Archive

August 21st, 2016

Republicans are responsible for Trump's rise

    Are Democrats responsible for the rise of Donald Trump? That's an argument some are making - asserting that hyperbolic partisan attacks on Republicans such as George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney rendered Republicans insensitive to more accurate alarms later raised about Trump. It's essentially an argument that Democrats cried "Wolf!" so often that Republicans didn't care when the genuine article showed up at the door.

    You can argue about whether Romney, for example, was a "sneering plutocrat," or Bush was a "dunce." But there is no credible argument that even the most over-the-top partisan claims produced a Trump.

    How do we know? Because Republicans proved it. They called President Bill Clinton a drug-running murderer and a likely communist, and then they impeached him, claiming he had committed high crimes. Democrats reacted to these often outlandish attacks by nominating normal candidates such as Al Gore and John Kerry. Not Donald Trump.

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Here's what Kerry should do to divide Iran and Russia

    For the last year, Secretary of State John Kerry has worked and worked to get Russia to help end Syria's civil war. He has cajoled. He has sniped. He has spent countless hours in meetings and on the phone with his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. And he pretty much has nothing to show for it.

    This point was driven home Tuesday when Russia announced it had started bombing missions from a base inside Iran.

    It was the latest in a series of humiliations for Kerry. As soon as the Iran nuclear deal was concluded last July, the Russians and Iranians began plotting a surge for Syria on behalf of the dictator, Bashar al-Assad. As Kerry made plans for talks in Geneva, the Russians set up air bases in Syria. Once their campaign started, they bombed U.S.-backed Syrian rebels. In June, Russian planes bombed a U.S. and British special operations base near the Syrian border.

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Don't fear the robot revolution

    My colleague David Ignatius is right ["When robots take all the jobs," Washington Forum, Aug. 12] that millions of jobs are threatened by things such as self-driving cars, voice recognition systems and intelligent software, in the same way that millions of jobs were eliminated by the mechanical reaper and precision lasers and computers. The result will certainly be a lot of economic churn and dislocation. And as with similar job losses from globalization, if we don't find a mechanism for the winners of this process to provide a better economic safety net for the losers, there will be a populist backlash.

    However, there are many who, like Ignatius, worry that this next wave of technological progress may be different - that, in the end, there won't be enough work for everyone to earn a living and have productive lives. These skeptics have a difficult time imagining what all those displaced cabdrivers and bookkeepers will do. But historical experience strongly suggests that there will be jobs for those who want them at wages in line with those in the rest of the economy.

    So how would that work?

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Clinton's winning the race for best surrogates

    She may not need another advantage, but Hillary Clinton has one in the final 12 weeks of the presidential race: surrogates. These are prominent backers who can drum up support, enthusiasm and money.

    The Democratic nominee's leading surrogates include two U.S. presidents, a vice president, a popular first lady and two favorites of the young voters she has struggled to attract.

    By contrast, the most prominent Republicans either don't support Donald Trump or are not making public appearances on his behalf.

    Surrogates don't win or lose elections, but Trump's lack of effective ones puts him at a disadvantage. "Significant political celebrities can draw crowds, drive message and provide added credibility with both the base and swing audience," says Stephanie Cutter, the deputy manager of President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign.

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Clinton's powerful and unreliable coalition

    Election Day is more than two months away, but the continued inability of Donald Trump to run a minimally competent campaign, or demonstrate a threshold level of relevant knowledge, has left Hillary Clinton in a remarkably strong position. (Florida is the latest swing state to produce a spectacularly bad poll for Trump.)

    Clinton could conceivably coast to a convincing victory in November, riding unprecedented levels of support from Hispanic voters and possibly even from black voters -- who could give the Democratic nominee a higher percentage of their vote than even the nation's first black president received.

    President Clinton's chief goals would be to make progress, through legislation or executive action, on Democratic priorities, such as immigration and middle-class security; to retain or expand the Democrats' national coalition; and to activate that coalition in the midterm election of 2018, when Democrats will be defending 25 of 33 Senate seats.

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But What if My Dog Had Been a Syrian?

    Last Thursday, our beloved family dog, Katie, died at the age of 12. She was a gentle giant who respectfully deferred even to any mite-size puppy with a prior claim to a bone. Katie might have won the Nobel Peace Prize if not for her weakness for squirrels.

    I mourned Katie’s passing on social media and received a torrent of touching condolences, easing my ache at the loss of a member of the family. Yet on the same day that Katie died, I published a column calling for greater international efforts to end Syria’s suffering and civil war, which has claimed perhaps 470,000 lives so far. That column led to a different torrent of comments, many laced with a harsh indifference: Why should we help them?

    These mingled on my Twitter feed: heartfelt sympathy for an American dog who expired of old age, and what felt to me like callousness toward millions of Syrian children facing starvation or bombing. If only, I thought, we valued kids in Aleppo as much as we did our terriers!

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Trump's 'ideological test' for immigrants will tear America apart

    By revealing his apparently final plan for fighting terrorism and fixing immigration in one fell swoop on Monday, Donald Trump managed a rare feat of political clarification. Unfortunately for Trump, what he clarified were the cultural tensions within his own campaign.

    In his address on foreign policy and national security, Trump promised one simple way to keep jihadis away from American shores. With an updated version of a Cold War-era "ideological screening test," Trump's federal government would bar those "who support bigotry and hatred," admitting only those who "embrace a tolerant American society."

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Trump's 'extreme vetting' is harsh, but it would be legal

    Donald Trump's newly proposed ideological test for immigrants - one that he characterized as "extreme vetting" in a speech on Monday - has renewed debate over immigration reform in the presidential election.

    It's a debate worth having, and there are plenty of valid questions to be raised about his proposal. This is one occasion, however, when Trump may have the law on his side. As a general proposition, a litmus test for new immigrants isn't unconstitutional or even unprecedented. Indeed, Trump could cite an unlikely figure in support of the authority for such changes: President Obama.

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Trump and the media play the blame game

    A richly reported New York Times account on Sunday of Donald Trump's presidential campaign - and his refusal to stick to the script his advisers have written - struck a chord with the Republican nominee.

    As Trump is wont to do when he feels attacked, he took to social media, launching a tweetstorm of criticism at the Times that included this entry:

    "If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn't put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20%"

    Two days earlier, on the heels of other media dissections of Trump's serial errors and outrages (including his Second Amendment comments), the developer was more playful about his back-and-forth with the press:

    "I love watching these poor, pathetic people (pundits) on television working so hard and so seriously to try and figure me out. They can't!"

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Knowledge is not a vice

    Let us now praise the most reviled group of people in America: so-called "elites." And how about a round of applause for the hated "mainstream media" as well.

    If you listen to Donald Trump, or even if you paid attention to Bernie Sanders during the primary season, you might think all the nation's problems can be blamed on two pointy-headed cabals. The "elites" who rigged the system to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else; and the puppy-dog "mainstream media" or "MSM," also known as the "corporate media," who were complicit.

    Even as the Trump campaign devolves into raving lunacy and most Sanders supporters line up behind Hillary Clinton, the idea lives on: "Regular" or "everyday" Americans have been failed by out-of-touch elites and the MSM who basically have screwed up the country.

    Such thinking is no more sound than Trump's conviction that all the nation's ills should be blamed on Mexicans and Muslims.

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