Archive

July 19th, 2016

The debates gave Donald Trump the nomination, and it's the media's fault

    What could be more open and democratic than a debate? For all the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth now taking place over the massive amounts of free media bestowed upon Donald Trump, it was his dominating performance in the televised debates that allowed him to separate himself from the pack.

    Yet the debates themselves were an exercise in faux democracy. What really mattered, especially early on, was who got invited, who got to stand where and who was allowed to speak the most. Unfortunately, the media organizations that ran the debates (along with the Republican National Committee) relied on polls to make those decisions right from the very first encounter in August.

    Generally speaking, the summer before the summer before a presidential election is a time when no one except the most dedicated obsessives is paying attention to politics. Trump had shot to the top of the polls at that point mainly by virtue of his celebrity status. And so there he was on Aug. 6, 2015, front and center, absorbing a barrage of questions from Fox News's Megyn Kelly about his numerous misogynistic remarks.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Stooping to Trump's lows

    Now that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has taken herself to the woodshed, it's worth asking what her brief bout of Trump Derangement Syndrome says about our system's ability to withstand four years of a Trump presidency.

    Short answer: It is not a good omen.

    As the idea of a President Trump has evolved from laughable to unlikely to oh-my-god-this-might-actually-happen, a debate has raged in Washington.

    The debate is not over the man's fitness for office - few people privately will make the case that Donald Trump is qualified or temperamentally suitable to be commander in chief - but over how much damage he might do.

    Some say that Trump could be more disruptive than any previous leader, including propelling the nation toward fascism.

    But an anti-alarmist caucus responds that the U.S. system is stronger than any single person - that we could rely on the Constitution, on long-established checks and balances, on watchdogs in the press and elsewhere, and on leaders who would stand up for the rule of law.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Presidents need to be able to do nothing. Donald Trump can't do it.

    Donald Trump is many things, but most of all he is a doer. He builds buildings, he starts businesses, he does deals. As he put it in his 1990 book, "Surviving at the Top," "One thing I've learned about the construction business - and life in general - is that while what you do is obviously important, the most important thing is just to do something."

    This may sound like good business advice, and it may even be good life advice, but it is precisely the wrong attitude for a president of the United States. In fact, knowing how and when to do nothing - or, to put it less absolutely, knowing when to show patience, to tolerate delay and to restrain the urge to act - may be the most critical element of presidential leadership. U.S. interests depend on having a commander in chief who not only can handle the proverbial 3 a.m. phone call but also understands that sometimes it's best to go back to sleep. Such self-control is necessary for maintaining alliances and defusing confrontations with enemies. On at least one occasion, it probably prevented nuclear war.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Politics in black and blue

    When Philando Castile, a black man legally carrying a concealed weapon, was shot dead by police during a traffic stop in Minnesota this month for no apparent reason other than that he was armed, it seemed like an obvious case for the National Rifle Association to rally behind. The Second Amendment protects everyone's right to bear arms, not just white people's, right?

    By the light of the law, the answer is easy: The Constitution prohibits racial discrimination in all rights, including the right to bear arms. By the light of history, however, the answer is far more complicated. From America's earliest days, the right to bear arms has been profoundly shaped by race. Indeed, for much of our history, the right's protections extended almost exclusively to whites.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Obama helped us peer into the racial divide

    President Obama gave a majestic speech in Dallas, one of the best of his presidency, at once a soaring tribute to slain police officers and an affirmation of peaceful protest. But he was wrong about one thing: On race, sadly, we are as divided as we seem.

    This condition is not due to anything Obama has said or done. He bends so far backward to avoid giving offense, even to those who richly deserve offending, that he must need regular sessions with a chiropractor. The racial divide, which has its roots in lingering claims of white supremacy, has been there all along. It was mostly silent and unacknowledged until the very fact of the Obama presidency cast it in stark and unforgiving light.

    So I am not surprised at recent polls showing that Americans believe race relations are worsening. It is as if a dark corner has been illuminated to reveal the mess that was swept there long ago and willfully ignored.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Mike Pence is the perfect not-Trump running mate

    Donald Trump has selected the perfect non-Trump as his running mate. Mike Pence, the phlegmatic Republican governor of Indiana, has strong credentials with the social right and mediocre political instincts.

    Pence passes an important test: He might help govern and could take over in an emergency situation.

    He won't help much politically; he was in a struggle for re-election in his home state. But no vice presidential candidate really has made a political difference since Lyndon Johnson more than half a century ago. Paul Ryan couldn't deliver his home state of Wisconsin for Mitt Romney in 2012 just as John Edwards didn't hand North Carolina to John Kerry in 2004.

    Modern vice presidents have been quite influential. Starting in 1977 with Walter Mondale, who was President Jimmy Carter's No. 2, they've played a major role in governing. Under the "Mondale model," as it's now known, vice presidents have acted as senior presidential advisers and have been entrusted with significant assignments.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Donald Trump is crashing the system. Journalists need to build a new one.

    Journalists commonly divide information from persuasion, as when they separate the "news" from the "opinion" section, or "reporters" from "columnists." This is fine as far as it goes (and they get criticized harshly when they don't honor this norm), but the distinction won't help much in understanding why the 2016 campaign has been such an intellectual challenge for the media.

    Everything that happens in election coverage is premised on a kind of opinion: that our votes should be based on reliable information about what the candidates intend to do if elected. Remove that assumption and the edifice crashes. But this is exactly what the candidacy of Donald Trump does. It upends the assumptions required for the traditional forms of campaign journalism even to make sense.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Mike Pence looks like Trump's ideal veep

    If Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is in fact Donald Trump's choice for a running mate, then he is not just a good choice. He's about the best choice Trump fans could hope for -- at least based on what we know about the Indiana governor so far.

    The Republican Party remains divided, with many party actors, including high-profile politicians, rejecting the reality-star nominee. So divided, in fact, that it seemed possible that Trump might be stuck with a scandal-ridden, unpopular retread (such as Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie) or some obscure figure without any obvious presidential credentials. Instead, if it's Pence, he winds up with someone who wouldn't have been a surprising choice for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker, if one of them had been the Republican nominee.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Bull Market Blues

    Like most economists, I don’t usually have much to say about stocks. Stocks are even more susceptible than other markets to popular delusions and the madness of crowds, and stock prices generally have a lot less to do with the state of the economy or its future prospects than many people believe. As economist Paul Samuelson put it, “Wall Street indexes predicted nine out of the last five recessions.”

    Still, we shouldn’t completely ignore stock prices. The fact that the major averages have lately been hitting new highs — the Dow has risen 177 percent from its low point in March 2009 — is newsworthy and noteworthy. What are those Wall Street indexes telling us?

    The answer, I’d suggest, isn’t entirely positive. In fact, in some ways the stock market’s gains reflect economic weaknesses, not strengths. And understanding how that works may help us make sense of the troubling state our economy is in.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Britain's outlook has changed, but the BOE hasn't

    The Bank of England left rates on hold Thursday even after its governor, Mark Carney, said on June 30 that the U.K. decision to quit the European Union meant that "some monetary policy easing will likely be needed over the summer."

    There are good arguments not to have cut borrowing costs at the first available opportunity. But there is one very compelling reason to inject more adrenaline into the economy as soon as possible.

    The case for cutting rests on the outlook for gross domestic product after June 23, when Britons voted to leave the EU. Instead of growth accelerating next year to an annual pace of 2.1 percent or better, which had been the expectation for more than a year, economists now see an expansion of less than 1 percent. The U.K. government's oft-repeated claim to top the Group of Seven growth tables will soon be nothing more than a fond memory.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!