Archive

July 7th, 2016

Clintons are still drama junkies

    I like Bill and Hillary Clinton, but they don't make it easy.

    For more than a quarter century I have watched them slip and out of scandals, most of which were either generated or exaggerated by their Republican rivals.

    We've all learned to expect scandals by now. What irritates me is to see the Clintons slip and slide into a scandal that could have been avoided and can't honestly be blamed on anyone other than themselves.

    The latest example is tarmac-gate, so named because it occurred on one of former president Bill Clinton's favorite places to schmooze with VIPs: an airport tarmac amid the VIPs' private planes.

    Clinton was preparing to fly out of Phoenix during a seven-state fund-raising swing for his wife's campaign when he learned that Attorney General Loretta Lynch was in another nearby plane, according to reports.

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Yo, New Jersey! You don't have to cut a tax to raise a tax.

    Sure, New Jersey state politics are tricky. But policymakers in the Garden State are, for no good reason, creating a big problem for themselves and their constituents.

    By not raising the state's gas tax, which is the second lowest in the nation and hasn't been increased since the late 1980s, their transportation funding is running on empty, meaning that Gov. Chris Christie's administration will soon have to discontinue work on various road projects. Although "essential" projects and certain main toll roads will be spared, the shutdown will result in layoffs and in the suspension of needed repairs on roads across the state.

    In a nod to the urgent reality of the situation, both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly have proposed bills that would raise the state's gas tax from 14.5 cents to 37.5 cents per gallon to generate $2 billion per year for the Transportation Trust Fund. But in a nod to foolish politics, they've paired the gas tax increase with much larger cuts to other taxes.

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We disagree on the Declaration's self-evident truths' but we always did

    Every July 4, Americans celebrate a day and a document that proclaim our "self-evident" truths: "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    It's a lovely concept, this celebration of our unity of purpose and vision. But do we really have the shared values recited in the Declaration of Independence? Did we ever?

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This is what Loretta Lynch is thinking now

    My Aspen Ideas Festival interview of Attorney General Loretta Lynch had been on the books for weeks. She was supposed to give a speech on criminal-justice reform, followed by a sit-down with me about the issue and other topics. A chance encounter with former president Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac in Phoenix last month upended everything. That his wife's use of a private email server is at the center of an FBI investigation made the tarmac tete-a-tete as ill-advised as it was unavoidable by Lynch .

    Lynch has a reputation for integrity and sound judgment. She knows what happened in Phoenix was and remains a disaster. But she didn't go into a defensive crouch. She has been incredibly transparent. Rather than swat away questions, Lynch forthrightly answered them at news conferences last week in Phoenix and Los Angeles . And in Aspen, she scrapped her speech in favor of a hit-the-ground-running conversation. At no point did Justice Department officials try to put conditions or limitations on what we would talk about. So, I asked Lynch the only question anyone wanted asked and answered: What on earth were you thinking?

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The myth of Paul Ryan

    You know it's a peculiar election year when Mitt Romney and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., can agree that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is a "fraud." But that label shouldn't be reserved for Donald Trump alone. It's also an apt description of the man Trump supplanted as the de facto leader of the party - Romney's running mate in 2012, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

    Indeed, years before Trump sold Republican primary voters on the myth of his own great success, Ryan sold a credulous Washington establishment on the notion that he was a serious thinker overflowing with political courage - a policy wonk uniquely willing to tackle tough issues such as entitlement reform. In the past month, however, it has become more obvious than ever that Ryan's reputation is worth about as much as a degree from Trump University. Let's review.

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The conservative case for letting Clinton skate by

    Conservatives are -- to put it mildly -- disappointed by FBI Director James Comey's decision not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a personal server for classified State Department e-mails. The National Review's Jonah Goldberg blogged, "I don't get it." Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, the nonprofit that helped bring Clinton's e-mails to light, said there was a "disconnect between Comey's devastating findings and his weak recommendation." Right-wing Twitter is a flutter with indignation.

    And the disappointment is understandable. Comey said it was quite possible that hostile powers had breached her e-mail server. What's more, he put the lie to Clinton's claim that she never knowingly sent classified information through her private server.

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Obama’s Final Fight

    You introduce yourself to voters as a son of Kansas and Kenya, an emblem of this country’s openness to outsiders and its embrace of difference. Your election and re-election affirm the distance that the United States has traveled, or so you believe. So you hope.

    Then you look up toward the end of your second term to behold a Republican presidential nominee who is cynically exploiting racism and xenophobia to put the White House within his own reach. He’s not merely your adversary; he’s your antithesis. And his victory would do more than endanger your policies. It would question the very moral of your journey, the very bend of the arc you frequently invoke.

    That’s what Barack Obama confronts right now, and that’s why he hit the campaign trail Tuesday, appearing onstage with Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and proclaiming without reservation that “there has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office” than she. That’s why he’ll say words like those again and again, with the same fire, in the months ahead.

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It's time for Hillary Clinton to face the music - and the media

    Last week's landmark Supreme Court decision striking down Texas anti-abortion laws has emboldened abortion-rights activists, who now hope to lay waste to abortion restrictions all over the U.S. Their success or failure will depend on whether the Supreme Court proves willing to overhaul its abortion jurisprudence. And that's no sure thing.

    To understand the developing legal war, you have to distinguish between different kinds of abortion restrictions. Some state laws resemble those struck down in Texas in their focus on regulating abortion providers. Others are broader limitations on a woman's decision-making autonomy, or the treatment of fetal tissue after abortion.

    The first set of laws will now have to pass the Supreme Court's new cost-benefit test, making them vulnerable to challenge. But the broader laws do not fit into that framework as neatly, and will probably require the Supreme Court to weigh in again.

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It's time for Hillary Clinton to face the music - and the media

    Remember Fort Dodge, Iowa?

    No? Well, that's understandable. It's been a long time - seven months - since an event in Fort Dodge that turned out to be historic: Hillary Clinton's last news conference.

    The candidate, famously opaque, answered a grand total of seven questions there on Dec. 4, 2015. Since then, although she's given individual interviews, she hasn't made herself available for general media questioning.

    That must change, and what better moment than immediately, given the news that FBI Director James B. Comey has recommended no charges be brought against the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

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July 6th

How Mother Jones went undercover to reveal ugly truths about for-profit prisons

    Undercover reporting is the James Dean of journalism: thrilling, but dangerous.

    Nellie Bly did it in 1887 when she checked herself into an insane asylum and emerged with stories of beatings and neglect.

    ABC Primetime Live did it in 1992 when reporters posed as supermarket workers at Food Lion to expose some of the chain's practices, including the repackaging of older meat with a new sell-by date.

    And now, Mother Jones magazine has published its 35,000-word investigation of a Louisiana for-profit prison, based on reporter Shane Bauer's four-month stint as a prison guard.

    In doing so, the magazine walked up to the line of accepted journalism ethics: Reporters shouldn't lie or misrepresent themselves as they pursue a story.

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