Archive

October 27th, 2016

Virginia for the Win: Donald Trump tries to rise again in the Old Dominion

    Donald Trump isn't done with Virginia just yet.

    The Republican presidential nominee is scheduled to appear at Regent University Saturday, his first stop in the state since he delivered a surprisingly strong, policy-driven speech to a crowd in Roanoke nearly a month ago.

    In that speech, Trump gave me a momentary glimpse of what his campaign could have done in the campaign's last weeks to bring Republicans back to his banner and perhaps even sway a few undecided voters.

    He talked about the nation's inner cities. He spoke of fighting for minorities, promising to fight for their success and to champion school choice for their kids.

    He sounded, almost, kind of, like the late Jack Kemp.

    But a month is a lifetime in politics. And since his last visit to Virginia, Trump's campaign has sagged under the weight of his own crude remarks and erratic behavior.

    How will he perform at Regent this weekend?

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October 26th

Trump's disqualifying defiance of democracy

    It is tempting to laugh at Donald Trump's eruptions and outrages because he is such a cartoonish buffoon. But he gave chilling evidence Wednesday night of why he poses a grave and urgent threat to our democracy -- and why he must be defeated.

    There have been many bitterly contested elections in our nation's 240-year history, but never has the loser refused to accept the outcome and claimed the presidency was stolen by fraud. Trump threatened, in advance, to do just that. "I will keep you in suspense," he said, proving once again that he cares more about protecting his fragile ego than serving the country he asks to lead.

    Debate moderator Chris Wallace gave Trump two opportunities to say he will accept the people's verdict. Both times he defiantly refused -- and in the process disqualified himself as a candidate for the nation's highest office.

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Trump makes the case ... against himself

    In the early minutes of Wednesday night's final presidential debate, Donald Trump seemed to be taking to heart the advice of insider supporters to tone down his unruly temperament. He pivoted politely to a civil discussion of his differences with rival Hillary Clinton.

    While the two did not shake hands at the outset, they calmly discussed their positions on the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment, abortion, immigration and the economy. So far, so good.

    But then came a question about alleged Russian involvement in the American election, opening the door to Vladimir Putin's praise of Trump. Clinton needled him as a "puppet," and predictably Trump rose to the bait, telling her, "You're the puppet!" In a flash, he was right back to the old Donald of attack, insult and disregard for the whole political process.

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Trump is a walking, talking violation of democratic virtue and dignity

    Democracy requires dignity to sustain itself.

    This shouldn't surprise. The ruling system that democracy replaced had been divinely chosen; the royals had God-given dignity, with all the trappings. For democrats to compete, they had to prove first that the electoral rabble could govern its passions and temper its prejudices, and next that their leaders would be chosen from the highest common denominator, not the lowest.

    Democratic dignity is mutual dignity. That requires mutual respect and something more. The dignity of democratic institutions must be safeguarded even when the dignity of individuals collapses. Richard Nixon can be discarded if necessary; the presidency must be saved.

    Since he began his campaign, Donald Trump has waged a sustained assault on democratic norms and democratic dignity. The first phase attacked individuals, Mexicans followed by Muslims. Trump targeted vulnerable minorities, as demagogues do, but he also belittled and taunted his Republican primary opponents, who felt compelled to adopt his schoolyard tactics in turn.

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Nasty women have much work to do

    "Such a nasty woman."

    - Donald Trump

 

    The nasty women gather on the heath just after midnight. It is Nasty Women's Sabbath, Election Eve, and they must make haste.

    Their sturdy he-goats and their broomsticks are parked with the valet. Beyond the circle, their familiar owls and toads and pussycats strut, boasting of being grabbed or not grabbed.

    A will-o'-the-wisp zigzags back and forth over the assemblage (it is bad with directions, like a nasty woman).

    They have much to do, and the hour is late.

    They must sabotage the career of an upwardly mobile young general named Macbeth.

    They must lure an old wizard into a cave and lock him there so that Camelot may fall.

    They must finish Ron and Harry's homework for them (again).

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Losing presidential candidates should concede

    If Donald Trump loses the election and doesn't concede, it won't violate the U.S. Constitution. But it would break a tradition of concession that dates back more than a century and has achieved quasi-constitutional status. And like most enduring political customs, its value goes beyond graciousness: It helps ensure the continuity of government and offers a legitimating assist to democracy itself.

    It's a matter of interpretation exactly when the practice of concession began. Thomas Jefferson drafted a letter of concession to John Adams even before the election of 1796 was complete, in which he said he expected to lose and warned Adams to be careful lest Alexander Hamilton cheat him of his "succession by a trick." In the end, Jefferson didn't send the letter, but instead gave it to James Madison, who passed on its contents indirectly to Adams.

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Life under siege: How to survive in Aleppo

    There weren't any bombs today, or the day before. That's good, because it means you can leave your apartment, see your friends, try to pretend life is normal. Still, you don't know when the attacks will resume or how much worse they'll be when they do.

    The war here has been going on for more than four years. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled, and thousands more are dead, including many of my friends. My wife and I are among about 250,000 people who are trapped here in the besieged eastern section of the city. If you want to stay alive in Aleppo, you have to find a way to keep yourself safe from explosions or starvation.

    Here's how.

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It's too bad the candidates didn't debate this

    The presidential debates gave the world a chance to watch Donald Trump bluff about his mistreatment of women and lie about mocking a person with disabilities. Nearly as theatrical was the sight of Hillary Clinton spinning convoluted explanations of why people shouldn't fret about her use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state.

    These and other familiar election-season spectacles may have revealed something about the candidates' character, but shed little light on how they'd approach governing. Missed substantive opportunities in all three presidential debates included:

 

    Taxes

    Obligatory cliches aside, Trump's tax proposals weren't debated seriously. They dwarf anything that Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush proposed and overwhelmingly would benefit the rich. And, contrary to Trump's debate-stage assertion, taxes on carried interest would be reduced, not increased, for most private equity and hedge fund executives.

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It probably wasn't Russia that attacked the Internet today. That's what's scary

    As users of Twitter and many other services probably know, large parts of the Internet weren't working Friday, thanks to a hacking attack on the Internet's infrastructure. NBC reported that a senior intelligence official has told the network that the hack "does not appear at this point to be any kind of state-sponsored or directed attack." It may be that new evidence emerges that leads the U.S. intelligence community to change its opinion and identify a major state as a responsible party. The scarier possibility is that it wasn't a state that did it.

 

    The attack targeted the domain name system

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How Duterte cast himself as an agent of change

    This is a column about high geopolitics: the United States, China, the Philippines, the fate of the American order in the Pacific. But the great forces that move history often have their origins at a much lower level. And some of them were visible last week on a cellphone in Manila.

    The phone belonged to an acquaintance, an intelligent and well-educated man in his 20s. As we were talking, he pulled it out to illustrate a point. "Look," he said, flicking through selfies taken at parties and restaurants. "Here's a picture of me with the son of Marcos. And here's me with Imelda." He flicked again. "And here I am with the son of Duterte." And again: "Here's me with the son of Aquino."

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