Archive

August 3rd, 2016

Democrats actually did get stronger together

    Democrats left their presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia Thursday night remarkably unified given the tensions at the start of the week, in sharp contrast to the Republicans a week earlier.

    If history is any guide, the more unified party has an advantage in the autumn election. This is a year, however, that has defied a lot of history.

    The coming together was evident on the convention floor, even in delegations from California, Colorado, Wisconsin and Virginia that started off deeply split.

    By Wednesday night, most of the Bernie Sanders delegates from Wisconsin, where the Vermont senator won a decisive primary victory, were seated next to supporters of the nominee, Hillary Clinton. "We will have some hiccups, but everyone will be there by November," predicted David Bowen, a Sanders backer who is vice chair of the party and a state legislator.

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Clinton's good-enough speech and strong week

    The theme of the Democratic convention was "Stronger Together," and the final day of the convention -- and Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech -- proved the point.

    The speech itself? Clinton remains a second-rate orator, perhaps the equal of several previous nominees such as George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, as well as Mitt Romney, Bob Dole and Michael Dukakis. Her speech, like those delivered by all those men, was good enough.

    What she lacks in skills, however, and what the speech lacked at time in craft, was more than made up for by the rest of the room, the pageantry and the historic occasion. Those who love her almost certainly loved it, and will be motivated to work harder (or donate more) for her cause. Those who hate her weren't watching anyway.

    There were plenty of well-written and well-delivered bits. And most voters see and hear the sound bites (and will see and hear them over and over), not the whole thing.

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A policy that would actually help poor kids

    For a half-century, our nation has focused on school-readiness programs such as Head Start as the best way to help low-income children escape the cycle of poverty. The idea is to level the playing field in cognitive and social skills by the time these children enter kindergarten so that they can keep pace with their more advantaged peers as they progress through school. In the next decade, we will spend $100 billion at the federal level just on Head Start, and all but a few states are funding their own pre-K programs.

    Unfortunately, children who attend Head Start do no better in school than equivalent children who do not. Even the best pre-K programs' positive impacts fade away in a couple of years, and some early-childhood programs actually leave children worse off than if they hadn't participated at all.

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Why this U.S. election needs even more Putin

    It's suddenly important for top Democrats -- including U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- to stress that their candidate, Hillary Clinton, is running against a potential ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump, for his part, is inviting Putin to interfere with the U.S. election. Perhaps Obama, Biden and Trump are right and this U.S. election does need Putin in it.

    When the hullabaloo about Russian interference began after Wikileaks published the hacked emails of Democratic Party functionaries, I struggled to understand what got Americans so riled up. The hacker groups that apparently penetrated the Democratic National Committee -- known to the cybersecurity industry as Advanced Persistent Threats 28 and 29 -- have been getting into U.S., European and post-Soviet computer systems for years, just plodding away at their job, keeping regular hours and observing Russian holidays, and the U.S. media and politicians were largely indifferent, if perhaps mildly dismayed.

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Who Loves America?

    It has been quite a week in politics.

    On one side, the Democratic National Convention was very much a celebration of America. On the other side, the Republican nominee for president, pressed on the obvious support he is getting from Vladimir Putin, once again praised Putin’s leadership, suggested that he is OK with Russian aggression in Crimea, and urged the Russians to engage in espionage on his behalf. And no, it wasn’t a joke.

    I know that some Republicans feel as if they’ve fallen through the looking glass. After all, usually they’re the ones chanting “USA! USA! USA!” And haven’t they spent years suggesting that Barack and Michelle Obama hate America, and may even support the nation’s enemies? How did Democrats end up looking like the patriots here?

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Two cities, two conventions, one choice

    For political journalists, there's nothing crueler than two national political conventions, two weeks in a row: Endless hours of note-taking; long, boring speeches by countless politicians; cheap hotels, lousy food and not enough sleep. You take one day of travel to another convention city, then turn around and do it all over again.

    Every reporter complains about it, but too bad. Because the worst things for reporters are the best things for voters -- a chance to see both major political parties up close, back to back, in order to weigh the differences between them. And there could be no greater contrast between two parties, two conventions, or two candidates than what we saw in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

    The quick version is: One convention was built on fear, the other on hope. One convention ended up offering the most qualified person ever to run for president, while the other offered the least. As for other real differences between them, let me count the ways.

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Trump Jr. says Obama plagiarized his quote, but the line goes back to Obama, Bush and before

    The Donald Trump campaign is still apparently sore about being caught plagiarizing last week. And now they have a great retort - better even than that "My Little Pony" defense:

    They might have plagiarized an Obama speech last week, you see, but now an Obama is plagiarizing them!

    President Barack Obama said at one point in his speech on Wednesday night, "That is not the America I know." And Donald Trump Jr. used that exact same line just a week prior - albeit with a contraction: "We will not accept the current state of our country because it's too hard to change. That's not the America I know."

    Case closed. It's plagiarism. The media's double standard at work, yet again.

    Except that, by this standard, Obama didn't plagiarize the line from Trump Jr. until Trump Jr. had already plagiarized it from him. Obama, after all, has said this phrase on several occasions. And that wasn't even its first bout of plagiarizing; none other than George W. Bush used it before Obama.

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August 2nd

Donald Trump gets a well-deserved beat-down from Michael Bloomberg

    As is his wont, Michael Bloomberg didn't mince words. The billionaire former New York City mayor used his speech before the Democratic National Convention to build Hillary Clinton up as much as to tear Donald Trump down:

    "The bottom line is: Trump is a risky, reckless, and radical choice. And we can't afford to make that choice!

    "Now, I know Hillary Clinton is not flawless; no candidate is. But she is the right choice - and the responsible choice - in this election. No matter what you may think about her politics or her record, Hillary Clinton understands that this is not reality television; this is reality. She understands the job of president. It involves finding solutions, not pointing fingers, and offering hope, not stoking fear."

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The post-Cold War secretaries of state, ranked

    Tuesday night, just as I was about to watch Bill Clinton's speech, Reason editor Matt Welch asked me something over Twitter: "Rank the post-Cold War secs of state real quick please thanks."

    This is a more difficult exercise than you would think for a number of reasons. One can certainly evaluate the foreign policy record of each secretary of state while in office. The problem is that this record is not only, or even primarily, a function of the secretary of state. That would be like seeing Mike Trout strike out against Aroldis Chapman and concluding that Trout was no good.

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The independent's case for Hillary Clinton

    The following is an adaptation of the address delivered to the Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2016:

    When the Founding Fathers arrived in Philadelphia to forge a new nation, they didn't come as Democrats or Republicans, or to nominate a presidential candidate. They came as patriots who feared party politics.

    I know how they felt.

    I've been a Democrat. I've been a Republican. And I eventually became an independent, because I don't believe either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership. When I enter the voting booth, I look at the candidate, not the party label. I have supported elected officials from both sides of the aisle.

    Probably not many people here can say that. But I know there are many Americans who can. And now, they are carefully weighing their choices.

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