Archive

August 8th, 2016

Trump Reflects White Male Fragility

    Reports of Donald Trump’s demise are an exaggeration, to paraphrase and repurpose Mark Twain.

    Yes, he can’t stop shooting off his mouth and shooting himself in the foot, and there are reports that his messy campaign is nearing the point of mutiny.

    Yes, he knows nearly nothing about world affairs and that becomes ever more apparent every time he stumbles through an interview. Sir, Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014, the same year you filmed your last installment of your reality game show “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

    Yes, his continued feud with the family of a fallen Muslim soldier may be the most ill advised and foolhardy folly in recent political memory (Trump keeps racking these up.) This is the same man who received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, one for “bone spurs in his heels” according to The New York Times. While throngs of his contemporaries were fighting — and dying — in battle, Trump was being featured on the front page of The Times after he and his father were sued by the Justice Department for anti-black bias in their rental properties.

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Trump Meets the CIA

    The government is arranging classified intelligence briefings for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to prepare them for the White House. This long-standing practice of briefing nominees is controversial this year: Sen. Harry Reid has urged the CIA to give Trump a “fake” briefing, while House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Clinton can’t handle classified material. But what would a Trump briefing look like, anyway?

    ———

    “Mr. Trump, I’m Gene Smith from the CIA.”

    “Smith, huh? Is that your code name? You know, I know a huge amount about the CIA, more than most CIA directors. A terrific, beautiful, very good organization.”

    “Actually, Smith is my real name. Anyway, let’s get started with China and our assessment that Xi is much more aggressive than Hu.”

    “She is more aggressive than who?”

    “Exactly.”

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Trump blusters shamelessly on, reminiscent of Joe McCarthy

    Some 62 years ago, as a young reporter I sat at the press table in the Senate Caucus Room during the historic Army-McCarthy hearings, watching defense lawyer Joseph Welch irately walk out, memorably expressing his contempt for Republican Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.

    McCarthy had just wrongly accused a young Welch associate of belonging to "a communist front organization," seeking to smear him in the course of challenging the patriotism of an Army general. Welch declared of the vindictive Wisconsin senator: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

    His dramatic words and exit, which later in 1954 contributed to McCarthy's bipartisan censure by his Senate colleagues, had an electric reprise at last week's Democratic National Convention.

    A Muslim-American parent of a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan blew a loud whistle on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. He accused him of never having read the American Constitution, in light of Trump's call for a temporary ban of Muslims and his various racist remarks.

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The secret behind Hillary Clinton's steely temperament

    For all our talk of policy, there's a key Presidential attribute that can't be sussed out of position papers or stump speeches: temperament. "A president's temperament is his most important quality," Slate's John Dickerson wrote in 2012. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed, telling MSNBC, "temperament is the most important quality a President needs to have."

    Donald Trump's deficient temperament is recognized as a big campaign liability (though he, of course, says he has "one of the best temperaments" of any candidate) . Still, it's an open question: Who in politics today - besides perhaps our preternaturally calm current president - has the temperament to meet the tumult? Who is centered, balanced, and grounded enough to think clearly and hold the space even in the face of confusion and chaos?

    For most people, Hillary Clinton doesn't jump to mind. After all, she's a highly scripted career politician with a penchant for controversial compromises and a seemingly unrivaled capacity to attract scandal.

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The Olympics need a permanent home

    Those of us who enjoy experiencing the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" of the Olympic Games could probably do without one particular emotion: the fear that the games, which begin Friday in Rio de Janeiro, will be an operational disaster. So far, the headlines do not inspire confidence. Armed robbers heisting a German TV crew's equipment. "Uninhabitable" residential facilities for athletes. Marathon swimmers being told not to open their mouths while competing in sewage-contaminated Guanabara Bay.

    The 2004 Olympics in Athens were preceded by similar worries right up until the day they began. In the end, those Games were a great success. So there's reason to hope the same will happen in Rio. Still, the ill-preparedness creates real risks. And those risks are part of a larger set of problems that have long dogged the modern Olympics and that derive from a single, avoidable source: the International Olympic Committee's insistence on picking a different city to host each Games.

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The Disney-fication of Our National Parks

    It’s summer vacation time and gasoline is quasi-cheap. So why not pile the family into the mini-van and pay a visit to the historic Budweiser Statue of Liberty, or motor out west in your Camry to Toyota’s Yellowstone National Park?

    That’s right, our thoroughly corporatized Congress mandated a new policy last year to let major corporations buy the naming rights of our visitor centers, hiking trails, educational programs, and other features in America’s national park system.

    For those of us who revere the natural beauty and serenity of America’s 411 national parks, monuments, and conservation areas, it’s going to be a real summer bummer to find corporate brand names and logos polluting these public sanctuaries at every turn of the trail.

    This auctioning-off of the people’s property for exclusive commercialization by private profiteers is already underway. Trying to put a smiley face on this desecration, a Park Service official babbled that the policy is “about aligning [corporate brands] with the values of authenticity.”

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Stop Indulging Trump

    John McCain, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of you: It’s time to stop suggesting that Donald Trump doesn’t represent you, because he does represent you. He’s your party’s nominee, with your endorsements. Until you withdraw those, he has your blessing. Your permission.

    And if you keep forgiving him and prioritizing your political survival over the country’s stability, he could wind up representing all of us.

    Tell me that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you. Do it with a straight face.

    Sen. McCain, Rep. Ryan, he’s just given you fresh cause to bolt, saying in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post that he doesn’t support either of you in your respective Republican primary contests.

    From the standpoint of tradition, this is shocking. From the standpoint of Trump, not so much. You’ve upbraided him (mildly). You’ve bruised his tender ego. So now he gets to stick out his tongue at you.

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Obama's CIA director wants to stick around for Clinton

    If Hillary Clinton wins the U.S. presidential election in November, John Brennan would like to continue his post as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    Current and former U.S. intelligence officials tell me Brennan has signaled in private conversations that he loves the job and would like to keep it if she's elected. Plus, Brennan does not want to be perceived as a lame-duck director, particularly as he leads an ambitious plan to restructure the agency.

    At the same time, Brennan has all but taken himself out of consideration to serve in a Trump administration. Speaking last month at the Brookings Institution, he said he would not execute an order to torture captured terrorists or target the families of terrorists, as Trump has promised he would authorize if elected president.

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Nixon's failed effort to withhold his tax returns

    Donald Trump, in an interview over the weekend, reiterated his refusal to release his tax returns until the IRS has completed an audit. By way of explanation, the Republican presidential nominee claimed that Mitt Romney had lost the 2012 election because he had bowed to pressure from the Obama campaign and disclosed his filings.

    Perhaps. But for the past 40 years, almost all presidential candidates have released their tax returns before the general election. Even though no law mandates this transparency, disclosure has become an accepted part of presidential politics, and Trump's demurral has sparked widespread condemnation, including from the billionaire investor Warren Buffett. (The returns of Trump's rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, are on her website for the years 2007 to 2014 on her website; she and her husband have made their returns public for each year dating to 1977, her campaign says.)

    Candidates don't enjoy this ritual, and more than a few have initially resisted demands to expose their financial data. But no president was more averse to releasing this information during his political career than Richard Nixon.

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Melania Trump, lucky immigrant

    Melania Trump's husband says she is a 10. Would Donald Trump marry a woman who wasn't? The question answers itself. But when she was younger, apparently working as a model in New York, the question is whether the former Melania Knauss was associated with another number -- an H-1B or a B1 or B2 visa, or perhaps some other designation that enabled a single Eastern European woman to earn a living in the U.S.

    Melania Trump's personal website was taken down after a minor controversy over her claim that she had received a degree in architecture from the University of Ljubljana in her native Slovenia. It seems she is not actually a college graduate.

    So what if she isn't? It might matter because a college degree can be an important credential for someone applying for a visa to work in the U.S. For all the scrutiny of her life style, remarkably little is known about Mrs. Trump's emigration to the U.S. What are the facts of her prior immigration status? How did she obtain a green card, which is no easy feat?

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