Archive

March 22nd, 2016

America's stance on Britain and the EU is hypocritical

    Boris Johnson, mayor of London and a leading figure in the campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, recently launched a pre-emptive strike against an expected U.S. intervention. President Barack Obama is apparently planning to drop by between now and the referendum in June, to help Prime Minister David Cameron and his government by saying, not for the first time, that Britain shouldn't leave.

    Johnson writes:

    "The American view is very clear. Whether in code or en clair, the President will tell us all that U.K. membership of the EU is right for Britain, right for Europe, and right for America. And why? Because that -- or so we will be told -- is the only way we can have 'influence' in the counsels of the nations.

    "It is an important argument, and deserves to be taken seriously. I also think it is wholly fallacious -- and coming from Uncle Sam, it is a piece of outrageous and exorbitant hypocrisy."

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A Stellar Court Choice That Could Have Been Better

    If confirmed, Merrick Garland would be the fifth white man on a court that already has four. He'd be the fourth judge on the current court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; the sixth Harvard Law School graduate; the fourth former Supreme Court clerk; the fourth Jewish-American.

    Since graduating from law school and spending a year in New York as a clerk to Henry Friendly (second Friendly clerk on the current court), he's spent his entire professional life since 1978 in a six-block radius centered on the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues in Northwest Washington, D.C.

    Is this the diversity of background and professional experience that the Supreme Court really needs? Garland's high intelligence, first-class qualifications, and vast reserve of personal and professional caution suggest that the ideal of meritocratic qualification for the court seems to have prevailed over diversity.

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Why the Senate won't confirm Obama's nominee

    Barack Obama's choice for the Supreme Court is a twice over. Merrick Garland, a D.C. Circuit Court appellate judge, is a moderate, and he's 63 years old.

    Republicans will regard him as a radical liberal and publicize quotes from his judicial career "proving" he is out of the mainstream. Keep in mind, however, that Republicans also consider Chief Justice John Roberts a liberal traitor.

    Garland is a less long-term replacement for the late Antonin Scalia than some other possibilities, such as the 49-year-old Sri Srinivasan. Obama could have chosen an even older nominee as an even more obvious compromise, but went straight up the middle.

    Unlike Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley are in no mood to compromise. While senators have a right to block a candidate they think is out of the mainstream, will their blockade against any Obama nominee hold now that he has chosen someone to be confirmed, rather than a nominee to help Hillary Clinton get elected in November?

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Why Republicans might actually put Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court

    On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced that Merrick Garland is his nominee to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. This pick is something of a surprise, given Garland's reputation as a moderate, and most importantly, his age - Garland is 63, meaning he would likely spend only 10 or 15 years on the court if he is confirmed.

    Of course, he may not be confirmed, since Republicans have made clear that they will refuse to hold hearings or votes on any nominee Obama offers, and have said they'll even refuse to meet the the nominee. Mitch McConnell reiterated that again today. So there's a clear political strategy behind this nomination on the White House's part.

    But there's also a way in which Garland could end up actually making it to the Court - not because the White House managed to outmaneuver Republicans, but because they decided that confirming him was the best of their options.

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What Would Nancy Say?

    I was late to the Nancy Reagan Admiration Society. She had arrived on the political scene, after all, on the arm of Ronald Reagan, a man I neither liked nor admired.

    I thought he was a phony — a B-movie star who seemed either unwilling or unable to differentiate between movies and real life. He was fond of telling stories like that one about the wounded airman and his fatherly senior officer who, as their disabled bomber rocketed toward the earth, comforted the boy by saying, “Don’t worry, son. We’ll ride this down together.”

    I wondered how “Dutch” could have known the final words of the officer, who presumably died in the subsequent crash. Years later I found the answer. The scene was in a World War II movie.

    He was always doing things like that, copping a scene here or a line there from an old movie and making it his own.

    And Nancy Reagan was part and parcel of that act — a clotheshorse whose main job was to sit slightly behind her husband at speeches, gazing at him admiringly while nodding at appropriate moments.

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What Donald Trump really means when he calls Megyn Kelly 'crazy'

    Donald Trump dislikes how Megyn Kelly asks him questions. He dislikes how the Fox News anchor covers election results. So, on Tuesday night, he dubbed her "Crazy Megyn."

    "Watching other networks and local news. Really good night! Crazy @megynkelly is unwatchable," he tweeted Tuesday.

    Trump, the Republican front-runner, drew criticism in August after claiming Kelly, a veteran journalist and lawyer, treated him unfairly and had "blood coming out of her wherever." He chose to skip a Republican debate in January because Kelly was moderating. He announced Wednesday he'd also miss the next Fox-hosted showdown.

    The "Crazy Megyn" taunts registered to some as fourth-grade bullying. But questioning a woman's sanity is a 4,000-year-old form of abuse, used to repress women for behavior that men deemed objectionable.

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Turkey is wrong to persecute professors, journalists as terrorists

    Ankara, the Turkish capital, has been hit by a terrorist attack for the third time in five months, with Sunday's suicide bombing adding a further 37 to the city's gruesome running toll of more than 200 dead. So it's no surprise that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is demanding wider counter-terrorist powers to deal with the threat. That, however, is precisely what Turkey does not need.

    Erdogan says Turkey's legal definition of a terrorist needs to be widened to include those he considers accomplices. He is clear about whom he has in mind: "Their titles as an MP, an academic, an author, a journalist do not change the fact they are actually terrorists."

    All countries struck by terror campaigns struggle to get the balance right between security and civil liberties. Most get it wrong. What's more, Turkey is the target of multiple terrorist organizations simultaneously, including Islamic State and the Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK. So it deserves a lot of slack. But although the terrorist challenge that Erdogan and his country face is real, the threat to the country's democratic institutions and freedoms is greater still.

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Trump and Clinton surge, with turbulence ahead

    Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the winners in a big presidential primary day on Tuesday. But both showed just enough vulnerability to keep the races intensely contested for at least another month.

    Trump decisively won all 99 of Florida's delegates, eliminating that state's senator, Marco Rubio, from the Republican contest. But he lost another winner-take-all primary in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich captured his first victory of the presidential campaign in his home state. Trump won narrow victories over Ted Cruz in North Carolina and Illinois.

    Clinton won landslide victories over Bernie Sanders in Florida and North Carolina and, significantly, also defeated him in Ohio. Clinton's strong showing widened her 2-to-1 delegate lead, keeping her in a dominant position to take the Democratic nomination at the party's July convention in Philadelphia.

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Too late, Marco Rubio remembered who he is

    Marco Rubio started the race for his party's nomination young. Too young, if you ask Jeb Bush, his political big brother, or if you listen to Donald Trump, as many did. He dubbed him "Little Marco," and it stuck. On Tuesday night, Rubio suffered the first loss of his storied career and it was a devastating one. Trump whomped him by almost 20 points in his home state.

    All political defeats are hard: They're so public and, at the same time, so personal. Grown men weep. There's an added hurt in Rubio's case. He was soundly rejected by the people who used to love him the most.

    It would be easy to blame Trump, and in his concession speech Rubio did some of that by deploring a political climate in which "people literally hate each other."

    But, in truth, he was felled by a general disgust with politicians. Rubio won his Senate seat in 2010 as a tea party darling. By 2016, he might as well have been dining nightly with Nancy Pelosi. To the angry base, he had become a Washington elite, in cahoots with Chuck Schumer on immigration to boot.

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The wrong way to make the case for keeping Assad

    On Monday, 392 lawmakers voted for a resolution to say that the Assad regime and its allies are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria and that the United States should support the establishment of a tribunal to bring the perpetrators to justice.

    Three lawmakers voted against the measure. The only Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, tweeted her explanation to me: "Voted against thinly-veiled call for no fly zone & war to oust Syrian gov, just like resos be4 Gaddafi & Saddam regime change war."

    Gabbard told me on Tuesday that "this resolution needs to be seen in the context of calls for a no-fly and/or safe zone by many of the same people who put forward this resolution." She pointed to language in the resolution that "urges the Administration to establish additional mechanisms for the protection of civilians and to ensure access to humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations."

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