Archive

September 8th, 2016

Trump's bigotry will cost us

    While serving under Secretary Hillary Clinton as the State Department's first special representative to Muslim communities, I had a chance to visit with Muslims in almost 100 countries. This summer, as Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric dominates the headlines, I think back to one encounter, both powerful and troubling, that I had with a community in Cambodia.

    We had driven for hours through the jungle on a hard-packed dirt road. Finally we reached a village - just a few modest buildings among the trees, including a simple mosque with whitewashed mud walls and a dirt-pressed floor. Sandals lined the walls, and straw mats served as our seats. Dozens of barefoot residents of this Muslim community crowded around.

    I sat down on the floor beside a translator, and our conversation began. Audience members asked questions that, unfortunately, I had often heard in other communities. Are Muslims real U.S. citizens? Do Americans spit on you when they hear you're Muslim? Can Muslims wear headscarves in the United States? Can they pray, and if so, where? Wasn't 9/11 a setup by Jews to frame Muslims? How was I allowed to serve in government if I was a Muslim?

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Trump's new hire is Captain Ahab of Clinton haters

    Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas, the old saying goes. If so, Donald Trump should be awfully itchy.

    Trump has just augmented his ever-changing cast of mostly second-string campaign operatives with a new deputy campaign manager, conservative activist David Bossie. "A friend of mine for many years," Trump told my Washington Post colleague Robert Costa. "Solid. Smart. Loves politics, knows how to win."

    That's one way to put it. Win at any cost would be another, and that's being polite. If Bossie's name doesn't ring a bell, you're lucky, because it means that you haven't been immersed for the last two decades-plus in the mucky minutiae of the right's no-holds-barred war against Bill and Hillary Clinton.

    This is a war in which Bossie has risen from foot soldier to general, in large part thanks to his willingness to do anything in pursuit of his prey. He is the Captain Ahab of Clinton haters.

    Some highlights:

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Thoughts on this column? Go online and comment

    When National Public Radio announced last month that it would no longer feature comments from readers on its website, general rejoicing followed.

    "Good riddance - and everybody else should do the same" was the tone of the response I saw on Twitter. USA Today columnist Rem Rieder, noting that other news organizations are moving away from comments as well, wrote, "Their disappearance is welcome." And even NPR's ombudswoman, Elizabeth Jensen, wrote that the move made sense to her, since such a small slice of the audience was participating.

    I disagree. I find value in reader comments that can't be adequately reproduced elsewhere. The argument that the conversation has migrated to Facebook and Twitter is flawed. Those are good places for discussion, but they are no substitute for having discussion take place where the story itself lives. I'm convinced that many smart readers with something to contribute will not follow a story onto social media to talk about it. News organizations should fix online comments rather than ditch them.

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Rachel Dolezal's "natural hair" politics

    In this summer of raw identity politics, it is ironically appropriate that everyone's favorite fake black woman, Rachel Dolezal, is back in the news.

    Dolezal, you surely recall, was the local NAACP president in Spokane who was exposed last year by a local television station and by her estranged parents as a white woman who was only passing for black.

    Or, as she might put it, she has been identifying as black since 2006 in much the same was that Caitlyn Jenner identifies as a woman, despite having the same male body that she had when she was Olympic medalist Bruce Jenner.

    Dolezal was back in the news with the announcement that she would be headlining a Labor Day weekend rally in Dallas called the Naturally Isis Braid-On, Economic Liberty March and Rally.

    No, Naturally Isis has nothing to do with the Islamic State. The event is organized by celebrity natural hair stylist and activist Isis Brantley and, yes, hair activism is a thing.

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Clinton Gets Gored

    Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election — bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.

    You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration — an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.

    Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.

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6 things we know heading into the final months of the presidential race

    For normal people, the general-election cycle starts now. (By normal, I mean, well, not me.)

    Labor Day is the traditional starting gun of the final two-plus months of the presidential campaign - a time when even the casual political watcher starts to pay some attention to the race that I (and my fellow political junkies) have spent more than two years of our collective lives thinking and writing about. (It seems somewhat sad when I see it in writing.)

    Given that the race is just starting for lots and lots of people, it's worth revisiting what we know about the contours of the contest.

 

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What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?

    One puzzle of the world is that religions often don’t resemble their founders.

    Jesus never mentioned gays or abortion but focused on the sick and the poor, yet some Christian leaders have prospered by demonizing gays. Muhammad raised the status of women in his time, yet today some Islamic clerics bar women from driving, or cite religion as a reason to hack off the genitals of young girls. Buddha presumably would be aghast at the apartheid imposed on the Rohingya minority by Buddhists in Myanmar.

    “Our religions often stand for the very opposite of what their founders stood for,” Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor, notes in a provocative and powerful new book, “The Great Spiritual Migration.”

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The decline of the black Republican

    Call to mind Ed Brooke,the D.C.-born late U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Think of abolitionist, orator and author Frederick Douglass, and civil rights leader James Farmer. The three were separated by occupation, and in Douglass' case, generations. But they had two things in common: Each was an African-American, and each was a Republican.

    Now consider the Rev. Mark Burns, the black Republican televangelist from South Carolina who pops up from time to time on cable news as a leading Donald Trump surrogate.

    Some context.

    Brooke was the nation's first popularly elected black senator. Douglass, a champion of the anti-slavery movement. Farmer, a civil rights pioneer and architect of the Freedom Ride of 1961.

    Burns' current claim to fame? The cartoon he tweeted this week depicting Hillary Clinton in blackface and saying "I ain't no ways tired of pandering to African-Americans" while holding a sign reading "#@!* the police."

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The Big Gay Sway

    On a sweltering afternoon in late August, Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat running for Congress against a longtime Republican incumbent, stole a half-hour from a crammed schedule for something that grieving residents of this metropolitan area still routinely do: She visited Pulse nightclub, where a gunman ended 49 lives in June.

    The club itself has been closed since then, but a patch of the property in front brims with flowers, photographs and rainbow flags, which signal that Pulse was a place where many gay people gathered and many gay people died. It’s an eye-catching, heart-stopping memorial.

    Could it also be an omen of political change?

    Prominent among the issues that Murphy, 37, is campaigning on is her 73-year-old opponent’s dismal record on LGBT rights. And some Democrats are convinced that this could work powerfully in her favor, especially at this time, in this place. Her district includes much of Orlando, though not Pulse itself, and is home to victims’ relatives and friends.

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September 7th

How Anthony Weiner's risque messages shaped our revenge-porn laws

    In the aftermath of Anthony Weiner's latest sext scandal, he found a surprising ally: Dan Savage. In a Monday interview, the sex columnist said that Weiner should be seen as "the victim of revenge porn," a malicious act in which sexual photographs are shared without the consent of the subject, usually to humiliate or harm.

    Savage's remarks are wrongheaded and miss the big picture. Revenge porn (more accurately called involuntary or nonconsensual pornography) is now illegal in several states and, thanks to a bill that is currently in front of Congress, may soon be a federal crime. But when those laws were being crafted just a few years ago, Weiner was a frequently touted example of what revenge porn isn't.

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