Archive

September 16th, 2016

About the ‘Basket of Deplorables’

    Let’s get straight to it: Hillary Clinton’s comments Friday at a fundraiser that half of Donald Trump’s supporters could be put in a “basket of deplorables” wasn’t a smart political play.

    Candidates do themselves a tremendous disservice when they attack voters rather than campaigns. Whatever advantage is procured through the rallying of one’s own base is outweighed by what will be read as divisiveness and disdain.

    Here is Clinton’s full quote:

    “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.

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Clinton staggers after self-inflicted political wounds

    There's a certain irony in Hillary Clinton, well known for caution and secrecy, now finding herself on the defensive for an incautious smear of Donald Trump's supporters and simultaneously under fire for failing to disclose a health problem that temporarily knocked her off the campaign trail.

    The double whammy to her shaky lead in most of the polls may well be fleeting. But the phenomenon well demonstrates the way unanticipated factors can skewer the most conservative predictions of the outcome of a presidential campaign.

    Only four years earlier, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney seemed headed to a tight showdown in his bid to deny President Obama a second term. Then, at a supposedly private fund-raiser, Romney uttered a similarly incautious slap at "the 47 percent of Americans" on federal welfare he said would never vote for him.

    Unfortunately for Romney, an attendee caught the remark on camera, and in unfriendly hands it went "viral." The comment may not have determined the election outcome, but it obliged him to try to explain away the unfortunate implication that he was writing off nearly half of American voters.

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September 14th

This election's faith-based candidate

    This is the inversion election, a contest in which so many of our familiar mental categories have been turned upside down.

     This year, it's the Republican presidential candidate who says the United States isn't great anymore and the Democrat who insists it is. The Republican says that the former KGB agent now presiding over Russia is a better leader than the president of the United States. The Democrat condemns him for it.

    But last week reminded us that there is another role reversal in this election. There is one candidate who is authentically religious, who has thought seriously about what the Scriptures teach, and whose own view of the world was changed radically by her engagement with faith. Her name is Hillary Clinton.

    Yes, I flinched when I typed that word "authentically." How can we know whose faith is authentic or truly understand someone else's relationship to God? It's hard enough for most of us to come to terms honestly with our own relationship to the Almighty.

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Trump and Clinton are at that age when things start happening

    Eight years ago, I wrote a medical report on the health of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, whose personal physician I had been for 22 years. That report was 276 words and described Obama's health as excellent. I was derided for issuing such a brief report, but there was nothing of significance in the medical history of this healthy, 47-year-old male. Meanwhile, Republican John McCain - a 71-year-old with a history of skin cancer - made nearly 1,200 pages of records available for a group of reporters to review.

    Today, the two major candidates for president are each almost as old as McCain was in 2008. Having been in practice for 50 years serving a predominantly geriatric patient population, and now a septuagenarian myself, I can attest that the American people need much more medical information from these candidates. If elected, 70-year-old Donald Trump would be the oldest person ever to enter the Oval Office, while Hillary Clinton, 68, would be a close second, behind Ronald Reagan. At these ages, stuff begins to happen.

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Sorry, no easy answers for Chicago homicides

    "Hey, more than 500 people have been murdered in Chicago this year," says one of my conservative friends. "I can't wait to see what you write about that."

    Why? You didn't listen to me the last time. Are you really listening or just waiting for your own turn to complain?

    "Jeez, why are you so touchy?"

    I'm just tired of hearing your usual one-note analysis and solution: Black people are having too many babies out of wedlock. Hey, do you ever ask what happened to the jobs that used to enable workers to support a family? Do you ever notice how the poverty, crime, opiate addiction and out-of-wedlock birth rates are growing among poor whites, too? When are you people going to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps?

    "Hey, you don't think fathers are important?"

    Of course, we're important. But where are you going to find all the marriageable black men to fulfill your dream?

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Silent vote won't get Trump to the White House

    There is talk among Republicans, and some trepidation among Democrats, that Donald Trump could benefit from a silent vote. Although these voters aren't captured by polls, the privacy of a voting booth or a mail-in ballot will allow them to vent their anger and resentments.

    The theory holds that in some circles it's not respectable to publicly support the inflammatory New York billionaire, but it's easier in private.

    This is a variation of the so-called Bradley effect: In several instances over recent decades, white candidates have outperformed polls when running against a black opponent. Something similar was at work in the U.K. referendum on exiting the European Union. To the surprise of financial markets and bettors, the "leave" camp won the June vote, which was interpreted as an expression of discontent with the elites.

    Similarly, in the U.S. presidential election, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter, claimed that "the average citizen will not tell pollsters the truth."

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Presidential debates should be moderated in the public interest

    After the "presidential forum" in New York last week, in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took questions in serial fashion but didn't appear together, much of the critical reaction fell not on them but on the moderator, NBC News' "Today" host Matt Lauer, who is known more for dealing with entertainment figures than with high-level politicians in the midst of a critical national campaign.

    Many critics argued that Lauer spent too much time pressing Clinton on her handling of emails when she was secretary of state, while he failed to push Trump on false assertions. One such was Trump's claim to have opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the start, in the face of evidence on a radio talk show that he actually had supported it.

    According to the website Buzzfeed, on the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks Trump told radio host Howard Stern (himself no paragon of journalism), when asked whether he was for such an invasion, "Yeah, I guess so; I wish the first time it was done correctly."

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September 13th

Spare me the phony outrage over Clinton's 'basket of deplorables' remark

    Donald Trump and his spinners are outraged -- and some reporters are murmuring their disapproval -- because Hillary Clinton said this at a fundraiser last night:

    "You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables'. Right?" Clinton said to applause and laughter from the crowd of supporters at an LGBT for Hillary fundraiser where Barbra Streisand performed. "The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic - you name it."

    Let's stipulate at the outset that this kind of generalization is not defensible. Clinton should not have described "half" of Trump's supporters this way. People have all kinds of reasons for supporting their candidate - party loyalty; reflexive negative partisanship; genuine distaste with the alternatives; meaningful, legitimate support for certain aspects of the candidate's agenda, and not others; and so forth.

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Kerry brokers Trump's peace plan for Syria's war

    If Donald Trump wins the presidential election in November, he might want to make Secretary of State John Kerry his special envoy for U.S.-Russian cooperation in the war on terror. While the men disagree on many things -- from the Iran deal to the provenance of the Islamic State -- their Syria policy is on the same page.

    Just look at the cease-fire Kerry says he reached in Geneva on Friday night with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. If a cessation of violence holds for a week, then Kerry has committed -- over the overt skepticism of the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community -- to work with Russia's air force to target al-Nusra, the jhadist group that only recently claimed it was no longer al-Qaeda's franchise.

    The U.S. and Russia since November have tried to coordinate their air strikes over the crowded skies of Syria against the Islamic State. But that hasn't gone well. Russia keeps bombing U.S. backed opposition groups, civilian targets like hospitals and, in June, a U.S. special operations base.

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Gary Johnson's Worst Week in Washington

    Everything seemed to be coming up Gary Johnson when the week started. No one liked the two major party candidates. (OK, maybe not no one but lots and lots of people.) The first presidential debate was still almost three weeks off. It looked like there might be a real chance for Johnson to make the debate stage alongside Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump!

    Then Johnson went on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." And it all came tumbling down. Here's the exchange between Johnson and Mike Barnicle:

    BARNICLE: "What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?"

    JOHNSON: "About?"

    BARNICLE: "Aleppo."

    JOHNSON: "And what is Aleppo?"

    And, scene.

    Aleppo, as you almost certainly know, is a city in Syria that has been at the heart of that country's ongoing civil war. It has been the epicenter of the refugee crisis. It is also the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.

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