Archive

August 15th, 2016

Trump's economic reset short-changes his base

    Is Donald Trump becoming what he, among many other conservatives, warns us against?

    In his economic policy speech to the prestigious Detroit Economic Club on Monday the Republican presidential nominee sounded a lot like a tax-and-spend Democrat. Call him a "tax-and-deduct Republican."

    Aides billed his speech as a blueprint for stimulating growth and creating jobs. It also was aimed at resetting Trump's campaign after his own runaway mouth -- including his verbal attacks on a Muslim American family whose son died fighting in Iraq -- helped to erase any bump he received in the polls from the Republican National Convention.

    His mission in Detroit: Look and sound presidential. Use a Teleprompter. Offer something to every income bracket of voters. Don't respond to protesters in the audience -- who interrupted his speech more than a dozen times. Don't insult anybody, except maybe Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. If so, don't lay it on too thick. Show the kindlier, gentler Donald.

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Trump campaign proves the system isn't rigged

    The cornerstone of Donald Trump's shaky rhetorical constructs is this: The fix is in. Indeed, in this most inconsistent and unpredictable of political campaigns, Trump consistently promises that everything that matters has been rigged beforehand.

    "I'm afraid the election's going to be rigged. I have to be honest," Trump told supporters in Ohio last week. A North Carolina poll found that seven in 10 supporters believed him.

    "It's not just the political system that's rigged, it's the whole economy," Trump told a crowd in June. It seems the heir to a construction fortune just can't get a break these days.

    Yet if there is a silver lining to this grim assessment, or a cause for optimism about the proper functioning of democratic society and the disciplined restraint of those running the show, the best evidence may be Trump himself. Trump clearly has enormous confidence in the integrity of the system.

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Trump Buddies Up to Putin

    Please, people — stop denigrating Donald Trump as a foreign policy ignoramus.

    After all, he’s a global real estate tycoon with special insights into U.S. adversaries, like Vladimir Putin of Russia. “I got to know him very well,” The Donald has assured us voters. Only, it turns out, by “very well” he meant “not at all.” He later conceded that he’s never actually, you know, met Putin.

    Still, Trump says he’s taken measure of the authoritarian Russian president from his corporate perch atop Trump Tower, concluding admiringly that Putin is “a lot stronger than our leader.”

    Sure, if by stronger he means violently suppressing any opposition, stealing billions of dollars from the public for himself and his chosen oligarchs, or invading neighboring Ukraine.

    Picky-picky-picky, says Donnie, who’s so enamored with Putin he publicly pleaded with the foreign strongman to hack into Hillary Clinton’s computers in order to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.

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The Challenges of ‘Leaving No Trace’

    I just got back from hiking 95 miles in the Sierras. (Yes, just like that Reese Witherspoon movie Wild, only far fewer miles.)

    I returned from my trip with something eating at me. Backpackers are supposed to “Leave No Trace.” It’s not just a nice concept, but a specific set of rules we follow — even when we go to the bathroom.

    You dig a hole at least six inches deep before doing your business, and you bury it. And you do that far enough away from lakes and streams to prevent contamination of the water we all drink.

    You’re even supposed to take your used toilet paper with you when you leave, because nobody wants to feel like they’re hiking in a bathroom. Obviously, you clean up and pack out your trash, too.

    Serious hikers are fastidious about doing those things. Some go so far as to hide evidence of their campsites before leaving by scattering twigs and stones over the spot where their tent was.

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Principle playing second fiddle to politics

    When there's any question whether Paul Ryan, the U.S. House speaker and 2012 Republican vice-presidential candidate, would win his primary in a carefully sculpted Wisconsin district against a neophyte challenger with ties to the tea party and Sarah Palin, you know the political world is upside down.

    The back and forth over whether Ryan would, or wouldn't, endorse his party's nominee, Donald Trump, dominated news coverage for weeks. Ryan, tugging his chin, hemming and hawing, finally did. But then the tables turned with Trump refusing to endorse Ryan while making very nice to his opponent, Paul Nehlen.

    Trump did endorse the speaker, tepidly, a few days ago. Ryan won on Tuesday and will likely win in November, putting one Trump-induced crisis behind the party.

    The Ryan re-election is one of a number of contests in which incumbents are threatened, either by an unexpectedly strong primary challenger or in the general election, or both, to the point where Republicans may lose their majority in the Senate, and possibly even the House.

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Obama’s Worst Mistake

    A crazed gunman’s attack on an Orlando, Florida, club in June, killing 49 people, resulted in blanket news coverage and national trauma.

    Now imagine that such a massacre unfolds more than five times a day, seven days a week, unceasingly for five years, totaling perhaps 470,000 deaths. That is Syria. Yet even as the Syrian and Russian governments commit war crimes, bombing hospitals and starving civilians, President Barack Obama and the world seem to shrug.

    I admire Obama for expanding health care and averting a nuclear crisis with Iran, but allowing Syria’s civil war and suffering to drag on unchallenged has been his worst mistake, casting a shadow over his legacy. It is also a stain on all of us, analogous to the indifference toward Jewish refugees in the 1930s, to the eyes averted from Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, to Darfur in the 2000s.

    This is a crisis that cries out for U.S. leadership, and Obama hasn’t shown enough.

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Jingoism, the ugly side of Olympic sport

    If the disqualification of a large part of the Russian Olympic team had less to do with politics than with the country's state-sponsored doping system, plenty of people both inside and outside Russia would like to turn the resulting tension into a jingoistic grudge match between Russia and the West.

    Russian state television started on it during the opening ceremony. "In 2001, El Salvador fell into total dependence from the U.S., abolishing the national currency, the colon," commentator Anna Dmitrieva intoned as she watched the Salvadorean team march by, waving flags. "Nor does El Salvador have any precious Olympic medals."

    There was probably nothing political about swimmer Lilly King's open dislike of her Russian competitor Yulia Yefimova: King wants all athletes who have ever been caught using forbidden substances to be banned from the Olympics, and that includes her teammate, runner Justin Gatlin, who, like Yefimova, has served a drug-related disqualification. Yet after King's defiant win, Russians and Americans alike rushed to politicize the conflict.

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August 14th

Should retired generals join the political fray?

    Should retired warriors play politics? Those of us who sat through the bombastic convention speeches by two retired generals with seven stars between them -- Michael Flynn (Republicans) and John Allen (Democrats) -- might be forgiven for thinking: "Absolutely not!"

    But those speakers' histrionics aside, the question has taken on new urgency after Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly urged his colleagues to steer clear of direct partisanship:

    "Publicly, they can speak to their experiences with the issues. Not about those seeking office. Not about who is more suited to be elected. That will be decided by the voters, and they have an obligation to learn about the candidates before casting their vote.

    "But not from us.

    "Because we have a special role in our democracy, and because we will serve whoever is elected."

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Anti-Trump Republicans won't change Clinton

    The recent endorsements of Hillary Clinton by Republican party actors are unlikely to affect how she behaves in office if she is elected. Unless, that is, this support changes the way the Republicans themselves behave.

    To assess how Clinton would act as president, look at the promises she is making as a candidate. Not only do politicians try to keep their pledges. Even when they don't, their promises inform how they think about what they are doing and how to explain it to voters.

    These "promises" are more than about specific policies. They also include cues on how a politician will act in office generally, whom she will listen to and, at some level, who she will be. For example, because Clinton is making a big deal of possibly being the first woman president, rather than playing this down, she'll be expected to "be" a woman in office.

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Another Trump adviser with deep ties to Russia

    This week Donald Trump released a new roster of economic advisers, including a businessman with extensive investments in Russia who tried to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow. It's the latest in a long list of relationships that give Trump a financial stake in warm U.S.-Russian relations.

    Businessman and investor Howard Lorber already donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory fund, has been named as one of Trump's "best friends" and even appeared once on "The Apprentice." He is also president and chief executive of the Vector Group, a holding company that has various business interests in Russia. In 1996, Lorber brought Trump to Moscow to look for opportunities for Trump to lend his famous name to development projects there.

    "Howard has major investments in Russia," Trump told Russian politician Alexander Ivanovich Lebed after his trip to Moscow with Lorber, according to a 1997 profile of Trump in the New Yorker. "See, they don't know you," Trump told Lorber. "With all that investment, they don't know you. Trump they know."

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