Archive

August 6th, 2016

The fall of Joe McCarthy began with someone who dared to question his decency. Trump will lose the same way.

    Sixty-five years ago, America faced the challenge of a snarling demagogue who captured the imagination of millions by fusing legitimate fears of an external enemy with the cultural, regional and demographic resentments of people who disliked the changing nature of our postwar country. Then, as now, a demagogue could draw upon widespread weariness with imperfect and occasionally complacent liberal leaders, important or petty security scandals, the grind of military stalemate in an inconclusive long war.

    Then, as now, the demagogue benefited from apologists and enablers who privately wanted him defeated but would not take risks or bear political costs to confront him openly . Then, as now, his political adversaries were divided and hesitant in their efforts to formulate an effective response. Then, as now, parts of the Republican Party gave a vicious demagogue a congenial political home.

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Democrats' citizenship smackdown

    Democrats’ citizenship smackdown

    "Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country is not great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on Earth."

    So said Michelle Obama in a speech so powerful as to have no rejoinder, aside from Bill O'Reilly's attempt to commend slaves' dining options during the time they built the White House.

    "American exceptionalism."

    We've heard that term many times, generally from pale and stuffy right-wingers. It's code that we should interpret as "Pale Power."

    Heretofore, the propaganda regimen of "exceptionalism" has been to downplay America's historic problems, particularly those that apply to race.

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August 5th

Get ready for an unpredictable election

    The U.S. general election officially begins on Labor Day, but the dynamics for this volatile race will be established in August. Or: With a polarized electorate, many of the parameters of the contest are already baked into the cake, so little will change over the next five weeks.

    Both predictions can't be true, yet political operatives in both parties acknowledge that they're not sure which is more likely in this bizarre year.

    With 100 days to go, there are stronger-than-usual crosscurrents:

    -- The Democrats emerged from their convention last week in better shape than the Republicans did a week earlier. The Democrats crafted a more appealing message and the leading figures in the party support the nominee, Hillary Clinton. By contrast, scores of Republican officeholders say they are horrified at the prospect of Donald Trump winning the presidency.

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Public bigotry creeps into private lives

    What's in a name? It's a measure of Donald Trump's insidious reach, and of the potency of the political virus he carries, that I was thinking about this lately.

    I'm hardly an obvious target of Trump's demagogy and contempt. I'm not a Mexican "rapist" who hopped a fence. I'm not a female "pig" whose dimensions don't conform to the demands of a pageant sash. I'm not a Muslim, accused by Trump of knowing, and keeping silent about, the murderous plans of home-grown terrorists. I have no physical disability capable of triggering Trump's unerring instinct for gratuitous cruelty.

    I'm a college-educated, white, heterosexual American male born in the latter half of the 20th century -- about the most privileged species on earth. Yet it occurred to me recently that the social toxins released by Trump's presidential candidacy can seep beneath even the most formidable social defense.

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Thanks, Obama

    It wasn’t easy for Barack Obama, a skinny newcomer to national politics with an exotic name and scant résumé, to overthrow the voracious Clinton machine.

    The 45-year-old had to turn himself into a dream catcher. He had to become an avatar of idealism and persuade Americans that he could take us to a political Arden beyond lies and vanishing records and money grabs and Marc Rich and Monica and Motel 1600.

    “We need a leader who’s going to touch our souls,” Michelle told a South Carolina rally in 2007. “Who’s going to make us feel differently about one another.”

    Obama was going to lift Washington to a higher plateau — not one where the president consulted a pollster to see where he should vacation or if he should tell the truth about his intern/mistress. The young senator from Chicago was going to prove that the White House could be a gleaming citadel of integrity and ethics and exemplary family life.

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Count on Trump to be a sore loser

    Of all the dangerous things that Donald Trump has said, perhaps the most concerning is his assertion that the election might be rigged. This irresponsible, unsupported suggestion augurs poorly for Trump's behavior in the increasingly likely event of his loss.

     "The election is going to be rigged," Trump warned at a rally in Ohio. "I'm telling you, November 8, we'd better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged," he told Fox News' Sean Hannity.

    Those comments set the stage for an explosive outcome the likes of which this country has never seen. It is not far-fetched to imagine Trump inciting his partisans against accepting the verdict of voters, further inflaming an already toxic political climate in Washington.

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Worthy of Our Contempt

    Donald Trump said some more disgusting things over the weekend. If this surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. Also, don’t be surprised if a majority of Republicans approve of his attack on the parents of a dead war hero. After all, a YouGov survey found that 61 percent of Republicans support his call for Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton.

    But this isn’t a column about Trump and the people who are OK with anything he says or does. It is, instead, about Republicans — probably a minority within the party, but a substantial one — who aren’t like that. These are people who aren’t racists, respect patriots even if they’re Muslim, believe that America should honor its international commitments, and in general sound like normal members of a normal political party.

    Yet the great majority of these not-crazy Republicans are still supporting Trump for president. And we have a right to ask why.

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What we can expect from the Clinton vs. Trump fight

    The two party conventions are over. The first general election debate is in 56 days. The general election is 99 days away. Now, then, seems like a good time to look at what we know about the clash between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    Here are five things I think I know.

 

    1. There is no Trump 2.0.

    I've been saying this for a while now. There is no pivot. There is no new and improved version. There is just Donald Trump - take him or leave him. Ask yourself this: What successful 70-year-old man - in the immediate aftermath of one of the greatest victories of his life - decides to do things totally differently? The answer is no 70-year-old man, particularly one with the level of supreme confidence displayed by Trump.

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Russian hackers could target voting machines

    Russia was behind the hacks into the Democratic National Committee's computer network that led to the release of thousands of internal emails just before the party's convention began, U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded.

    The FBI is investigating. WikiLeaks promises there is more data to come. The political nature of this cyberattack means that Democrats and Republicans are trying to spin this situation as much as possible. Even so, we have to accept that someone is attacking our nation's computer systems in an apparent attempt to influence a presidential election. This kind of cyberattack targets the very core of our democratic process. And it points to the possibility of an even worse problem in November - that our election systems and our voting machines could be vulnerable to a similar attack.

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Off to the Races

    Attending both political parties’ conventions last month, I certainly had some upside-down-world moments.

    The Republican convention featured a sprawling blended family, an LGBT first, and promises of a top-down government fix, while the Democratic convention showcased religiosity, patriotism, militarism, and American exceptionalism.

    The Republican convention pushed radical change while the Democratic one championed the more conservative tenet of unwavering consistency.

    It was enough to make my head spin.

    But beyond the oddity of the incongruities was the production itself. Modern conventions are all about stagecraft and television production. They are multimillion-dollar infomercials for the candidate and the party. There are few surprises and few flashes of unpolished candor. When such flashes do occur, they often come from people who are not practiced politicians.

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