Archive

November 22nd, 2016

Trump's first right move

    As Donald Trump moves ahead in forming his new administration, his first significant decision has been putting Vice President-elect Mike Pence in charge of his transition team.

    In swiftly replacing his original choice, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Trump has signaled his intent to continue the tradition over the last 40 years or so of utilizing the vice presidency as a governing partner, with duties well beyond the office's original function as the standby for the president.

    Christie played a key role in Trump's winning the Republican nomination by being one of his first challengers to endorse him. But in switching to Pence, who entered the picture later and was not well-known to Trump, the president-elect has already incorporated his new sidekick into his small, family-laden inner circle.

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Trump needs to give up his Trump Hotel lease

    In 2013, the General Services Administration leased Washington's historic Post Office Pavilion to the Trump Organization for $180 million. Before his inauguration on Jan. 20, the GSA must terminate the Organization's lease. The 60-year deal presents unprecedented and intolerable conflicts of interest. Swift action by GSA is necessary to protect the integrity of the federal government contracting process.

    The federal procurement system has a 200-year record of transparency and integrity. As part of the protection of the contracting process from corruption, federal contracting regulations mandate that "government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach . . . to avoid . . . even the appearance of a conflict of interest in Government-contractor relationships."

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There's a reason Trump supporters believed his talk about rigged systems

    Earlier this year, I was invited to speak at Princeton's center on equality and cultural understanding in the wake of campus protests over racism. My driver from the Newark airport was a white guy with a gray ponytail. Mickey announced himself as a Trump supporter and seemed surprised that I wasn't. He filled the hour-long ride with his life story.

    He'd worked in an automobile factory for 30 years, assembling seat-belt parts, until it closed up and moved away. Now, he cobbles together a living driving a limo, doing some carpentry and preaching at conservative churches. He insisted that the system was rigged and Donald Trump was the "wrecking ball" (his words) that the nation needed.

    He didn't come across as particularly angry or overtly racist. When I told him I was from India and a Muslim, he paused for a moment, then asked polite, if basic, questions. Why do Muslims call God "Allah"? What do we think of Jesus?

    There was sadness, too. A family member had recently died of a drug overdose. It had started with painkillers after a work accident and then quickly moved on to harder stuff.

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Serious about relocating from Trump's America? Here are your options.

    Donald Trump's move to the White House has left many Americans considering a move of another sort: out of their homeland. According to a Morning Consult/Vox poll, more than 25 percent of the populace thought of retreating to more attractive ground in the event of a Trump win. Fortunately for them, there are some options.

    For a long-term exit plan, ancestry is the easiest and cheapest route. Direct descendants of an Italian male citizen (or female if born after 1948) can apply for Italian citizenship -- no language or cultural tests required. It's even possible to register and collect the documents at an embassy or consulate abroad before traveling there. Irish grandparents or Polish great-grandparents may supply another route available to many Americans, if you have the right paperwork. And if Nazis stripped your Jewish ancestors of German citizenship, Germany and the rest of the European Union may be open to you as well. Indeed, with a EU passport in hand, you are free to live in any of the member states, including the United Kingdom (at least for the moment).

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Obama in Trumpland

    If Election Day seemed to be a dream (or, rather, nightmare) devoid of logic, the week since has done little to render the world more coherent.

    Let’s review:

    Donald Trump, exulting in his big win, addressed the question of The Wall. You know, the central pledge of his candidacy, reiterated at every rally. A mighty barrier between the U.S. and Mexico that only he was potent enough to erect.

    And what did he have to say?

    That it might be a mere fence in spots.

    A fence! Just three days after his victory, he was downscaling, backtracking. At this rate, he’ll be talking at his inauguration about a glorious hedge along the border. By April it’ll be flowering shrubs, with blossoms that spell out “Welcome to America.” And by June? Some sort of new Christo installation, maybe the world’s largest-ever topiary display.

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Mr. Trump, Help Heal The Planet

    Dear President-elect Trump:

    Well, you won. You were not my choice, but you’re soon going to be my president. I have no intention of forgetting or forgiving the abhorrent things you said and did during the campaign. They hurt real people, debased our political process and erased social norms vital for keeping our diverse society together. I am not done resisting all that just because you won.

    However, I’m not going to spend every day hoping you fail. Too much is at stake. Since you’re clearly rethinking some of your extreme campaign promises, the right response for me is principled engagement. So let’s start now: Please revisit your claim that climate change is a hoax.

    Nothing would get the attention of your opponents more than if you declared your intent to take a fresh look at the climate issue. It would force many of them to give you a second look — and virtually none of your supporters would care, because few voted for you on this issue and they all know that their kids understand the climate is changing and would be heartened if you did, too.

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Life after the election

    It was gratifying that after Wisconsin voted him into the presidency, the gentleman did not talk about putting Hillary in prison. That was a nice surprise. And when he met with Obama of Kenya, the white sahib was well-behaved, listened to what the African had to say, did not interrupt or call him stupid, and in fact thanked the alien for meeting with him. He did a good impersonation of modesty.

    Say what you will, the man is flexible. The wall on the border, his reliable applause line this past year, has been downgraded to a fence in some places and may eventually turn into a line of orange highway cones. The 11 million deportees are down to two or three. Hillary may be let off with an ankle bracelet.

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November 21st

Two tests for Trump's foreign policy

    The Trump administration will put an end to the 100 years of U.S. global leadership that began in 1918. It will rend the NATO alliance, cede Eurasia to Russia and the Pacific to China, and adopt as the United States' best friends populist and authoritarian regimes that despise immigrants and globalization.

    Or, after a few early scrapes, its foreign policy will slowly devolve into a somewhat ruder version of President Barack Obama's. It will bomb terrorists while trying to extract the United States from the Middle East; mix negotiations with Russia and China with pushback against their aggressions; and berate European and Asian allies about their inadequate defense spending without breaking the U.S. commitment to defend them. It will downplay human rights and may even look for deals with rogue regimes, such as North Korea.

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How to know if Trump's really draining the swamp

    Donald Trump's election victory is already creating the economic boom he promised -- in Washington, along the K Street lobbying corridor.

    After his "drain-the-swamp" campaign against Washington lobbyists, the president-elect has stacked his transition-planning team with the special-interest representatives he railed against. They'll populate his administration with people friendly to those interests.

    A big bonanza may be just around the corner: the largest tax legislation in history. There's nothing that brings out the Gucci crowd like a tax bill, and this one promises to be the mother of all tax bills. The stated purpose is a massive tax cut, but Washington insiders already are talking about how the interest groups will vie for favorable treatment. They don't expect Trump to stand in the way.

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For my 92- year-old dad and uncle, history seems to be repeating itself

    My dad, who is 92, often talks about the racial progress that has occurred during his lifetime. The stories are always uplifting but sometimes come with sobering caveats.

    "I remember when the first black policeman was hired in Shreveport, in 1954," said Dad, referring to the city in Louisiana where I was born three years earlier. "But he wasn't allowed to arrest white people."

    Or: "After World War II, black people started making enough money to buy cars in large numbers. But the police started harassing them the way they harassed black pedestrians."

    Dad was born in Dermott, Ark., in 1924 - a time when racism in America was worse than it had been since the Civil War. Historian Rayford Logan described the period from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 until well into the 20th century as the "nadir of American race relations."

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