Archive

May 12th, 2016

Beating Trump won't be as easy as many Democrats think

    Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Tuesday night, turning his sights on Hillary Clinton, who, he says, will be easy to beat. She will not be - at least not for him. But Democrats must avoid making a similar mistake, dismissing Trump based on his historically high negative poll numbers without understanding why people are voting for him.

    Imagine a Trump supporter. The image conjured up might be a loud white man, middle-age or older, probably "poorly educated" (as Trump has put it), perhaps wearing a white tank top or a shirt with something offensive on it, such as: "My other ride is your girlfriend."

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Get ready for U.S. politics to reach new lows

    Americans may need to bring in the kids; the presidential election promises to get ugly, a race to the bottom.

    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both arouse strong passions, many of them negative. Both play tough.

    She is a policy wonk, but Trump has little interest in a wide-ranging debate on issues. In the Republican primaries, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz all tried at times to challenge him on substance; he brushed them aside with pointed personal rejoinders. It worked remarkably well.

    But a campaign dominated by personal invective and political mudslinging exacerbates polarization and makes governing tougher, say knowledgeable veterans of other campaigns and administrations.

    "If campaigns are not thoughtfully policy-oriented it makes it harder for those who have to govern," says Andrew Card, who was chief of staff to George W. Bush and now is president of Franklin Pierce University.

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Machines will never put humans out of work

    It is now widely accepted that technological advances, especially ones that make machines more like humans -- such as robotization or artificial intelligence -- are putting people out of work and will only destroy more jobs in the future. The wealth will accrue to those who own the machines, not to what's known as the middle class today. There's some good news for humans, though: The evidence of our displacement by machines is sketchy, and we should be able to adjust to the new technological era if we put our minds to it.

    Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology labeled this "the great decoupling": according to them, advances in productivity, mainly driven by the development of digital technology, and the resulting economic growth, no longer cause employment and workers' incomes to rise. "The Second Machine Age is playing out differently than the First Machine Age, continuing the long-term trend of material abundance but not of ever-greater labor demand," McAfee told Harvard Business Review.

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Virginia is finally giving felons like me the right to vote. We deserve it.

    I have never voted. By the time I was 18, I had a felony shoplifting conviction, which meant that I forever lost my right to vote in Virginia. I never had a chance.

    Not that I cared about voting at 18. I started getting into trouble very young -- running away from serious issues at home at age 12, drinking, smoking weed. I had a child at 16 (her father later broke my nose, which ended that relationship), and by the time I was 20, I had three more kids and a new addiction to crack cocaine.

    I didn't think of anyone but me. Besides, I thought voting was just for rich people. They made the decisions. I didn't think I counted.

    When I was in my early 20s, Bill Clinton was running for president, and I wanted to vote for him. I tried to register. That was when I learned that I couldn't vote because of my record.

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Donald Trump on education: Wrong, wrong and wrong

    Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, doesn't talk all that much about education issues, but when he does, it is usually about the Common Core, rankings and spending. And usually he is wrong, wrong and wrong.

    In one Trump ad this year, he hit all three in just a few sentences:

    "I'm a tremendous believer in education. But education has to be at a local level. We cannot have the bureaucrats in Washington telling you how to manage your child's education. So Common Core is a total disaster. We can't let it continue. We are rated 28th in the world, the United States. Think of it, 28th in the world. And, frankly, we spend far more per pupil than any other country in the world. By far. It's not even a close second."

    And on May 2, he said:

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May 11th

The Making of an Ignoramus

    Truly, Donald Trump knows nothing. He is more ignorant about policy than you can possibly imagine, even when you take into account the fact that he is more ignorant than you can possibly imagine. But his ignorance isn’t as unique as it may seem: In many ways, he’s just doing a clumsy job of channeling nonsense widely popular in his party, and to some extent in the chattering classes more generally.

    Last week the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — hard to believe, but there it is — finally revealed his plan to make America great again. Basically, it involves running the country like a failing casino: He could, he asserted, “make a deal” with creditors that would reduce the debt burden if his outlandish promises of economic growth don’t work out.

    The reaction from everyone who knows anything about finance or economics was a mix of amazed horror and horrified amazement. One does not casually suggest throwing away America’s carefully cultivated reputation as the world’s most scrupulous debtor — a reputation that dates all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.

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The Republican establishment's tardy revolt

    Like locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen, the Republican establishment is mounting a feeble rebellion against Donald Trump's presidential nomination, which is now nearly certain at the party's July national convention in Cleveland.

    Party giants past and present have announced they will boycott the gathering. The most prominent members of the party establishment -- the two former presidents named George Bush and failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush -- have let it be known they won't be there. Nor will the last two defeated GOP nominees, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

    Meanwhile, more significantly, the party's current highest officeholder, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is in line to chair the convention, has sharply declined at this point to endorse Trump. He has said only he is "not ready to do that at this point" although he "hopes to" and "wants to," to help unify the currently split party.

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Trump brings back Buchananism

    Three-times-failed presidential candidate Pat Buchanan has a right to feel vindicated by Donald Trump's success.

    "We were a little bit ahead of our time," the syndicated columnist and colleague of mine on PBS' "The McLaughlin Group" told NPR a day after Trump's last two primary election rivals for the Republican nomination dropped out.

    Buchanan served as an adviser to Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and ran twice for president as a Republican and in 2000 on the Reform Party's ticket.

    Back then, a lot of critics, including me, thought his platform of an "immigration moratorium," "America First" isolationism and not too thinly veiled white nationalism -- including a "Buchanan fence" on the Mexican border -- was goofy, at best.

    Now Donald Trump has ridden these ideas to the door of the GOP nomination.

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Truth and Trumpism

    How will the news media handle the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? I suspect I know the answer — and it’s going to be deeply frustrating. But maybe, just maybe, flagging some common journalistic sins in advance can limit the damage. So let’s talk about what can and probably will go wrong in coverage — but doesn’t have to.

    First, and least harmful, will be the urge to make the election seem closer than it is, if only because a close race makes a better story. You can already see this tendency in suggestions that the startling outcome of the fight for the Republican nomination somehow means that polls and other conventional indicators of electoral strength are meaningless.

    The truth, however, is that polls have been pretty good indicators all along. Pundits who dismissed the chances of a Trump nomination did so despite, not because of, the polls, which have been showing a large Trump lead for more than eight months.

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Who Wants to Be on Trump’s Ticket?

    There's no reason you couldn’t do the Republican vice-presidential search as a reality show. Donald Trump is good at that stuff. Plus it’s more than two months until the convention, and I believe that many members of his party would welcome a diversion.

    The contest for the second slot is already a lot like “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Everybody has to refer to the candidate as “Mr. Trump” and pretend his boorish exhibitionism is actually a demonstration of sublime leadership.

    Don’t make jokes about nobody wanting to be the winner! There are plenty of contenders. Mike Huckabee made it clear he wouldn’t say no. And look at Newt Gingrich, hopping up and down and waving his hand. Whoops — Chris Christie just shoved Newt out of the spotlight. Trump said he might like a governor, so that should give Christie a boost. And a recent poll showed that as many as 15 percent of New Jersey Republicans think he’d be a good choice.

    Just imagine the reaction at the network:

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