Archive

March 23rd, 2016

The party of Trump v. Merrick Garland

    In a span of about 12 hours, Americans were given definitive evidence that the Republican Party is now in thrall to its most ideologically and tactically extreme forces while the Democrats still look to the center ground and to compromise.

    Exhibit A: The results of Tuesday's primaries. Exhibit B: President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, as moderate and consensus-building a choice as he could have made, to the Supreme Court.

    In the electoral showdowns, Donald Trump pulled off a near sweep. Yes, John Kasich, the most underrated candidate all year, managed to beat Trump in his home state of Ohio. But Trump defeated his opposition everywhere else and put a Jeb-like exclamation point on the day by trouncing Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida.

    GOP establishmentarians had anointed Rubio as their savior, figuring the young and eloquent Cuban-American could cloak his very conservative positions under the appealing mantle of youth and diversity. It didn't work.

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Isn't it time for Bernie to drop out?

    Good old Bernie. He's had his fun. He's made his point. He surprised all of us, and probably even surprised himself, by how well he's done. But now it's time to face reality.

    After all, the math is the math. By sweeping five states on March 15, Hillary Clinton now has nearly an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates and superdelegates. It's time for Bernie to do the right thing, fold his tent, endorse Hillary Clinton, urge his followers to support her, and go back to his day job.

    That's the drum beat we hear from many in the Clinton camp and in the media today. They are insistent, persistent -- and flat-out wrong. For Sen. Sanders to drop out of the 2016 primary now would be a big mistake for him and for the Democratic Party.

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Iran is a 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' problem

    It doesn't take long in Iran before you start looking at the country through a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde prism: how to get rid of the monstrous Hyde without also harming the well-intentioned Jekyll, when they share the same body.

    The Hyde part of this analogy seems clear: it's Iran's clerical regime. It retains power by dictating who can stand for election, repressing and censoring political and cultural opposition and executing about 1,000 people per year. Abroad, it arms terrorist groups and tests ballistic missiles emblazoned with the words "Israel must be wiped out."

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If no one else stops Trump, the Electoral College still can - it's in the Constitution

    Donald Trump will be the GOP's presidential nominee. Within the party, talk of a brokered Republican National Convention or even a supporting a third-party candidate has circulated among those hoping to stop him from becoming the next president, leaving Trump antagonists across the spectrum to ponder whether there's any fail-safe left, after November, to stop a Trump administration from becoming a reality.

    There is. The Electoral College.

    If they choose, state legislators can appoint presidential electors themselves this November, rather than leaving the matter of apportioning Electoral College votes by popular vote. Then, via their chosen electors, legislatures could elect any presidential candidate they prefer, no matter who wins the majority vote in their respective states.

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How Obama could get last laugh in Supreme Court fight

    Now that President Obama has rolled out a Supreme Court nominee who is being widely described as a "centrist" who has "drawn praise from both parties," some analysts are predicting that it may be harder for GOP senators to continue to refuse to consider him. But if anything, most signs are that Republicans are only digging in harder behind their stance that only the next president should pick Antonin Scalia's replacement.

    But there is a scenario worth entertaining here in which Obama has the last laugh -- and the GOP posture ends up leaving Republicans with only downsides, and zero upsides.

    That scenario goes like this: If Republicans don't give Garland any hearing, and a Democrat (most likely Hillary Clinton) wins the presidential election, Republicans could then move to consider him in the lame duck session, to prevent Clinton from picking a more liberal nominee. But at that point, Obama could withdraw his nominee, to allow his successor to pick the next justice, instead.

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March 22nd

Trump's Brand Is Chaos

    It's not for nothing that Donald J. Trump was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013. The billionaire braggart's entire presidential campaign is straight out of the WWE "Wrestlemania" playbook -- all preposterous boasts, racialized taunts and simulated mayhem that threatens to turn into the real thing.

    And wouldn't TV news networks just love it?

    Back last summer, when this column first took note of his uncanny impersonation of 1950s charismatic bleach-blond bad guy Dr. Jerry Graham ("I have the body that men fear and women adore"), I was unaware of Trump's enshrinement. Having outgrown professional wrestling after eighth grade, I'd never witnessed the 2007 "Battle of the Billionaires" between Trump and WWE impresario Vincent McMahon.

    Anyway, if you want a laugh, Google the fool thing. Sure, it's several minutes of your life you'll never get back, but watching Trump posing, preening and throwing what a Rolling Stone reporter accurately characterized as "some of the worst punches in wrestling history" might wise you up to the game.

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Debating where Republicans are headed

    The Republican presidential race appears to be between front-runner Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the second-place vote-getter so far. What does this mean for the GOP, both in the short term and the future? Bloomberg columnists Francis Wilkinson and Ramesh Ponnuru try to figure it out.

    Wilkinson: I don't see why a Trump nomination should necessarily shatter the party (though it could). I don't think a Cruz nomination would be nearly so disruptive.

    The Trump phenomenon does highlight two profound vulnerabilities in the GOP, however: its demographics and its relentless distribution of gains to the very top, both of which are unsustainable and both of which exist without him.

    Trump exacerbates the first problem -- his alienation of Hispanic voters could have awful effects if it's not reversed -- while potentially moving the party to deal with the second.

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Canada's future under Trudeau looking bright

    The value of the Canadian dollar and the price of oil, one of the nation's top exports, have both tumbled to near record lows. But those details -- and the apparent demise of the Keystone XL pipeline -- don't begin to tell the story of what lies ahead for the economy of Canada, America's second-largest trading partner.

    Last year, Canadian voters elected an energetic and pragmatic prime minister, Justin Trudeau. He campaigned on a platform of inclusion and tolerance, focusing on the need to bring people together to solve problems, including pulling the country out of its economic doldrums. His youthful energy and optimism have inspired comparisons to John F. Kennedy, and like Kennedy, he is promising to cut middle-class taxes and tackle the biggest scientific challenge of his time, which today is climate change.

    Trudeau's commitment to fighting climate change coincides with his recognition that the Canadian economy has been too dependent on oil for too long. The good news for Trudeau is that the market shares his view, as local governments are proving.

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America's stance on Britain and the EU is hypocritical

    Boris Johnson, mayor of London and a leading figure in the campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, recently launched a pre-emptive strike against an expected U.S. intervention. President Barack Obama is apparently planning to drop by between now and the referendum in June, to help Prime Minister David Cameron and his government by saying, not for the first time, that Britain shouldn't leave.

    Johnson writes:

    "The American view is very clear. Whether in code or en clair, the President will tell us all that U.K. membership of the EU is right for Britain, right for Europe, and right for America. And why? Because that -- or so we will be told -- is the only way we can have 'influence' in the counsels of the nations.

    "It is an important argument, and deserves to be taken seriously. I also think it is wholly fallacious -- and coming from Uncle Sam, it is a piece of outrageous and exorbitant hypocrisy."

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A Stellar Court Choice That Could Have Been Better

    If confirmed, Merrick Garland would be the fifth white man on a court that already has four. He'd be the fourth judge on the current court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; the sixth Harvard Law School graduate; the fourth former Supreme Court clerk; the fourth Jewish-American.

    Since graduating from law school and spending a year in New York as a clerk to Henry Friendly (second Friendly clerk on the current court), he's spent his entire professional life since 1978 in a six-block radius centered on the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues in Northwest Washington, D.C.

    Is this the diversity of background and professional experience that the Supreme Court really needs? Garland's high intelligence, first-class qualifications, and vast reserve of personal and professional caution suggest that the ideal of meritocratic qualification for the court seems to have prevailed over diversity.

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