Archive

July 29th, 2016

Behind Hillary’s Mask

    Right after the Sept. 11 attacks, I ran into Hillary Clinton outside an armory in Manhattan that served as a sort of clearing house for tragedy, where people brought pictures of the missing and checked for information. She talked for a long time, very freely, about Washington politicians who had always hated New York but were turning out to be helpful in the crisis.

    The conversation was memorable not for the information but for her manner. For all her intensity about the city, Clinton was more relaxed than I’d ever seen her while chatting with a member of the press. She was operating in a new space — for the moment, no one really cared that she was a senator who’d gotten elected from a state she’d never lived in, the survivor of the best-known political sex scandal in American history, the former first lady who ran for office while her husband was still president. The country had temporarily lost interest in celebrities, and she seemed to find her relative insignificance liberating.

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Make America Hate Again

    They didn’t riot in the streets of Cleveland, as Donald Trump said his supporters would do had things not gone his way. But you saw the raw essence of a riot, the madness and loss of reason, on display in four days of chaos at the Republican National Convention.

    For a campaign now devoted to “law and order,” the start was mob rule: in spirit, in tone, in words. Long after we’ve forgotten Trump’s closing speech — that paean to self, that nightmare portrait of an America where the lights have gone out — we will remember the savagery just below the surface.

    Starting on Night 1, when Republicans chose to manipulate the grief-deranged mother of a terrorist victim, the buildup to the hanging of Hillary Clinton was never subtle. Imagine if one party had exploited a widow of one of the 241 service members killed in the 1983 suicide bombing of Americans in Beirut — the deadliest single attack on Marines since World War II — as a stick against Ronald Reagan, whose administrative negligence was much to blame.

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A resuscitated GOP convention

    The shaky façade of party unity that the Trump campaign has sought to construct at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland endured a stiff test Wednesday night when it risked the appearance of defeated and bitter rival Sen. Ted Cruz as an invited speaker.

    Cruz took the stage without having endorsed Donald Trump's already achieved presidential nomination. To the shock and anger of many convention delegates, he pointedly declined throughout his speech in what came off as a petty display of guerrilla-like resistance.

    The crowd finally erupted in booing and chants of "Endorse Trump!" as Cruz smirked and sarcastically offered, "I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation."

    This extraordinary act of conspicuous defiance laid bare the depth of the division that continues to imperil not only the Trump candidacy but the prospect for the survival of the party itself after the November election, if Trump should lose.

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The Siberian Candidate

    If elected, would Donald Trump be Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House? This should be a ludicrous, outrageous question. After all, he must be a patriot — he even wears hats promising to make America great again.

    But we’re talking about a ludicrous, outrageous candidate. And the Trump campaign’s recent behavior has quite a few foreign policy experts wondering just what kind of hold Putin has over the Republican nominee and whether that influence will continue if he wins.

    I’m not talking about merely admiring Putin’s performance — being impressed by the de facto dictator’s “strength,” and wanting to emulate his actions. I am, instead, talking about indications that Trump would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.

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The long capitulation to Trumpism

    The Donald Trump Family Reunion, formerly known as the Republican National Convention, illustrates how a once great political party now sees its main purpose as harnessing the opposition to the devil.

     There were chuckles and dismissals when Ben Carson, the brilliant neurosurgeon turned right-wing crank, used his convention speech Tuesday night to tie Hillary Clinton to the left-wing organizer Saul Alinsky, and then Alinsky to Lucifer. Presto: In the apotheosis of guilt by association by association, Carson concluded that Clinton "has, as their role model, somebody who acknowledges Lucifer." Using the plural "their" presumably makes Clinton an even bigger threat. She contains multitudes.

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The GOP's convention of chaos

    Did that just happen?

    After Ted Cruz had finished his drop-the-mic Republican National Convention speech and been booed off the stage, historian Michael Beschloss posted the following tweet: "Never seen anything quite like this." If a leading scholar of the presidency says we're in uncharted waters, I have to agree.

    No convention has ever heard such a ringing non-endorsement. Cruz mentioned his party's nominee, Donald Trump, just once, offering him simple congratulations. There was only the briefest and most cursory Clinton-bashing. Instead of chanting "Lock her up," Cruz delivered a sunny treatise on conservative principles. And then, after leading into what had to be an endorsement, he urged the assembled delegates to "vote your conscience." Wow.

    The Trump family scowled down from the VIP box. Boos resounded through the hall. Later, vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence came on to give a pretty good speech, but everyone knew the headlines would be about Cruz's epic dis.

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July 28th

Ted Cruz holds his nose but can't endorse Donald Trump

    Ted Cruz, vanquished presidential candidate, coughed up the name of the man who defeated him for the Republican nomination precisely once in his convention speech Wednesday night. "I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination," the Texas senator managed to choke out. Then, in a line not contained in the prepared text, "And like each of you I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November."

    From there, Cruz's speech was notable not for the predictable attacks on President Obama and Hillary Clinton -- indeed, by the lock-her-up standards of the Republican convention here, Cruz sounded positively, uncharacteristically mild -- but for its resounding silence on his party's nominee, a man he had described as a "pathological liar," a "narcissist" and "utterly amoral."

    If anything, the speech was pregnant with implicit nose-holding, if not tacit condemnation, of Trump.

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Hillary couldn't have picked a better VP

    What do you know? Donald Trump finally got something right. He picked the best possible running mate for vice president.

    Mike Pence is no political novice. In a long career as radio talk show host, member of Congress and governor of Indiana, he's made his mark as a full-fledged conservative. Unlike Trump, you know where Pence stands on every issue: on the extreme right-wing of his party. He was tea party before tea party was cool.

    In fact, during his 12 years in Congress, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody more conservative. In his first term, 2001-2002, out of 435 members of the House, according to the website Voteview, Pence ranked 428, meaning 427 members of Congress were to his left. By his last term he was 432 out of 435, pitting him to the right of such right-wing wackos as Michele Bachmann, Steve King and Louie Gohmert. And his record shows it.

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Every Night Is Kids’ Night

    Donald Trump arrived here Wednesday with a few words to the fans assembled at the helicopter pad. Really, just a few. Win Ohio ... make America great ... Mike Pence ... unbelievable vice president.

    “Welcome to Cleveland,” Pence said.

    It was a little peculiar that the governor of Indiana was doing the greeting, but there was, you know, that problem with John Kasich’s being on strike from the convention.

    It was Pence’s big night, although Trump made it pretty clear that he was more excited about his son Eric’s turn on stage. (“Eric’s going to be great ... amazing job. Kids, congratulations. Fantastic job.”)

    Which Trump child has been your favorite so far? I think you have to give a little credit to Tiffany, who labors under the burden of having been named for a jewelry store and got stuck with the job of telling the long-awaited touching personal anecdotes about her father. Eric, however, seemed to be the schedulers’ favorite, given the fact that speaking roles also went to an official from the winery he runs and the vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.

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Universities Must Do More To Prevent Sexual Assault

    Here we go again. At the rate these campus sexual abuse sagas are making news, it's reasonable to ask what college administrators can possibly be thinking about. Here's the latest Washington Post headline from the University of Virginia, an institution for which I have enormous respect and affection: "He said it was consensual. She said she blacked out. U-Va. had to decide: Was it assault?"

    A disclaimer: walking across Thomas Jefferson's serenely beautiful campus, an architectural monument to its founder's ideals of order and reason, remains an emotional experience. Plus, I met my wife there, an Arkansas girl who never suspected there could be such a thing as a single-sex undergraduate public university until the day she arrived as a graduate student.

    We were introduced by the dean of the graduate school, who asked if I'd ever heard of Hendrix College. I said no, that they must not play football.

    A coach's daughter, she laughed, partly because they didn't. Her voice was like a mockingbird's call. I've tried to keep her laughing ever since.

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