Archive

November 3rd, 2016

Breathe deeply, then go vote

    Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat, until the anxiety attack passes. Then go vote, and soon our long national nightmare will be over.

    FBI Director James Comey's "October surprise" decision to cast last-minute shade over Hillary Clinton, based on emails he and his agents had not even read, was appallingly unfair. But there's nothing to be done about that now -- and no reason to believe it will change the fundamental shape of the race, which has been remarkably consistent. Donald Trump remains on track to lose, and the question is by how much.

    The only way he could possibly win is if Democrats and other "Never Trump" voters stay home on Election Day out of complacency. Comey's intervention should have eliminated that possibility. Look what happened Friday after his letter about the emails was made public: The Dow Jones industrial average reacted as if to a natural disaster, plunging about 150 points before slowly recovering when it was learned that this latest twist grew out of the Anthony Weiner investigation.

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What Did You Do in 2016?

    One day, Americans who were too young to have followed the 2016 campaign will look back and try to make sense of it. They will want to know how such a dangerous person could have gotten so close to the presidency — a man who spoke of abandoning our allies, admiring foreign despots, weakening constitutional rights, and serially molesting women.

    Those future adults may also pose a more personal question to their elders:

    Mommy and Daddy, what did you do in response to Donald Trump?

    It will be a fair question. The reality is, Trump could still win. It is unlikely, yes, but the gift he received from a surprisingly bumbling FBI shows that campaigns aren’t over until they’re over.

    With seven days left, it is not too late for anyone alarmed by Trump to get involved. As it happens, Trump himself has pointed toward the best way to do so. Again and again, he has attempted to undermine democratic legitimacy, be it inviting foreign interference or flirting with voter intimidation.

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The GOP: Don't ask us to govern

    The most depressing news from last week did not come from the presidential campaign. It came instead from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who told us what a Republican Congress would be all about: investigating a President Hillary Clinton, starting on or about Jan. 20, 2017.

    "It's a target-rich environment," the Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee cheerfully told The Washington Post's David Weigel. "Even before we get to Day One, we've got two years' worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain't good."

     The party's post-election slogan: Forward into the Past!

    So, no time to see if we might first refurbish our infrastructure, improve education, or find a compromise to repair the Affordable Care Act. No need to act on immigration reform.

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Working the Refs

    The cryptic letter James Comey, the FBI director, sent to Congress on Friday looked bizarre at the time — seeming to hint at a major new Clinton scandal, but offering no substance. Given what we know now, however, it was worse than bizarre, it was outrageous. Comey apparently had no evidence suggesting any wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton; he violated long-standing rules about commenting on politically sensitive investigations close to an election; and he did so despite being warned by other officials that he was doing something terribly wrong.

    So what happened? We may never know the full story, but the best guess is that Comey, like many others — media organizations, would-be nonpartisan advocacy groups, and more — let himself be bullied by the usual suspects. Working the refs — screaming about bias and unfair treatment, no matter how favorable the treatment actually is — has been a consistent, long-term political strategy on the right. And the reason it keeps happening is because it so often works.

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Vaginas, Penises, Emails and the FBI

    Who would have thought that the final leg of this election cycle would be dominated by crowing about violating vaginas and by probes into penis pictures?

    But even that frame is problematic because it creates an equivalency that doesn’t exist. One scandal is about a man boasting of predation and the other is about a woman weary of people’s prying. These are fundamentally different flaws, one being clearly about a pattern of assault and the other about a pattern of ill-fated insularity.

    And yet an utterly irresponsible media, thirsty for a scoop and ignoring the consequences of its scope, has egged on a public with a scandal lust, aiding and abetting Republicans in turning an email mistake into a colossal crime.

    Far from the faux election rigging that Donald Trump has been harping on for weeks, this election isn’t in danger of being stolen by Hillary Clinton, but in danger of being stolen from her.

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November 2nd

Praying for forbearance

    I have spent much of my weekends of late at gatherings in houses of worship discussing some aspect of the presidential election. Never has 19th-century Episcopal rector Phillips Brooks'sprayer "Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things" been more tested.

    This election season has brought out the worst. The meanness and outrageous lies are revolting, a far cry from Brooks's declaration to "live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten . . . or take away the joy of conscious integrity."

    The "spirit of joy and gladness," never abundant in political campaigning, is totally absent today.

    "Let me not lose faith in other people."

    It's hard to keep faith with a presidential hopeful who labels immigrants "killers and rapists" and who calls for the "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

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Trump dishes out media insults but can't take them

    Conditions for the news workers who cover Donald Trump's campaign have become so bad that some reporters are requesting transfers to Aleppo.

    Yes, that's a joke, but not by much. Almost every politician in my experience sooner or later blames the media messengers for an unwelcome message. As the polls and various embarrassments such as the "Access Hollywood" tape of his "locker room" talk about molesting women bring more bad news, the media serve as a one-size-fits-all scapegoat for his woes.

    He calls the media "biased," "dishonest," "corrupt" and "absolute scum," among other choice gems in a constantly escalating scale of invective. Always ignored, by the way, are the tons of free and favorable publicity that he has received from media.

    But the public has not ignored the enormous favor Trump has received from the media he constantly beats up. Before NBC reporter Katy Tur tweeted that Donald Trump would be attending a ribbon cutting at his D.C. hotel this past week, her Twitter feed was inundated with tweets from followers asking or demanding that she boycott the event.

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These are the good old days

    A significant segment of Americans sees this nation in decline, if not free fall. Never has the United States been in such bad shape, they say, and it is getting worse.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. I would ask today's naysayers to identify a period in our recent history when the nation was in better shape - economically, socially or in any other way than now.

    It certainly could not be any time between 1925 and 1950, a period of economic depression, war and its aftermath. I am 88 years old. I was born near the end of the 1920s and grew up in the Great Depression, when one-third of Americans were out of work. There were bread lines; those who could worked for the U.S. government in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration or other such programs. It could not be the 1950s or '60s, with the Korean War, the Vietnam conflict, riots and unrest. Would they select the 1970s to 1990s and the mortal dangers of the Cold War? Perhaps they would select the dawn of the new century to 2008, as we slid into the worst recession since the Great Depression.

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North Carolina will be the real bellwether state

    Michelle Obama, making her first joint campaign appearance with Hillary Clinton in North Carolina on Oct. 27, suggested the state is ground zero in this election. That's routine rhetoric; it also may be true.

    In the maze of color-coded maps and exit polls on Election Night, North Carolina will send a resounding message. The state, which voted for Barack Obama eight years ago and for Mitt Romney in 2012, is a must-win for Donald Trump. If Clinton wins, she's probably off to a night that will resemble Obama's 2008 victory.

    The Senate race is one of a half-dozen that will decide the critical question of which party controls the chamber. There's also a governor's race, mired in controversies over discrimination against gays and voting rights for minorities, with important implications for the state and perhaps nationally.

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Nate Silver blew it when he missed Trump - now he really needs to get it right

    Nate Silver is on the downtown 1 train. Possibly because he looks like a (modestly) hip math teacher, and hardly looks up from his phone, he goes unrecognized until he reaches the PlayStation Theater in Times Square.

    There, his name is in lights, and people start to nudge one another and point him out. Hundreds of fans - many of them male, young and white - have lined up outside, waiting to watch the data journalist and his colleagues record a podcast. Those who hold the priciest tickets ($100) even get the chance to mingle with the stars of the website FiveThirtyEight and have their picture taken with top editor Silver afterwards.

    "We're giant nerds," explained Priyanka Mitra-Hahn, a PhD student from Brooklyn, when asked why she, her wife and a friend came out to last week's sold-out event.

    If a statistics guru can be a rock star, Silver is surely it. But even rock stars have bad days.

    Silver, 38, had a run of them a few months ago, when it became obvious that his consistent early dismissals of Donald Trump's chances to be the Republican presidential nominee were flat-out wrong.

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