Archive

July 29th, 2016

In a change election, Clinton is the incumbent

    As the Democratic National Convention convenes in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton faces many widely reported challenges. She is generally not trusted, and the majority of Americans tend to repeat what has now become a cliche invented by President Obama: Clinton just doesn't have that new-car smell. I continue to believe Clinton and Donald Trump are propping each other up. They are both so unpopular that the race for the presidency is staying close, even as one consistently acts erratically and the other seems to have a virtual indictment despite not being actually indicted by the FBI. But in addition to the current macro political environment, Clinton faces three specific challenges that are unique to her and to this era in modern politics.

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How Trump attacks the media, and why that distorts reality

    Only a few minutes into Donald Trump's acceptance speech Thursday night, he started his familiar attacks on the media:

    "If you want to hear the corporate spin, the carefully crafted lies and the media myths - the Democrats are holding their convention next week. Go there."

    Casting himself as Truth Teller In Chief, he doubled down: "I will tell you the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news and your morning newspaper," he said. And this: "Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place."

    His words brought roars of approval in the Cleveland arena at the Republican National Convention, and the next morning they brought approving smiles from Mary Sue McCarty, a delegate from Dallas who came to the convention bound to Trump.

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Hillary's VP choice: A governing partner

    Like most presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton said that, in contemplating her choice of a running mate, she was looking for the most qualified person to take over the presidency if necessary. In picking Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, she followed through on that objective.

    No one, of course, can be certain that any chosen vice-presidential candidate will work out that way if destiny so dictates. But Kaine is a former mayor, governor and national party chairman, and he is currently a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees. He has the broad and varied policy and political background to be a governing partner to Clinton if they are elected in November.

    In Kaine, she has chosen a running mate who follows the pattern of the most effective and serviceable vice presidents over that last 40 years in both parties -- Democrats Walter Mondale, Al Gore and Joe Biden, and Republican Dick Cheney.

    The senior George Bush might arguably also be included, if only because he was subsequently elected president for what was widely touted as a third Ronald Reagan term, although it hardly worked out that way.

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Trump’s Sham Patriotism

    In his bid for the White House, Donald Trump is playing many roles: law-and-order strongman, sky’s-the-limit builder, dealmaker extraordinaire. But perhaps none is more emphatic than all-American patriot.

    His blood pumps red, white and blue, or so he assures us. In his dreams and decisions, he sees his country above all else. “The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponent,” he told Republicans in Cleveland on Thursday night, “is that our plan will put America first.”

    But this lavishly professed love is a largely semantic affair. It’s fickle. It’s reckless. Under its guise, he’s apparently prepared to jettison values that really do make America great and alliances that really do keep America safer. His patriotism brims with grievances.

    It sulks. Last week he suggested to The Times’ David Sanger and Maggie Haberman that if Russia invaded a NATO ally that wasn’t pulling its weight financially, he might not rise to its defense.

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Government's privacy rights don't exceed public's

    When it comes to metadata, is turnabout fair play? The New Jersey Supreme Court will decide that question in a fiendishly clever case brought by a libertarian who is demanding the e-mail logs of town officials under the state's Open Public Records Act.

    What makes the case so piquant is that, as Edward Snowden's leaks revealed, the federal government engaged in bulk metadata collection under a questionable interpretation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The authorization relied on for the data collection has since expired, but the legal principle remains. The New Jersey lawsuit in effect asks: if metadata isn't that private, why not give the public access to the government's records of who contacted whom, and when?

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Blaming Putin won't help Clinton beat Trump

    Hillary Clinton's campaign and its supporters are linking Donald Trump to President Vladimir Putin. This must make the Russian president chuckle. After all, he accused Clinton of inciting protests in Moscow in 2011.

    The Democrats, however, need a reality check. The suggestion of a Russian connection to the Trump campaign is unfounded, at best. And though the hack of the Democratic National Committee's servers, the spoils of which were recently posted on Wikileaks, was probably the work of Russian hackers, no one is denying that this operation exposed an embarrassing tilt of the party in favor of Clinton and against Bernie Sanders.

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Clinton's Philadelphia vs. Trump's Cleveland

    After a raucous Republican convention nominated the very conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson's campaign ran an advertisement quoting William Scranton, Pennsylvania's moderate governor, describing "Goldwaterism" as a "crazy-quilt collection of absurd and dangerous positions."

    Welcome to what will certainly be one of the central themes of the Democratic National Convention. Donald Trump's nomination at a dark and angry convention in Cleveland and his acceptance speech embracing a racially tinged authoritarian nationalism open up a wealth of opportunities for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

     This is the week in which Clinton could nail down the support of the nation's Latino and African-American voters while sowing deep doubts about Trump among what is likely to be the election's key target group: college-educated white voters.  She reinforced her appeal to them by picking Tim Kaine as her running mate. He's thoughtful, experienced and respected, broadly progressive yet with a moderate, conciliatory demeanor.

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Trump: Another law-and-order candidate

    Any hopes that Donald Trump would soften his image and rhetoric upon becoming the Republican presidential nominee were dashed by his acceptance speech declaring himself "the law-and-order candidate."

    Seizing on the combined domestic and foreign reign of fear generated by the shootings involving police at home and the terrorist attacks abroad, Trump anointed himself the one American leader to restore order, in the manner of the classic Man on a White Horse.

    Declaring that he had "joined this political scene so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves," Trump boasted that "nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens."

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Trump set the table for Clinton

    Donald Trump's botched convention made Hillary Clinton's task in Philadelphia easier. Not necessarily easy, but easier.

    The Republicans' four days here were marked by disorganization, division and darkness. This was the Ronco of flubbed conventions: But wait, there's more. After the plagiarism debacle, a preventable problem made massively worse, came the Cruz fiasco, the news of his non-endorsement drowning out the vice presidential nominee.

    The mood among the GOP political establishment here traced a downhill trajectory from sour to disgusted. To talk to elected officials and political professionals was to encounter shrugged shoulders and shaking heads. No one could remember a convention this thoroughly, unnecessarily bungled.

    Trump could have used the convention, and his speech, to reassure doubting voters he possesses the judgment and temperament to be president, to expand beyond the base clamoring for Hillary Clinton's head.

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More Damned Emails

    Following last week’s Republican calamity in Cleveland, the Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia on Monday with big opportunities and big challenges.

    Many Democrats will come with enthusiasm, but also with reservations.

    Unlike the Republican Convention’s speaker lineup, which was backfilled with Donald Trump’s children because there were so few party heavyweights to anchor it, the Democratic Convention will have a litany of A-listers: The president, the first lady, Bernie Sanders and former President Bill Clinton among them.

    These speakers will paint a vastly different picture of the country and its future than the unremittingly dark and dangerous one portrayed by the Republicans.

    There will also likely be less acrimony in Philadelphia, as the Democrats review the failed stagecraft of Cleveland and work hard not to replicate it.

    But, all is not roses for the Democrats.

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