Archive

October 14th, 2016

An otherwise bitter debate actually ended with kindness between Trump and Clinton

    It came in the very last moments of an otherwise tense, awkward and often bitter 90 minutes, but the second presidential debate actually ended in a rare moment of civility.

    The reward for viewers who made it through the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton match was a small dose of positivity. It wasn't quite an antidote to all the nastiness, but it was a refreshingly nice moment.

    The first question of the debate was about how the rhetoric of this campaign has affected children. But it was the last question that could serve as a teaching moment for kids.

    The candidates were asked by Karl Becker, an undecided voter, to name something they admired in the other. And they were able to do it.

    Clinton commended Trump for raising devoted children. Trump praised Clinton for being a fighter who never gives up. Then the two shook hands, which they didn't do before the debate began.

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A 'normal' debate except for the jail threat

    Only one thing mattered from the 2016 town-hall debate: Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, promised that, if elected, he will prosecute his political opponents.

    At least, he promised to prosecute Hillary Clinton, saying that if he wins, "I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we're going to have a special prosecutor." Later, he said that if he was president, "you'd be in jail."

    Clinton, of course, was investigated and cleared by the FBI. But that's not even the point because in the United States of America, and under any constitutional democracy, the government does not designate special prosecutors to harass private citizens who happen to belong to the political opposition. Nor does the president of the United States choose whom to prosecute.

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A Great Fight of Our Times

    Think, for a moment, about the stories that your family likes to tell about itself. They are probably miniature versions of the American story, with progress as the central theme.

    Maybe your great-grandparents arrived here as striving immigrants, and you now talk about how proud they would be. Maybe you’re the first college graduate or doctor in the family, and your parents brag about you. Maybe your grandparents couldn’t vote because of their skin color — and then had the thrill of voting for a president with the same skin color.

    These stories aren’t about only your family. They are also stories of tribal pride — about Italians, Irish, African-Americans, Jews, Asians, Latinos and others — that make people feel part of something larger.

    When progress is the norm, it feeds on itself. People can trust that their own sacrifices will usually pay off. They can endure hard times without becoming cynical and can be generous toward others.

    Now, imagine a different reality: one in which your family — or whole community — had known scant progress for decades.

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Predators In Arms

    As many people are pointing out, Republicans now trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump need to explain why The Tape was a breaking point, when so many previous incidents weren’t. On Saturday, explaining why he was withdrawing his endorsement, Sen. John McCain of Arizona cited “comments on prisoners of war, the Khan Gold Star family, Judge Curiel and earlier inappropriate comments about women” — and that leaves out Mexicans as rapists, calls for a Muslim ban, and much more. So, McCain, what took you so long?

    One excuse we’re now hearing is that the new revelations are qualitatively different — that disrespect for women is one thing, but boasting about sexual assault brings it to another level. It’s a weak defense, since Trump has in effect been promising violence against minorities all along. His insistence last week that the Central Park Five, who were exonerated by DNA evidence, were guilty and should have been executed was even worse than The Tape, but drew hardly any denunciations from his party.

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Is personal privacy at odds with literary fame?

    The apparent unmasking of pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante feels like an occasion not for outrage so much as for sadness, and regret at the vanishing space allotted to personal privacy in an age insatiable for celebrity tidbits and fueled by omnipresent technology.

    Into this intrusive new world comes Ferrante, who has written a compelling and -- perhaps more energizing to those determined to expose her -- spectacularly successful quartet of novels, set in Naples and recounting the lifelong friendship of two women.

    Ferrante's true identity as literary translator Anita Raja was revealed, if the report by Italian investigative journalist Claudio Gatti is correct, the old-school shoe-leather way, with leaks of her publisher's financial records and digging into real estate documents. Yet the author's unavailing plea for anonymity is best understood in the context of the modern world she inhabits, and her effort, ultimately unsuccessful, to resist the invasive force of celebrity culture.

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Donald Trump can't accuse the Clintons without exposing himself

    After Donald Trump didn't bring up Bill Clinton's sexual conduct at the first 2016 presidential debate, his son, Eric Trump, said his father's decision showed "courage" and meant that he "took the high road." But after The Washington Post published a tape that showed Trump reveling in his sexual assaults on women, the low road is the only one left.

    In both a written statement a half-hearted apology video, released after midnight on Friday, Trump pivoted quickly to Bill Clinton's alleged behavior, and he has since retweeted Juanita Broaddrick, who has said that Clinton raped her in 1978. Once, the prospect of Trump trying to tar his opponent with her husband's behavior was shocking. Now, the real shock would be if Trump doesn't raise the specter of Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton's defense of her husband, at Sunday night's town-hall-style debate.

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October 12th

Trump's implosion leaves potential Republican 2020 contenders in a bind

    The release of a hot-mic tape in which Donald Trump is featured saying lewd and sexually suggestive things about women looks to be a catastrophic moment for the presidential nominee, who is already struggling to stay on message in the final month of the campaign.

    Dozens of Republican elected officials - including prominent senators such as John McCain (Ariz.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) - have disavowed Trump since news of the tape was broken by The Washington Post on Friday afternoon. Strategists for Republicans trying to keep the party's majorities in the House and the Senate are apoplectic about what Trump's seeming collapse means for their chances and what, if anything, can be done to salvage things.

    Lost amid all of that scrambling is what Trump's demise will mean for those Republican candidates who are positioning themselves to run for president in 2020. Although that jockeying has been an almost entirely out-of-sight effort to date, the size and scope of Trump's problems may force these 2020 aspirants to actively grapple with their position vis-a-vis the Republican nominee sooner rather than later.

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October 11th

Donald Goes to the Dogs

    “When a man knows he is to be hanged,” Samuel Johnson once said, “it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

    Unless, of course, that man is Donald Trump.

    Out of the nine presidential campaigns I’ve covered, I’ve never seen anything as absurd as the motley crew of Trump advisers agonizing over how to delicately, in soothing tones, tiptoe up to the proudly uninformed megalomaniac and broach the topic of more rigorous debate prep. Or, even more hilariously, trick him into practicing for the second contest so he doesn’t repeat his oblivious shame spiral.

    In a country roiling with fears about terrorism, race relations and economic inequality, Trump managed to get fixated on the fact that a former Miss Universe gained a few pounds — and to gnaw on that issue for a week after leaving Hofstra, while mainlining bacon cheeseburgers. And this weekend, Trump was ensnared in another sensational story about the lascivious way he talks about women.

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This is the last spastic breath from the Religious Right before its overdue death

    I don't need to tell you about the latest revelation of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's views and behavior toward women. I won't tell you these comments, because they're not appropriate for any ages.

    But I will tell you that the American evangelical movement and Religious Right won't be the same after the 2016 presidential election.

    This week I traveled to Nashville to speak with Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The largest Protestant denomination in the United States has elected him to represent their values in Washington and guide 15 million Southern Baptists in how to bring their faith to bear on public life.

    I asked him what percentage of Southern Baptists he thinks will vote for Trump. He answered 80 percent. Yet Moore has become the most vocal evangelical critic of Trump. What gives?

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The next president deserves a team of rivals

    No one knows what President Barack Obama wants to do when his term expires, but in the unlikely event that he wants a gig in a would-be Clinton administration, some say he need not apply. It's not the election's outcome that is the potential hurdle. The ex- president's poor job prospects are due to a burgeoning effort to reject potential Hillary Clinton appointees based on their previous employers, or on views they've held that deviate from progressive economic orthodoxy.

    The project falls under the umbrella of "personnel is policy" - the notion that whom you hire determines the priorities of the White House. A coalition of progressive organizations, including Daily Kos and Democracy for America, are spearheading this effort with a laudable policy goal: to keep special interests away from the next president's agenda. But the standard they would impose is so unduly restrictive that even Obama would fail the test.

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