Archive

September 24th, 2016

The impostor in the red ball cap

    A lot of people have said a lot of things about Donald Trump's deficiencies, but the most succinct may be this: "beyond repair."

    What loose cannon would say such a thing about Trump? Surely it is someone swimming in partisan passion, blinded by bile.

    Ah, but no, the description comes from one of the more dispassionate people imaginable, a Republican to boot: former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

    True, Gates, confines his assessment to foreign policy. But you can read between the lines in his recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal and deduce that he doesn't think Trump is capable of just about any duty the presidency requires.

    Gates calls Trump "stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government."

    That's not all. Gates calls Trump "temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief."

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The bipartisan path to tackling climate change

    Policy expert Heather Zichal answers The Washington Post's question: How much should the next president be willing to spend on mitigation or retooling for renewable energy?

    The disconnect between the reality of climate change and Donald Trump's phony dismissal of the issue couldn't be more frustrating to a country in need of solutions, not slogans. Hillary Clinton has promised to protect critical ongoing policies from the current administration. But unless there are new majorities in Congress, if elected she will face the same opposition and intractability on climate policy that President Barack Obama faced.

    The good news is that beneath all the noise and fury, there's actually a clear path ahead to tackling climate change with solutions that are bold and potentially bipartisan. The next administration should seize the opportunity to build a historic partnership between business and government - an opportunity to prove once and for all that good climate policy creates good jobs.

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Preparing for North Korea's inevitable collapse

    Let's be honest. The world would be a better place if a revolutionary tribunal in the near future sent North Korea's Kim Jong-un and his henchmen to the gallows. Kim's subjects are so malnourished that North Koreans are notably shorter than their South Korean cousins. The state's gulags are so large, you can see them from space. Survivors of those camps have testified that fellow prisoners withered away from starvation.

    The U.N. high commissioner for human rights has acknowledged the horror. A 2014 report from that office says that inside of North Korea "crimes against humanity" have been committed as a result of the state's policy. These include "extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation."

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Electoral setbacks won't deter Angela Merkel

    Many people seem to expect Chancellor Angela Merkel to apologize. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union, keeps underperforming in regional elections. Most recently, the CDU took a drubbing in parliamentary elections in Berlin on Sept. 18. The reason: the backlash against the kindness Merkel showed toward refugees last year.

    There have been five defeats this year, in every state that held elections. The party's biggest loss -- a 12 percentage-point decline from the 2011 result -- was in Baden-Wuerttemberg, the wealthy southwestern state that received the most asylum applications this year -- more than 75,000. In Berlin, the CDU lost 5.8 percentage points, but the result destroyed the CDU-Social Democrat coalition that governed the city-state: It no longer has a majority in the city council, and the Social Democrats, who won a plurality, must now look for a different configuration, possibly with different partners.

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As a source - and a patriot - Edward Snowden deserves a presidential pardon

    President Barack Obama's administration has an unfortunate record of prosecuting whistleblowers, some of whom have been important sources for journalists.

    That's not a legacy any president should want.

    In the waning days of his administration, the president can turn that around, not entirely, but in an important way by pardoning the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and allowing him to return to the United States from his Russian exile without facing charges.

    Obama absolutely should do so. Snowden did an important - and brave - service for the American public and, in fact, the world, when he made it possible for news organizations to reveal widespread government surveillance of citizens. Some of that surveillance broke the law; some, although within the law, was nevertheless outrageous and unacceptable. And, afterward, some of the wrongs were righted through legislative reform.

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An Iowa Republican dumped Trump and his party

    Many Republicans have lamented some aspect of Donald Trump's campaign. The party's 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, doesn't like that Trump is a "fraud." House Speaker Paul Ryan has objected to Trump's "textbook" racism. Less exalted members of the party have cringed at his bigotry or flimflam or utter lack of principle.

    But almost no Republican office holder or leader has done what veteran Iowa State Senator David Johnson has. In June, he quit the party. No groundswell followed him.

    Trump's emergence, Johnson said, "required somebody in elected office as a Republican to reject the party. He's now the standard-bearer of the party. I can't be a member of a party where the man who leads the party has this abysmal record in this campaign."

    Johnson is hardly alone in finding Trump "a cancer on conservatism," as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry memorably called him before deciding that maybe cancer wasn't so bad after all and endorsed him. But no GOP member of Congress has quit the party of Trump, and state office holders are staying put, as well.

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A vote for Trump is a vote to undo vital progress on climate change

    July and August were the hottest months for the planet since record keeping began. Scientists are confident that 2016 will be the hottest year. Rising sea levels have made flooding commonplace in several major U.S. cities. And meanwhile, one of our leading presidential candidates says climate change is some kind of Chinese hoax.

    Elections have consequences, and this is one of the most fateful: Anyone who takes climate change seriously had better do everything possible to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

    Believe it or not, there are issues more important than Trump's latest offensive outburst or Hillary Clinton's score on the likability scale. Clinton accepts the scientific consensus on climate change, which is increasingly supported by what we see and feel every day. She would build upon President Obama's efforts to address the issue, which include the historic Paris agreement, seen by many experts as our last best hope to prevent catastrophe.

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2 Ex-Spies and Donald Trump

    When it comes to assessing the presidential race, I prefer to listen to the spies. They tend to be brutally unsentimental, see through the nonsense and cut to the cold, hard bottom line. And right now, two of the world’s foremost former spymasters are sending uncoded messages about what it will mean for America and the Western alliance if Donald Trump is elected president.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce former CIA Director Robert Gates and his longtime nemesis and former KGB agent, President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Putin is voting Trump. Gates is not.

    In an essay in The Wall Street Journal, Gates, who also was defense secretary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, criticized both Hillary Clinton and Trump for failing to take the threat posed by Putin’s Russia seriously. But Trump, Gates added, has gone places with Putin no would-be American president should: “Mr. Trump’s expressions of admiration for the man and his authoritarian regime are naive and irresponsible.”

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Virginia for the Win: Cracks in the firewall

    Firewalls are supposed to prevent unauthorized access to a computer system.

    Virginia has served as a political firewall for Democrats in recent election cycles, and the Clinton campaign seemed to make a critical update when it added Sen. Tim Kaine to the national ticket.

    But what happens when the firewall develops cracks?

    We may be about to learn the answer.

    A series of polls show the presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump tightening up, with Clinton still holding a narrow national lead but losing ground in key swing states such as Florida and Ohio and in Colorado, Iowa and Nevada.

    The numbers have Democrats worried and Republicans thinking they just might pull this thing off.

    Democrats should be concerned.

    If Trump carries all the states Mitt Romney won in 2012, he would have 206 electoral votes in his column.

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Trump's law-and-order approach won't make us safer

    In the past decade, two major movements for criminal justice reform have arisen: the push against mass incarceration and Black Lives Matter's mobilization against police brutality. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has attacked both, arguing that the movements would touch off a new crime epidemic.

    He's wrong. The research we have shows that we know how to fight crime without using more handcuffs and prison cells.

    We didn't always have the evidence we do now. When crime began to spike in the United States in the 1960s, experts were caught flat-footed. Most criminologists thought crime was driven by sociological factors, beyond the influence of the police. They had little to say about how prevention measures short of fundamental economic, educational and social reforms might curb the violence.

    This was hardly a message politicians could take to their voters. So legislators came up with their own, simple prescription: crack down, hard. Our nation declared war on drugs, significantly increased policing and quadrupled incarceration.

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