Archive

October 19th, 2016

When Clinton errs, she should just say so

    Donald Trump doesn't admit making mistakes. Even when caught in a video bragging about groping women, he barely apologizes before changing the subject. More often, he doubles down on lies.

    Trump's flaws dwarf Hillary Clinton's in that and virtually every other way. But she's reluctant to admit mistakes, too.

    A revealing anecdote emerged from e-mails released by Wikileaks from the account of Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. It involved Clinton's defense in a 2015 television interview of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Bill Clinton over the opposition of gay-rights advocates.

    She'd contended that the bill was a defensive measure needed to stop gay-marriage opponents from passing a constitutional amendment. Gay-rights groups said she was wrong, and Senator Bernie Sanders pressed the issue during the Democratic primary campaign. Aides wanted her to acknowledge the error, but her speechwriter, Dan Schwerin, said that wasn't going to happen. "The question is whether she's going to agree to explicitly disavowing it," Schwerin wrote. "And I doubt it."

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October 18th

Facing new charges of groping, Donald Trump lashes out in self-pity and impotent rage

    At least four women have now stepped forward to claim that Donald Trump inappropriately groped or kissed them in unwanted fashion, and predictably enough, his response has been to lash out at the news media, claiming (once again) that it is deliberately trying to derail his candidacy. He is threatening to sue the New York Times for its story quoting two of the women, and his lawyers are charging the paper with recklessly providing those out to smear Trump with "a platform."

    It's almost as if Donald Trump thinks you are too stupid to remember that only a few days ago, he literally tried to provide a platform for Bill Clinton's accusers, when he attempted to parade them into his family box at Sunday's debate, in hopes of creating a great confrontation before an audience of tens of millions, only to see his plot thwarted by the debate organizers.

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Treat Russia like the international poison it is

    Russia's ambassador to Washington is disappointed. Despite great potential for cooperation, Sergei Kislyak told an audience Tuesday at Johns Hopkins University that the two countries are locked in "unfriendly discussions." Wouldn't the world be safer and more stable if these two powers got along?

    With apologies to Ambassador Kislyak, the answer to this question is no. Contrary to his protestations, Russia is not invested in protecting the world order. It is dedicated to undermining the organizations, agreements and laws that constitute it.

    We all know the most egregious incidents. The Russian air force has bombed hospitals and humanitarian convoys in Syria. Its army has occupied Georgian territory for eight years. Its hackers have pilfered e-mails from leading Democrats. Its "little green men" have annexed Crimea. Just last month, a Dutch commission of inquiry concluded that the Russian government provided separatists the missiles that shot down a civilian airliner flying over Ukraine in 2014.

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Privacy and democracy

    Of all the non-surprises in the much-hyped WikiLeaks release of hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign, none was less revelatory than the predictable fact that she had preached the gospel of limited disclosure, behind closed doors.

    "If everybody's watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least,"she told the National Multifamily Housing Council in 2013, apropos the legislative sausage factory. "So you need both a public and a private position."

    This was perfectly in character for the famously wary pol who declared, in 2003, that "I believe in a zone of privacy," then acted on that belief six years later, when she became secretary of state, by using a home-brew email server instead of the official system as the rules required - followed by a fumbling coverup.

    American moralism and election-year politics being what they are, her remark played as a confession of two-facedness - though it was mightily and, from Clinton's point of view, blessedly overshadowed by the awful caught-on-tape sexual transgression of Donald Trump.

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NRA buys deck chairs on Trump's Titanic

    According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Rifle Association this year has already broken its record for political spending, backing the Republican Party with more than $36 million. More than $21 million of that sum was devoted to attacking Hillary Clinton or supporting Donald Trump.

    "The blitz cements the NRA's status as a key cog in Republican electoral efforts," wrote the Trace, a nonprofit that reports on gun issues. "This cycle, it has paid out more than any other conservative group aside from three Super PACs formed to back GOP presidential candidates."

    Trump is not looking like a shrewd investment. Republican strategists fear he could take the Republican Senate majority down with him, and even, if he tries extra hard, blow up the Republican majority in the House.

    Clinton, meanwhile, is more overtly hostile to the NRA than any presidential candidate in history. She campaigns with mothers of victims of gun violence, aggressively champions universal background checks and advertises her willingness to "take on the gun lobby."

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'No more': Evangelical women are done with Donald Trump and his misogyny

    Bible teacher Beth Moore is someone who "keeps politics out of it," so the saying goes. When she speaks at events or on social media, the founder of Living Proof Ministries typically shares encouraging spiritual quips and jokes about her big Texan hair.

    But this Sunday, in just 94 words, the 59-year-old Houstonian lighted a fire that arguably burned Donald Trump's strained attempts to woo many evangelicals - especially women - to the ground. In four tweets, without even mentioning the Republican presidential nominee, she pinpointed what many evangelical women have surmised throughout the election season: Having a president who is not ashamed of his misogyny and instead boasts of it would harm and dishonor women in this country - and the larger Christian church.

    As the news broke that Trump had bragged in 2005 about sexually assaulting a woman, many Christian women stepped up to essentially say, "No more."

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NBC News explains its handling of the Trump video. It still doesn't all add up.

    Although it seems like an eternity, it's been less than a week since a video from 2005 featuring Donald Trump rocked the political world.

    Now, the candidate's boast about his ability to sexually assault women has opened a floodgate of credible allegations. Trump's presidential ambitions may well be dead in the water.

    What if that campaign-changing video - or something equally incriminating - had emerged during the Republican presidential primary, instead of sitting on a shelf at NBC's "Access Hollywood"?

    And why did it take NBC News so long to break a story that took The Washington Post only five hours, from initial tip to publication?

    Mark Kornblau, a spokesman for NBC News' chairman, Andrew Lack, gave me some answers in a phone interview but left some mysteries unanswered.

    Q. When did NBC News learn about the video?

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It's come to this: 2016 is the Rape Election

    It would be nice if this hellscape of an election managed to raise thoughtful discussions on one or two issues of national concern, but instead it appears that it has come down to a single-question personality test. Not, "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?" but, "Which candidate, or candidate's husband, would you be most afraid to ride alone in an elevator with?"

    The procession of women this week who accused Donald Trump of forcibly touching and kissing them - one woman said he accosted her on a plane 30 years ago; another said he pinned her against a wall in 2005 while his pregnant wife was upstairs - was unnerving. In a bonkers way, it was also perhaps inevitable for a campaign that kicked off with Trump accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists, and then devolved into a scary race in which women's votes became a symbolic fight for their own personal safety. The ballot as a can of pepper spray.

    Or, as the writer Amanda Hess was compelled to tweet as the curtain rose on the second presidential debate, "Never imagined the election of the first female president would come down to a fight over who's the real rapist, but here we are."

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Islamic State has good reasons to retreat in Iraq

    There's no need to believe the Russian propaganda that says the U.S. agreed to let 9,000 Islamic State fighters flee Mosul to go fight President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But the story "reported" Wednesday by Russia Today (on the basis of a single anonymous source) does capture a strategic truth in the run-up to the attack on the Islamic State-controlled city: The fighters have good reason to flee -- and the Iraqis and the U.S. have good reason to let them.

    The battle to retake Mosul has been a long time coming. Islamic State occupied the city in June 2014, without encountering much in the way of Iraqi military resistance. Mosul was the biggest and most important city to fall into the hands of the self-proclaimed caliphate. Before Islamic State arrived, it had a population of roughly 2 million, making it Iraq's third most populous city. (Since then, at least half have fled or been expelled or killed, including essentially all the ethnic and religious minorities such as Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrian Christians and Yazidis.)

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In two searing speeches, the 2016 presidential race is crystallized

    Two speeches. Two Americas. A pair of apocalyptic arguments and one call to burn down the house. That's the summation from just two remarkable hours Thursday that crystallized the final month of Campaign 2016.

    In back-to-back appearances, in what might be the two most compelling hours of the entire election, Michelle Obama in New Hampshire and Donald Trump in Florida delivered the fiercest, most provocative and hardest-hitting speeches of an election cycle that has been without precedent in hot rhetoric.

    The presidential campaign has been building toward all this. Day after day after day, the rhetoric has intensified, the charges and countercharges have escalated, the issues have been reduced to asterisks and the gulf between the Trump and Clinton coalitions has widened. Sunday's debate in St. Louis foreshadowed what was to come. Now there will be no turning back.

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