Archive for the ‘USA: politics’ Category

(photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP)

(photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP)

He’s not a fascist ideologically—as he has no ideology—but after reading this breathtaking piece in Politico (March 29th) by Trump biographer Michael d’Antonio, “The men who gave Trump his brutal worldview,” it is more than obvious—if one hadn’t picked up on it by now—that he is a fascist personally and temperamentally.

Pour mémoire, Trump is the Republican party front-runner for the presidential nomination. Crazy.

On the Republicans being crazy, another piece I just read is Jonathan Chait’s latest column (March 31st) in New York magazine, “New Antarctic melting study confirms voting Republican would trigger worldwide catastrophe.” Chait concludes with a thought I had while reading him here:

It sounds partisan to say, but it remains true: The fate of humanity rests to a very large degree on keeping the Republican Party out of power for as long as possible.

If anyone wishes to disagree with this—and defend the prevailing Republican party position on climate change while s/he is at it—I would like to hear his or her arguments. C’est tout c’que j’ai à dire.

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[update below]

Of the many reasons why there is no chance—none whatever—that Donald Trump will be elected president of the United States, this is a big one. Even Republicans agree. Tons have been written on this subject over the past several months, of course, but the piece by Franklin Foer in Slate (March 24th), in case one missed it, “Donald Trump hates women: It’s the one position he’s never changed,” brings it all together. See also Michelle Goldberg’s March 24th Slate piece, “Trump’s attack on Heidi Cruz is the scummy low of a scummy campaign,” plus her March 11th “If Michelle Fields isn’t safe from Trump’s smear machine, no woman is.”

If one believes Trump to be an outlier in the Republican party in his general attitude toward women, see Amanda Marcotte’s post (March 25th) in Salon, “Rush loves catcalling: Limbaugh’s defense of street harassment shows why Donald Trump’s political rise was inevitable.” The lede: “Limbaugh bitterly defends sexual harassment, and shows why so many conservatives love Trump in doing so.”

Rush Limbaugh, as one knows, has been one of the most influential, high-profile personalities on the American right over the past twenty-five years, with Republican politicians lining up to kiss his ring and apologizing profusely after imprudently speaking out of turn and upsetting him. Now I have a question to those Republicans who consider Donald Trump to be some kind of space alien who has come out of nowhere to hijack their party: Please explain how Rush Limbaugh’s attitude toward women—and his grossness and vulgarity more generally—differs in any way, shape, or form from that of Trump? Just asking.

UPDATE: The subject of the latest column (March 25th) by the NYT’s Gail Collins is “Trump, Cruz, Kasich and the ladies.” Reagan, Bush 41, and Jack Kemp adviser Bruce Bartlett’s sobriquet for the GOP, “the wanker party,” is more apt than ever.

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Can Bernie beat Trump?

(Image credit: Fivethirtyeight.com)

(Image credit: Fivethirtyeight.com)

[update below] [2nd update below]

I originally wrote this as an update to my previous post but am posting it separately. There was somewhat of a contradiction in my argument on Hillary and Trump—which I was well aware of while writing it and that the zealous Hillary-hater I quoted in the first paragraph indeed picked up on, expressing it in a comment on social media—which was my asserting that there is no way Donald Trump can possibly be elected president, period, but then going on to argue that Hillary would be the stronger candidate against him than Bernie. Well, if Trump’s a sure-fire loser, then it stands to reason, one may retort, that Bernie would also beat him handily, no? To push this further, one could argue that any Democratic candidate this November would beat any Republican, as in a high turnout election—i.e. high for America, meaning some 60% of the eligible electorate (≈140 million voters) going to the polls—which is almost certain this year, the Democrat will win, period, and which lucid conservatives understand; on this, see writer-pundit Mark Steyn’s analysis of the GOP’s predicament in presidential elections, “The Math and the Map.”

My response: Sure, Bernie would no doubt defeat Trump—this is what the polls, for what they’re worth at this stage, have been saying all along—but here’s my thing: A general election pitting Bernie Sanders—a self-proclaimed socialist—against a Donald Trump is so improbable, so beyond any understanding I have of American politics and history, that I cannot intellectually wrap my head around the prospect. It would be one thing to have one of the two major political parties appropriated or hijacked by an insurgent candidate who has not historically been identified with that party, but for such to happen to both parties in the same cycle just seems crazy to me. Not that I’m equating Bernie and Trump, don’t get me wrong; there is no comparison whatever between the two in terms of what they represent or on anything. But the fact is, Bernie is not a Democrat and enjoys even less institutional support in that party than Trump does in the GOP (though it is indeed the case that there is far more alarm over Trump and rejection of him inside the GOP than there is toward Sanders in the Democratic party).

Institutional support is important. Now Bernie has been in Congress for twenty-five years and, aligning with the Democratic party caucus, has made a reputation for himself as an active legislator, and who has productively worked with Republicans on issues of common concern, as the NYT’s Jennifer Steinhauer and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi wrote this week. When it comes to political experience and accomplishments, Bernie is ten thousand times more qualified than Trump to be president of the United States. But still, the fact that he’s been an independent—not a Democrat—for his entire political career means that he knows few Democratic office holders and party officials outside Congress and his home state (the 49th most populous). As Michael Tomasky argued in a column back in January, the fact that Bernie has no roots in the party under whose label he is running—and which he is doing for reasons of pure opportunity (as one can go so much further as a Democrat than an independent)—could be a serious liability in the general election campaign, and particularly if he were to run into difficulty, as the party would not go to the mat for him. He would be bereft of institutional support. And this is not a minor matter. Facing a crazy demagogue like Trump would be one thing. But if Bernie were to arrive at the convention in Philadelphia with the nomination locked up but the Republicans in Cleveland the previous week having brokered Paul Ryan as their candidate, I would be exceedingly nervous, even anxiety-ridden, about the general election campaign in the fall. When I said in my previous post that a Bernie general election candidacy would be risky, this is what I had  in mind.

And then there’s the not minor matter of the seriousness of Bernie’s candidacy—of his pretensions of actually trying to win the Democratic party nomination and being the person to square off against the Republican in November—which, I am sorry to say, I have a hard time taking seriously (I know I’ll be dragged through the mud for this and otherwise drawn and quartered, but so be it). Pour moi, Bernie is a protest candidate, who is running to make a point and influence the debate, not to actually be nominated and then elected POTUS. Bernie Sanders in the White House? I’m sorry but I simply do not see it. Hillary Clinton? Yes, I do. Totally. On this, see the column dated January 18th by The Boston Globe’s Michael A. Cohen, who expresses my qualms about Bernie better than I can.

But don’t get me wrong here. I do like Bernie, as I’ve said countless times, think his candidacy is salutary, and that he should stay in the race for as long as his money holds out, as the Hillary campaign needs his presence, so that she is not tempted to tack right in her discourse or choice of running mate. That’s Bernie’s function, IMO, and I wish him well in it.

To those who say it’s not over, that Bernie could still overtake Hillary: Yes, this is mathematically possible but is most unlikely at this point. Voilà.

UPDATE: Peter Dreier, who teaches politics at Occidental College, has an article (March 17th) in The American Prospect, “Paul Ryan: The GOP’s Next Presidential Nominee?” The lede: “The House speaker has said he’s not interested in the presidency, but he’s united his bickering party once before, and may do so again.”

I say that Ryan will do so again. To repeat: If Trump does not have a majority of delegates going in to Cleveland, he won’t get the nomination. Ryan will be the man. And the nature of the race will change. If it’s Clinton-Ryan, Clinton will very likely win. But if it’s Sanders-Ryan, I don’t know. I don’t want to contemplate it. It could end in disaster for the Dems, even if Trump launches an independent candidacy (which he may or may not do). The hugely funded Republican attack machine would shred Bernie into pieces and, for reasons spelled out above and in the previous post, it is doubtful he would respond in kind (even if he had the means to do so, which he won’t). So let’s not go there.

2nd UPDATE: Paul Ryan has declared (April 12th) that he will not accept the GOP nomination if offered. His announcement sounds categorical and definitive. This makes sense, one supposes, as accepting the nomination in a chaotic, brokered convention would be a fool’s errand and likely tarnish his reputation among many Republicans. He is likely counting on the GOP holding the House even with a landslide Trump defeat and has thus decided to bide his time for 2020. Voilà.

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Can Hillary beat Trump?

(Credits: G Herbert/AP, A Diaz/AP, T Dejak/AP, S Nesius/Reuters, A Josefczyk/Reuters, B Chwedyk/Daily Herald)

Super Tuesday III (Photo credits here)

[update below]

Yes, of course. She can beat him. And she will. All sorts of people, however—particularly Bernie supporters I see on social media every day—think she cannot. I’ve been having exchanges on this for weeks now, the latest one earlier today, with a particularly zealous Hillary-hating academic gauchiste, who informed me that “[s]he can’t beat Trump.” Period. Another Hillary-hating academic gauchiste, with whom I periodically exchange contradictory viewpoints—who has a bee in his bonnet about Mme Clinton, making her sound like the worst person in American politics, if not in the Western world tout court (sorry, but that distinction goes to Nicolas Sarkozy)—has been going on for weeks about how Bernie would be a much stronger candidate against Trump than would Hillary.

Now I may have voted (absentee) for Hillary in yesterday’s Illinois primary but am indeed well aware of her weaknesses as a candidate: entre autres, her high negatives—dangerously high for a presidential candidate—with many Democratic voters and even more independents strongly disliking her; her political opportunism and clumsy triangulation, of seeming to change her positions on issues to keep up with public opinion (the latest case in point being her flip-flop on the TPP); the coziness with Wall Street and 1% more generally, whose world she and her family very much belong to; and the simple fact that she’s been around for too long a time, recalling the 1990s and a centrist neoliberalism that increasing numbers of Democratic party voters reject. As I told a colleague yesterday, Hillary gives the impression of a candidate who is past her sell-by date.

Well, no politician is perfect. Hillary’s vulnerabilities as a candidate are well-known and will certainly be exploited to the max by whomever the Republican nominee may be, not just Trump. But, as I wrote on a third-party comments thread three weeks ago, Trump—assuming he’s the GOP nominee—is sure to be so vulgar, sexist, and below the belt in his attacks on Hillary that it will likely backfire on him, turn off a lot of people, and increase the resolve of Democratic voters. Seriously, given the way Trump reflexively talks about women, does one expect him to pull his punches with Hillary? Moreover, it is uncertain that Trump, as the anti-GOP establishment candidate, will have the well-oiled GOP attack machine at his disposal, with its army of consultants and hired guns. Some will no doubt sign on but as Trump will likely continue to trash the GOP establishment during his campaign—or, at minimum, keep his distance from it, and it from him—he’ll pretty much be on his own. And Trump is such an extreme narcissist and loose cannon that it’s hard to see him heading the kind of disciplined campaign necessary to wage a successful presidential election campaign.

Continuing with my thoughts of three weeks ago—which were in response to an opinion piece by writer-lawyer-sociologist Nathan J. Robinson, who argued that “unless the Democrats [were to] run Sanders, a Trump nomination [would mean] a Trump presidency”—those who assert that Trump will prevail over Hillary ignore the certain full-throttle negative campaign that Hillary—who will have a ton of money—and her super PACs will unleash on Trump. If Hillary has her vulnerabilities, so does Trump, and then some—the bottom line: he has no qualifications or credibility to be president of the United States, not to mention leader of the Free World, and which are obvious to the majority of voters outside his high school educated fan base—but for which he received a free pass during the GOP campaign until the past two weeks, with none of the other candidates going after him until it was too late.

Such will not be the case with Hillary. Because if the GOP has its attack machine, so do the Democrats. The airwaves across the nation—and not just in the swing states—will be flooded with attack ads tearing down Trump, and which will be augmented with an onslaught by Hillary’s countless surrogates, plus some Republicans and cable TV piling on. The Hillary campaign will have a field day with Trump. Never will an American presidential election have witnessed a candidate who, to use a French expression, is dragging as many casseroles as is Trump. Donald Trump is an opposition researcher’s dream candidate (e.g. this, among countless other things he will be hit with). Trump will witness an assault from the Hillary campaign such that he’s never experienced in his life and, given how thin-skinned he is, he probably won’t take it well, having a nervous breakdown or blowing his fuses, which will further undermine his credibility. Negative ads do work and “can and will stop Trump,” as the Über-conservative blogger Erick Erickson asserted two weeks back. And then there will be the debates, where Hillary will mop the floor with Trump. As James Fallows noted after the last GOP candidate debate, Trump “does not know anything about government or policy…[H]e has less preparation than any nominee in U.S. history for the subject matter and responsibilities of the job.” Trump will likely make Sarah Palin look like a veritable policy wonk.

Another thing: As indicated above, the Hillary campaign will have a lot of money, and certainly more than Trump. Her campaign and super PACs will be inundated with cash. Trump will get small contributions from his fans but will basically have to self-finance his campaign, burning through a chunk of his (no doubt exaggerated) fortune. And there will be no Chapter 11 for him after he loses. And with his brand name degraded to boot (any bets on how many tenants will move out of his various Trump towers?).

In Nathan J. Robinson’s piece linked to above, it is asserted that “Trump’s populism will have huge resonance among the white working class in both red and blue states; he might even peel away her black support.” To this, I say nonsense! The white working class—in the US and elsewhere—will not defect en masse to a loud-mouthed demagogue. And in the US, that angry, right-leaning segment of the laboring classes is simply not numerous enough to swing a national election. In France, the Front National has been the nº1 party among working class voters since the late 1980s, with the FN’s support reaching a little over a third of that electorate. But that’s been the ceiling. And it will be for Trump too (Trump’s French equivalent being Jean-Marie & Marine Le Pen). And normally Democratic working class voters who defect to him will be more than compensated by educated Republicans who will vote Hillary or sit out the election, as historian Varad Mehta, in arguing that Trump cannot win the White House, wrote on the conservative Federalist website last month. And there is no way significant numbers of black voters will defect to Trump (and any who do will be more than offset by normally GOP or non-voting Latinos who will go to Hillary).

The bottom line here: Trump is the most unpopular of any of the candidates in the presidential race—in either party—and with the widest gap between his negative and positive poll numbers. Since last August he has flatlined at 36-37% popularity (and is now dropping), and with the spread presently at a whopping –29 (Clinton’s, by contrast, is at –12). Trump is, as The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last wrote in its latest issue, “the most disliked general election candidate since pollsters started testing favorability.” No one gets elected to anything with Trump’s current numbers. Hillary’s are also negative, of course, though less so, and this dates only from last March, when the email story broke. Before that, her poll numbers were positive. She is perfectly capable of closing the gap. And with voters concentrating their minds on the prospect of a President Trump, she will.

As for Bernie Sanders—who, in view of yesterday’s results, will, sauf miracle, not be the Dem nominee—one wonders if he would have it in him to attack Trump in the way Trump and the GOP would attack him—if he would be temperamentally capable of going after all of Trump’s manifest vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a costly, national TV campaign—and responding in kind to the inevitable Republican offensive, as the  prospect of a “socialist” president would mobilize GOP super PACs big time (Koch brothers et al), including those that hate Trump. Knowing Bernie’s modus operandi, one has a hard time seeing him do this. And his core base within the Democratic party, not to mention outside of it, is simply too narrow. And then there’s the money, as Bernie wouldn’t have the Democratic establishment behind him or the army of super PACs ready to tear down Trump. And Bernie’s army of small donors wouldn’t do it. For these reasons, I have been nervous about Bernie being the Democratic nominee. It has been my conviction that a Bernie general election candidacy would be extremely risky and may not work out—that it could possibly be a fiasco, particularly if the GOP nominee is someone other than Trump (see below)—and harm the Dems down the ticket on November 8th.

But this is purely hypothetical, as Hillary is, barring unforeseen disaster or debacle, going to be the Dem nominee. And, like I said above, she will beat Trump on November 8th, as there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that the American people will elect that vulgar, loudmouthed, sexist, racist, narcissistic, egomaniacal ignoramus president of the United States—and absolutely not if the other candidate on offer is a solid, mainstream centrist whom not a single person doubts is qualified to be POTUS. It will not happen. And it will doubly not happen because Hillary will have the entire Democratic party united behind her—and with current Bernie supporters in swing states voting for her to a man and woman—whereas Trump will not the have the Republican party—a sizable chunk of which is horrified by the success his candidacy—united behind him. And in an election between a united party and a divided party, the united party wins. Always. So liberal-lefties and other worrywarts need to stop wringing their hands, fretting, spooking themselves, and getting all frantic and bent out of shape over the possibility of Trump winning, as it ain’t gonna happen.

This all assumes, of course, that Trump will  indeed be the GOP nominee. He’s certainly in the driver’s seat after Super Tuesday III but if he has not put 1,237 delegates in his column when the primary season ends in June, one may be sure that the GOP establishment will pull out all the stops to deprive him of the nomination at the convention in July. I have been wrong with too many of my predictions in this race but will bet that if this situation comes to pass, the GOP establishment succeeds. With its survival at stake, it will do absolutely everything in its power to stop Trump if he doesn’t have the nomination wrapped up before Cleveland. Cruz—who is even more unelectable than Trump—will obviously not be the man, nor will Kasich. If the GOP convention is brokered, Paul Ryan will be the nominee, je le dis d’ores et déjà. The convention will end in chaos and with an enraged Trump declaring an independent candidacy, but the GOP establishment won’t care, as it would rather lose in November with one of its own (Ryan), but limiting its losses in Congress, than witness a debacle with Trump, and definitely losing the Senate in the process and with a sharply reduced majority in the House. As for an independent Trump candidacy, he’ll have to expend his own fortune to finance it—spending money he may not have—and he may not get on the ballot in all fifty states (the GOP will try to block him everywhere they can). As a third candidate, he will most certainly not attain anything approaching Ross Perot’s score in 1992. On n’en est pas là mais on verra bien.

UPDATE: Correcting myself on the prospect of Trump launching an independent candidacy if he is deprived the nomination at the RNC in Cleveland (July 18-21), this would, in fact, be almost impossible in view of the filing deadlines in the states and signature requirements, which are stringent in a number of them (see here and here). So there’s almost no chance it will happen. (March 19th)

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Gage Skidmore_Photoillustration_Javier Zarracina_Vox

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]

It’s been all Trump all the time this week, on my social media news feeds and the US publications and websites I follow. Even here in France Trump is the first thing people bring up in conversation. I’ve read dozens of articles on the GOP’s crack-up over the past several days and made several categorical assertions on social media—which have led to spirited exchanges—and with the intention of developing into longer blog posts. As I’m on R&R this week, however (here at the present moment), I’ve actually had less time to write than usual. I’ll try to find it in the coming days. In the meantime, here’s one of the more important pieces I’ve read on the Trump phenomenon, and specifically on his voters, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” by Amanda Taub, posted March 1st on the Vox website. The lede: “A niche group of political scientists may have uncovered what’s driving Donald Trump’s ascent. What they found has implications that go well beyond 2016.” The article is long—maybe overly so—and somewhat repetitive, but is essential. And the conclusion is sobering, indeed worrisome, and particularly for Republicans distraught at Trump’s hostile takeover of their party (see, in particular, the article’s part V).

One good piece read in the past couple of hours: John Cassidy, “The Problem with the ‘Never Trump’ moment,” in The New Yorker (March 3rd). Make sure to read Reihan Salam’s analysis in Slate of the GOP’s predicament that Cassidy links to, which is one of the best I’ve seen on the subject.

Another instructive analysis read today: “Researchers have found strong evidence that racism helps the GOP win,” by Max Ehrenfreund, in WaPo’s Wonkblog (March 3rd).

BTW, the reaction in France to Trump—in my own experience, at least—has been one of comprehension and commiseration, as, after three-plus decades of Le Pen (père et fille) and double-digit election scores of the Front National—the festering boil of French politics—people here know the phenomenon well.

À suivre.

UPDATE: Political scientists Wendy Rahn and Eric Oliver have a must-read piece (March 9th) on WaPo’s Monkey Cage blog, “Trump’s voters aren’t authoritarians, new research says. So what are they?,” in which they summarize an academic paper of theirs (which is linked to) which empirically demonstrates that Trump supporters are no more authoritarian than those of Cruz or Rubio (with Cruz supporters, in fact, being even more authoritarian). What distinguishes Trump supporters from those of other Republican candidates is anti-elitism, i.e. populism. Take a look at the bar graph figure on “how supporters of the candidates compare on four key psychological traits” (Sanders supporters are particularly noteworthy here).

See also Thomas B. Edsall’s post (March 8th) in the NYT opinion page, “Donald Trump, the winning wild card.”

2nd UPDATE: Political scientist and geopolitical forecaster George Friedman has a worthwhile analysis (March 7th) of “The roots of Trump’s strength,” on a website called Mauldin Economics. Those roots, he says, are in the white lower-middle class.

3rd UPDATE: Political analyst and historian Thomas Frank—of What’s the Matter with Kansas? fame—has an opinion piece in The Guardian (March 8th) that merits consideration, “Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump: Here’s why.” The lede: “When he isn’t spewing insults, the Republican frontrunner is hammering home a powerful message about free trade and its victims.”

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[update below]

One of my reservations about Bernie Sanders’ candidacy has been his foreign policy qualifications, or, to be more precise, his interest in the subject. My reservations have been largely put to rest by a piece in Politico Magazine, dated February 11th, by Lawrence Korb, an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration and Washington think tank habitué since, “Bernie Sanders is more serious on foreign policy than you think.” I won’t summarize what Korb says—just read the thing—except to say that I’m convinced.

In point of fact, there is no rhyme or reason to think that Bernie, who has been in Congress for the past 25 years, would be any less knowledgeable on foreign policy than any of the other candidates, Hillary excepted (whom everyone agrees is totally on top of the subject, regardless of how one feels about her positions). And, to put it mildly, I trust Bernie’s foreign policy instincts over those of any of the candidates in the other party, and particularly on subjects like this.

On foreign policy, Salon writer Daniel Denvir had an article dated yesterday, “America needs a ‘Bernie Doctrine’: How Sanders’ foreign policy weakness could become a game-changing strength,” in which he cites several lefty academics, as well as engagé writers on the Middle East. Denvir, entre autres, links to a piece in The Electronic Intifada by Rania Khalek, “Bernie Sanders and the question of Palestine,” which is the most comprehensive I’ve seen on the matter of Bernie’s position on Israel.

In the event—still unlikely—that Bernie is elected POTUS, one may be sure that his Middle East policy will not be significantly different from the present one. Also that he’ll appoint mainstream Washington establishment types to his foreign policy team. The usual think tanks (Brookings, Carnegie Endowment et al) will be well represented in a Sanders administration. Lefties who have illusions on this score will be disappointed.

I watched today, via YouTube, the entire Bernie-Hillary debate in Milwaukee last night. I thought Hillary hit it out of the park but that Bernie was very good too (TPM’s Josh Marshall has a good analysis). I like him—both politically and viscerally—and have a high regard for her, as I always have. If they maintain last night’s tone—with no acrimony or nastiness—for the rest of the campaign, then it will all work out.

UPDATE: Bernie supporters on social media have been trashing Hillary of late for her friendly relationship with Henry Kissinger, to the point where this is being seen as almost disqualifying her candidacy. In this vein, a Hillary-hating friend, linking to this Mother Jones article, wrote the following yesterday on social media

Odd how Clinton supporters are so quiet about about the Kissinger connection. For the life of me, I can’t imagine how a self-professed “progressive” would proudly associate with the worst and most cynical secretary of state in US history, someone who rightly could be considered a war criminal regarding Southeast Asia and a stone reactionary in Latin America. No doubt the Kissinger problem will not go away, particularly when younger people learn of who he was and what he did.

My response: I haven’t been keeping tabs on how Hillary supporters are responding to this Kissinger brouhaha but, IMHO, it’s irrelevant and hardly even worth talking about. So Hillary Clinton—a former First Lady, former Secretary of State, and ex officio pillar of the foreign policy establishment—pals around with Henry Kissinger, a former NSC director, Secretary of State, pillar of the foreign policy establishment, and quite simply one of the best known, most famous personalities in international diplomacy of the latter half of the 20th century… I find this utterly unexceptional. Moreover, I find it entirely normal. Seriously, why wouldn’t she have a cordial relationship with him? And they both live in New York City to boot!

As for Kissinger being a ‘war criminal’, he has been accused of such in incendiary pamphlets and countless articles in leftist publications but never been indicted by any court of law. And no such indictment is on the horizon, so far as I am aware. But even if one were issued (but from where? and for what crime exactly?), it would necessarily target Kissinger’s hierarchical superiors, i.e. Nixon and Ford, both long dead, as in the United States it’s the president who formulates foreign policy. The buck stops with him, not the NSC director or Secretary of State.

Seriously, Hillary-haters should let this one go, though they likely won’t. Haters gonna hate, whaddya wanna do?


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(Photo credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking)

(Photo credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking)

[update below]

My 2¢. I was amazed, along with everyone else, by the margin of Bernie’s victory. As a member of the “Like Bernie, voting Hillary” camp, I would have preferred a closer result but am in no way dismayed by Bernie’s blowout. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop wrote last night, it was a remarkable achievement on Bernie’s part. Watching Bernie’s fine, if longish, victory speech, I agreed with just about everything he said; and even if some of his policy proposals are not too realistic—e.g. free college tuition for everyone, or financing all new welfare state measures exclusively via taxes on the super rich—one understands that he would necessarily compromise on these if he were president (as these would be opening positions in a protracted negotiating process and with Democrats—unlike present-day Republicans—always ready to compromise). As for Hillary, her concession speech was excellent (watch it here ICYMI). One of the functions, as it were, of Bernie’s candidacy has been to pull Hillary to the left and, listening to what she said last night, it is manifestly working. If she keeps talking this way and with the same intensity, she should be able to regain her footing. Inshallah, because, echoing author Kate Harding in The Guardian today, while “I’m glad Sanders won New Hampshire…I want Hillary Clinton to be president.”

But if Hillary is going to be POTUS she needs to tell her surrogates—and particularly husband Bill—to STFU on Bernie and, while they’re at it, to stop playing the feminist/women’s card, which is not a valid argument in and of itself to vote for her (and is not working in any case). If HRC’s campaign goes negative on Bernie in a big way—with low blows and mud-slinging—that will be bad. Bernie’s supporters will be very pissed off—and me too—and it will cripple Hillary in the general. If she gets that far, that is, as if Bernie closes the gap in Nevada and South Carolina, then the thing will really be up for grabs. I’ve been insisting that Bernie will not/cannot get the nomination and still think that but I’ve been wrong before. And, as Matthew Yglesias wrote in Vox last night, “Bernie Sanders is the future of the Democratic Party” (see as well Yglesias’s “9 things we learned about American politics this February.”).

As for the Republicans, I got a little ahead of myself after Iowa last week in opining that the air would likely come out of Trump’s overinflated balloon. Silly me. With his runaway victory yesterday and the order of finish for the others, it’s not clear to me how he can be stopped, at least by anyone other than Ted Cruz, but who, as Thomas B. Edsall reminds us in the NYT today—if one needed reminding—would be even more appalling. It’s nice that John Kasich came in second, as he’s the only one of the lot who is not totally insane and/or a catspaw of his plutocrat donors, but it is most unlikely the (insane) GOP base would help him vanquish Trump. The GOPer base, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, intensely dislikes Jeb! Bush and it’s pretty clear that Marco Rubio is toast, on account of his debate debacle but also the now generalized view of him as a lightweight and panicker who cracks in crisis situations.

So if one doesn’t want Cruz, that means Trump. Ezra Klein, in a comment in Vox dated today, asserted that “The rise of Donald Trump is a terrifying moment in American politics.” Indeed. Matt Labash, writing on The Donald’s temperament and in a lighter tone, had a hilarious lead article in the February 1st issue of the conservative TWS, “Nine tales of Trump at his Trumpiest.” I was laughing out loud while reading it on the metro today. But if the prospect of a President Trump is utterly inconceivable, liberals should nonetheless support him for the GOP nomination, so argued Jonathan Chait the other day in New York magazine and for three reasons: 1. He would most certainly lose to the Democrat. 2. He would blow apart the Republican party. 3. If he were to somehow win and become POTUS, he would, politically speaking, be less bad than any of the other GOP candidates, definitely more moderate on the economy and welfare state issues, and—who knows?—may even grow into the job, as did Arnold Schwarzenegger in California (who, Chait reminds us, was also a gross vulgarian and male chauvinist pig before he became governor). I would prefer not to test Chait’s hypotheses but his reasoning is impeccable. On Trump sounding less like a conservative than a gauchiste, conservative columnist Byron York had a must-read commentary on the eve of the NH primary, “As vote nears, a more radical Trump emerges.” Also check out Ezra Klein yesterday on how Trump’s candidacy has shown that “Maybe Republican voters don’t hate universal health care after all…” No wonder the GOP establishment is so distraught by The Donald.

For those who want to see symmetry in the Trump and Bernie phenomenons, I’m sorry but that won’t fly. On this, TAP’s Harold Meyerson has piece entitled “Informed citizens and the mob.” The lede: “In their final Granite State appeals, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seek different kinds of followers.”

À suivre.

UPDATE: A few good pieces read Thursday morning:

Joan Walsh, “Beyond Bernie’s Bros and Hillary’s Hellfire,” in The Nation. Walsh offers Hillary, whom she’s supporting, a friendly critique and some advice on what she needs to do.

Michelle Goldberg, “Hard choices: I used to hate Hillary. Now I’m voting for her,” in Slate.

Also in Slate: Jamelle Bouie, “Hillary’s time to fight.” The lede: “As grim as her New Hampshire defeat was, Clinton’s upcoming road looks a lot better.”

Charles M. Blow, in his latest NY Times column: “Stop Bernie-Splaining to Black Voters.” The lede: “History and experience have burned into the black American psyche a functional pragmatism whose existence doesn’t depend on others’ approval.”

Harold Meyerson, “The Establishment tanks: The Donald? The Bern? What’s this country coming to?,” in The American Prospect.

Frank Rich, “Expect the GOP establishment to start looking at the bright side of Trump,” in New York magazine.

Amanda Marcotte, “Kasich is almost as bad as Trump: Don’t let the Donald’s repulsiveness distract from the ugliness dished out by other candidates,” in Salon. The lede: “Kasich is being held out as the ‘compassionate’ alternative to Trump, but in most ways, he’s nearly as bad.”

Also in Salon: Heather Digby Parton, “The GOP primary is officially a horror film: Welcome to a world where Trump & Cruz are the last men standing.” The lede: “Trump won in dominant fashion and Cruz met expectations as Rubio fell completely apart. This is scary stuff.”

Finally, Harvey Feigenbaum—George Washington University political science prof and friend—has a commentary up in Le Monde Diplomatique’s English edition, “US primaries and the unintended consequences of democracy,” in which he—arguing much the same thing as have I over the past 35 years or so—critiques the whole primary system as a way of nominating party candidates.


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