for a “cap and trade” system — that is, a system that restricts emissions, but allows pollution permits to be bought and sold — to limit greenhouse gases. Since then, however, denial of climate science and opposition to anything that might avert catastrophe have become essential pillars of Republican identity. So the choice in 2016 is starker than ever before.

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‘I’m Not a Super Predator’

    Days before Hillary Clinton thundered to an overwhelming victory over rival Bernie Sanders in South Carolina — largely on the strength of black voters who supported her by an even higher percentage than they supported Barack Obama with in 2008 — a young, proudly queer, black activist, Ashley Williams, was in Charlotte, North Carolina, plotting an action that would make a statement of its own.

    She was planning to attend a private Clinton fundraiser in Charleston, South Carolina, and confront the candidate about her support of policies — specifically the 1994 crime bill — that contributed to the explosion of racially tilted mass incarceration in this country.

    Williams and her friends decided to make a sign — but what to put on it? They toyed with phrases from a now infamous speech Clinton gave in 1996 — when the 23-year-old Williams was a toddler — in which Clinton said:

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Donald Trump refuses to condemn the KKK, dispels any notion he rejects racists' support

    Normally, the question "Do you denounce the Ku Klux Klan?" has one answer: "Yes." But not in Donald Trump's world. On CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday morning, host Jake Tapper asked the Republican front-runner about the support of white supremacist and former KKK grand wizard David Duke. "Voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage," said Duke. Tapper inquired whether Trump would "unequivocally condemn" Duke's support. Trump dodged:

    "Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke," replied Trump, "Okay? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists." As Tapper continued to press Trump, the latter denied any knowledge of Duke and refused multiple chances to disavow the KKK. A few hours later, Trump tweeted that he does "disavow" Duke's support.

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March 2nd

Clinton brings it to Trump - and has her best night of the campaign

    When Hillary Clinton started speaking Saturday night, it sounded as though she would give a clunker of a victory speech. Instead, it turned into one of the strongest speeches she has delivered all campaign - and a hint of what to expect from her in the general election.

    CNN wasted no time calling the South Carolina primary for her the moment the polls closed, and she wasted no time reverting to the studied delivery she often uses, a manner that seems to communicate nothing more than, "I am a politician speaking to you." At one point, she seemed to boast that she has many small donors behind her, but it turned out to be a solicitation for more donations.

    But the longer her speech went, the better it got. Clinton began talking about the mothers of African Americans who died in high-profile cases, such as Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland. She focused on the grief their parents felt. Most people, no matter what they think about these cases, can respect the power of that emotion.

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A shared resistance to transparency

    Transparency is not the natural instinct of the politician. The political mind tends to think: What voters don't know can't hurt you. What political opponents, and media, do with information can.

    So the ordinary urge is to hold close, to dribble out, to yield the bare minimum, unless the politician perceives some comparative advantage in revelation. (Think Jeb Bush, eye on Hillary Clinton, unloading years of gubernatorial emails, plus a gusher of tax returns.) The role of the media should be to counter this impulse toward secrecy, demand disclosure and -- in appropriate circumstances and appropriate ways -- inflict pain on candidates who resist.

    Such as this column.

    The current campaign features two parallel arguments over transparency -- on the Republican side, Donald Trump's tax returns; on the Democratic side, transcripts of Hillary Clinton's paid speeches.

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