Archive

May 8th, 2016

Don't step into the Trump trap

    Donald Trump has set a big, fat trap for Hillary Clinton, and so far she has stepped right into it. He turned his attacks against women against her. She is, he argued, playing the "woman card." And Clinton anted up, offering her supporters the chance to buy a "woman card." From now until Nov. 8, Trump will surely continue to insult women. If Clinton routinely responds to those attacks, Trump will turn her into the "women's candidate," and she will lose. She is already perilously close to being that candidate.

    Let's be honest. Polling shows that Trump has a problem with women, but it also shows that Clinton has a problem with men. Thanks to Bernie Sanders's pushing and prodding over the course of the primary, Clinton's vision has expanded, but we all know its core: She is a battle-tested warrior for women and children.

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Covering Donald Trump as a cultural figure made it easier to take him seriously

    Donald Trump's ascendancy has prompted a lot of soul-searching among establishment figures and institutions who failed to predict or stop him, among them pundits who insisted publicly and repeatedly that there was no way he could possibly become the Republican Party's nominee, much less the president of the United States. So given that Trump's victory in the Indiana Republican primary last night virtually assures the former outcome, I figured I might as well revisit my own coverage of Trump over the course of his campaign to see whether I owe you all any serious mea culpas.

    I first wrote about Trump last June in a piece headlined "Why Donald Trump is running for president now - and why it's great to have him." I still think the analysis in that piece, that Trump was finally acting on his long-stated political ambitions because the fragmentation of the television landscape meant he had less to lose from entering politics than at any previous point in his entertainment or real estate careers, holds true.

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Clinton can outflank Trump on middle-class taxes

    Many commentators say Hillary Clinton is about to make a sharp pivot to the center. But she never drifted far from the center-left to begin with, even with Bernie Sanders snapping at her sensible heels.

    Her task now is to give disappointed Sanders supporters, disillusioned independents and #NeverTrump Republicans a reason not to stay home in November.

    One way Clinton can do this is through stronger advocacy of tax policies that increase middle-class incomes, whether these changes are aimed at millennials feeling the after-Bern, union workers suffering from manufacturing's decline, or suburban homeowners who haven't seen a pay raise since her husband was president. Putting more money in middle-class pockets will, in turn, boost demand for goods and services and lead to faster economic growth, more job creation and higher tax revenue.

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Blame the voters

    As night follows day, recriminations flowed in the Republican camp after Donald Trump laid claim to the GOP presidential nomination.

    To hear many tell it, Jeb Bush is at fault for taking Trump too lightly. Or Ted Cruz, for failing to broaden his appeal after winning Wisconsin. Or "the establishment" generally, because - well, because everything is its fault.

    Fine. But there hasn't been nearly enough blaming of the people most responsible for The Donald's rise: his voters.

    They are perpetually - indulgently - described as "angry," or "frustrated," or "fed up," and no doubt they are. But exactly how reasonable are those feelings, and how rational a response to them is a vote for Trump?

    The answers, respectively, are "only somewhat" and "not at all."

    Yes, the country faces perplexing challenges, which Washington seems unable or unwilling to resolve. I would never tell denizens of a distressed factory town to shut up and count their blessings.

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A monster the media created

    On Wednesday, May 4, less than 24 hours after Donald Trump won the Indiana GOP primary and became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, "NBC Nightly News" did not just report the news, they let Trump take over their newscast. NBC originated its broadcast from Trump Tower in Manhattan. And for a full eight minutes at the top of the show, anchor Lester Holt interviewed Trump live from his office -- with no opportunity to respond provided to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or any political commentator.

    That same morning Trump had appeared live and unfiltered -- by phone -- on NBC, ABC, Fox News and MSNBC. Not even the president would enjoy that kind of coverage. But, in a way, it was the fitting end to Trump's primary campaign: the national media, in effect, placing the presidential crown on the head of the candidate they created in the first place. Having succeeded in making him the GOP nominee, the media are now determined to make him the next president of the United States.

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Women journalists are under fire and fighting back

    Five years have passed since CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by a mob of crazed men--and rescued by a small group of brave Egyptian women -- in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the fall of Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship.

    The widespread coverage given to that attack brought a new focus to a growing problem that had been looming in the shadows for years: sexual assault against journalists.

    In the first four months after Logan's attack, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists interviewed more than four dozen journalists who had undergone sexual violence. The offenses ranged in severity from gang-rape to aggressive groping by multiple attackers.

    Unfortunately, the usual conflict between safety and press freedom on such assignments is complicated by the double-bind in which many female journalists find themselves: They want the dangers of sexual violence to be acknowledged, but they don't want that knowledge to give their editors cold feet about sending women on dangerous assignments.

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May 7th

Migrants, not Jews, increasingly the focus of European hatred

    The record influx of Muslim refugees last year coincided with a sharp decline in the number of violent anti-Semitic incidents in major European countries, many of which bore the brunt of the refugee crisis.

    The wave of so-called new anti-Semitism of recent years largely stemmed from anti-Israeli rather than racist beliefs, and had often been linked to the persistence of such attitudes among the growing Muslim population. Yet data from the 2015 report on global anti-Semitism, published on Wednesday by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, clearly show that as the refugees started coming in by the tens of thousands per day starting about a year ago, Europe became a safer place to be Jewish.

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Will Donald Trump destroy the Republican brand?

    John Kasich has decided to end his bid for the presidency, ending the GOP primary campaign and leaving Donald J. Trump as the uncontested leader of the Republican Party. Needless to say, this was not part of the plan when the party decided after 2012 that it needed to make some changes in order to update its brand for the future. In fact, Trump was exactly the opposite of what it had in mind.

    So now that Trump has taken control of the GOP, how is the image Americans have of this party going to change?

    In order to answer that question, you have to first understand where the party is now. And there's a contradiction at work. On one hand, the GOP has never been stronger. It controls both houses of Congress, a majority of governorships, and a majority of state legislatures. On the other hand, it's increasingly unpopular at the national level.

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Want to boost economic growth? Empty the suburbs

    Here's a big economic and political thesis: The U.S. has run out of frontiers, both literal and figurative. At first, growth was fueled by expansion into the West, use of natural resources and the build-out of national infrastructure. In the early- and mid-20th century, an unprecedented explosion of new technologies -- electricity, automobiles, airplanes and others -- opened up the suburbs, which acted like a new frontier. More recently, the Internet and globalization, especially China, were frontiers that gave the economy yet more room to expand.

    But these growth opportunities may now be running out. Information technology is improving our lives by giving us more fun things to do with our leisure time, but it isn't providing the kind of productivity boost gained from previous technological revolutions. And the heyday of expansion into China may be over, given that country's economic slowdown, its decreasing openness to Western companies and the broader slump in world trade.

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Trump's victory is finally self-fulfilling

    Donald Trump's big Tuesday night victory in Indiana wasn't technically going to clinch the nomination for him. Even by winning most or all of the delegates at stake in the Hoosier State, he would need more to get to the 1,237 he had to hit to be nominated at the convention in Cleveland -- about 40 percent in the remaining primaries. There was a plausible way for him to fall short.

    The problem was that it was even more implausible that any rival could stop him. Indiana was friendly territory for the reality-TV star, but it was also the kind of state that Ted Cruz or John Kasich really needed to win. If they couldn't win there, it seemed clear they could not shut Trump out of the delegates in California on June 7. Thus Cruz's decision to drop out. Kasich says he will stay to the bitter end, until Trump hits the magic number of delegates.

    Most presidential nomination contests are won when the final opponent -- or at least the final serious opponent -- drops out, not when the front-runner hits that magic number. Much of the media on Tuesday night had declared the nomination won with a certitude that assumed the campaign was over.

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