Archive

March 14th, 2016

The Miami debate was Clinton's personal nightmare

    Please make these debates stop. I'm not having fun any more. Please let me out of this deep well. And stop giving me lotion. I don't want any more lotion. I just want to go one night without watching a dang debate. Here is my recap of the last one. Won't that suffice?

    If not, here is the Wednesday night Univision/Washington Post debate summarized for those of you who were not unexpectedly trapped when helping a seemingly friendly stranger move a large unwieldy piece of furniture into a van and forced to watch these debates FOREVER PLEASE HAVE MERCY SEND SNACKS AT LEAST.

    Clinton: Thank you for having me. I've been looking forward to this debate.

    Maria Elena Salinas: Secretary Clinton, why don't people trust you?

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Looks like wild time in Cleveland

    They've tried everything to stop him. They've run ads calling him a closet Democrat. They've attacked his brands of vodka, neckties and magazines. They've accused him of hiring foreign nationals. They've exposed the massive fraud he allegedly wrought on students of his online university. They rolled out Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina to denounce him.

    There's only one thing wrong with that strategy: The Donald keeps winning primaries and racking up delegates. Now, as a last resort, his enemies within the GOP establishment have decided to exercise the nuclear option in order to block Donald Trump from becoming the Republican Party nominee. Suddenly, especially after his wins this week in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii, it's what everybody's talking about: a "brokered convention."

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Look beyond judges for Supreme Court nominee

    As President Barack Obama prepares to square off with Senate Republicans over his Supreme Court nominee, I offer a soft word of advice: Don't pick a judge.

    I mean this quite seriously. My Yale colleague Akhil Amar has written thoughtfully about what he calls the "judicialization" of the Supreme Court. It is rare nowadays for anyone to be selected who has not attended a top law school, enjoyed a top clerkship and spent several years on the bench. In his fine book "The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic," Amar tells us this:

    "On the day that Samuel Alito replaced Sandra Day O'Connor in early 2006, not only was every justice a former judge, but each had been a (1) sitting (2) federal (3) circuit-court judge at the time of his or her Supreme Court appointment. Never before in history had the Court been so deeply judicialized."

    Obama's subsequent appointment of Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School, broke the pattern, but Amar considers the distinction insignificant:

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Lady Justice, lacking in our courts

    In early Egypt, in ancient Rome, in Renaissance Europe and outside most 21st-century American courthouses, justice has been represented by that woman with a sword, scales and a blindfold. You know her, right? Lady Justice.

    But funny how inside the courtrooms there aren't many Lady Justices to be found.

    A majority of this country's population is represented by only three female justices on the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court. Activists are pressing President Obama to nominate a woman of color to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month. But Senate Republicans - overwhelmingly male - have vowed to block any nominee, of any gender, color or qualification. Nice, right?

    The Supreme Court's gender diversity is actually a little better than on a lot of benches. In the highest state courts across the country, only 29 percent of judges are women, according to the National Association for Women Judges.

    Is this because we simply don't have women qualified for judicial appointments? Of course not.

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Hillary! Bernie! Debate!

Hillary! Bernie! Debate!

 

Gail Collins

 

    Let’s give a hand to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. After all we’ve been through with the Republicans, it’s nice to hear presidential candidates go at each other’s throat while they’re talking about where they stood on immigration issues in 2007.

    This was Wednesday’s Democratic debate — the second one in a week, not counting the back-to-back town halls in between. People, do you remember when we used to complain that there weren’t going to be enough debates? Ah yes, long ago. Dinosaurs roamed the earth and Marco Rubio was a hot ticket.

    Clinton held up well, given that her first three questions involved why she lost the Michigan primary, her emails and whether she’d drop out if she was indicted. (“Oh, for goodness — that is not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question.”) It was a tough evening. Sanders accused Clinton of cruelty to Honduran children. She claimed he had sided with the Minutemen.

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March 13th

Torching the Truth

    America’s military adventures — and, just as often, its misadventures — have inspired thousands upon thousands of books. But the military isn’t just in the business of inspiring books: Sometimes it bans them, too.

    The Pentagon recently announced that it was refusing to carry a new book by journalist (and veteran) Joseph Hickman in the stores on U.S. military bases. It’s called The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers.

    Burn pits, NPR reports, are “acres-wide mounds of waste near bases” containing “everything from batteries to vehicle scraps to amputated body parts.” These refuse piles, once set aflame with jet fuel, can burn for 24 hours a day. They expose our troops and other personnel to deadly toxic fumes.

    Banning books is bad enough. But there’s a bigger issue here: Why does the Pentagon expose our soldiers to deadly poisons and then pretend it hasn’t happened?

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Clinton failed a test in Florida debate

    Hillary Clinton's performance in the debate in Florida on Wednesday was, as usual, a professional effort. She's good at this, and she hit her marks repeatedly.

    But she also reminded me of one worry I have about her as president.

    Clinton had a good day in Michigan and Mississippi on Tuesday. That's right: A good day. She received more votes than Bernie Sanders and collected more delegates. She not only did well in Mississippi, as was expected. She did better than the demographics of the state's voters would have suggested. And while Sanders won in Michigan, it was close, and she actually lost by a little less than would be predicted from looking at Michigan's electorate.

    The bad news was she did worse than the pundits expected because the polls were off in Michigan, meaning that almost all anyone talked about on TV was what a great night Sanders had.

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America today is two different countries. They don't get along.

    Each week, In Theory takes on a big idea in the news and explores it from a range of perspectives. This week, we're talking about polarization in politics:

    It is presidential primary season, and just as in 2008, the Democratic and Republican candidates sound as though they are talking to two different countries. Only this time, the divide between those two countries has grown much larger - today it is fueled by increased racial and cultural friction.

    Republican candidates are talking to a country that is increasingly angry and fearful - angry at a president they view as a dangerous radical who seeks to weaken America, and fearful of threats posed by jihadists from the Middle East and illegal immigrants from Mexico. Their target country is overwhelmingly white, mostly male and relatively old. Its population is concentrated disproportionately in small-town and rural America and is shrinking in size with every election cycle. The candidate who has clearly captured the mood of this country in 2016 is Donald Trump, which is why he is now the favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination.

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Why Hillary Clinton is unlikely to be indicted

    For those of you salivating -- or trembling -- at the thought of Hillary Clinton being clapped in handcuffs as she prepares to deliver her acceptance speech this summer: deep, cleansing breath. Based on the available facts and the relevant precedents, criminal prosecution of Clinton for mishandling classified information in her emails is extraordinarily unlikely.

    My exasperation with Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state is long-standing and unabated. Lucky for her, political idiocy is not criminal.

    "There are plenty of unattractive facts but not a lot of clear evidence of criminality, and we tend to forget the distinction," American University law professor Stephen Vladeck, an expert on prosecutions involving classified information, told me. "This is really just a political firestorm, not a criminal case."

    Could a clever law student fit the fact pattern into a criminal violation? Sure. Would a responsible federal prosecutor pursue it? Hardly -- absent new evidence, based on my conversations with experts in such prosecutions.

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Why has Bernie Sanders stumbled on race? We all do

    Did Sen. Bernie Sanders really say that white people "don't know what it's like to be poor?" Well, yes, he said it, but he didn't mean it, which only shows how quickly serious presidential debates can turn pretty goofy.

    In context, the Vermont Democrat's "ghetto gaffe," as some headline writes quickly branded it, came during Sunday's Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Mich.

    Responding to a question from CNN's Don Lemon about what "racial blind spots" the candidates had, Sanders said, "When you're white, you don't know what it's like to be living in a ghetto. You don't know what it's like to be poor. You don't know what it's like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car."

    With that, Sanders accidentally landed in the ever-shifting sands of political correctness. That's an etiquette that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump loves to flout but it still means something to liberals, among whom the comment touched off a blizzard of ridicule in social media.

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