Archive

June 7th, 2016

Donald Trump says a Muslim judge might be biased, too

    Donald Trump has broadened his judicial objections from an actual jurist of Mexican descent to a hypothetical judge who practices Islam, saying a Muslim on the bench could be biased against him, too.

    The presumptive Republican presidential nominee spent much of the past week criticizing the rulings of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a case involving Trump University. Trump told the Wall Street Journal that Curiel's Mexican heritage represents an "inherent conflict of interest," because the candidate has proposed construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Curiel was born in Indiana.

    In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," Trump suggested that judges who belong to other ethnic and religious minority groups might also be unable to objectively consider the merits of a case involving one of his companies. This was his exchange with host John Dickerson:

    DICKERSON: If it were a Muslim judge, would you also feel like they wouldn't be able to treat you fairly because of that policy of yours?

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The next U.S. president should keep India close

    When this bitter, divisive presidential campaign mercifully comes to an end in November, the victor will face the Olympian task of restoring flagging public and congressional support for strong U.S. leadership in the world.

    A truth once undisputed in American politics - that U.S. global primacy is beneficial for our country - is now under assault. Bernie Sanders's narrow, pessimistic view of the United States' great-power future has encouraged twin scourges of protectionism and isolationism on the left. Donald Trump's fearful, fact-free campaign has been infinitely more damaging in stoking isolation and nativism on the right. Hillary Clinton alone has held up the banner that all post-World War II presidents have carried - one of U.S. engagement and global leadership.

    When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the White House on June 7, Republicans and Democrats will have a chance for redemption by lending bipartisan support for such leadership - in the form of an ambitious strategic partnership with India and its 1.25 billion people.

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We're all implicated in the messy Gawker case

    A mean-spirited news and gossip website publishes the extramarital sex tape of a C-list, former professional wrestler. The wrestler sues, claiming invasion of privacy, and wins an unexpectedly large $140 million award. It later comes out that the litigation was secretly financed by a Silicon Valley billionaire who has held a decade-long grudge against the website for outing him as gay and bullying his friends.

    The billionaire claims that his involvement is not about revenge, and instead declares insufferably that helping to shut down the website could be one of the "greater philanthropic things" he has done. The website's editors, in turn, defend the newsworthiness of the sex tape and self-righteously claim that "journalism is as journalism does," despite the ugliness of much of their output.

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Here's how we leave coal behind

    The Supreme Court's decision in February to stay President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan may lead to a protracted legal battle over aging, unprofitable and environmentally unsound coal plants. But instead of litigating our way out of the problem, there is a simpler solution: The federal government could buy the plants and close them.

    The court's move threatens to not only derail the president's initiative to curb greenhouse-gas emissions at U.S. coal-fired power plants but also unravel the progress that the United States and 195 other nations made on climate change in Paris in December. If the courts invalidate or delay the Clean Power Plan, some climate activists may turn to a Plan B that would encourage enlightened business leaders and states with large coal plants to support a voluntary version of the Clean Power Plan. But such an effort would be even less effective than the complex and overly cautious Obama plan, which at best would reduce power-plant emissions by 15 percent more than what is expected without the Clean Power Plan and would take 15 years to do that - not nearly enough to meet U.S. commitments under the Paris agreement.

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Will eight justices be the new normal?

    With 24 cases still to decide this term and only eight justices to decide them, the Supreme Court has mustered all its resources to find (or manufacture) consensus. Many rulings - even those with lopsided majorities - hint strongly of compromise. So far, the justices have mostly decided not to decide, drafting narrow opinions that leave big questions unanswered.

    It is in vogue to treat this term as a one-off, yet another result of madhouse election-year politics. On that view, the court just needs to tread water a while longer. In the meantime, each of us can hope that justices who share our particular vision will end up with a majority.

    But when "exceptional" circumstances endure long enough, advance powerful political interests and are tolerated by the public, they can easily become the new normal. One or more vacancies will likely arise soon enough, leaving the court's ideological balance up for grabs. Especially in times of divided government, the historic norm of swift confirmations might be cast aside - replaced by lengthy delays that partisans on both sides will opportunistically decry or defend.

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June 6th

The media have reached a turning point in covering Donald Trump. He may not survive it.

    The news media have come in for a lot of criticism in the way they've reported this election, which makes it exactly like every other election. But something may have changed just in the last few days. I have no idea how meaningful it will turn out to be or how long it will last.

    But it's possible that when we look back over the sweep of this most unusual campaign, we'll mark this week as a significant turning point: the time when journalists finally figured out how to cover Donald Trump.

    They didn't do it by coming up with some new model of coverage, or putting aside what they were taught in journalism school. They're doing it by rediscovering the fundamental values and norms that are supposed to guide their profession. (And for the record, even though I'm part of "the media" I'm speaking in the third person here because I'm an opinion writer, and this is about the reporters whose job it is to objectively relay the events of the day).

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Why U.S. diplomacy can't fix the Middle East

    Israel wanted no part in it. And neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were scheduled to attend. Yet Secretary of State John Kerry remained optimistic ahead of Friday's sure-to-go-nowhere Middle East peace conference in Paris. "What we are seeking to do," he said, "is encourage the parties to be able to see a way forward so they understand peace is a possibility."

    I recognize that sentiment: the feeling that you need to do something, anything, to keep a nearly dead process alive. For much of my 24-year career as a State Department Middle East analyst, negotiator and adviser, I held out hope that a conflict-ending peace agreement was possible. I had faith in negotiations as a talking cure and that the United States could arrange a comprehensive solution. I believed in the power of U.S. diplomacy.

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California's 'top two' election calamity

    California voters are set to vote in their primary on Tuesday, and will suffer the consequences of a serious self-imposed mistake in how they run their state. No, it has nothing to do with the presidential race.

    The disaster is its "top two" system, in which the candidates for state offices -- regardless of party -- go on to compete in the general election in November if they finish first and second in the primaries.

    The likely perverse result? Voters in November will probably have a choice between two Democrats for an open U.S. Senate seat.

    The motivation for the California system was to elevate more moderate politicians than the parties were producing on their own. In practice, at least in the first two election cycles since the change was carried out, the results have not matched reformers' hopes. Candidates have not been more moderate.

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Teachers need free-speech protection, too

    Are teachers entitled to free speech in the classroom? As a teacher of free-speech law, I've got a particular interest in this broadly important question. Thursday a federal appeals court said the answer was no -- at least at public schools below the university level.

    The decision makes some sense in light of existing precedent. But the Supreme Court has never directly addressed the issue. When it does, it should consider the possibility that the whole law of public workplace free speech has gone awry -- and that teachers as well as other public employees should be given greater latitude to express their opinions.

    The facts of the case show why teacher free-speech rights actually make a lot of sense. The Chicago Board of Education has a policy prohibiting teachers from using racial epithets in front of students -- no exceptions regardless of context or purpose. Lincoln Brown, a sixth grade teacher at Murray Language Academy, intercepted a student note that included music lyrics with the N-word. The principal of the public school was in the room observing the class.

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Clinton takes on the 'blame America first' Republicans

    If President Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, were alive to see Hillary Clinton's speech on Thursday, I imagine she would smile.

    Clinton has done to Donald Trump what Kirkpatrick did to Clinton's party back in 1984. Clinton questioned the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's love of country and asked why he was so nice to the dictators who hate it.

    It was a theme of Clinton's major address in San Diego. "If Donald gets his way, they will be celebrating in the Kremlin;" "I don't understand Donald's bizarre fascination with dictators who don't like America;" "I will leave it to the psychologists to explain his affection for tyrants," and so on.

    In most election years it is the Republicans who do this kind of thing. It was an important line of attack for Richard Nixon. But the true master of the genre was Kirkpatrick, the foreign policy sage who got Reagan's attention with an essay in Commentary Magazine that derided Jimmy Carter's hostility toward authoritarian allies of America.

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