Archive

July 19th, 2016

Mike Pence is the perfect not-Trump running mate

    Donald Trump has selected the perfect non-Trump as his running mate. Mike Pence, the phlegmatic Republican governor of Indiana, has strong credentials with the social right and mediocre political instincts.

    Pence passes an important test: He might help govern and could take over in an emergency situation.

    He won't help much politically; he was in a struggle for re-election in his home state. But no vice presidential candidate really has made a political difference since Lyndon Johnson more than half a century ago. Paul Ryan couldn't deliver his home state of Wisconsin for Mitt Romney in 2012 just as John Edwards didn't hand North Carolina to John Kerry in 2004.

    Modern vice presidents have been quite influential. Starting in 1977 with Walter Mondale, who was President Jimmy Carter's No. 2, they've played a major role in governing. Under the "Mondale model," as it's now known, vice presidents have acted as senior presidential advisers and have been entrusted with significant assignments.

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Donald Trump is crashing the system. Journalists need to build a new one.

    Journalists commonly divide information from persuasion, as when they separate the "news" from the "opinion" section, or "reporters" from "columnists." This is fine as far as it goes (and they get criticized harshly when they don't honor this norm), but the distinction won't help much in understanding why the 2016 campaign has been such an intellectual challenge for the media.

    Everything that happens in election coverage is premised on a kind of opinion: that our votes should be based on reliable information about what the candidates intend to do if elected. Remove that assumption and the edifice crashes. But this is exactly what the candidacy of Donald Trump does. It upends the assumptions required for the traditional forms of campaign journalism even to make sense.

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Mike Pence looks like Trump's ideal veep

    If Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is in fact Donald Trump's choice for a running mate, then he is not just a good choice. He's about the best choice Trump fans could hope for -- at least based on what we know about the Indiana governor so far.

    The Republican Party remains divided, with many party actors, including high-profile politicians, rejecting the reality-star nominee. So divided, in fact, that it seemed possible that Trump might be stuck with a scandal-ridden, unpopular retread (such as Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie) or some obscure figure without any obvious presidential credentials. Instead, if it's Pence, he winds up with someone who wouldn't have been a surprising choice for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker, if one of them had been the Republican nominee.

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Bull Market Blues

    Like most economists, I don’t usually have much to say about stocks. Stocks are even more susceptible than other markets to popular delusions and the madness of crowds, and stock prices generally have a lot less to do with the state of the economy or its future prospects than many people believe. As economist Paul Samuelson put it, “Wall Street indexes predicted nine out of the last five recessions.”

    Still, we shouldn’t completely ignore stock prices. The fact that the major averages have lately been hitting new highs — the Dow has risen 177 percent from its low point in March 2009 — is newsworthy and noteworthy. What are those Wall Street indexes telling us?

    The answer, I’d suggest, isn’t entirely positive. In fact, in some ways the stock market’s gains reflect economic weaknesses, not strengths. And understanding how that works may help us make sense of the troubling state our economy is in.

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Britain's outlook has changed, but the BOE hasn't

    The Bank of England left rates on hold Thursday even after its governor, Mark Carney, said on June 30 that the U.K. decision to quit the European Union meant that "some monetary policy easing will likely be needed over the summer."

    There are good arguments not to have cut borrowing costs at the first available opportunity. But there is one very compelling reason to inject more adrenaline into the economy as soon as possible.

    The case for cutting rests on the outlook for gross domestic product after June 23, when Britons voted to leave the EU. Instead of growth accelerating next year to an annual pace of 2.1 percent or better, which had been the expectation for more than a year, economists now see an expansion of less than 1 percent. The U.K. government's oft-repeated claim to top the Group of Seven growth tables will soon be nothing more than a fond memory.

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All hail the glorious democratic primary

    She may have had to wait 36 days since the end of the Democratic Party to get Bernie Sanders' endorsement, but for Hillary Clinton, it was well worth it.

    Once again, before this week's Clinton/Sanders rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, skeptics raised questions about Bernie's intentions: Would he actually endorse her? Would he urge his supporters to get behind her? Would he agree to campaign for her? Would he just sit on his hands? Or, worse yet, might he still bolt and run as a third-party candidate?

    But Bernie quickly put such doubts to rest. "I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president," he began. And then he made the promise Clinton was waiting to hear -- "I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States" -- and urged his supporters to do the same.

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July 18th

The coronation of a charlatan

    Years from now, bright-eyed children will look up at Grandma or Grandpa and ask, "Where were you when they nominated Donald Trump?" Far too many prominent Republicans will have to hang their heads in shame.

    As the garish imperial coronation in Cleveland reaches its climax, there will be much commentary -- some, no doubt, from me -- about fleeting events. Did So-and-so's speech help Trump or hurt him? Did one line of attack against Hillary Clinton seem more or less promising than another? All of this is news, but we must not lose sight of the big picture: The "Party of Lincoln" is about to nominate for president a man who is dangerously unfit for the office.

    Trump is a brilliant showman, no question about that. His life's work has been self-aggrandizement, not real estate, and all those years of practice served him well when he turned to politics. He knows how to work a crowd. He understands television and social media. He dominated and vanquished a field of experienced campaigners as if they were mere apprentices.

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'No, Mr. Trump, that's a lie': What Lesley Stahl should have said Sunday night

    What if Lesley Stahl had stopped Donald Trump right in his tracks?

    What if she had simply dug in her heels and refused to budge when Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, insisted - once again, this time on "60 Minutes" on Sunday evening - that he had opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning?

    Because that claim, which Trump has made a cornerstone of his campaign, is "blatantly false," according to The Washington Post's Fact Checker and many other similar efforts. Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking operation, also called it false. And BuzzFeed dug up a 2002 interview in which Trump said he supported the invasion.

    As the Fact Checker's Michelle Ye Hee Lee wrote earlier this year in a piece on eight falsehoods Trump repeated in a 16-hour period:

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GOP, RIP?

    The Republican Party came to life as the bastion of "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men." It was a reformist party dedicated to stopping the spread of slavery and to fighting a "Slave Power" its founders saw as undermining free institutions.

    The new political organization grew out of the old Whigs and reflected the faith that Henry Clay and his admirer Abraham Lincoln had in the federal government's ability to invest in fostering economic growth and expanding educational opportunity. Its partisans embodied what John C. Calhoun, slavery's chief ideological defender, described disdainfully as "the national impulse." It was, in fact, a good impulse.

    But the Republicans who held their first national convention 160 years ago were more than just northern Whigs. Their ranks also included many former Democrats who shared a fervor for the anti-slavery cause and helped take some of the Whiggish, elitist edge off this ingathering of idealists and practical politicians.

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Divided Republicans ponder their after-Trump

    The tensions at the 2016 Republican National Convention aren't like those typically seen at the party's divided gatherings: Teddy Roosevelt challenging the hierarchy in 1912; or the moderates versus conservatives, Dwight Eisenhower against Robert Taft in 1952, or 12 years later, Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller, then Ronald Reagan taking on President Gerald Ford in 1976.

    Republicans meet in Cleveland on Monday to anoint their presidential nominee amid deep schisms: Never have so many of the party's prominent governors, senators, House members and, most conspicuously, former presidents and presidential candidates, avoided the quadrennial forum. But ideology is secondary.

    Donald Trump, the presumed nominee, has rolled over the party's right-wing activists, mainstream moderates and policy-centric lawmakers such as House Speaker Paul Ryan or Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

    The discussion among Republicans in Cleveland and around the country is about the future of party: Is this election an aberration, or could Republicans go the way of the Whigs a century and a half ago?

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