Archive

October 28th, 2015

Iraq war remains politically fateful, 12 years on

    A dozen years after the invasion of Iraq, it continues to cast a shadow over the 2016 presidential campaigns in both major parties. Republican and Democratic candidates alike who took opposing positions on it in 2003 can anticipate partisan demands that they hash over again the controversial adventure whose ramifications remain at the core of American foreign policy.

    In the GOP, establishment candidate Jeb Bush, whose brother as president launched the war based on the mistaken contention that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, has a quandary. Is it wise to use his family members and name to rescue a campaign stalled in the polls?

    Earlier this week, amid announced staff cutbacks, his campaign recruited the two former President Bushes for a two-day strategy and fund-raising meeting in Houston to assess how to snap out of the doldrums. The hope is that George W. Bush's war of choice in Iraq will somehow recede in memory.

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October 27th

Why Trudeau matters more than Gowdy

    Which major event last week should have an important impact on the 2016 presidential election?

    No, it's not Hillary Clinton's 11 hours of testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. She walked away with a smile, and for good reason.

    Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., succeeded brilliantly in confirming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's burst of honesty: that the whole exercise always had bringing down Clinton's poll numbers as one of its central purposes. Only right-wingers already convinced of her perfidy thought otherwise. She emerged stronger than she started by staying calm, cool and confident in the face of repeated provocations.

    The consequential event occurred three days earlier. The Liberal Party landslide and the triumph of Justin Trudeau in Canada's election last Monday was a tonic for progressive economics and a cautionary tale for parties on the center-left lacking the courage of their convictions. Trudeau proved that voters understand the difference between profligacy and necessary public investment.

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The GOP's dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin

    When The Post's front page declares: "Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national party," it's time to ask: How did this come to pass?

    You can choose from a litany of insurrections, government shutdowns and other self-inflicted wounds. But this year's carnival-like GOP presidential primary makes one event, in retrospect, stand out as a crucial turning point on the road to upheaval: the 2008 embrace of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat from the presidency.

    Palin's blatant lack of competence and preparedness needs no belaboring. What's critical is that substantive, serious Republican leaders either wouldn't or couldn't declare, before or after the election: "This is not what our party stands for. We can and must do better."

    By the campaign's end, GOP operatives were shielding Palin from even the simplest questions. (She had flunked "what newspapers do you read?"). Barack Obama cruised to victory.

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Paul Ryan and the party of 'family values'

    A chorus of spoilsports is calling Rep. Paul Ryan a hypocrite because he is demanding time to spend with his family -- after voting against paid family leave for other workers. I sympathize with the critics, but they are abusing the word "hypocrite." It is not hypocritical to deny help that you never promised to give in the first place.

    Ryan and his fellow Republicans, who have been urging him to run for speaker of the House, always have said they believe paid family leave is fine, if your employer wants to grant it to you. But don't expect the Grand Old Party to help you get it.

    In fact, judging by the way some of his more tradition-minded colleagues reacted to Ryan's request, you might never guess they belong to the party that so long has espoused "traditional family values."

    "Speaker's a big job," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican and member of the hardline Freedom Caucus. "And it's not a 9-to-5 job."

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Hillary Clinton Wins Again

    On the heels of a strong Democratic debate performance, last week Vice President Joe Biden — whose candidacy would surely have drawn support away from her — dismounted the fence and decided not to run for president himself. And then came the spectacular debacle of the Benghazi committee hearing.

    At one point during the hearing, Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, said: “This is not a prosecution.” But it was an attempted persecution. It simply failed.

    It was a televised witch trial. But the tribunal had before it a woman who would not confess transgression and who defied the flame.

    Instead, she was poised, knowledgeable and unflappable. She turned the tables. The committee was on trial, and found wanting in motives, authorities and class.

    I keep being surprised by the astonishing degree to which Clinton’s opponents continue to underestimate her.

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Free Mitt Romney!

    Sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for Mitt Romney. No, seriously. In another time and place, he might have been respected as an effective technocrat — a smart guy valued (although probably not loved) for his ability to get things done. In fact, that’s kind of how it worked when he was governor of Massachusetts, a decade ago.

    But now it’s 2015 in America, and Romney’s party doesn’t want people who get things done. On the contrary, it actively hates government programs that improve American lives, especially if they help Those People. And this means that Romney can’t celebrate his signature achievement in public life, the Massachusetts health reform that served as a template for Obamacare.

    This has to hurt. Indeed, a few days ago Romney couldn’t help himself: He boasted to The Boston Globe that “Without Romneycare, we wouldn’t have had Obamacare” and that as a result “a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.” And it’s true!

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Eliminate gun loopholes for domestic abusers

    The debate over measures to reduce gun violence poses a cruel paradox. The most effective steps are politically unthinkable and likely unconstitutional. More restrained approaches, such as tighter background checks and reduced ammunition magazine sizes, have proved maddeningly impossible to maneuver through the political process and are open to the charge that they would not stop the killing.

    This critique is correct but unpersuasive. With hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, small tweaks will not stop the carnage; certainly no single tweak alone will. Yet that is an argument for achievable half-measures, not for paralysis. And despite the otherwise gridlocked politics of gun control, there may be a sliver of political hope for proposals to address a relatively small but especially heartbreaking aspect of the problem: the lethal mix of guns and domestic abuse.

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Clinton deftly bursts Benghazi bubble, clearing the way ahead

    Once again the House Republicans have demonstrated their talent for wretched excess, in their effort to use the 2012 terrorist attack on Benghazi to harpoon Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

    Their 10-hour interrogation of the former secretary of state about her role in the episode offered further validation of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's boast that the select committee was out to drive down her poll numbers in the 2016 presidential race.

    Committee chairman Trey Gowdy led off with an opening statement that only confirmed that intent, sustained by other Republican members who badgered Clinton with questions oft-asked in earlier congressional hearings on the Benghazi tragedy.

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Building barriers to peace in Israel

    Benjamin Netanyahu may have been refuted and ridiculed when he claimed that Adolf Hitler had to be talked into the Holocaust by a Palestinian cleric, but he's had much better luck selling a broader narrative behind that claim. The latest wave of Palestinian violence, his argument goes, has nothing to so with the failure of peace talks, Israeli settlement building or even the state itself: It's about intractable and murderous Palestinian intolerance of any Jewish presence in historic Palestine.

    Netanyahu's real point about Haj Amin al-Husseini, the pro-Nazi mufti of Jerusalem, was that he incited the killing of Jews by alleging that the Old City's al-Aqsa Mosque was threatened - and that the same false claim, delivered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas nearly a century later, preceded the recent rash of stabbings in Jerusalem. "The core of the conflict," Netanyahu charged in a speech to the Zionist Congress, was and remains "the desire to destroy the Jews anywhere, without a state and with a state."

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What Family Really Means

    My friend Elli has never given birth, never adopted, never taken primary responsibility for an infant, a toddler or an adolescent.

    But on the far side of 65, she finds herself playing the role of mother.

    At the beginning of each school year, she’s likely to be helping one of her college-age boys move into his freshman dorm. At the end, she’s at a commencement, beaming as another of her boys finishes his four years and receives his diploma.

    The boys are from Zimbabwe, where Elli has spent extensive time over the past decade and where she met many poor, bright teenagers determined to study in America.

    She not only guided them through the application and financial aid process, but also remained one of the central figures in their lives.

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