Thursday, March 31, 2016

Criticized, Trump Goes With Political Correctness

Leave it to "moderate" John Kasich, the scourge of workers (especially teachers), schoolchildren, and women in need of health care, to criticize Donald Trump for one of the few commendable things the Republican front-runner has said.  "Yesterday," Kasich stated in a litany of his rival's heresies, "he proposed punishing women who received abortions." (Imagine the nerve of contemplating punishment of someone for behavior the Governor wants outlawed!)

A Bloomberg writer offers this summary of the exchange from the taping at the MSNBC town hall Wednesday evening:

 Host Chris Matthews pressed Trump on his anti-abortion position, repeatedly asking him whether abortion should be punished if it is outlawed. “This is not something you can dodge,” Matthews said.

“Look, people in certain parts of the Republican Party, conservative Republicans, would say, ‘Yes, it should,’” Trump answered.

“How about you?” Matthews asked.

“I would say it’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem we have to decide on. Are you going to send them to jail?” Trump said.

“I’m asking you,” Matthews said.

“I am pro-life,” Trump said. Asked how a ban would actually work, Trump said, “Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places but we have to ban it,” Trump said.

Matthews then pressed Trump on whether he believes there should be punishment for abortion if it were illegal.

“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said. “For the woman?” Matthews asked. “Yeah,” Trump said, nodding.

Trump said the punishment would “have to be determined.”

Unfortunately, the remarks were later clarified in an attempt to retract them... or retracted in order to clarify them- and not once, but twice. The final statement read

If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.

It's a pity. Donald Trump tried on the cloak of political incorrectness in the interview and was pummeled by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates. "Trump's abortion comment rankles just about everyone," in the words of a Houston Chronicle headline.   It is, however, a line of questioning a candidate should have expected because this is a signature issue of Chris Matthews, one he raises periodically with supporters of forced birth. The notion that abortion can be prohibited without penalty applied to the woman who seeks, procures, and pays for a procedure thought to be killing and condemned as "murder" is intellectually indefensible.

It is, unfortunately, strategically defensible, even wise, as indicated by the panic which must have set in with the campaign once it dawned on them that Trump had committed a cardinal sin by violating a major tenet of the anti-abortion rights crowd. This will be a confirmation of what the "lamestream" media (in Sarah Palin's words) is all about as it ignores this fundamental contradiction.  And now Donald Trump's about-face has exposed what Charlie Pierce recognizes is

the logical end to all anti-choice arguments and all anti-choice philosophy, but one that causes anti-choice politicians to hide behind the drapes out of sheer political cowardice. (You have to love a movement that is brave enough to shoot doctors from ambush, but chickens out on the obvious legal ramifications of what it says are its unshakable beliefs?) 

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

This, Too, Will Be Part Of The Legacy

It was back in October and he later (sort of) apologized for it, but it was telling when NewsCorp chairperson Rupert Murdoch remarked "Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide? And much else."

This reflects a recurring theme throughout the right- that the first black President promised to wave a magic wand and make all of America's racial history go away.  But as Jamil Smith explained when he criticized Murdoch's perspective, once Barack Obama was inaugurated

it soon became evident that his mere corporeal presence in the Oval Office would not end racial bias or injustice—as some on both sides of the aisle had theorized. The “black president will kill racism” narrative was a joke to black folks in particular, given the inherent societal pessimism many of us share. But not to some, even today, who believe that the most prominent black leaders in any arena alone are charged with most assiduously attending to the racial divide. 

This narrative never made sense, especially to the few of us who, unpersuaded that an individual's race would be the defining characteristic of his presidency, voted against Mr. Obama in a primary in 2008 and for him in the ensuing general election.

Of course,  Republicans literally from the night of his inauguration in 2008 never gave President Obama a chance to do what almost no human being ever could do. Then, twelve Republicans including nine members of Congress met for dinner and agreed, as Robert Draper put it, to "show united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies" and to "jab Obama relentlessly in 2011."  More famously, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell- absent from the 1/20/08 meeting because of a feud with a participant- in October, 2010 would admit "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

They were sincere in their intent. One of the two signature legislative achievements of the President- the stimulus bill- passed with three Republicans (all Senators) in Congress voting in favor of it, despite the appropriation of revenues sufficiently meager that conservatives should have welcomed it. The other, the Affordable Care Act, passed with a grand total of zero (0) Republicans in favor, despite offering no public option and inspired by a plan originally proposed by the Heritage Foundation.

They should be more appreciative of President Obama. After the nation in 2008 elected as President a Democrat who was a former community organizer, they feared the worst and instead were rewarded with a President who reached out to them at every opportunity.

As now evident, this was foreshadowed a few years earlier in Senator Obama's speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention when, as Smith explained, his

grandiloquence was nothing compared to the trick he pulled in perhaps its most remembered passage. In asserting the oneness of the United States of America and implying that the union is free from political or racial separation or iniquity, Obama offered preemptive disagreement to the populist claim of “two Americas” that then-vice presidential nominee John Edwards would issue the very next night in his remarks. And he did so out of a black mouth, no less. The most talented African American politician you or I likely have ever seen was making it clear that he didn’t believe we citizens live in an American reality stratified by race, political belief, or heritage. This, of course, sounded recklessly optimistic and a bit insane all at once. 

Smith, adding "I knew immediately he'd be our first black President," realized that Senator Obama was sowing the seeds for his own successful presidential candidacy , in part by assuaging the guilt of white America. Obama also was satisfying the need of the political class and of voters to ignore the existence of two Americas, divided by political belief, race and/or heritage. He thus was laying the groundwork for turning a blind eye to the wide range of social and economic problems endemic to society.

"Crushing truths perish from being acknowledged," Camus wrote. Though it may be understandable with the weight of the Republican establishment arrayed against him, Barack Obama never has wanted to acknowledge those "crushing truths" and has done his best for twelve years to deny them.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tough Candidate On Video

"The world a President has to grapple with- sometimes you can't even imagine," intones the narrator in the Hillary Clinton ad "The World."

Evidently, the world is almost as difficult to grapple with as a 74-year-old fellow from a tiny state. Common Dreams reports

Appearing on Meet The Press Sunday, Bernie Sanders suggested a debate before the New York primary, one to be held somewhere in that state. Later that day, Sanders' campaign director Jeff Weaver sent to his counterpart in the Clinton campaign a letter in which he adopted what a New York Times writer a "taunting tone" in urging the Clinton people to accept a debate in New York State.

In response, on Monday Clinton chief pollster Joel Benenson stated that his client's future participation would "depend on the tone" set by the Vermont Senator because the latter is "running a very negative campaign against us." Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon labeled the debate proposal a "stunt."  While echoing Fallon, adviser Karen Finney complained about the Sanders campaign "polling on new lines of attack on Hillary Clinton" though at the beginning of the campaign he had said "I don't do negative attacks."

As of this moment, the candidate herself has not weighed in.  But she is a long way from the Senator who in 2008 ran a commercial (below) "It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep,” adding “Who do you want answering the phone?” She didn't mean Barack Obama.

That was eight years ago. However, in "The World" Mrs. Clinton is somewhat reprising the ad, claiming "the presidency is the toughest job in the world" and urging a vote for "A tireless secretary of state, standing up against the abuse of women and girls, negotiating a cease-fire in Gaza, leading the diplomacy that keeps us out of war,"

It's easy to say that someone who runs from the old Vermont guy will have trouble confronting Vladimir Putin. That's not necessarily true, but she certainly seems to be a little frightened by a democratic socialist from New England.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Size Matters. So Do Words.

London's Daily Mail reports

viewers took to Twitter in their droves to ridicule Trump for the 'cringe' encounter, in which they accused him of not answering questions and continually repeating himself.

The entrepreneur received the bulk of Briton's taunts after he was asked if he wanted to send a message to the people of the UK, choosing to 'ramble on' about the golf course he built in Scotland.

Twitter user Kevin Meagher wrote: ' "Paris has some of the strictest gun laws in the world and so does France." Does Donald think they're two different countries?'

Meanwhile, user ImaginaryCard tweeted: 'Fav part: Piers told him to send a message to the people of the UK and he rambled on about his golf course in Scotland #MorganTrump'

Jeremy Singer ‏tweeted: 'That was bad! An hour of self promotion, weak answers & assertions by a man who could be president!'

As has been obvious throughout the campaign, Donald Trump is nothing if not a self-promoter, continually boasting about everything Trump.  Further, it's merely careless not to specify "Paris has some of the strictest gun laws in the world and so does France itself" or "... and so does the nation of France."     The candidate's statement is not unlike that of Senator Barack Obama when he said that he already had campaigned in 57 states with one left to go. (He was excluding Alaska and Hawaii).   Obama was then elected President. Twice.

More significant is what Democrats refuse to say.  Salon's Brendan Gauthier on Saturday wrote

Last night’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” got combative when New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, chose carefully to say “violent extremism” rather than “Islamic extremism.”

Maher, a documented opponent of political correctness on the issue, took issue with the phrasing, saying, “I think the Democrats risk losing this election if they cannot put together the words ‘Islamic extremism’ as opposed to ‘violent extremism.”

“Please just tell me that you recognize that it is a distinct threat much greater than any other violent extremist threat,” Maher pleaded. “You don’t really think it’s on the same order as the KKK. Are you really worried about the KKK?”

It's a good question, one skillfully avoided by the Senator and former mayor of Newark, N.J., who responded "what I'm worried about is that you begin that question by saying 'The Democrats will lose if.' First of all, if the Democrats lose by how they talk about this extremism, then they've got more problems."

Maher noted that 45% of Democrats- even Democrats- support Donald Trump's idea (if not attributed to him) of barring Muslims from the USA.  Booker then countered by denying trying to create a "false equivalency," while he referring to domestic terrorism, maintaining that since 9/11/01, we've lost 48 Americans to such incidents.

Well done, but largely beside the point, so Maher explained "but Christians are not trying to get a dirty bomb," which is a basic difference between Muslim-inspired and Christian-insprired terrorism. "That is a false equivalency," he informed Booker, who again pleaded "I'm not trying to create a false  equivalency."

When the New Jersey Senator accused Maher of considering such terrorism the only threat, Maher replied "I'm not saying only. It's distinct and different and bigger. Size matters." After Booker cautioned against fear-mongering.Maher pointed out "fear is important to people" and added "it's not mongering if there's an attack."

Though evidently a big fan of Booker aside from this issue, the host finally laid it out for the Senator: "Just say Islamic terrorism. Just say those words and you'll win the lelection. Avoid those words and you're going to lose."

Cory Booker, whose views about financial reform (should) make Hillary Clinton look like Elizabeth Warren, is not  the issue. Neither is Donald Trump who, if he's nominated, may- may- find that his lack of experience, ignorance of foreign policy, misogyny, questionable business practices, and other problems too much to overcome even if there is an attack upon the "homeland."

But it is not by coincidence that following the bombing in Brussels, Ted Cruz's first reaction, posted on his Facebook page, included

Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality.  And the truth is, we can never hope to defeat this evil so long as we refuse to even name it. That ends on January 20, 2017, when I am sworn in as president. We will name our enemy -- radical Islamic terrorism. And we will defeat it.

Say the words, Cory. Say the words, Barack. Most importantly, given the major threat of a Ted Cruz presidency and the comparatively minor threat of a Donald Trump one, Hillary Clinton must utter the phrase because if there is a Muslim-related terrorist attack prior to the election, no one will care about lead poisoning, poverty, and lack of quality jobs cited by Booker as threatening the city he served as mayor.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton should say it not only to blunt criticism from Republicans because Democrats refuse to utter the phrase.

She should do so also out of honesty and out of transparency.  Islam is the religion practiced by Muslims. The terrorism which Bill Maher recognizes as the threat of greatest magnitude is committed by Muslims dedicated to Islamism and committing it in the name of Islam. Call it Islamic terrorism or radical Islamic terrorism.  Identify the danger. Minimizing or misinterpreting it does not make it go away.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Major Flaw

From the start, the Republican presidential race was viewed as one pitting Establishment candidates against anti-Establishment candidates.   It proved to be an accurate portrayal and as the race has narrowed to three individuals, it is clear that two of the fellows, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have survived the anti-Establishment lane while John Kasich has emerged from the Establishment lane .

It isn't, of course, black-and-white.  It is by nurture, not nature, by clear intent rather than instinct, that a graduate of two Ivy League schoos (Princeton and Harvard Law), Bush 43 official, law professor, litigator in the US Supreme Court and United States Senator has come to be seen as bucking the system. Obversely, John Kasich told an NBC reporter at the close of one of the primaries that he is not of or opposed to the Establishment but rather representing the "John Kasich lane."

Still, there is a clear distinction, and an even clearer one between two of the now-departed candidates, Ben Carson and Lindsey Graham.  However, recent television appearances by the two highlight the false dichotomy between an "establishment" candidate, as Graham clearly was portrayed, and an "anti-" candidate, as the somewhat more successful Carson portrayed himself as.

Politico reports

Ben Carson spent the majority of his time on the set of "The View" on Thursday defending Donald Trump and his endorsement of the Republican presidential front-runner, who at one point compared Carson to a child molester.

“Sir, I hate to ask this question, but you have aligned yourself with the man who has bashed women, made countless racist remarks, and you’re Ben Carson; why would you align yourself with that?” co-host Whoopi Goldberg asked the retired neurosurgeon.

Carson responded, saying on multiple occasions that “there is no perfect person” but that Trump has a history of inclusion, referring specifically to his allowing African-Americans and Jews into his Palm Beach clubs. “He insisted on Jews and blacks and helped to break that open,” Carson said, as Goldberg chuckled incredulously.

“So has he said some things that I wouldn’t say or that you wouldn’t say? Of course,” Carson said.

The panelists then discussed Trump’s run-in with the federal government in the 1970s, when the Justice Department sued him alleging racial discrimination. Trump later settled without acknowledging wrongdoing.

“I will put it this way,” Carson said. “I have met a lot of his employees, including African-Americans, and they have nothing but good things to say. Somebody who’s hired as many people as he has hired, and you can find very few people who have anything negative to say.”

Carson also had nice things to say about Trump’s family, noting that he knows the children of other wealthy people who, he said, have been raised worse.

Carson didn't ask Goldberg to cite the "racist" remarks. Nor did he explain that had Trump been required to acknowledge wrongdoing, he might have balked and been found not to be culpable, instead of simply buying his way out of the charge.

That would have been arguing on the merits of the case. Instead,he claimed that everyone else does it too, that Trump's employees won't criticize him (as if most employees are free to blast their employer), and that he is a swell family man, as if that will matter when he tries to bully (or make love to) his friend Vladimir Putin.

In everyday discourse/parlance, Carson is what is known as a "weasel." His ilk is also known as a "politician."

Contrast that with Lindsey Graham, who appeared Wednesday on The Daily Show (first part of the segment, video below).   Just this winter, Graham had famously joked "if you're a Republican and your choice is Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in a general election, it's the difference between poisoned or shot" and "if you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you." Less famously, he labeled the Texas Senator "an opportunist" and maintained the latter on foreign policy is "just as wrong as Obama, if not worse."

Soon after, he endorsed Ted Cruz.  If Graham were as disingenuous a politician as Carson, he would have pointed to whatever minorities or women the Texan has on his staff; maintained that Cruz gives gifts to his aides on Administrative Professionals Day; and defends his wife whenever she's criticized.


When asked about his support of Cruz, Graham said that his change of heart "tells you everything you need to know about Donald Trump."

Graham, who was once in the presidential race himself, endorsed Cruz ahead of the AIPAC conference in Washington last week.

"He was my fifteenth choice so what can I say?" Graham added.

And everything came back to Donald Trump.

What do you like about Cruz, Noah asked the senior senator. "He's not Trump," Graham replied.

"He's not completely crazy," Graham said of his colleague, adding "that works in Washington."

Cruz virtually stated he preferred being poisoned than shot. Oh, wait- not virtually:

Noah then aired a clip of Graham being asked in January whether he preferred Cruz or Trump as the nominee during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

“It’s like being shot or poisoned, what does it really matter?” Graham said.

Graham explained the comment, telling The Daily Show host, “Donald is like being shot in the head.”

On Cruz being the “poison,” the senator said, “You might find an antidote to the poisoning — I don’t know, but maybe there’s time.”

Not only is it an honest explanation, but an accurate one, for the best reason to support Ted Cruz over Donald Trump (or Trump over Cruz) is to choose the lesser of two evils.  Graham has done so in a manner befitting the sense of irony and self-detachment identified by Salon's Andrew O'Hehir.  As a candidate, Graham was caught in a bind:  a politician charged with being a typical Washington politician, yet far more forthcoming than a Dr. Carson or other anti-politician poseurs.


                                                   HAPPY EASTER

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Three Peas In A Pod

Upon hearing of the murders in Brussels, Ted Cruz took to Facebook and, after expressing sympathy for the victims,  politicized the attacks, maintaining "Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality."

More ominously, he later issued a statement which read in part

We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.

We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration. And we need to execute a coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS. The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we are at an end. Our country is at stake. 

The Texas Senator's declaration "our country is at stake" is a long step backward from President Roosevelt's declaration "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." He conflates terrorism and immigration and advocates a path to dividing Americans by religion, a clear rebuke of the First Amendment.

When the crafty Cruz issues his prescription for terrorism- take two anti-immigration pills and go to bed scared- it bears a similarity to the immigration policy laid out by the officially designated "moderate" in the race. With Marco Rubio gone, John Kasich has become the media's favorite as the reasonable alternative to the blustery, belligerent Donald Trump.   He didn't disappoint Establishment centrists last weekend, stating on Fox News Sunday

My position has not changed. The idea that we're going to go into communities and yank people out of their homes and leave their kids on the porch crying, that's not what we're going to do. That's -- that's just -- that's more promises that will never happen, and the people will become more cynical. I don't make promises, by and large, that I can't keep. I try to keep what I say. And I - I'm not deviated from this position at all.

How compassionate not to leave kids on the porch crying. Yet, the Ohio governor maintained also

We should have a guest worker program. And for the 11.5 million who are here illegally, if they've not committed a crime since they've been here, I would give them a path to legalization where they pay a fine, back taxes, delay in any kind of benefits they get. I think is a reasonable approach, but not a path to citizenship.

They get to obey our laws faithfully  (which is more than many citizens do) pay back taxes, pay a fine, and be denied (for a time, maybe longer) benefits, and their reward is to be denied citizenship.   They are entitled, moreover, to be treated like second-class citizens- or rather, not as citizens at all.

And so is the immigration plan of the right-winger in moderate sheep's clothing akin to the terrorist control policy, an adjunct to his immigration policy, of extremist Ted Cruz.

There is no better way of creating terrorists from among Americans than to convince them that they are not Americans, or at least are not so considered.  And there is no better way to do that than to designate some neighborhoods or towns as "Muslim" and to impose a regimen of surveillance and policing devised specifically for them. Donald Trump says he supports the Senator's notion "100%."

Immigrants, most from central America, are unlikely to be terrorists, which Republicans conflating terrorism and immigration are loathe to acknowledge. Still, a path to legalization without citizenship is a formula for creating a two-tiered socio-economic system and wealth inequality second to none. Fortunately for those immigrants, most are from south of the border and able to return home when the price of being "legalized" grows greater than the value of having some minimal employment in the USA. For the others of inferior social status (legalized) the inability to achieve citizenship would prove devastating for them- and ultimately for the nation. So much for the American dream of mobility- if born outside the country, there is no need to apply.

The proposals of Kasich and Cruz are analogous.  Further, front-runner Donald Trump has proposed establishing an inventory of Muslims in the USA and building a border wall, higher and higher in the style of the Tower of Babel.  A leader in hiring illegal immigrants and exploiting guest workers, Trump would be all in on the Cruz-Kasich approach were he to be elected President.  For the remaining GOP presidential candidates, Mexicans, Muslims, and other individuals foreign-born can remain. They can be in the country, but not of the nation, and not truly part of the nation- not ever, no way.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Opening The Peanut

Are the people at Quinnipiac University on drugs? (Actually,the proper phrase is "using drugs," but no matter. And if it were marijuana, their performance would unlikely be impaired, anyway.) They're probably only bored.

We read on Politico

Donald Trump would lead either Ted Cruz or John Kasich in a two-way race, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday.

Asked whom they would like to win the GOP nomination, 43 percent of the 652 Republicans surveyed said they wanted Trump to emerge as the party's choice in Cleveland, followed by 29 percent for Cruz and just 16 percent for Kasich, with 9 percent undecided.

In a head-to-head matchup between Trump and Cruz — with Kasich voters re-allocated to their second choices — the Manhattan real-estate mogul earned 46 percent support, compared with 37 percent for Cruz and 12 percent undecided. While the Texas senator drew slim advantages among tea party supporters, white, born-again evangelicals and those describing themselves as very conservative, Trump drew far greater support from voters who described themselves as somewhat conservative, moderate or liberal, as well as among men, women and those 45 years and older.

This is a classic wrong-headed hypothetical. There is not a two-way race, nor has there been, and if Donald Trump has his way, there will not be.  In a multiple candidate race Trump, as the candidate most voterseither love to love or love to hate, has reigned supreme (which I never expected).  His favorable rating (graph, below) always has been exceeded by his unfavorable rating, which would be critical in a two-candidate race.

Quinnipiac may think a two-way between Trump and Cruz would benefit the current front- runner, but the Senator is not convinced.  He first proposed a one-on-one debate with the front-runner on January 26 and- wisely- hasn't given up.  "Why don’t you ask Donald Trump to come here and defend himself. Donald is afraid to debate," Cruz told Bill O'Reilly Tuesday night.

The betting here is that this is not simply a case of the trailing candidate,having nothing to lose, trying to bait the leader into a debate.  Cruz might question Trump about the Donald J. Trump Foundation; The Gambling Annex; the concrete used in building Trump Tower, which delighted "Fat" Tony Salerno; employment of illegal (Polish) workers in constructing said building; employment as a consultant and pilot of a marijuana and cocaine traficker; refusal to release tax returns; corporate bankruptcies; tax evasion.

In return, Trump could ridicule Cruz's wife. Oops! He already has done that, in a tweet he was forced to delete. which threatened to smear the former Heidi Nelson (apparently for an old incident possibly related to depression). He might, however, criticize her for being a managing director (though on leave) for Goldman Sachs. For all the "populism" (oh yeah, sure) of Trump's campaign:  good luck with that line of reasoning in a GOP contest.

Trump's checkered history aside, the real estate mogul is widely suspected within the Republican Party of not being a conservative, nor possibly even a loyal Republican.  However, Cruz- disturbingly and dangerously- is the real deal, a theocratic free-market obsessive who would leave no stone unturned to achieve his extreme agenda.

Running against Bill Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, Senator Bob Kerry of Nebraska warned of the Arkansas governor "I think he's going to get opened up like a soft peanut in November of 1992."

That never happened, in part because Clinton was an experienced and masterful politican determined to win the White House. Trump is not proven to be masterful, is thoroughly inexperienced, and presumably can return to making hundreds of millions of dollars in the private sector if he doesn't reach the White House. When the Texas senator recently accused him of having "business dealings with the mob, with the mafia," few people noticed- but in part because there were still five candidates in the race. If the competition were narrowed to two people there would be- if Trump were unable to avoid it- a debate between the two men.

Such a debate would be the ultimate in "must-see TV," pitting an untested politician against a guy who has argued in front of the United States Supreme Court and is a lifelong Republican and conservative fanatic. After a spirited exchange, we could view pieces of Donald Trump strewn out in front of the moderators.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Dividing Americans, Again

Think Progress reports as Donald Trump stepped to the podium at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee convention Monday in Washington, D.C., rabbinical student Jeremy Markiz walked out with two colleagues, intending

to counter Trump’s statements maligning immigrants and his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, saying they intended their actions to model the “opposite to the rhetoric and vitriol that’s happening this year, in particular the language that’s coming out to hate towards Muslims, and Mexicans.” But he insisted that he move wasn’t a rejection of AIPAC itself, but of the rhetoric Trump has introduced into American political discourse.

Few people joined Markiz's act of conscience, even though Trump's xenophobic approach to immigrants, refugees, and all things possible is considered extreme even by standards set by other Republicans.

Until now.   Soon after the deadly terrorist attacks Tuesday in Brussels, Belgium, Trump's primary (pun intended) rival Ted Cruz issued a statement which included

For years, the west has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear. We can no longer afford either. Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods.

That's a pretty slick slam of European allies; so much for empathizing, or even sympathizing, with the victims of terrorism.  At least Cruz won't succumb to the fear he derides. Oh, wait:

We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.

We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration. And we need to execute a coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS. The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we are at an end. Our country is at stake.

Steve Benen has a few questions for the Texas senator, such as

.... how would Cruz determine what a “Muslim neighborhood” is? How many Muslim Americans does it take, exactly? Is it every community with a mosque? Is it constitutional for public officials to dispatch law enforcement to “patrol and secure” American neighborhoods based on the religious beliefs of some of its residents?

And what would law-enforcement officials do in these areas, exactly? After a neighborhood has been “secured” to Cruz’s satisfaction, does the Republican envision a semi-permanent police presence to monitor Americans in the area based on their faith, or can the American neighborhood eventually go back to normal, everyday life without police monitoring?

Preventing radicalization of neighborhoods by patrolling and securing neighborhoods on the basis of religion gets us into the muck and mire of the self-fulfilling prophecy, It is as if Cruz never noticed that terrorists and terrorism never had it so good until the Cheney-Bush Administration invaded Iraq. And if Cruz wants to create the volatile tension between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities common in Europe, he has offered the ideal prescription.

At every opportunity, GOP front-runner Donald Trump slams "political correctness, and now Senator Cruz blasts "political correctness and fear." For both him and Trump, who so boldly claim to be politically incorrect, there is this: what Ted Cruz calls isolating radical Muslim neighborhoods is what we once identified as a "police state."

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Monday, March 21, 2016

A Reaction That's Not So Surprising

Most Americans don't care a whole lot about foreign affairs, and that applies to the fight between Jewish Palestinians and Arab Palestinians.

There are exceptions, however, as reflected in responses to a tweet of Rula Jebreal reacting to the conference at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee currently underway in Washington, D.C. Jebreal, a self-described "secular Muslim," ethnic Palestinian born in Haifa, and professional anti-Zionist, tweeted at 7:07 p.m. Sunday

Joe Biden getting jeered & told to  "vote Trump" at @AIPAC for mentioning illegal settlements' role in eroding peace prospects & democracy  

Jebreal's tweet apparently was a slight- but significant- reworking of a tweet by Jacob Kornbluh, described by employer Jewish Press as an "up-and-coming Jewish Orthodox blogger."  His comment read

Biden booed and jeered as he criticizes Israel's expansion of settlements and illegal outposts (Guy yells: "vote for Trump") #AIPAC2016

Already you've noticed a problem here: The highly-educated and well-known Jebreal contended Biden "getting jeered and told to 'vote Trump'" after Kornbluh maintained "guy yells 'vote for Trump.'"  One evidently objective commenter who apparently noticed tweeted "thought it was one 'attendee' who shouted vote Trump?.... of 19,000? No aipac fan but think context is important?" Another went with "clueless liberal Biden doesn't understand imprtance of Israel, or indeed the US, to maintain a solid security wall."

To be fair: Jebreal had her defenders. They did not, however, include accuracy.

Politico (though with an extremely misleading headline) noted

“Actions on either side to undermine trust only take us further away from the path of peace,” Biden said. He cited efforts by Israel’s critics to sanction it in international bodies like the United Nations — which Biden said the U.S. would continue to block — and Israel’s policy allowing settlements to proliferate. Such activities, Biden said, move Israel “toward a one-state reality, which is a reality that is dangerous"...

Biden also sought to confront lingering opposition to the Iran deal at AIPAC, which campaigned aggressively against the nuclear agreement. (Shortly before Biden’s remarks, the conference honored an activist who had lobbied Hispanic members of Congress to oppose the deal.)

So the Vice-President goes to the annual conference of a determined, singularly pro-Israel group and criticizes the Israeli government for its settlement policy and defends the Iranian deal anathema to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Politico reports "And In general, however, Biden was received warmly by the 18,700 people he said were in the audience."

Those vicious Zionists! Won't they ever open their hearts and minds to criticism?

The real lesson, for individuals supporting Arab Palestinians, should be that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is pursuing a policy so antithetical to the cause of lasting peace that even engaged AIPAC members are willing to entertain the idea of changing Tel Aviv's settlement policy. That would be more or less the take of someone who is wants both a Palestinian homeland and a secure, Jewish state in the Middle East. Clearly, that would not be Rula Jebreal and others like her.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Religious Speculation

On Friday, Mitt Romney wrote on his Facebook page

This week, in the Utah nominating caucus, I will vote for Senator Ted Cruz.

Today, there is a contest between Trumpism and Republicanism. Through the calculated statements of its leader, Trumpism has become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence. I am repulsed by each and every one of these.

The only path that remains to nominate a Republican rather than Mr. Trump is to have an open convention. At this stage, the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nominating elections as possible.

I like Governor John Kasich. I have campaigned with him. He has a solid record as governor. I would have voted for him in Ohio. But a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail.

I will vote for Senator Cruz and I encourage others to do so as well, so that we can have an open convention and nominate a Republican.

Utah is famously Mormon with 55%-60% of its residents belonging to the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  The devout Mitt Romney is the not only the nation's most famous Mormon, but also evidently eligible to vote in Utah. He is not alone there in his opposition to Donald Trump, for

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has zoomed to a commanding lead in Utah's GOP caucuses, according to a new poll released Saturday. It also gave a glimpse into how frustrated the state's Republicans are with Donald Trump's candidacy.

The Y2 Analytics survey shows Cruz with 53 percent support among likely Republican caucus-goes and if that matches Tuesday's caucus vote, he'd win all of the state's 40 GOP delegates.

Coming in second is Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 29 percent, while Trump, the national front-runner, was a distant third at 11 percent.

Inasmuch as Donald Trump apparently is cruising (pun intended) to nomination in Cleveland this summer, the lack of support for the frontrunner in a state is astounding news. It is not, however, to Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins, who writes

while Mormons make up the most reliably Republican religious group in the country, they differ from the party’s base in key ways that work against Trump.

On immigration, for example, the hard-line proposals that have rallied Trump’s fans — like building a massive wall along the country’s southern border to keep immigrants out — are considerably less likely to fire up conservative Latter-day Saints. The LDS church has spent years lobbying for “compassionate” immigration reform. In 2011, church leaders offered a full-throated endorsement of “the Utah Compact,” a state legislative initiative that discouraged deporting otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants and offered a path to residency for families that would be separated by deportation.

These pro-immigrant attitudes are common among rank-and-file believers, many of whom have served missions in Latin American countries. Mormons are more than twice as likely as evangelicals to say they support “more immigration” to the United States, according to Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell. And a 2012 Pew survey found Mormons were more likely to say immigrants “strengthen” the country than they were to call immigrants an overall “burden.” When Romney ran for president in 2012 on a restrictionist immigration platform, his views were widelynoted in LDS circles for being at odds with his church.

That's all very logical, and such a thoughtful and relatively objective report on the interrelationship of religion and politics is disturbingly uncommon. However, consider that Coppins has been (understandably) antagonistic to Trump. Additionally, he was convinced (understandably) in February 2014 that he would not make become a candidate, at the time maintaining

For a person who has carefully cultivated an image of cartoonish gravitas, his constant courting of the political press seems grindingly small: picking fights with pasty, underpaid reporters, feeding sound bites to niche right-wing political websites, trekking up to frozen New Hampshire in January on the off chance that his antics will flash across a dayside cable news chyron for a few seconds. Why bother?

Coppins also is a Mormon, as he has noted, as well as left-of-center.  His explanation, therefore, may be incomplete.

Utah Republicans are hardly liberal or even moderate. The two main GOP presidential candidates at this time are Trump and Ted Cruz. The latter is inarguably the (even) more conservative candidate and much of the opposition to Trump stems from the belief that he is not a true Republican or true conservative. Clearly, he is not the free-market ideologue that the Texas senator is and Utah Republicans, most of them Mormon, may simply prefer the thoroughly extreme right-winger to the less reliable right-winger.

Further, there may be a direct religous component to the inability of Trump to gain traction among Utah Republicans.   The front-runner has (infamously) and oddly referred to "Two Corinthians" rather than "Second Corinthians."  At an event of Christian right organizations last July, he stated "When I drink my little wine -- which is about the only wine I drink -- and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,"

It did not escape the attention of Christians that "my little wine" and "my little cracker" are a little patronizing or at least trivialize the act of communion. Some also realize that the purpose of communion is not "asking for forgiveness."

Trump;s response when asked whether he has asked God for forgiveness was even more surprising for a political candidate. "I am not sure I have," he admitted.  "I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so.  I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."

There are agnostics who have asked God for forgiveness. It's who we are vulnerable and uncertain, as human beings.  Yet while bold enough to leave God out of the equation of forgivenss, Trump did assert "People are so shocked when they find ... out I am Protestant. I am Presbyterian."  Less than 14% of residents of Utah identify as Protestant, compared to almost 48% nationally.

It is unusual, though honest and in this instance appropriate, for a candidate to downplay his faith and pointedly note that he is a Protestant and Presbyeterian. Mormons routinely consider themselves Christian but obviously are not Presbyterian and their relationship to Protestantism is tenuous.  It wouldn't be surprisng if that plays a role in their resistance to Trump, the man while they are repulsed by the nativist and nationalist presentation of Trump, the politician.

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

He Wins Again

There is little doubt that in introducing Merrick Brian Garland as his Supreme Court nominee, President Obama cleverly employed the judge's work in prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers. With that "law and order" rhetoric, Elias Isquith argues, Obama is taking a traditional conservative issue and "driving that wedge as deep into the GOP coalition as he can."

"In this (i.e., pre-election) scenario," Isquith continues

it’s hard to see how Obama loses. If ratcheting up the pressure causes the GOP to cry uncle, then Garland ends up on the Supreme Court, giving liberals the majority for the first time in a generation. And if that pressure isn’t enough to get Garland a vote, it’s still going to cause the GOP even more internal strife than it’s experiencing already — which makes a Clinton victory more likely, too.

While it's conceivable that Garland is approved by the Senate in the next few months, it's hardly likely. And any "internal strife" the nomination causes the GOP won't account for a hill of beans in November. (Garland is 63 years old. At least he knows what "hill of beans" refers to.)

Isquith adds

And if Clinton wins, then Obama has a few options. He can try to get Garland confirmed in a “lame-duck” session; or he can punish Republicans even further, as many liberals will no doubt advocate, by withdrawing Garland and letting Clinton pick an even more liberal nominee herself. Either way, the Supreme Court just got a lot more liberal; and the Republican Party just got a lot more demoralized and divided.

If Garland is not approved, Hillary Clinton wins the election, and President Obama withdraws Garland's nomination in favor of allowing a President Clinton to make a selection, a DNA test must be ordered. Barack Obama will have been whisked out of the White House without anyone noticing and replaced by a double.

Ironically, that is precisely why, as Isquith concludes

Republicans may prove just smart enough to take what Obama’s giving. But even if that happens, it wouldn’t change the subtly ruthless nature of the president’s gambit. You may disagree with the strategy — you may prefer firing up liberals to splitting Republicans — but there should be no question that Obama knows what he’s doing.

Barack Obama does know precisely what he is doing....  and knew what to do before anyone figured it out. Before Garland was tapped, the scenario laid out by the media, politicans, pundits, and virtually everyone was that the individual selected by the President would be denied a hearing or approved in a somewhat routine fashion. There was little or no talk of the possibility that he would be given serious consideration if, and only if, a Democrat were to be elected in November.

It is quite probable that President Obama foresaw this scenario. Even now, the question generally is framed as to whether Obama out-maneuvered the Republican Party or- conversely- the GOP will get what it wants by waiting till the truest lame-duck period, the time between the election and the convening of the new Congress. "They've been asking for him (Garland) for years," noted the National Constiution Center's Jeffrey Rosen, and the GOP has it within its power to get what it wants if a Clinton presidency looms.  Democratic senators could be expected to fall in line and do as the President asks them to.

That is, of course, unless following a Clinton victory, Obama withdraws the nomination of the highly-respected centrist/moderate.  However, given that his legacy then would include placing not three, but two, judges on the United States Supreme Court, that is improbable. And if, during the lame-duck period, Merrick Brian Garland is approved, both Barack Obama and the Republican Party will have won.  That's not helpful for the cause of progressive change and of the Democratic Party, but it would mark a victory for a truly prescient president who values bipartisanship above all.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

The Reactions Missing From National Democrats

On February 17, Lauren McCauley of Common Dreams reported that Senator Bernard Sanders had spoken at a rally in Michigan and

said that Flint “may be the worst example of a collapsing infrastructure, but it is not the only example.”

Sanders contrasted those who question the expense of replacing Flint’s damaged pipes and water infrastructure to the “trillions” spent on waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. “When we went to war in Iraq, the trillions we spent there, not a problem,” Sanders said.

Throughout the campaign for the Democratic nomination, Sanders has repeatedly differentiated himself from his opponent Hillary Clinton over their opposing votes on the Iraq War—which she supported and he did not. Both candidates, however, have made the ongoing water crisis in Flint a focus of their campaigns with Clinton visiting the city earlier this month.

And so they have, while GOP candidates for President largely have stayed silent, which was positive given what they would have said.   Sanders (in debate, below) and Clinton responded much more rapidly than did Republicans and have been much more decisive, as well as wiser in their assessment of the situation.

But their responses have been inadequate- and disappointing in the case of Sanders, the "democratic socialist," from whom much more should have been expected. Fortunately, we now know what we should have heard. At the hearing held by the House Government Oversight Committee on Thursday, Representative William Clay (D-MO.) observed (hat tip to Eclectablog)

You know, I have to hand it to my Republican colleagues. They are actually making their argument with a straight face. And, you know, just to be clear, Republicans here today are claiming that the EPA – the Obama EPA – should have been more aggressive in stepping in and seizing control and overruling the Republican-controlled state of Michigan. They are just outraged that the EPA wasn’t more assertive with Michigan and didn’t immediately go public with their complaints about the state’s failure to follow the law. Ms. McCarthy, the irony is almost overwhelming, isn’t it? Republicans have been absolutely slamming the EPA for overreaching at every possible turn. Now they criticize the EPA for not doing more when Gov. Snyder fell down on the job.

Let’s go through some of these ridiculous government statements.

Donald Trump has called for entirely eliminating the EPA and handing power over to the states. He said this, and I quote, “Environmental protection, we waste all of this money. We’re going to bring this back to the states. […]

Another Republican candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, agrees with Mr. Trump. He said this, and I quote, “I think states should press back using every tool they have available. […]

Marco Rubio, now a former Republican candidate, has vowed to scale back the Clean Water Act. He said this: “Regulations in this country are out of control, especially the ‘Employment Prevention Agency’, the EPA.” […]

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said this: “Let’s shut down the federal EPA and focus on those issues where, here in the state, the state knows best how to protect resources.” […]

Obviously the state of Michigan did not know best in this case. They poisoned thousands of their own people. […]

House Republicans, including some in this room, have voted at every turn to gut the EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the list goes on.

That is a healthy dose of partisanship, needed and enlightening, which has not been heard from anyone named Clinton, Sanders, Obama, or Carter.  Neither has any of those individuals drawn the obvious cause and effect, explained by Charlie Pierce as

Regardless of who sent what memo to whom and when they sent it, the crisis in Flint is the result of a full implementation and exercise of a philosophy of government that noisy pissants like Chaffetz, Grothman, Carter, and Rick Snyder have proposed as a solution to almost all the nation's problems—government is bad, government bureaucrats are always incompetent, devolve federal powers to the states, and that government is best that is limited and, preferably, run like a business.

We haven't gotten anything like either remark from the Democrats running for President. Of course, neither has it been uttered from the former, living "Democratic" presidents- Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter nor the current one. Perhaps with a few breaks, and the realization of  the populist mood in the land, the next President- if a Democrat- will talk the talk and walk the walk (or at least avoid such bad cliches).  Hope springs eternal.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Trump, Kasich, Fox News Partnership

“I will say this," Donald Trump told reporters on March 11, then added

I think we’ve had enough debates. We’ve had 11 or 12 debates. I did really well on the last one. I think I’ve done well in all the debates. I mean, according to Drudge and everybody else, I have won the debates. But I think we’ve had enough how many times can the same people ask you the same question? So I was very surprised when I heard that Fox called for a debate. Nobody told me about it. And I won’t be there, no.

The answer to the question, if Trump is allowed to have his way, is: zero (0). And if he's looking for a wing man, he need look no further than Columbus, where Governor John Kasich holds forth.

Fox Wednesday morning issued a statement reading

This morning, Donald Trump announced he would not be participating in the debate. Shortly afterward, John Kasich’s campaign announced that without Trump at the debate, Kasich would not participate. Ted Cruz has expressed a willingness to debate Trump or Kasich — or both. But obviously, there needs to be more than one participant. So the Salt Lake City debate is cancelled.

Trump stated that he would be speaking in Washington, D.C. at the annual conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Council, which runs from Sunday through Tuesday, on March 21. There is no report at this time as to whether the front-runner might have been able to re-schedule his speech for Sunday evening, which presumably would have allowed him to attend the debate in Utah on Monday.

According to CNN Money, the event "had been penciled into the calendar in February," whatever that means. In this under-reported story, there is no indication whether Trump had been informed earlier that there would be a debate on March 21.  Perhaps he had been made so aware, given it would be an obvious case of malfeasance if no one at the network had earlier gained the candidate's agreement to appear on that date. Clearly, Trump is "scared of debate," as Cruz told Megyn Kelly Wednesday night.

Fox News may have maneuvered the situation so as to give Trump an out.  Ted Cruz has been overtly lusting for an opportunity to go one-on-one with the frontrunner (Cruz after Trump pulled out of an earlier debate, video below).  It is counter-intuitive for a candidate in the position of Kasich, who cannot be nominated on the first ballot in Cleveland even if he were to win every single remaining delegate, to turn down an opportunity for going toe-to-toe with the other candidates. Yet, eager to run on a ticket with Trump, the Ohio governor declined to participate.

Fox reportedly offered a town hall meeting to Cruz- after the candidate, learning the debate had been canceled, made other plans. Alternatively, Fox could have held the semblance of a debate, with the three moderators posing questions to the Texas senator in that same format. That would have allowed for a cross-examination of the candidate with considerable follow-up, which might have made for riveting television. However, Rupert Murdoch of NewsCorp, owner of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, has been warming to Donald Trump for a couple of months, and never has been a fan of Ted Cruz.

That might have proved embarrassing to Cruz (as it might to any candidate), but it would have been seen as a prime opportunity for a guy who has argued in front of the US Supreme Court.  Further, Fox could have set up two lecterns, those by which the other two candidates would have stood had they been willing to wrangle with the Texas senator. Even without those, it would have been great television, as well as an indication that the network was not to be trifled with.    Instead, Fox News has decided to do the bidding of Donald Trump, much as it (and its main star) did by refusing to back Megyn Kelly when Trump demeaned her at an earlier date.

The network may be transitioning into general election mode, in which it  will do everything to get the GOP  nominee elected. While viewers in Utah may be disappointed, neither Donald Trump nor the governor of Ohio, who hopes to be the other guy nominated in Cleveland, is complaining.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

He Knows What He's Doing. That May Not Be Good.

President Obamais  periodically credited with playing three-dimensional chess because he knows everyone's moves before they are made and acts accordingly.

And so it is, we all agree, with the President's nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Law professor Paul Campos believes the nod puts Republican

senators in a terrible bind. If they carry through with their we-just-made-it-up-on-the-spot principle, and refuse to even give an indisputably moderate nominee such as Garland a hearing, they will look like petty obstructionists to swing voters in their home states (engaging in petty obstruction tends to be the kind of thing that makes you look like a petty obstructionist).

On the other hand, if they relent and hold hearings, the pressure to actually confirm Garland will build, since the only argument against confirming him will be, essentially, that he’s not Antonin Scalia reincarnated.

Confirming Garland before next year, however, is almost out of the question. Such an act would throw the GOP base, already in the throes of the belief that they have been“betrayed” by RINO squishes, into a rabid frenzy that would make the average Trump rally look like graduate school seminar.

So Garland almost certainly won’t get a vote, or at least not until next year. But that decision in turn has a non-trivial chance of playing a role in flipping the Senate back to the Democrats. 

."A centrist like Garland," Slate's Jim Newell similarly writes, "was someone that first-term Obama thought might earn Republicans’ respect. Now he is someone that second-term Obama knows will earn their irrational enmity."  Both Newell and Campos understand that President Obama realizes that a candidate he nominates is unlikely to get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and that virtually no one would be approved by the GOP-dominated chamber.

Steve M. agrees, believing the President has outmaneuvered the opposition because "he didn't choose someone to put on the Court. He chose someone to be blockaded. I think it was a canny choice." He adds

This pick motivates Democratic voters who are a little closer to the center. Frankly, some of those voters are likely to be ... well, not racist exactly, but people who'd find an African-American or Indian-American nominee less relatable. Obama knows this. If these voters can be motivated to vote Democratic in November by Republican intransigence, they're most likely to respond to a blockade of someone they can identify with.

So I get what Obama's doing. Now let's see how the Republicans react. And if they say, "Well, we told you 'Hell, no,' but we changed our minds," they might pay a price with their base in November.

Well, yes, they would if they're so foolish as to change their minds.  However, it is not all about ethnicity.  Garland (Jewish, by the way) teared up Wednesday when Obama introduced him to the media- and is not someone whom most of those voters will "identify with."

A few GOP senators facing re-election (Ayotte, Collins, and Grassley) have indicated they would consider meeting with Garland.  However, Republicans probably would pay a bigger political price- with their base, Steve M. notes- if they go ahead with hearings than they would with the November electorate if they hang tough.

If that's the case, the President realized and considered it. He also is unlikely to have been surprised when GOP senators

indicated that they might be willing to take up Obama's nominee during the lame duck session in December, if they lose the presidential election. 

"I'd probably be open to resolving this in a lame duck," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said. 

How generous. If Hillary Clinton is elected, they might kindly consider Obama's nomination instead of waiting on the selection made by Hillary Clinton, who has been investigated and reviled by the GOP for a quarter of a century and surely knows payback is a bitch.

If Republicans in mid-November do offer to take up Mr. Garland's nomination, Democrat will fall in line with the wishes of Barack Obama. The President's legacy, then, will be enhanced, as he is hailed by future historians for having gotten three of his people onto the Supreme Court.  That's a fitting goal for someone who, as Democrats didn't recognize in 2008 and in many cases still don't, finds fighting for principle uncomfortable. In a similar vein, Jack Mirkinson explains

But Obama also signaled that he chose Garland because—aside from the fact that he clearly thinks he would make a good Supreme Court justice—he sees him as a symbol of the kinds of moderate compromise politics that he has been preaching ever since he rose to prominence. He hailed Garland’s ability to forge consensus and “assemble unlikely coalitions,” and called him a “thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law,” an implicit rejection of the more activist, pathbreaking judicial approach Obama has said in the past he prefers not to take. Obama used his most disappointed, whispery tone when he lamented that the Supreme Court is “supposed to be above politics” and that “courtesy” and “comity” seemed to be things of the past.

This has always been one of the sides of Obama that has infuriated his critics ever since he arrived in the White House: his insistence, against all available evidence, on continuing to see if his opponents can be reasonable. It has led him to some major disasters, but after almost eight years in office he’s still singing the same tune.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

No Need For Alarm

It's too soon.

Not so, would argue MoveOn and the leaders of 21 other national leftist organizations. They have signed an open letter denouncing Donald Trump and encouraging a three pronged effort: "non-violent mobiliation and organizing;""asking every media outlet, corporation, and office-holder to condemn Trump's racism, misogyny, and xenophobia;" and "a voting renaissance."

Premised on myths, the letter includes

We cannot afford to underestimate him until it’s too late, as many Republicans now regret having done during the primaries. If we wait to see how things shake out to make our plans, it’ll be too late and November will come sooner than anyone thinks.

Republicans who say they waited too long underestimate their own voters. Author Solomon Jones summarizes "Republicans, in an attempt to capitalize on the anger of white voters after the election of the first black president, spent nearly eight years sowing fertile seeds of anger in the rich soil of hatred. The result was a bumper crop of Donald Trump." The Party practically created Donald Trump, and it's unclear what strategy, employed months earlier, would have stymied him.

Panic seems to be setting in as they warn against waiting "to see how things shake out to make" their plans.  Prior to the first general election presidential debate in 2012, Mitt Romney had a lead of less than one percentage point over Barack Obama among likely voters. After that face-off in Denver, Romney's lead grew to approximately 4%. President Obama eventually won the election by 3.9%. Preferences come and go, changing rapidly and significantly. .Further, the nomination of Trump is not a foregone conclusion, especially- ironically- if he wins in Ohio, thereby creating a two-man race.

The authors believe contend Trump's likely nomination represents "a five-alarm fire threat to our democracy" while he

peddles the same right-wing agenda holding back working families and their communities: low wages, massive tax cuts for the wealthy, mass incarceration, denial of climate change, unraveling protections for workers’ rights, attacks on immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, attacks on LGBTQ rights, and more.

That is "the  same  right-wing agenda"- aside from Trump opposing cuts to Social Security and elimination of Planned Parenthood- which consistently is peddled on the right. However, the GOP nomination, after today, will come down to Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich, or only Trump and Cruz. And while John Kasich is- arguably- less conservative than Donald Trump, no one would claim that of the Texas senator.

In the recent National Review issue dedicated to presenting the argument against Trump, L. Brent Bozell maintained the real estate mogul never had supported conservative causes because "he was too distracted publicly raising money for liberals such as the Clintons; championing Planned Parenthood, tax increases, and single-payer health coverage; and demonstrating his allegiance to the Democratic party."  Mona Charen cited his "countless past departures from conservative principle on defense, racial quotas, abortion, taxes, single-payer health care, and immigration." Erick Erickson claimed that until recently Trump supported "the prosecution of hate crimes. He favored wealth-confiscation policies. He supported abortion rights."

And Ben Domenech, the right-wing libertarian sufficiently reasonable-sounding that he frequently appears with Chris Hayes as a guest on All In, levels the greatest Republican insult of them all: Trump supports "Euro-style identity politics" (freedom fries, anyone?).

Donald Trump, as a few of his rallies have indicated, certainly has sown the seeds of discord and as observed by the group of progressives, "has repeatedly incited and praised violence against those whom he belittles and with whom he disagrees."  Nonetheless, it is unwise to mobilize to defeat a candidate who may not become the nominee and who apresents less of a danger than does his major opponent of being elected if he is nominated and would be less of a threat to liberal values.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Oh So Privileged Whites

Surely, it was purely inadvertent and probably would disappoint Slate's Jamelle Bouie to hear that his effort to explain the Trump phenomenon lays bare the misleading and offensive nature of one of the left's favorite bromides, "white privilege."  Bouie lays considerable blame for the popularity of the Manhattan demagogue on Barack Obama as a "political symbol" because

In a nation shaped and defined by a rigid racial hierarchy, his election was very much a radical event, in which a man from one of the nation’s lowest castes ascended to the summit of its political landscape. And he did so with heavy support from minorities: Asian Americans and Latinos were an important part of Obama’s coalition, and black Americans turned out at their highest numbers ever in 2008....

For progressives, this presaged a "durable majority" forged by a population growing more diverse, better-educated, and more cosmopolitan. Unfortunately

For millions of white Americans who weren’t attuned to growing diversity and cosmopolitanism, however, Obama was a shock, a figure who appeared out of nowhere to dominate the country’s political life. And with talk of an “emerging Democratic majority,” he presaged a time when their votes—which had elected George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan—would no longer matter. More than simply “change,” Obama’s election felt like an inversion. When coupled with the broad decline in incomes and living standards caused by the Great Recession, it seemed to signal the end of a hierarchy that had always placed white Americans at the top, delivering status even when it couldn’t give material benefits.

After a couple of centuries in which blacks were oppressed, the era of the first black President, Bouie recognizes, has coincided with a constant stream of reports of a growing minority component and status. Consequently, he notes, "millions of whites were hyperaware of and newly anxious about their racial status."   Bouie quotes Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler, who in 2013 wrote “The election of the country’s first black president had the ironic upshot of opening the door for old-fashioned racism to influence partisan preferences after it was long thought to be a spent force in American politics,” Tesler rmarked that there are whites who have “concerns about the leadership of a president from a racial group whom they consider to be intellectually and socially inferior.”

Yet, such emphasis on racism not only overstates the extent of racism in Trump's support but also the nature  of the racial effect.  Consider that Bouie, recognizing "Trump's appeal to working-class whites," writes

The collapse of the industrial economy in the wake of the Great Recession caused real devastation. The middle class has been losing ground for a long time, and there are few jobs for people without college degrees—or at least, few jobs that hold a path to mobility. Even in places where new factories have cropped up, unions are sparse and wages are low, following a race-to-the-bottom among the towns and cities that vie for the remaining manufacturing jobs. When economic desperation meets hopelessness—as we saw in the 1980s, when an earlier wave of deindustrialization ravaged the inner cities—the results are tragic.

That usually is acknowledged, even by political and media elites who have supported who have supported policies with those unsurprising effects. However, Bouie adds

The effects of these trends were highlighted in a widely analyzed study released last fall that showed rising mortality rates among middle- and working-class white Americans, the group that makes up Trump’s main body of support. Princeton University professor Anne Case and co-author Angus Deaton found that white working-class Americans are increasingly dying from suicide, alcohol abuse, and drugs. “In 1999,” writes Case for Quartz, “people in this group died from accidental drug and alcohol poisonings at four times the rate of Americans with a bachelor’s degree or more. By 2013, they were dying at seven times the rate of their better-educated peers. In 2013, they also committed suicide at more than twice the rate of people with more education, and died from alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis at five times the rate of those with a college degree.”

These spikes in mortality are so large that, for whites aged 45 to 54, they’ve lowered overall life expectancy. Young whites, meanwhile, face rising rates of addiction and acorresponding increase in mortality.

Not only have there been a loss of good jobs, alcoholism, and growing morbidity but they and those "Republicans with modest middle-class incomes," generally better-off than the typical Trump enthusiast

.... have seen their friends and family fall into dependency, whether to drugs or alcohol or welfare. They are both sympathetic to this plight—which is why Trump’s call for more help for veterans and seniors resonates with them—but also frustrated and angry. The country, and its leaders, made a promise: If you worked hard, you would get ahead. But that didn’t happen. Instead, for millions of Americans, it was the reverse: They worked hard and fell behind. They’re afraid, for themselves and for their children.

"If you work hard and play by the rules," President Clinton promised them, "you'll be rewarded with a good life for yourself and a better chance for your children."  For all the trade, technology, and training- in some cases because of them- things have not worked out as expected. Then theywatched  read last autumn of minister and theologian Jim Wallis writing a book entitled "America's Original Sin:  Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America." It's likely those indviduals partial to Donald Trump didn't believe this "new America" included them in anything but a subordinate role.

About the same time, we watched the news as

More than 60 student activists at Wright State University marched through campus and squeezed into administrative offices demanding that President David Hopkins meet with them to discuss rights for African American students.

The protesters said they gathered to support their peers at the University of Missouri and to raise awareness for “institutionalized racism” at Wright State.

For nearly three hours the students marched from building to building on campus to decry “white privilege” and the “culture of mistreatment” toward black students.

Many of Trump's supporters didn't go to college because they couldn't afford to do so.  The same may be true of their sons and daughters, or they may have fallen victim to alcohol or other drug use, a pregnancy which might have interrupted education, or one of another problems presumably not encountered by those young people able to attend college and protest "white privilege."

About the same time, Trump followeres could have picked up a book, written by minister and theologian Jim Wallace, entitled "America's Original Sin:  Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America." It's likely most Trump boosters didn't, or wouldn't, believe this "new America" included them in anything but a subordinate role.

Earlier in the year, a black Missouri state senator issued a few tweets against "white privilege" and added  (emphasis hers)  "LET ME BE CLEAR When you exercise your #WhitePrivilege, don't think I'm not going to remember. I will use it for the future. Uncomfortable?"

This was to be heard not only as accusatory, but threatening.

Variations on the same theme have only become more common. Below, two young Washington Post reporters can be viewed assuming they know more about being white than Trump supporters (and the rest of us whites) ever would claim to know about being black.  White privilege is "about advantages conferred,not earned, solely based upon the fact that you're part of the majority group in America," says one.  Few people can as easily and naively postulate sentiments which most followers of Donald Trump recognize as "politically correct."

We then wonder "how come these Trumpians are harboring so much hostility?" Now, that's a mystery.

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