Archive

October 5th, 2016

Do we want a middle-schooler in the Oval Office?

    Perhaps the best way to understand Donald Trump is as a case of arrested development.

    In terms of personality and worldview, Trump is stuck in middle school. Early middle school.

     And that's being charitable.

    Part of growing up is developing self-control. Trump never has. Listen to him in the presidential debate, interjecting compulsively, and flash back to seventh grade and the boy in the back of the class who kept interrupting the teacher with wisecracks. It was amusing, the first time or two. Then it became annoying.

    We grew so inured to Trump's antics during the primary campaign that there is a risk of forgetting how great a departure his mugging for the camera and interrupting opponents was from the rather staid norm, especially during general election debates. Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton and moderator Lester Holt a whopping 55 times. "Not," Trump said. "Wrong." "Facts." "Take a look at mine."

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Womanhood is an election issue -- and that's bad news for Trump

    It is hopelessly retro, but perhaps unsurprising, that womanhood has become a prominent issue in the presidential race. This has to be bad for Donald Trump, a hall-of-shame sexist -- and good for Hillary Clinton, an actual woman.

    It was political idiocy for Trump to fall into Clinton's artfully laid trap at the debate Monday night when she mentioned how he treated the woman who won his Miss Universe pageant in 1996: "He called this woman 'Miss Piggy.' Then he called her 'Miss Housekeeping,' because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name."

    Clinton was referring to Alicia Machado, whom Trump threatened with taking away her title after she gained a few pounds. Trump seemed flustered and could only respond with a complete non sequitur -- a defense of the many ugly things he has said about comedian Rosie O'Donnell, maintaining that "I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her."

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Secret of John Kerry's success is irrational optimism

    If you've ever wondered how Secretary of State John Kerry's understands diplomacy, the waiting is over. On Thursday, at the Aspen Institute's Washington Ideas Forum, Steve Clemons of the Atlantic pried it out of America's top diplomat: What exactly is the "John Kerry secret sauce?"

    There are interests and values, Kerry told the audience. "You may have tension with the values because of the level of the interest, or the values may be -- I mean, the Holocaust or Rwanda -- which is also relevant to the debate about Syria, by the way, the killings and the torture and the barrel bombs and the gas."

    But then we got that secret sauce. After you figure out those values and interests, "you have to figure out whether you can find in the adversaries a meeting of the minds on any of the interests and/or values," he said. "And that mixes differently with different people at different times."

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North Carolina's governor sidles up to Trump

    Immediately after the Sept. 26 presidential debate, Hillary Clinton headed to North Carolina to take a bow. It's easy to see why. The lead in the presidential race has seesawed for months and Donald Trump has been ahead more often than not.

    In most swing states, candidates fear that Trump will be a drag on their campaigns. Witness the speed with which Republican senators up for re-election such as John McCain and Kelly Ayotte fled when asked whether they endorse their party's nominee.

    But in North Carolina, Pat McCrory, the incumbent Republican governor, is hoping Trump will give him a lift. McCrory has run as much as nine points behind his Democratic competitor, former state legislator and now the attorney general, Roy Cooper, who is so popular he ran unopposed in 2012.

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Little good has come from the EB-5 program

    Only 19 percent of Americans trust the federal government to do what's right most of the time, according to the Pew Research Center. And it's hard to blame them, given that our Congress has just extended a 25-year-old visas-for-investment immigration scheme that has accomplished essentially nothing except to foster corruption, risk national security - and subsidize real estate developers.

    The EB-5 program reserves up to 10,000 permanent residency slots each year for foreign nationals who invest in the United States. Congress enacted it in 1990 on the superficially plausible theory that trading green cards for capital would boost the economy, as a similar plan in Canada had reportedly done.

    Before 2008, however, EB-5 produced more than 1,000 investor immigrants per year only once, due to competition from Canada, bureaucratic hassles and a lack of business opportunities fitting the program's minimum requirements - $1 million invested and 10 jobs created. When admissions did go above 1,000, in 1997, the program was temporarily suspended amid concerns that fraud caused the spike.

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Is Donald Trump a one-trick pony?

    Donald Trump's strategists, shaken by his ineffective defensive posture against Hillary Clinton's deft verbal assaults in their first debate, now face an improbable task: somehow remaking his very core.

    That would require turning a candidate whose natural political weapon is an arsenal of personal abuse and factual distortions and lies into a credible political figure able to convince the nation's electorate that he can be trusted running the country.

    The first debate showed Trump to be an undisciplined, rigid and generally uninformed charlatan, driven to project and protect his self-image as an all-purpose problem-solver on a grand scale.

    Rather than again letting Donald be Donald -- which in the first debate often left him looking uncertain and snappish, compared a cool and collected Hillary -- his strategists must convince him to correct course.

    But persuading Trump to ignore the bait tossed out by Clinton might be beyond any political adviser's talents, given his supreme self-confidence and resistance to advice.

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October 4th

Syria's 'Army of Islam' says no to war with Israel

    There was a time when you could count on hard-core Sunni Islamists in the Middle East to be reliably opposed to the existence of the Jewish state. Organizations ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaida disagreed on everything from jurisprudence to short-term strategy, but when it came to Israel there was consensus.

    The slaughter in Syria is changing that. Take, for example, Jaish al-Islam, a Syrian coalition of rebels whose name translates conveniently to "Army of Islam." Mohammed Alloush, the political leader of the group, Wednesday told me his fighters did not seek war with Israel.

    "We have no intention to make war against anyone except for the Syrian regime," he said. "If we compare all the killing in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Syrian regime has committed many more crimes than the whole conflict. Our aim now is to get rid of the Syrian regime," he said.

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I never worry I'll be shot in Chicago. After all, I'm white.

    For the past 18 years, I've walked regularly down Howard Street, on the far northern fringe of Chicago. It's a colorful marketplace of dollar stores, chicken shacks, West Indian restaurants, Arab-owned groceries and hip-hop sneaker shops. It's also the turf of Loyalty Over Cash, a Gangster Disciples faction that has been embroiled in a feud with the Insane Cutthroat Gangsters, another Gangster Disciples group operating a mile south. A few years ago, a drive-by gunman fired a bullet through a convenience store window, killing a customer inside. The store reopened two days later, without even covering the hole. The next week, a 16-year-old aspiring rapper was gunned down on a sidewalk at 3 in the morning. I got to the crime scene after the building engineer washed away the blood but before the TV van left.

    Even in the midst of a gang war, I had no fear of getting shot. Why? Because I'm white.

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Five myths about nuclear weapons

    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agreed on one thing at last week's presidential debate: Nuclear weapons are the single greatest threat to U.S. security. The candidates' concerns diverged from there. Clinton praised the controversial nuclear deal with Iran and worried about nuclear terrorism. Trump said that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is not keeping pace with Russia's. Nukes have been shrouded in myth since they were credited - improperly, many say - with ending World War II by destroying two Japanese cities. Seventy-one years later, and decades after the end of the Cold War, these weapons continue to bedevil diplomacy, discourse and the planet itself.

 

Myth No. 1

    Nuclear weapons haven't been used since Nagasaki.

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"Cruz Caves, Endorses Trump"

    Is anybody surprised at the above headline that appeared in my daily? Stronger, more important men than this failed candidate have done the same. It would have been more news worthy had this ethically challenged senator not endorsed the likewise challenged presidential candidate. The only surprise is that he did not do it sooner.

    Note, it is just in time for the early vote casting, just in case there is anyone left who can be influenced by him. He is only one in a long list of Republican "bigwigs" who vowed and declared they would never, ever support Mr. Trump should he become the candidate. Well, he did and they have supported him. Some fell all over themselves endorsing him near simultaneously with the convention vote. Others withheld their endorsements a few weeks after he became the official candidate but they are now on the bandwagon. Many don't even bother to give an excuse for such a reversal. If that is not putting party before nation, what is?

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