Archive

December 15th

Trump blessed with incompetent opponents

    Donald Trump isn't short of opposition, but much of it has been strikingly ineffective.

    Not only was impotent criticism a big part of what got him elected, but many of his opponents also appear to be slow learners. That seems likely to bolster Trump's support and sustain him in office.

    The president-elect gives every impression of having already taken charge, a posture that his critics validate by treating every half-baked intervention (1,000 jobs "saved" at Carrier) and meaningless expostulation (flag-burners should have their citizenship revoked) as though it were an actual policy. At the hands of his critics, Trump's ridiculous running commentary becomes, "Trump is really shaking things up." In this way, by doing nothing, he's delivering before he's even sworn in.

    Unfortunately for Democrats, whose job it is to oppose the Republican president-elect, Trump shares their disregard for limited government and market forces. This shuts down the strongest lines of criticism and introduces an awkward mismatch between the intensity of the Democrats' loathing of Trump and the substance of their complaints.

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Trump's proposed administration isn't ideologically diverse

    Should Americans worry about the emerging Donald Trump administration? Some say it is a "team of racists" that has emboldened white supremacists and frightened civil rights groups. Others suggest that a promising "team of rivals" is emerging.

    Does it matter? Scholars and policymakers disagree over how much cabinet ministers influence policy. My research finds that, in a crisis, a cabinet's ideological diversity matters a great deal. I've examined how governments in developing democracies behave in such times by studying their tolerance in the face of anti-corruption movements.

    Here's what I've found: Ideologically plural governments are more likely to behave tolerantly. Ideas act as weapons, and no one position can "win out" and undo institutional integrity.

    In other words, what's key to a government that behaves tolerantly isn't sharing a partisan ideology, be it conservative or liberal; rather, it's having internal ideological checks and balances, including administration officials in positions of power who vigorously disagree amongst themselves.

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Whose feminism is this?

    For the past 20 years, I have worked with domestic workers and caregivers to bring dignity and respect to the work of raising children, maintaining households and caring for the elderly.

    This is the family care work that has historically been shouldered by women -- paid and unpaid.

    For the millions of women who work as professional caregivers and domestic workers today, feminism isn't an intellectual exercise. It is a practical matter, with real life implications -- like whether they have equal protection under law; whether their wages are enough to pay the bills and raise their children; or whether their jobs offer the basic dignity of being considered work in our society.

    The domestic workers movement has created a home for some of the most isolated and vulnerable working women in our economy, offering a platform to change the laws and culture that undervalue their contributions and limit their human potential. Women of color and immigrant women built this movement.

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Yes, Kellyanne Conway, you did provide a platform for white supremacy

    "Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform? Are you going to look me in the face and tell me that?"

    That was the incredulous question posed by President-elect Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, to Hillary Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri last week at the Harvard Institute of Politics' quadrennial first-draft-of-history discussion of the general election campaign. And there is no escaping the truth: Conway most definitely did.

    What elicited Conway's defensive and dismissive query was Palmieri's comment that "I am more proud of Hillary Clinton's alt-right speech than any other moment on the campaign trail." So am I. In fact, Clinton's boldness on race was a highlight of her White House bid.

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Trump voters getting what they wished for

    Every day, in almost every way, the voters who cast their ballots for Donald Trump are already getting just what they said they wanted: a loose cannon to "drain the swamp." And never mind the ramifications of his false and harmful off-the-cuff pronouncements.

    His premature introduction of governing-by-Twitter and his snap judgment in making quickie foreign phone calls without benefit of expert diplomatic and policy counsel are early-warning harbingers of a hip-shooting presidency.

    Trump's initial Cabinet and White House staff appointments, his conversations with Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, and his flirtation with Mitt Romney as his possible secretary of state may send sufficiently mixed signals to the gullible that Trump won't be as unorthodox as they feared.

    His quick decisions to give Cabinet positions at Treasury, Commerce and Education to wealthy business and Wall Street figures may well be enough to keep the once-rebellious old party regulars mollified.

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What Trump didn't learn from the financial crisis

    I'm cautiously optimistic about some of Donald Trump's policy initiatives, such as infrastructure upgrades and immigration reform. On others, such as trade, I'm worried, but less so than most. But on the issue of financial deregulation, I'm very pessimistic.

    The president-elect's transition team has already vowed to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act, the main financial regulation enacted in the wake of the 2008 crisis. A major part of that would be reducing the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created mainly to shield the public from exploitative lending practices. The Department of Labor's fiduciary rule, which would require financial advisers to put customer interests ahead of their own, is also under threat. This has all been very good news for financial companies, especially the big banks that were the main target of the reforms. Already, financial stocks have soared, powering U.S. stock indexes to record highs.

    There's this old idea that what's good for American companies is good for Americans. But that's not necessarily true, and it's certainly not true in the case of financial companies.

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Welcome to Donald Trump's Bizarro World cabinet picks

    As low as my expectations might be for the Donald Trump presidency, he finds new ways to drop the bar even lower.

    Take his cabinet nominees. Please.

    They aren't all bad. Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, the president-elect's choice for secretary of defense, comes well-recommended by old guard defense experts like Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and turns out to be nowhere near as nutty as his nickname implies.

    And it's hard to dislike the bipartisan appeal of Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), although Trump's choice to name her U.N. ambassador is a puzzlement. She has little experience in foreign relations but she opposes President Obama's Iran nuclear deal, so maybe that's good enough for Trump.

    But some of Trump's other choices illustrate how dramatically an election can swing our government's executive branch into a Bizarro World version of its former self -- like the fictional planet in DC comics where everything is the reverse of life on Earth.

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Trump’s Bottomless Secretarial Pool

    It’s not as if Donald Trump wants for self-amusement, but still I pity him the apparent end of his search for a secretary of state. He had such a blast with it.

    Luminary upon luminary genuflected before him. Oracle upon oracle plumbed the mists of his utterances. (“Just met with General Petraeus,” he tweeted. “Very impressed!”) He was the star yet again of a top-rated reality show, this one with the heightened stakes of war and peace — “The Apprentice: Armageddon.” I assume that Mark Burnett helped to vet the candidates.

    In fact I know it, because of something I’ve kept secret until now: I was in the running. It was fleeting but electric, and Trump cut me a break, letting me escape media notice by transporting me to Mar-a-Lago in a leaky dinghy at midnight. After a choppy voyage, I made a soggy entrance for my audition — sorry, interview — which consisted of Trump’s telling me which countries he already had hotels in and which he wanted to expand to. Then Ivanka swept in, modeling a choker and matching tiara from her jewelry collection, and asked me if I sensed a potential market for them in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Trump has completely upended the political game; we need to adjust accordingly

    The election of Donald Trump was a through-the-looking-glass moment in American politics.

    As in, everything that we - the collective political horde - thought was conclusive about how you win an election (outspend your opponent, build a better organization, lead in polling, run more TV ads) was disproved in one fell swoop on Nov. 8.

    Trump did everything wrong - by these traditional standards - and he won. And it wasn't the first time. The traditional rules of the road would have meant that Trump never rose beyond the 1 percent of the vote with which he started the Republican primary fight. The idea that a candidate could bully and insult his way to the Republican nomination over 16 (largely) serious candidates was simply unthinkable. The "rules" said it couldn't happen.

    Trump, to his immense credit, understood that a) flouting the rules actually endeared him to a big swath of voters and b) there might just not be any real rules at all.

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The war on professional journalism

    It was bound to happen. An ugly fake news story motivated an internet reader to make an armed assault on a Washington pizza parlor. Fortunately, no one was shot, but the episode underscored how hate messages are increasingly imperiling not only innocent lives, but the credibility of truthful, legitimate journalism in a particularly perilous time.

    The invader drove to D.C. spurred by a false news fantasy that Hillary Clinton was behind a child molestation ring in the basement of the eatery. The malicious pipe dream flooded the internet and was swallowed by the would-be rescuer of the nonexistent kids, who surrendered when confronted by police.

    The incident came on the heels of a barrage of similar fraudulent reports around the country. Their clear intent is to discredit liberal targets, tying them to equally false political chicanery spread by conservative conspirators. One of their champions has been Donald Trump's new chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, late of the right-wing Breitbart News website.

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