Archive

July 29th, 2016

More Damned Emails

    Following last week’s Republican calamity in Cleveland, the Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia on Monday with big opportunities and big challenges.

    Many Democrats will come with enthusiasm, but also with reservations.

    Unlike the Republican Convention’s speaker lineup, which was backfilled with Donald Trump’s children because there were so few party heavyweights to anchor it, the Democratic Convention will have a litany of A-listers: The president, the first lady, Bernie Sanders and former President Bill Clinton among them.

    These speakers will paint a vastly different picture of the country and its future than the unremittingly dark and dangerous one portrayed by the Republicans.

    There will also likely be less acrimony in Philadelphia, as the Democrats review the failed stagecraft of Cleveland and work hard not to replicate it.

    But, all is not roses for the Democrats.

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Lessons from the Trump-a-Thon

    The four day Trump-a-thon, sometimes noted as the Republican National Convention, ended this week in Cleveland, with the Republican party still divided and Donald Trump’s ego inflated larger than a Macy’s parade balloon. Trump was all over the convention hall, the hotels, and in the media, chatting, arguing, scowling, and boasting. It was Trump’s convention, and he knew it.

    Trump had begun his run for the nomination with a simple but powerful campaign theme, “Make America Great Again,” refusing to accept the reality that most countries see the United States as the world’s most powerful country and its president is one of the world’s most respected leaders. Slipping into the campaign, promoted by the Tea Party wing, is a plea to “Take Our Country Back.” Back to what? To the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s and the House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunts of the 1950s? To the worst recession since the Great Depression that had begun in 1929? To the race riots of the late 1960s? The two slogans, appearing on almost every piece of campaign memorabilia, are part of what “communicologists” call “branding.”

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Donald Trump's pivot to the center -- of darkness

    Where's the pivot?

    That's what I was wondering throughout Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's lengthy and surprisingly humorless acceptance speech Thursday at the Grand Old Party's national convention in Cleveland.

    Ever since Trump won enough delegates to clinch the nomination in May, I've been waiting to see if and when Trump would make "the pivot."

    That's today's fashionable term in political circles for a campaign strategy that President Richard Nixon used to describe as more of a pendulum: You swing toward your party's base to win their nomination, then swing back to the center to attract the independent voters that decide general elections.

    Timing and managing your pivot as a candidate is tricky but crucial. But, with barely more than 100 days left to the November elections, Trump sounded like a guy who ain't about to pivot.

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Delusions of Chaos

    Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2,245 murders that took place in 1990, the city’s worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.

    National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it’s not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn’t the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they’re right — it has gotten much better.

    How, then, was it even possible for Donald Trump to give a speech accepting the Republican nomination whose central premise was that crime is running rampant, and that “I alone” can bring the chaos under control?

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A Sad Day For The Nation

    It is a sad day for this country when a major political party puts forth as their candidate for the most important job in the world a man such as the Republicans have done this week. Yes, the handwriting has been on the wall for several weeks now. Still to have it cemented in is a hard pill to swallow, not just for the general public but the party officials.

    Democrats might think it is good for their party but it is more likely in the category of be careful what you wish for. Never, ever has there been such vitriol as spewed forth in this Republican convention. It would be normal to think that no reasonable voter would fall for this but the point that cannot be ignored is that the candidate got this far. No reasonable person expected him to reach this point when he first announced. Hence many a party official sat back believing that it was unthinkable until it reached the point where it could not be ignored.

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Is Trump a Racist?

    Has the party of Lincoln just nominated a racist to be president? We shouldn’t toss around such accusations lightly, so I’ve looked back over more than 40 years of Donald Trump’s career to see what the record says.

    One early red flag arose in 1973, when President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department — not exactly the radicals of the day — sued Trump and his father, Fred Trump, for systematically discriminating against blacks in housing rentals.

    I’ve waded through 1,021 pages of documents from that legal battle, and they are devastating. Donald Trump was then president of the family real estate firm, and the government amassed overwhelming evidence that the company had a policy of discriminating against blacks, including those serving in the military.

    To prove the discrimination, blacks were repeatedly dispatched as testers to Trump apartment buildings to inquire about vacancies, and white testers were sent soon after. Repeatedly, the black person was told that nothing was available, while the white tester was shown apartments for immediate rental.

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Donald Trump’s Disturbia

    Like any masterly comic book villain, Donald Trump is reveling in conjuring a dystopia. And it’s a natural progression, given that he got this far by reveling in conjuring a diss-topia.

    Both of his barbed-wire universes were on display here last week.

    Trump did not slay a dragon in the way that presidential contenders did in the old days with laurels from the battlefield. In his mythmaking, he slayed 16 dragons on the debate stage.

    Ivanka offered her father’s hero-myth at the beginning of her convention speech Thursday night: “He prevailed against a field of 16 very talented competitors.”

    And how did the political tyro accomplish this seemingly impossible feat?

    He dissed all of them, death by a thousand cuts. Jeb Bush was “a one-day kill,” as a gloating Trump put it, with the “low energy” taunt. “Liddle Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” bit the dust. “One-for-38 Kasich” fell by the wayside.

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Behind Hillary’s Mask

    Right after the Sept. 11 attacks, I ran into Hillary Clinton outside an armory in Manhattan that served as a sort of clearing house for tragedy, where people brought pictures of the missing and checked for information. She talked for a long time, very freely, about Washington politicians who had always hated New York but were turning out to be helpful in the crisis.

    The conversation was memorable not for the information but for her manner. For all her intensity about the city, Clinton was more relaxed than I’d ever seen her while chatting with a member of the press. She was operating in a new space — for the moment, no one really cared that she was a senator who’d gotten elected from a state she’d never lived in, the survivor of the best-known political sex scandal in American history, the former first lady who ran for office while her husband was still president. The country had temporarily lost interest in celebrities, and she seemed to find her relative insignificance liberating.

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Make America Hate Again

    They didn’t riot in the streets of Cleveland, as Donald Trump said his supporters would do had things not gone his way. But you saw the raw essence of a riot, the madness and loss of reason, on display in four days of chaos at the Republican National Convention.

    For a campaign now devoted to “law and order,” the start was mob rule: in spirit, in tone, in words. Long after we’ve forgotten Trump’s closing speech — that paean to self, that nightmare portrait of an America where the lights have gone out — we will remember the savagery just below the surface.

    Starting on Night 1, when Republicans chose to manipulate the grief-deranged mother of a terrorist victim, the buildup to the hanging of Hillary Clinton was never subtle. Imagine if one party had exploited a widow of one of the 241 service members killed in the 1983 suicide bombing of Americans in Beirut — the deadliest single attack on Marines since World War II — as a stick against Ronald Reagan, whose administrative negligence was much to blame.

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A resuscitated GOP convention

    The shaky façade of party unity that the Trump campaign has sought to construct at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland endured a stiff test Wednesday night when it risked the appearance of defeated and bitter rival Sen. Ted Cruz as an invited speaker.

    Cruz took the stage without having endorsed Donald Trump's already achieved presidential nomination. To the shock and anger of many convention delegates, he pointedly declined throughout his speech in what came off as a petty display of guerrilla-like resistance.

    The crowd finally erupted in booing and chants of "Endorse Trump!" as Cruz smirked and sarcastically offered, "I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation."

    This extraordinary act of conspicuous defiance laid bare the depth of the division that continues to imperil not only the Trump candidacy but the prospect for the survival of the party itself after the November election, if Trump should lose.

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