Archive

March 10th, 2016

Presidential politics' worst day ever

    Children, gather round and let me tell you about a time before candidates vouched for the size of their, um, endowments on national television.

    Was it really so long ago -- OK, actually, it was -- that a sunglasses-wearing Bill Clinton was criticized for going on "The Arsenio Hall Show" to play his saxophone? Clinton coarsened the discourse, we were told. How tame that seems in retrospect. How dignified.

    I blame Clinton, actually, not for the Hall performance, but for a fateful moment during his presidency, at a 1994 MTV town hall, when a young woman asked, "Mr. President, the world is dying to know: Is it boxers or briefs?"

    Clinton stared in open-mouthed disbelief, looked down, put hand to forehead -- then answered, "Usually briefs. I can't believe she did that." I happened to be at the event, and I couldn't believe he responded with anything other than an admonition that surely this questioner had been taught better.

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President Tr(i)ump(h) the Insult Comic Dog?

    "You can't insult your way to the White House," Jeb Bush told Donald Trump in an early Republican presidential debate. Oh, really?

    Trump has since seized a commanding lead as the party's frontrunner. Jeb Bush, who entered the race with the biggest war chest outside of Trump's pocket change, has dropped out.

    Two of his remaining competitors, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, belatedly are trying to bully the Donald. That's a tough battle. History may well remember Trump's campaign as an ongoing imitation of his near-namesake, the foul-mouthed, cigar-chomping puppet Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

    It works because, despite his lack of experience in public office -- or, for that matter, public service -- Trump has studied the political scene closely over the past two decades as he contemplated and repeatedly backed away from the presidential run he finally is making now.

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Marco Rubio and the myth of the establishment lane

    The Holy Grail has one up on the Establishment Lane. At least someone was able to find the Holy Grail.

    Marco Rubio has not been so lucky.

    Did you know that if you whisper "George Herbert Walker Bush" three times into a mirror, the Establishment Lane will appear and open a path to victory for you?

    The media has said it often and it must be true.

    The Establishment Lane was a beautiful legend. Imagine! A lane where all you needed was major donors and the support of party leaders, and voters would flow like milk and honey.

    It is just north of the Fountain of Youth, right past the Big Rock Candy Mountain, but before you find the Holy Grail. It is visible in the background of photos of Bigfoot, although you cannot see it because the photos are always so blurry.

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'House of Cards' has become an escapist utopia

    "House of Cards" is back. And just in time to offer an escape from the hilarious dystopia of our actual politics into the utopian vision of a politics where, if things go wrong, it is because an evil someone behind the scenes knows what he or she is doing.

    If only.

    The one true rule of politics is Hanlon's Razor, which states that you should never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity.

    This pretty much rules out "House of Cards."

    Its dysfunctional politics are dysfunctional because people are interested in making deals. Making deals! Can you imagine?

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Hillary Clinton's pledge to remove all lead from the U.S. in five years is just not possible

    The crisis in Flint, Mich. -- site of Sunday night's Democratic debate -- was a crisis centered on the tragic combination of corrosive river water and outdated lead pipes in the city. When Hillary Clinton called for the debate in Flint -- to which Bernie Sanders quickly agreed -- the point was clearly to both criticize the Republican governor of the state and to present ways in which Flint's lead problem could be addressed.

    On Sunday night, lead was introduced as a topic immediately. A member of the audience rose to ask the Democrats if they would support a national effort in their first 100 days in office to remove all lead service lines in the country. Sanders said he'd quickly seek to test the nation's water systems and inform homeowners about the quality in their homes.

    Clinton went further, as she herself said.

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Hillary Clinton's hubris still could trip her

    Hillary Clinton could be in for some political peril.

    Sure, by winning 11 of the 17 contests since her New Hampshire drubbing, and running away with the delegate count, she's not far from sewing up the Democratic presidential nomination. It's the Republicans, not the Democrats, who face bitter divides that endanger the party's future.

    Clinton is riding high; that's the problem.

    "Her history is that whenever she gets ahead and looks in good shape, she reverts to her worst form," says Peter D. Hart, a leading Democratic pollster, citing 2007 and this cycle after her stellar first debate performance.

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March 9th

The other victim of my decline

    Probably the only good thing I can say about having Parkinson's disease is that it has introduced me to the unexpected helpfulness of others. Any time I venture out with my sturdy cane, people go out of their way to open doors, offer a helping hand or instruct their kids to stand aside as I shuffle past. Some teenagers will even extract themselves from their smartphones to offer assistance.

    Yet people seldom offer to help the woman who struggles to hoist me from the car seat, push my chair up to the restaurant table or quietly cope with my unseen, round-the-clock needs and demands.

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The stark contrast between the job market and the election, and why it matters

    Allow me to pose a study of stark contrasts: today's politics and today's job market.

    To say the former is "a mess" only betrays my lack of eloquence combined with the fact that this is a family newspaper. I believe I can say, without partisan challenge, that what's going on in the Republican presidential campaign is an embarrassment to the United States.

    As for the job market, good things are happening. The underlying trend of job gains is over 200,000 per month, a strong enough clip to nudge the jobless rate even lower than its current eight-year low of 4.9 percent. Although wage growth fell back a bit last month, the tight job market is providing workers with a bit more bargaining power. At 2.2 percent, average hourly wage growth is beating (very low) inflation, meaning paychecks have more buying power.

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Economic policymakers at sea on inflation

    Here is a thought experiment that illuminates the challenges facing macroeconomic policymakers in the United States and the rest of the industrial world.

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CNN commentator: Media will share blame when Trump 'institutes internment camps'

    As Donald Trump added to his delegate total on Saturday with primary and caucus victories in Louisiana and Kentucky, CNN commentator Sally Kohn offered a grim forecast of a Trump presidency - and suggested the media will be culpable.

    "There is a fine line between covering a candidate and amplifying a candidate," Kohn, a progressive activist, said during the cable channel's coverage of Saturday voting. "And I'm sorry, but, yes, Donald Trump may be the Republican front-runner, I still think we're giving him way too much attention in proportion to the other candidates who also had victories to celebrate tonight. I'm worried. When he institutes internment camps and suspends habeas [corpus], we'll all look back and feel pretty bad."

    Shortly after making those remarks on the air, Kohn took to Twitter to remind critics - who were quick to dismiss her hypothetical - that Trump previously cited the World War II-era internment of Japanese Americans as a precedent for his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

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