Archive

October 28th, 2016

Trump is not a GOP aberration

    The lies and distortions that Donald Trump's campaign messengers deploy to rationalize their candidate's outrageousness are more typical of the last couple of decades of our politics than we'd like to admit.

     Especially revealing and infuriating are the efforts to use Al Gore as a human shield against the public indignation Trump aroused by refusing to say whether he would accept the verdict of a democratic election. To compare what Gore did in the aftermath of the contested 2000 election with what Trump is doing now is like analogizing a fire marshal investigating the causes of a blaze to an arsonist.

    But first, the larger lesson. As Trump has plummeted in the polls, more conventional Republicans who thought they could get away with supporting him have tried to pretend that Trump and his message were foisted on them from some distant planet.

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Time Warner's boss wants out of cable. Should you?

    He is the least sentimental of the media moguls, known for being a dispassionate judge of a business's worth. And now he wants to sell Time Warner. Maybe we should be listening to what Jeff Bewkes is telling us.

    Sure, there are lots of other things one can discuss regarding the AT&T-Time Warner deal: AT&T's plan for a 5G-wireless world in which anybody can watch anything they want from anywhere on their mobile devices, the chances that antitrust regulators will decide that enough is enough, AT&T's giant debt load, Dallas's prospects of becoming a glittering media capital.

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The GOP is breaking. It's not Trump's fault.

    We now have something like consensus: The rise of Donald Trump portends the end of the Republican Party as we know it. As longtime GOP operative and commentator Steve Schmidt said last week, "The Republican Party has an outstanding chance of fracturing." Trump's opponents, inside and outside the party, are united in the belief that he has almost single-handedly undone an institution founded on the eve of the Civil War that has lasted for more than 150 years and has immeasurably shaped the United States.

    But this gives Trump too much credit - credit that he might of course welcome and relish, but too much nonetheless. Several times in American history, political parties have collapsed or radically realigned. And while prominent individuals hastened those developments, in each case it was the product of dramatic changes over the previous years. The "Trump did it" view is classic Great Man History - the idea that human events are driven by pivotal men (yes, usually men till only recently) steering society. It's also wrong. Previous examples of party crackups show why.

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Seven score and 13 years later, Trump, at Gettysburg, impersonates Lincoln

    Can she get anything done? That's the question now that nearly every poll shows Hillary Clinton winning the presidency and the Republicans holding on to the House, albeit with a weaker hand.

    Even if the Democrats take control of the Senate -- a strong possibility though not a certainty -- House Republicans could block Clinton's agenda of taxing the wealthy to finance new spending plans; liberalizing immigration, and tightening gun controls.

    A Democratic Senate would quickly confirm her choices for judges, including filling the long-vacant Supreme Court seat for which President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March. She would also have slight leverage on some routine spending bills. She could follow Obama's lead and use executive actions to expand gun control limits, for example, or stop corporations from moving their tax headquarters abroad. Accomplishing much more is wishful thinking.

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How Clinton and Ryan could find common ground

    Can she get anything done? That's the question now that nearly every poll shows Hillary Clinton winning the presidency and the Republicans holding on to the House, albeit with a weaker hand.

    Even if the Democrats take control of the Senate -- a strong possibility though not a certainty -- House Republicans could block Clinton's agenda of taxing the wealthy to finance new spending plans; liberalizing immigration, and tightening gun controls.

    A Democratic Senate would quickly confirm her choices for judges, including filling the long-vacant Supreme Court seat for which President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March. She would also have slight leverage on some routine spending bills. She could follow Obama's lead and use executive actions to expand gun control limits, for example, or stop corporations from moving their tax headquarters abroad. Accomplishing much more is wishful thinking.

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Google and Facebook contribute zero economic value. That's a big problem for trade.

    How much value do free online services contribute to the U.S. economy? Ask any user of Google, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, and the answer would most likely be, "A lot." But according to every statistic created by the U.S. government, the answer is actually zero.

    That's because key benchmarks including gross domestic product (GDP) historically ignore everything without a price. Because consumers do not pay for many information services, these "building blocks of the digital economy," as Harvard Business School economist Shane Greenstein wrote in a 2013 paper, simply aren't measured by standard economic tools. Greenstein refers to the vast difference between actual and measured value as our "digital dark matter."

    Ignoring free goods may not have mattered much in the past, but today a growing range of crucial software and digital services are simply not being counted. Well, so what? Consumers and investors obviously place high values on these services and the companies that offer them. Google is valued at more than $500 billion, and last year reported revenue of $75 billion.

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Believe Rubio at your own risk

    Indignant emails roll out of Marco Rubio's Senate office in waves, as if the past year hadn't happened at all.

    President Barack Obama is soft on Cuba, they complain. Obama is soft on Iran. Obama should be tougher on Venezuela.

    This is Rubio the defender of human rights, Rubio the internationalist, Rubio the brave advocate for U.S. leadership and engagement in a dangerous, dictatorial world.

    And Rubio the endorser of Donald Trump? Nowhere to be found in these pronouncements. Unimaginable, in fact, in these pronouncements.

    Every down-ballot Republican candidate who has endorsed Trump for president, which is almost every down-ballot Republican candidate, will have to explain the stance to his or her children and grandchildren.

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What Donald Trump shares with Al Sharpton

    One of my favorite tunes in the super-hit musical "Hamilton" is a little ditty sung by King George III. He raises a very appropriate question for his former colonies today: What comes next?

    What comes next?

    You've been freed.

    Do you know how hard it is to lead?

    That question has come to many minds ever since King George's day, every time a new regime takes the reins of power and its lofty campaign promises run into the harsh realities of taxes, budgets and tough decisions. "We campaign in poetry," as the late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo famously proclaimed. "We govern in prose."

    That question -- What comes next? -- also came to mind as I asked one of the most quotable black conservatives I know, Robert L. Woodson, founder and president of the Washington-based National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, what he thinks of Republican nominee Donald Trump's campaign.

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Trump's repulsive response to his female accusers rings of defamation

    Even as the country recoils, justifiably, from the prospect of Donald Trump threatening not to respect the election results, let us not lose sight of the mounting evidence of Trump's mistreatment of women -- and his offensive debate dismissal of their claims.

    At the second debate, Trump claimed that his taped boasting about grabbing women without consent was just that -- all talk, no action. In the 10 days before the third debate, nine women came forward to dispute that assertion.

    So moderator Chris Wallace posed the key question: "Why would so many different women from so many different circumstances over so many different years ... all make up these stories?"

    Trump's response was a characteristically repulsive stew of dishonesty, outright lies, conspiracy theorizing and blame-shifting.

     Dishonesty: "Those stories have been largely debunked," he said. Wrong. Actually, additional corroboration has emerged.

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On Nov. 9, let's forget Donald Trump happened

    With Donald Trump's chances of winning the White House narrowing, it's not too soon to ask: If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in November, what attitude should Democrats and Republicans alike take toward Trump voters?

    It will be tempting to excoriate or patronize them, or to woo them to your cause. But all of these approaches would be mistaken. A much better strategy -- for both parties -- is to engage in selective memory, and to treat Trump voters as though the whole sorry episode of his candidacy never occurred.

    That may seem counterintuitive, especially because there's no doubt that Trump's candidacy shows the system needs fixing. But it's based on the solid intuition that Trump voters, many of them alienated already from mainstream party politics, will only be further alienated by anything that associates them with a candidate whose brand was victory and who delivered defeat.

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