Archive

December 27th

The Plague of ‘Early Decision’

    As the moment of judgment neared, they barely slept, convinced that their very futures were on the line. Dread consumed them. Panic overwhelmed them.

    I don’t mean Americans awaiting the Electoral College’s validation of Donald Trump.

    I mean students (and their parents) awaiting actual colleges’ verdicts on early-decision and early-action applications.

    One friend of mine canceled our dinner plan because he hadn’t realized that it fell around the time when his daughter expected word from her top Ivy League choice. He and his wife couldn’t leave her home alone in such a tremulous state, at such a terrifying juncture.

    Another friend’s daughter, also vying to get into a highly selective school, repeatedly burst into tears as she berated herself for a 3.9 grade-point average instead of a 4.0. What if the difference spelled her doom?

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Who in the Republican Party will stand up to Trump?

    President-elect Donald Trump's victory tour was more than just an opportunity to strut and preen around the country like a peacock with a comb-over. It was a warning to Republican leaders in Congress that Trump intends to be in charge -- and that there will be consequences if the party establishment does not fall in line.

    The post-election rallies also served as venues for Trump to make grandiose promises, including some that will stick in his party's craw.

    Trump billed the series of campaign-style events as a way to thank the voters who elected him. It seems obvious that he is addicted to adulation, basks in the grandeur of his own celebrity and chafes at the prosaic labor of assembling an administration. This is a man who cannot be bothered to hear a daily intelligence briefing about threats to the nation, yet finds time to meet with Kanye West.

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Crony Capitalism Made Rick Perry Our Energy Secretary

    Rick Perry has taken quite a tumble since being governor of Texas. He was a twice-failed GOP presidential wannabe and then ended up being a rejected contestant on Dancing with the Stars, the television show for has-been celebrities.

    But now, having kissed the ring of Donald Trump, Perry is being lifted from the lowly role of twinkle-toed TV hoofer to — get this — taking charge of our government’s nuclear arsenal.

    That’s a position that usually requires some scientific knowledge and experience. But as we’re learning from Trump’s other cabinet picks, the key qualification that Trump wants his public servants to have is a commitment to serve the private interests of corporate power.

    That’s why Perry — a devoted practitioner of crony capitalism and a champion of oligarchy — has been rewarded with this position.

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Obama's disappointing swan song

    As President Obama enters his final month in the Oval Office, he does so licking his wounds, not only over the defeat of his Democratic Party and the candidate he campaigned diligently for, but also for the besmirching of his legacy.

    The 11th-hour disclosure that Russian hacking played a role in Hillary Clinton's loss, and Obama's passive response to the outrage -- he said only he would take some unspecified action against it -- left him looking weak and indecisive as he heads out the door.

    His lame report in his final White House press conference, that in a confrontation with Vladimir Putin he told the Kremlin strongman to "cut it out," came off ludicrously like a whine to a schoolyard bullyboy.

    Obama defended that reply, made during the closing weeks of the presidential campaign, on grounds he didn't want to fuel more questions about the interference with the American political process and the legitimacy of the result.

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The Senate Bathroom Angle

    We are sorely in need of some cheerful news out of Washington, so I’m going to tell you Barbara Mikulski’s story about the Senate bathrooms.

    Almost every veteran woman legislator, in every level of government, has a story about the shortage of bathroom facilities at work. Really, there needs to be a book on this. It could have a happy ending, and none of the chapters would involve Russian attempts to manipulate an election.

    Mikulski, 80, has served in Congress longer than any other woman in history. She’s retiring this month after representing Maryland for 30 years in the Senate. Before that she spent 10 years in the House. She was a social worker who got into Democratic politics during a battle to stop a planned highway that was threatening the ethnic Baltimore neighborhoods she loved. It was an unusual career route at the time, but she was an unusual person.

    “One of the things they said was that I didn’t look the part,” Mikulski, who is 4-foot-11, recalled. “… You know, chunky and I have a definite blue-collar style, so I wasn’t to the manner born, to the trust fund inherited.”

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The Year of ‘Post-Truth’

    “Post-Truth.” The Oxford English Dictionary named this its word of the year for 2016.

    This was a year when campaign lies — most, though not all, coming out of the Donald’s mouth — were so numerous that fact checking became nearly impossible.

    Yes, each individual statement could be fact checked. But there were so many rapid-fire falsehoods that it was impossible to debunk them one by one on TV without devoting entire shows to just that.

    And, far too often, nobody even cared if their preferred candidate was untruthful. The internet was awash with fake news that was more popular than the real news.

    One fake news story told Trump supporters that the pope had endorsed Trump, while another one told Clinton supporters that he’d denounced Trump. In reality, he did neither.

    Things have hardly gotten better since the election, with Trump making false claims about “millions” of “illegal voters” and denying intelligence assessments that Russia intervened on his behalf.

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Trump imitates Putin, but the U.S. Isn't Russia

    If Vladimir Putin gave a damn about American public opinion, he'd encourage Donald Trump to make at least a symbolic gesture to prove he's not the Russian strongman's vassal. So far, there's no sign either party to their oddly one-sided alliance feels the need.

    Trump's every significant appointment and foreign policy pronouncement has been exactly as the Russians would have it. "The man has very strong control over his country," Trump has said. "He's been a leader far more than our president has been a leader." So what if Putin's leadership skills include having political rivals and troublesome journalists jailed or killed?

    For all of his crudity, Trump can be excruciatingly polite.

    More telling are Trump's cabinet picks: first, national security adviser Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, a flaky conspiracy-theorist who not only gave credence to the delusional "Pizzagate" tale, but has also dined publicly with Putin and done paid gigs on the Kremlin-sponsored "Russia Today" TV network.

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Why President Trump will continue to hold rallies

    Donald Trump has just finished the last of his nine post-election "thank-you tour" rallies. Why did he do them? And why is he planning further rallies after he becomes president?

    One clue is that Trump conducted them only in the states he won. And most attendees appeared to have voted for him -- overwhelmingly white, and many wearing Trump hats and T-shirts. When warm-up speakers asked how many had previously attended a Trump rally, most hands went up.

    A second clue is that rather than urge followers to bury the hatchet, Trump wound them up. "It's a movement," he said in Mobile, Alabama. He playfully told a crowd in Orlando, Florida, that in the run-up to the election, "You people were vicious, violent, screaming, 'Where's the wall?' 'We want the wall!' Screaming, 'Prison!' 'Prison!' 'Lock her up!' I mean, you were going crazy. You were nasty and mean and vicious." He called his followers "wild beasts."

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Despite outrage, Electoral College remains secure

    Twice in the last five presidential elections, the Democratic presidential nominees -- first Al Gore and then Hillary Clinton -- have had to suffer defeat in the Electoral College after having won the nationwide popular vote.

    Gore in 2000 captured that vote by a half-million ballots, and the then sitting vice president had to endure the pain and humiliation of watching the Supreme Court rule against him. After a public and arduous examination of Florida's "hanging chads," the court deliberated into the wee hours before deciding against Gore by a split 5-4 vote.

    Clinton's loss this year came as more of a surprise, losing the Electoral College despite winning the popular vote by 2.8 million. But Gore had to undergo a personally more distasteful chore upon the opening of the next session of Congress in January 2001.

    It fell to him as the departing president of the Senate to announce to the assembled members of the Senate and House the official results of the election by the Electoral College, which found him trailing Republican president-elect George W. Bush 271 to 266.

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Happy Holidays, Donald Trump

    Some things Donald Trump says enrage me while others get under my skin. The pronouncement that does both is his regular claim that until he prevailed, Americans were not free to say "merry Christmas" to each other.

    He was at it again last week in West Allis, Wisconsin, during his Watch-Me-Divide-The-Country-Further "Victory Tour." Trump declared: "So when I started 18 months ago, I told my first crowd in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here someday and we are going to say merry Christmas again. Merry Christmas. So, merry Christmas everyone."

    Here's what bothers me: Long before Trump came along we were entirely free to say merry Christmas to each other. Our political leaders could say it, too.

      On her MSNBC program last weekend, my friend Joy Reid demonstrated that President Obama was no Christmas-hating guy trying to hide remembrances of the birth of Jesus Christ behind some noxious wall of secularism. She showed not one but 20 moments when the president said the words "merry Christmas."

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