Archive

February 16th, 2016

Where Hillary goes from here

    It wasn't supposed to work out this way. After the perils of the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire was supposed to be a safe haven for Hillary Clinton. This is the state that brought her husband back from the political dead in 1992. This is the state that resurrected her own political campaign in an upset win over candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

    And New Hampshire's the state where Hillary's previous friends and supporters were supposed to rally behind her once again to crush Bernie Sanders and propel her forward into the upcoming cascade of primaries. Except it didn't work out that way. Bernie Sanders crushed her instead by a stunning 60-38 percent margin, beating her among men and women, young and old. The only two voter groups Hillary won were people over 65 and those making more than $200,000 per year.

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A better question about Clinton and Kissinger

    During Thursday's Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders attacked Hillary Clinton for boasting about the advice she's got from Henry Kissinger. He used Kissinger's actions in the Vietnam War era to make his point. Evidently, Sanders hasn't been following Kissinger lately: Things he said in Moscow last week could have provided him with better ammunition.

    The former secretary of state came to the Russian capital to honor the memory of his friend Yevgeny Primakov, the hawkish foreign-affairs guru who served as Russia's foreign-intelligence chief and later as prime minister. Kissinger took part in the opening of the Primakov Center for Foreign Policy Cooperation. Then he met with President Vladimir Putin and, separately, with Putin's chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov. The Kremlin did not release the minutes of these meetings, but Kissinger also delivered a public lecture that provides a glimpse into his conversations with the Russian leaders.

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The politics of autism

    So far this election cycle, Hillary Clinton has been the only candidate to offer a detailed position on autism. Odds are she won't be the last, considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are more than 3 million Americans with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and most of those people have families. That's a constituency worth wooing.

    But let the wooers be warned: Autism has its own politics, and they are fraught.

    Throughout the approximately 75 years that the diagnosis has been on the books, the "autism community" - a term suggesting comity, cooperation and cohesion - has time and again been roiled by dispute. In years past, the clash between those who believed vaccines caused autism and those who didn't reached epic proportions. And there has long been enormous tension between those who want to find a cure for autism and those who see autism as a neurological variation representing but one more way of being human.

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The awful roads of the U.S. campaign trail

    After three weeks of chasing presidential candidates down the roads of Iowa and New Hampshire, I cannot help but wonder if they notice the quality of the roads their buses and cars drive on. One doesn't even have to listen to voters to see that neither the small- government, tax-cutting messages nor the lavish promises of infrastructure spending from either side's candidates mesh with reality.

    Last week, my flight to Manchester, New Hampshire, was cancelled because of a snowstorm, so I rented a car in New York and drove. The 250-mile drive is supposed to take 4 1/2 hours, not the 3 1/2 it would have taken in Germany, where I live -- the U.S. has significantly lower speed limits than do European countries; Germany has none on stretches of its autobahn system.

    I ended up driving for almost six hours because of the snowfall. I saw dozens of cars that had careened into snowdrifts by the roadside. Two jack-knifed tractor trailers narrowed the interstate to one lane.

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The campaign finance fight can't wait

    Bernie Sanders has made great strides casting doubt on the credibility of Hillary Clinton as an agent of change. How can you take on Wall Street if you take quarter-million-dollar speaking fees from its leading banks? How can you be a credible reformer if you have been so dependent on money from the status quo?

    But Sanders has his own credibility problem. It's called Congress. The Vermont senator's agenda is a "fiction," the Post editorial board declared, because there is zero chance it could get through the legislature, and not just because there are more Republicans than Democrats on Capitol Hill. Even when President Obama had a super-majority of Democrats in Congress, he couldn't get climate change legislation passed or a public option included in Obamacare. The threat of the powerful energy and health-care industries pouring millions of dollars into campaigns against Democrats was enough to get the leader of the last great "revolution" in U.S. politics to stand down. Until we change the way that money matters on Capitol Hill, the more sober-minded - they call themselves "realists" - will just roll their eyes at the fantastical promises of America's most authentic politician.

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The Absurdity Of It All

    Having long complained about what we in the Western World pay for entertainment as compared to the necessities of life, I should not be surprised at the figures coming out of Super Bowl Fifty.  Nevertheless, it is mind boggling. 

    At this point I am not referring to the over the top amounts paid to the players but what would-be attendees do and pay to get tickets and the additional cost once inside. I can't help but think that the old saying of "more money than sense" applies.  It is reported that tickets valued at $500 were offered on line at $28,000. 

    My daily newspaper quoted a man paying $16,000 each for tickets for himself and wife saying that it was worth it for all the fun.  One luxury suit on the fifty-yard line rented for $350,000.

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On Economic Stupidity

    Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign famously focused on “the economy, stupid.” But macroeconomic policy — what to do about recessions — has been largely absent from this year’s election discussion.

    Yet economic risks have by no means been banished from the world. And you should be frightened by how little many of the people who would be president have learned from the past eight years.

    If you’ve been following the financial news, you know that there’s a lot of market turmoil out there. It’s nothing like 2008, at least so far, but it’s worrisome.

    Once again we have a substantial amount of troubled debt, this time not home mortgages but loans to energy companies, hit hard by plunging oil prices. Meanwhile, formerly trendy emerging economies like Brazil are suddenly doing very badly, and China is stumbling. And while the U.S. economy is doing better than almost anyone else’s, we’re definitely not immune to contagion.

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February 15th

Understanding the 'Bernie Bros'

    Sometimes I think I learned more politically relevant lessons playing ball than anywhere else. If nothing else, sports teach realism: what you can do, what you can't, how to deal with it. Also, what's the score, how much time's left, and what's the best tactic right now?

    It helps to know the rules, and it's important to keep your head. Bad plays are inevitable, dumb plays less forgivable.

    But here's something else you learn playing ball: Not everybody on your team is going to be your friend, just as people wearing different-colored shirts aren't personal enemies. Also, spectators can be fickle. Your most passionate fans can quickly turn into your opponent's ally.

    These are all useful concepts during an American primary election.

    An athlete in his youth, Bernie Sanders appears to understand overwrought fans. His campaign's apology to Hillary Clinton supporters harassed online by so-called "Bernie Bros," angry young men given to coarse attacks upon anybody -- especially women -- supporting his rival was a class move.

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The 5 Republicans who could be president

    We began with more than 20 Republican candidates. Seventeen made it to a formal announcement. Eleven reached Iowa. Now six remain; and with former surgeon Ben Carson going nowhere, only five have a chance to win the nomination. Here is how each of them could do that.

    - Billionaire Donald Trump wins by repeating what he did in New Hampshire. As long as the rest of the field is split, he'll benefit in two ways: Negative ads will be aimed at other Republicans, and a third of the vote will be enough to win.

    It remains an unlikely path. Losers drop out. Before long Trump will probably have only one or two opponents. This is bad news for a candidate who remains unpopular among many Republicans and appeared vulnerable to negative ads in Iowa. His ability to dominate the media has been his greatest strength, but that's more difficult now than it was before Iowa, and it will continue to get harder.

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Some Sage Advice for Hillary Clinton

    I come not to rebuke Hillary Clinton, who remains by far the most capable presidential candidate. I come bearing advice for her campaign.

    Hillary, this is something you sorely need.

 

    1. Understand that New Hampshire didn't owe you anything. "New Hampshire had been good for the Clintons," we kept hearing. Its primary saved Bill's hide in the 1992 presidential race. In 2008, it gave you a needed boost when the sisterhood, enraged at perceived sexist attacks, rushed to your defense.

    But what did any of this have to do with 2016?

 

    2. Women don't owe you anything, either. Which side was paying Gloria Steinem to disparage younger women who chose to vote for Bernie Sanders? She said they were chasing boys; can you imagine? And what prompted Madeleine Albright to say that women should vote to help other women as opposed to helping their country?

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