Furor over NYT’s Trump tape is much ado about nothing

It’s absurd to single out any single event in this election cycle as odd, since the whole affair is so bizarrely weird that it feels like something you’d stumble into on the other side of the looking glass. So, for the sake of accuracy let’s just call the convoluted controversy over the tape of Donald Trump’s off-the-record conversation with the New York Times’ editorial board interesting. During this week’s Republican debate, you may have heard Trump refuse his opponents’ calls for him to release the recording. Here’s what’s at issue: Back in January, Trump went to The New York Times for one ...

Why don’t voters care that Trump is a bully?

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Last week, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told the journalists and lawmakers gathered for the Washington Press Club Foundation’s usually light-hearted annual congressional dinner that, “My party has gone batshit crazy.” Given that Graham lately has emerged as a kind of Republican Cassandra, it’s tempting to add a gloss on Homer’s famous line: Who the gods would destroy, they first afflict with Donald Trump. The madness of Trump, in fact, is one of this election cycle’s defining forces, and it has many faces. The most mysterious is why, state-by-state, a bit more than a third of the GOP electorate is willing ...

Media Must Scrutinize Donald Trump’s ‘Successful’ Career

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The culture of celebrity and the new media superstructure that supports it are a deceptive combination. They deal in the illusion of intimacy, trading on the fiction that they actually allow us to know the celebrities they create on a first-name basis—Angelina and Brad, Kim and Kanye and, perhaps most misleadingly, the Donald. Oddly enough, though he seems to have lived his whole life in the public eye, there is a great deal about Donald Trump that we don’t know with precision. Because he’s never spent a minute of his life in public service, what we do seem to know about ...

Pope Francis Brilliantly Dismisses Petulant Donald Trump

Hmm, let’s see here. . .Donald Trump, who appears poised to win his second Republican presidential primary, thinks Vladimir Putin is a “great leader,” admires the late Saddam Hussein for “killing terrorists” and is wowed by the “genius” and “toughness” of Kim Jong Ill, the mad dog oppressor of the North Korean people. On the other hand, the developer-turned-schlock TV character thinks Pope Francis I, defender of the poor and migrants, advocate of kindness and mercy, critic of wealth and privilege, is “disgraceful” and “a pawn” of corrupt political interests. What’s wrong with this picture? Everything, which also is what’s wrong with ...

Donald Trump’s New Punching Bag: Pope Francis

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Not content with spewing country club card room invective—“loser,” “jerk,” etc.—at other Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump now has turned on Pope Francis I. The pontiff is currently on a pastoral visit to Mexico, where over the course of the next few days he will meet with indigenous people and business leaders, celebrate Mass at the shrine of the country’s patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, visit a prison and lunch with seminarians. His itinerary consciously mirrors the journey of Mexican and Central American migrants northward to the Rio Grande and will culminate in Ciudad Juarez, where the pope will celebrate a ...

Note to Donald Trump: Interrogation Under Torture Just Doesn’t Work

Of all the things I ever anticipated about the pursuit of opinion journalism, having to argue against torture was not one of them. And yet here we are again. The Bush-Cheney White House took advantage of the panicked aftermath to 9/11 to make the torture of captured Islamic extremists national policy, and had the CIA put together a secret international gulag in which to work their will out of sight. There’s probably a psychoanalytic explanation for all this—Bush and Cheney’s guilt over failure to prevent the deaths of so many Americans; perhaps panic over the blow to their masculinity delivered by ...

Critics of Obama’s Mosque Visit are Profoundly Mistaken

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President Barack Obama’s remarks during his visit to a Maryland mosque this week were as uplifting as the immediate reaction to them was wearily depressing. Like the best of his addresses on race, ethnicity and religion, the president’s address to the congregants of the Islamic Center of Baltimore was thoughtful, humane, generous in spirit and faithful to the realities of our national history. It is in settings such as the mosque that Obama’s appeals to the better angels of our nature are most persuasive. This one is worth reading at length, and you can read the full text of his remarks ...

Donald Trump’s Latest Campaign Trick: Suing to Win

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If there is anything that validates Donald Trump’s claim to outsider status in the current presidential race, it’s his threat to sue and force a “do over” of the Iowa caucuses. The real estate developer seems to think this is one of his cockamamie business deals, where everybody sues everybody at the end, then settles so half the participants walk away with money they neither earned nor deserve. Trump is upset because the last Iowa polls—including the highly respected Des Moines Register survey—showed him with a substantial lead on both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Because the polls didn’t predict the ...