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Trump’s Unconventional Convention

Posted July 21st, 2016 at 5:24 pm (UTC-4)
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Perhaps it’s by design that the 2016 Republican National Convention would not — could not — follow the cookie-cutter design of conventions of the recent past. After all, 17 candidates were at one time running for the party’s presidential nomination. And the most unconventional candidate of any — Donald Trump — came out on top.

Trump’s flair for grandeur, unpredictability and frank talk combined with fissures within the Republican party over the bitter primary election raised expectations for a raucous convention.

There has been little disappointment.

From Monday night’s controversy over Melania Trump’s speech to Tuesday’s mock trial of Hillary Clinton to Wednesday’s booing of Ted Cruz for refusing to endorse Donald Trump, this week’s conclave has met those expectations.

Trump now has to summon all of his natural charisma and impresario instincts to deliver an acceptance speech that can bring Republicans together and convince a large swath of undecided voters that he can be their next president of the United States.

Black Lives, Blue Lines and the Political Megaphone

Posted July 19th, 2016 at 6:22 pm (UTC-4)
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Sunday’s murders of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana made Monday’s “Law and Order” theme at the Republican National Convention resonate louder.

Donald Trump has proclaimed himself the “law and order candidate” and criticized President Obama’s leadership on the issue in a Facebook post Sunday.

In a televised statement Sunday, Obama said “nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.” Monday he sent a letter to the National Fraternal Order of Police, expressing gratitude for the work of law enforcement officers, acknowledging the dangers they face and the valor in which they perform their duty.

But for some, Obama’s supportive words for police ring hollow because he has also voiced concern and understanding for blacks who have been killed by police under questionable circumstances.

As the Republican and Democratic conventions play out over the next two weeks, the political rhetoric about race and police will likely continue.

The Coup that Wasn’t

Posted July 18th, 2016 at 4:10 pm (UTC-4)
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The attempted coup in Turkey demonstrated the practicalities and pitfalls of how alliances work.

Without mentioning him by name, President Obama reiterated his “unwavering support for the democratically-elected, civilian Government” of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Obama’s paper statement on Saturday specifically mentioned needing Turkey’s cooperation against terrorism (read: Islamic State.)

Erdogan was slow to allow the U.S. to use Incirlik Air Base to launch attacks against ISIS. He has cracked down on human rights, free speech and freedom of the press.

But Turkey is an ally the United States and NATO need if there is hope for peace in the Middle East.

America’s Racial Divide

Posted July 14th, 2016 at 5:20 pm (UTC-4)
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A horse-drawn carriage carried the body of Philandro Castile through the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota.

More than a thousand miles to the south on Interstate 35, processions of hearses and police cars wound through the streets of Dallas, Texas and its suburbs, carrying the bodies of Officer Brent Thompson, Sgt. Michael Smith and Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens. The scene will be repeated Friday and Saturday for the funerals of Officers Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa, all killed by a man seemingly bent on revenge for the death of Castille and others.

President Barack Obama convened a summit of sorts Wednesday. Black activists and law enforcement representatives exchanged ideas of how to bridge the divide between the police and people of color.

Obama said “we’re not even close to being where we want to be.” And from what’s being written and said, getting close will take many more conversations and understanding by both sides of the divide.

Duty, Danger and Death in Dallas

Posted July 13th, 2016 at 10:46 am (UTC-4)
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Eulogies by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush Tuesday praised the call to duty of the five police officers gunned down in Dallas last week. Both presidents also sounded the call to America to put aside differences and work toward the common good.

Acknowledging that police officers and their families know “each new day can bring new dangers,” Bush said “none of us…could be prepared for an ambush by hatred and malice.” He added “too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions and this has strained our bonds of understanding common purpose.”

Obama observed the nation was not as divided at it may seem. He addressed both sides of the “black vs. blue” debate, saying “an overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally,” but are undermined when broadly depicted as biased or bigoted.

He also noted that no one is “entirely innocent” of having bigoted thoughts or feelings, including police departments….we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protests troublemakers or paranoid…or a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.”

It will take more than words of two presidents to bring these polarizing issues closer to the middle.

Dallas Mourns

Posted July 11th, 2016 at 9:10 pm (UTC-4)
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Dallas, Texas is bracing for a week of anguish, burying five police officers, killed by a man who the Dallas police chief said “was asking us how many did he get. And he was telling us how many more he wanted to get.”

President Barack Obama will be in Dallas Tuesday, once again assuming the role of consoler-in-chief at an interfaith service. With him, Vice President Biden and former president George W. Bush, who also was the governor of Texas.

Thursday’s killings of the police officers, Wednesday’s police shooting of a black man in Minnesota and Tuesday’s police shooting of a black man in Louisiana is again raising — and politicizing — the issues of policing and race relations — past, present and future.

America: Black and Blue

Posted July 8th, 2016 at 2:37 pm (UTC-4)
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“A viscous, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.”

That’s how President Obama described the ambush of police by at least one sniper in Dallas. The officers were doing their jobs, enabling and protecting a group of people peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to protest the latest killings of black men at the hands of police officers under questionable circumstances.

37-year old Alton Sterling was shot several times in the chest as he was pinned by two white police officers on Tuesday night — graphically chronicled on video from several angles

Wednesday, 32-year old Philando Castille was shot in his car after being stopped by police for a broken tail light in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. His girlfriend broadcast the aftermath live on Facebook, demonstrating an out-of-body composure while interacting with the officer who still had his gun drawn. Her four-year old daughter was in the backseat.

Also caught on video was 25-year old Micah Xavier Johnson, the sniper in Dallas. Before he was killed in a standoff with police, Johnson said he was upset with the police shootings and wanted to kill white people.

Dallas was already infamous from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. But, according to the Washington Post, Dallas is progressively implementing police reform.

No doubt Black Lives Matter will again intersect with the Thin Blue Line this summer. Cooler heads must prevail.

FBI Director on Clinton’s Email: ‘Extremely Careless’ but No Prosecution

Posted July 6th, 2016 at 2:49 pm (UTC-4)
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Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted for her “extremely careless” handling of email while secretary of state. But the country’s top cop called her credibility and judgment into question.

FBI Director James Comey’s explanation of and conclusions drawn from the investigation into Clinton was riveting as an act of political and legal theater. He did not deliver what Clinton foes wanted: an indictment, a prosecution.

But he did deliver something almost as damaging: a narrative that jabs at her Achilles heel, the issue of trust.

Political pundits and legal scholars are prosecuting their own cases.

Islamic State’s Terror Spree

Posted July 5th, 2016 at 4:25 pm (UTC-4)
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Carnage marks the end of Ramadan 2016. Attacks on the airport in Istanbul, a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a market in Baghdad and a suicide bombing in the holy city of Medina punctuated the final week of Islam’s holiest month.

Blood was shed in the name of Islam throughout Ramadan: the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando; suicide bombers at an army post in Jordan as well as in Yemen and Lebanon; the shooting of an Israeli man in a road and stabbing of a 13-year old Israeli girl while she slept in the West Bank.

Whether carried out or inspired by Islamic State or other actors, the blood-letting is unlikely to abate. And that leaves all of us to wonder what to do next.

Trump & Clinton: Holiday on the Hustings

Posted July 1st, 2016 at 3:02 pm (UTC-4)
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Heading into the 4th of July weekend, the U.S. presidential race is still relatively close. The Real Clear Politics average of political polls puts Hillary Clinton 4.8 percentage points ahead of Donald Trump.

While it’s still too early to put much stock in polls, it’s notable that a Fox News poll shows a majority of Republicans would prefer someone other than Trump as their party’s nominee.

Trump spent the week blasting the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, taking on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, usually a reliable backer of Republican policies. He also said his former Republican presidential rivals should “never be allowed to run for public office again” because they are breaking a pledge to back the party’s nominee. Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Jeb Bush have yet to endorse Trump.

Clinton spent the week fending off two issues that claw at her credibility. Wednesday’s report from a special House of Representative committee investigating the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya and a meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch as an FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server is still pending.

With party conventions scheduled for the last two weeks of July, Trump and Clinton are vetting possible running mates and trying to turn around what are still the highest disapproval ratings for any presidential candidate.

The Benghazi Report

Posted June 30th, 2016 at 5:50 pm (UTC-4)
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Benghazi. It’s one of those place names like Bhopal and Chernobyl that connotes death, horror and mistakes.

Benghazi has become a political flash point because the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission there was originally, and erroneously, blamed on reaction to an anti-Muslim video that had been circulated in the Middle East. Republicans say then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t do enough to prevent the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others and then lied to the American public about the attack.

This week, results from an eighth congressional investigation into the attack was released. Some new details were revealed, especially about the lack of intelligence about potential threats and bureaucratic errors that failed to help those trapped in the mission, despite orders from the very top.

One investigation committee Republican called Clinton’s leadership during the situation “morally reprehensible.” Clinton said the report found “nothing to contradict” previous investigations, adding “It’s pretty clear it’s time to move on.”

But with Hillary Clinton running for president, Republicans won’t be moving on, using Benghazi for maximum political advantage.

Texas, Abortion and the Supreme Court

Posted June 28th, 2016 at 4:42 pm (UTC-4)
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Once again, Texas loses at the U.S. Supreme Court over abortion.

In 1973, Texas’ ban on abortion was overturned in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

And Monday, the state’s restrictions on abortion clinics was struck down, deemed an “undue burden” to a woman’s right to an abortion.

While Americans’ deeply divided opinions about abortion have not changed much in the past 20 years, the debate still rages over a woman’s right to what she can and cannot do to her body versus the rights of the unborn.

Now, What Does Brexit Mean for U.S.?

Posted June 24th, 2016 at 4:06 pm (UTC-4)
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That is what we are left with following Britain’s vote Thursday to leave the European Union.
Financial markets hate uncertainty. So, the precipitous drop in stock markets worldwide should not come as a surprise. Yet it is staggering to see the vote’s outcome resulting in two trillion dollars of lost equity. So far.
Britain voted for the uncertainty of change. The status quo was not working for them. Similar political sentiments are echoed in the United States, personified by the success, so far, of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The change Britain voted for will likely bring on other change. Expect Scotland and Northern Ireland to look for ways to stay in the E.U., which may mean leaving the United Kingdom.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, questions whether voters understood the consequences. That sentiment seems to be borne out in the British blogosphere, where Google Trends says there was a 250-percent spike in searches for “What happens if we leave the EU?”
Result: uncertain.

Trump & Clinton: It’s on, to November

Posted June 22nd, 2016 at 3:11 pm (UTC-4)
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“Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.”
“Trump would throw us back into recession.”
Those quotes from the presumptive presidential nominees came 24 hours apart.
As the fact-checkers busily scour the words from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for accuracy, the political pundits are parsing their words to determine which way the winds blow.
The polls show Clinton with her widest lead since mid-May while the latest campaign financial filings show Trump well behind in the fund-raising race.
And it’s only June.

Remain or Leave: Brexit’s Impact on U.S.

Posted June 21st, 2016 at 4:07 pm (UTC-4)
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“Remain” or “Leave.”
That is the choice for British voters Thursday in a referendum on the European Union.
Ripples from vote’s impact will be felt for years to come. If Britain pulls out, trade and financial agreements will have to be rewritten. Social compacts will be revisited. If Britain stays in, the restiveness will not abate. Irritation about being subjected to policies from Brussels will only grow. Thursday’s murder of Jo Cox, a pro-“remain” member of parliament, put a quiver in the British stiff upper lip.
Two months ago in London, President Barack Obama said the U.K. “is at its best when it’s helping to lead a strong Europe.”
Many of the themes and positions of the Brexit campaign echoes in the U.S. presidential election campaign: immigration, border security, trade, manufacturing jobs, “Britain First.”
Betting odds shifted over the weekend from “Leave” to “Remain.” But most experts still say the vote is too close to predict.