Archive

January 11th, 2016

Action on guns: Long overdue, still not enough

    Real presidents don't cry. But this one did, and with good reason.

    On January 5, while announcing in the East Room of the White House the executive actions he was taking on gun safety, President Obama ticked off the examples of gun violence this nation has suffered in the last few years. When he got to Sandy Hook, he suddenly stopped mid-sentence and paused to take a breath, while tears flowed down his cheeks.

    The memory of those 20 first-graders, mowed down in their classroom, is enough to make anyone weep. That, and the cowardly refusal of Congress to act -- even after mass murders at Sandy Hook, Aurora, Charleston, Roseburg, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino, and countless daily victims of gun violence. Finally -- finally, what took him so long? -- Obama gave up on Congress and decided to do whatever he could under his own executive authority to keep guns out of the hands of those who have no business having them.

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Why I just can't figure out the 2016 Republican race

    Here's how the modern Republican presidential primary race plays out: Conservatives (social and tea party) eventually unite behind a single candidate. The "establishment" unites behind some other candidate. The two face off -- with the establishment candidate winning.

    Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum in 2012. John McCain over Mike Huckabee in 2008. In 2000, George W. Bush was the establishment candidate but was challenged not from the social/tea party right but from the sort-of rebel center in the form of McCain. (That center no longer exists in the party -- and hasn't since at least 2004.)

    This understanding of the race is based on an underlying "lane theory" of the party. The candidates are all running for the same nomination, yes, but until the very end of the race they are effectively clumped in distinct lanes -- trying to climb over a smaller number of opponents to win that lane and make the final two.

    Back in February 2015, I channeled an at-the-time unaffiliated Republican consultant's view that there were four lanes in this race. Here's how I laid it out:

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We regulate lead paint - so why not lead bullets?

    When I chaired the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, I was grateful that we had authority to regulate lead in household paint. Banning the use of lead-based paint in homes has prevented brain damage in countless children over the years.

    So why wouldn't Congress allow us authority over another dangerous consumer product often made with lead?

    Specifically, why not bullets?

    On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled a package of executive actions that he hopes will reduce gun deaths in the United States. I urge him to put one more proposal on the table: regulating ammunition. The idea is workable, and Americans could support it.

    This idea isn't new. In 1974, the CPSC's first chairman made clear his belief that the agency could probably regulate ammunition, and a court agreed - whereupon a frightened Congress passed laws making it impossible even to try. Now is the time for the president to begin pushing to correct that mistake.

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The 'four freedoms' are under assault

    In her syndicated newspaper column on Jan. 6, 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, "America is not a pile of goods, more luxury, more comforts, a better telephone system, a greater number of cars. America is a dream of greater justice and opportunity for the average man and, if we can not obtain it, all our other achievements amount to nothing."

    That afternoon, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his annual State of the Union address and elaborated on what America is and is not. He spoke powerfully about the fundamental values at the heart of American democracy, which he portrayed as a potent antidote to the tyranny overtaking Europe. He envisioned a world with "four essential human freedoms" at its core: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. And he proclaimed that such a world could be "attainable in our own time and generation."

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January 10th

Cruz is not disqualified from the presidency

    The issue of whether Ted Cruz is constitutionally eligible to be president could not be more bogus. He is. Case closed.

    I say this as someone who could scarcely be more concerned about the prospect of President Cruz. So concerned, in fact, that I have concluded, after much angsting, that President Trump would be preferable, given that nightmare choice. But notwithstanding Trump's typically ill-informed and situational insinuations (he didn't see any problem with Cruz having been born in Canada before Cruz posed a real threat), the constitutional requirement that the president be a natural-born citizen does not disqualify Cruz.

    Article II, Section One, Clause 5 of the Constitution, setting out minimum requirements for the presidency, does not define the meaning of "natural-born citizen," a limitation intended, as John Jay wrote in a letter to George Washington, to "provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government."

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The 5 stages of reacting to a North Korea nuclear test

    The Democratic People's Republic of Korea announced Tuesday that it had successfully tested another nuclear bomb, its fourth since 2006, and independent reports of man-made seismic activity inside the Hermit Kingdom seem to confirm the claim.

    There's no real North Korea policy in place in Washington; the Obama administration has pursued a strategy of "strategic patience," which essentially amounts to waiting for either North Korea or its benefactor China to voluntarily do something productive. So when North Korea forces Washington to pay attention, even if it's only for a few days, all the U.S. government can do is grieve. And it happens in all five stages. (With apologies to psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.)

 

    Stage 1: Denial

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Soon the real voting starts

    After more than a year of poll-gazing of all varieties, the real 2016 presidential campaign year has arrived, with Donald Trump still far ahead in the Republican nomination race and the surviving contenders still at a loss on how to bring him down.

    Some, including Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie, have finally thrown caution to the winds with personal assaults and/or television ads trying to out-Trump the loudest mouth in today's politics. It has been no contest so far and may well remain so.

    Trump, the most odious celebrity candidate yet to inflict his charms on the electorate, after months of stirring the public's anger against politicians and politics itself, still feeds off the same anger while barely spending a nickel of his own. Every knock against him by the others is a boost, as the anti-Trump effort itself generates more and more free publicity for him.

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No, There Isn't A Racial Double Standard At Work In Oregon

    Out here on the edge of the national forest, in the cattle-ranching, timber-cutting, deer-hunting Arkansas county where I live, this Ammon Bundy guy looks like the Al Sharpton of cows. His publicity seeking has created a media pseudo-event of a particularly modern kind.

    Can anybody doubt that the feds could more efficiently resolve the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by confiscating TV cameras rather than guns?

    Actually, there's no real "standoff," since law enforcement is nowhere in sight. Blocking the roads, cutting the power and waiting them out looks like the wisest policy, although there appear to be almost as many tribal ideologues on the left hankering for a shootout as anti-government militia types.

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My bet against electric cars

    In August 2010, I proposed this wager to a fellow journalist: President Obama's declared goal was to get 1 million plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars on the road in the United States by 2015. I didn't think that goal was reachable by 2018, even with the huge subsidies that Obama backed - but if I was wrong about that, I'd buy my colleague a new plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt.

    Now the 2015 car-sale data are in; time to review the bidding. Americans bought a record 17.5 million passenger vehicles in the United States, of which 116,548 - 0.67 percent - were either plug-in hybrids or all-electrics, according to insideevs.com. That was about 6,500 fewer than in 2014.

    Automakers have sold 407,136 electrics (EVs) since they hit the market in 2010. That is 0.16 percent of the 250 million-plus U.S. passenger vehicle fleet. Assuming all are still on the road, carmakers must sell 300,000 this year and next to reach 1 million, or 0.3 percent of the fleet, by 2018.

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How Trump made TV his best precinct captain

    Remember how Republican Sen. Marco Rubio called mainstream media "the ultimate super PAC" for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats? If so, his opponent Donald Trump's favorite precinct captain must be television.

    In the first major poll of the new year released by NBC News and Survey Monkey, Trump maintains his lead among the Grand Old Party's contenders with 35 percent support, way ahead Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in second place with 18 percent and 13 percent for Rubio in third.

    Regardless of what happens after actual votes are cast, Trump's surprising success was the past year's biggest political story. We know he has struck a chord with white men, in particular, who have a high school diploma or less and have been buffeted the most by economic changes since the 1950s.

    But if the issues really mattered above all else, Republicans have had plenty of alternative candidates who, unlike Trump, can discuss major issues in terms that sound better informed than a second grader.

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