Archive

May 24th, 2016

Fighting phony 'populism'

    From the coverage of the 2016 campaign over the last six months, you would think that American workers battered by economic change have finally won their moment in the political sun.

    After all, Donald Trump is said to be the paladin of white blue-collar men and Bernie Sanders speaks unabashedly about the working class, a term many have (wrongly) written off as an antique concept out of 1930s black-and-white movies.

    But media interest in policy initiatives that would benefit those who are struggling is scarce. It's far more interesting, apparently, to cover the latest poll about an election that's still a long way off, or to wax eloquent about a kerfuffle at a Democratic state convention in Nevada.

    We had an objective test of this last week when the Obama administration announced much-needed new rules on overtime pay.

    One of the insidious trends costing workers a lot of income has been the fake reclassification of even relatively low-paid employees as "managers," which deprived them of overtime pay.

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When it comes to lying, Trump is in a class by himself

    Stonewaller, shape-shifter, liar. I wrote last week about how an all-but-certain presidential nominee embodied these characteristics, prompting comments from readers observing, with varying degrees of snarkiness, that they had assumed I was referring to Hillary Clinton.

    My target was Donald Trump, but these readers raise a reasonable and important question: Can't the same criticism I heaped on the presumptive Republican nominee be applied to the Democratic front-runner? To all politicians, for that matter? Am I just whaling on Trump and going soft on Clinton because I disagree with Trump's positions and agree, for the most part, with Clinton's?

     Some will conclude that I am simply in the tank for Clinton, willfully blind to her faults. (On that score, full disclosure: My college-age daughter has volunteered for the Clinton campaign as an unpaid intern this summer.)

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We must weed out ignorant voters

    Never have so many people with so little knowledge made so many consequential decisions for the rest of us.

    A person need only survey the inanity of the ongoing presidential race to comprehend that the most pressing problem facing the nation isn't Big Business, Big Labor, Big Media or even Big Money in politics.

    It's you, the American voter. And by weeding out millions of irresponsible voters who can't be bothered to learn the rudimentary workings of the Constitution, or their preferred candidate's proposals or even their history, we may be able to mitigate the recklessness of the electorate.

    No, we shouldn't erect physical barriers to ballot access. Let's purchase more voting machines, hire additional poll workers, streamline the registration process, mail out more ballots for seniors and produce more "Rock the Vote" ads imploring apathetic millennials to embrace their civic duty.

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Three reasons Bernie Sanders should stay in the race

    On CNN yesterday, Hillary Clinton compared Bernie Sanders's position in the 2016 Democratic primary to her position during her 2008 run against Barack Obama, saying she has "an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates" and implying that it was time for Sanders to follow her 2008 example and drop out. The demands that Sanders exit the 2016 stage coming from Clinton allies and her sympathizers in the media are becoming an angry roar. It is certain that Sanders will not get the number of delegates he needs to become the Democratic nominee before the convention. But there are three good reasons that Sanders should want to stick around.

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Foundation would weigh down a President Hillary Clinton

    The Clintons have been targeted by trumped-up scandals from Whitewater to Benghazi. There also are self-inflicted wounds: President Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton's use of private email servers while secretary of state.

    They may be on the verge of creating another one: The Clinton Foundation, which has done extraordinary good works over the past 15 years, would present an inherent conflict of interest should she become president, and may be problematic for her even now as a candidate.

    Clinton has suggested that if she is elected, the foundation -- which collects contributions from wealthy interests including foreign governments -- would continue basically as is. "The work that it's done has been extraordinary," she said in March when asked whether there would be any ethical concerns about continuing the foundation. "The answer is transparency."

    Ethics experts reject that. They say there wouldn't be any way to avoid the appearance of conflicts if she wins the presidency.

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May 22nd

Maine senator says Trump's too 'hot' to lead

    If you wonder whether Donald Trump's lack of experience in the national security arena could hurt his candidacy, consider Senator Angus King, the only independent in Congress. After a recent trip on the "doomsday plane," the one to be used by the president in the event of a nuclear attack, King has concluded that the presumptive Republican nominee is not fit to be commander-in-chief.

    The Maine senator, a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said he and several other lawmakers recently flew in a mock exercise on the plane. That persuaded him that it would be too risky to put Trump in a position to order the use of a nuclear weapon. "In that situation, there is only one person making that decision," King said Wednesday on the Charlie Rose PBS program. "One person has about 20 minutes to decide the fate of civilization."

    King said he'd worry both about Trump's lack of strategic knowledge and his temperament, declaring, "he seems hot, impulsive" instead of "measured."

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How Ted, Mitch and Marco helped T-Rex emerge as a monster

    That was pretty snarky of TV’s Samantha Bee to enlist Michelle Branch to retool her 2000 hit “Goodbye to You” as “Goodbye to Cruz.”

    However, when Branch sang of Ted Cruz, “I wanna punch you and ignore you at the same time,” let us acknowledge that she spoke not just for effete liberal entertainment types but for many of Ted Cruz’s Republican cohorts in the Senate.

    It is quite a resume-topper to be known as the most hated man in the least-liked public institution in America.

    Now to add another distinction to the vita, and we hate to break it to the senator, but he’s most certainly a key figure responsible for making Donald Trump so popular.

    No, that can’t be. Listen to the senator.

    Last week Cruz decried Trump’s ascendance and said that “everyone responsible” for it “will bear the responsibility going forward.”

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Sanders is playing with fire

    Bernie Sanders is playing a dangerous game. If he and his campaign continue their scorched-earth attacks against the Democratic Party, they will succeed only in one thing: electing Donald Trump as president.

    I say this as someone who shares much of Sanders' political philosophy; I too, for example, see health care as a basic right. He has run a remarkable and historically significant campaign, pulling the party to the left and pumping it full of new progressive vigor. His crowds are almost as big as Trump's and perhaps even more enthusiastic. Most important, he has brought legions of young people into the political process.

    But he hasn't won the nomination.

    Hillary Clinton has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, earned by her performance in primaries and caucuses. In the aggregate, she leads Sanders by about 3 million votes. The will of the party is clear: More Democrats prefer Clinton over Sanders as their nominee.

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Will there be bloodshed in Philadelphia?

    What a political roller-coaster of a year it's been. A month ago, pundits were praising the superior delegate-counting operation of Ted Cruz. Today, he's out of the hunt and Donald Trump, not Cruz, is the Republican Party's presumptive nominee. Two weeks ago, Democrats were chortling over civil war within the Republican Party. Today, Republicans are chuckling over civil war among Democrats.

    Meanwhile, the media is gleefully fanning the flames. Haven't you heard? The in-fighting among Democrats is worse than it ever was among Republicans. Violence at last weekend's Nevada state convention portends bloodshed at the national convention in Philadelphia. Bernie Sanders, in fact, is inciting violence by complaining about how the process is rigged against him. And Democrats are so hopelessly split in the primary that they'll never be able to come together before the general election.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Since, apparently, nobody else will, let's set the record straight.

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Trump goes on defensive with conservatives

    Donald Trump's release of a list of his possible Supreme Court choices raises a question. Why don't most presidential candidates let voters know who they will appoint to the court or the Cabinet or other high offices if they are elected?

    The main reason is that it's a high-risk, low-reward maneuver.

    Trump has named 11 people he would put on the Supreme Court (although he's already backed off to some extent). He isn't going to help himself with swing voters, few of whom have ever heard of those listed.

    Now he's on the hook for what the Democrats' opposition research can dig up on the various names, whether it is an extreme position on policy (one judge is for anti-gay and anti-transgender positions) or personal misdeeds that might turn up. "This," a general-election attack ad could ask, "is what Trump believes is appropriate for a lifetime appointment to our highest court?"

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