Archive

August 1st, 2016

Hillary on the March

    Now, everybody wears the pants in the family.

    While the Democrats have been celebrating the nomination of Hillary Clinton, I’ve been thinking about all the American women, from the 1600s through World War II, who got arrested for wearing trousers in public. You’d like to imagine them out there somewhere watching those Clinton pantsuits, exchanging high-fives. Ditto all the women who supported the deeply uncomfortable bloomer movement, in the name of a feminist future.

    The idea of the first-woman-major-party-nominee is a political event, but it’s also a historical marker. Once everyone leaves here and goes home, we probably won’t have much chance to talk about that angle. Really, there’s going to be a lot of other stuff on the agenda. The Democrats hadn’t even gotten to Clinton’s acceptance speech before everyone was distracted by Donald Trump encouraging the Russians to spy on his opponent.

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Globalization: Restrained, or reshaped

    Well, the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia hasn't exactly opened with the show of unity organizers hoped for, as some of Bernie Sanders's delegates loudly expressed disappointment with both the primary process and nominee Hillary Clinton.

    With that backdrop, allow me to offer what might, given the rocky start in Philly (and Philly is, of course, where Rocky got started), seem an unlikely forecast: By the end of the DNC, the underlying differences between the two parties' political and policy approach to this current, anxious moment will be bracingly clear. Differences like divisive versus inclusive, "you're on your own" versus we're in this together, government's the problem versus government must offer solutions, vagaries versus specifics, bombast versus planning and finally, restraining globalization versus reshaping globalization.

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George W. Bush was not a good president. As a former president, he's been exemplary.

    George W. Bush left office in January 2009 with an approval rating that hovered in the 20s - the lowest of any president in modern times. Today, that rating is in the high 40s and low 50s. That is not because the public has changed its mind about the war in Iraq or the domestic excesses of his administration. To the contrary, public opinion is even more negative.

    The reason for the recovery of Bush's approval rating is his post-presidential behavior. As an ex-president, Bush has been exemplary. He has avoided the limelight and stayed out of the political arena. He has not criticized President Obama and, except for very briefly supporting his brother Jeb's quest for the GOP nomination in Florida, has steered clear of presidential politics.

    That is exactly what an ex-president should do. While in office, a president dominates the nation's political discourse. But after leaving the White House, that time is over, and he or she should move to the sidelines.

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Democrats dodge the bullet of disunity

    Mindful of the Republicans' botched unity quest in Cleveland last week, which was marred by plagiarism and Ted Cruz's conspicuous pushback, the Democrats kicked off their national convention in Philadelphia Monday with a timely Band-Aid slapped over an internal row of their own.

    The party's national chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was forced to resign over leaked and divisive Democratic National Committee emails revealing partisan comments against rival Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign. Sanders had called for her departure, but the controversy nevertheless had continued amid reports and allegations that the DNC emails had been leaked by Russian operatives through the WikiLeaks website to disrupt the Philadelphia affair.

    Sanders, however, forcefully called on his followers to desist and vigorously endorsed Hillary Clinton, saying that "based on her ideas and leadership" she "must" be elected, because the choice between her and Donald Trump "is not even close."

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July 31st

Turning the page on partisan gridlock

    Even as President Obama prepares to speak on her behalf at the convention here and to campaign for her this fall, a big element of Hillary Clinton's electoral case hinges on the implicit argument that she can somehow succeed where Obama failed: overcoming partisanship and dislodging Washington gridlock.

    This tricky path is made all the more complicated because some of the very folks making that pitch on Clinton's behalf are Obama administration veterans who witnessed the president fail -- he has admitted as much -- at his proclaimed task of bringing together red and blue America.

    Campaigning for the presidency in 2008, Obama vowed to "turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington, so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people."

    That proved easier pledged than done. In his final State of the Union address, Obama acknowledged "one of the few regrets of my presidency -- that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better."

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Bill O'Reilly should teach no courses on history anytime soon

    Oh, Bill.

    The Fix has heard what you said. Or rather, The Fix read and then watched the video to be sure that you really said, Tuesday night, on your highly rated television show that the first lady was "essentially correct," when she said that slaves built the White House during her Monday night Democratic Convention speech. The Fix understands that you also added, accurately, that a blend of paid laborers and slaves constructed the White House.

    Then, you said this: "Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government ..."

    Now, Bill. The Fix is unaware of any record or documents from the two periods during which the White House was constructed and then rebuilt after the British set it aflame that details the way in which anyone involved in the hard labor of construction was fed or housed.

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Bill Clinton plays second fiddle to first lady

    Bill Clinton had a receptive audience when he took the stage on Day Two of the Democratic National Convention. The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia was still ripe with the emotion stirred up earlier in the evening when his wife became the first woman presidential nominee of a major party.

    Bill told the story of their shared journey -- with a few notable omissions. He began with the oft-told tale of their courtship: "I asked her to take a walk with me to the Yale Art Museum. We've been walking and talking and laughing together ever since."

    Still, Bill, whose relationship to the nominee is, let's say, complicated, didn't tell us as much as we learned about Hillary Clinton the night before. Even though the Clintons have been in the national spotlight incessantly since at least 1992, we continue to feel "we hardly know her," to borrow a phrase.

    Yet on Monday, we were able to see the Democratic nominee in a new light thanks to testimony from an unlikely voice: first lady Michelle Obama. She did the impossible, making clear why Clinton was right for the country, with a needed human touch.

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Bill Clinton bedazzles our political pros

    Two of America's smartest political strategists are analyzing the Democratic National Convention this week for Bloomberg View, giving their perspectives on how the proceedings are coming across to millions of viewers and voters. They are Vin Weber, a Republican lobbyist, consultant and former Minnesota congressman who has advised presidential contenders Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney and, this year, Jeb Bush; and John Sasso, a longtime Democratic adviser who was the leading strategist for the presidential campaigns of Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004.

    Bill Clinton dazzled both of our strategists with a remarkably personal speech Tuesday night about falling in love with Hillary Clinton 4 1/2 decades ago, and the virtues she has displayed since.

    The former president was the highlight of the second day of the Democratic National Convention, even on a day when the Democrats became the first major political party to nominate a woman for president.

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Bill and Hillary Clinton's incomprehensible marriage

    Once upon a time, a boy from Arkansas spotted a girl from Illinois across a crowded classroom. And on Tuesday night in Philadelphia, on the night Hillary Rodham Clinton became their party's official nominee for president, Bill Clinton did his best to make one of the most-scrutinized marriages in the history of American politics fit into the contours of a fairy tale.

    OK, a revisionist feminist fairy tale, where the princess eventually saves the prince from the dragon, or the peasant girl ultimately tells the arrogant aristocrat to shove it in favor of lighting the castle on fire and leading a revolution. But watching Bill Clinton argue to the American people that they, too, should love his wife, and trying to narrate his marriage as a wonky fable, was both vexing and sweet at the same time.

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Bill addresses the Hillary deficiency

    Perhaps in repayment for all the times Hillary Clinton has had his back, Bill Clinton held a typically winning "conversation" Tuesday night with the Democratic National Convention delegates -- and millions watching on television -- about the woman polls suggest remains unlikeable and untrustworthy to so many voters.

    The former president turned on his customary charm in a folksy recollection of how they met at the Yale Law School and she eventually followed him to Arkansas, where they married and he became governor and she the first lady of the state, and later of the nation.

    In this casual manner, Bill Clinton offered a step-by-step chronicle of her public service, particularly on behalf of children and the disadvantaged. He cited individuals along the way who witnessed and could testify to his wife's engagement and empathy, running counter to the public impression that she is excessively cold and calculating.

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