Archive

June 13th, 2016

The GOP's Trumpian Catch-22

    Hillary Clinton faces a strategic choice. She can concentrate on closing off Donald Trump's potential openings with the white working class. Or she can build large leads among more affluent voters, many of whom are moderate and see Trump as dangerous, extreme and temperamentally unfit.

     She will necessarily do some of both -- she needs a decent share of the blue-collar vote to hold key Midwestern states -- and she will have to rally what have been core Democratic constituencies: younger voters, who eluded her during the primaries, African-Americans and Latinos. But the direction of her campaign and her selection of a running mate will depend in significant part on the class tilt of her strategy.

    For the moment, however, her decisions are easy compared with those confronting Republicans. Trump's stubborn refusal to transition away from his persona during the primaries has put the party's leaders in an impossible position.

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You can't be for and against Trump

    Republicans can't have it both ways: If you say you intend to cast your ballot for Donald Trump, that's an endorsement. You can be for him or against him, but not both.

    So don't even try to take the untenable position that Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, chairman of the influential Republican Study Committee, tried to outline. "I will vote for him," Flores said, "but in terms of getting my endorsement, I don't endorse people that bash a judge based on his ethnic heritage."

    You just did, Congressman.

    Equally absurd, and even more cynical, is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing: encouraging Trump to pretend to be something he is not. "Using a prepared text last night and not attacking any other Americans was a good start," McConnell said, referring to Trump's teleprompter-assisted speech Tuesday evening. "I think it's still time for him to act like a presidential candidate should be acting. So I haven't given up hope."

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The Parent Trap

    Somehow, it's always the parents' fault. We are too lax, except when we are too helicoptery. We coddle the kids too much, except when we drive them into neurotic overachievement. We are enablers. No, we are Tiger Moms. The societal urge to blame is matched only by the parental instinct to second-guess -- ourselves as much as our fellow parents.

    And so, two big and otherwise unrelated news stories of the last few weeks -- the killing of a silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo and the lenient sentence imposed on a former Stanford student for sexual assault -- arrive with an unavoidable overlay of debate over proper parenting.

    The first reaction to the zoo story, and the decision to shoot the gorilla to protect the toddler who fell into the animal's enclosure, was entirely unsurprising: Blame the mommy. Not just blame her -- prosecute her. Surely no responsible parent could have allowed her child to escape her watchful eye. Call Child Protective Services.

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The best way to fight campus rape

    Last week, a California judge sentenced former Stanford University swimmer Brock Allen Turner to six months in jail for a horrifying sexual assault on an unconscious, alcohol-impaired woman. The resulting uproar over the sentence's undue leniency risks missing the most important lesson of the case.

    Contrary to campus conventional wisdom, the Turner case shows that the best way to deal with a campus sexual assault problem is to rely on law enforcement professionals to protect women and to pursue justice, not on campus disciplinary systems run by amateur sex bureaucrats.

    The backlash against Turner's sentence is being exploited by a powerful but misguided movement to delegitimize law enforcement as the best way to handle campus sexual assaults. The accusers' rights group Know Your IX has claimed that even reporting an assault to police could harm campus victims. "#copsoffcampus," the group recently tweeted.

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Republican leaders who support Trump are modern-day Neville Chamberlains

    American conservatives are fond of World War II analogies, especially those that illustrate the dangers of appeasing dictators. In this historical appropriation, today's conservatives invariably assume the role of Winston Churchill, courageously telling the truth regardless of the consequences. Their liberal adversaries, meanwhile, behave as latter-day Neville Chamberlains, hoping against reality that diplomacy and concessions will satiate the desires of evil men.

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Mr. Trump is ready for his close-up. Always.

    Donald Trump tapped my arm as we flew to Los Angeles on his jet and, between bites of Oreos, confided a little something: "Clint Eastwood is the greatest star ever," he said. "All those Sergio Leone westerns. Nobody was cooler."

    This wasn't entirely true, I suspected. Deep down inside, Trump has always believed that he's the greatest star who has ever existed.

    Once upon a time -- long before the carnival that is the 2016 presidential election -- Trump set his sights on Hollywood.

    When Trump was 18, he wanted to be a movie producer. He told me that he considered attending the University of Southern California to study filmmaking after he graduated from military school in 1964 (several years later he even produced an ill-fated Broadway show, "Paris Is Out"). Inevitably, perhaps, he was drawn instead into his father's real estate business.

    Still, Trump's fascination with movies never wavered, a fact that became abundantly clear as I traveled with him in 2004 and 2005 to report a book on his life and business. (Disclosure: Trump later sued me for that book because, among other things, it questioned the size of his fortune. The suit was later dismissed. )

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In Clinton's historic achievement, a chance to wave gender card proudly

    When my grandmother was born in Philadelphia in 1920, women couldn't vote. Her opinion about her country and the people who governed it mattered less - or, frankly, not at all - than the men around her.

    Even after the ratification of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 20, 1920, my grandmother was still less of a person in the eyes of society and the law. When she married she became the legal property of my grandfather, and although they ran a business together (and by all accounts my grandmother called the shots), the business and all its profits were under my grandfather's control too.

    There was nothing particularly unusual about this, nothing especially sexist or backward about my grandfather. It was just the way things were.

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In Brock Turner's home town, we're raising kids who are never told 'no'

    An alternate version of the Brock Turner sexual assault story has been spinning in my imagination since last January, when I first heard of his arrest.

    In my version, he recognizes that what happened on Stanford's campus behind that dumpster was rape. He comes to understand that intoxication is not consent. He takes responsibility for his violent "action" that irreparably harmed another human being, instead of blaming it on alcohol. Rather than spending a year and a half honing his story, making excuses and lawyering up, he pleads guilty. He looks his victim squarely in the eyes and says, "I'm sorry. I had no business putting my hands on or in you after you were no longer able to give consent. I should have helped you to safety instead of running and lying about why I did. I will do everything I can to spare you any further pain. I will spend the rest of my life educating young people about consent and sexual violence."

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How Clinton got here

    The five days in 2008 between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary were Hillary Clinton's crucible. They showed what she's made of and that she should never be underestimated.

    After Barack Obama's overwhelming victory in Iowa, the polls all suggested he was about to deliver the second shot of a one-two punch that would have crippled Clinton's campaign.

    If he had, the once-inevitable front-runner would have lost her chance to fight Obama to a virtual draw in the Democratic contests over the next five months. In turn, Obama might never have seen her as a natural and unifying pick for secretary of state.

    Clinton's comeback was powered by characteristic moves, and then a big surprise.

    Reflecting what some praise as her persistence and others see less charitably as doggedness, she loaded her schedule with town halls that wouldn't end until she had answered every voter's question.

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Why Muhammad Ali still matters

    Of all the riveting stories that made up Muhammad Ali's amazing and controversial life, the most intriguing to me is how well he performed despite testing poorly in school.

    Conventional measures of intelligence did not capture his potential, but he did not let that stop him. He didn't sulk, pout or give up. He tried harder. Having his abilities underestimated by others only seemed to make him more determined.

    In his Louisville high school, young Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. -- Ali's original pre- Muslim "slave name"--had such poor grades in the tenth grade that he had to drop out and repeat the year, according to David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker and author of the "King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero."

    When Ali later took the Selective Service's mental aptitude test in 1964, the year of his first heavyweight championship at age 22, he scored only between the 16th and 18th percentile.

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