Archive

July 29th, 2016

The Siberian Candidate

    If elected, would Donald Trump be Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House? This should be a ludicrous, outrageous question. After all, he must be a patriot — he even wears hats promising to make America great again.

    But we’re talking about a ludicrous, outrageous candidate. And the Trump campaign’s recent behavior has quite a few foreign policy experts wondering just what kind of hold Putin has over the Republican nominee and whether that influence will continue if he wins.

    I’m not talking about merely admiring Putin’s performance — being impressed by the de facto dictator’s “strength,” and wanting to emulate his actions. I am, instead, talking about indications that Trump would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.

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The long capitulation to Trumpism

    The Donald Trump Family Reunion, formerly known as the Republican National Convention, illustrates how a once great political party now sees its main purpose as harnessing the opposition to the devil.

     There were chuckles and dismissals when Ben Carson, the brilliant neurosurgeon turned right-wing crank, used his convention speech Tuesday night to tie Hillary Clinton to the left-wing organizer Saul Alinsky, and then Alinsky to Lucifer. Presto: In the apotheosis of guilt by association by association, Carson concluded that Clinton "has, as their role model, somebody who acknowledges Lucifer." Using the plural "their" presumably makes Clinton an even bigger threat. She contains multitudes.

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The GOP's convention of chaos

    Did that just happen?

    After Ted Cruz had finished his drop-the-mic Republican National Convention speech and been booed off the stage, historian Michael Beschloss posted the following tweet: "Never seen anything quite like this." If a leading scholar of the presidency says we're in uncharted waters, I have to agree.

    No convention has ever heard such a ringing non-endorsement. Cruz mentioned his party's nominee, Donald Trump, just once, offering him simple congratulations. There was only the briefest and most cursory Clinton-bashing. Instead of chanting "Lock her up," Cruz delivered a sunny treatise on conservative principles. And then, after leading into what had to be an endorsement, he urged the assembled delegates to "vote your conscience." Wow.

    The Trump family scowled down from the VIP box. Boos resounded through the hall. Later, vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence came on to give a pretty good speech, but everyone knew the headlines would be about Cruz's epic dis.

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July 28th

Ted Cruz holds his nose but can't endorse Donald Trump

    Ted Cruz, vanquished presidential candidate, coughed up the name of the man who defeated him for the Republican nomination precisely once in his convention speech Wednesday night. "I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination," the Texas senator managed to choke out. Then, in a line not contained in the prepared text, "And like each of you I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November."

    From there, Cruz's speech was notable not for the predictable attacks on President Obama and Hillary Clinton -- indeed, by the lock-her-up standards of the Republican convention here, Cruz sounded positively, uncharacteristically mild -- but for its resounding silence on his party's nominee, a man he had described as a "pathological liar," a "narcissist" and "utterly amoral."

    If anything, the speech was pregnant with implicit nose-holding, if not tacit condemnation, of Trump.

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Hillary couldn't have picked a better VP

    What do you know? Donald Trump finally got something right. He picked the best possible running mate for vice president.

    Mike Pence is no political novice. In a long career as radio talk show host, member of Congress and governor of Indiana, he's made his mark as a full-fledged conservative. Unlike Trump, you know where Pence stands on every issue: on the extreme right-wing of his party. He was tea party before tea party was cool.

    In fact, during his 12 years in Congress, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody more conservative. In his first term, 2001-2002, out of 435 members of the House, according to the website Voteview, Pence ranked 428, meaning 427 members of Congress were to his left. By his last term he was 432 out of 435, pitting him to the right of such right-wing wackos as Michele Bachmann, Steve King and Louie Gohmert. And his record shows it.

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Every Night Is Kids’ Night

    Donald Trump arrived here Wednesday with a few words to the fans assembled at the helicopter pad. Really, just a few. Win Ohio ... make America great ... Mike Pence ... unbelievable vice president.

    “Welcome to Cleveland,” Pence said.

    It was a little peculiar that the governor of Indiana was doing the greeting, but there was, you know, that problem with John Kasich’s being on strike from the convention.

    It was Pence’s big night, although Trump made it pretty clear that he was more excited about his son Eric’s turn on stage. (“Eric’s going to be great ... amazing job. Kids, congratulations. Fantastic job.”)

    Which Trump child has been your favorite so far? I think you have to give a little credit to Tiffany, who labors under the burden of having been named for a jewelry store and got stuck with the job of telling the long-awaited touching personal anecdotes about her father. Eric, however, seemed to be the schedulers’ favorite, given the fact that speaking roles also went to an official from the winery he runs and the vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.

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Universities Must Do More To Prevent Sexual Assault

    Here we go again. At the rate these campus sexual abuse sagas are making news, it's reasonable to ask what college administrators can possibly be thinking about. Here's the latest Washington Post headline from the University of Virginia, an institution for which I have enormous respect and affection: "He said it was consensual. She said she blacked out. U-Va. had to decide: Was it assault?"

    A disclaimer: walking across Thomas Jefferson's serenely beautiful campus, an architectural monument to its founder's ideals of order and reason, remains an emotional experience. Plus, I met my wife there, an Arkansas girl who never suspected there could be such a thing as a single-sex undergraduate public university until the day she arrived as a graduate student.

    We were introduced by the dean of the graduate school, who asked if I'd ever heard of Hendrix College. I said no, that they must not play football.

    A coach's daughter, she laughed, partly because they didn't. Her voice was like a mockingbird's call. I've tried to keep her laughing ever since.

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Republicans Called Trump What?

    The arena here at the Republican National Convention echoes with applause for Donald Trump, but the cacophony and extravagant stage effects can’t conceal the chaos in the GOP and in the Trump campaign.

    Republican senators suddenly are busy fishing, mowing the lawn or hiking the Grand Canyon; conservative celebrities mostly sent regrets. This vacuum reflects the horror that many leading conservatives feel for their new nominee.

    Pundits like me are gnashing their teeth as Trump receives the presidential nomination of the party of Lincoln, but, frankly speaking, we don’t have much credibility in Cleveland since many of us aren’t all that likely to support a Republican nominee in any case.

    So instead of again inflicting on you my views of the danger of Trump, let me share what some influential conservatives said about him during the course of the campaign. (Some have since tempered their public sentiments.)

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Republican convention a showcase of rancor, poor taste

    The Republican National Convention that opened Monday in Cleveland to nominate Donald Trump for president had the usual hoopla. But it also was shrouded in questions concerning the very viability and future of the party itself.

    The efforts of anti-Trump delegates to release pledged delegates to vote their "conscience" was crushed by pro-Trump strategists who one way or another got some of the antis to withdraw their support from a petition for a roll-call vote on the proposal. It threw the opening session into chaos, and much bad feeling.

    Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chief strategist, brushed off the complaint and said the convention remained on track for his man's overwhelming nomination. But the way it was achieved seemed to smash much chance for widespread party unity behind Trump, with one delegation, from Colorado, walking off the convention floor.

    Dissidents argued thereafter that the wiser course might have been to allow that rules vote and then soundly defeat it, leaving the anti-Trump forces without much basis for claiming foul.

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Making America Safe for Whom?

    So far, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has been a slapdash spectacle of the absurd, with processions of B-list politicians and Z-list celebrities jockeying for the title of biggest embarrassment.

    Tuesday was supposed to follow the theme of “Make America Work Again” — something President Barack Obama has already done to a large degree, for the record — but instead of presenting work programs, policies or proposals, the convention got the vice-presidential also-ran Chris Christie to conduct a Salem witch trial against Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Ben Carson, the retired brain surgeon with permanent brain freeze, tried to link Clinton to Lucifer.

    Oh, to what depths has the Grand Old Party descended?

    But the first day, the one themed “Make America Safe Again,” was perhaps the most egregious.

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