Archive

July 28th, 2016

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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Republicans Called Trump What?

    The arena here at the Republican National Convention echoes with applause for Donald Trump, but the cacophony and extravagant stage effects can’t conceal the chaos in the GOP and in the Trump campaign.

    Republican senators suddenly are busy fishing, mowing the lawn or hiking the Grand Canyon; conservative celebrities mostly sent regrets. This vacuum reflects the horror that many leading conservatives feel for their new nominee.

    Pundits like me are gnashing their teeth as Trump receives the presidential nomination of the party of Lincoln, but, frankly speaking, we don’t have much credibility in Cleveland since many of us aren’t all that likely to support a Republican nominee in any case.

    So instead of again inflicting on you my views of the danger of Trump, let me share what some influential conservatives said about him during the course of the campaign. (Some have since tempered their public sentiments.)

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Republican convention a showcase of rancor, poor taste

    The Republican National Convention that opened Monday in Cleveland to nominate Donald Trump for president had the usual hoopla. But it also was shrouded in questions concerning the very viability and future of the party itself.

    The efforts of anti-Trump delegates to release pledged delegates to vote their "conscience" was crushed by pro-Trump strategists who one way or another got some of the antis to withdraw their support from a petition for a roll-call vote on the proposal. It threw the opening session into chaos, and much bad feeling.

    Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chief strategist, brushed off the complaint and said the convention remained on track for his man's overwhelming nomination. But the way it was achieved seemed to smash much chance for widespread party unity behind Trump, with one delegation, from Colorado, walking off the convention floor.

    Dissidents argued thereafter that the wiser course might have been to allow that rules vote and then soundly defeat it, leaving the anti-Trump forces without much basis for claiming foul.

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Making America Safe for Whom?

    So far, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has been a slapdash spectacle of the absurd, with processions of B-list politicians and Z-list celebrities jockeying for the title of biggest embarrassment.

    Tuesday was supposed to follow the theme of “Make America Work Again” — something President Barack Obama has already done to a large degree, for the record — but instead of presenting work programs, policies or proposals, the convention got the vice-presidential also-ran Chris Christie to conduct a Salem witch trial against Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Ben Carson, the retired brain surgeon with permanent brain freeze, tried to link Clinton to Lucifer.

    Oh, to what depths has the Grand Old Party descended?

    But the first day, the one themed “Make America Safe Again,” was perhaps the most egregious.

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Loving America Means Finding Fault With It

    I was sitting on a bus one summer, chatting with a man behind me who’d worked all over the world in the U.S. foreign service. Like many conversations today, ours turned eventually to the many problems with our country.

    That’s when his companion, who’d been silent so far, spoke. If things are so bad, he barked at me, why don’t you leave the country?

    This man espoused a view I find antithetical to true patriotism. It can basically be summed up as “America — Love it or Leave it.”

    There’s a lot that’s great about America, no doubt. But nobody would say we’re flawless — especially not in a summer wracked by mass shootings and police killings. Nobody would say we can’t become better in virtually every respect.

    We’re a rich country, but we’d be better if we reduced poverty until it was no more. We’re a democracy, but we could extend our voting rights, reduce gerrymandering, or take any number of other measures to ensure each of us has a say in our government.

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Look! In the blue fog! It's ... the Donald!

    Donald Trump made a grand entrance on the first night of the Republican National Convention back-lit in a thick blue fog. I expected to hear the theme song from his "The Celebrity Apprentice" program, "For the Love of Money" by the O'Jays. But, no.

    Too bad. It would have been no less appropriate for The Donald than the thick blue fog, which pretty well symbolizes the vagueness of his answers whenever he is asked for specifics about his grand campaign promises.

    Only a day earlier, CBS aired a "60 Minutes" interview in which Lesley Stahl asked whether his promise to "declare war against ISIS" meant that he would send American troops into combat. Trump's long response came nowhere close to delivering a simple yes or no.

    "Look, we have people that hate us," he said. "We have people that want to wipe us out. We're gonna declare war against ISIS. We have to wipe out ISIS. These are people that...."

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Trump and the Sultan

    Turkey is a long way from Cleveland, where the Republicans are holding their presidential convention. But I’d urge you to study the recent failed military coup against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. America is not Turkey — but in terms of personality and political strategy, Erdogan and Donald Trump were separated at birth.

    And the drama playing out in Turkey today is the story of just how off track a once successful country can get when a leader who demonizes all his rivals and dabbles in crazy conspiracy theories comes to believe that he alone is The Man — the only one who can make his country great again — and ensconces himself in power.

    Let’s start with Erdogan, who was prime minister from 2003 to 2014, but then maneuvered himself into the previously symbolic role of president and got all key powers shifted to that position. I confess that when I first heard the news of the July 15 coup attempt, my first instinct was to consult that great foreign policy expert Miss Manners, The Washington Post’s etiquette columnist, because I was asking myself, “What is the right response when bad things happen to bad people?”

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Campaign mops up poorly after Melania Trump speech mess

    Well, Donald Trump can't tell his wife she's fired. Nor should he.

    The evident plagiarism in Melania Trump's speech doesn't reflect poorly on Melania Trump, at least from what we know so far. Its presence, and the handling of it after its predictably swift disclosure, reflects poorly on the Trump campaign.

    It demonstrates, as if more were needed, that this is an operation that is not ready for prime time.

    First, let us assume for the moment that Melania Trump herself did not engage in the jaw-droppingly stupid act of cutting and pasting from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech. Candidates, and their surrogates, have speechwriters to produce first drafts, and second ones, and so on. So allow for a permissible amount of self-puffery in Melania Trump's comments to NBC News' Matt Lauer that she wrote the speech with as "little help as possible." Emphasis on the "as possible."

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July 22nd

Trump-Pence marriage is off to a rocky start

    Cleveland -- The marriage of Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is not off to a great start.

    Donald Trump introduced Pence as his running mate as if it were a painful duty, in a series of long digressions about himself that he had to keep dragging back on track, perhaps hoping that if he talked about himself long enough the situation might resolve itself. (Admittedly, this is Donald Trump's approach to everything.) Looking at Mike Pence during his first interview side by side with Donald Trump, you had the sense that he had not yet realized that he would have to tell Donald Trump a different story every night in order to keep his head.

    It would be a lie to say that they had anything like a natural, easy chemistry together. They have the easy, natural rapport of Lando Calrissian and Darth Vader just when the deal has started to turn. Donald Trump and Mike Pence sitting next to each other doing an interview is like that episode of "Law & Order: SVU" where the stepfather is a suspect and Olivia Benson can't get him out of the interview.

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