Archive

August 8th, 2016

Nixon's failed effort to withhold his tax returns

    Donald Trump, in an interview over the weekend, reiterated his refusal to release his tax returns until the IRS has completed an audit. By way of explanation, the Republican presidential nominee claimed that Mitt Romney had lost the 2012 election because he had bowed to pressure from the Obama campaign and disclosed his filings.

    Perhaps. But for the past 40 years, almost all presidential candidates have released their tax returns before the general election. Even though no law mandates this transparency, disclosure has become an accepted part of presidential politics, and Trump's demurral has sparked widespread condemnation, including from the billionaire investor Warren Buffett. (The returns of Trump's rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, are on her website for the years 2007 to 2014 on her website; she and her husband have made their returns public for each year dating to 1977, her campaign says.)

    Candidates don't enjoy this ritual, and more than a few have initially resisted demands to expose their financial data. But no president was more averse to releasing this information during his political career than Richard Nixon.

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Melania Trump, lucky immigrant

    Melania Trump's husband says she is a 10. Would Donald Trump marry a woman who wasn't? The question answers itself. But when she was younger, apparently working as a model in New York, the question is whether the former Melania Knauss was associated with another number -- an H-1B or a B1 or B2 visa, or perhaps some other designation that enabled a single Eastern European woman to earn a living in the U.S.

    Melania Trump's personal website was taken down after a minor controversy over her claim that she had received a degree in architecture from the University of Ljubljana in her native Slovenia. It seems she is not actually a college graduate.

    So what if she isn't? It might matter because a college degree can be an important credential for someone applying for a visa to work in the U.S. For all the scrutiny of her life style, remarkably little is known about Mrs. Trump's emigration to the U.S. What are the facts of her prior immigration status? How did she obtain a green card, which is no easy feat?

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It's too late for Republicans to retract their Trump endorsements

    "I'm just not ready to do that at this point," House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said May 5 about Donald Trump. Four weeks later, he was "ready," publicly backing his party's nominee on June 2 and speaking for him at the GOP convention late last month. But as Trump's controversies piled up, many of them -- his racist attack on the judge in a lawsuit over Trump University, his sparing with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq, etc. -- led to Ryan criticizing the man he'd endorsed. Too many, by Trump's count: On Tuesday, asked if he endorsed Ryan in the GOP primary, Trump threw Ryan's initial hesitation back in his face, saying, "I'm just not quite there yet." Trump also refused to endorse Sen. John McCain in his primary -- the same John McCain whose Vietnam heroism Trump had derided -- leading many to wonder whether Ryan and McCain would take back their endorsements.

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August 7th

Trump's supreme lack of presidential fitness

    During the primary season, as Donald Trump's bizarre outbursts helped him crush the competition, I thought he was being crazy like a fox. Now I am increasingly convinced that he's just plain crazy.

    I'm serious about that. Leave aside for the moment Trump's policies, which in my opinion range from the unconstitutional to the un-American to the potentially catastrophic. At this point, it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that Trump's grasp on reality appears to be tenuous at best.

     Begin with the fact that he lies the way other people breathe. Telling a self-serving lie -- no matter how transparent, no matter how easily disproved -- seems to be a reflex for him. Look at the things he has said in just the past week.

    On Wednesday, at a news conference in Florida, Trump said he has never met Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I never met Putin, I don't know who Putin is," he said.

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Is Solar Energy Really Too Expensive?

    In order for solar power to compete with other forms of energy, the conventional thinking goes, it needs to become way cheaper.

    Installing rooftop solar panels can be prohibitively expensive, after all, and it takes years before the resulting energy savings pay off. For the individual, it doesn’t matter whether solar panels will save you money in the long run if you can’t afford them in the short run.

    For those of us who are renters, the decision of whether to go solar is even more irrelevant. We don’t have the option to install panels ourselves. And unless your apartment comes with utilities included, your landlord has no incentive to install solar panels, because you would get all the savings.

    But while the average family may be unable to make a costly investment in solar, the government has much deeper pockets — and an entire Department of Energy to work with.

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Intervening Donald

    Do you think it’s true that the Republicans are trying to get Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich to do an intervention with an out-of-control Donald Trump?

    This is the best rumor of the summer, so let’s hope so. If they televised it, no one in the world would be watching the Olympics.

    And it does tell you something that Giuliani and Gingrich are supposed to be the voices of moderation and self-control in the campaign. The former mayor who told a press conference that he was going to end his marriage before he told his wife. And the former House speaker who once presided over a government shutdown, which he seemed to attribute to the bad seat he got on Air Force One.

    “The campaign is doing really well. It’s never been so well united,” Trump himself fibbed at a rally in Florida on Wednesday.

    He was introduced by a retired general who announced that the rally was “an intervention of the people of this country.” This was the same retired general who recently got in trouble for retweeting an anti-Semitic message.

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Donald Trump's big favor to Hillary Clinton

    It is not enough to succeed, Gore Vidal once said; others must fail. As presidential nominee Hillary Clinton enjoys a bump in her polls after the Democratic National Convention, she's getting a boost from her Republican opponent Donald Trump's epic fails.

    First, there was his ugly and self-destructive denigration of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a fallen American military hero. Their son, Capt. Humayun Khan, who was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers from a car bomb in Iraq.

    Yet, as his father Khizr Khan said, standing with his wife before the Democratic National Convention on its final night, "if it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America."

    The most bracing moment came when the grieving father offered to lend his own pocket Constitution to Trump, invited him to visit Arlington National Cemetery and declared in a halting but clear voice, "You have sacrificed nothing and no one."

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Democrats' mantras remain the same as in 1916

    If we go back a century to look at the Democratic Party platform of 1916, what is striking is not so much the differences but the similarities to that of 2016.

    In 1916, the G.O.P. nominated Charles Evans Hughes, chief justice of the Supreme Court, to face incumbent Woodrow Wilson. The nation was uneasy. Manufacturing was booming, but the U.S. was still mostly an agricultural nation, and uncertainty sparked by the Panic of 1907 had not yet subsided. The public was fearful of a potential war with Germany and skirmishing with Mexico along the southern border.

    Times may have changed, but the party platforms of 1916 and 2016 show that large chunks of ideology turn out to be the same.

    The 1916 Democratic platform was sunny and upbeat, as the incumbent's platform always is. Nobody runs for re-election by pointing to misery and despair. And so the Democrats started out by pointing proudly to Wilson's achievements: "We challenge comparison of our record, our keeping of pledges and our constructive legislation, with those of any party of any time."

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Courts are finally pointing out the racism behind voter ID laws

    Last week, a federal appeals court struck down North Carolina's omnibus voter suppression law -- a law so jam-packed with voting restrictions targeted at poor, minority communities that its moniker was the "monster law."

    The decision was handed down alongside a spate of other federal decisions in the past two weeks blocking voter restrictions and voter ID requirements in Wisconsin, Texas, North Dakota and Kansas. Some of these laws had been rushed through and passed after the U.S. Supreme Court's devastating 2013 blow to the Voting Rights Act, which for 50 years had protected voters from discriminatory laws like poll taxes, literacy tests and the like.

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Could Trump actually drop out of the race? And what would happen if he did?

    Establishment Republicans tried everything they could think of to stop Donald Trump from becoming their party's nominee. They poured $100 million into Jeb Bush's campaign. They aired ads saying he wasn't a true conservative. They penned special issues of conservative magazines making the case against him. They created a hashtag. Nothing worked.

    Now it's August, Trump is officially the Republican nominee for president (certified at a uniquely unhelpful convention), and somehow the idea that someone, anyone other than Trump might represent the GOP in November refuses to die. And after an unusually bad week even for him, people are asking: Is it possible that Trump could actually pull out of the race? And what would happen if he did?

    The idea seems ludicrous, it's true. Of course, it also seems ludicrous that a presidential candidate would get into a week-long fracas with the family of a soldier who died in Iraq. So let's take it seriously, at least for a moment.

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