Michael Wolraich's picture

    Hillary, Choose Your Trump

    Inquiring minds want to know, which Donald Trump will show up to the debate tonight? The name-calling bully? The xenophobic scaremonger? The misogynist jerk? The entertaining clown? The pathological liar? The dog-whistling bigot? The reckless lunatic? The shallow narcissist? Or some new incarnation of softer, smarter Trump who uses big words.

    Chris Matthews doesn't know. Mark Halperin doesn't know.  Ed Kilgore doesn't know. Some editor at the Atlantic doesn't know. Hillary Clinton doesn't know.

    She literally said, "I do not know which Donald Trump will show up."

    Well, she better figure it out, quick. Because if she hopes to triumph at the debate tonight, she can't wait and see which Trump shows up at the lectern. She must choose her Trump.

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    The Grey Lady Takes the Gloves Off

    "Breaking News," tweeted the New York Times yesterday, "Trump backed off birther claims: 'President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.'"

    Typical of the Times' election reporting, the tweet made no mention of Trump's lies or his dishonest attempt to shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton. (By contrast, the Washington Post called it straight: "Breaking: Trump admits Obama born in U.S. but falsely blames Clinton for starting rumors.")

    But today, the Grey Lady took her gloves off. The headline for the lead story on the front page provocatively declares, "Trump Gives Up Lie But Refuses to Repent."

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    The New Normal

    Everyone wants someone to blame for the election of 2016. It's the media's fault that Donald Trump is running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton. No, it's Hillary's secretiveness and her Wall Street connections. No, it's the bankers. No, it's the economy, stupid. No, it's sexism, racism, reality television. And so on.

    Many of these factors do affect the race, but none of them really explains the Trump phenomenon. Sure, Hillary would be further ahead if she were more charismatic or if the press were easier on her, but the real mystery is how a man like Donald Trump is in the race at all.

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    Did Trump fake his own "medical report"?

    The media has been puzzling for months over Donald Trump's so-called medical record in which his doctor declared, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

    According to Josh Marshall's theory of Trump's Razor, we should conclude "the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts."

    The stupidest possible scenario is so stupid that it did not even occur to me until now: Trump wrote his own doctor's note and then got his doctor to sign it.

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Chasing the Weasel

    How many times will we play the same game? Here's how it goes:

    1. Donald Trump says something outrageous
    2. Outrage ensues
    3. Trump pretends to be misinterpreted.
    4. Pundits argue about whether Trump was misinterpreted

    ...and repeat.

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    Theodore Roosevelt and the Original War on Terror

    Some years ago, an unstable young man committed one of the most notorious terrorist acts in U.S. history. He was American-born, but his parents were immigrants, and his allegiance to a radical ideology with foreign origins terrified the public. “They and those like them should be kept out of this country,” railed Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, “and if found here they should be promptly deported to the country whence they came.”

    The young man was Leon Czolgosz, a Polish-American anarchist. On August 31, 1901, he fatally shot President William McKinley in the abdomen with .32 caliber revolver. The nation reacted with shock and outrage. McKinley’s successor, President Theodore Roosevelt, denounced anarchy as “a crime against the whole human race” and demanded legislation to restrict immigration and deport suspected anarchists. Congress answered the call with the Anarchist Exclusion Act, which barred anyone “who disbelieves in or who is opposed to all organized government” from becoming citizens.

    Full story at The History Reader

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    Can Bernie Sanders Overhaul the Democratic Party?

    One year ago, Bernie Sanders stood in the sun on the shore of Lake Champlain and opened his presidential campaign with a promise “to build a movement of millions of Americans.” Critics scoffed, dismissing his supporters as callow youngsters destined to drift once #FeelTheBern stops trending. But Sanders’s campaign proved more popular and resilient than anyone expected. Ironically, many Democrats now want him to terminate his movement and convert it into a get-out-the-vote drive for Hillary Clinton.

    But that is not how movements work. The celebrated political movements of American history—abolitionism, progressivism, and civil rights—were never subordinate to political parties. Their leaders did not bow to party elites. Great movements transcend partisanship; they are the makers and breakers of parties.

    Read the full story at the Daily Beast

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Tit for Trump

    Donald Trump likes to brag about his negotiating skills, but for a tough negotiator, he's awfully easy to manipulate. There are two types of people in Trumpland: those who are nice to Donald, and those who are not nice to Donald. If you flatter Trump, he'll treat you well. If you criticize him, he'll retaliate. "I'm a counter-puncher," he once told CNN.

    So to win Trump's favor, just say something sweet about him; Vladimir Putin praised him last December, and Trump has been preening over the compliment ever since. And to deliberately draw Trump's fire, say something nasty about him; last week Elizabeth Warren called him a bully and a loser, which dragged him into a distracting and unpresidential tweetfight with someone who is not his opponent.

    Read the full story at RollingStone

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    The Republican Race is Over

    As I read article after article about brokered conventions and #NeverTrump campaigns and "paths" to the nomination, I'm struck by the sad futility of it all.

    It may still be numerically possible for Trump to lose the nomination, but practically speaking, les jeux sont faits.

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Where were you, Senator?

    Any time you leave a bad idea or a dangerous idea alone, any time you ignore what could become an evil force, you wind up regretting it.

    -- Lindsey Graham

    Thank you for these wise words, Senator. I couldn't agree with you more. But pardon me for asking, where the hell have you been?

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Mr. Robot

    You know who I'm talking about. At first, I thought I was experiencing a deja vu. My wife thought there was a technical glitch. After the third repetition, she became convinced that he was suffering from a neurological condition. I just started laughing.

    This was was Rubio's Howard Dean scream. Not just because the performance was cringe-inducing and is destined to be endlessly rehearsed and enhanced on YouTube but because it cemented the perception that he's an automaton.

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Two Types

    There are two types of Democrats in this world: Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters.

    If you're a Hillary supporter, then you must be a plutocrat, an angry feminist, or a moron.

    If you're a Bernie supporter, then you must be a naive dreamer, a misogynist, or a moron.

    Conclusion: The Democratic Party is composed of plutocrats, angry feminists, naive dreamers, misogynists, and morons.

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Why Paul Krugman’s Wrong About Bernie Sanders

    Paul Krugman may be a terrific economist, but he should study his history. In a trenchant New York Times column titled “How Change Happens,” Dr. Krugman asserts that legislative change requires “hardheaded realism” and “accepting half loaves.” Dismissing presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s uncompromising idealism as “happy dreams” and “destructive self-indulgence,” he asks rhetorically, “When has their theory of change ever worked? Even F.D.R., who rode the depths of the Great Depression to a huge majority, had to be politically pragmatic, working not just with special interest groups but also with Southern racists.”

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    Insurgency: The Difference Between Democrats and Republicans

    The insurgent impulse is not unique to Republicans. The right has its Trump. The left has its Sanders. But last night's debate illuminated the stark contrast between Democratic insurgents and Republican insurgents.

    In his debate performance, Bernie Sanders showed himself to be principled, passionate, knowledgeable, and virtuous. He argued relentlessly against the corruption of money and the plight of American workers--as he has for decades. When he had an opportunity to prick Hillary Clinton over the email scandal, Sanders chose instead to dismiss the brouhaha as a distraction from the issues that matter. He is a revolutionary in the finest tradition of high-minded American revolutionaries, from George Washington to F.D.R., who would change the world without sacrificing dignity or decency. He is, to use my grandfather's term of highest praise, a mensch.

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    Who Won the Republican Debate?

    The pundits are all over the map. The NYT's Nate Cohn picked Rubio, Walker, and Kasich. He thinks Bush flubbed it, and Trump "had the weakest performance." But the Atlantic called Trump's performance "one of the standouts of the night," lauding him for turning "weaknesses into strengths" and says Jeb made "a strong impression." CNN and WaPo opinionators agree with Cohn that Rubio was the winner, but Josh Marshall calls him "all but invisible." Ann Coulter weighs in, "Every GOP I'm talking to hated Rubio & Kasich, " but Laura Ingraham at Fox News tweets "@GovMikeHuckabee and @JohnKasich." A Republican focus group in Pella, Iowa described Ben Carson as "ready for prime time," "brilliant," and "someone you can really trust."

    Go figure.

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    The Myth of the Militant Homosexual

    Indiana Governor Mike Pence is shocked—shocked—that people see anything objectionable in Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “Was I expecting this kind of backlash?” he exclaimed, “Heavens no.”

    After all, who could object to religious freedom?

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    I Sorted Hillary’s Email

    When Hillary Clinton released emails from her personal account last week, many assumed that her attorneys had personally reviewed the messages before sending them to the State Department, but that’s not what happened. As detailed in her press statement, the review team used keyword searches to automatically filter over 60,000 messages, flagging about half as work related.

    “I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department,” Clinton declared.

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    MW on the TV

    Just in case anyone wants to see how I look like on the small screen...

    Obama & Teddy Roosevelt: Similar Legislative Strategies?

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    American Democracy - Not Dead Yet

    Thanks to Michael M. for highlighting Matthew Yglesias's Cassandra prophesy at Vox: "American Democracy is Doomed." In the piece, Yglesias warns that political polarization will sooner or later trigger "a collapse of the legal and political order" in the United States. "If we're lucky," he adds gloomily, "it won't be violent."

    You don't have to be a seer to see that the federal government is in crisis. We have been reading about congressional paralysis for five years straight. The immediate cause is no mystery--the American checks-and-balances system does not handle polarization well. The founding fathers, in their zeal to prevent totalitarianism, designed a system that empowers its various branches to sabotage one another for political gain.

    If Yglesias had limited his conclusions to these observations, the result would have been an interesting if prosaic political commentary. But where's the fun in that? Headline-grabbing doom prophesies trend much better than humdrum political commentary. Fortunately for the health of American democracy, they are invariably specious, and this one is no exception.

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    The Washington Post just reviewed Unreasonable Men

    As Michael Wolraich argues in his sharp, streamlined new book, “Unreasonable Men,” it was “the greatest period of political change in American history.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-unreasonable-men-on-p...

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    The Valkyries' Lament

    There is something odd about the chorus of criticism against President Obama's foreign policy. Normally, the age-old debate over military intervention revolves around a particular conflict. From WWI to the Iraq War, hawks and doves have always squabbled over the ethics, efficacy, and necessity of attacking a particular enemy at a particular time.

    But Obama's critics haven't focused on any particular conflict or enemy. They speak of the peril in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine, and the South China Sea. They warn of threats from Putin, Khamenei, Kim Jong-Un, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, or, more generally, dictators, fanatics, and terrorists. George W. Bush's Axis of Evil has become a Legion of Doom with new enemies, like ISIS, regularly joining the pantheon of international bad guys.

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    Eating Eric Cantor

    If revolutions eat their children, then Eric Cantor is the plat du jour. Just a couple years ago, he was the supposed leader of the right-wing House insurgency. The press waited hungrily for him to revolt against John Boehner and claim the Speaker's crown for himself. But Cantor chose to wait it out, and now the same insurgent spirit that bolstered his ambition has tossed him out of the House entirely.

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    Unreasonable Men: First Book Review

    From Publishers Weekly:

    From 1904-1912, the American political system underwent enormous growing pains, and political writer Wolraich (Blowing Smoke) gives this decade an exhaustive, detailed examination, from the first “creeping sense” of a new political body into a “war with only two sides” that birthed America’s enduring bipartisan identities.

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    What Would Teddy Do? Theodore Roosevelt on Net Neutrality

    “Above all else,” President Theodore Roosevelt admonished Congress in 1905, “we must strive to keep the highways of commerce open to all on equal terms.”

    Roosevelt could not have imagined digital computers and fiber-optic cables. He was talking about railroads, the highways of commerce in his day. But though the technology has changed, the principle TR expressed remains as essential as it was a century ago. We ignore it at our peril.

    Until now, our digital highways of commerce have been open to all on equal terms. Media conglomerates and big-box retailers transmit information through the same pipes as bloggers, startups and boutiques. This principle of equality, known as net neutrality, has stimulated competition and spurred innovation since the Internet began.

    But it might not last much longer.

    Read the full article at Reuters

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    Bloomberg's Gun-Control Campaign: Right Idea, Wrong Guy

    Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has a bold plan. He hopes to single-handedly revive America's comatose gun-control movement with a $50 million cash infusion and a fresh political strategy. He has money, connections, and an astute appreciation for what it will take to counter the gun-rights mania that has hijacked national politics. Too bad he's not the guy to pull it off.

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