Archive

February 1st, 2016

Iowans give Clinton their (polite) applause

    The challenge facing Hillary Clinton's well-oiled presidential campaign was on display on Wednesday at the Fun and Family Bowling Alley in Adel, Iowa: enthusiasm or, more precisely, the lack of it.

    The leading Democratic candidate gave a polished 45-minute speech, focusing on her economic policies and ripping into Republicans before a capacity audience of over 200. It was well received, particularly when she blasted companies like Johnson Controls, an auto supply company based in Wisconsin, for planning to relocate overseas for tax purposes.

    But interviews with a dozen Iowa voters in attendance underscored her campaign's chief concern: a lack of passion among her supporters. Polls show she is locked in a tight race with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa, which has its first-in-the-nation contest on Monday. He has generated lots of enthusiasm.

    Dana Brown, a graphic arts designer who came out to see Clinton, said she supported the former secretary of state for "practical" reasons. But Brown said she's "not sure" she'll attend a caucus to cast a vote on Monday night.

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Donald Trump's myths about Donald Trump

    All politicians like to brag about their abilities and achievements. But rarely has a presidential hopeful emerged like Donald Trump, who consistently touts his resume and plans for the nation in sweeping and over-the-top terms.

    Trump is particularly unique in how he talks about himself. Plenty of would-be presidents make dubious claims about what they have accomplished in elected office (created millions of jobs! slashed spending!). Few make such claims about their personal attributes. Trump has no such hesitation. Just before the Iowa caucuses, here are five of the biggest myths Donald Trump tells about himself.

 

    1. "I'm, like, a really smart person."

    Trump is not shy about his intellectual prowess. As he tweeted in 2013: "Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault."

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January 28th

John Kasich: 2016's happiest warrior

    In the year of the angry candidate and the even angrier voter, John Kasich stands out as the self-proclaimed "prince of light and hope."

    As Kasich instructed voters at a town hall meeting here -- his second in this town, population 1,444 -- "If you want to just yell and scream at the other side, you should not vote for me. ... Don't vote for me."

    Little about Kasich's message is standard political operating procedure. He is more apt to mention God on the campaign trail than he is his Democratic opponents, much less his Republican ones.

    "This is not a political speech -- this is a life talk," Kasich told workers at a warehouse in the town of Bow, observing that "the Lord has put his hand on me for some reason. But he's got his hand on everybody in this room if you let him." Then he wondered, "What do you think? Am I out of my mind here telling you this stuff?"

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Trump 'n' Palin, an alliance for the angry

    Can this presidential election year get any more weird?

    Reality seems to have run off the rails. Let me count the ways:

    In the "How Can We Miss You If You Won't Go Away" Department: Sarah Palin is back, much to the delight of comedy writers everywhere. (I'm talking about you, Tina Fey.) And she's stumping for -- who else? -- Republican frontrunner and fellow former reality TV star Donald Trump.

    Yes, this is the Grand Old Party's former vice presidential candidate who endorsed Trump's closest opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz, in 2012 in his run-off as a tea party-backed insurgent against establishment-backed Texas Lt. Gov. Dave Dewhurst.

    Now Palin was treating Cruz in much the same way that she treated Alaska in 2009 when she walked away from the governorship after serving three years of her four-year term.

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The Hate-Cruz, Tolerate-Trump Republicans

    The biggest fuss in Republican presidential politics now seems to be why, or perhaps whether, some party actors have concluded that even though billionaire Donald Trump would be a bad nominee, he's still better than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

    The group we're talking about here is a subset of the Republican Party. Of the politicians, campaign and governing professionals, donors and activists, formal party officials and staff, and party-aligned media and interest groups that make up the party, this subset appears to some combination of those who have long opposed Tea Party and other insurgent candidates, and of Washington-based influencers.

    Here are some theories about what they are up to and what it means.

    Perhaps it's personal. Republican party actors -- his fellow senators in particular -- just really hate Cruz, and can't see past that.

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Palin puts her hand on the scale

    Such is the state of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign that the widely discredited vice-presidential loser of seven years ago has burst into the headlines again with a major political coup.

    Sarah Palin's appearances at a couple of Donald Trump rallies in Oklahoma are reported as a matter of great significance, despite the almost incomprehensible remarks she made with the beaming candidate at her side.

    Trump even tells NBC News he hasn't discussed the possibility of making her his running mate, "but she's somebody I really like and I respect, and certainly she could play a position if she wanted to."

    Not even Donald Trump at his most outrageous would be so reckless as to make the same mistake John Mc Cain made in 2008 by choosing Palin to run with him. Her attention span for serious governing was such that she subsequently quit as governor of Alaska for the allure of television lights, and she has been on the celebrity circuit ever since.

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Michigan’s Great Stink

    In the 1850s, London, the world’s largest city, still didn’t have a sewer system. Waste simply flowed into the Thames, which was as disgusting as you might imagine. But conservatives, including the magazine The Economist and the prime minister, opposed any effort to remedy the situation. After all, such an effort would involve increased government spending and, they insisted, infringe on personal liberty and local control.

    It took the Great Stink of 1858, when the stench made the Houses of Parliament unusable, to produce action.

    But that’s all ancient history. Modern politicians, no matter how conservative, understand that public health is an essential government role. Right? No, wrong — as illustrated by the disaster in Flint, Michigan.

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January 27th

This is a test of the U.S. political system

    The 2016 U.S. presidential election is the most polarizing in half a century, and some commentators see a danger that "power-hungry demagogues" could take over. Europeans, with their parliament-dominated political systems, would avert disaster by building a coalition to keep power out of the hands of extreme demagogues. Americans can't do that -- or can they?

    In the European Union, only Britain and Malta are now run by single-party governments (Spain was the third until a December election upset the balance of power, though it may get a coalition government, too). The reason these power-sharing arrangements prevail is that the most important elections in many European countries are those that determine control of parliament. These are contests of agendas rather than personalities.

    There was a time when the U.S. could have adopted such a system. At least that's the view of F.H. Buckley, a professor at George Mason University School of Law, who argues that the delegates of the 1787 Philadelphia Convention never intended to set up the current presidential system.

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Hillary Clinton Stumbles

    In October, when Hillary Clinton made a spectacle of the congressional Benghazi committee during a marathon interrogation that seemed designed to make a spectacle of her, she emerged stronger than ever. Her polls numbers surged.

    That performance had come on the heels of a strong debate performance the week before in the first Democratic presidential debate.

    She had bolstered the image she wanted to project: strong, smart, capable and battle-tested.

    But now, on the verge of Monday night’s Democratic town hall in Iowa — the last time the candidates will face off before the caucuses in that state — and with Bernie Sanders’ poll numbers climbing not only in Iowa, but also in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign seems increasingly desperate and reckless.

    I noticed the turn in the last debate as Clinton seemed to me to go too far in her attacks on Sanders, while simultaneously painting herself into a box that will be very hard to escape.

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Sarah Palin’s Quixotic Quest for Relevance

    She’s back and tightly holding Donald Trump’s coattails.

    That’s right, Sarah Palin, having again found the media spotlight, is casting her shadow across the more thoughtful conservatives.

    This past week she declared her undying love and support of Trump’s attempt to seize the presidency from the more experienced and knowledgeable candidates in the Democratic, Republican, and Green parties, and is blathering her way throughout Iowa, New Hampshire, and several early primary states to stir up Trump’s far-right base.

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