Archive

February 28th, 2016

Trump, Rubio and the madness coming in March

    One version of the current thinking about the Republican presidential nomination is that things are moving perfectly for Donald Trump. He has three victories now and a close second in the four states that have voted. He's ahead in polls in many states, and leading big in national polls. This hasn't changed in months, and there's no reason to expect it to change soon.

    A contrasting view is that Marco Rubio is the candidate who is still set up nicely. He recovered from his disaster in New Hampshire to finish second (albeit a distant second) in South Carolina and Nevada, becoming the obvious challenger to Trump. He has finally won a large number of endorsements, putting him about even with John McCain in 2008 and John Kerry in 2004 as a late-breaking party choice.

    And, this argument goes, Trump is unlikely to increase his support. If he can't, then outside of his strongest states (and Nevada was one) he is only barely competitive in what will soon be a three-candidate race and not at all competitive in a two-man race.

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Trump taps the rich vein of white 'victimhood'

    Donald Trump has achieved an important milestone. Winning big in the New Hampshire and South Carolina Republican primaries has given him "big mo," as President George H.W. Bush used to call big momentum.

    At this rate, Trump could well be the Grand Old Party's next presidential nominee unless he does something devastatingly offensive to his supporters, such as, for example, saying something nice about President Barack Obama.

    Barring that, Bruce Bartlett may well get his wish for a Trump nomination, whether he really wants to or not.

    Bartlett, 64, is an author, historian, economist and veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations who describes himself as an endangered species: a "moderate Republican."

    So why does he want Trump to win the nomination? Because Bartlett wants to see the billionaire developer and TV star face the presumptive Democratic nominee, frontrunner Hillary Clinton -- and lose.

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February 27th

The Unelectibility Winning Streak

    To use a phrase that doesn’t come readily to my lips: “Well I’ll be danged.”

    New Hampshire, that bastion of sensible conservatism and rectitude, gave us not one unelectable candidate, but two — Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trumpmentum has only edged up since then while the Bern has started to flicker.

    How anyone expects either one of these guys to be elected president is beyond me.

    We’ve had some real eight-balls in the Oval Office, I’ll grant you. Warren Harding comes to mind, as does James Buchanan. I’d even throw George W. Bush in there.

    But we’ve never had a foul-mouthed ignoramus who insults, women, Latinos, Muslims, war heroes, the disabled, and poor, downtrodden journalists.

    That’s Trump. That’s presidential?

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America’s Killer Prisons

    I get a lot of letters from people who’ve been incarcerated, or are now behind bars.

    Legally I can’t respond directly, because I’m an ex-con myself: I was locked up after blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal and immoral torture program. Direct contact with current and former prisoners would be “consorting with known felons” — which is banned under the terms of my probation — so I keep my distance.

    Most of the letters I receive are complaints about prison conditions and requests for help. In most cases, these folks just want somebody to vent to. I wish I could help them. In most cases I can’t.

    But I do have this column. And I can tell you about some of the horrors that land in my mailbox.

    I received a letter recently from a female inmate in a state prison in Arizona. She wrote about some of the same things I complained about when I was incarcerated.

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The Secret Side of Donald Trump

    Sometimes in a particularly awful presidential race you’re forced to take the most bleak and cynical view of the candidates running for the most powerful job in the world. And then you discover you’re overestimating.

    Today we will consider the upside of Donald Trump.

    OK, it was never huge. Possibly not even nugget-size. But people, wasn’t there a moment when you thought that he could think outside the normal conservative box? True, his riff against the power of big political donors was just another way to brag about being rich. And he was awful on ... so very many things.

    But once in a while, as Trump ranted about the Republican insiders, some actual outsider remarks did pop up. Don’t mess with Social Security. Planned Parenthood is a good thing. And everybody ought to have health care.

    Earlier in the campaign, he seemed to support a single-payer health care plan, sort of like Bernie Sanders. Wow.

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The Sanders case for more spending and faster growth

    The standard case for fiscal stimulus goes like this. In a recession, aggregate demand falls -- everyone is afraid to spend and instead just hoards cash. If the government spends it can prompt people to buy more things with the money they get from the government, which raises demand and gets the economy working again. Of course, this costs money, but the government can borrow the money and pay it back the next time the economy is running on all cylinders.

    Stimulus, in other words, is part of a short-term strategy to fill in the gaps in the economy caused by the business cycle. That's the basic idea promoted by the inventor of the concept, John Maynard Keynes. It is also the story embraced by most modern proponents of stimulus, such as Paul Krugman. However, in the recent debate surrounding the economic proposals of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a small number of economists have started suggesting a very different justification for stimulus. Their idea: Stimulus does something more fundamental to the economy by raising long-term productivity.

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The Party of ‘No Way!’

    Perhaps the most important thing Washington will do this year is decide whether to approve President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. But Republicans have already announced their decision: “No way!”

    It’s rich for Republicans to declare pre-emptively that they will not even hold hearings on an Obama nominee, considering that they used to denounce (while their party held the White House) the notion that judges’ nominations shouldn’t proceed in an election year.

    “That’s just plain bunk,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in 2008. “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.” His sense of reality has since changed.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said in 2008, “Just because it’s a presidential election year is no excuse for us to take a vacation.”

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The economic dilemma Democrats face in 2016

    Democrats face a dilemma in 2016: How do they deal with the Obama presidency, and particularly the Obama economy? As the early primaries have shown, Americans are in a surly mood, with the economy at the center of their concerns. The Obama administration naturally wants Democrats to brag on its record. Republicans, of course, blame President Obama for everything under the sun. My Post colleague E.J. Dionne Jr. argues that Democrats will "undercut" their "chances of holding the White House" if they don't defend the progress made under Obama and proclaim that the United States is "in far better shape economically than most other countries in the world." But this morsel of conventional wisdom ignores what is going on in the country.

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The case for making bikers stop at red lights

    Bicyclists who barrel through red lights without even slowing down are the worst, right? As urban cycling has grown in popularity, this reckless behavior has become a major traffic hazard, exasperating drivers and endangering pedestrians and cyclists.

    Bicyclists who slow to a crawl at red lights but then roll on through if there are no pedestrians or cars nearby aren't so bad though, are they? Or I should say "are we?" because I do that on occasion. Not in, you know, midtown Manhattan, but in other, less trafficked parts of town. I did get a ticket for this once in New Jersey, but it if I remember correctly it only cost me $95. It hasn't stopped me from continuing to roll through red lights when I deem it appropriate.

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Mitch McConnell Is a Supreme Hypocrite

    Antonin Scalia is gone. The nastiest and noisiest of right wingers on the Supreme Court is dead.

    But in a blatantly partisan ploy to prevent President Barack Obama from nominating a successor to Scalia, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has cited a brand new historical precedent dictating that presidents in the last year of their term don’t name new justices to the high court.

    “Therefore,” McConnell babbled, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

    What a silly old squirrel McConnell is. Article II of the U.S. Constitution plainly states that the president, with the “advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, [and] judges of the Supreme Court.”

    Note that the Constitution says the president “shall” do this — as a duty to the nation.

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