Archive

October 2nd, 2016

Americans actually don't hate trade agreements

    There has been a lot of heated debate in the news media and the election campaigns about international trade. In the first presidential debate, candidate Donald Trump relentlessly flogged the issue, declaring that trade had hollowed out American industry. On the left, antitrade sentiment continues to simmer, much of it focused on opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Meanwhile, the economics field is still dealing with the fallout from a recent paper by some top economists showing that trade with China in the 2000s hurt U.S. workers more than it helped.

    But amid all this uproar, the general public has remained remarkably calm and composed on the issue. A number of recent opinion polls show that the majority of Americans remain quietly optimistic about the benefits of trade. For example, a Gallup poll earlier this year found that more Americans view international trade as an opportunity than as a threat. Other recent polls, including one by NBC/WSJ, another by Washington Post/ABC and a third by Pew, find the same thing -- U.S. residents are still broadly positive about trade.

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Women of America, this is how much leading Republicans hate you

    The "war on women" started as a Democratic talking point intended to delegitimize Republican positions on abortion, rape and domestic violence. But over the past couple of days, we haven't even needed a policy debate or a slightly hyperbolic political slogan for a number of Republicans to do a truly impressive job of demonstrating just how much they personally hate women.

    First, Donald Trump created a pre-debate stir by suggesting that he would invite Gennifer Flowers, who claims she had an affair with Bill Clinton, to attend his first contest with Hillary Clinton. Trump's suggestion was a response to Clinton's decision to give tickets to Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a businessman who has consistently questioned whether Trump's business successes and claims of charitable giving are real.

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Why nobody's talking about the Supreme Court

    The U.S. Supreme Court didn't come up Monday in the first presidential debate, and so far, it hasn't been an important campaign issue. Given the unprecedented vacancy during an election season, that seems weird. But there is an explanation: The election's consequences for the court are asymmetrical for the two political parties.

    If the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, is elected, it will change the court's balance, either through the confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, in the lame-duck session or with the appointment of Garland or another liberal after she takes office. If the Republican, Donald Trump, is elected, all he can do is replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia with another conservative. That won't change the court's political balance. For that to happen, Trump would need Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Justice Stephen Breyer to be unable to serve, which won't happen voluntarily for either in the first four years of a Trump presidency.

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Trump takes Clinton's bait and hooks himself

    The entire 90-minute debate on Monday night was a demonstration that Donald Trump doesn't have the temperament to be president.

    Hillary Clinton was prepared -- she always is -- and she baited Trump early and often. And Trump got caught each time. He also hooked himself, including in at least two exchanges with moderator Lester Holt (who did an excellent job, allowing both candidates to talk). Here are some examples.

    In Clinton's very first response to Trump, about trade, she managed to work in that the reality-television star "started his business with $14 million, borrowed from his father." Trump could have let that go. Trade is a pretty good issue for him, and one on which he scored one of his few debating points of the night. But he just couldn't pass up the challenge to his claim to be a self-made man, and he got diverted into defending himself against her jab.

    This one didn't cost him much momentum. But it established a pattern that continued for the rest of the night. She would bait him about something, and he would defend himself.

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Trump lost the battle against himself

    Like countless other viewers, I wondered which Donald Trump would show up to debate Hillary Clinton: hyper Donald or sedate Donald.

    Hyper Donald is the one we usually see on the campaign trail screaming himself hoarse or delighting crowds with his ad-libbed speeches like a stand-up comedian. Hyper Donald is the one we usually read in snarky Twitter tweets that he sends out almost daily.

    Sedate Donald is the one whose impulses constantly pose a challenge to his advisers as they urge him to stick to his Teleprompter.

    After boasting that he wasn't going to spend a lot of time preparing himself for his first debate with his Democratic opponent, the Republican nominee's lack of preparation and impulse control showed themselves, as Trump might say, "big league."

    He apparently had prepared himself enough to stick to his talking points for about the first 15 minutes of the 90-minute debate. From there on, former Secretary of State Clinton played him like a violin.

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Sympathy for the Donald

    Go ahead and laugh at Donald Trump’s claims that he was foiled by a finicky microphone on Monday night, but I can relate. When I write a bad column, it’s all my keyboard’s fault.

    The other columnists have reliable keyboards. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy, but they do. Reach your own conclusions. When one of them taps out a beautiful sentence, a beautiful sentence appears on the computer screen, just the way it’s supposed to.

    When I try to tap out an even more beautiful sentence — and my sentences are amazing sentences; you can’t believe these sentences — I have to press and bang and hunch closer to the desk and bang even harder and still you never know.

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President Obama's fierce urgency of forever

    Barack Obama began his quest for the presidency speaking of the "fierce urgency of now." After more than seven years in office, Obama's urgency hasn't departed. But it has been tempered, and his vision has stretched in both directions, past and future.

    His remarks last weekend celebrating the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture were a product of the long views he has acquired in the White House. The speech is a companion to one he delivered in March 2015 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery.

    Like the Selma speech, it picked up black history in all its sprawling, messy complexity and moved it from the margins to the center of the American story. Citing a stone on display in the museum, Obama said:

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October 1st

These are the people Donald Trump wants to keep out of America

    The coyote looked over the motley huddle of migrants assembled on the banks of the Rio Grande. It was nighttime, and the group was about to attempt a crossing on flimsy rafts.

    "If any of you are Christians," he announced, "now's the time to pray."

    Perhaps the comment was intended as sardonic, but to Mariela, an evangelical Christian among the group, it was an invitation. A 29-year-old Honduran, the survivor of a brutal rape at the hands of a drug trafficker and years of abuse by a vicious husband, Mariela had made the harrowing journey northward with her two sons, ages 4 and 7. She asked the group to join hands in a prayer circle. As she prayed, she looked up and noticed a gorgeous moon overhead. A week later, on the other side of the border, exhausted, traumatized, but alive, Mariela told me about the moon. When she saw it, she knew that God was protecting her and her boys.

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In Texas, even Trump supporters hate the wall

    "Nobody likes the wall," says Tony Martinez, mayor of Brownsville, a city in the southeastern corner of Texas across the Rio Grande from Matamoros, Mexico. He's the son of Mexican immigrants and a Democrat, but he's not exaggerating: Even Donald Trump supporters in the town hate the border fence that has been here since 2008.

    "Build that wall, build that wall!" I have heard people chant at Trump rallies in the small towns of Iowa and New Hampshire, far from the Mexican border. Trump promises to build a wall that will be "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful."

    The fence in Brownsville is 18 feet tall and made from rusty iron bars. I could climb it in about 15 seconds. "Our record is eight," says Michael Seifert, an organizer for the Equal Voice Network, a coalition of civic groups in the Rio Grande Valley.

    It has cost more than $6 million per mile to build, and it runs through farmers' fields and townspeople's backyards. The local consensus is that it hasn't helped anyone except contractors and drug cartels.

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Donald Trump's dispatches from fantasyland

    "Donald, I know you live in your own reality," Hillary Clinton told Donald Trump during the first debate between the two contenders for the presidency. And rather than deny it, Trump proceeded to give millions of Americans a tour of the rarefied world he inhabits and the decidedly unique attitudes that guide his dealings with people outside that sphere. Trump may have spent much of the debate lapsing into nonsense, but that message, at least, got through loud and clear.

    Early in the debate, Trump dismissed the $14 million he received from his father to start his business as "a very small loan" that was no reflection on his actual business acumen or work ethic. "I built it into a company that's worth many, many billions of dollars, with some of the greatest assets in the world," he said.

    How did he do it? Trump painted a portrait of his business dealings rooted in contempt for anyone weak enough to let him take advantage of them.

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