Archive

September 27th, 2016

Hillary Clinton needs a better campaign slogan

    Bill Clinton had "it's the economy, stupid." George W. Bush had "compassionate conservatism." Barack Obama had "change you can believe in." Donald Trump has "make America great again."

    Hillary Clinton has ...

    The Democratic nominee does have 40 bullet-point programs on everything from child care to mental health to the Middle East. But she has no memorable rallying cry to capture her candidacy and rationale to be president.

    To test that, simply ask a bunch of Clinton supporters to summarize in a sentence or two what her candidacy is about. You usually get multiple paragraphs in response.

    This is more a political than a substantive issue. Slogans are no substitute for governing policies. Trump's perverse platitudes ("pay for the wall") are Exhibit A.

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I adopted two biracial kids. Hateful messages showed up on my town's sidewalks.

    What do you do when a white supremacist writes racist and hateful messages directed at your children and at the students you work to serve? Seriously, what should a person who desires to follow Christ do? What should a college and community do to respond to such hate? These are questions I've been wrestling with as a professional and parent for the past two weeks.

    Two weekends ago, three to five people claiming to be associated with a hateful organization wrote racially offensive messages with chalk on a few of the sidewalks at Bethany College, the small Christian college in Lindsborg, Kansas, where I am the president.

    They drew a chalk outline of a dead body with the words "rest in peace my friend" and "make Lindsborg white again." They wrote messages that were disgusting and completely contrary to Bethany's core values and intellectual identity.

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September 26th

Ready, Aim — Voting

    The hottest political ad of the season — I am not counting anything involving Triumph the Insult Comic Dog — is probably for the Missouri Senate, in which the Democratic candidate talks about ... gun background checks.

    Well, obviously we all miss the one about hog neutering.

    But this is pretty darned good. Jason Kander, who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, assembles an assault rifle blindfolded while saying that he believes “in background checks so the terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”

    His opponent, Sen. Roy Blunt, had been lambasting Kander for his failure to toe the straight National Rifle Association line. “I approve this message,” Kander concludes, swiftly finishing his eyes-closed assemblage, “because I’d like to see Sen. Blunt do this.”

    Not going to happen. But Blunt did release a collection of videos of other blindfolded rifle assemblers. (“Some do it ... really, really fast.”) And then the announcer reminds Missouri that Kander got an “F” from the National Rifle Association.

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Don't base your vote on the debates

    As the first of three scheduled presidential debates approaches, we're about to go through what's become a quadrennial misconception about how to choose our president: that debates are an especially valuable way of helping the voters make that fateful decision.

    Given the tremendous emphasis the media place on this contest, an hour-and-a half-long question-and-answer session supplants months, if not years, of presenting oneself to the public. This year, the buildup of the debates has exploded beyond all reason. For weeks we've had breathless report after breathless report about how the candidates are preparing. Each nugget - who's at the preparation session, who's playing the role of the opponent? - is treated as Highly Significant Information. For whatever reason, the media have decided that the first of this year's three planned debates will be the decisive one. (Trump, as is his wont, has introduced some uncertainty into whether he'll participate in all three.) And let's face it: A great deal of this excited anticipation arises from the expectation that Trump will put on a good show.

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Americans are deciding for the world

    Like it or not, the decision we make in this November's election will be a choice on behalf of the entire world. How we vote will determine whether the forces of democracy, openness and religious tolerance remain strong, or whether our country throws in its lot with tribalism, prejudice and authoritarianism.

     This sounds like melodrama. It isn't. And while it may ring familiar -- citizens of other countries always tell us how important our electoral verdicts are to them -- Donald Trump requires us to make a judgment more monumental than any we have faced in our lifetimes.

     This is the underlying import of President Obama's speech to the United Nations on Tuesday, which may prove to be one of the most important of his presidency. He spoke of a "growing contest between authoritarianism and liberalism," and he was not referring to the L-word we fight about here at home, but to the philosophy of free expression, entrepreneurialism and participatory decision-making that has long been our country's hallmark. It's the philosophy that most Americans, conservatives included, honor.

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What happened after Don King used the n-word while stumping for Trump

    Boxing promoter and businessman Don King, a longtime Republican, Trump pal and casino-business associate, was supposed to stand up at a black Cleveland church and tell black Americans why they should vote for Trump.

    His reasoning, while a bit hard to follow, will not be the story that anyone writes now. But there will be a lot said about the language that King used, where he used it, who gets to use it and who gets to laugh when the language in question is used.

    This, America, is the way that all too often race gets any public attention at all. Know right now, that little in the way of substantive debate about racial inequality or whatever point King was trying to make will take place. Why? Because King's rambling effort to stump for Trump included the n-word.

    To be as clear as possible in this cloudy situation, here is exactly what King said while standing before a church.

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Union-Made Miracle on the Hudson

    In their ongoing, all-out assault to crush labor unions, corporate forces have fabricated a cultural myth to undermine popular support for labor: Unions, they insist, are no longer needed. They tell us that in today’s entrepreneurial economy, workers must compete with each other, not cooperate.

    Before swallowing that wad of hornswoggle, let’s revisit Flight 1549.

    As it took off from New York City in 2009, the jet hit a flock of geese, lost all power, and had nowhere to try a crash landing. But Captain Sully Sullenberger knew what to do. He used the Hudson River as a landing strip. Amazingly, it worked. Dubbed the “miracle on the Hudson,” all 150 passengers were saved.

    But no supernatural powers were at work — Captain Sully himself is not only a member of the Airline Pilots Association, but also served on that union’s national governing committee and was its former safety chairman. Indeed, he and the APA union have had to fight airline chieftains who keep trying to cut back on the safety training programs that teach crews how to save lives.

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My Debate Nightmare? A Duller Donald Trump

    There are predictions that Monday night’s presidential debate will “shatter records,” as one recent headline put it, drawing a Super Bowl-size audience of more than 100 million viewers.

    They will not be coming for a detailed back-and-forth on stop-and-frisk.

    “What makes this debate so interesting is him,” said Doug Sosnik, a Democratic strategist who was a senior aide in Bill Clinton’s White House. The “him” needs no clarification, but let’s be clear nonetheless: Donald Trump. A billionaire (or so we’re told) whose name gleams golden on glass towers across the land. A provocateur as much as a politician, with a résumé of Atlantic City casinos, World Wrestling Entertainment, the Miss Universe pageant and “The Apprentice.”

    “You have a reality-TV star who’s in a presidential debate,” Sosnik said. “There’s an element here of people going to the stock-car races to watch the accident.”

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The lone-wolf era is over

    It was no surprise that in the first hours after the New York and New Jersey bombing attacks, the culprit was widely suggested to be a "lone wolf." The term, used to describe an individual inspired by others but acting on his or her own, has become the counterterrorism metaphor-of-choice in the age of the Islamic State.

    It's time, however, to put the lone-wolf metaphor, and its associated counterterrorism analysis, out to pasture. According to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, we now live in a world where terrorism is "carried out by those who live among us in the homeland and self-radicalize, inspired by terrorist propaganda on the internet."

    But if that diagnosis isn't wrong, it is incomplete. The New York bomber may have been "self-radicalized," but it's very unlikely he was merely "inspired" by terrorist groups.

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Debate moderators shouldn't duck

    I don't envy Lester Holt. No matter what he does in the first presidential debate, he'll be denounced. But this certainty should be liberating. If you know the brickbats will come one way or the other, you might as well do the right thing.

     But is there a "right thing" that doesn't coincide with someone's political agenda? That is precisely the wrong question, since any choice he makes will be interpreted as favoring one candidate over the other. What should matter are the obligations of journalists in a democratic society.

    For debate moderators, both on Monday and in future encounters, three duties stand out. The first is to do all they can so viewers come away with an accurate sense of the facts. The second is to promote a real exchange of perspectives between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, not only on issues journalists deem to matter but also on what a president can realistically do to leave the country better off four years from now.

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