News

Select a news topic from the list below, then select a news article to read.

By Michael Howard

 

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz loves Donald Trump. Loves him. Know why? Because he has effectively guaranteed another Democratic presidency. Your own reasons for loving him, however, needn’t be so cynical, and I’ll tell you why.

By pushing the rhetoric so far outside the bounds of seriousness, and consequently dominating the media, Donald Trump has forced the other crackpots running for the Republican ticket to more or less abandon any pretense of credibility. 

Trump, in other words, has hijacked the right (space, not morals) side of the election. In order to keep up, his competition has had no choice but to prove to the American people that he’s not the only one who can say shockingly stupid things. We can be absurd too! has been the GOP field’s indignant response to Trump’s electoral blitzkrieg.

The best article that I’ve read about the 2016 election was a short piece by Christopher Orr in The Atlantic, where he used the movie Caddyshack as a (rather profound) analogy for the GOP race.

In Orr’s analogy, the Republican Party is Bushwood (the exclusive country club where the film is set), and Trump is Al Czervik, the obnoxious outsider played by Rodney Dangerfield. Czervik’s personality is not one that the stuffy Bushwood members would normally countenance—he is rude, crude, and disrespectful to the social elite. But he has money, which means he can say and do whatever he wants.

According to Orr, Trump is “basically a real-life Czervik: rich, yes, but an aggressive anti-snob who says whatever the hell he pleases and misses no opportunity to stick it to the establishment.”

Which is why so many genuinely progressive people were – and perhaps still are – excited about Trump’s campaign. The initial hope was that he would eventually jump ship and run as a legitimate third party candidate, taking a good chunk of Republican voters with him and thus breaking up the unholy GOP. This would in turn threaten to subvert the inveterate two-party (or two-factions-of-the-same-party) political structure that makes real change in this country so impossible.

Unfortunately, Trump has assured the Republican National Committee that he will do no such thing. Disappointing, surely; but it doesn’t mean that his campaign is totally worthless.

During the first Republican debate last August, Trump pulled a Czervik, and made some heads in Washington explode, when he explained to the millions of people watching that the American political system is essentially founded on graft.

By Michael Howard

 

Hillary Clinton’s debate strategy is pretty straightforward: spit out a bunch of bland, hoary rhetoric that sounds nice but carries no information, refrain from putting her foot in her mouth (that is, refrain from discussing any serious issues in depth), and give the audience a few subtle reminders that she is, in fact, a woman.

If this were a sports competition, we would say that Hillary is “playing not to lose.” Naturally, the mainstream media – including NBC News, which hosted the final Democratic Party debate – is doing what it can to help out. The major outlets have all but ignored Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and while the debates provide him with ample opportunity to advertise his populist talking points, the pro-Clinton bias is plain to see.

Gun control is the sole issue on which it can be said (probably inaccurately) that Hillary is to the left of Sanders. That’s all she’s got—and she’s clinging to it. So, with their partisanship in mind, the executives at NBC News decided that it would be a good idea to kick off the debate with a relatively tough question, aimed at Sanders, about guns. “Right before the debate,” he was told, “you changed your position on immunity from lawsuits for gun manufacturers. Can you tell us why?”

After his explanation, Hillary was asked if she would “like to respond,” which translates to: “Would you like to capitalize on this opportunity to make yourself look progressive and gain the early momentum in this debate?”

Hillary tried her best, and yet, in spite of the fact that the debate was overtly slanted in her favor, she still managed to lose, and lose big. It wasn’t even close. The reader polls conducted by a number of websites reflect this. In Slate’s poll, 86% of participants selected Sanders as the winner. (This of course did not prevent the great political pundits at Slate from trumpeting Hillary as the clear winner. Their headline ran: “Hillary Clinton Won Sunday Night’s Debate.”) A poll run by Time shows the same result: 86% for Sanders. In Politico’s poll, 73% said Sanders. Huffington Post: 72% Sanders. Get the picture?

By Michael Howard

 

I spent most of the Republican debate of Tuesday, December 15th, the final GOP presidential candidate gathering of the year, puzzling over how anybody could possibly take it seriously.

I also wondered whether the candidates were actually as ignorant as they presented themselves to be. Do they really have no grasp of the situation in Syria, or are they just pretending not to? Is serious policy discussion simply too much for the American public to process? I suppose it’s possible. Scratch that—it’s probable. Definitely probable.

ISIS, naturally, was the overriding topic of debate, despite there being only one quasi-ISIS-inspired attack in the United States to date. 

Every person on the stage spoke loudly and confidently about the importance of developing a “strategy” to destroy the Islamic State. But lo and behold, nothing resembling a strategy was discussed. Instead we heard a lot of vague talk about coalitions, boots (grounded or otherwise), and bombs.

Ted Cruz found himself dodging questions about his prescription to “carpet bomb” areas of Syria and Iraq currently controlled by ISIS (and packed with civilians). His response – that he only meant precision strikes on strategic ISIS positions – suggests that he either doesn’t know what carpet bombing is, or he just now realized that his proposed solution essentially amounts to genocide. I’m not sure which is more disquieting. 

Similarly, Donald Trump was asked to explain his comments about murdering the families of suspected terrorists. His response was that we need to be “tough” about this stuff. The family members of the San Bernardino attackers, he argued, "saw the pipe bombs all over the floor”—they knew what was going on, what was coming. Therefore, kill them.

But does Trump really mean that? I seriously doubt it. I think he’s someone who is so accustomed to running his mouth off without being held accountable for what comes out of it that he can’t help himself. Does he hate Muslims? Does he even dislike them? Again, I doubt it. But you know who does? A good chunk of his voter base, that’s who. And Trump, it turns out, is not afraid of being perceived as bigoted or fascist or anything else. The Donald doesn’t care. He’s a demagogue’s demagogue. 

It should be noted that, in spite of his glibness and vulgarity, Trump occasionally makes a lot of sense. The Iraq war was a shockingly bad foreign policy decision (he called it back in 2003). Nuclear proliferation is the world’s most serious issue. The U.S. does need to stop burning trillions of dollars on wars of choice. These are good, common sense points—and ones that scarcely make it into the mainstream political discourse. But, just as he couldn’t care less about coming across as racist, Trump couldn’t care less about defending and justifying the misdeeds of past Republican administrations. George W. Bush was shit—and Trump will call a spade a spade.

Which is not to write that Trump should even be running for president, let alone leading the pack. 

By Michael Howard

 

I spent most of the Republican debate of Tuesday, December 15th, the final GOP presidential candidate gathering of the year, puzzling over how anybody could possibly take it seriously.

I also wondered whether the candidates were actually as ignorant as they presented themselves to be. Do they really have no grasp of the situation in Syria, or are they just pretending not to? Is serious policy discussion simply too much for the American public to process? I suppose it’s possible. Scratch that—it’s probable. Definitely probable.

ISIS, naturally, was the overriding topic of debate, despite there being only one quasi-ISIS-inspired attack in the United States to date. 

Every person on the stage spoke loudly and confidently about the importance of developing a “strategy” to destroy the Islamic State. But lo and behold, nothing resembling a strategy was discussed. Instead we heard a lot of vague talk about coalitions, boots (grounded or otherwise), and bombs.

Ted Cruz found himself dodging questions about his prescription to “carpet bomb” areas of Syria and Iraq currently controlled by ISIS (and packed with civilians). His response – that he only meant precision strikes on strategic ISIS positions – suggests that he either doesn’t know what carpet bombing is, or he just now realized that his proposed solution essentially amounts to genocide. I’m not sure which is more disquieting. 

Similarly, Donald Trump was asked to explain his comments about murdering the families of suspected terrorists. His response was that we need to be “tough” about this stuff. The family members of the San Bernardino attackers, he argued, "saw the pipe bombs all over the floor”—they knew what was going on, what was coming. Therefore, kill them.

But does Trump really mean that? I seriously doubt it. I think he’s someone who is so accustomed to running his mouth off without being held accountable for what comes out of it that he can’t help himself. Does he hate Muslims? Does he even dislike them? Again, I doubt it. But you know who does? A good chunk of his voter base, that’s who. And Trump, it turns out, is not afraid of being perceived as bigoted or fascist or anything else. The Donald doesn’t care. He’s a demagogue’s demagogue. 

It should be noted that, in spite of his glibness and vulgarity, Trump occasionally makes a lot of sense. The Iraq war was a shockingly bad foreign policy decision (he called it back in 2003). Nuclear proliferation is the world’s most serious issue. The U.S. does need to stop burning trillions of dollars on wars of choice. These are good, common sense points—and ones that scarcely make it into the mainstream political discourse. But, just as he couldn’t care less about coming across as racist, Trump couldn’t care less about defending and justifying the misdeeds of past Republican administrations. George W. Bush was shit—and Trump will call a spade a spade.

Which is not to write that Trump should even be running for president, let alone leading the pack. 

By Michael Howard

Much is being made of the apparent contempt for fundamental democratic values – the ones that form the bedrock of a free and heterogeneous society – emerging on college campuses across the country, and rightfully so. Legitimacy of grievances aside (and I do not doubt for a moment that, in most cases, they are legitimate), the means being employed to redress those grievances must, for the sake of everything, be subject to scrutiny.

There is a new breed of social activist being mobilized, according to whom the guarding of individual feelings takes precedence over everything else, including the essential right of people to express themselves freely and openly. In this particular bubble, the First Amendment (arguably the most primal element of our Constitution) becomes a mere technicality—something to be abrogated when doing so is expedient.

The folly of this mode of thinking is such that it should not require spelling out. But, in light of recent events, it appears that many (ostensibly well-meaning) people have totally lost the plot, their behavior typifying what has come to be known by some as the “regressive left.”

Subcategories