Archive

May 8th, 2016

A monster the media created

    On Wednesday, May 4, less than 24 hours after Donald Trump won the Indiana GOP primary and became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, "NBC Nightly News" did not just report the news, they let Trump take over their newscast. NBC originated its broadcast from Trump Tower in Manhattan. And for a full eight minutes at the top of the show, anchor Lester Holt interviewed Trump live from his office -- with no opportunity to respond provided to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or any political commentator.

    That same morning Trump had appeared live and unfiltered -- by phone -- on NBC, ABC, Fox News and MSNBC. Not even the president would enjoy that kind of coverage. But, in a way, it was the fitting end to Trump's primary campaign: the national media, in effect, placing the presidential crown on the head of the candidate they created in the first place. Having succeeded in making him the GOP nominee, the media are now determined to make him the next president of the United States.

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Women journalists are under fire and fighting back

    Five years have passed since CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by a mob of crazed men--and rescued by a small group of brave Egyptian women -- in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the fall of Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship.

    The widespread coverage given to that attack brought a new focus to a growing problem that had been looming in the shadows for years: sexual assault against journalists.

    In the first four months after Logan's attack, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists interviewed more than four dozen journalists who had undergone sexual violence. The offenses ranged in severity from gang-rape to aggressive groping by multiple attackers.

    Unfortunately, the usual conflict between safety and press freedom on such assignments is complicated by the double-bind in which many female journalists find themselves: They want the dangers of sexual violence to be acknowledged, but they don't want that knowledge to give their editors cold feet about sending women on dangerous assignments.

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May 7th

Migrants, not Jews, increasingly the focus of European hatred

    The record influx of Muslim refugees last year coincided with a sharp decline in the number of violent anti-Semitic incidents in major European countries, many of which bore the brunt of the refugee crisis.

    The wave of so-called new anti-Semitism of recent years largely stemmed from anti-Israeli rather than racist beliefs, and had often been linked to the persistence of such attitudes among the growing Muslim population. Yet data from the 2015 report on global anti-Semitism, published on Wednesday by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, clearly show that as the refugees started coming in by the tens of thousands per day starting about a year ago, Europe became a safer place to be Jewish.

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Will Donald Trump destroy the Republican brand?

    John Kasich has decided to end his bid for the presidency, ending the GOP primary campaign and leaving Donald J. Trump as the uncontested leader of the Republican Party. Needless to say, this was not part of the plan when the party decided after 2012 that it needed to make some changes in order to update its brand for the future. In fact, Trump was exactly the opposite of what it had in mind.

    So now that Trump has taken control of the GOP, how is the image Americans have of this party going to change?

    In order to answer that question, you have to first understand where the party is now. And there's a contradiction at work. On one hand, the GOP has never been stronger. It controls both houses of Congress, a majority of governorships, and a majority of state legislatures. On the other hand, it's increasingly unpopular at the national level.

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Want to boost economic growth? Empty the suburbs

    Here's a big economic and political thesis: The U.S. has run out of frontiers, both literal and figurative. At first, growth was fueled by expansion into the West, use of natural resources and the build-out of national infrastructure. In the early- and mid-20th century, an unprecedented explosion of new technologies -- electricity, automobiles, airplanes and others -- opened up the suburbs, which acted like a new frontier. More recently, the Internet and globalization, especially China, were frontiers that gave the economy yet more room to expand.

    But these growth opportunities may now be running out. Information technology is improving our lives by giving us more fun things to do with our leisure time, but it isn't providing the kind of productivity boost gained from previous technological revolutions. And the heyday of expansion into China may be over, given that country's economic slowdown, its decreasing openness to Western companies and the broader slump in world trade.

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Trump's victory is finally self-fulfilling

    Donald Trump's big Tuesday night victory in Indiana wasn't technically going to clinch the nomination for him. Even by winning most or all of the delegates at stake in the Hoosier State, he would need more to get to the 1,237 he had to hit to be nominated at the convention in Cleveland -- about 40 percent in the remaining primaries. There was a plausible way for him to fall short.

    The problem was that it was even more implausible that any rival could stop him. Indiana was friendly territory for the reality-TV star, but it was also the kind of state that Ted Cruz or John Kasich really needed to win. If they couldn't win there, it seemed clear they could not shut Trump out of the delegates in California on June 7. Thus Cruz's decision to drop out. Kasich says he will stay to the bitter end, until Trump hits the magic number of delegates.

    Most presidential nomination contests are won when the final opponent -- or at least the final serious opponent -- drops out, not when the front-runner hits that magic number. Much of the media on Tuesday night had declared the nomination won with a certitude that assumed the campaign was over.

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Trump will be the GOP nominee. Nothing is on fire. This is fine.

    So. This is happening.

    You scream wordlessly for a full minute.

    Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

    You begin gathering logs for a great bonfire.

    Reince Priebus tweeted, ".@realDonaldTrump will be presumptive @GOP nominee, we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton."

    You pack the pile high with newspapers predicting that Trump was a flash in the pan, with confident op-eds denouncing Trump, with the 'Never Trump' issues of magazines.

    Ted Cruz has stepped down.

    You whisper the name "Paul Ryan" into the wind, but no one answers.

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The night I almost felt sorry for Ted Cruz

    Politicians rarely get sympathy from the public when they lose. Yet in no other line of work is so much put on the line, so publicly, for so long, with a portion of crow to be eaten cold every day. Then, in one instant, it's over. It's enough to make a grown man cry.

    Still, it's hard to feel sorry for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was forced to drop out of the presidential race after losing the Indiana Republican primary to Donald Trump on Tuesday. Cruz, after all, is the guy who was aptly described last week by John Boehner, the usually affable former speaker of the House, as "Lucifer in the flesh." He's a man who even his friends don't like.

    But earlier this week it was almost possible to have sympathy for the devil as Cruz, time running out, rattled by protesters, disappointed by crowds, upstaged by the conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck, and downsized by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, nonetheless crisscrossed the state.

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The Donald Trump New Normal

    This morning we woke up in a nation where Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States. No “Game of Thrones” analogies. This is the real thing.

    “We’re going to start winning again and we’re going to win bigly, believe me,” he said on primary night. It had been quite a day. His chief opponent held a news conference to announce that Trump was an “utterly amoral” narcissist and friend to rapists who was “proud of being a serial philanderer.” Armed with that information, Indiana voters raced off to the polls and awarded Donald a huge win.

    In his victory speech, Trump spoke in the much-promised “presidential” style, and the big news is that when Trump is being presidential he is incredibly boring. Also pretty incoherent:

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Some hard questions now that Trump is the nominee

    So Donald Trump is to be the Republican Party nominee. Establishment Republicans need to take a deep breath: The U.S. system of checks and balances was designed to preclude the kind of tyranny some are warning could accompany a Trump presidency. There will not be guillotines in the streets of Washington. Nonetheless, establishment Republicans are right to be shocked: Until recently, ours has been a strikingly successful political party. The Republicans' governing wing holds majorities in the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, state legislatures, and governorships. Under President Barack Obama, Democrats have lost 13 seats in the Senate, 69 seats in the House, over 900 seats in state legislatures, and 12 governorships. It looks like their losing streak may be ending.

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