Archive

April 9th, 2016

Immigration agents whistle Trump's tune

    How disconnected is border policy in Washington from the border patrol agents who carry it out in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California?

    Last week, the National Border Patrol Council, which represents 16,500 of the nation's more than 21,000 border patrol agents, endorsed Donald Trump for president. In case this obvious affront to the current president was insufficiently pronounced, the union's press release took pains to spell it out, saying its members "selflessly serve this country in an environment where our own political leaders try to keep us from doing our jobs."

    The rest of the release -- "our first-ever endorsement in a presidential primary" based on Trump's unique campaign -- reads like a tea party decree circa 2014.

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Dog bites woman, and now it's a federal case

    Dog bites man may not be a news story -- but in nine western states, it's grounds for a constitutional case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has allowed a lawsuit by a woman who fell asleep in her office after a hard night's drinking, accidentally tripped a burglar alarm, and was bitten in the lip by a San Diego police dog responding to the alarm.

    What makes the case so interesting is that the San Diego Police Department trained Bak, a service dog, to enter a room and bite the first person she saw. Her training was to hold the bite in place until her handler ordered her to release her grip.

    The constitutional issue is whether this technique, used against someone who has made no resistance, violates the bite victim's Fourth Amendment right not to be detained by the use of excessive force. This question is especially charged given the troubling use of police dogs to subdue protesters.

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Court upholds 'one person, one vote,' mostly

    In a victory for both noncitizens and common sense alike, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected the argument that state election districts must be drawn equally based on eligible voters rather than population. The court's decision staves off a xenophobic push to discount noncitizens, which is a good thing. But almost equally noteworthy was an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, who was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas in saying that states could use eligible voters to redraw their districts if they wish.

    Begin with the background: All states currently use population, not eligible voters, when drawing their legislative districts. When it comes to congressional districts, the Constitution expressly requires the use of consensus population, not voters. And the Senate has no districts at all, a reflection of the famous compromise at the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787.

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April 6th

Who had the worst week in Washington? Donald Trump

    If the only bad thing that happened to Donald Trump this week was that his campaign manager was charged with battery after grabbing a reporter at a campaign event last month in Florida, he might have escaped this "honor."

    After all, Trump insisted that Corey Lewandowski, the manager in question, had never even touched the reporter -- and that Michelle Fields, the reporter in question, had been bothering him and had made up what actually happened on that day at the Trump National golf course. Trump, said Trump, was the one who was the victim here!

    Yes, in the normal world of politics, your campaign manager being charged with battery would be bad. And not only refusing to fire him but going on the attack against the female reporter who had been grabbed would have been really, really bad. But, this is Donald Trump we're talking about. He has turned every piece of political conventional wisdom on its head -- so why not this one too?

    Then came Trump's town hall interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Wednesday. And that's when his week from just bad to horribly awful.

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Trump Has Reached Peak Incoherence

    Perhaps the laws of political gravity are about to take hold in the case of Donald Trump. But the lesson of this appalling primary season cautions against discounting Trump's appeal -- which prompts another Trump column, this one on the utter incoherence of his policy views.

    It's not simply that Trump is wrong on policy. Ted Cruz is wrong on policy. Trump is wrong on policy and argues for policy positions glaringly inconsistent with his asserted principles. All politicians do this, sure. But Trump's incoherence is classically Trumpian -- huge, glitzy, unembarrassed.

     That phenomenon was on vivid display last week, as world leaders gathered for a summit on nuclear non-proliferation. On this topic, Trump stands, or says he does, with the global consensus. He raised the issue in his discussion with The Washington Post editorial board, in response to a question about whether he believes in man-made climate change.

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The End of Trump

    It's time to go back where we began: not only that Donald Trump will lose the Republican presidential nomination, but that he could be so weakened by the end of the primaries that his party will not even have to worry about choosing someone else.

     I feel your skepticism. Hasn't Trump so far defied all predictions of his demise? Absolutely. Hasn't every claim that "now he's gone too far" been wrong? Of course.

    Let's be honest about journalists: We find a lot of ways of being wrong.

    One trap is "presentism," the idea that whatever is happening now will keep happening. And it is, indeed, easy to project Trump's impending doom after his most miserable week yet.

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The changing campaign TV battleground

    As the presidential primary campaign heads into the backstretch, the debate format appears to be giving way to "town halls." That is, face-to-face candidate confrontations are largely being replaced with single candidates undergoing voter and moderator interrogations in various states.

    In the early stage of the 2016 Republican nomination cycle, televised debates on network and cable carriers dominated, with 17 competitors involved -- so many, in fact, that the field had to be split into a main event and an "undercard."

    Many of the debaters shunted to the latter complained of receiving second-class treatment, and others lamented that even in a two-hour marathon, insufficient time was allocated to them. As the field was winnowed down, the complaints lessened.

    Still, with debates so frequent and bunched up, they began to sound repetitive, both in questions posed and answers given. They often descended into noisy personal name-calling and he-said, she-said nitpicking, as the combatants struggled for an advantage.

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Stolen Easter Island statue deserves a trip home

    The British Museum contains a stone statue known as Hoa Hakananai'a. It was hand carved from basalt 400 to 900 years ago on the island of Rapa Nui, commonly known as Easter Island. Hoa Hakananai'a was kidnapped from that distant outpost of Chile 148 years ago by British Navy Commodore Richard Ashmore Powell. Dominating Room 24 on the museum's ground floor, the moai is magnificent, mysterious -- and totally out of place.

    The world's museums -- mostly those of rich countries with a history of overseas pillaging -- are stuffed with artifacts plundered from other countries. It's time they started being returned to their rightful homes where they can be seen in their native context, even if that means some viewers miss out on seeing culturally significant objects while others have to add more stamps to their passports.

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Give this civil rights hero the Medal of Freedom

    On March 2, 1955, a young African American woman boarded a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., took her seat and, minutes later, refused the driver's command to surrender it to a white passenger. "It felt like Harriet Tubman was pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth was pushing me down on the other shoulder," she mused many years later. "History had me glued to the seat."

    Two police officers arrived and pulled her from her seat. They forced her into the back of a squad car, one officer jumping in after her. She prayed furiously as they sped out, with the cop leering over her, guessing at her bra size. She was fingerprinted, denied a phone call and locked into a cell. Charged with disturbing the peace, breaking the bus segregation laws and assaulting the officers who had apprehended her, she was released later that night.

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Does Trump really want to win?

    I used to chuckle when Donald Trump called himself a "unifier." So far, the Republican front-runner has been about as unifying as a fox in a henhouse.

    Yet unity appeared in unexpected ways after his comments on abortion rights in a town meeting with host Chris Matthews on MSNBC. The Donald's views, which he appeared to be sorting out even as we watched, amazingly brought pro-choice and anti-abortion leaders together on common ground -- against him!

    Hemming and hawing like a student who had forgotten to study his homework, Trump tried and failed to change the subject before he finally seemed to decide what he believes.

    That required a big leap for him. He supported abortion rights through all nine months of pregnancy in the 1990s. Now as frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump has evolved. Now, he said, he believes that women who have an abortion should be subject to "some kind of punishment."

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