Archive

August 8th, 2016

The secret behind Hillary Clinton's steely temperament

    For all our talk of policy, there's a key Presidential attribute that can't be sussed out of position papers or stump speeches: temperament. "A president's temperament is his most important quality," Slate's John Dickerson wrote in 2012. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed, telling MSNBC, "temperament is the most important quality a President needs to have."

    Donald Trump's deficient temperament is recognized as a big campaign liability (though he, of course, says he has "one of the best temperaments" of any candidate) . Still, it's an open question: Who in politics today - besides perhaps our preternaturally calm current president - has the temperament to meet the tumult? Who is centered, balanced, and grounded enough to think clearly and hold the space even in the face of confusion and chaos?

    For most people, Hillary Clinton doesn't jump to mind. After all, she's a highly scripted career politician with a penchant for controversial compromises and a seemingly unrivaled capacity to attract scandal.

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The Olympics need a permanent home

    Those of us who enjoy experiencing the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" of the Olympic Games could probably do without one particular emotion: the fear that the games, which begin Friday in Rio de Janeiro, will be an operational disaster. So far, the headlines do not inspire confidence. Armed robbers heisting a German TV crew's equipment. "Uninhabitable" residential facilities for athletes. Marathon swimmers being told not to open their mouths while competing in sewage-contaminated Guanabara Bay.

    The 2004 Olympics in Athens were preceded by similar worries right up until the day they began. In the end, those Games were a great success. So there's reason to hope the same will happen in Rio. Still, the ill-preparedness creates real risks. And those risks are part of a larger set of problems that have long dogged the modern Olympics and that derive from a single, avoidable source: the International Olympic Committee's insistence on picking a different city to host each Games.

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The Disney-fication of Our National Parks

    It’s summer vacation time and gasoline is quasi-cheap. So why not pile the family into the mini-van and pay a visit to the historic Budweiser Statue of Liberty, or motor out west in your Camry to Toyota’s Yellowstone National Park?

    That’s right, our thoroughly corporatized Congress mandated a new policy last year to let major corporations buy the naming rights of our visitor centers, hiking trails, educational programs, and other features in America’s national park system.

    For those of us who revere the natural beauty and serenity of America’s 411 national parks, monuments, and conservation areas, it’s going to be a real summer bummer to find corporate brand names and logos polluting these public sanctuaries at every turn of the trail.

    This auctioning-off of the people’s property for exclusive commercialization by private profiteers is already underway. Trying to put a smiley face on this desecration, a Park Service official babbled that the policy is “about aligning [corporate brands] with the values of authenticity.”

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Stop Indulging Trump

    John McCain, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of you: It’s time to stop suggesting that Donald Trump doesn’t represent you, because he does represent you. He’s your party’s nominee, with your endorsements. Until you withdraw those, he has your blessing. Your permission.

    And if you keep forgiving him and prioritizing your political survival over the country’s stability, he could wind up representing all of us.

    Tell me that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you. Do it with a straight face.

    Sen. McCain, Rep. Ryan, he’s just given you fresh cause to bolt, saying in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post that he doesn’t support either of you in your respective Republican primary contests.

    From the standpoint of tradition, this is shocking. From the standpoint of Trump, not so much. You’ve upbraided him (mildly). You’ve bruised his tender ego. So now he gets to stick out his tongue at you.

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Obama's CIA director wants to stick around for Clinton

    If Hillary Clinton wins the U.S. presidential election in November, John Brennan would like to continue his post as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    Current and former U.S. intelligence officials tell me Brennan has signaled in private conversations that he loves the job and would like to keep it if she's elected. Plus, Brennan does not want to be perceived as a lame-duck director, particularly as he leads an ambitious plan to restructure the agency.

    At the same time, Brennan has all but taken himself out of consideration to serve in a Trump administration. Speaking last month at the Brookings Institution, he said he would not execute an order to torture captured terrorists or target the families of terrorists, as Trump has promised he would authorize if elected president.

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Nixon's failed effort to withhold his tax returns

    Donald Trump, in an interview over the weekend, reiterated his refusal to release his tax returns until the IRS has completed an audit. By way of explanation, the Republican presidential nominee claimed that Mitt Romney had lost the 2012 election because he had bowed to pressure from the Obama campaign and disclosed his filings.

    Perhaps. But for the past 40 years, almost all presidential candidates have released their tax returns before the general election. Even though no law mandates this transparency, disclosure has become an accepted part of presidential politics, and Trump's demurral has sparked widespread condemnation, including from the billionaire investor Warren Buffett. (The returns of Trump's rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, are on her website for the years 2007 to 2014 on her website; she and her husband have made their returns public for each year dating to 1977, her campaign says.)

    Candidates don't enjoy this ritual, and more than a few have initially resisted demands to expose their financial data. But no president was more averse to releasing this information during his political career than Richard Nixon.

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Melania Trump, lucky immigrant

    Melania Trump's husband says she is a 10. Would Donald Trump marry a woman who wasn't? The question answers itself. But when she was younger, apparently working as a model in New York, the question is whether the former Melania Knauss was associated with another number -- an H-1B or a B1 or B2 visa, or perhaps some other designation that enabled a single Eastern European woman to earn a living in the U.S.

    Melania Trump's personal website was taken down after a minor controversy over her claim that she had received a degree in architecture from the University of Ljubljana in her native Slovenia. It seems she is not actually a college graduate.

    So what if she isn't? It might matter because a college degree can be an important credential for someone applying for a visa to work in the U.S. For all the scrutiny of her life style, remarkably little is known about Mrs. Trump's emigration to the U.S. What are the facts of her prior immigration status? How did she obtain a green card, which is no easy feat?

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It's too late for Republicans to retract their Trump endorsements

    "I'm just not ready to do that at this point," House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said May 5 about Donald Trump. Four weeks later, he was "ready," publicly backing his party's nominee on June 2 and speaking for him at the GOP convention late last month. But as Trump's controversies piled up, many of them -- his racist attack on the judge in a lawsuit over Trump University, his sparing with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq, etc. -- led to Ryan criticizing the man he'd endorsed. Too many, by Trump's count: On Tuesday, asked if he endorsed Ryan in the GOP primary, Trump threw Ryan's initial hesitation back in his face, saying, "I'm just not quite there yet." Trump also refused to endorse Sen. John McCain in his primary -- the same John McCain whose Vietnam heroism Trump had derided -- leading many to wonder whether Ryan and McCain would take back their endorsements.

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August 7th

Trump's supreme lack of presidential fitness

    During the primary season, as Donald Trump's bizarre outbursts helped him crush the competition, I thought he was being crazy like a fox. Now I am increasingly convinced that he's just plain crazy.

    I'm serious about that. Leave aside for the moment Trump's policies, which in my opinion range from the unconstitutional to the un-American to the potentially catastrophic. At this point, it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that Trump's grasp on reality appears to be tenuous at best.

     Begin with the fact that he lies the way other people breathe. Telling a self-serving lie -- no matter how transparent, no matter how easily disproved -- seems to be a reflex for him. Look at the things he has said in just the past week.

    On Wednesday, at a news conference in Florida, Trump said he has never met Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I never met Putin, I don't know who Putin is," he said.

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Is Solar Energy Really Too Expensive?

    In order for solar power to compete with other forms of energy, the conventional thinking goes, it needs to become way cheaper.

    Installing rooftop solar panels can be prohibitively expensive, after all, and it takes years before the resulting energy savings pay off. For the individual, it doesn’t matter whether solar panels will save you money in the long run if you can’t afford them in the short run.

    For those of us who are renters, the decision of whether to go solar is even more irrelevant. We don’t have the option to install panels ourselves. And unless your apartment comes with utilities included, your landlord has no incentive to install solar panels, because you would get all the savings.

    But while the average family may be unable to make a costly investment in solar, the government has much deeper pockets — and an entire Department of Energy to work with.

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