Archive

December 7th

The Case for Mitt Romney

    A show of hands, please: How many of you would like Donald Trump to step away — far away — from his Twitter account? I’m pretty sure I have a majority, but to be safe: How many can at least agree on no tweets before breakfast?

    Yowza. I’m above 95 percent. Reince, you don’t have to nod wildly and jump up and down; the raised hand alone will do. And you get one hand, Melania, not two. Two is a real, provable case of voter fraud.

    Thanks in part to the president-elect’s predilection for outbursts of fewer than 140 characters, he routinely comes across as petty and mercurial. But right now he has an opportunity for the opposite impression. He can choose Mitt Romney as his secretary of state.

    That he’s actually mulling this — the two were scheduled for a second meeting about it, over dinner, Tuesday night — is alone extraordinary. Trump knows how to carry a grudge the way Jim Brown knew how to carry a football, and Romney gave him cause for vengefulness, with a major speech during the Republican primaries that labeled him a fraud and exhorted Americans to reject him.

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Pro-democracy Republicans can counter Trump

    Donald Trump's accusations claiming that millions of people "voted illegally" in the election were quickly and definitively shown to be false. So why didn't the truth settle the issue? The answer demonstrates how Trump's habit of publicizing conspiracy theories could be a danger to the health of U.S. democracy during his presidency.

    Remember, most citizens don't pay close attention to the news. But they do hear things a president (or president-elect) says, and if he says elections aren't honest, then many citizens will believe him. The less people trust the basic integrity of elections, the less they are likely to believe in democracy.

    False claims of illegal voting have already been used as a cast ballots in several states, and it's possible that Trump will try to restrict these rights further.

    Several prominent Republicans quickly challenged his accusations on illegal voting. This pushback was better than none, even if the president (or president-elect) will always have the biggest megaphone. Unfortunately, none of those objecting were Republican members of Congress -- the ones who are best positioned to rein him in.

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Obamacare is probably toast - and a lot of poor, white Trump voters will get hurt by it

    Donald Trump has chosen GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, as his secretary for Health and Human Services. This likely means that, at best, the health law will be repealed and replaced by something that covers far fewer people, or that, at worst, it will get repealed outright, leaving even more people without coverage.

    So what does this mean for poor and working-class white Trump voters who are currently benefiting from the law, some no doubt enjoying health coverage for the first time in their lives?

    Jonathan Cohn has a good piece in The Huffington Post explaining what the choice of Rep. Price means in policy terms. Unlike many Republicans, Price has at least given a lot of thought to how to replace the ACA. But Price's own replacement proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion, a substantial portion of financial assistance for others getting coverage, and a fair amount of regulation of the individual market. And so, the likely end result (again, at best) is that a lot of the 20 million people who would lose coverage due to repeal will remain without coverage, and protections for those with bad medical conditions will be eroded.

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No, you couldn't strip flag-burners of citizenship, even if flag-burning could be made a crime

    Donald Trump tweet Tuesday:

    "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag -- if they do, there must be consequences -- perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"

    Contrary to President-elect Donald Trump's tweet, even if flag-burning weren't protected by the First Amendment (and it is), you couldn't strip people of their citizenship for it.

    Let's begin with the constitutional text, here from section 1 of the 14th Amendment:

    "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

    Once you have American citizenship, you have a constitutional entitlement to it. If you like your American citizenship, you can keep your American citizenship -- and that's with the Supreme Court's guarantee, see Afroyim v. Rusk (1967):

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McCain could take role of bulwark against Trump

    There may be one senator, not Chuck Schumer or any other Democrat, who could be a check on some of President Donald Trump's likely excesses: John McCain.

    The president-elect and the five-term Republican from Arizona are almost polar opposites on issues ranging from service and public responsibilities to national security. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has made clear he will oppose Trump policies that would amount to appeasement of Russia's Vladimir Putin on Syria or elsewhere, or any effort to circumvent the law and revive "enhanced interrogation" methods against terrorists that he has described as torture.

    McCain could be big thorn in Trump's side on ethics. He has been a fierce fighter against corruption since he was ensnared in a savings and loan scandal more than a quarter-century ago. And he will set a much higher ethical bar than Trump, who seems oblivious to the potential conflicts of interests presented by his far-flung business empire.

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Journalists in the age of Trump: Lose the smugness, keep the mission

    Journalists may thrive on news - by definition, the unexpected or novel - but they're terrible at getting out of their own comfortable ruts.

    Consider, for example, the decade or so of abject denial about their threatened business model that followed the apocalyptic arrival of Craigslist, which removed the crucial revenue that came from classified advertising.

    In short, we (yes, I include myself) don't handle change all that well.

    And now we - the traditional, the legacy, the mainstream media - have to change.

    Donald Trump has been a candidate and will be a president who requires vastly different coverage. If the '70s brought, via Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion and Norman Mailer, what was called "the New Journalism," I suggest we now need a New New Journalism.

    Here are some ways journalism must be reinvented:

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It's time to ban Donald Trump from Twitter

    Hot on the heels of Donald Trump's latest outrageously outrageous tweet - in which he suggested that we either imprison people who burn the flag or strip them of their citizenship - it's time for Twitter to take action and ban Donald Trump from the service.

    Once the self-described free-speech wing of the free-speech party, Twitter has for the past several years vocally defended its prerogative to ban anyone (on the right) from its service for essentially any reason it sees fit. Often these bans are justified under rather nebulous notions of abuse or "targeted harassment," the idea being that anyone with sufficiently high numbers of followers who singles out someone else for criticism bears a measure of responsibility when that person's followers viciously attack the criticized individual.

    Since it caters to celebrities and uses their fame to promote its own brand, Twitter has been hesitant to ban anyone famous in real life from the service regardless of his or her bad, abusive behavior. One imagines Twitter might make an exception for Trump. Undoubtedly, the service could find some justification for applying the targeted-harassment rubric to the president-elect.

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How to fill the void once Trump kills the TPP

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have created trade links between the U.S., Japan and a number of other Asian countries, is dead. Donald Trump has vowed to kill the pact on his first day in office. That won't be a hard promise to keep, as the trade deal was already effectively dead -- Trump's move is just a flourish.

    The TPP had garnered opposition from both sides of the political spectrum -- Bernie Sanders supporters were dead set against it as well. Progressive activists walking past my house had "Stop TPP" buttons on their backpacks. If there was any policy that was doomed this election cycle, it had to be this one. I don't really know, but I suspect that the TPP mostly acted as a scapegoat for more general fears about globalization -- a symbolic show of strength by skeptics of trade deals.

    Killing the TPP will have only a small impact on the nation's economy, just as passing it would have generated only small benefits. The real risks are to the U.S.'s international prestige, and to the economic health of key American allies.

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Donald Trump v. the First Amendment, part five

    The president-elect woke up Tuesday morning with a clear agenda before him. Poised to announce his pick of Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and with a day of meetings slated - including one with onetime foe Mitt Romney - Donald Trump hopped on Twitter to talk about where his attention was focused.

    Disparaging CNN and - more unexpectedly - reigniting the once-virulent debate over flag-burning.

    "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!" he tweeted.

    Where this came from is anybody's guess. There's an operating theory among some that Trump throws out tweets like this to distract attention from something else, as though 140-character messages demand our total (100 percent) brain capacity. On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," host Joe Scarborough speculated that maybe Trump was tossing a bit of red meat to the angry social media lions before announcing that he would pick Romney as secretary of state.

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Democrats are in a hole - but it's not why you think

    Pardon me if I don't get wildly excited by Democrats looking to place blame for their party's defeat and proposing a road map for the future.

    I've seen it before - after every election, actually.

    I still remember representatives of the AFL-CIO and the more moderate Democratic Leadership Council blaming each other for Michael Dukakis' defeat in 1988 and arguing about the party's future strategy and message. It was only after pragmatist Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992 that the sniping stopped.

    This year, most of the criticism has been aimed at the Hillary Clinton campaign's lack of a compelling economic message, particularly one aimed at white working-class voters. It's one of a number of reasonable explanations - as is the candidate's personal liabilities and the campaign's error of not treating Wisconsin and Michigan as electoral problems.

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