Missouri Republicans gearing up for another voter ID fight

A decade ago, Missouri Republicans began their quest to require voters to present a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot.

Every time they’ve gotten close to succeeding, something has come along to put the kibosh on the idea — either a court ruling, a Democratic filibuster or Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto pen.

GOP leaders believe they’ll take the first step toward finally putting the issue to rest when they return to the Capitol next month to consider whether to override Nixon’s latest veto of a voter ID bill.

Then in November, voters will weigh in on an amendment to the state constitution allowing a voter ID law, a necessary second step in the process because the Missouri Supreme Court previously declared voter ID laws unconstitutional.

A decade ago, Missouri Republicans began their quest to require voters to present a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot.

Every time they’ve gotten close to succeeding, something has come along to put the kibosh on the idea — either a court ruling, a Democratic filibuster or Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto pen.

GOP leaders believe they’ll take the first step toward finally putting the issue to rest when they return to the Capitol next month to consider whether to override Nixon’s latest veto of a voter ID bill.

Then in November, voters will weigh in on an amendment to the state constitution allowing a voter ID law, a necessary second step in the process because the Missouri Supreme Court previously declared voter ID laws unconstitutional.

(Excerpted from Hancock,Kansas City Star 08/26/16)

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Trump: Americans could be tried in Guantánamo

A President Donald Trump might push for Americans accused of terrorism to be tried in a military tribunal at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Republican nominee told the Miami Herald on Thursday.

“I would say they could be tried there, that would be fine,” Trump said in a brief interview ahead of his speech to home builders in Miami Beach.

Under current federal law, it’s illegal to try U.S. citizens at military commissions. Changing the law would require an act of Congress.

(Excerpted from Miami Hearald 8/11/16)

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State agricultural associations support Koster

The latest group to pitch tent in the Koster camp is the Missouri Soybean Association. Its board of directors voted to endorse Koster for Governor on Thursday, Aug. 11.

“Chris Koster has shown he understands agriculture and what it takes to grow our state’s number one industry,” said Matt McCrate, Missouri Soybean Association president and a soybean farmer from Cape Girardeau County. “He has been a great partner to Missouri soybean growers and has committed to prioritize agriculture as our Governor.”

The Missouri Soybean Association’s endorsement of Koster comes on the heels of another huge endorsement — that of the Missouri Farm Bureau, one of the most influential rural organizations in the state. It had been decades since the Missouri Farm Bureau endorsed a Democrat running for Missouri governor.
The Missouri Corn Growers Association also pledged its support of Koster this week.

“Attorney General Koster’s record of supporting agriculture is unquestionable. We are confident he will continue to work in the best interest of Missouri’s farm families and are proud to support him in the race for Missouri governor,” aid MCGA President Morris Heitman, a corn grower from Mound City, Mo.

(Excerpted from Hannibal Courier Post 8/11/2016)

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The GOP must dump Trump

The Muslim ban, the David Duke denial, the “Mexican” judge flap, the draft dodger denigrating John McCain’s military service, the son of privilege attacking an immigrant Gold Star motherand the constant revisionism and lying about past political positions taken are but a few of the lowlights that have punctuated Donald Trump’s chaotic chase for the presidency.

Any one of these offenses would have disqualified any other candidate for president.

That appears to be changing. Post-convention polls show Trump falling behind by double digits both nationally and in must-win swing states like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Virginia.

And the political ride will only get rockier for Trump in the coming days after he suggested that one way to keep a conservative Supreme Court after Hillary Clinton got elected would be to assassinate her or federal judges. Trump and his supporters have been scrambling wildly all day to explain away the inexplicable, but they can stop wasting their time. The GOP nominee was clearly suggesting that some of the “Second Amendment people” among his supporters could kill his Democratic opponent were she to be elected.

We are in uncharted waters but that does not mean that the way forward is not clear. It is.

  1. The Secret Service should interview Donald Trump and ask him to explain his threatening comments.
  2. Paul Ryan and every Republican leader should denounce in the strongest terms their GOP nominee suggesting conservatives could find the Supreme Court more favorable to their desires if his political rival was assassinated.
  3. Paul Ryan and every Republican leader should revoke their endorsement of Donald Trump. At this point, what else could Trump do that would be worse than implying the positive impact of a political assassination?
  4. The Republican Party needs to start examining quickly their options for removing the Republican nominee.

A bloody line has been crossed that cannot be ignored. At long last, Donald Trump has left the Republican Party few options but to act decisively and get this political train wreck off the tracks before something terrible happens.

(Excerpted from Scarborough Washington Post 8/09/16)

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Nuke fears grow over Trump

Nuclear security experts are nervous about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.

Former officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations are expressing concern over what they describe as Trump’s cavalier rhetoric about using nuclear weapons and potentially allowing them to be obtained by U.S. allies.

“This is the most dangerous thing that he has said, among many dangerous and stupid things,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, 26-year veteran of the State Department who worked on nonproliferation issues under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
The narrative is damaging to Trump because it plays right into the hands of Hillary Clinton and her supporters, who say that Trump’s inexperienced hand makes him too dangerous a liability for the White House.
At the Pentagon on Thursday, President Obama responded directly to concerns that Trump was woefully unprepared to man the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

“Just listen to what Mr. Trump has to say and make your own judgment with respect to how confident you feel about his ability to manage things like our nuclear triad,” Obama said, referring to the three-pronged set of air, land and sea defenses that have been the backbone of nuclear weapons policy for a generation. During a Republican primary debate, Trump appeared not to be aware of the concept.

Earlier in the week, Obama called Trump “unfit” to serve as commander-in-chief, and his comments have been underlined by some Republicans.

Former Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-N.H.) described Trump as a “sociopath” in an email to NBC News, calling him “pathologically insecure.”

“To imagine Trump in charge of our armed forces at a moment of crisis is frightening,” Humphrey added.

he Hill spoke to more than half-a-dozen nuclear weapons experts for this story. All expressed a level of concern or anxiety about Trump’s control of nuclear weapons and his leadership of global nonproliferation.

“This could really trigger nuclear wars that could end mankind. Is that what he wants?” said Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the U.S. office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who has been publicly critical of Trump in the past. “Talking about nuclear weapons the way he talked about it is not rational.”

Trump’s position on nuclear weapons were scrutinized again this week, following remarks by MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress, that the GOP nominee had repeatedly asked a foreign policy briefer why the U.S. could not use its vast nuclear arsenal.

“When it comes to nuclear weapons, [lack of] message discipline is a policy weakness,” added James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who is unaligned on the presidential race.

Trump has been willing to talk more openly about the possibility of using nuclear weapons in a future conflict than other politicians before him.

Not only might he be willing to use nuclear weapons in a conflict in Europe, he has said, but he might employ them in a fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” he said on MSNBC in March.

The suggestion is a dramatic escalation in the conception of how nuclear weapons are used.

Trump has repeatedly tried to maintain an aura of unpredictability, claiming that there is power in keeping adversaries guessing. But there’s also a risk, his critics claim, if no one knows when the line is crossed.

“Uncertainty in this business is a dangerous thing,” said John Noonan, a former national security advisor to Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney who has opposed Trump’s campaign, on MSNBC this week. Noonan has signed an open letter from dozens of Republican national security officials pledging not to support Trump.

“It’s fundamentally dangerous.”

(Excerpted from The Hill 8/06/16)

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Trump adviser’s public comments, ties to Moscow stir unease in both parties

In early June, a little-known adviser to Donald Trump stunned a gathering of high-powered Washington foreign policy experts meeting with the visiting prime minister of India, going off topic with effusive praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.

The adviser, Carter Page, hailed Putin as stronger and more reliable than President Obama, according to three people who were present at the closed-door meeting at Blair House — and then touted the positive effect a Trump presidency would have on U.S.-Russia relations.

A month later, Page dumbfounded foreign policy experts again by giving another speech harshly critical of U.S. policy — this time in Moscow.

The United States and other western nations have “criticized these regions for continuing methods which were prevalent during the Cold War period,” Page said in a lecture at the New Economic School commencement. “Yet ironically, Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”

Page is a little-known Trump adviser with an ambiguous role in his campaign. But since being named to the Republican nominee’s team in March, his stature within the foreign policy world has grown considerably, drawing alarm from more established foreign policy experts who view him as having little real understanding about U.S.-Russia relations. Many also say that Page’s views may be compromised by his investment in Russian energy giant, Gazprom.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 8/05/16)

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Trump’s economic advisory group clashes with populist image

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s team of economic policy advisers is packed with moguls from the hedge fund and investment banking industries that he has railed against in the past.

And none of them are women – a demographic group he needs to court if he hopes to win in November.

Trump’s campaign has been powered by a populist message that criticizes corporate America for outsourcing jobs, profiting at the expense of everyday workers and buying influence in Washington. The message resonates best with middle-class and working-class voters buffeted by the forces of globalization.

But among the members of the 13-member team of advisers announced on Friday are hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson and investment bankers Steve Feinberg and Andy Beal, as well as a former top steel executive and a former high-ranking U.S. government official.

“‎It is a hallowed campaign tradition. Malign an industry, but court its wealthy big shots,” said Erik Gordon, a professor of law and business at the University of Michigan.

The reliance on Wall Street executives comes after Trump spent much of his primary campaign lambasting the industry for paying too little in taxes. “The hedge fund guys are getting away with murder,” Trump said in an interview last year.

(Excerpted from Oliphant, Rueters 8/05/16)

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Unions could make a comeback — if we help them

You won’t hear opponents admit it, but unions are popular and have been for a while. Last year Gallup found that 58 percent of Americans approved of unions. Since Gallup first asked people about their support for unions in 1936, approval dipped below 50 percent just once — when it dropped to 48 percent at the height of the Great Recession in 2009.

….the erosion in union membership is not a natural, pre-ordained outcome — the reality is that intentional policy choices significantly contributed to fewer people becoming union members. Benign market forces alone do not explain the continual loss of union membership in the midst of broad support.

Our country has allowed a broken and outdated labor law to remain in place for too long. Unlike other workplace laws, the National Labor Relations Act lacks meaningful financial penalties for employer wrongdoing, creating an economic incentive for employers to violate the law. Employers routinely influence union elections in their favor through intimidating and coercive tactics. In doing so, employers both regularly break the letter and spirit of the law, often aided by anti-union consultants and lawyers who are paid handsomely to provide advice on how to get away with manipulating the system. The fact is that current law does not offer working people a level playing field, advantaging chief executives set on denying their employees’ right to organize and negotiate together.

Americans are choosing to speak up together at work because they recognize that unions serve as a needed check and balance on corporate power. When working people can negotiate a fair return on their work, they earn higher wages and better benefits. The activism of individuals in unions has a ripple effect across communities. Non-union employees in similar industries and nearby locations generally see their working standards improve. It’s no surprise, then, that the decrease in unions has contributed to the increase in income inequality.

People also know that joining together is the only effective rampart against the flood of money in a post-Citizens United world that promotes the agenda of the wealthy few. Unions have proven to be the singular political force that can speak up for the betterment of everyday people, regularly advocating for expanded access to affordable health care, improved class sizes in our schools, investments in infrastructure, the protection of Social Security and Medicare, safer patient care and a fairer tax code.

nions of working people led the national conversation about raising the minimum wage, making wage stagnation and inequality a national priority. Unions even played a key role in defending the Obama administration’s update to our overtime rules from political attacks. The new rule will significantly increase the number of people who qualify for overtime protections by raising the annual salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476, improving the lives of supervisors as much, if not more so, than people who are or could potentially be union members.

The reason for the difference between the high numbers of support for unions and the number of actual union members is not so paradoxical. We can narrow the gap between these two statistics by modernizing our labor law, establishing real financial penalties to end employer retaliation and ensuring every person’s workplace rights are protected. Doing so will give Americans a fair shot at coming together to negotiate for a better life for themselves and their families.

(Excerpted from Wasser Washington Post 8/03/16)

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I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton

During a 33-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, I served presidents of both parties — three Republicans and three Democrats. I was at President George W. Bush’s side when we were attacked on Sept. 11; as deputy director of the agency, I was with President Obama when we killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

I am neither a registered Democrat nor a registered Republican. In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties. As a government official, I have always been silent about my preference for president.

No longer. On Nov. 8, I will vote for Hillary Clinton. Between now and then, I will do everything I can to ensure that she is elected as our 45th president.

Two strongly held beliefs have brought me to this decision. First, Mrs. Clinton is highly qualified to be commander in chief. I trust she will deliver on the most important duty of a president — keeping our nation safe. Second, Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.

I spent four years working with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, most often in the White House Situation Room. In these critically important meetings, I found her to be prepared, detail-oriented, thoughtful, inquisitive and willing to change her mind if presented with a compelling argument.

I also saw the secretary’s commitment to our nation’s security; her belief that America is an exceptional nation that must lead in the world for the country to remain secure and prosperous; her understanding that diplomacy can be effective only if the country is perceived as willing and able to use force if necessary; and, most important, her capacity to make the most difficult decision of all — whether to put young American women and men in harm’s way.

In sharp contrast to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has no experience on national security. Even more important, the character traits he has exhibited during the primary season suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.

These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.

The dangers that flow from Mr. Trump’s character are not just risks that would emerge if he became president. It is already damaging our national security.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

My training as an intelligence officer taught me to call it as I see it. This is what I did for the C.I.A. This is what I am doing now. Our nation will be much safer with Hillary Clinton as president.

(Excerpted from Morell New York Times 8/05/16)
[Michael J. Morell was the acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2010 to 2013.]

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The most com­pel­ling Sen­ate chal­lenger in the coun­try

Mis­souri is the seat that Re­pub­lic­ans are most wor­ried about. One top GOP strategist in­volved in Sen­ate races called the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee, Sec­ret­ary of State Jason Kander, the most com­pel­ling Sen­ate chal­lenger in the coun­try. “Party aside, if I had to choose any can­did­ate in the coun­try to run, I’d pick Kander,” said the strategist. Blunt is polling un­der 50 per­cent back home (lead­ing 47-43 per­cent in a re­cent Ma­son-Dix­on poll), is a con­sum­mate polit­ic­al in­sider in an out­sider year, and is find­ing his at­tacks on na­tion­al se­cur­ity are ringing hol­low against a Demo­crat who served in the mil­it­ary in Afgh­anistan. In a sign of how Trump scrambles the polit­ic­al dy­nam­ic in key races, Kander is at­tack­ing Blunt for stick­ing with Trump des­pite the GOP nom­in­ee’s acid­ic at­tacks against a Gold Star mil­it­ary fam­ily who ap­peared at the Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion.

(Excerpted from The National Journal 8/02/16)

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Trump Spokesperson: Obama Will Go Back in Time and Kill Your Children

Six days in and the scandal over Donald Trump’s attacks against the Khans, the Muslim parents of a fallen American war hero, show no signs of abating.

Speaking in Virginia yesterday Trump said he had no regrets about his comments, and his spokesperson Katrina Pierson, appearing on CNN, claimed that Khans’ son had died because of President Obama and Hillary Clinton: “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagement that probably cost his life.”

This is quite an extreme statement seeing as Humayun Khan died in 2004, when George W. Bush was in the White House. She also claimed that Trump “never voted for the Iraq War,” which is true but it is also worth pointing out that Donald Trump was never in a position to vote for anything.

(Excerpted from Lanyon Daily Intelligencer New York Magazine 8/3/16)

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Trump is cultivating a state of panic

Far from being confused or opportunistic, Trump has a consistent, well-developed view of the universe and his (prominent) place within it. The world is in chaos. Our country is being infiltrated by child-murdering illegal immigrants and “massive . . . flows” of disloyal, unscreened refugees. American communities are overwhelmed by violence, impoverished by unfair trade and betrayed by politicians who refuse to “put America first.” The institutions that are supposed to defend us are dominated by special interests and rigged by elites.

These claims are wrong, exaggerated or cherry-picked in nearly every respect. But the message resonates. A majority of Americans regard their country as being on the “wrong track ” and have for some time. Conservative media and “breaking news”-driven cable networks reinforce this sense of decline and crisis.

And our institutional challenges are not imaginary: A long-term, wage-earner recession (to which Republicans have offered little practical response). Educational mediocrity concentrated in high-poverty communities. Congressional dysfunction. A Supreme Court that seems overly political and outcome driven. Everyone can find some reason for disillusionment.

But there are two possible responses to such failures. The first is the institutionalist answer: To rebuild with existing materials. To reform, repair, reclaim and renew our patrimony. The second alternative is the promise of deliverance by a man on horseback — a single leader claiming to embody the interests of “the people.”

In Cleveland, Trump offered the second option with more forthright clarity than any politician in my lifetime. The speech contained almost no serious discussion of public policy or ideological argumentation. Instead, Trump said: “I am your voice.” “I am not able to look the other way.” “I know the time for action has come.” “I can be your champion.” “I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”

Trump is cultivating a state of panic to increase public tolerance for political risk — in this case, the risk of a candidate who is untested, unprepared, unstable and unfit. And the requisite sense of emergency is being created by populating American nightmares with migrants, refugees and Muslims. Standing on the convention floor, I could see what the face of American authoritarianism might look like.

he Caesarian option — rolling the dice with a populist authoritarian, using democratic majorities to undermine democratic structures — is common in history. Any Latin American or African can tell you what strongmen or “big men” are like.

But Trump’s version of “Americanism” is not, in fact, very American. Our constitutional system was designed to make personal rule both impossible and unnecessary. The idea that political salvation might be found simply by replacing one leader at the top of government would have been regarded as perverse by the Founders. The United States has benefited from skilled leaders — a Lincoln or an FDR — at moments of genuine national crisis. But this is not such a time. And this is not such a leader.

(Excerpted from Gerson, Washington Post 7/22/16)

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Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy

DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.

Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril. We recognize that this is not the usual moment to make such a statement. In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.

there is nothing on Mr. Trump’s résumé to suggest he could function successfully in Washington. He was staked in the family business by a well-to-do father and has pursued a career marked by some real estate successes, some failures and repeated episodes of saving his own hide while harming people who trusted him. Given his continuing refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with a long bipartisan tradition, it is only reasonable to assume there are aspects of his record even more discreditable than what we know.

The lack of experience might be overcome if Mr. Trump saw it as a handicap worth overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears to believe he needs no advice. In fact, what makes Mr. Trump so unusual is his combination of extreme neediness and unbridled arrogance. He is desperate for affirmation but contemptuous of other views. He also is contemptuous of fact. Throughout the campaign, he has unspooled one lie after another — that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11, that his tax-cut plan would not worsen the deficit, that he opposed the Iraq War before it started — and when confronted with contrary evidence, he simply repeats the lie. It is impossible to know whether he convinces himself of his own untruths or knows that he is wrong and does not care. It is also difficult to know which trait would be more frightening in a commander in chief.

Given his ignorance, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Trump offers no coherence when it comes to policy. In years past, he supported immigration reform, gun control and legal abortion; as candidate, he became a hard-line opponent of all three. Even in the course of the campaign, he has flip-flopped on issues such as whether Muslims should be banned from entering the United States and whether women who have abortions should be punished . Worse than the flip-flops is the absence of any substance in his agenda. Existing trade deals are “stupid,” but Mr. Trump does not say how they could be improved. The Islamic State must be destroyed, but the candidate offers no strategy for doing so. Eleven million undocumented immigrants must be deported, but Mr. Trump does not tell us how he would accomplish this legally or practically.

What the candidate does offer is a series of prejudices and gut feelings, most of them erroneous. Allies are taking advantage of the United States. Immigrants are committing crimes andstealing jobs. Muslims hate America. In fact, Japan and South Korea are major contributors to an alliance that has preserved a peace of enormous benefit to Americans. Immigrants commitfewer crimes than native-born Americans and take jobs that no one else will. Muslims are the primary victims of Islamist terrorism, and Muslim Americans, including thousands who have served in the military, are as patriotic as anyone else.

The Trump litany of victimization has resonated with many Americans whose economic prospects have stagnated. They deserve a serious champion, and the challenges of inequality and slow wage growth deserve a serious response. But Mr. Trump has nothing positive to offer, only scapegoats and dark conspiracy theories. He launched his campaign by accusing Mexico of sending rapists across the border, and similar hatefulness has surfaced numerous times in the year since.

In a dangerous world, Mr. Trump speaks blithely of abandoning NATO, encouraging more nations to obtain nuclear weapons and cozying up to dictators who in fact wish the United States nothing but harm. For eight years, Republicans have criticized President Obama for “apologizing” for America and for weakening alliances. Now they put forward a candidate who mimics the vilest propaganda of authoritarian adversaries about how terrible the United States is and how unfit it is to lecture others. He has made clear that he would drop allies without a second thought. The consequences to global security could be disastrous.

Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document. When asked by a member of Congress about Article I, which enumerates congressional powers, the candidate responded, “I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9.” The charter has seven articles.

Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. He has vowed to torture suspected terrorists and bomb their innocent relatives, no matter the illegality of either act. He has vowed to constrict the independent press. He went after a judge whose rulings angered him, exacerbating his contempt for the independence of the judiciary by insisting that the judge should be disqualified because of his Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.

Mr. Trump campaigns by insult and denigration, insinuation and wild accusation: Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; Hillary Clinton may beguilty of murder; Mr. Obama is a traitor who wants Muslims to attack. The Republican Party has moved the lunatic fringe onto center stage, with discourse that renders impossible the kind of substantive debate upon which any civil democracy depends.

Most responsible Republican leaders know all this to be true; that is why Mr. Trump had to rely so heavily on testimonials by relatives and employees during this week’s Republican convention. With one exception (Bob Dole), the living Republican presidents and presidential nominees of the past three decades all stayed away. But most current officeholders, even those who declared Mr. Trump to be an unthinkable choice only months ago, have lost the courage to speak out.

The party’s failure of judgment leaves the nation’s future where it belongs, in the hands of voters. Many Americans do not like either candidate this year . We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 7/22/16)

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Trump considering fracking mogul Harold Hamm as energy secretary

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is considering nominating Oklahoma oil and gas mogul Harold Hamm as energy secretary if elected to the White House on Nov. 8, according to four sources close to Trump’s campaign.

The chief executive of Continental Resources (CLR.N) would be the first U.S. energy secretary drawn directly from the oil and gas industry since the cabinet position was created in 1977, a move that would jolt environmental advocates but bolster Trump’s pro-drilling energy platform.

Addressing the convention on Wednesday night, Hamm called for expanded drilling and said too much environmental regulation threatened to limit U.S. oil production and increase the country’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil producers.

Hamm, 70, became one of America’s wealthiest men during the U.S. oil and gas drilling boom over the past decade, tapping into new hydraulic fracturing drilling technology to access vast deposits in North Dakota’s shale fields.

Trump, who has yet to make any announcements about his prospective cabinet, has already surrounded himself with strong advocates of traditional energy sources like oil, gas, and coal and has promised to gut environmental regulations to boost drilling and mining if elected.

He tapped U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a climate skeptic and drilling advocate, to help draw up his campaign energy platform, and picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence, also a climate skeptic, as his running mate.

Both moves cheered the energy industry but alarmed environmental activists who say a Trump presidency would set back years of progress on issues like pollution and climate change.

“Given that Hamm’s as close as we’ve got to a fracker-in-chief in this country, it would be an apropos pick for a president who thinks global warming is a hoax manufactured by the Chinese,” said leading environmental activist Bill McKibben.

(Excerpted from Reuters 7/21/16)

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Trump’s courtship of black voters hampered by decades of race controversies

Trump’s outlook on race has come under new scrutiny in recent days….

Trump, however, faces many challenges in winning over black voters, in part because he has been at the center of controversies regarding his racial views for decades.

The first front-page news story about Trump was a 1973 report about the federal government’s lawsuit against him and his father in a racial bias case. Trump denied discriminating against black housing applicants and settled the case without admitting guilt.

Several years later, after Trump had expanded his real estate empire by building casinos in Atlantic City, a former executive from his business accused him of making racist statements. John O’Donnell, who was president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and later wrote a memoir about his experience, said Trump blamed financial difficulties partly on African American accountants.

“I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza — black guys counting my money!” O’Donnell’s book quoted Trump as saying. “I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else. . . . Besides that, I’ve got to tell you something else. I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is; I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”

Trump told Playboy magazine that O’Donnell’s memoir was “probably true.” He told The Post earlier this year that the book was “fiction,” although he hadn’t read it. Trump said he fired O’Donnell, but O’Donnell said he quit.

In 1989, Trump inserted himself into a racially charged case in New York City. Five boys, four black and one Hispanic, ages 14 to 16, had been arrested for the brutal attack and rape of a woman who had been jogging in Central Park. Two weeks later, Trump paid for a full-page ad in four New York newspapers urging the return of the death penalty and warning of “roving bands of wild criminals.”

The boys were convicted and served six to 13 years in prison. But years later, a career criminal confessed to the rape, providing a DNA match. The convictions were overturned, and the city paid $41 million to settle a wrongful-imprisonment suit that the men had filed. Trump called the settlement “a disgrace,” refused to apologize, and said, “These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”

A few months after the Central Park incident, Trump appeared on an NBC-TV special called “Racial Attitudes and Consciousness Exam,” hosted by Bryant Gumbel. He appeared to criticize affirmative action.

“A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market,” Trump said on the program. “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I believe they do have an actual advantage.”

During Trump’s time as the star of his reality show, “The Apprentice,” he worked with a number of African American contestants.

Kwame Jackson, a Harvard Business School graduate who was on the first season of the show, said he saw the “Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde” nature of Trump. During the taping of the show, Jackson said, Trump was respectful and Jackson didn’t think of him as racist. But when Trump became a leading voice of the “birther” movement and questioned whether Obama was born in the United States, and then spoke critically of Mexicans and Muslims, Jackson said he sadly came to a different conclusion.

“People thought he is flirting with racism, or manipulating American anger, then it became pure racism,” he said. “My distance [with Trump] grew to true disdain.”

In November, Trump drew criticism when he retweeted a tweet that said blacks killed 81 percent of white homicide victims. The claim quickly was shown to be false. The actual number was 15 percent; 82 percent of whites were killed by whites.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 7/19/16)

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GOP Platform Proposes To Get Rid Of National Parks And National Forests

The Republican platform committee met this week to draft the document that defines the party’s official principles and policies. Along with provisions on pornography and LGBT “conversion therapy” is an amendment calling for the indiscriminate and immediate disposal of national public lands.

The inclusion of this provision in the Republican Party’s platform reflects the growing influence of and ideological alliance between several anti-park members of the GOP and anti-government extremists, led by Cliven Bundy, who dispute the federal government’s authority over national public lands.

“Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states,” reads the adopted language. “We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands identified.”
The provision calls for an immediate full-scale disposal of “certain” public lands, without defining which lands it would apply to, leaving national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, and national forests apparently up for grabs and vulnerable to development, privatization, or transfer to state ownership.

“That’s a very broad brush to basically say we’re going to turn over all federal lands to states; some states don’t have the resources to handle it,” said West Virginia state Senator and committee delegate Vic Sprouse, who was pushing for a similar provision, but with milder language. He said this more extreme language would instead “willy-nilly” turn over federal property without regard to the type of land or willingness of the state to manage it.

Though public land disposal language was also present in the GOP’s 2012 platform, the position takes on new meaning in the wake of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover earlier this year. The now-indicted leaders of the takeover, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and other extremists present at the refuge similarly demanded that the U.S. government give up authority over national public lands in the West.
“I have long believed that public lands are an equalizer in America, where access to public lands ensures that you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the great outdoors or to introduce your children to hunting, fishing and hiking,” said Senator Martin Heinrich during a recent floor speech on ALEC-funded land seizure legislation. “This land grab idea is just as ludicrous as denying climate change, just as detached from reality, and similarly comes at the expense of our public health and protection of our public lands and resources.”

(Excerpted from Think Progress 7/15/16)

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Gov. Mike Pence As Vice President?

Mike Pence’s record as is full of Trump-like extremism. Here’s a quick overview of Trump’s new right-hand man, Mike Pence:

  • Pence has championed discriminatory anti-LGBT policies: As governor of Indiana, Pence pushed for a broad Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill that made it easier to discriminate against LGBTQ Hoosiers. Championing the bill had significant consequences on the state’s economy: After RFRA passed, many businesses such as Apple, Angie’s List, Salesforce, and even the NCAA protested the discriminatory bill. Overall, it is estimated that Pence’s RFRA lost or put at risk over $250 million for Indiana. Pence created such a mess for Indiana with his RFRA bill that he had to hire a public relations firm to do damage control, which some report cost up to an additional $2 millionfor Indiana.
  • As governor, Pence has severely limited a woman’s right to choose: This year, Gov. Pence signed HEA 1337, an incredibly anti-choice bill, which forced women to have particular justifications for seeking an abortion. Pence’s actions inspired women across Indiana and the country to start “Periods for Pence” in protest. The bill was later ruled unconstitutional and blocked from going into effect by a federal judge. This was not Pence’s only anti-choice action during his career: when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence co-sponsored a federal personhood amendment, led efforts todefund Planned Parenthood, and also co-sponsored a bill that allowed hospitals to refuse women life-saving abortions.
  • Like Trump, Pence is incredibly anti-immigrant: Based on his record, it appears Pence will fall in line with Trump’s “build a wall” immigration policies. Pence opposed comprehensive immigration reform in 2014, opposed a pathway to citizenship in 2010, supported revoking birthright citizenship for children of immigrants in 2009, and proposeddeporting millions of immigrant families in 2006.
  • Pence supports irresponsible foreign policy: Like Donald Trump, Pence’s views on foreign policies will likely make Americans less safe. While in the House, Pence made 56 speeches on the House floor to defend the Iraq War. He even delivered 15 speeches declaring “victory” in Iraq. As governor of Indiana, Pence joined other Republican governors to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.

In addition to these extreme positions, Pence believes that “smoking doesn’t kill,” is a climate denier, and has voted multiple times against strengthening equal pay protections.

(Excerpted from Think Progress 7/5/16)

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What a President Needs to Know

Viewed in historical terms, a Trump presidency would pose an unusual risk to the country. American Presidents can be agents of change, yes, but they are also custodians of a social and political order that requires sophistication, balance and a fluency in the basic vocabulary of government and of statecraft. Trump, however, is a creature of the moment, of improvisation, of polarity. Strikingly, he’s learning public policy less from experts and briefing books–the traditional means of presidential preparation–and more from newspapers and what he once called “the shows.” His tendency to wing it–to act on his gut–effectively means that he’s working off what might be called “political hearsay.” No President can know everything, but all Presidents have to know enough to assess the validity of the inevitable advice that swirls through the Oval Office. While a President Trump can hire experts, experts won’t be making the final calls. Only he can–and will.

You don’t need a Ph.D. to lead the nation, but you do need to know–as Trump did not appear to grasp in one of the debates–what the nuclear triad is. Or that the Quds and the Kurds, not to mention Hamas and Hizballah, are different things. Or that you can’t order military officers to engage in illegal torture. Or that Ted Cruz’s father was not linked to the Kennedy assassination. Or that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, not Kenya. At his first joint appearance with Clinton on the campaign trail, President Obama put the matter clearly: “You’ve actually got to know what you’re talking about.”

With Trump’s nomination in Cleveland, Americans are about to face the starkest of political choices: a contest between Clinton, one of the most experienced and policy-fluent candidates in history, and Trump, the least conventional major-party nominee in modern times. Fundamentally, the Clinton-Trump race will be a campaign of the Conventional vs. the Confident, of the Prepared vs. the Provocateur, of the Realist vs. the Ringmaster.

(Excerpted from Meacham, Time 7/114/16 )

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Trump’s vice-presidential hopefuls reveal their desperation — and his poor judgment

In every presidential election, politicians campaign to become their party’s vice presidential pick, often by heaping undeserved praise on their party’s presidential nominee. It is rarely more than mildly embarrassing. But when the presidential candidate is Donald Trump, the slobbering is repulsive.

Every time they praise Mr. Trump’s leadership skills, these political opportunists should be asked about the candidate’s apparent ignorance of the Constitution and his contempt for essential principles such as freedom of speech. Every time they talk about how Mr. Trump would keep Americans safe, they should be asked about which Americans they mean — surely not minority groups who would feel under constant scrutiny and threat in Mr. Trump’s America. Every time they attack Hillary Clinton for dishonesty, they should be asked aboutMr. Trump’s constant, flagrant lying about basic facts, as when he claimed that he saw thousands of American Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks.

For good measure, they should also be asked how they could support a man they know is unqualified to be commander in chief. Before endorsing Mr. Trump, Mr. Christie criticized him for acting “like a child” and insisted he is not “suited to be president of the United States.” National Review reported that Mr. Pence privately loathes the presumptive GOP nominee. Mr. Gingrich called Mr. Trump’s attacks on a judge for his ethnicity “inexcusable.”

Treating Mr. Trump as a normal candidate is a grave insult to the country’s democratic tradition. This election year presents an unusually clear moral choice. Not only are Mr. Trump’s supplicants on the wrong side of history, but they are also actively and knowingly aiding the candidacy of an unacceptable, dangerous demagogue for their own personal gain. The fact that Mr. Trump’s vice presidential shortlist contains two unpopular governors and a disgraced ex-speaker of the House shows that his judgment is as poor as it seems to be or, more likely, that only desperate, unprincipled panderers would consider joining his ticket.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 7/13/16)

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