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“Floating Around The Political Ether”: Has Trump Reached The Self-Sabotage Stage?

In my lifetime, and I’m assuming in the life of the United States of America, there has never been a major-party candidate other than Donald Trump who anyone would think to ask if they’d actually serve as president if elected as president. But that’s what New York Times reporters asked Trump during a recent interview with him in his New York office. His answer wasn’t what you’d expect.

Presented in a recent interview with a scenario, floating around the political ether, in which the presumptive Republican nominee proves all the naysayers wrong, beats Hillary Clinton and wins the presidency, only to forgo the office as the ultimate walk-off winner, Mr. Trump flashed a mischievous smile.

“I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens,” he said, minutes before leaving his Trump Tower office to fly to a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

And he definitely left more than a spoken impression.

But the only person who could truly put any doubts to rest seemed instead to relish the idea of keeping everyone guessing, concluding the recent conversation with a you’re-on-to-something grin and handshake across his cluttered desk.

“We’ll do plenty of stories,” Mr. Trump promised enigmatically. “O.K.?”

Now, maybe he’s just messing with people’s minds, but it hardly helps him to leave the impression that he considers this just a game and that he won’t serve as president even if elected. It’s actually a kind of dangerous impression to leave at a time when he has not yet actually been confirmed as the nominee of the party.

I think this show was a lot more fun for Trump when he was leading in the polls and he wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s fate. Maybe, consciously or unconsciously, he actually wants to have the nomination wrested away from him in Cleveland. That’ll make him much more of a martyr than a loser, or at least he might feel that he can spin it that way.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 7, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Nominee, Republican National Convention | , , , , | Leave a comment

“How America Was Lost”: Maybe We Should All Start Wearing Baseball Caps That Say, “Make America Governable Again”

Once upon a time, the death of a Supreme Court justice wouldn’t have brought America to the edge of constitutional crisis. But that was a different country, with a very different Republican Party. In today’s America, with today’s G.O.P., the passing of Antonin Scalia has opened the doors to chaos.

In principle, losing a justice should cause at most a mild disturbance in the national scene. After all, the court is supposed to be above politics. So when a vacancy appears, the president should simply nominate, and the Senate approve, someone highly qualified and respected by all.

In reality, of course, things were never that pure. Justices have always had known political leanings, and the process of nomination and approval has often been contentious. Still, there was nothing like the situation we face now, in which Republicans have more or less unanimously declared that President Obama has no right even to nominate a replacement for Mr. Scalia — and no, the fact that Mr. Obama will leave soon doesn’t make it O.K. (Justice Kennedy was appointed during Ronald Reagan’s last year in office.)

Nor were the consequences of a court vacancy as troubling in the past as they are now. As everyone is pointing out, without Mr. Scalia the justices are evenly divided between Republican and Democratic appointees — which probably means a hung court on many issues.

And there’s no telling how long that situation may last. If a Democrat wins the White House but the G.O.P. holds the Senate, when if ever do you think Republicans would be willing to confirm anyone the new president nominates?

How did we get into this mess?

At one level the answer is the ever-widening partisan divide. Polarization has measurably increased in every aspect of American politics, from congressional voting to public opinion, with an especially dramatic rise in “negative partisanship” — distrust of and disdain for the other side. And the Supreme Court is no different. As recently as the 1970s the court had several “swing” members, whose votes weren’t always predictable from partisan positions, but that center now consists only of Mr. Kennedy, and only some of the time.

But simply pointing to rising partisanship as the source of our crisis, while not exactly wrong, can be deeply misleading. First, decrying partisanship can make it seem as if we’re just talking about bad manners, when we’re really looking at huge differences on substance. Second, it’s really important not to engage in false symmetry: only one of our two major political parties has gone off the deep end.

On the substantive divide between the parties: I still encounter people on the left (although never on the right) who claim that there’s no big difference between Republicans and Democrats, or at any rate “establishment” Democrats. But that’s nonsense. Even if you’re disappointed in what President Obama accomplished, he substantially raised taxes on the rich and dramatically expanded the social safety net; significantly tightened financial regulation; encouraged and oversaw a surge in renewable energy; moved forward on diplomacy with Iran.

Any Republican would undo all of that, and move sharply in the opposite direction. If anything, the consensus among the presidential candidates seems to be that George W. Bush didn’t cut taxes on the rich nearly enough, and should have made more use of torture.

When we talk about partisanship, then, we’re not talking about arbitrary teams, we’re talking about a deep divide on values and policy. How can anyone not be “partisan” in the sense of preferring one of these visions?

And it’s up to you to decide which version you prefer. So why do I say that only one party has gone off the deep end?

One answer is, compare last week’s Democratic debate with Saturday’s Republican debate. Need I say more?

Beyond that, there are huge differences in tactics and attitudes. Democrats never tried to extort concessions by threatening to cut off U.S. borrowing and create a financial crisis; Republicans did. Democrats don’t routinely deny the legitimacy of presidents from the other party; Republicans did it to both Bill Clinton and Mr. Obama. The G.O.P.’s new Supreme Court blockade is, fundamentally, in a direct line of descent from the days when Republicans used to call Mr. Clinton “your president.”

So how does this get resolved? One answer could be a Republican sweep — although you have to ask, did the men on that stage Saturday convey the impression of a party that’s ready to govern? Or maybe you believe — based on no evidence I’m aware of — that a populist rising from the left is ready to happen any day now. But if divided government persists, it’s really hard to see how we avoid growing chaos.

Maybe we should all start wearing baseball caps that say, “Make America governable again.”

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 14, 2016

February 16, 2016 Posted by | GOP, Governing, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Not His Politics That Worries Me”: Donald Trump And The Decline Of American Character–A Cautionary Tale

There is no disputing that Donald Trump is having a significant impact on the 2016 presidential sweepstakes—something that many Americans apparently view as a great step forward on the American political scene.

Indeed, to a portion of the electorate, Trump’s current political success is a positive development that represents the rise of a candidate willing to “tell it like it is”—despite the fact that so much of what Mr. Trump tells us is the precise opposite of telling it like it is.

To other Americans, Mr. Trump’s political rise is little more than a sideshow extravaganza—good for making your favorite news broadcast more entertaining but, ultimately, devoid of substance and doomed to failure.

To me, the rise of Donald Trump is an American tragedy serving as a cautionary tale of what we are becoming as a society and the need to rediscover true American values before they are gone forever.

I don’t offer this viewpoint because of my disagreement with The Donald on his politics.

In truth, I really don’t know what Mr. Trump’s politics are—given the extraordinary disparity between his professed liberal politics of just a few years ago and his hard line approach to political issues of today. Trump 1.0 favored a path to citizenship for illegals and a universal health care system. Trump 2.0 takes a far more conservative approach towards immigration and is critical of anything and everything done by the Obama Administration.

Yet, it is not his politics that worries me. It is his character and how Americans are responding to it that I find so disturbing in terms of the very character of the nation.

If you think character doesn’t matter, I would remind you that being the American President is all about character—and character is often best judged by how successfully we take to heart the lessons passed down from parent to child over many generations.

It is certainly true that Trump has succeeded in fulfilling one of the character traits parents work to instill in their children—the drive to be successful.

While I fear that Trump is taking the lazy way out in his presidential campaign, as demonstrated by his refusal to prepare in favor of just “winging” it in his speeches and the policy pronouncements he has provided, his great success in business could not have happened without the willingness to work hard to accomplish great success. This is a trait that would cause most any American parent to glow with pride.

Certainly, it didn’t hurt that Mr. Trump was provided a running, head start by his own father, a successful real estate developer in his own right who turned his business over to his son. Still, you don’t take a successful business and turn it into a mega-empire without a lot of hard work.

But this is where behavior that would make your parents proud comes to an end.

Can you imagine what your mother would say to you were you to grow up to become an obnoxious braggart who constantly rises to remind anyone who will listen that you are very, very rich? Can you imagine what your father would say if you took it upon yourself to constantly intone on your own remarkable greatness and how anyone who disagrees with you is unworthy of respect or worse?

And can you imagine what your parents and grandparents would think of a society where this borderline psychotic self-aggrandizement is actually appreciated and cheered by the populace?

Many of us were taught that if you have nothing nice to say about someone then you should just say nothing at all.

Of course, I realize that this is a rule that doesn’t apply in the world of politics, particularly when it becomes necessary to respond to a charge or an attack from an opposing politician. Yet, even in the brutal world of politics there have long been rules of engagement when doing battle—and The Donald appears more than willing to happily break them all.

Personal attacks on character are nothing new in American politics. However, it is our tradition that when a presidential candidate has something awful to say about another presidential candidate, it is left to a surrogate to do the dirty work. This has always been the case because of the importance that somebody seeking the presidency be viewed as too principled, too decent and, yes, having far too much character to descend into the gutter.

When John Adams, in the first contested presidential battle in our nation’s history, wanted to take a serious character shot at his opponent, Thomas Jefferson, Adams did not take on the job himself as that would have been in exceedingly bad taste and represent conduct unbefitting a president. Instead, he had his surrogate, Alexander Hamilton, write an article in the Gazette of the United States accusing Jefferson of having an affair with one of his slaves. This was a very big deal at that point in history and likely played a role in Jefferson’s defeat.

When John Quincy Adams was campaigning against Andrew Jackson in the 1828 race for the White House, he did not stand up and accuse Jackson’s mother of being a prostitute and Jackson’s wife of being an adulteress. Instead he left it to the Coffin Handbills distributed by supporters of John Quincy to do the dirty work. Why? Because presidential candidates must show the character necessary to run the nation and getting directly involved with such base attacks would not do.

It remains the case in the modern era to leave it to a surrogate to do the dirty work for those who wish to be the leader of the nation—and with good reason. How a president’s character is viewed plays a serious role in that individual’s ability to succeed in the job, both at home and abroad.

When it comes to letting the nation know how amazing a candidate is and how lucky the country is that a particular candidate would bless us with his or her service to the nation, your parents would quickly remind you that it is best to allow other people to sing your praises rather than to sing your own in symphonic measures.

This is the great tragedy of Donald Trump. For all I know, Trump might have the talent to excel in the job. But there is no way that I would bet on his success given the megalomania that exudes from every pore of his body.

Does anyone remember when the key knock on Obama was that he was arrogant? Yet, many who lodged that charged are the very people who support Trump’s behavior, despite it taking arrogance to a new and previously unseen level.

The willingness of many to now accept such behavior is, in my estimation, a great tragedy in the current state of the nation. When so many would take a positive view of character deficiencies that would once not only disqualify one who seeks to lead the nation but further disqualify that individual from meriting an invitation to cocktail party, we’ve got a serious problem.

Think about it. It used to be that nobody likes a braggart and a bore—now, a significant percentage of the public wants one to be the president.

Is this really what and who we want to be?

I sincerely hope not.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 24, 2015

August 3, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Electorate, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Blight On The Reputation Of The United States”: President Obama Is Determined To Close Gitmo

Perhaps because none of the 2016 presidential candidates are talking about it, I haven’t seen much in the media about this:

Facing a potential showdown with Congress, the Pentagon is racing to move dozens of detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in coming months before lawmakers can block future transfers and derail President Obama’s plan to shutter the U.S. military prison.

As a first step, officials plan to send up to 10 prisoners overseas, possibly in June. In all, the Pentagon hopes that 57 inmates who are approved for transfer will be resettled by the end of 2015. That would require “large muscle movements” by at least two countries, which officials hope will each agree to take in 10 to 20 Yemeni detainees, who cannot be repatriated because of security conditions in their war-torn homeland.

The potential showdown with Congress they are referring is that Sen. Ayotte is sponsoring a bill that would extend the current ban on bringing prisoners to the United States and effectively bar transfers to other countries. Of course President Obama could veto such a bill – unless, as we’ve seen in previous years, it was part of the Pentagon’s omnibus budget appropriation.

What’s interesting is that the President is currently working on an alternative with Sen. Ayotte’s best buddy, Sen. McCain.

The White House is drafting a plan that officials hope will receive the support of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as an alternate to Ayotte’s measure. McCain has previously expressed openness to shutting the prison.

But it’s far from certain, even with McCain’s backing, that lawmakers would fall in behind the White House’s plan, which would allow detainees to be brought to the United States for trial or detention and would enable the continued transfer of others to foreign nations.

“It’s looking very difficult,” said Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee and a leading advocate for allowing prisoners to be brought to the United States. “I don’t see what changes minds or persuades people at this point,” he said. “But that’s what [the White House] is attempting to do.”

If that were to fail:

In the event that Congress does pass legislation that would freeze Guantanamo Bay’s population, currently at 122, White House officials are exploring options for the unilateral closure of the prison and moving detainees into the United States, an action that Congress has opposed from the president’s first months in office.

Notice that they are “exploring options for the unilateral closure.” So it’s clear they don’t have a plan yet. But do you get the idea this President is serious about this? One way or the other he is determined to have this blight on the reputation of the United States closed before he leaves office.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 26, 2015

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Congress, GITMO, Pentagon | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When The President Was White And Male”: Will Someone Tell Wayne LaPierre ‘Normal’ Is Gone For Good?

Maybe conservatives are done with dog-whistle politics.

After all, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre traded his dog whistle for an air horn at a recent gathering of the gun faithful in Washington, D.C. “I have to tell you,” he said, “eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”

Subtle, it was not.

Still, as insults go, it was a rather neatly crafted twofer. On one hand, it demeaned the nation’s first African-American president and welcomed the day the White House is, well… de-Negro-fied. On the other hand, it also demeaned the candidate seeking to become the nation’s first female-American president and promised to save the White House from, well… woman-ification. Evidently, LaPierre wants America to get back to normal; “normal” being defined as “the president is white and male.”

So out come the air horns, blatting Woman! Woman! Woman! seeking to reduce a former senator and Secretary of State to the sum of her chromosomes. Now the race is apparently on to see who will be first to tag the former law professor, senator, and Secretary of State with which crude, sexist epithet. Oh, the suspense.

The blazing irony is that conservatives have at least two “demographically symbolic” candidates vying for their favor: Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American senator from Florida and Ted Cruz (does no one else see Joe McCarthy staring back when they look at this guy?), a senator from Texas whose father was born in Cuba.

So the “normal” LaPierre seeks is threatened, regardless.

Not that he is the only one tripped up by Clinton’s woman-ness. Consider, a recent piece from Time magazine which argued that Clinton is “the perfect age to be president” because, at 67, she is “postmenopausal.” Granted, the essay, by a doctor named Julie Holland, flatters Clinton and women of her age, assuring us that, having been freed from the “cyclical forces” that “dominated” the first half of her life, she emerges with the “experience and self-assurance” to be president.

Still, could you not have happily gone the rest of your days without contemplating Hillary Clinton’s “cyclical forces”? More to the point, can you imagine such an essay being written about a male candidate? Marco Rubio is 43, which means he’s probably already had his first digital prostate exam. Will anyone analyze how that factors into his readiness for the presidency? Rick Perry is 65. If he jumps in, will anyone speculate on how possible issues of erectile dysfunction might inform his foreign policy?

Here’s the thing about “demographically symbolic” presidents and candidates: They tend to function like Rorschach inkblots. Meaning that what we see in them reveals more about us than them. Where Barack Obama is concerned, the right-wing panic over birth certificates and fist bumps and the left-wing tendency to idealize and canonize his every exhalation revealed the rank bigotry and messy irresolution beneath our “post-racial” happy talk. Where Clinton is concerned, these very early indications suggest her woman-ness will likewise be a minefield for friend, foe and media — even more, perhaps, than in 2008.

And that’s not to mention Cruz and Rubio. Who do you think will be the first to wear a sombrero to a Cruz rally in misguided solidarity, or to tell the Miami-born Rubio to go back where he came from?

Point being that in America, markers of identity — gender, race, ethnicity — have a way of becoming identity itself, of blinding us to the singular, individual one in front of us. And campaigns tend to magnify that failing. To put that another way: Strap in. It’s going to be a very long 19 months until the 2016 election. Even so, one thing is already clear, and it should please the rest of us, if not Wayne LaPierre.

“Normal” is gone for good.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 20,2015

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Misogyny, Racism, Wayne LaPierre | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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